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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Date: October 15, 2014

Guest: Karin Huster, Devi Nampiaparampil, Ben Goldberger, David Rothkopf,
Nadia Malik, Sam Youngman

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, about your pants.


I mean, if you think you can say you don`t know if I`m wearing pants and
then go on with the saying like anyone is going to be thinking anything
else. Rachel --

RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: I can assure you --

O`DONNELL: Do you want to stand up now?


O`DONNELL: OK. All right. We`re going to leave it. It`s your life, it`s
your secret.

MADDOW: Let`s leave it, shall we? Thank you, Lawrence. Bye.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

She said it, she really did.

Hillary Clinton went back to Kentucky tonight to try to help Alison Grimes
beat Mitch McConnell, and President Obama canceled a trip today to stay in
the White House overseeing the government`s public health battle with


TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: If this one individual was infected, then it`s
possible that other individuals could have been infected as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news. The CDC says the second health care
worker to test positive for Ebola.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second health care worker at Texas Health
Presbyterian Hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That night patient is Amber Vinson, diagnosed

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She helped treat Thomas Eric Duncan before he died last

protocols were in place.

is reviewing exactly what we know about what`s happening in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Texas Presbyterian has a lot of questions to answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think we have a systematic institutional
problem. But we`re looking at every element.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We also know the CDC is working to identify 132

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vinson traveled by air on Monday evening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who were on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vinson boarded that flight with a fever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had actually called the CDC because she was self-

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is self-policing that we`re asking for, even
among health care workers.

SYLVIA BURWELL, HHS SECRETARY: I think we believe we could have done much

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Health and Human Services Director Sylvia Burwell was
pressed on the CDC`s response.

BURWELL: I do have confidence in the CDC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half the story here, as you will know, is the fear

UNIDENTIFIED MAEL: It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mood on the ground as you might imagine, a bit

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are really worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While Dallas is anxious about this, we are not fearful.


O`DONNELL: Tonight, NBC News has learned that the second nurse to have
contracted Ebola at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, Amber Joy Vinson, called
the CDC to report that she had a fever, a slight fever before boarding that
Frontier Airlines plane to return to Dallas from Cleveland, Ohio, on

Amber Vinson was one of 77 people who had been in contact with Ebola
patient Thomas Eric Duncan and who were classified as, quote, "uncertain

Those 77 people were reporting their body temperatures to CDC teams
routinely and a government official tells NBC News when Amber Vinson
reported a fever of 99.5, the person at the CDC didn`t tell her not to fly,
but also did not give her permission to fly.

CDC guidelines say a person of uncertain risk can fly as long as their
temperature is below 100.4. We also know that she did not have a fever
when she boarded the first flight from Dallas to Cleveland. That is what
the head of the CDC said today about her travel.


DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: She should not have traveled on a
commercial airline. The CDC guidance in this setting outlines the need for
what is called controlled movement that can include a charter plane. That
can include car, but it does not include public transport.

We will from this moment forward ensure that no other individual who is
being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than
controlled movement.


O`DONNELL: Late today, Vinson was taken from Texas Presbyterian Hospital
by ambulance to Dallas Love Field and put on a special jet. She arrived at
Emory University Hospital in Atlanta tonight to receive treatment in
Emory`s special containment unit. Emory is the hospital that successfully
treated both American Ebola patients who were brought back from Africa.

The union representing nurses was critical today of the way Texas
Presbyterian Hospital handled Thomas Eric Duncan even before it was
confirmed that he had Ebola.


DEBORAH BURGER, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: Mr. Duncan was left for several
hours not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present.
Subsequently, a nurse supervisor demanded that he be moved to an isolation
unit, yet faced resistance from other hospital authorities.


O`DONNELL: Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken some criticism all week for
continuing his tour of Europe this week. And today, he announced that he
will cut that trip short and return to Texas tomorrow.

And tonight, the White House announced President Obama cancelled his travel
schedule. He cancelled it for today. He`s also cancelling it now for
tomorrow. That makes it two days in a row that the president will stay in
Washington to monitor the government`s response to the Ebola crisis.

