In December 2014, President Obama announced that the United States is moving to normalize relations with Cuba, including having an American ambassador in Cuba and ending the American trade embargo. For 18 months, the Obama administration has been secretly negotiating with the Cuban government towards this end. Pope Francis assisted in the negotiations. Within a month following the announcement, the American government released three Cuban spies from prison and the Cuban government released a 65 year old American contractor, a Cuban who had spied for the U.S., and 53 Cuban political prisoners. While some Americans believe normalizing relations with Cuba is a good step, others think it will only strengthen the grip the Communist leadership, the Castros, have on the Cuban people.
Cuba, 1492 – 1895
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959
During the second war for independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans.
Cuba, 1959 – Present Day
In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support.
Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union
In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffer. Thousands of Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and many are executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught is killed by the police or government.
The United States policy towards Cuba has been aimed at starving the Castro government. The United States does not trade with Cuba, and there is a limit to how many Americans may travel to Cuba, and a limit on how much money can be sent to Cuba. However, President Obama wants to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime. And, Rubio argues, by negotiating with the Castros, Obama has given them legitimacy and importance.
1. Who controlled Cuba, from 1492 to 1898?
2. Who fought over Cuba from 1895-1898?
3. Who was Batista?
4. What did Fidel Castro do?
5. What do you think America’s policy towards Cuba should be?
On January 22, 2015, from tens of thousands to 200,000 mainly young people marched in Washington, D.C. to demand the end of abortion in the United States of America. It was the 42nd anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The pro-life march, which happens every year, was not covered by the major news networks, NBC, ABC, CBS, even though it is an annual event that draws large numbers of people. The history of abortion rights in the United States is one of deception and racism.
Before 1973, the legal issue of abortion was an issue that was determined by each state. When the American Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they included the first ten amendments, which are explicit (stated in writing) guarantees of rights for the people and to the states. The framers of the Constitution did not want the U.S. federal government to become too powerful, as they believed Great Britain’s king was. The tenth amendment reserves all power that is not explicitly granted to the federal government to the states and the people. There is no power in the Constitution that refers to medicine or health. It is because of this, that from 1789 to 1973, health was considered a power that was specifically a state issue.
The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade (1973) changed the relationship between Americans, their health, and the federal government. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court justices created a right to privacy that had not before existed and is not found in the Constitution, claiming that a woman had the right to end her pregnancy with an abortion, because she had a right to privacy. The justices argued that since Congress had not yet declared when human life begins, the unborn does not yet enjoy the right to life. The justices ordered that in every state, abortion would be legal. From then on, issues of health became a federal issue.
Jane Roe, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade (1973), was really Norma McCorvey. The court called her Jane Roe to hide her identity. Ms. McCorvey had a challenging childhood and great difficulties in the first part of her life. In 1970, she was pregnant and was not married. Under Texas law, a person could not have an abortion unless they were raped. Ms. McCorvey went to two lawyers, who had been seeking a pregnant woman who wanted an abortion to challenge the Texas law, and worked with them to file a lawsuit against the state of Texas. In the lawsuit, the lawyers argued that “Jane Roe” had been gang raped, and that the Texas law against abortion hurt women. Ms. McCorvey gave birth to a baby, who was adopted. The case went to the Supreme Court, however, and the lawyers won, making abortion legal throughout the U.S.A.
Ms. McCorvey worked in an abortion clinic for years, but eventually, she converted to Christianity. In 1995 McCorvey was baptized by evangelical minister Filip Benham in a Texas swimming pool filmed for national television. She became a vocal proponent in the pro-life movement and joined the Roman Catholic Church. In her book, Won by Love, she writes, “Abortion wasn't about 'products of conception'. It wasn't about 'missed periods'. It was about children being killed in their mother's wombs. All those years I was wrong.”
Since 1973, it is estimated that over 56,000,000 abortions have taken place in the United States, and today, American doctors perform 3,000 abortions every day. The largest abortion provider in the country is Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was started by Margaret Sanger in the early 1900s as “American Birth Control League”. Ms. Sanger believed in selective breeding, the idea to make a better human race by preventing reproduction of the ‘unfit’. Sanger believed the unfit were people of color, racial minorities, and those who were not performing well in society economically. The U.S. federal government gives hundreds of millions of dollars every year to Planned Parenthood. In 2013, it received $540.6 million (45% of its revenue) from the U.S. government, for health services.
The March for Life that takes place in Washington, D.C., is an attempt to bring to light the truth behind abortion in the United States of America, and, to shed light on the abortion industry. Most Americans do not know the history of Planned Parenthood or the large amounts of money that taxpayers give to this industry.
