Friday, September 30, 2011

Civilians surge out of Sirte, say food dwindling

SIRTE (Reuters) - Civilians fled Sirte on Friday as interim government forces pounded the coastal city in an effort to dislodge fighters loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The prolonged battle for Gaddafi's hometown, besieged from three fronts, has raised concern for civilians trapped inside the city of about 100,000 people, with each side accusing the other of endangering them.
Cars streamed out of Sirte from the early hours and into the afternoon. Shelling and tank fire continued from both sides on the eastern and western fronts, black smoke rose from the center of town and NATO planes flew overhead.
A Reuters team on the edge of Sirte heard five huge explosions just before sundown. It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.
Fighting was particularly heavy near a roundabout on the eastern outskirts of the city, where NTC forces have been pinned down by sniper and artillery fire for five days, Reuters journalists at the scene said.
Some fighters again fled the frontline under the fire.
"It's difficult, difficult," said anti-Gaddafi fighter Rami Moftah. "You know, with the snipers. You can't find them. Yesterday there was no ammunition. It was finished. I swear to God. If the Gaddafi people knew that they would have come and taken Sirte from us."
Several residents told Reuters they were leaving Sirte because they had not eaten for days.
"I am not scared. I am hungry," said Ghazi Abdul-Wahab, a Syrian who has lived in the town for 40 years, patting his stomach.
Abdul-Wahab said he had been sleeping in the streets with his family after a NATO airstrike hit a building next to his house, making him fear his home could also be struck.
"People inside are scared about their houses. People want to protect their houses," he said, adding that some locals may fight because they have heard the NTC wants to kill them.
Some residents said they had paid up to $800 for the fuel to leave the city because it was in short supply. Others said pasta and flour were now changing hands for large sums of money.
Doctors at a field hospital near the eastern front line said an elderly woman died from malnutrition on Friday morning and they had seen other cases.
A man with a shrapnel wound to his left arm said the hospital in Sirte had no power and few supplies. A doctor had tried to patch up his wound by the light of a mobile phone.
"I was injured in my garden at 1 p.m. but I stayed home until the evening because of the heavy fire," Mohammed Abudullah said at a field hospital outside the city.
Gaddafi loyalists and some civilians were blaming NATO air strikes and shelling by the forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) for killing civilians.
NATO and the NTC deny that. They and some other civilians coming out of the town say pro-Gaddafi fighters are executing people they believe to be NTC sympathizers.
"It is not the Gaddafi people and not you people," one elderly man shouted, gesturing toward NTC fighters at a checkpoint as he left the city.
"It's the French planes that are hitting us night and day. They knocked the roof off our house. Is this how we're supposed to die?"
Ahmad Mohammed Yahya told Reuters street fighting was erupting in the town most nights and that pro-Gaddafi fighters were aggressively recruiting local people.
"Sometimes they offer to give you a weapon," he said. "And sometimes they take people and force them to fight."
The NTC is under pressure to strike a balance between a prolonged fight that would delay its efforts to govern and a quick victory which, if too bloody, could worsen regional divisions and embarrass the fledgling government and its foreign backers.
Aid agencies said this week a humanitarian disaster loomed in Sirte amid rising casualties and shrinking supplies of water, electricity and food.
Libya's interim government has asked the United Nations for fuel for ambulances to evacuate its wounded fighters from Sirte, a U.N. source in Libya said on Thursday.
The U.N. is sending trucks of drinking water for the civilians crammed into vehicles on the road from Sirte, heading either toward Benghazi to the east or Misrata to the west, he added.
But fighting around the city and continuing insecurity around Bani Walid, the other loyalist hold-out, are preventing the world body from deploying aid workers inside, he said.
"There are two places we'd really like access to, Sirte and Bani Walid, because of concern on the impact of conflict on the civilian population," the U.N. source in Tripoli, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Geneva.
The NTC says efforts to form a new interim government have been suspended until after the capture of Sirte and Bani Walid.
There has been speculation that divisions are preventing the formation of a more inclusive interim government.
More than a month after NTC fighters captured Tripoli, Gaddafi remains on the run, trying to rally resistance to those who ended his 42-year rule.
The military chief of Libya's new interim government attended a meeting on Friday between Tuareg tribesmen and local Arabs in the southwestern town of Ghadames aimed at patching up differences that have recently spilled over into violence.
The Saharan trading town close to the Algerian border drew international attention this week when an NTC official said Gaddafi was believed to be hiding nearby.
(Additional reporting by Mahdi Talat in Sirte, William MacLean in Tripoli, Ali Shuaib in Ghademes and Emad Omar in Benghazi; Writing by Barry Malone; Editing by Sophie Hares)

