Cuba and the American Media

Truth Is Hard to Find But Not Impossible
    Myriam Marquez, on the left in the above photo, is the Editorial Page Editor at the Miami Herald. DeWayne Wickham, on the right, is the top columnist at America's top newspaper, USA Today. Ms. Marquez, a University of Maryland graduate, was born in Havana, Cuba. At age four in 1959 her parents brought her to Miami, Florida after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. She is viscerally anti-Castro, a philosophy that has helped her become arguably the most powerful journalist in South Florida. Mr. Wickham is also a graduate of the University of Maryland. During a distinguished career in both the electronic and printed media, Mr. Wickham has taught journalism at Delaware State, North Carolina A & T, Pennsylvania, Howard University and Morgan State. He has been a superb syndicated columnist at USA Today since 1985. And Mr. Wickham is unique in the pantheon of American journalism: He does his own research and then makes up his own mind when it comes to reporting on Cuba, which he does often. Almost without fail, the rest of the U. S. media, when it comes to Cuba, saturates the American people only with the viewpoints of influential Cuban-Americans such as Ms. Marquez or the sanitized politically correct jargon of even the very liberal New York Times or the very middle-of-the-road CNN. The extremes of right-wingers such as Fox News and left-wingers such as MSNBC can, or should, be readily discounted because they speak only to their choirs. Thus, the freshness and uniqueness of journalists such as DeWayne Wickham keeps the fading sanctity and integrity of the U. S. media afloat, if barely. 
    Dewayne Wickham's column in USA Today appears each Tuesday. This week {May 27thhis column was entitled "U. S. MISSES OUT ON CUBA INVESTMENT." He wrote it after his 14th recent trip to Cuba. Never one to base his journalism on either anti-Cuban or pro-Cuban propaganda, Mr. Wickham was actually on the island this week to judge for himself the ramifications of Cuba's newly formulated economic/entrepreneurial changes. He realizes that the Castros, Fidel {87} and Raul {82}, have already named a much younger non-Castro {Miguel Diaz-Canel} as Cuba's next leader. Also, he realizes that Cuba is preparing for the day that a U.S.-friendly leader will unseat the current Cuba-friendly Venezuelan government. Therefore, Cuba is drastically seeking and obtaining foreign investment in such projects as the billion-dollar enhancement of the Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana. In this week's USA Today column from Havana, Mr. Wickham wrote: "The U. S. travel restrictions and embargo against Cuba have morphed into a blockade against U. S. businesses that ought to be this island's leading economic partners. Instead, Spanish companies are building many of the hotels that are a part of Cuba's surging tourism industry. Most of the new cars in Havana are being built in China, not Detroit. Last year, a British company signed a contract to build a golf course resort in Cuba. All this might explain why a U. S. Chamber of Commerce delegation will visit Cuba this week." Mr. Wickham concluded Tuesday's column with these words: "Now it's time for a sensible policy..." For years, Mr. Wickham has pleaded for a sane, decent, sensible American policy regarding Cuba. In the mainstream U. S. media, that makes DeWayne Wickham consistently unique as a virtual lone wolf with both the courage and integrity to write sensibly about Cuba. As he has often done, this week Mr. Wickham spotlighted a decent American {Rosa Grillo of Silver Spring, Marylandas an example of the vast majority of Americans who have been "held hostage to U. S. policy." To benefit or appease a handful of Cuban exiles, that "U. S. policy" has been in effect since January of 1959. If DeWayne Wickham is unique because he points out that simple, basic, lingering fact, what does it say about the rest of the mainstream U. S. media?
    Meet Conner Gorry! She is an American. She lives in Havana. She owns a popular small business there. If you ask her, she will explain Cuba to you, from A to Z.
     Conner Gorry's business in Havana is "Cuba Libro," a cafe and library. She knows the counter-intuitive nature of the island -- its people and its government. She writes honestly about the island from that perspective in a variety of venues.
     Conner Gorry -- an American who lives and works in Havana -- knows Cubans intimately. She writes knowingly and beautifully about their everyday lives, including their hopes and dreams. Everyday Americans have been prohibited from going to Cuba for decades, thus they might not understand why Conner Gorry loves the island and its people so much. That discrepancy displeases and saddens Ms. Gorry.
       Conner Gorry writes about everyday life on the island, such as these lovebirds sitting on Havana's famed Malecon seawall that she featured in one photo-essay.
