TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Eases Restrictions on Travel to Cuba

Cuba Havana US travel
A pedicab ("bicitaxi" in Cuba) with a national flag of the United States is seen in Havana, on Jan. 7, 2015. Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty Images

Will make it easier for people and companies to do business in Cuba

The United States announced Thursday that it was easing restrictions on travel and commerce in Cuba, in the first step of President Barack Obama’s plan to thaw relations between the two countries.

The new measures, which take effect on Friday, authorize airlines to fly to Cuba and allow Americans to visit Cuba without first obtaining a special license if they are traveling for any of more than a dozen reasons, including family visits, journalism and sports. They also expand the list of goods that can be exported to Cuba and authorize financial institutions to operate more widely in Cuba.

The announcement on Thursday marked the first tangible step by the U.S. to normalize relations between the two countries since Obama unexpectedly began the shift in policy last month after decades of tension with Cuba.

“Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.

TIME movies

See the Awesome Way The Lego Movie’s Director Responded to the Oscar Snub

The Lego Movie was not nominated for Best Animated Feature. Here's director Phil Lord's response on Twitter.

Everything is awesome.

Read next: Oscars 2015: See the Full List of Nominees

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Drugs

Marijuana-Infused Sex Spray To Hit Stores in Colorado

The product will be launched at the X Games next week.

As the marijuana industry evolves in Colorado, which legalized recreational use in 2012, so too are the product offerings.

The latest, according to USA Today: Foria, a spray containing marijuana extract that claims to improve sex for women. As part of an intensive marketing campaign, the spray will be launched at the X Games in Aspen on Jan. 22 and be available in Colorado for people 21 and older.

Foria, a product from the California medical marijuana cooperative Aphrodite Group, has been available in California for holders of medical marijuana cards for several months, and it doesn’t come cheap. While card holders don’t buy the product, they “donate” about $44 for a 10ml bottle, according to USA Today.

Colorado and three other states — Washington, Oregon and Alaska — and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use, though recreational sales are currently only allowed in Colorado and Washington.

[USA Today]

TIME russia

7 Western Assets Owned (for Now) by Russian Billionaires

Will the tanking Russian economy prompt its billionaires to shed their high profile holdings in the U.S. and Europe?

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is reportedly looking for a buyer for the NBA basketball team he bought five years ago, amid speculation that the his country’s shrinking economy may have squeezed his finances.

The 49-year-old businessman, worth roughly $11.1 billion, wants to unload the Brooklyn Nets, Bloomberg reports. A spokesman for Prokhorov told Bloomberg that the team is open to sale offers.

There are many reasons that Prokhorov, the first foreign owner of an NBA team, could be considering a sale. The team has suffered a dismal start to the season after a poor record last year, sinking his plans for a spot in the championships within five years. The team has also lost about $144 million in the last year, according to ESPN.

The billionaire may also be capitalizing on an apparently hot market for NBA teams after former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers last year for a record $2 billion. The Nets have been valued at around $1.3 billion, which means a sale could net Prokhorov nearly $1 billion in profits from his original, $220 million stake.

But as the Russian economy crumbles under falling oil prices and tough Western sanctions, the nation’s business elite are feeling the pressure. Last month alone, Russia’s richest 20 people — Prokhorov included — lost a combined $10 billion as the value of the ruble tumbled. They lost a combined $62 billion across the year, according to the analysis by Bloomberg.

And Prokhorov’s not alone. Russian billionaires have snapped up marquee items in Europe and the U.S., from sports teams to properties. There are growing fears that the downturn in Russia may prompt some of them to sell off their properties to cover losses.

Here’s a look at some of the highest profile assets owned by Russian oligarchs.

  • The Brooklyn Nets

    General view as fans watch a tip-off between the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic at the Barclays Center on Nov. 9, 2014 in Brooklyn, New York.
    General view as fans watch a tip-off between the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic at the Barclays Center on Nov. 9, 2014 in Brooklyn, New York. Alex Goodlett—Getty Images

    Mikhail Prokhorov, the seventh-richest Russian and the 107th richest person in the world, bought the team and a share of the team’s new Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center, in 2010 (according to Bloomberg, his share of the arena is not for sale). The team made it to the playoffs in 2013 but still have little to show for high profile acquisitions of aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

  • Arsenal

    Arsenal players celebrate victory with mascot Gunnersauraus Rex after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London.
    Arsenal players celebrate victory with mascot Gunnersauraus Rex after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London. Clive Mason—Getty Images

    In 2007, Alisher Usmanov bought an initial stake in the Arsenal Football Club and now owns about 30% of the team. The Gunners won an FA Cup title last year after a nearly decade long drought, but 2014 wasn’t all good news for Usmanov, who lost the title of richest man in Russia to Viktor Vekselberg.

