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Take a Walk Through the Streets of Cuba

TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev takes us to Havana

Cuba has light. Cuba has shadow. Cuba has decaying colonial grandeur. But what really matters is that Cuba has Cubans. Almost any place in the Caribbean contains the strains of African, Spanish and Anglo tradition that come together on its largest island. But nowhere else do they come together to such effect. Maybe it’s the land—after the Revolution uprooted the capitalists half a century ago, tobacco growers packed up seeds on their way out to plant them in Central America, but it turned out it wasn’t the seeds that made a cigar Cuban. It was the soil of Pinar del Rio, on the island’s western reaches. Apparently there is no place on earth like it.

The people are like that, too: Lively, sensual, verbal—the fastest-talkers in the Americas, some say—they project optimism as well as pride. Their country is poor and, without doubt, a security state, but also safe, literate and healthy. People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.

The question, now that the island is poised to receive Americans in substantial numbers, is whether Cuba itself will change. U.S. flags have begun showing up around Havana. Immigration to the States has been allowed since 2013, and remittances—cash via Western Union—accounts for a substantial portion of the economy. If reaction to U.S. meddling in Cuba was a factor in the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, a half century of defiant separation has done its work. The walls have been lowering for a while, the estrangement subsiding.

At this point, Cubans say they are ready to engage again. Yuri Kozyrev, a TIME contract photographer, spent 10 days there over the New Year holiday. The surprise of the Dec. 17 announcement by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro was still fresh, and hope was in the air. The Communist icons appeared a bit more iconoclastic after the news of impending change, the fading slogans a bit more faded. But the essential appeal of the place remained—nowhere more so than in Havana.

“A city is made by people,” Eusebio Leal, the official in charge of restoring the Old City, once told TIME’s Dolly Mascaernas. At the time, money was beginning to pour into Havana’s colonial core, funding restorations that pushed residents into the streets (where they had always half-resided anyway, the charm of a walk through Old Havana being life spilling out of the buildings on either side). Leal said a lesson was learned, one relevant to a country on the cusp of change.

”Beautiful buildings need life,” he said. “There is nothing more lively than the people that live in them. Cubans love the center of Havana. It is full of life and it will continue to be like that. There is no point in lifeless beautiful buildings. That is not a city, it’s a museum.”

Karl Vick is a TIME correspondent based in New York. From 2010 to the autumn of 2014, he was the Jerusalem Bureau Chief.

Yuri Kozyrev is a TIME contract photographer represented by Noor.

TIME Health Care

Obama on the Affordable Care Act’s Fifth Anniversary: ‘It’s Working’

White House Student Film Festival
Martin H. Simon—Pool/Corbis President Barack Obama hosts the second-annual White House Student Film Festival in the East Room of the White House, in Washington on March 20, 2015.

He challenged Republican critics who are campaigning on repealing the law.

President Obama had a simple message on the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act: It’s working.

Speaking in the Executive Office Building next to the White House, Obama argued that his signature health care law was “working better than many of us — including me — anticipated” at increasing health insurance rates and improving the quality of care.

“The bottom line is this for the American people: this law is saving money for families and for businesses,” he said. “This law is also saving lives, lives that touch all of us. It’s working despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund and defame this law.”

In particular, Obama highlighted a government report that showed that fewer mistakes in hospitals saved the lives of 50,000 people between 2011 and 2013, which the White House partly attributed to initiatives to reduce accidental overdoses, bedsores and patient falls.

The remarks came just two days after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz promised to repeal “every word of Obamacare” in a speech launching his presidential campaign, the first Republican to join the 2016 race.

Obama took the opportunity to take a few shots at Republican critics of the law, joking that “death panels, doom, [and] a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress” have all failed to materialize and challenging candidates campaigning for repeal to explain how “kicking millions of families off their insurance” will strengthen the country.

“Making sure that the Affordable Care Act works as intended to not only deliver access to care but to improve the quality of care and the cost of care, thats something that requires us all to work together,” he said.