US strike kills American al-Qaida cleric in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — In a significant new blow to al-Qaida, U.S. airstrikes in Yemen on Friday killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American militant cleric who became a prominent figure in the terror network's most dangerous branch, using his fluent English and Internet savvy to draw recruits for attacks in the United States.
The strike was the biggest U.S. success in hitting al-Qaida's leadership since the May killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But it raises questions that other strikes did not: Al-Awlaki was an American citizen who has not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial.
The 40-year-old al-Awlaki was for years an influential mouthpiece for al-Qaida's ideology of holy war, and his English-language sermons urging attacks on the United States were widely circulated among militants in the West.
But U.S. officials say he moved into a direct operational role in organizing such attacks as he hid alongside al-Qaida militants in the rugged mountains of Yemen. Most notably, they believe he was involved in recruiting and preparing a young Nigerian who on Christmas Day 2009 tried to blow up a U.S. airliner heading to Detroit, failing only because he botched the detonation of explosives sewn into his underpants.
Yemen's Defense Ministry and U.S. officials said another American militant was killed in the same strike alongside al-Awlaki — Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani heritage who produced "Inspire," an English-language al-Qaida Web magazine that spread the word on ways to carry out attacks inside the United States. U.S. and Yemeni officials said two other militants were also killed in the strike but did not immediately identify them.
Washington has called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the branch in Yemen is called, the most direct threat to the United States after it plotted that attack and a foiled attempt to mail explosives to synagogues in Chicago.
President Barack Obama declared al-Awlaki's killing a "major blow" to al-Qaida's most active affiliate, and vowed a vigorous U.S. campaign to prevent the terror network and its partners from finding safe haven anywhere in the world.
Obama said al-Awlaki "directed" the Christmas plane bombing attempt as well as a failed attempt to mail explosives to the United States, "and he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda."
In July, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said al-Awlaki was a priority target alongside Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's successor as the terror network's leader.
The Yemeni-American had been in the U.S. crosshairs since his killing was approved by Obama in April 2010 — making him the first American placed on the CIA "kill or capture" list. At least twice, airstrikes were called in on locations in Yemen where al-Awlaki was suspected of being, but he wasn't harmed.
The operation that killed al-Awlaki was run by the U.S. military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command — the same unit that got bin Laden.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said American forces targeted a convoy in which al-Awlaki was traveling with a drone and jet attack and believe he's been killed. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Yemeni government announced that al-Awlaki was "targeted and killed" around 9:55 a.m outside the town of Khasaf in a desert stretch of Jawf province, 87 miles (140 kilometers) east of the capital Sanaa. It gave no further details.

A senior tribal chief who helped bury the bodies in a cemetery in Jawf said seven people were killed in the strike, their bodies totally charred. The chief said the brother of one of the dead, who had given the group shelter in his home, had witnessed the strike.According to the chief, the witness said al-Awlaki was travelling in a pick-up with six other people on their way to neighboring Marib province. They stopped for breakfast in the desert and were sitting on the ground to eat when they spotted drones, so they rushed to their truck. A missile struck the truck, leaving it a charred husk and killing all inside. The chief spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be connected to the group, and he did not identify the witness.
Al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, began as a mosque preacher as he conducted his university studies in the United States, and he was not seen by his congregations as radical. While preaching in San Diego, he came to know two of the men who would eventually become suicide-hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The FBI questioned al-Awlaki at the time but found no cause to detain him.
In 2004, al-Awlaki returned to Yemen, and in the years that followed, his English-language Internet sermons increasingly turned to denunciations of the United States and calls for jihad, or holy war.
Al-Awlaki exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, alleged killer of 13 people in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at Fort Hood. Hasan initiated the contacts, drawn by al-Awlaki's Internet sermons.
Al-Awlaki has said he didn't tell Hasan to carry out the shootings, but he later praised Hasan as a "hero" on his Web site.
In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
After the Fort Hood attack, al-Awlaki moved from Yemen's capital, Sanaa, into the mountains where his Awalik tribe is based and — it appears — built direct ties with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, if he had not developed them already. The branch is led by a Yemeni militant named Nasser al-Wahishi.
Yemeni officials have said al-Awlaki had contacts with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused would-be Christmas plane bomber, who was in Yemen in 2009. They say the believe al-Awlaki met with the 23-year-old Nigerian, along with other al-Qaida leaders, in al-Qaida strongholds in the country in the weeks before the failed bombing.
Al-Awlaki has said Abdulmutallab was his "student" but said he never told him to carry out the airline attack.
The cleric is also believed to have been an important middleman between al-Qaida militants and the multiple tribes that dominate large parts of Yemen, particular in the mountains of Jawf, Marib and Shabwa province where the terror group's fighters are believed to be holed up.
Last month, al-Awlaki was seen attending a funeral of a senior tribal chief in Shabwa, witnesses said, adding that security officials were also among those attending. Other witnesses said al-Awlaki was involved in negotiations with a local tribe in Yemen's Mudiya region, which was preventing al-Qaida fighters from traveling from their strongholds to the southern city of Zinjibar, which was taken over recently by Islamic militants. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals and their accounts could not be independently confirmed.
Yemen, the Arab world's most impoverished nation, has become a haven for hundreds of al-Qaida militants. The country has also been torn by political turmoil as President Ali Abdullah Saleh struggles to stay in power in the face of seven months of protests. In recent months, Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida have exploited the chaos to seize control of several cities in Yemen's south, including Zinjibar.
A previous attack against al-Awlaki on May 5, shortly after the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was carried out by a combination of U.S. drones and jets.
Top U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan has said cooperation with Yemen has improved since the political unrest there. Brennan said the Yemenis have been more willing to share information about the location of al-Qaida targets, as a way to fight the Yemeni branch challenging them for power.
Yemeni security officials said the U.S. was conducting multiple airstrikes a day in the south since May and that U.S. officials were finally allowed to interrogate al-Qaida suspects, something Saleh had long resisted, and still does so in public. The officials spokes on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.
AP correspondents Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Lolita Baldor and AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington and Lee Keath and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Libya: Gaddafi mouthpiece caught 'fleeing dressed as a woman'...Breaking News...

