The NYT's Elitist Bias Against Menendez

Saturday, February 9, 2013
The New York Times' editorial board claims it wants U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to relinquish his post as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee due to the unsubstantiated ethics allegations being launched against him.

However, The New York Times' problem with Senator Menendez has nothing to do with unsubstantiated ethics allegations, it has to do with its elitist opposition to Menendez's foreign policy views.

Case and point -- the first sentence of the editorial:

"Senator Robert Menendez was never a distinguished choice for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the position he ascended to this month by virtue of seniority."

For The New York Times, Senator Menendez has never been "distinguished" enough because he doesn't stem from Manhattan's elitist foreign policy community.

You know, from the cocktail party circuit that has endlessly feted the Castros, Arafats and Assads of this world.

Instead, Senator Menendez -- the son of a carpenter and a seamstress that valued their freedom in the U.S. -- has historically challenged the world's most brutal dictators, whether from the left or the right.

He's a tireless champion of human rights defenders and courageous pro-democracy activists -- from Iran to Cuba.

Moreover, he doesn't believe in unilateral concessions to America's foes.

This is a man who has guided three major foreign policy bills on Iran in the last 13 months.

This stands in stark contrast to The New York Times, whose editorial board staunchly advocates for engagement with Iran's mullahs and normalized relations with Cuba's Castro brothers.

Thus, it clearly wants Senator Menendez out of its way.

Images of Castro's Repression

Cuban pro-democracy leader Jose Daniel Ferrer recently described a violent assault by the Castro regime's secret police against a peaceful group of Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) activists.

Graphic images of the victims can be seen below.

@jdanielferrer:

The home of Luis Enrique Losada, coordinator of UNPACU in Contramaestre was raided and activists inside were beaten.

Up to now, about a dozen activists from UNPACU have been injured with sharp objects and other weapons.

Ricardo Guzman and Ramon Escalona have been severely beaten. Ramon ended up covered in his own blood.

Roberto Gonzalez and Alexei Encina are full of bruises and wounds, Roberto has a wound on his head.

Arnold Hernandez was beat with cables, whips, and hurt with a knife.

More "reform" you can't believe in.


Courtesy of Pedazos de la Isla.

Tweet of the Week

Friday, February 8, 2013

Quote of the Week

[O]ur Cuba democracy programs are comparable to what we and other donors do to support people in repressive societies all over the world.
-- Mark Lopes, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID, The Miami Herald, 2/8/13

Question of the Day (on the CAA)

Should Cubans, who adjust under the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act (as is its original title), and immediately begin traveling to Cuba multiple times a year, be eligible for government benefits that they have not contributed to?

It's one thing to provide benefits to Cubans who need financial help to adjust to their new life in the U.S., but it's a whole other to provide such benefits to Cubans who are taking that money straight back to Cuba.

From Reuters today:

Under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), Cubans receive unique and highly favorable treatment, including granting of permanent residency a year after arrival, as well as being eligible for government benefits, such as Medicaid, supplemental social security income, child care, and disability.

No other foreign nationals enjoy these benefits except for the few who are granted political asylum.

First Cuban-American on Time's Cover

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Another Independent Journalist Imprisoned

Another independent journalist from the Hablemos Press news agency was arrested this week by the Castro regime.

Hector Julio Cedeño Negrin, was arrested on Tuesday for taking a picture of several government inspectors harassing self-employed workers.

The inspectors were not wearing their required uniforms and identifications.

Cedeño Negrín has been charged with "contempt."

Last week, Amnesty International formally recognized Calixto Martinez Arias, from Hablemos Press, as a "prisoner of conscience."

More "reform" you can't believe in.

GAO Notes Improvement in Democracy Programs

After highly critical reports of the Cuba democracy programs in 2006 and 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report, which concludes:

Despite ongoing challenges stemming from the difficult operating environment in Cuba, since our 2006 and 2008 reports, USAID has taken steps to improve its performance and financial monitoring of Cuba democracy program awards. While State has also taken initial steps to improve performance monitoring of its Cuba program awards, we found that State’s financial monitoring was lacking in certain areas.

