British ‘Open’ University or closed anti-Cuban Trump University?


This video from the USA says about itself:

Wilkerson: Practically Everyone Opposes Trump‘s Reversal of Obama’s Cuba Opening

15 June 2017

Reversing the Cuba opening will be a political nightmare for the Trump administration, but they ignore everyone’s warnings, says Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell‘s former Chief of Staff.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

‘Open’ University blacklists Cubans from its courses

Monday 24th July 2017

Institution accused of blocking enrolments to bolster US embargo – in breach of British laws

CUBANS have been banned from enrolling at the Open University (OU) because the institution fears repercussions from the United States, which has been illegally blockading the island for 59 years.

The distance-learning university has been accused of breaching discrimination laws by imposing the ban.

Around 30 Cuban students are already studying at other British universities and the government has pledged to build higher education links with the tiny Caribbean nation.

The OU has claimed that the ban on Cuban students is “in response to international economic sanctions and embargoes” — that is, threats of retaliation from the US.

Britain as a whole does not operate or subscribe to any economic sanctions or embargoes against Cuba.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) yesterday condemned the ban as “unacceptable” and said the OU was choosing to abide by US rather than British law.

CSC director Rob Miller said: “It is unacceptable on every level for a British university to ban an entire group of students based solely on their nationality and runs counter to anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws.

“It is an affront to all British people to suggest, as the OU does, that they are only complying with US law. Their action and justification for it punishes the people of Cuba, and undermines the sovereignty of British law.

“Cuban students are welcome to study at many other British universities. By introducing this unjust, discriminatory and nasty policy, the OU is making a mockery of its claim to be ‘open to all.’

“We have asked the Open University to end this outrageous ban, and are calling on the British government to make urgent representations to the OU to ensure that they run a fair and non-discriminatory admissions policy, or take action to enforce one if they refuse.”

In March, Foreign and Commonwealth Minister Sir Alan Duncan met Cuban vice-minister for higher education Dr Aurora Fernandez, who was in Britain leading a delegation from the Cuban higher education sector.

He said at the time he was “looking forward to working with them towards UK-Cuba goals on higher education, research, and English language training.”

Westminster policy is one of “strengthening UK-Cuba educational links.”

Last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed to “boost bilateral cooperation in higher education, research and teaching of English.”

CSC has launched a campaign to persuade the OU to lift its ban on Cuban students and is urging supporters to write to their MPs over the matter.

The US economic blockade was imposed by president John F Kennedy in 1962, extending restrictions from 1960, and maintained by every subsequent president.

Relations between Cuba and the US improved under President Obama, though the economic blockade remained largely in place, but President Trump is tightening restrictions against island country of 11 million.

The blockade, which has been declared illegal by the United Nations every year since 1992, has significant and punitive effects on Cuba, including its health and education services.

Drugs and medicines have to be shipped from China and other countries, despite being available just 90 miles away in the US.

The OU also bans students from Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Endangered Cuban crocodiles back in the wild


This video says about itself:

Wild Cuba [Nature Documentary] HD

12 July 2015

Cuba’s political and economic isolation has provided the outside world little opportunity to see its wildlife … until now. It may be renowned for its politics and its cigars, but Cuba is home to some of the most unusual creatures on earth, including the feisty Cuban crocodile, the world’s smallest bird and frog, and migrating land crabs.

Cuba’s diverse wildlife stems from its unique natural history. Cuba was not originally in the Caribbean Sea but in the Pacific Ocean, where the island was situated 100 million years ago, before the forces of continental drift slowly brought it into the Caribbean. As the island migrated over the ages, an astonishing variety of life arrived by air, sea, and possibly by land bridges that may have once existed. Over time, these animals adapted to their new environment. Today, more than half of Cuba’s plants and animals, including more than 80 percent of its reptiles and amphibians, are found nowhere else on the planet.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Endangered Cuban crocodiles come home

July 13, 2017

Experts from WCS’s Global Conservation Programs and WCS’s Bronx Zoo assisted Cuban conservationists in the recent release of 10 Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer) into Cuba’s Zapata Swamp as part of an ongoing recovery strategy for this Critically Endangered species.

These genetically pure crocodiles came from a breeding facility near the Zapata swamp. Hybridization with American crocodiles, which occur in the Southwestern tip of the Zapata Peninsula, is an ongoing issue and has contributed to the Cuban crocodile’s continuing decline. Cuban crocodiles face other threats, such as an increase in illegal hunting in recent years, so the release of captive bred Cuban crocodiles and the protection of these reptiles from poaching and hybridization is critical to the survival of the species in the wild.

