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Cuba starts handing out sentences following historic protests

HAVANA — An anti-government hip hop song by some of Cuba’s most popular musicians in exile became the anthem of the unprecedented protests that rocked the Communist-run country last week.

Now the visual artist who filmed the Cuban section of the videoclip for “Patria y Vida” (‘Homeland and Life’), Anyelo Troya, 25, has been sentenced to a year in prison, according to relatives. He was charged with instigating unrest, they said, after attending a demonstration in Havana.

Rights activists say this is just the start of what they predict will be a wave of summary trials of hundreds of people detained during and after the unusual protests on July 11 and 12 that the government has blamed on U.S.-backed counter-revolutionaries.

“They took him to trial without defense or lawyer or anything,” Troya’s mother Raisa Gonzalez told Reuters after witnessing his sentencing in what she called a collective trial of around a dozen people.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry’s International Press Center, which fields all requests from foreign journalists for comment from state entities, did not immediately reply to request for comment on the cases mentioned in this article.

Authorities confirmed on Tuesday they had started the trials of those detained on charges of instigating unrest, committing vandalism, propagating the coronavirus pandemic, or assault, charges that could carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.

“There are people who will receive the response that Cuban legislation allows for, and it will be energetic,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on state television last week. He promised there would be due legislative procedure.

But Gonzalez said she was not informed of her son’s trial in time and when she arrived at the court with her lawyer, he had already been convicted. The trial was denounced by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) for taking place without proper defense or due process.

Troya had already been under heightened vigilance for his participation in the song, whose headline is a twist on the revolutionary slogan ‘Patria o Muerte’ (‘Homeland or Death’), his mother said.

Javier Larrondo, a representative of the human rights organization Cuban Prisoners Defenders, said authorities would likely lock up the most charismatic and effective opposition leaders, who lately have often been young artists, whether or not they were at the protests.

“We will have hundreds of political prisoners in just two weeks,” he said.

The protests against Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades and curbs on civil liberties first erupted ten days ago in a small town before spreading throughout the country. By the evening of day two, they appeared to have dissipated amid heavy security operations and internet disruptions.

The government blamed mercenaries exploiting frustrations with hardships caused by U.S. sanctions.

Exiled rights group Cubalex, which has established a spreadsheet of those detained that it updates every day as new reports come in, says more than 500 Cubans appear to have been detained during the protests or afterwards.

It said the tally was likely higher, but some families may fear reporting the arrest of relatives in case of reprisals such as losing their state sector jobs.

Some of those detained, like theater director Yunior Garcia, have been released to house arrest.

“I have four officials in front of my door preventing me going out,” Garcia told Reuters, which observed the officials. “When I go to buy food or cigarettes, one of them goes with me to keep a close eye on me.”

The majority of those detained have been kept incommunicado, while the location of some is still unknown, said Cubalex and HRW, based on interviews with relatives.

Cubans have been posting photos of people they say they cannot locate or sharing stories of detentions on a Facebook group called ‘Disappeared #SOSCuba’ with more than 10,000 members.

“We went from police station to police station looking for her,” said Alberto Betancourt of his sister, a stay-at-home mother-of-two who was detained at a protest in Havana. He located her after six days.

“They won’t let me speak to her,” he told Reuters, holding back tears. “But she’s not a criminal. She just let herself be swept up in the crowds.”

Cuban interior ministry officials denied on Tuesday that anyone was missing and said a list of detainees circulating — they did not specify which — was manipulated and included people who were never detained.

The detained include high profile dissidents like Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who also featured in “Patria y Vida,” and Jose Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the country’s largest opposition group. They also include ordinary citizens and bystanders, families and rights groups say.

Many of those detained had been beaten or mistreated by security forces or rapid-reaction brigades — government-organized bands of civilian recruits, said HRW senior researcher Juan Pappier.

Used to quiet streets, Cubans have been shocked over the last week by images of violence that have emerged on social media: security forces and bands of stick-wielding people in civilian garb beating protesters, as well as protesters throwing stones at police and overturning police cars.

Diaz-Canel said last week “maybe there will be a need for apologies to anyone who, in the middle of all the confusion, has been mistreated,” and defended security forces’ actions to re-establish “peace.”

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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