HAVANA — Cuba says it will turn over to the United States a Florida couple who allegedly kidnapped their own children from the mother’s parents and fled by boat to Havana.
Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada told The Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Cuba had informed U.S. authorities of the country’s decision to turn over Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn and their two young boys. She did not say when the handover would occur.
IT WILL BE INTERESTING to see If Mr Snipes has been properly reeducated about his place at the table and the issue of “Voluntary” Taxes. If he starts working in propaganda films – we will have your answer. Good Luck Wesley – stay away from the light!
Wesley Snipes is the star of the Blade trilogy
Hollywood star Wesley Snipes has been released from prison in the US after serving time for not paying his taxes.
The 50-year-old actor was jailed in Pennsylvania in 2010 for failing to file income tax returns.
He’ll now remain under house arrest for the next four months in order to complete the three year sentence he was handed.
Snipes has starred in dozens of films but is most famous for the Blade trilogy about a vampire hunter.
Millions of dollars
US prosecutors say the actor failed to file returns for at least a decade and owed millions of dollars in taxes.
It’s not known where exactly he’ll stay while under house arrest. At the time of his conviction he lived in a suburb of Orlando in Florida.
However, documents show he’ll be under the supervision of the New York Community Corrections Office, which oversees people in the Bronx and Brooklyn areas of New York, as well as New Jersey.
At the time of his conviction in April 2008, prosecutors said Snipes had earned more than $37m (£24m) in gross income.
Wesley Snipes at the premiere of Blade 2
For years, almost no one at the Dozier School even knew about the burial ground in a clearing in the woods on the edge of campus. It was forbidden territory. The soil here, churned in places by tiny ants, holds more than the remains of little boys. Only now is it starting to give up its dark secrets: horror stories of state-sanctioned barbarism, including flogging, sexual assault and, possibly, murder.
That the Arthur G Dozier School – a borstal for delinquent boys founded in 1900 – was not a gentle place was well-established. Boys as young as six were chained to walls, lashings with a leather strap were frequent and, in the early decades, children endured enforced labour, making bricks and working printing presses. When it was closed in 2011, it had already been the subject of separate federal and state investigations.
But, as suspicions deepen about how the boys in the burial ground died, pressure is growing again on the state to shine new light into the darkest days of the school in Marianna, a Florida Panhandle town that once was a bastion of the KKK and the site of the 1934 lynching of Claude Neal. The pressure is coming from some of the school’s survivors, from relatives of boys who died here, and from Florida’s top US Senator, Bill Nelson.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire,” Senator Nelson declared last month, calling on the state to delay plans to sell off the 1,400 acres occupied by the old school so that a team of forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida can complete a project begun last year to comb the campus for more graves. He wants any bodies found exhumed, identified and returned to the families they came from.
So far, the team, led by Erin Kimmerle, has focused its work around the once-secret cemetery. It knows that as many as 98 boys died at the school between 1914 and 1973. Since starting last year, Professor Kimmerle has found 19 previously undiscovered graves in addition to the 31 marked by steel-pipe crosses. That means 50 graves so far. Forty-eight have yet to be located, assuming graves were dug for each body.
Menendez opposed U.S. giving security equipment to Dominicans (so his donor would get the $1.6 Billion-contract?)
By Eric Lipton and William K. Rashbaum
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., sought to discourage any plan by the U.S. government to donate port-security equipment to the Dominican Republic, citing concern that the screening gear might undermine efforts by a private company — run by a major campaign contributor and friend of his — to do the work.
The intervention came shortly after the senator’s friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, arranged to meet with a senior State Department official, accompanied by a former aide to Menendez, in a related push to protect a port-security contract, worth as much as $500 million over 20 years.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department declined to comment, with a State Department official citing an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into related matters.
But Menendez has rejected any suggestion that his official actions have been driven by an effort to favor Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Senate Democrats and Menendez’s re-election campaign.
Aides have acknowledged that Menendez had spoken to State Department officials about the port security contract, which the Dominican government was refusing to honor; the senator questioned other administration officials about it, as well. But in recently obtained emails, the degree to which Menendez sought to intervene on behalf of Melgen’s interests became clearer.
