Monday, February 22, 2010

Space Shuttle Makes Rare Nighttime Landing

Space shuttle Endeavour, 6 astronauts make rare nighttime landing, sky clears just in time

The Associated Press

Space Shuttle Makes Rare Nighttime Landing
Space shuttle Endeavour returns to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Feb.... Expand
(Pierre DuCharme, Pool/AP Photo)
Endeavour and its six astronauts returned safely to Earth on Sunday, making a rare nighttime landing to end a mission that resulted in the virtual completion of the International Space Station.
The shuttle's on-time arrival took some by surprise. All day, forecasters said rain and clouds probably would scuttle any touchdown attempts. But the rain stayed away and the sky cleared just in time.
Mission Control waited until the last possible minute before giving commander George Zamka the go-ahead to head home. The 3-mile-long runway was awash in xenon lights.
"It's great to be home. It was a great adventure," Zamka said after the shuttle rolled to a stop.
During their mission — which spanned two weeks and 5.7 million miles — the astronauts delivered and installed a new space station room, Tranquility, and a big bay window with sweeping views of the Earth.
Upon touchdown, Mission Control immediately relayed congratulations to Zamka and his crew for installing Tranquility and opening up those new "windows to the world."
"Welcome home," Mission Control radioed.
This was the 23rd space shuttle landing in darkness, out of 130 flights. The last time was in 2008, by Endeavour as well.
Tranquility already is serving as a base for life-support equipment, as well as a gym and restroom. It also holds the seven-windowed dome, quite possibly the most anticipated addition ever made to a spacecraft.
The 10 men and one woman on the shuttle-station complex couldn't get enough of the views out those windows, once the shutters were raised last week.
The two new compartments were supplied by the European Space Agency at a cost of more than $400 million. Their addition brought the 11-year-old space station to 98 percent completion.
All that's left now are four shuttle flights to stock the space station with more experiments, spare parts and supplies. Discovery will make the next trip in early April.
As for Endeavour, this was its next-to-last mission. It's supposed to return to orbit, one last time, at the end of July.
NASA plans on wrapping up the shuttle program this fall, after which the space station will be supplied by craft from Russia, Europe and Japan. Astronauts will be hitching rides exclusively on Russian Soyuz capsules. The Obama Administration is proposing that commercial rocket companies take a crack at the U.S. ferry side of it, once the three remaining shuttles are retired.

Afghan police say Tora Bora commander killed

NATO strike kills 21 Afghan civilians: ministry AFP/File – In this photo taken on January 20, an Australian soldier practises firing during at a forward operating …
KABUL – Police say a suicide bomber has killed 15 people in eastern Afghanistan, including a key tribal leader who played a major role in a failed attempt to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in 2001. Police Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi says the bomber set off his explosives in Khogyani district next to a small group of tribal elders and government workers as they were meeting Monday with a few hundred Afghan refugees who had recently returned from Pakistan. Among the dead was Mohammad Zaman Ghamsharik, better known as Haji Zaman. He and another warlord from the Jalalabad area, Hazrat Ali, commanded Afghan forces who cornered the al-Qaida leader in the mountains of Nangarhar province but allowed him to slip away. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below. KABUL (AP) — A police official says a suicide bomber has killed 15 people in eastern Afghanistan, including a key tribal leader. Police Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi says the bomber set off his explosives next to a small group of tribal elders and government workers as they were meeting Monday with a few hundred Afghan refugees who had recently returned from Pakistan. He says 15 people were killed in the blast in Nangarhar province and at least 15 others wounded. Among the dead was Mohammad Zaman, an influential tribal leader in the area and a former mujahedeen fighter.

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February 19, 2010

Cuba Issues Statement After Today's Migration Talks

Photo by Alejandro Ernesto of EFE of Cuban Deputy Minister Rodriguez sending off an earlier (non-State Department sponsored) U.S. delegation headed by Governor Bill Richardson last year
U.S. and Cuban officials met in Havana today for a second round of migration talks. The delegations were headed by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, Dagoberto Rodriguez. We'll have more for you on the bigger picture - why are we talking and what are the stakes, big and small - but just wanted to get you the latest from Havana, a statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry, which you'll find at the end of this post after the jump.
I'm not sure this statement tells us much about the disposition of the talks, other than that they haven't broken down, and that's good. I note the Cuban request for more consular personnel in Washington, D.C. for assisting Cubans who do migrate to or visit the United States. On its face, seems like a reasonable request to grant - as would a similar request from the U.S. side to grant permission for more U.S. personnel in Havana to process the visa requests. Not to mention all the talk of lifting the U.S. travel ban - if that happens this year, the U.S. Mission in Havana will surely need additional personnel.
Let the tea-leaf reading begin...
Continue reading "Cuba Issues Statement After Today's Migration Talks" »

