Saturday, May 31, 2014

Who will tell Alan Gross?

A group of Taliban prisoners – five, ironically – was released in a swap for a single American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, after nearly five years in captivity.

Sgt. Bergdahl was captured six months before USAID contractor Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba.

The Taliban officials include a former provincial governor, deputy defense minister, and intelligence chief.

President Obama said that he has received assurances from Qatari government, which acted as intermediary, that it will take “measures to protect our national security.” According to numerous press reports, that includes restrictions on the activity and movement of the Taliban members when they are transferred to Qatar.  

President Obama, as the Times explains, defied Congress in effectuating this swap by apparently ignoring parts of a statute that he rejected as unconstitutional infringements on his foreign policy authority when he signed it into law.

Senator McCain welcomed Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, did not criticize the President, and wants assurances that “these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.” (A note on Senator McCain’s activities regarding American prisoners in Egypt is here.)

Cuba offers to negotiate for Mr. Gross’ release on a “reciprocal humanitarian basis” which many take to mean the release of the remaining three Cuban intelligence officers in U.S. jails, who have served 15 years. Washington has declined such a negotiation, and USAID and the State Department don’t like the idea of putting a USAID operative and intelligence officers in the same mix, as if they are not on the same moral plane. Of course, in every prisoner swap both governments dislike trading bad guys for good guys, but they suck it up to get their good guys back.

In a written statement, President Obama noted “America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.” Appearing at the White House with Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents, the President said that he remains “committed to obtain the release of Americans unjustly detained abroad.” Whoever informs Mr. Gross about today’s news should tell him about that statement too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Yasiel Puig, livin' large in LA

He’s 23 years old, he's hitting .326, he has homered in three of the last four games (video of last night’s is here), his manager is thrilled with his maturation as a hitter, he continues to amaze in the field with his glove, his arm, or his crashes into the wall, and last night was Yasiel Puig Bobblehead Night in Chavez Ravine, with his Mom there to throw out the first pitch.

Also, he’s generating a little controversy about The Way the Game Is Played because when he hits a homer he gets a little exuberant and some pitchers don’t like it. Can you blame him?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wake up!

ZunZuneo may be gone, but this operation – funded with “100 percent private Cuban capital,” its Twitter feed says, is sending texts to Cuba, more than 1,000 in its first few weeks of operation. The messages of Despierta Cuba (Wake up Cuba) are a mixture of political criticism and calls to protest and to unite with dissidents, whose phone numbers are sometimes included in the texts. Several photos of the texts show that they are sent from the 786 area code, using this Internet-based service for calling and texting Cuba. This photo shows that U.S. users are encouraged to send messages of their own, and Despierta Cuba will show how and provide phone numbers.

People will naturally ask if this is a USAID operation; it says it is not and it appears too simple and efficient to have been created by the U.S. government.

More on the arrests in Cuba

AP: Cuban officials have briefed U.S. diplomats in Havana on the men arrested last week under the allegation that they were going to undertake and armed attack on a military base.

This Cuban reporter’s blog displays the registration documents for the “Cuban Liberation Force, Inc.,” filed in Florida by one of the men arrested.

The Herald’s Juan Tamayo on the fate of armed infiltrators to Cuba, during and after they have served their sentences.

Odds and ends

  • Herald: Charlie Crist is having no second thoughts about opposing the Cuba embargo.
  • Cuba Standard on former NFL player Pasha Jackson, now studying to be a doctor at Cuba’s Latin American Medical School.
  • In the Herald, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and former EPA chief William Reilly, back from Cuba, write that “Florida and neighboring states have a paramount interest in ensuring that Cuba’s drilling operators employ the highest safety standards and the best available technology,” and U.S. restrictions on equipment and training should be eased to that end.
  • Washington Post: Former Rep. David Rivera is tanned, rested, and ready to run for the House seat he lost to Rep. Joe Garcia. First, he has to win a competitive primary.
  • Senator Rubio in January, touring Asia and wishing the communists prosperity: “I’ve never accepted the idea that we wanted to contain China. We welcome a China that's richer and more prosperous.”