Saturday, December 24, 2011

US regrets Cuba's decision not to release Alan Gross, jailed for bringing Internet equipment to Cuba

US regrets Cuba's decision not to release Alan Gross
Alan Gross's health is said to be deteriorating
Dec. 24, 2011

The US State Department has said it is disappointed that US citizen Alan Gross is not among some 2,900 prisoners to be released by Cuba.

The prisoners, some convicted of political crimes, will be released over the next few days.

President Raul Castro said the move was a goodwill gesture made after he had received numerous requests from relatives and religious institutions.

But Gross, serving 15 years for crimes against the state, will not be freed.

"If this is correct, we are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact that the Cuban government has decided not to take this opportunity to extend this humanitarian release to Mr Gross this holiday season," Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said.

He said Gross's health was deteriorating and his family had suffered for many years hoping for his release.

In his statement, Mr Toner said Gross - jailed for taking internet equipment to the Communist-run island - should be returned to his family "where he belongs".

Black Spring

President Castro said that 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries would be freed, and that diplomats would be notified shortly.

Continue reading the main story
Cuba mass prisoner releases

1962: Release and expulsion to the US of 1,113 prisoners captured during failed Bay of Pigs invasion
1979: More than 3,000 prisoners released after negotiations with Cuban exiles
1984: Release of 26 political prisoners after a visit from US activist Jesse Jackson
1998: Release of 299 prisoners after an appeal from Pope John Paul II
July 2010: Government agrees to free 52 prisoners in deal brokered by the Catholic Church
December 2011: President Raul Castro announces 2,900 prisoners to be released
(Sources: BBC, Human Rights Watch, Organization of American States)

Havana's refusal to free him has led to frozen relations with the US, despite a brief warming under President Barack Obama.

Gross, 62, was detained in December 2009 while he was delivering computers and communications equipment to the Jewish community in Cuba. He was sentenced in March 2011.

He was working as a State Department contractor...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingrich calls Palestinians an ‘invented’ people

Palestinians are descendants of the Biblical Jews. If the Palestinians are an invented people, then the invention occurred thousands of years ago when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob founded the Jewish people. Unlike many of their Jewish cousins, the Palestinians never left the land their ancestors called Judea.

Gingrich calls Palestinians an ‘invented’ people

By Amy Gardner and Philip Rucker
December 9, 2011

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said in a cable TV interview that Palestinians are an “invented” people with no apparent right to their own state, a rejection of a decade of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy.

In the interview, which was taped Wednesday in Washington and will be broadcast Monday on The Jewish Channel, Gingrich spoke about his mistrust of Palestinian leaders, his admiration for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his view that the Obama administration is “favoring the terrorists” with its foreign policy.



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 The former House speaker is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

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“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire,” Gingrich said. “We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”

“For a variety of political reasons,” Gingrich continued, “we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.”

Gingrich’s comments, which were first reported by Politico, were met with surprise and dismay by a range of actors on the foreign policy stage, including Democratic and Republican former diplomats and Palestinian and Israeli advocates.

Gingrich did more than fan the flames of the already fraught
Arab-Israeli conflict; he challenged long-standing U.S. policy — initiated by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and continued by President Obama — to encourage the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.

“Besides being factually and historically wrong, this statement is unwise,” said Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine and a former adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Rather than trying to delegitimize or undermine the narrative of either side, it would be much more productive to work towards a solution that guarantees the security and future of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Elliott Abrams, who was a deputy national security adviser under Bush and is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said: “There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood. Whatever was true then, Palestinian nationalism has grown since 1948, and whether we like it or not, it exists.”

Gingrich’s remarks also fed a long-standing narrative about the former House speaker — that he has a penchant for provocative utterances, exciting some while alienating others.

Gingrich’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has been highlighting that narrative this week, and Gingrich’s latest remarks gave Romney more fodder to continue doing so.

On a call with reporters late Friday, former ambassador Mary Kramer, a Romney supporter, said: “I’m not sure that kind of statement gets us any closer to accomplishing an agenda, and so that’s one of the things that I think makes me a little bit nervous about Speaker Gingrich — that he sometimes makes comments that are open to very broad interpretations.”

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Republicans want to stop black women from having abortions

“This morning, you can walk into a clinic and get an abortion if you find out your child is African American,” said Patrick Mahoney, a conservative activist.

If you find out your child is African American? So a black woman would have an abortion because she discovers — surprise! — that her fetus is also black?

Before the audience had a chance to digest that, Mahoney began shouting about how abortion is “lynching” — frightening a child in the front row, who cried out and hugged his mother.

Republicans color the abortion debate
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post
December 6, 2011

Rep. Trent Franks established his credentials as a civil rights leader last year when the Arizona Republican argued that, because of high abortion rates in black communities, African Americans were better off under slavery.

But the congressman doesn’t just talk the talk. On Tuesday, he chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on legislation he is introducing that would protect African American women from themselves — by making it harder for them to have abortions.

Dana Milbank

Dana Milbank writes a regular column on politics.

“In 1847, Frederick Douglass said, ‘Right is of no sex, truth is of no color, God is the father of us all and all are brethren,’ ” Franks proclaimed as he announced what he calls the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”

Drawing a line from the Civil War to the suffragist movement to defeating Hitler to the civil rights era, Franks determined that “there is one glaring exception” in the march toward equality. “Forty to 50 percent of all African American babies, virtually one in two, are killed before they are born,” he said. “This is the greatest cause of death for the African Americans.” Franks called the anti-abortion fight “the civil rights struggle that will define our generation.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who, unlike Franks, is African American and a veteran of the civil rights movement, took a different historical view. “I’ve studied Frederick Douglass more than you,” said Con­yers. “I’ve never heard or read him say anything about prenatal nondiscrimination.”

