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Cuba Catches the Rhythm and Color of the Caribbean

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Flamboyant, contradictory, and soaked with a defiant natural energy, Cuba beguiles all who visit her. This small country is projected to entertain over 5 million visitors in 2019 alone. In 2017, 600,000 American travelers (without Cuban family ties) visited the nation, which is six times more than did so in 2008. While people all over the rest of the world have enjoyed the sultry Cuban atmosphere, it has been a little trickier for people from the United States since the 1960s. That said, it’s certainly not impossible nor illegal anymore.

Why might you want to travel to Cuba? Perhaps to explore Havana and revel in its eclectic yet stunning architectures: Moorish-inspired Spanish colonial, the more delicate Italian Baroque, or the imposing evidence of French neoclassical influence. Even North American architectural styles influenced the “look” of Havana during its heyday. The famous Capitolio (national Capitol building) looks strikingly similar to the one in Washington, D.C.

The country is in the midst of a historical renovation.

The many magnificent architectural styles in Havana provide a striking “Grand Dame” backdrop, and distinctive photo opportunities unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s true that many buildings now show wear and tear from decades of neglect, but around every corner you can see that the country is in the midst of historical renovation as well as modern construction, giving Havana an intriguing Old World/New World ambience.

Maybe you want to savor that toe-tapping music that can be heard live everywhere in Cuba. Dance aficionados delight at the different sounds of the island, including the salsa the country is famous for, which draws from Cuban-African rhythms as well as North American jazz. Live music is so prevalent that one morning at 8 a.m. with the traditional breakfast of buttered toast, ham and eggs, and café con leche (for about $2), I was thrilled to be serenaded by a four-piece band singing traditional Cuban ballads.

If you enjoy cooking, add some new dishes to your repertoire. Try the Ajiaco Café, a Cuban specialty restaurant in the fishing village of Cojimar, near Havana. Their three- to four-hour cooking class includes a trip to a local herb grower, basic instruction in Cuban cuisine, demonstration of how to prepare some local dishes, instructions for making the best original Cuban mojito, and a sumptuous traditional lunch. All this for approximately $50.

In addition to international restaurants in Havana and other places on the island, you’ll now find beer bars and delicious Cuban fare everywhere. State-run restaurants have the least inspiring food (and North Americans are not supposed to eat here), so look for a paladar, which are restaurants run by private Cuban owners. These have far more intriguing menus and are often found within private homes. Generally speaking, lunch in a paladar ranges from $5 to $10 per person, and dinner will set you back around $10 to $20 per person (including drink).

If you stay in a Casa Particular, you’ll get the real home cooking that your hosts eat. Breakfasts are usually included in the cost if you stay in a Casa Particular. Sometimes your hosts will provide lunch and dinners in their home, at a cost of course, usually very economical. Meals in Cuba are healthy; congri (a traditional beans and rice dish), lomo ahumado (slow-smoked pork), costillitas (baby-back ribs), egg dishes, and the staple of Cuban cooking, arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), will satisfy anyone’s taste buds.

Cuba is beautiful. Tour around the island. Varadero has some of the best white-sand beaches with clear, turquoise water that you’ll see anywhere. Note that, while you can bring a towel and sit on any of the beaches, you will find that the all-inclusive resorts (where guests wear color-coded bracelets) generally will not let you sit in their lounge chairs, buy a drink, or order food. Check out the Beatles restaurant/bar in Varadero to catch some live rock ‘n’ roll on the weekends and take your photo with a bronze statue of the Fab Four.

The tropical Baroque style in the inland town of Trinidad is bright, colorful, and evocative of old Spain. The town will thrill you with its music venues at night. Go to the Canchánchara for their special rum cocktail made with honey, lemon, and water (about $2), or watch the crowds dance salsa at the Casa de la Música (and join in).

For the very brave, venture to the somewhat bizarre La Cueva discoteca, a dance bar built 100 feet underground, inside a real cave. Stalactites and stalagmites seem to dance along with you as they’re illuminated with revolving colors. Listen to your favorite music—different varieties play in various cave chambers. It is also hot as Hades inside—as of this writing there was no air conditioning, but they told me they are working on it.

Cienfuegos is a favorite tourist city. Modern history buffs can snorkel at the Bay of Pigs, a place so lovely, with turquoise water and almost no current, that it deserves to be experienced, regardless of whether its history interests you. Contact Varadiving (Varadiving.club/snorkeling-the-bay-of-pigs) and expect to pay around $45 per person for a minimum of four people. Price varies per number in your party.

Visit Guanaroca Lagoon to see some of the 170 species of birds, including 2,000 flamingos. Or cool off at El Nicho, a little over an hour away from Cienfuegos, to soothe the soul by swimming in the brilliant green natural pools at the base of a series of mini-cascades. Try the rabbit lunch at the excellent restaurant there for about $8, accompanied by live Cuban ballad singers. Top it off with a cold Cuban beer for $1.50. It doesn’t matter which beer—they are all good in Cuba.