On the Record: Secretary Kerry on Cuba Policy

In the Congressional Record from then-U.S. Senator John Kerry's (D-Mass.) confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of State:

Question from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

Since December 2009, the Cuban government has been holding an American development worker, Alan Gross, hostage for helping the Jewish community in Cuba get uncensored internet access.  The UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has held Gross's imprisonment to be arbitrary.  The U.S. should pressure the Cuban government to release Alan Gross. However, the Cuban government should not be rewarded with any unilateral concessions for Gross's imprisonment - whether before or after Gross's release - for this will only endanger American lives in the future and encourage further hostage taking.  If confirmed, would you commit not to reward the Cuban government for the arbitrary imprisonment of Americans?

Answer from U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) : 

If confirmed, I will do everything in my power to protect the safety and security of American citizens around the globe, including in Cuba.  Alan Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to under-served communities in over 50 countries.  His incarceration is unjust and his release is a humanitarian issue.  If confirmed, I will continue to use all appropriate diplomatic means to secure Mr. Gross’ release.

Question:

The Agency for International Development's democracy programs are pivotal to helping Cuba's civil society gain access to new technologies, basic support for the marginalized families of political prisoners, training for independent journalists, labor activists and other targeted groups.  We have read reports regarding of previous efforts to halt the democracy programs, which are authorized by law.  If confirmed, would you continue to support the Cuban democracy programs?

Answer:

If confirmed, I will continue U.S. policies that promote democracy, freedom of expression and assembly, and human rights in Cuba.  It is the Administration’s view that we should help those who work for positive change in Cuba, including human rights and pro-democracy activists, independent journalists, and broader civil society.  The Cuban democracy programs are one element of the strategy to support these objectives.  If confirmed, I will seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people so that they may freely determine their own future.

Question:

While State and Treasury have worked with me to streamline procedures to make sure people-to-people programs are truly benefiting the Cuban people, reports of trips being hosted by the government and meeting with the neighborhood watch committees (CDRs), continue to take place.  The President's policy states that these programs were designed to foment the Cuban people's "independence" from the regime; but in fact, the itineraries are controlled by the regime on the island.

Would you work to uphold the Administration's original intent of these trips and ensure they are not being used for tourism purposes, which is against US law, or for the benefit of the Cuban government?

Answer:

If confirmed, I will continue to support the Administration’s desire to increase purposeful travel; support private enterprise and civil society in Cuba; enhance free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from the Cuban state.  In May 2012, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended the “Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba” to require additional information from people-to-people license applicants, including information on how their proposed travel would enhance contact with the Cuban people and/or support civil society in Cuba and/or help promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.  The Administration continues to assess implementing procedures to ensure that benefits to Cuban civil society of U.S. travel outweigh any potential benefits to the Cuban government.

If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of State continues to work closely with the OFAC and refer to OFAC any potential violations of which the State Department becomes aware.

Cuban Military Runs U.S. Travel Business

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
In case you have any doubt who runs the U.S. travel business in Cuba.

An excerpt from today's Miami Herald:

U.S. companies involved in travel to Cuba began making feverish preparations in 2011 to expand the number of charter flight. Commercial flights to Cuba are not allowed because of the trade embargo, and charters require special U.S. government permits.

For one, the Obama administration had just announced that it would allow non-Cuban Americans to license educational trips to the island known as “people-to-people” visits. Cuban Americans can go at will on family reunification trips.

Cuba’s state-owned Havanatur Celimar tourism agency, controlled by military officers relatively new to the tourism industry, also leaned on the charter companies to add new flights, said the industry officials. They asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

Havanatur may have really believed that lots more U.S. visitors would be arriving, one of the officials noted. But there were also rumors that some of the U.S. firms bribed Cuban officials to obtain permissions for the extra flights.

