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Judi Lynn

Judi Lynn's Journal
Judi Lynn's Journal
December 22, 2014

South Florida charter and ferry companies hoping to capitalize on improved US-Cuba relations

South Florida charter and ferry companies hoping to capitalize on improved US-Cuba relations

By: Aisling Swift
Posted: 6:22 AM, Dec 22, 2014

NAPLES, Fla. - As President Barack Obama promises better U.S. relations with Cuba, some south Florida-based charter and ferry companies hope to capitalize on trips to the communist island and its beautiful historic capital.
The Key West Express in Fort Myers Beach hopes to provide travelers with the Cuba Express to Havana if U.S. restrictions are fully lifted.

“If they open it up, I’m definitely going to go,” said Joseph Miller, a manager of Key West Express LLC. “It’s too early to know yet, but there’s a lot of interest and we could be there in five hours.”

While travel to the country is still limited, just the prospect of improved U.S. relations with Cuba has charter operators like Miller hoping and planning for greater opportunities.
“There’s a lot of interest,” said Miller, who started his business in 1997, then increased it by joining four partners from hotel and boating businesses seven years later. “There’s going to be plenty of competition on the East Coast and Tampa. But if there’s room for me, I’m in.”

The flurry of interest follows Obama’s announcement last week that economic and travel restrictions with Cuba had been eased and diplomatic relations had been re-established. The announcement ended what he called America’s “outdated approach,” a historic shift that halted a half-century of Cold War enmity with the communist island.

Phillip Richards, president of Havana Ferry Partners LLC of Fort Lauderdale, has filed applications yearly since he started his business in 2009, asking the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control for permission to ferry passengers to Cuba. He’s been hauling cargo since then.
“We’ve had people in the wings just waiting for this,” Richards said of a ferry service that would cut about $300 from the cost of an airfare and allow more luggage. “The Europeans have been allowed to travel there for years. Now we have to play catch up.


December 22, 2014

He surely did! The U.S. Navy used Cuba as a regular R and R spot during that time.

That was when Cuba was known as the "Whorehouse of the Caribbean."

In later years, the Batista supporters in South Florida have tried to tell people that Cuba didn't have that name until long after they LEFT! Yeah, sure.

Fulgencio Batista, the violent, corrupt dictator, who was up to his nose in business with the Mafia, used his wife's brother to go around to the hotel casinos every night to pick up the payoffs. Mafia, and US celebrities couldn't stay away from Havana. It must have driven them insane seeing the people of Cuba emptying the casinos out into the streets, and burning their roulette wheels, etc.


Slum (bohio) dwellings in Havana, Cuba in 1954, just outside Havana baseball stadium.
In the background is advertising for a nearby casino.

Constantino Arias' photo titled Ugly American, showing a 1950s Batista-era tourist in Havana, Cuba.

Batista with U.S. Army Chief of staff Malin Craig in Washington, D.C., riding in an Armistice Day parade, 1938

Batista's soldiers executing a rebel by firing squad in 1956

Batista (left) with his first wife Elisa Godinez-Gómez on a 1938 visit
to Washington, D.C., greeting the Cuban ambassador, Dr. Pedro Fraga

"The Dictator from Cuba arrives. Washington, D.C., Nov. 10. Col. Fulgencio Batista, Cuba's Dictator, arrived in Washington today, he was met at the Union Station by General Malin Craig, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, who invited the Colonel to the Capitol, and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, as well as a hundred Cubans who bowed to the Colonel as he passed thru Union Station, left to right. Sumner Wells, Batista, Craig, and the Ambassador from Cuba Dr. Pedro Fraga, 11/10/38" (Title from unverified caption data received with the Harris & Ewing Collection.) [/center]
Photos from Wikipedia.

December 22, 2014

US Hostility Toward the Island was Never Really About the Cold War: America’s Cuba

December 22, 2014

US Hostility Toward the Island was Never Really About the Cold War

America’s Cuba


President Barack Obama announced on December 17th that the United States would begin normalizing relations with the island, as both governments agreed to a prisoner swap: Cuba released imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross and a US intelligence operative, while the United States released three Cuban intelligence agents arrested in the 1990s while spying on militant Cuban exile groups. The countries will begin talks with the goal of opening embassies, Obama will ease travel and financial restrictions for American citizens, and Cuba will release a group of detainees that the US has designated political prisoners. The US trade embargo remains in place, and requires Congressional action to repeal.

