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Archive for November 26th, 2016

 Timeline of Fidel Castro’s life, 1926-2016

They claim that socialism failed? Where did Capitalism worked outside of the USA?

FIDEL CASTRO has died, aged 90. He ruled Cuba for 47 years, ceding power to his brother Raúl in 2006 before officially resigning in 2008.

Revered on the anti-imperialist left, the Communist revolutionary survived numerous American assassination attempts and six presidents.

His rule was notable for world-class health care and education, political repression—and marathon speeches, including a record four hours 29 minutes at the UN.

With a shaking voice, his younger brother, Raul Castro, announced on state television that his brother died at 10:29 p.m. on Friday night, The Associated Press reported.


Our timeline of Fidel Castro’s life, 1926-2016



The United States had long been used to Latin America being filled with neighbors who were compliant, or at least manageable.

Bringing a revolutionary fervor, Castro and his revolution demonstrated those countries could no longer be taken for granted — and he gave the Soviet Union a toehold in the region.

In doing so, Castro became something of a hero to many on the American left, at least until decades of stalemate and stagnation clearly demonstrated his shortcomings. And that Soviet toehold would cause a confrontation with President John F. Kennedy that nearly erupted into nuclear war in 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis.

“He was revered as a symbol of true revolution and the fight against social injustice,” wrote Barbara Cady in Icons of the 20th Century, “and as a hero for his promise to bring democracy to Cuba. However, instead of building a democracy, he named himself president without holding an election, while jailing, exiling and executing those opposed to him.”

The outline of how Castro came to power on Jan. 1, 1959, is known to many Americans through its fictionalized telling in the 1974 movie “The Godfather Part II.” Though Castro is not featured, the depiction of the Cuban revolution, seen as a backdrop to the gamesmanship between Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth (modeled on American gangster Meyer Lansky), hits many of the story’s high points, albeit in a greatly condensed form.

For one thing, American mobsters were working in partnership with Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, who was being paid millions of dollars in the 1950s to make “The Pearl of the Antilles” into a place where casino gambling and other vices could flourish.

Lansky, a Jewish gangster known for his business acumen, had long personal ties to Batista — the Cuban strongman even attended his second wedding.

Batista also had ties to other American businesses, including those which made millions on sugar or nickel. He viewed himself as a benevolent pro-American dictator, but others knew him as a thug prone to having his opponents jailed, beaten or executed. In this regard, he was not much different from many other military strongmen in the region.

But Castro was a different kind of rebel. He was born Aug. 13, 1926, the son of an affluent farm family. While studying law at the University of Havana in the 1940s, he drifted into left-wing politics and casual violence.

“Castro had proved himself a dynamic orator and a future leader to be reckoned with,” wrote T.J. English in Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba … and Then Lost it to Revolution, “but he was also, according to some, overly enamored with the trappings of gangsterismo. He carried a 15-shot Browning pistol on his person at all times and was more than willing to engage rival gangs in confrontation. Despite his intellect and obvious leadership talents, he was thought to be somewhat reckless.”

Still, Castro was not yet a revolutionary, or, at least, he was not all in.

In 1952, he was running for office when a military coup by Batista short-circuited the electoral process. According to Havana Nocturne, Castro circulated a mimeographed pamphlet denouncing the coup: “There is nothing as bitter in the world as the spectacle of a people that goes to bed free and wakes up in slavery.”

Direct action would follow. English wrote: “Political action was its own kind of narcotic: Fidel detested politicians and so-called activists who were all talk and no action.”

Castro and his supporters launched an attack on July 26, 1953, on the Moncada army barracks. It failed and Castro ended up in jail until Batista, perhaps feeling a little overconfident, pardoned him.

There would be other military campaigns and, at one point, Batista announced Castro had been killed, a mistake that would come back to haunt Batista when the New York Times’ Herbert Matthews located him in the mountains.

As the decade went on, Batista became increasingly unpopular and Castro, assisted by his brother Raul and an Argentine revolutionary named Ernesto “Che” Guevara, gained momentum. Castro also came to the United States to raise money, though he dialed down revolutionary rhetoric when he did that.

The end for Batista came in December 1958.

Sensing that defeat was near, he fled, taking millions in graft with him (though according to Havana Nocturne, he left $3 million in his office safe). Castro and the rebels arrived in Havana soon thereafter. “The people won this war,” he told the assembled throngs.

A dove landed on Castro’s shoulder as he spoke.

The U.S. government had hopes for Castro, but those soon faded.

For one thing, Castro started locking up his enemies — and executing some of them. He was also hostile to Batista’s American friends; a truckload of pigs, for instance, was set loose in the lobby of the Riviera Hotel.

