Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
In 2009 Caster Semenya astonished everyone with her triumph at the World Athletics Championships. She was 18 years old at the time and crowned a season in which she dropped seven seconds to her best time in the 800m flat. In Berlin, the mark of the final took her to 13th place of all time and meant the widest margin of a champion compared to her rivals. However, as soon as she passed the finish line, accusations began to haunt her.
“She is a man,” said Italian runner Elisa Cusma, and as a powder the media replied. “Master Semenya is he or she,” said one of the Spanish newspapers accredited in the German capital on the front page. Meanwhile, another prestigious European newspaper began the day with “Semenya’s sexual ambiguity”. Above Usain Bolt’s three records, the news became the success of the tournament.
Then the IAAF demanded gender tests to confirm that she was a woman. There they discovered that the South African woman did not have a uterus or ovaries, but she did have internal testicles and testosterone levels three times above normal. Caster Semenya suffered from hyperandogenism. The results came out 21 days after the gold medal. And in the midst of the public debate about her sexual identity, many forgot that she was a teenager who never questioned her status as a woman.
This is confirmed by her family in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province and the land where she was born in January 1991. “She played like all girls,” the grandmother said in an interview with the BBC, “but she also liked to run and always excelled at it. For many people, however, Semenya has a man’s back, voice and face, and looks different to the naked eye.
Amid the controversy, the IAAF required her to limit her blood testosterone levels to 10 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L), a decision that forced the athlete to take medication to control her body. However, she still repeated the universal title in 2011 and won the Olympics a year later, but so much time fighting herself in the end turned out to be too much.
In 2013 she didn’t even attend the World Cup and two seasons later she finished the semifinals in last place. Her career wasn’t so successful anymore… until another intersex runner raised her voice.
It was Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter unable to attend the Commonwealth Games by refusing to limit testosterone values. After her complaint, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) considered that there was no evidence capable of demonstrating the advantage of athletes with hyperandrogenism.
The verdict removed the fourth year of regulations and Caster Semenya once again displayed all her power in Rio de Janeiro, the London World Cup and the Diamond League stops. Step by step, the South African rose in the historic ranking, won her first medal in the 1500m and won several nominations for best athlete of the season. But on April 26 of this year another IAAF decision threatened his career again.
According to the athletics governing body, athletes with hyperandrogenism would be forced to reduce their testosterone levels to 5 nmol/L by November 1, 2018. Otherwise, their only option was to compete as men, move to tests such as long-distance races and pitches or participate in divisional events for intersex athletes.
To support its proposal, the IAAF released a study which states that no woman should record more than 5 nmol/L of testosterone, “but those with differences in sexual development can have very high levels, which extends to the normal male range and even beyond. It was the conclusion that TAS did not find in its first research.
According to the report, “a higher proportion of testosterone increases muscle mass by 4.4%, strength by 12-26%, and hemoglobin by 7.8%. Experts estimate that the advantage of having circulating testosterone levels in the normal range of men rather than in the normal female range is greater than 9%.
When the analysis came out, the South African relived the same shock that accompanied her after her gold medal in 2009. Nearly a decade later, just two years after the last pill to control her body, her name was back in the headlines again. Although the rule doesn’t mention her directly, her face became one of the most wanted. And this time, far from the Berlin teenager, she decided to stand up and face everyone.
“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It’s not fair to be told that I have to change. It’s not fair for people to question who I am. I’m Mokgadi Caster Semenya, I’m a woman and I’m fast,” he said just three months ago when he filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport to stop the controversial decision.
The athlete’s lawyers argued that the measure “is discriminatory, irrational and unjustifiable,” and that it violates the Olympic Charter and human rights. The IAAF, for its part, maintains its argument about the need to “create categories of competition that guarantee the success determined by talent, dedication and hard work, instead of other factors that are not considered fair or significant, such as the enormous physical advantages that an adult has over a child, or a male athlete over a woman.
However, the news of the last days is in the announcement of postponing for five months the implementation of the rule, in order to wait for the verdict of the CAS and thus avoid the delay of the process initiated by Semenya affects other athletes involved. Now everyone is waiting for the result before March 26th.
“Prolonging uncertainty for athletes seeking to compete next year and beyond is unfair, so we have reached an agreement with the claimants. We have agreed not to enforce regulations against anyone until the regulations are respected. In return, they have agreed not to prolong the process. All athletes need this situation resolved as quickly as possible,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
Although the director claims to have full confidence “in the legal, scientific and ethical basis of the Regulations and therefore I hope that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will reject these challenges”, this delay means hope for Semenya and for the South African Athletics Association.
According to the Guardian, the president of the African body, Aleck Skhosana, the rules will have a “discriminatory effect on female athletes” and his duty lies in “protecting all female athletes, because the regulations marginalize certain female athletes on the basis of natural physical characteristics and/or sex.
And there lies the key to the whole affair. For Semenya, its lawyers and many of its defenders, it is unfair to proscribe a person with physical or genetic conditions different from the rest, but who was born this way and never took prohibited substances or underwent any medical treatment to achieve it.
“No one questions the strides of Usain Bolt, the wingspan of Michael Phelps or the cardiovascular system of the Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain. There is no such rule among men,” they say.
For its part, although the IAAF study recognizes that in tests such as hammer throwing – a specialty dominated by European and white athletes – the excesses of testosterone in blood offer an even greater advantage, the rule does not apply to those throwers. Many then question whether there is also discrimination on the basis of skin colour or geographical origin.
“It is always worrying, as a matter of law, when policies seem to be aimed at limiting the participation of a small group of people,” Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, told AFP. Her statements, along with those of the Women’s Sports Foundation and the organizers of the prestigious Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, shed light on an issue that does not yet have a clear end.
