Monday, August 13, 2012

Update News

Ryan says Obama has a 'record of failure' on the economy

NORFOLK, Va. - Appearing for the first time as Mitt Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is attacking President Barack Obama for what he calls a "record of failure."
The seven-term congressman says Obama has led the "worst economic recovery in 70 years." He notes that unemployment has been above 8 per cent for more than three years — the longest stretch since the Great Depression.
He spoke in remarks prepared for delivery at the first public appearance of the new Republican presidential ticket.
Ryan, the architect of a controversial budget plan, is promising not to "duck the tough issues." And he says he has the courage to tell the truth.

Chavez: American man detained in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez said Venezuelan authorities have detained an American man and are interrogating him, suspecting he could be a "mercenary" plotting to destabilize the country if the opposition loses the upcoming presidential election.
Chavez told reporters on Friday that under questioning the man said he had been a U.S. Marine.
"The man has military training and he refuses to give information. That in itself is suspicious," Chavez said on state television.
Chavez did not identify the man nor detail the accusations against him. But the case has the potential to ratchet up longstanding tensions between Venezuela and the U.S. less than two months ahead of Venezuela's presidential election.
Chavez said the man was detained while crossing into Venezuela from Colombia on a bus in the middle of the night. He said the American had entered the country illegally.
Chavez announced the man's Aug. 4 arrest on Thursday night, saying he was carrying a U.S. passport with entrance and exit stamps from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
A U.S. State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly, said the U.S. government had not been notified of the arrest by the Venezuelan government.
He said that if the detained man is in fact a U.S. citizen, American officials expect "Venezuela will uphold its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and grant U.S. consular officials access to any detained U.S. citizen without delay."
Chavez instructed his justice minister, Tareck El Aissami, to make contact with U.S. authorities to inform them of the case. He said the detained man "has all of his human rights guaranteed."
Chavez said that when the man was detained at a National Guard post in southwestern Tachira state, he tore up part of a notebook that he had with him.
"He has all the appearance of a mercenary," Chavez said at a campaign rally on Thursday. "We are interrogating him."
Chavez suggested, without offering evidence, that the American might have been recruited by government opponents to instigate violent protests if opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles loses the Oct. 7 election.
Opposition lawmaker Pedro Pablo Alcantara scoffed at the president's allegations that government foes would attempt to stir up trouble if Chavez is re-elected to a new six-year term.
Alcantara accused the government of encouraging violence against its adversaries in the past while backing groups that have attacked opposition marches.
"It's the president who has promoted violence," he said.
Chavez has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of plotting against him during the past decade, though he usually has provided few specifics of such claims.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since July 2010. Chavez rejected the U.S. nominee for ambassador, Larry Palmer, accusing him of making disrespectful remarks about his government. That led Washington to revoke the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador.
Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper in Washington and Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas contributed to this report.

August 12, 2012

August 11, 2012

Jose Feliciano, RIP

JoseFlagJose Feliciano, Tampa, Fla., October 2011. (photo by the author)
A reward of my blogging and other work on behalf of a free Cuba are the friendships I have made with readers and fellow activists and their families. The common cause of Cuba, advocacy for which can be frustrating and maddening and disappointing, has also provided me with some of the best people and best friends in my life.
This week, I have been grieving the death of one of my new friends, Jose Feliciano.
The irony is, Jose wasn't Cuban, but he did the next best thing and married Cuban. A couple of years ago, Jose's widow, Patsy, provide me an entre into the Cuban American community in Tampa, inviting me to speak at a rally after the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. From that experience, and a few others like it, blossomed a friendship with Patsy, Jose, their family and many others.
Jose didn't take a back seat at these events. He was right in the mix, right alongside Patsy, a charisamatic, passionate advocate for freedom in a country she left in a small boat when only a teenager. The cause was his, too.
But Cuba was only part of our friendship.
Jose was a renaissance man, a scholar, a teacher, a computer geek but more importantly, a good husband, a good son, a good father and a good friend. When we were around, his family and his friends were what was most important.
He was always welcoming, whether at his home or on the beach where I last saw him less than a month ago. He introduced us to Puerto Rican mofongo and coquito, and in turn, we turned him on to ropa vieja pizza. Jose was an example for me and others around him.
Jose was kind and generous, and never had an unkind word for anyone. He loved life.
Many are grieving Jose's death but for long after the saddness lifts, his life and how he lived it and loved it, will inspire.
Please remember Jose and his family -- Patsy; his sons, Jean-Pierre, Alexander and Daniel; his mother and siblings; his in-laws; and his many friends and colleagues -- in your prayers.
Uncommon Sense 