Joining us now, Karin Huster, is a registered nurse with a masters in
public health, who trained Ebola health care workers in Liberia. Dr. Devi
Nampiaparampil, assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine. And
Ben Goldberger is nation editor for "Time" magazine.

First of all, Dr. Devi, I`m wondering about, we`ve had people sit in these
chairs a couple of weeks ago, doctors, saying it`s not easy to get Ebola.
It is not airborne. You could sit -- one of them said you could sit beside
an Ebola patient on an aircraft and not worry about it.

We seem to be getting a totally different feeling about that tonight.

thing here is the uncertainty. I mean, we`re getting different messages
from the hospital and from the CDC, depending on who you talk to.

So, you know, the fact is at least based on what we know so far, people can
only get Ebola from contact with bodily fluids. So people seem to be safe,
but it is concerning that there`s a discrepancy in terms of what people are

O`DONNELL: What kind of contact? I mean, this patient at the worst of it,
there was a lot of diarrhea and there was a lot of vomit. So, if some
vomit were to touch my wrist, is that it? Is that all it takes?

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Probably not. I mean, it has to enter your body. So, the
virus has to be able to enter your bloodstream, or, you know, some of your
other bodily fluids. You got to have a mixing of bodily fluids.

The fact is, we don`t have -- you know, there is a lot of uncertainty about
Ebola. We don`t know all the answers. It`s a work in progress. But we do
have information from, you know, what`s been learned in the past in
previous outbreaks and here as well.

I mean, one of my concerns, you know, here -- in terms of a fever, 99.5,
you know, we don`t say that that`s a fever automatically, because there is
some uncertainty about what actually --

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, the temperature fluctuates a percentage point
easily. I`ve had my temperature taken many times and it was in the 99s and
they took it to be exactly the same as 98.6.

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Exactly, because 98.6 is considered normal. If you`re
97.6, no one would say that`s abnormal, right?


NAMPIAPARAMPIL: It seems just a little depending -- you know, maybe the
conditions, if you`re exercising, if your hormones are affecting you and
stuff. So, things can change. I don`t know that temperature is
necessarily concerning but the fact that people are saying two different
things is alarming. I mean, the nurse called to ask for advice and, you
know, we have to wonder when people are giving advice, do they really know
exactly what should be done.

O`DONNELL: And, Ben, according to the CDC today, one of their rules about
this is if you`re in a possible suspect group, as this nurse was, you`re
not supposed to be on public transportation, airplanes, trains, subways,
buses. No public transportation.

BEN GOLDBERGER, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, that`s exactly it. And even though
all of our temperatures fluctuate, 99 is not a particularly alarming
temperature. It is if you`re one of 76 people who are known to have come
in contact with a person who died of Ebola. It`s incredibly striking. And
that`s one of the things that is particularly alarming about the reports
breaking just tonight.

O`DONNELL: But what do we know as of now about -- the CDC said that today.
But do we know that these nurses were told that before she ever got on an

GOLDBERGER: No. In fact, one of the biggest problems here is that there`s
very little that that we do know for certain. That CDC has said certain
things. They changed since then. The hospital has said very little. We
may learn more when their chief clinician testifies at a House Subcommittee
hearing tomorrow.

But we have absolutely no idea what the nurses were told. The extent of it
as of now is just that report that you excerpted earlier today from the
nurses union, and even that is completely unverified.


Karin Huster, based on everything we`ve heard about this -- and given your
experience out in the field and seeing this -- the real center of Ebola in
West Africa, what is your guess at this point about what happened with
these two nurses?

that we are taking a hard look at what we`re doing in the United States,
because we have been so far caring for eight patients in total, I believe,
and we have had two health care staff who`ve been infected.

Contrast this with Western Africa, for example, Doctors Without Borders
who`s been taking care of over -- well over 4,000 patients and they have
had very few of their health fact infected. They have some of them, but
much less.

So, what I think they do very well is that they have stringent, scrupulous
infection control measures that are in place. And nobody that isn`t
trained according to their guidelines is allowed to provide care to a
patient who is sick with Ebola.