TIME White House

Obama Rubs Elbows With Some Inventive Girl Scouts

President Obama Hosts White House Science Fair
Aude Guerrucci—Pool/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with a group of six-year-old Girls Scouts from Tulsa Oklahoma who designed a battery powered page turner to help people who are paralyzed or have arthritis at the 2015 White House Science Fair in Washington on March 23, 2015.

The 6-year-old inventors were attending the 2015 White House Science Fair

President Obama spent some quality time with a group of six-year-old Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma on Monday as part of the 2015 White House Science Fair.

The Girl Scouts—also known by the nickname “Supergirls”—attended the science fair after designing a battery-powered page turner meant to help people who are paralyzed or suffer from movement-related diseases like arthritis. They used Legos as the building blocks for the development of their prototype.

The White House Science Fair features projects from innovative students around the United States. This year’s fair is focusing on girls and women who are doing extraordinary things in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Instead of fighting about the Iran nuclear talks, Congress and the White House should be planning smart sanctions in case a deal falls through.

By Elizabeth Rosenberg and Richard Nephew in Roll Call

2. DARPA thinks it has a solution to Ebola — and lots of other infectious diseases.

By Alexis C. Madrigal at Fusion

3. A stand-out rookie’s retirement after one year in the NFL over fears of brain injury should be a wake-up call for all of football.

By Ben Kercheval in Bleacher Report

4. When patients are urged to get involved in their course of treatment, they’re more confident and satisfied with their care.

By Anna Gorman in Kaiser Health News

5. We don’t need “diversity” on television. We need television to reflect the world around us.

By Shonda Rhimes in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME People

Dick Cheney: Obama Is ‘Playing the Race Card’

Dick Cheney Slams Obama in Playboy
Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images Former Vice President Dick Cheney is interviewed by SiriusXM Patriot host David Webb at SiriusXM studios on Oct. 25, 2011 in Washington, DC.

The former VP discussed everything from Ferguson to Obama's "damage" in a new Playboy interview

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one to mince his words about current U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are “playing the race card” when they suggest that their critics may be partially driven by race, Cheney told Playboy in an interview for its April issue, which was published online Tuesday.

Cheney also reaffirmed his view that the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., while tragic, has been overblown by the Obama administration.

“It seems to me it’s a clear-cut case that the officer did what he had to do to defend himself,” Cheney said. “I don’t think it is about race. I think it is about an individual who conducted himself in a manner that was almost guaranteed to provoke an officer trying to do his duty.”

Read the full interview at Playboy.

TIME White House

The Meanest Tweets Obama Didn’t Read

You ain't seen nothing yet

Correction appended, March 13

Keeping with a tradition on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show, President Obama read mean tweets about himself Thursday night. But compared to what he’s gotten from Congress, the tweets were fairly tame.

Obama himself made that point.

“I have to say, those weren’t that mean,” he told Kimmel after the segment. “I’ve gotta tell you, you should see what the Senate says about me all the time.”

For example: After the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in France, Obama was criticized for not going there to show his support.

Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber tweeted: “Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.” Weber later deleted the tweet and apologized.

But it wasn’t the first time. In a series of other tweets from January 2014, Weber called Obama the “Kommandant-in-Chief,” a “socialist dictator” and suggested that POTUS stands for “Poor Obama Trashed U.S.”

Some of the tweets aren’t so much mean as they are cutting in good sport. After Obama joked during the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2013 that Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell wouldn’t be a good drinking buddy, McConnell tweeted a picture of himself having a beer with an empty chair for Obama, complete with a glass of red wine and the message “Greetings from Coal Country!”

And sometimes the mean tweets are friendly fire. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur once jokingly tweeted (and deleted) as the stock market hit a now high that Obama was the “worst socialist ever.”

Still, most of the meanest tweets come from off Capitol Hill. Businessman Donald Trump is a serial offender when it comes to saying mean things about Obama. Here he is blaming Obama for a bad call in the Super Bowl:

And there’s this:

And this:

Even KitchenAid, a company that makes kitchen appliances, accidentally tweeted something mean about Obama. In 2012 someone tweeting for the company posted about the president’s grandmother, who died before he took office, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics.” The company swiftly apologized for the tweet.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described a series of tweets by Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber. The tweets were sent in January 2014 and they are still online.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Amid the rancor and theatrics in Washington, it’s easy to forget how remarkable it is that the U.S. and Iran are talking at all.

