Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Obama announces teacher training initiative

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President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives in the East Room of the White House AP – President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, …

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama announced a $250 million initiative Wednesday to train math and science teachers and help meet his goal of pushing America's students from the middle to the top of the pack in those subjects in the next decade.
Obama also gave awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring to more than 100 educators — and joked about putting them to work.
"I believe so strongly in the work that you do," Obama said at a ceremony in the White House East Room. "And as I mentioned to some of you, because I've got two girls upstairs with math tests coming up, I figure that a little extra help from the best of the best couldn't hurt.
"So you're going to have assignments after this," he said. The audience laughed. "These awards were not free," he added.
Obama said teacher quality is the most important single factor that influences whether students succeed or fail in the "STEM" fields of science, technology, engineering and math. But, he said, U.S. students trail their peers around the world.
He said a substantial shortage of teachers in these subject areas will deepen unless steps are taken to reverse the trend, and that doing so requires outside help because the federal government cannot do it alone.
Obama said the $250 million in public and private investments for his "Educate to Innovate" campaign will help train more than 100,000 teachers and prepare more than 10,000 new educators in the next five years.
Support is expected from Intel Corp., the National Math and Science Initiative, PBS and the National Science Teachers Association, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the presidents of more than 75 of the country's largest public universities.
Obama also called on the 200,000 scientists who work for the federal government to help by speaking at schools and participating in hands-on projects to help stoke a youngster's curiosity in science.
"Make no mistake: Our future is on the line," he said. "The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow."
Obama, who has included students in several science events at the White House, said he would do his part, too. Planning is under way for a White House science fair to honor student winners of national science and technology competitions, he said.

U.S. contractor worked for "secret services": Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) – A U.S. contractor detained last month in Cuba for distributing satellite communications equipment to dissidents worked for American "secret services" and is being investigated, a top Cuban official said on Wednesday. Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon shed no light on what the government plans to do with the prisoner, who President Raul Castro has cited as evidence that the United States continues its five-decade long campaign to subvert the island's communist system. The man, arrested in early December, has never been publicly identified. U.S. diplomats were permitted to visit him on December 28, but they have provided little information about the meeting. He worked for a Maryland-based company called Development Alternatives Inc. that said he was involved in a U.S. government program to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Cuba. "This is a man hired by a company that contracts for the American secret services and that is the object of investigation," Alarcon told reporters after a meeting of Cuba's National Election Commission. He said the contractor was part of trend toward "privatization of war" by the United States, which hires people to be "agents, torturers, spies." Asked if the prisoner was in good condition, Alarcon said, "I can assure you that he is much better -- much, much better -- than the victims of those contractors all over the world." TURN FOR WORSE The man's arrest comes as part of a turn for the worse in U.S.-Cuban relations, that had thawed slightly under Obama, who said he wanted a "new beginning" with Cuba after 50 years of hostilities that followed the island's 1959 revolution. Cuban leaders who spoke well of Obama early in his presidency have begun to harshly criticize him for not moving faster to end the U.S. trade embargo against the island, imposed since 1962 to undermine the Cuban government. President Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008, referred to the arrested contractor in a December 21 speech to the National Assembly, saying it was evidence that despite Obama's hopeful words, "The enemy is as active as ever." Cuba restricts satellite communications, including satellite television, because of fears they can be used against the government. Cuba again signaled its anger with Washington on Tuesday, when it summoned the top U.S. diplomat in Havana to protest increased air security measures for U.S.-bound passengers from Cuba. Cuba was one of 14 countries selected by the U.S. for extra security following the botched Christmas Day bombing of a Delta jet plane en route to Detroit by a Nigerian believed to be an al Qaeda operative. Cuba is on a U.S. State Department list of countries considered "state sponsors of terrorism," which Cuban leaders have protested for years. (Editing by Jeff Franks and Anthony Boadle)