     Conner Gorry is a native New Yorker. She received a BA in Latin American Studies at New York University and her Masters from the Monterrey Institute of International Studies. She has lived in Havana since 2002 and not only owns a business there but she is a brilliant and prolific writer. She is Managing Editor of "MEDICC Review," the best blog about Cuba's health issues. She has written twelve highly acclaimed Lonely Planet guides about Cuba and other nations. She is the author of "Here Is Havana: The Blog & Book." In the preface to the book she writes: "Being an American in Cuba is often revelatory, rarely easy, and never dull. But if it was Cuba's soul that first entranced me, it is Havana's heart that has me in its grip." Conner Gorry knows Cuba. She lives and works in Cuba. Her superb and insightful writing about Cuba is unbiased. Therefore, Americans are supposed to ignore Conner Gorry and get their Cuban information spoon-fed by members of the U. S. Congress from Miami or from well-rewarded Cuban dissidents such as Yoani Sanchez. Conner Gorry's insight is a reminder of why Cuba is the one spot on earth that everyday Americans are not allowed to visit, a self-serving dictate drilled into the U. S. democracy decades ago by a handful of people who prefer to tell you about Cuba as opposed to letting you see it and judge it for yourself. If routinely allowed that opportunity, Americans might not like what they see but they surely deserve the right to sift through the labyrinth of distortions and observe for themselves. Americans can at least visit www.connergorry.com to get a first-hand perspective of Cuba from an inimitable American who lives there.

    Rosa Jordan is another keenly interesting, enigmatic, unique person. Like Conner Gorry, Rosa has multiple degrees and is a brilliant writer. She grew up in the Florida Everglades and, as an energetic traveler, settled in Canada in 1980. As a Canadian, she had/has the freedom to travel wherever she chooses. Her favorite destination turned out to be Cuba, of all places. Rosa has traveled to Cuba many times -- walking, riding, and even bicycling across the length and breadth of the fascinating, alligator-shaped island. She has written many Cuban books, including a superb travel guide.
    Rosa Jordan not only knows all about Cuban topography, travails, and vernacular, she is also an expert on Cuban history. Therefore, she is aware that the most important revolutionary fighter and leader in Cuban history was/is the petite doctor's daughter Celia Sanchez, the heroine of the Cuban Revolution that has so mightily impacted the United States of America. Rosa Jordan's book "The Woman She Was" is an absolutely brilliant novel in which the primary character is inspired by and modeled after Celia Sanchez. That's why Rosa featured a photo of the meticulous, note-taking Celia Sanchez on the cover.
    Rosa Jordan is a best-selling author in Canada. She knows Cuba and its people like the back of her hand. She writes and speaks beautifully and authentically about the island and its people. She is, in other words, the type of unbiased Cuban expert that Americans are not supposed to know -- Americans that conveniently are not allowed to visit the island so, apparently, they can get their impregnable information about Cuba only from a handful of anointed and self-serving dissidents on the island or a handful of eager Miami politicos.
    Rosa Jordan's book "Cuba Unspun" is a scintillating portrait of life on the island of Cuba. If you are an everyday American without the freedom to visit the nearby island, this book as well as other Rosa Jordan gems should be atop your "must read" list.
And by the way............
      ................Rosa Jordan's "Far From Botany Bay" is one of the few hardback novels that I have read twice from cover-to-cover within one week after purchasing it from Amazon. It's not about Cuba. It's about a Australian prison known to history as "Botany Bay." A 21-year-old woman named Mary Broom ended up there and in 1791 attempted a miraculous escape. Rosa's depiction had me emotionally attached to Mary's rarefied plight and bold determination even on the second reading!
In summary:
     As a lifelong, democracy-loving conservative Republican, I believe the Cuban Revolution back in the 1950s says more about the United States than it says about Cuba. And that's why I am fascinated by Cuba and not, say, Jamaica. What the Cuban Revolution says about America is two-fold: {1} The U. S. should not have teamed with the Mafia to support the vile Batista dictatorship in Cuba; and {2} after the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in 1959 the U. S. should not have allowed what essentially became the reconstitution of the Batista dictatorship on U. S. soil, namely nearby Miami, to the detriment of the vast majority of Cubans, Americans and citizens of the world. Americans and Cubans, for example, should not have to face the dictates of an American Cuban policy designed to sate the political, economic and revenge motives of an elitist few. That's why, I believe, the viewpoints of DeWayne Wickham, Conner Gorry, Rosa Jordan, etc., are so important...as opposed to Americans overwhelmingly being force-fed self-serving and detrimental Cuban data, not so unlike the infamous water-boarding at the U. S. Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.
