Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heat wave: For millions without power, little relief...

A woman examines a utility pole that fell across the street from her house in Falls Church, Va. (Cliff Owen/AP …Click image for more photos.

A heat wave continued to scorch the eastern half of the United States on Monday, as more than 2.2 million customers remain without power following the deadly "super derecho" storm that ripped through the nation's midsection over the weekend, killing at least 15 people.
While the triple-digit temperatures that baked the region are gone, "hot and hotter will continue to be the story from the Plains to the Atlantic Coast the next few days," the National Weather Service said Monday. "The widespread excessive heat warnings and heat advisories have certainly decreased in coverage, but temperatures will remain well above average across a large portion of the U.S."
At least 18 states remain under heat excessive heat warnings or advisories, as above-normal temperatures continue to affect a large portion of the country, with high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s and above.

Paraguay suspended from Mercosur, no sanctions

MENDOZA, Argentina (AP) — The Mercosur trade bloc suspended Paraguay's membership on Friday for having impeached and ousted its president but will not slap economic sanctions on the poor, landlocked country.
The South American group also announced that Venezuela will become a full member starting July 31, a move that will link the region's most powerful agricultural and energy markets.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was impeached by the country's Congress a week ago in a fast-track trial triggered by a land eviction that killed 17 people in clashes between police and landless peasants.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez told other heads of state at a Mercosur summit Friday that the "democratic order was broken" in Paraguay because it carried out a two-hour trial where Lugo was not allowed a proper defense. It will be suspended from Mercosur until it holds presidential elections next year.
But Fernandez said Paraguay would not be slapped with economic sanctions because "they never hurt governments. They always hurt the people."
Paraguay is among South America's poorest nations and any economic sanction by the bloc would have been disastrous since half its trade is with fellow Mercosur founding members, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
Mercosur barred Lugo's replacement, former Vice President Federico Franco, from attending the summit. Franco says the transition of power in Paraguay was carried out according to the law.
Lugo said at first that he would attend the meeting in order to plead his case with regional leaders but later changed his mind. He then spoke out against retaliatory economic sanctions, which he said would only hurt ordinary Paraguayans.
The landlocked country is highly dependent on beef and soybean exports and is already suffering from a recent drought that parched soy fields and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease last year that forced the slaughter of hundreds of cattle heads to prevent the spread of the contagious disease.
Paraguay has a long history of dictatorships and fragile democracies. The removal of Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop whose presidency was eclipsed by a cancer diagnosis and several paternity scandals, plunged the country into a political crisis and became a top priority for regional leaders. Several governments called back their ambassadors and some called his ouster a coup.
The Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, also suspended Paraguay during an emergency meeting Friday and handed the pro-tempore presidency to Peru for 12 months. The regional grouping said Fernando Lugo was not allowed a proper defense.
Retaliation for Lugo's ouster came from Venezuela's state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which earlier canceled a bilateral deal to supply Paraguay with diesel oil.
Sergio Escobar, who heads Paraguay's national oil company, announced Friday that Petroleos de Venezuela had instructed an intermediary firm not to deliver 150,000 cubic meters, expected over the coming months.
At the Mercosur summit, Argentina's Fernandez also announced that Venezuela will become a full member of the trade bloc during a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on July 31. The union links the region's top agricultural and energy suppliers.
Venezuela, an associate member, had been trying to get full status for years. Lugo supported the full-membership because he said its oil could help smaller members of the grouping, but the move had been blocked by Paraguayan lawmakers.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed the decision, calling it "a day for the history of integration." Chavez reiterated his belief that Lugo's ouster was essentially a coup. He spoke by telephone on the Caracas-based television channel Telesur.
"I have no doubt that behind that group of senators and deputees, that behind them is the hand of the empire," Chavez said, using his term for the U.S. government. He didn't offer any evidence to support that claim.
Chavez dismissed accusations against his government that have emerged since Lugo's ouster, including claims by Paraguay's new government that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro had tried to convince military leaders to support Lugo.
"I'm not going to answer them. An eagle doesn't hunt a fly," Chavez said.
Some observers pointed out that if a diplomat from another country had come to Venezuela and tried to meet with military officers, it would have provoked a scandal, especially given Chavez's personal history of surviving a failed coup in 2002.
"The president never would tolerate it," said Margarita Lopez Maya, a history researcher at Venezuela's Central University who has studied Chavez's presidency. "There the foreign minister goes to a country and talks with military officers. It's completely hypocritical."
Maduro on Thursday night similarly dismissed the claim by Paraguay's defense minister, though he didn't deny meeting with military officials.
"These things being said by this person from an illegitimate government that's emerged from a coup d'etat, they simply tell you the political and moral appearance of people who have just carried out a coup d'etat and they try to accuse others of trying to make coups against coups. It has no basis in reality," Maduro told Venezuelan state television.
"We did our work to seek to talk and dialogue with all sectors of Paraguayan society."
Associated Press writers Luis Andres Henao reported from Mendoza, Argentina. Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jenny Birchfield in Rio de Janeiro and Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report.

