Olympics: Groups, schedule announced for Americas baseball qualifier in Arizona

• The eight-team tournament will be played in Surprise and Tempe

• Group play is scheduled from 22 -24 March, with the Super Round 25-26 March

• Winner will advance to the Tokyo 2020 Games • 2nd and 3rd Place teams will play in the final Olympic qualifier in Taiwan

The World Baseball Softball Confederation today announced the groups, schedule and location of the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualification Event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020. Hosted by USA Baseball, the qualifier will be staged in Surprise and Tempe, Arizona, USA, where eight nations will compete for an Olympic spot over 16 games.

Group A: No. 2 USA, No. 10 Dominican Republic, No. 11 Puerto Rico and No. 15 Nicaragua.

Group B: No. 8 Cuba, No. 9 Venezuela, No. 12 Canada and No. 14 Colombia.

Game Schedule (all times local)

Sunday, 22 March-Surprise

1 pm Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic
7 pm USA-Nicaragua

Sunday, 22 March-Tempe

1 pm Venezuela-Cuba
7 pm Colombia-Canada

Monday, 23 March-Surprise

1 pm Colombia-Venezuela
7 pm Canada-Cuba

Monday, 23 March-Tempe

1 pm Nicaragua-Puerto Rico
7 pm Dominican Republic-USA

Tuesday, 24 March-Surprise

1 pm Nicaragua-Dominican Republic
7 pm Puerto Rico-USA

Tuesday, 24 March-Tempe

1 pm Canada-Venezuela
7 pm Cuba-Colombia

After group play concludes, the top two finishers from each group will advance to the Super Round, where they will each play two games. Head-to-head contests among these teams from the opening round will carry over into the Super Round standings.

The team with the best Super Round record will be declared the winner and become the fifth National Team to advance to the baseball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, joining world No. 1 Japan, No. 3 Korea, No. 5 Mexico and No. 18 Israel.

The runner-up and the third-place team in the Americas Qualifier will play the Final Qualifier, scheduled from 1 to 5 April in Taichung and Douliou City, Taiwan. They will battle for the last spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, along with No. 4 Chinese Taipei and No. 20 China, who both qualified through the Asia Championship, the runner-up from the Europe/Africa Qualifier, No. 8 Netherlands, and No. 7 Australia, the Oceania representative.


Surprise, Arizona, is located approximately 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix. The stadium (cover picture) is the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. It opened in 2002 and has a seating capacity of 10,714. Surprise Stadium was rated as the top Spring Training facility in Arizona by USA Today.

Diablo Stadium -- located in Tempe, in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area -- is the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Angels. The 9,558-seat facility opened in 1969 and was renovated in 2002.

  • Published in Sports

US election: Democrats deeply divided on how to take on Trump

After hearing four Democratic presidential contenders speak in Des Moines, she still cannot decide who to support when Iowa kicks off the 2020 election with its Democratic caucuses on Monday.

As temperatures hovered around -15C in the state capital, she listened as Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar made their case to the Iowa State Education Association, part of their frantic last-minute campaigning in the Midwestern state that decides who emerges with the early momentum.

“I support all of them. I love them so much,” says Ms Rosheim, 70, who is volunteering for Ms Warren but has not committed to supporting her in the caucuses. “I really like her plans, but I also like Amy a lot. And then people tell me, ‘We gotta like Biden because he’s got name recognition and he’ll win’ . . . It’s so hard to decide.”

Ms Rosheim is not alone. Iowans are famous for not making up their minds until the last minute. A Des Moines Register/CNN poll in early January showed that only 40 per cent had picked their first choice.

As the Democrats prepare for a five-month marathon primary process to decide their candidate, the party is more united than ever on the need to beat Donald Trump. After winning the 2018 midterms by a margin of 9 percentage points, and with Mr Trump’s poll rating still historically low for a president starting his re-election campaign, many in the party hope they can harness that anti-Trump feeling to beat him despite the strong state of the economy.

But they are fiercely divided about what sort of Democrat is best-suited to take on the president, whether it is a progressive politician who can motivate the party’s base of minorities, younger voters and women, or whether they should choose a more moderate figure who can appeal to working-class whites and suburban Republicans turned off by the president’s bluster.

Audrey Baatz embodies the high level of uncertainty. Speaking at a Buttigieg rally in Emmetsburg, north-west Iowa, the independent-leaning woman is mulling over the moderates — Mr Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend in Indiana, Mr Biden and Ms Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota. But she thinks any of the leading contenders could emerge as the winner on Monday.

“The people of Iowa are just so undecided, especially in rural areas,” Ms Baatz says. “Any four or five people could win Iowa. It’s that close.”

Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota Democratic senator, says voters are struggling because of the crowded field, which still boasts 11 candidates even after 16 have dropped out.

“You go to a Mayor Pete event and you go, ‘Wow I was blown away’, and then you go to Amy’s event and say, ‘Oh man she makes a lot of sense’. There’s so many people . . . active in Iowa that it makes the choice harder.”

But a majority of Iowans agree on one thing. J Ann Selzer, the Des Moines Register/CNN pollster, says 58 per cent think it is “extremely important” to pick someone who can beat Mr Trump, which Ms Heitkamp says is common. “If you ask any Democratic voter in North Dakota, their main goal would be to defeat Donald Trump.”

Judy Lentz, a Democrat at the Emmetsburg event, says she likes Mr Buttigieg but worries about his electability. “It is going to come around to who we think can beat Mr Trump,” she says. At a separate event nearby in Arnolds Park, Carolyn Brown, who is leaning towards Mr Biden, agrees that the only question is: “Who can beat Trump?”

Strengths Strong name recognition, popular among African Americans, very experienced
Weaknesses Has stumbled in debates, too establishment for some young voters
Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont

Strengths Loyal support among young voters, who consider him authentic and bold
Weaknesses Distrusted by the party elite, too extreme for some Democrats
Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts

Strengths Also strong, popular with young voters and many women who want to see a female president
Weaknesses Lost momentum after heavy criticism of her healthcare plan

Strengths The fresh face in the race, has been able to straddle moderate and progressive camps
Weaknesses Inexperience. Some more conservative Democrats may recoil at his sexuality.

Iowa is notorious for surprises. Jimmy Carter, then a little-known southern governor, came from nowhere to win the state on his way to the presidency in 1976. In 2008, Barack Obama came from far behind to beat Hillary Clinton, a result that showed he could win white voters in a rural state. Howard Dean was the frontrunner in 2004 until John Kerry sprinted ahead in the last week, knocking the former Vermont governor into third place. And four years ago, Mr Sanders stunned Mrs Clinton again by coming tantalisingly close to winning.

“Nobody has any idea,” Mr Dean stresses. “I had no idea what was going to happen when I was there.”

On the question of how each contender would fare against Mr Trump, polls show Mr Biden winning by 4 points, ahead of Mr Sanders, Ms Warren and Michael Bloomberg. Mr Buttigieg is the only top Democrat who would lose. But when it comes to Iowa Democrats, polls show they remain at odds over who should be the standard bearer.

After long being the frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, which holds the first primary a week later, Mr Biden was overtaken in Iowa last summer by Ms Warren. The Massachusetts senator was then eclipsed by Mr Buttigieg, who in turn was passed by Mr Sanders, before Mr Biden returned to the top of the group. Yet in the last week, Mr Sanders has moved ahead, while Ms Klobuchar has entered double-digits for the first time in the 2020 race.

Mr Bloomberg does not register in Iowa because of his decision not to campaign in the state. But he has jumped into fourth place in national polls, propelled by tens of millions of dollars in television ads that he hopes will catapult him into contention when more than a dozen states vote on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday on March 3, when 13 states will vote.

The critical distinction is whether the candidates fall into one of two camps — moderate or progressive.

Mr Biden and Ms Klobuchar say the way to beat Mr Trump is to attack from the middle, appealing to Democrats and independents who backed him in 2016 by staking out moderate positions. But the progressives, Ms Warren and Mr Sanders, urge bold ideas, such as a fully nationalised healthcare system. They argue that a lack of radicalism helped create the conditions for Mr Trump to win since they did too little to help struggling Americans.

Speaking in Des Moines before returning to Washington for Mr Trump’s impeachment trial, Ms Warren took aim at the moderates, saying, “Some folks in our party don’t want to admit” that the US is in a “crisis” over everything from the gap between the rich and poor, the soaring cost of healthcare and high levels of student debt.
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“If they think that nibbling around the edges of big problems, running some vague campaign is somehow the safe strategy, they’re wrong,” Ms Warren told a packed gymnasium at Weeks Middle School. “If all the best Democrats can offer is business as usual after Donald Trump, Democrats will lose. We win with big ideas.”

While Mr Biden has generally steered clear of attacking his rivals by name, he aired an ad saying it was “no time to take a risk” on other candidates.

Mr Dean says there are plausible arguments on both sides. “Biden is saying I’m better because I can appeal across a broader spectrum. Bernie is saying you can’t win unless you motivate the hell out of people, and Elizabeth is saying the same,” he says. “The number one criteria is who can beat Trump and nobody knows.”

