Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's Cooking In Cuba?

An exotic land in the Caribbean greets you with the striking rhythm of 'Salsa'; you look across pleasant tropical weather and breath-taking beaches. Your senses are slowly enveloped with the rich aroma of freshly brewed cafe cubano and lit cigars. If you are already intoxicated, you can imagine what the rest of this sensuous Cuban island can do to you.

It is said that the Cubans love their men, solid and strong; the children, round and chubby; and their women, curvy and sensuous. It isn't a surprise then, that hearty meals would constitute a very integral part of their daily routine. As part of their culture, every Cuban is expected to deeply relish and take pride in the succulent variety, quantity and seasoning of their food.

Cuban cuisine has been highly influenced by Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic and African cultures. In times of festivity, Cubans would have three exciting terms for you--Roast Pig, Congri and Beer. The traditional roast is made by marinating a pig with salt, garlic and sour orange juice, and slowly roasting it above a charcoal fire.

'Congri' is a mixture of white rice and black beans. The cultural feast is not complete without iced beer, and other accompaniments like 'Yucca' that has been garnished with chopped parsley, onion and lemon, 'Malanga' a root vegetable like corn fritters, fried banana patty and tomato salad with lettuce.

Popular Cuban breakfasts usually consist of 'Tostada', which refers to buttered and toasted Cuban bread. This is broken to be dipped in 'Cafe con Leche', which is a combination of strong espresso coffee with warm milk. Ham 'Croquetas', which is smoky and creamed ham, is another hot favorite.

Cuban lunches would typically have 'Empanadas' - a common bakery finger food item. You would also have chicken or meat turnovers, or Cuban sandwiches. Interestingly, Cuban sandwiches are quite popularly exported to the U.S, and usually consist of cheese, ham, bacon, pickles, mayonnaise, egg and bread. Quite a mouthful! For Dinner, Cubans would have a dish of meat, chicken or fish, which is accompanied by white rice, black beans and maduros, and a salad of tomatoes, onions or avacados.

Mouth-watering Cuban desserts may vary from the typical flan which is caramel-flavored custard, to bread or rice puddings, with shots of cafe cubano. Other delicious varieties are those like the guava marmalade with yellow cheese slices or yucca crullers in anise-flavored syrup.

It is said that you would not be true to Cuban cooking, if you did not lavishly and frequently use Olive oil. Cubans use olive oil for almost all their sauces. Sofrito is another flavor base that is used a lot. It consists of onion, garlic, oregano, green pepper and ground pepper which are quick-fried in olive oil.

So, if you are ever out to try a real Cuban meal, you will know exactly what to ask for. And do not forget, the cherry on the cake is to top it all with a night of dancing and fun Cuban style.

Visit CubaChannel.com today for breaking news, regular news articles, blog, videos, forums, and information about the land, people, history, culture, government, political conditions,

Mobsters - James Farley - "King of the Strikebreakers"

He started out as a simple alter boy in upstate New York, but during his fast and furious life, James Farley became known as "The King of the Strikebreakers."

James Farley was born in 1874, in the sleepy town of Malone, New York, just miles from the Canadian boarder. Although he became an alter boy in a Malone Catholic Church, Farley was a rough and tumble kid, always looking for trouble and mostly finding it.

When he was 15 years old, Farley ran away from home and headed south in New York State. In 1889, Farley took a job with Frank Robinson's circus. The circus ran its course in Middletown, New York, so Farley traveled to nearby Monticello, when he found employment at the Madison House. There he worked as a poolroom attendant, a clerk, and then a bartender. His bosses liked Farley's intelligence and toughness, and soon he was made the manager of the Madison House.

One day, Farley needed some dental worked done. While he was sitting in the dentist chair, Farley accidentally swallowed a huge lump of cocaine, which was then used as a painkiller. Farley completely freaked out, and instead of getting his dental work completed, he bolted from the dentist chair, ran madly out of the dentist's office, and disappeared into the nearby woods. For weeks, Farley lived like an animal in the woods, while the local police sent out a search party looking for him.

The effects of the cocaine overdose having finally wore off, and Farley knowing his managerial position at the Madison House was toast, headed further south, until he reached Brooklyn, New York. Farley's first job in Brooklyn was as a rail guard for the Revenue Service, but soon Farley transferred to the the Brooklyn City Railroad Company, where he toiled in the power house, mostly shoveled coal.

