Saturday, September 19, 2015

Editors don't dare compare daily Cuban life to violent U.S.

Lane restrictions on Main and Anderson streets, above, and Main and Passaic streets in Hackensack on Thursday and Friday had many drivers going in circles.


The biggest laugh line in Mike Kelly's Page 1 column on Cuba today is that many young people are "mired in low-wage jobs and unable to buy homes."

But isn't that exactly what The Record has been reporting for months about fast-food workers in the United States who have been calling for a minimum hourly wage of $15?

Kelly and Editor Martin Gottlieb, who sent the reporter to Havana, don't dare compare daily life on the Caribbean's biggest island to New Jersey and the rest of the United States (A-1).

No gun problem

For one thing, Cubans don't live with the kind of rampant gun violence that has taken so many innocent lives on the streets of Paterson, and in schools, churches and malls across the country.

Cuban youth aren't dying from the heroin overdoses that have become an epidemic in affluent Bergen County.

The 1956 revolution also ended discrimination against black Cubans -- the kind of equality that continues to elude black Americans -- and built schools and clinics in rural areas that had none.

Kelly does mention free universal health care and education in Cuba, but readers won't find a comparison of the two economic systems (A-8).

A Cuban friend standing next to one the beautifully restored American cars that tourists see all over Havana.

Low cost of living

Cuban wages are low, and so is the cost of living.

When I last visited the island in 2004, one of my hosts was paying rent equal to $1.35 a month, and after 30 years he became the owner of the apartment in Central Havana.

A typical monthly water bill in a Havana walk-up was 25 cents. A pound of tomatoes was 5 cents, and the government issued coupons for free food, toilet paper and other commodities.

For Cubans, tickets to the famed National Ballet were 10 cents, and they would often resell them to tourists for $10, the going price at the box office.

In 2006, The Wall Street Journal cited a study that estimated Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces controlled more than 60% of the island's economy -- from owning hotels and restaurants to leasing offshore lots for oil exploration.

In one of my visits, I saw a farmer's market in Havana selling organic vegetables grown by the military.

Greed victory

Also on Page 1 today, the Christie administration handed a victory to Avalon Bay, the real-estate investment trust that used cheap wood construction in an Edgewater apartment complex that burned down in January (A-1).

New building codes taking effect on Monday won't require more sprinklers, including in attic spaces; masonry firewalls between apartments (not buildings, as The Record says), and other improvements sought by residents, firefighters and lawmakers (A-8).

Bergen news?

Four major stories and two briefs from Paterson appear in the Local section delivered to Bergen County readers today (L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-6).

Readers looking for important local news on Page 1 were shut out by Gottlieb, who gave a sports columnist free reign to write about baseball.

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