At Atelier, foreigners and Cubans find food and service that had disappeared from Havana for decades. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
HAVANA — The business ideas have ranged from a bikini franchise to a peanut farm, restaurants, and design firms for software and home interiors. But even more novel than the pitches — in a country where entrepreneurship used to be illegal — is the financial muscle behind them: Cuban-Americans whose families lost their previous ventures to Cuba’s Communist government.
“It’s all about people not losing hope and seeing that starting a business is a way to improve their lives,” said Eduardo Mestre, 65, a Wall Street banker who returned to Cuba last year for the first time since 1960 to see the start-up training he helps finance. “Emotionally, it’s very hard not to connect with people who have all this ambition in a place where maintaining hope is very hard to do.”
Many of the first Cubans to leave after Fidel Castro took over are beginning to come back, reuniting with the island they left in bitterness and anger, overcoming decades of heated opposition to its leaders, and partnering with Cubans in direct, new ways.
Some are educating a new crop of Cuban entrepreneurs to take advantage of the recent limited openings for private enterprise in Cuba. Conservative Republican exiles in Miami have also helped finance the renovation of Cuba’s most revered Roman Catholic shrine. Young heirs to the Bacardi family, which fled Cuba after the revolution, leaving behind luxurious homes and a rum business that employed 6,000 people, are sending disaster relief and supporting artists. And Alfonso Fanjul, the Florida sugar baron, recently acknowledged that he had gone back to Cuba twice, meeting with Cuban officials and later declaring that he would consider investing under the “right circumstances.”
It has been a shocking reversal for a community of exiles that has long represented a pillar of support for the American embargo against Cuba. And though the activity is legal through humanitarian or other licensed exceptions to the sanctions, some Cuban-American lawmakers have responded with outrage. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami, called Mr. Fanjul’s trips a betrayal.
“The question is how can we better help the Cuban people free themselves from this regime that has been there for over half a century,” he said. “And the best way to do that is to deny funds to the regime in any way we can.”
But what has emerged in Miami, New York and elsewhere over the past two years, as President Raúl Castro has opened the economy, just a crack, is an alternative approach that emphasizes grass-roots engagement, often through churches, as a tool for giving Cubans skills and independence from the state. Among many Cuban-Americans who now describe themselves as a part of a diaspora, rather than exiles, a new sense of responsibility — to Cubans on the island, not to the property they lost or to fighting the Castros — has gathered strength.
“We think engagement, dialogue and interaction — lowering the barriers — is the best way to develop civil society,” Mr. Mestre said, “but also some of us who feel some respect for the 11 million people stuck there, we just really feel that’s the right thing to do.” He added that he sought a relationship with Cuba, despite the loss of his family’s homes and businesses, including what was once Cuba’s largest television and radio network, because “the loss of our property and wealth is kind of secondary to the feeling about what happened to the country and its people.”
The expanding exchange of people, ideas and money is a result of policy changes over the past few years in Washington and Havana that have opened up travel and giving for Cubans and Cuban-Americans. After decades of being cut off by politics, the airport here is always crammed with Cuban-Americans coming to see family and lugging in gifts, just as it is now more common to see Cuban artists, academics and dissidents in Florida or New York, often mingling with the established Cuban-American elite.
“The broad trend is Cubans’, regardless of their politics or ideology, coming here to visit, live and work, and go back and forth,” said Julia E. Sweig, the director for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s an organic dynamic in which the elite are participating.”
For many families, the transition from keeping Cuba at a distance to pulling it close has taken time and multigenerational discussion. When Kevin O’Brien and some of his cousins decided a few years ago to take charge of the long-dormant Bacardi Family Foundation, they agreed to focus much of their support on Cuba, returning to a version of an old family custom: Relatives pool money together and distribute it to a chosen cause or person.
Not everyone gives; there are about 500 Bacardis now, and disagreements over the homeland are common, said Mr. O’Brien, the foundation’s president. But since reactivating the foundation in 2012, the Bacardis have raised $28,000 for water filters after Hurricane Sandy and financed efforts to encourage creative expression, with art, photography and music.
Cuban officials seem tolerant, to a point. Eager to improve their weak economy, they welcome the money but fear its power, said one artist supported by the foundation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals. He added that while Cuba’s leaders had become more welcoming — no longer calling exiles gusanos, or worms — they were still distrustful, determined to keep Cuban-American influence from becoming an immediate challenge to the state.
