Thursday, November 10, 2011

Al Qaeda Terror Group: We 'Benefit From' Libyan Weapons...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A leading member of an al Qaeda-affiliated terror group indicated the organization may have acquired some of the thousands of powerful weapons that went missing in the chaos of the Libyan uprising, stoking long-held fears of Western officials.
"We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a leader of the north Africa-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), told the Mauritanian news agency ANI Wednesday. " As for our benefiting from the [Libyan] weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances."

The claim comes just days after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Libya and its neighbors to secure the loose weapons,  including some 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles,  before they could fall into the hands of terrorists. The resolution specifically mentioned AQIM as a dangerous potential beneficiary.

An official with the State Department, which has been at the head of the hunt for loose Libyan weapons for the U.S., told ABC News the department was aware of AQIM’s claim and, while they've been unable to confirm any weapons have made their way into the terror group’s hands, the possibility is "obviously of great concern."
"We know al Qaeda has been long in pursuit of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles," the official said. "This is a threat to which we're paying close attention."

Since the fall of Tripoli in late August, multiple weapons depots with stockpiles of heat seeking surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine guns and ammunition have been discovered unguarded by journalists and NGOs. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a trip to Libya earlier this year and shot a video featuring a huge cache of unguarded weapons last month.

"I myself could have removed several hundred [missiles] if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want," said Bouckaert, HRW's emergencies director. "Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles."
Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News last month there was "obviously" a race on to secure the weapons before terrorists get their hands on them and that the U.S. planned to have 50 teams of weapons specialists on the ground in Libya to do just that. That deployment is ongoing, a State Department official said.
"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee, said in September. The surface-to-air missiles represent a grave danger to civilian commercial aircraft, U.S. officials said.

While the U.S. may be expanding its search in Libya, there have already been reports of neighboring countries in all directions intercepting the smuggled Libyan weapons.
To the east of Libya, smuggled surface-to-air missiles are so ubiquitous in Egypt that the black market price for one has actually dropped by more than 50 percent, according to a report by The Washington Post.
To its south, Nigerian forces said they had clashed with a heavily-armed convoy heading out of Libya and seized heavy machine guns and rockets they were carrying, the BBC reported. AQIM is primarily based in the north African region to Libya's west.

Siria News...

Two Children, Two Guards Martyred, Explosive Device Blasts When Patrol Passes in Idleb
Nov 10, 2011

IDLEB, (SANA) – Two children from al-Moallaqa village in the northern province of Idleb were martyred on Thursday after explosives hidden by a terrorist armed group in an abandoned house blasted in the village.
A source at Idleb Police Command told SANA correspondent that the two brothers Ahmad and Munir Olwan went accidentally to the house to set fire when the explosives blew up, killing them at once.
The source pointed out that the explosives were used by the terrorists to make mines and explosive devices in order to attack state centers and check points and to sabotage public properties.
The village residents rushed to the place only to find the dead bodies of the two brothers in the place, the source added.
"Even innocent children could not escape the heinous crimes of the terrorists," uncle of the two boys, Mohammad Olwan, told SANA correspondent, pointing out that his nephews are only eight and ten years old.
Meantime, Conscript Makhlad al-Awad and civil guard Mohammad Abdo al-Fattah al-Omar were martyred, as two other army members were injured by a terrorist armed group in al-Kfair village in Jisr al-Shughour.
A police source in the Province clarified that the armed gang attacked the guard members who belong to the popular army while they were guarding the railway in the area. The gunmen stole the members' weapons, the source added.
In a similar context, an explosive device, planted on Khan Shaikhoun- Maart al-Noman Main Street, blasted, injuring three law enforcement members.
The police source said that the explosive device was planted on the road, as the terrorists blew it when the patrol passed by trying to guarantee the safety of the road and prevent blocking the road.
Three Law-Enforcement Personnel Injured in Terrorist Attack in Douma
Three law enforcement personnel on Thursday were injured after their post was attacked by an armed terrorist group in Douma city in Damascus Countryside.
Three law enforcement personnel on Thursday were injured after their post was attacked by an armed terrorist group in Douma city in Damascus Countryside.
A police source said that the assault caused damages to the building, adding that authorities are in pursuit of the fleeing terrorists.
Policeman Mohammad Ghourra said that "At 1.00 am, more than four cars opened fire on the post, they had RPG launchers and machineguns, I was injured in the attack."
M. Nassr/ R. Milhem / al-Ibrahim

LPP Latest News...24/7...