Swede in Cuba car crash worried about driver

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A young Swedish politician who survived a car crash in Cuba that killed dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent has described an intense five-day grilling about why he was in the country and said he is deeply worried about the fate of his Spanish colleague who was charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Aron Modig said in an interview published Friday that he doesn't remember anything about what led to the crash, recalling only fragments of how the car suddenly swerved off the road and how he regained consciousness in an ambulance. He said he fears for Angel Carromero, who was driving the rental car when it crashed on July 22 and could face up to 10 years in a Cuban jail.
"Nobody knows what's happening to him there," he said.
Paya's family has said it has doubts about the official explanation by Cuban authorities. In videotaped testimony, Carromero said he lost control of the car when it suddenly entered an unpaved area of road under construction and he slammed on the brakes, causing it to skid. A Cuban investigation found that Carromero was speeding and failed to heed traffic signs warning of the construction.
Modig, the 27-year-old head of the youth party of Sweden's conservative Christian Democrats, returned home on July 31 after what he said were days of high-pressure questioning in a windowless room in Havana by Cuban police.
"The questions are always the same: 'Why are you here? Who sent you?' They switched between asking questions and scolding: 'Don't come to our country and interfere'," Modig told the daily Dagens Nyheter in the interview. "In a dictatorship that's no good, of course I got worried."
No questions were posed about the accident, he said.
Cuban media has reported that Carromero and Modig entered the country on July 19 on tourist visas and brought €4,000 ($4,900) for Paya's organization and helped organize dissident youth wings, though Paya's family denies that he received any money from the Europeans. The government considers the small opposition to be subversive and objects to foreign-based efforts to support them.
The car crash happened while the four were on their way to Santago de Cuba, the island's second largest city. Soon after the accident, speculation spread that a second vehicle was pursuing the rented car and might even have run it off the road.
Carromero, an activist with a conservative Spanish party, and Modig have both said no other car was involved, but Paya's family has asked for an independent investigation.
Modig's party had initially scheduled a news conference upon his return to Sweden two weeks ago, but canceled it in the last minute, citing the ongoing legal process in Cuba. The interview in Dagens Nyheter is the first he has given since his return; he was not immediately available for more comment.
Palin will not speak at GOP convention
August 12th, 2012
08:26 PM ET

Palin will not speak at GOP convention

(CNN) - Sarah Palin will not speak at the 2012 Republican National Convention, the party's 2008 vice presidential nominee said in a statement Sunday.
"This year is a good opportunity for other voices to speak at the convention and I'm excited to hear them," Palin wrote. "As I've repeatedly said, I support Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in their efforts to replace President Obama at the ballot box, and I intend to focus on grassroots efforts to rally Independents and the GOP base to elect Senate and House members so a wise Congress is ready to work with our new President to get our country back on the right path."

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
In her statement, Palin did not say whether or not she would attend the convention, which is to take place in Tampa at the end of this month.
Palin spoke at the 2008 convention as the vice presidential nominee, and charged in her Sunday statement that her "predictions made about the very unqualified and inexperienced community organizer's plans to 'fundamentally transform' our country are unfortunately coming true."

Iran quakes killed 306, injured 3,037: health minister

Earthquake victims carry a body in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaghan in East Azarbaijan, Iran. (Reuters)
Earthquake victims carry a body in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaghan in East Azarbaijan, Iran. (Reuters)
Twin earthquakes that devastated rural villages in northwest Iran on the weekend killed a total of 306 people -- most of them women and children -- and injured 3,037, Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi said on Monday.

The official toll, presented in a report to lawmakers and published on the parliament's website, was a big jump over the last one given on Sunday by Interior Minister Moustafa Mohammad-Najjar, who spoke of 227 dead and 1,380 injured.

Vahid Dastjerdi said that, of the 306 deaths, hospital morgues counted 219 women and children and 49 men. The discrepancy with the total appeared to come from the fact that some of those killed were buried by their families before officials arrived at the scene.

She also said that, of the 3,037 injured, most -- 2,011 -- were given first aid at the scene, while the remainder were taken to hospitals for treatment. Some 700 surgeries were performed, she said.

