Category Archives: Cuba

Schadenfreude alert: Who meddles in elections?


Now that Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State is claiming – based on no evidence whatsoever – Democrats have hacked his state’s election, it’s time for a reminder of the identity of the world’s number one election-rigger.

Guess what?

It’s Uncle Sam.

We begin with a video report from The Intercept:

A Short History of U.S. Meddling in Foreign Elections

Program notes:

Meddling in foreign elections is bad. I think we can all agree on that. And almost everyone – bar Donald Trump – seems to believe that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election. So that should be condemned. Here’s the problem, though: U.S. politicians and pundits cannot credibly object to Russian interference in U.S. elections without also acknowledging that the United States doesn’t exactly have clean hands. Or are we expected to believe that Russian hackers were the first people in human history to try and undermine a foreign democracy? In this video, I examine the ways in which the the United States has, in fact, spent the past 70 odd years meddling in elections across the world.

From flagship public broadcaster WNYC in New York comes a glimpse of the depth of Uncle Sam’s ongoing meddling:

For decades, American intelligence agencies have historically used clandestine tactics to put leaders into office who are favorable to U.S. national interests. This practice of meddling dates back to the early days of the CIA and was seen as a necessary strategy to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It’s something Tim Weiner has explored in great detail. He’s won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on clandestine national security programs, and his books include “Enemies: A History of the FBI” and “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.” He says election meddling is not a grey area for the CIA.

“Several months after the CIA was created in 1947, it set out to steal the Italian election in 1948 to support the Christian Democrats who were pro-American, against the socialist Democrats, who were pro-Moscow, and they won,” says Weiner. “It’s just the beginning of a long, long story.”

After seeing success in Italy, the CIA took this formula — which involved using millions of dollars to run influence campaigns — and brought it across the world to places like Guatemala, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Afghanistan, and beyond.

“The president [of Afghanistan] after the American invasion post-9/11 was a paid CIA agent, Hamid Karzai,” Weiner says. “The list is very long, and it’s part of what the CIA does in political warfare.”

A report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram adds up the numbers:

Dov Levin, a researcher with the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, created a historical database that tracks U.S. involvement in foreign elections. According to Levin, the U.S. meddled in other nation’s elections more than 80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000. Examples include Italy in 1948; Haiti in 1986; Nicaragua and Czechoslovakia in 1990; and Serbia in 2000.

A more recent example of U.S. election interference occurred in Israel in 2015. A Washington Post report in 2016 revealed U.S. taxpayer dollars were used in an effort to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to a bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), $350,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department were used “to build valuable political infrastructure—large voter contact lists, a professionally trained network of grassroots organizers/activists, and an impressive social media platform” not only to support peace negotiations, but to launch a large anti-Netanyahu grassroots organizing campaign.

Through the years, the U.S. has also gone so far as to fund the election campaigns of specific parties; make public announcements in favor of the candidates they support; and threaten to withhold foreign aid should voters favor opposition candidates.

More on Levin’s numerical findings on American interference comes from across the pond, via Britain’s Channel 4 News:

According to his research, there were 117 “partisan electoral interventions” between 1946 and 2000. That’s around one of every nine competitive elections held since Second World War.

The majority of these – almost 70 per cent – were cases of US interference.

And these are not all from the Cold War era; 21 such interventions took place between 1990 and 2000, of which 18 were by the US.

“60 different independent countries have been the targets of such interventions,” Levin’s writes. “The targets came from a large variety of sizes and populations, ranging from small states such as Iceland and Grenada to major powers such as West Germany, India, and Brazil.”

It’s important to note that these cases vary greatly – some simply involved steps to publicly support one candidate and undermine another.

But almost two thirds of interventions were done in secret, with voters having no idea that foreign powers were actively trying to influence the results.

Forbes reports on some of the methods employed:

The U.S. uses numerous tools to advance its interests. Explained Nina Agrawal of the Los Angeles Times: “These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design their campaign materials, making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid.”

It’s not clear how much impact Washington’s efforts had: Levin figured the vote increase for U.S.-backed candidates averaged three percent. The consequences often didn’t seem to satisfy Washington; in almost half of the cases America intervened at least a second time in the same country’s electoral affairs.