Moussa Ibrahim, the mouthpiece of the Gaddafi regime, was captured last night outside the birthplace of the former dictator, according to commanders of the National Transitional Council's forces.

 Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the son of Col Gaddafi
Wanted by Interpol: Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the son of Col Gaddafi Photo: AP
There were also unconfirmed reports that Ibrahim was dressed as a woman as he attempted to flee Sirte, which has been the scene of heavy fighting for several days.
A commander for the NTC's Zintan brigade said: "Moussa Ibrahim was captured while driving outside Sirte by fighters from Misurata." Ibrahim became a fixture on news bulletins from the first week of the uprising, lecturing the foreign media from a conference room at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli on the iniquities of Nato and the West.
Like Col Muammar Gaddafi, his whereabouts had been unknown until yesterday.
His capture came as forces loyal to the transitional government seized the airport in Sirte, moving through the partly destroyed buildings tearing down symbols of the Gaddafi era.
Meanwhile, an Interpol arrest warrant was issued for Gaddafi's son Saadi, who escaped to Niger, but the country's prime minister there said he would not be extradited. 

Castro Calls Obama "Stupid"

Thursday, September 29, 2011
So much for the "extended hand" theory.

A few weeks ago, the Castro brothers snubbed their "old friend" Bill Richardson.

And now, they insult President Obama.

From CNN:

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday for demanding changes on the island in order to improve bilateral relations and referred to him as "stupid."

On Wednesday, Obama told Hispanic journalists that he would be willing to change the country's tough line on Cuba "when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people."

On Thursday, Castro responded with sarcasm in a written essay published in Cuban state media.

"How nice! How intelligent! So much generosity has failed to let him understand that after 50 years of blockade and crimes against our country, they haven't been able to bow our people."

He went on to say many things would change in Cuba, but only thanks to Cubans' own efforts and "despite" the United States. "Perhaps that empire will collapse first," he added.

He also slammed a recent ruling by a U.S. judge against a Cuban agent, but he said it was to be expected.

"Otherwise, the empire would cease to be the empire and Obama would cease to be stupid."

The Religion of Peace®, part 2,445,676

Misinterpreter of Islam arrested for plans to blow up the Pentagon and the Capitol:
A Massachusetts man with a degree in physics was charged Wednesday with plotting to blow up the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled airplanes filled with explosives.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, was arrested in Framingham after undercover federal agents delivered materials he had allegedly requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosive. Federal officials said the public was never in danger from the explosives, which it said were always under control and closely monitored.
Wednesday's arrest was the latest of several terrorism cases to spring from federal sting operations. In other cases, reputed would-be terrorists became involved in fictional plots against various targets, such as Dallas skyscrapers or a Chicago nightclub. In this case, though, authorities say Ferdaus planned the scheme.
A federal affidavit says Ferdaus, of Ashland, began planning "jihad" against the U.S. in early 2010 after becoming convinced America was evil through jihadi websites and videos. He contacted a federal informant that December and months later, allegedly began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover federal agents he believed were members of al-Qaida.

Two million Chinese spies

20110923 14:43 pm · 
by Armando F. Mastrapa III
The Diplomat has a fairly extensive article on the expansive threat of China’s intelligence apparatus:
the communist-controlled People’s Republic of China operates the single largest intelligence-gathering apparatus in the world—and its growing appetite for secrets has apparently become insatiable…From economic and military espionage to keeping tabs on exiled dissidents, China’s global spying operations are rapidly expanding….Estimates on the number of spies and agents employed by the communist state vary widely. According to public statements by French author and investigative journalist Roger Faligot, who has written several books about the regime’s security services, there are around two million Chinese working directly or indirectly for China’s intelligence apparatus.
The regimes of Cuba, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe are part of China’s growing international network of support.

Exchange of potatoes by doctors

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) is interested in making a trade with Cuba: its famous potatoes  by Cuban doctors

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) is interested in making a trade with Cuba: its famous potatoes  (Potatoes) by Cuban doctors to alleviate the problems of system Provincial health.

At least that's what Jason proposed MacGregor, Island Party candidate in provincial elections  October 3. MacGregor made the proposal as part of their campaign.

In statements published today by the newspaper "The Toronto Star," MacGregor said that the exchange of potatoes by Cuban doctors solve the shortage of doctors in rural areas of the province, the smallest in the country.

