Friday, November 12, 2010

Party Like Its 1997...

Friday, November 12, 2010
There's been so much reporting -- or hype -- about economic "reforms" and the recently announced VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) that we thought it'd be helpful to recap what the last one, the V Congress of the CCP -- back in 1997 -- is remembered for.
According to the Encyclopedia of Nations:

At the 1997 Party Congress, Castro endorsed policies intended to maintain the status quo for as long as possible. Sheer necessity has forced him to seek foreign investment in state companies and allow some limited self-employment.
Sound familiar? But wait, it gets better.

Here's a summary of the economic targets set forth by 1997 Party Congress:

· GDP to grow 4-6 percent a year
· Sugar output to increase to 7 million tons
· Nickel production to reach 100,000 tons
· Attraction of 2 million tourists, bringing a gross revenue of $2.6 billion
· Oil needs met increasingly through domestic production, conservation, and savings in private consumption and public transportation
· 50,000 dwellings built each year, mostly in the countryside
· Health care to continue to partly rely on traditional and herbal medicine
· State pensions supplemented by individual savings accounts and life insurance
· Income inequalities to be curtailed through taxation

Sound familiar also? Now here's the real tragic part.

Most of the reporting (hype) on the upcoming VI Congress has focused solely on "economic reforms." And there's a reason for that.

During the 1997 Party Congress, most of the focus was also on "economic reforms," such as self-employment, foreign investment and tourism. Why?

So there would be no expectations about political liberalization -- it's a smoke-screen, a diversion tactic.

It was during the 1997 Party Congress that Raul was officially named Fidel's successor, while the economic reality was that the Cuban military would take control of all hard-currency operations.

Same old Party, same old Congress.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

S: CApitol Hill Cubans

Cuba hopes it's ship ahoy for cruise industry

HAVANA (Reuters) – A Spanish cruise ship docked in Havana Bay on Friday in what the Cuban government hopes is a sign of better days for its beleaguered cruise industry.
The Gemini, run by Spanish start-up Happy Cruises, pulled into its new home port for eight-day trips around the Caribbean and was welcomed by Cuban travel officials.
The reception contrasted with 2005, when then President Fidel Castro complained that cruise ships only dumped their trash at ports of call. Then he canceled a contract with an Italian firm running the island's cruise terminals.
Officials hope the Gemini, with a capacity of 800 passengers, represents a reversal of the decline in Cuba's cruise business that they blame on the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the Communist-led island.
British-based Thomson Cruises now uses Havana as a home port for one of its tourist voyages but is moving it to the Barbados in 2012. A few other lines include a Cuba stop.
"The operation of cruise ships in Cuba has been extremely limited by the United States embargo and, practically speaking, a regular, stable cruise operation has not been achieved," said Lester Oliva, president of state-run tourism company Cubatur.
As recently as 2005, Cuba had 102,000 cruise visitors. But that number fell to 11,000 by 2007.
A big blow, said Oliva, was the loss of Spanish cruise line Pullmantur, whose regular service out of Cuba ended when it was bought in 2006 by U.S.-based Royal Caribbean Cruises.
The U.S. embargo, in place since 1962 with the aim of destabilizing the island's Communist government, forbids U.S. companies in most industries from doing business with Cuba and also forbids ships that have sailed to Cuba from entering U.S. waters for six months.
Cuba is also hindered by antiquated port facilities incapable of handling large cruise ships and a lack of some tourist amenities.
Castro declared in 2005 that cruise ships were "floating hotels, floating restaurants, floating theaters, floating diversions" that "visit countries to leave their trash, their empty cans and papers for a few miserable cents."
Under his successor, younger brother Raul Castro, the government is looking for ways to increase revenues to balance the budget and pay for social programs like free healthcare and education.
Tourism is one of the main sources of hard currency for Cuba. The government says 2.4 million tourists visited the island in 2009 and brought $2 billion to the cash-strapped economy.
It said this week the number of tourists for the first three-quarters of this year was up 3.5 percent over the same period of 2009.
Oliva said two other cruise lines, one British and the other Russian, are planning to launch operations in Cuba next year.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jeff Franks and John O'Callaghan)
Yahoo Inc. offices, housing its Search Marketing ...

Yahoo Inc. offices, housing its Search Marketing ...

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Are you willing to trust Facebook with your email?

