Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016, Issue #234
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1.   Photo of the month 
2.   Quotes of The Month — Fidel Castro
2a   Editor's Note
3.   The Worst of Presidents  
4.   Trump Trumpets His Real Plans
5.   Russia Didn't Do it!
6.   Goldman Sachs: Trump's Financial Brains
7.   Trump's Phony "Religious Freedom Bills"
8. Richest 10% Control 89% Of All Assets.
9. Trump’s And Xi’s Growing Differences
10. Russia's Path To Another Resurgence
11. New Normal: Part Time Work, Lower Pay
12. Goodbye Fidel
13. The Fidel I Think I Know (Gabriel García Márquez)
14. Fidel: Tomorrow Will Be Too Late
15. Women's Emancipation In Cuba
16. New Study Doubles Estimate Of Bird Species

1.   Photo of The Month  —— At bat for Cuba

                   Fidel at bat  for Cuba. He never let them down.
The bird alighted on Fidel's shoulder during a long speech to
thousands, stayed for a while and  flew away.  Fidel was
 hardly unaware of the  intrusion  but 
continued talking
without taking evident notice. 
The Cuban Leader lived from Aug. 13, 1926, to Nov. 25, 2016, at the age of 90. He initiated the Cuban Revolution, — which succeeded Jan. 1, 1959, and was its leader until 2006 when stricken with a serious disease. During those final years he continued to write articles and see occasional visitors from around the world. Here are some of his words:
Condemn me, it does not matter; History will absolve me. (During his 4 hour speech to the court Oct. 16, 1953. He was convicted of leading an attack on a dictatorship army base.)
I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement, but we do not have to say that we are anticommunists just to fawn on foreign powers. (Declared July 17, 1959. In those days this was true. After U.S hostility resulted in sanctions, assassination attempts and Washington's organization of the Bay of Pigs invasion Fidel referred to himself and the Cuban government as communist. The U.S. trade embargo continues to cripple the economy to this day.
A revolution is not a trail of roses.… A revolution is a fight to the death between the future and the past. (Jan. 2, 1961, Speech on the second anniversary of the triumph of the revolution.).
I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” (From On the Revolution in 1959.)
The U.S. government says that a socialist regime here threatens U. S. security. But what threatens the security of the North American people is the aggressive policy of the warmongers of the United States ... We do not endanger the life or security of a single North American family.” (May 1961 shortly after the U.S.- backed Bay of Pigs invasion.)
 With what morality can the [US] leaders talk of human rights in a country where there are millionaires and beggars, where blacks face discrimination, women are prostituted, and great masses of Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans are deprecated, exploited and humiliated?” (1978, speech delivered to the World Communist Youth Conference.)
(Fidel had doubts about the liberal program of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Here is an excerpt from the Cuban leader's speech of July 1989. The Soviet Union was dissolved on Dec.26, 1991.)  “If tomorrow or some other day we wake up to the news that a great civil war has broken out in the USSR, or even if we wake up with the news that the USSR has disintegrated…. Cuba and the Cuban Revolution will continue to fight and resist.”
We have to stick to the facts and, simply put, the socialist camp has collapsed. (December 1991.)
I’m really happy to reach 80. I never expected it, not least having a neighbor, the greatest power in the world, trying to kill me every day. (Speech, July 21, 2006
Every country must be absolutely free to adopt the type of economic, political and social system that it considers convenient. (Date unknown.)
Someday, the capitalist system will disappear in the United States, because no social class system has been eternal. One day, class societies will disappear. (Date unknown.)
When I was a young boy, my father taught me that to be a good Catholic, I had to confess at church if I ever had impure thoughts about a girl. That very evening, I had to rush to confess my sin. And the next night, and the next. After a week, I decided religion wasn't for me. (Date unknown.)
2A   Editor's note: We have several interesting articles about the life and death of Fidel Castro, near the bottom, after the news stories. Don't miss them:
GOODBYE FIDEL — a history of his  revolutionary role in Cuba, including quotes from world lenders and lots of facts.
THE FIDEL I THINK I KNOW by Gabriel García Márquez, one of Latin America's greatest authors. It's a remarkable article from a friend but at times also a critic.
TOMORROW WILL BE TOO LATE, a talk by Fidel at The UN Earth Summit in 1992 warning about ecological destruction.


By the Activist Newsletter
Judging by his cabinet, closest associates, the selection of department heads, and self-absorbed, deviant and cruel personality, Donald J. Trump is about to become the worst president in American history — at least for the poor, the working class and a large swath of the middle class. A token effort will be made to employ a small number of Republican white working class voters, but nothing serious. The rich will do very well.
Trump's objective is to weaken or destroy many of the country's social programs dating as far back as the Great Depression. (See Ralph Nader's article below on his appointments, "Trump Trumpets His Real Plans.") These people want to cripple the departments they control.
The Democrats are virtually out of the picture, struggling to keep most of their old center right leadership in power and focusing nearly exclusively on Russia's alleged hacking of some party emails in order to place Trump in power — which we do not believe is true. (See below.)
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million, of course, but the obsolete Electoral College still prevails. From New York State Dec. 19, electoral delegate and former President Bill Clinton declared: "We had the Russians and the FBI and she could not prevail against that." This seems to be the entire Democratic party's analysis of an election that was in large part based on getting decent jobs, pay and social programs for the working class and the others who have deserved that for over 20 years.
That's why so many voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. The Democrats must turn toward the left and fight back, not only in Congress where they are a minority, but in joining with movements in the street to constantly protest against Trump and his ruling class wrecking ball. Will they do it?  We need the unions, the environmental movement, the fighters for black and Latino and women's rights, the peace and justice people  — everyone struggling for a good cause — to work against every attempt by the right wing to restrict or eliminate our social programs.
Unless there are hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, in the streets to protest when frequently necessary over the next four (or 8!) years Trump and his cohort will "make America great again" for the small minority on top and to hell with everyone else.

