Via NewYorkTimes: Some Who Fled Cuba Are Returning to Help

Some Who Fled Cuba Are Returning to Help
By DAMIEN CAVEMARCH 4, 2014
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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.”

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Interactive: Racial Dot Maps via: University of Va.

The Racial Dot Map

One Dot Per Person for the Entire United States

Created by Dustin Cable, July 2013

Access and Use Policy


Link to Full Screen Map

Download a High Resolution Image of the U.S. Racial Dot Map (33 MB)

Please read the Access and Use Policy, which describes how this map can be used and how it should be cited.

NEW: You can see the new Congressional Dot Map project with election results here.

The Map

This map is an American snapshot; it provides an accessible visualization of geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country. The map displays 308,745,538 dots, one for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census. Each dot is color-coded by the individual’s race and ethnicity. The map is presented in both black and white and full color versions. In the color version, each dot is color-coded by race.

All of the data displayed on the map are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Summary File 1 dataset made publicly available through the National Historical Geographic Information System. The data is based on the “census block,” the smallest area of geography for which data is collected (roughly equivalent to a city block in an urban area).

The map was created by Dustin Cable, a former demographic researcher at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Brandon Martin-Anderson from the MIT Media Lab deserves credit for the original inspiration for the project. This map builds on his work by adding the Census Bureau’s racial data, and by correcting for mapping errors.

The Dots

Each of the 308 million dots are smaller than a pixel on your computer screen at most zoom levels. Therefore, the “smudges” you see at the national and regional levels are actually aggregations of many individual dots. The dots themselves are only resolvable at the city and neighborhood zoom levels.

Each dot on the map is also color-coded by race and ethnicity. Whites are coded as blue; African-Americans, green; Asians, red; Hispanics, orange; and all other racial categories are coded as brown.

Shades of Purple, Teal, and Other Colors

Since dots are smaller than one pixel at most zoom levels, colors are assigned to a pixel depending on the number of colored dots within that pixel. For example, if a pixel contains a number of White (blue dots) and Asian (red dots) residents, the pixel will be colored a particular shade of purple according to the proportion of each within that pixel.

Different shades of purple, teal, and other colors can therefore be a measure of racial integration in a particular area. However, a place that may seem racially integrated at wider zoom levels may obscure racial segregation at the city or neighborhood level.

Take the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area as an example:

While Minneapolis and St. Paul may appear purple and racially integrated when zoomed out at the state level, a closer look reveals a greater degree of segregation between different neighborhoods in both cities. While some areas remain relatively integrated, there are clear delineations between Asian, black, and white neighborhoods.

Lightly Populated Areas

Toggling between color-coded and non-color-coded map views in lightly populated areas provides more contrast to see differences in population density. Take North and South Dakota as illustrative examples:

In the black and white version, it is easier to see the smaller towns and low-density areas than in the color-coded version. Different monitor settings and configurations may make it harder or easier to see color variations in lightly populated areas, but the non-color-coded map should always show differences in population density fairly well.

Dots Located in Parks, Cemeteries, and Lakes

The locations of the dots do not represent actual addresses. The most detailed geographic identifier in Census Bureau data is the census block. Individual dots are randomly located within a particular census block to match aggregate population totals for that block. As a result, dots in some census blocks may be located in the middle of parks, cemeteries, lakes, or other clearly non-residential areas within that census block. No greater geographic resolution for the 2010 Census data is publicly available (and for good reason).

A more accurate portrayal of the geographic distribution of residents is possible if data is available on the location of parks, buildings, and/or physical addresses. Individual dots could therefore be conditionally placed based on this data.

The following is an example of using additional data to improve the dot density map for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia:

No Extra Data

Using Additional Address and Park Data

By conditioning the location of dots based on physical address and excluding locations with parks or commercial property, the dot map for Charlottesville becomes a more accurate portrayal of the population distribution of the city. However, the City of Charlottesville is unusual in that this data is made publicly available. There are no nationwide datasets for all parks or physical addresses. As a result, the national-level Racial Dot Map does not make these adjustments.

The Data

All of the data displayed on the map are from the 2010 Summary File 1 (SF1) tables from the U.S. Census Bureau. Table P5, “Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race,” was merged with block-level state shapefiles from the National Historical Geographic Information System. Five racial categories were created based on the data in table P5: non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and a category for all other racial categories including the multiracial identifications. The sum of all five categories equals the total population.

Methodology

Python was used to read the 50 state and District of Columbia shapefiles (with the merged SF1 data). The GDAL and Shapely libraries were used to read the data and create the point objects. The code retrieves the population data for each census block, creates the appropriate number of geographic points randomly distributed within each census block, and outputs the point information to a database file. The resulting file has x-y coordinates for each point, a quadkey reference to the Google Maps tile system, and a categorical variable for race. The final database file has 308,745,538 observations and is about 21 GB in size. The processing time was about five hours for the entire nation.