      Columbus discovered both the USA and Cuba in 1492, revealing that the two nations were and forever would be neighbors. But through the ages big nations have preyed upon smaller nations. And in recent centuries ruthless, greedy profiteers have benefited from wars, conflicts and turmoil -- especially when war-mongers have unchecked authority either in small Banana Republic-type dictatorships are in large, super-powerful democracies. In that regard, Cuba has run the gamut. Being the next-door neighbor of the world's superpower figured to be an asset for Cuba, especially after the 1898 Spanish-American War. But war-mongers high up in the U. S. democracy decided that U.S.-backed dictators in Cuba would best suit their plans, resulting in the Batista-Mafia dictatorship beginning in 1952 that the Cuban Revolution booted all the way to Miami in 1959. In the 55 years since then, a few have benefited enormously from the continuing strife between the neighbors largely because the transplanted Batistianos, although hiding behind the skirts of the world superpower, have been, for some unfathomable reason, unable to regain control of the island.
       Thus I am reminded yet again that Rosa Jordan's favorite Cuban, Celia Sanchez, in 1959 issued a daunting proclamation: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." Celia died of cancer at age 59 on January 11, 1980; Fidel is 87-years-old and very sick. So, this deep into 2014 the Batistianos, against all odds, have not regained control of Cuba despite a massive all-out effort each day since January of 1959. But Fidel is not immortal and he may well die before this year is over. It is also very likely that Celia's proclamation will die with him because there was only one Celia Sanchez. Rosa Jordan, who now lives in Canada and has been to Cuba many times, understands that. Americans do not.
     Thomas Donahue, President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, was in Havana Wednesday {May 28th} to assess the economic changes taking place in Cuba. In the above photo Mr. Donahue is inspecting a privately owned car workshop, one of the new wave of businesses that now employ about 450,000 Cubans. Mr. Donahue told Reuters, "We are very pleased to be here. We are learning a lot about the changes taking place in Cuba." Back in the United States, not surprisingly, most of the coverage of Mr. Donahue's fact-finding trip to Cuba this week concerned the Cuban-Americans in the United States Congress going ballistic as they loudly denounced this latest non-hostile American approach to the neighboring island.    


The Origin of Banana Republics

Even Where Democracy Once Reigned
    Meet Orville Lee Wollard. Even if you were an expert at using the Google search engine, you would have a hard time finding a more decent, passive, crime-free, successful person than Mr. Wollard. He has a Masters degree and was a highly respected college professor. He is now 58-years-old and has served six years of a mandatory-without-parole 20-year sentence in a Florida prison. If he survives, he will be 73 when his sentence is completed. I understand that you probably are not interested in Mr. Wollard's problems. However, if you are interested in the preservation of democracy, I believe you should research how Mr. Wollard was criminalized by a Florida judicial system that is famed for not criminalizing renowned criminals, especially when the issue involves Cuba. After your research, I believe you would conclude that Mr. Wollard should have been praised and given a medal for performing a deed on behalf of his family that got him a compulsory 20-year prison sentence in Florida, a state that, since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, has, in many discernible respects, more resembled a Banana Republic than the Banana Republics created in the 20th century.
    This is Mr. Wollard and the family that he defended so heroically. {NOTE: He was asleep in bed recovering from surgery when he was awakened by his older daughter and informed that his younger daughter, 16, was being loudly and brutally assaulted in her bedroom by a young man who was 17 and was known to be "violent" and a "drug user." He got his very legal pistol, entered the bedroom, and when the young man came at him with clinched fist, he fired one harmless warning shot into the wall, chasing off the attacker. Two months later, instead of being awarded a medal for defending his daughter, he was sentenced to 20 years in a Florida prison without the possibility of paroleTo comprehend his predicament, "Orville Lee Wollard" is how you should begin your Google search, not because you care a whit about him or his family but because you care about yourself, your family, and maybe even democracy. The comprehension of Mr. Wollard's plight should include a basic understanding of what the term "Banana Republic" means, starting with how the American democracy gave birth to them.
Judge for yourself whether or not South Florida resembles a Banana Republic.
       This graphic makes the point that Banana Republics were created in the Caribbean and Latin America by rich American businessmen who had the military and financial support of the U. S. government. The strategy was to install their own military strongmen in helpless and poor nations that were blessed with coveted natural resources that could be siphoned off. Andrew W. Pearson's Boston Fruit Company pioneered the practice and by 1929 it had evolved into the United Fruit Company that owned or controlled 650,000 acres in Honduras, plus the country's railroads and ports. Indigenous Hondurans were utilized in slave-like conditions till they revolted in 1932. That's when U. S. troops were used to back up the foreign fruit barons. By the 1950s, World War II hero Dwight Eisenhower, a good man, was U. S. President. But Ike was old, tired, and very malleable. Ike's key aides -- especially John Foster Dulles {Secretary of State}, Allen Dulles {CIA Director} and Henry Cabot Lodge {key adviser} -- had financial interests in the United Fruit Company as well as dire influence over the U. S. military and the U. S. treasury. Ed Whitman, the United Fruit Company's primary PR man, was married to Ann Whitman, Ike's personal secretary. With those connections, the United Fruit Company had no trouble getting the ubiquitous help from the U. S. military and the U. S. treasury to support pillaging helpless nations. It was as easy as taking candy from a baby.
