Thursday, September 22, 2011

Venezuela, Cuba defend Iran

VIENNA (AP) — Iran was praised and Israel criticized Wednesday at a 151-nation meeting, with Cuba and Venezuela defending Tehran's right to run a nuclear program and Syria saying the Jewish state's undeclared nuclear arsenal is a threat to world peace.
The two Latin American nations are among Tehran's greatest supporters and Washington's strongest detractors, depicting it as the leader of privileged nations seeking to deprive developing countries of nuclear power and other benefits.
Syria, too is at odds with the U.S, and is the most vocal Arab critic of Israel. While the West sees Tehran as the greatest nuclear threat in the Mideast, Islamic countries assert that Israel and its undeclared atomic arsenal represents the most pressing danger to the region.
Since the start of the conference Monday, Iran has borne the brunt of criticism, with Western countries condemning its refusal to heed U.N. Security Council demands to stop activities that it could turn into making nuclear weapons and to open its program to greater IAEA perusal.
But Israel is due to come under pressure later in the week from Islamic and other developing countries for refusing to declare its nuclear weapons status and because it remains outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Wednesday's statements served as a prelude to the shifting focus from Iran to Israel — and hinted at the difficulties ahead come November, when Israel and its interlocutors come to the table in Vienna at an IAEA-hosted forum for preliminary talks on a Mideast nuclear arms-free zone.
Israel's "huge nuclear capabilities, which are yet to be subjected to the international control and supervision ... does not only threaten the region, but the whole world at large," Syrian Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh told the meeting. "Israel is behind the failure of all initiatives" meant to move toward the creation of a nuclear free Mideast, he added.
For more than a decade, talks on creating such a zone have been stalled by Israel's insistence that they be accompanied by moves to establish peace in the region and Arab insistence that the two issues are separate.
Syria too is under IAEA perusal, with the agency's 35-nation board reporting it to the Security Council earlier this year after IAEA chief Yukiya Amano assessed that a site bombed in 2007 by Israel warplanes was a nearly completed plutonium-producing reactor.
Syria says the building was non-nuclear. But it has stonewalled IAEA attempts to revisit the site, and Sabbagh on Wednesday accused the U.S. and its allies of "exploiting this issue for their own political agenda." Instead of pressuring Syria, Israel "should have been condemned by the international community," for the bombing, he said.
For Venezuela, Ali de Jesus Uzcategui Duque denounced "a small number of countries" — shorthand for the U.S. and its allies — for "trying to use (the U.N.) Security Council ... for their purposes" on Iran, Syria and other issues.
Iran is under four sets of Security Council Sanctions for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment, which it says it needs for reactor fuel but which can also be used to create to core of nuclear warheads. It also has refused to cooperate with an IAEA probe of intelligence-based information that it has been — or is — working on nuclear arms.
Tehran denies wanting such weapons, saying the West's real purpose is to keep the lucrative nuclear market cornered — an argument picked up Wednesday by the Venezuelan envoy.
"States have an inalienable right to develop peaceful nuclear power without any type of discrimination," he told the meeting. "Therefore we demand that threats be stopped, that groups of countries stop attacking Iran."
Juan Carlos Marsan Aquilera of Cuba also criticized the "club of privileged members that develop and refine the nuclear stockpiles."
Paradoxically, he said, "this club tries to forbid the use of the inalienable right to nuclear energy to countries of the south."

Cuba: Marathon swimmer Nyad eyes new Florida swim

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban authorities said Thursday that American Diana Nyad plans to take another shot at what would be a record swim from Cuba to Florida after falling short of her goal last month.
An email from Cuban press officials invited journalists to an encounter with the famed endurance swimmer Friday at a marina in Havana.
"Diana Nyad will offer a news conference before once again beginning to swim across the Florida Straits between Havana and Key West, in continuation of the attempt realized on Aug. 7," the invitation read.
A spokeswoman for Nyad declined to comment on her plans, saying she would do so at the news conference.
The Los Angeles woman set out Aug. 7 from a Havana jetty and swam 29 hours before calling it quits about halfway through the 103-mile (166-kilometer) crossing.
Nyad, who was trying to break her own 102.5-mile (165-kilometer) world record for open-water swimming without the aid of a shark cage, had roughly 53 miles (85 kilometers) to go when she pulled the plug due to excruciating shoulder pain, debilitating asthma, choppy waves and sea currents that were pushing her east of her intended course.
She said at the time that she wouldn't make a second attempt because she didn't want to put her team through the ordeal of training again.
"I think I'm going to have to go to my grave without swimming from Cuba to Florida," she told CNN.
Nyad first tried to cross the Florida Straits as a 28-year-old back in 1978, when she swam inside a steel shark cage for about 42 hours before ending the attempt.
Now 62 after celebrating her birthday Aug. 22, she has said she hopes to inspire people to lead active lives into their golden years.
Nyad also has called the swim symbolic for increasing understanding between the United States and Cuba, two nations torn by five decades of animosity and mistrust.

Wanted: Managers for democracy programs in Cuba...

