Monday, September 13, 2010

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At least 33 survive after Venezuela plane crash

Plane crashes in Venezuela, some on board killed Play Video AP  – Plane crashes in Venezuela, some on board killed
The wreckage of an airplane of a state airline Conviasa is seen on the ground after it crashed about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the eastern city of AP – The wreckage of an airplane of a state airline Conviasa is seen on the ground after it crashed about …

CARACAS, Venezuela – A plane carrying 51 people crashed Monday in eastern Venezuela, and officials said 33 survived while at least 14 were killed. The French-built ATR 42 from the state airline Conviasa slammed into a lot used by the state-run Sidor steel foundry, leaving its smashed and partly scorched fuselage among barrels and shipping containers.
At least 14 people were killed and four others were missing after the crash about six miles (10 kilometers) from the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel Gomez told reporters.
Steel plant worker Oscar Crespo said he heard the thunderous noise of the impact and found the plane in flames.
"I was one of the first who got there to help," Crespo told state television. "We brought some of the injured into an office to treat them. While I was taking people out, Sidor's firefighters arrived to help us."
While he was helping some of the survivors from the wreckage in thick smoke, Crespo said, he heard some children among the passengers telling how they had looked out the windows and had seen they were "flying very low" before the crash.
It was unclear what caused the crash.
The governor said 33 people survived and were being treated at hospitals.
The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, was carrying 47 passengers and four crew members, Rangel Gomez said.
He said that Conviasa Flight 2350 had taken off from Margarita Island — a Caribbean island that is one of Venezuela's top tourist destinations — and crashed shortly before reaching its destination, the airport of Puerto Ordaz.
The state airline, Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aeros SA, began operations in 2004. It says it serves destinations in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Argentina, Iran and Syria.

Cuba to lay off 500,000 in 6 months, allow private jobs

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
September 13, 2010 2:30 p.m. EDT
Cuban barbers, like this one working in Havana last month, became self-employed in April.
Cuban barbers, like this one working in Havana last month, became self-employed in April.
  • Announcement speeds up timetable for layoffs
  • Some Cubans worry, others look forward to opportunities
  • Average state wage is $20 a month
  • Cuba
  • Raul Castro
  • Economic Issues
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba announced on Monday it would lay off "at least" half a million state workers over the next six months and simultaneously allow more jobs to be created in the private sector as the socialist economy struggles to get back on its feet.
The plan announced in state media confirms that President Raul Castro is following through on his pledge to shed some one million state jobs, a full fifth of the official workforce -- but in a shorter timeframe than initially anticipated.
"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities and services with inflated payrolls and losses that damage our economy and result counterproductive, create bad habits and distort workers' conduct," the CTC, Cuba's official labor union, said in newspapers.
Castro had announced layoffs in August, but said they would occur over the next five years.
At the time, he said the government "agreed to broaden the exercise of self employment and its use as another alternative for the employment of those excess workers."
The drastic and unprecedented economic changes have many Cubans worried that jobs they had long taken for granted under the Communist government will no longer be guaranteed.
Others are hopeful that they will have more freedom to set prices and earn more than the average state wage of $20 a month.
The state currently controls more than 90 percent of the economy, running everything from ice cream parlors and gas stations to factories and scientific laboratories. Traditionally independent professions, such as carpenters, plumbers and shoe repairmen, are also employed by the state.
State media on Monday did not give details about where private enterprise would be allowed to grow or which sectors would suffer layoffs, but did talk about which areas are still strategic.
"Within the state sector, it will only be possible to fill the jobs that are indispensable in areas where historically the labor force is insufficient, like agriculture, construction, teachers, police, industrial workers and others."
The announcement avoided the word "private," but said alternative forms of employment to be allowed included renting or borrowing state-owned facilities, cooperatives and self employment and that "hundreds of thousands of workers" would find jobs outside of the state sector over the next few years.
Castro has launched a few, small free-market reforms since taking over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2006.
In April, for example, barbershops were handed over to employees, who pay rent and tax but charge what they want. Licenses have also been granted to private taxis.
For a couple of years, fallow land in the countryside has been turned over to private farmers. The more they produce, the more they earn.

