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.
The First Lady took to the stage at the Democratic National Convention, and united a divided hall.
Most convention speeches are forgotten almost before they’re finished. But tonight in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that will be replayed, quoted, and anthologized for years. It was as pure a piece of political oratory as this campaign has offered, and instantly entered the pantheon of great convention speeches.
Obama stepped out onto a stage in front of a divided party, including delegates who had booed almost every mention of the presumptive nominee. And she delivered a speech that united the hall, bringing it to its feet.
She did it, moreover, her own way—forming a striking contrast with the night’s other speakers. She did it without shouting at the crowd. Without overtly slamming Republicans. Without turning explicitly negative. Her speech was laden with sharp barbs, but she delivered them calmly, sometimes wryly, biting her lower lip, hitting her cadence. It was a masterful performance.
His convention speech re-introducing his wife to the country was an uneven, but ultimately effective, performance.
Just before Bill Clinton strode onstage to be his wife’s character witness, his wife’s convention planners played a video tribute to him. “When he said stuff, you believed it,” a man dressed in union gear said of Bill Clinton, “because you lived it.”
This was no accident: An overwhelming number of voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton. That credibility and character gap is the one thing that might stop Americans from electing a second President Clinton. And so the master of persuasion bragged on and on about his wife: career highlights, familiar anecdotes, and enough warm and cheesy sentiments to launch a thousand wedding toasts.
“If you were sitting where I am sitting and you heard what I heard at every dinner conversation and … on every long walk, you would say this woman has never been satisfied with the status quo about anything,” Bill Clinton said. Having been the candidate of change in 1992, Bill Clinton knows his wife faces headwinds against Donald Trump’s promise of radical, unruly change. “She always wants to move the ball forward,” Bill Clinton said. “That just who she is.”
Why Donald Trump’s recent comments on the alliance caused such an uproar
Donald Trump shocked foreign-policy professionals and observers when he remarked to The New York Times that if he were president, the United States might not come to the defense of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its “obligation to make payments.” The remark broke with decades of bipartisan commitment to the alliance and, as Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The Atlantic, aligned well with the interests of Russia, whose ambitions NATO was founded largely to contain. One Republican in Congress openly wondered whether his party’s nominee could be “seemingly so pro-Russia” because of “connections and contracts and things from the past or whatever.”
It’s not unlike Trump to make shocking statements. But these ones stokedparticularalarm, not least among America’s allies, about the candidate’s suitability for the United States presidency. So what’s the big deal? What does NATO actually do?
The pressures of national academic standards have pushed character education out of the classroom.
A few months ago, I presented the following scenario to my junior English students: Your boyfriend or girlfriend has committed a felony, during which other people were badly harmed. Should you or should you not turn him or her into the police?
The class immediately erupted with commentary. It was obvious, they said, that loyalty was paramount—not a single student said they’d “snitch.” They were unequivocally unconcerned about who was harmed in this hypothetical scenario. This troubled me.
This discussion was part of an introduction to an essay assignment about whether Americans should pay more for ethically produced food. We continued discussing other dilemmas, and the kids were more engaged that they’d been in weeks, grappling with big questions about values, character, and right versus wrong as I attempted to expand their thinking about who and what is affected—and why it matters—by their caloric choices.
When something goes wrong, I start with blunder, confusion, and miscalculation as the likely explanations. Planned-out wrongdoing is harder to pull off, more likely to backfire, and thus less probable.
But it is getting more difficult to dismiss the apparent Russian role in the DNC hack as blunder and confusion rather than plan.
“Real-world” authorities, from the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia to FBI sources to international security experts, say that the forensic evidence indicates the Russians. No independent authority strongly suggests otherwise. (Update the veteran reporters Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef cite evidence that the original hacker was “an agent of the Russian government.”)
The timing and precision of the leaks, on the day before the Democratic convention and on a topic intended to maximize divisions at that convention, is unlikely to be pure coincidence. If it were coincidence, why exactly now, with evidence drawn from hacks over previous months? Why mail only from the DNC, among all the organizations that have doubtless been hacked?