American gangsters — some of whom were briefly jailed and almost all of whom lost a fortune — sounded the alarm.

Lansky, who lost millions of dollars, did something most uncharacteristic for him: He went directly to the FBI and told them Castro really was a Marxist.

According to Robert Lacey’s Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, Lansky told agent Dennis O’Shea: “The time [is] ripe for communist factions to entrench themselves.”

It soon became clear that Lansky knew of what he spoke. Early on, Castro proclaimed himself in charge.

In 1960, Castro said he was indeed a Marxist-Leninist and opened diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. In October of that year, Castro nationalized U.S. holdings in Cuba. Farms were collectivized.

To its horror, the United States realized it had a genuine communist revolutionary 90 miles away, one who clearly knew he was more valuable to Nikita Khrushchev than he could ever be to the United States.

The Soviets also appreciated this bearded, cigar-smoking revolutionary in combat fatigues as something of a romantic reminder of their own past. “I felt as though I had returned to my childhood,” Soviet diplomat Anastas Mikoyan, a veteran of the 1917 Revolution, famously said after meeting Castro.

Dwight Eisenhower and then John F. Kennedy tried in vain to get Castro on board — or out of the picture. (How so? sending him orders?)

Plots were hatched to assassinate Castro.

In April 1961, the newly inaugurated Kennedy launched a CIA-planned invasion of Cuba that failed completely. It was known as the Bay of Pigs and came to symbolize everything that go wrong in a military operation.

A subsequent investigation led by Gen. Maxwell Taylor indicated, among other things, “that the Soviet Union had somehow learned the exact date of the amphibious landing in advance,” according to a Washington Post article in 2000.

“If nothing else, this deed should be enough to demonstrate how miserable are the actions of imperialism,” Castro told the Cuban people after the invasion.

As the Kennedys launched new covert schemes via Operation Mongoose to topple Castro, the Cuban leader drew closer to the Soviets.

For Castro’s protection, the Soviets began to install nuclear weapons. “What if we were to throw a hedgehog down the pants of Uncle Sam?” Khrushchev asked the Soviet defense minister at one point.

“Fidel had been preparing for a climactic confrontation with the United States for years,” Michael Dobbs wrote in One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, citing Castro’s own words that he saw it as his “true destiny.”

In October 1962, the United States detected the presence of those missiles.

According to Dobbs, it later turned out that the Soviet installation was further along than U.S. intelligence perceived — there were more missiles than thought at the time, some of them were fully deployed and there were thousands of Soviet troops on the island. But the Kennedy administration was horrified enough by what it did know.

After contemplating an immediate preemptive attack on Cuba, Kennedy opted to go public with its knowledge and blockade the island. For 13 days, the world teetered on the edge of nuclear obliteration.

According to Dobbs, Castro made it clear to Khrushchev that he would have no problem if the Soviets launched their missiles. “If they carry out an attack on Cuba, a barbaric, illegal and immoral act,” Castro wrote of the United States, “then that would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever.”

Ultimately, Kennedy and Khrushchev stepped back from the brink and resolved the matter.

Castro watched powerlessly on the sideline as the Soviets agreed to remove their weapons. “Castro was, in the end, humiliated as Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President Kennedy came to terms without him, and the missiles were removed,” Cady wrote.

A little more than a year later, Kennedy was assassinated.

His accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was known to be distributing pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans in the months before the assassination. Any other role Castro or his friends or his enemies might have played in the assassination remains pure speculation, which hasn’t stopped many from speculating.

The Fidel Castro entry in Michael Benson’s Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination notes: “Castro once said that, if CIA attempts on his life did not cease, U.S. leaders should expect payback in kind.”

As the 1960s wore on, a stalemate developed. The United States was left to use an economic boycott to try to bring Castro down.

Guevara was killed in 1967 trying to export revolution to Bolivia, but Castro seemed able to survive anything. (Later there would be reports of clumsy U.S. plots that included putting poison in his beard and/or cigars.)

In the meantime, Castro became a romantic figure to some on the American left.

“Here, apparently was the model of a revolution led by students,” wrote Todd Gitlin in The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, noting that in the early days of the Castro regime, American activists would visit Cuban students and “identified with their esprit and their defiance of the Colossus of the North.”

Even David Dellinger, a noted pacifist, would visit and write in praise of Castro’s revolution.

Later, there would be a spate of American hijackings to Cuba, by people who assumed Castro would appreciate their revolutionary fervor. (He didn’t.)

