We interrupt your CFL football/US Open tennis-watching this Labour/Labor Day, for continuing live hurricane coverage. It looks like Cat. 3 Hurricane Irma is serious business. There is a state of emergency declared in Puerto Rico and real concern that this thing is going to hit south Florida now, at the end of the week. I understand the NFL is considering moving or rescheduling the Miami Dolphins game this weekend versus Tampa Bay.
I guess my real interest is whether the path of this storm impacts any potential winter getaway vacation venues such as Varadero, Cuba. If this hurricane hits Varadero, and it looks like it could, that crosses Cuba off my list for the winter — although, to be honest, I am leaning to Las Vegas anyway for all sorts of reasons, most of them financial.
Anyway, try to enjoy the day off, folks.
I still have my recent trip to Mexico on the brain in this edition of News from Nowhere.
Of course, the main news that broke while I was in Cancun had nothing to do with Mexico. It was all about Cuba and the death of Fidel Castro. I am listening to his funeral coverage right now.
There were all sorts of reactions to this news from all the usual world leaders. The big story, though, was the unbelievable reaction of Canada’s out-to-lunch Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who issued his gushing statement praising and eulogizing Castro as if he had been some great humanitarian, instead of the tyrannical dictator he was for so many years.
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”
That prompted a barrage of outrage and ridicule, all of which was well deserved. The best online reaction, though, came on Twitter from Florida Senator Marco Rubio:
“Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing.”
Anyway, the bloom is definitely off the Trudeau rose now, as he goes “from cool to laughing stock” as Maclean’s puts it. In fairness, though, his comments are nothing compared to the praise being heaped on Castro tonight by world leaders at his public memorial. Everyone speaking there, including President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and others, is making this Castro character out to be this great statesman. Anyway, enough of that.
As for my trip to Cancun, it was great, with sunny weather for a whole week. Far better than my Cuba trip of a year ago, the place really puts Varadero to shame. Obviously, it’s also a good thing I didn’t go to Cuba on vacation this year, because the tourists there are having a hard time of it right now.
While in Cancun, I tuned in plenty of sports. But as it turned out, I never did tune in to as many NBA games as I had hoped to. Oh, I did tune in a few games on the radio from Florida and Texas stations, but mainly I watched NFL football and endless soccer games on the TV. Basically, you had no other choice, that was what dominated the main Mexican sports channels — Fox Sports and tDN — last week.
On Tuesday, it was UEFA Champions League all day. Wednesday, same thing, except it was Liga Bancomer MX playoffs at night. Thursday, it was Thanksgiving NFL football and more Liga Bancomer MX playoffs.
But ESPN also had a feed that night from the Copa Sudamericana semi-final game between Atletico Nacional of Colombia and Cerro Porteno of Paraguay, and I actually tuned into that contest last week to see what it was about.
The game was played in Medellin, and Atletico ended up advancing to the final after a nil-nil draw. They were going to take on the Brazilian first-division club Chapecoense in the finals for the Cup.
Well, you may have heard the terrible news today. The plane carrying the Chapecoense team crashed in Colombia overnight, and pretty much the entire team was killed. The finals have been suspended and Atletico is saying Chapecoense should be awarded the Cup in memory of those who died in the crash.
Moreover, several journalists including six Fox Sports TV employees from Brazil were killed as well, and that is just a horrible thing for those organizations and for sports fans in that country. It’s just a really terrible situation all around.
That is all for the time being.
I have just arrived back from sunny Cancun, Mexico, which is where I was this morning when I turned on the television and learned of the news of the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro at age 90.
The headline “Fidel Castro is dead!” says it all: this is the exact same line Donald Trump used to announce the news on Twitter, complete with exclamation point.
I noticed that all the talk from the hotel guests during breakfast today in Cancun was not so much about the news that Castro had died. Instead, it was about all the Cuban exiles in the streets of Little Havana, Miami, who were celebrating this news as if the Miami Heat had won another NBA title! That was what most people found most amusing today.
Anyway, that is the big news of the day, and I will have more to say about my latest visit to Latin America later on.
I am currently tuned into live coverage of President Barack Obama’s historic arrival in Cuba. I’ll say this: it’s a nice change from all the live continuing coverage of Donald Trump.
Work update again: this past week has been much quieter for me personally than it has been for a while as I had a number of scheduled days off (one of them a stat holiday). As a result, yesterday I was able to brave the inclement road conditions and was one of the over 11K fans at the Saskatchewan Rush game at SaskTel Centre, where I met and got autographs from the Seattle Sea Gals NFL cheerleaders.