Two earthquakes measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale rumbled through northwest Iran on Saturday, leveling mud brick and concrete homes in villages to the northeast of the city of Tabriz.

Authorities called off rescue operations on Sunday after saying all possible survivors had been recovered.

Vahid Dastjerdi said that “we are continuing the search for bodies.”
Ahmadinejad heads to Saudi summit, urges Muslim countries to show greater unity
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left on Monday for Saudi Arabia ahead of an extraordinary summit in Mecca expected to focus on the Syria conflict, on which Tehran and Riyadh have opposing positions.

Iran-Saudi Arabia ties are currently also raw because Saudi oil is flooding the market at a time when Iran is struggling to sell its own crude under European Union and United States sanctions.

The summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Ahmadinejad said he would make a private pilgrimage there before attending the gathering.

“The world today is in a very sensitive situation,” Ahmadinejad told reporters just before leaving Tehran, according to the Fars news agency.

“Different groups are at work and the enemies are actively pursuing their aims and a great deal of energy is being spent by Islamic governments and groups on arguing and confronting each other,” he said.
“This meeting is a chance for our country’s viewpoint to be explained transparently and for efforts to be made towards the convergence and protection of the interests of Muslim nations,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

“I hope that the summit will focus on increasing unity and lowering antagonism,” he said.

Saudi Arabia hosts the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a 57-member pan-Muslim body.

Tensions between Tehran and Riyadh have run high over their opposing stances on regional uprisings.

Iran, a Shi’ite state, is Assad’s biggest ally and has pledged him full support in his fight.

Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders have accused predominantly Shi’ite Iran of stoking what they see as sectarian unrest in the region.

Tehran accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of arming and financing the Syrian rebels.

Ahmadinejad said such differences serve the goals of the “enemies” of Muslim nations.

“A significant portion of the energy of Muslim governments and groups is spent in internal conflicts and damaging each other,” Ahmadinejad said, ISNA reported. “Perhaps it would be good for Muslim countries to consult with each other on this issue.”

U.S. officials and the Syrian opposition for their part claim Iran has sent military aid, including advisors and telecom surveillance equipment, to Damascus. Tehran denies it has any active forces in Syria.

Last week, Iran held its own 29-nation conference on Syria attended mostly by ambassadors from like-minded countries, with a couple of foreign ministers. Saudi Arabia was not present.

At the end of this month, Iran is to host another international gathering: a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which groups 120 countries considering themselves independent of any of the world’s major power blocs.

Ahmadinejad’s trip abroad takes place two days after two large earthquakes killed an estimated 300 people and injured 5,000 others in northwest Iran.

Gulf countries including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates extended their condolences, and the Turkish foreign ministry said it had informed Iran it was ready to help.

Activists: Syria army shells the Damascus Suburbs

The Syrian army on Monday sent shells slamming into rebel strongholds in Damascus province, where more than 45 people, including 36 civilians, have been killed in the past 48 hours, a watchdog said.
The shelling began before dawn and targeted Assali, Nahar Aisha and Qadam - all southern districts of Damascus - as well Irbin, Al-Tal and New Artuz  outside the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out in the rebel bastion of Harasta, northeast of Damascus.
In the capital, security forces carried out raids and arrests in the neighbourhoods of Qaimreya, Qashla and Shaghur, the Observatory said.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, meanwhile said raids had taken place in Shaghur, where they reported "security sweeps of stores and security forces breaking down the doors of shops which had been closed."
In the Old City of Damascus, the LLC reported "a campaign of raids and arrests by the armed forces."
On Sunday, 150 people died across Syria, according to the Observatory. The majority were in Damascus province, where 26 civilians and seven rebels were killed. The Observatory reported another 10 civilians and two rebels killed in Damascus province on Monday, plus four civilians in the southern city of Daraa.
In central Homs city, 16 civilians were killed by army gunfire in the neighbourhood of Shamas alone on Sunday, the Observatory said.
The opposition Syrian National Council and activist groups on Sunday charged that pro-government militia summarily executed 10 civilians during a round-up in the Shamas neighbourhood.
The Observatory confirmed that pro-government forces carried out a round-up in the district, but made no mention of any executions.
More than 21,000 people have been killed across Syria since the anti-regime revolt broke out 17 months ago, according to the watchdog. The toll is impossible to verify, and the United Nations has stopped maintaining an independent count.