Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Aug 30 2015, Page 6

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - August 30, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE A6 A 6 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, SUNDAY, AUGUST 30, 2015 WORLD winnipegfreepress. com H AVANA — Julio Hernandez is a telecommunications engineer, but like almost anyone else in Cuba who wants to get on the Internet, to do so he must crouch on a dusty street corner with his laptop, inhaling car exhaust and enduring sweltering heat. That privilege costs him US$ 2 an hour, expensive in a nation where the average state- paid salary is US$ 20 a month. The Internet is essential for business, finance, communications and information, but today hasn’t dawned in Cuba, which still has some of the worst Internet access in the world. It’s restricted to a few workplaces and fewer than four per cent of homes, including those of senior officials, foreign executives, members of the media, doctors and artists. It’s unavailable on the country’s 1991- vintage 2G mobile- phone network. President Raúl Castro’s government recognizes the problem but faces a dilemma: how to expand Internet access to boost its economy and satisfy its population while maintaining control of information. Cuban officials say at least 50 per cent of the population will have residential Internet service and 60 per cent will have mobile phones by 2020, without saying how they’ll achieve that. “ It’s stupid how much they’ve delayed the inevitable,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban ambassador to the European Union and professor at the University of Havana. “ Meanwhile, we’re losing ground — we’re in the Stone Age.” The Internet was used by 30 per cent of Cuba’s population in 2014, according to the International Telecommunication Union, compared with 57 per cent in its ally Venezuela and 87 per cent in the United States. Key government ministries, joint ventures, universities and hospitals have Internet access, but using it is a slow trip back in time with a dial- up modem. Forget about streaming video or downloading or uploading large files. For the lucky few with access at work or home, email and an intranet of approved sites downloaded to local servers is as good as it gets. A file that would take four minutes, 10 seconds to download in Cuba would be instantaneous in most North American homes and workplaces. Broadband service is restricted to top tourist hotels, select business centres and approved media outlets. That’s slowly starting to change. State- run cyber cafés opened two years ago, charging US$ 4.50 an hour. Last month, the state telecom monopoly Etecsa created 35 broadband Wi- Fi hot spots across the island, where the public can surf the web, as Hernandez does. It’s not as fast as broadband in the U. S., but it’s a huge improvement. “ Before this, we had nothing,” said Ramon Mazon, a pizzeria worker who travelled 25 kilometres to an outdoor hot spot in central Havana for a video chat with relatives in the U. S. “ In this day and age, we should have access to Internet a few hours a day, just like we have food ration cards.” Thanks to new regulations issued by U. S. President Barack Obama as part of his push to normalize relations with Cuba, U. S. companies — from IT giants such as Google Inc. to mobile phone providers AT& T and Verizon Communications — could help lift Cuba out of the Internet Stone Age. But it’s not clear the Castro government wants a lift from them, at that might risk ceding some control and influence to American companies. In the rare broadband Wi- Fi oases — the lobbies of top tourist hotels — tech- savvy young Cubans discreetly surf on their phones, circumventing log- on fees as high as US$ 17 an hour at one Spanish chain hotel. They share Wi- Fi connections or use apps to tap into servers overseas. They’re doing what’s needed to “ resolver” — overcome the barriers to online access in Cuba. Etecsa is testing 3G and 4G cellphone service that could provide Internet access, although there’s been no indication of who could get it. The Castro government has long blamed the U. S. trade embargo for “ blockading” Cuba, condemning it to being a technology backwater. That barrier disappeared in January, when Obama made it legal for U. S. telecommunications companies to do business in Cuba — from erecting mobile phone towers and positioning satellites to laying fibre- optic cable and selling iPhones. In the past several months, U. S. companies have made quiet visits, assessing the market and weighing opportunities, though none has yet made a deal with the government. A team from Google visited in June and suggested it could provide antennas to bring high- speed connections to 70 per cent of homes within three years at little to no cost to Cuba, according to journalist Fernando Ravsberg, who writes the blog Cartas Desde Cuba ( Letters from Cuba.) The idea has been met by questions from the Cuban government, suspicious Google may have ties to the U. S. State Department and fearful the U. S. could use the technology to spy on Cuba or scheme for regime change, according to Cuban officials who asked not to be identified. Google spokeswoman Niki Christoff declined to comment. Harold Cardenas, co- founder of the blog La Joven Cuba ( Young Cuba), said he wants an open Internet as soon as possible, but he understands why his government may be hesitant to make deals with U. S. companies. “ If you were in a dispute with your neighbour for 50 years and now you’re friends, it’s a little risky to give your neighbour access to your whole garden, because you might be fighting again tomorrow,” he said. “ A country’s telecommunications is a matter of national security.” At the same time, Cardenas added: “ The government has to give Internet to the people or it’s going to lose the hearts and minds of Cuban youth. And that’s already happening.” Cuba may turn to China for an answer. A document was leaked last month that purports to be Etecsa’s plan to build residential broadband using Chinese telecommunications companies ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co. rather than American companies. Critics say the Castro government is slow- rolling broadband to restrict access to information. Cuba blocks pornography and anti- Castro websites, but there are fewer firewalls than there are in China. Websites including those of Yahoo, the State Department and blogs such as Cartas Desde Cuba and La Joven Cuba, which sometimes are critical of the government, were easily accessible this month to those who could reach the Internet. Cubans can travel freely now and have access to foreign television via memory sticks sold widely on the black market. “ To open or not open the Internet is a silly argument because Cuban censors have already lost control of the information people