If CAS rejects the South African runner’s arguments and ultimately applies the decision, she must limit her testosterone or consider the option of climbing to 5,000 or 10,000 flat meters, tests where for now the rule is not effective. Meanwhile, if she wins the legal battle, it is almost certain that the world will continue to see the strides and master races of a girl who for a long time has struggled not to lose her essence as a woman.
November 12, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The legend of the comic Stan Lee, responsible for emblematic characters such as Spiderman or Hulk, died this Monday in Los Angeles (USA) at the age of 95, reported the media specialized in news of famous TMZ.
“My father loved all his fans. He was the greatest and most decent man,” Joan Celia Lee, the artist’s daughter, told TMZ.
The author had suffered numerous health problems in recent times and had lost Joan Lee, the woman he was married to for nearly seven decades, in 2017. “And I want you to know that I still love you all,” said the comic book editor in one of his final videos.
It’s often thought that Stan Lee invented all the famous Marvel Comics superheroes. The truth is that he created many, but usually with the essential contribution of legendary cartoonists. The most famous case: Spiderman, conceived together with the cartoonist Steve Ditko for Amazing Fantasy magazine #15 (1962). It was Lee who insisted that the main character be a teenager, busy with everyday issues like paying rent and courting his beloved Mary Jane.
On April 27, 2018, the film Avengers: Infinity War was released, inspired by a group of some of Marvel’s most important superheroes. Lee created them with legendary artist Jack Kirby for The Avengers #1 (1963). His original lineup included only five characters: Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Works such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, are a clear inspiration for Hulk’s character. But the originality of the character is that what activates Dr. Bruce Banner to become the incredible Hulk is anger. The comic strip is also an alert to the dangers of scientific experimentation. It was created by Lee and Jack Kirby for The Incredible Hulk #1 (1962).
The film Iron Man (2008) started the so-called Marvel Cinematographic Universe. Played by Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man is one of cinema’s most successful superheroes and the undisputed leader of the Avengers. His origins are curious, as Tony Stark is initially a capitalist with few scruples and problems with drinking, who sells weapons. A splinter near his heart forces him to wear armor all the time, with which he decides to fight evil. It was created by Lee along with artists Don Heck, Jack Kirby and his younger brother, Larry Lieber, for Tales of Suspense #39 (1963).
The X-Men is a group of superheroes who have in common that they are mutants; they did not acquire their powers by accident or extraterrestrial origin, but by a genetic factor. The X-Men are the perfect metaphor for intolerance towards those who are different. The original members were Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Jean Grey, Ice-Man and Professor X. It was created by Lee with Jack Kirby for The X-Men #1 (1963), although it is commonly considered that the X-Men lived their best time when Len Wein and Chris Claremont took over the reins of the cartoon.
It was with the Fantastic Four that Marvel Comics skyrocketed in sales and ushered in a golden era for this publishing label. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby set out to create a new group of superheroes, with unpublished characters. The Fantastic 4 were a success for their novelty: they had no secret identities and the dynamics of its members was that of a family. It debuted in Fantastic Four #1 (1961) and many consider that it represents the best collaboration between Lee and Kirby.
(With information from EFE and CNET)
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
On Wednesday, October 24, a white man with a history of violence shot and killed two African Americans, apparently at random, in a store in Kroger, Kentucky, after a failed attempt to break into a church.
After “mail bombs” were sent to people who are President Donald Trump’s main political critics and enemies, authorities arrested a suspect, a man who had vilified and stigmatized Democratic supporters and minorities with hateful messages on social networks.
And on Saturday morning, 27, a man shouting anti-Semitic insults in the best style of Nazi Germany’s brown shirts opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending religious services.
Those three criminal incidents that occurred in just 72 hours had only one thing in common: hatred.
Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, first attempted to enter a church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, just outside Louisville. It was the first predominantly black Baptist church, and Bush supposedly knocked on the door and tried to open it, but failed to get in. The doors were closed.
He then went to a Kroger chain store, where he shot two people, both African Americans. The first victim was Maurice Stallard, 69, who was with his 12-year-old grandson. The second was Vickie Jones (67) who was killed in the parking lot while the attacker fled.
Gregory Bush has a long history of mental disorders, of making racist threats, and repeatedly called his ex-wife the N-word (nigger), as part of a long criminal history that includes domestic violence, and other disturbances of order.
As the shooting in Kentucky took place, the number of suspicious packages in the mail grew.
The first was discovered Monday afternoon at the home of Democratic (and multimillionaire) donor George Soros. On Wednesday morning, two more, one addressed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and another to former President Barack Obama. Four more were to be found before the end of the day, including a bomb-package sent to CNN’s New York offices, which led to the evacuation of the entire Time Warner Center complex. Another package was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan.
On Friday, news of more packages arrived and then the arrest of a 56-year-old man named Cesar Sayoc, a Florida resident. Federal authorities said they sent a total of 14 bomb-packages (the kind we know in Cuba as “nipples”), none fortunately detonated, but they were all very real.
Sayoc’s political inclinations were passionately exhibited. On his van, he had a tag that said “CNN sucks. Through two Facebook accounts and three Twitter accounts, Sayoc often posted provocative photos and comments attacking liberals, along with crude conspiracy theories against the United States.
On Saturday morning there was a massive shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, where hundreds of worshippers had gathered at 9:45 am. Suddenly, a man came in screaming anti-Semitic insults with two guns and an AR-15 rifle and opened fire. He killed 11 people. Six more were injured.
