Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breaking News and More...

Security blockade around US Embassy in Yemen was breached, protesters did not get inside embassy walls - Yemen Post editor tells @NBCNews


Sky Sources: Car owned by al-Hilli family in Alps shooting being looked at by scientists who examined car in which Princess Diana died 


Morsi did say #Assad must go. No place for a president who kills his own people. 

US Embassy employees in Sanaa, Yemen, are being moved to a safer location, sources say - @TheYemenTimes

Yemeni protesters storm the US Embassy in Sanaa, security forces open fire, witnesses say - @AFP, @Reuters, @AlArabiya_Eng

Yemeni police fire warning shots to disperse protests at US Embassy in Sanaa - @AFP via @SkyNewsBreak

Funerals being held in Pakistan for 290 people killed in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore - @BBCWorld

Egypt's President Morsi says he supports peaceful protest, but Muslims reject attacks on people, embassies and other sites - @Reuters


Gas now reaching #Tahrir square. Protesters being pushed back by police #Egypt


13 men & one woman arrested in Irish Republic after paramilitary display at Real IRA funeral. Major police operation involving 200 officers 


BreakingNews: Police and protesters clash outside US embassy in #Cairo: TV. #Egypt

President Obama spoke to both Libya's President Magarief and Egypt's Morsi on the subject of US consulate attack in Benghazi - @NBCNews


Protesters storm US Embassy in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Protesters angered by an anti-Islam film have stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital, Sanaa.
The protesters were on the embassy's grounds but did not enter the building housing the offices.
Before storming the embassy compound on Thursday, the demonstrators removed the embassy's sign on the outer wall and set tires ablaze. Once inside the compound, they brought down the U.S. flag and burned it.
Yemen is home to al-Qaida's most active branch and the United States is the main foreign supporter of the Yemeni government's counterterrorism campaign. The government on Tuesday announced that al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in Yemen was killed in an apparent U.S. airstrike, a major blow to the terror network.

U.S.- Cuba travel snarled by regulations, politics

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Obama administration's much touted "people-to-people" travel program to Cuba has all but ground to a halt due to tighter regulations issued in May, apparently to placate Cuban-American lawmakers, travel industry professionals said this week.
The program, which began last year and requires the annual renewal of permission to bring groups to Cuba, allows for educational and cultural travel under the administration's policy of constructive engagement.
The licenses of dozens of tour operators, who have carried an estimated 50,000 Americans to Cuba under the "people-to-people" banner so far, have not been renewed by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
This has caused confusion in both countries as the trips must be planned months in advance and hotel rooms, very much in demand in Havana, blocked out for the Americans.
The problems began after the new guidelines were issued, the companies said.
"We've laid off 22 people, canceled 150 trips, and after only one year of operations we are unable to recoup our start-up costs," said Tom Popper, president of New York-based Insight Cuba.
Popper, whose nonprofit business brought some 3,000 Americans to Cuba under the program, said he had applied twice to renew his license to no avail.
"We know of many licensees that are in the same predicament," he said.
The travel program came under heavy fire from its inception from Cuban-American lawmakers, who oppose all contact with the Communist-run country and have lined up to denounce it.
"This is not about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba. This is nothing more than tourism ... a source of millions of dollars in the hands of the Castro government that they use to oppress the Cuban people," Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida charged during congressional hearings last year.
Rubio then blocked the administration's nominee for undersecretary of state for Latin American affairs, Roberta Jacobson, until it agreed in March to tighten the regulations, according to his office's statements to the media at the time.
The new regulations quickly followed.
The Obama administration has denied any deal with Rubio, saying the regulations were tightened after it heard of potential abuses of the program, which essentially prohibits typical Cuba tourist activities such as salsa dancing or going to the beach.
"We revised the license application criteria to stress to applicants the seriousness of the requirements of the people-to-people licensing program, in part because of reports we received concerning travel under the licenses," Jeff Braunger, OFAC's program manager for Cuba travel licensing, said by email.
John McAuliff, executive director for the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, an organization working to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, as it did with Vietnam, said he doubted that was the case.
"OFAC is accommodating Senator Rubio and other hard liners who oppose all travel because it undermines their narrative about isolating evil Cuba," McAuliff said.
Hopes for a significant improvement in relations when Obama took office were soon dashed when Cuba arrested U.S. contractor Alan Gross in December 2009 for illegally bringing internet equipment into the country and setting up Wi-Fi networks. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Since then hostile rhetoric between Washington and Havana has picked up and immigration and mail service talks have once more been put on hold.
The United States banned travel to Cuba under sanctions put in place soon after the 1959 Revolution, but has gone back and forth ever since on whether Cuban Americans and professionals should visit the "enemy" 90 miles away.
Obama lifted all restrictions on Cuban Americans visiting home, and in December 2010 reversed a Bush administration ban on professional research, religious and people-to-people travel.
An estimated 350,000 to 400,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2011, the vast majority of Cuban heritage.
The new regulations require detailed itineraries of each traveling group, reports upon their return and explanations about each member's "meaningful interchange" with ordinary Cubans.
Applications can now run more than 100 pages, compared with fewer than 10 pages in the past.
Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters, said the new regulations, while far more onerous than those issued when the program began, lacked the very transparency Braunger said they provided.
"What do they mean by such phrases as you must demonstrate travelers' 'meaningful interchange' with Cubans during each of four activities, each day of the trip, and then give the result of that 'meaningful interchange?'" asked Guild, in Havana this week to sort out hotel reservations for clients left waiting for licenses.
"When a group thinks they have complied with the restrictions in the applications, and we're talking now about some of the most prestigious groups in the United States such as the Smithsonian Institute and National Geographic, Treasury says no, we need more," Guild told Reuters.
"What more do you need, the organizations ask, and OFAC says ‘we can't tell you that but we need more,'" he said.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Cuba / USAGross's wife says that her husband's health has deteriorated in prison but denies Havana
HAVANA, Sept. 13 (Reuters / EP) -