After the game the Rush held their usual autograph session, but even though the players and the Rush cheerleaders were also signing autographs the biggest lineup by far was for the Sea Gals. Gee, I wonder why… ! (I should also point out most of those in line for the Sea Gals were guys.)
Unfortunately, I never did get to tell the Sea Gals that my whole family has been to Seattle several times and that most of them now live not far away in British Columbia, where they get countless Seahawks games on TV.
Going to Saskatoon unfortunately meant missing out on free tickets to see comedian Tom Green perform in North Battleford, but that’s life. Anyway, given I have some free time today I thought I would post some links to the more interesting local stories I have reported on in recent weeks.
For those wondering if I feel I am missing out on all the political action with the primaries going on in the USA, don’t worry, there is still interesting political stuff going on here. I was recently at a Saskatchewan Young New Democrats provincial meeting in North Battleford, and had a chance to report on that. Soon, we’ll be covering the provincial election, so I’ll be inundated with political coverage soon.
Also, I posted a long-overdue story about my December vacation in Cuba, complete with some vacation pictures (like this one from Revolution Square in Havana, above).
As with the story I did a few years ago about Las Vegas, this piece focused on providing tips and advice to travellers who may be considering that sun destination for a vacation. Unfortunately, I don’t think too many of the locals will be making travel plans any time soon. Vacation deals have really dried up as of late, not just for Cuba but everywhere in general.
Finally, remember how I complained about having to miss watching New Hampshire primary night results because I had to go cover a Chamber of Commerce dinner? Well, my story on that event is here. Also, I’m happy to report the food was good.
That is all for now; stay tuned tonight for my live coverage here and on Twitter of the South Carolina and Nevada results. There won’t be any dinners interrupting that, I can assure you.
I am up early this morning so I am going to post this about vacations to Cuba. As you know, I went there in December on Sunwing and things went fine. Anyway, my worried-sounding parents called me up and told me they had seen these awful reports on Global News about travellers who flew Sunwing to Cuba recently and who got violently sick at the resorts there. I notice Sean O’Shea of Global has done stories before about it, really hammering Sunwing Vacations over conditions at this one resort in Cayo Santa Maria where a lot of people got sick.
Personally, I didn’t have any problems with Sunwing or with Cuba during my stay there. But I’m not discounting these reports, either, because I’ve heard bad stories before about illness in Cuba. I’ve seen few negative reports about Varadero, however, up to now — it’s mainly been these other places. And in fact, a lot of the people who were on my flight were repeat customers who’d been to Varadero five or six times before and who love the place.
So it can’t all be terrible in Cuba for tourists if they get such good repeat business, but I think you do have to be careful about which resort you go to. My best advice is to check out the reviews on TripAdvisor and see what they have to say, and stay clear of the dicey-looking places before booking.
Any more reports like these latest ones, though, and I think a lot of vacationers will think twice about Cuba. Something clearly has to be done at some of these places.
Given that I was in Cuba less than a week ago, here is an item I found interesting. Air flights between Cuba and the USA are officially resuming after 50-plus years. That means American, Delta, United and the rest may all soon be sending planes full of people on direct flights to and from Cuba.
While on the subject of air travel and Cuba, I want to talk briefly about my experience at Varadero airport. First of all, while they refer to it as the Varadero airport the truth is it’s actually closer to Matanzas. Matanzas is also the bigger city, yet nobody is going to Matanzas, they’re all heading to Varadero.
The other thing which was most peculiar of all is flights in and out of that airport were mostly going to and from Canada. In fact, when I went into the airport to check in, I looked around and you would have thought it was a Canadian airport with all the airline signs in there. Air Canada! WestJet! Sunwing! Air Transat!
Not surprising, the travellers in there are also mainly Canadian. About the only giveaway that you’re in Cuba are the Cuban cigars and Che Guevara shirts sold at the gift shop.
Anyway, I thought that was all interesting. Now with this big US airline news, Varadero airport might start looking less like a Canadian airport, and maybe look a little more American.
I am back home here in frozen Canada today after spending the last week on my winter getaway vacation in Cuba.
Now, instead of watching NFL games from a hotel room in Varadero, I am watching NFL games from my living room here.
I will likely have more to say later about the whole trip, but for now, I have my priorities and football takes priority for the rest of the day.
Yes, with all the big hype about the possible end of the embargo and the thaw in US-Cuba relations, tonight on Conan, host Conan O’Brien airs a segment of himself in Cuba tonight on TV.
It airs at 11 pm ET on TBS in the USA and airs in frozen Canada tonight on CTV and Much. And by the way, where we are here in cold Saskatchewan, it is frozen. Very frozen, feels like minus 30 if you factor in the wind chill. In Havana, the high today is estimated at 24 degrees Celsius.
