Egypt Independent: Life Style-Main news en Cuba's famed cigars get a foot in door of U.S. market <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Milagros Diaz has been rolling cigars for 48 years, so long she cannot even smell tobacco anymore, and she is thrilled that the U.S. market is finally opening up for her handmade Cuban &quot;habanos&quot;.</p><p>Since U.S. President Obama announced on Wednesday he would restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and start dismantling economic sanctions, Americans have been filing into the cigar shop at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where she hand-rolls cigars using techniques little changed since the 19th century.</p><p>&quot;The Americans!&quot; she said, her face lighting up as she clapped her hands over her head. &quot;They&#39;re not scared anymore. I&#39;m super happy because in my 67 years I never thought I would see diplomatic relations. And we think we&#39;re going to sell more, because this is just getting started.&quot;</p><p>Cigars have been Cuba&#39;s signature product ever since Christopher Columbus saw natives smoking rolled up tobacco leaves when he first sailed to the Caribbean island in 1492.</p><p>Fidel Castro, who took power in Cuba&#39;s 1959 revolution, was often seen puffing on his favored, long and thin lancero model until he quit in 1985.</p><p>Cuban cigars are considered by many as the best in the world - brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo and Partagas - but the U.S. trade embargo blocks their access to a market that last year imported 317.6 million premium, hand-rolled cigars.</p><p>When Obama unveiled the new Cuba policy, which aims to end more than five decades of conflict, among the first forbidden Cuban products legalized was the cigar.</p><p>Under new rules to be implemented soon, the United States will make it easier for some Americans to travel to Cuba and they will be able to return with $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.</p><p>The restrictions could be further loosened over time. Wholesale shipments directly to the United States would require the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo, or for Obama to declare an exception for cigars under the Trading with the Enemy Act.</p><p>Even the preliminary steps have delighted aficionados on both sides of the Florida Straits, as well as Cubans working in the industry.</p><p>Diaz, the cigar-maker, says the extra revenue could help tobacco farmers better finance their fields and improve transportation for their workers.</p><p>With carefully dried tobacco leaves that come from western Pinar de Rio province, she twists them into a bunch and stuffs them into wooden molds that are pressed tight for at least 20 minutes. Then they are ready for the outer layer, which she carves with a &quot;chaveta,&quot; or half-moon shaped blade.</p><p>When she worked in the Romeo y Julieta factory in Havana, she says, she could turn out 200 in an eight-hour shift, though the pace at the hotel is a lot easier, mostly for show.</p><p><strong>Forbiddn fruit</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">Cuba&#39;s government estimates the windfall from the embargo being lifted on Cuban cigars and rum would allow it to pump more than $200 million a year into social welfare programs.</span></p><p>Their status as &quot;forbidden fruit&quot; has only boosted their appeal among cigar lovers in the United States. A small black market means determined customers can find them but no one doubts there is pent-up demand.</p><p>&quot;They have a certain cachet which makes them more desirable .... Everyone will want to try one,&quot; said David Weiss, the owner of the Lone Wolf Cigar Company, which has two stores and a cigar lounge in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.</p><p>He said U.S. retailers will buy directly from Cuba if sanctions are lifted, although he also warned that Cuban brands now face strong competition from other producers, especially the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.</p><p>Cuba may also struggle to meet the increased demand should the U.S. market open completely, worrying some smokers that prices will spike and quality slip.</p><p>Regardless, cigars are a source of great pride for Cubans. A luxury item in most of the world, here they are enjoyed by the working class. With only the best leaves used for the export market, plenty of cheap cigars are available.</p><p>Cubans, mostly men, like to chomp on them while playing dominoes or just walking down the street.</p><p>Foreign tourists, who can afford the pricey brands, flock to the former haunts of Ernest Hemingway, puffing away like Papa.</p><p>&quot;We Cubans are chauvinistic and like to think we&#39;re the best at everything, but yes, something we can be proud of and confident in is that we have the best cigars,&quot; said restaurant owner Enrique Nuñez, a member of the Puro Humo (Puro Smoke) cigar club that meets in Havana once a month.</p><p>Nuñez cites the aroma and strength of Cuban cigars, and prefers the Montecristo.</p><p>Like many cigar lovers, the only female member of the Puro Humo club, Spanish native Pilar Fernandez, appreciates the tradition and craftsmanship that go into Cuban cigars.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a work of art,&quot; Fernandez said. &quot;It&#39;s not mechanized. They make cigars like they did 200 years ago, with the same tools, with their hands. It&#39;s totally 19th century.&quot;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 13:29:00 +0000 Reuters 2441655 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/21/499612/cubas_cigars.jpg Zoo visitors escape angry chimpanzee, jump into crocodile-infested waters <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Zoo visitors tried to flee an attack from an angry chimpanzee who sent a man to the hospital on Saturday, only for some to risk themselves in crocodile-infested waters, said eyewitnesses.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>About 30 visitors were on a boat tour of a zoo on the desert road between Alexandria and Beheira, where chimpanzees reside on small islands, when one attacked a number of visitors after a man splashed water on it, <em>Al-Masry Al-Youm</em> reported.