By Ralph Nader
Even for a failed gambling czar, Donald Trump has been surprisingly quick to show his hand as he sets the course of his forthcoming presidency. With a reactionary fervor, he is bursting backwards into the future. He has accomplished this feat through the first wave of nominations to his Cabinet and White House staff.
Only if there is a superlative to the word “nightmare” can the dictionary provide a description of his bizarre selection of men and women marinated either in corporatism or militarism, with strains of racism, class cruelty and ideological rigidity. Many of Mr. Trump’s nominees lack an appreciation of the awesome responsibilities of public office.
Let’s run through Trump’s “picks”:
First there are the selections that will make it easier to co-opt the Republicans in Congress. He has appointed Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for Secretary of Transportation. Ms. Chao does not like regulation of big business, such as those for auto, aviation, railroad and pipeline safety. Next is Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price wants to dump Obamacare, turn over control of Medicaid to the states – including Governors who dislike Medicaid – and even privatize (eg. corporatize) Medicare itself into the hands of the business sector already defrauding just that program by about $60 billion a year.
Trump selected Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pompeo is a cold war warrior who believes in a militaristic, interventionist CIA, especially toward Iran, taking that agency even further away from its original mission of gathering intelligence.
Then come the Generals. Notwithstanding the Constitutional imperative that there should be civilian control over the military, Trump has placed two generals in charge of foreign and domestic military theatres. For Secretary of Defense, Trump chose recently retired Marine General James Mattis. This “Mad Dog” believes Barack Obama to be too weak, indecisive and without a strategic plan for the Middle East. He looks very much like he is a believer in the American Empire and the U.S. being the policeman for the world.
The next general is retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, chosen to run the Department of Homeland Security. He is seen as a modern believer in the Monroe Doctrine over the Hispanic world south of Florida and the Rio Grande. He shares dangerous views on Iran and Islam with Gen. Mattis.
Inside the White House, retired General Mike Flynn is slated to take the post as national security adviser. His public statements against Islam being an ideological, existential threat to the U.S., and his proliferation of inaccurate conspiracy theories have alienated his former colleagues in the military, including reportedly the incoming Secretary of Defense.

 Mike Flynn, one of Trump's right wing Army generals  —  national security adviser.
Then there are the Trump nominees selected to run the departments whose numerous missions under existing law they want to dismantle. The proposed Secretary of Labor, rump's objective is to weaken or destroy many of the country's social programs dating as far back as the Great Depression. (See Ralph Nader's article below on his appointments, "Trump Trumpets His Real Plans." These people want to cripple the departments they control.
  is a chain restaurateur adamantly against raising the federal minim wage of $7.25 an hour and his labor views are so extreme that a progressive group of restaurant owners organized to oppose his exploitative positions and argue for a fair minimum wage.  In another flagrant display of bureaucratic obstruction, Trump wants to appoint climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, the same agency he, as Oklahoma Attorney General, fought tirelessly to undermine.
Another magnet for Trump’s nominations are those who made big donations to his campaign. For Linda McMahon’s $7 million to pro-Trump Super PACs, she gets to head the Small Business Administration. As a highly controversial professional wrestling CEO, she worked to monopolize the professional wrestling market and stifle competition.
For the Department of Education, school children and their teachers will face Betsy DeVos. From a billionaire family, she is a ferocious advocate of using taxpayer money in the form of vouchers for private schools. She makes no bones about her hatred of public schools and her desire to have commercial managers of school systems.
To lead the Justice Department, Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is big on police surveillance, weak on civil rights enforcement, a hard-liner on immigration and very mixed on corporate crime.
Add these strong-willed ideologues, coupled with Trump’s easily bruised ego, Twitter-tantrums on trivial matters and his penchant to always be the decision-making strongman, and you’ve got the making of an explosive regime with daily eruptions.
Whatever the media makes of the inevitable intrigue, in-fighting and likely resistance by the civil service to adhere to their lawful missions, it is the people who will be paying the price. President Trump will use the media to sugarcoat, falsify, distract, intimidate, glorify and massify the millions of people who believed, once upon a recent time, that he would “Make America Great Again.”
As the profiteers of Wall Street and the war hawks blend with the corporate statists, the super-confident Trump is telling us what their products will be like and that he’ll be their salesman.
If you think all this sounds predictable, there are going to be more than a few “black swans” (to use Nassim Taleb’s best-selling book title) coming over the horizon. It is time to mobilize as citizens in the Paul Revere mode.
— From Common Dreams, 12-13-16. Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author.

[For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.). Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator. Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official. Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.). Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.). Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA (ret.).]
By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, December 12, 2016
New York Times report on Dec. 12 alluding to “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” leading the CIA to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin “deployed computer hackers with the goal of tipping the election to Donald J. Trump” is, sadly, evidence-free. This is no surprise, because harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking – by Russians or anyone else.
Monday’s Washington Post reports that Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has joined other senators in calling for a bipartisan investigation of suspected cyber-intrusion by Russia. Reading our short memo could save the Senate from endemic partisanship, expense and unnecessary delay.
In what follows, we draw on decades of senior-level experience – with emphasis on cyber-intelligence and security – to cut through uninformed, largely partisan fog. Far from hiding behind anonymity, we are proud to speak out with the hope of gaining an audience appropriate to what we merit – given our long labors in government and other areas of technology. And corny though it may sound these days, our ethos as intelligence professionals remains, simply, to tell it like it is – without fear or favor.
We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack. Here’s the difference between leaking and hacking:
Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization and gives it to some other person or organization, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did.
Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.
All signs point to leaking, not hacking. If hacking were involved, the National Security Agency would know it – and know both sender and recipient.
In short, since leaking requires physically removing data – on a thumb drive, for example – the only way such data can be copied and removed, with no electronic trace of what has left the server, is via a physical storage device.
Awesome Technical Capabilities
Again, NSA is able to identify both the sender and recipient when hacking is involved. Thanks largely to the material released by Edward Snowden, we can provide a full picture of NSA’s extensive domestic data-collection network including Upstream programs like FairviewStormbrew and Blarney. These include at least 30 companies in the U.S. operating the fiber networks that carry the Public Switched Telephone Network as well as the World Wide Web. This gives NSA unparalleled access to data flowing within the U.S. and data going out to the rest of the world, as well as data transiting the U.S.
In other words, any data that is passed from the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) – or any other server in the U.S. – is collected by the NSA.  These data transfers carry destination addresses in what are called packets, which enable the transfer to be traced and followed through the network.
Presidents Putin and Obama recently. The Russian leader absolutely denies his country is responsible for  hacking Democratic party and other emails from the U.S. Both states of course routinely spy on each other. In 2011 Hillary Clinton overtly interfered with Russian elections.
Emails being passed across the World Wide Web are broken down into smaller segments called packets. These packets are passed into the network to be delivered to a recipient. This means the packets need to be reassembled at the receiving end.
To accomplish this, all the packets that form a message are assigned an identifying number that enables the receiving end to collect them for reassembly. Moreover, each packet carries the originator and ultimate receiver Internet protocol number (either IPV4 or IPV6) that enables the network to route data.
When email packets leave the U.S., the other “Five Eyes” countries (the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) and the seven or eight additional countries participating with the U.S. in bulk-collection of everything on the planet would also have a record of where those email packets went after leaving the U.S.
These collection resources are extensive [see attached NSA slides 12345]; they include hundreds of trace route programs that trace the path of packets going across the network and tens of thousands of hardware and software implants in switches and servers that manage the network. Any emails being extracted from one server going to another would be, at least in part, recognizable and traceable by all these resources.
The bottom line is that the NSA would know where and how any “hacked” emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network. This process can sometimes require a closer look into the routing to sort out intermediate clients, but in the end sender and recipient can be traced across the network.
The various ways in which usually anonymous spokespeople for U.S. intelligence agencies are equivocating – saying things like “our best guess” or “our opinion” or “our estimate” etc. – shows that the emails alleged to have been “hacked” cannot be traced across the network. Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked.
The evidence that should be there is absent; otherwise, it would surely be brought forward, since this could be done without any danger to sources and methods. Thus, we conclude that the emails were leaked by an insider – as was the case with Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Such an insider could be anyone in a government department or agency with access to NSA databases, or perhaps someone within the DNC.
As for the comments to the media as to what the CIA believes, the reality is that CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in the communications arena. Thus, it remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact. In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall Street on Parade
Stephen Bannon.