"The Potatoes are a nutrient that is not grown in their country and many of IPE our farmers have a surplus of potatoes each year. Many of them are thrown back to the fields, "he reasoned MacGregor.

"So instead of wasting all those potatoes, the change could be exported to doctors," he added.

Cuba does away with emblematic Ministry of Sugar

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — Cuba announced the elimination of its Ministry of Sugar on Thursday in a sign of how far the symbolic crop has fallen since its heyday, when much of the population was mobilized to the countryside at harvest time to help cut cane.
President Raul Castro's government determined that the ministry "currently serves no state function" and will therefore replace it with an entity called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.
The goal is to "create a business system capable of turning its exports into hard currency to finance its own expenses," Granma said. There was no mention of any private or foreign investment.
Like coffee and tobacco, sugar is a highly emblematic crop on this Caribbean island. Cuba used to be a world leader in sugar, annually producing 6 million to 7 million tons.
Former leader Fidel Castro made the annual harvest a point of revolutionary pride and regularly mobilized brigades of Cubans from government officials and urban office workers to artists and ballet dancers to boost output.
In 1968 he famously announced that Cuba would try to harvest 10 million tons of cane that year, mobilizing labor from nearly the entire workforce. That aim proved overly ambitious, though some 8 million tons were harvested.
Later, the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived Cuba of its main buyer, and sugar has since fallen on hard times. It now trails nickel production and tourism as a source of foreign income, contributing about $600 million a year.
Last year, Cuba reported its lowest harvest since 1905 — 1.1 million tons — and fired its sugar minister. Officials have said this year's harvest is expected to be only slightly higher.
In 2002, the government launched a restructuring of the industry due to low sugar prices. Prices have since recovered, prompting officials to redouble efforts to mechanize the sector and increase efficiency.
Government officials boasted last March of improving per-acre yields during a media tour of sugarcane country in the central province of Matanzas, showing off a revamped sugar mill and modern combines from Brazil that strip the cane as it is picked.
Granma said Thursday that the decision to eliminate the Sugar Ministry was announced at a Cabinet meeting over the weekend. It said 13 provincial companies will oversee the 56 sugar processing plants operating this year — down from 156 in the 1970s.
Juan Tomas Sanchez, who contributes writings on Cuban agriculture to the U.S.-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, said the restructuring should save money on overhead but more must be done to improve efficiency, like overhauling transportation and replotting fields to work better with new machinery.
"It's logical. ... It has a strategic importance," said Sanchez, who also heads a Florida exile group known as the Association of Cuban Settlers. "But it has to be accompanied by a necessary investment of capital."
Granma said the Cabinet ministers also assessed the progress of a national agriculture overhaul begun in 2008 as part of Raul Castro's program to overhaul the economy with some free-market initiatives, including turning over fallow state land to private farmers and cooperatives.
The ministers discussed "shortfalls" in production targets for rice, beef and other agricultural products, Granma said..

IAPA condemns the increasing harassment of dissidents in Cuba...

The Inter American Press (IAPA) today condemned the "recent escalation of repression" against dissidents in Cuba and the violations of freedom of expression, while lamented the lack of solidarity with Latin American governments  Cuban people.

Miami, EFE September 29, 2011
IAPA headquarters in Miami, also denounced the obstacles it hits the foreign press reporting from the island.
All  these issues will be addressed by a special commission for the IAPA General Assembly to be held in Lima (Peru), from 14 to October 18.
On Tuesday they were beaten and insulted by political police Martha Beatriz Roque, leader of the Red  Communicators Cuban Community (RCCC), Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, member of that organization, and Berta Soler, the Ladies White said the IAPA.
Roque, expressed policy, reported that, despite  it had been "arrested and beaten many times," never before "Had been so battered. It hurts my shots, but what hurts me most  is the lack of freedom, "he said.
The president of the SIP, Gonzalo Marroquín, stressed that the "lack of respect in Cuba to freedoms of speech, press and assembly are a reflection of a archaic regime that represses and harass critics and the demands of exchange for part of its citizens. "
According to the Cuban Commission Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the repressive actions against independent and opposition media "have grown in often, by registering in the month of September more than 400 arbitrary arrests a few days or hours, "the highest figure arrests in the last ten years.
"This repression is added unfulfilled promises of the regime to allow greater access to internet, showing fear of the authorities to the flow trying to avoid reporting positive effects such as the Arab Spring, "he said Marroquín.
Marroquín, chairman of Guatemalan newspaper Siglo 21, said that the crackdown has also been demonstrated against the foreign press and cited the cases of the new chief by Agence France Press, and Mauricio Vicent, the latter Spanish media correspondent for El Pais and Cadena Ser, who denied doing their work in Cuba.
Also, he said, "calls much attention to the lack of solidarity among Latin American governments with the Cuban people to denounce rights abuses humans. "
"The only solidarity that we have registered so far is that governments will officially provide the regime of Raúl Castro, "he lamented Marroquín.
He added that while the Cuban government  freed journalists imprisoned during the Black Spring (March, 2003), most of whom were exiled to Spain, "now seems that the regime is stepping up its efforts to punish and censor all dissent. "
Since July 2010, after talks Cuban officials with the Catholic Church and the Spanish Government, 22 independent journalists were released, exiles, in their mostly to Spain.
The IAPA is a nonprofit dedicated to defending and promoting press freedom and expression in the Americas. It consists of more than 1,300 publications  of America.

