Monday, January 24, 2011

LPP Latest News...

Protesting Cuba Policy at the White House

Monday, January 24, 2011
From the St. Petersburg Times:

Rivera brings protest over Obama's Cuba policy straight to White House
Congressman David Rivera tonight brought a complaint over President Obama's just-announced loosening of the Cuba travel policy directly to the Commander in Chief.

Joining Rivera at a White House reception for new lawmakers was Cary Roque, who captured while working for dissidents during the Bay of Pigs invasion and imprisoned by the Castro regime for 16 years. Roque, in an interview after the reception, said she delivered to Obama a letter signed by Cuban exile organizations protesting the new policy.
"I took the opportunity to let him know my feelings," said Roque, 69, who arrived in the U.S. in the late 70s and lives in Miami. "He told me he's trying to get Democracy for Cuba and I responded, 'Be careful because it's not that easy.'"

Many Cuban exiles argue that any assistance the U.S. government tries to give to Cuban residents is merely aiding the Communist government. "Between the Cuban people and his efforts," Rivera said, "stand the Castro tyranny."
But Obama and others, including some Cuban Americans, say the outreach is necessary not just for the Cuban people but for the U.S. economy. Travel is still limited to college students (though not in Florida, because of a state law pushed by Rivera) and religious groups. General tourism remains illegal.

"Dirty Dancing" in Havana

This feels like a bad scene from the movie Dirty Dancing.

The Obama Administration's new regulations for academic travel haven't even been written yet -- and the junkets are already being announced.
That's right -- for $3,000, American "students" can learn the mambo, rumba and cha-cha-cha in Havana, all while staying at the Castro regime's exclusive, apartheid-ridden Hotel Nacional.
Surely, this will be great for some rhythmless American travelers. But we fail to understand how this helps the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people (thus potentially violating the Congressional intent of the law that authorizes such academic travel, the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act).

Oh, that's right -- supposedly this will benefit the Cuban people, as some "students" might wonder outside the hotel and buy some tourist trinkets from a regular Cuban on the street. In other words, through-trickle down economics.

Ironically, the Obama Administration, which opposes the concept of trickle-down economics when it comes to the U.S. economy (perhaps correctly so), believes trickle-down economics will somehow "empower" the Cuban people.
We don't know whether trickle-down economics work or not -- and frankly, that's not our issue.

However, here's what we do know -- if the effects of trickle-down economics are arguable in an open, capitalist economy, they surely don't work in a closed, totalitarian one.
Thus, the question becomes:

Will the Obama Administration apply the new regulations responsibly, or will "baby be kept in the corner" (tacky line from Dirty Dancing) while American tourists dance the night away in Havana?

If this were an accredited college or university it might even pass the laugh test, but these types of boondoggles are degrading and insulting:
Summer Programs in Havana

Music, Salsa and Folklore
June 26 - July 10, 2011


Popular Music and Percussion Program offers music classes on all instruments, including percussion, drum set, piano, bass, tres/guitar, trumpet, trombone, flute, saxophone and vocals. Four to five hours of instruction daily including classes on your instrument, arranging, rhythm workshops and ensembles. Classes are separated by interest and level, and feature lectures and presentations with local musicians.

Salsa and Afro-Cuban Dance
Beginning to advanced dancers welcome. You can choose to focus on Salsa and other popular dances like Son, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and Rueda de Casino. OR combine salsa with Afro-Cuban dances like Yoruba, Rumba, Arará and Palo styles.

Afro-Cuban classes have live percussion. Dancers are separated by interest and skill level.

Price: Double $2,750 / Single $2,995

Includes accommodations with breakfast daily, ground transportation to group events, travel license, classes, lectures, parties and performances. Airfare not included.

Humanitarian Aid and Culture
June 26 - July 3, 2011

Features daily excursions to deliver books and medicine to local neighborhood centers, urban community gardens and schools. Evening concerts and performances focus on Cuban music and its cultural significance.