The foreign country most enthusiastic about Trump’s rise appears to be Russia, which would also be the foreign country most benefited by his policy changes, from his sowing doubts about NATO and the EU to his weakening of the RNC platform language about Ukraine.
In his convention speech, he suggested that Muslims need to earn the rights that all other Americans enjoy.
I love Bill Clinton. But I didn’t love his speech Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Given the job of humanizing his wife, he came across as genuinely smitten. But he failed to do what he’s done in every convention speech he’s delivered since 1992: tell a story about where America is today and what can be done to move it forward. He called his wife a great “change maker” but didn’t define the change America needs right now.
But the worst moment of the speech came near its end, when Clinton began to riff about the different kinds of people who should join Hillary’s effort. “If you love this country, you’re working hard, you’re paying taxes, you’re obeying the law and you’d like to become a citizen, you should choose immigration reform over someone that wants to send you back,” he said. Fair enough. Under any conceivable immigration overhaul, only those undocumented immigrants who have obeyed the law once in the United States—which includes paying taxes—will qualify for citizenship. Two sentences later, Clinton said that, “If you’re a young African American disillusioned and afraid … help us build a future where no one’s afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future.” No problem there. Of course African Americans should be safe from abusive police, and of course, police should be safe from the murderers who threaten them.
Stock-market crashes, terrorist attacks, and the dark side of “newsworthy” stories
Man bites dog. It is one of the oldest cliches in journalism, an acknowledgement of the idea that ordinary events are not newsworthy, whereas oddities, like a puppy-nibbling adult, deserve disproportionate coverage.
The rule is straightforward, but its implications are subtle. If journalists are encouraged to report extreme events, they guide both elite and public attitudes, leading many people, including experts, to feel like extreme events are more common than they actually are. By reporting on only the radically novel, the press can feed a popular illusion that the world is more terrible than it actually is.
Take finance, for example. Professional investors are fretting about the possibility of a massive stock-market crash, on par with 1987’s Black Monday. The statistical odds that such an event will occur within the next six months are about 1-in-60, according to historical data from 1929 to 1988. But when surveys between 1989 and 2015 asked investors to estimate the odds of such a crash in the coming months, the typical response was 1-in-10.
Four decades after he asked his wife to set aside her own ambitions, he asked Americans to return her to the White House in her own right.
On Tuesday night, Bill Clinton spoke before thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and did his best to repay a debt he’d incurred 45 years before. He met Hillary in 1971, and she married him four years later. “I really hope,” he said, “that her choosing me and rejecting my advice to pursue her own career was a decision she would never regret.”
Now, as she pursues the presidency in her own right, he took the opportunity to reintroduce her to the public, spending most of his time on stage rehearsing the years before she became a national figure. “Cartoons are two-dimensional,” Clinton said, and did his best to render his wife vivid, human, and real.
It was a speech that aimed to move past some of the central paradoxes of Clinton’s candidacy. She sacrificed her ambitions to advance her husband’s career, but his success has now enabled her own rise. Most Americans view her unfavorably, and yet she has just become the first woman to be a major-party nominee for the president.
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.
The Democratic chairwoman had few supporters—but clung to her post for years, abetted by the indifference of the White House.
PHILADELPHIA—As Debbie Wasserman Schultz made her unceremonious exit as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, what was most remarkable was what you didn’t hear: practically anybody coming to her defense.
The Florida congresswoman did not go quietly. She reportedly resisted stepping down, and blamed subordinates for the content of the leaked emails that were released Friday, which clearly showed the committee’s posture of neutrality in the Democratic primary to have been a hollow pretense, just as Bernie Sanders and his supporters long contended. She finally relinquished the convention gavel only after receiving three days of strong-arming, a ceremonial position in the Clinton campaign, and a raucous round of boos at a convention breakfast.