Archive for December, 2014


December 21, 2014

NewsMax on December 20, 2014, reported that Cuban opposition leaders from the island joined Cuban American politicians and activists, pledging to oppose President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with the communist nation and disputing the notion that their community is split by a generational divide. Excerpts below:

“The opposition will continue fighting, with or without Barack Obama,” Cuban activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known by his nickname “Antunez,” said to cheers.

The gathering at a Little Havana park drew more than 200 people, largely older Cuban exiles who chanted “Obama, traitor!” and waved U.S. and Cuban flags. Some expressed disappointment that the protest was not larger; the demonstrators filled about half the park.

The protest featured two high-profile Cuban dissidents: Garcia Perez, who spent 17 years in jail for his activities and has gone on hunger strikes to protest the treatment of political prisoners, and Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the island-based Ladies in White, a group of Cuban mothers and wives of dissidents arrested in the 2003 government crackdown there.

Soler said a normalized relationship between Cuba and the U.S. would “perfect the repressive mechanism of the Cuban government.”

“Cuba needs freedom, and that freedom depends on the Cubans,” she said.

The Cuban-American speakers included former Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and state Sen. Anitere Florida. Both argued that Obama’s gestures would do nothing to improve the prospects of a democratic Cuba.

Florida, who is of the young generation, said:”Our generation feels as strongly and in some cases even more strongly than our parents,” she said.

Freddy Suastegui, 31, of Miami, listened to the speeches with his family. He said the latest decisions disregard the work being done to promote change in Cuba.

“What diplomacy is going to happen if the Castros aren’t promising anything and we’re going to go ahead and infuse them with more cash?” he said. “That just makes the regime stronger and the people weaker.”

Miami is no stranger to protests from the Cuban community. Of the estimated 2 million Cubans living in the United States, the majority resides in South Florida and many remain closely attuned to developments on the island.


December 18, 2014

NewsMax on December 17, 2014, reported that Republicans broadly slammed President Barack Obama’s plan to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than five decades, charging that it is yet another example of an inept foreign policy — especially since it said nothing about the Castro regime’s longstanding human-rights abuses. Excerpts below:

The Cuban people are no freer today than they were the first day of the Cuban regime,” Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a CNN interview. “The more things change, the more nothing changes in Cuba.”

Ros-Lehtinen, the daughter of Cuban exiles living in the United States, chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee for two years.

“We did not help the Cuban people get freer today by this deal,” she said.

“This policy change is a gift for the Cuban government that has done nothing to provide basic, fundamental human rights to the Cuban people,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a member of the Senate Budget Committee. “This decision rewards a brutal regime without any significant commitment toward change for the oppressed Cuban people.”

Located 90 miles south of Florida, Cuba and the United States have been at odds since shortly after the 1959 revolution that brought Raul Castro’s older brother, Fidel Castro, to power.

Washington ended diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961 — and the United States has maintained the trade embargo for more than 50 years.

Sen. Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, praised Gross’ release but sharply criticized the administration for the price it paid.

Republicans also welcomed the release, with others appreciating Pope Francis’ involvement in the talks while slamming Obama’s plans. Senators vowed to use the appropriations process to block the United States from opening an embassy in Cuba.

Florida Rep. Dennis Ross cautioned that “it is important to remember the Castro regime has oppressed, imprisoned, and murdered countless friends and relatives of Cuban-Americans across the state of Florida.

“We must not excuse or forget about the decades of human-rights violations committed by this oppressive regime.”


December 17, 2014

TPM Livewire on December 17, 2014, reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) slammed a deal that released captive USAID contractor Alan Gross in exchange for three Cubans jailed in the United States for spying, branding President Barack Obama as potentially the “worst negotiator” in the history of the nation. Excerpts below:

“At a minimum, I would say this. Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as President since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the history of this country,” he said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“It puts a price on every American abroad,” he said. “Governments now know that if they take an American hostage, they can get very significant successions from the U.S.”

The Florida Republican also criticized Obama’s reported move to normalize relations with Cuba, arguing that opening up commerce and trade on the communist island wouldn’t bring democracy to its people.

Rubio said Congress would not support lifting the embargo against Cuba.