Ironically, given the outrage directed at Moscow today, in 1996 Washington did what it could to ensure the reelection of Boris Yeltsin over the communist opposition. The U.S. backed a $10.2 billion IMF loan, an ill-disguised bribe were used by the Yeltsin government for social spending before the election. Americans also went over to Russia to help. Time magazine placed Boris Yeltsin on the cover holding an American flag; the article was entitled “Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.”

The Hill gives a voice to the interventionist hidden hand:

When asked whether the U.S. interferes in other countries’ elections, James Woolsey said, “Well, only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy.”

“Oh, probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over,” he told Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on Friday night.

Woolsey served as CIA director under former President Clinton. His comments follow a federal indictment released on Friday that accused 13 Russian individuals and three Russian groups of attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The Russian embassy to the United Kingdom quoted Woolsey on Saturday, adding the comment: “Says it all.”

Yep.

There’s lot’s more, after the jump. . Continue reading

Trump’s not Adolf Hitler, says Noam Chomsky


While Adolj Hitler was a sincere, dedicated ideologue, Donald Trump is a thing-skinned megalomaniac, firing off tweets at 3 a.m. when anyone angers him, says Noam Chomsky in this extended interview with Al Jazeera.

And in some ways he’s worse: “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. I think it’s dangerous, very dangerous.”

And in many ways, he says, it’s the Republican Party itself that’s the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

Topics covered include the failure of the news media to cover real issues, climate change, Barack Obama’s assassination program, NATO and threats to peace in Eastern Europe, and more

From Al Jazeera English’s UpFront:

Noam Chomsky on the new Trump era

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill


In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.

Trump advisor wants regime change in Cuba


An appointment to Trump’s advisory team spells what could well be an end to the rapprochement with Cuba engineered in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Such a move could complicate Trump’s professed admiration of Vladimir Putin’s Russian government, a key supporter of the Cuba.

From El País:

Lobbyists in favor of maintaining the United States’ long-standing trade and investment embargo on Cuba have scored a major victory with the inclusion in Donald Trump’s transition team of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a key figure in the fight against any thaw in relations between Washington and Havana.

Claver-Carone was named by Trump to the transition team for the US Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

One of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama’s efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, Claver-Carone’s appointment to the Trump team signals a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the US-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC), as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, which describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

Charts of the day: Cubans outlive folks in U.S.


Two fascinating charts from the Federal reserve Bank of St. Louis reveal that Cubans live longer than folks in the United States. For Cubans, the average life expectancy is 79.39 years for both men and women, while the comparable figure for the U.S. is 78.94 years. Shaded years in the U.S. chart represent economic recessions.

First, the chart for Cuba:

BLOG Life Cuba

And for the U.S.:

BLOG Life US

Venezuelan program brings agroecology home


We’ve had a long fascination with agroecology, the practice of growing food with the use of environmentally damaging synthetic fertilizers and corporatized seeds and pesticides.

Giving the ever-growing corporate domination of the American university, it’s no surprise that the best-paid academic scientists are busily churning out highly profitable patented pesticide, veterinary drugs, and plants and animals for the Big Agra and Big Pharma.

UC Berkeley, which once had one of the country’s finest agroecology programs, has dropped it ad huge Big Agra bucks have flooded the campus, most notably in the form of a half-billion-dollar BP-funded program to create cellulose-chomping bacteria designed to poop out the basic ingredient of clean-burning, high-energy fuel.

So far, with all the original cash spent, there’s still no superfuel, but, golly, there was all that cash, and all those wobnderful corporate connections.

To paraphrase an old and very sexist joke, they know what UC Berkeley is, and they’ve already established the price.

So it’s up to countries like Cuba [previously] and Venezuela [previously] to give backing to agroecological programs.

And that brings us to this report on one Venezuelan agroecology program, via teleSUR English:

Agroecology: A Latin American Movement

Program note:

Is Agroecology a viable option for Latin America? This small Venezuelan institute may have the answer.

Another version of the urge to purge, in Brazil


This time the targets of folks who have done a lot of good for Brazil’s poorest.