In 1895, the relationships between the railroad workers union (District Assembly No. 75 Knights of Labor) and the Brooklyn City Railroad Company, had frazzled to the point where a strike was inevitable. There had been a collective bargaining agreement in place since 1886, which was renewed yearly. However, this time the owners insisted on bringing in non-union workers, who would work cheaper. The union would have none of that. So the owners employed "strikebreakers" to convince the workers, mostly by force, that the owner's way was the right thing to do.

Farley, for some reason, abandoned his union, and started fighting for his bosses. During the riots between the union workers and the strikebreakers, according to various accounts, Farley was shot at, stabbed, hit with bricks, clubs, and baseball bats. And he had the scars to prove it. In the end, the owners won the battle, and the union was marginalized.

One local newspapers reported on the Brooklyn City Railroad Company, "Strikebreakers came from all parts of the country and as a result the railroad companies were able entirely to reorganize their working staffs. When the strikers sought to interfere with operations, 7,500 State troops were sent into the city at the request of the mayor. Cars began operating under military protection on January 22. Two soldiers rode on each car. In one encounter, shots were exchanged among strikers, strikebreakers, and troops; one man was killed and a number wounded."

With the strikebreaking working in the owner's favor, they looked kindly on Farley for the work he had done on their behalf. As a reward for his loyal service, the Brooklyn City Railroad Company put Farley in charge of fifteen special officers. And this was how Farley's strikebreaking career began.

For the next seven years, Farley engaged in strikebreaking throughout the country, almost all of them having to do with the railroad industry. He hired men who were rough and tumble, and some of them carried guns, which they were not afraid to use. Farley paid them more than other agencies did for their strikebreaking activities, and this bought Farley a great bit of loyalty.

Farley himself set an imposing figure, with a Colt.38 revolver in a holster dangling on his right hip, like he was ready for a fight at the O.K. Corral. Farley smoked cigars like he was a chimney. Rumor had it that he smoked 50 cigars a day, usually fat maduro coronas from Havana, Cuba.

According to an article in the United Mine Workers Journal, Farley "Stood before his mercenaries, mostly tough lumpenproletarians from big city slums, 'with the air of a potentate', wearing a long Cassock overcoat. And the men looked up at him with gaping mouths."

In 1902, Farley, having already broken many strikes, opened his own detective agency, which was in direction opposition to the more famous Pinkerton Detective Agency for the strikebreaking jobs. However, the Pinkertons were more diversified, while Farley stuck strictly to strikebreaking.

In 1905, just after the construction of the IRT subway system in New York City, the workers went out on strike. The owner of the IRT was August Belmont, one of the richest men in America. Belmont hired Farley to do the strikebreaking, and Farley and his men immediately went to work.

While the tension intensified between Farley's men and the strikers, a reporter tried to interview one of the strikebreakers about Belmont's strategies in ending the strike. The strikebreaker barked at the reporter, "Who the hell is Belmont? Farley is running the show."

At the successful conclusion of Farley's work for Belmont, Farley was reportedly paid the kingly sum of $300,000.

Farley's biggest strikebreaking coup took place not in New York City, but more than 3000 miles away in San Francisco, California. Patrick Calhoun, an official of San Francisco's United Railroad, contacted Farley in New York and implored Farley to come out west to handle the insurgence of the streetcar Carmen's Union. On May 5, 1907, after their demands for an 8-hour work day and a salary of $3 a day was turned down by the San Francisco's United Railroad, the Carmen's Union went on strike.

On Tuesday morning May 7th, called "Bloody Tuesday," the strikebreakers and the strikers finally met face to face. A brigade of Farley's men were locked and loaded, and looking for trouble, as they stood inside six railway cars that had just pulled out of the Turk & Fillmore car barn. The six cars were immediately pelted by bricks and rocks thrown by the strikers. Rather than jump off the cars and engage in hand-to-hand combat, Farley's men opened fire into the crowd, estimated at 300 people.

An eyewitness said the strikers "had been shot down like dogs."

The police came in to squelch the riot, and were caught in the crossfire. When the dust cleared, three strikers had been shot dead and another dozen wounded. Two policemen were also shot, but they survived. As a result, the police arrested twelve of Farley's strikebreakers, and charged them with murder or attempt to commit murder.

Farley and the San Francisco's United Railroad turned out to be the big winners, when the following day, the union called off their strike and ordered their men back to work.