For oil ...

U.S. Congress Repsol pressured not to explore the coast of Cuba

They warn that the oil if it goes ahead could have implications for their business interests in United States

Economy | 29/09/2011 - 13:19 h
Miami (Reuters / EP) .- A group of 34 U.S. congressmen have asked the Spanish oil Repsol YPF to cancel its plans to explore for oil in water Cuba, Warning the company could face legal and commercial risks in the U.S..
Repsol plans to use Chinese-built facilities  for this year exploring oil fields in deep water Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico have run into opposition from neighboring Florida, a bastion of Cuban exiles.
But the oil project Cuba has also sparked calls for the U.S. to cooperate with Havana and avoid a possible ecological accident similar to oil spill BP brought in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico the year past.
In a letter dated September 27 and sent to the president of Repsol, Antonio Brufau, Congressional Republicans and Democrats led by Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,  warned the Spanish company that runs the risk of damaging their U.S. commercial interests if it goes ahead with plans  in Cuba.
"We respectfully request that Repsol abandon all activities  that proposed oil drilling off the coast of Cuba, "says the letter signed by 34 congressmen, one of which is also Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Ros-Lehtinen, Cuban-born, chairs the Committee on Affairs of the House and is a strong critic of the government Castro.
"The Cuban regime is desperately seeking a lifeline decline  economic, and seems to have found a partner Repsol happy, "he Ros-Lehtinen considered in a public statement that accompanies the letter.
"This plan for oil drilling threatens the environment and enriches the Cuban dictatorship," he underlined.
Repsol Guarantees
Last June, in response to Washington's concern about their plans in Cuba, Repsol had made sure that would meet the U.S. environmental requirements and allow Officials inspect the facilities, according to the secretary  U.S. Interior, Ken Salazar.
In his letter, the congressmen argue that since any Cuba requires foreign investment in joint ownership and payments Cuban government prosecutors of President Raul Castro "any Repsol drilling operation carried out in Cuban waters provide direct financial benefit to the Castro dictatorship. "
The letter warns that Repsol plans to drill in Cuba might violate U.S. laws, including a complex network  sanctions that constitute the trade embargo against the island by what the Spanish company and its subsidiaries are exposed to "Criminal and civil liabilities in U.S. courts."
Repsol, in a consortium with Norway Statoil and  India's ONGC unit, plans to use the oil facility Scarabeo 9, construction of China, to drill one or two wells.
The platform, owned by Saipem, a unit of Italian oil giant Eni, is poised to Cuba.
Repsol is expected to pass after the company facilities  Petronas Malaysian state and then to ONGC Videsh, a unit of ONGC, which has also leased blocks in Cuban waters.
Oil experts believe that Cuba could have 20,000 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, although the Service U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the reserves are about 5,000 million barrels.
Repsol drilled a hole in Cuban waters in 2004 and found oil but for various reasons, including the U.S. embargo on the island, he has not drilled.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

LPP Latest News...

Halliburton Lobbies to Ease Cuba Sanctions

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
From AP:

Halliburton spent $85k in 2Q on lobbyists

Halliburton Co. spent $85,000 in the second quarter to lobby the federal government on regulation of inland drilling techniques and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That's up from the $70,000 it spent a year earlier, and it's even with what Halliburton spent in the first three months of the year. Halliburton also lobbied the government on legislation involving offshore oil drilling, the country's relationship with Nigeria, Libya, Cuba, Burma and Egypt, corporate taxes, immigration, and health care, according to the report filed on July 20.

You can view the lobbying disclosure report here.

Obama: Cuba Must Reform (Video)

This next question is about Cuba, and it comes from Florida: What is your position regarding Cuba and the embargo? What should the Cuban people expect from you and your government during the remainder of your term, and in the future if you're reelected?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, what we did with respect to Cuba was recognize that the Cuban people now have not enjoyed freedom for 50 years, and everywhere else in the world you've been seeing a democratization movement that has been pressing forward. Throughout Latin America, democracies have emerged from previously authoritarian regimes. The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba.

Now, what we've tried to do is to send a signal that we are open to a new relationship with Cuba if the Cuban government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country and its own -- and provide the space and the respect for human rights that would allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.

I changed the remittance laws so that family members could more easily send money back to Cuba, because that would give them more power and it would create a economic space for them to prosper. Within Cuba we have changed the family travel laws so that they can travel more frequently, as well as laws that relate to educational travel.

And so we've made these modifications that send a signal that we're prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a Cold War mentality dating back to when I was born. On the other hand, we have to see a signal back from the Cuban government that it is following through on releasing political prisoners, on providing people their basic human rights, in order for us to be fully engaged with them. And so far, at least, what we haven't seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo.