Robert Bowers, 46, was identified as the gunman and arrested. He had frequently expressed his disdain for Jews in social media and also published xenophobic comments alleging that Jews were helping to transport members of migratory caravans in Latin America.
Hundreds gathered for a Saturday night vigil in Squirrel Hill to mourn the victims of the synagogue and show support for the Jewish community.
An interfaith service also took place at the sixth Presbyterian Church in Squirrel Hill on Saturday night.
At 5 p.m. a vigil at the Jewish Community Center (what we know in Havana as the Hebrew Community) in Woodbridge, Connecticut, brought together more than two thousand people from New Haven County.
The attendees were Christians, Jews, Muslims (2 families, one Turkish and one Bangladeshi), whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, children, adults and the elderly. All the best of the American people were present.
I asked several people what they thought about the cause of this unprecedented terror. All the presenters agreed that President Donald Trump’s policy of hate and threats (both nationally and internationally), the irresponsibility of his comments in the media, and his unrestricted support for the NRA (National Rifle Association) contributed to and motivated these crimes.
Was one of the three terrorists an Islamic fundamentalist? Or a radical leftist fanatic? A Russian, Chinese or Venezuelan agent? None of the above, all supporters of Donald Trump, all with a history of violence, which one imagines would give him no chance to buy arms or ammunition. Everyone in the vigil comments with anger.
Donald Trump, with his irresponsible tweets and media shows insulting minorities and anti-immigrant attitudes, has been the catalyst that the sewage of American society has overflowed and is flooding the country.
With great prudence, I asked some attendees what they knew about the “embargo against Cuba” and about the upcoming U.N. vote. Two people told me that they knew absolutely nothing about the blockade and assured me that they would be informed about it. Two others told me that they knew about the blockade and that they were vertically against it. And one of them, Eliot Meyers, looked at me in astonishment and asked me, “But didn’t Obama remove the embargo against Cuba? I explained to him that the “embargo” is in force and being applied with a maximum of inclement and cruelty by President Trump. Elliot lowered his head and said to me: “These are the same criminals, those who kill in the synagogues or send bombs and those who want to destroy the Cuban people. Elliot is an appliance dealer from Orange, Connecticut.
The pain and bitterness continue throughout the U.S., on a Sunday when people would normally talk about American football games (the Pittsburgh Steelers play at home) and the crucial fifth game of the World Series between Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. But on this occasion, thousands and thousands are on the street protesting the terror of the fascists and supremacists, and more importantly, their causes, which now have a consensus in the understanding of the people.
The victims will remember the tragedies of those 72 hours filled with hatred, for a long, long time. As early as November 6, in the midterm elections, these savage crimes will motivate hundreds of thousands to go to the polls that day and vote against those who are trying to lead the U.S. to unbridled, uncontrolled fascism and humanity to its certain destruction. Of the many phrases and posters I saw and heard, there were some that impressed me in a special way. One sign read: “We cannot cure a fool, but we can vote against him.
October 30, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Hundreds of demonstrators protested Tuesday in Pittsburgh against U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the synagogue where 11 people died in an antisemitic attack this weekend.
Demonstrators gathered near the Tree of Life synagogue, where the shooting took place, with banners bearing legends such as “President Hate Out of Our State” and “Trump, Renounce White Nationalism Now,” referring to criticisms that the president has not done enough to stop hate speeches.
Trump arrived at the synagogue on Tuesday accompanied by his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The president plans to light a candle for each of the victims of the shooting that shocked the United States.
But for some local personalities, Trump’s visit was not welcome.
A group of Pittsburgh Jewish leaders published an open letter in which they blamed Trump for encouraging the nationalist sentiments that generated the attack and said that until he strongly denounces this and stops attacking “immigrants and refugees,” he will not be welcome in the city.
Former synagogue president Lynette Lederman told the president on Monday to stay away from Pittsburgh, describing him as a “provider of hate speech.
The town of Pittsburgh, still in shock after suffering the worst antisemitic attack in recent U.S. history, buried on Tuesday two of the victims of the tragedy, brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54 years old.
(With information from AFP)
October 28, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
“HIAS liked to bring invaders who kill our people. I can’t sit back and watch my people get killed. Screw your views, I’m going in,” Robert D. Bowers posted on the Internet Saturday, shortly before breaking into a Pittsburgh synagogue and shooting 11 people in an action that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said is “a painful reminder of the persistence of anti-Semitism.
HIAS is a nonprofit Jewish refugee support organization, which after the massacre recalled that it is dedicated to the “rescue of people whose lives are in danger because of who they are.
Bowers almost announced his intentions days in advance, if you look at many of his social networking publications, in which he called immigrants “invaders,” distributed racist memes and claimed that Jews were the “enemy of whites.”
Bowers used Gab, an ultra-right social network taken as an alternative to Twitter that is heavily funded and favored by white supremacists, presented as “the free speech social network.” and riddled with neo-Nazi messages.
The attack left 11 dead in the Tree of Life synagogue, known for keeping a copy of the Torah rescued from the Holocaust.
The Sabbath ran and in the synagogue, located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, several religious ceremonies were held in different rooms, including a baptismal hall. In that context, Bowers perpetrated one of the worst attacks against the Jewish community in U.S. history, firing and shouting “All Jews must die!”
In a message condemning Saturday night’s crime in Pittsburgh, [UN Secretary General António] Guterres called on the authorities, civil society, religious and community leaders, and the general public to form a “common front” that would reverse the racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or other forms of hate such as intolerance, discrimination, and xenophobia that are gaining strength in many parts of the world.
This is in a country where immigration has become the subject of election campaigns and a way of instilling fear in voters. According to a Reuters analysis of the propaganda broadcast through October 15, 20% of the Republican Party’s ads in the congressional elections have mentioned immigration.