  • 15 Central Park West

    15 Central Park West, a luxury condominium building, stands in New York, U.S., on Jan. 6, 2009.
    15 Central Park West, a luxury condominium building, stands in New York, U.S., on Jan. 6, 2009. Bloomberg/Getty Images

    The record-breaking $88 million purchase of a penthouse on Central Park West in New York City in 2012 was linked to Dmitry Rybolovlev, who made his fortune in the fertilizer industry. But Rybolovlev, worth $10.2 billion, could lose the property in an ugly and very expensive divorce settlement; in May, a Swiss court ordered him to pay a record-breaking $4.5 billion this year.

  • AS Monaco

    Yannick Ferreira Carrasco of Monaco shoots at goal during the French Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco FC and LOSC Lille at Louis II Stadium on Aug. 30, 2014 in Monaco,
    Yannick Ferreira Carrasco of Monaco shoots at goal during the French Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco FC and LOSC Lille at Louis II Stadium on Aug. 30, 2014 in Monaco, Kaz Photography/Getty Images

    Dmitry Rybolovlev lives in Monaco, where he has owned a majority stake in the local soccer team since 2011 and helped the red and white bounce back from a lengthy slump to be one of Europe’s strongest competitors — and biggest spenders. Could a record-setting divorce settlement representing half his fortune (though he’s still contesting the court’s ruling) and the effects of the dropping ruble push Rybolovlev to change that approach?

  • Star Island estate

    Single family homes on Star Island and the Venetian Islands are seen June 3, 2014 in Miami.
    Single family homes on Star Island and the Venetian Islands are seen June 3, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

    Russian Vodka tycoon Roustam Tariko spent $25.5 million for an estate on Miami Beach’s Star Island in 2011, the largest Miami Beach sale in more than half a decade.

  • Chelsea F.C.

    Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates with team-mates after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 10, 2015 in London.
    Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates with team-mates after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 10, 2015 in London. Richard Heathcote—Getty Images

    Roman Abramovich shattered the record price paid for British soccer teams in 2003 when he paid $233 million for Chelsea FC. The steel tycoon, today Russia’s fourth wealthiest man, poured money into the team — until it made a profit last year — and helped it become one of the best in Europe. The team has won three Premier League titles as well as Europe’s Champions League under Abramovich’s ownership. While Abramovich’s fortune has shrunk by nearly two percent in the past year according to Bloomberg, representing a loss of more than 200 million dollars, he has given no indication of wanting to sell the team.

  • One Hyde Park

    One Hyde Park is seen London on May 2, 2014.
    One Hyde Park is seen London on May 2, 2014. Paul Hackett—Reuters

    Foreigners, including suspected Russian oligarchs, swooped in to buy up apartments in One Hyde Park, London’s most exclusive — and most expensive — residential tower. Some of the owners’ identities have been confirmed, like Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who spent $220 million on an apartment. That was a record high spent in the U.K., until it was surpassed by another One Hyde Park buyer. But in the wake of the rubles plummet, Russian buyers in London’s luxury market have all but vanished, brokers told Bloomberg News last month.

TIME natural disaster

Five Years Later, See TIME’s Coverage of the Haiti Earthquake

Haiti cover
The Jan. 25, 2010, cover of TIME PHOTOGRAPHS BY IVANOH DEMERS/MONTREAL LA PRESSE/AP

The earthquake devastated a nation that was on the verge of achieving long-term economic and political stability

Five years ago on Monday, just as the Caribbean nation of Haiti was beginning to stand on solid footing, the ground beneath it shook. The tremor flattened buildings and killed more than 200,000 people, bringing to a halt the country’s slow but encouraging progress toward economic and political stability.

