Save the Children, Please

In Cuba, the U. S., and the World!!
       Melbourne, Australia {above} is one of the world's most beautiful and safest cities. With a population of just over four million, it is Australia's second largest city. The Liveability Unit, as registered by the Economic Intelligence Unit {EIU}, has rated Melbourne "the best city in the world to live" for the fourth consecutive year! Here is the Top Ten of the world's best cities to live in according to the EIU's 2014 poll:
#1: Melbourne, Australia
#2: Vienna, Austria
#3: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
#4: Toronto, Canada
#5: Adelaide, Australia
#6: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
#7: Sydney, Australia
#8: Helsinki, Finland
#9: Perth, Australia
#10: Auckland, New Zealand
       Obviously, there are no major American cities on the list of "best cities in the world to live." Two things -- huge crime rates and a huge disparity between the rich and the poor -- eliminate U. S. cities from consideration in such polls. We Americans should hail democracy and capitalism but also have enough insight and courage to admit that the rest of the civilized modern world is much better than we are when it comes to crime, income disparity, and greed -- three evils that are very closely related. 
The 85 richest people in the world have wealth equal to the poorest 3.5 billion people.
Day by day, those 85 get much richer and those 3.5 billion get much poorer.
And the 3.6 billion people caught in the middle also suffer.
        Melbourne is located on the southern tip of Australia, a huge country surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans as well as the Timor and Tasman seas. Just up the Pacific Coast is Canberra, the capital, and Sydney, the largest city. Notice the locations of the coastal cities of Adelaide and Perth, both of which are also in the Top Ten of "the best cities in the world to live." Australia has a population of only 23 million and is a very prosperous nation with a Gross National Product of $1.8 trillion, 12th best in the world. So why don't we Americans migrate to Australia? Well...Australia adequately polices its borders and also doesn't perpetuate a vast disparity between the haves and have-nots. Australia also does not endlessly engage in foreign wars although, since World War II in the 1940s, it has fought side-by-side with Americans in major conflicts. Below are the world's 12 wealthiest nations:
#1: United States -- $17.5 trillion
#2: China -- $10.0
#3: Japan -- $4.8
#4: Germany -- $3.9
#5: France -- $2.9
#6: United Kingdom -- $2.8
#7: Brazil -- $2.2
#8: Italy -- $2,2
#9: Russia -- $2.1
#10: India -- $2.0
#11: Canada -- $2.0
#12: Australia -- $1.8
#13: Spain -- $1.4
#14: Mexico -- $1.3
#15: South Korea -- $1.2
         Considering their meager populations, it is impressive that Australia and Canada can be listed among the Top 15 richest nations in the world. It is even more impressive, I believe, that Australia and Canada are both flush with cities listed in the Top 10 of "the best cities in the world to live." 
       Great and beautiful American cities -- such as Chicago, Detroit, etc. -- will never make the Top Ten of the "the best cities in the world to live" because of incredible rates of crime and the disparity between the rich and the poor. Chicago, with 2.7 million people, is the third most populace city in the U. S., behind New York City and Los Angeles. Such American cities are infamous for the number of citizens victimized by gunfire.
      Cuba's capital of Havana is one of the world's greatest and most beautiful cities. There is very little crime in Havana and the disparity between the rich and the poor is negligible. {Yes, Fidel Castro, now 88-years-old, was born rich but famously has never been interested in money, and he lives to this day in a very modest Havana home}. Yet, Havana, where two million of Cuba's 11.2 million people live, will never make the Top Ten of "the best cities in the world to live," at least as long as the island remains under the yoke of the hostile Cuban exile-dictated U. S. embargo, which has existed since 1962, shortly after the Cuban Revolution chased the Batista-Mafia dictatorship back to Southern Florida from whence it came.