       There are many excellent books -- as well as outstanding investigative journalists such as Peter Kornbluh at the U. S. Security Archive -- that have documented the U. S. creation of Caribbean and Latin American Banana Republics. In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was democratically elected President of Guatamala. He vowed to end the United Fruit Company's brutal pillaging of his country's prime resources. He, of course, lost to the far more powerful foreign forces. To this day Jacobo Arbenz Guzman's demise -- a democracy replaced by a dictatorship -- reminds Caribbeans and Latin Americans of the neocolonialism on behalf of multinational corporations that they have tried so hard to repel. But throughout the 1950s and 1960s the United Fruit Company remained too powerful and the American people too misinformed to benefit democracy-lovers in the Caribbean and Latin America. The United Fruit Company's pillaging of Latin America turned a young Argentine doctor into a revolutionary. His name was/is Che Guevara. And the United Fruit Company helped turn a young Cuban lawyer into a revolutionary. His name was/is Fidel Castro. Ironically, by then the United Fruit Company had helped Fidel's father Angel become a millionaire!
      From 1776 till today, perhaps the greatest weakness of the U. S. democracy has been the ability of leaders to classify, or hide, their worst deeds from the American people who need to know such things in order to function democratically. Sometimes dastardly deeds are hidden forever to protect the perpetrators but often, usually decades too late, some things are de-classfied. Note above that in 2003 the U. S. government released a CIA document that was written on May 12, 1975 when the CIA finally confessed to some of its role in the overthrow of the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala way back in 1954. You will note that the de-classified document was stamped "release as sanitized" to indicate that far more damaging details were still being kept from the American people.
Today Guatemala's Arbenz is remembered fondly for what he tried to do for his people. 
    But the United Fruit Company, getting no resistance from helpless countries or from the unwitting or uncaring American people, was not stymied by the bad publicity it got from the eviction of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman's democratically elected Guatemalan government. Thus, the United Fruit Company envisioned finishing off the Latin American map, even including Brazil, Argentina and Chile as this map suggests. Three young women in those three countries -- Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernandez, and Michelle Bachelet -- objected to the United Fruit Company as much as the young doctor Guevara and the young lawyer Castro. So, it is worth noting that in the year 2014 Rousseff, Fernandez and Bachelet are the democratically elected Presidents of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Trying to shed its image but not its lucrative foreign monopolies, the United Fruit Company in 1970 changed its name to United Brands Company.
In 1984 United Brands Company changed its name to Chiquita Brands International.
      While Americans may not know the history that binds the United Fruit Company to the United Brands Company and then to Chiquita Brands International, rest assured that Caribbeans and Latin Americans do know that nexus as an integral part of their history and heritage. It also has not one but two ironic and very pertinent twists: {1} The United-to-United-to-Chiquita nexus helped usher in the waves of democracy that began flowing across the Caribbean and Latin America in the 1970s; and {2} in its wake many observers believe that the United-to-United-to-Chiquita nexus, by helping to create the tsunami known as the Cuban Revolution, left behind debris that many observers believe includes a Banana Republic on American soil, namely South Florida, where most of the rich and powerful dictators in Cuba landed after fleeing the victorious Cuban Revolution. That changed, some say debased, the landscape of South Florida immediately and permanently and, over time, has altered the fabric of the American democracy.
This graphic by Warren Sloat came decades too late to help Guatemala.
 To not know the history of the United Fruit Co. is to not know today's Latin America....
....or why Orville Lee Wollard is wasting away today in a Florida prison.


Cuba and the Media

A Two-sided Conundrum
{Updated May 25th, 2014}
        Most Cubans on the island get their news from their personal everyday observations or, as with this man, from the state-controlled media. "Granma," the state newspaper, is the primary source followed by "The Roundtable," the popular nightly television program hosted by Randy Alonso. Most people off the island get their Cuban news from highly orchestrated anti-Castro sources. Contrary to the perception in the U. S., "Granma" and "The Roundtable" are generally considered by the Cuban people to be accurate depictions of what is happening on the island and elsewhere because the government doesn't appear to believe its well-educated people are either blind or stupid. Also, Cuba permits leading international news organizations to file daily reports from the island -- including the BBC, Reuters, CNN, NBC, CBS, Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, etc. -- although it well knows that much of that coverage will be critical of the government.