The Infamous Firing Squad...

The Infamous Firing Squad
Thousands of Cubans have died in front of Castro's infamous firing squad. There was no discrimination, as far as the firing squad was concerned. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor were sent to 'el paredón' (the wall).
Many of those who helped Castro gain power, like Comandantes Ernesto Sori Marin and William Morgan, an American, were among the thousands who were shot.

Click here to see a video of the firing squad murder of Col. Cornelio Rojas
Here are some of the gruesome photos.
Fidel Castro questioning a Cuban farmer who was later executed.
The woman behind Castro is Celia Sánchez and sitting next to him is Camilo Cienfuegos.

Even before the triumph of the Revolution, Castro and his gang were prone to murder those who disagreed with them.
In the photo below, taken while still in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Fidel Castro's brother, Raul, is seen getting ready to shoot a young rebel soldier who disobeyed orders.

And more than fifty years after the above photo was taken, Castro and his gang of murderers continue to send to the firing squad, those Cubans who oppose his betrayal of the Revolution.

The three photos above show two prisoners being shot by Castro's rebel forces in the Sierra Maestra mountains.
Castro's reign of brutality began over 50 years ago, and it still continues today.

Priests Juan Miguel Aldaz and Jose Luis Garrigoitia,  pray with prisoner Ramon Reytor, minutes before he was executed in the town of Manzanillo, Oriente province.
Fathers Aldaz and Garrigoitia with the prisoners moments before they were murdered.
Prisoners were taken to the town cemetery and they would have to wait in line and witness the other executions, before they themselves were shot.

Col. Cornelio Rojas, chief of police of Santa Clara, is shown here in a jail cell before
Che Guevara ordered him to be shot to death without a trial.

Col. Cornelio Rojas, when he was an officer of the Cuban National police

The photos above show the brutal murder of Col. Rojas, who was shot to death on orders of Guevara, without the benefit of a trial.
A letter from Barbara Rangel, granddaughter of Col. Rojas:
My name is Barbara Rangel, granddaughter of Colonel Cornelio Rojas, Chief of Police in Santa Clara in the 1950's. He was a national policeman before Batista came to power.
He earned his military status of Colonel and was involved in revolutionary activities in the 1930's.
He was a man who always fought for the freedom of Cuba, in the 1930's he was fighting against dictator Gerardo Machado at Gibara.
His father and grandfather: Colonel Cornelio Rojas Escobar and Brig. General Cornelio Rojas Hurtado, had fought prominently in Cuba's War of Independence from Spain.
I would like to clarify and educate, if I may, those who are ignorant of the truth.
My grandfather was arrested and murdered by the godfather of modern terrorism, Che Guevara, and another murderer, Fidel Castro, for the only purpose of creating terror among the population.
They wanted to eliminate my grandfather because he was a man of great courage, a descendant of Generals who had fought for Cuba's independence.
My granddad was a beloved pillar in his community, well known for his public service and philanthropy.
He was executed on national television without the opportunity of a trial, therefore violating his human rights (Article #10 & #11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Che Guevara had sent a message to my family informing them that no harm would come to my granddad, but it was a lie, as he had already murdered him by the time my family received it.
After his execution, he was buried in a mass grave, Che Guevara didn’t even give us the solace of a funeral or allowed his family to put a cross or flowers atop my murdered granddad’s grave.
My family suffered tremendously, it was very traumatic; especially for my mom, Blanca Rojas, who was pregnant when my grandfather was murdered.
Imagine seeing your dad being murdered on national television! She immediately went into labor.
By then, Che's goons had surrounded our family house, and didn't allow my mother to go to a hospital. A midwife had to be called to assist her with the labor. My brother, Silvio Gonzalez, was born on the same bed that belonged to my granddad.
What is a person supposed to do? Rejoice for the birth of her son, or weep for the murder of her father?
How can anyone ever forget or forgive such horrific acts by these mass murderers, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro?
Yet, some ignorant celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Carlos Santana, Gisele Budchen, Johnny Depp, Mike Tyson have tattoos of the mass murderer Che Guevara.
I find this absolutely unbelievable, and it shows the ignorance of those who idolize che Guevara.
My grandfather never killed anyone, and he died like brave men are supposed to die.
His last words were: "There's the revolution, take care of it" and then he ordered the soldiers who were going to murder him: "Get ready, aim, fire."
Only a brave man with military blood and courage would die like this! I am so proud of him, and my ancestors.
What a difference with che Guevara who begged for his life when he was captured in Bolivia, a country he invaded trying to export communism.
He died like the coward that he was. His last words were "Don't shoot me, I am worth more alive then dead."
Those were certainly the words of a coward!
For those ignorant persons out there who still idolize this murderer coward: Che Guevara murdered hundreds of persons, including 3 or 4 teenagers and a pregnant woman.  Their names are publicly documented.
The good thing is that there is a higher court that one day will do justice!
Thank you for the opportunity to write. Truly yours, Barbara Rangel


