Thursday, January 28, 2010

LPP Top News...

Obama takes on ‘devastation’ of recession

In State of the Union, president calls for three-year spending freeze

Image: Obama

  'I never suggested change would be easy'
Jan. 27: President Barack Obama calls for a stronger, non-partisan effort to solve the nation's problems in his first State of the Union address.
NBC News
By Alex Johnson
updated 8:32 p.m. PT, Wed., Jan. 27, 2010
Declaring that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America,” President Barack Obama compared the economic crisis to the greatest challenges of the nation’s past Wednesday night, saying “history’s call” demanded a years-long freeze on huge chunks of popular government spending programs.
In his first State of the Union address, Obama bluntly compared the recession to great challenges of the past like the Civil War and the bloody struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. While there has been progress, it has stalled, he said, telling lawmakers in the House chamber and millions of Americans at home that “the devastation remains.”
“I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” Obama said. “... This problem is not going away.”

LPP Archive...

Obama reaches out to Cuba as he lifts travel and money restrictions

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 11:36 AM on 14th April 2009
In a major departure from previous presidents, Barack Obama has opened the lines of communication between the U.S. and Cuba.
Mr Obama yesterday eased travel restrictions to the communist island and paved the way for American telecommunications firms to begin providing service for Cubans.
The significant shift in the hardline U.S. policy towards the island comes fifty years after Fidel Castro rode into Havana to celebrate his victory in the Cuban Revolution.

Cuban citizens joyfully greet family members arriving at the Havana airport from the U.S. yesterday - their joy multiplied by the news that Barack Obama has lifted travel restrictions for families
Viva la revolucion: Cuban citizens joyfully greet family members arriving at the Havana airport from the U.S. yesterday - their joy multiplied by the news that Barack Obama has lifted travel restrictions for families
Sweeping away years of policy towards the island, Mr Obama ended limits on family travel and money transfers to their homeland by Cubans in the United States.

The moves by the White House do not eliminate Washington's trade embargo against Cuba, set up 47 years ago.
But they do hold out the prospect for improving relations between the two longtime foes.
'The president has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights,' said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
'These are actions he has taken to open up the flow of information.'

Barack Obama, pictured here celebrating Easter Monday with his family yesterday, has launched a major departure from George Bush's policies towards Cuba
Barack Obama, pictured here celebrating Easter Monday with his family yesterday, has launched a major departure from George Bush's policies towards Cuba

U.S. officials said Mr Obama hoped the new measures would encourage Cuba's one-party state to implement democratic reforms long demanded by Washington as a condition for removing sanctions imposed after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Shares of companies that stand to gain from a thaw in U.S. ties with Cuba soared on the news, led by Canadian mining and energy company Sherritt International, a major player in Cuba's nickel and oil industry, whose stock rose 24.5 per cent.
Miami-based cruise operator Royal Caribbean also saw its shares rise on hopes that the No. 2 cruise ship operator and rival Carnival, could sail to Cuba, just 90 miles (140 km) from the United States.
U.S. telecommunications companies will now be allowed to set up fibre-optic cable and satellite links with Cuba, start roaming service agreements and permit U.S. residents to pay for telecoms, satellite radio and television services provided to people in Cuba, the White House said.

Fidel Castro, centre, pictured during a 2000 protest demanding an end to the U.S. embargo against his nation
Fidel Castro, centre, pictured during a 2000 protest demanding an end to the U.S. embargo against his nation

Mr Obama also directed his government to look at starting scheduled commercial flights to Cuba. Air travel between the United States and Cuba is now limited to charter flights.
While they insistently call for an end to the U.S. embargo Cuba's leaders have in the past reacted with caution and suspicion to initiatives presented by Washington as seeking to 'open up' Cuba's communist political system.
Havana rejects arguments that it needs Western-style democracy and has resisted as 'subversive' past U.S. efforts to channel funds and communications equipment to dissidents and independent journalists on the island.
Supporters of easing U.S. sanctions against Cuba applauded the family-related policy changes, which will affect an estimated 1.5 million Americans who have relatives in Cuba.
They voiced hope it would lead to even bolder steps by Mr Obama to dismantle the trade embargo, which critics argue is an obsolete policy that has failed to foster change in Cuba.
But conservative critics of Mr Obama's strategy said it would increase cash flow to help prop up Cuba's government.