Next Week at The Heritage Foundation

Thursday, November 10, 2011
The Unwritten Story: How the Media and the Obama Administration Overlook Cuba's Wave of Repression

A wave of repression is currently taking place in Cuba – but you wouldn’t know about it from the lack of media coverage. Why is the press at home and abroad ignoring blatant human rights violations? Why has the Obama Administration consistently coddled dictators like Castro? And, what should our elected leaders be saying about Cuba and these human rights abuses?

Special Address by:

The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee

Followed by a Panel Discussion with:

Mauricio Claver-Carone
Director, U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC

Ambassador Otto Reich
President, Otto Reich Associates, LLC, and former U.S. Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere

Laida Carro
President, Coalition of Cuban-American Women

Click here for more information.

CDA Report: Support Cuba's 0.01%

The Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, which apparently supports democracy everywhere in the hemisphere except Cuba, has issued a new report on the Castro regime's "reforms."

Its conclusion?

That despite 52-years of lying, stealing, beating, arresting, torturing and executing Cubans (the report conveniently ignores these facts), the Castro regime is finally trying to "reform."

Thus, the U.S. should support the Castro regime (the 0.01% that controls 100% of Cuba's wealth and political power) in its "reform" efforts.

(Ironically, the CDA's report was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation -- part of what they would otherwise label as the 1% that controls 100% of the U.S.'s wealth).

The report also recommends:

- To send even more money to Cuba from abroad (so Castro can continue building his hard currency reserves in foreign banks, which have doubled since 2009).

- To allow the export of dual-use technology to Cuba (for Castro's repressive military and intelligence apparatus can't be all that bad).

- To allow the Castro regime access to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (surely an appropriate use of U.S. taxpayer money).

- And of course, to stop funding USAID's Cuba democracy programs (for the promotion of democracy has no place in Cuba).

Cuba's 0.01% is surely grateful.

Castro Defaults on More Loans

Want to extend financing to the Castro regime?

From today's Trinidad Express:

Billions of dollars in non-performing loans, including an unsecured facility to a government ministry in Cuba, were on the books of [Trinidad and Tobago's] CLICO Investment Bank (CIB) which led to the eventual insolvency of the company, Maria Daniel, a partner at Ernst and Young, stated on Tuesday.

The purpose of the US$2.6 million loan was for infrastructure and services upgrade of the government agency in Cuba, Ernst and Young’s statement of affairs stated.

The total arrears on the loan is US$14 million with the last and only payment being made on October 14, 2003.

The facility to the Cuban ministry was among the top ten major non-performing third party loans at CIB.

Meanwhile, according to 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.

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.

Capitol Hill Cubans

Mariela Castro collided in a battle of Twitter with Yoani Sanchez...

Suitable written on the subject   
Thursday, November 10, 2011 8:58
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and sexologist Mariela Castro collided in a battle of Twitter messages in which the daughter of Raúl Castro angry over leaving the field after calling their critical "despicable parasites."

The rain of feints and lunges for a couple of hours on Tuesday, the marking the first day of Mariela Castro in the networking world digital social, was broadcast with glee by many of the Sanchez nearly 175.000 followers.

