Monday, November 7, 2011

US lawmakers lift hold on aid to Palestinians

US lawmakers have lifted a hold on nearly $200 million in aid to the Palestinians that had been suspended in response to the Palestinian bid for full UN membership, officials said Monday.
The US funds had been held back by Congress since August 18, the office of the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said.
The influential congresswoman lifted objections to the release of a first $50 million tranche in a September 2 letter to the US Agency for International Development -- ahead of the UN General Assembly at which Palestinian president Mamud Abbas officially requested full state membership for his people.
A second tranche of nearly $148 million that was supposed to fund the Palestinian police forces was recently unblocked after the committee received assurances about the use of the funds and their importance to US national security.
A senior Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the block on aid had been a "signal" sent by Congress to the Palestinians over their UN statehood bid.
They should "reconsider their policy, and focus on negotiation rather than confrontation," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Even though they have unblocked the aid, Ros-Lehtinen and a number of other Republican and Democratic lawmakers remain vehemently opposed to UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Congress on October 27 to preserve the aid to the Palestinian Authority, warning that otherwise Hamas militants, who run the Gaza Strip, could try to fill the void.
The United States insists that UN recognition of Palestine would be meaningless unless it first negotiates a peace agreement with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Mideast Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- have called for full peace accord by the end of 2012.
Several US lawmakers have raised the possibility of reviewing US aid to the Palestinians and even Washington's financial contributions to the United Nations, after the Palestinians requested recognition of the United Nations in September.
Last week, the United States announced it was cutting off funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it voted to admit the Palestinians as a full member.

Perry Mason: The Case of Mr. Coupon-Man

The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act...

Monday, November 7, 2011
From The Hill:

Four members of the House — including two who were born in Cuba — proposed legislation last week that would hold foreign offshore oil drilling operations accountable for all damages related to oil spills that affect U.S. waters.

The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act, H.R. 3393, is a reaction to news that Cuba is looking to drill for oil in waters that are 90 miles off the Florida coast, which bill sponsors fear could lead to spills that harm the coast. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), and co-sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.). Both Ros-Lehtinen and Sires were born in Cuba.

"This bill seeks accountability from responsible foreign parties, in the event of an oil spill that affects American waters and shores, by ensuring that they pay for all cleanup and compensation costs," Rivera said. "While the responsible party is held liable for American-sourced oil spills, there is a much lower level of responsibility for foreign-sourced spills.

"American taxpayers and state governments should not be footing the bill for cleanup and compensation costs from a foreign oil spill," he added.

Rivera says that under current law, the cost of cleaning up foreign oil spills that affect the U.S. is paid for out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Money that goes into that fund comes from taxes on oil companies, transfers from other pollution funds, interest earned on existing funds, and cost recovery money and penalties paid by parties responsible for a spill.

Under the bill, oil spills originating in countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are subject to triple the liability and penalty amounts, which also seems aimed at Cuba.

"The Castro regime, that has as much regard for environmental safety as it does for human rights, seeks to drill for oil less than 90 miles off the coast of Florida, posing a direct threat to our state's environment and economy," Rivera said. "While the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior help facilitate this drilling, in possible violation of the embargo, I am sponsoring this important piece of legislation to ensure that Florida taxpayers are not made to pay for an environmental disaster caused by a terrorist regime."

Aside from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as also designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
Capitol Hill Cubans

Jailed American wants to be swapped for Cuban spies

US contractor Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba for the past two years, wants to be exchanged for five Cuban spies being held in the United States, a rabbi who saw him in Havana wrote Monday.
The "Cuban Five" espionage ring was broken up in 1998 in Florida, and the men were convicted of espionage and sent to prison three years later. The five are considered heroes in Cuba.
Gross, who is Jewish, was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison on charges he violated Cuba's "independence or territorial integrity" in a case that has soured US-Cuban relations.
Gross, 62, has been in jail since his arrest in 2009 for distributing cellphones and laptops to members of the island's Jewish community under a State Department contract.
"Having learned about the recent swap of (Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 imprisoned Palestinians, (Gross) felt that the US and Cuba could do the same for him and the 'Cuban Five,' five Cubans convicted of spying and serving sentences in the US from 15 years to life," said Rabbi David Shneyer in a message to his congregation just outside the US capital.
Gross, who has health problems, is being held in the Carlos Finlay military medical complex in Havana and shares his cell with two Cubans, Shneyer reported on his congregation's website.
The US prisoner follows Jewish festivals in his cell, and one of his Cuban cellmates fasted with him during Yom Kippur, Shneyer said.
Gross and the rabbi spoke for an hour and 40 minutes with a translator and Interior Ministry agents present, Shneyer said.
"Alan saw a photo of the September vigil coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington in a Mexican newspaper. He hoped that future vigils would focus on the humanitarian aspects of his release," Shneyer wrote.
The high-profile cases have been the biggest obstacles to improving historically strained US relations with Cuba, the only one-party communist regime in the Americas. The countries have not had full diplomatic ties since 1961.
Havana considers the "Cuban Five" political prisoners and has lobbied intensely for their release.
Court documents claim the five Cubans were looking for US military information, and to monitor groups of Cuban exiles opposed to the Havana government. Cuba acknowledges the men were agents, but claims they were working to stop terrorist attacks on Cuban soil.
One of the "Cuban Five," Rene Gonzalez, has been released but is currently serving a three year probation term in Florida.