February 21, 2010

Political prisoners ask Lula to intercede

Cuban political prisoners have asked Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to plead for their release during a stopover in Havana on his way back from the Rio Group summit in Mexico, the EFE news agency reports.
A letter signed by 42 imprisoned dissidents and eight who are on parole for health reasons asks Lula "to contemplate our situation and that of other peaceful Cuban political prisoners and plead for our liberation" during his talks with Cuban leaders.
(fot4) Lula plans to stop in Havana Tuesday after attending the summit in Cancún and is expected to meet with Raúl and Fidel Castro. In past visits, Lula has not met with dissidents.
According to the letter, Lula can be "a magnificent interlocutor" who "can get the Cuban government to embark on the economic, political and social reforms that are urgently needed, advance in its respect of human rights, achieve the long-hoped-for national reconciliation, and bring the nation out of the profound crisis in which it finds itself."
The letter also asks that Brazilian diplomats, "while maintaining their relationship with the Cuban authorities, listen to the opinions of the civilian society, including the relatives of the prisoners of conscience, the political prisoners, and those in the peaceful opposition."
(PHOTO SHOWS Raúl Castro and Lula in Brasília in December 2008.)
S: Cuban Colada


Now that’s a statement


S: babalú

LPP Archive...

Is the 'New York Times' drunk?

