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CubaNews list marks another milestone

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  • Walter Lippmann
    CUBANEWS LIST MARKS ANOTHER MILESTONE: 30,000 MESSAGES by Walter Lippmann, September 13, 2004 History isn t a well-regarded study in the United States of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 14, 2004
      by Walter Lippmann, September 13, 2004

      History isn't a well-regarded study in the United States
      of America. This is unfortunate because we have so much
      history and so much we can learn about ourselves and how
      we got here, and where we're going in these challenging
      times. Henry Ford, the industrialist and ultra-right
      extremist famously said, "History is Bunk", reflecting an
      attitude which remains still far too widespread today.

      In Cuba, quite differently, history is a highly regarded
      field of study, and it plays an active daily role in the
      life of the nation. October 19th, July 26th, March 13,
      May 19th, and January 1st are dates with a deep and
      resonant significance to Cubans. Unlike the United States,
      these dates are ones for public celebration and reflection,
      not sales in department stores. Involvement with Cuba has
      meant learning of the importance of history, of time, of
      periodicity in human life. And so it is with the CubaNews
      e-mail list. Here are a few reflections on our passage to
      an important milestone in our development.


      This is the beginning of our fifth year, and we have a
      great deal of solid work to be proud of. But today, now, we
      cross another major milestone. With this message CubaNews
      has sent out, it's really hard to believe this, THIRTY
      THOUSAND MESSAGES from, about or related to Cuba (for the
      most part, with occasional exceptions) and has worked to make
      a positive contribution to the struggle to defend the Cuban
      Revolution. Today as the island is beginning to recover
      from Ivan the Terrible, a hurricane which fortunately has
      turned out to not so fully live up to its name, we can
      take a moment to consider where we've come from and what
      we've accomplished.

      From the small group of activists who fought to save Elian
      Gonzalez, the Cuban child kidnapped by rightist exiles in
      Miami, through the difficult days of 2003 with the trials
      of those badly mis-named "dissidents", etc., through the
      battles surrounding the United Nations Human Rights
      Commission in Geneva, and so many more, CubaNews list has
      endeavored to provide its readership with a timely selection
      of news and views about these great historic events. We've
      endeavored to bring you the good, the bad, the silly and
      the depressing, the inspired successes and the unfortunate
      errors and problems which we've observed in the ongoing
      process that is the Cuban Revolution. Our aim here is to
      providing facts (whether true or false) on which we can
      act effectively to help the Cuban people defend their
      right to construct a better society as they see fit.

      Yes, true and false facts. Think about that for a moment.
      We've seen so much utterly fabricated, fanciful as well as
      accurate information. Learning how to differentiate between
      them, to tell the wheat from the chaff is one of the goals
      we try to work toward with this list. We've certainly had
      some good examples of that as we look at the Miami Herald
      coverage of Hurricane Ivan's passage across Cuba in these
      last few days. Here's a comment I did earlier on that:

      This list tries to bring readers a wide selection about
      Cuba. Not just the political developments, but cultural,
      historical, and personal stories. Developments within the
      Cuban diaspora, which play a role in relationship with the
      island, all of this falls within the list's assumed focus.
      It's like a trade union with a very wide jurisdiction.

      We also make special efforts to translate additional
      articles from the Cuban media in Spanish for the English
      speaking public. If you are fluent, or reasonably fluent
      in Spanish, we can always use more translators. All we
      can offer in compensation is our deep gratitude and your
      knowledge that your work helps get the Cuban experience
      out to a broader public.

      Since the fall of the Soviet Union, with which Cuba was
      necessarily allied for many years, the island has made
      many changes in its functioning and thinking. Having to
      remake itself in many ways, Cubans have begun to more
      openly discuss their own history and the history of the
      world socialist movement of which Cuba continues to be
      an inspiring example. This list is proud to have made
      available in translation some of the fascinating new
      documents in which Cubans reflect on their history.

