Sunday, October 5, 2014

Great-grandson is 7, Computer Gremlin, Ebola, Leader Deaths-Past & Present, Hong Kong, Netanyahu at the UN, Collateral Damage, Jeb Bush, Canadian Investor Sentenced in Cuba, Gun Accidents

Readers, it’s a complete mystery why some words in the previous posting appeared in blue and underlined—I did not do that intentionally and have no idea what it was supposed to signify, but it seemed best to leave well enough alone. Has a gremlin gotten into my blog?
A gremlin definitely kept invading my computer system, messing everything up. My daughter Melanie got rid of it one Sunday, but the very next day, it popped right up again. After thoroughly blocking everything and making my life miserable, it boldly asked for a credit card number (are they crazy?), warning of a dangerous invading virus that could destroy all my files, then offering to sell me an anti-virus program to get rid of the very virus it had provoked. It was driving me crazy! How much we depend on our computers and internet access! My sister, who refuses to have e-mail or a computer, may have the right idea. An IT-savvy friend was able to enter my computer remotely via something called Team Viewer and eject the unwelcome intruder. I suspect that the virus sneaked in through a Yahoo news item on whose title I had carelessly clicked.
While sending a Moneygram to the guy who helped me vanquish the computer virus, a gentleman waiting in line insisted on taking a photo with me. He said he was 72, a little younger than me.  Photo appears above.
Another photo shows my great-grandson, De’Andre, with his mom, granddaughter Natasha, on his 7th birthday.
How is that a Texas hospital examined an ill man who mentioned that he just returned from Liberia and failed to imagine he might have Ebola, instead, in a glaring breech, sending him home to endanger others and allowing his own illness to worsen? Apparently there was some glitch in the hospital’s record-keeping system (since remedied) and the patient also lied, saying he had not been in contact with Ebola victims in Liberia, which was untrue. He apparently didn’t want to miss his flight to the US. Now we have 2 possible cases in the DC area.  With air travel from the affected countries, some contagion is inevitable.
Incredibly, a Delaware State U. professor, Dr. Cyril Broderick, has apparently speculated that Ebola and AIDS are both conspiracies of the US Dept. of Defense unleased to harm helpless Africans, just for the heck of it—allegations quoted in a Liberian newspaper.
Efforts to bring Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier to justice have ended with his death, so, like many other dictators, he won't pay the price for his misdeeds. He had said he wanted to die in Haiti and now he has.
President Cristina de K. of Argentina speculates that the United States is trying to kill her, on a par with Hugo Chavez saying that the US gave him cancer. Some people may actually believe that the US is so all-powerful that it could do such things. A woman from Argentina tells me that Argentines are posting humorous responses on Twitter #SiMePasaAlgo.
Not that political assassinations are beyond the pale for the American government. Witness the killing of Osama Bin Landen, not to mention targeted drone strikes against other militants. And the apparent paranoia and present-day vigilance of the Cuban government is not without historic foundation, as recently released details of the early hostilities between the US and Castro’s Cuba have revealed.  
“I think we are going to have to smash Castro”; Ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made plans to attack Cuba, AP, Oct. 1, 2014
Kissinger was incensed over Cuba deploying troops to Angola, so he advocated for strong action to stop Fidel Castro, according to declassified government records posted online Wednesday. He created a contingency plan that outlined military options from blocking outgoing Cuban ships carrying troops and war material to airstrikes against Cuban bases.
Another recently declassified top-secret memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, dated March 13, 1962 and titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba,” recommended an invasion. Of course, we all know how an invasion the previous year went, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba, ill-fated not only in its abject failure, but also in providing the Castro regime with a perpetual grievance against the United States and an excuse to crack down on its own citizens ad infinitum. Yet relations among former enemies can change after more than half a century, provided both sides are willing; witness the US today with Germany and Japan.
In confronting the unrest in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities don’t dare risk another Tiananmen Square, but it’s hard to imagine them meeting any of the protestors’ demands. The government’s likely tactic is to just outwait the demonstrators until they get tired and finally go home. The rest of China is not likely to learn much about the actions and grievances of Hong Kong residents because of strict media controls, thus avoiding any contagion, especially since there is no regular movement between the two sectors. China is many times bigger and much more open to the world than Cuba, but I’ve always marveled at how well the Cuban government, assisted by its secluded island status, manages to control the news reaching its citizens. Most Cubans have never heard of the Ladies in White’s silent Sunday marches, never heard of world-famous blogger Yoani Sanchez, don’t know about dissidents dying on hunger strikes or under mysterious circumstances, and, now, are probably unaware of the protests and demands of Hong Kong citizens, reminiscent in a perverse way of the massive gatherings in support of Fidel Castro after his 1959 victory.
Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN: The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel. History, archaeology and common sense all make clear that we have had a singular attachment to this land for over 3,000 years. Now waters of that conflict have been stirred up even more by Sweden’s recent unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
It’s very troubling that American air strikes in Iraq against ISIS are hitting civilians, considered unavoidable collateral damage. Logistically, of course, civilian casualties are hard to prevent, as Israel found when striking back at Hamas. However, it is regrettable and obviously should be avoided as much as possible. Gone are the days, as in World War II, when carpet bombing and even nuclear strikes in cities, such as the US visited upon Japan, were considered acceptable (though, even as child, I never acceptable H-bombs hitting cities). In ancient wars, although weapons were less lethal, the rules of war were wide open and killing, pillage, and rape were routine—rewards of the victors. Fortunately, as weapons have become more deadly, more restraint is being used, but not enough to avoid harm to innocents.
If Jeb Bush should become the Republicans’ presidential choice for 2016, he would have to overcome the tarnished legacy of his brother, not to mention wariness of dynastic succession (something Hillary also faces). However, I suspect he would attract Hispanic voters, since his wife is Hispanic and he speaks quite credible Spanish himself, at least from what little I’ve heard, certainly much better than his brother’s efforts.
Readers of my Cuba book may recall my mention of Canadian investors arrested in part because of giving their Cuban employees direct supplementary payments beyond the meager salaries passed through to them by the Cuban government. Now, negotiations are underway for the investors’ release. I wonder if the jailed Canadian entrepreneur mentioned below is allowed any contact with American Alan Gross?
Cuba asked for $55 mln, assets to release Canadian CEO -company
Reuters, September 29, 2014 [excerpts]
TORONTO, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Cuba had offered a deal to release a Canadian executive sentenced to 15 years in prison last week in return for C$55 million and company assets, the Canadian firm's officials said on Monday.
Cy Tokmakjian, 74, was convicted of bribery and other economic charges. Two of his aides from the Tokmakjian Group, an Ontario-based transportation firm, received sentences of 12 and 8 years. Fourteen Cubans were also charged. The Tokmakjian Group, which did an estimated $80 million in business annually with Cuba until it was shuttered in September 2011, filed claims worth more than $200 million through the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris and an Ontario court.
The case has strained Cuba's relationship with Canada, one of its biggest trading partners. Western diplomats have said it would dissuade foreign investors at a time Cuba is actively seeking partners from abroad to do business on the communist-ruled island.
After Tokmakjian was detained in 2011, company lawyers met with Cuban officials about the case. "They were ... told 'We're taking all your assets and in addition you're going to have to send another $55 million down before Cy will be released,'" Lee Hacker, Tokmakjian Group's finance vice-president, told reporters at the company's Ontario headquarters. He did not say why the deal fell through…A call on Monday to the Cuban embassy in Ottawa for comment was not returned…The bribery charges included salary top-up payments to employees in joint venture operations, the company said. Tokmakjian is the distributor for Hyundai vehicles and construction equipment in Cuba, as well as other mining equipment…
"We would pay incentives to everybody, from the lowest person to the highest person, and it was clear that there was no link between any incentive payments versus any advantage that was given to Tokmakjian whatsoever."
Tokmakjian, the company's founder and president, has been transferred to a military hospital, his son said on Monday.
Someone who formerly worked in the Cuban bureaucracy and is now exile, has commented on the Canadian affair: It's very difficult to understand how the Cuban government would be interested in fostering foreign investment in Cuba and at the same time following such a policy with the Canadian businessman. I suspect that what is really involved was a desire on the part of the ruling clique to kill two birds with one stone. First to get him out of the way because he was interfering with some money making scheme of their own and to do it in a profitable way by taking over his business. They simply prioritized their private interests over the country's.
A recent terrible gun accident in Pennsylvania stays in my mind. A father was holding his newborn son when a hunter’s stray bullet came through the window, leaving the child blind and brain damaged and perhaps unable to survive. Of course, it was not intentional, but has devastated a life and a family nonetheless. My readers know that I’m not a fan of private gun use and ownership for any purpose, either for personal protection or hunting. While there may be cases where a gun has been protective, the odds of harm far outweigh them, according to statistics—and odds are all we have for anything. Here in Washington, DC, voters have repeatedly expressed approval of strict gun control, especially given all the sensitive areas in this city—the White House, Congress, embassies, military bases, and federal offices. However, second-amendment advocates have forced us to have less restrictive gun laws than most residents really want, putting us all at risk.  
Here in Washington, DC, several young teenage boys were playing with a loaded handgun when it went off, fatally shooting a 13-year-old in the chest, a chilling reminder of a similar incident years ago when my then 11-year-old son Jonathan was shot in the foot by boys playing with a loaded handgun found in a parents’ bedroom.

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