From teleSUR English:

Cuba is negotiating an extension beyond November for some 2,400 doctors in Brazil working under the joint social program “Mais Medicos (More Doctors).

Implemented by the government of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the program has benefited nearly 63 million poor people.

According to an agreement reached by the Pan American Health Organization and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the doctors will stay until at least November – after the Olympics in Rio and the country’s municipal elections. The new announcement follows a visit last week by the deputy Minister of Public Health of Cuba, Marcia Cobas Ruiz, who met in Brasilia with health authorities.

However, interim President Michel Temer announced last May that he wants to reduce the number of foreign doctors in the program from 13,000 to 3,000.

Since it was proposed, the social program has been criticized and opposed by pharmaceutical and medical corporations, as well as right wing politicians in the country.

Headline of the day II: A truly electrifying story


From teleSUR English:

In Cuba, Lightning Kills More People Than Guns

Cuba ranks seventh in the world when it comes to lightning fatalities in the world, with an average of 65 victims per year.

Headline of the day III: Not on the Grassy Knoll


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Tabloid says it has proof: Ted Cruz’s father is mystery man in Lee Harvey Oswald photo

  • National Enquirer claims photo is proof that Rafael B. Cruz was standing alongside JFK assassin
  • Cruz campaign dismisses allegation as ‘garbage’
  • Cruz’s father had been pro-Castro but had turned on him when Cuban leader said he was a communist

Headline of the day II: An offer they can refuse


The heirs of the man who served as the model for the Hyman Roth character in Godfather II want to get paid for the hotel and casino nationalized after the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

From CNN:

U.S. mobster’s heirs to Cuba: You owe us — so pay up

For Meyer Lansky, a mobster and casino impresario known for his business savvy, Cuba was the worst bet of his life

Headline of the day II: The Day of the Locust


From the Washington Post:

Lobbyists descend on Havana for Obama’s historic Cuba trip

Lobbyists for the U.S. agriculture industry and major business groups are descending on Havana, hoping to leverage President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba to advance their interests on the island.

UC Berkeley student dissects a bellicose Hillary


One of the most cogent dissections we’ve seen yet of Hillary Clinton’s relentlessly militaristic and imperial foreign policy approach comes UC Berkeley doctoral student Meleiza Figueroa.

Here she is interviewed by Jaisal Noor of the Real News Network about the positions of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Latin American immigrants and their respective foreign policy approaches:

Clinton and Sanders Spar over Coups and Deportations

From the transcript:

NOOR: And so Bernie Sanders, as you mentioned, he did raise the issue of Nicaragua and the Sandinistas, his support for Daniel Ortega, he was asked about that. And so, studio crew, just so you know, we’re going to the last [unintelligible], because this is really important history, US history, US involvement for the contras in Nicaragua, US support for basically terrorist attacks against the Cuban government which failed to materialize. Let’s take a listen to what Bernie Sanders’ response was.

ELENA SALINAS: In South Florida there are still open wounds among some exiles regarding socialism and communism. So please explain, what is the difference between the socialism that you profess and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and [crosstalk] Venezuela.

BERNIE SANDERS [Interposing]: Well, let me just answer that. What that was about was saying that the United States was wrong to invade Cuba, that the United States was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, that the United States was wrong trying to overthrow, in 1954, the government, democratically elected government, of Guatemala.

Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we’ve operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said that the United States had the right to do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So, I actually went to Nicaragua, and I very strongly opposed the Reagan administration’s effort to overthrow that government, and I strongly opposed, earlier, Henry Kissinger and the overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not getting involved in regime [change].

NOOR: So that’s a really remarkable thing to hear. We know Sanders has brought it up, but I think he went further in this debate than he has before. Your final thoughts?

FIGUEROA: Oh, this was an amazing exchange because, you know, for those who have known about the history of US imperialism and US interventionism in other countries around the world, you know, we never hear this on mainstream media. We never hear this on TV networks, and to hear, you know, names like Salvador Allende, names like Árbenz being mentioned on mainstream media, in terms of an entire history of US interventionism is, that’s just a remarkable feat in itself, and it’s an incredible teaching moment to the American people about, you know, what their government has done around the world, what, you know, our taxpayer resources has been spent on.

