Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cuba: Hotel collapses killing 4, dissidents beaten and arrested for photographing disaster
Hotel Europa: Photo via Baracutey Cubano
Martí Noticias is reporting that the Hotel Europa in Cardenas, Cuba collapsed last night burying and killing three young Cuban men while a fourth young man managed to escape. The four men were inside the abandoned building scavenging for building materials, a common practice in Cuba due to the decrepit state of housing on the island brought about by more than five decades of corruption and mismanagement by the communist dictatorship.
As rescue crews and ambulances tried to find the buried youngsters amongst the rubble, several dissidents began taking pictures of the scene to document the disaster. Immediately, Cuban State Security forces descended upon them, violently beating the dissidents and arresting them. The beating was so brutal, one of the dissidents had to be transported to a hospital after the blows she received from the Castro agents knocked her out cold.

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More agents likely to go over Secret Service scandal: U.S. lawmaker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most of the Secret Service agents accused of misconduct with prostitutes ahead of President Barack Obama's recent visit to Colombia are likely to leave the agency, a top Republican lawmaker said on Saturday.
Six of 11 employees linked to a night of partying in the coastal city of Cartagena on April 11-12 have left the agency over the scandal, which embarrassed the United States and overshadowed Obama's participation in the Summit of Americas meeting.
"I would think you'll see most of the 11 either resign, retire or will be forced to leave," Representative Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview on Fox News.
"I doubt, no matter what happens, you're going to see any of these 11 ever involved in any kind of detail like this again. They basically have to stay out of the public eye, if they stay on the job," King said.
The Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting the president, senior administration officials and other prominent figures, said on Friday that a 12th employee had been implicated in the probe and another had been cleared of "serious misconduct" in Cartagena but would face administrative action.
King, whose committee is also probing the Cartagena incident, said the 12th employee was involved in a separate incident that happened "five or six days before the president arrived."
The New York Republican said he had four investigators on the case and had spoken several times this week with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan about the agency's own investigation.
"We want a full record (of the probe), so at the end we can decide if the Secret Service acted appropriately once they found out about it," King said. Two of the original 11 Secret Service employees involved in the scandal were supervisors, he added.
"They should have been in control of everything. Instead, they were accessories. They were part of it," King said.
"Among those eleven, besides what they did, they also are in trouble, if you will, for what they didn't do. And what they didn't do is report it," King said.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Paul Simao)

Italian cruise ship wreck to be refloated, towed

The Costa Concordia, which crashed off an Italian island in January, leaving 32 people dead, is to be refloated and towed away by a US-owned salvage company, the ship's owners said Saturday.
Titan Salvage was awarded the contract in partnership with Italy's Micoperi, which specialises in underwater construction and engineering.
"Work will begin in early May, subject to final approval from the Italian authorities and is expected to take about 12 months," Costa Crociere said in a statement.
The Costa Concordia ran into rocks off the island of Giglio with 4,229 people on board including 3,200 passengers from 60 countries on January 13.
"We are very pleased to announce another important step towards salvaging the wreck from Giglio island," Costa Crociere chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi said.
He thanked Smit Salvage of the Netherlands and Italian firm Tito Neri for pumping out fuel from the ship, completed on March 24, and said that throughout operations environmental protection would have top priority.
"As was with the case with the removal of the fuel, we have sought to identify the best solution to safeguard the island and its marine environment and to protect its tourism."
Once floated, the wreck will be towed to an Italian port and dealt with in line with the requirements of the Italian authorities, Costa said.
When the main work is complete, the sea bottom will be cleaned and marine flora replanted.
The main operations base will be on the mainland at nearby Civitavecchia, to minimise any impact on Giglio's tourism and port activities, it sad.
Nine people are being investigated in relation to the disaster including the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, and three Costa Crociere executives.

Chinese firm suspected in missile-linked sale to North Korea: U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States believes a Chinese firm sold North Korea components for a missile transporter showcased in a recent military parade and will press Beijing to tighten enforcement of a U.N. ban on such military sales, a U.S. official said on Saturday.
The Obama administration suspects the Chinese manufacturer sold the chassis - not the entire vehicle - and may have believed it was for civilian purposes, which means it would not be an intentional violation of U.N. sanctions, the senior official said.
But such a sale - coming to light amid tensions over a failed North Korean rocket launch earlier this month - raises concerns in Washington on whether China is making enough of an effort to abide by the prohibition on weapons sales to Pyongyang.
The New York Times first reported on U.S. findings about the origin of parts of the transporter launcher system - essentially a large truck on top of which a missile is mounted - displayed in a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday.
The newspaper said the administration suspected the Chinese manufacturer involved in the transaction was Hubei Sanjiang. The official, who confirmed details of the administration's thinking on the matter, said the firm likely sold the part to a front company that was used to mask the buyer's true identity.
Beijing, reclusive North Korea's only major ally, has denied it has broken any rules, although a modern, eight-axle missile transporter spotted in the military parade to celebrate the founder of North Korea was said by some western military experts to be of Chinese design and possibly origin.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday that China has provided some assistance to North Korea's missile program, but he said he did not know the "exact extent of that."
The White House plans to convey its concerns to China and use the incident to ratchet up pressure on Beijing to tighten enforcement of international sanctions on North Korea, the U.S. official said. It was unclear, however, exactly how such a complaint would be lodged.
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions from 2006 and 2009, states including China are banned from helping North Korea with its ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities as well as supplying heavy weapons.
Pyongyang has said it was ready to retaliate in the face of widespread condemnation of its failed rocket launch, increasing the likelihood the isolated state will go ahead with a third nuclear test.
After last week's launch, which the United States said was a disguised long-range missile test, the Obama administration responded by suspending a food aid deal with North Korea. Pyongyang insists the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit.
Obama had pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao at a global nuclear security summit in Seoul last month to use its influence to get Pyongyang to cancel the launch. But administration officials had doubted Beijing, an increasingly assertive U.S. rival in the Asia-Pacific region, would act forcefully enough.
China has called for "dialogue and communication" as tensions with North Korea mount and reiterated its long-standing call for a return to regional denuclearization talks that have been stalled for years.
Panetta was asked during testimony before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee whether China had been supporting North Korea's missile program through "trade and technology exchanges."
He declined to give details but said, "Clearly there's been assistance along those lines."
Panetta said there was "no question" North Korea's efforts to develop long-range missile and nuclear weapon capability were a threat to the United States. "For that reason we take North Korea and their provocative actions very seriously," he said.
"And China ought to be urging them to engage in those kinds of ... diplomatic negotiations. We thought we were making some progress and suddenly we're back at provocation," he added.
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Vicki Allen)