In a January email exchange with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, Menendez’s staff did not mention Melgen or his company, Border Support Services, by name.
But the aide asked if the U.S. government was planning to donate additional port-security equipment to the Dominican Republic. The aide explained that if such a donation occurred, the Dominican government, perhaps under pressure from criminal elements, might limit the use of the equipment so contraband could still flow through the country’s ports on the way to the United States.
Although Washington has struck a rudimentary deal regarding the “fiscal cliff”, the real issues plaguing America are not being addressed, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury tells Press TV.
This comes as the White House and congressional Republicans have reached an agreement on Monday to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts, while US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on December 27 that “the country hit its debt ceiling.” America’s debt currently stands at over USD 16 trillion.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, from Florida, to further discuss the issue.
“Tripwires,” Mall Cops, and “Radical Cheerleaders”
On October 19, 2011, an FBI agent filed a report, titled “Domain Program Management [,] Domestic Terrorism,” detailing an October 11 briefing given to “Jacksonville Executive Management” (EM) and a supervisory special agent (SSA) “Counter Terrorism Program Coordinator.” The subject of the October 11 briefing had been the potential growth of the OWS movement throughout north/central Florida. (All agent names were redacted from this, and other, FBI reports.)
“During the 11 October intelligence meeting, writer advised EM of the Occupy venues and further advised that they may provide an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction,” wrote the agent, who went on to say that special areas of concern were Daytona, Gainesville, and Ocala, where “some of the highest unemployment rates in Florida continue to exist.”
As such, the report’s author recommended that the Counter Terrorism Program Coordinator, “consider establishing tripwires with the Occupy event coordinators regarding their observance of actions or comments indicating violent tendencies by attendees” (emphasis added).
There was another tragic event that took place on Friday, December 14th, 2012 in Newtown Connecticut. A young man killed his mother and then proceeded to a nearby school where he shot and killed more than two dozen people, most of them very young children. My heart goes out to the parents of those children who fell victim to this senseless violence. As a parent myself, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain they must feel. No one should have to go through such an ordeal. Words seem to be woefully lacking when trying to offer comfort in a situation such as this, but one can only try as best one can to sympathize. I, like most sane people, wish to see a world where such violence is but a bad memory of a bygone era. Read more
U.S. Ready to Offer Mercenaries $10 Billion for a Drug-War Air Force
Unsure how your private security firm makes money as the U.S. war in Afghanistan winds down? One option: Go into the drug trade — more specifically, the lucrative business of fighting narcotics. The State Department needs a business partner to keep its fleet of drug-hunting helicopters and planes flying worldwide. You could make up to $10 billion-with-a-B.
Starting next month in Melbourne, Florida, the State Department will solicit some defense-industry feedback on a contract to help operate its 412 aircraft, based in at least eight nations, before it reopens the contract for bidding. Among the missions the diplomatic corps needs fulfilled: “Provide pilots and operational support for drug interdiction missions such as crop spraying, and the transport of personnel and cargo,” according to a pre-solicitation the department’s bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs released on Friday.
From its headquarters at Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base, the State Department directs 51,000 annual hours worth of air operations. In Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and Guatemala, it mostly performs “counternarcotics and law enforcement activities,” explains State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala, and in Afghanistan it does transportation support as well. Diplomats at the mega-embassy in Iraq also rely on State’s contractor air fleet to move about the country. And in recent years, that fleet has also needed to perform short-term air missions in Sudan, Honduras, Malta, Libya and Egypt. Private-security giant DynCorp currently holds the contract for supporting the diplomatic fleet.
If you’ve got pilots and air-maintenance crews on your payroll, the risk of operating in “permissive and non-permissive” environments (i.e., dangerous places) could be worth your while. “The total dollar value of services could reach $10B over the life of the resulting contracts,” the pre-solicitation reads. That’s as much as State pays for its entire crew of mercenaries that protect diplomats worldwide.