Political Detentions Treble in Last 3 Years

By Camilo Ganga for The Institute of War and Peace Reporting:

Three times more Cubans were detained or arrested on political grounds last year than in 2010, rights activists say.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, CCDHRN, recorded 6,602 politically motivated arbitrary arrests in 2012. A separate count by the Hablemos Press Information Centre, CIHPress, gives 5,503, although that does not cover all of Cuba’s provinces.

Data from both organisations indicate that 2012 saw three times the number of detentions that occurred in 2010, for which CDHRN gives 2,074 and CIHPress 1,499. Both organisations cite figures of around 4,000 for 2011.

One reason for the large number of detentions is that as well as arresting and charging some critics and dissidents, the authorities also repeatedly detain others for shorter periods as a form of harassment.

According to CCDHRN, the worst months of 2012 were March – with 1,158 detentions reflecting jitters over a visit by Pope Benedict XVI – followed by December, when the 564 people detained included over 120 members of the Damas de Blanco group, locked up with many others to stop them marking Human Rights Day on December 10.

More than a dozen individuals arrested in December are still in custody, awaiting either trial or formal charges.

Damas de Blanco or “Ladies in White”, women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in the “Black Spring” of 2003, accounted for the highest number of detainees last year, together with the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

Human rights defenders say the level of repression is also increasing against religious groups like as Pastors for Change and the Fire and Dynamics Apostolic Movement in the provinces of Granma, Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila.

Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for CIHPress remains in the Combinado del Este prison after being detained in mid-September. Amnesty International recently declared him a prisoner of conscience.

CCDHRN’s annual report cites “prolonged and systematic violation of national laws”, and says that most of the 12,700 political detentions recorded in 2010-12 were in breach of proper criminal law procedures, such as the requirement to record arrests immediately and the right to notify relatives.

Camilo Ganga is the pseudonym of a journalist living in Havana, Cuba.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for the latest on the Muslim Brotherhood and the political crisis in Egypt with Eric Trager of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Then, Dr. Tatiana Wah, Director of Haiti Programs at Columbia University's Center for Global Health and Economic Development, on the challenges of the post-earthquake recovery.

And Alyse Nelson, President of Vital Voices Global Partnership, on the Malala Fund, named after the young Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban, which supports the education of young girls throughout the world.

You can listen to "From Washington al Mundo" seven-days a week on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and again at midnight (EST).

On "Reforms" and "Elections"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
On Castro's "reforms," by Cuban author Carlos Alberto Montaner:

Why don’t the reforms advance? A very objective explanation comes from economist Carmelo Mesa Lago, dean of Cuban studies, in an excellent book titled Cuba in the Era of Raúl Castro, published in Spain.

“The structural reforms, which are more complex and crucial, have not been clearly successful so far,” he writes, “mostly because of restraints and lack of incentives (some of which have been softened by later adjustments) and also by flaws in the design and depth of the changes.

“The updating of the economic model, where central planning and state-run business predominate, is bogged down by 52 years of similar — and failed — efforts.”

On Castro's "elections," by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez:

[A]t the polls everything was "signed, sealed and delivered" ahead of time. Instead of voting between one candidate or another, Cubans simply had to ratify the 612 people proposed for the 612 seats allotted in parliament. One seat for each name that appeared on the ballot, a place in the highest organ of the People's Power for every individual whose photo was posted outside the polling places. In short, no surprises.

Iran Highlights Importance of Cuba Ties

From Iranian state media:

A senior Iranian official says the increasing relations between the Islamic Republic and Cuba rendered futile the West’s efforts to undermine Iran’s relations with Latin American countries.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, Iran’s Majlis (Parliament) director general for international affairs, made the remarks during a meeting with Cuban Ambassador to Iran William Carbo Ricardo in Tehran on Tuesday.