      The idea of collecting and disseminating factual and
      friendly news and information on Cuba didn't start with me
      (Walter Lippmann) and the CubaNews list at Yahoo. Indeed
      we're rather new kids on the Cuba information block. There
      are others who've been doing this work for many, many years.

      Some of us have met, some have never even exchanged an
      e-mail, but we all have in common a passionate desire to
      see Cuba free to develop its society according to its own
      lights, as well as a desire to get accurate information
      about Cuba to the public. We all have many interests, but
      it's Cuba which brings unites us and which draws us
      together. What follows are a few of the highlights of
      some of the contributors to the process of bringing
      news about Cuba to the broader public. There are many
      people who've participated through the years. There's
      no doubt some are regrettably omitted, but only due to
      gaps in my knowledge.

      In the very early years there was the Fair Play for Cuba
      Committee, which produced a handy little mimeographed
      bulletin of selections from the Cuban media. They produced
      speeches and documents from Cuba from the very beginning.

      There have been other organizations such as the Cuban
      Information Project which was led by Leslie Cagan and
      others. Retired newscaster Frank Manitzas maintains a list.
      Immigration attorney Jose Pertierra also operates a list.
      Companyero in Florida is another,New York Transfer News
      Collective, which prides itself on providing "All the news
      that doesn't fit" since 1985. The late Jon Hillson who
      worked on Cuba and many other writing and projects aimed
      at bringing about a better world. These are some of the
      people who preceded this version of CubaNews. We stand
      on their shoulders and are in debt to each and every one
      of them, we cheerfully acknowledge.

      As my dear friend Preston Wilcox says, "Knowledge is
      too precious to hoard", and CubaNews operates in that
      spirit to the best of its capacities.

      Two of our most valued collaborators are Nelson Valdes of
      the University of New Mexico and Karen Lee Wald. Here are
      some highlights of their work breaking the information

      Sociologist Nelson L. Valdes, a Cuban American who was
      brought to the United States as a result of Operation
      Pedro Pan, operates the Cuba-L list serve and kindly
      provided this sketch of his service's history:

      From: NPV mailto:nvaldes@...
      Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 2:21 PM
      To: walterlx@...
      Subject: some history....

      Cuba-L began in 1983. At the time I monitored radioteletype
      by hand. Then in 1986 radioteletype signals were captured
      with a sophisticated shortwave radio and
      decoded/demodulated and fed into an RS232 port which the
      computer assumed was a computer.

      All the materials that we have distributed since 1990 has
      been archived electronically and I have it in CDs. It is
      also searchable.

      I can say, as well, when Cuba-L began. May 1, 1983. I tape-
      recorded and then transcribed Fidel Castro's speech and then
      it was sent via email using a TRs80 computer (which at the
      time used a cassette to save the electronic materials).

      The "official story" of Cuba-L is inseparable from the
      Latin America Data Base which I created in 1986 and ran as
      its director in 1996. In that 10 year period I managed to
      get $2.6 million dollars for it. I quit the LADB in 1996 in
      order to dedicate more time to Cuba and created the Cuba
      Research and Analysis Group in 1998.

      On the LADB official history see:

      Of course, people who use the Internet did not need to
      learn about decoding, demodulating, radio frequencies,
      frequency division multiplexing, time division multiplexing
      and other such technical things...

      In 1983 Cuba-L announced the invasion of Grenada BEFORE the
      US military informed the mass media! Radio shortwave
      operators in Grenada informed me. Moreover, I also
      monitored Radio Veneceremos, Radio Guazapa and Radio
      Farabundo Marti in the 1980s.

      How many items have I distributed since 1983?
      I don't think anyone could say. But if we do
      a really conservative projection:

      May 1983-84 = daily 40 items x 340 days= 13,600
      83, 84,85,86,87,88,89,90,91, 92, 93= 10 x 13,600= 136,000
      94,95,96,97,98,99, 2000, 2001,2003= 9 x 13,600= 122,400

      Total number of items= 258,400 items

      From 2000-2004 everything is online.


