Passport

Castro contemplates mortality

Two new Castro death-watch developments today: first, a new photo has been released of the Cuban leader meeting with meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. In the picture, the track-suited Castro looks healthier and seems to have gained a bit of weight since his last appearance, suggesting that reports of his imminent death may have been exaggerated.

Second, in his new "Reflections of Fidel" column, Castro praises Barack Obama for closing Guantanamo Bay and reflects on his "intelligent and noble face," but predicts he will not see the end of Obama's first term:

I have shortened my "Reflections," just as I resolved to do this year, in order not to interfere or get in the way of the comrades of the Party and state as they make constant decisions about objective difficulties stemming from the world economic crisis. I am fine, but I insist, none of them should feel constrained by any of my Reflections, the seriousness of my condition or my death.

I am reviewing the speeches and materials I have elaborated over more than half a century.

I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long period of time. I receive information and meditate calmly on the events. I don’t expect to have that privilege in four years, when Obama’s first presidential term will have concluded.

Photo: Government of Argentina 

Passport

French raise cheese stink for Obama

Those cheese-eating French are already giving Barack Obama a hard time. No...really.

Apparently one of George W. Bush's last acts as president was to triple tariffs on French roquefort cheese. This was meant as retaliation for the longstanding French ban on U.S. beef imports. But as Charles Bremner notes, many French were quick to see it as Bush's final shot at the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" who had so aggravated him during the run-up to the Iraq war.

French roquefort producers, including anti-globalization icon and dairy farmer Jose Bove, are protesting the move to "hold roquefort hostage" and are demanding that Obama reverse Bush's decision. The French parliament is debating a measure to slap tariffs on Coca-Cola in "symbol against symbol" retaliation. As a not-so-subtle hint, the governor of the roquefort-producing Mid-Pyrenees region even sent Obama a deluxe box of roquefort (shown above) as a welcoming gift. Repealing the beef ban is out of the question for health reasons, say officials.

The last thing Obama wants right now is to get into a trade war with France over a last-minute decision by his predecessor, particularly when he's looking for French cooperation on far more pressing issues. But even the farmers seem to realize that the "cheese wars" are not particularly high on Obama's list right now. "The boy must have a lot of priorities," acknowledged the head of one agricultural union.

Umm...yeah. I would say so. And you probably shouldn't be calling him "boy" either.

Photo: PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images