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News Day: Court: Franken won, and not one of Coleman’s claims was legit / Cops and fairy tales / Mpls Somali news / more

Franken won, and not one of Coleman’s claims was legit In a 68-page opinion (PDF), the three-judge recount court knocked down every single one of Coleman’s claims, said Franken should be seated as Senator, and gave a resounding vote of confidence to the Minnesota election system. Continue reading

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50 years of revolution

New Year’s Day also marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Fifty years after the overthrow of the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro (82) has handed off power to his slightly younger brother Raul Castro (77).

The BBC reports that Cuba’s economy slowed down this year, growing at a rate of only 4.3% instead of the projected 8%. Cuba was hit by three major hurricanes this year, with damages estimated at $10 billion. An AP report in the Miami Herald called the economic growth figure inflated because it includes “state spending on free health care and education, as well as subsides for transportation and food rations.” (Of course, no matter how you slice it, the Cuban GDP looks better than this year’s U.S. GDP, which is likely to show less than 2% growth.)

As the New York Times noted, Cuba “has secured advances in education and health care,” and its life expectancy of 77.3 years is one of the highest in the hemisphere. Its infant mortality rate is lower than that of the United States, according to U.N. reports

U.S. policy toward Cuba continues to be punitive, with stringent limitations on travel and trade. Some change is expected with the new administration. NACLA reports that President-elect Obama has promised to give Cuban-Americans “unrestricted rights” to visit family members in Cuba and to send money to them. However, Obama said he will maintain the trade embargo first imposed by President Eisenhower in 1960, despite continuing international calls for lifting the embargo.

For 17 straight years, the 192-member U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the U.S. embargo. Only the United States, Israel and Palau voted against the measure in October. …

On December 8, the heads of 15 Caribbean nations called on Obama to rescind the embargo: “The Caribbean community hopes that the transformational change which is under way in the United States will finally relegate that measure to history,” their statement said.

Then on December 17 in Brazil, the leaders of 33 Latin American countries, including conservative allies of Washington like Colombia and Mexico, convened for another gathering and unanimously called on Obama to drop the “unacceptable” embargo. (“End the Embargo,” NACLA)

Cubans know better than to count on big changes from the new administration. The Weekly News Update on the Americas summarized an interview from Mexican daily La Jornada:

Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón said that Cuba isn’t counting on a major shift in US policy towards Cuba when Barack Obama becomes US president on Jan. 20. Alarcón, who lived in New York 1966-1978 as Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, noted that “many of my friends…people of what was the American New Left in other times” had wept at Obama’s victory celebration in Chicago on Nov. 4. “I understood their hope,” he told reporter Blanche Petrich, but “I know that we can’t expect a big turning point with respect to Cuba.”

Alarcón told La Jornada, that Obama promises change, but not radical change. For Cuba, that means lifting the restrictions placed by Bush, and a return to some form of dialogue, which had ended during the Bush years.

La verdad es que siempre hubo espacio para el diálogo discreto, la interlocución privada, la diplomacia no pública que se mantuvo, que probó ser útil y que existió hasta que llegó el increíble equipo de George Bush, el pequeño.

The truth is that there was always space for discreet dialogue, for private conversations, for diplomacy maintained out of the public view, which was useful and which existed until the incredible team of George Bush, the small one.

Now, said Alarcón, a changed relationship with Cuba could be an important part of a new U.S. relationship with Latin America.

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