The Brazilian president and the New York Times are caught in a drunken stand-off. Cuban prisoners are charged with “dangerousness”. America’s missile shield doesn’t work. The best stories, the choicest quotes.
Storm in a shot glass
With US credibility seemingly flushed down the drain of civilisation, the world having lost its beacon of hope in the sewers of Baghdad, images of torture and sexual humiliation repeatedly played across our screens, a knife-operated beheading in the name of Allah broadcast on the internet, President Bush declaring his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is doing “a superb job”, the Diary – sickened, disillusioned and desperate for hope – asks the one question crying out for an answer: is Brazilian President Lula a flip-flop-clad drunk?
That’s right – there’s talk amongst globally concerned citizens that the spiritual leader of the developing world is, in fact, a spirit-soaked lush.
The Diary has no source for this sauce-ridden allegation. No-one in the Court of Lula will confirm or deny these unproven 40%-proof rumours.
All we have to go on is a report by Larry Rohter in the New York Times last weekend, which claimed that “some of [Lula’s] countrymen have begun wondering if their president’s predilection for strong drink is affecting his performance in office.”
It never did Churchill any harm!
Rohter suggested that Lula’s absence from increasingly embarrassing episodes surrounding his government “may somehow be related to his appetite for alcohol.” In other words, Lula is home nursing a permanent hangover.
The article quoted Leonel Brizola, leader of the Democratic Labor Party, who ran with Lula in the 1998 election, but is now a political rival to the president. Brizola claims to be worried that Lula is “destroying the neurons in his brain.”
Perhaps he’s a pretzel addict too.
In one of the lamest and most sanctimonious digs of the year, Brizola is quoted as saying, “I alerted [Lula] that distilled beverages are dangerous. But he didn’t listen to me.”
“If I drank like him, I’d be fried,” Brizola added, clearly not trying to score any political points.
Rohter’s article kicked off a spate of recrimination and counter-recrimination. An apoplectic Lula (displaying a Stalinist contempt for the freedom of the press) decided to expel Rohter from Brazil for offending “the honour of the president”. Unfortunately, Brazil’s supreme justice tribunal didn’t sympathise with Lula’s decision and ordered a temporary halt on the expulsion (the case is still pending). In the words of the Financial Times, Lula “could not have shot himself more resoundingly in the foot.”
The president’s reaction, judged the FT, “recalled the dark days of Brazil’s dictatorship.” Not convinced? Then check out Comrade Lula’s explanation: “If no steps had been taken, any journalist from any country could do the same thing without worrying about the consequences. This case serves as an example.”
Dark days indeed.
But what of the New York Times? The Diary is no starry-eyed lover of Lula’s (the Castro alliance for one, is a little sickening), but clearly the NYT is also playing politics, and punching below the belt. When Lula was elected, the Times appeared not overly enthused. It is hard not to see an agenda behind sentences such as: “With a mixture of sympathy and amusement, Brazilians have watched [Lula’s] efforts to try not to smoke in public, his flirtations at public events with attractive actresses and his continuing battle to avoid the fatty foods that made his weight balloon shortly after he took office in January 2003.”
The Diary, torch-holder of ethical journalism, would never sink so low!
Except to say this: is it true that Lula wears flip-flops in public? The Diary’s best Brazilian sources say so, with a grimace on their faces. Can this possibly count as appropriate footwear for a global leader? Whatever happened to standards? You’ll be able to see the bullet hole in his foot!
Tropical gulag?
And so to Cuba, land of Lula’s pal and fellow beard, Fidel Castro.
This week, Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation presented a study of the evolution of Cuba’s prison system since Castro seized power in 1959.
In 1956, Sanchez said, Cuba had 4,000 prisoners in 14 prisons. Today, there are 100,000 prisoners in 200 prisons that constitute what Sanchez called “a tropical gulag”.
Sanchez urged the Cuban government to make public its exact figures of how many Cubans were being held in detention. Around 300 are thought to be political prisoners and about 80 are considered “prisoners of conscience”. Some are held for the crime of “dangerousness”.
“The whole country is an enormous prison,” Sanchez added.
The International Red Cross had not inspected Cuban prisons since 1989.
Meanwhile, a huge march is planned in Havana against what Castro is calling America’s “fascist policies”.
(Sources: AP, AFP, Voice of America)
Shielding the facts
Now, once upon a time, back in the day when your enemy had an ideology and a uniform, Cuba was home to missiles that were going to end civilisation as we know it (if, indeed, we do know it).
Then along came President George W. Bush and missiles were set to become a thing of the past. Fire a missile at the US, Dubya said, excitedly, and our “missile shield” will intercept it and we can all carry on having a nice day.
America was to be impenetrable, immunised against enemy attack.
Then along came four commuter jets with nihilists in the cockpits. Two slammed into the twin towers, one into a field in Pennsylvania, another into the Pentagon.
The “missile shield”, an invention of the cold war, was now obsolete – surely. Today’s enemies were terrorists. The ultimate nightmare: an individual with a suitcase. Why spend multibillion dollars (currently $70billion plus) on a useless toy for the Military Industrial Complex?
Get real.
9/11 only strengthened Dubya’s determination to waste money on this relic. At the end of last year, Japan and Australia also bought into the idea and have expressed desire for their own shields.
Then, this week, the project descended into even greater farce. A team of top-notch physicists from the superbly-named Union of Concerned Scientists accused the Bush administration of being “false and irresponsible” in its claims that the missile shield will even work in practice. The flight tests for the system were described as “highly scripted”.
A bunch of crazy scientists? Not at all. Thomas Christie, former chief weapons tester for the US Defense Department, admitted the existing tests provided “no basis to judge that the system has any capability.”
Still, as with Iraq, the philosophy of this administration is unwavering: once you start something, you stick with it, whatever the cost.
The system becomes operational on 30 September.
Disagreeing on agreements
And to wrap things up, with missiles on the mind, the final preparatory meeting of parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before next year’s review conference collapsed this week.
According to U.N. Wire “delegates failed to resolve differences on numerous political and procedural issues, notably how to refer to their own consensus decisions of 2000.”
There’s nothing so moving as solidarity!
“Breaking its own rules of procedure,” the UN Wire report said, “the meeting did not even resume in open session to formally close its proceedings.”
The major sticking point? Simple. The demand for “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
Wake up and smell the radiation.
Quotes of the week
“My party and alliance may have lost, but India has won.”
Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, accepting a surprise defeat in this week’s elections.
“If somebody wanted to plan a clash of civilisations, this is how they’d do it.”
US Senator Dianne Feinstein on 1,800 images of torture of Iraqis by the US military that she viewed at a private screening for lawmakers. (Feinstein was talking to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times).
“One basic difference between democracies and dictatorships is that free countries confront such abuses openly and directly.”
President George W. Bush defending Defense Secretary Rumsfeld over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“I don’t care if he goes and stands on his head in the corner. It’s less important what happens to him than that we demonstrate to the world that we understand the gravity of this and move on.”
US Senator Jospeh Biden, Democrat of Delaware, on US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.
“The purpose of America, our motivations, cannot be questioned … We have a large, large agenda of great international challenges out there that only America can lead with.”
US Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska.
“I’ve stopped reading newspapers. It’s a fact: I’m a survivor.”
US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld addressing US troops in Baghdad.
“What are you going to do about scandl?” “Why are we here?” “Most of us are inocents.”
Some of the (misspelled) signs being held by prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison as US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was driven past in an Israeli-made armoured bus. (Source: New York Times)
“It speaks for the strength of American democracy how they have immediately started getting to the bottom of this. That deserves a place in how we judge America if we are fair, which we should be.”
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
The description by Francois Loos, the French trade minister, of a European Commission initiative to reduce subsidies of farm exports by billions of euros.
Contact the Diary:

Date: Mon, 20 Jul 98 20:25:12 CDT
From: MichaelP
Subject: Posada: "I'll kill Castro if it's the last thing I do"
Article: 39460
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Posada: "I'll kill Castro if it's the last thing I do"

By Edward Helmore in Miami, London Observer,
Sunday 19 July 1998

They tried bombs, they tried poison, they even tried exploding cigars. For more than 30 years, Cuba's President Fidel Castro has been a nagging thorn in America's side, a Communist leader who has outwitted successive US administrations and the efforts of the powerful Cuban exile community to topple him.
But, according to an elderly Cuban dissident in hiding in South America, US-backed attempts to overthrow Castro have never ceased, despite Washington's protestations to the contrary.
Luis Posada Carriles, 70, a legend among militant Cuban exiles, still aims to kill Castro. His greatest dread is that his Communist adversary might survive him. If his story is true, it is an indictment of both the Cuban American National Foundation, the lobbying group that has steered America's stated policy to end Cuba's Communist rule by peaceful means, and of the US government, whose active support of efforts to overthrow Castro were thought to have ended in the early Sixties after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion and five subsequent CIA-sponsored attempts on Castro's life.
It appears that the passionately anti-Communist civic leaders of Cuban America have been pursuing a clandestine foreign policy which has been overlooked by Washington either wilfully in the interests of political expediency or due to incompetence.
Posada, from his hideaway thought to be in El Salvador, has led a shadowy life of armed subversion working for the CIA and the FBI - as well as for Venezuelan, Salvadorean and Guatemalan intelligence - "to fight against the Communists, the people who helped Cuba".
He is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, Oliver North's Iran-Contra operation, numerous assassination attempts on Castro and a concerted campaign to destabilise the country.
In a series of interviews with the New York Times, he claimed responsibility for a series of bombings at hotels and nightclubs in Cuba last summer in which an Italian tourist died and scores more were injured. He said his activities were directly supported by Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the Cuban-American National Foundation, who died last year. Mas Canosa, a powerful force in Florida and US national politics by virtue of prodigious donations to parties, maintained personal friendships with presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
Mas Canosa and the foundation, says Posada, donated more than $200,000 ( 126,000) to his subversive campaign. "Jorge controlled everything. Whenever I needed money, he said to give me $5,000, give me $10,000, give me $15,000 - and they sent it to me."
Posada intimated that the foundation's public policy of non-violent opposition to Castro was a fiction. When asked if he acted in much the same way as the IRA does for Sinn Fein, he said, laughing: "It looks like that."
Reports have linked Posada to last summer's bombings. He says US authorities knew of the plot, but made no effort to question him, a convenience he attributes to his longstanding relationship with the intelligence services. "The FBI and the CIA don't bother me, and I am neutral with them," he said. "Whenever I can help them, I do."
The CIA denies any relationship with Posada "in decades". An FBI official said the agency "does not now have, nor have we ever had, a longstanding relationship with Posada". But declassified files support Posada's assertion that both agencies had detailed knowledge of his operations against Cuba from the early Sixties to mid-Seventies.
Moreover, Antonio Alvarez, a Cuban-American businessman in Guatemala, says he tipped off Venezuelan security forces and the FBI about a plan to assassinate Castro at a conference of Latin heads of state in Venezuela last year. He told them that two of his partners and a man fitting Posada's description had acquired Mexican military explosives and detonators. The Venezuelans expelled anti-Castro demonstrators.
Shortly before the meeting, the captain of a boat boarded by the US Coast Guard off Puerto Rico said he was on a mission to kill Castro. US agents found the boat was registered to an executive of the Cuban-American National Foundation, and one of the guns on board was registered to its current chairman, Abel Hernandez.
But the FBI in Miami showed no interest in Alvarez's information. They told him his life was in danger and that he should leave Guatemala. Posada says the agent who called Alvarez was 'a very good friend', a claim the agency denies. "I think they are all in cahoots - Posada and the FBI," Alvarez said. "I risked my life and my business and they did nothing."
The Cuban government regards Posada as a terrorist and a "monstrous criminal" and has often called on the US to rein in his activities. In Guatemala in 1990, Posada was hit by a dozen bullets, fired, he says, by Cuban hitmen. The shots shattered his jaw and tore through his tongue, requiring reconstructive surgery which was paid for by Hernandez.
Yet The New York Times' claim that Mas Canosa and other foundation leaders funded Posada's terrorist acts has brought threats of legal action from the organisation. The paper has stood by its story, saying its account was based on more than 100 different sources in North and Latin America and FBI files on Posada and Mas Canosa.
"The article is full of lies and we consider it to be false and defamatory information," Ninoska Perez Castellon, director at the foundation's headquarters in Miami said yesterday. "Posada is not a credible source, he has contradicted himself on many occasions and he is a fugitive from justice."
Posada did indeed contradict himself almost immediately, telling a Spanish-language television reporter that the Times report was "completely false" and that neither Mas Canosa nor the foundation leaders had ever sent money. "I am an independent man. I don't represent the armed wing of any organisation," he said.
But such is the murky world of Cuban-American affairs that when the foundation produced the tape of the interview on the same day it was conducted it aroused suspicions of a relationship between the foundation and Posada, or between the foundation and the Miami television reporter. Moreover, a spokesman for the station initially confirmed that a foundation member was present at the interview.
Castellon said: "Where is the proof? [Posada] could be financed by friends or the Cuban government because it suits their purpose to blame the Cuban exile community. He could even have been paid by The New York Times which has a marked agenda on Cuba."
S:Guardian Media Group plc.1998
A Tale of Two "Terrorists"