So, that`s one key thing, I think, that is missing is that this
preparedness, this training that nursing, janitors, lab technicians,
anybody who might come in contact with somebody who might be sick with
Ebola would receive, for example, if they were working at a Doctors Without
Borders center in Liberia or in Sierra Leon or in Guinea, even.

And you have to keep in mind these health care workers are working in very
difficult conditions with 20, 30 patients in the same room. And yet the
infection rates are much less among the Doctors Without Borders staff. So,
we might want to reach to organizations such as this to see, you know, what
is it that they know that we don`t know? Or what is it that they do so
well that we don`t seem to be doing so well?

It`s the same with equipment. I think that the CDC before, they just
changed, I believe, but the requirements for the personal protective
equipment was different from what health care workers that are in contact
with patients who are sick Ebola have to wear. So much more stringent
requirements in West Africa compared to, so far, what we`ve seen from the
requirements that the CDC has put forth. But I believe that today that has
changed. The CDC is putting new guidelines in place to have health care
workers wear appropriate equipment.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, the thing I think a lot of people are still struggling
with is really technically how can this happen? Because -- I mean, as you
said, it can`t just be that one of those bodily fluids touches my skin. It
has to be that one of those infectious bodily fluids gets into my system.
And we`re trying to imagine how that could happen.

And, by the way, there`s no nurse anywhere in the world who isn`t careful
about this with any patient. It`s not like they go in there and they clean
up these diarrhea messes and these vomit messes and they don`t take every
precaution to avoid coming in contact with it in any way. They have the
gloves and all sorts of ways in preventing coming in contact with that on a
routine basis.

So, give us some idea. This would have to be a nurse who doesn`t notice
that there`s some exposure to this stuff somewhere on her. Which would
mean it would have to be almost microscopic, wouldn`t it? Her eye wouldn`t
pick it up.

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: It could be microscopic. I mean, the other thing to think
about is are there surfaces where it`s getting transferred. You know, for
example, if they`re using -- with a vomiting basin, is there something
that`s going on there? There are also a lot of lines when people are in
ICU. I mean, we have a lot of different tubes and I.V.s and other things
in patients, there`s more --

O`DONNELL: OK, but, but, let`s assume that the nurse has somehow picked it
up. The nurse then somehow has to somehow get it in her system. Is that
by rubbing the eye or something like that? Or how would that happen?

NAMPIAPARAMPIL: Well, it could be. So, the thing is, in terms of removing
a lot of this gear, I think that`s probably where errors occur. I mean, we
don`t know for sure, right, because we don`t know exactly what happened,
but that`s the highest risk, because if you have the gear on, it`s
protecting you, right? And then when you try to take it off, I mean, there
are issues like, how do you get it off without contaminating yourself that
way? So, that`s something to keep in mind.

I mean, one thing I think is that people are being a little bit more risky
in terms of -- you know, like President Obama for example, was kissing and
hugging some of the health care workers. I think, those are unnecessary

O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to have to break it there for tonight.
Karin Huster, Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, and Ben Goldberger, thank you all
very much for joining me tonight. Thank you.

HUSTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai versus the
Islamic State.

And in the "Rewrite", Fidel Castro speaks. Castro actually responded to a
historic "New York Times" editorial this weekend, calling for an end to the
Cuban embargo.

And thinks he has a better idea than the Apple Watch and the
iPhone, and he unveiled his new tech toy today.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, one analyst`s idea about how Malala Yousafzai could
be the key to fighting the Islamic State.



would come and he would just kill me. But then I said, if he comes, what
would you do, Malala? I would reply to myself, Malala, just take a shoe
and hit him. Then, I said, I tell him how important an education is and
that I want education for your children as well. And I will tell him,
that`s what I want to tell you, now, do what you want.


O`DONNELL: The extraordinary Malala Yousafzai on "The Daily Show" last

Now, Malala has become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize for
her courageous fight for girl`s education, a fight she continued even after
the Taliban tried to kill her in 2012.


YOUSAFZAI: You all may know that in Swat, there was Talibanization, and
because of that, no girl was allowed to go to school. At that time, I
stood up for my rights and said I would speak up. I did not wait for
someone else. I did not wait for someone else.