      Karen Lee Wald has been doing this work for I don't know
      how many decades, with a boundless supply of energy and
      commitment, she not only has she written a book, countless
      articles, and operated her own listserv from Cuba known
      originally as "Postcards from Cuba"), she also raised two
      children in on the island as well as living and working
      there for many years.

      In 1986 on one of her frequent trips back to the San
      Francisco Bay Area, while still a neophyte with computers,
      she discovered PeaceNet, and it changed her life and her
      way of breaking the information blockade.

      PeaceNet had begun in 1984 as a way for peace activists
      (the nuclear freeze movement was very strong at that time)
      and others who organized against racism, sexism,
      imperialism and for all forms of social justice to begin to
      use the new technology that up until that point had been
      used basically by the wealthy and the religious right to do
      their mass mailings and lobbying. Now that PCs were cheaper
      and more accessible, the founders of PeaceNet realized that
      the Left could use them too.

      When Karen discovered PeaceNet, it was still a dial-up
      service, since the Internet was not yet available to the
      general public. But in addition to email exchange, it
      already had a number of "conferences" (interactive data
      bases) on almost every topic of interest to progressive
      people: except Cuba.

      It had a section called CARNET (Central America Resource
      Network, founded and run by Jo-Anne Scott and PeaceNet's
      technical guru Scott Weikert) that had helped the
      Sandinistas set up a network in Nicaragua; it worked
      together with or helped found similar networks in Canada
      (WEB), England (GreenNet), Sweden (Swedish PeaceNet),
      Brazil (Alternex) and eventually throughout the world.

      These then formed APC -- the Association for Progressive
      Communications. By this time PeaceNet had hooked up with
      other progressive networks like EcoNet, ConflictNet,
      LaborNet, etc. in the US to form Institute for Global
      Communications -- IGC. (When you see that someone's email
      address is xxx@... that is a holdover from that time,
      before the internet and the corporate servers took over.)

      Karen began filling the Cuba gap by setting up PeaceNet's
      CubaNews, with patient advice, help and encouragement from
      Jo-Anne and Scott. It's first 20 or so articles were
      written by Karen and put online by PeaceNet's Howard
      Frederick, but soon others began contributing articles and

      By 1990 PeaceNet was accessible to and from Cuba. As Cuban
      institutions became more computer-savvy, they began
      contributing their own articles, primarily via a Cuban
      network called "David", which included most of the social
      activist and research centers.

      Karen's living and working in the United States now, but
      she writes and is active in Cuba solidarity work all the
      time. Her son graduated from Cuban medical school and
      Karen travels to the island frequently. Today she sent
      the following note which I want to share with you (with
      her permission.) acknowledging some of those who have
      come before.

      From: Karen Lee Wald [mailto:kwald@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 1:39 PM
      To: walterlx@...

      Hi, Walter,

      CubaNews as I know it today began with Paddy Newell. She
      basically started CubaNews (beyond what I had been doing
      within IGC) as an informational lobbying service, by
      putting the skills she had gained in the Irish solidarity
      movement to use, organizing an email list to let people
      know what bills were in Congress, who they should lobby,

      What Mavis Anderson, LAWG, CIP and others do now in an
      organizational form, she started as an individual while
      living in Washington DC, studying for a belated college

      She was the first one who did the research and put online
      the "money trail" -- letting us know exactly who is
      financing the Cuban far-right fringes, who is donating how
      much money to which Congressmen to carry out their agenda,

      All of us who are working today have benefited from the
      work of people like Paddy Newell, like Jose G. Perez (who
      directed CubaNews for a number of years) and many others
      like Nelson Valdez, Frank Manitzas, Jose Pertierra, and
      others. Now, of course, what we publish is nourished by
      information coming in from all over the world, and from
      Canadian friends from Vancouver to Halifax, from throughout
      Latin America, from Europe and Africa and Australia...

      We are grateful to all of them -- and especially to you,
      for keeping it going.

      Happy anniversary.


      Read some of the greetings we've received and
      a report on this list's development here:

      Here's a basic description of the CubaNews project:
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