                           Steve Mnuchin.

Two former Goldman Sachs bankers and the sitting President of theWall Street firm are taking highpositions in Donald Trump’s administration despite the egregious role that Goldman Sachs played in the 2008 financial collapse that cost millions of Americans their homes and their jobs.
Steve Bannon, who at one time worked in Mergers and Acquisitions at Goldman, will be Trump’s Senior Counselor and Chief White House Strategist.
Steve Mnuchin, who joined Goldman in 1985 and worked there for the next 17 years, has been nominated by Trump to serve as U.S. Treasury Secretary. That post also entitles Mnuchin to Chair the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a body that frequently meets in secret to deliberate if the U.S. could be looking at another 2008-style meltdown. 

Yesterday, an article at Bloomberg News raised questions about Munition’s qualifications to serve in one of the most important cabinet posts in government, writing that shortly after Mnuchin had made a windfall last year from the sale of OneWest Bank, problems emerged: “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development opened an investigation into foreclosure practices in a division that handles loans to senior citizens. Accountants determined the unit’s books were a mess. Eventually, the bank’s new owner, CIT Group Inc., discovered a shortfall of more than $230 million.”
Mnuchin, at least, was not at Goldman Sachs in the leadup to the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. He left in 2002. The same cannot be said for Gary Cohn, the current President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman, whom Trump has picked to lead the National Economic Council and be his chief strategist in developing his economic policy. It’s convenient that Cohn’s new position does not require Senate confirmation since exactly what he knew about Goldman selling bogus investments to its clients while the firm made billions of dollars betting the instruments would fail might be raised in Senate questioning of Cohn’s fitness to serve.
In the two years leading up to the epic 2008 financial crash on Wall Street, Cohn was Co-President of Goldman. Cohn became a multi-millionaire from the business done in those years, earning $27.5 million in restricted stock and options just in the year 2006. However, as Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers would report in 2009, a key part of Goldman’s business in the years before the crash operated like this: “In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.”
On April 11 of this year, the U.S. Justice Department and other regulators announced a $5.06 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs related to the fraudulent manner in which it had sold residential mortgage bonds. On the day the settlement was announced, a spokesman for the Justice Department stated: “This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail.”
What the Justice Department settlement didn’t do was put any Goldman Sachs’ executive in jail nor did it provide details about how Goldman Sachs was not only selling investments that it knew were likely to fail but it was also making billions of dollars making wagers (shorting) that the instruments would indeed fail. The profits from those wagers flowed to the top executives – men like Gary Cohn....
More than 80%of the religious right has flocked to Trump's side and have continued preaching his gospel of bigotry and hate.
The American Civil Liberties Union fears that a Donald Trump presidency will cause a surge of so-called "religious freedom" bills – bigoted legislation that has mainly targeted LGBTQ communities under the pretext of protecting religious expression in the United States.
The year 2016 already saw more than 200 bills introduced at a national level, according to the organization, which has criticized them as discriminatory against same-sex marriages. As Trump fills his cabinet with right-wing zealots who wield various degrees of influence in the religious right establishment, the ACLU thinks there may be more to come.
 “We expect the volume to continue to rise in 2017, both because we have more conservative state governments than in the past, and also since our side defeated an overwhelming majority of bills in 2016," ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel Eunice Rho told CNN.
Despite the organization’s successful efforts in blocking many of those attempts, some states still managed to push the controversial laws through.
In April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that allowed businesses and religious groups to deny services to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs or convictions" without punishment. Other states have included Kansas, as well as North and South Carolina.
Indeed, since Trump's election and his appointment of Mike Pence as vice president – who’s well-connected with right-wing evangelicals – the country has already seen a spike in hate crimes.
As a result, various religious-based groups have been meeting around the country to denounce what they see as Trump’s true onslaught against religious freedom.
Last month, the Interfaith Council for Greater Portland drew members from the area’s Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, First Nations and Pagan communities for this purpose.
“Today we will seize the high ground to demand from ourselves and all others the ongoing awareness and action to demonstrate that kindness is our only hope, truth our rallying flag, and that we will never stop affirming that love trumps hate,” Rabbi Ariel Stone said.

Billionaire Donald Trump stands on the 14th fairway during a pro-am round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
By teleSUR
As global crises of climate change, forced migration and conflict continue to heat up, battering the planet’s most vulnerable, the age-old story remains true: the world’s rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer, and the trend is only expected to continue, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The Global Wealth Report 2016 from the Credit Suisse Research Institute finds that wealth inequality is on the rise, with the bottom poorest half of the world’s adults in control of less wealth than the top 1%. Meanwhile, the richest 10% of the world enjoyed a boost from the 2008 financial crisis and now own a whopping 89% of all assets.
Vast wealth inequality is a familiar story, but the levels of economic disparity in 2016 remain shocking.
 “This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies and holding back the fight against poverty,” Oxfam’s head of inequality policy, Max Lawson, said in a statement in response to the new report.
The report also details how wealth distribution affects different regions, with unsurprising concentrations of lower income people in India and Africa. The wealthiest 10% of adults are mostly in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
Data on China shows great inequality as home to both 9% of the world’s wealthiest top 1% — a higher percentage than France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom — and over 10% of the poorest tenth of the population. Meanwhile, in Latin America, adults are fairly evenly spread across the wealth spectrum.
The report comes as global wealth inequality is increasingly in the spotlight with economic factors like debt crises in countries like Greece and Spain, recessions in countries such as Brazil, and a global slump in commodity prices putting pressure on economies and showing cracks in the system as the most vulnerable suffer most. The issue increasingly finds its way into political rhetoric, but concrete solutions remain evasive.
 “Political concerns about inequality are not being translated into the action needed to give hope and opportunities to the millions who have been left behind,” Lawson continued. “Governments must act now by cracking down on tax dodging, increasing investment in public services and boosting the income of the lowest paid.”
And it’s not just an issue to be on the agenda in the Global South — some of the world’s poorest are increasingly found in high income countries. The bottom 20% of adults, around 1 billion people, own no more than $248, while the poorest half of the world, about 2.4 billion adults, own less than $2,222. The majority of these groups are concentrated in Africa and India, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, together making up 70% of the poorest half of the world. The remaining 30% are spread out across China, Europe, Latin America and North America.
The report predicts that the number of millionaires in the world will hit a record high of 45.1 million in the next five years, while the number of billionaires will increase by 945 for a total of 3,000 around the world. The middle class will be the fastest-growing income group.