“All of us, in fact, are wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” said [Pope ]Francisco, who expressed his closeness to all the people of Pittsburgh “and in particular to the Jewish community, affected by a terrible attack on the synagogue.
Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh, was arrested after exchanging fire with a SWAT team. The prosecutor’s office charges him with 29 criminal charges, including crimes of violence and firearms, and violating U.S. civil rights laws.
Bowers had 21 guns registered in his name, according to authorities. Police reported that he only had one traffic violation on his record in 2015.
A few days ago, Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Florida, accused of sending parcel bombs to prominent Democratic personalities and politicians. Sayoc also posted hate messages on social networks.
(Information from agencies.)
By Flor de Paz, Cuban journalist and plastic artist
March 8, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
This is the last interview given by the director of Editorial de la Mujer, who passed away in Havana on Sunday, March 4. Her testimony is part of an audio-visual series that was recently recorded to dignify the work of Cuban journalists, who will be holding their 10th Congress this year.
The project, which will soon be broadcast on Cuban television, is being carried out by young graduates of FAMCA and is the fruit of collaboration between the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC) and the Association Hermanos Saíz (AHS).
— Constance and strength? A trait of my personality. I am, I don’t want to use the term fighter because it has many meanings, but I am a combative woman who always believes in Anaïs Nin’s phrase: “Put your dreams on the horizon and start walking”. You never reach the horizon, we know that, but push.
The entrance hall and living room of Isabel Catalina Moya Richard’s house are very spacious, as in most Havana construction of the first decades of the 20th century. Both spaces are demarcated only by four circular columns, and are passageways for the furniture that inhabits it —sofás, armchairs, armchairs, tables— and, among the latter, a huge one that Enrique Sosa, a professor at the University of Havana and panelist for years in the television program Escriba y Lea [Write and Read], gave to Isabelita.
It’s San Lázaro Street, in the popular neighborhood of Centro Habana. The noises of the road buzz around the house like a volcano erupting. And Isabel, seated in front of the precious wooden table that Professor Sosa gave her, now supporting an old typewriter, a souvenir from La Catrina, photos with Juan Carlos, and Gabriela, the 20-year-old daughter of both of them, as well as other ornaments, talks about the image she has hanging on one of the walls of the room: “it is Frida Kahlo’s Blue House”. It was given her by its author, the Mexican Aurea Alanis, who was in Havana for a course in gender photography.
—I’ve always been very gregarious, I enjoy being in a group, I’m very social, but I realized that I wanted to study journalism because I liked to write, I liked to research, I liked to read, I liked Humphrey Bogart’s films, from film noir, in which it was always a journalist who discovered everything. And I thought: I want to be that kind of person who investigates, who reveals secrets, she says, while Daniela Muñoz Barroso and Lena Hernández’s cameras “focus” on her eloquence.
During a pause, her mother, also named Isabel, also 72, reaches for a glass of water and medication. “All my life I have known what my faculties and shortcomings are. I have a degenerative bone disease that has forced me to use braces to walk since I was born. I’ve been operated on many times and during those periods I devoured books and books; of course, without order or concert, I read The Consecration of Spring, by Carpentier, as well as seven novels by Corín Tellado.
At that stage she tried, above all, to fill herself with a world of words that would allow her to live other lives in her own life. And then, in high school, when teachers began to direct their reading, she realized that she really had writing skills.
—But look, I never approached journalism as literature; I have not written stories or fiction as journalism. No, I’ve always been interested in writing essays on history or politics. It’s important to write about reality. And, of course, I’ve written poems, like everyone else, to give them to the groom, but not because they are publishable. Far from it.
—I would say that I had a beautiful childhood; a very happy growth process. Starting school was an important time because I always loved studying. In the fifth grade, I won a literature contest with a fantasy fiction story. I felt tremendous joy!
“I don’t forget that in elementary school my political life began, even though I wasn’t very aware of that reality at the time. Many times, we would go with Vietnamese hats and leaflets glued on our uniforms to support Vietnam in its war against the United States. Also, one of the first marches I participated in as a child was for Angela Davis’ freedom. Then she came to Cuba and I realized that I was already worried about those problems. Later, in the middle school and high school years, when I made friendships that I still have, and when my interests were taking shape, I definitely knew that I wanted to study journalism.”
Isabel Catalina Moya Richard was born in Havana on November 25, 1961. She is the eldest daughter of a family of four, including her parents. Their existence – marked by the impossibility of their organisms to assimilate calcium and, in turn, an optimism compensating for the lack of the mineral and all difficulties – can be summed up this way:
On her feet, on crutches or in a wheelchair, she is still herself: PhD in Communication Sciences, director of Editorial de la Mujer and the magazine Mujeres, the Associate Professor of the Faculty of Communication at the University of Havana, the president of the Chair of Gender and Communication and coordinator of the International Diploma in Gender and Communication at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism; the admirable José Martí Prize for Dignity and the National Journalism Prize (for her life’s work), awarded by the Union of Journalists of Cuba in 2016 and 2017.
—When I graduated, in 1984, I was the first in the group and was placed as a disseminator in the Office of Nuclear Affairs, but I did not agree. My dissatisfaction did not go down well because that institution was very important at the time. However, I wanted to do journalism and, when I asked to be relocated, I didn’t know where I was going to work for three months. The second choice was Mujeres [Women} magazine, and I took it as a punishment.
