They call it the Rome of the Americas. Havana, Cuba is one of the world’s great cities architecturally. It is also economically isolated due to an embargo and the fall of the Soviet Union, following years of Cold War isolation. And so the city appears frozen in time, filled with charm and seemingly in decay, lacking the resources to restore its crumbling treasures.
For the past few years, The University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, one of the only architecture schools in the country to focus exclusively on classical and traditional architecture, has been sending professors and students to Havana during the summer to study the architecture, work with the Office of the City Historian, as well as provide humanitarian support to a local convent. When the students return to the U.S., they participate in a studio class where they design city plans and buildings that they imagine would help revive the city and strengthen its urbanity.
Geoffrey Baer brings us a behind-the-scenes look at the experience of Midwestern architecture students who have traveled the 90 miles from Miami to Cuba and returned inspired by the urban potential of Havana. The connection between the university and the city of Havana extends further than the summertime program. The first graduate of Notre Dame’s architecture program, Eugenio Rayneri Piedra, was the architect of El Capitolio, Havana’s Capitol Building.
It’s fair to say that only a clairvoyant would have predicted that the baseball mad island of Cuba would have made it to the 1938 World Cup to become the first Caribbean country to play at the finals. Perhaps the only member of the team not surprised to see the Cubans head for France was their goalkeeper Benito Carvajales, whose apparent gift of predicting the future would make him an unlikely star of the ’38 series.
Hopes for even a respectable showing at the tournament weren’t high, and only the presence of the Dutch East Indies relieved Cuba of the label of tournament “whipping boys”. But where there was Carvajales between the sticks, there was hope. The 1938 tournament was a straight knockout, and the Cubans excelled themselves to earn a 3-3 draw in extra time with Romania.
|Gentlemen, I shall not be playing, but we shall win the replay, that’s certain. The Romanian game has no more secrets for us. I say to you that we shall score twice, they will score only once. Adios
The Cuban coach announced that Carvajales would be dropped for the replay, but Carvajales piqued the interest of the European press corps by dramatically calling a press conference in the aftermath of the match. “Gentlemen, I shall not be playing, but we shall win the replay, that’s certain. The Romanian game has no more secrets for us. I say to you that we shall score twice, they will score only once. Adios, Caballeros.”
In Toulouse on June 5, 1938, that’s exactly what happened. Romania led 1-0 at half time, but the Cubans roared back to win 2-1, their winner coming after a linesman flagged for offside but the referee allowed it to stand anyway. Carvajales, recalled for the next match, had accurately predicted the first bona fide World Cup shock, but oddly, he kept his thoughts to himself for the quarter final match in Sweden.
Perhaps he had a portend of things to come, as the Swedes rattled eight goals past him without reply. His team-mates claimed they’d been hammered “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
I’m a triathlete, which means that when I’m not running a triathlon, I’m training for one. It’s a demanding sport that requires year-round commitment, and even a two-week break can seriously disrupt your momentum and potentially throw off your whole season. So what do you do with all of your hard-earned vacation time when you can’t take time off from training? Easy: Bring your bike on an Active adventure to Cuba.
This winter, I took the Cycle Cuba tour; a two-week, two-wheeled adventure through the rural western side of the island. Our group featured a mix of travellers of all ages, abilities, and nationalities, led by our faithful Cuban CEO Andy. The game plan was simple: 1. Get off the plane. 2. Meet up at the hotel. 3. Hop on our bikes. 4. Hit the road. 5. Repeat as necessary.
We covered all sorts of terrain, from 10km (6 miles) of flatland on the first day to 70km (43miles) of mountainous route the next, and just about everything else in between. With lots of breaks for fruit and refreshments, we crossed a variety of landscapes – mountain ranges, beaches, farmland, and bustling cities – with engaging local encounters along the way. We ate incredible home-cooked meals with local families, and sampled some of the island’s best coffee, too.
But the biking was just the half of it. Hikes and nature walks got us out of the saddle and up-close with the incredible countryside, time at the beach let us cool off, and ziplining across a lake-filled valley gave us an adrenalized highlight that energized us for the next day’s ride.
While I initially came to stay in shape, I found that the trip’s relaxed pace allowed us to really experience the island more fully and appreciate the scenery we were riding through. The camaraderie that comes with travelling with active-minded people was a nice bonus, too, as every night around the dinner table we treated each other to stories of triumphant climbs and hair-raising descents. The best part: Going to bed each night with a wide grin, knowing that you’d get to do it all over again the next day. Off-season training should always be this much fun.