Each candidate has strengths. Mr Biden resonates with white working-class Democrats who backed Mr Trump and African-Americans who remember his time as vice-president to the first black president. Mr Buttigieg, a gay, former mayor and army veteran, is the fresh face, while the folksy Ms Klobuchar touts her results-driven approach in Congress.

Ms Warren and Mr Sanders have strong appeal among younger voters, while the Massachusetts senator is also making a big pitch to women — in a push that helped her win some converts at her Des Moines event. “I came here to Iowa to support Pete Buttigieg, but I came to this town hall and she just spoke to me,” says Hailey McGuire, a high-school student. “She just radiated girl power.”

Yet all the contenders also have significant challenges. With the exception of Mr Biden, most lag far behind with black voters, which raises questions about their ability to connect with a key segment of the Democratic electorate. Mr Biden has struggled at times with fundraising, which could be a problem as expensive TV ads become important in the bigger states. He also fares less well with younger voters than the progressives.

Speaking after a Biden rally at Simpson College, Kathryn Hays, a politics student who plans to support Ms Warren in the caucus, says her generation is gravitating to Mr Sanders and Ms Warren because of their idealism. She says Mr Sanders has been “radical throughout his whole political history”, which her friend Samantha Wuebker explains is “probably why Elizabeth is also doing so well among our generation too”.

Mr Buttigieg is also competing for the same college-educated voters as Ms Warren, but has to overcome concerns about his inexperience. At one event, he also faced a common question about his “really low” support among black voters. “African American voters who know me best support me,” he said.

Ms Warren also needs to boost her support among black voters, while she and Mr Sanders must show that they can win over enough moderate Democrats to beat Mr Trump in November. Illustrating that concern, Robert Brammer, a 70-year-old who was attending a Klobuchar event in Des Moines, says he prefers Mr Sanders’ progressive ideas but will campaign for the Minnesota senator because she is more pragmatic.

As the race moves out of the predominantly white Iowa and New Hampshire into the more diverse states, an important question is who can recreate the “Obama coalition” — a grouping of white voters in the north, black voters in the south, Hispanics, millennials and women — that swept Mr Obama to the White House in 2008.

“What it is going to take to beat Trump is to get out our voters,” says Mr Dean. “Our voters are under 35, female and people of colour. All of those three groups have to be enthralled to a degree with a candidate. The problem is the Democratic candidates all speak to different people, and that is why nobody can decide.”

Kaleb Autman, a 17-year-old high-school student who came to Iowa with Mikva Challenge, a group that helps young people to become engaged in politics, will vote for the first time this year. But he worries that some of the Democrats are too focused on winning over Trump voters and not enough on expanding the party.

“They focus too much on how to get Trump’s people on our wagon . . . rather than focusing on the people who didn’t show up to vote,” he says. “If you want to win this election, you have to go for new voters.”

One of the unusual factors is that three of the top candidates — Mr Sanders, Ms Klobuchar and Ms Warren — have had to stay in Washington for much of the past two weeks because of the impeachment trial, giving an advantage to Mr Biden and Mr Buttigieg. Yet the restraints could help Ms Warren receive a boost over her fellow senators since she has one of the best on-the-ground organisations.

Iowa often has a winnowing effect on the race but the big field — the number of undecided voters, the trial-related restraints on the senators and the fact that the candidate with the most cash, Mr Bloomberg, is ignoring Iowa — means the caucuses may be even more unpredictable than ever.

“The old saying is there are three tickets out of Iowa [for the leading candidates],” says Mr Dean. “Clearly that is not true this year.”

  • Published in World

Trump’s Impeachment: “Democracy” without Costumes

Three journalists working for AP news agency, when referring to the political trail faced by President Donald Trump, proved me right.

And they are: Lisa Mascaro, Eric Tucker, and Seke Miller.

Everything happened the last day of the question-and-answer phase and before the critical vote on witnesses.

Prior to this phase, scheduled for Friday, which would certainly lead to an unexpected end to the impeachment process with the already expected acquittal.

Or at least, likely, to extending the debating process a few more weeks as Democrats are lobbying hard to listen to former National Security adviser John Bolton’s statements.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, opened Thursday meeting anticipating Senator Rand Paul’s attempt to reveal the whistleblower’s name at the political trial.

“The presiding officer refuses to read the question as submitted,” stated John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roberts, who is playing a very unusual role by sorting questions during the impeachment process, had reported through his personnel to the McConnell’s office that he did not want to reveal the whistleblower’s name out loud, according to Republic Senate who requested anonymity.

According to AP, Senators would spend about eight hours considering the final questions.