I don't know what will happen over the next year, but we are prepared to see what happens in Cuba. If we see positive movement we will respond in a positive way. Hopefully, over the next five years, we will see Cuba looking around the world and saying, we need to catch up with history. And as long as I'm President I will always be prepared to change our Cuba policy if and when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people. But that's always my watchword, is are we seeing freedom for the Cuban people to live lives of opportunity and prosperity. If we are, then we'll be supportive of them.

Those conditions will suffice -- human rights, free political prisoners? No demand for a change in the economic structure, for example?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it's very hard to separate liberty from some economic reforms. If people have no way to eat other than through the government, then the government ends up having very strict control over them, and they can be punished in all sorts of ways for expressing their own opinions. That's not to say that a condition for us releasing the embargo would be that they have a perfect market system, because obviously we have trade and exchanges with a number of countries that fall short of a liberal democracy.

But there is a basic, I think, recognition of people's human rights that includes their right to work, to change jobs, to get an education, to start a business. So some elements of freedom are included in how an economic system works. And right now, we haven't seen any of that.

But let me just say this. Obviously if we saw a release of political prisoners, the ability for people to express their opinions and to petition their government, if we saw even those steps those would be very significant, and we would pay attention and we would undoubtedly reexamine our overall approach to Cuba if we saw a serious movement in that direction.

Capitol Hill Cubans

Cuba activist goes to check on Sara Fonseca's husband, he gets arrested (UPDATED)...

Cuban political prisoner Sara Martha Fonseca remains in jail Wednesday night, as a recent wave of Castroite repression continues to victimize some of the island's best-known dissidents.
Wednesday, Fonseca's son Julito Leon Fonseca went to a Havana police station to check on his father, who also was arrested this past Saturday. The younger Fonseca was accompanied by activist Eriberto Liranza, who also had been arrested Saturday but was subsequently released after suffering a vicious beating by the police.
Seeing the chance to repress again, the police took Liranza into custody, according to a tweet from Resistencia Cubana.
UPDATED, 11:25 p.m. EDT — Pedazos de la Isla has more on Julito's quest to learn about what is happening to his parents. It is a must-read.
“My parents’ situation continues the same, they are still detained, and have been on a hunger and thirst strike for 96 hours so far. ... My mother (Sara Marta) has severe pains from a violent physical blow given to her on her spinal chord,  carried out by State Security officials," Julito said. “As for my father (Julio Ignacio) he is also in lots of pain and is also carrying out a hunger and thirst strike."

Cuba must reform before U.S. eases stance: Obama...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is ready to change its stern policy toward Cuba but has not seen steps from Havana that would justify lifting its embargo, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.
Obama said he did not want to be "stuck in a Cold War mentality" and that Washington had sought to improve ties by changing rules about remittances and travel but was waiting for signals from Cuba such as the release of political prisoners and guarantees of basic human rights.
He urged the communist-run Caribbean island, under a U.S. embargo for the last five decades, to join the wave of democratic change sweeping the Arab world and that ousted most authoritarian rulers in Latin America in decades past.
"The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba," Obama said in a question and answer session with U.S. Hispanic media. "If we see positive movement then we will respond in a positive way."
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called Obama's remarks "old and repetitive" in response to questions from reporters in Brasilia on Wednesday.
Rodriguez said Cuba maintains its commitment to normalize relations with the United States, but Washington has not responded to Cuban offers of cooperation in fighting drug trafficking, terrorism and natural disasters.
"There is always an abyss between statements from President Obama and reality," Rodriguez said.
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused Obama on Monday of talking "gibberish" in his recent speech to the United Nations and said NATO's actions in Libya were a "monstrous crime."
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Hugo Bachega in Brasilia; editing by Anthony Boadle)

Obama 'always' ready to change Cuba policy

US President Barack Obama said that he would always be ready to change tough policy towards Cuba, but needed evidence from the communist state it was ready to reform.
Obama, in an Internet roundtable with questions posed by Hispanic journalists, said his gradual easing of some US restrictions on Cuba had been intended to hint at steps that could follow if Havana stepped away from a "Cold War" mentality.
"Throughout Latin America, democracies have emerged from previously authoritarian regimes. The time has come for the same thing to happen in Cuba," Obama said on Wednesday, in an event simultaneously translated into Spanish.
"As long as I'm president, I will always be prepared to change our Cuba policy if and when we start seeing a serious intention on the part of the Cuban government to provide liberty for its people," Obama said.
"Hopefully, over the next five years, we will see Cuba looking around the world and saying, we need to catch up with history."
Obama said that before he would act, he wanted to see action from Cuba on releasing political prisoners and on providing people with basic human rights.
"So far, at least, what we haven't seen is the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo," he said.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez rejected Obama's offer as "old and repetitive."
"There has always been a deep gap between what president Obama says and real events, not only regarding Cuba," said Rodriguez, currently traveling in Brazil.
"President Obama -- between the two or three wars that he is waging, given the domestic economy's crisis situation, and faced with the voracity of the right wing of the Republican Party -- evidently does not have time to know what is going on in Cuba," Rodriguez said.
The US embargo on Cuba was first partially imposed in 1960 -- just after Fidel Castro staged his revolution -- and remains in force with the United States banning most trade and most travel to the Caribbean island.
In 2009, Obama reversed some restrictions on immediate family travel and allowed Cuban Americans to send remittances to relatives. Some direct flights are also allowed. But he cannot lift the embargo without Congress's approval.
Rodriguez's statement was in line with those of Fidel Castro, who on Monday blasted Obama's speech to the United Nations as "gibberish" and said the US president used a rambling address to justify the "unjustifiable."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sue Turton updates on the latest from Sirte ...