By Humberto Fontova

The mainstream media is in a tizzy. They can hardly contain their glee. They have a Cuban-exile to bash, you see, one recently arrested for illegal entry into the U.S. The mainstream media hammers away daily that this man, Luis Posada Carriles, is "linked to terrorism," more specifically to the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in October 1976. And though he's not technically a Cuban- American, (you know: that absolutely insufferable "minority" who refuse to file meekly into the Liberal plantation like good little "Hispanics" with a nice little pat on the head by the Democratic National Committee ) he'll serve handily.
Posada Carriles has Venezuelan residency status. He has a long history of anti-Castro militancy, once lived in Miami and worked for the CIA. Plus he has contacts among the "Miami Mafia"(i.e. Cuban- Americans who refuse to recite the talking points on Castro/Cuba handed out by mainstream media/Democratic National Committee axis) So yes, he'll do magnificently as a media whipping boy.
Recall that during the Elian media orgy even normally cagey pundits like Mark Steyn, John Leo and Tony Snow swallowed the Castroite spin, hook, line and sinker.
Well here we have it again. The epidemic of vituperation against this Cuban-exile "terrorist" has proved highly contagious and is crossing the aisles. Dick Morris, writing in the New York Post, says point- blank that Carriles "richly deserves to face a Castro firing squad."
Me, I don't know if Posada Carriles is guilty of this bombing. I can't say for certain either way. But the Havana-incited media orgy against him leaves out many pertinent facts. As in the Elian case, Castro's U.S. echo-chamber again chants constantly about "the rule of law." Yet they neglect to mention that Carriles has been twice acquitted of the crime. Doesn't "the rule of law" also mean protection against double jeopardy?
From the New York Times to USA Today to the Miami Herald, all the big guns of the mainstream media want this anti-Castro "terrorist" who was recently arrested for illegal entry into the U.S., immediately deported. While hosting Nightline Ted Koppel outdid himself on the Carriles case, interviewing --along with the usual Castro parrots like Anna Louise Bardach and Peter Kornbluh--the highly reliable and impartial legal expert, Ricardo Alarcon, also known as Castro's eunuch "President of the Cuban National Assembly."
Ted Koppel habitually sneers and snorts when interviewing a Republican Senator. He was a veritable Vishinsky when interrogating Swiftvet John O'Neill. Koppel's demeanor was markedly different while addressing the eunuch propagandist for a mass-murdering Stalinist government, who broadcast from Havana itself.. Here Koppel mutated into a purring little puddycat. "I think you're teasing me a little bit here, Mr Alarcon," the newly amiable Koppel answered a tart comment by the Communist weasel.
An intrepid interviewer could have had a field day. "Mr Alarcon, here you ask for the extradition of Mr Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba," Koppel might have started," yet the Cuban Government itself is currently harboring 77 fugitives from U.S justice, many on the FBI's most wanted list. And unlike Mr Carriles who has already been acquitted twice, and by independent courts, of any involvement in the plane bombing you accuse him of--- and who recently passed a lie detector test where he was grilled on the plane bombing matter--unlike all of this, Mr Alarcon, many of the U.S. fugitives your government harbors even as we speak, have been convicted by U.S. juries of murder and terror. Yet your government has repeatedly and scornfully rebuffed every request for their return.
"Also Mr Alarcon, protection against double jeopardy is a legal principle that goes back to ancient Greece." Koppel might have continued. "The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the International Criminal Court and the Venezuelan Government itself when they tried Mr Carriles all uphold this principle. Yet now you demand that the United States become an accomplice in triple jeopardy--and at the request of Stalinists who'll promptly drag him to a Stalinist show trial then a firing squad? ....Also, Mr Alarcon, according to our Defense Department over 42,000 guerrillas and terrorists from three different continents-- everyone from the PLO to the Tupamaros to the IRA to SWAPO to the Black Panthers-- received their explosives training in Cuba from 1959-1985. The death toll from their terrorism reaches into the thousands, not to mention the death toll from your governments' use of poison gas against Angolan villagers. To some people this makes your newfound concern over terrorism seem somewhat suspect, sir. Any comments on that?"
Dream on, amigos. Though all of the above is thoroughly documented and easily available to any Nightline producer after 5 minutes of "research," those "gallant crusaders for truth" (as Columbia Journalism Schools hails its graduates) wouldn't DREAM of such impertinence when confronting a Communist liar (excuse my redundancy.)
"Documents link" is a constant phrase in every article on Posada Carriles and had Castro's parrots squirming in their seats with anticipation during the Nightline Posada bashfest. Even better, many of these documents are "recently de-classified." Wow! You know how that plays on a headline, especially when these "documents" all "link" the Cuban-exile to the blowing up of a Cuban Airliner.
Fine, but like I said--and as five minutes of research by Nightline's producers could have turned up-- the implications in these documents have all had their day in court. The result were two acquittals, one by a civilian court and another by a Military court. Somehow Nightline neglected to mention this detail.
Castro has snapped his fingers and--as usual-- the mainstream media has snapped to attention. He nodded impatiently and they lined up obediently. Now they're acting dutifully on their marching orders and talking-points. Castro is an old hand at this. We saw it most vividly during the Elian orgy but it started much earlier.