Alan Dershowitz, one of Trump's lawyers, complained in a tweet about the way they described his testimony on Wednesday.

What did he say? If a president believes that his re-election is "in the national interest", he is practically immune to a political trial.

That argument from former Harvard Law professor made some of Trump's main allies to "keep a distance."

“They, he stressed, described my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election is for the good of the nation, he can do whatever he wants.”

Could something else be understood? However, despite everything, the illustrious academician at the service of Trump insisted:

"I didn't say anything like that. Anyone who was nearby by the time can confirm it.”

When questioned about it in one of the first questions of Thursday's session, Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat prosecutor of the House of Representatives, said:

"Have we not learned anything in the last half century?"

Schiff turned to the lessons of President Richard Nixon's era by warning of a "normalization of illegality" in Trump's presidency.

"That argument, if the president says it is not illegal, failed when Richard Nixon was forced to resign."

And then he sentenced, "but that argument could succeed here and now."

Dershowitz testified before the senators on Wednesday that the accusation of "quid pro quo" is the essence of political trial. That is, military aid in return for political favors.

Although the aforementioned statement does not constitute a basis for dismissal for the magnificent lawyer of the head of the White House, it could be certainly proven. Amen.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Facebook fights spread of misinformation about coronavirus online

  • Published in World

'American Dirt,' novel on migrants, ignites literary controversy

Hailed by luminaries such as Stephen King and Oprah Winfrey, "American Dirt" was touted as the next "great American novel," bought for a seven-figure advance, backed by aggressive marketing and launched last week to great fanfare in both English and Spanish. 

Instead of glory, however, author Jeanine Cummins finds herself at the heart of a cultural maelstrom, accused by some of exploiting the tragedy of Mexican migrants in a US election year and of validating stereotypes such as those used by President Donald Trump to fuel his anti-immigration rhetoric. 

The book tells the story of a Mexican woman who owns a bookshop and flees on the notoriously dangerous cargo train known as "The Beast" that migrants ride to the north. She also survives the slaughter of almost her entire family by drug traffickers at a traditional birthday celebration.

The book's publication has generated intense debate about cultural appropriation, the marginalization of Hispanic authors by US publishers, the dangers of spreading misrepresentations and the responsible limits of fiction. 

The firestorm took publisher Flatiron Books by surprise, and on Wednesday they canceled Cummins' planned tour of US book stores.  

"Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety," said publisher Bob Miller in a statement.


Horror supremo King described the book as "marvelous" and author Don Winslow compared it to the Steinbeck classic "The Grapes of Wrath".

It is already being adapted for Hollywood.

But more than 120 writers, including Mexico's leading novelist Valeria Luiselli and chicana author Myriam Gurba, whose withering review sparked the debate, have signed a letter calling on Oprah not to feature "American Dirt" in her book club, which has historically been a gateway to massive sales.

"This is not a letter calling for silencing, nor censoring," said the writers, who called the novel "exploitative."

"But in a time of widespread misinformation, fearmongering, and white-supremacist propaganda related to immigration and to our border, in a time when adults and children are dying in US immigration cages, we believe that a novel blundering so badly in its depiction of marginalized, oppressed people should not be lifted up," the letter went on to say.

Mexican actress Salma Hayek put out a selfie of herself with the book, unaware of the controversy erupting around it, then quickly apologized for promoting it.

Photos that Cummins herself posted of a lobster luncheon for the book launch, featuring floral arrangements wreathed with barbed wire -- a nod to the book's cover -- did little to help. 

"Border chic," said Gurba on Twitter. "Cruel" and "insensitive," said the authors in their letter to Oprah.

Read also: French writer 'regrets' his pedophile sex tourism in Asia

'Ignorance and negligence' 

"This is a book that oversimplifies Mexico, uses bad Spanish, and in which the protagonist, a Mexican woman, does things that don't make any sense for a Mexican," said Ignacio Sanchez Prado, a professor of Latin American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

An expert on Mexico, he told AFP he did not believe that only Mexicans can write about the Mexican experience but said that Cummins "did it badly." He also laid the most blame on the "editorial process," lashing out at Flatiron's "ignorance and negligence."

The author of the book, who describes herself as white but also "Latinx" because she has a Puerto Rican grandmother, has not alluded to the controversy in her posts on social media but told The New York Times "there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people."

"No one intends to censor Ms Cummins," said Daniel Olivas, author of a collection of poems about the US-Mexico border, and one of the signatories of the protest letter sent to Oprah.

"But the promotion of this book as the 'Great American Novel' and 'a dazzling accomplishment' of John Steinbeck proportions is simply galling when so many brilliant Latinx writers are given a mere fraction of such attention and monetary compensation," he said.

