Sunday, November 21, 2010

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Castro Endorses Homophobic Amendment

Sunday, November 21, 2010
Whatever happened to Mariela Castro's (Raul's daughter) "efforts" on behalf of Cuba's gay community?
Or Fidel Castro's mea culpa regarding the brutal persecution and internment of gays in concentration camps?

Obviously, it's just more lies and "reforms" you can't believe in.

This week, the Castro regime endorsed an amendment to a U.N. resolution (along with homophobic African and Middle Eastern nations) that exposes gays to arbitrary executions.
The U.S. strongly opposed the amendment.

Here are the details:

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote [on an amendment] that removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Caribbean [led by Cuba] nations.

Cuba Travel Bill Won't Get Markup in House

Friday, November 19, 2010
From Congressional Quarterly:

Cuba Travel Bill Won't Get Markup in House
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will not mark up a bill this year to allow Americans to travel to Cuba, despite a pre-election statement from Chairman Howard L. Berman, D-Calif, that he was determined to move forward.

Asked Thursday if he still planned to hold a committee vote on the legislation (HR 4645), Berman shook his head and said "no," a decision confirmed by committee staff.

That puts a definitive end to what at one time were high hopes among advocates of engagement with Cuba for this Congress. And with Republicans winning the House in the November elections, and a supporter of the ban, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., expected to take over as chair of the committee next year, the prospects for progress in the new Congress are no better.

Americans are currently restricted from traveling to Cuba, except under very limited circumstances, as part of the nearly 50-year embargo put in place by President John F. Kennedy. President Obama's emphasis on engagement had earlier raised expectations among those seeking to end the embargo both on and off Capitol Hill.

House Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., introduced a bill (HR 4645) and pushed it through his committee in the summer. In the Senate, Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., and Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., said they wanted a 2010 vote on a similar bill (S 428), claiming they had enough votes to pass it over a potential filibuster from opponents.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over Peterson's bill, and Berman sought to mark it up during the September work period. However, he ended up announcing Sept. 28 that he was "postponing consideration . . . until a time when the committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves."

The next day, he told CQ that he remained determined to hold a committee vote during the lame duck session.

Peterson predicted in the fall that if the legislation got through the Foreign Affairs Committee, it could win a House floor vote.

But with the Democratic leadership in both chambers focused on other, more pressing priorities for the lame-duck work period — which has already gotten bogged down in partisan acrimony — there appears to be little reason for the committee to move forward on the divisive legislation now.

Copyright 2010 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Lobbying For Castro's Agenda

Many opponents of U.S. policy towards Cuba take offense at being labeled as pro-Castro.

That's a fair criticism.

Truth is there are many well-intentioned opponents of U.S. policy towards Cuba who also oppose -- some just as stridently -- the Castro dictatorship and its brutality.

Furthermore, we all benefit and grow from policy disagreements.

However, its one thing for sanctions opponents (or "pro-normalization" activists, as they call themselves) to organize and influence U.S. policy, and a whole other thing to essentially collude with the Castro regime.

A recent post in the Cuba Standard website announced, "Activists to ponder post-election Cuba strategies in Tampa," in which travel agencies, attorneys and lobbyists that oppose U.S. policy will gather to "brainstorm" on "strategies to influence Congress, the White House, Florida and Tampa."

God bless our democracy -- our freedom to assemble and to express grievances.
But here's the kicker in their announcement:

"On Dec. 3, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington will host a reception for a delegation from Tampa."

For those who don't follow Cuba issues closely, the Cuban Interests Section is the Castro dictatorship's official diplomatic representation in Washington.

So while it's not fair to label sanctions opponents (or "pro-normalization" activists) as pro-Castro -- all labels are inappropriate -- it's at least fair to conclude that they share a similar policy agenda.
The Cuban National Assembly of the People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) will meet December 15 amidst ”economic reforms” pushed by Raul Castro’s government while the Assembly’s president Ricardo Alarcón is in China meeting with authorities from the central government, Chinese Communist Party and his Chinese counterpart.
Source: Agence France-Presse Photo — Gustavo Izús


     WASHINGTON -- Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who's ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube -- where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a "flotation device" -- has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

     Who cares that the crazed steward got arrested, pleaded guilty to sundry charges, and probably was a rude, unpleasant SOB to begin with? Bonnie and Clyde were (BEG ITAL)psychopaths(END ITAL), yet what child of the '60s did not fall in love with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?