I had really two options. One was not to speak and wait to be killed. And
the second one was to speak and to be killed.

And I chose the second one, because at that time, there was terrorism,
women were not allowed to go outside of their houses. Education was
totally banned. People were killed. And that time, I needed to raise my
voice because I wanted to go back to school.


O`DONNELL: Malala may be the key to fighting against the Islamic state
says my next guest, David Rothkopf, who writes, "In a world in which one of
the greatest international threats comes from the spread of Islamist
extremist groups, it is urgent that we also realize how essential
empowering women is to defeating jihadists.

Joining me now, David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of "Foreign Policy
Magazine", and Nadia Malik, co-founder and CEO for the Global Partnership
for Women and Girls.

OK, David, you`ve got this conversation started. Tell us how you see
Malala standing against the Islamic State?

good job of standing up against the Taliban to begin with.

But the bigger issue we face here is extremism. And there are a number of
ways that one must fight extremism. There are cases where you must fight
it in a military way.

But if you`re going to eliminate it or push it aside, you have to have
something to replace it. And that requires political solutions like giving
Sunnis representation in Iraq. But beyond that, one of the key thrusts
that we can make is focusing on empowering women, by educating them, by
giving them jobs, by giving them a place in society, because we have found
that countries that don`t do that are the least stable. They have the most
troubled economies. They are the ones where extremism breeds.

If you look at the rankings of places in terms of gender equality and the
treatment of women, the ones at the very bottom of the list are the ones
that lead in the headlines every night, whether it`s Yemen or Syria or
Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran or Pakistan. And the ones that treat women the
best are at the very top of lists of happiness, of quality of life, of
economic performance, like the countries of Scandinavia.

And so, I think we need to look at this and say empowering women is not a
soft issue as some of the tough guys in Washington could like to suggest.
It is an absolutely critical step to making societies immune to the kinds
of medieval approaches that ISIS is pushing.

O`DONNELL: And, Nadia, when the oppression of women in this male
domination and trying to keep them out of schools is being pushed with a
religious justification, doesn`t that make it all the more difficult to

many layers to this nuanced conversation, and I think what we have to
recognize is that women cannot do this alone. We can`t go in and have
Malalas of the world take the stage and effectuate change in a way that`s
appropriate with a local and cultural context. We need to engage women and
girls, men and boys in a way that`s locally appropriate, so there`s not
that feeling of a Western centric agenda being imposed on a society that is
already suspect.

O`DONNELL: What would be your approach in a community where the male
dominant position is women, girls, should not be educated in any way? I
mean, where does the conversation begin there?

MALIK: I can only speak from example. A project we support in Afghanistan
supports imams and in the space of their mosque create a safe space for not
men and boys but women and girls, so the true Islam that we all know, what
we`re hearing from ISIS and other people is a political agenda, has nothing
to do with the true essence of Islam. And through these trainings, it`s
creating not a band-aid where you`re simply sending somebody to school, but
it`s starting at a very young age, people are hearing the same message.
They`re seeing their imams lead through example. They`re seeing their
imams accepting their daughters to school and they`re seeing their
daughters have an opportunity to make a choice.

And that`s -- and in societies like that where the imam plays such a
pivotal role in the day-to-day decisions that people make, it starts from
the top down.

O`DONNELL: David Rothkopf, thank you for starting this conversation.

And, Nadia Malik, thanks for joining us. Thank you.

MALIK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail

And after "The New York Times" ran a historic editorial this weekend
calling for the normalization of the relations with Cuba, who do you think
had the more ridiculous response to that editorial? Fidel Castro or a
certain United States senator? Tweet us your guesses on that one. I know,
you`re going to guess that one pretty easily.


O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, she`s back.




It`s really quite simple. Either you think that`s a good thing for hard-
working families and our children and you want to build it and make it
better and fix what`s wrong with it, or you want to pull out health care
reform root and branch. Just look at what business as usual in Washington
has produced. Remember the government shutdown?

And if you need more reasons, what about the sequester? What about the
sequester? Do you remember that word?

Aren`t you just so tired of the double standard that gives tax breaks to
companies that ship American jobs overseas?

That`s one I`ve never understood. I fought it as a senator.