Back in 1957, when the only thing he lorded over was a raggedy band of a dozen "guerrillas" (winos, wastrels and petty crooks) in Cuba's Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro was approached by some of his wealthy urban backers (they all scrambled into exile for their very lives 3 years later, by the way.) "What can we do?" They asked. "How can we help your glorious rebellion? We can write you some checks. We can buy you some arms. We can recruit more men...Tell us, Fidel, .what can we do to help?"
"For now," answered Castro, "get me a New York Times reporter up here."
Bingo! The rest is history. They quickly complied and within weeks Castro was being equated with Robin Hood on the front page of the world's most prestigious papers. Within a year and a half he was running Cuba while being hailed as "the George Washington of Cuba!" by everyone from Jack Paar to Walter Lippmann to Ed Sullivan to Harry Truman. (One prominent American who wasn't snookered was Vice President Richard Nixon, and one American publication that bucked the "Castro-as- democratic hero!" tide was Human Events, who outed him as a Communist terrorist from day one.)
Alas, these were voices in the wilderness.
The media spin on the twice acquitted anti-Communist Posada compared to their spin on convicted Communist terrorists also begs for scrutiny. To this tasks I now apply myself.
Nightline, the New York Times, USA Today and the rest of the mainstream media cabal might be interested that I've recently "uncovered documents" that "link " last year's Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner--a man they've been hymning to the high heavens for the past 20 years as hero and saint-- to terrorism! But with a major difference: when these documents had their day in court they convicted the media's hero-saint (Nelson Mandela) of terrorism. How's that!
"The preparation, manufacture and use of explosives, including 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminum powder and a ton of black powder. 193 counts of terrorism committed between 1961 and 1963." say the documents.
But those documents come from the prosecutor on behalf of the odious Apartheid regime, some might counter (whereas Posada Carriles' trial in a Stalinist nation will be scrupulously fair, I suppose.)
In fact, South Africa was not a totalitarian country in 1964. It had a totally independent judiciary and Mandela's trial had observers from around the world. Here's the March 1964 London Observer (no bunker of right wingers; no defender of apartheid) that covered the trial where Nelson Mandela, head of the ANCs (African National Congress') terrorist wing was convicted of terrorism. "The trial has been properly conducted." wrote correspondent Anthony Sampson, who later wrote Mandela's authorized biography. "The judge, Mr Justice Quartus de Wet, has been scrupulously fair."
Here's Amnesty International (again, no Klan of rabid right-wingers) in 1985 explaining why they refused to list the media's hero-saint, as a political prisoner: "Nelson Mandela had participated in planning acts of sabotage and inciting violence, so that he could no longer fulfill the criteria for the classification of political prisoners."
"The cause of Communism is the greatest cause in the history of mankind!'" proclaimed Nelson Mandela in 1961. "There's one place where Fidel Castro stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is in his love for human rights and liberty!" proclaimed Saint Mandela as Castro awarded him Cuba's prestigious Playa Giron Award.
When Nelson Mandela first visited the U.S. in 1990, Accuracy in Media termed the tumultuous and laudatory media coverage as "Mandela Mania." The hero of oppressed people everywhere!" (ABC); "A larger than life figure!" (CNN); "A virtual symbol of freedom!" ( CBS). "His name has a mystical quality!" gushed Dan Rather. "A worldwide hero!" continued Gunga Dan who went on to compare Mandela to Mother Theresa. Other reports compared Mandela to the Pope, Jesus Christ, and Moses. The New York Times devoted 23 pages for laudatory articles on Saint Mandela in one single week. Ted Koppel hosted an ABC "Town Meeting" with Mandela where every question was sugar and spice and everything nice.
Interestingly, at that very time, the U.S. State Department , along with the U.S. Defense Department, both listed Mandela's ANC as a terrorist organization.
"With our necklaces we will liberate this country," crowed Winnie Mandela in April 1986 about the practice of capturing fellow south African blacks, binding them, drenching them with gasoline, putting a tire around their necks and burning them alive, a crazed mob whooping in glee as the victim writhes and shrieks in agony. Ms Mandela's incitement of this charming practice was actually captured on film. Naturally, nary a one of those intrepid, fearless and cheeky Beltway reporter broached these touchy matters.
By now the head of the ANC has won everything from the Congressional Gold Medal (presented by Maxine Waters). to the Nobel Peace Prize. He has squares, parks and Boulevards named after him everyplace from New York City to New Delhi. He has honorary degrees everyplace from the Sorbonne to Harvard. He has honorary citizenship everyplace from Greece to Canada. Bill Clinton, hails him as "a gift to humanity! When awarding him the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, (America's highest civilian award) in 2002 President Bush hailed Nelson Mandela as "the most revered statesman of our time."
While addressing the International Women's conference in Johannesburg a few months later Mandela thanked President Bush with the following: "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America! (wild and deafening applause) "They don't care for human beings!"
The recent New York Times editorial urging the prompt arrest and extradition of Luis Posada Carriles is titled "A Single Standard for Terrorists."
Fine, New York Times. Then why such an editorial? Why not nominate Luis Posada Carriles for the Nobel Peace Price and the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
Posada Carriles' lawyer should instruct his client to start bashing America, to start hailing Mao and Ho Chi Minh, and to deck himself out in a Che Guevara T-shirt. Then we might get somewhere.

