Cuba to allow citizens to travel freely for the first time in 51 years
HAVANA (AP) -- The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it will eliminate a half-century-old restriction that requires citizens to get an exit visa to leave the country.
The decree that takes effect Jan. 14 will eliminate a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has kept many Cubans from traveling or moving abroad.
"These measures are truly substantial and profound," said Col. Lamberto Fraga, Cuba’s deputy chief of immigration, at a morning news conference. "What we are doing is not just cosmetic."
Under the new measure announced in the Communist Party daily Granma, islanders will only have to show their passport and a visa from the country they are traveling to.
It is the most significant advance this year in President Raul Castro’s five-year plan of reforms that has already seen the legalization of home and car sales and a big increase in the number of Cubans owning private businesses.
Judge reverses self, allows addresses to be released in Maine prostitution case
KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) -- A judge has reversed his decision about a Maine prostitution case, ruling that addresses and other identifying information can now be released for men charged with paying for sex with a fitness instructor.
An attorney for The Portland Press Herald says Justice Thomas Warren agreed Tuesday that the addresses
Police in the small town of Kennebunk are expected to re-issue a list of 21 names of men who have been issued summons for allegedly paying 29-year-old Alexis Wright for sex in her Zumba studio and an office she rented nearby.
N.Y. high school students’ blackface parody of Chris Brown, Rihanna assault criticized after picture
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A pep rally skit by three white high school students who wore blackface and parodied Chris Brown’s arrest for assaulting Rihanna has officials in a largely white New York district vowing to set clearer expectations for school events.
The skit was one of several pop culture parodies performed Friday at Waverly High School as part of an annual "Mr. Waverly" competition, Superintendent Joseph Yelich said. The one in question had a male student portraying Brown standing over another cowering actor playing Rihanna; a third male student played an arresting officer.
A picture from the skit posted to social media and other sites including Facebook, Tumblr and CNN iReport drew thousands of views and dozens of comments, many calling the skit blatantly racist and blasting the idea of drawing laughs from domestic violence.
Brown was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony assault for the attack on Rihanna in 2009. Both singers are black.
Citigroup CEO Pandit
and president resign
in surprising shake-up
Vikram Pandit, who steered Citigroup through the 2008 financial crisis and the choppy years that followed, abruptly left the bank on Tuesday, stepping down as CEO and as a director.
The move shocked Wall Street, and Citigroup offered no explanation. There had been no hint of the departure Monday, when the bank discussed its strong third-quarter earnings in lengthy calls with analysts and reporters.
A second top executive resigned as part of the shake-up: President and Chief Operating Officer John Havens, who was also CEO of Citi’s Institutional Client Group, which serves global companies, banks and governments.
Pandit was replaced immediately by Michael Corbat, 52, a Citigroup lifer who had been CEO of its Europe, Middle East and Africa division. Corbat joined the bank in 1983, just after graduating from Harvard.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the departures followed a clash between Pandit and the company’s board over strategy and business performance, including at the group run by Havens.
Rebels in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo mostly
poor, pious and from
ALEPPO, Syria (AP) -- Most of the rebels fighting government forces in the city of Aleppo fit a specific mold: They’re poor, religiously conservative and usually come from the underdeveloped countryside nearby.
They bring to the battle their fury over years of economic marginalization, fired by a pious fervor, and they say their fight in the civil war is not only against President Bashar Assad but also the elite merchants and industrialists who dominate the city and have stuck by the regime. The rebels regard this support for the government to be an act of betrayal.
The blend of poverty, religious piety and anger could define the future of Aleppo, and perhaps the rest of Syria, if the rebels take over the country’s largest city, which is also its economic engine. They may be tempted to push their own version of Islam, which is more fundamentalist than what is found in the city. Their bitterness at the business class may prompt them to seek ways of redistributing the wealth.
"Those who have money in Aleppo only worry about their wealth and interests when we have long lived in poverty," said Osama Abu Mohammed, a rebel commander who was a car mechanic in the nearby town of Beyanon before he joined the fight.
"They have been breast-fed cowardice and their hearts are filled with fear. With their money, we could buy weapons that enable us to liberate the entire city in a week," he said.
Aerialist plans tightrope walk near Grand Canyon
SARASOTA, Florida (AP) -- Aerialist Nik Wallenda says he’s planning a tightrope walk near the Grand Canyon, but he won’t be wearing a safety harness like he used at Niagra Falls.
Wallenda said Tuesday that he has signed a contract with an unnamed cable network to broadcast the roughly half-mile walk.
In June, the 33-year-old Florida aerialist crossed a 1,800-foot (550-meter) span over Niagara Falls. The event was televised live by network ABC, which required Wallenda to wear a safety harness despite his protests.
The paper says his contract for the walk near the Grand Canyon specifies that he doesn’t need a harness.
No date or exact location has been announced. Wallenda says he’s in negotiation with two American Indian tribes whose reservations border Grand Canyon National Park.
Democrats criticize legal spending to defend DOMA
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House’s top two Democrats are criticizing Republicans for spending nearly $1.5 million over the past 15 months on outside lawyers to defend the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and No. 2 Democrat Steny Hoyer say House Speaker John Boehner is wasting taxpayer money in defending the 1996 law.
The law signed by President Bill Clinton denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. President Barack Obama announced last year that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law. After that, Boehner convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend it. Several federal courts this year have ruled against the law.
Thieves grab Picasso, Monets from Dutch museum in early-hours heist
AMSTERDAM (AP) -- Thieves broke into a Rotterdam museum on Tuesday and walked off with works from the likes of Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Matisse potentially worth hundreds of millions.
Police haven’t said how they pulled off the early hours heist, but an expert who tracks stolen art said the robbers clearly knew what they were after.
"Those thieves got one hell of a haul," said Chris Marinello, who directs the Art Loss Register.
The heist at the Kunsthal museum is one of the largest in years in the Netherlands, and is a stunning blow for the private Triton Foundation collection, which was being exhibited publicly as a group for the first time.
"It’s every museum director’s worst nightmare," said Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk, who had been in Istanbul on business but returned immediately.
U.S. ambassador visited restive Tibetan region
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department says the U.S. ambassador to China last month visited a restive region where ethnic Tibetans have set fire to themselves to protest Chinese rule.
Ambassador Gary Locke met with government officials and residents during a stop in Aba county of the Sichuan province in September.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that Locke visited villages and Buddhist monasteries to learn more about how Tibetans live and work.
Nuland reiterated "grave concern" by the U.S. over the rising number of immolations, and she urged dialogue between China and Tibet.
Aba is home to Kirti Monastery, where the self-immolations began in February 2009. Activists have reported 55 self-immolations since then, about half of them in Aba. The county is usually off-limits to foreigners.