       Declassified U. S. documents have revealed that the U. S. embargo was imposed in 1962 for the purpose of starving and depriving the Cubans on the island to encourage them to overthrow the Fidel Castro-led government. It didn't work. Neither had the 1961 air, land, and sea attack known as the Bay of Pigs. And neither have the Cuban exile-inspired Torricelli Bill and the Helms-Burton Act that have greatly expanded the embargo against both Cuba and against sovereign nations around the world that do business with Cuba. Deciphering such facts will be for historians to sort out -- beyond what great authors such as Julia Sweig and Ann Louise Bardach have already done -- but one thing is for certain: Most probably, Cuba is the only nation in world history that could have survived, decade after decade, under the yoke of the longest and cruelest embargo ever imposed by a powerful nation against a small, weak one. No other nation remotely resembling Cuba's size and population has ever remotely achieved what the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba has done since 1959, and that is to merely survive. A "Save The Children" aspect has figured prominently in that equation. Australia, Canada and all of America's best friends around the world strongly denounce the U. S. embargo of Cuba, yet a handful of Cuban exiles and their sycophants have kept it firmly in place since 1962, defying, in the eyes of many, America's hallowed democratic and societal principles enshrined and envisioned by the Founding Fathers in 1776.
       The Cuban Revolution that startled the world by overthrowing the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship was the first and only major revolution to be started and led by women, like these.
       Fidel Castro, shown above in February of 1959 -- one month after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution -- has always said it was the female-powered anti-Batista street marches that made him believe a successful revolution was possible even against a dictatorship supported by the U. S. and the Mafia. Many times in the last half century it has been written that Fidel Castro "has out-smarted a long line of U. S. presidents," now totaling eleven. When ABC-TV's Barbara Walters mentioned that revelation to Fidel, he laughed and said, "Now, Barbara, that only applies to one detail. When I realized that one-half of the Cuban population, the under-utilized female half, was outraged against Batista and the Mafiosi, I had a thought: no revolution has utilized that half of its population. I decided if I did I could do something about Batista and the Mafiosi, even if they had U.S. backing. So, I followed through on that thought. But other than that one detail...{he leaned forward and laughed}...I guess all those Yankee presidents have been much smarter than meSo, does that answer your question, Barbara? 'Cause, knowing you as I do, I know you have a lot more." 
Barbara Walters had two famous Castro interviews, this one in 1977.
He liked Barbara and personally drove her around Havana.
Now back to "Save the Children, Please":
      More than any other revolution, Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution gave full power to the female half of the Cuban population. For that reason, the most out-raged female in Cuba, Celia Sanchez {above}, evolved into by far the most important player in the Cuban Revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba, with the full support of Fidel Castro, who to this day idolizes the ground she walked on. As the image above indicates, Celia Sanchez, a rich doctor's daughter, passionately loved Cuba's children till the day she died of cancer at age 59 in 1980. In February of 1959 she had laid down a proclamation: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." In September of 2014 Fidel Castro is still alive and, therefore, so is Celia Sanchez's proclamation. Her decisive leadership in both the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba was inspired by her fervent desire to "Save the Children" from the Batista-Mafia dictatorship and from a return of what she called "the Batistianos." Although Americans are not suppose to acknowledge her because to do so would cast less vilification upon Fidel Castro, Celia Sanchez's passion for Cuba's ninos, its children, should serve as an example around a troubled world today, a world that seems far more friendly to militant fiends than to precious children victimized by crime and militancy.
        This young lady's name is Iman Abu Aitah. The photo is courtesy of Sara Hassan/Aljazeera America. She is featured in this essay because, frankly, I am amazed she is still alive. You see, she is a Palestinian from the Jabaliya section of Gaza City, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child. But, somehow, she ended up in the United States as a college student. She is a rising junior at Columbia College in South Carolina where she is diligently pursuing a biology degree. This summer she frantically watched televised news reports about the latest Israeli-Gaza War, including a 24-hour cycle about Israel's devastating air, land, and sea attack on the Jabaliya section of Gaza City. Like 1.8 million other Gazans, Iman fully realized her family had no where to run because the tiny Gaza Strip has its borders tightly closed by Israel and Egypt. After seeing the utter devastation of Jabaliya, Iman got the news: She had become an orphan. Both of her parents had been killed. Two of her brothers had been killed. Her 4-year-old nephew had been killed. Later Iman would learn that U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as evidenced by his "open microphone" comment when he thought the mic was not on, was totally shocked at the sheer brutality of Israel's assault on Jabaliya. Later, international news reports would repeatedly confirm that hard-bitten American generals, in assessing the Jabaliya death toll, were also "totally shocked." The two top human rights officials at the United Nations -- Ban Ki-Moon and Navi Pillay -- labeled the attacks on Yabaliya as "war crimes." Yet, as a nuclear superpower with total support and funding from the U. S. Congress and always backed by the U. S. veto in the UN, Israel is far above recriminations from the UN or any other human rights organization. And none of that is news to Iman Abu Aitah, who is alive but now an orphan.
