Thousands of California Felons Regain Voting Rights

The ruling restores the right to vote to former inmates on post-release community supervision.

More than 60,000 convicts serving sentences under community supervision in California regained the right to vote Tuesday in a reversal of a decision by a former state official that prevented them from participating in elections.

The decision comes as part of a settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the state of California, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Tuesday.

The came just two days before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted into law at the peak of theU.S. Civil Rights movement in 1965.

“Secretary of State Padilla is bucking a national trend in which voting rights are under attack,” said Lori Shellenberger, Director of the ACLU of California’s Voting Rights Project. “We are thrilled that this administration has effectively said ‘no’ to Jim Crow in California, and instead is fighting for the voting rights of California’s most vulnerable communities.”

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of California and other rights groups accused former Secretary of State Debora Bowen of violating state law when she issued an order to local elections officials to treat those on community supervision or mandatory supervision as if they were on parole.

Despite a judge overturning the policy in 2014 and finding that the order violated California state laws, Bowen ignored the ruling and kept her directive in place. Now, Padilla let the judge's ruling stand.

“Formerly incarcerated people should not be disenfranchised and have to fight for their voting rights. Restoration of these voting rights is long overdue and the League is pleased that California is leading the way to protect voting rights for all,” said Helen Hutchinson, President of the League of Women Voters of California, which was one of the co-sponsors of the lawsuit against the Bowen.

However, lawyers say that rulings similar to Tuesday's could easily be overturned by state governments. In Maryland, Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill that would have extended the right to vote to more than 40,000 convicts.

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U.S. Drone Strikes Kill 26 in Afghanistan's Nangarhar

More than two dozen people have been killed in two separate U.S. drone strikes in eastern Afghanistan. The attacks were carried out against suspected Taliban militants in the eastern province of Nangarhar, local Afghan officials said on Tuesday.

The casualties were caused after drones belonging to the U.S. military targeted militant hideouts near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Nangarhar. Local officials confirmed that at least 26 people lost their lives in the attacks.

The U.S. regularly uses drones for airstrikes and spying missions in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border. While Washington claims the targets of the attacks are militants, witnesses maintain that, in most cases, civilians have been the victims of the airstrikes.

Widely seen as a violation of international law, the U.S has been carrying out drone operations in several countries, including Afghanistan, without authorization from the United Nations.

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White House Takes 2 Years to Reply to Snowden Pardon Petition

President Obama’s administration will not pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden, in spite of the 167,954 signatures gathered.

 The White House has finally replied to a petition demanding the pardoning of whistleblower Edward Snowden, which has been circulating for more than two years when he left the United States. In spite of the 167,954 signatures, U.S. authorities posted a wholly negative response.

In 2013, the former NSA contractor leaked documents about the U.S. government's mass surveillance programs.

In addition, he revealed that Washington has been collecting the phone records of millions of U.S. and foreign nationals, as well as political leaders from around the world.

Snowden now lives in Moscow, having been granted political asylum by Russia.

U.S. presidential advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco, dismissed the petition’s demand this week for Snowden to be “issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon,” saying, “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers.”

“Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” reads the reply.

 “If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and – importantly – accept the consequences of his actions.”

U.S. federal prosecutors have accused Snowden of espionage. He fled his country, and Russia granted him political asylum, where he currently resides in Moscow. Last month, the White House said Snowden must still face prosecution, despite the expiration of the surveillance program under the Patriot Act.

U.S. Elections: Red Light in Cuba

The New Herald published a very significant article regarding the sort of elections that will take place in the United States.  

The article was published this Sunday July 26 and was signed by Ramón A. Mestre, in Miami.

The author called it: "Of electoral polls and cats hairdressers."

He remembers a phrase he who has nothing to do, better combs cats", and he mentions how the overall electoral tasks are for the presidency.

He stresses that long before the 2016 elections; editors begin to disclose findings of polls that "frequently their own media negotiate."

They try to justify that shallowness, - explains Mestre - alleging that they are an example of an important “electoral coverage”.

Apparently, he adds, surveys always measure with accuracy the opinion of voters.

He also bares the essence of such masquerades: there is not trial for postures, ideas, administrations, achievements, failures neither contradiction.