Humberto Fontova is the author of " Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant," described as "absolutely devastating. An enlightening read you'll never forget" by David Limbaugh. "Humberto has performed a great service with this book,"says Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. " Every American should read this book." says David Horowitz
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Questions unanswered in Posada Carriles case

Luis Posada Carriles, left, with lawyer Arturo V. Hernandez. Photo credit: EFE

Below are questions asked, but not always answered, in the Luis Posada Carriles case.
I realize that some questions must go unanswered for legal and other reasons. The public does not have the right to know everything.
That said, dozens of documents have been sealed in the Posada Carriles case. The public may never know what has gone on behind the scenes, what's been said and what information has been disclosed.
Certainly, some secrecy is justified. But is all it justified?
Before I get to the unanswered questions, here is some background:

On Jan. 11, the defense filed a document notifying the court that Posada Carriles would take a private charter jet from South Florida to El Paso for his Feb. 5 court appearance. The document said Posada Carriles planned to ride a Hawker 700, registration number 49RJ, and that a Posada Carriles supporter named Alberto Herreros was "donating the costs and fees associated with this travel."

A man named Alberto Pardo Herreros once ran a company linked to drug trafficking and covert aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, a 1988 document shows. On Jan. 20, Canadian journalist Jean-Guy Allard reported that the former Contra supporter and the Posadas supporter are the same man. After Allard's report was published, Hernandez said Posada Carriles' plans to ride the Hawker 700 fell through because the jet was undergoing maintenance.