I mean, another thing I wanted to maybe mention about Honduras in particular is that, you know, not only is [this] just a question of American resources, American policy, American time, but also, you know, the human cost of this, not just in terms of children, you know one week ago was the murder of Berta Cáceres. She was an environmental activist, indigenous person, in Honduras who was murdered by the regime that Hillary Clinton helped put in power and maintain in power. Now, this has incredible impact on, again, how [are we] going to think about, you know, what the US is and what role it plays in immigration?

I mean, you know, the violence there, I’ve heard what’s happening in Honduras being described as the worst femicide of the century. Women are being killed in great numbers, and you know, no wonder people want to leave that country and migrate somewhere better. And those are, the conditions that the US government creates in other places affects not only affects incredibly, you know, people’s lives there.

And, you know. . .it blows back onto the united states in many, many ways, and so, you know, that, Bernie Sanders is pointing out the long, long history of this type of foreign policy approach, this interventionism, and that he, frankly, was, stood up and was very principled in his insistence that the United States government has no right to interfere in the affairs of Latin American countries or [to] overthrow the governments of other countries. You know, [that is] an incredibly brave stance for a politician, for a US politician to take, and is something that, frankly, has needed to be heard by the American people for quite some time.

Zika update: Polynesia, studies, drones, more


We begin with an origins story, via France 24:

Some scientists say that French authorities did not do enough to stop the spread of the Zika virus after a significant outbreak of the disease in French Polynesia in 2013-2014.

Dr. Didier Musso, who co-authored several papers about the dangers of Zika during the 2013-2014 outbreak, says that French authorities did not take findings by doctors in the French overseas territory seriously enough.

“In 2014 and 2013, the outbreak of Zika [in French Polynesia] went unnoticed in mainland France,” Musso told Le Point in February. “We managed on our own to isolate the virus, update the diagnostic tests, treat the patients and deal with the first severe medical complications, which no one expected.”

The current Zika epidemic in Latin America, where more than 1.5 million people have been infected, is thought to have been transmitted by international travelers from French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific made up of 118 islands, including Tahiti and Bora Bora.

A worrisome complication, via Time:

Two confirmed cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome linked to the Zika virus have been reported in the U.S., health authorities told TIME on Thursday.

The link between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly has received much attention. But health experts are also concerned about the link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a condition where the immune system starts attacking the body’s nerves, which leads to weakness that can eventually result in temporary paralysis. In some cases, the disorder can interfere with breathing.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed to TIME that there have been two cases of GBS in the U.S. in people who also tested positive for Zika virus. “I think we can say that the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre looks strong and would not be at all surprising,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “We’ve seen similar postinfection complications after many different infections, including some that are quite similar to Zika. That is a link that’s getting stronger.”

From NPR, confirmation sought:

A team of U.S. government disease detectives launched an eagerly anticipated research project in Brazil on Monday designed to determine whether the Zika virus is really causing a surge of serious birth defects.

A 16-member team of epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began training dozens of Brazilian counterparts in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in preparation to begin work on Tuesday. The researchers will gather data on hundreds of Brazilian women and their children.

“Having the data at this point in time are very critically important for understanding the impact Zika might be having in the future and as it spreads in the region,” says J. Erin Staples, a CDC medical officer leading the CDC team in Brazil.

U.S. News & World Report covers a U.S. appropriation sought:

President Barack Obama Monday sent lawmakers an official $1.9 billion request to combat the spread of the Zika virus in Latin America and the U.S.

He is also requesting flexibility to use a limited portion of leftover funds provided in 2014 to fight Ebola to take on Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects. Top House Republicans told the White House last week that the quickest way to get the money to fight Zika would be to use some of the approximate $2.7 billion that had been designated for the Ebola crisis but remains “unobligated.” Consideration of a stand-alone Zika request could prove cumbersome, especially in a combative election year.

>snip<

Obama said Monday during a meeting with the nation’s governors that he hoped to work with them in guarding against the outbreak of the disease. Obama said the $1.9 billion he is requesting would include investments in research into new vaccines and better diagnostic tools, and more support for Puerto Rico and territories where there are confirmed cases.

