By Sarah Marsh HAVANA (Reuters) - A handful of independent, web-based news outlets in Cuba are chipping away at the Communist-run island's half-century state media monopoly, challenging the official version of reality. While low levels of internet access across the Caribbean island limits the outlets' domestic reach and they are not fully free to speak their mind, they are opening up the range of voices and sparking a debate about the role of the media in the one-party state. "State media talks about things no one cares about and hides the truth," said Abraham Jimenez, 27, who co-launched the online, long-form magazine "El Estornudo" (The Sneeze) in March with a group of friends. "The Sneeze was something of a reaction to this context. We want to tell the truth." While the Cuban constitution forbids privately-owned mass media and there are no independent newspaper printing presses in the country, web-based outlets have so far been tolerated as long as they are not "counter-revolutionary", a nebulous term generally used against those the government accuses of trying to undermine it. President Raul Castro's government blocks internet access to dissident media, such as the country's most famous blogger Yoani Sanchez, as well as stridently anti-Castro, Miami-based outlets. The new outlets, mainly run by millennials, have distanced themselves from dissident groups. Although they are often are highly critical of government policy and describe in detail everyday hardships, they are not calling for an end to Cuba's socialist project. Jimenez says his grandfather worked as a guard for revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He does not consider himself a dissident and says his criticism is not to achieve political goals, but to present a realistic and balanced view of Cuba. "If you never talk about a country's good things, that's also not journalism," he said. The new openness is emblematic of a wider, albeit cautious, reform program under Raul Castro, who has allowed Cubans to purchase cellphones and laptops, installed 200 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and even fostered a small private sector. For some, the mere fact a debate about the role of the media is taking place is a sea change. "In the Cuba I grew up in, that debate would never have existed," said Hugo Cancio, founder of media platform OnCuba who says he moved to the United States 35 years ago after being expelled from school for making a joke about revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. The new tolerance may not last. The Communist Party newspaper Granma has published a series of increasingly angry attacks calling for restrictions on the new competitors, who have lured away some of its journalists by offering higher salaries and more freedom. The critics link the new media to U.S. government financed outlets such as Miami-based opposition Radio Marti and Television Marti that seek to undermine the Cuban government. "Cuban institutions have a legitimate right to adopt required measures in the face of tendentious journalism," the paper's Iroel Sanchez wrote on Wednesday in a column. Sanchez called the new outlets "Trojan horses" set on attacking Cuba's existing journalists and creating a "media aristocracy." The new media mavens, like the rest of Cuba's entrepreneurs, already face tough challenges. For one, most cannot get government accreditation as journalists. Financing and logistics are also tricky. Insiders at OnCuba, which overlooks Havana's sweeping seafront and by describing itself as foreign media has become the only one of the new media crop to win official accreditation, say it has softened its editorial line recently in order to keep its permit. Cuba remains one of the world's least connected countries. Fewer than 5 percent of homes are estimated to have internet and access at Wi-Fi hotspots around town costs $2 per hour - a hefty sum in a country where state wages average $25 per month. "We used to leave the office, go to a park to connect and then return," said Robin Pedraja, 29, editor of Vistar, a digital magazine about youth culture, speaking moments before a photoshoot with an up-and-coming Cuban singer at its airy office, decorated with contemporary Cuban art and enjoying a fine views of Havana. "Now we have a system that grabs the signal in a park and brings it to the office, although we are still paying. It's a bit expensive but better than what we did before." Vistar is a glossy magazine also popular abroad - each edition is downloaded on average 50,000 times - and says it earns revenue from advertising, including Mexico's Sol beer and Silver Airways, which serves Florida, the Bahamas and now Cuba. Other more news-focused outlets have a smaller circulation and are cash poor. Collaborators for "The Sneeze" work for free from home, fitting it in around their day jobs. The paper says it rejected an offer of hefty funding from a U.S.