Monday, January 17, 2011

LPP Today News...

On This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Monday, January 17, 2011
We honor all of the political prisoners held throughout the world as a result of their peaceful acts of civil disobedience.

"An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In particular, we remember the 11 political prisoners that the Castro regime announced for release on July 2010, but remain imprisoned due to their refusal to be banished from their homeland.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We pray that the international community will stop appeasing the brutal regimes that impunely imprison them.

"We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

S: Capitol Hill Cubans

Read more at the Realcubablog ...

Easing sanctions on totalitarian Cuba
Jan. 17 - Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of House foreign affairs committee, issued a tough statement on Friday regarding the Obama administration's decision to ease Cuba sanctions: "Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them. These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."
Likewise, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban immigrant, issued a statement: (Note - Marco Rubio is NOT a Cuban immigrant, he was born in this country). (UPDATE -The Washington Post made a correction after I posted a message on their website)
"I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken U.S. policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this administration and I oppose these new changes. I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime's repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections. It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people."
Many critics of the administration's approach to Cuba argue that the central error was not insisting on meaningful democratic reforms in exchange for lifting the sanctions. Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told me over the weekend: "I guess I'd say the general rule is: If you give something, get something."
What are we getting, or more precisely, what are the Cuban people getting? At a time when the Castro regime is pinched for cash, we will be allowing foreign tourist dollars to flow into Cuba. Really, what is the sense in that?  The Washington Post
Wall Street Journal - New Prize in Cold War: Cuban Doctors
Jan. 15 - Felix Ramírez slipped into an Internet cafe in the West African nation of The Gambia, scoured the Web for contact information for U.S. diplomats, then phoned the U.S. embassy in Banjul, the capital.
He told the receptionist he was an American tourist who had lost his passport, and asked to speak to the visa section. As he waited to be connected, he practiced his script: "I am a Cuban doctor looking to go to America. When can we meet?"
Dr. Ramírez says he was told to go to a crowded Banjul supermarket and to look for a blond woman in a green dress—an American consular official. They circled one another a few times, then began to talk.
That furtive meeting in September 2008 began a journey for the 37-year-old surgeon that ended in May 2009 in Miami, where he became a legal refugee with a shot at citizenship.
Dr. Ramírez is part of a wave of Cubans who have defected to the U.S. since 2006 under the little-known Cuban Medical Professional Parole immigration program, which allows Cuban doctors and some other health workers who are serving their government overseas to enter the U.S. immediately as refugees. Data released to The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, through Dec. 16, 1,574 CMPP visas have been issued by U.S. consulates in 65 countries.  Read more at the realcubablog
Statement by Sen. Bob Menéndez regarding the latest gift by Obama to the Castro brothers
Jan. 15 - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and of the president's own party, released the following statement after the Obama administration today announced changes to policy to Cuba travel and remittances policy:
"I am deeply disappointed by President Obama's decision today to extend an economic life line to the Castro regime. This gift to the Castro brothers will provide the regime with the additional resources it needs to sustain its failing economy, while ordinary Cubans continue to struggle under the weight of more than fifty years of economic and political oppression.
The decision to permit additional travel to the island and allow nearly unlimited resources to flow to the regime is bad policy and will only serve to prolong the repression of the Cuban people. These changes, purportedly taken in hope of advancing a democratic opening on the island, ignore the reality that it is not U.S. policy, but Cuban policy, that is responsible for the Castros' political and economic tyranny. This opening will do no more to advance political freedom in Cuba then our economic engagement with China has done for political dissidents in that nation. You can't buy political reform.
The fact that the Administration offered this concession to the regime despite their continued imprisonment of an American citizen is simply outrageous. Unless new efforts are undertaken to limit the impact of these policy changes, the sole result will be to enrich the Castro regime and enhance the political and economic impoverishment of the Cuban people.