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Facebook has called another press event, slated for next week—and based on the oh-so-subtle decorations on the invites, many believe that Mark Zuckerberg & Co. are poised to unleash a so-called "Gmail killer." But are we truly ready to turn our inboxes over to Facebook?
The latest word on Monday morning's briefing is that we'll get our first look at Project Titan—the code name for what is reputedly a secret Facebook project aimed at creating a full-on Web-based email client to rival such competitors as Gmail, Hotmail and (of course) Yahoo! Mail. (You've noticed that Yahoo! News—which hosts this blog—and Yahoo! Mail are owned by the same company, right?)
Inside Facebook headquarters, Project Titan is being called a "Gmail killer," TechCrunch reports. Many believe that the rumored email project could help explain the recent flap between Facebook and Google over Facebook's unwillingness to allow its users to export their friends lists—and their contact info—into Gmail.
Assuming the rumors are true—and remember, there's no official word from Facebook yet—what might we be talking about here?
Facebook already has its own bare-bones client for exchanging private messages with your Facebook friends, but it's pretty basic. You can't import e-mail from other clients or POP accounts, organize your messages into folders, or archive them for safekeeping; your only options are to mark a message as unread, report spam or delete.
On the low end, Facebook could simply add some of that basic functionality: the ability to create folders, checkboxes for selecting which messages go where, POP support and so on. It's also a good bet that Facebook users would be issued an email address, and Inside Facebook has some theories (would you get an "" email domain, "" or something else?) on that front.
The smart money, though, seems to be on the possibility of something far more ambitious: a "full-fledged" email client that would truly compete with Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and other advanced Web-based email services that give you desktop-style features in a browser.
There's even speculation that Facebook's Project Titan could integrate with Microsoft's just-launched Office Web Apps, which could mean you'd be able to edit online Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, all within your Facebook account.
In other words—and again, assuming all the Titan talk is for real—it would appear that Facebook is pursuing nothing more ambitious than to become your online nerve center, your home base, your first stop when it comes to scanning the news, checking in with your friends, corresponding with ... well, the world, and even doing something productive, at least when you're not whiling away the hours on FarmVille.
Are there risks to letting Facebook take over as your email client? Well, sure. Anyone who's already nervous about Facebook invading their privacy will find reason to fret about Facebook handling their email accounts. Will messages be scanned for keywords that would result in targeted advertisements? (Oh, wait—Gmail already does that.) What about Facebook developers—would they get access to your messages? (You never know, although Facebook's been much better lately about letting you slam the door shut on Platform app access to your info.)
But there are plenty of possible advantages, too. As TechCrunch points out, Facebook's engineers have made a science out of mapping your various circles of friends, and the site could use that expertise to create a "smart" inbox that organizes your messages according to who's most important to you—and who isn't. (I'd imagine users would be able to turn off their "smart" inboxes if they wanted to.)
Using Facebook for email could also mean the end of having to remember the current (or proper, depending on the occasion) e-mail address for your various confidants. For better or worse, it's increasingly feeling like the whole world's on Facebook, and while email addresses change all the time (because someone has changed jobs, moved to a new ISP or merely grown tired of their old email client), Facebook accounts tend to stay the same—making emailing someone a simple (and reliable) matter of just typing in their name.
Keep in mind, however, that Mark Zuckerberg isn't shy about touting his ultimate goal of "making everything social"—a quest that seems to translate, sooner or later, into making everything Facebook. Adding a full-on email client to Facebook represents yet another step in that direction, for good or ill.
In any case, this is all just conjecture. For all we know, Zuckerberg could have little more to announce on Monday (at 10 a.m. PT, by the way) than the ability to choose pretty background templates for your Facebook messages.
Something tells me we'll be getting a lot more than that come Monday, however—and given that, I'd like to hear from you.
If Facebook does unveil a new, Gmail-caliber email client, would you make the switch? Would you trust Facebook with your inbox, or are you wary of the privacy implications—or leery of Facebook in general? (Personally, I'm all over the map on this one.)
Let me know.

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Define Espionage Threat

Espionage, or spying, is a means of collecting secret information. The threat of espionage exists within military, political and business organizations from both foreign and domestic culprits. There are government-sanctioned forms of espionage, such as within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which employs spies to gather information about threats to national security. Illegal and unethical espionage is taken very seriously by the U.S. government and private industry.
  1. Image by, courtesy of Dave Fayram 
  2. Definition

  3. Espionage is defined as "the practice of obtaining secrets (spying) from rivals or enemies for military, political or economic advantage using illegal or unethical methods," according to International Investigations Inc. The threat of espionage exists from both foreign and domestic sources that target the government or the private sector. The penalties for spying can be stiff, ranging from fines and prison terms to death.
  4. Espionage Act of 1917

  5. The U.S. government passed this law, which prohibits espionage for a foreign country and orders heavy penalties for those convicted, according to The law forbids gathering and communicating information related to national defense to a foreign entity, and interference with the recruitment or loyalty of the armed forces. Using the U.S. mail to urge treason or resistance to U.S. law, passport fraud and unauthorized representation of a foreign government are also prohibited by this law. One of the most famous cases of the violation of this act was that of American communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were accused of giving secret information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed in 1953.
  6. Military Espionage

  7. The threat of military espionage, especially during wartime, is of the utmost concern to any militarized country and great efforts are taken to protect military secrets. Foreign spies seek to uncover information that can give them a military advantage such as strategic plans, communication codes and weapons development. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, catapulting the U.S. into WWII, Japanese spies managed to crack U.S. military communications codes. They knew ahead of time when and where the Americans were going to attack. The U.S. enlisted the help of the famed Navajo code talkers who came up with a complex code based on the Navajo language. The American military used this code to keep their combat missions a secret and the code talkers were credited with helping U.S. forces take Iwo Jima.
  8. Political Espionage

  9. In the highly competitive U.S. political system, threats of espionage are ubiquitous. When political parties rival for positions of power, spying can be used to gain an advantage. Probably the most infamous case of political espionage in America was the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. During Republican President Richard Nixon's campaign for re-election, he was linked to a break-in of the Watergate office building in Washington D.C., headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Five men were arrested for breaking in and attempting to photograph documents and wiretap phone lines. Oval office recordings revealed Nixon's involvement in covering up the break-in, and the incident ultimately led to his resignation.
  10. Industrial and Economic Espionage

  11. There are also threats of espionage within the private sector. Trade secrets are heavily guarded by companies who wish to keep their production processes to themselves. Rival companies may use spies to discover secret ingredients for use in their own products, or financial information which may allow them to gain leverage in business deals. Espionage can also occur from the inside, meaning a corporation may employ people to spy on their own employees to uncover inefficiency, theft or worker unrest, says High Beam Research.
  12. Digital Espionage

  13. In this digital age, a new type of espionage has emerged, known as cyber-espionage or hacking. From any computer in the world, those with enough knowledge and expertise can hack into a government or private sector computer and steal secret information. In 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies reported that cyber spies in China had hacked into the Pentagon's network and viewed secret Department of Defense information, according to Security Focus.

Cuba: Laura Pollan, the Ladies in White - Freedom, Not Exile - English / español