A 5-star Trump hotel in Panama is at the center of a major ownership dispute that could be bad news for the president — take a look inside the luxurious property

Panama Trump Hotel

• The Trump International Hotel and Tower Panama in Panama City is currently the site of an intense business dispute.

• Trump Organization employees refused to vacate the premises after being fired by the hotel’s majority owners on Tuesday.

• The international blowup could cause problems for President Donald Trump.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City boasts 369 hotel rooms, an infinity pool with spectacular ocean views, and a bitter business dispute that’s already required police intervention.

It’s the site of a contentious showdown between Trump Organization staffers and the property’s majority owners, led by investor Orestes Fintiklis. His firm, Ithaca Capital Partners, has a majority stake in the property, The New York Times reported.

The owners chose to cut ties with the Trump brand last year, and have been in arbitration since October 2017. The Los Angeles Times reported the owners have accused Trump Hotels of “gross mismanagement” and “financial misconduct.”

But the Trump Organization isn’t budging.

In January, the organization refused to admit a team of Marriott staffers visiting on behalf of the owners. Now, the owners are accusing the Trump Organization executives of illegally encroaching on their property, The New York Times reported.

Last week, Fintiklis showed up at the hotel to hand out termination slips. The Trump Organization team called the police and “barred the owners’ group from entering a room containing the building’s computer servers and closed-circuit television system,” The New York Times reported. Trump Organization executives were also overheard shredding files, the Associated Press reported.

The face-off turned physical on Tuesday, when rival teams of security guards began to scuffle in the building. Police were called again, and broke up the fight. One guard was handcuffed, but not arrested, after blocking police access to the building’s administrative offices, The Washington Post reported.

Once he was allowed to access the hotel, Fintiklis celebrated by playing Beethoven on a piano in the hotel’s lobby, according to the Washington Post

And Wednesday, riot gear-clad police burst into the building to investigate whether hotel staffers were being paid. Panamanian authorities have opened an investigation into the tense situation. 

The ongoing dispute could bring about repercussions felt in the White House, possibly sparking concerns about President Donald Trump’s international conflicts of interest, reported Business Insider’s Allan Smith.

Here’s a look inside the five-star hotel that’s the center of this dispute:

SEE ALSO: A wild dispute between a Panamanian hotel owner and the Trump Organization could have huge implications for the president

DON’T MISS: The richest man in the Middle East has been released from house arrest in Saudi Arabia — see the luxurious Ritz Carlton where he was held captive for months

The 70-story skyscraper is the tallest building in Central America and the only Trump hotel in Latin America. In 2014, Trump tweeted that the building’s “design evokes a majestic sail fully deployed in the wind.” The property includes both a hotel and condominiums.

Source: World Atlas, The Washington Post, Trump Twitter Archive, Chicago Tribune

For a stay in late March, guests can pay anywhere from $135.15 a night to $1,994.25 a night for the presidential suite.

Source: Trump Hotels

If the website is any indication, the hotel is still taking guests, despite Tuesday’s fracas and an impending investigation by the Panamanian government.

Source: Trump Hotels, HotelManagement.net

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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'Criminal Minds': Why Barnes' Investigation Shouldn't End with Another Change for the BAU – BuddyTV (blog)

Criminal Minds has been through plenty of team losses and changes over the years, and it has just kicked off a storyline that could end with another — but it shouldn’t. While Barnes acted like it was just a standard review for the one year anniversary of Reid’s arrest in Mexico that took Prentiss out of the field and put J.J. temporarily in charge, the Assistant Director revealed to Prentiss that they were really there to discuss the state of the BAU under her leadership.

But with Prentiss refusing to do anything but stand by her team and their actions and Barnes with her own motives and the power to do something, this wasn’t going to go away so quickly, not even with Emily easily defending every “problem” Barnes brought up. Season 13 episode 14 ended with Prentiss suspended indefinitely.

Criminal Minds Recap: Prentiss Faces off Against Assistant Director Barnes>>>

But rather than something coming from Barnes’ “fishing expedition,” the team should come out stronger and a more cohesive unit, no one should leave and, most importantly, Barnes should not win. Any other outcome would likely mean another shakeup and another change that results in yet something new for the BAU and for viewers to have to get used to, as they have with the new team members especially in recent seasons.

Make It the Team Against the World (or, in This Case, Barnes)

We’ve already had some pretty great scenes between Prentiss and Barnes, two powerful women who are not backing down, and while I’d love to see more of that — Paget Brewster and Kim Rhodes were excellent battling one another with their characters’ intellect — there’s now the chance to see how the rest of the team reacts with Barnes now overseeing the unit.