Cuba to eliminate state jobs and spur private sector

  • 1 vote
Workers of Havana's state-run water company fix pipelines in downtown Havana Reuters – Workers of Havana's state-run water company fix pipelines in downtown Havana June 12, 2008. REUTERS/Enrique …

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba will let more than 500,000 state employees go by next March and try to move most to non-state jobs in the biggest shift to the private sector since the 1960s, the official Cuban labor federation said Monday.
The statement said eventually more than a million jobs would be cut and, due to efforts to increase efficiency in the state sector, there would be few new state sector openings.
More than 85 percent of the Cuban labor force, or over 5 million people, worked for the state at the close of 2009, according to the government.
"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls (and) losses that hurt the economy," the statement said.
"Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, cooperatives and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years," it said.
According to Communist party sources who have seen the detailed plan to "reorganize the labor force," Cuba expects to issue 250,000 new licenses for self-employment by the close of 2011, almost twice the current number, and create 200,000 other non-state jobs.
The government's definition of self-employment includes many entities that are essentially small businesses, including such things as family-run restaurants and cafeterias, auto repair shops and jobs in the building trades.
The non-state jobs will include, among other things, workers hired by the small businesses, taxi drivers who will now lease their cabs from the state and employees of small state businesses to be converted to cooperatives.
The plan amounts to the most important reform undertaken by President Raul Castro since he succeeded older brother Fidel Castro in early 2008 and the biggest shift to private enterprise since all small businesses -- 58,000 in total, with an average of five to eight employees, according to Cuban economist Juan Triana -- were nationalized in 1968.
"We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working," Castro said, upon announcing in general terms his plans to cut state payrolls and increase self employment in an August speech to the National Assembly.
Cuba currently has only 591,000 people working in the private sector, a number that includes mostly family farmers as well as 143,000 self-employed, according to the National Statistics Office.
All state businesses and agencies were ordered in January to review payrolls with an eye to trimming unneeded positions.
Laid-off state workers will be offered alternative jobs, and if they do not accept one, will have unemployment benefits equal to 70 percent of their wages for no more than three months, depending on their seniority, sources said.
They will not be totally out in the cold because all Cubans receive free health care and education, subsidized utilities, a subsidized food ration and automatic adjustment of mortgages to 10 percent of the top breadwinner's income.
Many Cubans also receive remittances from family abroad worth far more than the average monthly wage, equivalent to around twenty U.S. dollars.
Castro has fostered discussion in the media and grass-roots meetings on what ails the socialist economy, and made mostly minor changes aimed at boosting productivity by putting more incentives in the system.
The most important reforms up to now were in agriculture, where state lands have been leased to 100,000 new farmers and the state's monopoly on the sale of farm supplies including fuel and fertilizer and produce have been loosened.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Todd Eastham)

Cuba to cut 500,000 gov't workers, reform salaries

Castro Criticizes Cuba's Communist System Play Video FOX News  – Castro Criticizes Cuba's Communist System
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Manuel Cardenas repairs shoes in La Habanera state-run workshop in Havana, Cuba, Monday Sept. 13, 2010. Raul Castro's government announced Monday it w AP – Manuel Cardenas repairs shoes in La Habanera state-run workshop in Havana, Cuba, Monday Sept. 13, 2010. …