A man sits in an old car as he waits for tourists in Havana yesterday. Mr Obama's new policies are expected to usher in a new era of openness between Cuba and the U.S.
 A man sits in an old car as he waits for tourists in Havana yesterday. Mr Obama's new policies are expected to usher in a new era of openness between Cuba and the U.S.
Mr Obama had promised in the presidential campaign to ease some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, but insisted he would not end the trade embargo until Cuba showed progress toward democracy.
Mr Obama's gesture comes before he attends a Summit of the Americas in Trinidad later this week.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough said the issue of money transfers was critical to other countries in the region as well.
'One thing that we hope we can encourage all of our friends (at the summit) to do is to work with us to call on the Cuban government to reduce the cost associated with the remittances sent to Cuban families,' he told reporters.
Cuba is among the U.S. foes Obama has said he would be willing to engage diplomatically, instead of shunning them as his predecessor George W Bush did.
'I enthusiastically applaud this, it is ground breaking ...  ... I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of even more relaxation,' said Silvia Wilhelm, executive director of the Miami-based Cuban American Commission for Family Rights.
Until now, Cubans living in the United States had been allowed to travel to the island once a year and could send only $1,200 per person in cash to family members in Cuba.
Mr Obama faced some resistance in the U.S. Congress, especially from opposition Republicans.
'President Obama has committed a serious mistake by unilaterally increasing Cuban-American travel and remittance dollars for the Cuban dictatorship,' said Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, both U.S. lawmakers for Florida, home to the largest Cuban exile community in the United States.
At Havana airport, for decades the scene of tearful departures and reunions for families separated by politics and exile, Cubans were overjoyed with Obama's measures.
'This is the most beautiful thing that could happen,' said 60-year-old Pablo, saying goodbye to his daughter who was returning to Miami.
'If Obama does this, all of us will be able to get together. The family is what matters.'

Almost 300,000 Cubans Abroad Visited Island in '09

Havana says nearly 300,000 Cubans living overseas visited island in 2009; most from US

The Associated Press

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez speaks during a meeting with Cubans living abroad in Havana,... Expand
Nearly 300,000 Cubans living abroad visited their homeland last year, the island's foreign minister said Wednesday, but he insisted a loosening of travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans coming to the island was "insufficient."
It was unclear if the 2009 figure was a record since the government rarely releases complete figures on the number of Cubans living overseas and the frequency of their visits. But Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said about 296,000 Cubans living abroad came back last year compared to just 37,000 in 1994.
He did not say how many came from the United States, but the overwhelming majority of islanders overseas live in the U.S., mostly in southern Florida and New Jersey. There are other sizable Cuban communities in Spain, Mexico and Argentina.
In April, President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on Cubans living in the United States who want to travel or send money to the island. The move erased limits imposed by the administration of former President George W. Bush, but has been dismissed by Cuban officials as inadequate.
Rodriguez said Washington has sought to turn Cubans who choose to leave the island into "refugees who have fled in search of liberty."
Cuba's government offers no statistics on how many of its citizens have left the island since Fidel Castro toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959, though experts put the number at as many as 1.5 million — more than 13 percent of today's entire Cuban population of about 11.2 million.
Under a 1994 agreement with the Cuban government designed to stop mass illegal immigration, the United States offers 20,000 visas to Cuban immigrants per year. Tens of thousands more flee the island secretly each year, and nearly all who reach U.S. soil are allowed to stay.
But even moving away from Cuba legally is not easy. Cubans wanting to emigrate must obtain official permission from the communist government to leave, a special passport and, often, a string of additional visas — as well as having to meet the requirements for the destination country.
Once outside, immigrants face strict Cuban government rules on how long they have to wait before they can visit the island anew, and how long they can stay.
The foreign minister's comments kicked off a three-day immigration forum featuring 450 Cubans who live overseas, including 200 from the United States. Those invited were considered supportive of the single-party communist system.
"This is a positive event," said Delia Zurdo, a Miami resident. "I've lived there for 42 years, but I miss my country and I want to help defend it, and defend it until I die."