From the Guardian, the Zika fight in Cuba:

President Raúl Castro has called on all Cubans to help eradicate the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus and ordered 9,000 army troops to help stave off the disease.

Cuba has yet to detect a case of Zika, but the outbreak is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

“It’s necessary for every single Cuban to take up this battle as a personal matter,” Castro wrote in a national message sounding the alarm over Zika, which is carried by mosquitoes that transmit the virus to humans. The virus is suspected of causing birth defects after infecting pregnant women.

Cubans should clean up potential environments for the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, said Castro, who also is general of the armed forces.

And in Brazil, drones are called to the fight, reports RT:

The drones have a very sharp eye. In San Paulo they perform low-altitude flyovers to detect signs of the pest in gardens, on terraces and other places where it is known to breed. They then fumigate the colonies, Xinhua reports.

Brazil has almost met its target of inspecting 60 million residences across the country. This adds to other efforts, such as massive armed forced deployment, to stamp out the infection. Some 40 percent of targeted locations have already been dealt with.

The idea of using the drones was born out of necessity. Many households were difficult to get into – some did not allow inspectors in, others simply had no one inside at the time. Drones greatly improve access without having to disturb residents.

Aside from drones and manpower, the government is also looking at newer and quicker means of diagnosing the virus, Sao Paulo Health Secretary Alexandra Padilha said.

And for an idea of Zika’s economic impacts even where it hasn’t appeared, consider this from the Grenada Broadcasting Network:

Zika and Tourism

Program notes:

As Grenada and the rest of the eastern Caribbean continue to grapple with the introduction of a new virus in our region, there is a sense of uneasiness with in the tourism sector, as stakeholders worry that it can negatively affect the industry.

On Saturday morning GBN’s Delroy Louison took our cameras to the streets of St. George and spoke to the vendors about their take on the possibility of Zika entering our shores.

Tech Times covers Canadian anxieties put to the test:

A group of insect scientists in Canada are at the forefront of a new study that will test whether mosquito native to the country can potentially become carriers of the Zika virus, as well as the chances of the native mosquitoes transmitting the virus to locals.

Brock University, which is the only academic institution in Canada that contains a Level 3 containment lab with an insectary, received a shipment of the mosquito-borne virus from the National Microbiology Laboratory this week.

Incidentally, the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is also the only other facility in the country with a similar high-security capacity where such research can be conducted safely.

And there’s more, including a Rolling Stone spousal departure, domestic countermeasures, theocratic opportunism, and a malicious virus piggybacking, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Zinn, Chomsky, and a talk about hope and despair


A pleasant weekend diversion in the form of an unusual discussion featuring two unusual men.

The occasion was a 20o4 fundraiser for Spare Change News, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest street newspaper. Since 1992, we have been covering issues other Boston media often ignore—inequality, homelessness, culture and resistance.”

Held at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, the gathering offered the two speakers, long-time friends and supports of the paper since its founding, to let down their hair a bit.

They touch on a wide range of issues, including the real nature of American elections, the long and venerable history of American socialism, the dark side of the drafters of the Constitution, and much more.

The discussion is also interesting in light of events of the intervening years.

So enjoy. . .

From Argus Fest:

Noam Chomsky & Howard Zinn “Is There Hope in This Desperate Time?”

Program notes:

This event was a fundraiser for Spare Change street paper and the Homeless Empowerment Project. Recorded on September 27, 2004

Agrofuels targeted in European political effort


We’ve devoted lots of coverage to agrofuels [a name we prefer to biofuels], both here at esnl and during our previous incarnation as a reported for the now-shuttered print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

We covered countless meetings public hearings, protests, panels and press conferences, and we learned that its a field in which lots of speculators and political players push for action before consequences are fully considered, sometimes cast out as “mere externalities.” [The tantalizing scent of big bucks seems to do that.]

So we pass along another bit of news acquired whilst researching a post soon to follow.