Xi Jinping and party leaders recently singing their national anthem.
By Chris Buckleyd
BEIJING — Both came to power vowing to restore their nations to greatness. But America’s loud, ad-libbing president-elect, Donald J. Trump, and China’s guarded, calculating president, Xi Jinping, are glaring contrasts as politicians, and their pairing has injected new unpredictability into relations between their governments.
 “I could not think of two more different protagonists in the great drama of U.S.-China relations,” Evan S. Medeiros, formerly the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, said by email. “Personalities matter a lot in international relations, especially between great powers.”
A quarrel after China seized an underwater drone from the United States Navy has given a taste of how Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Xi’s different styles could play out if bigger tensions were to break out over the South China Sea, trade imbalances, North Korea’s nuclear weapons or other issues that Mr. Trump has raised.
Mr. Trump has recently blared warnings at China, seemingly guided by visceral reflexes and a vague but bold set of demands. By contrast, Mr. Xi, the son of a Communist veteran, is disciplined and steely. He rarely speaks off the cuff in public. Even his seemingly impromptu gestures are often carefully choreographed, and he usually adheres to policy points when meeting foreign leaders. Mr. Xi is certainly capable of bold action, as he has shown in the South China Sea, but he tends to shroud his thinking in a cloud of slogans. That leaves outsiders guessing about when and how he will act on his demands.
“The situation could become quite combustible,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies Chinese foreign policy.
 Xi Jinping is more measured in his public statements than Donald Trump, but the Chinese government will likely hit back quite forcefully against any radical efforts to challenge the status quo,” Ms. Weiss said. “The best thing the president-elect’s advisers can do for our national security is to screen Trump’s tweets.”
Mr. Trump took to Twitter after the Chinese military confirmed that it had seized a submersible drone in waters about 50 miles northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines. The Pentagon had revealed the seizure, and China’s Ministry of National Defense said it would return the device, which can be used to monitor undersea currents and conditions, in an “appropriate manner.”
Mr. Trump suggested that wasn’t good enough. He said China’s seizure was an “unprecedented act,” and later added, “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back....”
— From the New York Times, Dec. 19.
Over the past year, Belarus — one of Russia's steadfast military allies — began slowly warming up to the West. But the political changes going on in the United States and Europe could give the nation, and other former Soviet states, cause to reconsider. (Maxim Malinovski, AFP/Getty.)  
By Stratfor, Dec. 1, 2016
After enduring three years of a foundering economy and feuds with the West, things may be looking up for Russia. The Brexit vote in June exposed the deep discord in the European Union, giving Moscow a glimmer of hope that dissenting member states might break the bloc's consensus on its sanctions against Russia in a future vote on their renewal.
Though EU members decided unanimously in July to extend the measures, upcoming elections on the Continent could undermine the bloc's unity. In the United States, meanwhile, Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election has opened a potential path to warmer relations between the United States and Russia, and perhaps even an end to Washington's sanctions on Moscow. The turning political tides in Brussels and Washington could give the Kremlin the leeway to increase its influence in the former Soviet Union, leading the countries in Russia's periphery to re-evaluate their foreign policy positions.
Many of Russia's recent setbacks trace back to 2014. In February of that year, the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine culminated in an uprising that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich from office. The next month, Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine, and Moscow annexed the region and extended support to a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's eastern part of the country. In response, the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on Russia. A few months later, global oil prices began a precipitous decline, and by year's end had fallen nearly by half. The combination of lower oil prices and sanctions plunged Russia into recession and put it on a collision course with the West. At the same time, countries such as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia worked to strengthen their ties to the European Union and NATO. In the span of a year, the Ukrainian conflict and the oil slump conspired to reverse the gains that Moscow had made over much of the past decade in re-establishing its influence in its former Soviet periphery.
Taking Another Look at the West
But now, Russia's fortunes could change. Countries throughout the former Soviet Union have taken notice of the shifts occurring in Europe and the United States and are likely re-evaluating their positions with respect to the West as a result. In Moldova, the results of the Nov. 13 presidential election, which ushered the pro-Russia leader of the country's Socialist Party into power, have already demonstrated the country's ebbing interest in drawing closer to the West. Because Moldova's parliament and prime minister still favor integration with the West, however, the president-elect, Igor Dodon, is unlikely to steer the country full sail toward an alliance with Moscow. Nevertheless, he will try to foster deeper economic and political ties with Russia. Georgia, too, has already begun to soften certain aspects of its stance on the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were at the center of the country's short-lived war with Russia in 2008. Furthermore, in the wake of its own parliamentary elections in October, Georgia is also likely to increase its economic ties with Moscow in the coming year.
Though Ukraine has relied on economic and political support from the West — along with the assurance of sustained pressure on Moscow through sanctions — throughout its conflict with Russia, the government in Kiev cannot be certain that the backing will continue uninterrupted. Unlike Moldova, Ukraine is unlikely to elect a pro-Russia leader, given the enduring conflict in eastern Ukraine. But the changing political circumstances in Europe and the United States could force the Ukrainian government to temper its position on the Minsk protocols and take a more conciliatory approach to negotiations with Russia over eastern Ukraine. In the meantime, Kiev may try to redouble its military integration with Poland and the Baltic states in case NATO members, in particular the United States, scale back their security presence in Central and Eastern Europe.
Reconsidering Russia
Former Soviet countries that were already firmly aligned with Russia will also take stock of their ties to Moscow and the West in light of the political changes afoot. Despite its long-standing military alliance with Russia, Belarus began slowly but surely warming to the West over the past year — a process that could now be stalled or even reversed. By contrast, Armenia came to question its steadfast loyalty to Russia when fighting with Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region erupted anew in April. The feud escalated perhaps in part because Russia was too distracted at the time with the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to intervene. If the West offers Moscow fewer challenges under new administrations in the United States and Europe, however, it will be in a better position to assert its authority as the dispute's primary arbiter.
Even countries that have stayed more or less neutral in the standoff between Russia and the West may adjust their stance. Russia recently held talks aimed at strengthening military cooperation with Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, former Soviet states that have increasingly looked to expand their relationship with Moscow in areas such as arms purchases and training. Moscow may also have a chance to reinvigorate integration initiatives such as the Eurasian Economic Union or the Collective Security Treaty Organization, since Europe's growing political rifts are likely to interfere with the European Union's focus on its Eastern Partnership program.
Over the next year, as a new administration takes over in Washington and the European Union's splits widen, Russia may seize the opportunity to regain influence in many of its borderland states. But its comeback in the former Soviet states will fall far short of the one it experienced in the late 2000s, when Russia's economy was thriving and its political system was free of the turmoil currently bedeviling it. Even if the West eases sanctions on Moscow in 2017, moreover, the United States and NATO are hardly likely to abandon their allies in Russia's periphery. Still, the political transformations underway in Europe and the United States could give Moscow more room to restore its standing throughout Eurasia. 
— From Stratfor, a commercial operation that describes itself "as the world's leading geopolitical intelligence platform." It is at