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Thursday Jan 28, 2010

Lawton's Legend Grady Brewer Faces Cuba's Lara

By David A. Avila

Among those living in the southwestern parts of Oklahoma many know about the prizefighter Grady “Bad Boy” Brewer.

You might even call him a local legend.

From amateur boxer to “Toughman” contest winner to eventual world champion the legend of Brewer grows quietly but still expands.

Maybe it’s because he won the seldom acknowledged IBC and IBA middleweight titles or maybe it’s because he’s rather quiet.


Brewer (26-11, 15 KOs) faces Cuba’s former amateur star Erislandy Lara (9-0, 5 KOs) in a junior middleweight bout on Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Golden Boy Promotions card will be televised on Fox Television.

Nobody knows what to expect.

“It’s an interesting fight,” says Robert Diaz, matchmaker for Golden Boy.

For years Brewer accepted fights at the spur of a moment. Many times laboring to lose the required weight and other times lacking preparation time. In professional boxing that’s a no no.

One reason he took so many fights without preparation is his fearlessness. He’s plain unafraid of facing the monsters that everyone else avoids. Need examples?

How about Kelly Pavlik, Jermain Taylor, Peter Manfredo Jr. and Carlos Bojorquez all within his first three years of professional boxing.

That’s a murderer’s row.

“When I fought Carlos Bojorquez I was beating him but I ran out of gas,” says Brewer, 39, who began fighting professionally at 29. “I dropped him in the first round in that fight. I think I broke my hand when I dropped him. That’s what got me where I lost focus. I learned from it and that’s where I am right now.”

Injuries are another obstacle for Brewer. Lately, with age, he seems to be over that injury hump. He hasn’t lost a fight since losing to Marco Antonio Rubio nearly five years ago.

It could have been over for the Oklahoma native years ago but when the second season of the popular Contender reality television series looked for participants they found Brewer.
Sometimes it takes a legend to spot the intrinsic qualities of other fighters. When Sugar Ray Leonard first saw Brewer he recognized certain innate qualities.

“He’s a very interesting intriguing young man. He’s really quiet unless you push him too far,” said Leonard by telephone. “He reminds me of myself. Personally I’m quiet unless you push me too far. I see that in Grady.”

During the second season of the Contender the Oklahoma fighter was often overlooked until it was too late. Wins over Vinroy Barrett, Michael Stewart, Norberto Bravo and Steve Forbes in the finals sent a buzz in the boxing world.

“He kept surprising people throughout the competition. This guy truly believes in himself and has one of the most unorthodox styles. It’s not pretty to look at but effective,” said Leonard who is currently working on a book of his life story in and out of the ring. “He stood in the ring like he was a champion. Not like a Floyd Mayweather or myself, but calm. You knew there was something else under his sleeve.”

Brewer last fought in the summer where he was placed against undefeated Albert Onolunose of Canada. After one round of feeling out the younger fighter the Oklahoman lowered the boom with an uppercut from hell. It was brutally over and Brewer stood there with his arms raised high just like in the final of the Contender.

Onolunose’s brother Jegbefumere told Brewer he wanted to avenge his brother. Sadly, the two Nigerian natives were later arrested for allegedly committing fraud. Then boxing super star Winky Wright challenged Brewer. The fight was to take place in Puerto Rico but it was canceled at the last moment.