     Cuba routinely permits well-known, fair-minded foreign journalists, such as DeWayne Wickham of USA Today or Andrea Mitchell of NBC, to visit the island and file uninhibited reports. However, Cuba does block well known, biased anti-Cuban coverage such as Miami-based Radio-TV Marti that the U. S. government has lavishly funded since the 1980s to appease and enrich anti-Castro zealots. Also, Cuba now permits even the most famed dissident on the island, blogger Yoani Sanchez, to travel abroad well knowing that her now lucrative and ubiquitous anti-Castro zealotry will make international headlines that will be harmful to Cuba. Of course, on her trips to the United States Yoani Sanchez is sure to visit the state-of-the-art Radio-TV Marti studio in Miami, a prime vehicle for costly {to U. S. taxpayers} anti-Castro venom. The above photo shows Yoani Sanchez on her last visit to Radio-TV Marti in Miami.
      And, of course, when she visits America Yoani Sanchez is sure to be wined and dined in the hallowed halls of the U. S. Congress. In the above photo she is flanked by Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, two visceral anti-Castro members of the U. S. Senate. Yoani Sanchez is not a particularly good journalist but she, for sure, is particularly anti-Castro and, in the U. S., she fully understands that is enough to make a Cuban rich and famous...and to get you wined and dined in the U. S. Congress.
      Back on the island of Cuba this week, Yoani Sanchez and her husband launched their highly publicized and lushly funded digital newspaper. If you are interested, it's available at www.14ymedio.com, at least off the island. Shortly after it was launched, the Cuban government blocked it by directing online users to an anti-Yoani site.
      But by Sunday -- May 25th -- this AFP photo was showing a Cuban woman reading 14YMedio on her computer in Cuba. So the blockage was short-lived.
      As far as Cuba is concerned, Yoani Sanchez as well as her Generation Y blog and her newly launched digital newspaper are all funded by biased U. S. sources that, for two generations now, have tried mightily to overthrow the Cuban Revolution, which overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba way back on January 1, 1959. It was announced on launch day that Yoani Sanchez's digital newspaper had funding for at least a year and was hiring nine correspondents. Cuba said the funding was coming from the United States via connections in Spain and Brazil.
On a gentler topic.............
     ........Major League Baseball Thursday featured this photo of America's Hero Cat. Her name is Tara. A video of her attacking a dog that was unmercifully attacking a helpless 4-year-old boy went viral around the world. Here Tara, with help from the boy's parents, is throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game in the ballpark of the Bakersfield Blaze, a farm team of the Houston Astros. Tara is indeed a hero.
       The New York Times Thursday used this photo to illustrate a major article by Nicholas Kristof, a great journalist very interested in human rights, especially when it comes to disadvantaged girls. This is a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl named Phung. Kristof and the "Room to Read" project had raised money to make sure that poor girls like Phung could go to school. Despite taking care of her siblings after the death of her mother, Phung is an "A" student as a high school junior and she is eagerly anticipating college. Kristof, who went to her isolated Vietnamese town to check on her, said Phung cried when she had to spank her younger brother because he was spending too much time with "naughty" street boys. She has just one school uniform but washes it nightly. Like the always concerned Nicholas Kristof, all of us need to care about young girls like Phung who -- whether in Vietnam, Nigeria or elsewhere -- deserve educational and health opportunities that wealthy children receive.


Cuba Remains A Pain in the Butt

By Merely Surviving
      To put it both mildly and succinctly, the island of Cuba has been a pain in the buttocks for the United States, especially since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 defeated the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship and particularly since 1961 when Cuba miraculously defended its revolution from a furious aerial bombardment followed by the ground attack at the Bay of Pigs. A reminder of this basic fact came this month -- May, 2014 -- when it became known that Cuba's renowned Biotechnology Center had invented perhaps the world's most effective treatment for acute hemorrhoids. Merely by surviving so long and actually thriving in areas such as medical research, the gritty little island has impressed many outside the tight confines of the United States -- such as the World Health Organization.
