U.S. And Cuba To Open Embassies


CNN

Buried underneath the other news of the day was the positive announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will open embassies in each other’s country and re-establish diplomatic ties.

According to CNN, Dwight Eisenhower closed the previous U.S. embassy in Cuba in 1961.

Tornadoes In Chicago Area

At least five tornadoes were reported in north central Illinois on Monday night, writes WLS Chicago.

Those tornadoes were reported in Will, Kankakee, Lee, Grundy and LaSalle counties.

Three tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service, writes ABC7 Chicago.

The National Weather Service stated the towns of Coal City, Sublette and Mendota were among the hardest hit by Monday’s severe weather.

WLS Chicago writes that damage survey teams will be dispatched to the areas.

About 17,200 ComEd customers are without power as of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.  Most of the outages are in Dixon, Sterling, Coal City and Joliet.  At the height of the storm, more than 55,000 customers were out of power.  ComEd aims to have power restored to all customers by around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner declared Grundy and Lee counties disaster areas on Tuesday and made state resources available to help tornado victims.

Rauner activated the State Emergency Operations Center Monday night to make crews and equipment available to help local emergency responders.

http://abc7chicago.com/weather/at-least-5-tornadoes-touch-down-in-illinois/800474/

How Will The U.S. React To The Pope’s ‘Encyclical’ On Climate Change?

Pope Francis

Is the U.S. seen as the world’s “last bastion” of climate change denial?

“The church bulletin inserts are nearly ready to go,” claims the New York Times.  So are the emails to every Roman Catholic parish in the United States with preaching suggestions for the first Sunday after Pope Francis releases his “encyclical” (report) on the environment.

A week after that, on June 28th, churches worldwide are being asked to ring their bells at noon to commemorate a “Thank you, Pope Francis” march in Rome being held on that day.

Never before, say church leaders, has a papal encyclical been anticipated so eagerly by so many.

Advocates for the environment and the poor are excited, because Francis is expected to make the case that climate change, unchecked development, and over-consumption are exacerbating problems for the poor.

However, the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States may be harder to win over, writes the New York Times.

At the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week, bishops from around the country said they were withholding their enthusiasm until they saw the document on Thursday the 18th of June, writes The New York Times.

Some said they were wary about getting the church enmeshed in the debate over climate change, a contentious issue in the United States.

They also expressed concern about allying with environmentalists, some of whom promote “population control” as a remedy, since the Church sees abortion and contraception as “great evils” writes The New York Times.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami gave a presentation to the bishops on the climate change encyclical as chairman of the committee on domestic justice and human development.

He said the pope’s message would ultimately “transcend” the divisions over the environment and climate change, writes The New York Times.

“The pope is not approaching this as a scientist, he’s not approaching this as a politician,” Archbishop Wenski said at a news conference. “I think he’s trying to approach the issue of creation care as a pastor and as a teacher.”

(Updated photo)

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/us/pope-francis-may-find-wariness-among-us-bishops-on-climate-change.html?_r=0

FIFA Officials Arrested On Corruption Charges

CNN

Acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department, Swiss police arrested several top FIFA officials on charges of corruption.

The officials were allegedly arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich.  They were accused of widespread corruption dating to the 1990s.

The New York Times reports that Sepp Blatter, a Swiss national, “has ruled FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, for the past 17 years with no term limit, no external oversight, no passion for business ethics, no appetite for reform and, apparently, no shame over the rampant scandals, corruption and match-fixing that have sullied the beautiful game.”

FIFA is a multibillion-dollar organization that governs soccer but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades, writes the New York Times.

What About Sepp Blatter?  A FIFA spokesman said that Blatter remains serene despite the arrests of officials on corruption charges and that a leadership vote will go ahead on Friday.

Mr. Blatter was not charged. Still he remains wildly unpopular, except among his “enablers,” writes the New York Times – corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa, and docile national soccer federations.

Mr. Blatter, 79, is expected to win a fifth term as FIFA’s president on Friday, but he presides over an organization with a reputation in tatters.  Sepp Blatter became president of FIFA in 1998. He has held other jobs with the organization.In FIFA Politics, Blatter Is the “consummate player,” writes the New York Times.

(Updated article)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/05/27/top-fifa-officials-arrested-in-international-soccer-corruption-investigation-according-to-reports/

Tuskegee Airman Honored By West Point Academy Decades After School Shunned Him

Benjamin O. Davis Jr. entered West Point in 1932 as its only black cadet and spent the next four years shunned, writes the Associated Press.

He roomed alone, and no one befriended him. The future Tuskegee Airman and trailblazing Air Force general later said he was “an invisible man,” writes AL.com.

Now – more than a decade after his death – the academy that allowed Davis to be ostracized is giving him an honor.

A new cadet barracks being constructed at the U.S. Military academy will be named for Davis. It is a rare privilege previously granted to graduates like MacArthur and Eisenhower, writes the New Zealand Herald.

Officials at the legendary military university say Davis was a good choice because of his career and character. It also gives the academy a chance to belatedly do right by Davis.

“If you want to know what, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ look like, just read a little bit about Benjamin O. Davis Jr., and your jaw will drop because he is the epitome of what we want at a time when we didn’t know what ‘right’ looked like,” said Colonel Ty Seidule, the head of West Point’s history department, writes the Salt Lake Tribune. “So it’s our chance to acknowledge one of our greatest graduates.”