Christmas Plane Bomb Suspect Indicted by U.S. Grand Jury

Wednesday, January 06, 2010
DETROIT —  A grand jury indicted a Nigerian man on Wednesday on charges of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day by trying to use a weapon of mass destruction. The federal grand jury also charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with attempted murder, possession of a firearm and other counts. Authorities say Abdulmutallab, 23, was traveling to Detroit from Amsterdam when he tried to blow up the plane carrying nearly 300 people by injecting chemicals into a package of pentrite explosive concealed in his underwear. The failed attack caused popping sounds and flames that passengers and crew rushed to extinguish. Since then, airlines and the Transportation Security Administration have boosted security in airports in the U.S. and around the world. There is no specific mention of terrorism in the seven-page indictment, but President Barack Obama considers the incident a failed strike against the United States by an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Abdulmutallab has told U.S. investigators he received training and instructions from Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in the Al Qaeda hotbed of Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus.

Cuban bloggers hold meeting called Blogger Journey in May 2009. (Image: Generation Y)
A new revolution is making headway in Cuba. Discreet but unstoppable. Slick and irreverent. It’s called the alternative blogosphere and it is making the Castro brothers nervous, whom last Friday reached 51 years in power. The protagonists are hundreds of young men and women (and some who are a lot older) that have proposed to break a siege of censorship and to ventilate a closed society on the island for half a century. Their weapons are computers and memory sticks. And despite all the obstacles, are managing to weave a network of rebellion that begins to move from cyberspace to the streets. (via El País)

What would you say if….

...I told you that a ceratin someone or certain entity has planned and put together a meeting of Cuban bloggers in New York City this month on, say, January 15th, and invited not only certain bloggers with a specific agenda but managed to get high level executives from, say, Twitter and, say, Goggle, to commit to attend?
And what would you say if I told you that certain Cuban bloggers weren't invited because they can be considered say, hardline, to said event?
And what would you say if I told you that the organizers requested those that would attend this would be event use say, fake names, for say, "security" purposes?
What would you say? Would you call me a liar?

Source : babalú

American charged with illegal distribution of electronic devices is described as 'spy'

The American citizen arrested in Havana in early December on charges of distributing satellite communications equipment to unidentified Cuban civilians was a U.S. spy, National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón said Wednesday.
(fot3) The man "was hired by a company that recruits for the U.S. secret services," Alarcón said, according to Prensa Latina. In "a new kind of acquisition system in the United States," the company hires "agents, torturers and spies for the privatization of the war," the news agency said.
The detainee, who has not been identified, "remains under investigation." As to his personal condition, he "is a lot better, a lot better than the victims of those contractors around the world," Alarcón is quoted as saying.
The State Department has said that the man was working as a subcontractor for the Maryland-based economic development organization Development Alternatives Inc.
The company's president has said that the man was part of a federally-funded program devoted to "strengthening civil society in support of just and democratic governance in Cuba."
For an Associated Press report in The Miami Herald, click here.
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.

Cuba calls tighter aiport checks 'hostile'

The additional security measures imposed by Washington on travelers from Cuba "are of a discriminatory and selective nature," said Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the North American Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
(fot2) Speaking Tuesday in Havana, Vidal said a formal protest had been delivered to the chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Jonathan Farrar.
The American decision was "a hostile action," so a Cuban diplomat delivered the same protest to the State Department in Washington, Vidal said, according to the Cubadebate website.
Keeping Cuba on the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism is "politically motivated" and is intended to justify "the blockade against Cuba," Vidal said.
"The arguments used by the U.S. government to maintain Cuba on that list [...] are totally baseless," she said. Rather, Washington should make sure to prevent extremist anti-Castro groups from perpetrating violent acts against Cuba, she added.
Gloria Berbena, spokeswoman for the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana declined to comment on the protest note.
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.
Posted by Renato Perez at 11:23 AM in Travel, U.S.-Cuba relations
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Source:Cuban Colada