At the same time, Cuban exiles (the rich elite and their families) in the United States fought long and hard against him, occasionally at the expense of their own lives. Over decades, the exile community would generate a number of notable political figures, including Ted Cruz and such Florida figures as Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. According to the New York Times in 2006, Castro once called the Diaz-Balarts his “most repulsive enemies.”

Propped up by the Soviets, Castro could cite successes when it came to health care, literacy and international sports, among other things. But Cuba also increasingly became a police state, and great numbers of Cubans tried to flee by sea, most notably in the massive Mariel boatlift of 1980.

And Castro diverted vital resources to exporting his revolution to other Third World countries.

By the mid 1970s, Cuban troops would be fighting in Africa, most notably in a prolonged war in Angola (against the apartheid South Africa military incursions).

Friendly movements would prevail at times in Latin America — in Nicaragua in the 1980s and Venezuela two decades later — but without Castro’s durability. The United States invaded Grenada in 1983 to ensure it would not become another Cuba.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved, Castro found himself without a benefactor to counterbalance the effects of the U.S. boycott.

“Cuba’s standard of living plummeted,” Cady wrote, “but Castro — despite the economic crisis — refused internal reform and instead imposed severe austerity measures.” Ultimately it became clear to all but Castro’s most ardent defenders that his revolution had fizzled. (Not the revolution: the Capitalists embargo)

In later years, there would be some liberalization of economic policies, as well as something of a détente with the Catholic church. Tourists were once again welcomed, sometimes in what had been gangster-run hotels decades earlier. And Castro somehow remained in control.

“In his own mind,” Dobbs wrote in 2008, “Castro won a great victory over the yanqui enemy merely by remaining in power for so long. In reality he transformed the most prosperous island in the Caribbean into a defeated, impoverished country.” (What kinds of prosperity?)

Castro turned the reins over to his younger brother, Raul, in 2006. From time to time, he would still show up in the public eye.

In April 2016, the 89-year-old gave an address that was perceived as a farewell: “The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need.”

It was noted at the time that Castro’s revolution had not only outlasted Eisenhower and Kennedy, but also the administrations of 7 other U.S. presidents — and was deep in the eighth year of President Barack Obama’s, who had recently visited the island

Photo gallery

Fidel Castro: 11 photos from his revolutionary life



Helen Keller: How this  deaf-blind person received a BA degree and learned 5 languages?

Helen Keller was born on June 27th, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her parents were Kate Adams Keller and Colonel Arthur Keller.

Two years after her birth she was stricken by an illness, perhaps rubella or scarlet fever, that left her blind and deaf.

Her parents asked for the help of a teacher from the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston and soon, her life changed forever.

On March 3rd, 1887, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to Tuscumbia to be her teacher.

Helen learned five different languages & she was the first deaf-blind person to receive BA degree

Helen was  very bright but also pretty unruly and spoiled child, who, under Anne’s extraordinary instructions, achieved tremendous progress in communicating.

Anne began teaching the six-year-old Helen finger spelling. One month after her arrival, Anne had taught Keller the word “water.” She did this by using her fingers to spell letters into Helen’s hand. This is how Helen understood that objects had names

Three years later, she learned to use the hand signals of the deaf-mute, the Braille alphabet (an alphabet created by Louis Braille for the blind that relies on raised dots), and she became able to read and write. She also learned to lip-read by placing her fingers on the lips and throat of the speaker.

She began a slow process of learning to speak under Sarah Fuller of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston and later in New York City.

In 1904, she graduated with distinction from Radcliffe College.

Helen learned five different languages and she was the first deaf-blind person to receive BA degree.

She became a celebrity because of her unprecedented accomplishments in overcoming her disabilities and she even met Mark Twain who was amazed by her.

She wrote her first book The Story of My Life, during her junior year at Radcliffe.

Helen published five other books: Optimism (1903), The World I Live In (1908), My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and The Open Door (1957).

In 1913, she began lecturing by sharing her experiences with audiences and working on behalf of others living with disabilities. (That’s the way to promote any disability)

She spent most of the rest of her life as a prominent advocate for the needs and rights of the handicapped and also spoke and wrote in support of women’s rights.

in 1924, she became a member of the American Foundation for the Blind for which she later established a $2 million endowment fund.

Helen was invited to the White House by every U.S. president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson.

Another amazing story from us: A little girl who nursed her brother is the founder of American Red Cross

Helen Keller became an inspiration for many people, showing that it doesn’t matter if a person has a disability and that with hard work and determination everyone can triumph over adversity.

Hellen Keller died on June 1st, 1968.