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Eyewitnesses said when their boat approached the chimpanzee,&nbsp;the boat captain threw a cigarette on the ground before he realized there was dry brush on the ground. The man said he was afraid the cigarette would ignite the brush on the island, so he threw water at the chimpanzee to put out the cigarette.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The act angered the chimpanzee who boarded the boat and grabbed the captain&#39;s head in its mouth until blood poured flowed down his face, said Mohamed Mahmoud, one of the guards.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Mahmoud said he and the other two guards picked up seats and beat the chimpanzee until they could rescue the man and control the chimpanzee. He then pushed the boat captain into the water after the chimpanzee left him.&nbsp;The boat captain was transferred to hospital.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Some visitors were slightly injured and others jumped into the water before three guards controlled the chimpanzee.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Mahmoud accused the zoo management of neglecting safety precautions as crocodiles were swimming in the water when the visitors jumped in. &quot;What if crocodiles had reached out for the visitors?&quot; he asked.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Another boat picked up the visitors 20 minutes later, Mahmoud said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/286209_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 358px;" /></div><div style="margin-left: 40px;">A chimpanzee boarded a tourist boat at a zoo near Alexandria.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/286205_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 358px;" /></div><div style="margin-left: 40px;">A chimpanzee looks out onto the water after boarding a visitor boat.</div><div style="margin-left: 40px;">&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/286207_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 358px;" /></div><div style="margin-left: 40px;">A chimpanzee after it boarded a visitor boat near Alexandria.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/286210_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 358px;" /></div><div style="margin-left: 80px;">Zoo visitors calm down after the chimpanzee attack.</div> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 11:14:00 +0000 Al-Masry Al-Youm,Drew Brammer 2441628 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/21/484151/286203_0.jpg Hero's welcome for SAfrica's first Miss World in 40 years <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>South Africa on Saturday welcomed home Miss World winner Rolene Strauss with wild cheers and ululation.</p><p>Hundreds turned up at O.R. Tambo International Airport to greet Strauss after the 22-year-old medical student was crowned Miss World 2014 at a glitzy final in London last Sunday.</p><p>Dressed in the country&#39;s national colours, South Africans waved placards, flags and portraits of Strauss at a colourful ceremony staged at the airport in Johannesburg.</p><p>She accepted a bouquet of flowers from a young girl in a wheelchair.</p><p>Strauss is the first Miss World from South Africa since 1974 when the title was won by Anneline Kriel.</p><p>Among those at the airport was the country&#39;s first winner of the title in 1958, Penny Coelen-Rey, now a 74-year-old grandmother.</p><p>&quot;We can be truly proud that she has brought the title back to South Africa,&quot; she said.</p><p>Leading the welcome party Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula evoked the memory of the country&#39;s first black president and icon, Nelson Mandela, who died a year ago.</p><p>&quot;We are a proud nation today,&quot; said Mbalula. &quot;Nelson Mandela is smiling on us, that his idea of a free democratic South Africa, a united nation, a rainbow nation is still alive today.&quot;</p><p>Strauss stepped into the airport&#39;s arrivals hall to deafening cheers and chants.</p><p>&quot;I have no words to describe what I am feeling at this moment,&quot; she said, adding that taking part in the Miss World 2014 contest made her realise how &quot;powerful&quot; South Africa is.</p><p>&quot;The words South Africa mean unity, freedom, forgiveness, a bright future,&quot; she said.</p><p>The famous Soweto Gospel Choir, which featured at the FIFA World Cup draw held in Cape Town in December 2009, led the performance to welcome Strauss.</p><p>One of fans carried a placard reading &quot;Marry me Rolene&quot;.</p> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:10:00 +0000 AFP 2441594 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/20/499612/heros_welcome_for_safricas_first_miss_world_in_40_years.jpg Caramel apple bacteria kills at least 4 in US <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.</p><p>Listeria monocytogenes is caused by a bacteria and can cause life-threatening illness. It is particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and pregnant women, in whom it can cause miscarriage.</p><p>A total of 83 percent of those interviewed so far (15 of 18 people) said they had recently eaten caramel-coated apples.</p><p>The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged consumers in the United States not to eat commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples until further notice.</p><p>&quot;Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that US consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided,&quot; the CDC said in a statement.</p><p>Of the 28 infected, 26 were hospitalized and five people died.</p><p>&quot;Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths,&quot; said the CDC.</p><p>Nine of the cases were pregnancy-related and involved either mothers-to-be or their newborn infants.</p><p>Three cases of meningitis -- a dangerous complication of listeriosis -- among otherwise healthy children aged five to 15 were also reported.</p><p>The illnesses have spread across 10 states.</p><p>Listeria can cause fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea, and symptoms typically begin within a few days to a couple of months after eating a contaminated product.</p><p>The bacteria is found in soil, water and animal feces.</p><p>Listeria can infect raw vegetables, animal meat, unpasteurized milk and processed foods such as cheese dips and deli meats.</p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:49:00 +0000 AFP 2441571 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/19/499612/caramel_apple_bacteria.jpg