“How wrong I was! There were opportunities that many of my classmates didn’t have. I know all of Cuba thanks to my work as a reporter for Mujeres. I have been in the Pico Turquino, on the black beaches of the Isla de la Juventud, in the wonderful landscapes of Pinar del Río, in the Escambray… And, as at the same time I was attending the correspondence section, one day I thought: “Oh, I’m going to do a postgraduate course in research methodology”. And so I was able to design a content analysis tool that allowed us to classify all the letters we received. We get a lot of information from them, both for the magazine’s work and for the attention to the problems they alluded to. And I was forever hooked on research.
With the support of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), Isabelita had the opportunity to do a course on feminism at Casa Morada in Chile, and to participate in numerous international events on gender. Until in one of her daily inner dialogues, she asked herself: “Well, I have to try to create an environment where theories of gender and communication converge and thus we will have a better journalism”. And in this approximation, her doctoral thesis is aligned, for which she received the highest grade.
In the School of Communication, Isabelita gave her first gender classes, a horizon reached by which she lets us see great passion. When thinking about it, she brings to mind, that master’s degree given in Villa Clara, “one of the adventures in which I enrolled with UPEC: the teachers had to stay there every school week”.
Then it was time to found the Chair in Gender and Communications at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism, thanks to Guillermo Cabrera, she said. In this way, a line of training and research was opened in our country, of which we can be proud today. This is because, in addition to having graduates from numerous graduate schools, some of them have done their doctoral theses on the subject.
—More than two hundred communicators from all over Latin America have graduated from our courses. Through the Chair, I have also been able to teach at several important universities in the region and in Europe. Two years ago, for the first time, I gave online TV classes to some high schools in the United States. Having students everywhere is a delightful experience.
It’s February 3, 2018, Saturday morning. Isabelita, in front of Daniela and Lena’s cameras, talks about the issues that move her the most. Irina, with a demanding expression, reveals her concern for the continuous sounds coming from Calle San Lázaro, but this is the daily environment in which she lives.
—The challenges facing women in Cuba? The first is to think that they have already achieved everything. When we look at the statistics and see the number of women in the National Assembly, the number of women scientists and women communicators, and that more than seventy percent of the prosecutors are women, and so on, we come up with a distorted idea of reality. Because we have managed to open ourselves up in professions that were not previously considered feminine, we are now in the most complex moment, that of confronting subjectivity, culture, value judgments, and customs. These are much more difficult to change, since they are based on collective imagery and social representations. This is what we sing when we sing a bolero, a salsa song or sometimes, unfortunately, a reggaeton and what the novels tell us: romantic, dependent loves.
Her reflection is based on two substantive arguments: the communicational processes in Cuba do not problematize the reductive approaches of these audiovisual spaces, nor the subjective gaps that in the seventies the media managed to tackle documentaries such as that of Sara Gómez, Mi aportación, and the feature films Retrato de Teresa. Furthermore, attitudes that unwittingly blame and associate the advancement of women with certain family crises are frequent.
Today they say, “Women don’t give birth,” but that’s not the problem. The problem is that society has put women in the dichotomy of motherhood or professional fulfillment, so society has to change in order for the couple, the family, to have more children. It is not just a matter for women because even with all the advances in science and technology, it takes an egg and sperm to conceive a human being. But the media, instead of questioning this sexist approach, return and blame women for the problem of low birth rate.
Despite being public, of representing a social system that has human beings as the center of its goals, the media in our country does not achieve a racial balance, for example, Its aesthetics are very homogeneous: the majority of women come out with straightened hair. I liked it very much that the other day I saw a young black girl with her braids on the Morning Magazine. Because, as I say, there is no problem with straightening your hair, but in that fashion, it becomes a cultural mandate that forces you to assume aesthetics with which not all want to express themselves. It is still a challenge for diversity to be understood.
Using her experience as an example of what can be done in the communication processes, Isabelita talks about a work recently published in Mujeres magazine. It was about the people who sell coffee and fried foods from a window of what was the living room of her house, of a small house. And she asks, “What about the children living in these homes, where do they do their homework? You guys get to work? How do you reconcile business and family life in a small space like that??? Oh, and what good is it, grandparents live longer, but now the child is going to marry so grandma must move out of her room, and sleep in the living room…?
I know that there are people who think that these issues are minor and that the only thing that matters is global warming, but in what happens global warming there are people who live similar tragedies every day, so it is very good that there is journalism for global warming and that there is journalism that helps in the day-to-day, a service journalism and a journalism of social activism.
Isabelita, what does journalism mean to you?
A commitment to my contemporaries, to my country, to my people; a passion, a passion that saves. I have been sick, in the hospital at terrible times, when one of those moments in which the fragility of the human body is observed. Someone passed by and said to me, “Oh, how I like your magazine”. And, listen to me, all the fears and pains have been frightened away. So I tell you, journalism is my salvation.
And she added:
Rosa Luxemburg said that socialism is not just a knife and fork problem, it is a profound cultural revolution. I, therefore, believe that journalism will help transform machismo, sexism, homophobia, racism, the inheritance of five hundred years of Western Judaeo-Christian culture, first, from an atrocious first colonialism and, later, from a capitalism that destroys human beings.
(taken from Cubaperiodistas)
Cuban journalist. First Vice-President of UPEC and Vice-President of FELAP. She is a Doctor in Communication Sciences and author or co-author of the books “Antes de que se me olvide“, “Jineteros en La Habana”, “Clic Internet” and “Chávez Nuestro”, among others. He has been awarded the “Juan Gualberto Gómez” National Journalism Prize on several occasions. Founder of Cubadebate and its Editor-in-Chief until January 2017. On twitter: @elizalderosa
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The new digital platforms favor the emergence of groups of individuals organized like a claque, ready to unconditionally applaud the one who pays. Anyone who isn’t in a blockaded country like Cuba can create content, invest in it for specific groups to see and even rent or buy virtual applause to generate “likes” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter.