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11446567

http://www.sltrib.com/news/2496627-155/story.html

Project In Southern U.S. Promotes ‘Music Triangle’

Blues. Jazz. Country music. Rock n’ roll. Gospel. Southern Gospel. Cajun-zydeco. Soul/ R&B. Bluegrass.

Nine of America’s most well-known music genres now have their own road map, states souixcityjournal.com.

The initiative was led by Nashville preservationist Aubrey Preston along with a group of historians and music lovers.  They have come up with the “Americana Music Triangle.”

Stretching from Nashville to Memphis to New Orleans, the triangle includes locations in the South that contributed to the birth of the musical genres, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of blues masters Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the site of the famed music studio where Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and many others recorded songs.

Like other small towns in the triangle, Clarksdale, Mississippi – a city of about 17,200 about 1 ½ hours’ drive south of Memphis – has seen its share of population loss, poverty, troubled schools and blight.  They are now looking to earn more tourist dollars.

Destinations are connected by the so-called “Gold Record Road,” a 1,500-mile stretch of highway made up of Interstate 40 from Nashville to Memphis, Highway 61 —the “Blues Trail” — from Memphis to New Orleans, and the Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi.

Travelers planning road trips can use a flashy website, or “web guide,” that gives destinations in the triangle and describes points of interest in more than 30 communities in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The online driving trail map is at americanamusictriangle.com.

http://siouxcityjournal.com/ap/travel/new-project-in-us-south-promotes-music-triangle/article_5c3d8507-6de4-5c73-b29c-6f147e04f047.html

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/life/2015/05/07/mississippi-heart-americana-music-triangle/70952700/

U.S. Justice Department Will Investigate Baltimore Police Over Freddie Gray Treatment

The U.S. Justice Department will investigate whether the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing, said law enforcement officials on Thursday.

A request was made by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for the Justice Department to investigate.

This came soon after the Baltimore state’s attorney filed criminal charges against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray.

Gray died April 19 after being injured while in police custody. Gray’s death set off large demonstrations, arson and looting.

At a policing conference earlier on Thursday, the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony W. Batts, said he did not object to an outside investigation, and said that he was committed to reforming the Police Department.

He said he recognized that Baltimore residents did not trust the city to make changes voluntarily, states the New York Times.

“I am willing to do anything it takes to win that trust back,” he said. “If it’s D.O.J., whatever it takes.”

The situation has dominated Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s first days in office, as the riots broke out in Baltimore on her first day on the job.

“The situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice — not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place,” said Ms. Lynch on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

If the Justice Department finds that there was a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing, it will ask that the police department make sweeping changes.

If the police department declines to do so, the matter could land in front of a federal judge, who could force changes within the department, writes ABC News.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/freddy-gray-doj-announces-federal-probe-entire-baltimore/story?id=30899279

Does Retirement in Mexico Deserve a Fresh Look?

A happy senior couple sits on the front of a sail boat on a calm blue sea.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Mexico was perhaps the original overseas retirement destination for Americans.  Americans have been relocating south of the border for retirement for decades. More than a million American expatriates and retirees call Mexico home.

In recent years, Mexico has been overshadowed by countries in Central and South America. These other destinations also offer appealing options for a sunny, coastal retirement on a small budget. Mexico has recently suffered some bad press, including the swine flu epidemic of 2009 that fizzled after a few cases and the drug violence in some border cities and beyond that has affected the perception of the entire country.

It’s true that some parts of Mexico don’t belong on any list for retirement.  However, there are good places at cheap prices.

It’s time to take a fresh look at this old favorite. Housing markets in many areas of Mexico are depressed. The great recession took its toll, especially in areas popular as second home markets.   In many markets, prices still have not recovered. Mexico is not the ultra-cheap destination it was in the 1950s and 60s, but it’s still a very affordable lifestyle option, especially at the current exchange rate.

Today’s dollar buys 15.38 pesos, making the cost of living in Mexico cheaper than it’s been in a long time for anyone with dollars in his wallet.

In addition, Mexico is also a culturally familiar neighbor and is accessible.  Americans can drive back and forth or take a short flight

Mexico is a big country, with many diverse retirement lifestyle choices.

One particularly appealing coastal retirement option is Mazatlán. This city opened its first tourist hotel and restaurant in 1850 and has been a major international tourist destination since the 1940s.  In the 1970s, Mazatlán began to fall out of favor, as more travelers to Mexico’s west coast opted for its cousin city, Puerto Vallarta, some 270 miles to the south.

One reason these places are popular among North Americans is its excellent winter weather. From December through March, daytime temperatures hover in the high 70s, with lows in the low 60s and little to no rain. Between July and October, temperatures average around 90, with most rain falling between July and September.  Today’s prices in Mexico make these destinations worth a look.

Travel Company To Offer Direct Flight From JFK To Cuba

Travel company starts offering direct flight from JFK to Cuba

Cuba Travel Services will offer seats on a Boeing 737 flown by Sun Country Airlines from JFK Airport to José Martí International Airport on Tuesdays.

Long off limits to Americans, Cuba is about to become a little more accessible to New York-area travelers, according to the New York Post.

Starting Tuesday, a tour operator will begin offering what it says are the first regularly scheduled direct charter flights from New York City to Havana since President Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in December.

(Updated post)