     And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security's newest brainstorm -- the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett's, warning the agent not to "touch my junk."

     Not quite the 18th-century elegance of "Don't Tread on Me," but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

     Don't touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the tea party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don't touch my junk, Obamacare -- get out of my doctor's examining room, I'm wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don't touch my junk, Google -- Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don't touch my junk, you airport security goon -- my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I'm a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

     In "Up in the Air," that ironic take on the cramped freneticism of airport life, George Clooney explains why he always follows Asians in the security line:
     "They pack light, travel efficiently, and they got a thing for slip-on shoes, God love ‘em."
     "That's racist!"
     "I'm like my mother. I stereotype. It's faster."

     That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives -- when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.

     We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to assure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety -- 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling -- when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

     The junk man's revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? OK. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

     But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

     This time you have gone too far, Big Bro'. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don't touch my junk.   

Traslate by Alfredo M. Cepero
Participants run along Havanas seafront ... 

Participants run during Marabana 2010 half marathon ...

Participants run along Havana's seafront boulevard El Malecon during the Marabana 2010 half marathon race November 21, 2010.… Read more »

Read more at the Realcubablog ...

Letter from an American lady who was finally able to find out the truth about the real Cuba
Nov. 20 - Greetings, I am so glad I have found your website!
From time to time I go online to try to find information about what is really going on inside Cuba, as well as getting the real facts on the history with Castro, and I hadn't found much information. Until today, that is! I'm so grateful to you for documenting Castro's abuses and standing up for people and standing up for truth and freedom!!!
I'm a white American who loves freedom and I feel that part of my calling is to learn about the people under communist regimes who are being ignored by the rest of the world, and especially by the US media, run by leftists. It breaks my heart to read these stories and know that powerful people in the US, especially from Hollywood, turn their backs on the suffering and injustice while admiring Castro and che Guevara.
Please keep up the good work! I'm so grateful for this information, and I will be keeping you and the people of Cuba in my prayers. And, I will not be silent! I will be telling others the truth about life under Castro!
Anna (last name withheld by request) Minneapolis, MN
Four Cuban doctors defect in Chile
Nov. 20 - Four members of a Cuban medical delegation that went to Chile on an aid mission after the Feb. 27 earthquake left the group to remain in the Andean nation, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said Friday.
The defectors belonged to the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, made up of 72 volunteers who worked in field hospitals in Rancagua and Chillan, and who this Friday returned to the island.
The four Cubans “have not sought asylum or protection, they have simply chosen to stay here to try and work in Chile,” Moreno said.
Read the whole story at the realcubablog
Fidel Castro hints that he is no longer the first secretary of the Communist Party
Nov. 18 -  Cuban dictator Fidel Castro said his frail health had forced him to delegate his powers as head of Cuba's Communist Party, suggesting that perhaps he had resigned his last leadership post.
State-run press said on Thursday he told students in a Wednesday meeting he was not with them in his position as the ruling party's First Secretary.
"I got sick and did what I had to do -- delegate my powers. I cannot do something that I am not in condition to dedicate to full time," he said.
Read the whole story at the realcubablog
Yes we can, by Pong
10 mining 'executives' arrested for corruption, but the two corruptors in chief remain free
Nov. 17 - A corruption scandal in a Cuban nickel processing plant -- one of the island's key sources of income -- has led to the detentions of at least 10 of its executives, according to two dissidents in Cuba.
The case involves the disappearance of vehicles and spare motors that had been stockpiled for an expansion of the Pedro Soto Alba plant in the city of Moa, the dissidents reported.
Some of the executives, they added, were also receiving extraordinarily high salaries -- $1,500 to $2,000 a month in a country where the official average monthly wage stands at about $20.   Read the whole story at the realcubablog
Yoani Sánchez wins the CEPOS Freedom Award
Nov. 16 - The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is pleased to announce that 2010 Oslo Freedom Forum speaker and Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez was awarded the inaugural CEPOS Freedom Award, in the amount of $50,000, by the independent Danish think tank, CEPOS. Sánchez, author of the world-renowned blog Generación Y, was nominated for the award by HRF President Thor Halvorssen.
The Freedom Award is granted to individuals who demonstrate a principled and steadfast commitment to the values and ideas of individual freedom and basic human rights.
"CEPOS could not have selected a more deserving recipient for this prize,” said Halvorssen. “Sánchez is a remarkable woman who has repeatedly overcome great obstacles and risked daunting consequences to make her voice heard, despite a dictatorship that systematically strangles freedom of expression.” Read the whole story at the realcubablog
Cuba owes Venezuela close to 15 billion dollars. Now they want Uncle Sam to be next
Nov. 15 - According to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, the outstanding receivables of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) totaled 13.8 billion dollars at the end of the first half of 2010.
Of this account it is estimated that about half corresponds to amounts owed by countries with whom Hugo Chávez has signed agreements to supply petroleum and petroleum related products.
The Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and Venezuela, signed in October 2000, is included in the debt, although government reports do not itemize how much the outstanding payments are, oil industry sources have disclosed that the current debt amounts $12.2 billion.
However, sources close to the Chávez government have indicated that this amount is higher and approaches 15 billion dollars.
El Nacional (Spanish)
S:Real Cuba