Sheikholeslam said Iran has long stood by Cuba and the two countries have supported each other politically and economically despite the efforts by the United States and the West to harm Tehran-Havana relations.

He went on to say that the expansion of Iran-Cuba ties has dealt a heavy blow to US propaganda campaign against the Islamic Republic’s relations with Latin America. 

Referring to the close relations between the two countries, Ricardo emphasized that Cuba is eager to strengthen political, economic, cultural and parliamentary cooperation with Iran.

On December 28, 2012, US President Barack Obama enacted “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” which calls for the US State Department to work out a strategy within six months to “address Iran's growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America.

Since 2005, Iran has opened six new embassies in Latin America. It now has 11 embassies and 17 cultural centers in the region.

Over 360 Political Arrests in January

The Castro regime has begun the New Year with at least 364 political arrests during the month of January.

And these are only the ones that have been thoroughly documented.

It is believed there are many more unknown arrests.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

More Cuba Flights Suspended

Perhaps if "people-to-people" operators would have followed the letter of the law, instead of making their trips tourism boondoggles, then there wouldn't have been the heightened scrutiny:

"Cuba Travel Services" announced today it would stop chartering non-stop flights between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Havana, Cuba. As an authorized Carrier Service Provider, Cuba Travel Services is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to arrange charter flights between the United States and the Republic of Cuba.

Recent delays in processing travel license applications have contributed to a 40% reduction in projected travelers from LAX in 2013, the only non-stop service currently operating outside of Florida. The last flight will depart from LAX on February 5, and return from Havana on February 6, 2013.

In Opposition to Hagel's Confirmation

An excerpt by Mauricio Claver-Carone in NBC Latino:

In contrast to his harsh views on a free democracy and U.S. allies like Israel, Hagel has repeatedly opposed sanctions against dictatorships and enemies like Iran, Qaddafi’s Libya, and even Cuba.  In fact, Hagel said Jimmy Carter was “exactly right,” agreeing with the former president in opposing U.S. pressure on the Communist Cuban regime.  Hagel labeled Castro as a “toothless old dinosaur” in 2002, and soon thereafter the regime executed three young Cubans for trying to escape the country, began the most extensive repressive sweep in the modern history of the Americas (known as the “Black Spring”) and has had thousands of peaceful activists tortured and arrested.  The Castros are no less toothless than Hagel’s comment was offensive. 

Hagel also said that labeling Castro as a threat was “just goofy.”  Perhaps Hagel should remember that the Cuban regime continues to harbor anti-American terrorists and fugitives from U.S. justice and now holds hostage an innocent U.S. civilian, Alan Gross.

Some argue that Hagel’s record is not important because only the President’s policies really matter.  But not only do presidential appointments impact policy, they reflect the President’s priorities.  If Obama had chosen former California Governor Pete Wilson as Secretary of Homeland Security, everyone would be rightfully questioning the President’s commitment to immigration reform.

Supporting deep cuts to defense and America’s nuclear arsenal… Condemning Israel but opposing sanctions on rogue regimes…  This is the Hagel record in the past; this could be the Pentagon policy in the future if he is confirmed.  For the sake of our country and people everywhere who seek freedom, we can and must do better.

Juan Williams: Don't Lift Cuban Embargo

Monday, February 4, 2013
An excerpt by Juan Williams in Fox News:

Why the US should not re-establish ties with Cuba

With so many signs pointing in one direction – resumption of U.S. ties to Cuba – it is time to call for a STOP sign.

For example, CELAC’s decision is tragically wrong given Cuba’s awful history on human rights and democracy. Cuba continues to jail political opponents and suppress free speech. That is a fact.

Independent observers can see it.

José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said Castro’s selection as CELAC president “sends a message [that Latin governments] couldn’t care less about the poor human rights record and the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.”