The crocodiles were released in the Wildlife Refuge Channels of Hanabana (Refugio de Fauna Canales de Hanábana) — a 570 hectare (1,400 acre) mosaic of water channels, lagoons, marsh grasslands, and swamp forests in the easternmost Zapata Peninsula where Cuban crocodiles historically occurred. Marsh grasslands in this refuge provide crucial habitat for not only Cuban crocodiles, but prey including bird, fish and mammal species. No American crocodiles or hybrids are found in this Wildlife Refuge.

The recent release, which took place on June 8th, is the second reintroduction since Cuba started to release Cuban crocodiles in 2016. The decision to release the crocodiles followed a workshop of crocodile experts organized by WCS and Cuban institutions, including the Fundación Antonio Nuñez Jiménez, CITMA Ciénaga de Zapata, and Empresa Nacional para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna. The workshop brought together 40 Cuban nationals working for the conservation of crocodiles in Cuba, and 30 international experts.

The workshop resulted in a series of agreed priorities for improving the conservation of crocodiles, including: strengthening the research and monitoring of Cuban crocodiles in the wild; increasing efforts to reintroduce and monitor reintroduced animals in Channels of Hanabana; working with local communities to reduce poaching through alternative livelihoods and environmental education; and working with local authorities to strengthen compliance to reduce illegal selling of crocodile meat.

Said Natalia Rossi, WCS Cuba Program Manager: “This workshop was important because it enabled the second release of Cuban crocodiles into the wild and motivated all participants to do even more to save this critically endangered species. Our workshop was fundamental to bring everyone together to share the work being done to save the Cuban crocodile.”

The critically endangered Cuban crocodile has the smallest, most restricted geographic distribution among all living crocodilian species, being only found in parts of the Zapata and Lanier swamps. Historically it was found throughout the Zapata Peninsula, but indiscriminate hunting for skins beginning in the second half of the 19th century and lasting until the early 1960s decimated most populations. Today, Cuban crocodiles inhabit a territory of about 77,600 hectares (191,700 acres), sharing habitat with the American crocodile and the hybrids of both species.

WCS’s John Thorbjarnarson began working on Cuban crocodiles in the 1990s, and WCS’s Bronx Zoo was the first U.S. zoo to successfully breed Cuban crocodiles. The first one hatched in 1983; six more hatched in 1984, and 21 in 1985. There has been no reproduction since then, but the zoo has a new young pair of crocodiles that will be introduced to each other late this year.

Kevin Torregrosa, Herpetology Collections Manager for WCS’s Bronx Zoo, attended the workshop to establish collaboration opportunities with individuals working with crocodiles in the breeding centers as well as with wild populations.

Said Torregrosa: “Cuba is a fairly isolated island and getting the chance to see the conservation effort in practice was very enlightening. I believe the Cubans were very happy to have the opportunity to show the international community the work that they have been doing.”

Trump pressures Cuba on political refugee Assata Shakur


This video says about itself:

17 June 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Assata Shakur in his recent speech, making her extradition a demand to Cuba.

On June 16, President Donald Trump gave a speech in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood outlining his planned rollback of the loosening of travel and trade restrictions initiated under the Obama administration. Repeating his absurd claim that the deal to reopen diplomatic relations and allow US companies to operate on the island was “one-sided” and “terrible and misguided,” the Trump administration is speaking not only for wealthy, right-wing Cuban exiles who were part of his base. American imperialism’s most rapacious layers see a Cuban economic collapse on the horizon and an opportunity to take back their old property without having to give a cut to the Cuban leadership and their associates: here.

The official June 16 statement was barely uttered when the majority nationwide opposition to the Trump Cuba policy was once again reignited. Indeed, it was already extremely active and vocal before the Little Havana, Miami venue and date were announced on June 9. By stage-managing the event in Little Havana, Trump was preaching to the choir, one that does not even include the rest of Florida, where the majority of Cuban-Americans oppose the blockade, or at least support the Obama policy of making the blockade somewhat more flexible. Trump’s trademark manner of hand-picking events to spread the word across the country will not work. His Cold War rhetoric will not detract the forces that want to increase trade and travel to Cuba: here.