“U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility,” the New York Times proclaimed. The notion that the US embargo is a Cold War relic that has outlived its usefulness has long been a common assertion among American critics of Cuba policy. Democratic Senators, the editor of The Nation, progressive NGOs, and even Forbes columnists and the Cato Institute have framed the conflict in these terms.

US-Cuban relations have undoubtedly been shaped by the Cold War, but the narrative of Cold War conflict between the two countries is a historically dubious rendering, obfuscating a long record of US intervention in Cuba and the rest of Latin America.

The Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in January 1959 was led by a group of liberal-minded young nationalists, united by their opposition to military dictator Fulgencio Batista. They displayed few socialist tendencies and no open hostility toward the United States. Far from demonizing the revolutionaries, the United States immediately recognized the new government when it took power.

The amity didn’t last long. In May 1959, Fidel Castro unveiled the revolution’s land reform program, which called for breaking up holdings larger than 1,000 acres and distributing them to small farmers. It also specified that only Cubans would be allowed to own land, and promised compensation for confiscated lands. In an era of worldwide land reform this was hardly radical, but US officials perceived the move as a threat to the vast property owned by American companies in Cuba. According to historian Richard Gott, a June 1959 meeting of the National Security Council concluded that Castro couldn’t be allowed to stay in power. By October, the CIA had drafted a program that “authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro government, while making Castro’s downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.” The Eisenhower administration began plotting with Cuban exiles in Florida.


December 22, 2014

Murder in the Rainforest: Local Activists and the Global Politics of Climate Change

Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

by Rolling Stone

Murder in the Rainforest: Local Activists and the Global Politics of Climate Change

At the U.N.'s latest climate talks, indigenous tribes showed again that they're frontline allies in the climate fight. So why aren't we protecting them?

by Alexander Zaitchik, Rolling Stone

On the morning of December 5th, a dark piece of news began circulating at the U.N. climate talks in Lima: The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world's rainforests and underappreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.

The outlines of Antún's murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don't often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon. News of José Antún's death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group's slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.

This jungle violence isn't just a human tragedy or a local environmental story — it is global climate politics. The first days of the Lima summit — known as COP 20, for the twentieth session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — saw the publication of data that quantifies, for the first time, the exact size of the climate impact made by indigenous populations as front-line guardians of imperiled rainforests. The size of this impact, a kind of negative carbon footprint, is staggering. Nowhere is this more true than in the Amazon that begins just over the mountains from the just-concluded negotiations.

"The territories of Amazonian indigenous peoples store almost a third of the region's aboveground carbon," said Woods Hole Research Center scientist Wayne Walker. "That is more forest carbon than is contained in some of the most carbon-rich tropical countries, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."


December 21, 2014

Finally, Freedom for the Remaining “Cuban Five”

Weekend Edition December 19-21, 2014

A Cruelty Ended

Finally, Freedom for the Remaining “Cuban Five”


On December 17, 2014, simultaneous public television announcements were made by Cuban President Raúl Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama. They both indicated that steps are being taken toward the normalization of relations between the two neighbours. In this context, the two presidents announced what is known commonly, if not diplomatically, as a “prisoner swap.” This includes the liberation of Alan Gross, held in a Cuban prisoner for illegal activities that violated Cuban laws and sovereignty, and one other prisoner held on the island. For the Cuban side, the governments announced the simultaneous release of the three Cuban Five who remained in prison: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio (Tony) Guerrero. All three prisoners were immediately repatriated to Cuba the same day.

This exchange of prisoners on humanitarian grounds is based on consensual agreements by two sovereign countries. This means that Gerardo Hernández – who had been serving two concurrent life sentences on the basis of false accusations that were never proven in court – will not die in prison. He is now free with his family and his wife, who was denied the right to visit him for the more than 16 years that he spent in U.S. jails and penitentiaries. This was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the reports this morning. Gerardo will return to Cuba alive and not – had this swap not taken place – as a cadaver on a Printcold stretcher. While Ramón and Tony would eventually have been freed (on October 30, 2024 and September 18, 2017, respectively) – assuming they survived their lengthy sentences – Gerardo was in fact condemned to a tortuous and slow death within the walls of the savage jungle known as the U.S. penal system. He likely never would have seen his wife again, even under the coldest and most hostile of circumstances that constitute “visiting rights.”