In the next episode, “Annihilator,” she’ll be joining the team on their investigation, and we should see how everyone, especially Simmons, whose former unit she disbanded, reacts to her presence, especially since she has suspended their unit chief. The BAU has been through more changes in more recent seasons than in earlier ones — last season saw the addition of two new team members, Luke and Stephen, and after Stephen died and the IRT disbanded, Prentiss brought Simmons over — and they’re just not clicking entirely like they used to when we saw the same people season to season.

Barnes gives them all someone to stand against — but not in a way that encourages her even further to want to break up the team. Instead, we have the opportunity to see the team be a united front, much like they are in the season 13 episode 15 promo:

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The BAU Works Well — Don’t Change That (Yet)

By the end of this arc, Prentiss should be reinstated as unit chief, but that’s not to say that J.J. isn’t the right person for the job. We’ve probably seen her grow the most out of all the characters, and she did a good job as acting unit chief in “Miasma,” so she should be the leader of her own team one day, just not yet. Depending on how long the series goes, that could be how it ends: with J.J. stepping into that role and the audience knowing she’ll excel because she already has on-screen.

But right now, Prentiss is doing exactly what someone in her position should: standing by her team and their actions and refusing to cater to the whims of someone like Barnes. Viewers were used to seeing Hotch in charge for years, but Prentiss has shown since she’s taken on the role that she’s more than capable and definitely the right person for the job. She has the experience, she has the “respect, support and capital,” as she told Barnes, and she refuses to play the assistant director’s game.

Casting Bits: Drake Hogestyn to Guest Star on Criminal Minds>>>

In their conversations, Barnes singled out Rossi and Reid, suggesting the former was too busy with his books and family and the latter a more natural fit for academia, but Prentiss refused to name a “fall guy” so the FBI would avoid some bad PR. And while that did suggest that one of those two could be on the way out (if Barnes had her wish), it’s just as likely that every team member’s name and a “problem” will come out of Barnes’ mouth before the end of this arc.

But it’s the agents that make this team what it is, and that is a team that gets the job done. Sure, they’ve continued to do that even as agents have come and gone, but it’s the team dynamic that has people tuning in each week. Keep messing with that and the show isn’t the same. There needs to be some stability, like there was in earlier seasons. It’s time to get back to that, and here’s the perfect time to show they can: by not having the BAU change in any way this season.

Barnes Shouldn’t Win (Again)

“Your specialty is remaking units and divisions in your image, slimming them down, dividing their resources, so you can maximize their efficiency,” Prentiss told Barnes. Now, that’s not all bad. No one can argue against maximizing a unit’s efficiency. What is a problem is what Prentiss said next: Barnes wants power, and for her, that means she wants to be the director one day. But given how she’s butting heads with the BAU and specifically Prentiss right now, that’s not something that will benefit them and therefore the series.

Barnes already won when it came to the IRT from Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, as we’ve heard from Matt Simmons about his former unit. And with her putting J.J. in charge and questioning her about the decision to promote Prentiss over her, it seems like Barnes has already started to try to remake the BAU into her image, suggesting she knows she can’t just disband their team like she did the IRT. What she should see instead is that the BAU can remain loyal to one another while following bureau policy and doing their jobs in such a way that makes it impossible for her to even attempt to do what she did to the IRT with the BAU.

How do you think Barnes’ investigation should end for the BAU?

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image/video courtesy of CBS)


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Three Republicans vie for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seat, replacing death penalty critic – Texas Tribune

Elsa Alcala has made a name for herself on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Last fiscal year, the Republican judge wrote by far more opinions than any of the eight other judges on the court, and she has become known during her nearly seven-year tenure for her fiery dissents criticizing the death penalty.

Now she’s stepping down, and three Republican candidates want to take her seat on the state’s highest appellate court for criminal cases. With no Democrats running for the position, the primary winner will almost certainly land a spot on the court next January (one Libertarian is also running).

Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Jay Brandon, District Judge Michelle Slaughter of Galveston County and  District Judge Dib Waldrip of Comal County are fighting for the chance at the court. Their experience levels vary in terms of criminal appellate, prosecutorial and defense work, but these races — which generally bring in little campaign money and even less attention — are often won on different terms. 

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Endorsements from conservative groups and how your name looks on the ballot can be key factors in deciding a race.

“Either [people] don’t vote in the race, or they vote based on familiar-sounding names,” Alcala said. “It’s not an educated vote in many instances.”

It’s largely why she’s leaving the court. Alcala was appointed to her position in 2011 by former Gov. Rick Perry, then elected to a six-year term the next year. When she announced in 2016 that she wouldn’t run again, she said a main reason was the “random and unreliable” results in partisan judicial elections.

Jani Maselli Wood, a former Republican candidate for the court who handles appellate cases for the Harris County Public Defender’s Office, said Republican voters will also head to the polls with sheets from conservative groups that propose selections across the ballot. She added that Slaughter has gotten most of those endorsements, including the backing of Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life and numerous local Tea Party groups.