I have been trying to learn more about the aborted plane trip, among other things. Below are some of the sources I've consulted, the questions I've asked and the answers I've received.

I'll update this post as I learn more. I'll add new questions in the weeks to come and if there's something you'd like me to ask, please let me know.
  • Source: Don Whittington, owner of World Jet Inc. Linked to marijuana smuggling ring in the 1980s. Pleaded guilty to money laundering charges and received an 18-month prison sentence.
  • Role: Listed in Federal Aviation Administration records as the owner of a Hawker 700 with registration number 49RJ. In a phone interview, Whittington denied having anything to do with the planned Posada Carriles flight. He said it could be some kind of registration number mix-up or old information. I sent him the Jan. 11 court document showing the 49RJ reference.
  • Question: Why is the Hawker 700 listed in court documents? If it's a mix-up, what happened?
  • Date of question, sent to Whittington via e-mail: Feb. 12
  • Answer: No response.
Don Whittington
  • Source: Timothy J. Reardon , III
    U.S. Department of Justice
    Counterterrorism Section, Nat'l Security Division
  • Role: Lead prosecutor in the Posada Carriles case
  • Question: How did Posada Carriles travel from Florida to El Paso for his Feb. 5 court appearance? Did he travel by plane?
  • Date of question, sent to Reardon via e-mail: Feb. 7
  • Public interest: Doesn't the public have the right to know more about the travel plans of someone accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a passenger airliner?
  • Answer: No response.
Department of Justice seal. Reardon photo unavailable.
  • Source: Arturo V. Hernandez
  • Role: Lead defense attorney for Posada Carriles
  • Question, sent via e-mail Jan. 25: FAA records don't show an Alberto Herreros as the owner of the Hawker 700 listed in the Jan. 11 defense document. Do you know why that is?
  • Answer: No response.
More questions for Hernandez:
  • Posada Carriles' supporters plan a fundraiser on Feb. 18 in Miami to bring in money to help pay his legal expenses, according to CubaDebate, citing Radio Mambi as its source.
  • Questions, sent to Hernandez via e-mail Feb. 12:
  • How can one make a donation toward Posada Carriles' legal expenses?
  • Have supporters set up a fund, with a corresponding bank account number?
  • How much does Posada Carriles need for his legal expenses?
  • Does a lack of money hurt lawyers' ability to defend Posada Carriles?
  • Are there things defense lawyers would like to do, but can't because they don't have enough money?
  • Can you provide any details on the Feb. 18 fundraiser?
  • Answer: No response.
Arturo V. Hernandez. Source of photo is here.

Corporate jet rates are generally $2,500 to $5,000 per hour, according to Altitude Aviation. A Hawker 700, with a cruising speed of 390 miles per hour, can travel from Miami to El Paso in four hours and 13 minutes. That means the trip, one way, could cost from $10,000 to $20,000.

Who's paying the bill?

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page


Trial for Posada continues to drag

The long-delayed trial of a Cuban exile could be put off again at prosecution's request.

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The federal trial of Cuban militant exile Luis Posada Carriles, which was scheduled to start March 1, has been postponed for at least three months.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, Thursday granted the prosecution's request for a delay and set May 20 for a status conference to determine whether a new trial date could be set then.
The prosecution's motion was sealed -- kept secret -- by Cardone, so it was impossible to determine why the government sought the last-minute delay in a case that has been on the docket since 2007.
The motion was only one of a flurry of about 40 sealed motions filed in the case since Jan. 1 by several parties involved. Some attorneys described it as an unusual level of secrecy.
Posada stands accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with a string of bombings in Havana in 1997 and making false statements under oath in an immigration procedure involving his illegal entry into the United States in 2005.
Prosecutors hope to prove that Posada lied under oath when he denied he was ``involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out the bombings . . . in Cuba.''
A second perjury charge involved his denial that he arranged for Raúl Cruz León, a citizen of El Salvador, to carry explosives into Cuba in 1997. Cruz León, jailed under a death sentence in Cuba since 1997, has confessed that he placed several of the bombs in Havana tourist centers, which killed one Italian tourist and wounded others.
Nine charges of obstruction of justice and false statements under oath involve statements he made to U.S. officials regarding the manner in which he slipped into the United States.
The case also involves lawyers for The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, which have fought against some motions to seal documents in the case, as well as The New York Times and Ann Luise Bardach, who interviewed Posada and wrote a story about him for The Times.