This is the business model of these technology platforms, thanks to which, for example, in the first quarter of 2018 Facebook had a turnover of $11.79 billion, almost four billion more (49 percent) than a year ago. Of that total, about 98.5 percent comes from advertising.
Such a thing happens every day and it is difficult to generate a perception of popularity on networks without hundreds of thousands of followers. These are usually achieved by registering artificial identities that promote messages of support, and the favor is not free. There are hundreds of companies that offer this service without any complexes. Simply enter “buy followers” in any search engine to find them. And it is not expensive: the price of a thousand followers is between 15 and 20 dollars. Getting ten thousand more people to follow us costs less than $120.
“Troll farms” – editors responsible for spreading false information on the Internet – have been used by politicians, entertainment stars, American spies, Donald Trump’s campaign team, Macri’s campaign team, the British military, Israeli propaganda organizations and many others who have made these huge profits from the platform founded by Mark Zuckerberg possible and placed it among the ten largest companies in the world, according to its value on the stock exchange.
The numbers are impressive and not just for the profits: a study published in March 2017 by the universities of South Carolina and Indiana estimated that, within Twitter, the proportion of “troll farms” that use automated applications to replicate messages (known as bots) was between 9 percent and 15 percent of their total users. The number of automatically-controlled fake profiles is between 30 million and 48 million.
Not out of moral compulsion, but to tune in to Washington’s anti-Russian and anti-Iranian discourse, Facebook has been willing to shut down some “troll farms” and escape, even momentarily, from the wave of criticism that has fallen on it for buying and selling data without the consent of its more than 2.4 billion users. This is how hits decided to eliminate hundreds of accounts with “inauthentic behavior” on Tuesday, according to a press release
We eliminated 652 pages, groups and accounts for coordinated “non-authentic behavior” that originated in Iran and were targeted to people across multiple Internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But while Facebook eliminates foreign-generated fake accounts, allegedly of Russian or Iranian origin, it tolerates the U.S. government’s “troll farms” without any crisis of conscience. Before any of us had heard of this machinery of fake accounts, fake news and Cambridge Analytica – the London-based company that intervened in more than 200 elections by manipulating the users of Facebook – the Pentagon was already publicly boasting that it was using the blue thumb network as propaganda bait for its operations.
Defense One magazine reported in November 2016 that Michael Lumpkin, former director of the Global Engagement Center (GEC, Pentagon propaganda department), described how the Center used Facebook data to maximize the effectiveness of its operations:
“Using Facebook ads I can get an audience, choose Country X, a specific age group between 13 and 34, filter people who like Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi or any other group… and I can shoot and hit them directly with messages,” Lumpkin said. He stressed that with the right data, effective message targeting can be done with only pennies per click.
Yesterday, the Miami New Times, a weekly newspaper in Florida, released a document proving that a US government-funded broadcasting organization is creating fake Facebook accounts in disinformation operations. These are directed against a country, Cuba, that has not done the slightest damage to the United States and that cannot access the Facebook ad manager because of the US blockade laws.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will spend more than $23 million in fiscal year 2019 on its Office of Broadcasting to Cuba (OCB), which controls Radio and TV Martí, and its projects include no less than a troll farm.
According to the budget requested of Congress for 2019, OCB will use the money in fake Facebook accounts of the kind that it perfectly classifies as “non-authentic behavior” to promote regime change on the island.
Considering the disaster of inefficiency, waste and corruption that has accompanied Radio Martí and TV Martí in 33 years of existence at a cost of more than $800 million at the expense of the US taxpayer, the former head of the US Interests Office in Havana, Vicki Huddleston, echoed on Twitter the news of the digital propaganda project against the island, to which she added a phrase of contempt: “Same-old-same-old!!”.).
Will Facebook close the US government’s “non-authentic behavior” accounts, starting with those of Radio and TV Martí? To be or not to be, that’s the question, right, Zuckerberg?
(Taken from Cubaperiodistas)
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Italian actress and director Asia Argento, a figure in the #MeToo movement after accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, agreed to pay $380,000 in a settlement to a young man who said he was sexually assaulted by her, according to The New York Times.
The victim was rock actor and musician Jimmy Bennett, who reported being sexually assaulted by Argento in 2013 in a California hotel, according to the newspaper. In that state, the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 18. Bennett had worked with Argento playing his son in a movie.
The agreement would have been reached in the months following the revelations on the Weinstein case in October last year. In a letter dated April to Argento confirming the final details of the agreement and the payment schedule, the actress’s lawyer referred to the money as ‘help for Mr. Bennett’.
“We hope it never happens to you again,” attorney Carrie Goldberg wrote to her client, “you’re a powerful and inspiring artist and it’s miserable that you live surrounded by shitty individuals who have taken advantage of your strengths and weaknesses.
For the young actor, who as a child captivated Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis, that 2013 meeting was “a spiral of emotional problems,” reports the New York Times, citing the contents of the documents. According to the information, it was so traumatic that it hampered Bennett’s work, so his lawyers were initially seeking $3.5 million in damages because his mental state had affected his income.
The New York newspaper assures that it has had access to the accusations of the young actor and to the subsequent financial agreement reached by Argento and Bennett’s lawyers, who are now 22 years old, through documents that have been sent to them anonymously. These documents, which were sent via encrypted mail, include a selfie photograph, dated May 9, 2013, of the two actors lying in bed, reports Efe.
The newspaper adds that it has tried “repeatedly” to contact those involved in this issue without success. However, Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, told the newspaper that his client would not agree to be interviewed about it and that he would “continue to do what he has been doing in recent months and years: focus on his music.