The aviation contract covers more than just counternarcotics. State needs vendors for “personnel and cargo transport, aerial reconnaissance, medical and casualty evacuations, aerial herbicide application, aerial support to narcotics interdiction operations, aircraft ferrying, and emergent surge type operation.” But the lion’s share of missions have to do with stopping drugs. Of State’s 412 aircraft, some 120 perform “drug interdiction and transport of personnel,” and the remaining 292 are in some form of storage. DynCorp’s website describes the mission as “help[ing] foreign governments improve their ability to develop and implement national strategies and programs to prevent the production, trafficking, and abuse of illicit drugs.” (A company representative didn’t say if DynCorp will seek to retain the revised aviation support contract.)
Without much publicity, the State Department has built a bespoke air force since the mid-1980s, one that’s stacked with helicopters and heavily reliant on contractors. In the days before the U.S. military left Iraq, the diplomats who remain there solicited for a contract air force capable of the difficult, dangerous work of medical evacuation and search and rescue missions. A 2010 State Department inspector general report highlighted similar work performed in Pakistan — with an emphasis on crop eradication and interdiction — by DynCorp, one of State’s longtime security contractors.
It’s not just the State Department. One of the largest pots of security-contractor cash in the U.S. government, worth $3 billion, comes from an obscure Pentagon bureau called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO), which disburses cash for missions that blend counternarcotics with counterterrorism. Among them: “airlift services the trans-Sahara,” website support in Pakistan, and helicopter flight training in Mexico. Last month, CNTPO put out a contract to support counter-drug operations in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 date for ending the U.S. combat mission there.
But State won’t look to dispense cash in Florida next month: its pre-solicitation vaguely alludes to awarding “a core operations contract” during the fiscal year that begins next October. In advance of assigning that aviation support contract, it’s looking for feedback from potential vendors to help State “redefine its requirements to take advantage of modern aviation practices.”
Doug Brooks, the president of the International Stability Operations Association, the professional association of security contractors, said he was unfamiliar with the State aviation effort. He cautioned that many aviation companies competing for these types of support-services contracts don’t actually have much involvement in the private security business. DynCorp, however, does both private security and aviation support.
And some familiarity with security apparently helps. Among the tasks State wants handled for its counter-drug airfleet include “defensive security for air fields” and “reconnaissance missions when required,” in addition to generic maintenance services and training foreign militaries in flight operations. The drug game is a dangerous trade, and so is maintaining a special air force for the American diplomats who try to contain it.
The only question here is… Will Jeb have to wait til 2016 to be POTUS?
Washington, D.C. — Former Florida governor Jeb Bush met Monday with a group of his former staffers at the J. W. Marriott hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, just steps from the White House. Bush, a potential 2016 presidential contender, spent an hour in the hotel’s Cannon room, reminiscing and entertaining questions about his political future.
In an interview with NRO, Bush did not rule out a presidential run. “I am here to catch up with folks and promote education reform,” he said, smiling.
When asked again whether he will issue a Sherman-type statement about his future, Bush remained coy. “We have an alumni group that I like keeping in touch with,” he said. “I’m here to focus on educational reform, and that’s what I’m going to tell people.”
Neil Newhouse, Mitt Romney’s campaign pollster, was at the meeting, as were several veteran Florida operatives.
On Tuesday, Bush will host a national summit on education reform. Education secretary Arne Duncan, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels will speak at the event.
Happy Katrina anniversary New Orleans – in case you forgot what a militarized police state looks like.
NEW ORLEANS | Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:55pm EDT
(Reuters) – Hurricane Isaac gathered strength as it bore down on New Orleans on Tuesday, bringing high winds and soaking rains that will pose the first major test to the city’s multibillion-dollar flood protections, seven years after Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Hundreds of U.S. Army National Guard troops took up strategic positions around New Orleans, preparation meant to avoid the chaos seen in the days and weeks after Katrina in August 2005.
Isaac’s storm surge poses a major test of the so-called Crescent City’s new flood-control systems and reinforced levees that failed in 2005, leaving parts of the city underwater. Forecasts from the U.S. National Hurricane Center showed the storm coming ashore in the Mississippi Delta late on Tuesday, possibly taking direct aim at New Orleans.
“Many parts of the state could see 24 to 38 hours of tropical storm-force winds,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told a news conference. “We’re going to see a lot of downed trees and power lines,” he said. “We need people to stay safe.”
Brandishing automatic assault rifles to ward off any threat of looting, the troops in military vehicles took up positions on mostly deserted streets. Their arrival came as driving rain and stiff winds battered the city’s famous tourist district, The French Quarter, and its boarded-up storefronts. White-capped waves formed in Lake Pontchartrain.
