Monthly Archives: October 2016

Cuba.com site for sale for $4.5 million

screenshot-www-cuba-com-2016-10-28-17-46-44HAVANA, Oct. 29th (AP)    For sale: www.cuba.com. The price? $4.5 million.

The domain is selling for $4.5 million in cash, but the purchase can be financed for five years with an initial payment of $2 million.

“This special digital asset has enormous growth and revenue potential in the areas of travel, tourism, hotels, entertainment, recreation, etc.,” said Mark Thomas, executive director of the firm specializing in the buying and selling of premium domain names.

Although Thomas did not specify who the seller is, he said the site has belonged to the same owner for more than 15 years. Various reports name Skip Hoagland, founder of Domain New Media LLC, as the owner.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said the sale was significant because the offer “represents the first specific U.S. dollar valuation for a United States-based business that is solely focused upon Cuba and is for sale.”

Almost two years after the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States, business opportunities with Cuba are attractive to U.S. companies. New regulations approved by the Obama administration that seek to “empower the Cuban people and build bridges between the two countries” have spurred much interest.

The most recent regulations authorize, among other things, the scientific collaboration between the two nations in the field of medicine and the U.S. sale of medicines produced in Cuba.

However, reservations still exist among many companies primarily because of the continued complicated legal landscape as a result of the economic embargo, which remains in place, as well as Cuban government restrictions and the upcoming U.S. presidential election that could turn the table on U.S.-Cuba policy.

Several U.S. companies and experts met earlier this month in Miami for a “Preparing for Trade with Cuba” conference to discuss future business opportunities.

After the announcement of the restoration of relations with Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014, the number of domains with the word “Cuba” multiplied significantly. On the same day, about 1,500 domains containing “Cuba” were registered, according to DomainView. Also on that day, some 300 domains containing “Havana” were registered.

Havana students launches crowdfunding campaign for first Cuban video game

emptyheadgames

Josuhe Pagliery (right) and Johann Armenteros (second from right), of Empty Head Games, connect to internet at a WiFi hotspot in Havana. Courtesy

HAVANA, Oct. 28th The notion of private enterprise in Cuba usually refers to restaurants known as “paladares,” classic car owners who serve as taxis or homes that offer rooms-for-rent to tourists.

But despite limited access to the internet for Continue reading

FDA approves clinical trial for Cuban cancer vaccine

39c7885f00000578-3879388-image-a-3_1477587536154HAVANA, Oct. 28th Cuba’s groundbreaking lung cancer vaccine is being tested for approval in the US.

The island has a global reputation for high-quality healthcare and innovations at the forefront of research in diseases, including Ebola and cancer.

Now, since the recent thaw in relations between America and Cuba, US medical leaders are Continue reading

3D street mapping of Havana

screenshot-www-citylab-com-2016-10-27-11-18-34By crowdsourcing more than 65,000 photos, Mapillary and a team of Cuban mapmakers are creating the first “street views” of Havana.

HAVANA, Oct. 27th Try dropping Pegman onto Havana on Google Maps, and the most you’ll see is a sparse collection of panoramic photos taken at a few intersections and town squares around the Cuban city—all uploaded by contributors. The company has yet to send its fleet of Street View cars to the once isolated country—and between legal and security concerns, Google hasn’t publicly mentioned any plans to to do so. (The company has not responded to a request for comment.)

But rather than waiting on Google, members of a local Open Street Map community have been working with the Sweden-based company Mapillary to create their own 3D map of Old Havana. The effort kicked off in September when Claudio Cossio, the head of Mapillary’s Latin American user growth, flew from Mexico to Cuba for a six-day mapping marathon.

The dozen local mappers who participated took GoPros and their own Android phones to the streets, mapping the city by car, by bike—and where vehicles aren’t allowed, on foot.

“In the tech area, people aren’t waiting.”