1. What happens every year in January in Washington, D.C.?
2. Why does it take place in January?
3. What court case made abortion a mandated legal right?
4. Who started Planned Parenthood and what did she believe in?
5. Why do you think the major news networks do not cover this massive march?
For the last thirty or forty years, there has been great disagreement among scientists about global warming. Global warming is the term that means the climate is becoming warmer. You may also hear the term climate change. Climate change is a term that can mean global warming, but it can also mean any change in the climate. Is the Earth’s climate warming? If so, is man the cause of the warming? If it is warming, what are the best policies for governments to take? If it is not warming, is it worth spending enormous amounts of money and resources battling climate change? How much influence can man have in making the Earth warmer, or in slowing or reversing a climate change? The above questions all involve science and policy making. However, much discussion and many decisions about climate policy are political. This means, politicians make decisions based on what will get them elected, or, what will give them more power, instead of basing their ideas in science. Unfortunately, it appears that many who do not question that man is destroying the climate use aggressive tactics, instead of science, to promote their ideas. These "climate alarmists" give the appearance to many in the United States that humans are in imminent danger of destroying the environment, even though there is much evidence against this theory.
One author has made many enemies among those who claim global warming is man-made. His name is Dr. Bjorn Lomborg. Dr. Lomborg was born in Denmark in 1965 and earned his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994. While visiting the United States, he listened to a professor challenge those who argued that man is destroying Earth and that life is worse today than in the past. Wanting to research the truth behind these claims, Dr. Lomborg began a thorough study of the quality of life today versus one hundred years ago and discovered that in every category, the quality of life for humans has improved. More people have access to clean water; Life expectancy has increased worldwide over 30 years; Literacy is more widespread than ever. In his research, Dr. Lomborg also questioned why governments were spending massive amounts of money to slow global warming without analyzing the costs and benefits of the policies.
Two books that Dr. Lomborg has written are The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. Cool It is also an interested documentary. Both books and the documentary make for interesting springboards for discussion. In his works, Dr. Lomborg points out that humans should focus their attention on the smartest solutions to problems on Earth, instead of throwing money to politicians who claim that their actions are good for the environment. Because of his work, Dr. Lomborg was initially treated with great disdain and hatred. In Denmark, he was sued for libel for claiming that man could not influence the climate as much as many politicians and journalists claimed. In the trial, it was decided that Dr. Lomborg was innocent, because he was not intelligent enough to be responsible for his ideas.
In an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal on February 1, 2015, Dr. Lomborg notes that there are many encouraging signs that humans need not be as worried about climate change as some would have us think. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, temperatures have risen .09 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 15 years. This is 90% less of a rise than all of the climate alarmists had been predicting. The Arctic sea is melting, but, the Antarctic sea ice is increasing. A study has shown that the world is experiencing less drought since 1982. Landfalling tycoons have declined since 1950, according to a 2012 study. In the 2010s, the death rate due to natural disasters is 97% lower than at the beginning of the century.
Even though Dr. Lomborg has had great challenges arguing with climate alarmists who try to depict him as someone out of his mind, he has consistently brought enlightenment to the discussion on climate change. He is the director of Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world’s top economists to think of solutions to world problems. Dr. Lomborg’s commentaries have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Economist, CNN, Fox, 60 Minutes, and many other publications and News Networks. The issues of climate and man’s influence on the climate will continue to be one of great debate. Professors such as Dr. Lomberg bring reasoned thought and research to the discussion.
1. What are some common questions asked about the climate and climate change?
2. What do climate alarmists claim?
3. Who is Dr. Lomborg?
4. What is some positive news Dr. Lomborg writes about involving Earth’s climate?
5. Ask as many college age students in your neighborhood, what they think is a greater danger to the U.S.A., Muslim terrorists or global warming? Ask them to explain their answer.
“But the one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief — a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few,” Obama said in the statement. President Obama made these remarks as a reaction to the Islamic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. However, while most Americans believe that freedom of speech should be a universal right, it is not. According to a recent article in the OC Register, 35% of the world is not free and 25% is partly free. Individuals in the world who enjoy freedom of speech are in the minority.
Freedom of the press is the right to print what you think is true and is enjoyed by only 15% of the world’s population. This right is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the First Amendment. However, the right to a free press is one that many world leaders do not allow their citizens to have. The right to a free press means that a journalist can report news that makes the leader look bad. In Russia, it is against the law to publish news that is not approved by the government, and journalists who oppose the government have been murdered. In China and Cuba, all news media is owned by the government.
One aspect of freedom of expression is the right to organize politically. In much of the world, citizens are not allowed to start political parties or support political parties that do not get governmental approval. In the year preceding the 2012 Presidential election, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) did not approve nearly 400 non-profit organizations that wanted to promote conservative ideas. Most think this helped President Obama win the election. In over 60 countries of the world, citizens are not allowed to start a political party and must vote for government-approved political organizations.
There are countries in which citizens find it dangerous, but not illegal, to practice freedom of expression. In France during the beginning of January, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists at a satirical magazine, killing 12. The journalists had offended Muslims by breaking an Islamic law against depicting images of Muhammad. Even though there is no law in France against this, the journalists were murdered. The American news corporation CNN and the New York Times, as well as other American news organizations, have censored themselves, as well, by not showing images that are offensive to Muslims. They claim they are doing this out of respect for religion. However, these organizations continue to show images that are offensive to Christians and Jews.