And that’s not to suggest everyday life is particularly better in Havana, Cuba, because they still don’t have a McDonalds or Starbucks or Walmart, or for that matter an NHL hockey team.
But they do have Cuban cigars. And, it’s warmer.
The only interruption to that has been yet another Bill Belichick press conference today on Deflategate, which I tuned into. This is proving to be a big distraction for the team’s Super Bowl efforts.
I gotta say, Belichick looked supremely ticked off at this presser today. He looked ready to punch a sportswriter out. He absolutely insisted they followed the rules 100 percent. Anyway, I know even less about footballs than Belichick does now, so I don’t know what is going to happen with this NFL investigation. There may be fines and the like, but these sports pundits and talk show hosts are going to continue to have a field day with this, forever. Anyway, that is that, and now on to the rest of the news.
The big story of this week is that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died and his half-brother Salman has replaced him as the new King. The burial has already taken place and the mourning is under way. I spent time watching the Arab news channels from the Middle East after the news broke, and they have been showing lots of live non-stop coverage of people walking around in mourning at Mecca.
Other news of the week– the world’s leaders have been in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum. Story here.
Also this week, the US diplomats were busy negotiating with Cuba on reopening formal relations.
And here is a big surprise — apparently Cuba’s government fully intends to remain Communist.
In American politics, there was a big summit meeting in Utah between potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Apparently, nothing of interest happened.
And Disneyland has the measles. Worse, it’s spreading.
It must have been a slow news week in England, because the story there was that the Sun newspaper had caved to their critics and ended the topless Page 3 girls in the paper.
The feminists, politicians, and British media declared victory and called this a turning point for society, and went on about how no one was interested in Page 3 anymore — although I notice not everyone agreed.
Then on Thursday the Sun brought the Page 3 girls back. So much for that.
In hockey, the World Cup of Hockey has been announced for 2016, and unfortunately the format looks like a joke.
Among the eight teams involved will be a so-called “Team Europe”, plus an all-star under-23 team. Guys, get it right! If you want to hold a World Cup, fine, but make it a real World Cup and not some glorified all-star contest like what you’re doing this weekend!
While on the topic of hockey, a hockey-themed costume won raves for Miss Canada at the Miss Universe Pageant this week! Story here. Could this be the year Canada brings back another Miss Universe title? The pageant goes tomorrow night in Doral, Florida on NBC.
That is about it for this week. Back to watching the rest of the boring sporting events on TV for me.
The news cycle has moved on from the horrible hostage crisis in Australia, and the horrible killings in Pakistan, to the apparent thawing of relations today between the USA and Cuba — a development some Republicans probably think is horrible, too.
Today, President Barack Obama announced steps towards normalizing relations, which include loosening of trade and travel restrictions and the opening up an embassy in Havana. Well, this news should make for a very entertaining evening listening to American right-wing talk radio.
As well, the Cubans have freed Alan Gross, an American, while the Americans have freed three of the five jailed Cuban intelligence agents known as the Cuban Five — individuals well known to anyone who has ever seen or heard Cuban propaganda anywhere as the Cuban government have been vocal in demanding their release for years.
Obama basically has said the old way, the embargo, isn’t working. And you know what? He’s right! It hasn’t worked at all in getting rid of the Castro brothers. They’re both still alive and kicking, but the Republicans don’t seem convinced this latest stunt will work, either. They say this move will simply prop up the Castros and do nothing to change things there to a democracy.
Maybe Obama or his pals think opening things up will allow Cubans to see that their undemocratic, Marxist Leninist system of government is an outdated throwback to the Soviet era, and that Cuba might see its own version of the “Arab Spring”. Good luck with that. This is not north Africa.
This strikes me as Obama trying to get his own “Nixon to China” moment, or something, out of this. But while we are on the subject of China, here is something to think about. China has a Communist, authoritarian government with a lot of human rights restrictions, just as Cuba has a Communist, authoritarian government with a lot of human rights restrictions.
There’s basically no difference between the two governments. And yet, these Americans have had no qualms whatsoever about doing trade with China. In fact, they trade with them all the time and there’s even McDonalds and Starbucks there!
I guess my point is if you are going to trade with China, you might as well trade with Cuba, too, because it’s, as they say, the “same difference”! Conversely, if you’re going to embargo Cuba why not embargo China, too. Anyway, this whole trade embargo situation over the years is yet another example of the world making no sense.
In any event, it sure looks more and more like folks in Havana can look forward to Starbucks coffee and Big Macs and shakes sooner rather than later.