Cuban-Dutch ancient shipwrecks research


Admiral Cornelis Jol and his peg leg

Again, a blog post about Cuba. This time not about the birds I saw in Cuba (more blogs posts about that will come later). But about some twenty historical wrecked ships in Cuban waters; including some of Dutch buccaneer admiral Cornelis Corneliszoon Jol (1597–1641).

Cornelis Jol was nicknamed in Dutch Houtebeen=in English pegleg=in Spanish Pie de Palo, because he had one wooden leg. So, there is not just the fictional pirate Captain Hook, but also the real Jol.

Jol was an admiral of the Dutch West India Company. As such, he played an important role in making the Dutch important players in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery, which they had not been before. Jol conquered the Portuguese slave export port Luanda in Angola. He also played a role in the conquest of north-east Brazil with its slave plantations.

In 1640, a storm sank some of Jol’s ships off Cuba. Today, Dutch NOS TV reports that there will be joint Cuban-Dutch archaeological research into these shipwrecks.

There are also later Dutch shipwrecks near Cuba: like the cargo ship SS Medea, sunk in 1942 by a German submarine.

The research will start in 2018.

Journey to Cuba’s birds


This video says about itself:

Full Documentary: Cuba, Natural Paradise

15 March 2016

The Cuban mangrove forest is still an unknown world concealing biological mysteries and treasures which will astonish the world; a forgotten paradise ruled over by an impenetrable hell of dangerous crocodiles, manatees, birds, hutia, marshy labyrinths, and myriads of mosquitoes.

Science has not yet studied the complexity of its creatures and the balance of its ecosystems. And that is part of the charm of the Cuban mangrove forest, knowing that it remains exactly as it always has been, impenetrable, solitary, virgin. It is such a complex world that virtually nothing is known about it. And nonetheless, all its strength and complexity, all its biodiversity and richness, are due to tiny, intrepid travellers that still today, faithful to their spirit, continue to set out on anonymous journeys, crossing the sea and sowing the seeds of paradise.

The mangrove’s success in colonising is due both to its extraordinary evolutionary adaptations, making it possible to live in an acid, briny environment, and to its incredible method of reproduction.

When the mangroves reproduce, they develop what will be the most astonishing means of genetic expansion, colonisers equipped to travel vast distances: their seeds.

A coral world surrounds the Cuban archipelago.

Enormous coral structures, the result of thousands of years of patient calcareous construction, constitute the reefs which fill the coasts of Cuba with life. The coral reef is composed of millions of tiny filtering polyps capable of turning the solar energy and the scarce nutrients in the water into organic matter available for other organisms in the coral community. Starting with them, the chain becomes increasingly complex, and thousand of different life forms develop, from the fragile invertebrates to the most highly evolved, complex fish.

Because Cuba is an island, there are many endemic species, living only in Cuba. 95% of Cuba’s 62 amphibian species are endemic. So are 37% of its 57 freshwater fish species; 79% of its 155 reptile species; and 32% of its 52 mammal species. As for birds, 26 species live only in Cuba. Also, 22 species live only in Cuba plus on a few other islands like the Bahamas.

On 5 March 2017, our journey to the wildlife of Cuba started.

Our plane was already above the Atlantic ocean, west of Scotland, when one of the passengers had heart problems. The plane had to go back east, to Manchester airport in England, so the patient could go to a hospital.

Then, we flew west again, over Ireland; then, the Atlantic.

Plane wing, 5 March 2017

This photo, a cellphone photo like the others of this blog post, shows a wing of the plane.

Hours later, we reached eastern Canada. Frozen lakes; snowy ground.

Frozen lakes and snow in Canada

This photo shows lakes in Canada.

We then flew over Maine in the USA. Still snowy ground, but already a bit less snowy than Canada.

As we went further south along the United States east coast, the snow got less and less. Still later, it disappeared.

We passed New York City.

Clouds off Georgia, USA

Clouds over the Atlantic east of Georgia.

Then, the sea between Florida and Cuba.

Finally, our plane arrived at Varadero airport in Cuba.

Stay tuned for more blog posts on Cuba, and its birds!

Cuban art exhibition in London


This video from England says about itself:

14 February 2017

The ¡Presente! exhibition gathered, for the first time in London, the work of over 30 contemporary Cuban artists. With curators and artists from the island visiting the city, it also represented an opportunity for conversation and exchange on arts, culture and education.