LPP Archive.

Conned by Cuba crooks...

Catherine Moran was stunned when she saw crooks had stolen nearly £8,000 from her bank account.
They had managed to clone her debit card while she was on holiday in Cuba in May and had gone on a spending spree with Catherine's cash, leaving her without a penny to pay the bills.
"I tried to draw out some money and my card got denied," says Catherine, 29, from London.
"I thought it was a technical glitch and didn't really take much notice, especially as I went into a Lloyds TSB branch and staff said it was just a security measure.
"I answered some questions and they let me draw out the cash in the branch."


Today in Picture...

The statue of Cuba's patron saint Our Lady of Charity mounted on a van is paraded in the village of Baracoa on the outskirts of Havana
The statue of Cuba's patron saint Our Lady of Charity mounted on a van is paraded in the village of Baracoa on the outskirts of Havana, November 6, 2011. The original statue of Our Lady of Charity, ... 
 Photo By DESMOND BOYLAN/REUTERS Sun, Nov 6, 2011

Commercial flights to Cuba take off from some U.S. airports

November 06, 2011|By Helena DeMoura, CNN
Delta Air Lines has partnered with the Miami-based Marazul travel agency to provide chartered flights to Cuba.
Another chartered flight is scheduled to leave the United States for Cuba Sunday as a result of recent U.S. government moves to ease restrictions on travel to the Communist nation.
In a partnership with Delta Air Lines, Marazul, a Miami-based travel agency that specializes in travel to Cuba, has restored direct flights between select U.S. airports and Havana, Cuba, a Delta spokeswoman said Sunday.
"We are excited to get back into the market in partnership with Marazul," Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said, adding that some flights took place in October, departing from Miami.
Marazul announced on its website that it has restored its direct flight between New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Havana, scheduled to take off on Sunday. In December, Marazul will provide weekly flights from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Marazul announced.
Round-trip tickets can only be purchased through Marazul travel, which has chartered a Boeing 737 with crews from Delta Air Lines for its Miami-Havana flight, the travel company said.
Laughlin said loosened government restrictions on travel to Cuba has allowed Delta to re-establish the charter service with Marazul.
According the Marazul's website, these flights are offered only to passengers who have been "duly authorized" by the U.S. government to travel to Cuba. This includes, but is not restricted to, travelers with close relatives in Cuba, official business travelers, professionals, students and other potential travelers authorized by the U.S Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
In September of 2009, OFAC announced it would ease existing restrictions on travel to Cuba, citing President Barack Obama's initiative announced the same year to "reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country."

