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US lawmakers reintroduce bill to end restrictions on Cuba travel

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators reintroduced legislation on Thursday to repeal all restrictions on travel to Cuba, this time attracting far more co-sponsors in a sign of growing support for U.S.-Cuban detente even as its future looks uncertain.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act was introduced in 2015 by eight Republican and Democratic co-sponsors but never made it to the floor. The latest measure attracted 55 co-sponsors.

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Republican President Donald Trump threatened during his 2016 election campaign to reverse a normalization of ties with the Communist-run, Caribbean island initiated in 2014 by Democratic President Barack Obama. Trump’s administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward the country’s former Cold War foe.

Obama eased trade and travel restrictions, fueling a boom in American visits to Cuba, although tourism was still not officially allowed.

On Wednesday, more than 40 U.S. travel companies and organizations urged Trump not to roll back expanded U.S. travel to Cuba.

“It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government,” said U.S. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy led the group that co-sponsored the bill.

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Flake added that lifting the ban would give Americans more freedom but also benefit the Cuban people.

“This is certain to have positive benefits for the island’s burgeoning entrepreneurial and private sector.”

The number of U.S. visitors rose 74 percent last year, boosting business for Cuban hotels, BnBs, restaurants and taxis but also U.S. cruise operators and airlines that entered the market over the past year.

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“We applaud Senators Flake and Leahy for their leadership in supporting the American and Cuban people by eliminating archaic, outdated policy,” said James Williams, president of the Washington-based Engage Cuba group.

There is still strong congressional opposition to any ending of Cuba’s isolation, led by anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers including Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

They say the United States should not make travel to Cuba easier before the Havana government moves toward democracy.

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(Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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Joe Biden’s bizarre black family rant is rooted in a decades-old ‘culture of poverty’ mythology: columnist

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One noteworthy line to break out of the third Democratic debates was Joe Biden's line about how black parents aren't being given the cultural and educational tools to lift their children from poverty.

"We bring social workers into homes with parents to help them deal with how to raise their children," said Biden. "It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television – make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone. Make sure that kids hear words."

Biden wasn't trying to say that black parents are genetically inferior, but rather that our society isn't built to give them cultural exposure or education that would help them succeed. That being said, this argument was still broadly criticized as racist and condescending.

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Why Bill Maher is wrong about fat-shaming

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On a recent episode of his Friday evening talk show, Bill Maher proposed that society combat obesity by body-shaming overweight individuals. He argued that “fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback” to deter people from overeating.

Obesity is a national epidemic that is placing a significant burden on our health care system. Nearly 40% of Americans are considered obese, costing upwards of US$150 billion dollars per year in health costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Cutting health benefits of 1,900 Whole Food workers saved world’s richest man Jeff Bezos what he makes in less than six hours

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When billionaire Jeff Bezos cut health benefits on September 13 for part-time workers at his grocery store Whole Foods the richest man in the world saved the equivalent of what he makes from his vast fortune in just a few hours.

That's according to an analysis from Decision Data's "Data in the News" series, which found that Bezos could cover the entirety of annual benefits for part-time employees who work less than 30 hours a week with what he makes from stocks and investments in just a fraction of a day.

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