Note: I received this comment from Kathleen Brockway

Roger O’Kelly was born same year as Helen and he became a lawyer right after Helen’s college graduation. He was important man people should talk about. He is deaf blind like her. He rather see than hear while Helen rather hear than see.

White rich people supported oral so they found helen’s statements remarkable. Roger has been ignored because they see him as dumb as deaf who signs. Really? He’s a lawyer! Brilliant lawyer! Why ignore him? Oh yes, simply also he’s black. He was ignored until his death.

He deserves the attention, not Helen. We are tired of hear about a white woman who prefers to hear than see. #truth

This paralyzed rat walked  November 26, 2016

I am a neuroscientist with a mixed background in physics and medicine.

My lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology focuses on spinal cord injury, which affects more than 50,000 people around the world every year, with dramatic consequences for affected individuals, whose life literally shatters in a matter of a handful of seconds.

Patsy Z shared this link

Astounding advances in the quest to cure spinal cord injuries:

Grégoire Courtine shows a new method that could help the body learn again to move on its own.|By Grégoire Courtine

0:39 And for me, the Man of Steel, Christopher Reeve, has best raised the awareness on the distress of spinal cord injured people. And this is how I started my own personal journey in this field of research, working with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

0:57 I still remember this decisive moment. It was just at the end of a regular day of work with the foundation. Chris addressed us, the scientists and experts, “You have to be more pragmatic. When leaving your laboratory tomorrow, I want you to stop by the rehabilitation center to watch injured people fighting to take a step, struggling to maintain their trunk. And when you go home, think of what you are going to change in your research on the following day to make their lives better.”

1:33 These words, they stuck with me. This was more than 10 years ago, but ever since, my laboratory has followed the pragmatic approach to recovery after spinal cord injury. And my first step in this direction was to develop a new model of spinal cord injury that would more closely mimic some of the key features of human injury while offering well-controlled experimental conditions.

And for this purpose, we placed two hemisections on opposite sides of the body. They completely interrupt the communication between the brain and the spinal cord, thus leading to complete and permanent paralysis of the leg. But, as observed, after most injuries in humans, there is this intervening gap of intact neural tissue through which recovery can occur. But how to make it happen?

2:24 Well, the classical approach consists of applying intervention that would promote the growth of the severed fiber to the original target. And while this certainly remained the key for a cure, this seemed extraordinarily complicated to me. To reach clinical fruition rapidly, it was obvious: I had to think about the problem differently.

2:51 It turned out that more than 100 years of research on spinal cord physiology, starting with the Nobel Prize Sherrington, had shown that the spinal cord, below most injuries, contained all the necessary and sufficient neural networks to coordinate locomotion, but because input from the brain is interrupted, they are in a nonfunctional state, like kind of dormant. My idea: We awaken this network.

3:18 And at the time, I was a post-doctoral fellow in Los Angeles, after completing my Ph.D. in France, where independent thinking is not necessarily promoted. (Laughter) I was afraid to talk to my new boss, but decided to muster up my courage. I knocked at the door of my wonderful advisor, Reggie Edgerton, to share my new idea.

3:45 He listened to me carefully, and responded with a grin. “Why don’t you try?”

3:52 And I promise to you, this was such an important moment in my career, when I realized that the great leader believed in young people and new ideas.

4:03 And this was the idea: I’m going to use a simplistic metaphor to explain to you this complicated concept. Imagine that the locomotor system is a car. The engine is the spinal cord. The transmission is interrupted. The engine is turned off. How could we re-engage the engine?

First, we have to provide the fuel; 

Second, press the accelerator pedal;

Third, steer the car.

It turned out that there are known neural pathways coming from the brain that play this very function during locomotion.

My idea: Replace this missing input to provide the spinal cord with the kind of intervention that the brain would deliver naturally in order to walk.

4:46 For this, I leveraged 20 years of past research in neuroscience, first to replace the missing fuel with pharmacological agents that prepare the neurons in the spinal cord to fire, and second, to mimic the accelerator pedal with electrical stimulation.

So here imagine an electrode implanted on the back of the spinal cord to deliver painless stimulation. It took many years, but eventually we developed an electrochemical neuroprosthesis that transformed the neural network in the spinal cord from dormant to a highly functional state.

Immediately, the paralyzed rat can stand. As soon as the treadmill belt starts moving, the animal shows coordinated movement of the leg, but without the brain. Here what I call “the spinal brain” cognitively processes sensory information arising from the moving leg and makes decisions as to how to activate the muscle in order to stand, to walk, to run, and even here, while sprinting, instantly stand if the treadmill stops moving.

