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Australian ends Cuba-US swim after jellyfish sting

An Australian endurance athlete has ended her bid to become the first person to swim from Cuba to the US without a protective shark cage, after being stung by a jellyfish.

Chloe McCardel suffered the "debilitating" severe sting approximately 11 hours after she started her record attempt from Havana.

Chloe McCardel during a practice swim ahead of her challenge.

The 28-year-old had anticipated that it would take about 60 hours to arrive in the Florida Keys and spoke of the upcoming challenges at a press conference on Tuesday:

"It is the hardest swim in the world today. No one has been able to achieve this. It’s possibly harder than winning the World Cup or getting a gold medal.”

A message on her Facebook page thanked well-wishers for their support and said that McCardel and her team are now on their way towards Key West in the US.

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Beyonce and Jay-Z could face fine for Cuba trip

Beyonce and Jay-Z were greeted by big crowds as they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana. Credit: REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

Pop superstar Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay-Z could face a fine after a high-profile trip to Cuba to celebrate a wedding anniversary.

Two Republican members of Congress have asked the US Treasury Department for information on what type of licence the couple obtained before heading to Havana.

The long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from travelling to the island without a licence granted by the US government.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, who both represent districts in south Florida where there is a high Cuban-American population, said: "Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism."

"The Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the letter said, adding: "We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents."

Cuba: Right-wing group in US behind Chavez rumours

Venezuela's vice-president has accused a right-wing group in the US of being behind rumours about President Hugo Chavez's health as he continues battling for his life.

Speaking after a mass at a military hospital in honour of the president, Nicolas Maduro said:

"They're part of a wing of the imperial power of the United States that's the wing that has made more disasters and wars in our continent".

A recent picture of Hugo Chavez with his daughters Credit: reuters

Mr Maduro also said Mr Chavez is receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Last week, after more than two months of in a Cuban hospital, Chavez returned to Caracas where he is being treated at a military hospital.

Read: Hugo Chavez 'fighting for his life'

Cuban parliament names vice president and possible successor

In a surprise move, Cuba's new parliament has named a rising young star as Raul Castro's first vice president.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52, a member of the political bureau who rose through the party ranks in the provinces to become the most visible possible successor to Castro.

Diaz-Canel would succeed Castro if the 81-year-old cannot serve his full term.

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Raul Castro: This will be my last term

Cuba's President Raul Castro Credit: REUTERS/Andres Stapff

Cuba's President Raul Castro has announced that he will stand down from office in 2018 bringing to an end almost 60 years of rule under the family dynasty.

Raul took over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008, but has spoken about limiting the number of terms for senior government officials including the presidency.

Castro made the announcement in a nationally broadcast speech shortly after the Cuban National Assembly elected him to a second five-year term in the opening session of the new parliament.

He starts his second term immediately. In 2018, Castro will be 86.

French 'Spiderman' scales famous Habana Libre hotel

A daredevil known as "the French Spiderman" scaled Cuba's famous Habana Libre hotel without ropes or a safety net on Monday.

Alain Robert - who has climbed some of the world's tallest buildings -reached the top floor of the 27-storey hotel as hundreds of spectators cheered from the streets below.

After the death-defying stunt, he said his main concern had not the height of the 413 feet tall hotel, but that a bit of the building's facade might break off.

"It can be rusty, the concrete can be damaged. So, I could break this or that so it's a bit scary".

The hotel is one of Havana's most iconic buildings, taken over after the 1959 Cuban Revolution and redubbed the "Habana Libre," or "Free Havana."

Fidel Castro briefly set up his personal offices in the hotel after his triumphant march into the capital.

See also:

'French Spiderman' climbs First Tower in Paris

Surfer rides what could be a record breaking 100ft wave

Ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro makes rare public appearance

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro voted in Cuba's general election on Sunday and chatted with well wishers and Cuban reporters in Havana for more than an hour, in his first extended public appearance since 2010.

Castro had voted from his home in three previous elections since being taken ill in 2006 and giving up power to his brother Raul two years later.

Castro reportedly talked about efforts to reform the Cuban economy, Latin American integration, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other matters.

He was heard in a weak voice praising popular participation in Sunday's election.

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