Most of the countries that are not free are located in Asia and Africa and are either predominantly Muslim or atheist. The world’s most heavily populated country, China, and the world’s largest country by territory, Russia, are not free. All of the countries on the Arabian peninsula, except one, are both Muslim and not free. The only free country in Arabia is the Jewish country of Israel. All of the world’s communist countries are not free, and only one, Cuba, is located in North America.
While it is easy for Americans to imagine that people all over the world live and think the same as we do, the facts are very different. Americans are part of a minority of people in the world who believe in and practice freedom of expression. The majority of the world’s leaders do not want their people to have freedom of expression, and, a great many citizens in countries also do not want to have this freedom. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there have been widespread rallies throughout Asia supporting the Muslim terrorists. Opposite what President Obama declared recently, freedom of expression is not a universal belief and its practice is the exception to the rule.
1. What does President Obama believe is a universal belief, that is, a belief shared around the world?
2. About what percentage of the world enjoys freedom of the press?
3. What does it mean to organize politically?
4. What do most countries that are not free have in common?
5. Task: Find out what the first amendment states. Why do you think the American Founding Fathers included this in the Constitution?
In early December, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer system was hacked by a group that calls itself the “Guardians of Peace.” Hacking means when someone breaks into a computer’s files, steals private information, and in cases like this, releases the information to the public. The Sony hackers stole movies and large amounts of private emails and information. The Obama administration and the FBI strongly believe North Korea hacked Sony to punish it for planning to distribute the movie “The Interview.” The Interview is a fictional movie about two American journalists hired by the CIA to kill the North Korean leader. North Korea denies any involvement in the hacking.
North Korea and South Korea
The history of North Korea begins in the first half of the twentieth century. Since the early 1900s, Japan had occupied Korea. Once Japan surrendered to the Americans in 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States of America decided to initially divide Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviets controlling the north and the Americans controlling the south. Both sides promised free elections, however, just as in Europe, the Soviets handpicked their leader and declared a communist country, while the Americans allowed free elections in the South.
Both Koreas were proclaimed as independent countries in 1948. North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and South Korea is called the Republic of Korea. The Soviets placed Kim Il-Sung in charge of North Korea, and the citizens of South Korea voted their leader into office. The northern government moved quickly to control all industries, control all aspects of society, and to push for conquering the south. North Korea has a “totalitarian state.” This means that all elements of society are controlled by the government. South Korea is a republic, where citizens have political liberties and freedom.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
With the approval and support of the Communist leaders Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China, Kim Il-Sung of North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, hoping to reunify all of Korea under Communist rule. The Soviet Union aided the north with weapons and military advisors, while China sent soldiers. South Korea was aided by the United States and the United Nations. In 1953, both sides agreed to stop fighting and split the country in two at the 38th parallel. The United States still has soldiers in South Korea.
The Totalitarian State
Kim Il-Sung led North Korea until his death in 1994, establishing a society where the government completely controls everything. He created a Communist society where the state is everything for the people. No one in North Korea is allowed to speak against their leader, have an opinion against the government, or have a religion or believe in God. Punishment for holding an opinion not approved by the state can be torture, forced labor, imprisonment, and execution, not only for the accused but for the entire family and generations to come. North Koreans have no freedoms, including no right to travel within their own country, no right to say what they think, and no right to watch what they want on T.V. Watching a Western T.V. show could mean torture and death for your entire family. The Communist North Korean government has murdered millions of its own people. North Korea is the largest forced labor camp in the entire world.
After his death, Kim Il-Sung’s son and grandson continued the brutal regime. Son Kim Jong-il in 1994 took over, and then his son Kim Jong-Un took over in 2011 when his dad died. The three leaders continued to cultivate the cult of the personality. At every moment in a North Korean’s life, he has to obey the state, or suffer. North Korea has become an international outcast, friends only to groups and countries that sponsor terror.
Sony and The Interview
In 2014, Sony distributed “The Interview,” a comedy about the CIA hiring two dumb American journalists to kill the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. A few weeks before the movie’s release, Sony’s computer systems were hacked by a group that calls itself the “Guardians of Peace.” The hackers released movies and emails it stole from Sony, and they threatened that if Sony released “The Interview” great harm would come to American movie goers and to Sony. Initially, Sony declared they would not release the movie, but then it eventually did. The Obama administration believes the government of North Korea is responsible for hacking Sony’s files and is using economic and travel sanctions to punish North Korea.
1. What does the Obama administration believe North Korea did to Sony Picture’s Entertainment?
2. Who controlled Korea during World War II?
3. What happened in North Korea and South Korea from 1945-1949?
4. Who won the Korean War (1950-1953)?
5. What is a totalitarian country?
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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