Higueras Martinez, 39, in the kitchen of Atelier. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
For now, experts say that seems unlikely. The organized money going to Cuba, beyond an estimated $2.6 billion in family remittances, mostly from the United States, remains relatively small. A lot of it is still funneled into the Catholic Church, one of the few institutions allowed to play a role in civil society. The Order of Malta provided 800,000 meals for the elderly in Cuba last year with around $250,000 in donations, mostly from Cuban-Americans in Miami. The Cuban police nonetheless interrogated some of the old women being fed.
The Cuba Emprende Foundation, a nonprofit on which Mr. Mestre is a board member, has also struggled to reassure Cuban officials that its founders — a bipartisan mix of exiles long dedicated to engagement and others who only recently embraced the idea — are interested only in incubating small businesses, in line with the government’s stated economic policy. The organization’s official tax forms filed recently with the I.R.S. state that it has disbursed about $225,000 so far, none of it from the United States government.
Board members say that Cuban officials suggest that Cuba Emprende must be part of a covert Washington plot. A Cuban instructor in Havana, who spoke anonymously to protect the program, said the pressure had increased as Cuba Emprende grew; by mid-March, 731 graduates will have completed the 80-hour course, run through the church in an old seminary here and at a rectory in Camaguey.
Cuban-American lawmakers who back the embargo also seem displeased with the increased engagement, even though Cuba Emprende and other groups in Cuba emphasize that their work does not violate the embargo.
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Cuban-American Democrat often described by administration officials as Washington’s main impediment to broader changes in Cuba policy, said it was simply ineffective. “I’m not seeing this engagement produce the results they say it would,” he said, adding that “the regime hasn’t become more open,” even as Europeans travel and invest in Cuba, unfettered.
Mr. Mestre contends Mr. Menendez and other embargo supporters in Congress are counterproductive. “With that attitude,” he said, “you’re just hurting the people you’re trying to help.”
Increasingly, many Cubans and Cuban-Americans are building their own ties, reveling in the surprise of a rediscovered connection. “Cubans are Cubans,” said Niuris Higueras Martínez, 39, one of Cuban Emprende’s first graduates, in 2012. “We find ways to work together.”
That bond is now evolving alongside, or within, Mr. Castro’s limited opening to market ideas. Ms. Higueras, a whirlwind who had always dreamed of opening a restaurant, now owns Atelier, one of Havana’s most popular eateries. Cuba Emprende played a major role in making it happen.
“Everything in that course was important,” she said, including how to calculate her books or change her menu for the slow season. She said she also benefited from the sense of a shared mission with her classmates and the accountants and other professionals Cuba Emprende relies on for help in Cuba. “There was just such chemistry,” she said.
Now, in her business and others, there is a demand for more opportunity, more possibility — but also the usual barriers. Cuban law and the American embargo prohibit Cuba Emprende from bankrolling its students’ ideas as it would like to. Without enough capital for bigger ventures, including Ms. Higuera’s dream of a cooking school, some ambitions are just visions.
During the dinner rush at Atelier, however, with foreigners and Cubans enjoying food and service that had disappeared from Havana for decades, Ms. Higueras was more interested in focusing on how far she had come. “If you have 15 employees, you have at least 10 families whose troubles are suddenly resolved,” she said, wiping a few drops of chocolate from the corner of a plate on its way out of the kitchen. “If you open a little, you get a lot.”
The maps which explain the Ukraine crisis
As Russia and Ukraine come ever closer to blows over Crimea, we explain, using maps, the issues at stake
10:35AM GMT 04 Mar 2014
Ukranian and Russian Military Balance
Ukraine’s regular army has only 65,000 soldiers, compared with almost 300,000 deployed in Russia’s western and southern military districts, which border Ukraine. Russia also has an established military presence inside the Ukrainian region of Crimea, centred around the Black Sea Fleet base at the port of Sevastopol. These forces have now fanned out across Crimea and seized de facto control of the territory.
EU gas dependency
The three pipelines that carry gas across Ukraine to Poland and Slovakia and on to the EU. Trade sanctions are unpopular among European countries, which are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. Europe gets 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. Germany is particularly reluctant to get into a sanctions war since it imports more than a third of its oil and gas from Russia.
Distribution of the population speaking Ukrainian or Russian
This map shows the outlines of modern Siberia (left) and Alaska (right) with dashed lines. The broader area in a darker shade of green, which is now covered by ocean, represents the Bering land bridge as it existed about 18,000 years ago.
