September 17 , 2007

The Miami Herald

Castro's 9/11 idea defended

A Cuban official attempted to clarify Fidel Castro's comment that something other than a plane hit the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks.

By Jacqueline Charles. Posted on Fri, Sep. 14, 2007

The president of Cuba's legislature, trying to explain recent comments by Fidel Castro that a ''projectile'' and not a plane slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, has said that a more thorough investigation of the terror attacks would clear up any misconceptions.

Castro, who has not been seen in public for more than a year since becoming ill last summer, wrote that there is evidence that American Airlines Flight 77 did not fly into the Pentagon six years ago and that the United States has ''deceived'' the world about what really happened.

Castro's comments were published in an essay in Granma and read over Cuban state television on Tuesday -- the sixth anniversary of the attacks.

"Only a projectile could have created the geometrically round hole that the alleged plane created.

''We were deceived, as were the rest of the planet's inhabitants,'' Castro wrote.

Speaking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The Situation Room Wednesday night, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón said Castro's comments were based on assertions that others have made, including individuals in the United States.

"President Castro was referring to various allegations by scientists, even by journalists, that suggest . . . contradictions between the data that has been published or known about the incidents.

''The fact is that a full investigation of that event, as far as I know, didn't take place,'' Alarcón said from Havana.

Asked by Blitzer about the DNA and other evidence from the airplane, Alarcón said "the best answer to that would be a full investigation and a presentation of every detail on every individual that may have been responsibility by acts of evolution of what happened.''

Blitzer told Alarcón that the 81-year-old Castro's comments raise questions about his state of mind.

When he asked Alarcón when was the last time he saw the ailing leader, Alarcón answered by saying "the last time I was in touch with him personally was more than a week ago.''

Three years ago, a report by the 9/11 Commission found that an al Qaeda plot orchestrated the two commercial airplane attacks against the World Trade Center and a single jetliner attack against the Pentagon. Another plane crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers revolted against al Qaeda hijackers.

Cuban dad's lawyers will call no witnesses

By Carol Marbin Miller, Posted on Fri, Sep. 14, 2007

In a surprising decision that will help draw to a conclusion the controversial custody dispute over a 5-year-old Cuban girl, the attorneys for the girl's father told a judge Friday morning they will call no witnesses before resting their case.

Steven Weinger, one of three lawyers for Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo, said the state Department of Children & Families has failed to offer sufficient evidence to prove Izquierdo either neglected or abandoned his daughter.

Weinger's comments came two days after Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen tossed out a significant piece of the state's case against Izquierdo: the contention that he failed to protect his daughter by allowing her to emigrate to the United States in March 2005 with a mother he knew was depressed and mentally unstable.

The most important argument remaining is DCF's claim that Izquierdo abandoned his daughter by allowing her to move to the United States permanently and by doing little to reclaim her after she came under the care of DCF.

The little girl and her older half brother were sheltered by DCF in December 2005 after their mother, Elena Pérez, slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife. The children have been living the last 18 months with Joe and Maria Cubas, a Coral Gables foster family that already has adopted the 13-year-old boy.

DCF and the Guardian-ad-Litem Program, which is representing the girl's legal interests, are asking the judge to order that the girl remain permanently with the Cubas family -- even if the judge finds that the father is fit to raise her.

Izquierdo's lawyers are planning to put into evidence a list of close to 50 phone calls between Izquierdo and his daughter and about 43 visits -- all of which were ordered by Cohen. Most of the visits were supervised and videotaped by the child's therapist; a handful were unsupervised overnight visits.

''He showed up for every visit,'' Cohen said in court Friday morning. "There's no dispute.''

The trial bogged down for much of the morning in a discussion of the visits, as Guardian-ad-Litem attorney John O'Sullivan refused to agree to the truth that the visits occurred. Cohen became visibly angry, noting she had ordered the visits and held numerous hearings in court to discuss what occurred during them.

''I'm not going to have this,'' the judge said. "This is very disingenuous, and it isn't right.''

DCF and the guardian's office want to present rebuttal evidence, they said, that will show that although Izquierdo had many visits with his daughter, they don't necessarily prove he has a meaningful relationship with her.

The rebuttal testimony, said DCF chief of staff Jason Dimitris, is meant ''to show the quality of those contacts.'' As part of their presentation, he said, the state will show videos of some of the visits to show Izquierdo has failed to bond with his daughter. Dimitris is spearheading the state's case.

Dimitris said DCF also wants to show that Izquierdo did not fight hard enough to reclaim his daughter in phone calls with officials and friends in Miami who were aware of her plight. ''We will show how passive the father was,'' Dimitris said. "One would expect he would be taking better advantage of those calls.''

Weinger countered that, under Florida law, the zeal with which Izquierdo sought custody is irrelevant. The father, Weinger said, must "evince a willful rejection of being a parent to that child. Your decision must be based on the standard of rejection of his child, not on how passive he was.

''The fact is he showed up for 40-something visits with his daughter,'' Weinger said, adding there also is no question he was involved in more than 40 phone calls. "The issue is not whether he is the most talkative man in world, or the best father you can imagine. The issue is whether he willfully rejected his child.''

Cohen again said the state will have a very difficult time, given recent Florida appeals court rulings, proving that Izquierdo abandoned the girl. To prove that in Florida, she has said, the state must show he ''willfully rejected'' his "parental obligations.''

Proving such a failure on the father's part ''will be extremely, extremely untenable and difficult,'' Cohen said.

''I've seen the [visit] tapes, and they don't lay out a case for abandonment,'' Cohen said.

The judge also threatened to hold one of the lawyers involved in the dispute in contempt. Weinger tried to discuss in open court another child welfare case involving a Cuban child -- a matter the judge had brought up privately with attorneys outside the presence of news media.

''If you bring it up, I will hold you in direct criminal contempt, and you will spend the weekend in jail,'' Cohen told Weinger.


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