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US, Cuba Agree To Restore Diplomatic Relations

The US and Cuba announced a historic shift in relations between the two countries yesterday, setting the stage for a restoration of ties between the close neighbors. The talks coincided with negotiations for the release of American Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for the past five years. Gross was returned to US soil yesterday in exchange for 3 Cuban agents held by the US.

While the announcement yesterday does not mean an end to the embargo, it is still a huge policy shift. The embargo was passed by Congress, and it will take action from the legislative branch to fully undo it. However, the US will be opening an embassy in Cuba, and more Americans will be allowed to visit the country.

Closer ties with Cuba could have significant impact on Mobile. The city’s port could play a huge role in trade between the two nations. Business leaders are already excited about the prospect of a new market opening up to them.

The US embargo against Cuba began on October 19th, 1960. The policy can only be described as an utter failure, as the Castro brothers still rule the island. Given that the US has ties with communist nations such as China, the stance towards Cuba has long been questionable. Ties likely would have been restored sooner, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, if not for the politics surrounding a large Cuban population in south Florida. The Sunshine State is a key swing state in presidential elections, and older Cuban Americans have opposed restoring ties with Cuba.

Reactions were split in both parties on the subject. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey slammed the deal, saying it rewarded the Castro regimes brutal behavior. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also came out against the deal. However, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, also a Republican, came out in favor of the plan. Paul said the embargo hasn’t worked, and that the deal was probably a good idea.


tropical storm fernand

Tropical Storm Fernand Makes Landfall

If you blinked, you missed it. Tropical Storm Fernand formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday afternoon. By late Sunday night/early Monday morning, the storm had already made landfall in Mexico. The tropical storm is not particularly powerful, and is expected to mostly be a rain event.

Fernand formed in the Bay of Campeche, which is in the southern Gulf of Mexico near the Yucatan Peninsula. At its strongest, the storm reached winds of 50 mph. As of the 7:00 AM update, Fernand was currently packing winds of 40 mph and moving NW at 9 mph. As the storm is now over land, no more strengthening is expected. The storm will weaken into a tropical depression later today.

The storm is not expected to affect weather along the US Gulf Coast. After being drenched in rain the past few weeks, the forecast over the next few days calls for much more sun. Temperatures will be in the low 90s in the day, and dip down into the low 70s at night.

Meteorologists are now watching another tropical wave in the Caribbean. While this particular wave may not develop, conditions are turning much more favorable over the next two weeks in the Caribbean and the Atlantic Basin as we approach the very peak of hurricane season. Another tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles is also being watched.

Connecticut State

Connecticut Abolishes Death Penalty

On Wednesday, the Connecticut legislature voted to repeal the states death penalty. After a 10 hour debate, the Connecticut House voted 86-62 in favor of the repeal. Lawmakers have been working for years to get rid of the death penalty in the state. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to sign the legislation into law. Connecticut will become the 17th state to outlaw the death penalty.

Prisoners will face life in prison without the possibility of release in place of the death penalty. The death penalty has long been a controversial topic. It brings up several moral and economical conundrums. Those who oppose the method claim it is inhumane. They try to argue that it should be unconstitutional since the documents outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

The bigger problem is that sometimes innocent people are executed. This was a major problem in the middle of the last century, especially for minorities who did not get a fair shake in the legal system. DNA testing has helped drastically reduce this problem. However, even with this new technology we cant be sure that we always get it right.

There are major economic implications to the death penalty discussion as well. If you abolish the death penalty and choose to imprison the guilty party for the rest of their life it comes at a great monetary cost to society. Housing prisoners is not cheap. The United States already imprisons more of its population than any other industrialized nation. Adding more members to the club is not going to help the countries debt problems.

I believe the death penalty is necessary in some cases. There should be no argument against the punishment when a murderer admits to committing the crime in cold blood. Those who commit premeditated murder do not belong in our society. Why should be pay to house, feed, and give them healthcare for the rest of their lives?

