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Planet Health Care

BOSTON — Health care reform was the main event in Washington, D.C., again this week. With good reason: the fate of America's troubled system will no doubt affect the $14 trillion U.S. economy for good or ill, depending on how the drama plays out. Moreover what happens in the U.S., which produces more than 20 percent of global economic output, matters greatly to the economies of the rest of the world. So, yes, play close attention to the health care debate and all the politics behind it.

Embargo over Beethoven?

HAVANA, Cuba — Despite a recent thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the New York Philharmonic was reminded last week that it’s still easier for an American orchestra to play in nuclear-armed North Korea than in the long-estranged Caribbean island next door.

Are mojitos more dangerous than nukes?

A lot of Cubans are disappointed today by news that the U.S. Treasury Department has essentially forced the New York Philharmonic to postpone its historic trip to Cuba, which had been planned for later this month. Apparently the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control granted travel licenses for the orchestra to go to Havana, but not the patrons who are supporting the trip financially.

No free lunch in Cuba's “new socialism”

HAVANA, Cuba — A vast system of workplace cafeterias doles out lunch on this island every week, serving rice, beans and maybe a little meat to some 3.5 million Cubans — a third of the country’s population. In a state-run economy where the average salary is about $20 a month, the meal can be an added incentive to show up for work.

Cuba's Coney Island

Havana's Cuatro Caminos market a slice of Cuba

At Cuban resorts, the end of tourism apartheid

VARADERO, Cuba — This massive resort complex may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but to legions of European and Canadian vacationers, it is the Cuba of travel brochures: white sand beaches, turquoise waters and all-inclusive discount getaways. With more than 50 hotels and counting, it has grown into one of the largest tourism destinations in the Caribbean.

Castro urges Cubans "back to the land"

HOLGUIN, Cuba — Former Cuban President Fidel Castro was famous for his marathon speeches and unflinching stamina, delivering grand, looping disquisitions that could last for hours in the broiling sun. But on Sunday, the national holiday marking the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, Castro’s successor and younger brother Raul was brief and direct in his state-of-the-union-style address — in keeping with his reputation as a practical man with little patience for the island’s plodding bureaucracy. His message was also a sobering one.

Cuba's Craigslist

HAVANA — On this Communist-run island, the black market is a vast, irrepressible force, an underground river of unlicensed services, goods pilfered from government stores and coveted items carried in from abroad. Cuban authorities go to great lengths to curtail it; they cannot. Over the years, buying and selling en la calle — in the street — has been practiced by generations of Cubans forced to make ends meet in a state-controlled economy where official wages are woefully inadequate and most forms of private commerce are banned.

Brazil banking on Cuba trade

Brazil — the region's emerging economic superpower — is planning to invest hundreds of millions in Cuba to help develop the island's pharmaceutical, oil, and shipping industries, a Brazilian trade minister announced this week during a visit to Havana. While the investment projects will be viewed by some as a political gesture by left-leaning Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, they may prove to be a smart bet on Cuba's future trade — especially with the United States.
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