So far, they have more than 65,000 street-level photos (and counting) covering nearly 200 square miles of Cuba’s capital city. They’ve mapped Old Havana proper, as well as parts of the city center, the main public transit routes, and the main highway that wraps around Havana. The photos are stored on SD cards and sent via post to Mexico, where Cossio uploads them to the company’s server.

The photos are then analyzed and stitched together by Mapillary’s team of developers. “We first blur faces and license plates, and then we start a serious extraction of info,” says the company CEO Jan Erik Solem, speaking from the CityLab 2016 conference in Miami where he’s showing off the technology. “The first [extraction] is traffic-sign recognition [to do] 3D reconstruction. Based on the things we detect, we can actually position these objects on the map with real 3D coordinates.” The algorithm can also detect which objects in the photos are streets or sidewalks.

havana-live-screenshot-www-citylab-com-2016-10-27-11-12-42

srceen shoot

The result so far look similar to Google Street View, with arrows on the ground that guide you on a virtual stroll along the roads:

According to Cossio, maps of Havana haven’t been updated since the Cuban revolution. Even Google can only provide a satellite map of the city, with scant information about what sits on each road. That’s a problem not just for travelers, but for locals. “The references of all the buildings and what they’re used for have not been updated since 1955,” he says. “So they’re lacking all this information that is basic for any of their citizens.

It’s a fitting project for Mapillary, one of Google’s many up-and-coming competitors in the digital mapping market. The company hopes to become an alternative to Google Street View, reaching areas that the tech giant has yet to explore. Instead of sending out a fancy fleets of souped-up cars or working directly with government agencies, however, Mapillary builds its maps by crowdsourcing photos from local mapmaking communities. For the most part, the company takes a “bottom-up” approach, says Solem.

He and Cossio envision the final product for this project to be integrated into useful apps that will help locals look up public transit information or help aid workers direct efforts to areas that need them most. Soon, says Solem, the technology might also help local governments automatically detect potholes and other areas that need repairs. “We’re a source for imagery and data,” he adds. “What they do with it is really up to them.”

Mappers are still collecting photos from Havana, and Mapillary is starting to map the Isle of Youth, to the south of the city, as well as an underwater archaeological site nearby.

The project comes at a time when the Cuban government faces growing pressure to expand internet access in one of the least-connected countries in the world. The government has installed hundreds of public wifi hotspots across the island since 2015, but still only about 5 to 26 percent of households have internet access today (and it is costly and heavily censored). Of the roughly 2 million people who own mobile phones, very few have data plans.

And despite a growing entrepreneurial and tech community, authorities still haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of crowdsourcing and open data. Both remain legal gray areas. While photographing the streets, for example, local mappers tried to stay low-key, keeping cameras inside cars and making sure not to enter any restricted areas.

“Things are changing, but at the same time there’s a lot of nervousness and guardedness” from the government, says Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York, who has studied the internet and entrepreneurship in Cuba. Projects that aren’t done in collaboration with authorities may be viewed with suspicion. And the topic of maps is a particularly sensitive one that is regarded as a national security issue.

”In the tech area, people aren’t waiting,” he adds.“They’re doing stuff that they don’t think is threatening, or even political, and people are very careful.” The general rule of thumb: Push the limits, but don’t stand out too much.

For local Cuban mappers, documenting their city is worth the risk. “One of their [main goals] was to have at least 80 to 90 percent of Old Havana mapped,” Cossio says. “They’re interested in the history, and in leaving a trace of how it was and how it’s changing today—what nobody is recording.”
http://www.citylab.com/tech/2016/10/mapping-havana-in-3d-cuba-mapillary-open-street-map/505187/

Cuba to bring the Web to Havana homes soon

3d134d5385852a51aa37ef74842379796f5fea47HAVANA, Oct. 27th (Reuters) Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. While the government blames cost for lack of investment in infrastructure, critics suggest the real impediment is fear of losing control of the media.

So far, only 5% of the Cuban Continue reading

Austrian Airlines Initial Flight to Havana Takes Off

havana-live-austrianairlinesHAVANA, Oct. 26th Starting today Austrian Airlines will serve yet another long-haul tourist destination- Havana.