You would have thought, due to the rough, and sometimes deadly tactics Farley employed, he would have been portrayed in the press as somewhat of a thug and a gangster. However, that was not always the case. After the San Francisco railroad strike of 1907, the San Francisco Chronicle spoke of Farley in a soft tone as "a man who prefers hot blood to water as a beverage." Newspapers throughout the country took Farley's part, portraying him as a noble figure, protecting businesses against "communist agitators," and "foreign bomb throwing activists."

Farley himself hid behind the cloak of decency, when he claimed, that although he had broken up 50 straight strikes throughout America, in not one instance did he defend businesses that he considered to be in the wrong. Farley stated that, if after he examined the circumstances and determined that the worker were right in their actions, he would turn the strikebreaking job down flat.

However, Jack London, the most prominent journalist of that time, did not think so kindly of Farley. In London's novel The Iron Heel, London even mentioned Farley by name. London, a left-wing union sympathizer, wrote that Farley, "Was an example of a pernicious trend, men who were 'private soldiers' of the capitalist...thoroughly organized and well armed...held in readiness to be hurled in special trains to any part of the country where labor went on strike or was locked out by employers. Strikebreakers were an ominous sign of bad times ahead."

No matter which way you felt about Farley, one thing was true. He was paid millions by railroads companies, and irregardless of the brutal tactics Farley used, he did his job well.

However, Farley did not live long enough to enjoy all his money. Since his days in the circus, Farley had a fondness for horses. He invested huge sums of money in purchasing horses, both trotters and racers. He kept them in a huge farm he had bought in Plattsburgh, New York.

In 1913, Farley contracted a fatal case of tuberculosis. Farley knew he did not have long to live. Against his doctor's orders, Farley had a cot placed on the grass of the Yonkers Race Track so that he could watch his horses in competition.

Cigars: Tobacco Growing

Tobacco Everywhere

For making cigars, tobacco is grown all around the world, from Poland to South Africa, from Argentina to Canada and, westbound, from Philippines to Mexico. But cigar tobaccos are mainly grown in the intertropical areas.

Tobacco Origin

Tobacco is known as a plant originally from America. Some species were identified in South Pacific. There are many species and varieties. Not all of them are used in smoking products. Many are grown as ornamental plants as they are frequently blooming, showing colors from white to dark red and purple.

Here are some of the countries in which tobacco is grown, to produce your cigars.


Argentina grows dark air-cured tobacco in the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes, and flue cured tobacco in the area of Salta. Misiones has also a production of Burley type. These tobaccos are mainly for cigarettes but Corrientes is appreciated for short filler cigars because of its smooth taste. Argentina used to be a big producer and exporter but changes in the economic and income tax policies have seriously damaged the production, making the tobacco too expensive to be competitive on the international market. Consequently, production volumes have decreased.


Brazil is one of the largest world's tobacco producers. The East Central State of Bahia is an important cigar tobacco growing area, about 100 miles west of the state capital, Salvador da Bahia, an active port on the Atlantic Coast. The Northern State of Alagoas hosts a production around the city of Arapiraca where maduro cigar wrappers are grown. The Southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina produce tobacco for cigarettes and pipe.


Cameroon cigar wrappers are grown in the East part of the country. The growing area spreads over the eastern border, into the Central African Republic. Wrappers are air grown, without fertilizers and pesticides, by small farmers. The average plantation size is about one acre. The seed is originally from Sumatra, introduced in the country just after WWII. Grown first for French Monopoly needs, the tobacco was offered on the international market when production was too large for this single use. Well appreciated by European manufacturers and large American cigars companies, Cameroon wrapper production dropped down during the late 1980s, due to poor management. Today, quantities are small and quality could be better.


China is by far the biggest tobacco producer, with approximately 5 millions metric tons. USA follows with about 1 million metric tons. Chinese tobacco is a flue-cured type, not aromatic and a bit sharp in taste. This tobacco is not suitable for cigars. It is mainly used for local cigarette consumption. A small quantity is exported. Cigarette industries import the tobacco and use it as a neutral and cheap filler.

Connecticut, USA

The Connecticut Valley, in the Northeast of the USA, is well known for its bright yellow cigar wrapper. Because of a very hot and sunny summer, the tobacco is shade grown. Whoever has flown over Hartford, CT, seated next to the window, could not fail to have seen the huge white acreage of land standing all around: the tobacco fields covered with white clothes to protect the plants from the direct sun radiation. And the huge barns, large like cathedrals, ready for the flue curing. Impressive!


Tobacco grows all across Cuba. Your premium cigar has been made, I hope, out of tobacco coming from the West province of Vuelta Abajo, where a really good material is harvested. In Central and East Cuba, the provinces of Remedios and Oriente yield tobacco that is not supposed to be acceptable for what everybody calls a Havana!