5:59 This was amazing. I was completely fascinated by this locomotion without the brain, but at the same time so frustrated. This locomotion was completely involuntary. The animal had virtually no control over the legs.

Clearly, the steering system was missing. And it then became obvious from me that we had to move away from the classical rehabilitation paradigm, stepping on a treadmill, and develop conditions that would encourage the brain to begin voluntary control over the leg.

6:36 With this in mind, we developed a completely new robotic system to support the rat in any direction of space. Imagine, this is really cool. So imagine the little 200-gram rat attached at the extremity of this 200-kilo robot, but the rat does not feel the robot. The robot is transparent, just like you would hold a young child during the first insecure steps.

7:05 Let me summarize: The rat received a paralyzing lesion of the spinal cord. The electrochemical neuroprosthesis enabled a highly functional state of the spinal locomotor networks.

The robot provided the safe environment to allow the rat to attempt anything to engage the paralyzed legs. And for motivation, we used what I think is the most powerful pharmacology of Switzerland: fine Swiss chocolate.

7:38 Actually, the first results were very, very, very disappointing. Here is my best physical therapist completely failing to encourage the rat to take a single step, whereas the same rat, five minutes earlier, walked beautifully on the treadmill. We were so frustrated.

8:07 But you know, one of the most essential qualities of a scientist is perseverance. We insisted. We refined our paradigm, and after several months of training, the otherwise paralyzed rat could stand, and whenever she decided, initiated full weight-bearing locomotion to sprint towards the rewards. This is the first recovery ever observed of voluntary leg movement after an experimental lesion of the spinal cord leading to complete and permanent paralysis.

8:49 In fact, not only could the rat initiate and sustain locomotion on the ground, they could even adjust leg movement, for example, to resist gravity in order to climb a staircase. I can promise you this was such an emotional moment in my laboratory. It took us 10 years of hard work to reach this goal.

9:12 But the remaining question was, how? I mean, how is it possible? And here, what we found was completely unexpected. This novel training paradigm encouraged the brain to create new connections, some relay circuits that relay information from the brain past the injury and restore cortical control over the locomotor networks below the injury.

And here, you can see one such example, where we label the fibers coming from the brain in red. This blue neuron is connected with the locomotor center, and what this constellation of synaptic contacts means is that the brain is reconnected with the locomotor center with only one relay neuron.

But the remodeling was not restricted to the lesion area. It occurred throughout the central nervous system, including in the brain stem, where we observed up to 300-percent increase in the density of fibers coming from the brain. We did not aim to repair the spinal cord, yet we were able to promote one of the more extensive remodeling of axonal projections ever observed in the central nervous system of adult mammal after an injury.

10:35 And there is a very important message hidden behind this discovery. They are the result of a young team of very talented people: physical therapists, neurobiologists, neurosurgeons, engineers of all kinds, who have achieved together what would have been impossible by single individuals.

This is truly a trans-disciplinary team. They are working so close to each other that there is horizontal transfer of DNA. We are creating the next generation of M.D.’s and engineers capable of translating discoveries all the way from bench to bedside. And me? I am only the maestro who orchestrated this beautiful symphony.

11:27 Now, I am sure you are all wondering, aren’t you, will this help injured people? Me too, every day. The truth is that we don’t know enough yet. This is certainly not a cure for spinal cord injury, but I begin to believe that this may lead to an intervention to improve recovery and people’s quality of life.

11:57 I would like you all to take a moment and dream with me. Imagine a person just suffered a spinal cord injury. After a few weeks of recovery, we will implant a programmable pump to deliver a personalized pharmacological cocktail directly to the spinal cord.

At the same time, we will implant an electrode array, a sort of second skin covering the area of the spinal cord controlling leg movement, and this array is attached to an electrical pulse generator that delivers stimulations that are tailored to the person’s needs.

This defines a personalized electrochemical neuroprosthesis that will enable locomotion during training with a newly designed supporting system. And my hope is that after several months of training, there may be enough remodeling of residual connection to allow locomotion without the robot, maybe even without pharmacology or stimulation.

My hope here is to be able to create the personalized condition to boost the plasticity of the brain and the spinal cord. And this is a radically new concept that may apply to other neurological disorders, what I termed “personalized neuroprosthetics,” where by sensing and stimulating neural interfaces, I implanted throughout the nervous system, in the brain, in the spinal cord, even in peripheral nerves, based on patient-specific impairments. But not to replace the lost function, no — to help the brain help itself.

13:45 And I hope this enticed your imagination, because I can promise to you this is not a matter of whether this revolution will occur, but when. And remember, we are only as great as our imagination, as big as our dream.




November 2016

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