New TSA Regs Could Spark Terrorism List Debate on Cuba

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Responding to the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas day, the Transportation Security Administration has issued new regulations for travelers bound for the United States who either hold a passport issued by, or who are departing from or transiting through, a country on the State Department's state sponsors of terrorism list - which includes Cuba. (In addition, the new security measures will apply travelers from 10 other countries of "concern".)
I've put in an inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security's public affairs office to learn a bit more about what these regulations will mean for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who travel to Cuba for work or to visit family. Until I get my answers, I can only guess how these regulations will be implemented. But I think it is pretty safe to say that these regulations could spark a debate in Miami and Washington about whether it's time to remove Cuba from the terrorism list.
In 2001, there were 7 countries on the State Department's list: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Today there are just 4: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. After reading the State Department's 2009 'rap sheet' on each of these countries, you might wonder which of these countries is not like the other? Here's what it looked like in 2006, in 2000, and in 1993.
While the Obama Administration may not be ready to normalize relations with Cuba just yet, you have to wonder whether it makes sense to keep Cuba on the terrorism list in an age when fewer states sponsor terrorism but many more tolerate or fail to stop the groups and individuals who plot against the United States in some of the most lawless corners of the world.
Continue reading "New TSA Regs Could Spark Terrorism List Debate on Cuba" »

Afro-Cubans Demand Civil Rights

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Afro-Cuban pro-democracy activists have written a letter in support of the solidarity initiative launched last month by African-American academic, business and political leaders, calling for an end to the hostilities by the Castro regime against human and civil rights advocates in Cuba.

The following excerpt from the letter also addresses those that falsely accuse U.S. policy as the culprit of the Cuban people's deprivations and highlights the detrimental effects of leisure tourists and other foreigners that partake in the regime's propaganda:

"It's very likely that the majority of African-Americans are unaware of the humanitarian aid offered by the government of the United States and other institutions -- including by Cubans living in that country -- to Cuba pursuant to the devastation caused by three recent hurricanes that left the island in shambles. The "humane" government under which we Cubans have suffered for fifty years refused to accept this aid saying it was "blood money" and giving other excuses that we are used to. That aid would have benefited the entire population -- including Afro-Cubans -- and without any other condition than the wish to help a population in need of economic and democratic support. Today we can see the havoc wreaked by that decision, with the black population suffering most as a result.

To those that refute the struggle against racism that since the 1960's our brother-in-exile Carlos Moore has undertaken, we recommend that -- before accusing him -- they come and visit the island for no less than a three month stay. But not to stay in a hotel with a taxi at the door. If they really want to experience first-hand how black people live in Cuba, they should stay amongst us. In other words, in any neighborhood of Havana or of the provinces, to eat what a regular citizen eats, and then -- and only then -- pass judgment on the reality of black people in Cuba without any propaganda or official favoritism telling them what to do or say.

Those of us that sign this letter believe it was an act of courage and altruism for our African-American brothers and sisters to have expressed solidarity with our cause. The signatories of that important document are on the side of truth. Everything they exposed is the reality of the racial challenges and daily abuse directed against black people in Cuba."


Raúl Pérez Díaz, Internal Medicine Doctor
José Idelfonso Vélez, Coordinator of the National Movement for Racial Integration (MIR)
Hildelbrando Chaviano Montes, Attorney, Coordinator of the MIR
Eliozbel Garriga Cabreras, Delegate of the MIR for Pinar del Río
Esperanza Almeira Cordero, Executive Secretary of the MIR
Osvaldo Ricardo Díaz Sánchez, Delegate of the MIR for Villa Clara
Rafael Bueno, Member of the MIR
Aída Chaviano Montes, Activist of the MIR
Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere, Poet and Coordinator of the Afro-Cuba Cultural Movement
Leonardo Hernández Camejo, Activist of the MIR
Yolanda lázara Martínez Vargas, Vice-President of the Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement
Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, President of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement
Heriberto Portilla, Activist of the MIR
Héctor Palacio Ruiz, Sociologist, Member of the MIR
Guillermo Fariñas, Activist of the MIR
Gisela Delgado Sablón, Activist of the MIR
Tania de la Torre Montesino, Activist of the MIR
Juan Goberna, Member of the Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
Norberto Mesa, Member of the Black Brotherhood
Pedro Luís Sabat, Activist of the MIR
Giselle López Delegada, Member of the Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement
Rubén Carty Lowe, Independent Journalist
Rubén Gonzalez, Member of the Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement
Rosario Morales La Rosa, Activist of the MIR
Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez), Cuban Political Prisoners Party