By George Perkovich at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. A critical step in drug research is understanding the impact on the heart. That’s why bioengineers built a beating heart on a silicone chip.

By Sarah Yang at the University of California at Berkeley

3. Americans are quitting their way to a stronger economy.

By Aaron Nathans in the Daily Economy

4. Just because we’re able to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children, does that mean we should?

By Antonio Regalado in MIT Technology Review

5. America has its own ion collider, and its funding is in danger.

By Natalie Walchover in Quanta

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

34 TIME Magazine Covers That Appeared to Give People Horns

Hillary Clinton joins Pope Francis, one large animal and many others who have appeared on the magazine's front with the eyebrow raising features

There was some hubbub online Thursday over TIME’s latest cover, which appeared to show Hillary Clinton sporting a set of horns. (This sort of thing has happened before.) Given the shape of the letter “m” in the magazine’s name and its location on the cover, many other subjects in the past have also appeared to sprout extra features (in fact this happened to Hillary Clinton at least once before. Same goes for Bill Clinton. George W. Bush too). Check out everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Pope Francis to Jesus to Darth Vader who have received the rough end of TIME’s “horns.” Any resemblance to cats, bats or devil horns is entirely coincidental.

Read next: 51 TIME Magazine Covers Featuring a Bush

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME World

Obama’s Credit Crunch

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME.

Congress weakens the U.S. by playing politics abroad

The Obama administration and negotiators from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are pushing for an agreement with Iran that would freeze the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. On March 9, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders to warn them that the U.S. Congress had the power to rip up any deal signed with the Obama Administration. It was a clear bid to undermine the President’s credibility before any agreement could be signed.

Some of these lawmakers probably believed that urgent steps were needed to prevent a bad deal that would threaten U.S. national security. Others may simply have wanted to score political points off a President they and their constituents dislike. It’s doubtful that this letter will kill a deal that remains improbable for a host of other reasons. Obama can likely bypass the Senate by submitting any pact as an executive agreement, not a formal treaty. But there’s more to it. This move undermines the credibility of future Presidents, Democrats and Republicans, by raising fears abroad that America’s political polarization means no one is empowered to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the U.S. government.

The White House complained about the Republican letter, but the risk cuts both ways. The President has used Congress in the past in ways that have directly undercut U.S. credibility. In August 2012, Obama warned Syria’s Bashar Assad that the use of chemical weapons against his country’s rebels would cross a red line that would “change my calculus” on the use of American force in Syria. Several months later, Assad used these weapons. His bluff called–the President had shown little appetite for intervening in Syria–Obama argued that a military response was warranted but that Congress should vote to approve any air strikes.

This was disingenuous–Obama has ordered military action without congressional approval multiple times. When it appeared that Congress might not provide the authorization Obama sought, the President asked for a delay, then signed on to a Russian plan in which Assad agreed to dismantle his arsenal if Washington held its fire. Assad crossed the President’s red line, and Obama turned to Congress for political cover that lawmakers refused to provide. U.S. credibility sustained lasting damage.

A successful superpower foreign policy depends on more than just superior force and the willingness to use it. It demands deep reserves of credibility, the primary currency of power politics. If Washington asks a foreign government to compromise or to accept new costs and risks, leaders of that government must have confidence that the President can and will keep his promises. If the President’s representatives negotiate a deal, everyone at the table must know that Washington will keep up its end.

The Constitution is clear: the President sets foreign policy. Congress provides “advice and consent” for the ratification of treaties. Lawmakers should not undermine the President’s proper authority, but neither should the President cede that authority for temporary political advantage. The President and Congress score points off each other every day, but if their gamesmanship undermines Washington’s credibility, the national interest will suffer.