-based foundation. Another publication, "Periodismo de Barrio" (Neighborhood Journalism), run by Harvard-educated 30-year old Elaine Diaz, states in its ethical code that it will not accept financing from anyone that may have been involved in "actions to destabilize Cuba". Most of the owners of smaller outlets say they finance them with money from other jobs or savings, and avoid foreign funding that could compromise their integrity. WEAPONS OF COMMUNICATION The emergence of alternative outlets has added to fuel to a smoldering debate between reformists and conservatives in the heart of Cuba's communist system about the pace of economic and social change necessary for the system to survive. Castro himself lambasted state-run media five years ago, complaining it was often "boring, improvised and superficial". "We need to leave behind the habit of triumphalism, stridency and formalism in broaching the topic of national news," he said at the 2011 Communist Party Congress. In a sign of the internal debate this has caused, Granma's deputy editor, Karina Marron, made a closed-door speech in June saying nobody chose journalism to write propaganda and calling for reform. The speech was leaked on the blog of a state media journalist and went viral. The reporter was later fired. Meanwhile, on Granma's pages, Sanchez and others routinely attack the new outlets, which have a growing social media presence. OnCuba, which also targets U.S. readers, has 259,616 likes on Facebook, Vistar has 15,776, and younger and more news-based outlets like The Sneeze and Neighborhood Journalism have several thousand each. For the time being, television remains most Cubans' main source of news, given that internet is still a luxury. Cubans tune in to the thrice-daily state news programs or to foreign satellite programs pirated from the United States. As such, the new outlets are finding ways to reach their audience without the internet. Each edition of Vistar for example goes out as a PDF on El Paquete, a package of media distributed by USB sticks across the country. "It won't be like the Berlin Wall coming down all at once and drastically changing perceptions," said Michaelanne Dye, a researcher who co-authored a study on internet usage in Cuba. "Rather, through slowly increasing internet access, new, unofficial media sources, and an opening economy, pieces of the "wall" are being chipped away, bit by bit." (Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Christian Plumb and Frank Jack Daniel)
- Yahoo News
Fresh off his inauguration Wednesday, President Biden began his term with executive orders on measures ranging from curbing the coronavirus pandemic to addressing racial inequality, many of which roll back measures enacted by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
- Associated Press
Two Florida men, including a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, were arrested Wednesday on charges of taking part in the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, authorities said. Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in central Florida and faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted area on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct. According to an arrest affidavit, Biggs was part of a crowd on Jan. 6 that overwhelmed Capitol Police officers who were manning a metal barrier on the steps of the Capitol.
- The Week
One of former President Donald Trump's last acts in office was issuing a directive extending free Secret Service protection to his four adult children and two of their spouses for the next six months, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.It's not just his adult children benefiting — Trump also directed that former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien continue to receive Secret Service protection for six months, two people familiar with the matter told the Post. This 24-hour security, funded by taxpayer money, is expected to cost millions.Under federal law, only Trump, former first lady Melania Trump, and their 14-year-old son, Barron, are entitled to Secret Service protection now that they have left the White House; while Donald and Melania can receive protection for the rest of their lives, Barron is only entitled to it up until his 16th birthday.The Post notes that presidents have the ability to order Secret Service protection for anyone they want, but it is extremely unusual for an outgoing president to order this type of security for their children who are well into adulthood. It is also unclear if there is precedent for ordering security for former aides. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush requested security extensions for their daughters, who were in college when their presidencies ended. Once former President Barack Obama was out of office, his daughters — one in high school, the other on a gap year from college — received a short extension of security.During Trump's presidency, his adult children took more than 4,500 trips, including vacations and business travel for the Trump Organization, the Post reports. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars for Secret Service agents to accompany them on those jaunts.More stories from theweek.com The Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracists are starting to dump Trump Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Biden tells new White House hires he'll fire them 'on the spot' if they disrespect colleagues or constituents
Capt. Scott Moss, who led the NOSC in Knoxville, was relieved of command by Capt. Dale Maxey.
Russian forces have killed a Chechen separatist guerrilla commander believed to have been involved in a deadly bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in 2011, authorities said on Wednesday. Aslan Byutukayev was one of six militants killed during a special operation in the village of Katyr-Yurt, about 1,500 km (930 miles) south of Moscow, Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov said. Byutukayev is supected of being behind a bombing that killed nearly 40 people in the arrivals hall of Domodedovo airport in 2011.