"Many part-time retail workers can’t find full-time work in their fields. And now
even part-time retail workers are getting shafted by becoming “on-call” workers,
who come and go at their bosses’ beck and call.
[This is a brief excerpt from the Economic Policy Institute's new report on the increase of part time work in the U.S. and the fact that this is all that's available to many workers seeking full time employment. The full report, titled "Still Falling Short on Hours and Pay" is at]
....An ongoing structural shift toward more intensive use of part-time employment by many employers is driving the elevated rate of involuntary part-time work. Over six years into an economic recovery, the share of people working part time because they can only get part-time hours remains at recessionary levels. The number working part time involuntarily remains 44.6% higher than it was in 2007. This growth is being driven mainly by a few industries.
6.4 million workers want full-time jobs but are working only part-time hours. Involuntary part-time workers are not only earning less income than they would prefer, but suffer because part-time jobs offer relatively lower wage rates and benefit coverage, and have more variable and unpredictable work schedules....
Certain groups of Americans are most vulnerable to the burdens of involuntary part-time work. Hispanic and black workers have been hardest hit by the structural shift toward involuntary part-time work. Hispanics and blacks are relatively much more likely to be involuntarily part-time (6.8% and 6.3% respectively) than whites, of whom just 3.7% work part time involuntarily. And blacks and Hispanics are disproportionate shares of involuntary part-time workers: together they constitute just 27.9% of those “at work,” they represent 41.1% of all involuntary part-time workers. The greater amount of involuntary part-time employment among blacks and Hispanics is due to their both having a greater inability to find full-time work and facing more slack work conditions. Black and Hispanic women (and women of “other race/ethnicity”) are the groups most likely to experience involuntary part-time employment and represented 21.1% of all involuntary part-time workers in 2015.
Involuntary part-time work and its growth are concentrated in several industries that more intensively use part-time work, specifically, retail and leisure and hospitality. Retail trade (stores and car dealers, etc.) and leisure and hospitality (hotels, restaurants, and the like) contributed well over half (63.2%) of the growth of all part-time employment since 2007, and 54.3 % of the growth of involuntary part-time employment. These two industries, together with educational and health services and professional and business services, account for the entire growth of part-time employment and 85% of the growth of involuntary part-time employment from 2007 to 2015.
Trends in the reason for part-time employment by industry also suggest structural factors in play. In 2015, involuntary part-time workers made up 7.8% of all those at work in the retail sector. That is 3.4% points higher than before the recession started, in 2007. Roughly 60% of this growth in involuntary part-time work reflects those who “could find only part-time work.” Involuntary part-time work was an even higher proportion of employment, 10.4%, in the leisure and hospitality industry in 2015, up 3.6 percentage points from 2007. Roughly half of this growth in involuntary part-time work reflects those who “could find only part-time work,” indicating structural factors were at least as important as cyclical factors.
Fidel led the July 26 Movement into battle against U.S-backed dictatorship.
"All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said, 'Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.' To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather."
— Mao Zedong, 
“Serve the People” (Sept. 8, 1944), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 227.

By the Activist Newsletter. A look into Cuba's history and future from a variety of sources.
Fidel Castro's death at the age of 90 Nov. 25, was weighty indeed. He was one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century, along with: V.I. Lenin, who led the first successful socialist revolution in Russia in 1917, the world's largest country; and Mao Zedong, who led the long Chinese revolution that succeeded in 1949 in the world's most populated country. Fidel led the Cuban revolution to victory on Jan. 1, 1959, in a small island nation of 11 million inhabitants — and he is one of the most famous people in the world. He is admired by multimillions, especially in the poorer  and oppressed countries, but his devotees are everywhere including the U.S.
The reason for this seeming disparity in contemporary fame is obvious. Cuba is only 90 miles south of the United States, the superpower world hegemon that will not abide the existence of even a tiny country that disparages its leadership. Fidel was a tireless fighter against U.S. imperialism. Washington has gravely subverted Cuba since the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship which ended direct or indirect American domination since the Spanish-American war. In 1900-01 the U.S. converted Cuba into a protectorate that allowed the colossus to the north to send troops to fulfill its orders several times in the earlier years.
From 1902 to 1959 virtually every Cuban president was either corrupt, inept, a dictator or a puppet of the United States. Actually, Cuba was dominated by foreign powers for 467 years — Spain from 1492, replaced by the U.S. from 1899. The early Cuban liberator, Jose Marti, said in 1894, "Once the United States is in Cuba, who will get it out?" It was Fidel, the leader of the July 26 Movement, backed by left wing allies in the cities. It took about 60 years, the last several in subversion and active combat against the dictatorship. Many consider this to be the most significant event in 20th century Latin America.
On July 26, 1953. a group of young men and two women led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba while another group attacked the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in the city of Bayamo. ( Although this was a defeat for the revolutionaries, this event paved the way for the insurrection. It was “the small engine that ignited the big engine of the Revolution.” Fidel and his band  were held for trial. Fidel assumed his own defense and he gave a four-hour speech on Oct. 16 that was published under the title “History Will Absolve Me,” his concluding sentence. Although given terms of up to 15 years, many of the survivors relocated to Mexico after having been granted an amnesty and released from prison in 1955. In Mexico, they continued their plans to form a disciplined guerrilla force and returned to Cuba on the Granma yacht in December 1956 to begin the struggle that culminated in the victory.

Fidel and President Raul Castro, who carried on after his older brother stepped down 10 years ago.
The beginning of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 marked a political, economic and social change in Latin America's history, including for Cuban women, who did not just participate in the military victory but also have played a prominent role throughout the building of the socialist nation. (teSUR, 11-27-16) Fidel believed that the emancipation of women was intrinsically tied to the socialist revolution.
 One year after the triumph of the revolution, the new government created the Federation of Cuban Women, led by Vilma Espin — a committed revolutionary fighter throughout the struggle.
Washington's international sanctions, which still exist after 65 years with no end in sight, are intended to ruin the Cuban economy and have succeeded to a serious extent. This provides the U.S. government with continual propaganda alleging that Cuban socialism does not work. Many other U.S. laws and actions are intended to cripple or destroy Cuba, from the abortive April 17, 1961, Bay of Pigs invasion (Fidel led the counterattack) to the CIA's 637 failed assassination attempts on Fidel's life, to the generous inducements to increase defections to Florida, among other sabotage over the years. The average American knows little to nothing about Cuba except Washington's propaganda.