The second emotion that swept over me was that Ramón and Tony are also now finally free and in the arms of their family members, who dreaded never seeing each other again. This was the case with Tony’s mother, who lived with and despaired at the thought that she would pass away without ever again freely holding her son in her arms. They are now together. Ramón’s wife will finally see the fruit of her long struggle over these many years in favour of the freedom of all members of the Cuban Five. Ramón’s daughters have finally been awarded a family atmosphere with their father back in Cuba, where he belongs.

The third thing that came to mind was the already freed Cuban Five members Fernando González and René Gonzalez. Whenever I have seen them on Cuban television, I have felt their emotions and appreciated their words: they would never feel free and in fact be free until the other three Cubans were back at home. It must have been gruelling for them to taste freedom, knowing that their brothers did not yet have it. Their cruel reality ended today.

And so, finally, the Cuban Five are free.

Special recognition must be given to the Cuban government, in addition to the millions around the world who have demanded that justice be done. The Cuban government and its foreign affairs ministry have been outstanding figures on the world scale since January 1, 1959. This tradition has been characterized, among other features, by the upholding of principles while being flexible on tactics. I have never seen the Cuban government give one inch on principle. However, they have also used flexible tactics to advance not only their cause, but also that of the peoples around the world. This prisoner swap, part of the wider context of normalization of relations between the two neighbours, will enter into the annals of Cuban foreign policy as another of its great triumphs.


December 21, 2014

Brazil to study legalization of medical marijuana

Brazil to study legalization of medical marijuana
By RENATA BRITO, Associated Press | December 19, 2014 | Updated: December 19, 2014 3:28pm

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil will soon look into the possibility of legalizing the use of a marijuana derivative to treat people suffering from severe seizures.

ANVISA, the country's Health Surveillance Agency says in a statement posted on its website that the "reclassification" of marijuana derivative cannabidiol, which is banned in Brazil, will be discussed starting next month.
The statement came Friday, one day after some 40 people protested in Brasilia to demand the legalization of cannabidiol.

Some people resort to a clandestine network of illegal marijuana growers in Rio de Janeiro state that extract cannabidiol and donate it.

It is that network that supplies Margarete de Brito with the cannabidiol she gives her 5 year-old daughter Sofia, who was born with a genetic mutation that causes seizures.


December 21, 2014

U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon hails Obama for 'courageous' Cuba move

Source: Reuters

U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon hails Obama for 'courageous' Cuba move
By Tribune wire reports
December 20, 2014, 7:19 PM

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday for what he called courage and vision in renewing ties with Cuba and said he had asked Washington to pursue such a course.

Cuban President Raul Castro also demonstrated leadership in reciprocating the opening, Ban said.

Obama announced on Wednesday that the United States would renew diplomatic relations it severed 50 years ago, and expand commercial ties with the communist-ruled island. The move has been criticized by a string of Republican lawmakers but welcomed abroad, including by the European Union.

"I highly commend President Obama's very courageous visionary decision to address this issue. At the same time I really appreciate President Raul Castro. He has shown great humanity and leadership this time," Ban told Reuters.

Ban visited Cuba earlier this year and said he had been trying to advocate for an opening with Cuba to authorities in Washington over the issue.

"I am very glad that they have finally decided to agree," said Ban.

Read more: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/nationworld/chi-united-nations-obama-cuba-20141220-story.html

December 21, 2014

Mexico: official Ayotzinapa story questioned

Mexico: official Ayotzinapa story questioned
Submitted by Weekly News Update... on Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:40

On Dec. 13 the left-leaning Mexican news magazine Proceso published an investigative report challenging the government's account of the abduction of 43 students and the killing of three students and three bystanders the night of Sept. 26-27 in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Based on cell phone videos, interviews, testimony by witnesses and leaked official documents, the report's authors, Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, claim that agents of the Federal Police (PF) were involved in the attack on the students, that the Mexican army was at least complicit, and that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto has been covering up the role of federal forces.