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced earlier this week that it is looking for managers to run its democracy programs in Cuba. The salary range is $89,033 to $136,771 per year. The jobs are based in Washington, D.C.
From the job notice:
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks experienced Program Managers with a track record of success managing democracy or related programs. The position will support the Cuban Affairs Office in the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau (LAC). Cuba is a “non-presence” country, which means that USAID does not have an in-country office and programs are managed from Washington. The Program Manager will support procurement planning activities, program design, implementation, budgeting, monitoring and reporting of a portfolio of programs for USAID’s program in Cuba. S/he will be an integral member of the Cuban Affairs Office team working within a unique closed-society context. The high-visibility and political priority associated with the Cuba Affairs Office place special responsibilities on all office personnel.
USAID expects to fill more than one position. The jobs are at the GS-13 and GS-14 levels. GS, or General Schedule, is the federal government pay scale for white-collar jobs. The FedBizOpps link is here.
Candidates must be U.S. citizens capable of securing a “secret” security clearance. They must have experience working on issues related to “closed societies.”
The ability to speak and write Spanish is preferred, but not required, for the jobs. Candidates must possess “tack and diplomacy.” (“Tact” must be what the writer meant).
The application deadline is 11 a.m. today – June 18.
The job announcement describes the chain of command:
The Office of Cuban Affairs is composed of three U.S. Direct Hire staff and three U.S. Personal Services Contractors. The Program Manager reports to the Office Director, who exercises general oversight of the work of the position by establishing overall objectives for the assignment and by communicating relevant policies, and priorities established at higher levels. The Office Director, in turn, reports to the Deputy Assistant Administrator of LAC. the incumbent will be interacting with a wide variety of individuals in USAID, the U.S. Congress, the Department of State and Department of Treasury, and other organizations. Exceptional interpersonal skills and written and verbal communication is required.
The GS-13 position duties include: Making sure deadlines are kept on USAID reporting and budget requirements, providing technical direction, monitoring performance and tracking the impact of democracy programs. The job description says:
The Program Manager will collaborate closely with the Department of State’s Coordinator for the Cuban Affairs Office and Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the U.S. Interests Section, as well as other inter-agency stakeholders.
The job may also involve representing USAID in meeting with people outside the agency.
GS-14 position duties include: “All aspects of program management, administration and reporting,” meeting reporting and budget deadlines, providing technical direction and monitoring performance. The job description says:
The Program Manager will be responsible for tracking activities to ensure that required documentation is maintained by the implementer and that activities do not veer from overall goals program. The Program Manager will be responsible for written analysis and recommendations to support or deny requests for modification and/or extension of activities, as appropriate.
The Program Manager will collaborate closely on technical, programmatic, procurement, and reporting issues with the Department of States’ Coordinator for the Cuban Affairs Office and Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the U.S. Interests Section, as well as other inter-agency stakeholders.
A key difference between the GS-13 and GS-14 jobs: The GS-13 manager “operates with a moderate level of independence in planning, organizing, and carrying out assigned responsibilities.” The GS-14 manager is given a “high level of independence.”

Monday, September 19, 2011


We believe that Marc Sarnoff bears more responsibility for the Miami’s financial crisis than any city official in the last 10 years.  Why?  Because of his “Promises Kept.”

The Marc Sarnoff re-election campaign mailers have a theme – “Promises Kept.”

And you can say that alright. 

In a rare kudos to the Miami Herald, it published an excellent article on Sunday, Government Employees Pension BonanzaBut we’d like to ask, “Where in the hell were the Miami Herald reporters when the outrageous government salaries, pensions and other benefits were in front of local commissioners for passage?” 

But what does the long overdue Herald article have to do with Sarnoff’s promises kept?


Marc Sarnoff vaulted into office in 2006 on the heels of not only the Home Depot scare, and not only as a result of breaking campaign finance laws, but MOSTLY because of the support from Miami’s fire union.  The fire union support was worth several hundred thousand dollars.

Miami Firefighter, Wilbur Jackson, ran the Sarnoff campaign.  Sarnoff’s promises to Wilbur were kept in spades.

Miami Firefighter, Elvis Cruz, walked with Sarnoff throughout District 2 and chipped in his own money (without it being reported in violation of campaign laws) to distribute flyers touting Sarnoff’s campaign pledges to a community who did not know the mother of all pledges was to pay back the fire union.

Here’s some information from the Miami Herald today that will bring home to you just what Elvis Cruz (with a current annual pension payment of $155,014 PLUS his salary), State Firefighter Union President Tom Gabriel (with a current annual pension payment of $171,241 PLUS his salary), and his brother Stephen (with a current annual pension payment of $174,385 PLUS his salary) need to protect since all three are currently “double dippers” drawing a salary from the city AND pension payments.

What the Miami Herald is showing is the base pay for these guys.  But the contract is chock full of “plus item” and “special pays” that ballooned Elvis Cruz’s pay from $107,041 to $163,072 in 2010 (page 2 of the document below) and Tom Gabriel’s pay from $115,962 to $180,167 in 2010 (page 1) of the document below.