Fidel says happy with direction of Cuba

Fidel Castro says he is happy with direction Cuba is going under brother's leadership

, On Thursday November 18, 2010, 2:51 pm EST
HAVANA (AP) -- Fidel Castro says he is happy with the direction in which Cuba is moving under the leadership of his brother Raul, his most explicit remarks to date about the sweeping economic changes the country is undergoing.
"I'm content, because the country is moving forward despite all the challenges," the bearded revolutionary icon told Cuban students in comments carried by the official Communist Party-newspaper Granma on Thursday.
The elder Castro stepped down in 2006 due to a serious illness that almost killed him. He re-emerged from four years of seclusion in July, but has rarely spoken about Cuban current events, preferring to use his appearances to warn of what he fears is a looming nuclear war pitting the United States and Israel against Iran.
Castro, 84, remains head of the Communist Party, though in his remarks to the students he gave the impression he had delegated many of his official duties to others.
After telling the students he was not meeting with them in his capacity as party chief, Castro said, "I got sick and I did what I had to do: delegate my duties. I cannot do something if I am not in a condition to dedicate all my time to it."
Castro described himself as a "soldier of ideas" and said he "did not hesitate for a minute to relinquish my duties," an apparent reference to his decision to step down as president.
Part of the meeting with the students was carried on national television Wednesday, but not Castro's comments about his brother or his decision to delegate official duties. In the 90-minute broadcast, Castro read word-for-word from a long speech he gave to students in 2005 that he said continued to be relevant today.
In that speech, he spoke of the need to control corruption and the black market, and warned that the revolution could fail from within if leaders did not make the correct decisions.
Since taking over -- first temporarily, then permanently -- in 2006, Raul Castro has warned his countrymen that the state can no longer afford to pay idle workers and must cut many subsidies Cubans have come to expect.
In September, the government announced that it was laying off 500,000 workers -- or one-tenth of its labor force -- while allowing many to work for themselves in an expanded private sector.
Raul Castro called a Party Congress for April in which the government is expected to map out details of Cuba's economic future.
A separate Communist Party gathering, called a Party Conference, is also to be held at some point in 2011, and there is speculation Fidel Castro might use one of the occasions to step down as head of the Communist Party.