Cuba protesta contra EE UU por su inclusión en la lista de países de riesgo

La Habana critica que la medida intenta justificar el embargo sobre la isla

AGENCIAS - La Habana - 06/01/2010
Al Gobierno de Cuba no le han gustado nada las nuevas medidas de seguridad aérea implantadas por Estados Unidos tras el atentado fallido de Detroit . En un comunicado emitido este martes, La Habana critica que Washington haya incluido a la isla en la lista de países cuyos pasajeros deben someterse a una inspección más exhaustiva y ha calificado la medida como una trama "motivada por la política" para justificar el embargo que Estados Unidos ejerce sobre Cuba desde hace 47 años.
    Raúl Castro Ruz

    Raúl Castro





    La Habana.
    República comunista.
    11,423,952 (est. 2008)
"Rechazamos categóricamente esta nueva acción hostil del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos, que se deriva de la inclusión injustificada de Cuba en la llamada lista de Estados patrocinadores del terrorismo", explica la nota y añade que el Gobierno de Raúl Castro ha convocado al jefe de la Sección de Intereses de Estados Unidos en La Habana, Jonathan Farrar, para comunicarle su disconformidad con la medida.
Los controles aéreos se han reforzando en los aeropuertos europeos y estadounidenses . Cuba, Irán, Sudán y Siria son los países que EE UU ha catalogado como financiadores y promotores del terrorismo. Otros 10 Estados son considerados por el Departamento de Estado como "países de interés", lo que significa que hay que mantener sobre ellos -y sus ciudadanos- una estrecha vigilancia: Afganistán, Argelia, Irak, Líbano, Libia, Nigeria, Pakistán, Arabia Saudí, Somalia y Yemen.
El portavoz del Departamento de Estado norteamericano, P.J. Crowley, justificó la iniciativa adoptada e insistió este martes en que Cuba sigue siendo un país patrocinador del terrorismo dado su "apoyo prolongado a grupos radicales en la región".

Las Opiniones cuentan...

Fermín Bocos

El desplante cubano.

   MADRID, 6 Ene. (OTR/PRESS) -
   Con arreglo a una costumbre muy arraigada en sus relaciones con España, el Gobierno de Cuba ha iniciado el año con un desplante. En esta ocasión, ha prohibido la entrada a la isla a un eurodiputado, el socialista Luis Yánez, antiguo secretario de Estado para Iberoamérica.
   A ojos de la dictadura castrista el "delito" del señor Yánez es haber escrito que en Cuba no hay libertad y que, por lo tanto, se podría establecer una analogía de fondo entre el régimen de Castro y el de Franco. Este año ha sido Yánez la víctima del desplante de La Habana, hace dos años fue el diputado del PP Moragas. Antes, a quien Castro insultaba era al presidente Aznar; en tiempos de Felipe González, con quien la emprendió fue con el añorado Paco Ordóñez, a la sazón ministro de Asuntos Exteriores. Y aún antes, en los albores de la dictadura castrista, contra quien arremetió Fidel Castro fue contra España y el embajador Lojendio.
   Atacar a España ha sido, ya digo, un clásico por parte del dictador cubano y sus palmeros. El resorte siempre actúa de la misma manera quizá, porque -de manera inexplicable- por parte española nunca ha encontrado la oportuna réplica. Gobierne quien gobierne en Madrid, los desplantes de La Habana siempre salen gratis. De ahí  viene la chulería política del régimen castrista. Le tienen tomada la medida a nuestros gobernantes. De otra manera no se explica la torpeza que supone negar la entrada a la isla a un eurodiputado precisamente el día en el que el Gobierno de España se estrena como presidente de turno de la Unión Europea y cuando es sabido que Zapatero (y Moratinos) querían convencer a los socios de la UE para que no vincularan las ayudas a Cuba con el respeto (falta en este caso, de respeto) a los Derechos Humanos por parte del régimen castrista.
   A los hermanos Castro, hasta hoy, todos los desplantes a España les han salido gratis. Seguir así, por parte de España quizás sea un exceso de ingenuidad política.