Exclusive - Paris Club invites Cuba to resume debt talks

Marc Frank, Reuters November 8, 2011, 4:26 am
Cuba s President Raul Castro attends an event in honour of the 73 people killed in the 1976 downing of a Cuban airliner in Barbados, in Havana October 6, 2011.REUTERS/Jorge Luis BanosReuters © 
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's wealthiest creditors have decided to test President Raul Castro's pledge to improve the island's financial credibility by inviting his government to talks with the Paris Club about settling billions of dollars of outstanding debt, according to Western diplomats.
A letter recently sent to the Cuban central bank asked if the Communist-run country would like to explore the resumption of negotiations broken off a decade ago, the sources said.
"Cuba was discussed for the first time in many years at the Club's meeting on October 9 and 10, and it was decided to see if they were interested in talking," a European diplomat said.
"They have not formally replied, but have expressed some interest through the central bank," he added.
The Paris Club reported that Cuba owed its members $30.5 billion (19.0 billion pounds) at the close of 2010, but more than $20 billion of the debt was in old transferable Soviet rubles that Russia now claims but Cuba does not recognise.
According to its annual report, the Paris Club is an informal group of creditor governments composed of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Unlike the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, from which Cuba is excluded under to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo, the Paris Club does not issue multilateral loans.
Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president in 2008, has drastically reined in imports, cut state payrolls and subsidies while insisting the government get its financial house in order.
Last week, Cuba's government gave Cubans the right to buy and sell their homes for the first time since the early days of the 1959 revolution -- a long-awaited reform that creates a real estate market and promises to put money in people's pockets.
The Communist Party and government this year approved a five-year economic plan that calls for efforts to "enhance Cuba's credibility in its international economic relations by strictly observing all the commitments that have been entered into."
The plan also said the rescheduling of Cuba's foreign debts must be expedited and that "flexible restructuring strategies for debt repayment" must be put in place as soon as is practical.
The Bank for International Settlements reported banks in 43 countries held $5.76 billion in Cuban deposits as of March of this year, compared with $4.285 billion at the close of 2009 and $2.849 billion at the close of 2008.
Cuba last reported its foreign debt in 2007 at $17.8 billion, but most analysts agree it now exceeds $21 billion, or close to 50 percent of gross domestic product and 30 percent more than annual foreign exchange revenues.
The central bank reported more than half the debt was classified as inactive, dating back to when the country defaulted in the late 1980s, while the remainder was active debt piled up after the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba's former benefactor.
In recent years, China has become the country's largest creditor with local experts estimating the amount owed at around $5 billion.
Cuba over the last year restructured its debt with China and has been pursuing similar bilateral agreements with various other creditors, diplomats said.
"Talks can only be a good thing," said Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist of Frontier Market Investment Banking at the London-based Exotix. "Although Cuba has pursued bilateral deals, there have been no substantive negotiations with the Paris Club for ten years. So it would signal some progress."
"But I'd be cautious in concluding that it means some sort of rapprochement on the debt is imminent," he added.
Western diplomats appeared divided between those who expressed cautious optimism that something would come out of the initiative and those who were skeptical it would go anywhere.
Talks between the Paris Club and Cuba were indefinitely put on hold in 2001 after nearly two years of discussions. During the talks, the United States agreed not to participate.
The negotiations had marked Cuba's first sitdown with creditors to negotiate multilaterally since the late 1980s when it defaulted.
Along with restructuring terms, Cuba's 20-billion convertible ruble debt to the former Soviet Union was considered another major obstacle to any multilateral accord.
Though Cuba and Russia have since agreed to put the old debt aside and work to rebuild their economic relations, it remains on the books.
"We proposed an accord similar to those with other middle-level developing countries, but the Cubans wanted something special and unheard of. We were miles apart," a European diplomat, who had followed the negotiations closely, said at the time.

LPP FrontLine News...

Political Cartoon of the Day

October 26, 2011
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Who will be the new chairman of GAESA?

October 24, 2011
Cuba has been without a defense minister since September 3, when then defense minister Army Corps General Julio Casas Regueiro died of heart failure. ACG Casas was also the founder and chairman of GAESA — Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A. (Enterprise Management Group Inc.), the Cuban military’s powerful and lucrative holding company (with more than 300 companies under its ownership) that controls [...]
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Whether in Cuba or Syria, it's all the same fight against tyranny and for freedom

The dictators in the 1 percent stand together.
And so must the 99 percent who resist them.
Join the 99 percent against the Castro dictatorship here.

Ladies in White subjected to arrests and harassment yesterday in Cuba
Yesterday was Sunday, which means the Castro dictatorship's State Security mounted its weekly operation to stop the Ladies in White from attending Sunday mass. In a report directly from Cuba, independent journalist and former prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia reports that several Ladies in White were placed under house arrest at 2:00 am Sunday morning, while others were harassed and prevented by agents of the Castro regime from attending mass later that morning. According to Ferrer, the Cuban political police had already mobilized rapid response brigades Sunday morning to attack any Ladies in White that attempted to peacefully march through the streets of Cuba to attend Sunday church services.

Listen to the report without fear at Hablalo Sin Miedo.

There is widespread alarm at Cuban opposition sick...

Cuba / Notes from a journalist
Stock, repression of Ladies in White

Cubamatinal / What we have noticed many times is complied with. It is not unreasonable hysteria or alarm the world about an unfounded assumption: There is a real campaign to eliminate Ladies in White.