       This summer in the third Israel-Gaza War in the past six years...Israel calls it "mowing the lawn" every couple of years...about 2200 Gazans and 69 Israeli's were killed. Most of the dead Gazans were civilians, including about 500 children. Tens of thousands of Gazans were seriously injured. Much of Gaza was reduced to rubble and estimates are it will be twenty years before repairs could be made even if the billions of dollars that would require is provided. During the height of this summer's Israel-Gaza War, the U. S. Congress, not unexpectedly, quickly provided Israel $325 million to replace spent ammunition, on top of the billions the U. S. Congress yearly and readily provides Israel's unbeatable military machine. U. S. taxpayers don't object but, probably, they will object when the UN asks them to contribute to helping repair Gaza or assisting in caring for the tens of thousands of injured Gazans. But, of course, the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just one of many around the world, all of which primarily devastate civilians, especially children. The Ukrainian-Russian War, the never-ending terrorist conflagrations in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc., etc., fill the void between the Israel-Gaza wars. As the grandmother in Roanoke, Virginia and the U. S. college student from Gaza well know, being a child in 2014 is not easy.
        CNN's Karl Penhall described blasts on Gaza City as: "It's not like shooting fish in a barrel but, in such a confined area, it is more like shooting sardines in a barrel." Unfortunately, in a modern world saturated with far more greed and weapons than benevolence and food, children are susceptible.  
         Some people -- such as the superb actress Susan Sarandon -- actually care about the plight of children in a greedy, violent, conflicted world. Ms. Sarandon is currently starring in a haunting ad for the Heifer International charity in which she reminds us that one child will die of hunger "every five seconds" and that "17,000 children will die today for the wrong reason," meaning they will starve to death. There are a lot of other things Susan Sarandon could be doing other than starring in ads for Heifer International. But at least it is comforting to know that somebody cares, and her concern should be commended and saluted.
         This haunting but popular billboard highlights a disturbing fact: One out of every five children in the United States of America has a hunger problem. Juxtapose that fact with this one: The United States of America is, by far, the richest nation in the history of the world. Or, in another vein, compare this little girl's hunger problem with this fact.............................................................................................................
         .......in today's out-of-whack world, one athlete earns enough money in a given year to virtually wipe out child hunger in the United States. Take, for example, #35 Kevin Durant. He is the 25-year-old star for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. In 2007, fresh out of high school, he signed a $60 million contract. He now earns far in excess of $20 million a year from his team. But that is a pittance to what he earns in endorsements courtesy of the ubiquitous ads that clutter up our T-V screens. This summer Under Armour, a company based in Baltimore, offered Durant $285 million on a ten-year-contract...$28.5 million a year from one sponsor! However, Durant already had a lucrative deal with Nike, which doles out billions of dollars in athletic endorsements. So, Durant stayed with Nike and it has been reported that new deal will be worth about $30 million a year in guarantees and royalties. Of course, Durant also has numerous other sponsors. Forget the measly $20 million or so he makes each year from his player-contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The much more and much easier money he makes from endorsements could alleviate much of the child hunger in America, with perhaps enough left over to help combat other persistent evils such as homelessness or joblessness, which especially plague African-American communities.
Note: The problem is not Kevin Durant; it's political and executive greed.
