Varadero, Cuba. Photo by Wilder Mendez via Wikipedia
Come to Cuba, home of the sugar white beaches, the jazz masters and a famous cocktail full of mint leaves. See the children of revolution bask in “47 anos de la independencia”, the message screamed from every billboard.
To wander the streets of Havana is to be taken away from modern globalisation, with barely a shop or advert to prick the consumer in you. Picking up hitch-hikers is mandatory and the skyline is dominated by 17th century buildings that no-one wants to modernise.
It’s a beautiful picture, but day by day the lustre is peeled away to reveal an economy on life support. Once a haven for American playboys, Fidel Castro’s coup in the 1950’s led to then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower banning his people from entering the island, as well as a trade embargo that caused misery.
Following the collapse of communism in Russia, Cuba suffered 18 hour a day blackouts, hyperinflation and melted condoms replacing the cheese on pizzas.
Iceland: Where Natural Beauty and Political Unrest Collide
Written by Nadia Di Martino
Photos by Nadia Di Martino. For more Iceland photos, visit the Photo Gallery (top bar).
Background: Iceland has long been known for its natural wonders. But this year, the country declared bankruptcy. Political protests have been going on, including from the Neyðarstjórn kvenna (shown), a feminist group that seeks gender equality in the Icelandic Parliament. In October, UK prime minister Gordon Brown controversially froze Icelandic-based UK assets using a 2001 antiterrorism act.
Reykjavik is showing its dark side these days. Three banks have collapsed and the Icelandic Kronur is so unstable that prices for tourists are set in Euros or Dollars. (1 Euro = roughly 157 Kronur). And actually Reykjavik is more a village than a city. People must have been terribly welcoming, once. Now they are still kind, but furious.
For Ethiopia, the main barrier to meet the goal of ‘’achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010’’ as set by the UN General Assembly is lack of human capacity, sadly. The so called ‘brain drain’ is impoverishing the country of key health professionals who emigrate abroad attracted by better salary and work conditions; there’s also a lack of specialized managerial guidance and of volunteers.
To quote the UNGASS report (United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS), “many programs are lagging behind their targets despite an extremely rapid pace of scale up. This situation emphasizes the challenge of reaching universal access. As the numbers receiving services increase, the gaps in the system are more pronounced: insufficient human resources, weak health infrastructure, transportation and general systems; weak harmonization and alignment; low levels of mainstreaming; and issues of ownership and empowerment."
The upcoming Italian general elections, which take place April 13-14th, have provoked both political analysts and the electorate, who are calling for desperately needed reform to the current proportional system, and new rules limiting political conflicts of interest. What has been described as a ‘complete mess’ and a political crisis, was marked by the dissolution of the Italian Parliament in late January. The proposed referendum on electoral law, originally set for May 18th, will likely be postponed, giving the current electoral law a longer term.
Canada: an Easy Place to Live, but a Nightmare to Visit
Written by Dan Sturgis
Foreigners who expect to enter Canada as tourists, students or skilled workers are telling horror story after horror story about being humiliated by immigration officials. Other work permit and residence applications are stuck in processing for years. Legitimate refugees are being deported to face torture and imprisonment, while those who learn how to manipulate the system are being welcomed to Canada by the thousands.
Spousal applications, including questionable marriages of convenience, are seemingly guaranteed approval. Yet for international couples who want to take their time before marriage, I have found Canadian immigration can take years muddling through the application process for a work or study permit. In many cases, it appears they outright reject well educated and suitable candidates. Often, it’s because the candidate doesn’t understand the system.