Obama Administration Approves First Ferry Service to Cuba in Decades

Baja Ferries, which operates the passenger service, has yet to request approval from Cuba

(HAVANA) — The Obama administration approved the first ferry service in decades between the United States and Cuba on Tuesday, potentially opening a new path for the hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars in goods that travel between Florida and Havana each year.

Baja Ferries, which operates passenger service in Mexico, said it had received a license from the Treasury Department. Robert Muse, an attorney for Baja Ferries, said he believed that other ferry service petitions had also been approved. The Treasury Department said it could not immediately confirm that, but Florida-based Havana Ferry Partners told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that their request for a license had also been approved.

Muse said Baja had yet to request approval from Cuba, but added that he was optimistic the service would allow a significant increase in trade and travel between the two countries.

The Cuban government made no immediate comment on the news and it is far from clear that it is willing or able to allow a major new channel for the movement of goods and people between the two countries.

“I think it’s a further indication of the seriousness of the Obama administration in normalizing relations with Cuba,” said Muse, an expert on U.S. law on Cuba. “We’re now going from the theoretical to the very specific.”

Before Cuba’s 1959 revolution, ferries ran daily between Florida and Cuba, bringing American tourists to Havana’s hotels and casinos and allowing Cubans to take overnight shopping trips to the United States.

That ended with the revolution, and the more than 600,000 people who travel between the U.S. and Cuba each year depend on expensive charter flights. About 80 percent of U.S .travelers to Cuba are Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, and a large number travel with huge amounts of consumer goods unavailable in communist Cuba, from baby clothes to flat-screen TV sets. That cargo has become increasingly expensive and difficult to bring in recent years due to the high prices charged by charters and tightened Cuban customs rules.

Muse said he believed ferries would allow lower-priced passenger and cargo service and provide a potential conduit for new forms of trade allowed by Obama when he announced a series of loopholes in the trade embargo on Cuba late last year. Among other measures, Obama allowed the import of some goods produced by Cuba’s new private sector and allowed the virtually unlimited export of products to entrepreneurs.

Ferries also provide a new route for U.S. travelers to Cuba, who also depend on the charter services. Travel from the U.S. has been rising since Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement, and new pressure groups are pushing for Congress to end all travel restrictions and allow pure tourism, currently prohibited by law.


Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.


Did ISIS Really Mastermind Texas Shooting? Experts Doubtful

“What proof has ISIS offered?” said one longtime member of the CIA

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria claimed that the gunmen at a Texas cartoon exhibition were “soldiers of the caliphate,” but experts say that it’s still unclear if and what ties really existed.

On May 3, authorities say that roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi injured a security officer when they fired assault rifles at the exhibition in a Dallas suburb that featured images of the Prophet Mohammed. Police killed both men.

A Twitter account reportedly run by Simpson posted a tweet moments before the attack that said, “”May Allah accept us as mujahideen,” according to CNN.

On Tuesday, a statement from ISIS’s Al Bayan radio claimed responsibility for the attack, marking the first such ISIS claim for an attack on U.S. soil. “We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of ISIS do terrible things,” the group said.

But experts are skeptical. “What proof has ISIS offered?” Bruce Riedel, a former member of the CIA and head of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institute, said in an email to TIME. He said police would have been able to confirm “fairly easily” whether the gunmen had received orders from ISIS by checking their phones and computers.

Others say that the links to ISIS may have been tenuous at best. One unnamed U.S. official told Reuters that it was possible ISIS played an “inspirational” role in the attack rather than an “operational” role. “They may not have had formal contact (with ISIS). They may have had email communication or read communications from ISIS, but I don’t think they were directed by ISIS,” former FBI agent Tim Clemente told CNN.

Though it’s still unclear what contact — if any — the gunmen had with ISIS, the FBI had been investigating Simpson since 2006 after recorded him talking about fighting nonbelievers for Allah. He was arrested in 2010, a day before he allegedly planned to leave for South Africa, according to the Associated Press. But he was charged only with lying to a federal agent and given three years of probation and $600 in fines and court fees.

The attack in Texas reawakened fears that extremists abroad could inspire terror attacks in the West, months after gunmen opened fire at the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January. While Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s Yemen-based affiliate, claimed responsibility for that attack, the suspect in related attacks, including the assault on a kosher supermarket two days later, had likewise pledged allegiance to ISIS.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis and Raul Castro to Meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.
Vincenzo Pinto—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis will receive Cuba’s president Raúl Castro at the Vatican on Sunday morning, May 10, the Holy See announced on Tuesday. The meeting will be “strictly private,” according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, and the two heads of state will meet in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.

The meeting comes as Pope Francis plans to visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States. The pontiff also helped to broker a deal easing relations between the United States and Cuba in December, an appeal that a senior U.S. administration official at the time called “very rare.”

“As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in the statement.

TIME France

French Lawmakers Approve Controversial Surveillance Bill

French surveillance measures vote in Parliament
Ian Langsdon—EPA The French parliament is seen in session shortly before holding a vote to adopt new surveillance rules, in the Assemblee Nationale building, in Paris on May 5, 2015.

