February 8, 2012
“Isn’t it time we at least start talking to Cuba? Are we still in 5th grade?” –KTRN
There are no commemorations planned in Washington, D.C., but today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. embargo against Cuba — the longest-running embargo in the world. On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy formally expanded the harsh regime of commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba that have continued to the present day. The embargo has been solidly bipartisan, notably intensifying under the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. The United States has targeted Cuba in defiance of widespread international condemnation. “That’s been the longest-enduring embargo we have had in the world. And the question is, why is it still there? What good has it done? Of course, it has squeezed the Cuban people,” said Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has been involved in efforts to challenge the U.S. embargo against Cuba for many years.
December 29, 2011
By Daniel Cancel
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hinted that the U.S. may be behind a “very strange” bout of cancer affecting several leaders aligned with him in South America.
Chavez, speaking a day after Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, said the Central Intelligence Agency was behind chemical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and that it’s possible that in years to come a plot will be uncovered that shows the U.S. spread cancer as a political weapon against its critics.
“It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America,” Chavez said in a nationally televised speech to the military. “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?”
Chavez, who was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer in June and had a baseball-sized tumor removed in Cuba, has called for a regional summit of leaders who have battled cancer including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo.
“I’m just sharing my thoughts, but it’s very, very, very strange,” Chavez said. “Evo take care of yourself, Correa, be careful, we just don’t know,” he said, referring to Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, the leaders of Bolivia and Ecuador.
Thomas Mittnacht, press director at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, declined to comment when reached by telephone.
March 8th, 2011
By: Patricia Zengerle
President Barack Obama lifted a two-year freeze on new military trials at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and suggested on Monday Congress was hurting national security by blocking his attempts to move some trials into U.S. civilian courts.
In an apparent acknowledgment that the Guantanamo detention camp won’t be shut down any time soon, Obama also outlined procedures for reviews to be held at least every four years for prisoners held indefinitely without charge or trial.
Obama suspended new trials at the Guantanamo tribunals, which had been heavily criticized as unfair, when he announced his review of detainee policy in early 2009 and vowed just after becoming president that he would close the camp.
Administration officials said Obama still wants to close the prison, which they have called a recruiting tool for anti-American militants, but gave no timeframe.
Obama had tried, and failed, to overcome objections by Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats in Congress to transferring some detainees to U.S. prisons and trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and others in federal courts.
The administration has also struggled to convince other countries to accept detainees.
Obama said on Monday he still wanted some — all terrorism suspects — to face civilian trials, and resistance to doing so undermined U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.
“I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system — including Article III courts (U.S. federal courts) — to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama also issued an executive order on Monday establishing a process to continue to hold some Guantanamo detainees who have been neither charged, convicted nor designated for transfer but are deemed to pose a threat to U.S. security.
He ordered reviews of the determination that some detainees were so dangerous they must be held without charge, with a review for each coming as quickly as possible, but no later than one year from the order.
RIGHTS GROUPS DISAPPOINTED
The first round of new charges against detainees could come within days or weeks, a senior administration official said.
Obama also said he would ask the Senate to ratify additions to the Geneva conventions that safeguard the rights of victims of conflicts within nations, such as the one in Afghanistan, as opposed to those between nations.
Afghanistan has signed that protocol, and some experts said the United States signing could give Washington the option of transferring detainees to Afghanistan.
Administration officials said on Monday the camp system had already been improved by measures including banning the use of statements taken as a result of cruel treatment and a better system for handling classified information.
September 28, 2010
HAVANA – Fidel Castro is showcasing a theory long popular both among the far left and far right: that the shadowy Bilderberg Group has become a kind of global government, controlling not only international politics and economics, but even culture.
The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article Wednesday that used three of the only eight pages in the Communist Party newspaper Granma to quote — largely verbatim — from a 2006 book by Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin.
Estulin’s work, “The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,” argues that the international group largely runs the world. It has held a secretive annual forum of prominent politicians, thinkers and businessmen since it was founded in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in Holland.
Castro offered no comment on the excerpts other than to describe Estulin as honest and well-informed and to call his book a “fantastic story.”
Estulin’s book, as quoted by Castro, described “sinister cliques and the Bilderberg lobbyists” manipulating the public “to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self.”