Anthropologists say that the ancestors of Native Americans started making their way from Siberia to the Americas 25,000 years ago over a land bridge that once spanned the Bering Sea — but there are gaps in that story: Why didn’t those migrants leave behind any archaeological traces until 10,000 years later?
Now scientists are homing in on an explanation: During all those millennia, the first Americans were isolated on the land bridge itself. When the land bridge vanished, so did the evidence of that Beringian culture.
The “Beringian Standstill” hypothesis was first proposed by Latin American geneticists in 1997, as a way to explain the genetic evidence indicating that Native Americans started diverging from Siberians 25,000 years ago. In contrast, the archaeological evidence for the first Americans goes back only 15,000 years, to the end of the ice age known as the Last Glacial Maximum.
In this week’s issue of the journal Science, three researchers report new clues that support the claims for Beringia’s lost world. They say fossilized insects, plants and pollen extracted from Bering Sea sediment cores show that central Beringia was once covered by shrub tundra. That would have made it one of the few regions in the Arctic where wood was available for fuel.
Thousands of Siberian migrants might have found refuge in central Beringia until the climate warmed up enough for glaciers to recede, letting them continue their movement into the Americas, the researchers say. “This work fills in a 10,000-year missing link in the story of the peopling of the New World,” Scott Elias, a geography professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, said in a news release.
NANCY BIGELOW / UNIV. OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS
A photo of Alaska’s shrub tundra environment today shows birch shrubs in the foreground and spruce trees scattered around Eight Mile Lake in the foothills of the Alaska Range.
In addition to Elias, the authors of “Out of Beringia?” include lead author John Hoffecker and Dennis O’Rourke. For more about the “Beringian Standstill” concept, check out the reports from the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, plus this online animation and PDF presentation. For an alternate explanation of the spread of the first Americans, check out this archived story.
First published February 27th 2014, 1:37 pm
Alan Boyle is the science editor for NBC News Digital. He joined MSNBC.com at its inception in July 1996
The fate of migrants moving to cities in 17th- and 18th-century England demonstrates how a single pathogen could dramatically alter the risks associated with migration and migratory patterns today.
Cities have always been a magnet to migrants. In 2010, a tipping point was reached for the first time when, according to the World Health Organization, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, seven out of 10 people will have been born in – or migrated to – a city. One hundred years ago, that figure was two out of 10.
Today, cities are generally the safest places to live. If you live in one, you’re likely to be richer than someone living in a rural environment. If you’re richer, you’re likely to live longer. If you live in a city, you have better access to hospitals and healthcare, and you’re more likely to be immunised.
But that was not always the case. In 17th- and 18th-century England, city life was lethal – disproportionately so for those migrating from the countryside.
Dr Romola Davenport is studying the effects of migration on the health of those living in London and Manchester from 1750 to 1850, with a particular focus on the lethality of smallpox – the single most deadly disease in 18th-century England. In the century before 1750, England’s population had failed to grow. Cities and towns sucked in tens of thousands of migratory men, women and children – then killed them. It’s estimated that half of the natural growth of the English population was consumed by London deaths during this period. Burials often outstripped baptisms.
In 2013, cities are no longer the death traps they once were, even accounting for the millions of migrants who live in poor, often slum-like conditions. But will cities always be better places to live? What could eliminate the ‘urban advantage’ and what might the future of our cities look like if antibiotics stop working?
By looking at the past – and trying to make sense of the sudden, vast improvement in survival rates after 1750 – Davenport and the University of Newcastle’s Professor Jeremy Boulton hope to understand more about city life and mortality.
“For modern migrants to urban areas there is no necessary trade-off of health for wealth,” said Davenport. “Historically, however, migrants often took substantial risks in moving from rural to urban areas because cities were characterised by substantially higher death rates than rural areas, and wealth appears to have conferred little survival advantage.”
The intensity of the infectious disease environment overwhelmed any advantages of the wealthy – such as better housing, food and heating. Although cities and towns offered unparalleled economic opportunities for migrants, wealth could not compensate for the higher health risks exacted by urban living.
“Urban populations are large and dense, which facilitates the transmission of infectious diseases from person to person or via animals or sewage. Towns functioned as trading posts not only for ideas and goods but also for pathogens. Therefore, growing an urban population relied upon substantial immigration from rural areas,” explained Davenport.