It would allow intelligence services to put cameras in terror suspects' homes without prior authorization from a judge

(PARIS)—France’s lower house of Parliament has approved a bill aimed at legalizing broad surveillance of terrorism suspects that has drawn an outcry from advocates of civil liberties.

The bill was passed Tuesday with 438 votes in favor and 86 against.

Lawmakers from both the Socialist majority in Parliament and the conservative opposition supported the bill, which will now move to the Senate for further discussion.

The bill was proposed long before the January Paris attacks by Islamic extremists to update a law left essentially untouched since 1991. But the government has said it has become more urgent with each person who has become radicalized.

The new law would entitle intelligence services to place cameras and recording devices in suspects’ homes and beacons on their cars without prior authorization from a judge.

Instead, they would need to request authorization from an independent nine-person panel composed of magistrates, lawmakers and a communication expert — with exceptions in cases of special threats.

One of the most sensitive measures would force communication and Internet firms to allow intelligence services to install electronic “lock-boxes” to record metadata from all Internet users in France. The metadata would then be subject to algorithmic analysis for potentially suspicious behavior.

The data would be anonymous, but intelligence agents could follow up with a request to the independent panel for deeper surveillance that could yield the identity of users.

Either the panel or people who believe they are unfairly under surveillance could appeal to administrative judges.

Opponents say the bill legalizes highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

A protest called by a group of privacy advocates, human rights groups and unions to denounce “highly intrusive surveillance methods” gathered hundreds of people Monday near the National Assembly.

Reporters Without Borders said the bill “poses a grave new threat to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources” and pointed out that it “contains no safeguards for protected professions, including journalists.”


Here are 5 Surprising Jobs You Can Get With the U.K. Royal Family

The Queen's Swan Marker David Barber holds a cygnet before releasing it back into the River Thames, after it was counted and checked during the annual "Swan Upping" census in July 2014.
Matt Dunham—AP The Queen's Swan Marker David Barber holds a cygnet before releasing it back into the River Thames, after it was counted and checked during the annual "Swan Upping" census in July 2014.

Amid the housekeepers, drivers and security forces, the royal household employs people in more peculiar positions

One of the biggest questions on people’s minds as the Duchess of Cambridge left London’s St. Mary’s Hospital on Saturday with Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, was just how Kate could manage to leave her doctors’ care less than ten hours after giving birth. (And looking stunning while doing it, no less.)

The answer partly lies in the fact that the royal household has a large and trusted staff including an appointed Surgeon-Gynecologist to the Royal Family, Dr Alan Farthing, who has held the position since 2008. In addition to his royal role, Farthing also has a private practice on London’s Harley Street and works at London’s Queen Charlotte’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital.

While it may strike some as surprising that the royal household has its very own Surgeon-Gynecologist with a formal title, it’s actually one of the more logical positions that are currently held. Though historical jobs with the royal family tend to sound even more bizarre —formal titles included Chocolate Maker to the Queen and Keeper of the Lions in the Tower — there are still some peculiar positions within the current royal household.

Here are some of the more unusual royal job titles and posts that are currently held:

Warden of the Swans — Together with the Marker of the Swans — another formal position — the Warden will “conduct the annual census of swans on the Thames,” reports the Guardian, a process called swan upping. The Queen owns all of the unmarked mute swans in the U.K., yet she only chooses to exercise her ownership rights on certain stretches of the Thames. The current Warden, biologist Christopher Perrins, an emeritus fellow at Oxford University, has held the position since 1993. Prior to that, the Warden of the Swans and the Marker of the Swans was one position, known as the Keeper of the Queen’s Swans.

Master of the Queen’s Music — A position with no set responsibilities, the Master of the Queen’s Music is thought to be a position of honor given to a prominent musician for a period of ten years. The current Master is composer Judith Weir, who was appointed in 2014. Though the position does not formally require it, Masters of the Queen’s Music are able to compose music for royal or state occasions if they wish. Weir introduced a special arrangement of the U.K. national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” during King Richard III’s reinternment in March, 2015.

Astronomer Royal — Now largely an honorary title, the senior Astronomer Royal — presently Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, who has held the position since 1995 — is expected to “be available for consultation on scientific matters for as long as the holder remains a professional astronomer,” according to the British Monarchy’s official website.

Master of the Horse — Another honorary position, the Master of the Horse is required to attend all prominent ceremonial occasions where the Queen might be riding on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage. The current Master of the Horse, Lord Samuel Vestey, 74, is also responsible for “periodic inspections of the Royal Mews (stables).”

The Queen’s Piper — A position since the Victorian era, the piper is tasked with playing every weekday at 9:00 a.m. for around 15 minutes under the Queen’s window when she is not traveling and in residence at either Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse or Balmoral Castle. According to the Monarchy’s website, in recent decades the “post has been awarded to a serving soldier and experienced army Pipe Major on [temporary transfer], who retains his army status and pay although becoming a member of the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace.” The current piper is David Rodgers of the Irish Guards.