The Bilderberg group’s website says its members have “nearly three days of informal and off-the-record discussion about topics of current concern” once a year, but the group does nothing else.
It said the meetings were meant to encourage people to work together on major policy issues.
The prominence of the group is what alarms critics. It often includes members of the Rockefeller family, Henry Kissinger, senior U.S. and European officials and major international business and media executives.
The excerpt published by Castro suggested that the esoteric Frankfurt School of socialist academics worked with members of the Rockefeller family in the 1950s to pave the way for rock music to “control the masses” by diverting attention from civil rights and social injustice.
“The man charged with ensuring that the Americans liked the Beatles was Walter Lippmann himself,” the excerpt asserted, referring to a political philosopher and by-then-staid newspaper columnist who died in 1974.
“In the United States and Europe, great open-air rock concerts were used to halt the growing discontent of the population,” the excerpt said.
Castro — who had an inside seat to the Cold War — has long expressed suspicions of back-room plots. He has raised questions about whether the Sept. 11 attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government to stoke military budgets and, more recently suggested that Washington was behind the March sinking of a South Korean ship blamed on North Korea.
Estulin’s own website suggests that the 9/11 attacks were likely caused by small nuclear devices, and that the CIA and drug traffickers were behind the 1988 downing of a jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that was blamed on Libya.
The Bilderberg conspiracy theory has been popular on both extremes of the ideological spectrum, even if they disagree on just what the group wants to do. Leftists accuse the group of promoting capitalist domination, while some right-wing websites argue that the Bilderberg club has imposed Barack Obama on the United States to advance socialism.
Some of Estulin’s work builds on reports by Big Jim Tucker, a researcher on the Bilderberg Group who publishes on right-wing websites.
“It’s great Hollywood material … 15 people sitting in a room sitting in a room determining the fate of mankind,” said Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in New York.
“As someone who doesn’t come out of the Oliver Stone school of conspiracy, I have a hard time believing it,” London added.
A call to a Virginia number for the American Friends of Bilderberg rang unanswered Wednesday and the group’s website lists no contact numbers.
Castro, who underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and stepped down as president in February 2008, has suddenly begun popping up everywhere recently, addressing Cuba’s parliament on the threat of a nuclear war, meeting with island ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry, writing a book and even attending the dolphin show at the Havana aquarium.
June 4, 2010
By Will Weissert
HAVANA — Fidel Castro speculated Wednesday that a nuclear strike on Iran might help President Barack Obama win a second term in the White House and also suggested the United States could attack North Korea.
The former leader of Cuba, who has not been seen in public for nearly four years, also portrayed the U.S. president as a victim of fantasies planted in his mind by sinister advisers.
The column published by Cuban state media floated the idea that a nuclear attack on Iran — perhaps even without U.S. authorization — might help Obama win re-election in 2012.
“Could Obama enjoy the emotions of a second presidential election without having the Pentagon or the State of Israel, whose conduct does not in the least obey the decisions of the United States, use nuclear weapons against Iran?” he asked. “How would life on our planet be after that?”
It’s a question he did not answer, nor did he elaborate.
March 26, 2010
By: Paul Haven
It perhaps was not the endorsement President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress were looking for.
Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Thursday declared passage of American health care reform “a miracle” and a major victory for Obama’s presidency, but couldn’t help chide the United States for taking so long to enact what communist Cuba achieved decades ago.
“We consider health reform to have been an important battle and a success of his (Obama’s) government,” Castro wrote in an essay published in state media, adding that it would strengthen the president’s hand against lobbyists and “mercenaries.”
But the Cuban leader also used the lengthy piece to criticize the American president for his lack of leadership on climate change and immigration reform, and for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, among many other things.
And he said it was remarkable that the most powerful country on earth took more than two centuries from its founding to approve something as basic as health benefits for all.
“It is really incredible that 234 years after the Declaration of Independence … the government of that country has approved medical attention for the majority of its citizens, something that Cuba was able to do half a century ago,” Castro wrote.
The longtime Cuban leader — who ceded power to his brother Raul in 2008 — has continued to pronounce his thoughts on world issues though frequent essays, titled “Reflections,” which are published in state newspapers.