This was the third clash between two of the best Cuban women known: a sharp pen blogger attacking regularly to government, and the famous daughter defending the government of his father and directs the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).
The daughter has championed the cause of the Cuban community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), although some dissidents gays   have complained that it demands absolute loyalty to the system communist.
Castro had just sent his first two messages on Twitter, most of all by thanking supporters CENESEX when Sanchez sent his own message on Twitter saying Castro's debut  and wondering when Cubans could "get out of the other closets. "
Minutes later, in a Twitter message that included the account of Castro, @ CastroEspinM,   Sanchez welcomed the sexologist "the plurality of Twitter" where "no one can shut, refusing permission to travel or impede the  entry ".
The government has repeatedly denied permission to leave the blogger of the island, usually to accept one of the many awards international has won his widely read blog, Generation Y.
Castro took up the gauntlet minutes later, Sanchez said in a Twitter message that "your tolerance approach reproduces the old mechanisms of power, "without explanation. "To improve your 'Services' need to study. "
Castro has accused Sanchez in previous shocks to be part of a "cyber war" financed by the United States and designed to overthrow the Cuban government.
The blogger said: "Another question for @ CastroEspinM: How could you ask for the acceptance parceled into a single issue [gay rights]? Tolerance is full or not. "
Castro decided to be magnanimous in his next message, giving the   Thanks to his followers and, without naming Sanchez added: "I thank  mediocre and also bored by disclosing my 'tweets'. "
The dissident gay Ignacio Estrada, who has claimed that his wife transsexual was fired from her job in the CENESEX because of their relationship, third in the fight: "What can we expect from you, Mariela, when you try to continue to handle gays in Cuba? "
And the author of humorous blog Guamá, Alen Lauzen, based in U.S., said that with Castro's entry into the world of Twitter, he and  his staff would work "overtime pay even the CIA."
Castro apparently had enough of the message exchange and its Twitter following attacked his critics: "Parasites despicable: were ordered to answer their employers in unison and with the same script by default? Be creative. "
Sanchez said then to El Nuevo Herald that he hoped his "Incisive questions, yes, but respectful" to help Mariela Castro "To tan the skin against criticism" sexologist and other figures public in Cuba.
"It is very necessary that public figures in Cuba is accustomed to be under fire, at least in the network, "he said. "A public figure ... have to know how to respond without breaking. "
The first clash of Castro Sanchez was in late 2008, when asked a question at the end of a presentation at a meeting on erotic art.
Sanchez asked if the struggle for acceptance of the preferences sex "may eventually move on to other roles and fight tolerance also other aspects such as perception, such as political and ideological preferences. "
Castro said that the ideology and politics were not part of their work, but then attacked Sanchez in an entry posted on the CENESEX website, accused of receiving U.S. funds and calling "Cock".
In subsequent entries in her blog, Sanchez wrote that to be  "A delicate chicken" had "to accept that a group of septuagenarians-all men-decide every aspect of my life, then ... I like the cock doodle with the pen more hormones. " Updated on Thursday, November 10, 2011 9:09

Cuban official says corruption crackdown to go on...

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's top law enforcement official said Wednesday a crackdown on corruption that has given Cuba's international business community the jitters will continue and warned that no one was immune from prosecution.
Attorney General Dario Delgado, speaking at a conference on corruption, said the anti-corruption drive now underway in Cuba is "systematic, permanent" and necessary to strengthen the communist country's economy.
"We will continue fighting until exhaustion, mercilessly, against all manifestations of corruption in the country, committed by foreigners or nationals," he said.
The crackdown began when President Raul Castro succeeded older brother Fidel Castro at the country's helm in 2008 and said widespread theft and graft had to be eliminated because it contributed to the Caribbean island's chronic economic woes.
It coincided with reforms to strengthen Cuba's socialist system. Dozens of Cubans have been jailed, including former government officials and top executives of state companies.
In recent months, executives of two Canadian trading companies and a British investment firm have been detained while investigators probe their finances, diplomatic and business sources said.
Last year, a Cuban joint venture with a Chilean firm was shut down and its Chilean executive Max Marambio sentenced in absentia to a long prison term for graft. Marambio, once a close friend of Fidel Castro's, stayed in Chile and denied the charges.
The legal actions have created unease among foreign businessmen, many of whom say they fear being unjustly accused of illicit acts. Those worries discourage foreign investment in Cuba at a time when the island needs it, they said.
Delgado, speaking to reporters after his speech, said the government had no problem with foreign businesses nor had the foreigners complained about the crackdown.
"They have understood that (corruption) has to be eliminated. It is a very noxious practice," he said.
"We will never stop defending the flags of honesty and dignity. It is our duty," Delgado said.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Jeff Franks; Editing by Kevin Gray and Anthony Boadle)