have,” Ravsberg said. — Bloomberg News By Indira A. R. Lakshmanan ‘ To open or not open the Internet is a silly argument because Cuban censors have already lost control of the information people have’ — journalist Fernando Ravsberg Tangled web Cuba stuck in the past when it comes to Internet access DESMOND BOYLAN / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES A youth uses his smartphone in Havana this summer. Despite recently launched Wi- Fi hot spots, Cuba has some of the worst web access in the world. NEW ORLEANS — Residents of Mississippi and Louisiana marked the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina on Saturday by ringing church bells, laying wreaths and celebrating the resiliency of a region still recovering from a disaster that killed more than 1,800 people and caused US$ 151 billion in damage. Addressing dignitaries at New Orleans’ memorial to the unclaimed and unidentified dead, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke of the dark days after the monstrous storm and how the city’s residents leaned on each other for support. “ We saved each other,” the mayor said. “ New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken.” In Mississippi, churches along coastal Hancock County tolled their bells in unison Saturday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of the day Katrina made landfall in the state. Eloise Allen, 80, wept softly into a tissue and leaned against her rusting Oldsmobile as bells chimed at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church just across a two- lane street from a sun- drenched beach at Bay St. Louis. She said her home, farther inland, was damaged but livable. Her daughter lost her home in nearby Waveland. Many of her friends and neighbours suffered similarly. “ I feel guilty,” she said. “ I didn’t go through what all the other people did.” In Biloxi, Miss., clergy and community leaders gathered at a newly built baseball park for a memorial to Katrina’s victims and later that evening the park was to host a concert celebrating the recovery. During a prayer service at a seaside park in Gulfport, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour praised volunteers who worked on the Katrina recovery. He said more than 954,000 volunteers came from around the country to Mississippi in the first five years after the storm, and many were motivated by faith. “ They thought it was God’s command to try to help people in need,” Barbour said. Katrina’s force caused a massive storm surge that scoured the Mississippi coast, pushed boats far inland and wiped houses off the map, leaving only concrete front steps to nowhere. Glitzy casinos and condominium towers have been rebuilt. But overgrown lots and empty slabs speak to the slow recovery in some communities. In New Orleans, wide- scale failures of the levee system on Aug. 29, 2005, left 80 per cent of the city under water. New Orleans has framed the 10th anniversary as a showcase designed to demonstrate to the world how far the city has come. In a series of events in the week leading up to the anniversary, the city has held lectures, given tours of the levee improvements and released a resiliency plan. U. S. President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush both visited the city. Many parts of the city have rebounded phenomenally while many residents — particularly in the black community — still struggle. In New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, residents and community activists gathered Saturday at the levee where water broke through and submerged the neighbourhood. After several speeches, a parade snaked through the neighbourhood while music played from boom boxes and people sold water from ice chests under the hot sun. Wilmington Sims watched the parade from his front porch. He helped build the porch before Katrina, then had to re- do the work after flooding from the levee break damaged the first floor. He said the outpouring of support was “ uplifting” but many people still need help and the Lower Ninth Ward needs economic development. In the evening, former president Bill Clinton was to headline a free concert and prayer servicecelebration in New Orleans. — The Associated Press Bells toll decade after Katrina’s wrath By Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill KECSKEMET, Hungary — Four men suspected of being involved in the deaths of 71 refugees found in a truck in Austria were placed under preliminary arrest Saturday. The preliminary arrests will be in place until the suspects are indicted or Sept. 29, at the latest, said Ferenc Bicskei, president of the Kecskemet Court. The court agreed with prosecutors that the severity of the crime and the risk the suspects would flee justified their arrest. Bicskei said the four suspects appealed the decision, saying they had not committed any crimes. The three Bulgarian suspects are aged 29, 30 and 50, officials said, while the fourth suspect — an Afghan — is 28 years old. The refrigerated truck with the dead refugees was found Thursday in the safety lane of the main highway from Budapest to Vienna. The suspects were detained later that day in southern Hungary, near the border with Serbia, where Hungary is building a four- metre fence. Hungary said Saturday it had completed the first phase of construction — three coils of razor wire stretched along the 174- kilometre boundary. The case is being heard in Kecskemet, in central Hungary, because the truck set off from that city before picking up the refugees near the border with Serbia, Gabor Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bacs- Kiskun county chief prosecution office, told reporters before the hearings. Schmidt said Hungarian authorities are investigating the suspects’ involvement in the trafficking aspects of the case, while their suspected connection to the deaths of the refugees is being investigated by Austrian authorities. He said the prosecution strongly suspects the four men co- operated in the transportation of the victims from Hungary to Austria, adding human smuggling carries a sentence of between two and 16 years in prison. The four handcuffed men were taken into the court building through a side entrance. The defence lawyers were not present and will be notified of the court decisions, court spokesman Szabolcs Sarkozy said. It wasn’t clear how long the bodies had been inside the truck, but police believe the victims might have been dead by the time the truck crossed into Austria overnight Wednesday. It’s believed they suffocated. — The Associated Press 4 suspects arrested for human smuggling ROGELIO V. SOLIS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS April Moore ( left) of Gulfport, Miss., cries after thanking Anne Warren for praying for her. A_ 06_ Aug- 30- 15_ FP_ 01. indd A6 8/ 29/ 15 11: 45: 37 PM

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