Cuba provides free health care and education to all its citizens, and heavily subsidizes food, housing, utilities and transportation, policies that have earned it global praise. The government has warned that some of those benefits are no longer sustainable given Cuba’s ever-struggling economy, though it has so far not made major changes.
In recent speeches, Raul Castro has singled out medicine as an area where the government needs to be spending less, but he has not elaborated.
While Fidel Castro was initially positive about Obama, his essays have become increasingly hostile in recent months as relations between Cuba and the United States have soured. Washington has been increasingly alarmed by Cuba’s treatment of political dissidents — one of whom died in February after a long hunger strike.
Cuba was irate over the island’s inclusion earlier this year on a list of countries Washington considers to be state sponsors of terrorism. Tensions have also risen following the arrest in December of a U.S. government contractor that Havana accuses of spying.
In Thursday’s essay, Castro called Obama a “fanatic believer in capitalist imperialism” but also praised him as “unquestionably intelligent.”
“I hope that the stupid things he sometimes says about Cuba don’t cloud over that intelligence,” he said
October 7, 2009
The Weekly Standard
By Anne Bayefsky
The Obama administration has marked its first foray into the UN human rights establishment by backing calls for limits on freedom of expression. The newly-minted American policy was rolled out at the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, which ended in Geneva on Friday. American diplomats were there for the first time as full Council members and intent on making friends.
President Obama chose to join the Council despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Islamic states quickly interpreted the president’s penchant for “engagement” as meaning fundamental rights were now up for grabs. Few would have predicted, however, that the shift would begin with America’s most treasured freedom.
For more than a decade, a UN resolution on the freedom of expression was shepherded through the Council, and the now defunct Commission on Human Rights which it replaced, by Canada. Over the years, Canada tried mightily to garner consensus on certain minimum standards, but the “reformed” Council changed the distribution of seats on the UN’s lead human rights body. In 2008, against the backdrop of the publication of images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, Cuba and various Islamic countries destroyed the consensus and rammed through an amendment which introduced a limit on any speech they claimed was an “abuse . . . [that] constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination.”
The Obama administration decided that a revamped freedom of expression resolution, extracted from Canadian hands, would be an ideal emblem for its new engagement policy. So it cosponsored a resolution on the subject with none other than Egypt–a country characterized by an absence of freedom of expression.
Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs. In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1–adopted by consensus the following day–the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d’Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:
“The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased–for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that “freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused,” insisting on limits consistent with the “true nature of this right” and demanding that the “the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner.”
The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that “the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . .” which include taking action against anything meeting the description of “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” It also purports to “recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media” and supports “the media’s elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct” in relation to “combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
Pakistan’s Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, made it clear that they understand the resolution and its protection against religious stereotyping as allowing free speech to be trumped by anything that defames or negatively stereotypes religion. The idea of protecting the human rights “of religions” instead of individuals is a favorite of those countries that do not protect free speech and which use religion–as defined by government–to curtail it.
Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution’s adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that “human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions.” The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that “the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media” goes “well beyond” existing international law and “the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms.”
In 1992 when the United States ratified the main international law treaty which addresses freedom of expression, the government carefully attached reservations to ensure that the treaty could not “restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
The Obama administration’s debut at the Human Rights Council laid bare its very different priorities. Threatening freedom of expression is a price for engagement with the Islamic world that it is evidently prepared to pay.
August 6, 2009
Many Hispanic immigrants who relocate to the United States face much higher cancer rates than those in the country they left behind, new research shows.
While the U.S. might provide more cancer screening and often better health care overall, said Paulo Pinheiro, an epidemiologist with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the study’s lead author, “For Hispanic populations, there are beneficial lifestyles associated with their origin that probably should be kept. There are lifestyles that may be more prevalent in the U.S. that probably should be avoided.”
Cancer can be 40 percent more common for Hispanics after they immigrate, the study showed — though it warned doctors not to rely on that figure alone.
Pinheiro and his colleagues found that cancer rates in these groups tend to rise or fall with expected rates among their American counterparts, but that rates for immigrants from Cuba, Mexico or Puerto Rico can be very different.
“Hispanic populations shouldn’t all be considered together. There are specificities to each one of them,” he said.
