July 17, 2010

AP Three Months Late to Story of Cuba’s Self-Admitted 1 Million ‘Unproductive’ Workers

cubaIt’s not a stretch to believe that the folks at the Associated Press would rather not report bad news from that communist workers’ paradise known as Cuba.

Just look at how the wire service has dealt with clearly significant news about the island nation’s economy. Though the news, carried originally at the Miami Herald, is three months old, the AP as best I can tell finally got around to writing a story about it late Friday, the beginning of a summer weekend when few are following the news closely. How convenient.

Here is some of what the Herald’s Juan O. Tamay reported on April 19:

Raúl Castro admits that Cuba has one million excess jobs
The figures on unproductive workers in the government and its enterprises surprised even some Cuban economists.

The stunning figure was revealed by Cuban leader Raúl Castro himself: The Cuban government and its enterprises might have more than one million excess workers on their payrolls.

That’s more than one million unproductive workers, out of what official Cuban figures show is a total of 4.9 million people working in formal jobs in a country of 11.2 million people.

And that’s part of the explanation, several economists said, for a calamitously over-centralized and unproductive economy that, for example, forces a tropical island to import an estimated 60 percent of the food its people consume. The Cuban government has historically insisted on keeping people officially employed, even in unproductive jobs. Unemployment was last reported at 1.6 percent by the National Statistics Office (ONE).

About 95 percent of the jobs in Cuba’s formal sector are with the government — ministries, their agencies and enterprises — though salaries are so low, averaging about $20 a month, nationwide, that many Cubans also have off-the-books work to make ends meet.

But the figures on excess jobs in the government and its enterprises mentioned by Raúl Castro surprised even some Cuban economists.

“We know there’s an excess of hundreds of thousands of workers in the budgeted and enterprise sectors (and) some analysts calculate that the excess of jobs is more than one million,” he said Sunday in a speech to the Cuban Communist Youth.

There are “inflated payrolls, very inflated payrolls, terribly inflated payrolls,” Castro said before adding a reassurance: “The revolution will not forsake anyone. I will fight to create the conditions so that all Cubans have honorable jobs.”

… “All will remain in their jobs, but depending on the possibilities many will be reassigned to useful and productive jobs,” the newspaper noted. “Cuba will never resort to the easy and inhumane formulas of neoliberalism, based on massive dismissals.”

Yeah, making people hang around doing almost nothing all day and paying them $20 a month is far more “humane.” Zheesh.

Even though the news of Raul Castro’s acknowledgment of the size and scope of “overemployment” is is about three months old, the AP either hasn’t covered this story, or it has done so extremely quietly. Various Google News Archive searches covering April through June of this year failed to return any results relating to that one million excess jobs pronouncement (there may be such a story behind the AP’s or other newspapers’ subscription walls, but it seems very unlikely).

Here is some of Ann-Marie Garcia’s July 16 report (bolds after title are mine):

Jobless in Cuba? Communism faces the unthinkable

President Raul Castro has startled the nation lately by saying about one in five Cuban workers may be redundant.

… Here, nearly everyone works for the state and official unemployment is minuscule, but pay is so low that Cubans like to joke that “the state pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.”

Now, facing a severe budget deficit, the government has hinted at restructuring or trimming its bloated work force. Such talk is causing tension, however, in a country where guaranteed employment was a building block of the 1959 revolution that swept Fidel Castro to power.

Details are sketchy on how and when such pruning would take place. Still, acknowledgment that cuts are needed has come from Raul Castro himself.

“We know that there are hundreds of thousands of unnecessary workers on the budget and labor books, and some analysts calculate that the excess of jobs has surpassed 1 million,” said Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president nearly four years ago. Cuba’s work force totals 5.1 million, in a population of 11.2 million.

In his nationally televised speech in April, Castro also had harsh words for those who do little to deserve their salaries.

“Without people feeling the need to work to make a living, sheltered by state regulations that are excessively paternalistic and irrational, we will never stimulate a love for work,” he said.

April is “lately” when it’s mid-July? Who knew?

Now the AP can say, “See, see, we covered the story” — even though it appears that its real intent is to keep the news as invisible as possible.

AP Whitewashes ‘Group’ Calling SC Murder a Hate Crime

NBPPlogo0710The Associated Press is among many news organizations which have been ignoring the now-sworn testimony of J. Christian Adams, the whistleblowing lawyer who first asserted almost three weeks ago that there is “profound hostility by the Obama Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department towards a race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws.”