My husband raised the minimum wage when he was president. I voted to raise
the minimum wage when I was a senator.

No one who works hard every day should have to end up still living in
poverty, not in this state, not in this country.


O`DONNELL: Hillary Clinton`s appearance on the campaign trail comes as
Alison Grimes continues to refer to herself as a, quote, "Clinton
Democrat," distancing herself from President Obama.

Yesterday, the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee announced it`s
pulling its advertising money from Kentucky and redirecting it to states
like Georgia and Colorado.

Joining me now is Sam Youngman, political reporter for "the Lexington
Herald leader" and a contributor to "the Daily Beast" and Karen Finney,
MSNBC political analyst and former DNC communications director.

Karen, you know, it`s never a good sign when the party pulls out of the
state in a Senate race like this. That normal interpretation, the standard
interpretation is that the party is giving up on Allison Lundgren-Grimes
beating Mitch McConnell, even with Hillary Clinton touting in there tonight
to help. And so they`re pulling the party money out of that state and
putting it somewhere where they think they can win.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s true. Although, it was
interesting that today, I think, it was, the DSCC actually, the Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee, actually walked that back a little bit and
said that they are going to continue to spend some money on polling. So
I`m very curious to know the flurry of phone calls that might have gone
back and forth yesterday after that announcement.

But you`re right. In general, that`s what, you know, the read technically
is, is that OK, you`re suggesting that perhaps this race is no longer
viable, winnable, we`ve got to put our resources elsewhere. I mean, you
know, you have to give Alison Lundergan Grimes credit. I mean, she has
kept us a close race from the beginning and her, she just announced third
quarter fundraising and it is quite impressive.

O`DONNELL: Sam Youngman, show much can Hillary Clinton help Alison Grimes
in Kentucky?

they are hoping a great deal, I think. Actually, I think Hillary Clinton
already helped Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky because she helped
change the narrative from what it`s been for the past week which is, you
know, Alison Lundergan Grimes refusing to say whether or not she voted for
the president. I wouldn`t say an uneven debate performance. But it
certainly wasn`t the home run that she needed, you know. I think and then,
of course, we spent the last two days talking about the DSCC pulling out of
the Kentucky.

So I think tonight Alison Lundergan Grimes got the boost she needed from
Hillary Clinton and I think she`ll probably get a good ad out of it, too.

O`DONNELL: And Karen, the other thing that is interesting about it is
Hillary Clinton going in there while the party seems to be pulling back
resources, which is to say while some political professionals in Washington
are thinking, it looks like McConnell has this thing. Hillary Clinton is
not afraid to go in there on what could end up being a losing campaign.

FINNEY: Well, that`s exactly right. And I mean, look -- I mean, a couple
of things. Number one, one of the demographics, obviously, that Alison
Grimes needs is women voters. And obviously, Hillary -- the Clinton name
is still very popular in Kentucky and obviously women voters are critical
and a lot of people, I`m sure, came to see Hillary, also to kind of get a
preview for oops, 2016, just in case that should happen.

So I mean, she definitely was able to capitalize on the fact that people
were curious to come and see Hillary, maybe at the same time they took a
second look at Alison Lundergan Grimes as a candidate.

O`DONNELL: And Sam, I got to say the strangest thing about their debate
policy wise is Mitch McConnell saying they want to get rid of Obamacare
root and branch and then saying he wants to leave one of those roots in
Kentucky, the very popular Web site in Kentucky created by the Obamacare,
where people can shop for their health insurance.

YOUNGMAN: Right. No, I mean, I think this is a simple matter of reading
polling. Senator McConnell gave us the same answer back in May, the day
after his primary. And I think it`s essentially a case of wanting to have
his cake and eat it, too. He wants the state to hear he`s all for
repealing Obamacare which just the term Obamacare is exceedingly unpopular
here, but Kynect (ph) is showing some of success. And I think he wants to,
you know, he doesn`t want to say -- .


O`DONNELL: And Sam, you are saying that Democrats in Kentucky have had no
ability to teach the population that Obamacare equals Kentucky Kynect, it`s
the same thing?