The Cuban people is paying tribute today to Argentinean-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara, marking his 86th birthday. The central Cuban city of Santa Clara, liberated by troops led by Che in December 1958, is the main venue of activities that also evoke the birthday, 169 years ago, of the Cuban independence leader Antonio Maceo.
As a tradition, the day of tributes includes a march from the Maceo Park to the Memorial Complex that holds the remains of Che and his companions fallen in Bolivia.
Talks and morning assemblies at schools and workplaces of the territory are part of the activities for the anniversaries that include a scientific event entitled “Ernesto Che Guevara: paradigma posible,” at Felix Varela Pedagogical University.
“This decision was taken due to systematic failure of Naftogaz Ukraine to pay. The debt of the company for Russian gas stands at $4.458 billion, including $1.451 billion for November and December 2013, and $3.007 billion for April-May 2014,” Gazprom said in a statement posted on their website.
“They’ve paid zero. Correspondingly we deliver zero,” Sergey Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesperson said in a press conference following the announcement.
Reuters reports that gas supplies to Ukraine were restricted off as soon as the deadline at 10:00am in Moscow passed.
Both companies have announced they are opening lawsuits with the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce Arbitration.
Naftogaz, Ukraine’s oil and gas utility, is seeking a $6 billion sum for 'unfair' gas prices and asking the court to review prices that were agreed on in 2010 under then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Gazprom announced wants to recover the $4.5 billion worth of debt and also seek compensation for Ukraine's failure to import the agreed upon amount of natural gas under their "take or pay" contract with Gazprom over the past two years. The penalty in accordance with the contract could be around $18 billion.
Gunther Oettinger, who has been the main broker between the three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU, has urged Russia to ‘reconsider’ its decision to place Ukraine on a prepayment gas plan.
"Further invitations for trilateral talks in June are foreseen," EU energy minister Gunther Oettinger said at a news conference in Vienna.
Oettinger has been the main broker of the three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU, all of which have ended in deadlock.
Yury Prodan, Ukraine's energy minister, has stressed that taking the case to Stockholm is the only way to settle the matter.
Kiev was also late in payments in the winters of 2006 and 2009. Both periods lasted about three weeks, during which Kiev attempted to siphon off supplies for themselves, which left millions of European homes without heat.
“Volumes of gas for European customers will be fully met in compliance with their contracts. Naftogaz must ensure transportation to the delivery points," Kupriyanov said.
Further actions will be taken after Gazprom head meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters at the World Petroleum Congress, being held in Moscow June 15-19.
Russia’s energy minister Aleksander Novak and Gazprom head Aleksey Miller will hold a press conference later this afternoon.
Ukraine has accumulated a multi-billion dollar debt for natural gas supplied by Russia and is unwilling to pay. It calls the 10-year gas contract that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signed with Russia back in 2009 unacceptable and demands that Russia lower the price.
The sudden halt shot up natural gas prices in Europe, a trend many analysts will repeat itself this time around.
Moscow was willing to offer a discount and even recalculate the debt Ukraine has accumulated since April to account for it, but Kiev rejected the offer, saying it was not good enough. Gazprom considers Ukraine’s position a form of blackmail.
After negotiations on Sunday, Gazprom announced that their final pricing offer was $385 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, which Ukraine still rejected.
Price disputes between the two neighbors intensified after a government coup followed by violence in Ukraine, when the price of gas exports from Moscow to Kiev shot up from $268.50 to $485.00.
Europe imports a third of its natural gas from Russia, and nearly half of that is delivered via Ukraine. In 2012, over 84 billion cubic meters of gas traveled from Russia to Europe through Ukraine.
The Cuban government newspaper “Granma” described the vessel as one of the “boats most modern of its kind in the world.”
The Santiago de Cuba Damex shipyards, which is operated by Damen Shipyards Group, from the Netherlands, have built a Guard Patrolman Stan Pattern Model 4207 Navy to Venezuela, the official newspaper Granma reported.
The report said the boat “is considered among the most modern vessels of its kind in the world, serving the high technology used in its execution with steel hull low thickness and aluminum superstructure and equipping tip that is provided. ”
Is intended for an integrated crew of 18 members.
The engineer Fernando Fernandez Brossard, construction coordinator, said that operators find difficult qualification in Latin America, the ship is “an achievement for the Santiago shipyard.”
