ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
56°
Sunny
H 62° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    56°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 62° L 42°
  • clear-day
    62°
    Today
    Sunny. H 62° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    60°
    Tomorrow
    Mostly Cloudy. H 60° L 38°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

World
US eliminates coveted 5-year tourist visa for Cubans
Close

US eliminates coveted 5-year tourist visa for Cubans

US eliminates coveted 5-year tourist visa for Cubans
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2015 file photo, people wait their turn to enter the U.S. Interests Section to apply for U.S. travel visas, in Havana, Cuba. The U.S. State Department said Friday, March, 15, 2019, that it is eliminating a coveted five-year tourist visa for Cubans, dealing a heavy blow to entrepreneurs and Cuban members of divided families, who used the visas to see relatives in the United States and buy precious supplies for their businesses on the island. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

US eliminates coveted 5-year tourist visa for Cubans

The U.S. State Department said Friday that it is eliminating a coveted five-year tourist visa for Cubans, dealing a heavy blow to entrepreneurs and Cuban members of divided families, who used the visas to see relatives in the United States and buy precious supplies for their businesses on the island.

The elimination of the visa cuts a vital link between the U.S. and Cuba by forcing Cubans to make a costly and complicated trip to a third country like Mexico or Panama every single time they want to visit the U.S. That's because the U.S. withdrew most of its non-essential diplomatic staff from Havana in September 2017 and stopped issuing visas of almost any type in Cuba.

"This affects every Cuban but especially entrepreneurs who have to travel to get products that don't exist here," said Niuris Higueras, who brings salt, hand towels, candles and other products from the U.S. for her restaurant Atelier, one of Havana's most successful private eateries.

Until now, Cubans who saved the money and mastered the complexities of successfully applying for a visa in a third country would receive a visa eliminating the need to apply again for another five years. That possibility will disappear on March 18 when the B2 visa will only allow a single entry for a three-month stay, Mara Tekach, the U.S. Embassy's charge d'affaires, said in a video posted on Facebook Friday.

Tekach said the change was due to the need to achieve reciprocity between the visa rules of the U.S. and Cuba, which issues Americans single-entry tourist visas allowing a stay of up to three months.

However, the Cuban visa application process is a formality, with airlines and travel agencies authorized to hand out visas to anyone who requests one and pays $50 as part of the purchase of an airline ticket or travel package. Cubans must pay $160, plus airfare and hotel costs in a third country, often to see their visa application swiftly rejected.

"Invoking reciprocity here is beyond insulting," said Michael Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American History at Florida International University and an expert on contemporary Cuba who advocates for closer bilateral relations. "The announcement today will come as a real blow to many Cubans, only the latest of the Trump policy years."

The seemingly obscure change in visa rules in fact is one of the harshest measures against Cuba taken by the Trump administration because of the effect it will have on the informal supply chain for the communist-run island's small but vibrant private sector. Virtually all of the supplies used by Cuban entrepreneurs from barbers to restaurant owners are either stolen from state enterprises or brought in suitcases from capitalist countries by business owners or "mules," couriers with visas who are paid to haul in the hundreds of varieties of products unavailable in Cuba's stagnant, centrally planned economy.

The U.S. five-year visa not only allowed frequent trips to Miami, Latin American countries such as Mexico would allow Cubans with the U.S. visa to enter automatically.

"This is going to limit me a lot," said Vanesa Pino, owner of the Sweet Details bakery in Havana. She uses her five-year visa to travel once a month to the United States to buy ingredients such as food coloring, decorating tools and sugar for icing. "It doesn't make sense to go to a third country to get a single-entry visa. You can make that effort if the investment then lets you make a lot of trips.

"In my case, in addition to bringing supplies, I would go several times a year to pastry-making fairs, see new products and techniques, and now that's not going to be so easy."

Her visa expires next year.

----

Associated Press Writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.

Read More

News

  • A new study on the effects of medication prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests that teens and young people could face an increased risk of psychosis with certain drugs. >> Read more trending news   The study, conducted by researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at teens and young people who had recently begun taking two classes of drugs – amphetamines (marketed as Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (marketed as Ritalin or Concerta) – used to treat ADHD. The study showed that while the chance of developing psychosis – a condition that affects the mind and causes a person to lose contact with reality – is low, there is an increased risk of developing the disorder in patients taking the amphetamines. “The findings are concerning because the use of amphetamines in adolescents and young adults has more than tripled in recent years. More and more patients are being treated with these medications,” said Dr. Lauren V. Moran, lead author of the paper. “There is not a lot of research comparing the safety profiles of amphetamines and methylphenidate, despite increasing use of these medications,” Moran said. Moran said that clinicians have long observed “patients without previous psychiatric history” developing psychosis “in the setting of stimulant use.” The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, looked at insurance claims on more than 220,000 ADHD patients between the ages of 13 and 25 years old who had started taking amphetamines or methylphenidate between Jan. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2015. According to the study, researchers found that one out of every 486 patients started on an amphetamine developed psychosis that required treatment with antipsychotic medication. One in 1,046 patients started on methylphenidate developed psychosis. The study showed that the development of psychosis appeared in people who had recently begun taking the amphetamines. Moran stressed that “people who have been on a drug like Adderall for a long time, who are taking the drug as prescribed and are tolerating it well, are not likely to experience this problem (psychosis).” The paper, “Psychosis with Amphetamine or Methylphenidate in Attention Deficit Disorder,” is set to be published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. 
  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Wildlife officials in New Mexico are warning hikers and other visitors about a potential danger on a trail in the Sandria Mountains east of Albuquerque: mountain lions. >> Read more trending news  Although the chances of actually encountering a mountain lion are low, officials have fielded numerous calls recently over sightings of the big cat on the La Luz Trail, according to KOB-TV. Forest workers want people to take precautions, especially around dawn and dusk when jogging and running can trigger the big cats’ instincts to chase and attack. “We do not want to discourage people from visiting the forest,” wildlife biologist Esther Nelson told KOB, “but we do want to make people aware and offer some precautionary measures to keep visitors and their pets safe.” A few other tips include keeping children and pets close at all times and don’t hike alone. Although mountain lions are usually quiet and elusive animals, the National Park Service offers recommendations in case of an encounter. If you see a lion, stay calm, don’t approach it, don’t run from it, and don’t crouch down or bend over. >> Related: Jogger kills attacking mountain lion with bare hands If a mountain lion moves toward you or acts aggressively, do everything you can to appear intimidating. Speak in a loud voice and try and appear larger. If that doesn’t work, park officials suggest throwing stones or branches at the cat to try and scare it off. If it does attack, fight back however you can. Also don’t forget to report any attack to a forest ranger.    
  • A Wisconsin woman was arrested for handing out marijuana cookies at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, police said. >> Read more trending news  Cathleen Krause, 57, has been charged with delivering THC, possession of THC and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, WBAY-TV reported. A witness told sheriff’s deputies that while she was attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, a woman dressed in a leather coat and green hat gave her a cookie with marijuana in it, according to a Shawano County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. The witness turned the cookie over to the deputies. The deputies later tracked down Krause, who was 'visibly intoxicated' and smelled of alcohol and marijuana, according to the affidavit. When asked about the cookies, Krause pulled out a gallon-sized bag that contained cookie crumbs, WBAY-TV reported. The deputies then searched her and found a container with pills and some gummy candies, the news station reported. The Sheriff’s Office said the cookie and the gummies tested positive for marijuana. Krause appeared in court on March 18. As a condition of the $1,000 bond, she must remain sober, according to court records.