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January 23, 2018

US, Cuba spar over migration policy at historic Havana talks

HAVANA (AP) — The United States said Wednesday it dispatched additional ships to the Florida Straits to halt Cuban rafters but rebuffed demands for broader changes to U.S. migration rules that dominated the first day of talks between Cuban officials and the highest-ranking U.S. delegation to the island in more than three decades.

Cuba urged the U.S. to end immigration privileges that grant virtually automatic legal residency to any Cuban who touches U.S. soil. Its government blames the Cold War policy for luring tens of thousands of Cubans a year to make perilous journeys by sea and land to try to reach the United States. Still, many Cubans are worried the elimination of the rules would take away their chance to have a better life in the U.S.

“I don’t want them to get rid of it,” said Mile Nieves, a 42-year-old Havana resident. “I’ve got my whole family there and I’m desperate to leave.”

U.S. officials reported a spike in the number of rafters attempting to reach Florida after the Dec. 17 announcement that the countries would move to normalize ties. Those numbers appear to have slowed in recent days.

In Washington, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement saying additional Coast Guard cutters have been deployed to stop Cuban and Haitian migrants from reaching the United States by boat.

America’s “wet foot, dry foot” approach, which generally shields Cubans from deportation if they touch U.S. land, remains in effect, Johnson said. But he stressed that those trying to come by sea would most likely be interdicted and returned.

“Cuba wants a normal relationship with the U.S., in the broadest sense but also in the area of migration,” said Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal. She called for the U.S. to end “exceptional treatment that no other citizens in the world receive, causing an irregular situation in the flow of migrants.”

American officials instead pressed Cuba to take back tens of thousands of its nationals whom U.S. authorities want to deport because they have been convicted of crimes. No progress was made on that issue, according to an official present in the meeting. The official wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The talks continue Thursday with broader negotiations on how the U.S. and Cuba can end a half-century of enmity — as promised last month by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro. The nations hope to re-establish embassies and post ambassadors to each other’s capitals in the coming months.

After meeting with the Cubans for more than three hours, State Department officials said the annual migration talks had been easier than usual because the two sides felt comfortable focusing almost entirely on migration. In past years, the migration talks served as a pretext for a wider range of bilateral disagreements.

“Today’s discussions prove that despite clear differences that remain between our countries, the United States and Cuba can find opportunities to advance our mutual, shared interests as well as engage in respectful and thoughtful dialogue,” said the State Department’s Alex Lee, who headed the U.S. delegation ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s arrival of Roberta Jacobson.

Jacobson is the top American diplomat for Latin America and most senior U.S. official to visit Cuba in more than three decades.

Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 7th District in Miami, said “aggressively” stepped-up patrols have eased the spike in rafters seen immediately after the twin announcements last month by Castro and Obama.

“We have seen a slowdown in the last two weeks,” Somma said. He wouldn’t say how many more U.S. boats were patrolling the Florida Straits and Caribbean.

The Havana talks were occurring hours after Obama said U.S. efforts to loosen the five-decade trade embargo have “the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere” and are a “new hope for the future in Cuba.”

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Associated Press writers Anne-Marie Garcia and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

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US, Cuba spar over migration policy at historic Havana talks

Landscape guide, solar hotel, Poconos park, Dollywood fest

NEW YORK (AP) — EXPLORING CULTURAL LANDSCAPES

An ancient pueblo inhabited for centuries by indigenous people. A city park inspired by the Midwestern prairie. A Hudson River estate designed as a three-dimensional work of art.

What do these places — the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, Columbus Park in Chicago and Olana in New York — have in common? They’re all cultural landscapes — places that are important because of their history or association with individuals, communities or events. And they’re included — along with 1,700 other sites — in an online database called What’s Out There, created by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington D.C.

The database at http://www.tclf.org offers photos and information about designed landscapes (as opposed to natural or unaltered landscapes) in order to promote awareness and preservation efforts. The foundation has also published nine guidebooks about cultural landscape legacies in places ranging from Denver to Miami. This year the organization will sponsor a number of events including weekend tours in Austin, Texas; Newport, Rhode Island; Denver and Toronto, along with a photo exhibit on the work of landscape architect Dan Kiley that will be shown Jan. 24-Feb. 28 at the University of Colorado in Denver and at New York’s Center for Architecture March 26-June 20.