The Cuban Memorial displayed at Tamiami Park, Miami, Florida: Each cross bears the name of a victim of Castro's genocide against the Cuban people
Why is the entire World blind to a half century of Castro's Crimes?
Why is it that very few people seem to care about Castro's genocide against the Cuban people?

The Chavez-Castro Oil Ruse

Today, the AP reported the following:

Venezuela's national oil company will join in exploratory drilling for crude in deep waters off Cuba, the company's president said Thursday.

State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill after Malaysia's Petronas completes its work, said Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project.

Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than $100 million.

None of this should be surprising, as it's part of a long and deliberate strategy, which we discussed in testimony before the U.S. House of Representative's Natural Resources Committee on November 2nd, 2011:

The Cuban regime first began using offshore-drilling rights to extract political concessions from various nations of the world soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended that country’s hefty subsidies to Cuba.

According to recently declassified documents by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, in 1993 the Cuban regime first offered the government of then President Itamar Franco the "most promising" blocks for oil exploration to Brazil's national oil company, Petrobras, in exchange for their shunning of Cuban dissidents on the island and cancelling a meeting with Cuban exiles at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Brazilian government complied with both, only to exit from Cuba empty-handed years later.

The Cuban regime found a new “partner” when Hugo Chavez rose to the presidency of oil-rich Venezuela in 1998. With the backing of Chavez and Venezuela’s state-oil company PdVSA, the Cuban regime resumed its diplomatic offensive signing highly publicized oil-leases with Spain's Repsol, Norway's Statoil, Russia's Gazprom, India's ONGC Videsh, Malaysia's Petronas, Canada's Sherritt, Angola's Sonangol, Vietnam's PetroVietnam and China's CNPC .

Only one company, however, has actually conducted any exploratory drilling -- Spain's Repsol in 2004. It found some oil, but not in any commercially viable quantities. It then pulled out of Cuba.

Similarly, after much initial fanfare, Canada's Sherritt and Brazil's Petrobras -- perhaps the most credible and respected of the region’s oil companies outside the United States -- publicly abandoned their efforts in 2008 and 2011, respectively, stating that Cuba offshore drilling was "not commercially viable" and citing "poor prospects."

Much of this can be attributed to U.S. sanctions, which dramatically drive up costs of production. The Cuban regime has itself admitted that U.S. sanctions make it commercially impractical to produce oil in its territorial waters. Keep in mind that even the largest neighboring foreign oil companies, Mexico's Pemex and Venezuela's PdVSA, refine the majority of their oil in the U.S. and then repatriate it, for they lack the domestic infrastructure to process their own heavy crude and the U.S.’s geographical proximity enhances profitability. As long as U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba’s regime are in place, producing and refining any oil found in Cuban waters in the United States isn’t an option.

That leads to a question: If off-shore drilling in Cuban waters is not commercially viable for the most respectable regional oil companies, which are located relatively close to Cuba and have the most experience in dealing with Cubans, is such drilling really viable for the Angolans, Malaysians or the Chinese? The answer is no.