         Recent articles about Nike brushing aside Under Armour's $28.5 million-a-year endorsement deal for Kevin Durant stated that Nike still pays Michael Jordan about $130 million-a-year although Jordan hasn't played basketball for many years. It reminds some of a CNBC documentary that made many viewers actually cry as they were told and shown how those Nike products are made in sweatshops in Third World countries by grossly underpaid female workers in what could be described as slave-like conditions. It left some viewers cradling the suggestion that, perhaps, Nike should raise the wages of those poor foreign workers just a little bit instead of selling their products at very high prices and showering billions of dollars each year on already incredibly rich athletes. But, of course, that won't happen in a society that churns out billionaires like Nike chairman Phil Knight and top endorsers Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods while mostly ignoring the plight of foreign sweatshop workers, unemployed Americans, hungry children, and unsafe civilians in war-torn areas of a wicked world increasingly afflicted by heavily armed militant countries as well as powerful terrorist groups. In other words, as personified by Nike, the foreign workers, often young girls or women, making those expensive Air Jordan shoes should be paid a living wage in safe conditions. Or, perhaps, a bought-and-paid-for Congress should stop giving huge tax breaks to companies that close U. S. plants and then another huge tax break when those companies open factories in labor-cheap Third World countries. But, of course, when millionaires and billionaires are the ones who make those cash donations to politicians, Nike and other companies can essentially do as they please, an advantage that is not available to less wealthy people who can't purchase political votes. 
       Now deep into the fall of 2014, some astute prognosticators are predicting that the current bloody conflict between Russia and Ukraine could easily develop into World War Three. Russia's nuclear arsenal is second only to the United States. Ukraine is a major arms producer. Amazingly, as if to emphasize a money-crazed, power-hungry world gone mad, Ukraine is continuing to fulfill a lucrative arms contract with Russia, even as Russian arms are already opposing Ukrainian arms along the southern borders of both countries. This past summer, in the middle of nuclear-power Israel blasting densely populated Gaza City, killing about 500 children and maiming thousands more, the world is told that the U. S. Congress, not unexpectedly, sent Israel an additional $325 million to replenish its arsenal of weapons and ammunition. Many of us who hear about such things are shocked, at least initially. Then we realize the world is unfriendly to children who are no match for powerful armies, rampaging terrorists, or...greedy politicians.
        Saving children was what Cuba's revolutionary icon Celia Sanchez was all about. If Vice President Richard Nixon had not double-crossed her in April of 1959 when she took Fidel on a 12-day goodwill visit to the U. S., Cuba would have had a democracy long ago. If the U. S. had not allowed the most visceral anti-Castro Cubans, and their self-serving sycophants, to dictate America's Cuban policy since 1959, it is possible that Cuba's two largest cities -- Havana and Santiago de Cuba -- would today be listed among "the best cities in the world to live." And the reason Americans dismiss both of those points is because they have been proselytized and propagandized since the long-ago 1950s. More courageous and better informed Americans would be good for the world's children. That's because America is the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world, and history's greatest and most benevolent democracy. Beyond doubt, America remains today the nation that the most helpless people in the world continue to depend on to support their rights to live against those bent on destruction and genocide. Of all the historic people I have studied, I believe Celia Sanchez would be America's biggest cheerleader in that regard. In April of 1959, Celia Sanchez, Fidel Castro, and famed journalist Carlos Franqui were among the Cuban contingent that spent 12 days in the U. S. intending to tell President Eisenhower of Cuba's plans for a democratic election, till Vice President Nixon double-crossed both Celia and democracy. On that U. S. visit in April of 1959, Celia Sanchez, the day after Nixon's unexpected and unfortunate meeting with Fidel Castro, made this statement to Carlos Franqui: "My plans for Cuba were for a democracy that would necessarily be best friends with the United States, and that's why I'm on U.S., not Cuban, soil today. I have been double-crossed, Carlos, and it reflects my mistake in judgment. I won't misjudge the U. S. again." Back in Cuba, she reaffirmed her proclamation about the Batistianos never regaining control of Cuba as long as she or Fidel lived. And, back in Cuba, she realized that a much larger portion of the island's resources would have to go to defense as opposed to the areas she envisioned -- such as education, health, and shelter for Cuba's long-deprived citizens.