Orwellian naming aside, the House Republicans’ civil rights gambit (which follows passage of a similar bill in Franks’s Arizona and marks an attempt to get an abortion bill to the House floor before year’s end) points to an interesting tactic among conservatives: They have taken on a new, and somewhat suspect, interest in the poor and in the non-white. To justify their social policies, they have stolen the language of victimization from the left. In other words, they are practicing the same identity politics they have long decried.

Newt Gingrich, now threatening Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, tried a similar argument when he argued for the elimination of “truly stupid” child labor laws and suggested that students could replace the janitors in their schools. He further explained that he was trying to help children in poor neighborhoods who have “no habits of working.”

Developer Donald Trump, who owns a Virginia country club that counts Gingrich as a member, announced this week that he would join with Gingrich to help “kids in very, very poor schools” — by extending his “Apprentice” TV reality show concept to all of 10 lucky kids. “We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children, and we’re going to make them apprenti,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a little fun with it.”

This “fun” might sound less patronizing if these conservatives displayed a similar concern for the well-being of the poor and the non-white during debates over budget cuts. But, whatever the motives, lawmakers and conservative activists were not bashful when they held a pre-hearing news conference Tuesday, standing beside posters directed at Latinos and African Americans (“black children are an endangered species”).

“It is horrific that in America today, babies are being killed based on their race and based on their sex,” protested Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. Other participants in the news conference suggested that Planned Parenthood is “excited to take money specifically earmarked to kill a black baby” and linked abortion-rights advocates to eugenics, euthanasia and the Holocaust...

“This morning, you can walk into a clinic and get an abortion if you find out your child is African American,” said Patrick Mahoney, a conservative activist.

If you find out your child is African American? So a black woman would have an abortion because she discovers — surprise! — that her fetus is also black?

Before the audience had a chance to digest that, Mahoney began shouting about how abortion is “lynching” — frightening a child in the front row, who cried out and hugged his mother.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Jewish Republicans say Ron Paul doesn't understand the difference between a refugee camp and a concentration camp

"...Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry – said they wanted to scrap existing foreign aid commitments and then have each country justify assistance, including Israel." Still, Jewish Republicans see Ron Paul as outside the fold.

Ron Paul excluded from Republican Jewish Coalition forum
Forum for Republican candidates bars Ron Paul, currently polling second in Iowa, for his 'extreme' views on Israel
Chris McGreal
5 December 2011

The Republican Jewish Coalition has barred Ron Paul, one of the party's leading presidential contenders, from its forum for the candidates on Wednesday because of his "misguided and extreme views" on Israel.

Paul, who consistently ranks among the favourites in polls of Republican primary voters despite strong libertarian views that have alienated many in his own party, has rankled Israel's supporters by advocating an end to US aid to the Jewish state. He is also strongly opposed to military action against Iran's nuclear programme and has drawn attention to Israel's own atomic weapons which it does not officially acknowledge.

The RJC director, Matt Brooks, said Paul was excluded for those and other views.

"He's just so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organisation," he told CBS.

Earlier this year, Paul wrote to congressional colleagues urging them to cut billions of dollars of aid to Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan. He said that the US "borrowing money from China – or printing it out of thin air – to hand out overseas in attempt to purchase friends has been a failing foreign policy".

At a Republican candidates debate last month, Paul said the US should not back Israel if it attacks Iran's nuclear sites.

"We don't even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we're going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they're quite capable of taking care of themselves," he said.

Critics have described Paul as isolationist and compared him to appeasers of the Nazis. Donald Trump, the billionaire developer who is hosting a Republican debate later this month, took a swipe at Paul on Fox News on Monday: "He doesn't care if Iran gets a nuclear weapon that could wipe out Israel."

Paul has previously fallen afoul of the RJC for being strongly critical of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington and for comments likening conditions in Gaza to a concentration camp in saying that the US should not support the blockade of the territory.

"I think it is absolutely wrong to prevent people who are starving and having problems, almost like in concentration camps, and saying: yes, we endorse this whole concept that we can't allow ships to go in their in a humanitarian way," he said. "I think this would be a perfect opportunity to argue the case: Israel, if you want to do this, you're on your own. We're not backing you up."

Brooks previously criticised Paul when he launched his presidential campaign earlier this year saying his views are "far outside of the Republican mainstream" and that he has "espoused a dangerous isolationist vision for the US and our role in the world".

"He has been a virulent and harsh critic of Israel during his tenure in Congress. Most recently Paul gave an interview in which he voiced his objection to the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden," he said.

But Paul has also said that Israel is a "close friend" of the US, and that it should be free to decide its own position in negotiations with the Palesitnians without pressure from Washington.

Paul has also upset many in his own party by saying that the US brought the 9/11 attacks on itself through its actions in the Middle East and by maintaining military bases in countries such as Saudi Arabia. He advocates severely cutting the US military budget and bringing almost all the country's forces home.

The coalition's barring of Paul comes as the Republicans attempt to shake off the damage done by a question about foreign aid at a candidates debate last month in which three of the leading contenders – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry – said they wanted to scrap existing foreign aid commitments and then have each country justify assistance, including Israel. Although the candidates swiftly said after the debate that they expected aid to Israel to continue, the damage was done among some of the Jewish state's supporters...