   The World Health Organization is located in Geneva, Switzerland. Thus, it feels free to applaud Cuba for its universal free health care as well as such things as its scientific work in discovering effective drugs to counteract such maladies as cancer, malaria, hemorrhoids, etc. The WHO has singled out Cuba for "being at the forefront in managing prevention policies and confronting global health problems." The WHO, if not the USA, salutes Cuba for its extremely low infant mortality rate, which it listed at 4.2 for every 1,000 live births in 2013. Also, the WHO saluted Cuba for presently having 50,000 Cuban doctors and nurses working in the poorest sections of some 65 nations around the world. And the WHO, if not the USA, is impressed that Cuba has the world's largest medical school, known as The Latin American School of Medicine. Incredibly, at least in the WHO's eyes, Cuba provides free medical scholarships, including room and board, to poor students from around the world, including the USA. When such students leave with their degrees after six years, they do not have to worry about repaying student loans that, in the USA, are mostly designed to enrich rich bankers. Instead, foreign graduates at The Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba are merely asked to keep their promise to return, at least for a time, to work in the poor neighborhoods from whence they came. The WHO appreciates those efforts and innovations by Cuba. Perhaps Americans, including hemorrhoid sufferers, should too. The WHO also has praised Cuba for the Operation Miracle program that provides totally free eye operations that have restored sight to thousands of extremely poor people in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America. Of course, Americans, who are told Fidel Castro hoards all of poor Cuba's money for himself, wonder how Cuba can afford such extracurricular activity as The Latin American School of Medicine and Operation Miracle, programs that would make rich nations proud if they would pay for them. 
   A company in Jamaica that had tangential ties to the U. S. was fined for shipping a box of baby aspirin to Cuba because it violated dictates of the embargo against the island. When such things have routinely happened since 1962, when the embargo was established, the American people are told that enforcement is necessary because to allow such things as a box of baby aspirin to reach the island would benefit or enrich Castro. Americans, coated with stupidity and/or cowardice, meekly accept the embargo that the rest of the world abhors. Thus the embargo, dictated by anti-Castro exiles, endures although de-classified U. S. data revealed years ago that the purpose of the embargo was to starve and deprive the Cuban people to encourage them to rise up and overthrow Castro.
   This photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was taken on April 18, 1961. It shows a victorious Cuban soldier interrogating a captured CIA/Cuban exile attacker, Jose Miro Torra, at the Bay of Pigs. Some 1200 of the attackers were captured after the ground assault that followed a devastating bombing attack against all three of the island's military airfields.
  Cuba ended up selling the Bay of Pigs captors back to the U. S. for $53 million, which was paid mostly by the Kennedy administration with a shipload of Gerber Baby Food, as Cuba requested. Venezuelan Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal, who had sent Celia Sanchez cash and weapons during the Revolutionary War in the 1950s, warned her that if Cuba sent the Bay of Pigs prisoners back to Florida in 1961 they would resume constant hostilities against the island. But apparently she felt the island's children needed all those bottles of Gerber Baby Food. Of course, as with the baby aspirin from Jamaica, the U. S. was "concerned" that Fidel Castro himself would consume all the Gerber products.
   As it turned out, Cuban babies like Josefina Vidal benefited mightily from those boxes of Gerber Baby Food that the U. S. reluctantly delivered to Cuba as payment for the Bay of Pigs prisoners. All grown up now, Josefina Vidal is the Cuban Minister in charge of North American Affairs, namely America's ongoing designs to unseat revolutionary rule on the island. On Oct. 20-2002 Josefina was one of four celebrated speakers, and the only Cuban, at a historical session moderated by historian James G. Blight at the Kennedy Library. That night Josefina was introduced by Caroline Kennedy as "one of Cuba's celebrated Gerber babies!" When she took the podium, Josefina recounted how much her mother "appreciated" all that Gerber baby food.
And by the way...............
       ........here's another bit of fascinating Celia Sanchez/Cuban history. In the photo above, that's Venezuelan Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal on the left. Celia Sanchez was the most important recruiter of money, supplies and weapons in the revolutionary war against the Batista dictatorship. One of her main contacts and suppliers of money, supplies and weapons was Admiral Larrazabal. In January of 1959, just weeks after the triumph of the revolution, Celia Sanchez took Fidel Castro to Venezuela to personally thank Admiral Larrazabal and meet Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt. Admiral Larrazabal in 1958 had led a coup that overthrew dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez, who is shown on the right in the above photo. But Larrazabal, Celia's important friend, was a good guy. Later in 1958 he ran in an honest election for President but lost to Betancourt, another good guy who would become Venezuela's first elected President to be replaced by another elected President.
     Celia Sanchez, Cuba's all-time greatest revolutionary leader, was quite adept at distinguishing between the good guys and the bad guys. After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, she considered Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal one of the good guys. In the above photo, she's counting some of the help that he provided her during the war. Celia famously and meticulously accounted for every peso or dollar the rebels spent. In Caracas in January of 1959 she personally presented Admiral Larrazabal a detailed accounting of the money and supplies he had provided her. "But dear Celia," he replied. "You were always the only person I fully trusted!"