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump spent his first night as a private citizen settling into his new home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he has reportedly already begun preparing for his upcoming impeachment hearing. Mr Trump’s final engagement in Washington DC as president was attending his farewell at Joint Base Andrews in DC, which was attended only by some 250 of his most loyal aides and supporters. Notably absent were close White House aides and his own vice president Mike Pence. The former president then left for Florida as President Joe Biden was being sworn in, where he received a much warmer welcome. Supporters lined Mr Trump’s route to Mar-a-Lago, waving “Trump 2020” flags and signs reading “welcome home!”, while others screamed “I love you” as his motorcade drove past. Some still refused to accept the results of the election.
Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the Navy destroyer The Sullivans will deploy as part of the strike group.
- The Independent
Trump ends term with ‘patriotic education’ report which makes excuses for slavery and calls anti-abortion movement ‘great reform’
White House website says report is “rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around idea that United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one”
- The Week
President Biden's inaugural address has won some high praise on Fox News.Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Wednesday praised Biden's "great" inaugural address, going as far as to deem it the best he's ever watched in his life."I thought it was a great speech," Wallace said. "I've been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961 -- John F. Kennedy, 'ask not.' I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard."Biden during his first address as president declared that "democracy has prevailed" and urged unity, saying politics "doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path." Wallace noted the speech and the ceremony itself was especially meaningful coming exactly two weeks after a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt Congress' certification of the election results."It was a less an inaugural address and more part sermon, part pep talk," Wallace said.The Fox News anchor also called for those in the media to particularly take note of Biden's comment that "there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit, and each of us has a duty and a responsibility ... to defend the truth and defeat the lies.""Now he's gotta turn words, rhetoric into reality and action," Wallace added. "But I thought it was a great start." > Fox News's Chris Wallace: "This was the best inaugural address I ever heard." pic.twitter.com/W2tauGp5g5> > -- Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 20, 2021More stories from theweek.com The Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracists are starting to dump Trump Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Biden tells new White House hires he'll fire them 'on the spot' if they disrespect colleagues or constituents
Beijing is touting a state programme that gives Taiwanese in China priority for COVID-19 vaccines, prompting concern within Taiwan's government which sees it as the latest Chinese tool to win over the island's population. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, is making the free-of-charge offer at a time when the democratic island has yet to begin vaccinations of its own, with Chinese government departments and state media quoting Taiwanese in China in support of the programme. "This shows the mainland's warmth and affection towards us," a Taiwanese teacher surnamed Wang was quoted as saying in a post this month by China's United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting overseas Chinese and non-communists.
- Yahoo News Video
Already facing allegations of stealing more than $600,000 in federal funds from a health care school she directed, a Tennessee state senator has been charged in a new fraud case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said Tuesday.
- The Telegraph
Eric Trump says he will 'never forget Buckingham Palace' as family seen in tears at farewell ceremony
Eric Trump said he will "never forget Buckingham Palace" as he looked back on his father's four years in office after a tearful farewell ceremony. The president's second eldest son said it had been the honour of his life to have had a "front row seat to the most remarkable and consequential presidencies in American history". He went on to enumerate his father's achievements in office, listing his tax cuts, support for the second Amendment and Middle East peace deals. He singled out his visit to the UK, which included a State banquet hosted by the Queen in 2019. "I will never forget Buckingham Palace and the beaches of Normandy," he said in a tweet. "It's truly a journey I will never forget," he said.
Former California Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors.
- NBC News
The boy was pulled into the water Monday, while the National Weather Service warned that waves could swell to 25 feet.