Provide patrol services, security and research and rescue and coastal waters beyond the exclusive economic zone, missions for which it is enabled with a speedboat interceptor capable of reaching more than 35 knots.
The shipyard has also built a fourth ship cargo to the Government of Nicolás Maduro.
Beijing’s military spending last year exceeded $145 billion, assessed the US Department of Defense on Thursday in its annual report to the Congress. The estimate is more than 20 percent higher than the official Chinese figure.
“China has the fiscal strength and political will to support defense spending growth at comparable levels for the foreseeable future,” the report said. “Continued increases will support People’s Liberation Army (PLA) modernization efforts and facilitate China’s move toward a more professional force.”
The report admits that assessing the amount of military spending by China is difficult due to “poor accounting transparency,” failure to include foreign weapon procurement into military budget and close ties between Chinese civilian and military production, where dual-use technology is involved.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said it was “resolutely opposed” to the Pentagon’s claims.
"Year after year the United States issues this so-called report on 'Military and Security Developments in China’, making preposterous criticisms of China's normal defense and military building, exaggerating the 'China military threat', which is totally wrong," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
"As for the detailed contents of this year's US report, we are currently assessing it, and will react further, depending on the situation."
Chinese diplomats were more restrained and called on the US to “objectively assess the defense potential of China.”
“China is guided by its own interest in building up its military potential,” said spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Hong Lei.
Xinhua news agency called the report “biased” and pointed out that US own military budget exceeded $600 billion in 2013, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Modernization unprecedented in Chinese history
The Pentagon’s report gave an overview of the latest effort to modernize Chinese military in various service branches as well as China’s participation in international military and security events. The report particularly pointed out the investment into PLA’s Air Force, which is already the biggest in Asia and third-largest in the world.
“The PLAAF is pursuing modernization on a scale unprecedented in its history and is rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities,” the document said.
“Although it still operates a large number of older second- and third-generation fighters, it will likely become a majority fourth-generation force within the next several years,” it added.
Chinese military may further improve their capability to dominate airspace through purchase of Russian S400 air defense system, US military planners say. Beijing is also in talks with Russia on a possible deal to buy advanced Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft, which would also bolster its military fleet.
Domestically, the modernization includes the ongoing development of the second prototype fifth-generation fighter, the J-31 and the continued upgrade of the G-6 bombers to carry land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, which is giving China “a long-range stand-off offensive capability with precision-guided munitions.”
The Chinese Navy may see a delay in developing its domestically-build aircraft carriers, which the Pentagon believes would become operational in the beginning of next decade as opposed to earlier forecast for end of this decade. But the PLAN is heavily building new surface ships and submarines with advanced capabilities, which could be used to back up Beijing’s territorial claims.
This year China is expected to deploy its first Luyang III-class guided missile destroyer, which has China’s first multipurpose vertical launch systems. Along with an expanded fleet of Jiangkai II-class guided missile frigates, the Chinese Navy will get a significant upgrade to area air defense capability, “which will be critical as it expands operations into ‘distant seas’ beyond the range of shore-based air defenses.”
The Pentagon noticed other new advances demonstrated by China, including the development of new space and counter-space capabilities. In addition to other space launches, Beijing tested its first quick-reaction launch vehicle Kuaizhou, which can deploy a small satellite of the same name in response to an emergency, like a natural disaster or a military flashpoint. Another vehicle with a similar purpose, the LM-11, may be tested this year, the report says.
While a military conflict with Taiwan is a primary contingency for PLA, the cross-strait relations are currently warm enough and are directed at closer economic ties, that would potentially help mend the political divide between Beijing and Taipei, the report said. At the same time China is preparing for possible conflicts with other regional nations. For instance it is fielding more lethal and numerous conventional medium-range ballistic missiles, which “improve its ability to strike not only Taiwan but other regional targets.”
Another example is the joint naval exercise of all three Chinese fleets in October 2013. The Maneuver 5 drill in the Philippine Sea was the largest open-ocean exercise of the PLAN to date.
In addition to holding its own exercises, China increasingly participates in international training events, the Pentagon said. This gives Chinese military “opportunities to improve capabilities and gain operational insights by observing tactics, command, and equipment used by more advanced militaries,” the report said.
In 2013, the PLA “conducted seven bilateral and multilateral exercises with foreign militaries, three of which were with Russia.” Beijing’s closer military ties with Moscow were also stressed by the first overseas demonstration of the Chinese Air Force Aerobatics Team in Russia in August 2013.