Here are some additional facts: In March 1960, President Eisenhower made a formal decision to overthrow Fidel and the new government. Between 1959 and 1997, the United States carried out 5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba – 804 of them of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the civil population that caused thousands of victims. (There were more after that time but we do have all the facts.) These terrorist attacks against Cuba have cost 3,478 lives and have left 2,099 people permanently disabled.
Between 1959 and 2003, there were 61 hijackings of planes or boats. Between 1961 and 1996, there were 58 attacks from the sea against 67 economic targets and the population. The CIA has directed and supported over 4,000 individuals in 299 paramilitary groups. They are responsible for 549 murders and thousands of people wounded. In 1971, after a biological attack, half a million pigs had to be killed to prevent the spreading of swine fever. In 1981, the introduction of dengue fever sickened 344,203 victims killing 158 of whom 101 were children. On July 6, 1982, 11,400 cases were registered in one day alone. Most of these aggressions were prepared in Florida by the CIA-trained and financed extreme right wing Cuban expatriates. Some 70% of the 2 million Cubans in the U.S. live in Florida. The hard core haters of Fidel and the Havana government have diminished considerably in recent year

Fidel and Nelson Mandela, who was grateful for Fidel's victory against South Africa.
Journalist and author Richard Becker wrote that "Some of Revolutionary Cuba’s actions are well known, such as its role in defeating the CIA/South African attempt to conquer Angola in the 1970s and '80s. The decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola was not only a victory for the Angolan people, it was also a key factor in the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa itself, as Nelson Mandela acknowledged.... Less known, is the long history of Cuba’s solidarity with the Palestinian and other struggles in the Middle East and North Africa, a history that began only months after the 1959 revolution." 
Inquirer News interviewed people in Havana after Fidel died: Here are two typical responses: "What can I say? Fidel Castro was larger than life,” said a tearful Aurora Mendez, 82. She recalled a life in poverty before the revolution in 1959. “Fidel was always first in everything, fighting for the downtrodden and the poor,” she said. Indiana Valdes and her husband Maykel Duquesne, who work at a state-run bank, worried about life after Fidel.“Fidel was the island’s protector, he was everywhere,” said Valdes, 43.
Choking back tears, Valdes recalled a lifetime with El Comandante.
After decades of U.S. presidents trying but failing to crush Cuba, President Obama has tried to improve relations starting in December 2014. He has dropped some arduous regulations and declared the Cold War with Cuba is over. Congress, not the White House, controls the sanctions, however, and that counts big time, as does the election of  Trump, who hates the socialist government. Obama's intentions are to gradually turn Cuba into a capitalist enterprise through investment, trade deals, returned anti-Castro elements, friendly words and other means. Despite Obama's significant and successful visit to Havana March 21-23, the Cuban revolutionary government is committed to retain a socialist system, with the addition of private enterprise and foreign investment.
First VP Canel.
Fidel was a very sick man for 10 years and quite prepared for death. He resigned as President in 2008 and was replaced by Raúl, who will step down in 2018 to be followed in the highest office by First Vice President Miguel Dias Canel, now in his mid 50s.

At the Cuban Communist party congress earlier this year Fidel concentrated on his limited future life span with words of encouragement: “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof that on this planet, if one works with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need and that need to be fought for without ever giving up.”
Bill Fletcher Jr. wrote: "For many of us in 'Black America' Fidel represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance. It is impossible to discuss Fidel Castro outside of an examination of the Cuban Revolution. And, while I hear that there are many Cuban Americans dancing with glee upon news of the death of President Castro, I know that the emotions within Black America are and will continue to be quite different.”
Black Lives Matter mourned the death of Fidel in a moving statement reflecting on his life. “We are feeling many things as we awaken to a world without Fidel. There is an overwhelming sense of loss, complicated by fear and anxiety." They defended "El Comandante" and condemned the anti-Fidel slanders in the commercial mass media. The group stressed that in their own struggle for freedom and justice, they will be using “the lessons that we take from Fidel.... We know that revolution is sparked by an idea, by radical imaginings, which sometimes take root first among just a few dozen people coming together in the mountains. It can be a tattered group of meager resources, like in Sierra Maestro in 1956.”
Following a trip to Cuba in 2001, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and special advisor to President Kennedy, raised the question of the cult of personality: “Fidel Castro does not encourage the cult of personality. In Havana it is difficult to find a poster or even a post card with a photo of Castro on it. The icon of Fidel’s revolution, visible everywhere, is Che Guevara.” This was true throughout his life.
After the USSR, led by Russia, imploded in 1991 Cuba did its best remain economically viable. The Union was the source of nearly all Cuba's world trade and a significant support mechanism. For the next several years the country was in terrible shape, with extreme food, energy and other shortages that made life very difficult for the masses. We were in the country in 1994 during what was termed the Special Period of difficulties on a work trip sponsored by the Venceremos Brigade.... We did well because as guests we had rice and beans every day for two weeks. Rations were very short for Cubans.
By the end of the decade Fidel and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez worked out an arrangement that ended the Special Period. According to Wikipedia: "Venezuela supplied Cuba with 53,000 barrels of oil per day at preferential rates, in return receiving 20,000 trained Cuban medics and educators. In the ensuing decade, this would be increased to 90,000 barrels a day (in exchange for 40,000 Cuban medics and teachers), dramatically aiding Cuba's economy and standard of living. Fidel considered Chavez “the best friend the Cuban people ever had.”
Fidel and the late Hugo Chavez — the Cuban people's "best friend."
U.S. responses to Fidel's death.
After Fidel died, the great majority of U.S. politicians and the commercial mass media were critical and evidently glad he finally passed. Many American civilians, after a lifetime of anti-Cuban propaganda from Washington, undoubtedly shared those views. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition, referred to the mass turnout of Cubans throughout their country to lament Fidel's passing as "enforced mourning." Shortly after the Cuban government's announcement of Castro's death, Cuban exiles in Miami, Florida, took to the streets in celebration. Some were draped in Cuban flags, other danced in the streets, some dazed in disbelief that this day — so long wished for — finally arrived. Such extremists are a a diminishing breed in Florida, where 70% of the Cuban population resides.
BBC TV news in America was relatively objective. Democracy Now and left media outlets in our country largely praised the fallen leader.
President-elect Trump called Fidel a "brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.... More important, he turned his nation into a maximum-security prison." He also said he desired Fidel's passing would give Cubans "the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba." Trump has said he would do "whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement... to make a great deal for the people of Cuba even if that meant breaking off the recently-resumed diplomatic relations."
Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also glad to see Castro gone. "The tyrant Castro is dead. New hope dawns. We will stand with the oppressed Cuban people for a free and democratic Cuba. Viva Cuba Libre!"
President Obama, by contrast, offered condolences to the Cuban people, emphasizing the importance of continuing U.S.-Cuba engagement, and saying, "the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America." The Cuban government is not unaware of the shortcomings in the existing U.S. relationship and the more negative possibilities of a Trump presidency.
Fidel and Yasser Arafat during the PLO leader's  1974 visit to Cuba.  (AFP via Getty Images.)
Worldwide from the Internet, here are some positive statements from many leaders:
Raúl Castro, President of Cuba: "Fidel dedicated his whole life to solidarity... with the poor. And for the poor he became a symbol of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist fight, for the emancipation and dignity of the people."Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela's  Nicholas Maduro.
Nicolas Maduro, current President of Venezuela since the death of Chavez, joined world leaders and delegations from over 50 countries paying tribute to Fidel in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution. Speaking before nearly a million Cubans, Maduro underscored Venezuela’s historic debt to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.  He said: “Without the support of the Cuban Revolution and its example of struggle and immense capacity for solidarity, our path would have been much harder, our young revolution advancing much slower.... Fidel didn’t leave, he remains undefeated, absolutely absolved by the motherland and remains infinitely with us,” referring to Castro’s iconic closing remark in his 1953 trial by the Batista regime, "History will absolve me."
Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico: “I lament the passing of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblem of the 20th century. Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoter of a bilateral relationship based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”
Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister: “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for el Comandante.... I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away (Pierre Trudeau was an earlier Canadian Prime Minister.).... We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India: "Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend."
Hage Geingob, President of Namibia: "The death of ‪Fidel signals the end of an era. Our comrade is no more but his revolutionary legacy will remain with Namibia forever."
Michael Higgins, Irish President: “Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”
Vladimir Putin, Russian President: “The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern world history,” Putin said in a telegram to Cuban President Raúl Castro. “Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.” Putin added that Castro has managed to build a “free and independent Cuba” that “became an influential member of the international community and served as an inspiration for many countries and peoples.” Putin called Castro a “strong and wise person who always looked to the future with confidence” and said his “memory will forever remain in the hearts of the citizens of Russia.”
Xi Jinping, President of China: In a message read out on China’s main TV channel, Xi said, “The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade. Comrade Castro will live forever — a great man of our time that history and people will remember.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Soviet leader: “Fidel Castro has left an indelible mark on the history of humankind.... Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development.... In the past years, even when Fidel Castro was not formally in power, his role in strengthening the country was huge."
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.... I was very sad for the Cuban people.... He led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people.”
Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL): "We render homage today and always to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz. Our comrades are proud to have always stood by Fidel’s and Raúl’s and the Cuban people’s side. We will always remain supporters of the Cuban Revolution.¡Viva Fidel! ¡Viva la Revolución Cubana!
Dr. Jill Stein, Green party presidential candidate: Fidel was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire.  Presente!"
Ignacio Ramone, who co-wrote Fidel's autobiography, My Life, based on over 100 hours of interviews with him, said: "He was an excessively respectful intellectual who succeeded in bringing Latin America onto the international stage."
Jack A. Smith, Hudson Valley Activist newsletter: "I was on the overnight desk at the former news agency United Press International the evening of December-January 1, 1959. It was so exciting to receive the first Havana dispatch in the middle of a quiet night announcing the Cuban dictator had fled the country. I swiftly sent the rewrite to hundreds of newspapers. I had been following the progress of the struggle for years. Fidel was an inspiration to millions, including myself. Che, too, remains an inspiration, of course. Fidel strengthened my commitment to social change through many years, and he still does. "
Che Guevara, murdered in Bolivia Oct. 9, 1967, age 39.
Associated Press reported hundreds of thousands — millions  — of Cubans bade farewell to Fidel Castro during the first days after his death, pledging allegiance to his socialist ideology and paying tribute before images of the leader as a young guerrilla.  Lines stretched for hours outside the Plaza of the Revolution, the massive plaza where Castro delivered fiery speeches to hundreds of thousands of supporters in the years after he seized power. There and across the country, people signed condolence books and an oath of loyalty to Castro's sweeping May 1, 2000, proclamation of the Cuban revolution as an unending battle for socialism, nationalism and an outsize role for the island on the world stage.
Many more Cubans turned out to stand by the 540 mile highway from Havana to the southeastern city of Santiago to view Fidel's funeral cortege pass by over several days. Fidel's ashes were interred by Raúl next to the grave of Jose Marti, the Cuban national hero who was killed in the second failed liberation war in 1895 (1959 was the third and last).
It is not going to be easy for Cuba in coming years. Venezuela is in deep economic and political trouble and cannot continue much of the support it has been able to provide for many years, particularly cheap fuel. The supply has been reduced from 100,000 barrels per day in 2012 to less than 60,000 (bpd) in 2016. In the U.S., according to the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, only Congress can remove the sanctions — and Congress has no such intention. Trump is threatening a counter-revolution. No other country appears ready to seriously help out. Much of the defense of Cuba may depend on U.S. and international pro-Cuba movements rising up massively every time every time the country is attacked one way or another.