And it will be a mistake for President Obama to end any part of the U.S. embargo without insisting on a full slate of democratic freedoms, human rights and property rights in Cuba.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last year, I expressed my disagreement with those who have suggested cozying up to Latin American dictators like the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. 

It is personal with me. My family fled Panama in the early 1950’s to escape the poverty and open the door to education and opportunity. Those doors were shut by a Latin strong man -- Panama’s Arnulfo Arias.

I wrote: “My life's major turn away from poverty came thanks to my father's vision of his children escaping a despot like Arias. That dream of a better life is alive throughout Latin America. To romanticize any dictator is to kill those dreams by condemning poor kids in Latin America, like me, to tyrants and the burden of limited education and economic opportunity."

Congressional Republicans remain largely united in their opposition to normalizing relations with Castro’s Cuba. They are led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban Americans.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a Cuban American, supports continuing tight restrictions to isolate the Castro regime and promote democracy and human rights for the Cuban people. He is scheduled to become chair of the Senate Foreign Relations panel.

It will be up to Rubio, Ros-Lehtinen and Menendez to stop President Obama from making a big mistake and turning away from a freedom agenda for America’s neighbors in Latin America.

STOP!

Another Phony "Election" in Cuba

By Elliott Abrams at the Council on  Foreign Relations:

Democracy may be spreading in large parts of the world and with it genuine, contested elections–but not in Cuba.

Cubans “voted” again yesterday for the Cuban “National Assembly,” if one uses such terms very loosely. The Washington Post quotes Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez saying “It is a different electoral system. Personally I find it is more democratic than (others) I know.” This is offensive nonsense, because Cuba remains a one-party state where zero electoral competition is allowed. “Renouncing the principle of a single party would be equal to legalizing one or more imperialist parties,” Reuters reports Raul Castro saying last year.

So the system in Cuba is summed up by Reuters this way: “Reuters talked with more than half a dozen voters on Sunday before they entered the polls in Havana. None of them knew the candidates on the national slate from their districts.” And why should they, given that there is no competition and that the Communist Party, not the National Assembly, runs the country. As one voter said to Reuters, ”I vote because I feel I have to, and it doesn’t really matter because the deputies have no power anyway.” Reuters also notes that this young woman “declined to give her name,” and no one has to wonder why.

Cuba remains a police state and one of the few communist dictatorships still in existence, and its fraudulent elections are an insult to the Cuban people. One can only hope that Cuba’s “different” system does not survive the Castros– Fidel, now 86, and Raul, now 81.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an update on the Colombian government's negotiations with the FARC with the Inter-American Dialogue's Michael Shifter and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Pardo-Maurer.

Then, Professor Tim Bale, Chair of the Politics Department at the University of London, discusses Great Britain's future in the European Union.

And Christian Caryl, contributing editor of Foreign Policy Magazine and MIT senior fellow, on the human cost of the international community's inaction in Syria.

You can listen to "From Washington al Mundo" seven-days a week on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and again at midnight (EST).

Why "Peter Williams"?

Yesterday, we asked "Who is 'Peter Williams'?" -- referring to the unknown tipster responsible for a number of unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

We posed the concern:

Do we live in an irresponsible new world, where faceless, nameless, anonymous sources can drive mainstream media coverage?

Today, some news organizations -- after hitting a dead-end on these tips -- are finally recognizing that these allegations appear to stem from a political trickster.

Yet, all of these investigative journalists, have missed an obvious clue regarding the political motivations of "Mr. Williams."

Why the pseudonym "Peter Williams"?

Pete Williams, aka Harrison A. Williams, was a former U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who resigned from office in 1982, pursuant to the infamous Abscam scandal.

Looks like they mystery tipster, "Peter Williams," is someone with a keen knowledge of New Jersey politics.

And with a clear political objective in mind.

Same Old Castros

Sunday, February 3, 2013
From Germany's Deutsche Welle:

Cuban President Raul Castro wanted to update socialism when he took up office, but, five years on, little has changed. Change is not expected after Sunday's elections with 612 Communists running for 612 seats.

