Flag of Cuba. (Photo by Stewart Cutler via Creative Commons license.)

U.S. and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations

Flag of Cuba. (Photo by Stewart Cutler via Creative Commons license.)

Flag of Cuba. (Photo by Stewart Cutler via Creative Commons license.)

The United States and Cuba will seek to re-establish diplomatic relations, according to a statement released by the White House Wednesday morning. President Barack Obama also delivered an address Wednesday morning on the announcement.

“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” he said during this morning’s address.

According to a a statement from the White House:

“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.”

“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”

(Read the full statement on whitehouse.gov.)

Cuba President Raul Castro addressed his country at the same time as Obama’s address, and Castro called for the U.S. embargo of Cuba to be lifted, according to NBC News.

The announced plans include some easing of travel, but tourist travel will not be eased, according to a story by the Associated Press.

Key to the changes are:

  • The reopening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which were severed in 1961.
  • The re-establishment of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
  • Raising remittance levels from $500 to $2,000 per quarter.
  • Expanding commercial sales to Cuba, and allowing licensed U.S. travelers to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba.
  • Allowing U.S. credit cards and bank cards to be used by travelers in Cuba.
  • Expanding travel visas for: family visits; official government business; journalists; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

AP also reported that the change in policy was announced as Cuba released a spy who provided intelligence to the United States and an American prisoner Alan Gross, who was convicted in Cuba five years ago after installing censorship-free Internet access. The U.S. also released three convicted spies for Cuba, who were convicted in Miami in 2001.

Pope Francis reportedly encouraged the warming of relations between the two countries and the Vatican released a statement following the announcement.

“The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” the Vatican’s statement read in part.

Several  Congressional critics of Cuba who are also members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Obama’s move, according to The Huffington Post.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) criticized the exchange of convicted spies for Gross.

“There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted


Categories: Featured, News, Politics

A rule card displayed at the Cat Attic cat café in Korea. Cafes commonly employ rules such as not picking up sleeping or visibly agitated cats. (Photo courtesy of Karla Orozco)

Japanese-style cat cafe coming to Seattle

Two young Seattle entrepreneurs are raising funds to open 'the Meowtropolitan' — Seattle's first cat cafe.


Categories: Arts & Culture, Business

Summer days make the view of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park worth the trek up Queen Anne. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)

Study seeks college-educated immigrants from Seattle

Summer days make the view of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park worth the trek up Queen Anne. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)

A study on skilled and educated immigrant workers seeks respondents from Seattle. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)

Are you an immigrant with a degree from abroad who can’t find a position in the field you studied? Then the nonprofit World Education Services is looking for your input on a study on “underutilized” college-educated immigrant workers.

The group is conducting a Knight Foundation-funded study on college-educated immigrant workers, and seeks respondents from the Seattle area.

World Education Services is conducting the survey as part of a study to track the experiences of underutilized, skilled immigrants in six cities to discover ways to better integrate and leverage the talents of workers who were educated abroad. The study, which is funded with a $70,000 grant from the  John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, also includes Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and San Jose, California, and Boston, as well as Seattle.

Seattle and the other cities were selected because they have large pools of college-educated immigrants.

According to World Education Services, the goal of the survey is to document the factors that help immigrant professionals to succeed, and the barriers that can hold them back. The Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University will serve as lead research partner, according to the group.

The survey ends Dec. 20.

“Gathering this information will help ensure that cities can draw on the full talents of their foreign-born residents,” said Paul Feltman, director of the Global Talent Bridge initiative at World Education Services, in a prepared statement. “While many of these individuals hold jobs as doctors or engineers, others have struggled to transfer their international credentials and obtain professional employment in the United States; this study will help us to understand why.”

According to World Education Services, approximately 3.7 million immigrants to the United States have degrees from abroad, but 26 percent of these skilled workers are unemployed or working in low-wage jobs.

Results will be publicly announced in March 2015.



Categories: Business

Anske holding her book, 'Irkadura', about a Russian mute with special powers. (Photo courtesy Ksenia Anske)

Ksenia Anske writes her way onto Amtrak with fantasy

Ksenia Anske reading from Amanda Palmer's book, 'The Art of Asking', at Town Hall on November 18th. (Courtesy Ksenia Anske)

Ksenia Anske reading from Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking,” at Town Hall on Nov. 18. (Courtesy of Ksenia Anske)

Ksenia Anske seems to have a respectable mantra for everything.

On keeping up with the dying book industry:  “Just give it out for free.”

On accepting praise: “Take the f*cking donut.”

On children’s books: “Adults should read them, too!”

On the digital age: “What’s everyone so stressed out about?”

Most importantly, when life hands you lemons, write fantasy novels.


Categories: Arts & Culture, Columnists, Featured

Chef Shota Nakajima makes a 30-minute, daikon festooned masterpiece at Seattle’s inaugural “Itadakimasu” Day celebration in Pioneer Square. (Photo by Suzi Pratt)

Seattle top chef throwdown sends winner to Washoku World Challenge

Chef Shota Nakajima makes a 30-minute, daikon festooned masterpiece at Seattle’s inaugural “Itadakimasu” Day celebration in Pioneer Square. (Photo by Suzi Pratt)

Chef Shota Nakajima makes a 30-minute, daikon-festooned masterpiece at Seattle’s inaugural “Itadakimasu” Day celebration in Pioneer Square. (Photo by Suzi Pratt)

As a food enthusiast, watching cooking competition shows is a bit of an addiction of mine. From “Hell’s Kitchen” to “Top Chef” or “Chopped,” I’m instantly hooked.

So, when I had the opportunity to attend a live  local cooking competition, I was more than stoked.


Categories: Food

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