Price: Double $2,150 / Single $2,295

Havana Jazz Festival
December 12 - 20, 2011
(Date Subject to Change)

Join PlazaCUBA for an exciting week of concerts and excursions during Havana's Jazz Festival. Cuban piano legend Chucho Valdes performs and presides over a variety of Latin jazz, pop, timba and straight jazz groups at multiple venues. You will see hundreds of groups from all over the world, featuring Cuba's best musicians, like Harold Lopez Nussa, Bobby Carcasses, Giraldo Piloto, Pupy Pedroso, Joven Jazz, NG la Banda and more!

Accommodations at the Hotel Nacional
Includes accommodations with breakfast at the Nacional, daily excursions and activities, ground transportation, travel assistance and travel license, and jazz festival pass, good for entry to all concerts.

Upgrade to Executive rooms and suites available for additional fee. Airfare not included.

PlazaCUBA is a humanitarian-based arts organization with more than 10 years experience organizing travel to Cuba for music, dance and humanitarian efforts.

Contact us to see how you can travel legally to Cuba as a researcher or under another type of license.

 

 

State of corruption

WikiLeaks continues to disseminate U.S. diplomatic cables and one of yesterday’s batch of releases comes from the US Interests Section Havana, dated 20060426, which reports on the state of corruption in Cuba.
Some highlights from the cable:
  • Because most Cubans work for the state, the entire system – from petty officials to Castro’s closest advisors – is rife with corrupt practices.
  • Bribes are a common means of getting around suffocating controls…When televisions or refrigerators become available through the state system, CDR Officers are famous for giving preferential access to two groups: Those that maintain good revolutionary credentials… and those that can afford it…Cuban police officers are famous for taking bribes. The police are so corrupt that the GOC regularly fills their ranks with unsullied recruits from the East. As time passes, the new crop becomes as corrupt as the old, and a fresh batch is brought in to replace them.
  • Cash is not abundant in Cuba, such that bribes sometimes take a back seat to bartering, exchanging favors, and “tit for tat” deals.
  • The benefits of holding a position of power within the GOC (Government of Cuba) can be lucrative. A Swiss businessman told P/E officer that Cuban managers take kickbacks for awarding large contracts to foreign companies and then deposit those kickbacks in banks abroad.
  • Separate from this elite crowd of entrepreneurs stand Castro’s cadres of regime faithfuls, some of whom are widely rumored to be corrupt (such as Castro clan insider General Julio Casas Regueiro).
The entire cable is here.
Also, in another cable (dated 20060424), Raul Castro’s government “enlisted 20,000 “social workers” from Havana and the provinces to implement his anti-corruption campaign.”
The cable goes on to describe them: “Castro’s social workers are not trained professionals, but rather youth who are not otherwise occupied with school or jobs (i.e., dropouts).”
Rest of this cable is here.
S:CUBAPOLIDATA

Today Picture...

An oil sheen is seen on the water at the site ...

Oil sheen is seen on water off coast

An oil sheen is seen on the water at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, May 27 2010.… Read more »
REUTERS/Dan Anderson

Florida lawmaker seeks to block Cuba oil drilling

MIAMI (Reuters) – A Florida Republican congressman has sent a proposed bill to Congress seeking to block Cuba's plans to start its first full-scale offshore oil exploration with a deepwater rig located off the Florida Keys.
If approved, the draft bill by Congressman Vern Buchanan could deal a blow to Spanish oil giant Repsol YPF, which leads a consortium of international oil companies looking to drill for oil beneath the Caribbean island's part of the Gulf of Mexico.
"Cuba's plans to drill for oil in its sovereign waters off the Florida Keys poses a serious threat to our tourism industry and our environment," Buchanan said in a statement published on his website.
The proposed legislation would give the U.S. Interior Secretary the authority to deny leases to companies that do business with any nation currently facing U.S. trade sanctions, such as communist-ruled Cuba.
The exploration project is key for Cuba, which needs oil to sustain its fragile economy and end its dependence on oil-rich socialist ally Venezuela, which provides about 115,000 barrels per day on favorable terms.
Buchanan said Cuba's plans involve drilling in waters deeper than last year's massive BP Gulf spill and questioned whether Havana was capable of dealing with a potential oil spill.
"It would take just three days for oil to reach Florida's beaches if a spill occurred at the site," he said.
Cuba is located 90 miles from the southernmost tip of the Florida.
Repsol, along with Norway's Statoil and ONGC Videsh, a unit of India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp, have contracted a Chinese-built drilling rig to drill one or two exploratory wells near Cuba's northwestern coast.
The rig was expected to arrive in Cuban waters in the first quarter of 2011 but has been delayed until mid-summer, industry sources said earlier this month.
Buchanan said Repsol, which operates existing rigs in the Western Gulf of Mexico near Texas and Lousiana, scrapped plans several years ago for a gas development plant in Iran after coming under U.S. diplomatic pressure.
(Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Gregorio)

