Americans fascinated by pirate story


via The Insider

NEW YORK (AP) — We’re going through a crippling recession. The CIA is under fire over its interrogation techniques. And U.S. policy toward Cuba may be about to change. But the most-followed news story of late? A tale of pirates on the high seas.

Some who study pop culture suspect that’s at least partly a reflection of America’s longtime fascination with scurvy buccaneers and swashbuckling cutthroats.

“Pirates! It’s not as good as aliens, but close,” says Marty Kaplan, professor at the Norman Lear Center of the University of Southern California, which studies the impact of entertainment on society.

“Captain Hook, Treasure Island, the Disney ride, Blackbeard,” Kaplan muses. “If we thought of them or talked about them as punks, thugs, thieves or kidnappers, they wouldn’t stir our blood or promise a good yarn.”

Asked which story they followed more closely last week than any other, 34 percent of Americans surveyed named the Somali pirate saga, in which sea captain Richard Phillips was rescued by U.S. Navy snipers after five days held hostage in a lifeboat. The economy came in second at 27 percent, according to the Pew Research Center for People & The Press.

In fact, only two stories this year have surpassed the economy in any week: The inauguration of Barack Obama, and the dramatic ditching of that US Airways jet in the Hudson River by its cool-headed pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

What’s the reason behind the pirate fascination? The poll didn’t ask, but the story clearly shares a crucial element with the US Airways saga: what’s been perceived as quick-thinking heroism from men thrown into unexpected and treacherous circumstances. Continue reading

Obama: ‘We can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction’


via CNN

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (CNN) — President Obama said Friday he is seeking “a new beginning” in U.S. relations with Cuba.

Before addressing the representatives of 34 countries at the Summit of the Americas, Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saw each other and shook hands.

“Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path,” Obama told the assembly. “But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americas have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies.obama_cuba

“Toward that end, the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba.”

Obama arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday evening for the Summit of the Americas, a key meeting of hemispheric powers. Although it was not represented at the talks, the subject of Cuba dominated the president’s speech.

In prepared remarks, Obama said that “decades of mistrust” must be overcome, but noted that he has already loosened restrictions that limited Americans from traveling to visit relatives in Cuba and from sending money to them.

Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances. Continue reading

Obama eases Cuba travel restrictions


via CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.
The move represents a significant shift in a U.S. policy that had remained largely unchanged for nearly half a century. It comes days before Obama leaves for a key meeting of hemispheric powers, the Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago.

“President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country’s future,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Obama also ordered new steps to promote the “freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people,” Gibbs added.

The president took “these steps [in part] to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families.” Continue reading

Fidel Asks “How Can We Help President Obama?”



via LA Times

How’s this for hope and change: U.S. officials flying to Cuba, not to interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but to meet with the Castro brothers in order to ease the 50-year tensions between the two nations.

The aging, ailing, cigar-smoking icon Fidel Castro had three members of Congress visit with him today in Havana, which resulted in the bearded one asking, “How can we help President Obama?”  In an effort to improve the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) were the first U.S. officials to meet with the 82-year-old former dictator since his intestinal surgery in July 2006.

Greg Adams of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana confirmed that the three members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Castro, who handed the communist torch to his brother Raul in early 2007. Cuban state television is expected to release more details of the meeting tonight, Adams said. Continue reading

Castro Feels Good About Obama

Cuba Argentina 

via My Way

HAVANA (AP) – Fidel Castro watched the U.S. inauguration on television and said Wednesday that Barack Obama seems “like a man who is absolutely sincere,” Argentina’s president said after meeting with the ailing Cuban icon. “Fidel believes in Obama,” Cristina Fernandez said.

The meeting with Fernandez, just before she ended a four-day visit to Cuba, dispelled persistent rumors that the 82-year-old Castro had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma in recent days.

“I was with Fidel about an hour or more,” she told reporters at the airport as she left. “We were chatting, conversing. He looked good.”

Fernandez said Castro wore the track suit that has become his trademark since he fell ill in July 2006 and vanished from public view. A spokesman said the two met alone. Continue reading

Russian Warship Fleet to Make Symbolic Visit to Cuba


I hope the Russians don’t decide to throw something at Bush before he leaves

via Breitbart

A group of Russian warships will from December 19-23 visit the Communist island of Cuba, a long-time adversary of the United States and Moscow’s ally in the Cold War, the Russian navy said on Monday.

“This will be the first visit to Cuba by Russian warships since the Soviet era,” the Russian naval headquarters said in a statement.

The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two other ships will visit Havana in what the navy described as a “significant practical step towards strengthening and developing ties between the two states’ navies.”

Russian ships have been touring countries close to US waters in what is seen as a riposte to Washington’s own moves in Russia’s Soviet-era sphere of influence, including US naval deployments in the Black Sea.

Last month President Dmitry Medvedev visited Cuba on a four-country Latin American tour intended to revive what he called “privileged relations” that existed between Moscow and several Latin American states in the Cold War.

The Russian moves in Central and Latin America follow heightened tensions over this summer’s Russian military onslaught in Georgia, a close US ally in the Caucasus.

The navy also announced the completion of a visit to Nicaragua, during which it delivered aid to the Central American country led by leftist President Daniel Ortega.


Ortega is due to visit Moscow this week. Continue reading

Afghan Body Count Reaches 400+

casualties of war

With all of the attention given to Iraq little mention is made of the casualty rate in Afghanistan. The Defense Department has released some figures though, that tally the body count at 432 deaths in the Afghan region, that includes Pakistan and Uzbekistan. What’s really alarming though is they’re claiming casualties in places they haven’t even declared war yet like the Philippines, Sudan, Yemen and Eritrea. I wonder how many other countries this military is poking around in, instigating conflicts.

As of Tuesday, May 20, 2008, at least 432 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures May 17 at 10 a.m. EDT.

Of those, the military reports 298 were killed by hostile action.

Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 64 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, two were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen.
Continue reading