The wife of American contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a sentence of 15 years in prison in Cuba, said this week that the state of her husband's health has seriously deteriorated in prison, but the Cuban government has been denying this end apresudaro and has offered to "dialogue" with the U.S. on the case.

   Gross was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and sentenced in March 2011 to 15 years in prison for illegally bringing Internet equipment on the island and create Wi-Fi networks under a controversial U.S. program.

   His wife Judy said Tuesday in a statement that he had visited Gross in Havana and found it very health deteriorated. "I just returned from visiting Cuba and Alan in front of me felt desolate appearance," he explained. "While his spirit remains strong, fear not survive this ordeal," he added.

   According to the woman, Gross, 63, has lost about 48 kilos and has developed degenerative arthritis and a "mass" behind his right shoulder blade.

   The Cuban government issued another statement Wednesday to deny this information. "The health of Mr. Gross remains normal and regularly conducts intense physical exercises," said the responsibility for matters relating to the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal. According to Vidal, Judy Gross visited her husband three times last week and "the best conditions were created" for meetings.

   Washington argues that Gross was only trying to help configure internet connections to the Jewish community of Cuba, but Havana considered their actions as part of a U.S. campaign that takes place for a long time to overthrow the island's communist system.

   Gross's arrest ended a slight thaw in relations between Washington and Havana under President Barack Obama, who had eased some points of the trade embargo of more than 50 years against Cuba to allow Cuban Americans to travel freely and send remittances home.

   Cuban officials have previously suggested that the two countries could do a prisoner exchange. Gross's release four Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States on charges of espionage.

   On Tuesday he met 14 years the arrest and imprisonment of the government agents in Havana believes they have been treated unfairly, on an issue that has become a national cause.
Washington rejects prisoner swap

   Originally there were five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States, but one of them completed his sentence of 13 years in prison and was released on parole. A U.S. judge ruled that it can not return to Cuba until after serving three years on probation.

   "Cuba reiterates its willingness to dialogue with the Government of the United States to find a solution to the case of Gross and still waiting for an answer," said Vidal.

   Gross recently hired a new lawyer, Jared Genser, an international expert on Human Rights in Washington whose clients have included the Burmese opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

   Genser told Reuters that Cuba had violated his client's rights to freedom of expression and said he had an unfair trial. In this regard, said it has filed a petition with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN to rule against Cuba. The working group of the UN has no power to enforce a judgment against Cuba, but his decision could pressure the government in Havana.

   "A government that stops a person unjustly usually only allowed out when the costs are substantially higher than the benefits of stopping them," said Genser. "I've seen a review of United Nations is a very effective tool when combined with political efforts to promote appropriate and public relations," he added.

   Genser also urged Cuba to allow Gross to be examined by an independent doctor. The true state of his health can not be assessed by doctors who have seen so far, they also are "agents of the Cuban government," he said.

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