Suspect pleads not guilty in deadly Ariz. shooting

This Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 photo released by the Pima County Sheriff's Office shows shooting suspect Jared Loughner. Loughner, accused of carrying ou AP – This Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 photo released by the Pima County Sheriff's Office shows shooting suspect …
PHOENIX – The suspect in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords smiled and nodded but didn't speak as he appeared in court Monday and his lawyer provided the 22-year-old's first response to the charges: a plea of not guilty.
In the two weeks since the deadly attack that killed six outside a Tucson grocery store, Jared Loughner's hair — shaved in the mug shot that's become an enduring image of the tragedy — has grown out slightly. The Tucson resident wore an orange prison jumpsuit and glasses, and his wrists were cuffed to a chain around his waist as eight U.S. marshals kept watch in the packed Phoenix courtroom and gallery above.
Loughner faces federal charges of trying to assassinate Giffords and kill two of her aides. More charges are expected.
Investigators have said Loughner was mentally disturbed and acting increasingly erratic in the weeks leading up to the attack on Jan. 8 that wounded 13. If Loughner's attorney uses mental competency questions as a defense and is successful, Loughner could be sent to a mental health facility instead of being sentenced to prison or death.
But his attorney, Judy Clarke, said she wasn't raising issues of competency "at this time" after U.S. District Judge Larry Burns of San Diego asked whether there was any question about her client's ability to understand the case against him.
Giffords was shot in the forehead and spent two weeks in a Tucson hospital before she was flown to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center Hospital on Friday. Shortly after her arrival, doctors said she had been given a tube to drain a buildup of brain fluid that has kept her in intensive care.
Hospital spokesman James Campbell said Monday the next update on the Democratic congresswoman's condition would come when they are ready to move Giffords to the rehab hospital.
Loughner will likely face state charges in the attack, and also federal murder charges listed in an earlier criminal complaint for the deaths of Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman and U.S. District Judge John Roll.
Those are potential death penalty charges, which require a more painstaking process under Justice Department rules.
Prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst estimated that he would know within the next 30 days whether additional federal charges would be filed against Loughner. Kleindienst said prosecutors provided defense lawyers with records taken from Loughner's computer and documents of about 250 interviews made in the case.
The judge did not rule on prosecutors' request to move the federal case back to Tucson so that victims and witnesses do not have to make the four-hour round trip drive to Phoenix to attend court hearings. The case was moved because one of those killed, Roll, was a federal judge.
Clarke said she didn't oppose the request at this time, but questioned where Loughner would be jailed in Tucson if the case were moved.
Clarke has not responded to requests seeking comment. She is one of the top lawyers in the country for defendants facing prominent death penalty cases, having represented clients such "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph. She has a reputation for working out plea deals that spare defendants the death penalty, as was the case for Rudolph and Kaczynski.
The judge set a March 9 hearing to consider motions in Loughner's case.
___
Associated Press writers Michelle Price in Phoenix and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.