Fighters supporting Libya's interim government have raced into the eastern outskirts of Sirte backed by NATO warplanes and are fighting street-to-street battles with loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi in his home town.

From The White House...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Roberta S. Jacobson, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State

Roberta S. Jacobson currently serves as Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) at the Department of State. Previously, Ms. Jacobson served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues (2007-2010), Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs (2003-2007), and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima (2000-2002). From 1996 to 2000, Ms. Jacobson served as Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in WHA. She began her career at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern (PMI). Ms. Jacobson received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Capitol Hill Cubans

Chinese naval expansion in the Americas...

20110925 0:07 am · 
by Armando F. Mastrapa III
PLA Daily reported September 16 on the Chinese Navy’s (PLAN) “Peace Ark” hospital ship making its way to the Caribbean—including Cuba:
The navy emblem is shining and the navy songs are loud and clear. All people of the “Peace Ark” hospital ship of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held an oath-taking and mobilization meeting at Zhoushan naval port at 09:00 on September 15. They are scheduled to sail on September 16 for visits to Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica and carry out the “Harmonious Mission 2011” medical service task.
CNA analyst Peter Mackenzie’s recently published paper addresses the development of China’s hospital ships since the 1970s and the implications of China’s use of hospital ships for the country’s expanding maritime hard and soft power:
Some analysts have speculated that the “Peace Ark” could support distant-seas missions in ways that go beyond the mere provision of medical services. They see the “Peace Ark” as part of a PLA strategy to build a navy suited for long-range expeditionary missions involving combat forces. They point out that the “Peace Ark” was built at the same shipyard and launched within months of another notable vessel: China’s first long-range amphibious assault ship, Kunlunshan.
[H/T: Dr. Andrew Erickson]
(Image: PLAN)

Cuba drilling next hurdle for U.S.

The White House must crisscross complex political and policy waters as it faces the impending reality of oil drilling off Cuba a mere 60 miles from the Florida Keys.
“It’s just like firing a shotgun in a crystal store,” said Jorge Piñón, a visiting fellow with the Florida International University Latin American and Caribbean Center’s Cuban Research Institute. “You’re going to break something eventually.”
That presents multiple challenges for the Obama administration, which is tasked with protecting the U.S. coastline and waters if a catastrophe begins off Cuba.
“I think there is a lot of a tendency to hold the breath and hope it doesn’t happen,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors. “I can assure you that inaction and lack of leadership against a potential disaster would be this administration’s Katrina.”
Administration officials have already upgraded drilling standards for operations off the U.S. coast and have established a partnership with Mexico to set higher bilateral standards in the Gulf of Mexico since last year’s historic spill. And Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich said last week that “the issue of drilling offshore Cuba has bhat even very experienced companies and very practiced regulators can get it wrong,” Reilly said.
From Cuba with Nada
Sept. 27 - Every once in a while, we send a useful fool to Havana. They go bearing gifts from the U.S. government; concessions we are willing to make to the world's oldest dictatorship — and one of the most repressive regimes on the planet — without getting anything in return.
Sometimes we think we actually are making progress. Yet when Fidel and Raul Castro's Communist dictatorship makes a concession, it is usually to correct an injustice that should have never been committed in the first place. Their concessions are not permanent changes to their tyrannical rule, but temporary gestures to minimize international condemnation.
They'll release political prisoners who should have never been incarcerated. Then, we'll foolishly recognize it as a sign of progress, only to realize that other dissidents are still being harassed and arrested for the same shameful "offenses," like trying to express themselves freely. That's some progress!
Like broken records, we Cuban-Americans keep telling the rest of our fellow Americans that the Castro brothers would never agree to concessions that would weaken their choking grip on the Cuban people. But nobody listens!
Since the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba has failed to force political change in the Caribbean island for more than a half century, some very naive American politicians assume that simply doing the opposite — caving in to the Castro brothers — is a viable alternative to ease the pain of the Cuban people.
These useful fools actually believe that by lifting all U.S. sanctions on the Cuban government, the Castro tyrants will be miraculously rehabilitated and embrace democracy — as if bloody dictators could go to rehab and come out transformed into humanitarians.
Of course, "useful fools" is the term traditionally used by communists to describe gullible people who fall for the romantic appeal of leftist rebels — idealists who allow themselves to be used by the communists. If it were up to the useful fools who visit Havana, the U.S. government would be making unreciprocated concessions to the Cuban tyrants. Read more

Another confrontation between dissidents and thugs organized by the regime
Sept. 26 - This one took place on Saturday September 24, in Río Verde, Boyeros.

