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.
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
“Look, Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself,” Trump said. “So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have—which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”
By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.
The transcript of the president’s conversation with The New York Times throws his shortcomings into greater relief than ever before.
“Now Donald Trump has finally done it” is a sentence many people have said or written, but which has never yet proven true. As Trump gained momentum during the campaign season, errors that on their own would have stopped or badly damaged previous candidates bounced right off.
These ranged from mocking John McCain as a loser (because “I like people who weren’t captured”), to being stumped by the term “nuclear triad” (the weapons of mass destruction that he as U.S. president now controls), to “when you’re a star ... you can grab ‘em by the pussy” (my onetime employer Jimmy Carter had to spend days in the 1976 campaign explaining away his admission to Playboy that he had sometimes felt “lust in the heart”), to being labelled by an in-party opponent a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and “a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen” (the words of his now-supporter Ted Cruz). I kept my list of 152 such moments in the Time Capsule series as the campaign went on.
Epic yet intimate, the director's new war film is boldly experimental and visually stunning.
What is Dunkirk?
The answer is more complicated than one might imagine. Director Christopher Nolan’s latest is a war film, of course, yet one in which the enemy scarcely makes an appearance. It is a $150 million epic, yet also as lean and spare as a haiku, three brief, almost wordless strands of narrative woven together in a mere 106 minutes of running time. It is classic in its themes—honor, duty, the horror of war—yet simultaneously Nolan’s most radical experiment since Memento. And for all these reasons, it is a masterpiece.
The historical moment captured by the film ascended long ago to the level of martial lore: In May 1940, in the early days of World War II, some 400,000 British and Allied troops were flanked and entrapped by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France. Although the Channel was narrow enough that the men could almost see across to England, the waters were too shallow for warships to approach the beaches. So a flotilla of some 700 civilian craft—the “Little Ships of Dunkirk”—made their way from Ramsgate in England to assist in the rescue.
The president’s lawyers are looking at multiple ways to undermine or curtail the Russia inquiry, including his issuing pardons.
President Trump is exploring steps to curtail Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into the president’s campaign and business dealings, inching the country closer to uncharted constitutional waters.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump’s private legal team is scouring the backgrounds of Mueller and his prosecutors for potential conflicts of interest and damaging information to be used against them. According to the Times, that research is part of a broader effort by Trump to curtail and discredit the former FBI director’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
The Times’s account depicted a president who is increasingly angered by the sprawling Russia investigation that has become a central feature of his young presidency. Trump displayed flashes of that anger during a lengthy interview Wednesday with the Times, in which he flitted between channeling his ire towards Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, as well as James Comey, the former director of the FBI ousted by Trump in May.
As a Trump-commissioned panel searches for phantom fraud, its requests for data have convinced some citizens to opt out of their right to vote preemptively.
From the moment the president announced the creation of a panel to examine voter fraud and elections, voting-rights advocates warned that the real purpose of the commission was to suppress lawful votes. Then a series of reports from around the country over the last two weeks played directly into those fears, as voting officials in several states said citizens had been calling and asking to have their registrations canceled, rather than turned over to the commission as part of a huge request for data. Instances popped from Florida to Washington state and North Carolina to Colorado.
The good news is that so far there don’t actually seem to be that many cases of voters actually canceling, with most of them concentrated in Colorado—though nearly 4,000 people have withdrawn there, enough to swing a close election. Yet even if the scale of the problem is not great, the phenomenon of Americans willingly surrendering one of their most fundamental political rights in order to protect their privacy is a worrying one that touches on the future of voting in the United States as well as on the question of how public records like voter rolls should function in the internet age.
The “A Bit More” button doesn’t reinvent the appliance’s form. It finds its soul instead.
Last year I fell in love with a toaster.
It looks like most others. A brushed, stainless-steel housing. Four slots, to accommodate the whole family’s bread-provisioning needs. It is alluring but modest, perched atop the counter on proud haunches.
But at a time when industry promises disruptive innovation, Breville, the Australian manufacturer of my toaster, offers something truly new and useful through humility rather than pride.
The mechanism that raises and lowers the bread from the chassis is motorized. After I press a button atop the frame, the basket silently lowers the bread into the device to become toast. On its own, this feature seems doomed to mechanical failure. But the risk is worthwhile to facilitate the toaster’s star ability: the “A Bit More” button. That modest attribute offers a lesson for design of all stripes—one that could make every designed object and experience better.
John McCain is being urged to persevere based on strength of character, a quintessentially American approach to thinking about health.
Eighty-year-old Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. The cancer is being described in news reports as it is in medical texts, as an “aggressive brain tumor.”
The weight of that diagnosis hasn’t registered in all quarters. For the average man his age, the tumor means the odds of surviving five years are in the single digits. There are outliers, but a bet on many years of life for McCain is vanishing. Still, the message from past and present American leaders has been that McCain is no average man. He is a fighter.
Here are just a few. Bill Clinton: “As he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain.” Barack Obama: “John McCain is an American hero, and one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it's up against. Give it hell, John.” Joe Biden: “He is strong, and he will beat this.” Sarah Palin: “John McCain is one tough fighter.” Gabrielle Giffords: “You’re tough! You can beat this. Fight, fight, fight!” Mike Pence: “Cancer picked on the wrong guy. John McCain is a fighter, and he’ll win this fight too.” Elizabeth Warren: “John’s in fighting shape, and we're rooting for him.” John Dingell: “My friend John McCain is a dogged ole S.O.B. Sharp as hell and tougher than a $2 steak.”
A new study explores why the latter are far more likely to opt for an elite college where they'd struggle than a so-so one where they'd excel.
There’s a saying in China that it’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a phoenix. The premise of the aphorism—it’s better to be over-qualified than under-qualified relative to one’s surroundings—is so widely accepted that similar versions of it exist across cultures. In Japan, they tend to say that it’s better to be the head of a sardine than the tail of a whale. Americans and Brits often declare that it’s better to be a big frog (or fish) in a small pond than a little frog in a big pond.
Extensive research supports these axioms, particularly in the realm of education. Longitudinal studies have consistently shown that high-performing students at less-selective schools feel more competent, have higher GPAs, and have more ambitious career aspirations than low-performing students at more-selective schools.