In my personal opinion, life in prison is a more cruel punishment than the death penalty. You do not have to watch to many episodes of Oz or Lockup to know prison is a bad place. People almost always come out of prison worse off than they went in. Ive never understood why people think life in prison is more humane than the death penalty.

Given the imperfections that are inherent in our legal system, I do believe the death penalty should only be used in cases where there is no doubt about a prisoners guilt. If there is doubt, then a prison sentence is the correct punishment. Further evidence down the line could clear a prisoners name. We should not be executing people that could be innocent. Those that are admittedly guilty should pay the ultimate price.


Forum to be Held on Hate Crimes and Racial Profiling

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have organized a forum to be held on Capitol Hill on racial profiling and hate crimes. The forum is in response to the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. At 2:00 PM today a news conference will be held with all of the participants. A briefing will then be held at 3:00 PM. The purpose of this forum is to discuss the role of the federal government in dealing with hate crimes and racial profiling.

The Congressional Black Caucus wants all Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee to attend. The forum is open to all, but it is doubtful that any Republican members will show up. According to the Huffington Post Trayvon Martins parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, will be in attendance. They will not be speaking at the forum, but their attorney, Benjamin Crump, will be testifying.

Others scheduled to testify are Daniel Gross (President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), Rebecca Monroe (acting director of the Community Relations Service at the Justice Department), Ben Jealous (President and CEO of the NAACP), Robert Parker (former director of the Miami-Dade Police Department), Albert E. Dotson, Jr. (Chairman of 100 Black Men of America Inc), and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Congressional Black Caucus Chairman).

The forum comes as the incident does not appear to be going away. Hundred turned out for a candle light vigil for Trayvon Martin in Pensacola, Florida on Monday. A CNN poll shows that a majority of American believe George Zimmerman should be arrested for shooting the 17 year old. The poll showed that 73% of Americans believe the man should be put on trial for the act. This super majority crosses racial and political lines. As news of Zimmermans minor criminal past have appeared, the outrage has grown.

Zimmerman has claimed self defense in the case, and Floridas Stand Your Ground law makes it legal to kill someone who you feel is threatening your well being. Stand Your Ground was signed into law in 2005 in Florida, with several other states having similar laws. Prior to its signing, when faced with a dangerous situation you were required to attempt to flee before using deadly force. The CNN polling indicated that 55% of Americans still support Stand Your Ground type laws, but support was divided along the gender line. Roughly 64% of males supported the law, while 52% of females opposed it.

The case is getting ugly down in Sanford, Florida where the shooting happened. At a rally attended by Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, Martins father claims that Florida authorities are attempting to demonize his son and bolster George Zimmermans self defense case. It has been revealed that Trayvon was suspended for school the day he was shot for having trace amounts of marijuana in his backpack. The familys lawyer stated that the suspension was irrelevant to the murder case.

George Zimmermans

George Zimmermans Myspace Page Stirs Controversy

The Miami Herald has dug up some information from George Zimmermans Myspace page circa 2005. The paper found some derogatory statements about Mexicans in some of the 28 year olds postings. Zimmerman listed himself as Latino in the About Me section of the social networking site. You can read the statements he made below:

I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!

Other postings made reference to his other legal troubles in the year 2005. He made a comment about the domestic violence charges against him being dropped. He also mentioned the assault charge on a police officer being downgrades.

These revelations come as his new attorney, Mark OMara, has taken control of his online presence. He had planned to wipe out all of his online data, including a website he had set up to raise money for his defense, but he changed his mind after he saw that Zimmermans website had raised over $200,000. The attorney has now set up a new site where people can donate to Zimmermans defense fund.

These latest revelations are only going to fuel the fire of those who believe the killing of Trayvon Martin was racially motivated. Zimmerman followed the boy through his neighborhood because he thought he looked suspicious. Given his statements on Myspace it would appear he had a history of racial profiling. While this does not make him guilty it will certainly be used against him in court.