Earlier, the Army Corps of Engineers closed for the first time the massive new floodgate on the largest storm-surge barrier in the world, at Lake Borgne, east of New Orleans.
In other preparations, oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico nearly ground to a halt, and ports and coastal refineries curtailed operations as Isaac neared.
At 5 p.m. CDT (2200 GMT), the Hurricane Center said Isaac was centered about 105 miles southeast of New Orleans with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.
The storm, becoming better organized as it nears land, was traveling at a relatively slow 8 mph. That pace is a concern for people in its path since slow-moving cyclones can bring higher rainfall totals.
Isaac was about 370 miles wide and due to make landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River within the hour.
Heavy rains and big storm surges were also forecast for parts of Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Isaac spared Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention began on Monday. But it forced party leaders to revamp their schedule. They may have to make further revisions so as not to be seen celebrating Mitt Romney’s presidential nomination while Gulf Coast residents struggle through the storm.
President Barack Obama urged Gulf Coast residents to take cover and heed warning, saying, Now was “not the time to tempt fate.” He issued emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week because of Isaac.
Isaac had New Orleans in its sights as the city is still recovering from Katrina, which swept across it on August 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars of damage.
After Katrina, the Corps of Engineers built a $14.5 billion flood defense system of walls, floodgates, levees and pumps designed to protect the city against a massive tidal surge like the one that swamped New Orleans in Katrina’s wake.
The floodgate that closed on Tuesday is 26 feet high and 1.8 miles long. It was designed to prevent the Industrial Canal from breaching its walls, as it did in 2005, inundating the Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly and New Orleans East neighborhoods, and St. Bernard Parish.
Most of the Lower Ninth, still scarred by the devastation of Katrina, was deserted on Tuesday. Residents who hadn’t evacuated were unloading water, food and fuel from their cars and trucks to take into their homes.
“We’ve got all kinds of eats and treats,” Arthur Anderson, 61, who was trapped in the attic of his house during Katrina before he escaped by boat.
Authorities have urged thousands of residents in low-lying areas to leave, warning that the storm could flood towns and cities in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as Louisiana, with a storm surge of up to 12 feet.
Rainfall accumulations, potentially totaling as much as 20 inches in some areas, could also trigger widespread flooding. Customers in Louisiana’s coastal parishes were already without power.
Isaac was not forecast to strengthen beyond a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Its top projected winds were about 80 mph. While that would be well below the intensity of Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm, the size of Isaac’s slow-moving system has forecasters predicting widespread flooding.
“It’s going to take till the weekend before this gets out of the southeastern states,” Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
In the French Quarter, most businesses were closed and boarded up on Tuesday, while a handful of workers piled sandbags along doorways. Police and military vehicles were parked throughout the neighborhood.
One tourist left in the district was Craig Drees, an accountant from Russells Point, Ohio.
“It’s a little eerie how quiet it is,” said Drees, standing on a street corner with a few friends. “But it seems like the city is taking this very seriously and will be working to keep people safe.”
U.S. ENERGY OUTPUT DISRUPTED
With more than 90 percent of offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production shut in and nearly half of natural gas output offline, energy companies along the Gulf Coast refining center braced for the storm’s impact, shuttering some plants and running others at reduced rates ahead of Isaac’s landfall.
Intense hurricanes such as Katrina — which took out 4.5 million barrels per day of refining capacity at one point — have flooded refineries, keeping them closed for extended periods and reducing fuel supplies.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that about 12 percent of the Gulf Coast’s refining capacity had gone offline. Louisiana usually processes more than 3 million barrels per day of crude into products like gasoline.
Although no damage to offshore installation had been reported, some energy experts said the sweeping disruption of oil production, refineries and key import terminals could make it more likely the U.S. government would release oil supplies from its nearly 696-million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
A release, which had previously been under consideration, is still on the table, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.
Even with Isaac’s disruptions to production, international benchmark Brent crude traded down slightly to $112 a barrel on Tuesday.
Isaac killed at least 23 people and caused significant flooding and damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before skirting the southern tip of Florida on Sunday.