HAVANA – Cuba announced Monday it will cast off at least half a million state workers by early next year and reduce restrictions on private enterprise to help them find new jobs — the most dramatic step yet in President Raul Castro's push to radically remake employment on the communist-run island.
Castro suggested during a nationally televised address on Easter Sunday that as many as 1 million Cuban workers — about one in five — may be redundant. But the government had not previously laid out specific plans to slash its work force, and the speed and scope of the coming cutbacks were astounding.
Cuba's official work force is 5.1 million — meaning nearly 10 percent of all employees could soon be out of a government job.
Workers caught off guard by the announcement said they worried whether the tiny private sector could support so many new jobs, a sentiment echoed by some analysts.
"For me the problem is the salaries, that's the root of it," said Alberto Fuentes, a 47-year-old government worker. "If they fire all of these people, how can they all become self-employed?"
The layoffs will start immediately and continue through April 2011, according to a statement from the nearly 3 million-strong Cuban Workers Confederation, which is affiliated with the Communist Party and the only labor union allowed by the government. Eventually the state will only employ people in "indispensable" areas such as farming, construction, industry, law enforcement and education.
To soften the blow, the statement — which appeared in state newspapers and was read on television and radio — said the government would increase private-sector job opportunities, including allowing more Cubans to become self-employed. They also will be able to form cooperatives run by employees rather than government administrators, and increasingly lease state land, businesses and infrastructure.
The announcement was short on details of how such a major shift could be achieved, but its intent appeared to deal a body-blow to the decades-old social safety net upon which the island's egalitarian society is built.
Castro has long complained that Cubans expect too much from the government, which pays average monthly salaries of just $20 but also provides free education and health care and heavily subsidizes housing, transportation and basic food. Because unemployment is anathema in a communist society, state businesses have been forced to carry many people who do almost nothing.
"Our state cannot and should not continue supporting businesses, production entities and services with inflated payrolls, and losses that hurt our economy are ultimately counterproductive, creating bad habits and distorting worker conduct," the union said.
Even before the announcement, interviews with scores of workers across several government sectors showed that layoffs were already under way — with many complaining the state was not doing enough to find them new jobs.
Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, said a series of small changes — such as allowing the unrestricted sale of cell phones, privatizing some state-run barbershops, licensing more private taxis and distributing fallow land to private farmers — have moved Cuba toward economic reform since July 2006, when serious intestinal illness nearly killed Fidel Castro and forced him to cede power to Raul.
While none of those were blockbusters, Birns said, Monday's revelation has the potential to be one.
"Cuba is rapidly becoming like any other country," he said. "It is not going back. These are big changes."
Some Cubans also said they supported the changes, hoping that even a small dose of private enterprise would go a long way in a country where state mismanagement has led to frequent shortages of everything from potatoes to toothpaste.
"There are many things that are deficient now including services, which, of course, the private sector will improve on," said Moraima Santos, a 65-year-old employee in the Office of the City of Havana Historian. "I completely support the government giving private employment licenses. That's going to benefit a lot of people."
Others were skeptical.
Arch Ritter, an expert on the Cuban economy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, said the cutbacks rely too heavily on a work force unaccustomed to going into business for itself.
"To imagine that the private sector is going to absorb so many people is a bit of a stretch," he said. "It's going to be a major problem for the country."
Building on his April remarks, Castro warned in August that layoffs would be coming and said Cuba would expand private enterprise on a small scale, increasing the number of jobs where Cubans could go into business for themselves.
Monday's announcement also said Cuba will overhaul its labor structure and salary systems to emphasize productivity so that workers are "paid according to results."
Castro has said repeatedly he is seeking to reform the pay system to hold workers accountable for production, but change has been slow in coming.
Currently the state employs 95 percent of the official work force. Unemployment last year was 1.7 percent and hasn't risen above 3 percent in eight years — but that ignores thousands of Cubans who aren't looking for jobs because wages are so low.
The labor overhaul comes less than a week after Fidel Castro caused a stir around the globe when he was quoted by visiting American magazine writer Jeffrey Goldberg as saying Cuba's communist economy no longer works.
Castro later said that while he was not misquoted, his words were misinterpreted — and that he meant to say capitalist reforms could never work in Cuba.
Goldberg said Monday he was surprised by Fidel Castro's claim, since he has made similar statements before. He said economic reforms such as the one announced Monday prove the Cuban government realizes the need for change.
"Not only has he said things like this before, but the on-the-ground reality is that it is a truism that the Cuban model is not working, and that is why they are starting this large-scale experiment with privatization," Goldberg told reporters.
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Cuban journalists on way to freedom

Cuban journalists are expected to be among a group of seven political prisoners due to arrive in Spain today after their release in Havana.
They are the first tranche of 52 prisoners due to be released over the next three months by the government of Raul Castro in a deal brokered by the Spanish foreign ministry with the Cuban authorities and the island's Roman Catholic church.
A statement issued by the church identified 10 journalists as being among those about to be released. They are Normando Hernández González, Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, Omar Ruíz Hernández, Mijail Bárzaga Lugo, Ricardo González Alfonso, Alfredo Pulido López, José Ubaldo Izquierdo, Léster Luis González Pentón, Pablo Pacheco Avila, and José Luis García Paneque.
Source: Greenslade Blog's/ AP/Google

EFT Archive (Research Alert Group)...

June 16, 2009

Why Spy for Cuba?

Analysis: The 2001 trial of five Cubans caught spying in Florida might provide some insight into the case of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers.