The article highlights that when a candidate without good perspectives is placed at the head, then it receives an exaggerated attention in the media.

And Mestre vouches for this with the case of the republican hothead multimillionaire Donald Trump.

"An arrogant jester, Hispanic-phobic, insolent, with a special talent for real estate business and self-promotion."

According to The Washington Post and the ABC network, this racist dinosaur occupies the first place among the 16 candidates to the presidency of the Republican Party.

The jester, as the article calls him again, is backed by the 24% of voters of his party.

Even experts don’t rule out today the possibility that he becomes an "independent" presidential candidate.    

U.S. analysts point that, despite everything, Trump stands out in the unusual multitude of republican candidates.

It’s really striking the fact that he uses a harsh, vulgar, primary speech, mainly when referring to the Mexican immigrants.

Those postures, including the one touching Mexicans, "undoubtedly attracts the xenophobic of his party."

However, how “high” can get the total number of republican voters who don’t support Trump?

The answer comes to a certain degree in a poll of the important newspaper The Wall Street Journal, when locating those who disapprove of him in a 66%.

Ramón A. Mestre affirms that with that level of rejection “elections are not won”.

But also, a close insult sent against Senator John McCain reminded his sustained escape from the military service.

The press of Washington wrote that, while McCain participated in the aggression war against Vietnam, Trump was “consecrated to enjoying a happy life in the Manhattan of the late 60’s."

For more than half century the propagandistic machinery of United States has put under attack the Cuban electoral system.

They are deadly right about some things.

Never a figure like Donald Trump would have had space in it, not even in a municipality.

He would never be allowed to manifest ideas of hatred against Mexicans neither against other immigrants.

In any moment somebody with those features could have been eligible to be presidential candidate, much less with a lead.

Nobody would have thought of giving privileged places in the media to someone so extremely unpopular.

It is accepted, for such behavior, values and thinking is not electoral freedom in Cuba, but it is in the United States.

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Cuba: Ready, Set, Go!

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Cuba, where I spent several days talking with government officials, business and cultural leaders, and ordinary citizens. Like many in the U.S. today, I was intrigued with Cuba and eager to experience it firsthand. I was not disappointed.

We stand at a historic moment in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. On Monday, the two countries reestablished embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., closing the door on 54 years of diplomatic isolation.

One might think that this history would give rise to enmity between the Cuban people and the U.S. Nothing could be further from what I found in the Cuban capital.

Instead, what I found in the colorful, energetic milieu that is Havana was a people eager to engage with America. Everyone I met said unequivocally that they loved the American people and its culture.

While proud of their past, Cubans are excited for the future. I asked whether there was any anxiety in Cuba, including in its government, about reengaging with the U.S. Although one official admitted that Cuba felt a bit like the blade of grass on the savannah observing an elephant, and knowing that whether the elephant made love or war the impact on the blade of grass would be just the same, there is a broad consensus that they would like to reengage with the U.S. – its businesses and its people – as soon as possible.

At Marriott International, we are ready to get started right now. While U.S. law still does not allow Marriott to do business in Cuba, we learned that the steps taken by President Obama to reengage with Cuba have launched a bit of a global race involving businesses from other countries to leave as little as possible for American business when the restrictions are lifted altogether.

Nowhere is this clearer than in travel. Hotel companies from Latin America and Europe have been doing business in Cuba for decades. With travel to Cuba now surging, existing Cuban hotels are full and hotel companies from other countries are racing to tie up as many of the new hotels as they can before the likes of Marriott and our U.S. competitors show up.

Shouldn’t U.S. companies be permitted to at least compete for all this new travel business in Cuba? While undeniably biased, I think the answer to this question must be “yes.” By engaging in business in Cuba, we will contribute to stronger and increasingly constructive relationships between Cuba and the U.S. as a result of two very basic things: first, our hotels will employ hundreds, if not thousands, of Cubans and, in doing so, bring career and cultural opportunities to them and their families in a manner that will reflect well on the U.S.; second, we will be able to welcome tens of thousands of American visitors to Cuba who will eventually return home with memories, friendships and opportunities that draw us together.