From the Transnational Institute:

Destructive biofuels and wood-based biomass out of next Renewable Energy Directive say 115 organisations to EU renewables consultation

  • Campaigners say: False solutions to climate change do not cut emissions but damage land and livelihoods in other countries

10th February 2016 – 115 civil society organisations and networks from across the globe have published a declaration today, calling for bioenergy to be excluded from the next EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The declaration is being submitted to a consultation into the renewal of the directive for 2020 onwards.

The EU intends industrial bioenergy, i.e. biofuels and wood-based biomass, to continue playing a major part in its new renewable energy strategy. Campaigners say this will exacerbate the grave impacts already being experienced because of current support for biofuels and wood-based bioenergy in the EU. Bioenergy already accounts for around two-thirds of energy classed as renewable in the EU.

The central premise of the declaration is that bioenergy should not be classed and supported as renewable energy, contrary to current EU definitions. Campaigners point to growing evidence that industrial bioenergy is not renewable because it is not replenished as quickly as it is consumed. Worse still, carbon emissions from burning biomass for energy are often greater than the emissions from the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace.

The full petition and list of signatory organizations is here [PDF].

Headline of the day II: The times they are a changin’


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Cuban trade minister a standing ovation

  • Rodrigo Malmierca is first senior Cuban official in decades to address business group
  • Says dozens of U.S. business deals being held up by U.S. government red tape
  • In sign of changing attitude, Carlos Gutiérrez, son of Cuban exile, introduces him

Chart of the day: A U.S. sea change on Cuba


For the first time since the Bay of Pigs, most Americans have a favorable view of the island 90 miles from Florida. From Gallup:

BLOG Cuba

Zika update: Spread, sex, abortions, and more


We begin with a video report from CCTV America:

Latin America Steps Up Efforts To Fight Zika

Program notes:

With growing fear surrounding the spread of the Zika virus, “Americas Now” brings together CCTV correspondent’s from across Latin America to report on how South American countries are being affected by the epidemic.They also tell us what’s being done to stop the transmission of the disease and what to expect next.“Americas Now” has reports from Stephen Gibbs in Caracas, Venezuela; Joel Richards in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Michelle Begue in Bogota, Colombia; Michael Voss in Havana, Cuba; Paulo Cabral in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Grace Gonzalez in Managua, Nicaragua; Dan Collyns in Lima, Peru.The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. The virus originated in Uganda in 1947. Recently, Latin America has experienced a major outbreak.

The disease hits another country, from El País:

First Spanish Zika virus case involving pregnant woman diagnosed

The infected patient, who lives in Catalonia, contracted disease on visit to Colombia

Outbreak News Today covers an escalation:

Zika emergency declared in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican government declared a public health emergency due to the Zika virus after Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order Friday, according to a Diario de Puerto Rico report

Again from Outbreak News Today, advice is given:

Samoa added to Zika travel advisory

The South Pacific island of Samoa is one of several countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added to their interim travel guidance related to Zika virus Friday.

From the World Health Organization, another island hit:

Zika virus infection – United States of America – United States Virgin Islands

On 25 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the United States of America notified PAHO/WHO of the first laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in St. Croix, one of the three main islands in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

And from RT America, preparing for the inevitable:

Florida prepares for statewide emergency over Zika Virus

Program notes:

Health officials in Florida have declared a state of emergency in four of the state’s counties over the Zika Virus outbreak, asking people to refrain from having unprotected sex or suggesting to abstain altogether. RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from Miami and takes a look at the government’s response to the crisis.

From Reuters, bodily fluids:

Brazil finds Zika in saliva, urine; expert warns against kissing

Scientists identified the Zika virus in the saliva and urine of two infected patients, a top Brazilian biomedical research institution said on Friday, prompting its president to urge pregnant women not to kiss strangers just as local carnival celebrations begin.

Sky News covers mortality:

Zika Kills Three As Carnival Revellers Warned

Three people have died in Colombia after contracting the Zika virus, which is spreading across South America and has emerged in Europe and the US.

More from the Associated Press:

In Brazil, pregnant women urged to be cautious with a kiss

In a sign of mounting global concern over the Zika virus, health officials on Friday warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where the virus is present

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. have issued new guidelines for sexual conduct to visitors to Zikaland:

New recommendations for pregnant women, and men with pregnant sex partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Pregnant women and their male sex partners should discuss the male partner’s potential exposures and history of Zika-like illness with the pregnant woman’s health care provider (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/). Providers should consult CDC’s guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.
  • Men with a pregnant sex partner who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of sexual transmission of many infections, including those caused by other viruses.

