Friday, March 5, 2010

Media group urges Cuba to free jailed journalists

HAVANA – A media watchdog group called on Cuba to release jailed independent journalists — or at least improve their prison conditions — and said Thursday it would hold the government responsible for the health of an opposition reporter staging a hunger strike. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Cuba, an island of just 11.4 million, has 22 reporters in its jails — putting it behind only China and Iran on the global list. "Cuban journalists have paid an extremely high price for exercising their right to freedom of expression," Carlos Lauria, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, said in a statement. "These sentences are cruel and vengeful." Cuba considers dissidents mercenaries of Washington who take money to try and destabilize the country's communist government, and it routinely dismisses groups like CPJ as agents of the U.S. government. Many members of the small community of independent journalists in Havana use Internet service provided by the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy. The journalists say it is the only way they can file in a country where access to the Web is prohibitively expensive and tightly controlled. Cuba says it is evidence they are stooges. Independent journalist Guillermo Farinas has been refusing food and water for more than a week to protest the Feb. 23 death of another hunger striking dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Farinas is also demanding the release of 33 political prisoners who are in poor health. The 48-year-old lost consciousness and was hospitalized on Wednesday, but released a short time later after doctors told him they could do nothing for him if he refused to eat. "He remains firm in his hunger strike," Farinas' mother, Alicia Hernandez, told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday, from the family home in the central city of Santa Clara. CPJ said conditions in Cuban jails are poor and the cells unhygienic, leading to illnesses and exacerbating existing conditions. "We call on President (Raul) Castro to free all the jailed reporters immediately and without condition, and to guarantee freedom of expression and information to all Cuban citizens," the journalist group said.

Play Ball , Next ...

Chapman impresses in tuneup for Monday

Shutout frame in intrasquad game precedes Cactus debut
03/04/10 6:09 PM EST
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds hitters are continually learning the extent of the nastiness Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman brings to the mound. Other teams' hitters will find out next.
Chapman's latest test was working an inning in relief during the Reds' intrasquad game on Thursday at Goodyear Ballpark. He will make his Cactus League debut vs. the Royals on Monday.
"I feel really good about the way I threw the ball and about my location," Chapman said about his performance through an interpreter. "I feel good about everything right now."
The line for Chapman was one scoreless inning with one hit, one hit batsman and two strikeouts. He threw 17 pitches, 12 for strikes, and twice reached 97 mph with his fastball.
"I saw a guy that was around the plate with three pitches, and his arm looks live," Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. "He's athletic around the mound. I wasn't disappointed in any way."
In relief of Homer Bailey, Chapman began the second inning and started off by getting Wladimir Balentien to ground out on his third pitch. Yonder Alonso hit a double to the left-field corner, leading to Chapman working from the stretch.
His first mistake was a painful one for Todd Frazier. Chapman hit Frazier in the right knee with a 95-mph fastball and he crumpled to the dirt. After several moments, Frazier was helped off of the field and he would later be diagnosed with a bruised right quadriceps. X-rays weren't needed and he will be evaluated again on Friday.
"I was trying to throw the ball inside. There was nothing intentional," Chapman said. "I wasn't scared at all, but it's not something I wanted to do to a teammate."
Chapman escaped the jam when he fired a 97-mph heater to strike out Ryan Hanigan swinging. Next batter Wilkin Castillo saw a couple of fastballs, broke his bat when he fouled off an 85-mph slider and swung and missed on a perfectly thrown 82 mph changeup.
"I had no chance," Castillo said of the final pitch. "He threw hard and was sneaky, too."
Before Chapman came to camp, his detractors cited the lack of a quality changeup in his repertoire. But it's been one of his best pitches during bullpen sessions and live batting practice.
"I feel really good about the changeup," Chapman said. "I'm working really hard on it and I think it's going to get better."
And with that last changeup to Castillo, Chapman's first game-like experience was finished.
"Chapman threw the ball great," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The ball was over the plate and it was live. If he gets that ball over the plate, he's going to be hard to hit. But he did keep the ball down, which is a big plus."
"He was overthrowing a little bit, maybe," catcher Ramon Hernandez said. "Remember, he hasn't pitched in eight months. He's trying to get a rhythm. He fixes that up, he'll be set. He really pitched well. He threw a lot of the fastball and found the strike zone with it."
The scenario on Monday vs. Kansas City will be similar to what went down on Thursday. Bailey will start the game for Cincinnati, with Chapman expected to come out of the bullpen.
"Down here it doesn't matter. One thing at a time," Baker said Thursday morning of the decision not to start Chapman.
"Plus if we pitch him later, fans will stick around and drink more beer," Baker joked. "You didn't know I was in marketing, did you?"
Chapman was one of the most ballyhooed additions to the Reds in recent history. In January, the club invested $30.25 million over six years to sign the 22-year-old, who defected from Cuba last summer.
Despite having no professional experience outside of pitching in Cuba, Chapman is making a bid to join the Reds' rotation as the fifth starter. He is competing against Micah Owings, Justin Lehr, Matt Maloney, Travis Wood, Mike Lincoln and Kip Wells.
"I thought it wouldn't go as well as it has," Chapman said of his camp performance to this point. "But I've worked hard on my control and command, and it's working out very well."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
play video
Chapman has Reds pumped
Duration: 00:02:48
02.22.10: Walt Jocketty, Dusty Baker, and Aroldis Chapman share their enthusiasm about Chapman's first season with the Reds
Video Tags
Cincinnati Reds, Dusty Baker, Spring Training 2010
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 Champion of travel to Cuba calls it quits

Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and prime mover behind efforts to lift the ban on travel to Cuba, is calling it quits, according to The Boston Globe.
(fot) Delahunt, who has also been critical of spending on programs like Radio and TV Marti, told The Globe he will announce his plans Friday.
"It's got nothing to do with politics," the Congressman said. "Life is about change. I think it's healthy. It's time."
Delahunt is the third major player on efforts to ease sanctions against Cuba to announce plans to retire: Democratic senators Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan said in January they're leaving. On the other side of the ledger, Miami Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart – a staunch defender of the embargo – said last month he plans to retire.
[To read House Resolution 874, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, introduced in Congress last year by Delahunt, click here.]
Posted by Renato Perez at 11:12 PM in Travel, U.S.-Cuba relations
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Cuba defends its care of hunger striker

Excerpts from statement by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.A Rodriguez new subversive escalation, with broad media coverage, has been launched against Cuba. It respects no ethical principle. It attempts to present mercenaries as patriots, agents paid by the United States in Cuban territory as dissidents.
The empire's powerful machine does not hesitate to utilize a recidivist inmate, sentenced after due process for a common crime and later recruited in prison, presenting him as a fighter for human rights.
To obtain spurious political dividends, he was pushed to death despite devoted medical care. As President Raúl Castro said, it was a lamentable case. He is another victim of he United States' subversive policy against Cuba.
Ever since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, there has never been in Cuba a single case of murder, torture or extrajudicial execution. [...] Cuba has a commendable and unimpeachable record in the protection of the right to life.
Posted by Renato Perez at 08:01 AM in Dissidents, human rights
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S: Cuban Colada

Funds To Support Democracy In Cuba Not Spent