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  #1  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:24 AM
bbs2k bbs2k is offline
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What am I not allowed to read in the US?

Wandering through a book store yesterday I had one of those simple moments where I marveled at how cool it is to be able to read about anything I wanted to. Perhaps this isn't as true as I think though.

What books, if discovered in my home along with the absence of any illegal motive, would I be in trouble for owning? Bomb making? Hate literature? Drug cook books? Propaganda from "enemy nations"? I realize that there are certain types of pornography I would get in trouble for owning, but I was wondering more along the lines of reading material rather than pictures of abused minors/victims.
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  #2  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:56 AM
Hypno-Toad Hypno-Toad is offline
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That makes me wonder if narratives of kiddie pron are illegal. After all, one can legally read endless stories of murder, rape, destruction and whatnot.
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:21 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad View Post
That makes me wonder if narratives of kiddie pron are illegal. After all, one can legally read endless stories of murder, rape, destruction and whatnot.
IANAL, but I believe they are. ISTR a case where a convicted child-porn user had written some fantasies down in his diary/journal, and was charged again with possession of child porn because of it. Pretty sure these were not pictures, just simple, hand-written text.

Possession of bomb-making manuals isn't illegal in itself, but may be used as evidence against you if you are suspected of actually making/using a bomb.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:21 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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bbs2k said:
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What books, if discovered in my home along with the absence of any illegal motive, would I be in trouble for owning? Bomb making? Hate literature? Drug cook books? Propaganda from "enemy nations"?
Strictly speaking, I don't believe mere ownership of those materials would in itself be illegal. Having them might be evaluated as evidence of intent, but without some other overt action on your part would only be cause for suspicion, not actual offenses.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:32 AM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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Classified/Top Secret documents.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:34 AM
Captain Midnight Captain Midnight is offline
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One nice thing about the USA is we really have Freedom of Speech and the Press. It's the Number One Amendment after all.

Child pornography is the only literature that I know of that is expressly illegal to possess, and merely possess in the USA. Child meaning anyone under the age of 18.

A bomb making book would not be illegal. Making a bomb would be. The USA does not have laws against racist/hate literature. The Westboro Baptist Church has not been held liable for defamation of people died in funerals. One father of a soldier tried and ended up having the case go against him because of the First Amendment and him having to pay the Phelps Church for court costs and other expenses.

Drug cookbooks? Look at the internet.

What enemy nations? Iranians? North Koreans? Cubans? Belgians? No problem there.

If you were a mad bomber, but are protesting innocence at trial, the possession of bomb making books could be used against you in a legal search to show cause and intent.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:34 AM
villa villa is offline
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Originally Posted by Joe Frickin Friday View Post
IANAL, but I believe they are. ISTR a case where a convicted child-porn user had written some fantasies down in his diary/journal, and was charged again with possession of child porn because of it. Pretty sure these were not pictures, just simple, hand-written text.
I think, and I am going from memory here, that this was because of his status as a parolee. I believe that pure text is never considered obscene, and is fully protected by the First Amendment.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:38 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Classified/Top Secret documents.
I think this is only true if you have a clearance, based on what you agreed to in order to get it, or if you used some illegal means to obtain said documents. If your friend with the top secret clearance left his classified papers in your house by accident (), even if you then read them, I'm not sure what you'd be charged with.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:42 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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I think this is only true if you have a clearance, based on what you agreed to in order to get it, or if you used some illegal means to obtain said documents. If your friend with the top secret clearance left his classified papers in your house by accident (), even if you then read them, I'm not sure what you'd be charged with.
I believe the crime is in disseminating the classified info, not having it. So if you accidently read top secret info, your idiot friend who provided access to it would be arrested, but you would only be told in the strongest possible terms that it would be a crime for you to pass that info on to anyone else.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:43 AM
Monty Monty is online now
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The Westboro Baptist Church has not been held liable for defamation of people died in funerals. One father of a soldier tried and ended up having the case go against him because of the First Amendment and him having to pay the Phelps Church for court costs and other expenses.
Last I heard, the father appealed.
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  #11  
Old 06-08-2010, 09:47 AM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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It is not against the law to own hate and propaganda literature, as far as I know.
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  #12  
Old 06-08-2010, 09:59 AM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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(not legal advice)

When I was a high school student in a public school in Virginia (1990's), one of the teachers shared what was presented as a North Korean propaganda book (primarily consisting of beautiful pictures of their country), entitled, I believe, "Pyongyang". I have no reason to doubt that it was an actually printed in North Korea.