On Cuba policy, Cuban-American politicians are increasingly outside mainstream

Wed Nov 17, 2010 at 07:15:40 PM PST

Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio, New Jersey's Bob Menendez (a Democrat), and the handful of Cuban-Americans in the House all cling to their irrational and failed anti-Castro policies -- including travel restrictions on Americans that don't apply to more legitimate enemies like North Korea.
These positions are emblematic of the Cuban exile community in Miami, a voting bloc whose enormous political heft belies its size. The 838,000 exiles in the Miami area -- less than five percent of Florida's population -- have been a pillar of Republican support in presidential elections since 1980, and over the subsequent years have sent two Cuban-American Republican senators and four Republican congressmen to Washington. (New Jersey is represented in the Senate and House by the Cuban-American Democrats Bob Menendez and Albio Sires, respectively, both of whom typically vote with the Florida Republicans on Cuba issues.) The lawmakers have fought tooth and nail against even the Obama administration's minimal attempts to reform Cuba policy; Menendez threatened to hold the nominations of presidential appointees -- science advisers whose jobs were completely unrelated to Cuba policy -- hostage over Cuba travel concerns. Even modest goodwill gestures, such as cooperation with the Cuban government to provide medical services in post-earthquake Haiti, have drawn letters of protest from the Cuban-American legislators.
Bob Menendez -- a Democrat remember! -- even held up Obama nominees in protest to a mild easing of the travel ban. These Cuban-Americans even celebrate cold-blooded terrorists:
In 1989, [Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen] successfully lobbied President George H.W. Bush to secure the release of -- and amnesty for -- Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile previously imprisoned in Venezuela for blowing up a Cuban airliner with 73 passengers aboard, including 24 members of the Cuban national fencing team.
Their hatred for Castro has blinded them to the utter failure of the policies they push. A failure spanning decades, even as the US opens up to other communist nations like China and Vietnam.
The founding generation of Cuban émigrés -- exiles like Ros-Lehtinen and her parents -- arrived in Miami traumatized, their lives uprooted and their homes and possessions confiscated. They rarely if ever returned to the island, and in their long absence constructed a nostalgic image of Cuba that bore little resemblance to reality. They looked at the American policy toward Cuba as a means of catharsis and compensation; with their support, the embargo went from being a means of achieving a policy -- the strategic containment of communism -- to a policy goal unto itself.
Undoubtedly. It's therapy masquerading as foreign policy. Same as the GOP tax cut obsession masquerading as fiscal policy. It doesn't work. It has never worked. And it never will work. In fact, just as Bush's tax cuts dug a fiscal hole in the nation's finances that'll take decades to untangle, so has the embargo enabled the Castro regime -- giving it a boogeyman to blame for its own economic failures.
Yet don't pin this idiocy on all Cuban-Americans. Because unlike their politicians, the Cuban-American community is moving on.
Consider the results of a December 2008 poll of Cuban-Americans in Florida's Miami-Dade County conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research at Florida International University, which found that 55 percent of the respondents were in favor of lifting the embargo -- the first time a majority had said so since the institute started polling in 1991. A full 65 percent were in favor of the United States both resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosening the additional restrictions placed on travel to and trade with the island by the George W. Bush administration in 2003.
Part of the reason for the shift in public opinion?
What Cubans -- even those who were just as disenchanted with the communist regime as the first-generation exiles -- saw when they looked at Miami was a group fixated on punishing Castro, even if it came at the expense of the Cuban people.
Aside from the foreign policy angle to this, and aside from the fact that I married into a Cuban family, there's another reason I'm interested in this topic:
According to exit polling in the 2008 election by Bendixen & Associates, 84 percent of Cubans in the Miami area over the age of 55 voted for John McCain, a traditional Republican Cuba hawk -- but Barack Obama, the first major presidential candidate with a record of opposition to the embargo, garnered 55 percent of the under-30 vote. This year's election also saw the second serious challenge in as many elections from a Cuban-American politician running in a Florida House race on a platform of engaging with Cuba. Joe Garcia, a former leader of Mas Canosa's Cuban American National Foundation who has reinvented himself as a Cuba policy reformer, got 42 percent of the vote against Cuba-hardliner David Rivera -- a loss, but in an exile-heavy district and an election year that favored Republicans, a hopeful sign for the future.
This is yet another demographic shift that favors Democrats, and can very well alter the balance of power in swing Florida. Democrats are close to cracking the GOP stranglehold on the Cuban-dominated parts of southern Florida. And once they do, the Florida GOP will be in serious trouble. Not only are Cuban-Americans a significant percentage of their overall vote total, but also one of its biggest sources of cash.
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Cuba: Fiber Optic Cable May Not Bring Greater Internet Access...