“A traumatic sexual assault”
Bennett was 17 when the alleged incident with the then 37-year-old actress occurred. Bennett’s lawyers described the meeting at the hotel as a “sexual assault” that traumatized their client, threatened his mental health, and called for compensation of 3.3 million euros.
For Bennett, seeing Argento present herself as a victim of sexual harassment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It made him relive that episode in 2013, of which there is even a photo left on the actress’s Instagram profile. “What he felt that day came back when Argento became the voice of Harvey Weinstein’s victims,” Bennett’s lawyer said in the complaint document.
For Bennett, the Italian actress was both a mentor and a mother, and they had a certain amount of contact since they met in 2004 during the filming of The Heart is Liar, which she directed and starred in with him. The argument revolved around the relationship between a drug-addicted prostitute (Asia Argento) and her son (Jimmy Benett), and the relationship between them revolved around this mother-child relationship. Until May 9, 2013, she wrote on Instagram: “Waiting for my long-lost child Jimmy Bennett”, with a selfie at the door of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey, California. He replied, “I am coming”.
The New York Times’ account of the events recalls that the actor arrived in the room with a family member because of a vision problem that prevents him from driving. Argento asked the companion to leave them alone, gave him alcohol to drink and showed him some notes he had written for them. Then she kissed him, pushed him to bed, took off his pants and gave him oral sex. Finally, she climbed on top of him and they had a sexual relationship. She also asked for some photos to be taken and shared on social networks.
In the image that came to the newspaper along with the anonymous documentation, you can see them both with their torso uncovered. After the episode in the hotel room, they ate lunch together and, on the way home, Bennett began to feel “extremely confused, mortified and upset. A month later, however, she sent Argento a Twitter message with a picture of a bracelet she gave her that said, “I miss you, Mommy.”
Financial and family problems
Bennett’s life wasn’t easy back then. Around the time of his meeting with Argento, he had confronted his mother and stepfather in court, whom he accused of having thrown him out of the family home, of having stolen his possessions and of having appropriated, over the years, at least one and a half million dollars of his savings. Bennett was broke at the time and owed two months’ rent.
The financial agreement recently reached by the actors does not prevent the young person from making what happened public, but it does prevent him from demanding it. Nor would I be allowed, after accepting the money, to publish the photo of both of them. According to the New York Times, and although it is not known if both have spoken since the signing of the agreement, Argento would have given him a “like” on Instagram to a selfie of the actor in which he appeared caressed.
Asia Argento became a powerful voice in the #MeToo movement after accusing Weinstein of raping her in a hotel during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival when she was 21.
At the close of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the actress told the audience: “Things have changed. We’re not going to let them get away with this.
(Taken from El Mundo)
August 22, 2018.
By Rosa Miriam Elizalde
Cuban journalist. First Vice-President of UPEC and Vice-President of FELAP. She is a Doctor in Communication Sciences and author or co-author of the books “Antes de que se me olvide”, “Jineteros en La Habana”, “Clic Internet” and “Chávez Nuestro”, among others. He has been awarded the “Juan Gualberto Gómez” National Journalism Prize on several occasions. Founder of Cubadebate and its Editor-in-Chief until January 2017. On twitter: @elizalderosa
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
While the United States is making a scandal about the supposed Russian intervention in social networks to influence the 2016 elections won by Donald Trump, today evidence has been uncovered that the U.S. government is using Facebook to spread fake news about Cuba and clandestinely foment dissidence on the island.
The Florida weekly Miami New Times revealed Wednesday that it has had access to documents from the government’s Office of Broadcasting to Cuba (OCB), run by Radio and TV Martí. It reveals that the Trump administration has been using Facebook accounts for two years that appear “native” (from real people on the island) to spread propaganda without informing Cuban Facebook users that it is government advertising.
According to the report obtained by the weekly, due to the failure of Radio and TV Martí,
the OCB’s strategy has focused on an offensive through social networks, based on metrics that place YouTube, Google and Facebook among the most visited sites in Cuba. With the use of AVRA (Audio and Video for Radio) technology, Radio Martí’s programs began to be broadcast through Facebook Live along with TV Marti’s programming. This provides OCB with additional efficient and cost-effective distribution output for both its radio (now visual radio) and TV content.
In fiscal year 2018, OCB has been establishing itself with digital island equipment (read “dissidents” paid for by the US) that creates native and “unbranded” Facebook accounts to disseminate information. Native” pages increase the chances of appearing in the news for Cuban Facebook users. The same strategy will be replicated in other preferred social networks.
Miami New Times says that the documents do not explain what federal agents mean by “unbranded” or “native” Facebook pages, but it is clear that they must resemble the pages of regular social network users to persuade Cubans to read propaganda from Radio and TV Martí.
According to the weekly, both government broadcasters have spent more than $800 million from the U.S. taxpayer over the years in their unsuccessful effort to influence Cuban public opinion.
This plan fits into a long history of attempting to use technology to fit propaganda against Cuba, says University of Pennsylvania professor John S. Nichols.
“There are certainly warning signs here,” says Nichols, co-author of Clandestine Radio Broadcasting: A Study of Revolutionary and Counterrevolutionary Electronic Communication (1987), about OCB’s efforts. “It is the latest plan in a long list of efforts by Radio and TV Martí and their predecessors to try to overcome the laws of physics…. Every time they fail to get their message to Cuba, they say there has to be some technological solution.
Instead, he adds, Congress “seems to fail to recognize that both stations are a colossal failure. It’s sad because they’re spending taxpayers’ money. But what’s really being wasted is our credibility as a great nation doing this kind of thing, dumb and stupid.