The official version is that responsibility for violence against the students, who attended the traditionally leftist Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, lies entirely with Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, municipal police in the Iguala area and a local drug gang. But a leaked document shows that federal and state police were regularly informed on the students' movements from the time they left Ayotzinapa for Iguala the evening of Sept. 26 through the time of the attack, according to the Proceso report. Federal forces could have intervened to stop the violence; instead, they may have participated in it. Some of the students reported seeing federal agents during the attack; other students said the police assaulting them had equipment, including a machine gun, not issued to municipal police departments in Mexico.

Guerrero state prosecutors clearly suspected federal involvement. On Sept. 28 they ordered the PF to provide records on the activities of federal agents in the area for the Sept. 24-28 period; the PF didn't comply. Under political pressure, the state government dropped out of the case on Oct. 4, leaving the investigation entirely in the control of the federal government.

The reporters also questioned the official claim that the Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors&quot gang was involved, since the only evidence for this seems to come from confessions by gang members who had evidently been tortured by the authorities. The government asserts that the abducted students were transferred to members of the gang at a specific Iguala police station. According to the Proceso report, the activity would have been visible to anyone in the area, but neighbors said they saw and heard nothing unusual that night.


December 21, 2014

Haiti: UN 'peacekeepers' fire on protesters

Haiti: UN 'peacekeepers' fire on protesters
Submitted by Weekly News Update... on Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:44

At least two Haitian protesters were wounded by gunfire and another apparently shot dead in two days of opposition demonstrations in Port-au-Prince Dec. 12 and 13; there were also protests in the northern cities of Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. The demonstrations, which drew thousands, came as the government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky&quot was taking steps aimed at defusing a political crisis that has been building for several months.

The Dec. 12 demonstration started with a gathering at the ruins of the Saint-Jean Bosco Catholic church; protesters then marched through a number of working-class neighborhoods and approached the site of the National Palace, which was destroyed by a January 2010 earthquake, in the central Champ de Mars park. At this point security forces, including at least one contingent from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), dispersed the marchers with tear gas grenades and gunfire. Spokespeople for the international group said its members only used tear gas and fired in the air, but a video seems to show at least two men from MINUSTAH taking aim and shooting at eye level; one wears a blue cap and fires a pistol, while the other wears a blue helmet and fires a rifle.

It is unclear from the video whether the men were using live ammunition. Two people were reportedly wounded by gunfire and taken to the hospital during the Dec. 12 march, but who shot them wasn't reported. This was said to be the first time in several months that MINUSTAH, a joint police-military operation led by Brazilian officers, intervened in an anti-government demonstration. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Dec. 13, Dec. 15; VICE, Dec. 13)

Protesters accused Haitian police of shooting a man dead the next day at the Dec. 13 protest; the victim "had a visible bullet wound in his chest," according to the Miami Herald. "No one died in today's protests," police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers claimed. He suggested that somebody "put the body there." (MH, Dec. 14, from correspondent)


December 21, 2014

Ferguson prosecutor says he knew some witnesses were ‘clearly not telling the truth.’ They testified

Source: Washington Post

Ferguson prosecutor says he knew some witnesses were ‘clearly not telling the truth.’ They testified anyway.
By Peter Holley December 20 at 7:00 PM

St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McColluch knowingly placed witnesses who were not telling the truth in front of grand jurors investigating this summer’s police officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown, according to a radio interview he gave Friday.

After nearly a month of silence following the the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, McCulloch told St. Louis radio station KTRS 550 AM that some of the witnesses were “clearly not telling the truth,” but were allowed them to testify anyway.

“Early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything was gonna be presented to the grand jury,” McCulloch said, noting that “And I knew that no matter how I handled this, there would be criticism of it. So if I didn’t put those witnesses on, then we’d be discussing now why I didn’t put those witnesses on, even though their statements were not accurate.”

On Monday, the Smoking Gun published a story revealing the identity and troubled history of “Witness 40,” a woman whose elaborate story of witnessing Brown’s death was allegedly taken from newspaper accounts. The woman, who told investigators that she is racist, bi-polar and has raised money for Wilson, approached prosecutors five weeks after the Aug. 9 shooting. In a journal entry that she showed the grand jury, the woman said she had driven through Ferguson at the time of the shooting “so I stop calling Blacks N—— and Start calling them People.”

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/20/ferguson-prosecutor-says-he-knew-some-witnesses-were-clearly-not-telling-the-truth-they-testified-anyway/?tid=hpModule_9d3add6c-8a79-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e

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