Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A challenge to US low ranking in press freedom index

(My new American Thinker post)


The headline on Drudge caught my attention:  USA Plunges To 46th In World Press Freedom Index...

I read a summary and here is what Reporters without borders say about the US:
"In the United States, 9/11 spawned a major conflict between the imperatives of national security and the principles of the constitution's First Amendment.

This amendment enshrines every person's right to inform and be informed.

But the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundations during George W. Bush's two terms as president by the way journalists were harassed and even imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources or surrender their files to federal judicial officials.  

There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama.

Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them.

No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush's two terms.

While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.   

The whistleblower is the enemy.

Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case.

Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency's phone records."
To be fair, the report does say that there are countries like Cuba and others with no independent watchdogs or a state run media.   

However, the assessment of the US is very harsh and unfair.  Who are these 45 countries with more freedom of the press than the US?

Jamaica?  Costa Rica?  Romania?  Spain? Botswana?  El Salvador?  Belize?  and a bunch of other European countries? 

Are you kidding me?

The report also treats Mr Manning and Mr Snowden as whistleblowers.  Sorry but they are traitors who violated their oath.  Mr Snowden actually went to Russia, hardly a place for journalists. 

The "Reporters without borders" index makes no sense to me, at least as it applies to its very negative treatment of the US since 9-11.  

It's hard to think of a country with a more "free press" than the US.    

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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Throwing strikes and worrying about your family back in Venezuela

(My new American Thinker post)


Every major league team these days has its share of Venezuelan players.The Texas Rangers have a couple of good ones, young lefty Martin Perez and All Star shortstop Elvis Andrus.  They are torn between events back home and getting ready for the baseball season, according to The Dallas Morning News:
"Just as spring training camps were about to open last week, the country was rocked by a wave of student protests and police retaliation. In the days since, it has only ramped up. On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, under fire for rising inflation, food shortages and sharp increases in crime, ejected three U.S. diplomats for allegedly helping to fuel the protests, which have turned deadly in some of the country's biggest cities.   
It is against this backdrop that Perez and six other Venezuelan-born players on the Rangers' spring roster prepare for the season. With the exception of Elvis Andrus, who is arriving from Dallas on Tuesday, all the players made it to camp safely. Before Monday's first workout, the Venezuelan contingent, all close, congregated near Robinson Chirinos to talk baseball, but the state of their homeland also came up. 
"It is hard for us," Perez said. "We call every day, and people don't have food for eating, things like that. We have a great country, and you look at the situation and things are just terrible. It's bad. I love my country, but things are bad. People want and need things, and they don't have it."   
It is one of the reasons Perez and Andrus were so willing to sign long-term contracts with the Rangers within the last year. The financial security gave them both the ability to buy homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Perez, who signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract over the winter, closed on a home in Arlington only two weeks before coming to camp. His wife is there, but his parents remain in Guanare in the central part of the country.  
It has also led the two players to become unlikely political activists. Perez and Andrus have taken to actively tweeting and retweeting to bring awareness to the situation."
Venezuela exploded last week and it's hard to see what happens next, as Daniel Duquenal reports:
"The regime is paralyzed, it has no idea what to do so it threatens, kicks out a few USA embassy personnel, accuses Uribe of planning everything. As if Uribe, or anyone for that matter could convince groups to riot from San Cristobal to Puerto Ordaz which surprisingly has had some of the largest gatherings in spite of having one of the worst climate for such rallies."
Spring training will have a new meaning for many Venezuelan ballplayers, who must get in shape and keep an eye on the news back home.   

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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The world wants Cuba to change but the Castro regime doesn't

(My new American Thinker post)

We've seen this movie many times before.  It starts with a country giving Cuba a line of credit or going around the US embargo.  It is followed by high expectations that Cuba will change once Cubans in the island greet foreign tourists or Spaniards build hotels.

However, the movie always ends the same way: Cuba can't pay the loans and Cubans are still living in a repressive state.

We've seen that movie several times since the collapse of the Soviet Union in '92. Just ask all of the countries who've had to reschedule their loans to Cuba or just forgive old ones.

The Miami Herald has a great editorial about US and Cuba"
"Suddenly, there appears to be movement, or at least the start of a conversation, regarding policy toward Cuba on the part of the European Union and Americans interested in the welfare of the Cuban people.

This is a healthy development. No policy should be declared sacrosanct and off-limits for periodic review, particularly those framed during the height of the Cold War.

There's just one thing missing in this picture: The Cuban government.

The government's hard-line stance on human-rights issues represents an obstacle in the thawing of relations that cannot be ignored. Moreover, not only is there no sign that the Castro regime is interested in any sort of dialogue or negotiation over its despotic policies, but rather the opposite.

The latest evidence of the regime's perfidy puts the Castro government squarely in the middle of a global weapons-supply chain to North Korea, in violation of explicit U.N. sanctions.

And just days before pollsters in this country released findings indicating that majorities across the board, including people of Cuban descent, favored a thaw in relations between the two countries, police raided the home of prominent dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antunez.

He was hauled away and detained for hours - and so was his wife, after demanding his freedom - before being released. Their home was vandalized and sacked.

This is standard operating procedure by the Castro security apparatus. Both at home and abroad, Cuba stands on the side of the oppressors, as it always has."
This is why I've supported the US embargo.  I have not seen any evidence that lifting the embargo will bring democracy to Cuba or help the Cuban people.  On the contrary, lifting the embargo will simply bail out the communist state and put more dollars in the Castro family accounts.

Our policy should be very clear and simple: 

First, no talks at any level until Cuba releases Mr. Allan Gross unconditionally.  Simply hand him over to the Red Cross so that he can be reunited with his family. No meeting or talks until that happens first; 

Second, the world should demand a democratic transition in Cuba. No more "wishful thinking" about reforms that don't really reform or "expectations" of change that never comes.

This is the moment for the US to draw the line and say "enough" in Cuba.

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.


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Spanish is a great asset in today's US-Latin America marketplace




We spoke with Carlos A Roncal, CEO of World Language School in Dallas, TX.    We are seeing more and more trade between the US and Spanish speaking countries, like Mexico, Venezuela and Chile.  The facts are clear, according to Congressional Research Service:

"Latin America is far from the largest U.S. regional trade partner (see Figure 1 for U.S. direction of trade), but it has long been one of the fastest growing ones. Between 1998 and 2009, total U.S.  merchandise trade (exports plus imports) with Latin America grew by 82% compared to 72% for Asia (driven largely by China), 51% for the European Union, 221% for Africa, and 64% for the world (individual country data appear in Appendix A and Appendix B.). 
Only trade with Africa has grown faster, and this represents growth from a very small base and variations in the price. "   

So speaking Spanish is now a necessity as more and more US companies go south for new customers.    Here is our show with Carlos:







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