“She’s the least qualified, but she’s the farthest right,” Wood said, noting Slaughter’s lack of criminal appellate experience. 

Making life-or-death decisions

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the last resort for all criminal appeals in the state, and it handles all death penalty reviews — where Judge Alcala’s absence will be felt the most.

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She has written numerous opinions questioning the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty — including one from June 2016 where she mentioned it might be time for the court to look at whether societal standards have evolved past a point where capital punishment is acceptable.

Of the three candidates hoping to replace her, Waldrip appeared to venture the closest to Alcala’s sentiment, saying he believed in the death penalty but not in the way it’s currently implemented. He said that with costly, sometimes decades-long appeals, the punishment is no longer a deterrent to would-be murderers. A 19-year-old like the Parkland, Florida, school shooter, for example, probably wouldn’t view execution as a threat if he is on death row for 10 to 20 years beforehand.

“He’s doubled his life span,” Waldrip said. “I think the death penalty has to have a broader, more beneficial societal effect, or we’re not better than that one individual who killed somebody else.”

One way to do that, he said, would be for the Legislature to create a review panel to look at evidence before a prosecutor could seek the death penalty. That could give more credibility to death sentences and shorten appeals.

“We’re spending millions and millions of dollars in post-conviction litigation that we could be sending kids to college on,” he said.

Waldrip and Brandon both said they were happy there have been fewer new death sentences since the alternate punishment of life without parole became an option in 2005, and Slaughter mentioned the option as a safeguard against the death penalty. But she emphasized that changes to death penalty law need to come from the Texas Legislature, not the courts.

“As a judge, it’s not my place to change what the law is other than to maybe suggest reforms or ideas that I may have to the legislators,” Slaughter said. “It’s up to them whether the law actually changes.”

Brandon also said judges are obligated to follow the law and that legally imposed death sentences need to be upheld, but he agreed with Alcala that constitutional arguments about racial biases and lengthy appeals should be reviewed.

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Alcala said ideally a Court of Criminal Appeals judge would have previous experience working with criminal appeals, trial courts and the death penalty.

Wood, who also worked as an attorney for the appellate court in the 1990s, said that because the court is so far removed from the petitioners, it’s important for judges to have represented a person in the law before. Otherwise, she said, the cases can become faceless and easy to dehumanize.

Brandon, a 64-year-old assistant district attorney in Bexar County, led the county’s conviction integrity unit, which looks into possible wrongful convictions. Before becoming a prosecutor, he was a private criminal defense lawyer and served a short stint as a Court of Criminal Appeals briefing attorney in the 1980s. He’s the only candidate with defense experience, and he has represented death row inmates in their appeals to the court.

Though he doesn’t have any judicial experience, he said he was immersed in reviewing petitions with the conviction integrity unit, similar to the petitions the court reviews for appeals. His background has earned him endorsements from the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News editorial boards.

“My whole career has kind of been aimed at serving on this court,” Brandon said.

Waldrip, 54, earned his law degree while working as a police officer in New Braunfels, worked for lower Texas appeals courts and handled appellate cases as the Comal County district attorney. He also has successfully tried more than 100 felony cases before a jury, he said, which he had to maintain in courts of appeals.

“A criminal appeal is a review of the trial work of lawyers and judges — neither of my opponents have ever done the trial work,” he said.

Brandon’s campaign website said when he first joined the district attorney’s office, he did “enough jury trials to know I could try a case,” then moved onto appellate work.

Brandon and Waldrip — both state-certified in criminal law — have criticized Slaughter’s lack of criminal appellate experience, but Slaughter, 43, pointed out that she interned for a Texas appellate court in law school. She also noted that she has presided over 100 felony criminal jury trials and has a wider range of experience than her opponents. She previously worked with international civil law firms covering complex issues in courts in Texas and out of state, she said.

“Criminal law is actually very straightforward,” she said. “Having had that very complex legal experience, I think, is a huge benefit because it allows me to really cut through to the key issues.”

She mentioned the current criminal case against Attorney General Ken Paxton, saying having a judge with civil experience on the court would help with the complexities that have arisen with attorney fees and special prosecutors.

A changing court

Alcala is the only judge voluntarily leaving the Court of Criminal Appeals after this election, but Presiding Judge Sharon Keller is up for re-election, and her Republican primary opponent David Bridges has knocked her for ethical controversies. Most famously, Keller rejected a 2007 final death penalty appeal because it was filed a few minutes past the deadline, insisting “we close at five.” Keller said the controversy is behind her, and she has won re-election since. Judge Barbara Hervey’s term is also expiring, but the Republican is running uncontested for re-election.

Alcala said with her leaving and two new judges who came to the court in 2017, the bench is in a state of flux.

“I never know on any given case how it’s going to come out,” she said. “You just got a lot of new judges who are trying to figure out where they’re going to land.”

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