“I was going to fight Winky Wright at middleweight. But I would like to campaign at junior middleweight. I have a chance to compete at that level,” says Brewer who doesn’t care who literally rings his bell. “Because of the money and who he is Paul Williams would be a great opportunity. I’d put everything on the table for that fight.”

Lawton’s legend will have his hands full against Cuba’s lanky left-handed bomber Lara, 26, who amassed hundreds of fights as an amateur.

If Brewer can avoid weight and injury problems he can compete with anyone says his own history and other legends.

“I think it’s a big fight without question,” says Leonard whose legendary fights in the 1980s put a sizzle into pro boxing. “It throws him back into the pot. He’s been very inactive. It’s a fight that’s puts him back in the heads of the boxing public.”

Brewer is well aware of his place.

“After this fight I’m going to be done with fighting prospects. It’s time for me to step up to the plate. After I clean house with this guy I’m looking to fight a bunch of guys. Let everybody know,” said Brewer.

Lawton’s legend has spoken.

Now it’s time for action.
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HAVANA – The state of human rights in Cuba did not improve last year and is unlikely to get better in 2010, a dissident organization said Tuesday, though noting that the number of political prisoners declined from 205 to 201.

“Unless a miracle happens, the situation of civil, political and economic rights in Cuba will remain the same or worse in the course of 2010,” the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a statement distributed to the press by its chairman, Elizardo Sanchez.

“Nothing indicates that the current governors are ready to initiate the judicial, economic and political reforms the country needs,” the document said.

Some in Cuba and abroad had hoped that the transfer of power from the ailing Fidel Castro to his younger brother would bring an easing of the Communist Party’s grip. But while Raul Castro has encouraged more open debate within official forums, he has shown no inclination to relinquish the government’s media monopoly.

In its report on 2009, the human rights commission attributes continuing repression to fear on the part of a “minority within the top nomenclatura (leadership) that continues exercising totalitarian power.”

That minority, according to the commission, is afraid that loosening the reins would be tantamount to opening a “Pandora’s box” of the communist regime’s past crimes.

The report cited an increase in authorities’ tendency to “replace political repression based on prolonged incarceration with other procedures, equally illegal but less costly from the political viewpoint, such as brief arbitrary detentions, threats and other forms of intimidation.”

One of those tactics involves the deployment of government supporters to verbally harass and – sometimes – physically accost dissidents as they try to mount peaceful protests.

A total of 869 government opponents were detained in 2009, some of them more than once, the commission said, frequently on the charge of “pre-criminal social dangerous,” an offense unique to the Cuban penal code.

Last year’s reduction in the total number of political prisoners was due largely to detainees’ completing their sentences, the commission said.

“Particularly disturbing” are the cases of Santiago Padron, Ihosvani Suris and Maximo Pradera, “radical anti-Castro opponents” who have been held without trial since 2001, the report said.

The commission also noted that while it is almost two years since the Cuban government signed two major U.N. human rights conventions, Havana has taken no steps to ratify or implement the accords. EFE
S:Latin American Herald Tribune

Primakov gets Cuba's Order of Solidarity

Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov, president of the Russian Chamber (foto1) of Commerce, was awarded the Cuban Order of Solidarity at a ceremony in Moscow, the Russian and Cuban media reported Friday.
The award, presented by Cuban Ambassador Juan Valdés Figueroa on behalf of President Raúl Castro, was given to Primakov for his efforts "to strengthen and expand bilateral relations" between the two nations.
Valdés praised Primakov "for the solidarity he has shown despite the harsh conditions of the [U.S.] blockade of Cuba and for his honest friendship and assistance in developing new opportunities for cooperation between our two countries."
Valdés described the honoree as "a prominent politician and statesman, a shrewd diplomat, an experienced academician, and a close friend of Cuba."
Primakov, 81, has had a busy career in government. The director of the International Relations Institute from 1985 to 1989, he served as deputy chief of the KGB and director of the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) from 1991 to 1996.
He had short stints as Foreign Minister (1996-98) and Prime Minister (1998-99) and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Posted by Renato Perez at 10:22 PM in Current Affairs, Raul Castro, The World
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S:Cuban Colada