Cuba terms Obama measures positive but limited

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said on Sunday that President Barack Obama's move to relax more U.S. travel restrictions to the island was a positive step but did little to soften the decades-old trade embargo.
Obama issued an executive order on Friday loosening limits on U.S. travel and money remittances to the communist-led Caribbean nation, extending his efforts to reach out to its people.
Obama lifted virtually all restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting their homeland and sending money to relatives in 2009.
"Although the measures are positive ... they have a very limited reach and do not change U.S. policy against Cuba," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
The government, in its first official statement on the measures, credited public pressure within the United States for the decision and charged that Obama, like his predecessors, sought to dominate the country.
"It shows a recognition of the failure of U.S. policy against Cuba and that it is looking for new ways to reach its historic objectives of dominating our people," the statement said.
The measures restore rules in place before former President George W. Bush's administration that allowed religious, academic and other nongovernmental organization travel, but stop short of lifting a ban on tourist travel by Americans to the island.
The White House says the steps are aimed at developing "people-to-people" contacts by allowing more travel for college professors and students, artists and church groups. The regulatory changes also allow all U.S. international airports to apply to service licensed charter flights to Cuba.
They also allow any U.S. person to send remittances (up to $500 a quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, with the limitation that they cannot go to senior Cuban government officials or top members of the ruling Communist Party.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Cuba tries doctors for mental hospital mass deaths

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba opened a trial on Monday against the authorities of a psychiatric hospital where 26 patients died of cold a year ago in a scandal that revealed cracks in the tropical island's famous free health system.
The trial comes at a time when Cuba is cautiously opening its economy to small private enterprise and laying off about 500,000 public workers, including some employees of the Health Ministry, in a bid to improve the performance of state services, reduce subsidies and raise its tax take.
Relatives of the accused, including the hospital director and other doctors, attended a spoken presentation in a Havana court along with relatives of the victims.
"The authorities created an investigative commission and the main people responsible will appear in court," leading government newspaper Granma announced on Monday.
"Once the judicial process has concluded the results will be made public," the paper said.
With a very high ratio of doctors to patients and health indicators to rival the wealthy West, Cuba is proud of the universal free healthcare Fidel Castro's communist government established after a 1959 revolution.
But an economic crisis that forced Cuba to stop paying some foreign debts and restructure other loans has exacerbated shortages of medical supplies in the system. The government, now headed by Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, points to the decades-long U.S. trade embargo as a major factor in country's economic problems.
The deaths during a cold snap were first brought to light by a human rights group and later confirmed by the government.
The non-governmental Cuban Human Rights Commission said the hospital lacked glass in the windows, doors and blankets when temperatures dropped to 3.6 Celsius (38 degrees Fahrenheit) on the usually balmy Caribbean island last January.
The defendants themselves were not present at the first hearing, but family members of director Wilfredo Castillo and other hospital authorities turned up at the courthouse, in a peaceful residential neighborhood of central Havana.
It was not immediately clear what the defendants had been accused of.
"We know nothing. Only that that we were called to the hearing. We have faith that everything will turn out well," the sister of one of the victims told reporters, while security agents looked on from the gardens of the courthouse.
The rights commission said the move against the hospital authorities did not go far enough up the chain of command.
"It seems that the people who are really responsible will not be tried. We were hoping to see the health minister of that time take the blame for what happened," spokesman Elizardo Sanchez told reporters at the court gates.
Former Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer, who fought alongside the Castro brothers to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, left the post last year but remains a senior Communist Party member.
(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Question Looms on Who'll Be Covered by WTC Health Act
Officials have to decide which health conditions to consider related to Ground Zero toxins.

