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13 posts from July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014

Report of Russian spy base reopening in Cuba puts FL on edge

A report that Russia will reopen a Havana base that eavesdropped on U.S. communications from Key West to Washington has triggered fresh warnings of Moscow’s expansionism and predictions of a continued freeze in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Until its closure in 2002, the Lourdes base was Moscow’s largest intelligence facility abroad, with up to 1,500 KGB and GRU military intelligence officers manning an array of antennas and computers in the super-secret 28 square-mile base.

“If the report is true, there’s no question Washington will put Cuba engagement on the back burner,” said Andy Gomez, a retired Cuba specialist at the University of Miami and now senior policy adviser for the Washington law firm Poblete Tamargo.

Alvaro Alba, a Miami expert on Russia, said reopening Lourdes would underscore President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and cast a pall on U.S.-Cuba relations as dark as Havana’s imprisonment of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross since 2009.

Asked why Cuban ruler Raúl Castro would do that when he has repeatedly declared that he wants to improve relations with Washington, Alba added, “Cuba hasn’t cared about the United States in more than 50 years.”

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Judge sets hearing for next Thursday to hear why districts should be revised now

With time running out, the judge who invalidated Florida's congressional redistricting maps ordered a hearing for next Thursday to hear the last-chance argument by the voters groups that the maps should be redrawn before the November elections.

In a 20-minute scheduling hearing on Thursday, lawyers for the Legislature, Florida's secretary of state and the associations of supervisors of elections told Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis that it is practically impossible to draw new districts in time to meet federal and state requirements for the election.

"At this point, absent some very novel, creative plan on your part, we just don't see how there is any possible way you could intervene...and have an election in newly-created districts,'' said Ron Labasky, attorney for the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association.

He said that some voters have already completed their absentee ballots and submitted them for the August primary election.

"I'm not too sure how we back up and let somebody vote again,'' he said.

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Charlie Crist's "mysterious" Nigerian $100k donor

From Gossip Extra:

A mysterious Nigerian businessman whose empire is under scrutiny for its ties to a jailed, corrupt African politician has emerged as one of Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist‘s biggest campaign donors, Gossip Extra has learned exclusively.

Onajite Okoloko, an oil executive turned fertilizer manufacturer with a sprawling property in Boca Raton, has donated $100,000 to Democrat Crist’s campaign so far this year, according to state campaign records.

Okoloko, 48, dropped $25,000 into the former governor’s coffers in January, then again in February, May and June, the records show.

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