Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Faces of Cuba

 A sampling of people I interviewed on the streets last month in Cuba. They include: A woman who sells paintings along Calle Obispo in Havana.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Street games: Kick the can

A mother patiently walked along with her son as he played kick the can in Havana.
"I don't have money to him a ball," she said. "So this is what he does."
They continued along their way for at least four blocks as the boy kicked the Cristal beer can along the pavement.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Name that landmark, win a lousy prize (updated)

Where was this photo taken?
I shot this photo of a Havana landmark, well, a piece of it, at least. Can you name the landmark?
Be the first person to send in the right answer and I'll send you an Along the Malecón baseball cap, cheaply made and almost guaranteed to disintegrate with normal use.

Made in Cambodia
So if you want to add this valuable cap to your collection, grind it up in the nearest garbage disposal or, better yet, re-gift it to your least favorite relative, just send me the right answer in a comment to this post.

Update: Paul Austin named the landmark. The photo is a close-up of the Hotel Riviera sign in Havana. For that, he won the cap, which was delivered to Paul in Havana.

Desde aquí: A caricature of Reinaldo Escobar

Reinaldo Escobar
This is a caricature of Reinaldo Escobar, husband of award-winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez. It hangs in a corner of the living room in the couple's high-rise apartment.
Escobar, who lives in Havana, writes a blog called Desde Aquí. The English version is here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

FOIA request: Back to you, USAID

The lighthouse at El Morro
I am appealing USAID's July 27 refusal to release proposals from companies that sought participation in the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, or CDCPP.
Alan Gross was jailed in Cuba in 2009 while evidently taking part in the program. USAID denied my request under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, saying it needed to protect information that could harm the contractors.
In my appeal, I wrote:
...USAID must balance its commitment to private contractors with its duty to transparency and openness in government.
The burden is on USAID - and the contractors - to justify why the proposals must be withheld in their entirety.
USAID could have redacted any information that the agency or the contractors believe should be kept secret. Instead, the agency refused to release any new information after considering my request for nearly seven months.

Floating, watching, swimming

A swimmer floats on her back late in the afternoon just off the Malecón

Monday, August 8, 2011

USAID denies FOIA request

The U.S. Agency for International Development has denied my request for copies of proposals submitted by contractors hoping to take part in the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, or CDCPP.
Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, won at least a portion of the multimillion-dollar contract in 2008. The company then hired Alan Gross, a Maryland man who was jailed in Cuba in December 2009.
I requested the proposals on Dec. 30, 2010, under the Freedom of Information Act (download my letter). The FOIA request was among the first I filed after setting up the Cuba Money Project website (my pending FOIA requests are here). It took USAID nearly seven months to answer. The agency's two-page letter states:
We regret to inform you that the cost and technical proposals you have requested are being withheld in their entirety.
...the winning proposal is being withheld because of proprietary information pursuant to exemption (b)(4) of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552 (b)(4). That exemption states, "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential" should not be released.
USAID is also refusing to release the losing proposal. I have until about Aug. 27 to appeal the agency's decision.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Smiles along the Malecón

Cuban girls with a sea urchin along the Malecón
 While in Cuba last month, I tried out a new video camera - a Sony HDR-PJ10. Among the camera's features: It automatically records still images while the video is recording. The camera saves images - like the three photos I'm posting here - whenever it detects that someone is smiling.
The camera can also project still or video images during playback. That made it easier to show Cubans images of themselves. All kinds of surfaces can used as a projector screen - anything from a white t-shirt someone's wearing to a patch of concrete along the Malecón.

Teen-agers gather at sundown along the Malecón
I returned from Cuba on July 27. I had to leave home again on unrelated business on July 29. I am now back home and have begun downloading and reviewing video clips from the Cuba trip. And that's when I discovered these smiling faces.