YOUNGMAN: Well, they spent a fortune trying to do that. I just don`t
think it`s broken through. You know, Governor Beshear has been screaming
this from the top of his lungs everywhere he goes.

One thing I thought that was interesting tonight was Secretary Clinton,
just like President Clinton did back when he was here in February. They
really heaped the praise on Governor Beshear for what he`s done in
implements the exchange here, you know. Secretary Grimes has been very
reluctant to embrace it for fear of being tied to President Obama.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney, the latest poll, FOX News poll has McConnell 45,
Grimes 41. Forty-five is not a good number for an incumbent in a
reelection campaign. So you know, I don`t care what the national party
does, according to the polls, this thing is still a winnable race by either

FINNEY: Absolutely. And again, I mean, you know, at this point, Lawrence,
I mean, you know this, it is about turnout, right? And these little things
about whether or not she voted for Obama, absolutely was a distraction for
a couple of days. I agree with Sam, having Hillary in there changes the
narrative for her.

But at this point it`s about the ground game. Because I heard tonight, it
was a very glowing crowd. That`s great. But if all those people who
showed up tonight don`t show up for the polls, it`s not going to matter.
And so, that`s really where I think the Grimes campaign has to be -- have
to stay focus is turnout because we know Mitch McConnell will have a good
turnout machine.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney and Sam Youngman, thank you both for joining me

FINNEY: Thanks, Lawrence.

YOUNGMAN: It is great to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama, Fidel Castro and a certain United
States senator are together in "the rewrite."

And later, Will I Am thinks he has a better idea than this little thing
right here. He thinks he`s got something you can put on your wrist that
he`s invented that`s better than this. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: The legalization of marijuana in Alaska has new support from
current and retired members of Alaska law enforcement.


BILL PARKER, FORMER DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: The war on marijuana is wasteful
and it hasn`t worked. The time and resources available to law enforcement
in Alaska is limited and to waste any of that time or money on marijuana is
using a hammer to go after a mosquito. It`s just crazy. I spent a career
in law enforcement in Alaska. I`m voting yes on ballot measure 2.


O`DONNELL: Television and radio ads struck like that started airing in
Alaska today. Under ballot measure 2, adults 21 and older would be able to
possess up to one ounce of recreational marijuana and grow up to six plants
for personal use. It would also be legal to manufacture, sell and possess
marijuana paraphernalia.

Up next in the rewrite, Fidel Castro speaks, sort of.

And a United States senator embarrasses himself about Cuba once again. And
it`s probably not the senator you think it is.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s rewrite, Fidel speaks. Fidel Castro has responded
to the lead editorial in "The New York Times" this weekend which has direct
-- which was directed actually not at Fidel Castro but Barack Obama.

The headline`s simple title tells the story, Obama should end the embargo
on Cuba. The Times made the case in details that President Obama himself
used to make before he was President Obama.

In 2007, Senator Obama said we`ve been engaged in a failed policy with Cuba
for the last 50 years and we need to change it. "The Times" editorial gave
the president credit for what it called some important steps. The Obama
administration in 2009 took important steps to ease the embargo, a patch
work of laws and policies making it easier for Cubans in the United States
to send remittances to relatives in Cuba and authorizing more Cuban-
Americans to travel there. And it has paved the way for initiatives to
expand Internet access and cell phone coverage on the island, fully ending
the embargo will require Congress` approval.

The embargo, America`s longest running idiotic foreign policy was 34 years
old in 1996 when one of the most destructive senators in the history of the
body, Republican Jesse Helms of North Carolina pushed the Helms-Burton act
through Congress where it was formally titled the Cuban liberty and
democratic solidarity act of 1996.

Then and only then in 1996 did the embargo actually become law. Every
president from John Kennedy to bill Clinton was personally empowered to end
the embargo until then. But none of them did. None of them had the
political encouraged to do it including Richard Nixon who did, to his
credit, have the political courage to normalize relations with the much
more menacing dictatorial regime in China.