Yet, to this day Americans have no basic comprehension of this historic Castro-Nixon handshake from April of 1959. The reason: Since 1959 a handful of two generations of the most visceral Cuban exiles have dictated a self-serving U.S.-Cuban narrative. While the handshake was a photo op, Nixon's threat to Fidel predicated much of what has been hostile with U.S.-Cuban relations from April-1959 to September-2014.
     To comprehend U.S.-Cuban relations since the 1950s, Americans would also need to understand this photo that was taken by Andrew St. George and is owned by Yale University's Manuscripts & Archives department. It shows Celia Sanchez in the hallway of her U. S. hotel in April of 1959, less than four months after she had last worn her guerrilla uniform...and less than one day after Richard Nixon's double-cross. Americans not knowing Cuban history -- especially from Jose Marti to Fidel Castro to Celia Sanchez -- has harmed a lot of people for a lot of decades, including children. And that would disappoint the child-loving Celia Sanchez very, very much.
By the way..............
      I got an email today from Lisa R., a lady in Calgary. She wrote: "I was quite touched by your depiction of and explanation of Celia Sanchez's photo when she was in the U. S. less than four months after she had been the most prominent guerrilla fighter in over-throwing the Batista dictatorship. I will re-visit your latest blog tomorrow hoping you will add the photo of Celia's facial expression when she was a guerrilla fighter. That expression, and the one in the NY hotel hallway, define the Cuba that you write so emphatically about, I truly believe." In my return email I wrote: "In March of 2004 I was in Cuba, courtesy of the George W. Bush administration, to research the life of Celia Sanchez after an elderly black woman who I had come to worship startled me in the early 1980s. Nora, the black lady, told me, an anti-Castro hater at the time like most Americans, about Celia Sanchez. Nora in the 1940s and 1950s had volunteered at a Cuban hospital in Santiago de Cuba. There she met the doctor's daughter, Celia Sanchez. What Nora told me, authenticated by photos and letters Celia had written to Nora from 1959 till 1979, not only surprised me but inspired me to learn more about the Cuban woman that Nora insisted was history's all-time greatest female revolutionary. That turned out to be correct, I discovered. Also, as if it were yesterday, I remember a reminiscing Nora, the night I last visited her sick-bed, smiling sweetly as I told her how much I had begun to research Celia Sanchez. Nora, very pleased, said, "Celia's love of children inspired her. That was it. It is a fact that changed Cuba and America forever. Each hour of her life Celia's passion for Cuban children ruled her being." Remembering Nora's words, coupled with recent photos of imperiled children, inspired the title for this essay: "Save the Children, Please." And one more thing, Lisa. As I can document via well-known and highly respected Cubans who made it possible, I was shocked in 2004 when a female Cuban soldier, driving a Honda, picked me up at the Victoria Hotel in Havana and drove me to Fidel Castro's home, where three of his relatives waited in the driveway. I was later told that my session with Fidel Castro lasted "just shy of five minutes." I had taken original copies of Celia-to-Nora letters, courtesy of Nora's daughter, to Cuba with me to explain why I was there and to help make sure I could visit with three key people who intimately had known Celia -- Marta Rojas, Tete Puebla, and Roberto Salas. The Director of the Cuban Media Center, to my surprise, kept the letters. When they were returned 3 days later, worried about Nora's daughter, I minutely checked the letters. One was a copy, not the original. I assumed, and still believe, the original was kept by Fidel, perhaps because it contained a personal reference Celia had made in the letter about an incident between Celia and Fidel. Back in the U. S., I truthfully explained to Nora's daughter why one of the letters was a copy and not the original she had trusted me with. In any case, Lisa, the last sentence Fidel Castro spoke to me was: "Thank you for understanding her, and loving her." I will now attach the photo you asked for. And allow me to add this: 'Thank you for understanding her, and loving her.'"

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