A cultural institute in the heart of Havana grabbed headlines in July 2012 - disheartening many Cubans. The project entitled "El Cabildo" - an "opera of the street" which was supposed to liven up Cuban night life as well as pave the way for a new era of establishing private companies - was unexpectedly closed.

For many Cubans, the event was a symbol for the zigzagging of economic policy under President Raul Castro. Since taking over the post from his brother - "Commandant" Fidel Castro - in February 2008, reforms have supposedly been at the top of the agenda. Upon closer inspection, however, not much has changed. That image of stagnation is also reflected in the parliamentary election on Sunday for the 612 seats of the one-house parliament, there are exactly 612 candidates - with all of them coming from the Communist Party.

Iranian Official Busted With $70 Million Venezuelan Check

From AP:

The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that a man caught last month trying to enter Germany with a check worth about $70 million was Iran's former central bank chief.

The weekly reports that customs officials at Duesseldorf airport found the check in Tahmasb Mazaheri's luggage Jan. 21 upon his arrival from Turkey.

German customs had issued a statement Friday saying a check for 300 million Venezuelan Bolivars issued by the Bank of Venezuela was found on an unnamed 59-year-old man.

Tweet of the Day

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweets sarcastically about today's "elections" in Cuba:

Who is "Peter Williams"?

This is the one question that investigative journalists seem to be -- intentionally or not -- ignoring.

There is an anonymous tipster who calls himself "Peter Williams", who has made a number of unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), which he claims date back to 2008.

Yet, "Mr. Williams" waited until Senator Menendez was up for re-election in 2012, and was set to become Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in order to "reveal" them to a partisan blog and to a Congressional watchdog group with a history of attacking critics of the Cuban dictatorship.

So what drives the timing of his unsubstantiated allegations?

Why isn't the media, so intent on following every dead-end tip by "Mr. Williams", also looking into who this person actually is?

Or do we live in an irresponsible new world, where faceless, nameless, anonymous sources can drive mainstream media coverage?

As the Daily Beast reported:

By far the most important thing to know about Menendez’s dueling scandals is that hardly any of the information floating around about is confirmed, nor has it been verified by sources who are willing to be named. As the FBI investigation continues, more concrete facts can be expected to surface, but at this point the most incriminating accusations against Menendez have come from tips--mostly anonymous--to blogs, at least one of which makes no effort to hide its political leanings. And the other, meanwhile, is starting to doubt its sources. "This unnamed source said he has had this information about Sen. Menendez as early as 2008, yet he didn't come forward until four years later, right before Sen. Menendez was up for re-election,"  CREW’s Executive Director Melanie Sloan told CNN of the tipster responsible for the emails. "Further, this source refused to ever speak by phone to us, with other news organizations, or with the FBI, so, those two facts combined to seriously undermine his credibility." 

Hostages, Propaganda, "Reformers" & Wishful Thinking

Sound familiar?

Another American hostage:

"An Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran since September, Saeed Abedini, has been sentenced by a revolutionary court in Iran to an eight-year prison term on charges of disturbing national security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported Sunday." (New York Times, 1/28/13)

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's daughter, Sophie, accompanied her father and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on a trip to North Korea.  She blogs of her "people-to-people" encounter:

"Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments.  We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders (2, so one can mind the other). The longer I think about what we saw and heard, the less sure I am about what any of it actually meant." (Sophie in North Korea, 1/13).

Another bogus "reform" dictator, plus two doses of wishful thinking:

"North Korea's missile tests and menacing rhetoric have disappointed U.S. expectations that young leader Kim Jong-un would be different than his father but Washington still hopes to persuade Pyongyang to change course, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday." (Reuters, 1/29/13)

"The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday – but he insisted that Tehran must show it is serious and Washington won't engage in such talks merely 'for the exercise.'" (AP, 2/2/13)