I'm pretty sure that even the Cuban embargo includes an excemption on "Informational" materials (as a first amendment matter).

(please talk to a competent attorney before attempting to import from Cuba or any embargoed nation to the US)
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:05 AM
tdn tdn is offline
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Originally Posted by villa View Post
I think, and I am going from memory here, that this was because of his status as a parolee. I believe that pure text is never considered obscene, and is fully protected by the First Amendment.
I don't know one way or the other, but in a thread from a few months back, there was discussion of a book that was pretty explicit, and quite controversial. Apparently it was a first-person account of a young boy being passed around among men for sex. I remember it had a one word title, though I don't remember what it was. And apparently it's still in print and quite possible to purchase.
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:05 AM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Originally Posted by Joe Frickin Friday View Post
IANAL, but I believe they are. ISTR a case where a convicted child-porn user had written some fantasies down in his diary/journal, and was charged again with possession of child porn because of it. Pretty sure these were not pictures, just simple, hand-written text.

Possession of bomb-making manuals isn't illegal in itself, but may be used as evidence against you if you are suspected of actually making/using a bomb.
I don't see how this can be so, since Nabokov's Lolita is widely available at any library or bookstore in the US. Perhaps what he was actually charged under an obscenity statute?
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:10 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Child porn stories can be found all over the net. There have been many print book with children as sexual partners. They are entirely legal. The child pornography laws prohibit the depiction of real children in sexualized situations. "Depiction," "real," and "sexualized" sometimes get misused by prosecutors wanting publicity, but I don't remember any cases that have help up purely for the writing, purchase, or possession of print child pornography.

Back in the day when pornography of many kinds was illegal, I believe there were arrests for trying to smuggle banned books into the country, even if if were just a single copy for your own reading. Most arrests were for sellers, however. In fact, that how most of the pornography laws were overturned. Courageous booksellers would create a test case, and by the 60s had won full freedom. Again, full freedom is not respected by every prosecutor and there are occasional reports of somebody being busted for selling indecent literature, but I'd be surprised if this included buyers.

As for classified documents, I'm pretty sure that mere possession is arrest-worthy. It's rare and I didn't find any recent cases, but it's a penalty that can be held over someone's head.

In the modern-day U.S. print is as close to sacrosanct as anything gets. Except for national security issues, you are protected for anything you want to read, no matter how distasteful that may be to others.

Physical violence is something else. I love sharing this anecdote. Back in high school I wrote editorials for the school newspaper. When Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, railed against student protesters carrying the North Vietnamese flag because the First Amendment didn't cover that, I wrote an editorial stating that this was exactly what the First Amendment protected. A teacher - a teacher! - came up to me in the hallway and told me he wanted to punch me in the nose for that.

Today that would be a national blogging sensation and a firing offense. Then I was just glad he didn't follow through.
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  #16  
Old 06-08-2010, 10:14 AM
villa villa is offline
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Originally Posted by robert_andrews View Post
I don't see how this can be so, since Nabokov's Lolita is widely available at any library or bookstore in the US. Perhaps what he was actually charged under an obscenity statute?
Possession of obscene material is not illegal, and laws making it so are unconstitutional. I can't remember the case that said this, sorry. Federal law controls the importation and interstate sale or provision of obscene material, whereas state law deals with in-state distribution of it.

Child pornography is illegal to possess, but not because it is obscene.
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  #17  
Old 06-08-2010, 10:28 AM
jinty jinty is offline
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What am I not allowed to read in the US?

The writing on the label of a Cuban cigar?
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  #18  
Old 06-08-2010, 10:30 AM
villa villa is offline
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The writing on the label of a Cuban cigar?
Not true. You can still have Cuban cigars as long as they were bought before the embargo.