Bombing at Moscow airport called terrorist attack

35 killed in Moscow airport suicide bombing AFP – Firefighters and rescuers gather outside Moscow's Domodedovo international airport. A suicide bomber …
MOSCOW – Terrorists struck again in the heart of Russia, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up Monday in Moscow's busiest airport and turning its international arrivals terminal into a smoky, blood-spattered hall of dismembered bodies, screaming survivors and abandoned suitcases. At least 35 people were killed, including two British travelers.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast at Domodedovo Airport that also wounded 180 people, although Islamic militants in the southern Russian region of Chechnya have been blamed for previous attacks in Moscow, including a double suicide bombing on the capital's subway system in March 2010 that resulted in 40 deaths.
The Interfax news agency said the head of the suspected bomber had been found.
President Dmitry Medvedev called it a terrorist attack and immediately tightened security at Moscow's two other commercial airports and other key transportation facilities.
It was the second time in seven years that Domodedovo was involved in a terrorist attack: In 2004, two female suicide bombers penetrated the lax security there, illegally bought tickets from airport personnel and boarded planes that exploded in flight and killed 90 people.
Medvedev canceled plans to travel Tuesday to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he aimed to promote Russia as a profitable investment haven to world business leaders.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the health minister to send her deputies to hospitals to make sure the injured were getting the medical care they needed.
Russians still look to the tough-talking Putin as the leader they trust to guarantee their security, and Monday's attack was likely to strengthen the position of the security forces that form part of his base.
Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, following two devastating wars that Russia waged with the republic's separatists, but Islamic militants have continued to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. Most have been in Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern Caucasus region, but some have targeted Moscow, including its subways, trains and even a theater.
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous act of terrorism" and offered any assistance. Those comments were echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who spoke with Medvedev and assured him of his complete support.
Monday's attack was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber and "attempts were being made to identify him," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said, adding that the attacker appeared to have been wearing the explosives on a belt.
The blast came at 4:32 p.m., when hundreds of passengers and workers were in a loosely guarded part of the terminal. They were sprayed with shrapnel of screws and ball bearings, intended to cause as many casualties as possible.
The terminal filled with thick smoke as witnesses described a scene of horror.
"There was lots of blood, severed legs flying around," said Yelena Zatserkovnaya, a Lufthansa official.
Airport workers turned baggage carts into makeshift stretchers to wheel the wounded to ambulances outside, she said.
Amateur video showed a pile of bodies on the floor, with other dead scattered around. Luggage also was strewn around the terminal and several small fires burned. A dazed man in a suit pushed a baggage cart through the haze.
Driver Artyom Zhilenkov said he was standing just a few yards (meters) away from a man who may have been the suicide bomber. He saw an explosion on or near the man, whose suitcase was on fire.
Zhilenkov said he initially thought he himself had been injured, but doctors said he was just coated in the blood of others.
"The guy standing next to me was torn to pieces," he said.
Car rental agent Alexei Spiridonov, 25, was at his desk when the blast struck about 100 yards (meters) away and "threw me against the wall," he said.
"People were panicking, rushing out of the hall or looking for their relatives. There were people just lying in blood," Spiridonov said.
Sergei Lavochkin, who was waiting for a friend to arrive from Cuba, told Rossiya 24 television: "I heard a loud bang, saw plastic panels falling down from the ceiling and heard people screaming. Then people started running away."
The Emergencies Ministry said 35 people were killed, 86 hospitalized with injuries and 94 were given medical treatment. Among the dead were two British travelers, Markin said.
Domodedovo was briefly closed to air traffic immediately after the blast, but soon reopened. Hours later, passengers arriving for their flights lined up outside waiting to pass through metal detectors that had been installed at the entrances.
Aviation security experts have been warning since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the crowds at many airports present tempting targets to suicide bombers. Arrivals halls are usually open to anyone.
"Airports are by their nature crowded places, with meeters, greeters, commercial businesses, and so on," said Philip Baum, the editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication.
The attack also called into question Russia's ability to safely host major international events like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was in St. Petersburg over the weekend to formally award Russia the 2018 World Cup. Prior to the signing, Blatter told Putin that he was certain FIFA had made the right choice.
Built in 1964, Domodedovo is located 26 miles (42 kilometers) southeast of Moscow and is the largest of the three major airports that serve the capital, handling more than 22 million people last year. It is generally regarded as Moscow's most modern airport, but its security has been called into question.
The airport insists security is one of its top priorities, saying on its website that its "cutting-edge operations technology guarantees the safety of passengers' and guests' lives."
It says 77 airlines offer regular flights to Domodedovo, serving 241 international and national routes.
___
AP writers Lynn Berry, Vladimir Isachenkov and David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.