New recommendations for non-pregnant women, and men with non-pregnant sexual partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Couples in which a man resides in or has traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity.
  • Couples may consider several factors when making this complex and personal decision to abstain or use condoms:
    1. Zika virus illness is usually mild. An estimated 4 out of 5 people infected never have symptoms; when symptoms occur they may last from several days to one week.
    2. The risk of Zika infection depends on how long and how much a person has been exposed to infected mosquitoes, and the steps taken to prevent mosquito bites while in an affected area.
  • The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided. Research is now underway to answer this question as soon as possible. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may consider testing in discussion with your health care provider.

El País covers concerns:

Zika virus could trigger illegal abortions spike, experts fear

Lack of contraception and strict laws may force women to seek unsafe procedures

From Al Jazeera America, a response:

UN calls for Zika-hit countries to loosen abortion restrictions

UN asks how countries can ask women to avoid pregnancies but not offer ways to end them; Puerto Rico declares emergency

More from teleSUR:

Men: No Sex to Avoid Spread of Zika!

Up until now, guidelines for avoiding the virus have focused on women

Another concern from CBC Radio:

Concerns over clinical trials with pregnant women could delay a Zika vaccine

Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the world’s leading experts on the Zika virus and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine, says safety concerns for drug tests on pregnant women will prolong the search for Zika vaccine. He estimates it is possible a vaccine could be created in about two years but not in time to be used for this round of infection.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

French researcher says Zika link to Guillain-Barré Syndrome is ‘almost certain’

  • The correlation between paralysis and the Zika virus was first seen in French Polynesia two years ago
  • Didier Musso wrote then that Zika appeared responsible for a 20-fold increase in the condition
  • Microcephaly, now tied to Zika, was not noted in the 2013 outbreak

From Al Jazeera America, a class-based cause for concern:

In Brazil, stigma and poor care afflict microcephaly sufferers

Costs of caring for children with the condition, which is linked to the Zika virus, are often prohibitive

The School of the Americas: Evil unleashed


There is no institution more symbolic of the arrogance and violence at the heart of U.S. foreign policy than the School of the Americas, or as it was rebranded following revelations about the bloody deeds of its graduates, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. And do catch the logo, most notably the Crusader Cross on the right, symbol of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, one of the two leading monastic military orders during the Crusades [the other being the Knights Templar]:

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The School of the Americas, by whatever name, has served as the Western Hemisphere equivalent of a Nazi SS leadership training school, turning out an elite crew of highly trained butchers eager to serve the interests of the rich and of U.S. corporations threatened by democratically elected Left-leaning Latin American governments.

Unsurprisingly, hundreds of thousands of citizens of countries governed by SOA graduates have fled, and they now comprise the leading source of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., the very immigrants railed against by those very same politicians who can be relied upon to fund the SOA’s damnably dirty deeds.

All of which brings us to the latest edition of Abby Martin’s The Empire Files, her weekly series for TeleSUR English:

Empire Files: The U.S. School That Trains Dictators and Death Squads

Program notes:

On November 22, thousands gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, GA at the 25th annual protest of the School of the Americas to memorialize the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives at the hands of the U.S. Empire’s brutally repressive juntas it used to rule Latin America by force.

The dictators and death squad leaders, who committed acts of genocide, were trained within the gates of Fort Benning, at the School of the Americas – otherwise known as the “School Of Assassins.”

Abby Martin investigates this notorious school that is largely hidden from the American public; it’s crimes around the world, it’s star graduates, why it exists and the movement to shut it down.

Featuring interviews with School Of the Americas Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and other SOAW leaders. [Follow @SOAWatch and visit SOAW.org for more info on the movement]

Map[ of the day: That’s why they’re ‘red’ states


From the 7 October 2015 Portland Oregonian, gun deaths in the U.S. between 2004 and 2010 and based on data from the Centers for Disease Control:

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