Research before you photograph – International travel tip

You’re planning a trip to a foreign country. Of course, you’re going to pack your camera to capture the people and places that make the country special. But before you go, do a little research.

In some countries, it’s illegal to photograph certain places. For example, in Britain a terror law makes it illegal to photograph police. Alternatively, it may be culturally or religiously offensive to photograph certain people or locations.For example, photography in Tibetan monasteries and Muslim mosques is forbidden without permission. Photographing local women in some Muslim countries is taboo.

Do your research, ask permission and, above all, be respectful.

Travel to Cuba legally with New York art museum package

Travel to Cuba is still illegal for most Americans, but if you don’t want to challenge the law or take your chances sneaking there and back, you can still arrange a visit. The Katonah Museum of Art, in Katonah, New York, has been authorized to lead a tour group to Cuba.

Participants on the trip, which is scheduled for January 17-23 of next year, will visit Havana and learn about Cuban culture through visits to museums, holy sites, and the homes and studios of 14 Cuban artists. The package costs $4,400 per person for double occupancy($4,600 for singles) and participants must also pay a $700 tax-deductible membership fee to the Katonah Art Museum. The price includes airfare from Miami to Havana, five nights at a five-star hotel in Havana, ground transportation, daily breakfasts and lunches, several dinners, all group activities and sightseeing, and insurance, taxes and visa fees.

Reservations for the trip must be made by October 19 and the Museum does expect the tour to sell out.

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[via Matador Pulse]

Argentina court ruling may legalize personal use of marijuana

On Tuesday, the Argentina Supreme Court ruled that punishing an adult for personal use of marijuana, so long as that use doesn’t harm anyone else, is unconstitutional. It’s a major step towards decriminalizing the possession and use of pot in the country, and comes on the heels of Mexico’s passage of a similar law that made it legal for adults to carry small amounts of pot, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and methamphetamine. Earlier this year, a Brazilian appeals court also ruled that possession of small amounts of pot was not illegal in that country.

It’s a new approach to the war on drugs – one that focuses more on reducing harm to drug users and society than on prosecuting recreational users – and one that seems to be forming a trend in Latin and South America. Only time will tell if that trend extends to the United States, but many members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy hope so. Back in May, Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox was quoted by CNN as saying, “I believe it’s time to open the debate over legalizing drugs. It must be done in conjunction with the United States, but it is time to open the debate.”

I stick to the booze, but I won’t begrudge someone the right of recreational use of a naturally-growing plant. And while I won’t jump on the bandwagon for legalizing all drugs, I would support the passage of a law that allows adults to possess small amounts of pot. I just don’t believe it’ll happen in the United States any time soon. Until then, tokers can use this guide to get their smoke on in several other countries around the world where pot is legal or more publicly tolerated.

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TSA fails again – assists illegal immigrants into the airport

Every time I think I’ll give the TSA a break, they manage to make it back into the news with something so stupid it makes me shiver.

This time, the TSA escorted 9 workers into a secure area at Orlando airport, and left them behind to do their work. The proper procedure is to escort the workers and stay with them for the duration of their work inside the terminal.

Working off a tip, the US border protection investigated the workers, and discovered that they were all illegal immigrants.

Six of the men will be deported immediately, two will be eligible for a hearing to decide whether they can stay here. The ninth immigrant was wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet, has been deported twice and was busted for a DUI.

As usual, the TSA spin on the story is that this was not a security threat, as the workers went through the normal security checkpoint procedures, so of course, that makes everything A-OK in their eyes.

U.S. man tries, fails to get arrested for travel to Cuba

I’ve always dreamed of going to Cuba, but fears of hefty fines and prison time have so far kept me from doing so. As it turns out, maybe I shouldn’t have been worried. Mytchell Mora, a U.S. citizen, has been to Cuba four times in the last tens years and hasn’t managed to get in any trouble – despite his best efforts.

Mora actually wants to get arrested for violating the United States’ ban on travel to Cuba (which was reduced slightly by President Obama to allow restricted travel by those with family in Cuba) as a way of protesting a policy he thinks discriminates against non-Cuban Americans and unfairly punishes the Cuban people.

Mora flew to Cuba in 1999 and 2000, after which he received a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department asking why he went to Cuba and how much he spent, and threatening fines or jail time if he failed to respond. Mora sent back a letter saying he chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights (you know, the old “right to remain silent”) and never heard from the government about the matter again. In 2002 he made another trip to Cuba. He was stopped by customs officials at the airport when he returned and was questioned and released again.

On Friday, Mora returned from his most recent trip with a suitcase full of Cuban souvenirs. Mora says that when he told U.S. authorities that he was coming from Cuba, a supervisor was called over. The supervisor typed some info in a computer, but ultimately let Mora go with little hassle. According to an AP article, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said their officers won’t detain U.S. citizens returning from Cuba, but will report them to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Mora is hoping that they do report him, and that this time he is charged with the crime. He hopes to bring the case to court, to challenge the Cuba travel ban and have it lifted.

I thought I’d have to wait until then to visit Cuba but now, I’m not so sure I do.