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Cuba Sells Condoms After Expiration Dates To Address Shortage

By Juan O. Tamayo, The Miami Herald

Hoping to resolve a shortage of condoms that has sparked complaints around Cuba, the island’s public health system has approved the sale of more than one million prophylactics with apparently expired dates.

Pharmacy sales personnel must explain to the buyers that the condoms are good and simply have the wrong expiration dates, said a report Saturday in Vanguardia, the newspaper of the Communist Party in the central province of Villa Clara.

A Vanguardia report April 3 on the shortage said that the government agency in charge of certifying medical items in 2012 had noticed erroneous expiration dates on the “Moments” prophylactics imported from China.

The agency ordered the that the condoms be repackaged with the correct dates, the newspaper reported. But the state-run enterprise repackaging the more than a million condoms in stock does not have enough workers to process the 5,000 condoms per day required just in Villa Clara province.

Vanguardia did not publish the “wrong” dates, but its report hinted that they showed the prophylactics had expired or would soon expire. The shelf life of condoms is very long, it said.

“Although the lots are in optimal conditions, under the certificate of the Center for the State Control of Medicines and Medical Equipment the condoms could not be sold without the new expiration date, December of 2014,” Vanguardia reported Saturday.

“Due to the irregularities in the re-packaging, which has provoked prolonged absences of the prophylactics throughout the country, the Public Health Ministry authorized the sale of the ‘Moments’ condoms in their current packages,” on April 4, the newspaper added.

Several Cuban bloggers commented on the shortage long after April 4, with some noting that it could lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

The Cuban government, meanwhile, also published a list of companies around the world that are authorized to ship packages to the island, a business hit routinely with complaints of lost packages, high prices and outright fraud.

The list “will allow those who send these types of shipments from abroad to confirm that the agency they plan to use is among those authorized to carry out those operations with Cuba,” said a report in the government-controlled Cubadebate website.

The U.S. companies listed were: Wilson Int; Service Inc; Machi Community Services; Va Cuba; Caribe Express; Vía Cuba; Flor Caribe Inc; Caribbean Family And Travel Services Inc; Aztec Worldwide Airlines Inc; Procurements Systems Inc; Crowley Logistics Inc; Frontline Cargo Logistic; International Port Corp; Ez Shipping Llc; Centrotrading Llc; and V.I.P INTL INC.

The list, compiled by Cuba’s customs agency, also included Cugranca, a Spanish firm as approved to provide delivery and currency exchange services for people in the United States.

JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gino Reyes

Exclusive: Anti-Tax Crusader Speaks Out Against Default “Experiment”

As president of Americans for Tax Reform, the right-wing activist and lobbyist Grover Norquist defers to nobody in his zeal to slash government spending and cut taxes, no matter the consequences. His organization’s famed “anti-tax pledge” bears the signature of nearly every Republican member of Congress — and all of them evidently fear that he would denounce them for violating its stringent terms.

Yet as the White House, Senate and House leaders struggle to reach agreement on spending and taxes before the August 2 debt limit doomsday, even Norquist appeared to waver — suggesting to the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday that he wouldn’t attack Congress for letting the Bush tax cuts expire, before following up with strong statement Thursday indicating the opposite.

If Norquist is flipping and flopping, the reason is simple. Unlike the Tea Party Republicans, but much like his supporters in the business community, he is troubled by the potential consequences of an impending and unprecedented default. As Norquist told The National Memo today in an interview:

“I am not an advocate or adherent of the position I have heard some state, that a default would be ‘not a big deal’ or ‘would strengthen the hand of those arguing for limited government.’ I worry that handing the executive branch control over what bills to pay is not a wise move….even when they would have less cash to spend.”

Norquist went on to say that “a ‘shutdown’ or ‘default’ or ‘wobbly walk around the rim of default’ would be, as my mother would say, ‘unhelpful.’ How unhelpful? I don’t know, [and I’m] not real interested in finding out. Let’s experiment on a smaller country.”

Leaving aside his trademark flippancy, Norquist’s concern that a default “experiment” might go badly wrong puts him in direct conflict with Tea Party Republicans — such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), now a leading presidential contender — who insist they won’t vote to raise the debt limit and don’t fear the consequences. Clearly, he is concerned by the consequences, as are many business leaders at companies that have donated heavily to Americans for Tax Reform.

At the same time that Norquist acknowledges the dangers of default, he bristles at the notion of tolerating any tax increase on anybody as part of a debt limit deal. He sounds as if he means to hold House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the pledge, even as reports of their negotiations with the White House claim that the Republican leaders are considering a deal that would include revenue increases.

“I support Boehner and McConnell’s stated positions that they want significant, real, enforceable spending restraint and no tax hike in return for a hike in the debt ceiling,” said Norquist. “They are willing to compromise on the size of the spending restraint. Not on the tax hike.” He obliquely warned both leaders that “it is key for the GOP not to be seen putting their fingerprints on a tax hike or phony spending cuts. That would make it difficult to go to unaffiliated voters in 2012 and argue that [Republicans] are the antidote to Obama spending.”

But there is a contradiction in Norquist’s position as well as the positions taken by Boehner and McConnell — if only President Obama were willing to draw it out rather than surrender to his opponents, as news reports suggest he is now preparing to do. Anyone who regards default as perilous to the nation’s economic health and safety, including even the most anti-tax conservatives, should be willing to reach an honest compromise with Democrats to avert that fate.

In a poker game, Norquist’s admission that he worries about default would be considered a “tell” — the involuntary signal of a bluff. Neither he nor the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill want to take the country over the default cliff. But the president doesn’t seem to be able to see past all the huffing and bluffing.

Watch The National Memo’s Editor-in-Chief Discuss The Piece On MSNBC’s Morning Joe On Friday

Republican Tax King Frees Lawmakers To Let Bush Tax Cuts Expire

Grover Norquist, whose conservative watchdog group Americans for Tax Reform has convinced basically every Republican running for Congress over the last decade to sign a never-raise-any-taxes pledge, told The Washington Post‘s editorial board that, to their (and, I think, the world’s) astonishment, that GOP congressmen who vote to let some or all Bush tax cuts expire would not be in violation of their sacred oath:

With a handful of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer, and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.

In other words, according to Mr. Norquist’s interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue — the cost of extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another decade — without being accused of breaking their promise. “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn’t violate the pledge? “We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he said.

Epic news. This makes a deal on the debt ceiling much more plausible, and should cheer progressives who want to see the biggest, most regressive tax cut in U.S. history–and by far the greatest driver of the deficit–fall by the wayside.