And truth be know................
       .................Celia Sanchez, the petite doctor's daughter, has always been a bigger pain in America's butt than the macho Fidel Castro ever thought about being.
And by the way...............
       ........the New York Times on Monday -- May 19th -- used this image of Huon Song-wol, a beautiful North Korean entertainer, in a major article that revealed she is alive. She is the most popular singer in North Korea and is reputed to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's favorite "former" girlfriend. But rumors persisted for days that, on a whim, he had her machine-gunned to death. Then she appeared quite healthy on national television, above, to salute the leader "for his heavenly trust and warm care" in promoting the arts. The New York Times used the article to stress that a lot goes on in North Korea, most of it bad, but exactly what often remains mysterious.
But the sheer beauty of birds is not mysterious.
     My favorite magazine, Birds & Blooms, featured this photo taken by Marie Read. Right after he paused for the photo, he flew off to hide the acorn for a future meal.
      Marie Read for Birds & Blooms took this photo of two hard-working Woodpeckers stashing acorns for future use. Chickadees, Nuthatches and many other species also plan ahead in this manner, often with sunflower seeds or even peanuts.


Cal Thomas and Other Thugs

Vs. the Pope and the Good Guys
Thugs are defined as bullies or depicted as street muggers. Some are more sophisticated.
    Cal Thomas is one of America's most ubiquitous conservative journalists. His newspaper column is nationally syndicated by Tribune Content Agency. He is, of course, a regular on Fox News. Even America's top daily newspaper, USA Today, affords Mr. Thomas a major weekly forum. But he is, by my definition, a thug because he obviously believes there should be more inequality between the worlds rich and poor, the haves and have-nots. As far as Mr. Thomas is concerned, he believes the ultra-rich are not rich enough and the ultra-poor are not poor enough. And that's a thuggish belief...in my opinion.
     Being a media insider camouflages Cal Thomas's thuggish tendencies. His nationally syndicated column on May 14-2014 erroneously and brazenly assailed Pope Francis who has, to Mr. Thomas's chagrin, famously dedicated his papacy to helping elevate the world's billions of poor people. Mr. Thomas, in the first paragraph, wrote: "...he {Pope Francishas it backwards. Instead of taking more money from those who have earned it, he should advocate for creating new wealth." Of course, Mr. Thomas advocates creating new wealth for the already wealthy like him, not for the maligned poor majority that Pope Francis cares about.
      Pope Francis was born 77 years ago in Argentina. His laudable priority to improve the lot of the world's majority poor faces many obstacles, such as the many forums provided to Cal Thomas. The world's poor will not inherit the earth but neither should they inherit scorn and disrespect from rich and powerful thugs.
       Pope Francis disagrees with Cal Thomas regarding this fact: The 85 richest people in the world have wealth equal to the poorest 3.5 BILLION people, and the chasm is widening each and every day!
     Cal Thomas and Pope Francis also obviously disagree over how the extremes of massive wealth have occurred and how it perpetuates and exacerbates from generation to generation. It's often the product of a few powerful thugs assailing the backs of the majority poor...and then passing along their riches to their offspring, who replicate the practice in future generations. Did the rich man depicted above need all that money? Did the poor man depicted above deserve a livable opportunity? Cal Thomas apparently believes this rich man doesn't have enough dollars; Pope Francis obviously believes this poor man propping up the rich man deserves a living wage, especially if he has children to feed, clothe, shelter and educate.
In the U. S., Cal Thomas apparently is not concerned with this statistic.
And Pope Francis should not be assailed just because HE IS CONCERNED.
       In the 1950s a few already rich Americans prompted the U. S. government to support a passel of already rich Mafia thugs as the dictators on the nearby island of Cuba. This was to enable the unholy rich to get richer and more unholier. And that's what happened, scarring future generations in both nations. 
       As this Batista-era photo illustrates, the wholesale pillaging of Cuba by the rich minority made the majority poor on the island very poor and then poorer. Thus, innocent families like this were left without anything resembling proper shelter, food, clothes, health care or educational opportunities.
       The extreme greed and brutality of the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, made possible with the aid of U. S. tax dollars and military equipment, created a revolution. It was unique from its outset because it was spawned by the extreme bravery of the female half of the Cuban population, such as these mothers.