Al-Qaeda to unleash Western jihadis

With the Afghan war entering its 10th year, completely undeterred by the American drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal region, al-Qaeda is putting the final touches to plans to recruit, train and launch Western Caucasians in their countries; the aim is to spread the flames of the South Asian war theater to the West.
Al-Qaeda began planning the operation in 2002, after the fall in late 2001 of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the group had been given sanctuary.
Read More

Husband: Giffords smiled and gave him neck rub

Gabrielle Giffords AP – FILE - In this March, 2010 file photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords poses …
TUCSON, Ariz. – The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says his wife's condition has improved so much that she has been able to smile and give him a neck rub as he has kept a near-constant vigil at her hospital bedside.
The interactions with astronaut Mark Kelly are new signs of Giffords' impressive progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head at a political event nine days ago. Giffords still cannot speak, because of a tube in her throat that is helping her breathe.
"She's in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage," Kelly explained in an interview with Diane Sawyer to air Tuesday on ABC. "It's so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she's looking out for other people."
Such encounters indicate higher levels of functioning, implying that "she's recognizing him and interacting, perhaps in an old familiar way with him," said Dr. Michael Lemole.
Dr. Randall Friese said Kelly also told doctors he saw Giffords smile. He said sometimes people see what they want to see, but that "if he says she's smiling, I buy it."
The steady progress for Giffords came on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to remember the legacy of the civil rights leader who was killed by an assassin's bullet 42 years ago.
Political leaders invoked the assassination attempt against Giffords as they asked Americans to recommit to King's values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice.
"Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King's own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on," Attorney General Eric Holder said at King's former church in Atlanta.
Doctors upgraded Giffords' condition from critical to serious over the weekend and say they carried out three successful procedures that demonstrate she is recovering well.
A breathing tube was moved from her mouth to her throat along with a separate feeding tube that was shifted from her nose to her stomach. Dr. Randall Friese said removing the tubes in her nose and mouth reduces the risks of infections.
Doctors also said they performed a surgery on Giffords' eye socket to remove bone fragments to relieve pressure on her eye. There were no complications from the surgery; doctors needed to perform the eye procedure all along but waited until her condition improved to do it.
The suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, remained jailed in a federal lockup in Phoenix. Investigators have described him as a mentally unstable man who was kicked out a community college last year and became increasingly erratic in recent months.
He apparently became obsessed with inflicting violence on Giffords since attending one of her campaign events in 2007.
Kelly said he would be willing to meet with the parents of Loughner, who have remained in seclusion since the shooting. Kelly, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, said the parents have to be in a tremendous amount of pain.
"I don't think it's their fault. It's not the parents fault," Kelly told ABC. "You know, I'd like to think I'm a person that's, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they've got to be hurting in this situation as much as much as anybody."

R. Sargent Shriver in critical condition in Md.

Sargent Shriver, Anthony Kennedy Shriver AP – FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2009 file photo, Sargent Shriver is escorted to his seat in the church by his …

BETHESDA, Md. – Former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee R. Sargent Shriver was in critical condition Monday morning at a hospital in Maryland, a spokeswoman for the family said.
The 95-year-old was admitted at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda on Sunday, the family said in an e-mail statement attributed to spokeswoman Kirsten Seckler.
No other details about his ailment were released. Shriver announced in 2003 that he had Alzheimer's disease.
He served as the first Peace Corps director in the administration of his brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy. He also was Democrat George McGovern's running mate in 1972.
Shriver's wife and Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver died in 2009 at age 88.
He is also the father of former NBC reporter Maria Shriver, who is married to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The handsome Shriver is often known first as an in-law. But his achievements are historic in their own right and changed millions of lives: the Peace Corps' first director and the leader of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," out of which came such programs as Head Start and Legal Services.
Within the family, he was sometimes relied upon for the hardest tasks. When Jacqueline Kennedy needed the funeral arranged for her assassinated husband, she asked Shriver.
Shriver had fought for integration in Chicago and helped persuade Kennedy to make a crucial decision in the 1960 campaign despite other staffers' fears of a white backlash: When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia that fall, Kennedy phoned King's wife and offered support. His gesture was deeply appreciated by King's family and brought the candidate crucial support.
Soon after taking office, President Kennedy named Shriver to fulfill a campaign promise to start the Peace Corps. Although it was belittled by some as a "kiddie corps," Shriver quickly built the agency into an international institution.
In 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.