Officials at Cuba’s Ministry of Informatics and Communications recently announced that a much-anticipated submarine fiber optic cable linking Venezuela, Cuba, and Jamaica, will be in operation by January of 2011. Although the cable’s 640 gigabytes will increase Cuba’s connectivity 3000-fold, it will not bring greater opportunities for Cuban citizens to access the Internet.
A November article in Granma [es], the national daily newspaper and official organ of the communist party of Cuba, reported that the cable will make it easier to work with video, sound, and large files of all kinds, which are difficult if not impossible to load or send at present. The article quoted an official statement from the Ministry guaranteeing that:
[el cable] reforzará la integración, ampliará el intercambio social y contribuirá a cambiar el curso de las comunicaciones en la región.
[the cable] will strengthen integration, increase person-to-person exchange and help expand communications in the region.

Image by Demis map server, via Wikimedia Commons
But the cable, built by Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe, the Cuban-Venezuelan telecommunications firm supported chiefly by ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para los pueblos de Nuestra América), will not bring about the “socialization” of the Internet. An additional note at the end of the article stated [es]:
El cable submarino proporcionará una mayor calidad en las infocomunicaciones, pero no necesariamente significará una extensión de las mismas. La socialización del servicio dependerá más de buscar en las reservas de eficiencia que de la ampliación de la red.
The submarine cable will provide a higher quality of digital communications, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be extended. The socialization of service will depend more on finding efficient resources for network expansion.
Many Cubans had hoped that the cable would make it easier (and cheaper) to get online. For Cubans who do not have Internet access at their places of work, hotel Internet cafés are often the only option. These centers charge between $7.50 and $12.50 per hour, a prohibitive cost in a nation where the average state salary is $20.

Image by Narisa. Non-commercial, non-derivative, attribution CC license.
Since plans to build the cable originally took shape in 2006, members of Cuba’s small online community have expressed cautious enthusiasm about its potentially positive impact on Cuban society. Last July, when Cuban news site Cubadebate [es] reported that sounding expeditions for the cable were underway, comments on the site illustrated Cubans’ eagerness for the cable to serve all citizens. Pablo Fierro commented:
Sin duda que internet será más libre a partir de que este funcionando el cable subacuático y los cubanos puedan acceder a él como se merecen…
Without a doubt, the Internet will be more free once the submarine cable is functioning, and Cubans will be able to access it as they deserve to…
But the recent news indicates that the cable may not serve all Cubans. Last week, Cuban blogger Yasmín Portales [es] responded to the recent announcement, reasoning that providing home connections and broader public access opportunities was not the interest of the state. Concurrent with the statements of MIC, she explained that the government has always framed the question of Internet access as one of “social necessity,” rather than as a public good, or even a human right.
El discurso del Estado cubano define el uso de la red en tanto interés social….su uso se debe asignar a espacios sociales como centros de educación, asociaciones profesionales, espacios recreativos….De este modo la apuesta por la participación libre y horizontal de la ciudadanía al debate social a través de los recursos digitales se va por el caño. Quienes accedan estarán enajenados de su libertad de navegación a priori, limitados por el criterio de corrección política moral de sus administradores de red…
The rhetoric of the Cuban state defines the use of the network according to social interest…. Its use should be allocated to social spaces such as education centers, professional associations, and recreational spaces….Thus the commitment to free and horizontal participation, and to civic debate using digital resources, goes down the drain. Those who have access will have freedom of navigation, a priori, limited by the criterion of political correctness and morality of their network administrators…
Portales echoed a recent post by Cuban blogger and legal expert Laritza Diversent, who described the legal framework through which Internet connectivity and access were originally introduced in Cuba in 1996. She wrote that Internet access is limited in order to ensure that
…the information distributed is accurate, that it is obtained [in ways that are consistent] with ethical principles, and that it does not affect the interests or safety of country.
While the cable will improve Internet connectivity and quality for those Cubans who have Internet access, it will not change the status quo of the state’s broader policy on Internet use. In the eyes of the state, the negative social and political implications of making Internet access broadly available to the public continue to necessitate a policy that places strict limits on Cubans’ abilities to access and use the Internet.