Why is Obama playing telephone with Castro?

I don't quite understand the point of this:

U.S. President Barack Obama asked Spain to pass Cuba a message on the need for democratic reform when he met Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero earlier this month, according to a U.S. official....

"When (Obama) learned that Foreign Minister Moratinos was about to go to Havana, he suggested that Moratinos urge the Castro regime to take steps to reform and improve human rights," the U.S. official said on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity....

The U.S. request to deliver a message to Cuba was first reported by Spain's El Pais newspaper, which said Obama talked of a potential turning point in the relationship with Havana, but said it was important for Cuba take some steps.

"Have (Moratinos) tell the Cuban authorities we understand that change can't happen overnight, but down the road, when we look back at this time, it should be clear that now is when those changes began," Obama told Zapatero, according to diplomatic sources quoted by El Pais.

 I have a feeling that after half a century, the Castro brothers probably realize that the U.S. doesn't much like the way they run their country and don't need the Spanish foreign minister to tell them. And if Obama has something new to say to the Cuban regime, why can't he say it himself, if not through his own envoy than through a letter.

It sends a pretty strange message that the administration is unwilling to have any direct contact with the Cuban regime, even just to admonish them, but seems to have no problem with other countries doing it. 


BNP more divisive than ever

Hopes that inviting a racist party member to prime-time television questioning would detract from his appeal were dashed last week. Ratings for the far-right British Nationalist Party increased following leader Nick Griffin's appearance on the influential BBC program Question Time.

The show on Thursday had a record eight million viewers, and Griffin gleefully assured the public that his party fielded 3,000 membership inquiries after his appearance. Twenty-two percent of voters said they would seriously consider voting for the BNP in a national election. This is especially interesting in light of the fact that the country is currently gearing up for general election.

The BBC argued that impartiality dictated that the BNP receive airtime, given that the party won two seats on the European Parliament this summer. But, apparently nobody was pleased: the BBC was inundated with protests while taping the show, and now Griffin himself is filing a complaint that he faced an orchestrated lynch mob. The show should have been taped somewhere less multi-cultural than London, he said.

Do it somewhere where there are still significant numbers of English and British people [living], and they haven't been ethnically cleansed from their own country."

He added: "There is not much support for me there [in London], because the place is dominated by ethnic minorities. There is an ethnic minority that supports me: the English. But there's not many of them left."

Hopefully the hype is painting too bleak a picture. The party -- which is "wholly opposed to any form of racial integration between British and non-European peoples" -- has been roundly condemned as racist and extremist by all of the mainstream politicians and pundits. Two thirds of Britains voters still say they would never vote for the BNP, under any circumstances. Pop-star Lily Allen's (slightly NSFW) "homage" to the party seems to best express their view: "we're so uninspired, so sick and tired, of all the hatred you harbor."

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