Princess Charlotte Meets Her Great-Grandmother the Queen

Princess Charlotte is carried in a car seat by her father, Prince William, in London on May 2, 2015.
John Stillwell—AP Princess Charlotte is carried in a car seat by her father, Prince William, in London on May 2, 2015.

The princess is Queen Elizabeth II's fifth great-grandchild

Princess Charlotte is ready for her audience with the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II has arrived at Kensington Palace to meet her new great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte, the BBC reports.

The British monarch, 89, missed Charlotte’s birth on Saturday as she was away in Yorkshire for a royal engagement. She did, however, take the chance to wear a hot pink ensemble, possibly as a nod to the arrival of the new princess.

Princess Charlotte has been the center of attention at Kensington Palace since she was welcomed home on Saturday.

A procession of visitors, including Charlotte’s grandparents Carole and Mike Middleton and Prince Charles and Camilla, were among the first to see the little princess on Sunday.

Now, she’s ready for her biggest meeting yet – with great-granny.

It’s believed William, Kate and their children will then head to their country home of Anmer Hall.

The secluded 10-bedroom mansion, which is 110 miles north of London, is the perfect place for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to spend time with Prince George and his new little sister.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also formally registered the birth of Princess Charlotte.

The Duke of Cambridge signed the birth register at Kensington Palace on Tuesday afternoon.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME royals

See the Birth Certificate for Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

Princess Charlotte's birth certificate
Kensington Palace Princess Charlotte's birth certificate

Occupation: Princess of the United Kingdom

The royal family fills out the same government forms as any other member of the British commonwealth, only their answers are one of a kind, judging by the recent release of Princess Charlotte’s birth records.

It’s not easy to mash a royal title into a standard form, so Prince William took two lines to fill out his name as, “His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Duke of Cambridge.” Ditto for “Catherine Elizabeth Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.”

Under address, Kensington Palace, naturally, but the best answers were reserved for occupation. “Prince” and “Princess of the United Kingdom.” Nice work if you can get it.

TIME North Korea

Student Detained in North Korea Says He ‘Wanted to Be Arrested’

"I hope that I will be able to tell the world how an ordinary college student entered" North Korea

New York University student Won-moon Joo said in a new interview that getting arrested in North Korea was part of his plan to slip into the country and stage a “great event” that could lead to reconciliation between the North and the South.

“I wanted to be arrested,” the 21-year-old American resident told CNN in the presence of government minders. “I hope that I will be able to tell the world how an ordinary college student entered [North Korea] illegally but however with the generous treatment of [North Korea] that I will be able to return home safely.”

Read more at CNN

Read next: China Has Reason to Be Worried About North Korea’s Nukes

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Great Places

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With Vivid Images of Mexico in the 1960s

In 1968, LIFE dispatched a photographer to capture a slice of Mexican culture

Ever since the celebration began to trickle eastward from California during the middle of the 20th century, Cinco de Mayo has been subject to several misconceptions in the United States. Many people mistakenly equate it with Mexico’s Independence Day, which actually takes place on September 16. Thanks largely to the marketing efforts of beer companies, many use it as an excuse to drink to excess while donning sombreros, the meaning behind the celebration of little consequence to revelers. But in reality, the holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, after which the heavily outnumbered Mexican forces’ victory over the well-equipped French invaders came to symbolize national unity and strength.

The holiday has evolved to more broadly celebrate Mexican heritage and culture, which LIFE featured in a 1968 photo essay by photographer John Dominis. Dominis was dispatched to Mexico ahead of the 1968 summer Olympics, which would bring many international travelers there. The photographs celebrated the country’s diverse ethnic makeup, its fiestas and its food, as well as its modernizing urban centers. They were, for many of LIFE’s readers, a first intimate glimpse into life south of the border, and one that presented the country’s richness of culture as worthy of admiration.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Syria

Barrel Bombs Kill More Than 3,000 Civilians in Syria, Report Says

BARAA AL-HALABI—FP/Getty Images A man carries a young girl who was injured in a reported barrel-bomb attack by government forces on June 3, 2014 in Kallaseh district in the northern city of Aleppo.

“I saw children without heads, body parts everywhere. It was how I imagine hell to be."

The Syrian army has dropped barrel bombs on schools, markets, hospitals and mosques throughout the northern city of Aleppo, killing more than 3,000 civilians since 2012, according to a new report.

The Amnesty International report finds that barrel bombs—an oil or fuel tank packed with shards of metal—have been dropped with growing frequency in recent months, forcing schools and hospitals to operate out of underground bunkers. Local activists recorded more than 85 barrel bomb attacks in the last month alone, according to the report.

“Widespread atrocities, in particular the vicious and unrelenting aerial bombardment of civilian neighborhoods by government forces, have made life for civilians in Aleppo increasingly unbearable, said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.

The report was based on eyewitness accounts from 78 former residents and 29 professionals, which were verified with video evidence of the devastation.

“I saw children without heads, body parts everywhere,” said one local factory worker after an attack on al-Fardous neighborhood in 2014. “It was how I imagine hell to be.”

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