Biden's transition team lawyers have reminded Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' niece, Meena, that she can't profit off her famous aunt's image, after she unveiled a collaboration between her company and Beats By Dre.Why it matters: Following Republican attacks, President-elect Joe Biden pledged that neither his family nor Harris' would profit from their service as president and vice president. Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * While Meena Harris did nothing illegal, it underscored the challenge of keeping relatives in line, and of adhering to the higher ethical standards that the incoming administration has pledged.The backdrop: The specially curated products come in a black box and include a black hoodie emblazoned with the word AMBITIOUS on the front; a Bluetooth speaker with the word PHENOMENAL across it; and the over-ear headphones. * Ambitious refers to the criticism some leveled against Harris — who was a first-term senator — as Biden weighed a variety of female candidates to be his running mate. * Phenomenal is a female-powered lifestyle brand of which Meena Harris is CEO.The spine connecting the two earpieces reads, "The First But Not The Last," an apparent reference to Kamala Harris' becoming the first female vice president. * While the products are not for sale, they were gifted to influencers and celebrities ahead of the inauguration.The team surrounding the incoming vice president was not made aware of the collaboration in advance, people familiar with the situation told Axios. The lawyers followed up and told Meena Harris that she — like anyone else — cannot profit off of Harris' image or likeness once she becomes vice president. * Meena Harris's team did not respond to a request for comment. * Meena is the daughter of Kamala Harris' sister, Maya.Between the lines: The optics of Meena Harris' business ventures are especially challenging after Democrats spent four years criticizing business deals involving President Trump and his children, and after Biden's public pledge to avoid any influence-peddling. * “My son, my family will not be involved in any business, any enterprise that is in conflict with or appears to be in conflict,” he said last year. * In December, lawyers for the presidential transition team started "drafting new rules for the Biden White House that are likely to be more restrictive than the rules that governed the Obama administration," per the Washington Post. The bottom line: Phenomenal has sold several other items inspired by Kamala Harris since Biden announced her as his running mate. * They include a sweatshirt with "MVP" on it, standing for "Madam Vice President," and another with the phrase "I'm speaking" on the front — a nod to a moment when Kamala Harris complained about being interrupted during a vice-presidential debate. * After Kamala Harris received the "too-ambitious" criticism, her niece created and sold a pink sweatshirt with "AMBITIOUS" written on the front. * “I look at her as another figure in history and someone to be celebrated,” she said of her aunt during an interview with the New York Times.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
South Korean president under fire for saying adoptive parents should be able to 'change' their child
Children’s rights groups in South Korea have condemned comments by President Moon Jae-in suggesting that adoptive parents who do not get along with a child should be able to “change” it for another one. Mr Moon was responding to a question at a press conference on Monday about the government’s efforts to prevent child abuse in light of the death late last year of a 16-month-old girl, allegedly at the hands of her adoptive parents. The case has provoked outrage in South Korea, with the adopted mother of Jung-in charged with murder on January 13. The woman, identified only by her family name, Jang, was originally charged with fatal child abuse and neglect in December. Commenting on the case, Mr Moon said, “Even after adoption, the adoptive parents need to check if the adoption is working out for them. So there should be measures allowing them to cancel the adoption or, if they still want to adopt a child, then they should be able to change the child." The press conference, which was being broadcast live on national television, triggered an immediate response, with critics saying the president was suggesting that children were “goods” that could be returned for a refund. Groups representing adoptees and parents who have given homes to children staged a protest in front of the presidential Blue House the same day, demanding an apology from the president and changes to the system of adoptions in Korea. “Mr Moon’s comments are no different from those of adoption agencies, who treat adoption as a business," Jeon Young-soon, head of an association of parents, told The Korea Herald. Na Kyung-won, a member of the opposition People Power Party, also condemned the president’s comments, saying, “For adopted children, the horrific ordeal is being abandoned again by their adoptive parents. Mr Moon has made a serious error." A petition has also been started on the president’s website, stating, “Adoption is not like shopping for a child. When people have made up their minds to care for a child for his or her whole life, they adopt the child with love that is beyond comparison”. Government officials insist the president’s comments have been misunderstood and taken out of context. South Korea traditionally has low levels of domestic adoption, in part due to the importance of blood relations and the stigma attached to children born out of wedlock. Many Korean children find adoptive parents overseas.
- The Week
Anthony Scaramucci was right: The White House appears to be having trouble rounding up a sizable crowd for President Trump's official send-off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday."In what looks like a desperate attempt to build a crowd for the crowd-obsessed president, an email has been making the rounds to current and former White House officials inviting them, and as many as five plus-ones, to Trump's elaborate exit ceremony," Politico reported Tuesday morning. "The go-to excuse for skipping out has been the 6 a.m. call time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. But truly, many just don't want to be photographed sending off their former boss."Trump's current staffers have a good reason to avoid their outgoing boss. "Former White House officials and campaign staffers who would typically land plum jobs in corporate America after serving their time are now out in the cold," Politico says. One former White House official who got out early put it this way: "No one wants to touch them, they're just toxic." Another former Trump aide, pointing to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, was more blunt, telling Politico: "They're f---ed."Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson, another member of the tiny impeached president club, to skip the inauguration of his successor. "Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant in 1869," The Washington Post notes. More stories from theweek.com Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump leaves the White House for the last time as president