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by ANDREA RODRIGUEZ and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN.
Tourists sit in a classic American car in Old Havana, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income, along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living abroad. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s state-run tourism industry is increasingly doing business with the country’s new class of private entrepreneurs, trying to improve quality of food and lodging while maintaining a grip on the sector’s biggest sources of foreign exchange.
One of the country’s highest tourism officials provided new details on the initiative in an interview with The Associated Press, saying two dozen restaurants for tourists have been converted into worker-owned cooperatives since January. Jose Manuel Bisbe, president of state tour operator Havanatur, also said his firm was sending tourists to hundreds of private bed-and-breakfasts instead of government hotels.
“The state must free itself from activities that aren’t decisive for the economy and that experience is showing function better privately,” he told the AP on Thursday. He said that some tourism-related businesses like bus transport and large-scale hotels would remain in state hands.
Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income, along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living abroad.
State-run restaurants for tourists and for Cubans have long suffered from complaints about poor quality and widespread pilferage by employees who resell food and supplies on the black market or take them for personal use. Hundreds of private restaurants have sprung up around the country since the launch of a limited economic liberalization four years ago and generally offer food and customer service far superior to those in government venues.
Cuba sees cooperatives as a middle ground between the communist model of state ownership and the private enterprise that has been making inroads into industries like restaurants and personal services under the reform meant to spur badly needed growth.
State news agency Prensa Latina has reported that Cuba has 11,000 restaurants, most for Cubans, and 1,260 private establishments known as “paladares,” which cater mostly to visitors and foreigners living in Cuba.
Official statistics are sparse in Cuba and Bisbe declined to provide further details of the private enterprise initiative, including how many restaurants were run wholly or partly by the state tourism sector. The Ministry of Commerce also runs a large number of restaurants.
State news agency Cubadebate reported this week that 200 homeowners in the lush Vinales valley had signed deals with state tour operators to provide lodging for tourists.
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By Adam Williams.
The Brighton i360, by architecture firm Marks Barfield.
Popular English tourist spot Brighton will soon gain a new landmark to join its famous pier. The same team responsible for the London Eye ferris wheel has started work on a large-scale observation tower dubbed the Brighton i360. The observation tower will feature a large glass pod that offers panoramic views of up to 30 miles away (48.2 km) on a clear sunny day.
The pod will have enough room for up to 200 visitors to stand side-by-side and there will be a small bar and entertainment system on board.
Designed by architecture firm Marks Barfield, the Brighton i360 comprises two primary sections: a large tower, and a pod shaped a bit like a futuristic glass doughnut. Over the course of a 20 minute journey, the pod will ascend the tower to reach a height of 138 m (452 ft). According to Marks Barfield, the pod climbs the tower using the same basic mechanism that’s used in a standard cable car.
There will be enough room for up to 200 visitors to stand side-by-side inside the pod, and a small bar and entertainment system is on board. A large restaurant, retail spaces, an exhibition space, and conference spaces are planned for ground level.
The Brighton i360 can be considered the successor to the London Eye and features the same team that created that popular tourist attraction.
Some sustainable technology is also slated for Brighton i360. Interior spaces will be cooled using natural ventilation, and the toilets will use harvested rainwater and efficient “low-flow” wash basins. The pod sports double-glazed windows and all electricity required for operating the observation tower will come from renewable sources.
The Brighton i360 is scheduled to open in 2016 and the organizers hope to attract at least 700,000 visitors per year, which – according to the Brighton i360 team’s figures – could generate around £25 million (around US$42 million) for Brighton per year.
The Brighton i360 comprises two primary parts: a large tower, and a glass doughnut-shaped pod.Over the course of a 20 minute journey, the pod will climb from ground level to a height of height of 138 m (452ft).
Source: Brighton i360
The Brighton i360, by architecture firm Marks Barfield.
by Andrii Degeler.
Regina Makhotina speaks at IDCEE 2013 conference in Kyiv. © IDCEE
Less than three months after its creation, the network of Ukrainian business angels UAngel appointed a new top manager in early September. The new executive director of the entity is Regina Makhotina, who also has been working with the EastLabs startup accelerator since 2012.
The initial leader of the network, Jaanika Merilo, remains a member of the board and continues to participate in UAngel’s development, Makhotina told in an exchange with the Kyiv Post.
“The decision was made that there’s a need for an executive director who would be able to work full-time,” Makhotina explained her appointment.
Among the main tasks of UAngel in general and Makhotina in particular are attraction of new members, creation of deal flow, as well as public relations and educational activities, said Nataliia Berezovska, the chairman of the network’s board and managing partner at Israeli-funded Detonate Ventures that operates in Ukraine.
At the moment, there’s about 10 members in the network, excluding its founders, said Berezovska.
“We work very actively with those interested in becoming members of UAngel, meet them every day, learn about their investment preferences etc.,” Berezovska added.