Of course, we need to recognize the strong and historic voices in this country that have resolutely opposed reengaging with Cuba until such time as its form of government changes. I met the son of Cuban-American immigrants in Havana last week. It was his first visit to Cuba and he acknowledged that some members of his family were upset that he had taken the initiative to go. But he had a strong belief that change in Cuba will come faster through engagement than through a continuation of the old rules. I feel the same way.

American visits to Cuba are set to double this year, even before there is a lifting of the general travel ban. If Congress acts to lift the travel ban, the number of U.S. visitors is likely to grow to 5 million within just a few years. Make the trip if you get a chance. American citizens should be free to travel to Cuba, as they are to every other country in the world, and draw their own conclusions about this fascinating culture. Why prohibit people from getting to know each other? We are much more likely to get along if there is a vibrant relationship between our people.

As the fog lifts on five decades of diplomatic isolation, American business can also play a crucial role in helping the United States and Cuba build a new relationship based on mutual respect and trust. The demand for travel is growing, partners are on offer and deals are ready to be signed. Shouldn’t we get going?

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Most Republicans Back re-establishing Ties with Cuba, Ending Trade Embargo: poll

Most Republicans support re-establishing official government relations with Cuba and scrapping the trade embargo against the tiny Caribbean island nation, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center poll showed 56 percent of the Republican respondents support re-establishing diplomatic relations and 59 percent of them said they support ending the trade embargo.
 
The U.S. and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations this week, with each country upgrading their diplomatic missions from interest sections to embassies.

The poll showed that more than seven in every 10 of the 2,002 adults surveyed said they back re-establishing relations and bringing the embargo to a close.

The poll noted that “some of the most dramatic change in views of U.S. relations with Cuba has come among conservative Republicans.”

“Currently, 55 percent of conservative Republicans say they favor ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba; in January, just 40 percent supported the United States dropping its trade embargo against Cuba,” the analysis said. “And 52 percent of conservative Republicans now say they approve of the U.S. re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, up 19 points since January.”

The poll was conducted between July 14 and July 20 and carried a margin of error of plus/minus 2.5 percent.

The margin of error among the 462 Republicans surveyed carried a margin of error of 5.2 percent.

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A Quick Look inside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.

After more than five decades of cold relations, the US and Cuba have restored full diplomatic relations.

July 20 marks the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., for the first time in 54 years.

Cuba's embassy is located in an elegant mansion on 16th Street in the US capital.

With gilded moldings, columns, arches, and statues, the building feels very grand inside.

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There are elegant stained glass windows.

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And grand marble balconies.

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It will begin functioning as an embassy today.

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Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was on hand to raise the Cuban flag over the new embassy.

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This is the first time that the Cuban flag has been raised in Washington, D.C., since 1961.

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A large crowd gathered outside the embassy.

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Most signs outside the embassy seem to welcome the return of Cuba in the US.

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Cuban Foreign Minister Asks US to Lift the Blockade to Cuba

 

When meeting with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Cuban minister acknowledged the calls by US President Barack Obama, Congress to permanently remove the blockade and measures to modify the application of certain aspects of this policy.

Rodriguez stressed that Obama can continue taking steps, under his executive prerogatives to significantly contribute to the dismantling of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.

The Cuban Foreign Minister met with Kerry at the headquarters of the State Department, after the official ceremony to reopen the embassy of Cuba in Havana.

The heads of diplomacy of both countries discussed the current state of relations and developments from ads December 17, 2014, says a press release issued here.

Among the advances of Cuba figure out the list of so-called state sponsors of terrorism, the historic meeting between President Raul Castro and Barack Obama in Panama, expanding official exchanges on issues of common interest, the restoration of relations diplomatic and reopening embassies.

Both parties confirmed their interest in normalizing bilateral ties,recognizing that this will be a long and complex process,which will require the will of the two countries.

After the triumph of the revolution, this is the first US visit by a Cuban foreign minister.

Rodriguez is here to lead his country's delegation that participated in the reopening ceremony of the Embassy of Cuba in Washington.

Kerry, meanwhile, travel to Havana on August 14 to hoist the flag at the US embassy in Cuba.

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