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White House moves to loosen remittance, flight rules on Cuba

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Monday that it will expand flights to Cuba, take steps to loosen restrictions on U.S. travelers to the island, and lift Trump-era restrictions on remittances that immigrants can send to people on the island.

The State Department said in a statement that it will remove the current $1,000-per-quarter limit on family remittances and will allow non-family remittance, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs. The U.S. will also allow scheduled and charter flights to locations beyond Havana, according to the State Department.

The administration said it will also move to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which has a backlog of more than 20,000 applications, and increase consular services and visa processing.

“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home,” State Department spokesman Ned Price added. “We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures.”

The policy changes come after a review that began soon after a series of widespread protests on the island last July.

Former President Donald Trump had increased sanctions against Cuba, including the cancellation of permits to send remittances and the punishment of oil tankers bound for the island.

These measures and the pandemic contributed to an economic crisis in Cuba, where people suffer from shortages of basic products, power outages and rationing.

The economic situation led thousands of people to the streets across Cuba on July 11, 2021 — the largest such protests in decades on the island. Many people were frustrated with shortages and low salaries, as well with the socialist government. Nongovernmental organizations have reported more than 1,400 arrests and 500 people sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for vandalism or sedition.

In recent weeks, both the U.S. and the Cuban governments have started some conversations, amid a surge of Cubans trying to emigrate illegally to the U.S.

The first week of April, the U.S. Embassy in Havana resumed processing visas for Cubans, though on a limited basis, more than four years after stopping consular services on the island amid a hardening of relations.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the moves send the “wrong message” to Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government. Menendez was particularly critical of the administration decision to reinstate travel by groups for educational and cultural exchanges as well as some travel for professional meetings and professional research on the island.

“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism,” Menendez said. “To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial.”

White House officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, noted that the Treasury Department has the authority to audit groups that are organizing travel and will ensure that travel is purposeful and in accordance with U.S. law.

One official defending the move noted that the president has underscored his belief that “Americans are the best ambassadors for democratic values.”

Biden said as a presidential candidate that he would revert to Obama-era policies that loosened decades of embargo restrictions on Havana. Meanwhile, Republicans accused him of not being supportive enough of Cuban dissidents.

President Barack Obama’s rapprochement was reversed by Trump, who sharply curtailed remittances that Cuban Americans were allowed to send to relatives on the island, barred financial and commercial transactions with most Cuban companies affiliated with the government or military and, in his final days in office, redesignated Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism,” in part for its support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said he would put a hold on all relevant Biden nominees requiring Senate confirmation until the decision is reversed.

“Biden can frame this however he wants, but this is the truth: this is nothing but an idiotic attempt to return to Obama’s failed appeasement policies and clear sign of support for the evil regime,” Scott said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to ‘Doctor Who’

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(CNN) — David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to “Doctor Who,” the BBC has confirmed.

The 10th Doctor and his companion, Donna Noble, are filming scenes that are due to air in 2023 to coincide with the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations, the broadcaster said in a statement Sunday.

The announcement comes a week after “Sex Education” star Ncuti Gatwa was named the 14th Doctor, replacing Jodie Whittaker as the time-traveling TARDIS-dweller.

Showrunner Russell T. Davies said in the statement: “They’re back! And it looks impossible — first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening?

“Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”

Davies also announced the pair’s return on his Instagram account.

The 10th Doctor parted ways with Donna after wiping her memory in order to save her life. He warned her family that she will die if she remembers.

In what was then expected to be his final appearance on the show in 2010, a distraught 10th Doctor said: “I don’t want to go.” It seems his wish is about to come true.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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Musk hints at paying less for Twitter than his $44B offer

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DETROIT (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave the strongest hint yet Monday that he would like to pay less for Twitter than his $44 billion offer made last month.

Musk told a Miami technology conference that a viable deal at a lower price would not be out of the question, according to a report by Bloomberg News, which said it viewed a livestream video of the conference posted by a Twitter user.

Also at the All In Summit, Musk estimated that at least 20% of Twitter’s 229 million accounts are spam bots, percentage he said was at the low end of his assessment, according to the report.

The appearance came a few hours after Musk began trolling Twitter CEO Paraj Agrawal, who posted a series of tweets explaining his company’s effort to fight bots and how it has consistently estimated that less than 5% of Twitter accounts are fake.

In all, the day’s events bolstered theories from analysts that Musk either wants out of the deal or is seeking a lower price, largely due to a huge decline in value of Tesla stock, some of which he has pledged to finance the Twitter acquisition.

Twitter shares closed Monday down just over 8% at $37.39, below where the stock was just before Musk disclosed that he was Twitter’s largest shareholder. Musk made the offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share on April 14.

On Friday Musk tweeted that his plan to buy Twitter was placed on temporary hold as he tried to pinpoint the number of fake accounts on the social media platform. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said the hold was pending details of Twitter’s calculation that fake accounts are less than 5% of its users.

In tweets on Monday, Agrawal acknowledged Twitter isn’t perfect at catching spam. He wrote that every quarter, the company has made the estimate of less than 5% spam. “Our estimate is based on multiple human reviews of thousands of accounts that are sampled at random, consistently over time,” Agrawal wrote.

Estimates for the last four quarters were all well under 5%, he wrote. “The error margins on our estimates give us confidence in our public statements each quarter.”

Musk, using his favorite platform, responded with a smiling emoji of poop, then asked how Twitter’s advertisers know what they’re getting for their money.

Tesla shares closed Monday down nearly 6% at $724.37. They have lost about one-third of their value since the trading day before Musk disclosed his Twitter stake.

Musk did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The All In Summit said in an email that it would post the video of Musk’s appearance in the coming days.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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