Pope may visit Cuba, Mexico next spring

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican said Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI is looking into visiting Cuba and Mexico next spring, traveling to a region where about half of the world's Catholics live and where Pope John Paul II made historic visits during his pontificate.
The announcement marked the first word from the Vatican of a possible foreign trip for the pontiff next year, and signals that despite his age — he turns 85 in April — and increasing frailty, Benedict still intends to travel far to meet the world's Catholics.
Mexico is poised to take Brazil's place as the world's top Catholic nation, although the church is losing members in both countries. The church in Cuba, meanwhile, has taken on a prominent role recently in negotiating the release of jailed dissidents.
In recent days, the Vatican asked its papal envoys in Cuba and Mexico to inform religious and political authorities that Benedict is studying a "concrete project" to visit the two countries, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.
A final decision with details is expected soon.
"If this comes together, as the announcement seems to indicate, it would be a tremendous good," said Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega. "John Paul II's visit to Cuba ... had a big effect on our history as a church and also for the nation."
The island "is abuzz with the news," Ortega said.
Benedict has limited his travels mostly to Europe, both to spare him from long trips and to focus his efforts on a continent where Christianity has fallen by the wayside. He did visit Brazil in 2007 and has said he hopes to return in 2013 for World Youth Day, the church's youth festival. And he has a trip to Benin coming up later this month, his second to Africa in his six-year-pontificate.
Lombardi said Latin America's Spanish-speaking countries have long wanted a visit of their own, particularly Mexican Catholics, who received four visits from John Paul — including the very first foreign visit by the new pontiff in 1979 that marked the first ever trip by a pope to Mexico.
John Paul also visited Cuba in a historic 1998 tour.
Though Cuba under Fidel Castro never severed ties with the Vatican, relations between the communist government and the church were strained for decades. Tensions eased in the early 1990s, however, when the government removed references to atheism in the constitution and allowed believers of all faiths to join the Communist Party.
John Paul's 1998 visit further improved relations, and top Vatican cardinals have made frequent visits to the island since then: The Vatican's No. 2 visited in 2008 and the foreign minister just last year.
The Catholic Church has played an increasingly visible role on the island since then, most significantly in negotiating the freedom of 75 intellectuals and social commentators who were jailed during a 2003 crackdown on dissent.
The last of the detainees was released earlier this year under a deal brokered by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, with many of the dissidents sent into exile in Spain.
Lombardi said a visit by Benedict to Cuba would offer "great encouragement" to the island's faithful "as the church and its people live through an important time in their history." Next year Cuban Catholics will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron saint.
Lombardi acknowledged, however, that the trip will not be easy on the pope. Benedict has appeared weaker in recent public appearances and recently began using a moving platform to spare him from having to walk down the long aisle of St. Peter's Basilica during Masses, leading to speculation that he might trim back his travel schedule further.
No other foreign trips have been announced by the Vatican for 2012.
Lombardi noted the long flight from Rome to Latin America in explaining that there would be just a few stops, not many, but that they would be "of great symbolic and pastoral value." Mexico City itself would likely be left off the itinerary because of its high altitude, he said, adding that an alternative is being studied.

Last Updated: November 10. 2011 1:00AM

Cuba reforms turn a corner

Private home, car sales show a loosening of island's socialist policies

Peter Orsi/ Associated Press

Havana — The lot in teeming Central Havana used to be the neighborhood eyesore: The shattered ruins of an abandoned building was a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rats before it was cleared in favor of a dreary parking lot and government-run food stand.
Today, all of that is gone. Independent sellers hawk brightly colored clothing, wristbands and earrings as salsa music booms and a line of bicycle taxi drivers forms at the gate to wait for fares among the customers.
Newly empowered entrepreneurs, long held back by the socialist government, speak excitedly of changes that will allow them to buy and sell their homes and cars, and say the emerging new Cuba is here to stay.
Last week's announcement establishing a real estate market for the first time in 50 years comes just a month after a similar opening for vehicles, and it is convincing even the island's many cynics that President Raul Castro's economic reforms, after decades of false starts and false hopes, are here to stay.
"I've been an independent worker two times, once before in the 1990s," said Andres Lambreto Diaz, a 38-year-old clothing seller at the Central Havana bazaar who has seen earlier free-market openings abruptly slammed shut when Fidel Castro reversed course.
Many of the reforms merely acknowledge what had long been black market realities, and they still fall short of the fundamental free-market transformations seen in other communist countries such as Vietnam and China. But collectively, the changes have loosened government's iron grip over all aspects of the economy.
"The recent announcement that Cubans will be able to sell and buy houses and their used cars underscores how important the changes are," said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban-born economist at the University of Denver. "This is one of the most visible economic reforms, with a direct impact on Cuban lives.
A little over a year has passed since the government declared that many more people would be allowed to go into business for themselves and even hire employees.
Some of the announced changes have been delayed, must notably a plan to eliminate 500,000 government jobs, extend bank credits and allow for midsize cooperative companies, but the housing and automobile laws have come in on schedule.
Officials have also shown some sensitivity to popular feedback, modifying the tax code to make things easier for new entrepreneurs and repeatedly changing laws to help new private restaurants be more profitable.
That kind of flexibility has been rare during Cuba's half-century-long embrace of Marxist theory.
In the 1980s a six-year experiment with private farmers markets was scrapped, as Fidel Castro complained that unscrupulous middlemen were buying up the food and reselling at higher prices.
Castro grudgingly allowed independent workers to begin doing business for themselves after the collapse of the Soviet Union brought Cuba to the brink of economic ruin, then taxed and regulated them nearly into extinction in the late 1990s when the crisis was over.
But Fidel is no longer in charge. His brother Raul Castro has repeatedly said that while he has no intention of scrapping Cuba's socialist model, there's no turning back from his reforms.