Flatiron did not respond to an AFP request for comment on the controversy and an interview with the author. 

The publishers said in a statement they were "proud" of the book, but Miller acknowledged that the controversy "has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation."

"We made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book," Miller admitted.

"The concerns that have been raised, including the question of who gets to tell which stories, are valid ones in relation to literature and we welcome the conversation," his statement said.

  • Published in Culture

Cuba-USA Relations Can Have a Better Future, Cuban Ambassador

Jose Ramon Cabañas, Cuban ambassador to the United States, stressed in Washington that bilateral relations can have a better future, in which their differences are discussed.

The diplomat said that the US administration, in power since January 20, 2017, is determined to destroy the achievements of the Cuban Revolution of more than 60 years, Prensa Latina reported.

Despite this reality, we continue committing ourselves to a future that only belongs to our people, noted Cabañas when speaking at the celebration of Cuba’s National Day, held at the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Cabañas stated that it is crazy to say that the current American policy is aimed at supporting the Cubans, when they try to deprive them of oil, gas, food, medicines and basic services.

He added the goal has been the same since the revolutionary victory on January 1, 1959, and is simply to overthrow a model that offers a different social and political perspective to people living in the Western Hemisphere.

That policy has failed before, and will fail again, Cabañas emphasized to diplomats, businessmen, friends of Cuba and Cubans living in the United States.

  • Published in Cuba

Thousands of Palestinians hold protests against Deal of the Century

Thousands of Palestinians held numerous demonstrations on the first Friday following the announcement of the so-called "Deal of the Century" promoted by the U.S. President Donald Trump.

From Gaza to the West Bank, people protested energetically against what they called "an apartheid proposal" that will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the streets of Aman, the capital of Jordan, the "Deal of the Century Disaster" also generated vehement protests in front of the U.S. embassy, ​​where protesters said Palestine is a religious and historical heritage, which cannot be canceled by agreements among politicians.

In Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, thousands of outraged people took to the streets to denounce that some Arab countries collaborated with the United States and Israel in the elaboration of a plan aimed at depriving Palestinians of their fundamental rights.

Through its "peace proposal," the U.S. expects other countries to recognize Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.  Also, Trump's idea seeks to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees to currently occupied territories.

On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whipped some Arab countries for keeping silent about the supposed "peace plan" and said they betray their own people and all humanity.

"Saudi Arabia is silent.  When will you make your voice heard?  Oman, Bahrain -- the same.  The Abu Dhabi government applauds.  Shame!  Shame!,” he said and asked the Christian world to confront the U.S. plan because "Christians are also entitled to Jerusalem."

The proposal to leave this holy city “to the bloody clutches of Israel is not just oppression for Muslims and Christians who live there.  It is also the greatest evil that can be done to humankind.”  On Wednesday, Erdogan said that Trump's plan will not serve for peace. Besides legitimizing the Israeli occupation, it does not take into account the rights of the Palestinian population.​​​​​​​

Historically, Palestine has aspired to have its capital in East Jerusalem.  According to the current US proposal, however, such capital would be located only in a part of East Jerusalem, which would be in the area east and north of the current security barrier.

  • Published in World

American Airlines asks government for more flights to Cuba

American Airlines is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation for more flights into Cuba’s capital Havana, even after the Trump administration cracked down on travel to the island nation.

In fact, the most recent restrictions to other Cuban airports may actually be increasing demand for Havana.

Fort Worth-based American is asking for two additional daily round-trip flights to Havana from Miami International Airport, which would give it eight daily round-trip flights.

On Jan. 16, JetBlue told the Transportation Department that it was dropping 14 of its daily round-trip flights to Cuba, including seven from Orlando, Fla., one from Boston and six from New York’s JFK International Airport. JetBlue wants to drop its flights as of April 29.

But American sees enough demand to pick those flights up immediately after JetBlue.

In 2016, the Obama administration allowed eight airlines to start flights into Cuba after direct travel between the two countries was banned for decades.

There are still limitations on who can travel to Cuba, restricting it to government business, journalism and family visits. Last year, the Trump administration said it was cutting back on access for some groups, such as cruise lines, in an attempt to punish Cuba for support of leaders in places like Nicaragua. Then in October, the executive branch said it was adding more restrictions, prohibiting flights to Cuban airports other than Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.

While several airlines initially showed interest in Cuba flights, airlines such as Silver, Spirit and Frontier all dropped plans in 2017.

Only 20 daily flights are allowed a day to Havana from U.S. cities. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines also flies to Havana from Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

  • Published in Cuba
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