“Tragedy has a way of visiting those who can bear it least,” TIME’s Michael Elliott observed shortly after, reporting on the earthquake. By then, the devastation wrought by the tremor was coming into focus. The capital city of Port-au-Prince, just 15 miles from the epicenter, had been largely leveled; the National Palace and the city’s cathedral were destroyed; and aid workers were already pleading for international help with messages like this email from Louise Ivers, clinical director for Haiti for the NGO Partners in Health: “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS … Please help us.”

Support did flow in, in the form of aid workers, foreign aid, and more than $1 billion in charity. But the earthquake set back years of development work in the impoverished country. As TIME reported:

What makes the earthquake especially ‘cruel and incomprehensible,’ as U.S. President Barack Obama put it, was that it struck at a rare moment of optimism. After decades of natural and political catastrophes, the U.N. peacekeeping force and an international investment campaign headed by former President Bill Clinton, the U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti, had recently begun to calm and rebuild the nation.

Starting from scratch, the post-earthquake rebuilding process has made headway. Rubble that covered the ground and blocked transit routes, one of the most tangible signs of the country’s slow recovery in the months after the earthquake, has now largely been cleared. Infrastructure, including a new airport, has been rebuilt. And the number of people living in makeshift tent homes has dropped from some 1.5 million to 70,000, Harry Adam, head of the Department for Construction of Housing and Public Buildings told AFP.

But Haiti, which still hosts the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MINUSTAH (the French acronym for the mission), has a long path ahead. On Friday, the United Nations issued a grim warning of the risks facing the country, the poorest in the western hemisphere. “Persistent chronic poverty and inequality, environmental degradation and continuing political uncertainty threaten achievements Haitians have made over the past five years,” Wendy Bigham, the World Food Programme’s representative in Haiti, said in a statement. Meanwhile, an ongoing political crisis over long-overdue elections has slowed critical recovery efforts and threatens to devolve further. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, largely credited with overseeing much of the nation’s reconstruction since he took office in 2012, resigned last month amid mass street protests, but his departure has failed to lead to political compromise.

In a statement Wednesday that highlighted the consequences of political instability, the U.N. called for a political compromise by the end of the week “in order to strengthen stability, preserve the democratic gains and ensure sustainable development in Haiti.” Five year’s after the earthquake, Haiti can still scarcely bear more turmoil.

Browse TIME’s special issue about the Haiti earthquake: Haiti’s Tragedy

TIME France

Kosher Grocery Assault Confirms Worst Fears of French Jews

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video shows a general view of members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on Jan. 9, 2015.-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-SHOOTING
A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video shows a general view of members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on Jan. 9, 2015. Gabrielle Chatelain—AFP/Getty Images

Jewish community in Paris had already been on high alert

The worst fears of France’s already tense Jewish community came to be on Friday when an assailant believed to have killed a policewoman the day before took hostages at a Kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

The suspect was killed when police stormed the market and several hostages were reportedly freed, but the fate of others remains unclear. Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters earlier that the suspect, believed to be Amedy Coulibaly, 32, had ties to the gunmen in the terror strike on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, who were killed in a separate police operation on Thursday.

The assault on the Kosher supermarket shook the Jewish community in France and abroad. As dual hostage situations unfolded, police ordered the closure of all shops in the tourist-filled Jewish neighborhood in central Paris, far from the supermarket under siege in the city’s east, according to the Associated Press. And ahead of the Sabbath Friday evening, the iconic Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed, USA Today reported.

The Jewish community in France, numbering more than 400,000, had already been on guard after an uptick in anti-Semitic violence in recent years, including the shooting of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014, allegedly by a French Muslim man. After the attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, Jewish institutions were on maximum alert, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. Volunteers joined police deployed by the French authorities to secure schools and religious sites.

“We are past red alert at this stage, it’s all hands on deck because, sadly, the question is not whether the French Jewish community will be targeted, but when,” Chlomik Zenouda, vice-president of the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, told JTA before the assault on the supermarket.

When an attack materialized, on the Kosher supermarket in the Porte de Vincennes, condemnation of the assault and expressions of support flowed in from the Jewish community around the world. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted in solidarity:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered assistance to French authorities and convened a teleconference with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his security staff, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“The terror attack that has gone on for three days now is not just against the French nation, or against the Jews of France, but is aimed at the entire free world,” Lieberman said, the Jerusalem Post reported. “This is another attempt by the forces of darkness emanating from extreme Islam to sow fear and terror against the West, and the entire international community must stand like a wall and with determination against this terrorism.”