While watching The News Hour on PBS the other night, I was struck by how perplexed journalists are about the possible motives of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, the septuagenarian Washington, D.C., couple arrested June 5 on charges they had worked as spies for Cuba for the past 30 years. “Is there anything in the indictment that tells us why this couple, this upper-middle-class — you know, he’s a great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell — why would they have done this?” The News Hour‘s Gwen Ifill asked Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan.
Sheridan replied: “I think this is a huge mystery to their colleagues, to their neighbors, to their friends. They see him, in particular, as this, you know, a son of privilege from one of Washington’s most elite families — prep school, elite universities, State Department. Apparently lovely people, rarely if ever gave any hint of anything amiss. You know, the only thing I have heard is that some people have described him as a rather idealistic guy, but others say, ‘Well, how could he have fallen for this rather rosy-eyed view of Cuba when he was such a kind of a hard-nosed analyst in so much of his work?’”
Later that evening I was on the phone with my 80-year-old mom and she brought up the news about the Myerses. “Friends of yours?” mom joshed — an inside joke playing on my objective coverage of violent Cuban exile groups over the past decade. I had to confess I didn’t know the Myerses.
They’re not the first American couple enraptured by the Cuban Revolution, despite its violence and repression over the decades. (Kendall and Gwendolyn were 20-somethings in the 1960s, after all.) Fidel Castro has many American fans who would jump at the chance to hang out with him for an evening, as the indictment alleges the Myerses did during a 1995 trip to Havana.
But while rummaging through some of my old spy articles, I stumbled over some explanations of why someone might spy for Cuba. The articles had covered a six-month federal trial in Miami in 2001 resulting in the conviction of five Cuban men for spying, or attempting to spy, on anti-Castro exile groups and U.S. military bases in Florida. (On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on the case.)
Lawyers for those five Cuban spies had crafted a paradoxical and unprecedented defense strategy that would be a stretch any place but Miami. Yes, their clients were spying, they conceded in opening arguments, but for good reasons: to protect Cuba from incursions, bombings and assassination plots by violent members of Miami’s Cuban exile community.
“God almighty,” Axel Kleiboemer exclaimed to me over the phone from his law office in Washington, D.C., back in March 2001, after I outlined the strategy. Kleiboemer co-wrote the textbook used by the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law in Charlottesville. “I’m racking my memory to see if anything of this nature has ever been asserted before as a defense. I can’t think of a parallel case.”
After a few seconds of reflection, he said the closest parallel to the protect-the-homeland defense would be a “keeping the peace” claim. “Many of the people who did espionage on behalf of the former Soviet Union maintained at one point or another that they wanted to preserve the balance of power so as to prevent war, to make sure that the Soviets had access to the type of information that the United States had.”
For example Aldrich Ames, a former CIA agent now serving a life sentence for passing classified information to the Soviet Union, told a Washington Post reporter in 1994 that his motivation was money, but that he wanted to “level the playing field” for Moscow in the hopes of accelerating the end of the Cold War.
Most spies who are caught in the United States never stand trial; they tend to bargain for a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. (If they are U.S. citizens, this likely means avoiding the death penalty.) The U.S. intelligence establishment likes this arrangement because it assures that classified information won’t be divulged during an accused spy’s trial. Robert Philip Hanssen, an FBI agent arrested in Virginia in February 2001 for selling U.S. intelligence to the former Soviet Union and Russia, followed the lifesaving guilty plea tradition.
While the eyes of the nation were transfixed on the Hanssen case that year, they largely overlooked the protect-the-homeland defense that was developing in the Miami spy case, U.S. v. Hernandez et al.
It was the first time Cuban nationals accused of trying to obtain defense information for Havana had ever stood trial in a U.S. courtroom. The trial touched on the shooting down of two of three small aircraft flying toward Cuban airspace despite repeated warnings by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Havana’s foreign ministry that they risked just that fate. Pilots belonging to the anti-Castro Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue were flying the two Cessnas destroyed by Cuban MiGs on Feb. 24, 1996. The two pilots and two other BTTR members were killed. BTTR founder José Basulto and three others escaped in the third plane.
At the trial five years later, one line of attack used by Paul McKenna, the lawyer defending the Cuban spy ring’s leader, Gerardo Hernandez, was to elevate Brothers to the Rescue’s role in the shootdown. That wasn’t very hard since Basulto had often publicly boasted about violating Cuban airspace, including a flight over Havana in July 1995 in which he dropped leaflets urging anti-government protests. McKenna also drew from a flurry of FAA and State Department records showing that U.S. officials had warned Basulto at least seven times that Cuba was threatening to use deadly force if BTTR persisted in violating Cuban airspace.
Especially illuminating was an e-mail written by Cecelia Capestany, an FAA liaison to the State Department, and sent to the FAA office in Miami. She wrote it soon after learning of another unauthorized BTTR flight on Jan. 20, 1996. “This latest overflight can only be seen as further taunting of the Cuban Government. State is increasingly concerned about Cuban reaction to these flagrant violations,” she wrote, adding that State Department officials wanted to know what steps the FAA was taking against Basulto. “Worst-case scenario is that one of these days the Cubans will shoot down one of these planes, and the FAA better have all its ducks in a row,” she warned about a month before the shootdown.
Throughout this debacle, Kendall Myers was employed as an analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. One can see why Fidel and Raul Castro might have wanted a sympathetic figure like Myers keeping them posted in early 1996.
Beyond BTTR’s activities, one could fill an encyclopedia with all the assassination plots, armed incursions and bombing sprees that Cuban exiles have devised over the decades to avenge the Castro dictatorship. And Hernandez et al.’s lawyers did a thorough job of informing the jury of this, especially latter-day actions, from Alpha 66 machine-gun attacks on Cuban resort hotels on the coast of Cayo Coco in the early 1990s to Luis Posada Carriles’ 1997 bombing campaign on hotels and restaurants in Havana.