Prominent figures from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum, including Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, have described these OCB programs as counter-productive and a waste of money. Democratic representative Betty McCollum liquidated the AeroMartí platform in 2015 (to transmit to from an airplane to Cuba the broadcasts of Radio and TV Martí) and said that the OCB was an “unnecessary” office.
“Radio and television Martí are old-fashioned Cold War artifacts,” McCollum said in a statement in 2015. “Our taxpayers shouldn’t be funding propaganda broadcasts.”
But the programs continue to exist thanks to a handful of anti-Cuban lawmakers, including Miami representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a longtime promoter of Radio and TV Martí, says the Miami New Times.
Earlier this year, Senator Marco Rubio helped install Tomás Regalado, an old friend, as head of the Radio and TV Martí programs. Since then, Regalado has made great promises about how both stations have new plans to reach “5 million” Cuban citizens in the coming years. Regalado appeared last week on the Spanish-speaking MegaTV network to brag about the use of mysterious new technologies that the Cuban government supposedly cannot block. He said that 200 Cubans had received receivers that would help in this new attempt.
“It’s a technology that didn’t exist, and since the government doesn’t know about it, it will be almost impossible to block it,” Regalado told the cameras.
Nichols argued to the Florida weekly that this type of social media propaganda is damaging the U.S. position in the world.
“Third countries see what we are doing and say,’Here comes America again doing this nonsense,” and he adds,’It’s low, petty and not worthy of great power. Other countries will say,’If the U.S. is willing to violate international law, why should we obey our contractual obligations? And given what Radio Martí and TV Martí might be doing right now, we have a hard time complaining about what other countries might be doing against us.
The report that Miami New Times had access to is OCB’s budget request for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It does not reveal the identities of fake “native” and “unbranded” accounts created on the social network, but Facebook administrators do know what they are. By these extravagant quirks in life, this information coincides with the decision of the social network founded by Marc Zuckerberg to eliminate hundreds of alleged false accounts of Russians and Iranians allegedly involved in several disinformation campaigns.
Will Facebook also eliminate the false accounts created by the U.S. government for regime change in Cuba and will the U.S. Attorney’s Office appoint Robert Mueller or another of his ilk to investigate these abuses, as it has done to determine alleged Russian interference through Facebook in the 2016 elections?
1985: Radio Martí began broadcasting, and five years later, the television aggression began when a television transmitter was put into service on board a captive aerostat at an altitude of 3,000 meters in one of the keys in the south of the state of Florida.
2005: Hurricane Dennis disappeared the captive balloon located at 10,000 feet above sea level in Cudjoe Key, from where Television Martí was broadcast. The OCB replaced it with the AeroMartí platform.
2014: OCB created the unwanted text messaging service Pyramid, which failed. Then it tried to smuggle small satellite devices into the island, but the project was aborted because in addition to being expensive, the “dissidents” used the terminals to view pornography.
2015: Deactivation of “AeroMartí”.
2018: President Trump created the Internet Task Force for Cuba, which according to the State Department “will examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding access to the Internet and independent media in Cuba. Clearly, this Task Force has encouraged OCB’s digital fantasy.
Several investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have acknowledged that there is strong evidence that Radio and Television Martí is not heard or seen in Cuba. According to the Miami New Times, this saga has cost the American taxpayer more than $800 million.
TAKEN FROM: Desbloqueando Cuba
August 16, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Aretha Franklin won 44 nominations, 18 Grammys and 75 million records sold
The diva from Memphis had been fighting cancer for years.
Franklin still had time to make one last record, A Brand New Me.
She went on to replace Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
There are few black voices left of the old guard. One of the most imposing ones has departed. Perhaps the most recognizable, the one that became immense by singing Respect and that had the pleasure of finishing off the work with other unforgettable melodies such as Natural Woman, I Say a Little Prayer or Chain of Fools, a church voice that made the leap into the commercial arena and that, after 44 nominations, 18 Grammys and 75 million records sold all over the world, became the first woman to access the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a year before The Beatles. The queen of soul, the eternal Aretha Franklin, has passed away. She was 76 years old.
Aretha Franklin’s representative confirmed to the Associated Press that the queen of soul had died Tuesday at her home in Detroit. On Sunday, information began to circulate about the singer’s admission to a hospital in Detroit, the city where she lived. It was said that she was in an extremely serious condition and that she was surrounded by her closest family and friends, as a clear sign of her impending end.
The Memphis diva had been struggling with cancer for years – even though she had never officially recognized it – and last year announced that she was retiring from show business for good. “This will be my last year. I’ll be recording, but this will be my last year of concerts. That’s all,” she said in an interview in 2017
“I feel very enriched and satisfied with where my career comes from and where it is.
All this after she was forced to cancel a series of concerts during the summer and could not be at a jazz festival in New Orleans. “Aretha Franklin has been ordered by her doctor to stay off the road (because of the music tours) and rest completely for the next two months,” the singer’s team announced in a statement in March.
Elton John will be able to brag about getting her on stage one last time. She was in November in New York to raise funds for the fight against AIDS. And former President Barack Obama was able to count on the strength of her voice at the 2009 presidential inauguration, in one of her most notable and remembered public events in her homeland. She did the same with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as singing at Martin Luther King’s funeral.
Despite her health problems – for decades she had to deal with obesity and alcoholism – Franklin still had time to record one last album, A Brand New Me, a compilation of her most important songs, although this time with the collaboration of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London and the voice of a much more mature Franklin.
“Having the opportunity to work with that voice on this project has been the greatest honor and hearing a symphony orchestra involve these performances is impressive,” said producer Nick Patrick after releasing the album in November last year.