In a statement, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League “expressed deep concern” over the attack. “Islamic extremism is a common enemy of Jews and democratic states. That message needs to be heard and internalized by governments and mainstream society,” the ADL said.

Read next: Watch Parisians Vow To Stand Strong Against Terror Threat

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME russia

Russia Won’t Let Transgender People Drive

Rainbow flag
Getty Images

Among other "disorders" listed in new decree on restricting licenses

A new Russian law supposedly aimed at curbing the country’s high rates of traffic accidents effectively bans transgender people from obtaining driver’s licenses.

An official decree published this week, after having been signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 29, provides a list of illnesses that disqualify people from operating motor vehicles and includes gender identity disorders.

The law published Thursday does not explicitly ban transgender people. Instead, it singles out those with “personality and behavior disorders” by referencing a section of the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organization, which includes gender identity and behavior disorders like “pathological” gambling and fetishism.

The decree drew quick condemnation from the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights. “The decision of Russian Government will cause the serious violations of human rights,” the organization said in a statement. “The decision demonstrates the prejudice against the groups of citizens.”

Russia has come under frequent scrutiny for its LGBT rights record, including its crackdown on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

—Simon Shuster contributed reporting from Berlin

TIME France

See the Eiffel Tower Go Dark in Honor of Paris Attack Victims

The iconic tower cut its lights at 8 p.m. local time on Thursday, a day of national mourning.

The iconic Eiffel Tower dimmed its lights Thursday night, as France ended a day of mourning for those killed in a terrorist attack in Paris the day before.

Armed gunmen stormed the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 journalists and two police officers. The killers, believed to be Islamist extremists, were still on the run Thursday evening local time.

 

TIME Cancer

Court Denies Teen’s Wish to Refuse Cancer Treatment

Intravenous Saline Drip on IV Pole.
Getty Images

"Cassandra C" reportedly believes chemotherapy will do her harm rather than save her life

A 17-year-old cancer patient does not have the right to refuse treatment for her disease, the state of Connecticut’s highest court has ruled.

In a significant decision Thursday, the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling allowing the girl, identified as Cassandra C. in court papers, to be forced to undergo treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Hartford Courant. Her doctors say that she will die unless she undergoes chemotherapy.

Cassandra’s mother, Jackie Fortin, says her daughter believes the chemical treatment will do more damage to her than the cancer. Fortin said she respect’s Cassandra’s decision.

Cassandra was removed from Fortin’s care after the mother and daughter missed follow-up appointments and placed into the custody of child welfare officials, who forced her to undergo the cancer treatment. The teenager ran away from hospital after just two days of chemotherapy.

The court made its expedited decision Thursday following a 45-minute hearing, during which lawyers for Cassandra and her mother argued that even though Cassandra is a minor, she can make her own health decisions. Cassandra is months away from turning 18.

“The general rule for adults is that you can say no to treatment no matter how life-saving it may be,” said one of Cassandra’s attorneys, Joshua Michtom. “You can say no even to helpful treatment. If she were 18, no matter what anyone said, it would be her choice to make.”

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TIME Crime

Crooked British Cop Caught After Driving Ferrari to Work

Luxury Car Sales On The Rise As Buyers Shed Recession Caution
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The policeman’s $260,000 Ferrari was the first big hint

A British police officer was sentenced to seven years in prison for running a brothel on the side, as it emerged he had been caught after alerting colleagues to his newfound wealth by showing up to work in a Ferrari.

Osman Iqbal, an officer in Birmingham, England, led a double life in which he had bank accounts that he used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars from brothels in London, the BBC reports. He admitted conspiracy to run a brothel, conspiracy to launder money and possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.

Restrictions on reporting about the conviction and sentencing, which occurred in September, were lifted after Iqbal, 37, admitted on Wednesday to three counts of misconduct in public office over a separate offense.

According to the BBC, colleagues became suspicious of Iqbal when he arrived for work in a $260,000 Ferrari. That prompted an investigation from the West Midlands Police counter-corruption unit.

[BBC]

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