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Cuban legislators approve draft of new constitution | Cuba News

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Cuba’s National Assembly on Saturday approved an update of the country’s constitution, the final step before a national referendum expected to approve the new charter in February.

The draft new constitution, which has 229 articles and will replace a Cold War-era one, will maintain the Communist Party as the country’s guiding force and the state’s dominance of the economy, according to state-run media. A copy has yet to be distributed to the public.

The document, however, also legitimises private business – which has blossomed over the past decade –  acknowledges the importance of foreign investment and opens the door to gay marriage.

It imposes age and term limits on the presidency, after late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his younger brother Raul Castro ruled the country for nearly six decades, and introduces the role of a prime minister, as well as provincial governors.

The current draft incorporates into an original one published in July hundreds of mainly small changes proposed by citizens during a three-month public consultation at community meetings nationwide. It will go to a referendum on February 24.

“This process is a genuine and exceptional demonstration of the practice of power by the people and therefore of the markedly participative and democratic nature of our political system,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel told the national assembly in a speech closing its week-long, twice-yearly session.

The 58-year-old took office from his mentor Raul Castro in April although the latter remains head of the Communist Party until 2021.

Same-sex marriage clause dropped

One controversial revision is the elimination of an article that recognised matrimony as the union of two persons as opposed to the union between a man and a woman as in the 1976 constitution. 

That article was the one that sparked the most controversy in a society that has made great strides in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in recent years but remains conservative on the topic.

The new draft removes the definition of marriage altogether, thus still opening the door to same-sex unions albeit not giving it the same symbolic level of backing.

The government has said instead it will update the family code and put it to a referendum in the next two years.

Speaking on the island’s economic challenges, which includes a weak 1.2 percent 2018 growth rate and similar growth expected next year, Diaz-Canel said Cuba needs to accept private business, joint public-private ventures and coops working together. He promised to fight the widespread public-sector embezzlement and corruption that makes it virtually impossible to get anything done in the country without a series of small bribes.

“We’ve called a battle, and we’ll wage it, an ethical battle against corruption, illegality … and social indiscipline,” he said.

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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