       Three of those outraged Cuban women -- Vilma Espin, Celia Sanchez, and Haydee Santamaria -- enshrined themselves as incomparable guerrilla fighters against the supposedly unbeatable Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Then in Revolutionary Cuba -- immediately after the Batistianos and Mafiosi had been chased to safe havens like Miami -- these three women were the major factors in reshaping Cuban standards to benefit children, not their torturers. The transition was expected to be short-lived but it has survived.
     Starting in January of 1959, at their first opportunity, the three greatest Cuban heroines -- Vilma Espin, Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria -- created the Federation of Cuban Women as arguably the strongest and most vital addition to Revolutionary Cuba from January-1959 till this very day. The Federation of Cuban Women recognized that women were more important on the island than men because women had the primary responsibility of taking care of the island's babies and children. Thus, the Federation of Cuban Women guaranteed to the island's children free shelter, free food, free health care for life, and free educations through college. Far more astounding than the 1959 triumph of the Cuban Revolution is the fact that the Federation of Cuban Women to this day, against insurmountable odds, maintains its dominant themes on the island while knowing a return of the Batistianos would end its reign.
     The malevolent and self-serving greed and capriciousness of Revolutionary Cuba's Florida-based enemies has actually helped account for its startling longevity in the face of omnipotent forces aligned against it. The U. S. embargo against Cuba, for example, was established in 1962 for the stated purpose of starving and depriving the Cubans on the island to induce them to rise up and overthrow Fidel Castro. This was right after the 1961 military attack at the Bay of Pigs had failed miserably, making Castro even more of a revolutionary legend. And the embargo came after a multitude of CIA-Mafia-Cuban exile assassination attempts failed to kill him but did manage to greatly enhance the Castro legend and his future legacy. Thus, in a paradoxical twist of history, the Castro legend is based primarily on two factors: {1} His astute recognition that the extremes of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship had created a female force on the island that possibly could be utilized to defeat and overthrow even a U.S.-backed dictatorship; and {2} the cruelty and ineptness of his enemies have combined to provide him and his legacy with enough support on the island to fend off the combined forces of his much more powerful enemies. Since 1959, as a primary by-product or offspring of the Cuban Revolution, anti-Castro forces have controlled the Cuban narrative in the United States but not elsewhere.   For example........................................................
      .....this distraught Cuban girl is now an adult. Go to Cuba and tell her that Fidel Castro is the bad guy and his enemies are the good guys. This photo was taken at Jose Marti Airport in Havana on Oct. 6-1976. The girl and her mother were waiting for Cubana Flight 455 to return from Venezuela with two dozen teenage athletes, one of them the girl's brother. As this photo was taken, she and her mother had just learned Cubana Flight 455 had been blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb. All 73 on board had been murdered. In Miami, the media reported that celebrations of the bombing included two infamous quotations: "It's the biggest blow yet against Castro" and "There were no innocents on that airplane." The euphoric quotes were lies.
     Today memorials like this remind Cubans and Latin Americans that such things as the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, as well as the aftermath concerning the terrorists and their supporters, was not "the biggest blow yet against Castro" and that, indeed, civilians on a harmless airplane are, in fact, "innocents." The two infamous quotations related to Cubana Flight 455 were shoved down the throats of Americans who have been forced to swallow them. But the rest of the world hasn't swallowed them.
      The greed of a few at the expense of the many created the Cuban Revolution, which shocked the world on New Years Day in 1959 by chasing the Batista-Mafia dictatorship off the island, mostly to a safe haven in nearby Miami. To this day, almost six decades and two generations later, Americans are told to accept continuous assaults on the island's majority because that mean man, Fidel Castro, deserves it while the good guys -- the Batistianos and the Mafiosi -- deserve to regain their island playpen and piggy-bank. 
       This Bill Gentile/Corbis photo depicts uniformed school children in Revolutionary Cuba today. Unlike the impoverished children shown in the earlier Batista-era family photo, these children in Revolutionary Cuba are guaranteed free food if needed, free shelter if needed, free health care for life and free educations through college. They also happen to live in safe neighborhoods. This is true despite the fact that the island has sustained the longest and cruelest economic embargo {since 1962} ever imposed by a powerful nation against a small nation...an embargo, by the way, that has been embellished by such things as the military attack at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, multiple assassination attempts against Cuba's revolutionary leaders, the terrorist bombing of a civilian Cuban airplane in 1976, and huge fines and other penalties levied against even friendly foreign nations and companies that do business with Cuba. The Cuban Revolution has made mistakes since 1959. But starving and otherwise abusing children is not among those mistakes. Cal Thomas disagrees. He also disagrees with the Pope's compassion.

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story)

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story) : Note : This particular essay on  Ana Margarita Martinez  was first ...