December 15, 2014 on December 15, 2014, reported that Denmark is making an historic push to lay claim to the North Pole and the Arctic seabed, the Foreign Ministry has announced,…Excerpts below:

Together with Greenland, Denmark plans to file a submission on that will redefine the boundaries of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

Denmark’s claim covers approximately 895,541 square kilometres – or about 20 times the size of Denmark – and will be formally submitted to the Commission on the Limits and the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

“The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark. The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby – ultimately – of the Kingdom of Denmark,” Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said in a statement.

With the move, Denmark will become the first country in the world to attempt to claim outright ownership of the North Pole.

Russia and Canada have made overlapping claims to the North Pole and large swathes of the Arctic that the US Geological Survey thinks could hold vast amounts of undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves.

Denmark’s claim to the Arctic seabed is the result of 12 years of planning and, according to daily newspaper Politiken (Copenhagen), 330 million kroner ($55.2 million) spent on research.

States are entitled to claim the continental shelf extending to 200 nautical miles from their coast. According to the Foreign Ministry, the new area north of Greenland is the fifth claim Denmark has made for a continental shelf that extends behind the 200 nautical mile mark. The first submission was made in April 2009, with subsequent claims coming in December 2010, June 2012 and November 2013. Those previous claims are currently under consideration, so the Foreign Ministry said “it is therefore difficult to predict” when the new submission will be considered. Politiken reports that the process could take up to 15 years.


December 10, 2014

Fox News on December 9, 2014, reported on top Republicans warning that the “unconscionable” release, by order of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of a report on CIA interrogation techniques used on Al Qaeda suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could “endanger the lives of Americans” all over the world. Excerpts below:

The White House and President Obama are backing the decision to release the report, despite warnings from lawmakers and some inside the administration that it could lead to a backlash against Americans.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, in a statement on late December 8 , called the move a “partisan effort” by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. They said the report is not “serious or constructive.”

“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” the senators said. “Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible.”

A former CIA officer told Fox News on December 8 that the agency’s techniques led to helpful intelligence. The former officer noted that once accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s will was broken, he generated more than 2,000 intelligence reports.

In addition, three former CIA officers from the program told Fox News that they believe the Senate report seeks to minimize intelligence that led the U.S. to Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti– Usama bin Laden’s trusted courier.

Another former officer told Fox News that the CIA was encouraged by lawmakers “to do whatever it takes” to prevent another attack on the scale of Sept. 2001. The former officer said that Hill leadership was briefed more than three dozen times before the program was shuttered.

The administration’s stance was criticized by GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the prospective new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr.

“It’s dumbfounding they can call and ask for it to be delayed and then say they want it out. You can’t have it both ways,” Burr told Fox News.

U.S. officials have confirmed to Fox News that an advisory has been sent urging U.S. personnel overseas to reassess security measures in anticipation of the release. The message directs all overseas posts, including those used by CIA personnel, to “review their security posture” for a “range of reactions that might occur.”

A similar statement was being sent to military combatant commands to assess their readiness. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday the combatant commands have been urged to “take appropriate force protection measures within their areas of responsibility.”

In Washington, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said America’s allies are predicting “this will cause violence and deaths.” He said U.S. intelligence agencies and foreign governments have said privately that the release of the Senate intelligence panel report on CIA interrogations a decade ago will be used by extremists to incite violence that is likely to cost lives.


December 2, 2014

Reuters on November 26, 2014, reported that Lithuania may supply weapons to Ukraine as part of military aid it promised to help Kiev fight pro-Russian separatists, the Lithuanian defense minister told Reuters in an interview . Excerpts below:

NATO countries have so far been reluctant to arm non-memberUkraine against the well-equipped rebels in order to avoid provoking Russia, although the United States is providing Ukraine with non-lethal military equipment.

Lithuania, which last month launched its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal to safeguard against a potential Russian gas cut-off, is taking an increasingly assertive stance against its former imperial overlord.

During a visit to Kiev this week, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced at a joint press conference that Lithuania would be providing Ukraine with military aid, but did not specify if this would include weaponry or be of the non-lethal kind.

Grybauskaite has angered Russia by branding it a “terrorist state” for its role in eastern Ukraine and because Russian customs no longer allow Lithuanian-registered trucks to carry goods into the country.

The United Nations says more than 4,300 people have been killed overall in the conflict in Ukraine.