Lincoln Diaz-Balart on Los Van Van

The Congressman weighs in on the controversy:
Diaz-Balart Denounces Obama Administration’s Authorization for Castro Representatives “Van Van” to Perform in the United States
Washington, DC - Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) issued the following statement today regarding the authorization by the Obama Administration for the Castro regime representatives “Van Van” to perform in the United States:
“At a time when the moribund totalitarian dictatorship of Fidel Castro is increasing it’s repression of human rights activists inside Cuba and has even gone so far at to arrest a U.S. citizen for delivering assistance to Cuban Jewish groups, the Obama Administration has authorized the performance in the U.S. of the dictatorship’s emblematic “musical ambassador,” Juan Formell and his group of musicians known as “Van Van.” This is an uncalled-for act of appeasement of a terrorist, anti-American dictatorship by President Obama.
Instead of focusing on highlighting the Cuban regime’s oppression and on effectively delivering aid to Cuba’s pro-democracy movement, the Obama Administration continues to appease the enemies of the United States. Inviting “Van Van” at this time is as though the U.S. would have authorized spokesmen for the South African apartheid regime to come to the United States to perform during the final stages of apartheid’s grotesque existence in South Africa”
I was interviewed on this subject by the AP last week, will post a link as soon as story is up.


Image: EFE
The vice-president and defense minister of Venezuela, Ramón Carrizalez, one of President Hugo Chávez’s oldest allies, announced his resignation yesterday citing personal reseasons.
Venezuelan analysts affirm that the cause could be over his disagreement with the imposition of Cuban military officers (also assimilating within Venezuela’s military with same rank) in the military high command making decisions at the Strategic Operational Command level.
Click here for full story.

A Similar Script

at 12:01 AM Thursday, January 28, 2010
According to Reuters:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Wednesday that he may quicken his drive to build a socialist state, as he shuffled his cabinet amid opposition demonstrations sparked by closure of a television station.

The leftist leader is already facing a tough start to 2010 with growing complaints over shortages of electricity and water and a sharp currency devaluation that could harm the chances of his supporters in congressional elections in September.

In a sign he may be preparing for a combative year, Chavez has responded to these challenges by designating a vice president known for radical views and pushing the opposition station RCTV off subscription TV networks.

The move against RCTV has sparked opposition protests this week during which two students have been killed.

And here's our favorite line:

"If you're going to head down the path of destabilization, I'm warning you it will yield the opposite result of what you're seeking -- that we may decide to speed up the changes," Chavez, who recently declared himself a Marxist, said in televised comments.

Chavez just "recently declared himself a Marxist"?

A shocking revelation.

So now that he "finally" decided to turn Venezuela into a Marxist dictatorship, it's simply a question of logistics -- timing and implementation.

Why is it that tyrants have such trouble with the truth?

S:Capitol Hll Cubans
 Will the 2010 Trade Agenda Include Cuba?

Photo credit: Reuters
In his State of the Union address tonight, the President told Congress that the U.S. cannot afford to hang back while our competitors beat us to new markets. He called for America to double its exports, and expand every market opportunity we can. I thought to myself, really? Because the International Trade Commission concluded last year that we could expand U.S. farm exports to one country ninety miles away by half a billion dollars. That could nearly double our food exports to Cuba (which in 2004 was our 25th largest buyer) over the slumping 2009 numbers.
My jaw dropped to hear President Obama spend a good two minutes on the themes you hardly heard in 2009: trade, the Doha round, and keeping our "key" partners South Korea, Panama and Colombia - all of which signed Free Trade Agreements with the Bush Administration and to which so many Democrats have become increasingly allergic. If the President really was signaling he's willing to twist some Democratic arms on a trade agenda Republicans have been pushing for, I'll be shocked if a natural farm export market like Cuba doesn't end up on it.