Austria’s red-white-red flag carrier will operate a Boeing 767, which will take off for Havana, Cuba once a week, namely on Tuesdays. The duration of the journey from Vienna to Havana is about 12 hours 10 minutes.

“We have Continue reading

Internet in Havana homes by year-end, let’s see

A tourist takes a selfie at Prado Boulevard in downtown Havana, Cuba, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

A tourist takes a selfie at Prado Boulevard in downtown Havana, Cuba, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA, Oct. 26th (REUTERS) Cuba, a few decades late to the internet era, plans to bring the web into some households in Havana by the end of the year, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported on Tuesday.

Communist-ruled Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. While the government blames cost for lack of investment in infrastructure, critics suggest the real impediment is fear of losing control of the media.

So far, only 5 percent of the Cuban population is estimated to enjoy home-based internet, which requires special government permission. Usually this is granted mainly to academics, doctors and intellectuals.

The rest of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants must rely on Wi-Fi hotspots around the island and state internet parlors, although these are sparsely used because of high rates. The $2 hourly Wi-Fi tariff represents nearly 10 percent of the average state monthly salary.

A pilot project will bring the web at first into homes of 2,000 residents in Old Havana, ACN reported, citing a senior official at telecommunications monopoly ETECSA.

The necessary infrastructure has already been installed by Chinese company Huawei, although rates have not yet been decided, ACN reported ETECSA official Eudes Monier as saying.

ETECSA is also working on offering internet on mobile phones from 2017, ACN wrote.

Cuba currently has around 200 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide and in September announced it would install Wi-Fi along Havana’s picturesque seafront boulevard, the Malecon.

The United States has set connectivity as a priority in its new relationship with Cuba. Telecommunications equipment, technology and services were among the first exemptions to the embargo after Washington and Havana announced on Dec. 17 they would restore diplomatic relations.

Havana Pollution Unchanged

elio-0011HAVANA, Oct. 25th (HT) Afternoons in the city turn dark, the cloud of smoke thrown into the air by the thermal power station’s chimney, clouding the atmosphere, pollutants are expelled out, ignoring the effects this has on the environment…

This isn’t a description of something that Continue reading

Papito, the ‘Daddy’ of hairdressing in Havana

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Golberto Valladares, known as ‘Papito’, the founder of Havana’s ‘Hairdressers’ Alley’, cuts a client’s hair

HAVANA, Oct. 21th by  Fernando Ravsberg  “I still haven’t quite processed my encounter with Obama,” says Gilberto Valladares, known as Papito el Peluquero (Daddy the Hairdresser), or, more commonly, as Papito.

He, along with other Cuban entrepreneurs, met the US president on his Continue reading

Amid A Struggling Economy, Cuban Real Estate Is Booming

havana-live-real-estateHAVANA,Oct. 20th If the old real estate adage holds true — it’s all about location, location, location — then about 100 miles off the tip of Florida, it’s boom time. The real estate market in Havana, Cuba, is roaring.

Cuba is seeing its colonial-style mansions and Art Deco apartments selling in Continue reading

Glexis Novoa: A Havana Wake-Up

Glexis Novoa, 1989, from the series La etapa práctica (The Practical Stage) Courtesy The Farber Collection

On life and art in Cuba today, and a society on the brink of change

HAVANA, Oct. 18th (cubanartnews) From the outside, the windows reveal spattered walls, fragmented glimpses of Continue reading

Cuban ballet school takes first American full-timer

havana-live-Catherine ConleyHAVANA,Oct 18 (Reuters) Catherine Conley, the first American full-time student at Cuba’s prestigious National Ballet School, hopes to gain an edge back home by learning the powerful Cuban style with its dazzling turns and jumps.

“(Cuba has) an acrobatic style of dance, and I think I could use some of that,” said Conley, 18, wearing a black leotard, her wispy blond hair pulled back in a bun, in an interview at the school housed in a colonial-era palace in Old Havana.