This trend is all the more dangerous at a time when other governments know well that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sapped support for any long-term commitment of U.S. troops. That sharply reduces American negotiating leverage before the talking even begins.

With fewer means at Washington’s disposal to get the outcomes it wants, credibility is a resource that no U.S. elected official can afford to squander.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Venezuela

How Opening Cuba Helped Isolate Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro, Cilia Flores
Fernando Llano—AP Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, center, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 28, 2015.

President Obama’s decision to reopen relations with Cuba is having an interesting side effect: it’s helping isolate Latin America’s other hard-line leftist regime in Venezuela.

On Monday, Obama signed an Executive Order freezing the U.S. assets of seven midlevel Venezuelan officials over their handling of protests last year. In years past, many Latin American officials would have viewed it as more of the same from America, whose policy of punishing Cuba with sanctions was widely seen as anachronistic at best.

Now, thanks to the ongoing rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, Washington is less easy to ignore, especially on matters of morality and fair play. So it was that Monday’s executive order naming Venezuelan security officials turned out to be aiming what U.S. officials called “a spotlight” onto a government that other Latin American nations are also watching with concern.

“Until very recently, most countries in the region were reluctant to say anything about Venezuela,” says Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. “If this is just U.S. sanctions, and the U.S. is doing it on its own, then it’s much easier for Venezuela to play the victim card. That’s why it’s really important for the U.S. government to be working with other democratic governments in the region to make this more of a collective.”

On Friday, the President of Colombia publicly despaired over Venezuela, even though he has staked his legacy on peace talks being hosted by Maduro’s strongest ally in the region, Havana. “It interests, hurts and worries us, all what’s going on in Venezuela,” President Manuel Santos said in a speech.

What’s going on in Venezuela is a mess. The collapse in oil prices last autumn sent the economy into free fall, 95% of its export revenue flowing from petroleum sales. President Nicolás Maduro, who was elected after his mentor Hugo Chávez died in office two years ago, is struggling to remain in control amid economic chaos and shortages of heavily subsidized staples. The cascade of indignities includes a shortage of necessaries that led the government to take over a toilet-paper factory — and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago to offer an oil-for-toilet-tissue deal.

Maduro, in what economists call a strategy of diversion, blames the U.S. for waging “economic war” on the country. He has ordered most U.S. diplomats out of the country — the ambassador was expelled five years ago — and abruptly required visiting Americans to obtain visas. None of which was lost on the White House, which took pains to emphasize that the new sanctions were aimed at individual officials, and not “the people or the economy of Venezuela.”

“The point of these sanctions or policies is really to shine a light,” a senior Obama Administration official said Monday, speaking in a not-for-attribution conference call shortly after the Executive Order was released. Obama’s actions went beyond the law passed by Congress, the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, to draw attention to the abuses of Venezuelan officials who authorized surveillance of opposition leaders, “hundreds of forced entries and extrajudicial detentions,” and the use of excessive force, including sexual assault and using live ammunition, against protesters and journalists. Prosecutor Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padron is named for charging a former lawmaker and the mayor of Caracas with conspiracy “based on implausible — and in some cases fabricated — information.”

“You go back a year ago, when there was this wave or protests that was met with very aggressive and violent response by the government,” says Wilkinson, who was expelled by Venezuelan authorities in 2008. “This was a sustained process over more than a month of nonviolent protesters being severely beaten, in some cases tortured, being shot point-blank range with rubber pellets … Protesters would be held for two days without access to a lawyer, then summoned to a hearing in the middle of the night, with a lawyer having five minutes to prepare.”

Whether the sanctions will work remains to be seen. Under the Executive Order, U.S. financial institutions have 10 days to report any holdings controlled by the seven officials, and longer still to see if freezing them alters the behavior in what Transparency International calls the most corrupt country in the western hemisphere. But in diplomatic terms, the effects might be felt sooner. Before Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced their plans to reconcile, the Summit of the Americas, set to convene April 10 in Panama City, was sizing up as an awkward occasion for the U.S. leader. Instead, it may be Maduro who draws the sideways glances.

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