You’ll see giant billboards around the country encouraging Cubans to work hard, be good citizens, and live a happy life. All the churches are open, so enter and be awed by some of the architectural masterpieces. Take a taxi ride in one of the 1950s cars, the iconic symbol of an island where, for a while, time stood still. Don’t be surprised when you see stores in Old Havana that boast products from Hamilton Beach, RCA, and Jennifer Lopez. Cuba is no longer isolated from U.S. commercialism, and you’ll find products from the U.S. in many stores (distributed via Mexico and Puerto Rico).

Cuba will intrigue you, bother you, make you happy, keep you dancing and tapping your fingers, turn your head around, fill your stomach, get under your skin, confuse you, create great friendships, and make you want to come back for more. It’s the only place quite like it in the world.

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Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar lashes out at feminists l Merey Pass Tum Ho l GNN

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Khalil ur Rehman Qamar burst out against the famous feminist campaign “Mera Jism , Meri Merzi” and questions its principals.

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Coon charged in Great Falls with strangulation of a woman

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GREAT FALLS — David Scott Coon has been charged in Great Falls with strangulation of a woman.

The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Friday that deputies were called to Benefis Health System on Thursday to talk with a woman who reportedly had been assaulted. The woman was “visibly upset,” her left arm was “hanging limply,” and had a black eye, bruising on her neck, and ruptured blood vessels in both eyes.

The woman said that on Wednesday evening, she reportedly referred to Coon as “lazy,” which “for reasons unknown” enraged him, and he put her in a choke-hold and began yelling at her. The woman tried to tell Coon that she couldn’t breathe, but was unable to talk, and she told deputies that she lost consciousness.

The woman told deputies that she awoke on the bed and hoped it had been a bad dream, but then realized she had urinated on herself and she could not feel her left arm. She also said her throat and neck hurt, and she could barely talk.

She eventually went to the hospital, and as mandatory reporters, medical staff notified law enforcement.

Coon, 40 years old, has been charged with strangulation of a partner/family member, and partner/family member assault.

NOTE: The information above is from court documents and/or publicly-available information filed in the case, and do not necessarily provide all of the information relevant to the case. Defendants are considered legally innocent until proven guilty in court.





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Reinvigorate Your Wardrobe for 2020

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The beginning of a new year represents an ideal opportunity for a wardrobe makeover. Whether it’s upgrading your work attire or adding fresh, on-trend items, buying some new duds can also reflect a new outlook on life. 

However, being fashionable shouldn’t mean draining your bank account. In fact, many of the freshest new looks for the season may already be hanging in your closet. Here are several ways you can revamp your wardrobe for 2020.

Closet Shopping – Giving Old Clothes a New Look

While it can be fun to shop for new clothes, one great way to achieve a fresh look doesn’t even involve leaving the house or even surfing the web. In fact, an afternoon spent closet shopping can yield a wealth of new looks from old favorites, along with rediscovering long-forgotten wardrobe items from the back of the closet. Of course, the key is to determine which items to keep and which to discard, donate, trade or sell. 

A good rule of thumb is to discard anything that no longer fits. Then again, it may be possible to alter pieces that wear slightly too small or too large. Items missing buttons or that need tailoring can be salvaged with a needle and thread.

Afterward, new pieces can be added to complement the remaining items, but don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and styles. For instance, plaid flannel shirts can be dressed up with slacks and a vest or dressed down with casual jeans or cargo shorts. 

Wardrobe Tips for Women

Fashion trends for women range from classic to extreme. Case in point: Hemlines go up and down. Slacks are skinny or wide-legged. Shoes range from ballet flats to killer stilettos. However, there are a few basic rules for women’s fashion that are always on-trend. First, build a wardrobe around the basics. For work, opt for a black, navy blue or brown suit, with either a skirt or slacks or possibly both. A few white or light-colored blouses, a pair of flats and a pair of plain pumps will complete a business-worthy look.

Casual clothes for women can be more colorful, as blouses and sweaters can be matched with jeans, khakis or leggings. Shorts and sundresses are essential for warmer weather, and splurging on one gorgeous dress or pantsuit and a quality winter coat for evening wear are solid investments. A few on-trend pieces and accessories can give a fresh look to a wardrobe of basics and classics.

Wardrobe Tips for Men

In some ways, men have it easier than women where fashion is concerned. Particularly for work, men can often get away with purchasing one or two suits or a couple of pair of slacks and jackets, matched with plain white or light blue shirts. On the other hand, there is no reason why men shouldn’t be stylish, too.

Just like women’s wardrobes, men’s attire has basic building blocks. Indeed, a blue or black suit or a blazer and slacks paired with a white or light blue button-down shirt, a few classic ties and lace-up shoes or loafers are appropriate for work. Additionally, a trench coat for cold weather is an essential wardrobe basic. For casual wear, white T-shirts look great with a leather jacket and jeans — but only if they’re crisp and clean, not dingy and worn.  

New Year, New Wardrobe

Building a new wardrobe doesn’t necessarily mean buying all new clothes. A smarter, more budget-friendly option for both men and women is to mix and match clothes that are already in their closet, along with some classics to fill out the foundation for a wardrobe. Plus, adding a few on-trend pieces gives a wardrobe of basics a fun, fresh aspect.





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