Like Ames, the Myerses could probably make a reasonable claim they were in some way trying to keep the peace. Or, like Hernandez et al., trying to protect the national security of friends and loved ones in Cuba. Even minimally compassionate people could probably get their heads around that. But, as the five Cuban spies still doing time in U.S. prisons learned eight years ago, motives like those don’t necessarily capture the hearts and minds of an American jury, or the judges on the U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. In the end, they broke U.S. laws that prohibit espionage, whatever the justification.
Another Cuba-related spy trial would certainly be entertaining political theater and educational for journalists and others in the United States. But if the Myerses are smart, they’ll avoid one and plead guilty, and spend their golden years in prison writing a book about why they spied.

Read more at the Realcubablog ...

Rick Robinson in the Daily Caller: Castro chic
Sept. 11 - Like ugly, paisley-print, wide ties, Cuba’s Fidel Castro seems to wander in and out of political chic every few years.
After writing an article on the Middle East, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic got a call that Fidel Castro would like to talk to him. Goldberg went to Havana and spent a couple of days with the old coot.
Goldberg’s series of well-written articles are being posted on The Atlantic website and are worth reading. Castro met with Goldberg for a series of interviews. The aging dictator provided so many shocking quotes that the series could easily go on for a week and still make national headlines each day. Read more at the realcubablog

Jeffrey Goldberg: Fidel Tries To Wiggle Out of One
Sept. 11 - According to CNN, Fidel Castro is claiming that I misunderstood his statement, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."
I'm sorry to say it, but I think the expression, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" means, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."
Fidel says that his answer meant "exactly the opposite" of what Julia Sweig and I heard him say. Just as a language experiment, here is what the opposite of his statement would sound like: "The Cuban model works so well for us that we want to export it." But he didn't say this. What he said was -- well, you've read what he said. I'm not sure how this statement --accurately quoted, according to Fidel -- could mean anything other than what it means. The Atlantic
French government: Castro's comments about Roma "holocaust" show his ignorance of history
Sept. 11 - France says comments by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro about its treatment of Roma migrants are unacceptable and show his ignorance of history.
Castro accused Paris of carrying out a "racial holocaust" over its expulsion of members of the Roma community.
"The use of 'holocaust' by Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. "Such words are unacceptable."
In a clear reference to Cuba's treatment of dissidents, Mr Valero added: "That Fidel Castro shows an interest in human rights is truly revolutionary."   Read more at the realcubablog
S:Real Cuba

Imam: NYC mosque site is not 'hallowed ground'

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, addresses the Council on Foreign Relations, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, in New York. AP – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, addresses the Council on Foreign …

NEW YORK – The imam leading the effort to build an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero says there is a "misperception" that the proposed site is sacred ground.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said Monday that the location where the center would be built, two blocks from the World Trade Center, has a strip joint and betting parlors nearby. He says it's "absolutely disingenuous" to suggest that it is "hallowed ground."
He also says the location is important, because it will serve as a platform where the voice of moderate Muslims can be amplified.
Rauf make his remarks before the Council on Foreign Relations.
Rauf says the center will be a place for all faiths to come together. He says "the world is watching what we do here" and that it is important to "live up to our ideal."