Adams resigned from the DOJ after the following sequence of events:

On Election Day 2008, armed men wearing the uniforms and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were posted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the entrance to a polling site. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters. After the election, the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice brought a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and these armed thugs. I, and other Justice lawyers, obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the case against them.

Before a final judgment could be entered, however, our superiors ordered dismissal of the claims.

A search on “Christian Adams” (not in quotes) at the AP’s main site returns nothing relevant. Sadly, that alone is not exceptional.

Given the above background, what is shocking, even to those of us who think they’ve seen it all from the wire service, is AP reporter Meg Kinnard’s coverage of a South Carolina murder and the “group” that wants it declared a hate crime. Guess who (bolds are mine):

Group: Dragging of slain SC man is a hate crime

For the New Black Panther Party, it’s simple: A black man being shot to death by a white man and dragged for miles behind a pickup truck is a racial hate crime.

For local authorities and residents in this city of 11,000 in central South Carolina, it’s not so clear: The suspect and the victim were apparently friends, often eating lunch together at the turkey processing plant where they worked. Investigators say they spent several hours together before the gruesome slaying. And some speculate whether it started with an argument about a woman.

Federal authorities haven’t yet decided whether to classify the killing of Anthony Hill, 30, as a hate crime. State authorities are still investigating and monitoring news conferences by the black activist group, which plans a rally Saturday on its insistence that Hill was killed for his color.

“Certain types of killings, like being dragged behind a pickup truck, are vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow-type punishments,” said Malik Zulu Shabazz, president of the New Black Panther Party. “They’re inherently hate crimes. That’s our position — that any time a black person is dragged behind a pickup truck, automatically, there is a presumption that it is a hate crime.”

… Officials say Hill, a former firefighter in the National Guard, was killed by a single gunshot to the head before he was dragged.

… If there was racial tension or other animosity between the two men, it has not yet become known. Authorities said Hill and (accused killer Gregory) Collins had spent hours together in the day and night before the shooting, hanging out late into the evening. Hill’s co-workers told police he and Collins frequently ate lunch together at work.

Shabazz, who says he has helped several families throughout the country affected by similar crimes, says he has all the evidence he needs to see that Hill’s death should be a hate crime, despite evidence that the men were friends.

Shabazz has made several trips to Newberry, holding meetings and news conferences intended to push authorities to accelerate their investigation.

… the local gossip is that Hill and Collins both had a relationship with the same woman, leading to an argument.

The Associated Press had all the opportunity in the world to write a headline identifying the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) as the “group” alleging a hate crime. It didn’t. Try this, guys — “New Black Panthers Claim SC Murder a Hate Crime.” It’s about the same length as the “group” headline above.

Meg Kinnard had all the opportunity in the world to inform readers about the background of the headlined “group,” including its classification as a hate group by two very different organizations: the Anti-Defamation League and even the usually conservative-paranoid Southern Poverty Law Center. She didn’t.

Kinnard had all the opportunity in the world to note that the hate crime-obsessed Shabazz is the leader of a group whose King Samir Shabazz (not the same person) said the following hateful things (among many) during a 2009 National Geographic documentary interview:

“You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers! You’re gonna have to kill some of their babies!”

She didn’t.

Kinnard had all the opportunity in the world to report that the NBPP is the beneficiary of the Eric Holder Justice Department’s abandonment of race-neutral prosecution standards. She didn’t.

It is almost inconceivable that Meg Kinnard is not aware of the NBPP’s background and the DOJ controversy. If her life is so sheltered that she really isn’t, it’s virtually impossible that the AP’s editors don’t know of these things.

Yet on Friday, this wire service, which describes itself as “the Essential Global News Network,” put over 900 words into a story that cast the NBPP as a legitimately concerned civil rights organization and Shabazz as a serious civil rights leader, including this pathetic paragraph near its end:

In a barbershop he owns a few blocks away, 37-year-old Keith Suber says he knew Hill and feels that the black community in Newberry isn’t outraged by the lack of a hate crime charge. He hopes the spotlight from the New Black Panthers’ appearances in town may lead to community improvements for young people, like more public pools and recreation centers.

The once-proud Associated Press seems to be on a mission to see how low it can sink. If that is indeed its mission, it’s doing a remarkable job.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.