Initially, we learned this in 2006, when the Cuban regime seemingly had convinced public policymakers in Washington -- including many here in Congress -- that the Chinese were ready to drill off Cuba's shores. The threat never materialized, but it served the Cuban regime’s political interests. As Reuters reported from Cuba at the time: “Havana is eager to see American oil companies join forces with the anti-embargo lobby led by U.S. farmers who have been selling food to Cuba for four years."

Last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by BP and the justifiable public outrage that ensued has given the Cuban regime a new and strategic opportunity to use the threat of offshore drilling as a means of forcing the U.S. to unilaterally ease sanctions. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has confirmed this on various occasions and relayed as much to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who recently traveled to Havana in an unsuccessful effort to secure the release of American hostage Alan Gross; Gross has been held for nearly two years in a Cuban prison for helping the island’s Jewish community connect to the Internet.

In a flashback to 2004, Spain's Repsol is back in Cuba preparing to drill another exploratory well early next year. This time, the Cuban regime is “threatening” that if Repsol is pressured into abandoning drilling, India’s ONGC Videsh or Malaysia’s Petronas will step forward.

Curiously, this peculiar corporate trio was granted extensive oil-rights last year by Hugo Chavez to develop a block with 235 billion barrels of reserves in Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco belt. Reserves in that one Venezuelan block alone are believed to be 50 times greater than the best estimates in all of Cuba’s territorial waters. Some geo-political foul play can surely be deduced from the particularity and timing of this arrangement.

Syria running 27 torture centers: rights group

(Note: graphic details)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Syrian intelligence agencies are running torture centers across the country where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted, and their fingernails torn out, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.
The New York-based rights group identified 27 detention centers that it says intelligence agencies have been using since President Bashar al-Assad's government began a crackdown in March 2011 on pro-democracy protesters trying to oust him.
Human Rights Watch conducted more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured, including a 31-year-old man who was detained in the Idlib area in June and made to undress.
"Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful," the man told Human Rights Watch.
"They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days," he said.
The report found that tens of thousands of people had been detained by the Department of Military Intelligence, the Political Security Directorate, the General Intelligence Directorate, and the Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 torture methods that "clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity."
The group called for the U.N. Security Council to refer the issue of Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to adopt targeted sanctions against officials carrying out abuse.
"The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centers are truly horrific," Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch said. "Russia should not be holding its protective hand over the people who are responsible for this."
Russia - an ally of Syria - and China have already vetoed two council resolutions that condemned Damascus and threatened it with sanctions and French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Monday that reaching a Security Council consensus to refer Syria to the ICC would be difficult.
"As France is concerned it's very clear we are very much in favor of referring Syria to the ICC," Araud said.
"The problem is it will have to be part ... of a global understanding of the council and I do think that for the moment we have not yet reached this point," he said.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday reiterated her position that the issue of Syria's conflict should be referred to the ICC in The Hague because crimes against humanity and other war crimes may have been committed.
She said both sides appear to have committed war crimes.
The United Nations has said more than 10,000 people have been killed during the 16-month Syria conflict.
The complete Human Rights Watch report, which includes maps of the detention centers, can be seen here: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/07/03/torture-archipelago-0
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Iran reports long-range missile launch in exercise

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) — Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards test fired several ballistic missiles on Tuesday, including a long-range variety capable of hitting U.S. bases in the region as well as Israel, Iranian media reported.
The official IRNA news agency said the surface-to-surface missiles successfully hit their targets, while semi-official Fars said the salvos included the so-called Shahab-3 missile. It quoted a leading officer as saying the missiles travelled distances of up to 1,300 kilometers, or 800 miles.
"So far, we have launched missiles from 300 to 1,300 kilometers in the maneuver," said Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guards' aerospace division. He hinted that some missiles had an even longer range.
Iran has tested a variety of missiles in previous war games, including a Shahab-3 variant with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles).
Israel is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away from Iran's western borders, while the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.
On Sunday, a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure Iran over its nuclear program came into effect. The West suspects the Islamic Republic wants to build nuclear weapons, and Israel has hinted at an attack if diplomatic efforts and sanctions fail to eliminate what it sees as a direct threat.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation and cancer treatment.
The commander quoted by Fars said Iran also plans to use both unmanned and manned bombers in the war games.
He said Iran is testing a variety of other missiles in the exercises, which Tehran says aim to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of its warheads and weapons systems.