La Habana se equivocó con la expulsión, afirma el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores
 Condena Madrid decisión cubana de prohibir el ingreso al país de un eurodiputado español

El ex presidente Fidel Castro conversa con el mandatario nicaragüense Daniel Ortega (derecha), mientras observa la esposa del líder cubano, Dalia Soto del Valle, el pasado lunes en La HabanaFoto Reuters
Dpa, Afp y Reuters

Periódico La Jornada
Miércoles 6 de enero de 2010, p. 23
Madrid, 5 de enero. España condenó hoy la decisión de Cuba de prohibir la entrada a ese país de un eurodiputado español, y advirtió que esto no ayuda a mejorar las relaciones bilaterales. No obstante este incidente, el gobierno español afirmó que mantiene su intención de suavizar la relación entre la Unión Europea (UE) y La Habana.
No es una buena noticia. Creo que los cubanos se han equivocado con esta expulsión, declaró el ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, después de que las autoridades cubanas impidieron en la madrugada del pasado lunes la entrada del europarlamentario socialista Luis Yáñez tras aterrizar en La Habana junto con su esposa con visado de turista.
El jefe de la diplomacia española es el principal defensor del cambio que España pretende impulsar durante este primer semestre, aprovechando su presidencia rotatoria de la UE, uno de cuyos objetivos es que las 27 naciones miembros anulen su posición común sobre Cuba –que piden democracia en su sistema político–, y en su lugar poner en marcha un acuerdo de cooperación con la isla.
El aislamiento, el bloqueo y el embargo (a Cuba) no llevan a nada. No han dado ningún resultado en 50 años, explicó. Política en contraposición a la heredada desde 1996 y a instancias del gobierno español de entonces, encabezado por el conservador José María Aznar, que fija reglas a la relación con Cuba, condicionándola a la situación de los derechos humanos y libertades civiles.
El canciller español Moratinos dejó en claro que el caso de Yáñez no pone en entredicho la voluntad de España de convencer a los países miembros de la UE de que suavicen su posición. Lo importante es que ayudemos a que avance el proceso de reforma política en Cuba, subrayó.
Mientras Moratinos hablaba con la prensa extranjera, el secretario de Estado para Iberoamérica, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, recibía en el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores al embajador cubano, Alejandro González Galiano, convocado para que diese las explicaciones pertinentes sobre lo sucedido y para escuchar la condena española.
El embajador González Galiano se limitó a informar a su interlocutor que a Yáñez se le prohibió la entrada como resultado de la aplicación de leyes internas cubanas, algo a lo que el secretario de Estado para Iberoamérica reiteró el rechazo de España y su esperanza de que no se vuelva a producir un episodio similar, según un comunicado de la cancillería.
Yáñez, del Partido Socialista Obrero Español de José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, llegó a Cuba acompañado por su esposa, la también socialista y diputada nacional Carmen Hermosín, y allí fue retenido por las autoridades antes de ser expulsado el lunes pasado sin explicaciones.
El parlamentario español, de 66 años de edad, que preside la Asociación Cuba-Europa en Progreso, es un crítico del gobierno cubano, si bien también defiende la revisión de la posición común de la UE hacia la isla.
En 2008 ya había sido rechazado en Cuba cuando solicitó un visado de trabajo. Pero, dijo desde Sevilla, no imaginaba que estuviera en una lista negra o que su viaje privado de descanso afectara la seguridad nacional y defensa de la soberanía de Cuba.
No llevaba ninguna agenda secreta, ni del partido, ni del gobierno, ni del Parlamento Europeo, aseguró. Sin embargo, el eurodiputado admitió que pretendía verse con amigos de la socialdemocracia cubana, considerados disidentes por las autoridades, como Manuel Cuesta Morúa, si bien su intención no era política.
Mientras, el gobierno cubano convocó a comicios el 25 de abril para concejales y alcaldes de los 169 municipios del país.