Monday, April 15, 2013

What do Beyone, Jay-Z, and Brookings Have in Common?

What is the connection between top rapper Jay-Z, his wife, superstar singer Beyonce, and the Brookings Institution, the world's top think tank?

No, I was not thinking of the fact that their total assets are all well over $100 million. [According to the most recent publicly available documents, Brookings had total assets of around $410 million; Beyonce has a net worth of around $300 million; Jay-Z has a net worth of around $500 million.]

The answer?  They all used a group called Academic Arrangements Abroad, a New York-based nonprofit group, to organize trips to Cuba.

Here is a link to Academic Arrangements Abroad.  Trips to Cuba for winter 2013 are still open!

But don't book your trip just yet.  The conservative Heritage Foundation may not be too happy, particularly if you are a celebrity visiting Cuba.  Here is what Mike Gonzalez, Vice President of Communications at The Heritage Foundation had to say about the trip:
We need a Dennis Rodman Rule, named after the exotic erstwhile basketball star who went to Pyongyang to fete the dictator Kim Jong Eun just weeks before the North Korean threatened to blow the world to smithereens in a fit of pique. The rule should be: celebrities who disregard the lives of millions by celebrating those who torment them deserve only our contempt upon their return home.
In March, Heritage Foundation blasted Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) for "mischaracterizing"the think tank's stance on Cuba.  Heritage says that it has long championed free trade but among nations, but has never advocated a unilateral lifting of sanctions on trade with Cuba.  Says the think tank: "Heritage supports the process by which the removal of trade sanctions would be accompanied by a verifiable and irreversible opening toward democracy and respect for human and economic rights."

The Heritage Foundation hosts an annual Cuba Solidarity Day.

The libertarian Cato Institute says that the US embargo of Cuba is a failure.

Think Progress, the blogging arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), a "sister advocacy organization" of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), notes how Jay-Z mocked Republicans' fury over the Cuba trip with a new rap track.  You can listen to the track here.