The database file was then sorted by quadkey and converted to a .csv format. SAS was able to do this within an hour without crashing.

Processing 2.0.1 for 64-bit Windows was used to create the map tiles. The Java code reads each point from the .csv file and plots a dot on a 512×512 .png map tile using the quadkey reference and x-y coordinates. The racial categorical variable is used to color-code each plotted dot. This process used the default JAVA2D renderer, but other platforms may work better using P2D. Map tiles were created for Google Maps’ zoom levels 4 through 13 to make the final map. A non-color-coded map was also produced to help add more contrast for lightly populated areas. In total, the color-coded and non-color-coded maps contain 1.2 million .png files totaling about 7 GB. Producing all of the map tiles in Processing took about 16 hours for the two maps.

The Google Maps API is used to display the map tiles. Map tiles with zero population are never created using the above method. Therefore, an index was used to tell the map application whether a tile exists in order to prevent 404 errors.

The entire code is up on GitHub and was adapted from code developed by Brandon Martin-Anderson and Peter Richardson in order to account for the racial coding and errors in reading the shapefiles.

via Business Insider Australia: These Maps Show Which Areas Of The Country Have The Biggest Carbon Footprints

These Maps Show Which Areas Of The Country Have The Biggest Carbon Footprints

KELLY DICKERSON YESTERDAY AT 10:01 AM    19

It’s no secret that the U.S. is one of the biggest carbon emitters around. Households in the U.S. alone are responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, even though they account for just over 4% of the global population.

But which areas in the U.S. are contributing the most? These interactive maps from the University of California, Berkeley show where the U.S. has the biggest carbon footprint. You can even calculate your city’s carbon footprint on their site.

The carbon footprint measurement equals the total greenhouse gas emissions of the zip code in question. An area’s carbon footprint includes things like energy people use at home, energy used by businesses, and transportation. The biggest source of emissions depends on the area. For example, the suburbs have a higher percentage of emissions coming from individual vehicles than big cities do.

The maps use data from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The full study was published in December in Environmental Science & Technology.

Here you can see the average annual carbon footprint across the U.S. — green is lower and the orange and red areas are higher emissions. The white areas on the map show where survey data was unavailable.

Most areas range between 40 to 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The Midwest and parts of the northeast are the worst areas.

Average household carbon footprint

Zooming in on New York City, you can see that as what the study calls a “mega city” its carbon footprint is low relative to its population density.

New york carbon footprint

Unlike the map above, this map shows only how much emissions the average home is producing — emissions from electricity and commutes. This map excludes emissions from things like goods, food, and services.

It’s easy to see the worst regions in the dark red areas on the map:

Average energy carbon footprint

Here you can see the average vehicle miles traveled by zip code. A lot of driving increases the size of a person’s carbon footprint. The purple areas represent the highest number of miles.

Average vehicle miles in the U.S.

City v. Suburb

Intuitively it makes sense to assume that as the population density of an area increases, emissions per person decrease; when people and businesses are closer together, there’s less commuting, and more resources are shared between people.

But this new research shows that the relationship is more complex. The study suggests there’s really no direct correlation between population density and greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions actually increase as population density increases until an area hits about 3,000 people per square mile.

Carbon footprint and population density

In mega cities, like New York and Los Angeles, the emissions start decreasing again as the population density climbs. This creates an upside down “U” shape when comparing carbon footprint and population density of an area.

This is visible in the plot to the left, which has population density on the x-axis and carbon footprint on the y-axis.

Further, even though these dense metropolitan areas have a small carbon footprint relative to the number of people they hold, the surrounding suburbs have a much bigger carbon footprint, “more than offsetting the benefit of low carbon areas in city centres,” the researchers say.

A changing landscape

If more people move into the suburbs, there could be a significant increase the country’s carbon footprint. Suburbs already account for 50% of the total household carbon footprint in the U.S.

“Increasing rents would also likely further contribute to pressures to suburbanize the suburbs, leading to a possible net increase in emissions,” the researchers write in the paper.

The new insight into how population density impacts carbon footprint shows there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for reducing carbon emissions across the country: Areas with different population densities produce different amounts of carbon dioxide, they also have different main sources of CO2.

For example, transportation accounts for 50% of all emissions in suburban areas. But, in big cities like New York, one of the largest emission contributors is food services. The optimal strategy to reduce emissions in both of these areas would be different: the suburbs should focus on ways to reduce transportation emissions, and big cities should focus on ways to reduce food industry emissions.

NPR-Planet Money: Every Job In America, In 1 Graph

National Public Radio posted a nice info graph that depicts employment numbers in each sector of the United States economy. This is a good opportunity to try to point out which sectors are PRIMARY, SECONDARY, TERTIARY, QUATERNARY, and QUINARY. The data is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Image