The University of Miami study looked at cancer rates among Florida residents and found that rates among Cuban immigrants closely followed those seen in white residents of the state, while Puerto Ricans “consistently showed the highest cancer rates of all Hispanic subpopulations.” Mexicans had the lowest cancer rates but had high rates of cancers typically associated with minority populations, such as stomach, cervix and liver cancer.
The study also looked at “New Latinos,” a varied group that included Hispanics who came from Spain, the Dominican Republic and South and Central American countries. These groups had low rates of lung cancer, high rates of thyroid cancer and high rates of cancer that would be expected in a minority population.
To conduct the study, researchers used numbers from the Florida cancer registry from 1999 through 2001, and used data from the 2000 census to generate estimates of cancer rates in the United States. They compared this to data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization.
Researchers looked at rates of cancer incidence among Hispanics who had immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico and compared them to the rates seen in their home countries. They also compared these rates to those seen in non-Hispanic whites and blacks in the U.S.
Experts not involved with the study noted that a pattern of typically increased cancer rates is not uncommon when a group immigrates to the U.S.
“This study is [reminiscent] of studies from the late 1960s that looked at immigrants from China and Japan to the U.S.,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society. “They raise risk of cancer by immigrating and raise rates for second generation Americans even more so.”
Reasons for Trend Remain Unclear
While the study indicated a strong change in cancer rates among Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., it could not explain exactly why this occurred.
However, the researchers say the data provide some clues.
Pinheiro said that among the changes in cancer rates, one of the most striking is the rise in colorectal cancer rates, which nearly doubled among Puerto Ricans, nearly tripled among Mexicans and more than tripled among Cubans.
He said the changes can likely be attributed to diet — red meat, in particular, is far more popular in the U.S. than elsewhere.
Brawley agreed, noting that the trend has been observed in the past, as when Chinese immigrants came to the U.S.
“[The] major reason is diet changes,” he said. “Increased dietary fat and dietary obesity causes this. Rates were higher in the acculturated than those moving to U.S. Chinatowns.”
Pinheiro said that changes in patterns of tobacco and alcohol use and lack of physical exercise might also explain changes in cancer rates.
He acknowledged that higher rates of screening in the United States might account for some of the differences in cancer rates, but said that likely did not account for the significant changes in cancer rates.
“We look more for cancer in this country, for instance,” said Pinheiro.
Prostate cancer, which is heavily screened for in the U.S., provides one example. In the study, Puerto Rican immigrants, coming from a U.S. territory, had almost the same rates of prostate cancer, while the rates almost doubled in Mexican immigrants and nearly quadrupled among Cuban immigrants.
However, Pinheiro noted, the rates of cancers more commonly found in less developed countries dropped.
“Here we observe the decrease,” he said, noting that this would not be accounted for by reporting errors.
Brawley agreed. He said that more common screening in the U.S. likely had some effect on the numbers but said that “[I] doubt reporting changes anything and doubt this influences treatment.”
Further Categorization Necessary?
Pinheiro said one important thing to draw from the study was that Hispanics could not be lumped together as a single group in studies about ethnic groups and cancer.
At present, he said, he would like some separation among “Hispanic” by country of origin.
It would be especially useful, he said, in his own state. “Florida is so diverse, that of course we want that.”
However, he said, it may be hard to do because cancer registries are national, and most other states have a more homogenous Hispanic population, and, therefore, no use for a more specific registry.
“Because these standards are national, it’s so different,” said Pinheiro.
Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System, agreed that better studies can’t be “lumping all people together.”
But more categorization presents a paradox.
As Pinheiro said, increased immigration will require more specific categorization for research. But as immigration increases, so will intermarriage between different Hispanic groups, making the U.S. Hispanic population (as well as the U.S. population in general) more homogenous.
Missing an Opportunity for Advancement?
While Pinheiro said greater categorization might ultimately lose its utility, he said that the time before that happens presents a unique opportunity to determine behaviors that may help prevent cancer.
He believes that in order to determine which behaviors influence cancer, researchers will need to do studies quickly among older Hispanic immigrants living in the U.S.
“We’re missing an opportunity here,” said Pinheiro. “There’s surprisingly [little] research thus far.”