One of the prospective members, Ukrainian entrepreneur and angel investor Yaroslav Maximovich, told the Kyiv Post that his main expectations from UAngel is meeting and networking with fellow angels, which can lead to joint investment projects.
Berezovska also said that although having plenty of plans to work on and activities to attend to, UAngel has still not been registered by the Justice Ministry.
“The only reason for that is bureaucratic negligence, as ‘everyone’s on vacation’,” Berezovska added.
Taking the new position at UAngel, Makhotina also remains part of the EastLabs startup accelerator, which ceased to take aboard new startups since July 2014. Also among the board members at UAngel is EastLabs’ managing partner Eveline Buchatskiy.
Unlike classical venture investors, angel investors in their money-placement philosophy usually go beyond pure monetary return as they are driven by a willingness to develop a certain business sector or mentor the younger generation of entrepreneurs. However, it’s the arrival of venture capital in late 2000’s that pushed Ukraine’s information technology sector development.
Nation’s $1-billion large tech startup market bets not just on the local community of some 16 million internet users which Oleksandr Olshansky, head of Internet Invest Group, expects to reach 25 million by 2017, but also on the global demand.
(Andrii Degeler is the Kyiv Post’s information technology reporting fellow. Degeler has been covering the IT business in Ukraine and internationally since 2009. His fellowship is sponsored by AVentures Capital, Ciklum, FISON and SoftServe. He can be reached on Twitter (@shlema) or firstname.lastname@example.org).
CHRIS HIGGINS.Scientist takes blood out test tube in laboratory test of Ebola Zaire virus. luchschen / Shutterstock
Human trials of an Ebola vaccine are set to begin in Britain within a few weeks, with the number of potential cases projected to reach 20,000 during this outbreak.
The drug, currently awaiting ethical approval, is to be developed by GlaxoSmithKline and tested here and in the US on volunteers before being offered to high risk communities in West Africa. Alongside the newly projected impact of the contagious disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the current death toll stands at 1,552 with more than 3,000 confirmed cases across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
The vaccine tests are to be carried out here on 60 volunteers in an unaffected population — to rule out interactions with the virus — before being administered to 80 more volunteers in The Gambia and Mali. During the testing phase, GSK will also begin manufacturing 10,000 vials of the vaccine ready to distribute in affected areas from mid-September should the tests prove successful.
This experimental vaccine — developed by immunologists at the University of Oxford — is based on a strain of Chimpanzee cold virus, containing no active Ebola virus material, so the risk of an accidentally apocalyptic outbreak is relatively low. The drug is manufactured by splicing two Ebola Zaire genes responsible for producing surface proteins into the cold virus to prompt an immune response against the currently circulating Ebola outbreak. The surface proteins on their own are inert, simply a fingerprint to recognise the virus, meaning the body will retain defensive knowledge against the real deal if it ever tries to invade.
As such, vaccines are a form of pre-emptive innoculation for the uninfected, however with careful implementation, they can help slow down, curb or even halt the spread of an ongoing epidemic. That said, this is not a cure, and there is no known one for Ebola Zaire. This advancement won’t impact patients such as 29-year-old Will Pooley, the British volunteer nurse recovering in the Royal Free Hospital in North London after contracting Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.
By Inês Almeida.Over 300,000 students making their way to Germany
Most of the incoming 300,000 students prefer not to leave the country once they have finished their studies. For Education Minister Johanna Wanka the reality in Germany is certainly “better than the reputation”.
Germany is becoming more attractive to foreign students, with nowadays more than 300,000 of the 2.6 million students in Germany hailing from other countries. No tuition fees, more job opportunities and technological development are the main reasons for the increasing number of foreign students in the country, according to Education Minister Johanna Wanka.
There are already in place some measures to ensure Germany continues to be a favourite destination for students from all over the world. Wanka explains the German Ministry of Education is implementing an “Africa-strategy” to attract more african students (which represent only 10% of the incomers). A greater number of classes taught in english is also being offered in most german Universities to ensure foreign students choose Germany as the place for their studies.
More than 1,000 master degree courses in English are already being offered at German universities. However studies show that many of these young foreigners are not only keen on studying in Germany, but also on learning the German language. Quite often, it seems, English gives them an entry to Germany, but after a while they show an interest in German. Both the universities and the Goethe-Institut offer a wide range of German courses.
Wanka describes academia as an international pursuit. “There isn’t a single academic field that can afford to seal itself off and exist autonomously in one country. That’s why we cannot do without international networking and cooperation. Besides, spending some time abroad strengthens the students’ intercultural and linguistic skills, which will help them during their professional careers. A small country such as Germany is particularly dependent on international networking, which means both getting involved in other countries, and getting more people worldwide to develop an interest in Germany so that they will stay with us at least for some time.”
(Ines is a recent journalism Graduate from the University of Coimbra (Portugal). She also has a Graduate Degree in Journalism from ISCTE-IUL – Lisbon, Portugal email@example.com).