You don't have to get far past the capital to see one economy end and another begin.
Few visitors to Cuba make it past the country's famed capital city, where cigar aficionados smoke up in private eating houses and
wealthy vacationers pass the nights in cabarets. But nine of Cuba's 11 million inhabitants live outside Havana, living very
different lives than the urban elite's. Here's a photographic tour of what the island looks like beyond its refurbished tourist destinations.
Above, a local farmer looks out over cropland in Viñales, in the northwestern corner of Cuba. Originally occupied by the Taíno -- Cuba's pre-Columbian
inhabitants -- Viñales became a destination for runaway slaves during colonial rule. Today, it is home to 27,000 people who live in one-story wooden and
concrete homes in a valley between the region's limestone cliffs. Outside of town, many of the farmhouses still lack electricity; in the mid-2000s, the
Cuban government and the UN Development Program teamed up to pay for the installation of thousands of solar panels around the region. Electricity is a
scarce resource in Cuba, leading to some dramatic services. In Viñales, for example, people dragged their old refrigerators out to the street in exchange
for free energy-efficient models from the government. Frequent public service announcements on the few Cuban television and radio channels stress the
importance of conserving both fresh water and electricity.
Sugarcane waves on a farm on the outskirts of Viñales. In 2011, President Raúl Castro agreed to stop subsiding the price of sugar. The goal was to
encourage private enterprise. In practice, Cubans are still able to buy sugar at a subsidized rate with their ration books, but not for much longer. These
government ration books currently provide about a third of the food the average Cuban eats; as many Cubans are living on a subsistence basis, higher prices
for a basic staple will be a struggle.
A farmer stands outside a hand-built thatch hut used for drying tobacco. Tobacco is another key Viñales crop, and the industry is a key engine of Cuba's
economy. Tobacco cultivation is labor intensive, and although collectively Cuban tobacco is a $200 million-dollar business, most tobacco farmers have small
profit margins. The process of planting, weeding, pruning, cutting, drying, and rolling tobacco takes time, especially without the aid of machines.
A farmer hoes a field using two oxen and a hand-lashed platform. Outside of the major cities, many daily activities are still performed by hand.
The open air kitchen of a farmer's family, including a typical wood-fired stove. Resolver,which translates literally into "to resolve,"
is a popular motto in the Cuban countryside, and people have developed ingenious ways of making ends meet, whether its augmenting income through various
gray and black market transactions, or cooking elaborate feasts in rudimentary kitchens like the one above.
Even in Havana, there exists a deep divide between the tourist economy and the resident economy. Above, pedestrians walk by an urban farm in Centro Habana,
a middle-class neighborhood. These government-backed operations are often the only way lower- and middle-class Cubans can afford fresh vegetables.
A crumbling building in a Havana suburb. As building materials are difficult to come by, many of Havana's streets have decrepit or collapsing structures.
Automobiles in Cuba are rare, old, and generally major air polluters. Cuban law makes it illegal to buy and sell cars made before 1960, and the government
restricts the right to car ownership except when it doles them out as rewards. For every 1,000 Cubans, there are 28 cars. (By comparison, the United States
has a car ownership ratio of 850 cars per 1,000 people.) There are other rules, too: all cars with blue governmental license plates are legally required to
stop and pick up hitchhikers. Above, a bus drives past a sign reading, "Defend socialism."
A taxi drives down a neighborhood street in Havana. While taxis catering to tourists charge between $4 and $6, a trip in a collectivo,an
informal taxi, costs 10 pesos in monedas nacionales, the currency for Cubans. Cuba has developed a dual currency system, with one currency, known
as cucs, used by foreigners, and monedas nacionales (MN), used by Cubans. The exchange rate is 25 MN to 1 cuc, which is worth a little
less than US$1. The disparity between the currencies has created inequality between those who work within the tourist economy and those who don't. One
driver I struck up a conversation with told me he was an engineer who worked a second job as a taxi driver to support his family. He owned his 1957
Oldsmobile, and had to pay the government a fee to be licensed as a collectivo driver. He told me that gasoline officially cost 1 cuc a liter
(approximately US$4.50 a gallon), but with a wink and a smile told me that it was possible to buy gas for as a little as 5 MN on the black market.
Two men enjoy the fresh sea breeze on the malecòn, the wide sea wall that runs along the edge of much of Havana. It's always populated, day or night. As
Cubans are not allowed to own property, many continue to live with their parents into their 20s and 30s -- making the malecòn a popular spot for
lovers to escape to.
A man reads the morning newspaper. Cuba's most widely circulated paper is the Granma, named for the boat that bore Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to
Cuba. Although Cuba has a literacy rate of 95.7 percent, the island's inhabitants are guaranteed neither the freedom of expression, nor the freedom of
press, and many critics of the regime are still regularly punished.