[Gabriel García Márquez, a Nobel prize-winning novelist, was one of Latin America's greatest authors. He was a socialist and a friend of Fidel Castro but at times also a critic. He died in 2014 at the  age 87. This is an extract of an article he wrote for the Cuban newspaper Granma Aug. 11, 2006, in honor of Fidel's 80th birthday.]
Fidel and Márquez, best of intellectual friends.
By Gabriel García Márquez
His devotion is to the word. His power is of seduction. He goes to seek out problems where they are. The impetus of inspiration is very much part of his style. Books reflect the breadth of his tastes very well. He stopped smoking to have the moral authority to combat tobacco addiction. He likes to prepare food recipes with a kind of scientific fervor. He keeps himself in excellent physical condition with various hours of gymnastics daily and frequent swimming. Invincible patience. Ironclad discipline. The force of his imagination stretches him to the unforeseen.
José Martí is his foremost author and he has had the talent to incorporate Marti's thinking into the sanguine torrent of a Marxist revolution. The essence of his own thinking could lie in the certainty that in undertaking mass work it is fundamental to be concerned about individuals.
That could explain his absolute confidence in direct contact. He has a language for each occasion and a distinct means of persuasion according to his interlocutors. He knows how to put himself at the level of each one, and possesses a vast and varied knowledge that allows him to move with facility in any media. One thing is definite: he is where he is, how he is and with whom he is.
Fidel Castro is there to win. His attitude in the face of defeat, even in the most minimal actions of everyday life, would seem to obey a private logic: he does not even admit it, and does not have a minute's peace until he succeeds in inverting the terms and converting it into victory.
His supreme aide is his memory and he uses it, to the point of abuse, to sustain speeches or private conversations with overwhelming reasoning and arithmetical operations of an incredible rapidity. He requires incessant information, well masticated and digested. He breakfasts with no less than 200 pages of news. Responses have to be exact, given that he is capable of discovering the most minimal contradiction in a casual phrase. He is a voracious reader. He is prepared to read any paper that comes into his hands at any hour.
He does not lose any occasion to inform himself. During the Angola war he described a battle in such detail at an official reception that it was hard work to convince a European diplomat that Fidel Castro had not participated in it. (He directed much of it from Havana.
His vision of Latin America in the future is the same as that of Bolívar and Martí, an integrated and autonomous community, capable of moving the destiny of the world. The country about which he knows the most after Cuba is the United States: of the nature of its people, their power structures, the secondary intentions of its governments. And this has helped him to handle the incessant torment of the blockade.
He has never refused to answer any question, however provocative it might be, nor has he ever lost his patience. In terms of those who are economical with the truth, in order not to give him any more concerns than those that he already has: he knows it. He said to one official who did so: "You are hiding truths from me, in order not to worry me, but when I finally discover them I will die from the impact of having to confront so many truths I have not been told." But gravest are the truths concealed to cover up deficiencies, because alongside the enormous achievements that sustain the revolution — the political, scientific, sporting, cultural achievements — there is a colossal bureaucratic incompetence, affecting daily life, and particularly domestic happiness.
When he talks with people in the street, his conversation regains the expressiveness and crude frankness of genuine affection. They call him: Fidel. They address him informally; they argue with him, they claim him. It is then that one discovers the unusual human being that the reflection of his own image does not let us see. This is the Fidel Castro that I believe I know. A man of austere habits and insatiable illusions, with an old-fashioned formal education of cautious words and subdued tones, and incapable of conceiving any idea that is not colossal.
I have heard him evoking things that he could have done in another way to gain time in life. On seeing him very overburdened with the weight of so many distant destinies, I asked him what it was that he most wished to do in this world, and he immediately answered me: "Stand on a corner."
The United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was supposed to establish guidelines for sustainable development. At the Summit, then Cuban President Fidel Castro gave a short speech warning of the dire consequences of failing to reverse course. Fidel had long warned that capitalism was threatening to destroy human civilization through ecological destruction, with the poor of the global South its first victims. Here's his talk:           
Mr. President of Brazil Fernando Collor de Melo and UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Your Excellences:
An important biological species is in danger of disappearing due to the fast and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity.
We have become aware of this problem when it is almost too late to stop it.
It is necessary to point out that consumer societies are fundamentally responsible for the brutal destruction of the environment. They arose from the old colonial powers and from imperialist policies which in turn engendered the backwardness and poverty which today afflicts the vast majority of mankind.
With only 20% of the world's population, these societies consume two-thirds of the metals and three-fourths of the energy produced in the world. They have poisoned the seas and rivers, polluted the air, weakened and punctured the ozone layer, saturated the atmosphere with gases which are changing weather conditions with a catastrophic effect we are already beginning to experience.
The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it most. The reality is that anything that nowadays contributes to underdevelopment and poverty constitutes a flagrant violation of ecology. Tens of millions of men, women, and children die every year in the Third World as a result of this, more than in each of the two world wars. Unequal terms of trade, protectionism, and the foreign debt assault the ecology and promote the destruction of the environment.
If we want to save mankind from this self-destruction, we have to better distribute the wealth and technologies available in the world. Less luxury and less waste by a few countries is needed so there is less poverty and less hunger on a large part of the Earth. We do not need any more transferring to the Third World of lifestyles and consumption habits that ruin the environment.
Let human life become more rational. Let us implement a just international economic order. Let us use all the science necessary for pollution-free, sustained development. Let us pay the ecological debt, and not the foreign debt. Let hunger disappear, and not mankind.
Now that the alleged threat of communism has disappeared and there are no longer any more excuses for cold wars, arms races, and military spending, what is blocking the immediate use of these resources to promote the development of the Third World and fight the threat of the ecological destruction of the planet?
Let selfishness end. Let hegemonies end. Let insensitivity, irresponsibility, and deceit end. Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.
— From Climate and Capitalism, Nov. 22, 2016.
By teleSUR, 11-27-16
]The beginning of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 marked a remarkable political, economic and social change in Latin America's history, especially for Cuban women, who did not just participate in the military victory but also have played a prominent role throughout the building of the socialist nation.
As the revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro believed that the emancipation of women was intrinsically tied to the socialist revolution.
Only one year after the triumph of the revolution, the new government created the Federation of Cuban Women, led by Vilma Espin — committed revolutionary fighter during General Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship and President Raul Castro's partner.
According to professor Salim Lamrani, only 17% of Cuban women were working before the revolution and were the main victims of the high rate of illiteracy — which affected almost a quarter of the total population — and the sexist view that confined them to domestic tasks. Despite being granted the right to vote in 1934, they barely participated in politics.
But women strongly mobilized against the dictatorship, forming a women's guerrilla front called “Mariana Grajales” in the Sierra Maestra. Celia Sanchez, Melba Hernandez, Haydee Santamaria and Vilma Espin, emerged as key figures of the revolution, among many others.
When the revolution overthrew the bloody Batista regime tied to U.S. imperialism, women were among the most discriminated sectors to quickly benefit from measures of social justice. The Women's Federation played an active role in defending women's rights, under the strong leadership of Vilma Espin until her death in 2007.
In 1961, the government launched a massive literacy campaign across the country, reaching out especially to women in general and Black women in particular, making Cuba “the first territory free of illiteracy” according to UNESCO in 1961.
The new Cuban constitution consecrated gender equality and condemned any gender or racial discrimination —potentially carrying two years in prison according to the criminal code. Abortion was legalized in 1965. 
The labor code also strongly protects Cuban women who become mothers, saying that “employers must create and maintain the labor conditions for the woman, considering her participation in the labor process and her social function as a mother.” They are entitled to take a full-paid leave one month and a half before birth, and three months afterward — or up to a year earning 60% of her wages.
Women represent about 60% of the country's students, and 45% of the active population, but over 66% of professions such as doctors, researchers and engineers.
In political life, 13 out of 31 members of the state council are women — or 42%, with eight women ministers out of 34 (23%). In parliament, 49% are women, making Cuba third in the world in terms of proportion of women lawmakers — the United States for instance ranks 80.
The U.N. recently praised Cuba's policies as one of the top nations in ensuring gender equality and women empowerment.


The Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) was among the birds examined in the team's morphological study.(Credit: © bereta / Fotolia.)
By American Museum of Natural History, Science Daily, 12-12-16
New research led by the American Museum of Natural History suggests that there are about 18,000 bird species in the world — nearly twice as many as previously thought. The work focuses on "hidden" avian diversity — birds that look similar to one another, or were thought to interbreed, but are actually different species. Recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study has serious implications for conservation practices.
"We are proposing a major change to how we count diversity," said Joel Cracraft, an author of the study and a curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Ornithology. "This new number says that we haven't been counting and conserving species in the ways we want."
Birds are traditionally thought of as a well-studied group, with more than 95% of their global species diversity estimated to have been described. Most checklists used by bird watchers as well as by scientists say that there are roughly between 9,000 and 10,000 species of birds. But those numbers are based on what's known as the "biological species concept," which defines species in terms of what animals can breed together.
"It's really an outdated point of view, and it's a concept that is hardly used in taxonomy outside of birds," said lead author George Barrowclough, an associate curator in the Museum's Department of Ornithology.
For the new work, Cracraft, Barrowclough, and their colleagues at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the University of Washington examined a random sample of 200 bird species through the lens of morphology -- the study of the physical characteristics like plumage pattern and color, which can be used to highlight birds with separate evolutionary histories. This method turned up, on average, nearly two different species for each of the 200 birds studied. This suggests that bird biodiversity is severely underestimated, and is likely closer to 18,000 species worldwide.