The organization’s website has been optimized for iPhones and other digital devices with a “What’s Nearby” button that provides an illustrated list of all the landscapes in the database within a 25-mile radius.

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SOLAR-POWERED HOTEL

A hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is running on sunshine.

Guest rooms at the Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda and Spa are now 100 percent solar-powered, according to the hotel and Stay.Solar, a new company that’s looking to bring solar power to the hotel industry.

But you won’t see solar panels in the hotel roof — even though New Mexico has plenty of sunny days. The energy is produced at large-scale solar installations elsewhere and is delivered to the hotel by smart-grid technology.

“It’s kind of like depositing money in a bank in New York and pulling it out of an ATM machine somewhere else,” explained Stay.Solar president Don Hicks.

Guests won’t notice anything different — other than a sign on the hotel registration desk and in each room explaining the solar sourcing.

Hotel Santa Fe is the first hotel to convert to all-solar power with Stay.Solar. “To be the first out of the gate with this company, we are very excited about that,” said hotel spokesman Steve Lewis. “It felt like a really good fit.”

The 163-room Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda and Spa is majority-owned by the Picuris Pueblo, an indigenous community north of Santa Fe.

Stay.Solar is looking to expand the program to other high-end boutique hotels around the country. But the energy does cost more to produce than energy from conventional sources like coal: “It’s a premium product,” said Hicks. Customers sign up as part of a commitment to green business practices, not to save money. As long-term demand for solar energy grows, the cost of producing it is expected to drop.

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NEW POCONOS WATER PARK

Kalahari Resorts is planning to open a water park in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains in June. It’s the company’s first location in the Eastern U.S. The first Kalahari Resort opened in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in 2000, and the second opened in 2005 in Sandusky, Ohio.

The new Kalahari will be Pennsylvania’s largest indoor water park at 100,000 square feet. It will include a family entertainment center with bowling, laser tag, black-light mini-golf and arcade games. The resort will have 457 guest rooms along with convention center space, restaurants, a spa, golf course.

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DOLLYWOOD CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL

Dollywood is launching a new event later this year: Rock the Smokies, a Christian music festival scheduled for Sept. 5.

The event at the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, theme park will feature Third Day and For King & Country among others. Festival tickets will include admission to the park and rides. Tickets are expected to go on sale in February.

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Landscape guide, solar hotel, Poconos park, Dollywood fest

Solomon Islander who helped save JFK dies at 93

Honiara (AFP) – A Solomon Islander who helped save John F. Kennedy when a Japanese destroyer sank the future US president’s patrol boat during World War II has died aged 93, his family said Monday.

Eroni Kumana and his fellow islander Buiku Gasa were out in a canoe in 1943 when they came across the injured Kennedy, who was then a naval lieutenant, and members of his crew stranded on a coral atoll.

The pair helped the Americans survive and Kennedy went on to become the 35th president of the United States, keeping a coconut from the ordeal as a paperweight on his White House desk.

Kumana’s son Esori said his father passed away surrounded by family members on Saturday aged 93 and was laid to rest on his home island of Ronongga on Monday.

“It was very sad (but) he lived a full life and we are proud of him,” he told AFP via telephone from the island, where villagers were preparing a feast in Kumana’s honour.

Kennedy’s boat PT-109 was on a night-time patrol when a Japanese destroyer suddenly loomed out of the dark and sheared the wooden vessel in half, according to the Smithsonian magazine.

Spilled fuel ignited in the water, causing both the Japanese and other US PT boats to assume the 13-man crew had all perished in the shark-infested waters.

In fact, 11 of them were still alive and when dawn broke Kennedy led his crew on a five-kilometre (three-mile) swim from the boat’s wreckage to a coral atoll.

Kennedy, who had suffered a ruptured spinal disc, towed a badly burned crewman behind him during the marathon swim.

Eventually Kumana and Gasa passed in their canoe. They helped collect food for the crew and Kennedy sent them off to get help with a message etched into the shell of a coconut, reading: “Nauru Isl commander/native knows posit/he can pilot/11 alive/need small boat/Kennedy”.

After being rescued, Kennedy retrieved the coconut and had it encased in plastic, using it as a paperweight throughout his post-war political career. It is still on display in the Kennedy Museum in Boston.

Kumana and Gasa were invited to Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration but were unable to make the trip to Washington.

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Gasa died in November 2005.

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Solomon Islander who helped save JFK dies at 93