Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Cold-War Cuba View Out of Step with Florida Keys

How out of whack is the Florida Keys' representitive Ileana Ros-Lehtinen when it comes to Cuba policy?

She, along with the rest of the hardline, anti-Castro community, want to repeal the rights of Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba to visit their family, along with their ability to send money.  Somehow she is convinced this will help Cubans and punish Castro.

Locals in the Florida Keys - by informal polling - are overwhelmingly in favor of greater relations with Cuba and freedom to travel - the opposite of what Ros-Lehtinen wants, which is to repeal the Obama expansions of travel for family, remittences, and cultural exchanges.

Maybe it is time that the Florida Keys look to a new leader in the House, one that supports their opinion on this matter.  Enough with the hard line, radical right policy of the hardliners.  The majority of younger Cuban-Americans want more openness, travel, and freedom.  And while we are at it, the majority of US citizens want the right to travel and trade with Cuba.

Unfortunately for those hoping for a lifting of the embargo, she is now the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee?

Below are the latest news items from the Foreign Affairs Committee website.  The first item is about a Facebook photo contest being held by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which invited Cubans to submit photos, some of which apparently showed them having fun and enjoying themselves.  To Ileana, this is tantamount to encouraging tourism. The second item has her browbeating the Secretary of State for cultural exchanges that are permissible under current regulations and just the thing that should be encouraged for change in Cuba.  Read 'em and weep:

Monday, July 18, 2011
Ros-Lehtinen Calls on Treasury to Enforce Regulations on Tourism to Cuba
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter today to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control regarding efforts by certain travel agencies to circumvent U.S. law by promoting tourist travel to Cuba. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“In accordance with its mandate and mission, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control must immediately take decisive measures to thwart ongoing efforts by some to undermine, and potentially violate, U.S. law regarding tourist travel to Cuba.
“Last week, we learned of a photo contest being held by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana which essentially promotes tourism to the island. This week, we see a local travel agency in the U.S. soliciting travelers for pre-packaged tours of Cuba.
“Not only is the Obama Administration easing sanctions on the Cuban regime, but it would appear they are also ignoring the regulations in place. It is critical that the Office of Foreign Assets Control strictly enforce U.S. regulations on travel to Cuba and duly impose the corresponding penalties.”

July 18, 2011
The Honorable Adam J. Szubin
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Director Szubin:
I am writing to express my concern regarding efforts by certain travel agencies to circumvent U.S. law by promoting tourist travel to Cuba.
A recent piece in the Monroe News Star entices readers to travel on a seven night pre-packaged tour to Cuba by Monroe Travel Service, stating that the “first wave of pure tourists from America will hit the friendly skies Aug. 11.” The article offers an egregious misrepresentation of the current guidelines regulating travel to Cuba and is indicative of potential schemes by other travel agencies to encourage the participation of U.S. citizens in illegal tourist tours of Cuba.
With this in mind, I would like to request, within all applicable rules and guidelines, information regarding what measures OFAC may be taking to prevent or correct for this type of activity by travel agencies.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.

Ileana has represented the Florida Keys since 1989.

November 2012 is the next time she'll be up for re-election.

She is hoping for a 12th term.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Key West's Borders Bookstore to Close

Border's Bookstore, which entered bankruptcy in February of this year, was hoping that a buyer would step forward and save the company.  

No buyer has emerged.  The auction scheduled for this week has been cancelled. 

As a result, Borders has announced they are closing all stores - including the Key West location.

The local Borders, actually a scaled-down version named Borders Express, was a sad statement on the state of the public's appetite for books.  The inventory was focused on mass-market fiction, $5 coffee table books, and seemingly aisles of "________ for Dummies" books.

Was it the eBook or the poor store execution that doomed Borders?  Maybe both.

Either way, if you are looking for literature, or an inspiring, curated collection of good reads, here are your best bets:

  • Key West Public Library - 700 Fleming Street
  • Key West Island Bookstore - 513 Fleming Street's
  • Voltaire Books - 330 Simonton Street.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When to See the Last Shuttle Flight Over Key West

Key West is one of the few places in the United States where you'll have a chance to see the last flight of the space shuttle as it travels in the night sky.

The shuttle may be visible low over the horizon and only for a few minutes.

Here is the schedule for viewing here:


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