Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 18, 2014
Canada helps end half-century U.S. embargo against Cuba
The “Government of Canada” and a timely nudge from Pope Francis were crucial ingredients in ending America’s half century of isolation on Cuba, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
In a 15-minute address from the White House, Obama singled out Canada’s role as a third-party broker, hosting secret talks that led to the historic rapprochement.
Obama said U.S. policy that “aimed to isolate the island” was rooted in events that transpired before most Americans were born. But the 1961 policy “had little effect.
“We will end this outdated approach … and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
The new chapter started with the release Wednesday morning of American contractor Alan Gross, 65, from a Cuban prison where he had been held for five years. The U.S. in exchange sent back three Cuban spies in U.S. prison since 2001.
Speaking simultaneously in Havana, Cuban President Raul Castro echoed Obama’s remarks, praising Canada and Pope Francis for their roles as key mediators in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
“We have profound differences on sovereignty, nationhood and democracy,” Castro cautioned in a nationally televised broadcast, the Star’s Oakland Ross reports.
“But we reaffirm our will to dialogue about all of these matters.”
Reading from a sheaf of notes and wearing his army uniform, Raul called on Washington to remove a range of obstacles to better relations, including restrictions on family visits and on direct mail between the two countries.
The Cuban leader acknowledged that his U.S. counterpart cannot unilaterally remove the economic embargo Washington has long imposed on its Cuban neighbour — this would require an act of the U.S. Congress — but he said Obama could adopt measures that would “modify” the embargo’s impact.
While exercising tight political control over Cuba’s 11 million people, Raul Castro has also instituted a wide range of liberal economic reforms since taking over as head of the Cuban government eight years ago.
These include a rapid expansion in private enterprise. By one estimate, the number of privately owned Cuban businesses — including restaurants, beauty parlours, and small taxi services — has soared from 150,000 in 2006, when Raul stepped in, to more than 460,000 today. (Source: Toronto Star)
— As It Happens (@cbcasithappens) December 18, 2014
Letter to the editor
The truth behind the new Cuba relationship – letter, December 22, 2014
Normally I’m not much of a fan of political cartoonist Graeme MacKay and his musings, but his recent offering about the new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is bang on.
However, he should have added a tiny and insignificant billboard in the background expressing human and political rights, because that would most likely be representative of its importance during these talks.
The political talking heads and their media hacks are dutifully parroting the narrative of the importance that Raul Castro moves forward on alleged human rights abuses in Cuba. But in reality, this current round of détente is all about investment and how much each side will receive.
Fidel Castro’s “crimes” have never been about repression, it has always been his committing the cardinal sin of nationalizing foreign assets during his revolution. In Washington’s view that is considered a Crime against Capitalism (the most heinous of them all and worthy of spilling blood and treasure) and they have spent the past 50 years punishing Cuba for it.
So over the coming days and weeks, we will be subjected to a massive propaganda campaign through media editorials regarding Castro’s lack of commitment to reform. This is how the story must be framed so we can sanctimoniously reaffirm our credentials as stalwart defenders of freedom and democracy, not opportunists who value making money over making people’s lives better.
Garry Shaw, Burlington
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 22, 2014
Snow-covered Buffalo area faces risk of roof collapses, flooding
A snowfall that brought huge drifts and closed roads in the Buffalo area finally ended Friday as the looming threat of rain and higher temperatures through the weekend and beyond raised the possibility of floods and more roofs collapsing under the heavy loads.
More than 30 major roof collapses, most involving farm and flat-roof buildings, were reported overnight, officials said Friday, after snow Thursday brought the Buffalo area’s three-day total to an epic two metres or more.
The forecast called for a chance of rain on Saturday and more through Monday, along with temperatures of about 15 C.
The U.S. National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday through Wednesday, and meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and the uncollected autumn leaves underneath blocked catch basins.
As towns and villages began preparing for potential flooding, stir-crazy homeowners — some stuck inside since Tuesday — and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger of collapse.
“Five hours yesterday and that’s just the beginning,” John Normile said Friday of the effort to clear snow from the roof of his Lake View ranch-style home. He, along with his daughter and her boyfriend, had knocked about 180 cm off the back of the house and planned to be back at it for a second day.
“We’re getting really concerned about the weight of it,” Normile said. “We’ve got to do it before the rain comes.” (Source: CBC News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, November 14, 2014
U.S.-China climate change deal already facing challenges
A landmark agreement on climate change between the U.S. and China, the world’s top two polluting nations, faced immediate challenges from experts who warned that it would require an overhaul of China’s economy and from Republicans in Congress who vowed to undermine the deal.
President Obama’s ramped-up push on environmental issues set up a clash with GOP leaders, who blasted the far-reaching agreement with China as bad for business and promised to try to block the regulations necessary to meet its targets for curbing carbon emissions. Administration officials asserted that they would not be deterred.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out about an agreement President Barack Obama reached in China on climate change.
The standoff was the clearest sign yet that Obama plans to prioritize his agenda — and his legacy — over hope of sowing goodwill with the incoming Republican-controlled Congress. Even as both parties promised to heed voters’ calls to find common ground after last week’s midterm election, the White House and Republican leaders have since drawn lines in the sand over immigration as well as environmental policy.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, likely to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Republican-led Senate next year, called the deal a “nonbinding charade.”
“I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations,” he said. Inhofe, perhaps Congress’ most prominent climate change skeptic, has long criticized the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It would be nice if we had some help and support from the Congress,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity in discussing strategy. “But we think we have the ability under laws that have already been passed by Congress — principally the Clean Air Act, but other laws as well — to get these reductions … with authorities we already have.” (Source: Los Angeles Times)
China, USA, Barack Obama, GOP, Republican, Climate Change, Environment, elephant, agreement
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Obama facing lame duck status as America goes to midterm polls
American voters head to the polls on Tuesday looking likely to take out their frustration with Barack Obama on his Democratic allies and hand control of the US Senate to his Republican opponents.
Polls show the American people have soured on their president after six years and are preparing to use today’s congressional midterm elections to give vent to their anger.
In the ten battleground states that will decide control of the Senate, Republicans are leading in seven and a number of Democrat senators are facing the prospect of being turfed out of office.
A Republican victory would give them complete control of Congress and doom Mr Obama to “lame duck” status in his final two years in the White House.
The President, whose poor approval ratings have largely kept him off the campaign trail, made a final appeal to black voters last night to turn out and prevent a Republican surge.
“It will make a difference in the lives of you, your family, and your community,” Mr Obama told an African-American radio station. “You’ve got that responsibility: live up to it.”
Mr Obama will watch the election unfold from the White House on Tuesday night.
Polls begin closing on the East Coast at 7pm (Midnight GMT) and will soon offer the first indication of what kind of night Democrats can expect.
Strategists in both parties will be closely watching the results in North Carolina and New Hampshire, two states currently held by Democrats and where the President’s party has maintained slim leads.
If either or both states fall to the Republicans it will be taken as a sign that Mr Obama’s party is in real trouble and potentially facing an electoral rout. (Source: Daily Telegraph)