Communist-led Cuba is renowned for its rigorous, state-subsidized ballet education and has produced an outsized share of dance stars, such as Carlos Acosta and José Manuel Carreño, for a small island of 11 million inhabitants.

Cuba’s National Ballet School (ENB), which claims to be the world’s largest with 3,000 students, has long trained many foreign dancers. But no American had joined its full-time program during the half-century long conflict between Cuba and United States.

That looks set to change in the wake of the detente announced nearly two years ago by U.S. and Cuban Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.

“I think Catherine is the first of many American students to study in Cuba,” said Victor Alexander, the director of the Ruth Page Center for The Arts in Chicago, where Conley had studied ballet since she was a child.

For the past two years, Alexander, a Cuban emigre, has been organizing week-long exchanges of students and teachers between his school and ENB. The detente made getting all the approvals and sponsorship easier, he said.

Cuban ballet has fused the best from the Russians, French, Italians, English and Americans with Latino flair and Afro-Cuban sensuality. But the style has also been criticized as dated, based on the approach of the school’s 94-year-old founder Alicia Alonso, a principal dancer in the 1940s with the company now known as American Ballet Theater.

Alexander said he wanted his students to see what made Cuban dancers unique.

“We live the passion everyday. We are not afraid to express on stage, we just let it go,” he said. Cuban ballet could also benefit from some fresh input, he added.

ENB director and founder Ramona de Saa, 77, said she recalled a time when Cuba had many American dancers. One of them married her twin sister, who defected in the 1960s shortly after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and founded the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.

Living parallel lives on different sides of the Florida Straits, the twins did not see one another for nearly four decades.

“To have this experience (with the Ruth Page School) is to relive things,” she said. “It is very emotional.”

For Conley, it felt “surreal” to be a pioneer in the one-year program, she said before a rehearsal for the school’s next show, in one of its high-ceilinged classrooms with a wall of mirrors. “I hope it will give me an edge.”

Austrian Airlines to Start Direct Flights to Havana

austrianairlines1Havana, Oct 18 (PL) Austrian Airlines will begin direct flights to Havana as of October 25th, the Cuban embassy in Vienna announced today.

‘The airline has taken the decision to celebrate 70 years of relations between the two countries,’ said a Cuban embassy post on its Twitter account.

There has been a growth in relations between Cuba and Austria since 2015, but for the authorities of the two countries, there is still more potential for the development of those ties.

In March, the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Heinz Fisher, made an official visit to the Caribbean island, where he was received by his peer, Raul Castro.

The visitor also presided over an economic forum, which concluded with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation in several sectors.

Cuba’s fashion industry bursts onto scene in Havana

Models present the collection of Cuban fashion designer Analu

HAVANA ,Oct. 17th (AP)  Like so much else in Cuba, shopping for clothes isn’t easy. Buying a simple pair of socks or a T-shirt means choosing between the wildly overpriced, shoddy offerings of state-run stores and the bales of low-priced clothing illegally imported by “mules” traveling from the United States, Ecuador or Panama. Continue reading

Classic Ballet Photo Exhibition Opens in Havana

havana-live-balletHAVANA, Oct 15 (PL) Three photographic exhibitions have opened today paying tribute to the world of classical dance. The photographs by Cuban artists have been put on show only few days before the beginning of the ”Alicia Alonso” International Ballet Festival in Havana.

The exhibition Continue reading

U.S. beat Cuba 2-0 on in Havana

U.S. national soccer team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (L), attends a conference in Havana, Cuba October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

U.S. national soccer team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (L), attends a conference in Havana, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

HAVANA,Oct. 8th (Reuters) The United States beat Cuba 2-0 on Friday in the first friendly between the two countries for 69 years in a match that will be remembered mainly for the poor quality of the Havana pitch.

The U.S. triumphed thanks to second-half goals by veteran Chris Wondolowski Continue reading