Normalizing relations with China left no conceivable justification for our
perversely abnormal relations with Cuba, but the embargo persisted because
of one of the founding fathers` worst ideas -- the Electoral College. As
long as winning the state of Florida in the presidential election could
turn on the vote of Cuban-Americans understandably bitter about Fidel
Castro, no man of serious presidential ambition, including re-elected
presidents, dared to talk about ending the embargo.

The year before Jesse Helms got the embargo written into a permanent law,
the United States normalized relations with Vietnam, only 20 years after
that same communist Vietnamese dictatorship was killing American soldiers
in the war in Vietnam that the United States lost.

We never had a war with Cuba, but our embargo with Cuba outlasted our
enmity towards the regime in Vietnam that killed 58,220 American soldiers.
Diplomatically, at least, all is forgotten with Vietnam. We Americans can
all go to Vietnam tomorrow and stay in the Sheraton Saigon or in the
Marriott renaissance in Saigon or use our credit cards to buy Grande nonfat
lattes at Starbucks in Saigon and try Vietnam`s version of a big mac while
we`re at it. We all have our government`s blessings to go spend our money
in a country that killed 58,220 American soldiers.

Now, I suppose I can go there and rent a car and go and try to find the
spot where my cousin Johnny was killed, but we can`t go to Cuba tomorrow
and rent a car and go to the beach. What did Cuba do to deserve this?
What did Cuba do that was worse than China? What did Cuba do that was
worse than Vietnam beating the United States in a war and killing 58,220
American soldiers just 20 years before we correctly normalized relations
with Vietnam? We were wrong to go to war in Vietnam, but we were right to
normalize relations when we did.

When 2,500 Americans soldiers a month were being killed in Vietnam in 1968,
no one in the world would have told you that the United States would
normalize relations with Vietnam before it normalized relations with Cuba.
In the decades that he controlled Cuba with an iron fist before handing
over the job to his brother, Fidel Castro masterfully exploited the embargo
for his owned political benefit. Castro was always able to point to the
embargo as the complete explanation for every difficulty that the Cuban
population felt every day, though most of their problems were the result of
Castro`s crude dictatorship and his complete ignorance of modern economics.

Yesterday, Fidel Castro issued a written response to "the Times" editorial.
But no one actually thinks that that response came from Fidel Castro, who
most knowledgeable sources believe is suffering from dementia now and is
incapable of responding.

In order to make it sound like Fidel, the statement refers to the military
dictator who seized power in Cuba seven years before Fidel Castro then
seized power from him. The fake Castro reminds Cubans, Bautista took power
on March 10th, 1952, only 50 days after the general election. This can
never be forgotten. That really is pure Fidel.

What is extraordinary about the rest of fake Fidel`s response is that it is
virtually a full reprinting of "The New York Times" editorial which
contains many very sharp criticism of the Castro brothers regime.

President Obama has not responded to the editorial but Senator Robert
Menendez of New Jersey has. New Jersey, by the way, has the second largest
population of Cuban-Americans in the United States. Senator Menendez
himself was born in New York in 1954 after his parents fled, not Castro`s
Cuba, but Bautista`s Cuba, the regime that the United States supported.

Senator Menendez wrote a letter to the editor of "the New York Times"
disagreeing with the editorial, leaning on the absurd notion that ending
the embargo would be, in his words, quote, "rewarding tyranny." Senator
Menendez pretends in the letter that the United States of America must
never have normalized relations with dictatorships. Never mind that
senator Menendez has himself made official visits to some of the
dictatorships around the world with whom we maintain full diplomatic
relationships and trade partnerships. Never mind that Senator Menendez has
met with some of those dictator, no doubt shaken their hands. And what did
Senator Menendez say when he entered into a partnership with a group of
dictatorships in the Middle East to go to war with the Islamic state?


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY; I am pleased by the willingness of
our partners in the Middle East to support, fund and provide resources for
this campaign.


O`DONNELL: He`s pleased. He`s pleased with those dictatorships. It seems
the only way Cuba could please Senator Menendez is if the Cuban air force
would someday join us on one of our bombing adventures in the Middle East.