The Ladies in White were again attacked on Saturday by soldiers and paramilitaries
Sept. 24 - Approximately 200 paramilitary forces blocked about 35 members of the Ladies in White from leaving the house of the group leader, Laura Pollan, in Havana to attend Mass according to dissident sources reporting from the Cuban capital.
"Regular citizens are not allowed to participate in the act of repudiation. The police only let in those people who were allowed to participate. There is not a single neighbor taking part," blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo told DIARIO DE CUBA from the scene.
Cuban police has closed Neptuno Street.
During an attempt to leave the house, the women were beaten by soldiers and paramilitaries, according to the independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra, who was present in Neptune Street.
"We tried to go out and were brutally assaulted. They beat me and broke my lips," Laura Pollan told Diario de Cuba.
Pollan said those who were at the front line preventing them from leaving the house are State Security agents, behind them are female police officers and then another group of supposedly university students.
"The students were not involved in the attacks. The State Security agents were the ones beating us," she said.
Another dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, said the regime "is afraid that a little spark could lead to a social explosion of major proportions."
The Ladies in White said they will not ask for help from Cuba's Catholic church because they consider it a waste of time.
"We haven't called on the Archbishop, nor are we going to call him. The last time we met, they agreed to respond and did not. They sent a statement and became spokespersons for the government," Pollan said.  Diario de Cuba (Spanish)
Fidel Castro: A documentary of how a lunatic dictator destroyed the Cuban nation
Sept. 24 - Documentary by Ricardo Vega and Zoe Valdes showing how a demented dictator was able to destroy the Cuban nation.
Among some of Castro's craziest ideas: Air conditioners for the heads of cows to improve the production of milk; the 10 million ton sugar harvest that fell way short; his plan to export millions of egg and tons of meat to Europe.
How laws were "approved" unanimously by simply getting thousands of people in 'robolution' square and asking them to raise their hands.
It is in Spanish with French subtitles.

Escalation of repression against dissidents in Cuba


Miembros de las disidentes Damas de Blanco son hostigadas, el pasado sábado 24 de septiembre, por un grupo de hombres y mujeres afines al régimen, que les impidió realizar una marcha para ir a una misa por el Día de la Virgen de la Merced, patrona de los presos.
Members of the Ladies in White dissidents are harassed, on Saturday 24 September, a group of men and women related to regime, which prevented them from making a motion to go to Mass for the Day of the Virgin of Mercy, patron saint of prisoners.
Alejandro Ernesto / EFE

Members of the opposition movement and a rights organization Cuba denounced human escalating temporary arrests and acts harassment perpetrated in the last 48 hours against activists peaceful and independent journalists.
The siege intensified  Monday in Havana, when agents of State Security prevented  a march to demand the release of three detained opposition weekend. There were also numerous arrests and beatings the central city of Santa Clara, sources of dissent.
"What  is happening shows that we should abandon all hope of that this government tries to improve the situation of civil and politicians, "said Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, director of the illegal Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN ). "Prevalent this type of political repression and the most worrying is that the scenario will continue unless a miracle occurs. "
The cast Rio Verde, in the Havana municipality of Cattle, to least eight activists were arrested by uniformed police plainclothes officers outside the house of Sara Marta Fonseca, a spokeswoman  Front National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Orlando  Zapata Tamayo. The harassment began Monday with a strong police presence around the house, seat of the House of Cuban political prisoners.
Fonseca was arrested on Saturday when  way to a meeting with her husband Julio Ignacio Leon Perez, and  Miranda Ramses Camejo. The incident took place in a day when pro-government mobs particularly violent, mostly composed of university students and members of the Union Young Communist League, harassed and beat the Ladies in White, mothers and  wives of political prisoners outside the home of its leader, Laura Pollan, in Centro Habana.
In Santa Clara, police arrested for several hours with members of the Central Opposition Coalition and the Front anti-totalitarian Kingdom. The arrests occurred when trying to mobilize activists to the headquarters of the Military Court Provincial of the region to claim the status of opponents threatened to be prosecuted.
The dissident Guillermo Farinas Sakharov Prize 2010 of the European Union, whereas the scale transmitted arrest despair engulfing the government  Cuban and his attempts to stop the movement at any cost opposition, he said.
"This is very attuned to the situation There are economic as well as lack of food and transportation. The Cubans are being slowly expelled into the streets " Fariñas said from Santa Clara. "They fear that the opposition is the trigger and catalyst for this degree of social unrest. "
The harassment by the authorities has raised concerns that the Raúl Castro is hardening its position against its critics. So far in September, the CCDHRN has documented more than 400  arbitrary arrests throughout the island, the highest number of arrests in the last ten years.
Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano are in custody a dozen activists of the Front National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Orlando Zapata Tamayo after the raid on the home of opposition Marino Antomarchit Rivero, Aug. 28, when performing an activity to support the Ladies in White.