By Angelica Mora

New York, Nov. 6 / Idania Yanez Contreras just denounced  leaving the facility, that being arrested suffered a strong beating and wounds made by sharp objects. These bruises  have caused symptoms like those experienced by Laura Pollan being taken to hospital where he later died.
Idania was arrested on October 31 along with other activists Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital, Villa Clara, where he was joined her husband, Alcides Rivera, who is on hunger strike by the opponent Rolando Ferrer also to require the cessation of the violence by law enforcement agencies of the Castro regime.
Rivera-while his wife was arrested, was forced by state security along with Ferrer to leave the hospital.
Idania accused: "Those who attacked me were three female police officers that I  punches gave the head while dragging me by the hair from the vehicles, giving me shots all over the body, especially in  abdomen ... I did not realize, but I got a puncture in the hand left and scratches with something metal on the back. "
Contreras Yañez was accompanied by other women, Yanisbel Valid Damaris Moya Portieles Perez, who also belong to Coalition Opposition Central and also were savagely beaten.
Damaris declared "A Idania fist was hitting the abdomen, head, everywhere. A Yanisbel had it almost hanging, because the color of his face was red, red. When I tried to stop beating me punches fell to me .... "
In turn, Idania Damaris told that pushed her to the ground where hit his head on the pavement and fell. semi-conscious. Then the dragged to the cell where they realized they were bloody. Were reviewed and found each other wounds made with sharp objects.
Damaris said: "Here we take off her blouse and I saw Idania has a rajón great in the back. I say that this was not a scratch, this was with an object that someone brought ... Idania's face and a eye within seconds he started to get black and he began to It was very big swell ... what I saw. "
Yanes Contreras said on Wednesday began to suffer tremors, fever  high, heavy vaginal bleeding and vomiting. It was moved further Later another police unit where he refused to take food and drinking water and stayed until Thursday, November 3 when he was "Liberated."
Idania added that "A doctor who saw me in the detention center said to be carried out tests to see if I had dengue, because there much dengue in the street and not know what was the fever ... I refused to go to a center (care) but I took two pills given for the fever. " Then in the street went to a hospital where I performed some tests. The high and gave erythro altered white blood cell count. I was told I had an unspecified virus. "
As in the past no one dared to believe or denounce the crimes of Hitler, today the world is quiet compared to what is happening in Cuba with the Ladies in White. I do not get tired of continuing to expose these actions and hope that the international community finally done echoed these complaints.

Cynical appeals to UN...

Jorge Olivera CastilloMontaje edificio de Naciones UnidasHavana  Old (PD) from within Cuba sets the stage for more 300 students from the island and other nations aim, with arguments of various calibres, the United Nations Organization (UN).

According to the tone of the ad and the site chosen for shooting white, is inferred to be a heavy fire against the entity international level.

The date was set for next March in  Havana in the activities of the UN Model XVII (HAVMUN 2012), a forum created to encourage changes in this body, that the next meet October 24 to 66 years founded.

Among the topics to be discussed, include the promotion of peace  as a prerequisite for the full enjoyment of all rights  all human persons, the consolidation of peace through practical measures of disarmament and the promotion of a sustainable economic growth.

While it is true that performance of that world body has an unknown number negligible errors, we must also consider their actions positive in terms of military conflict resolution, crisis humanitarian and other issues affecting millions of people people.

A wide-ranging reform within the UN, involves efforts may even escape the will of its main members. It is not easy to reconcile the interests of almost all  the countries of the planet earth.

A bug in this hypothetical transformation, however small, could break the delicate balance that exists in the world today.

No need to be I guess to understand the serious international situation. Hunger,  war, environmental pollution, are only samples of the long list of calamities that plague large segments of the population in Africa, Asia and Latin America primarily.

I do not believe in a convergence of possibilities arise to a change in the structure butt of this institution.

There  analysis tend to see things in black and white. Try convinced that a reform of the UN is as simple as taking a  glass of water. On the other side are those who say that the powers are those that block all roads leading to the democratization of the global body.

Looking at the matter without the shadows of prejudice, we reach the conclusion that about around a bit. This means that the government of each nation thinks about winning influence, maintaining or at least have minimal visibility without of the size of its economy and political system. Nothing extraordinary human if it is.

The Cuban government is a of the most belligerent on the issue. He wastes no time in demanding a  thorough reform of the UN. He asks with such courage and perseverance in the international arena refuses to comply borders in.

It should be recalled that there has never been elections free since 1959, and while there appear to govern the same  usurpers. On the other hand, still can not express outside the low limits set by the Communist Party and its police policy.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that the Declaration Universal Human Rights, continues to be a document problematic. Distributed in the streets is a punishable offense. That's not in the penal code.