The dispute between Cuba and United States has been tightened for more than two centuries, with historical roots in the ever-valid imperialist aim and its roughly overhauled ripe fruit tactics. In the last few decades, the ripening of the fruit has been sought with a million subversive project, which has hardly achieved a few media scandals and a tiara of ephemeral publications. Spying camouflaged in information facilitation actions has led to projects such as Zunzuneo (Cuban Twitter), which tries to hide the hairy ear of subversion and the meddling in the domestic affairs of another nation, just Cuba that has so long survived the blockade, with the hackneyed pretext of protecting the Human Rights of a population with jumps in its healthcare, education and culture unprecedented in all its previous history.
Conference *New Era in U.S.-Cuba Relations* is one of those efforts geared at reaching a point in the largely ineffective interventionist measures, although any objective analyst will know how the fellow anti-Castro lobby is able to expand itself. Its methods, based not only on those public subversion projects through opinion mercenaries and journalism, but also on specific terrorist actions, were clearly revealed by the Cuban Five, three of whom remain in prison. Therefore, the sessions of this forum within the 3rd Campaign of denunciation and solidarity /Five Days for the Five/ in Washington DC, underway until June 11, are dedicated to them.
Beyond the significant presence of actor Danny Glover, or Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and Thomas Gumbleton, former Catholic Bishop of Detroit, among other personalities participating in the forum, it's important to turn the essence of the debate into a topic of pressure against the blockade. Blockade and media war are indissolubly united. Take into account that Thomas Donahue, President of the Chamber of Commerce, who visited Cuba recently, was pressed in the media by the same lobbies that encouraged the outline of the Five's condemnation trial.
Then many agree that the necessary pressure for a fair solution in the Cuban Five case lies in the annulment of the blockade, which is in fact an almost unanimous claim of the UN General Assembly. And this point is, indeed, essential to enter that new era of U.S.-Cuba relations, though as one you can figure out, ripe fruit lobbyists will continue camouflaging their meddling and achieving the support of USAID's sectarian and pro-terrorist fellows.
A joint statement condemned Moscow for its "continuing violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty.
The G7 summit is the first since Russia was expelled from the group following its annexation of Crimea in March.
On Thursday, leaders are discussing the global economic outlook, climate change and development issues.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is not at the Brussels summit, he will hold face-to-face talks with some G7 leaders - not including US President Barack Obama - in Paris afterwards.
However, both Mr Putin and Mr Obama will attend a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France on Friday.
While in Poland on Wednesday, President Obama warned Moscow against what he called its "dark tactics" in Ukraine.
Diplomacy has intensified to try to resolve the biggest crisis in years between Russia and the West, says the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels.
'Cynicism without limit'
In response to the G7 statement on Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has accused the world leaders of "cynicism without limit" for calling the Ukrainian government's military campaign against separatists in the east "measured action".
G7 leaders gathered in Brussels on Wednesday evening for the opening dinner of the summit, which was originally due to be held in the Russian city of Sochi.
"We are united in condemning the Russian Federation's continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," they said in a joint statement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: "We can't afford a further destabilisation of Ukraine."
"We have made clear that we want to continue with our three-step approach - support Ukraine in economic issues, talks with Russia, and should there no progress on all those issues... the possibility of sanctions, tougher sanctions, remains on the table," she said.
During a speech in Warsaw to mark 25 years since the fall of communism in Poland, President Obama condemned what he called Russian "aggression" in eastern Ukraine.
"How can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th Century to define the 21st?" he said.
Mr Obama also met Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw, and pledged $5m (£3m) of military assistance to Kiev including body armour and night-vision goggles.
Mr Poroshenko, a billionaire sweet manufacturer, was elected in May.
He will be at the D-Day commemorations ahead of his inauguration on Saturday and said he did not rule out meeting Mr Putin.
Mr Putin told French TV he was "not going to avoid any of them" but said Mr Poroshenko needed to be serious about a dialogue with factions in eastern Ukraine.
"I think Mr Poroshenko has a unique opportunity. He still doesn't have blood on his hands. He still can stop this reprisal operation and start a direct dialogue with citizens of the south and the east of his country," he said.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, separatist rebels have taken two military bases in the eastern region of Luhansk.
Separatists seized a border guard base after days of combat, and a National Guard base after an attack which began on Tuesday.
Fighting continues near the towns of Krasny Liman and Sloviansk in neighbouring Donetsk region.
Ukrainian sources say rebels are trying to break out of encirclements by government forces.