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic is a traditional tobacco-growing country. In the 60's, a Cuban seed was introduced and the resulting tobacco (Piloto Cubano) became famous as a good substitute of the Cuban tobacco that was no longer allowed to enter the USA. Exiled Cubans did a great job there. Piloto Cubano is a full bodied tobacco but, maybe, is missing some aroma. Blended with Olor dominicano type, more aromatic, Piloto Cubano makes the 100% dominican cigar a very decent cigar. Both Dominican types are good components for multi-origin blends.

East Mediterranean Countries

The Eastern countries of the Mediterranean Sea are devoted to the culture of Oriental type tobacco, which is sun-cured. Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria are the main producers, but Lebanon, Syria, Macedonia, and Romania are also growing. This tobacco has tiny leaves, which are sometimes only 2 inches long. The sun curing gives them a yellowish color and high sugar content. Aroma is generally rich and a small proportion of oriental tobacco in a blend brings a lot in the taste. This tobacco is not used for long filler cigars, but only in short filler cigars and cigarettes.


Ecuador is the perfect place to grow wrappers, because it is located on the Equator! And it has rich soils too. The weather conditions, with a nearly permanent cloudy sky, provide a natural shade, protecting the wrapper plants from sunshine and allowing the tobacco to grow thin and light. Ecuador supplies Connecticut and Sumatra type wrappers to many cigar factory in the world.


Honduras has built up a good reputation in making premium cigars. The country is a rather small tobacco producer and the cigars are mainly made out of imported leaves. However, Honduras has a pretty good potential for growing tobacco, especially wrappers, and could become a major player in the future.


Tobacco is grown in many islands of the Archipelago but, as far as cigars are concerned, Sumatra and Java are the ones. Sumatra Wrappers are known worldwide. Central Java (Vorstenland) and East Java (Besuki) produce fillers and wrappers in abundance. Indonesia is a key country for cigar tobacco.


Dark air cured tobaccos are produced in Mexico, mainly in Vera Cruz and Tampico provinces, on the East Coast along the Golf. There is also some production in Yucatan. Previously a state-owned operation, it is now handled by private individuals and cooperatives. Mexican tobacco is very dark and the best leaves can be used as maduro wrappers. In San Andres de Tuxtla (Vera Cruz), there is a very interesting production of Sumatra seed wrappers.


In Philippines, tobacco growing is concentrated in the Northern part of the main island of Luzon. Traditionally, dark tobacco for cigars was grown and Philippines' cigars were very famous, under the powerful Compania General de Tabaccos de Filipinas. They probably declined because they were too mild. Today, Philippines still grows dark tobacco and has developed a production of flue-cured tobacco for blond cigarettes.


Zimbabwe is among the top three countries for high quality flue cured tobacco (with the USA and Brazil). The embargo that hit the country, when it was still Rhodesia, did not hurt the production. It made the Rhodesians more inventive and they went on producing. At this time, Zambia and Tanzania, the neighboring countries were selling a lot! When the embargo was lifted in 1980 allowing us to deal directly, we discovered a fascinating organization and equipment, the best in the world. Tobacco was the top activity of the country and getting a job in tobacco was a challenge for many young men. The actual Zimbabwean agrarian policy , which we won't discuss here, will probably strike this country off the list of tobacco producers. Cigar industry will not suffer as flue-cured tobaccos are mainly concerned. Brazil should be the major beneficiary of this situation.

Friday, June 29, 2012

FORTUNE Magazine Questions GOP Fast and Furious Narrative

I was going to flip a coin to decide whether or not to write about the Supreme Court RATS – an acronym a progressive blogger from Daily Kos invented for the veritable barbershop quartet Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia have become since the four of them almost always singing in harmony – until I read this account of Fast and Furious by FORTUNE magazine writer Katherine Eban, who reviewed over 200 documents and interviewed 39 people involved in the botched ATF operation.

Ordinarily, I would see this as another one of those tit-for-tat efforts that was meant to take the sting out of the assertions of Justice Department malfeasance. Since the House Oversight Committee and Congressional Republicans have all but convicted Holder and the Obama Administration of wrongdoing, even though they, by their own admission, have not seen all of the evidence, many on the left have been trying desperately to bring some sense of proportion to the charges being leveled against the attorney general and the president.

Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal

FORTUNE Magazine Questions GOP Fast and Furious Narrative | Resurgence | Big Think

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