Two Fla. Officers Killed, U.S. Marshal Wounded by Gunman
A gunman suspected of killing two St. Petersburg officers and wounding a U.S. marshal was found dead.
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    S:http://officer.com  
  • Homeland Security

    U.S. Legislative Immigration Update January 24, 2011

    Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in this January 24 2011 Legislative Weekly. FAIR tracks pending immigration laws in the United States which can impact homeland security in positive or negative ways and are a valued resource.
    • New Study Shows Foreign Workers Gain Jobs While U.S. Workers Lose Them
    • Maine Governor Rescinds State Sanctuary Policy
    • Mississippi Senate Takes Stand against Illegal Immigration
    • GAO: Federal Agencies Improve E-Verify
    • GAO: H-1B Program Falling Short
    Last Updated on Monday, 24 January 2011 17:05 Read more...

     

    FBI Special Agents Top 10 Stories Week Ending January 21, 2011

    The mission of the FBI is to help protect you, your children, your communities, and your businesses from the most dangerous threats facing our nation—from international and domestic terrorists to spies on U.S. soil...from cyber villains to corrupt government officials...from mobsters to violent street gangs...from child predators to serial killers. Along the way, they help defend and uphold our nation's economy, physical and electronic infrastructure, and democracy. Learn more about how they have evolved into a more proactive, threat-driven security agency in recent years. Right Side News reports the top ten FBI stories for this past week.
     fbi
    1. New York/Newark/Boston: Ninety-One Leaders, Members, and Associates of La Cosa Nostra Families in Four Districts Charged with Racketeering and Related Crimes, Including Murder and Extortion

      Ninety-one members and associates of seven organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), including the New England LCN family, all five New York-based families, and the New Jersey-based Decavalcante, family were charged with federal crimes in 16 indictments returned in four judicial districts, and 36 additional defendants were charged for their roles in alleged associated criminal activity. Full Story
    2. Phoenix: Jared Lee Loughner Indicted

      A jury in Tucson returned an initial three-count indictment against Jared Lee Loughner for attempting to kill U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon. Full Story
    3. Dallas: Angelina County Man Guilty in Murder Scheme

      A 44-year-old Lufkin, Texas man pled guilty to charges related to a double homicide which took place in Nacogdoches in August 2007. Full Story

    4. Richmond: Provident Capital Indemnity, Its President, and Auditor Charged in $670 Million Fraud Scheme

      The president and the auditor of a Costa Rican company selling reinsurance bonds to life settlement companies were arrested and charged, along with the company itself, in a seven-count indictment for their alleged role in a $670 million fraud scheme. Full Story
    5. Indianapolis: Two Indicted for Setting a Residence on Fire in Henderson, Kentucky in 2007

      Lori Hargis and Leslie Vashaun White were indicted for conspiracy to set real property on fire for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds and committing wire fraud by filing a fraudulent insurance claim. Full Story
    6. San Diego: Co-Founder of Casino-Cheating Criminal Enterprise Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy Targeting Casinos Across the United States

      The co-founder of a criminal enterprise known as the Tran Organization pled guilty to conspiring to participate in the organization's scheme to cheat casinos across the country out of millions of dollars. Full Story
    7. Houston: Two Owners of Houston Health Care Company Plead Guilty in Massive Fraud Scheme

      Clifford Ubani and Princewill Njoku, who owned a Houston health care company, pled guilty in connection with an alleged $5.2 million Medicare fraud scheme. Full Story
    8. Cleveland: Inmate Who Ran a Quarter-Million-Dollar Identity Theft Ring from Inside Federal Prison Receives an Additional 14.5 Years in Prison

      Dimorio McDowell, who had previously been sentenced to prison for identity theft, wire fraud, and bank fraud charges, was sentenced to serve and additional 14 years in prison for leading an identity-theft ring from prison that ran up a quarter-million dollars worth of charges. Full Story
    9. Jackson: Two Mississippi Lawyers Plead Guilty to Conspiracy and Fraud Charges

      Charles H. Evans, Jr. and his brother, Jon Christopher Evans, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and bank fraud charges. Full Story

    10. Chicago: Former Chicago Hedge Fund Manager Allegedly Swindled More Than $3.5 Million from 48 Victims in Investment Fraud Scheme

      James Brandolino, a former hedge fund manager, was taken into federal custody after he turned himself in for allegedly engaging in an investment fraud scheme in which he swindled more than $3.5 million from approximately 48 victims who invested in funds he purported to operate. Full Story