Men fish for dinner as the sun sets in Havana. Cuba has been praised for its ecological protections, although the pristine environment has more to do with
the country's anachronistic lifestyle than a commitment to green ideology. Nevertheless, Cuba suffers from its own brand of environmental degradation:
over-logging, the sprawl of the sugarcane fields, and mining pollution, among other problems.
Despite the U.S. embargo and the replacement of advertisements with political propaganda, many aspects of commercialism and American culture have managed
to reach Cuba. Above, a woman carries her son, who is holding a toy gun.
Above, cars drive past the capitol building, El Capitolio, in Havana. If the 1929 structure brings to mind the U.S. Capitol, it's no concidence. The Cuban building's cupola was actually constructed in the United States, and is a frequent reminder of the two countries' complex relationship.
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Even for people with generous insurance plans, a trip to an in-network doctor can result in thousands of dollars in unexpected charges. Can anything be done?
It shouldn’t take a Harvard expert in health policy to understand a doctor’s bill. But sometimes, it does. In August of last year, Liz was a medical student whose doctor found a lump on her tonsils. Her primary-care physician referred her to an in-network ear-nose-and-throat specialist.
Liz, who asked to go by her first name, expected the usual $20 copay. Instead, she was charged $219.90—wrongly, in her view—for separate physician and facility fees. Under the terms of her plan, Liz says, she should not have been responsible for those charges. After a polite letter to her (“Thank you for your recent grievance...”), Anthem Blue Cross upheld the charges.
A few months later, Liz convinced Anthem to wipe much of the bill. But here’s the thing: By that time, she was studying health policy as a master’s student at Harvard. “It took me hours of going over the insurance policy and hours of arguing with the insurance company over that insurance pamphlet,” she said. (Later, Liz realized she had been doubly insured that month—her Harvard insurance had already kicked in—and she got the other plan to take care of the remainder of the balance.)
A settlement between five big financial companies and the federal government shows traders blithely and openly discussing their misdeeds.
Were they greedy, or were they just foolish?
It’s one of the big questions from the 2008 economic crisis that remains open to debate. Did the world’s banking system nearly collapse because financiers were grabbing money wherever they could, no matter the costs, or was it because bankers failed to understand the risks caused by a housing bubble and credit crunch?
In at least one case, there’s a ready answer: They were both greedy and foolish.
An agreement between five banks and the federal government, announced Wednesday, forces five banks to pay a combined $5.6 billion and plead guilty to rigging markets. Four banks—Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and the Royal Bank of Scotland—pled guilty to antitrust violations. UBS received immunity in the antitrust case, but will plead guilty to manipulating the London Interbank Offer Rate, or LIBOR, a benchmark interest measure. (An earlier federal agreement with UBS was rejected by a federal judge as too lenient.)
Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.
Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”
Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities. The idea of a basic income has been around for decades, and it once drew support from leaders as different as Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon. But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.
After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone. An exploration of the startling, sustainable, just-getting-started return of industry to the United States.
For much of the past decade, General Electric’s storied Appliance Park, in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared less like a monument to American manufacturing prowess than a memorial to it.
The very scale of the place seemed to underscore its irrelevance. Six factory buildings, each one the size of a large suburban shopping mall, line up neatly in a row. The parking lot in front of them measures a mile long and has its own traffic lights, built to control the chaos that once accompanied shift change. But in 2011, Appliance Park employed not even a tenth of the people it did in its heyday. The vast majority of the lot’s spaces were empty; the traffic lights looked forlorn.
In 1951, when General Electric designed the industrial park, the company’s ambition was as big as the place itself; GE didn’t build an appliance factory so much as an appliance city. Five of the six factory buildings were part of the original plan, and early on Appliance Park had a dedicated power plant, its own fire department, and the first computer ever used in a factory. The facility was so large that it got its own ZIP code (40225). It was the headquarters for GE’s appliance division, as well as the place where just about all of the appliances were made.
Orr: First, a brief victory lap. In this space two weeks ago, I suggested that Bronn would be a big fan of the easy-listening Westerosi standard “The Dornishman’s Wife.” And when we re-encountered Bronn tonight, what was he singing? Yep, that’s right. Readers can send in their requests for any other Seven Kingdoms chart-toppers, and we’ll see what we can accomplish. Operators are standing by.
(Also: Digression from a digression. Jerome Flynn, who plays Bronn, was trying very hard not to show off his singing voice tonight. But he was in fact half of the 1990s doo-wop duo Robson and Jerome. He gets to demonstrate his pipes a bit with this amiable cover of “Up on the Roof”; and while he’s mostly backup on “Unchained Melody,” the video makes touching use of footage from David Lean’s intimate masterpiece Brief Encounter. I can’t help but think that this background is one reason thatFlynn’s able to sell even the simplest of lines with a certain musical lilt. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)