“After 1750, cities no longer functioned as ‘demographic sinks’ because there was a rapid improvement in urban mortality rates in Britain. By the mid-19th century, even the most notorious industrial cities such as Liverpool and Manchester were capable of a natural increase, with the number of births exceeding deaths.”
Davenport has been studying the processes of urban mortality improvement and changing migrant risks using extremely rich source material from the large London parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Economic and Social Research Council, is now being augmented with abundant demographic archives from Manchester, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
For both cities, Davenport and colleagues have access to detailed records of the individual burials underlying the Bills of Mortality, which were the main source of urban mortality statistics from the 17th to the 18th century. These give age at death, cause of death, street address and the fee paid for burial, which enables them to study the age and sex distribution of deaths by disease. In addition, baptismal data allow them to ‘reconstitute’ families as well as to measure the mortality rates of infants by social status.
“The records themselves give only a bald account of death,” said Davenport. “But sometimes we can link them to workhouse records and personal accounts, especially among the migrant poor, which really bring home the realities of life and death in early modern London.
“Smallpox was deadly. At its height, it accounted for 10% of all burials in London and an astonishing 20% in Manchester. Children were worst affected, but 20% of London’s smallpox victims were adults – likely to be migrants who had never been exposed to, and survived, the disease in childhood. However in Manchester – a town that grew from 20,000 to 250,000 in a century – 95% of smallpox burials were children in the mid-18th century, implying a high level of endemicity not only in Manchester but also in the rural areas that supplied migrants to the city.
“So studying urban populations can tell us not only about conditions in cities but also about the circulation of diseases in the rest of the population.”
The greater lethality of smallpox in Manchester is, for the moment, still a mystery to researchers; but evidence suggests the potential importance of transmission via clothing or other means – as opposed to the person-to-person transmission assumed in mathematical models of smallpox transmission in bioterrorism scenarios. Although smallpox was eradicated in the late 1970s, both the USA and Russia have stockpiles of the virus – which has led to fears of their use by terrorists should the virus ever fall into the wrong hands. Data on smallpox epidemics before the introduction of vaccination in the late 1790s are very valuable to bioterrorism researchers because they provide insights into how the virus might spread in an unvaccinated population (only a small proportion of the world’s population is vaccinated against smallpox).
From 1770 onwards, there was a rapid decline in adult smallpox victims in both London and Manchester, which Davenport believes could be attributable to a rapid upsurge in the use of smallpox inoculation (a precursor of vaccination) by would-be migrants or a change in the transmissibility and potency of the disease. By the mid-19th century, towns and cities appear to have been relatively healthy destinations for young adult migrants, although still deadly for children.
“Smallpox was probably the major cause of the peculiar lethality of even small urban settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries,” said Davenport, “and this highlights how a single pathogen, like plague or HIV, can dramatically alter the risks associated with migration and migratory patterns.”
“The close relationship between wealth and health that explains much of the current ‘urban advantage’ is not a constant but emerged in England in the 19th century,” added Davenport. “While wealth can now buy better access to medical treatment, as well as better food and housing, it remains an open question as to whether this relationship will persist indefinitely in the face of emerging threats such as microbial drug resistance.”
Header Image : An 1802 cartoon of the early controversy surrounding Edward Jenner’s vaccination theory, showing using hiscowpox-derived smallpox vaccine causing cattle to emerge from patients. WikiPedia
Contributing Source : University of Cambridge
© Copyright 2014 HeritageDaily – Heritage & Archaeology News
Cartogram of disenfranchisement rates, 2010. (Sentencing Project) In Florida, more than one in five black adults can’t vote. Not because they lack citizenship or haven’t registered, but because they have, at some point, been convicted of a felony. More than 20 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for reforms to sentencing policy that reduces racial disparities.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Population Explorer is a Google Maps based tool that can estimate the population of any area on Earth, down to an area of 1km2.
Draw a polygon anywhere on the Earth and Population Explorer will provide an estimate of the population within the defined area. I’ve tested the tool by selecting areas that I know, such as London and the UK, and I’ve also tested it by searching for estimates in deserts and the sea. From my limited testing Population Explorer does seem to return accurate population estimates.
The results of each search displays the total population, the population density, the number of males & females, the age structure of the population and population growth estimates.
Where people are moving to and from
The map above comes from Atlas Van Lines and shows where their customers were headed last year. Most states had a steady balance of people coming and going, but the blue ones below are where the movement was mostly inbound and the yellow ones show states that were losing people faster than they were gaining them.