Moving swiftly US eases Cuba travel and trade rules – punching hole

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FILE – In this Oct 12, 2013 file photo, tourists ride in a classic American car on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. A new set of U.S. government regulations takes effect Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, severely loosening the 50-decade long travel and trade restrictions for Cuba. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes, File) by Bradley Klapper And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press Posted Jan 15, 2015 2:35 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Moving swiftly, US eases Cuba travel and trade rules – punching hole in 5-decade-old embargo WASHINGTON – Swiftly expanding trade ties with Cuba, the Obama administration opened the door to easier travel and a wide range of new export opportunities with the communist island starting Friday, punching the biggest hole to date in America’s half-century-old embargo.Less than a month after the Cold War foes agreed to end their enmity, the Commerce and Treasury departments unveiled new rules Thursday permitting U.S. citizens to visit Cuba without special permits.Most U.S. travellers still will be required to go on supervised group trips, but now virtually any U.S. company or organization can offer such trips without the paperwork and inspections that discouraged past expansion of travel to Cuba. Some tour operators, already seeing unprecedented interest in legal travel to Cuba, expect some tourists to simply ignore the restrictions.American companies also now will be permitted to export telephones, computers and Internet technology, and to send supplies to private Cuban firms. However, Cuban authorities have said nothing about the restrictions they might impose on U.S. products entering a country that has long frustrated foreign investors with red tape and tapped-out infrastructure.The changes are the latest step in President Barack Obama’s plan to rebuild relations with Cuba after a history marred by suspicion, espionage and conflict. The new regulations come three days after U.S. officials confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners Cuba had promised to free.The U.S. is now “one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Thursday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new rules “immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy.”They also allow U.S. citizens to start bringing home small amounts of Cuban cigars, long adored by aficionados but banned under U.S. law. The limit is $100 for alcohol and tobacco products and $400 in total goods.Only Congress can fully end the 54-year embargo. Obama announced last month he would soften the restrictions, arguing that “these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.” The new spirit of co-operation emerged after 18 months of secret talks that culminated in the exchange of imprisoned spies and the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years.The few U.S. companies facilitating travel to Cuba say inquiries have exploded since December and American visits are expected to surge this year from about 90,000 annually. “We’re hiring more people. We’ve secured more hotel rooms and assets in Cuba to provide additional travel,” said Tom Popper, president of New York-based insightCuba.Hotels in Havana and elsewhere generally fall short of international standards, and those with better food and service are almost always fully booked during the winter high season. So the tourism surge could be challenging.“American tourists are really demanding,” said Maikel Gonzalez, a 34-year-old hotel receptionist in Havana.“How do I explain to one that the taxi didn’t come because it doesn’t have tires or that there’s no water in the rooms?”Cubans also can legally rent out their homes or apartments, which could mean money outside of state control going to private citizens — something American officials say they want.Most of the other possible changes now depend on Cuban President Raul Castro’s government.U.S. officials say American companies will have to weigh for themselves the risks of their exports colliding with Cuban bans.Profitability is another issue. Foreign companies operating in Cuba currently deal almost entirely with state-owned firms that are notoriously slow, inefficient and short on cash.Also casting a shadow on potential deals is the possibility of litigation by Cuban-Americans and U.S. firms whose property was confiscated in Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Some may sue companies entering into business with the Cuban government. In Washington, Congress may also seek to erect barriers to new investment.The sudden rapprochement between Cold War foes has divided U.S. lawmakers. Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bob Menendez , both Cuban-Americans, have been particularly opposed.But some business groups have welcomed the opportunity to open a new export market in a country 90 miles (145 kilometres) from Florida. Thomas Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday it was better for the U.S. to sell computers, smartphones and cars to Cuba than to cede such business to countries like Russia and China.___Weissenstein reported from Havana. AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington and Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.

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Internet increasingly resembles an Intranet as foreign services blocked

first_img Receive email alerts Reporters Without Borders said the Burmese Internet increasingly resembles an Intranet as more and more foreign electronic services have been cut.Email providers Gmail, as well as Internet telephone services Gtalk and Skype, have been blocked in Burma since the end of June. It appears however that the blocking of this Internet services is not absolutely constant and that Internet-users can occasionally access them.”The decision to ban Gtalk and Skype were taken partly for financial reasons. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services were breaking into the profitable long-distance telephone call market, in which the state has a monopoly,” said the press freedom organisation.”But it is also since, like webmails, this type of communication is very difficult to monitor. The Burmese Internet is more controlled than the Net in China,” it added.The authorities, who already block access to Yahoo! and Microsoft (Hotmail) email services, want to force Burmese Internet-users to use Mail4U from Myanmar Teleport (formerly Bagan Cybertech), a state enterprise which filters and controls email content. July 4, 2006 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Internet increasingly resembles an Intranet as foreign services blocked Reporters Without Borders said the Burmese Internet increasingly resembles an Intranet as more and more foreign electronic services have been cut. Email providers Gmail, as well as Internet telephone services Gtalk and Skype, have been blocked in Burma since the end of June. At the end of May, as Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest was being extended, the Internet was completely cut off in Burma. All that was accessible was local sites of Myanmar Wide Web, a national Intranet made up of websites approved by the regime. The Myanmar Posts and Telecom (MPT), one of the departments of the Ministry of Communications, Post and Telegraphs, said the cut was due to technical problems linked to optical cables under the seabed off the coast of Singapore. But, according to a journalist on the Democratic Voice of Burma, the cut was in reality “a ruse” allowing the authorities to upgrade their Internet-filtering programmes.Officially, Burma says it wants to modernise and prioritise new technology but in fact the military junta does its utmost to control information circulating on the Net.Every computer in the country has to be registered with the MPT, with those failing to do so liable to a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. It is the state which licences Internet cafés. They are forced to ask clients to produce proof of identity and to install software which takes screen captures every five minutes. All the data has to be kept on CDs and regularly sent to the authorities.The Burmese authorities have ordered filtering of independent online newspapers, websites defending human rights or promoting democracy and publications supporting the claims of the Karen people (an anti-government ethnic group in the east of the country). Internet users can access these sites and webmail by using proxy servers or tunnelling techniques (See Reporters Without Borders’ Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents). The OpenNet Initiative has shown that the junta has, since May 2004, been using Internet filtering software sold by the US firm Fortinet.Finally, the creation of a website has to be approved by the authorities, and under a 2000 law, anyone discussing political issues online or posting articles “likely to damage the interests of the Myanmar Union” or “directly or indirectly harmful to state security policy” is liable to a six-month prison sentence.Reporters Without Borders considers Burma to be one of the 15 “black holes in the Internet”.————-Create your blog with Reporters without borders: www.rsfblog.org RSF asks Germany to let Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu apply for asylum Organisation News News Help by sharing this information Follow the news on Myanmar RSF_en center_img May 26, 2021 Find out more to go further May 12, 2021 Find out more MyanmarAsia – Pacific News US journalist held in Yangon prison notorious for torture News Thai premier, UN rapporteurs asked to prevent journalists being returned to Myanmar MyanmarAsia – Pacific May 31, 2021 Find out morelast_img

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