Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lawyers: U.S. put Alan Gross in danger

USAID counterintelligence guide
The U.S. government violated its own security guidelines when it sent Alan Gross on the first of five trips to Cuba, then failed to protect him after he expressed concern about his safety, his lawyers said in documents filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Cuban authorities arrested Gross on Dec. 3, 2009, and he was later convicted of crimes against the Cuban state.
When Gross turned 65 in May he told his lawyer he'd rather be dead than spend another birthday behind bars. A 49-page brief filed in court states:
Although Mr. Gross’s plight continues to receive national and international media attention, he remains imprisoned in Cuba more than four years after his arrest. Mr. Gross endures harsh conditions, and faces another decade of imprisonment. Mr. Gross’s health has deteriorated, his family has been torn apart, and his business and career have been destroyed.
On Friday, lawyers for Gross told a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals that he and his wife should have the right to sue the U.S. government and collect damages.
James E. Boasberg
U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg rejected that argument in 2013.
Many private claims against the U.S. government never go forward because the government has what's known as sovereign immunity.
The Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, waives that immunity in certain cases.
Lawyers for the government say the FTCA doesn't apply to the Gross case. They say he can't make a claim against the U.S. government for harm he has suffered as a result of his jailing in a foreign country.
Gross's lawyers - Scott D. Gilbert, Barry I. Buchman, Natalie A. Baughman and Emily P. Grim - disagree.
They say his project in Cuba was "organized, directed, funded, and overseen" by the U.S. government.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A boost for Piramideo

The U.S. government in June awarded an additional $400,000 to the Maryland company that designed and operates Piramideo, a social network aimed at sending millions of text messages to Cuba.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting signed the one-year contract with Washington Software Inc. on June 20. Records show the $400,000 will go toward "other computer services." No other details are given except a government code: IGF::CL::IGF.
IGF stands for "Inherently Governmental Functions." CL indicates "Closely Associated Functions."
My guess is that the $400,000 will go toward Piramideo, although the contract doesn't specify.
The contract brings to $4,321,173 the total amount paid to Washington Software since June 2011.
Carlos García Pérez
Most of the money has gone toward developing and running the short message system. Costs include $451,796 aimed at preventing the Cuban government from jamming the electronic messages.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting runs Radio and TV Martí. Agency director Carlos García Pérez said in a statement earlier this year:
Piramideo is one more communication tool, like radio, television, DVDs, flash drives, e-mail and text messages, which Martí media offers its audience.

Nose ring

Spotted along the road in central Cuba

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Unpaid labor at Castro estate

Unsalaried goats trim the lawn at sugar plantation where Fidel Castro was born.
Insulators at the plantation in Birán in the province of Holguín.