O`DONNELL: Just a few hours ago in San Francisco, Will I Am, the front man
for the Black Eye Peas unveiled a new wristband smart phone called the
pulse that will compete with the Apple watch. This is not Will I Am`s
first foray into the tech world. He was one of the founders of beats
headphones that Apple recently acquired for a mere $3 billion. In a recent
interview, Will I Am spoke to MSNBC`s Ron Farrow about the goal of his new
venture and the importance of computer science education for the younger


WILL I AM, MUSICIAN: When it comes to education reform, there`s a lot of
successful people in America. If you want education reform, you just got
to do that. Government is great, but it`s slow. But they sure isn`t slow
when it comes to some terror threat and for some reasons billions of
dollars get cleared and we send airplanes and stuff real fast.

So I don`t get it. There`s some terror right now here in America and
that`s called lack of education. You ask a ninth grader, when are you
taking IOS? Do you have android before in fourth period? Do you have
Microsoft for second period?

Those are the biggest businesses in America. You would think in America
that kids are learning those tools. Apple has more money than the American
government has liquid. And you are telling the kids that they learned IOS
in freaking third period. Will that make any sense?

You need to walk the walk that you are going to talk. So for me to tell a
kid, hey, you should take an interest in computer science and STEM so you
can bring to market products like the products I`m bring to market. I want
them to see if I can do it, and I come from the same projects as you, same
living conditions as you, you can do it.

Apple buyout, one of the things that you said publicly is this would be
good for kids in the inner city. Why is that?

WILL I AM: Because it gives a new lane for people to aspire to travel
down. Saying Dr. Dre made some consumer electronic products and wow, Apple
bought it? You needed something like that in culture so kids can dream
that way.

This new venture is not about money at all. This is about a void I see
that I want to fill. I think it`s going to spark a big movement in America
and around the world for kids in the unlikely place to take an interest.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, the host of MSNBC`s Ronan Farrow Daily, Mr.
Ronan Farrow. So Ronan, it`s Will I Am versus Apple. This is -- it has
taken on a big --

FARROW: Quite the David versus Goliath.


FARROW: Yes. I mean, and that`s one of the interesting things he sees in
it. That it`s a brand-new world with these wearable pieces of technology
and it`s up for grabs in his view. So he feels even an underdog like
himself can go up against the big 800-pound gorilla.

O`DONNELL: It is interesting to see -- I mean, normally, you see Apple has
this idea like now, it`s the watch thing. And there`s usually -- the rest
of the world seems to be six months behind.

Here`s Will I Am coming out -- his device will probably be out around the
same time that Apple`s device. It could be the first time Apple has
something to compete with in the market at the same time.

FARROW: That`s one of his gadgets here. I mean, there`s a lot of
skepticism. We`re seeing the reaction come out in real time from the tech
sector tonight. He just announced this.

There is skepticism about it. And look, I saw him demo this. It is still
being fixed for bugs. He has a small army of engineers working on this
right now. He tried to demo it a few times and like with many products
including by the way, Apple products that make it to market. There are a
few failures of voice recognition, but it`s fascinating. And he has a new
ideas that aren`t present in the apple tech like charging it through
fashion items that he`s also making. It charges through contact with the
wrist cuff of a jacket that accompanies it. So he`s got big ideas and he`s
going all-in. And one of the things he told me that I love is the "Am" in
Will I Am stands for ambition.

O`DONNELL: That`s good to know. I never knew that.

So this point he makes about curriculum in schools is a really important
point. You could argue about what should be taught. But the idea that the
current curriculum is not, you know, putting people in the right pipeline
for the job force is absolutely true.

FARROW: That`s absolutely true. And it`s such an important message. And
I think underrepresented in his current part of the music business, too.
You don`t hear this from a lot of role models that kids look up to in
places like where he grew up in Boyle Heights in east L.A. in the projects.
He connects everything he does to giving back.

O`DONNELL: I like seeing him reach back like that.

Ronan, you have more of this tomorrow in your show, right?

FARROW: I do. We have a lot more, a lot more of him talking about --

O`DONNELL: From the inner tank of Will I Am.

FARROW: He calls it the future --


FARROW: And it looks one too.

O`DONNELL: Ronan Farrow, you see him tomorrow at 1:00 right here on MSNBC.

FARROW: Pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Ronan.

Chris Hayes is up next.


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