And the SCOTUS case invalidating laws against possession of obscene material was Stanley v. Georgia.
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  #19  
Old 06-08-2010, 10:34 AM
StusBlues StusBlues is offline
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I don't know one way or the other, but in a thread from a few months back, there was discussion of a book that was pretty explicit, and quite controversial. Apparently it was a first-person account of a young boy being passed around among men for sex. I remember it had a one word title, though I don't remember what it was. And apparently it's still in print and quite possible to purchase.
That would be Hogg. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
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  #20  
Old 06-08-2010, 11:16 AM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
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I seem to remember reading various books in school, The Giver, Brave New World. That would talk about sex with kids, even prepubescent ones, this was required reading, where is the line drawn for porn? Is it all about purpose? I know CGI and cartoon kiddy porn is treated the same as actually kiddy porn
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  #21  
Old 06-08-2010, 11:23 AM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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With the exception of child pornography (and some classified documents) I can think of no book or article that would be illegal to have. That's one of the great freedoms we have in the U.S. And there are some volumes out there, let me tell you. Books like Successful Armed Robbery, how to kill someone, how to rip off a drug dealer, etc., etc., etc.. Here in Wisconsin we have a guy who rights books on poisons and instructions on how to make illegal drugs in your kitchen. Mere possession of any of these books is absolutely protected by our Bill of Rights.
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  #22  
Old 06-08-2010, 11:34 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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What am I not allowed to read in the US?

Anything folded over the steering wheel while you're driving.
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  #23  
Old 06-08-2010, 11:53 AM
Qwakkeddup Qwakkeddup is offline
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What am I not allowed to read in the US?

Anything folded over the steering wheel while you're driving.
Or on the cell phone in some jurisdictions!
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  #24  
Old 06-08-2010, 12:29 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Do not read this post, under penalty of law.
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:36 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
I know CGI and cartoon kiddy porn is treated the same as actually kiddy porn
In the US, that was true with the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, but it was overturned several years later. So for now, cartoon/computer-generated stuff of that nature is still legal for the average US citizen.
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  #26  
Old 06-08-2010, 02:33 PM
mrklutz mrklutz is offline
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Originally Posted by villa View Post
Not true. You can still have Cuban cigars as long as they were bought before the embargo.
Actually you can still bring up to 2 boxes into the country on any trip overseas -- whether or not Cuba was on the itinerary. The duty-free shops in Mexico do big business on Cuban cigars coming into the US with tourists.
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Old 06-08-2010, 02:36 PM
dzeiger dzeiger is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Child porn stories can be found all over the net. There have been many print book with children as sexual partners. They are entirely legal. The child pornography laws prohibit the depiction of real children in sexualized situations. "Depiction," "real," and "sexualized" sometimes get misused by prosecutors wanting publicity, but I don't remember any cases that have help up purely for the writing, purchase, or possession of print child pornography.
The closest two cases I can think of are both for writing/online distribution of written stories--the Red Rose case ended with a plea bargain instead of going to trial, last I heard the Frank McCoy case was still ongoing.
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Old 06-08-2010, 02:39 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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Actually you can still bring up to 2 boxes into the country on any trip overseas -- whether or not Cuba was on the itinerary. The duty-free shops in Mexico do big business on Cuban cigars coming into the US with tourists.

I don't buy this. Provide a cite, please.
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  #29  
Old 06-08-2010, 02:39 PM
villa villa is offline
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Actually you can still bring up to 2 boxes into the country on any trip overseas -- whether or not Cuba was on the itinerary. The duty-free shops in Mexico do big business on Cuban cigars coming into the US with tourists.
This suggests otherwise. Where is your information from, because if you are right, I will pick some up next time I go through Heathrow.

Last edited by villa; 06-08-2010 at 02:40 PM..
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Old 06-08-2010, 02:46 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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This suggests otherwise.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection suggest otherwise as well. (Emphasis mine.)
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Generally, you may not bring in any merchandise from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) or most of Sudan. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces economic sanctions against these countries. To bring in merchandise from these countries, you will first need a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Such licenses are rarely granted.
Technically it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to smoke a Cuban cigar in a country where they are not prohibited. (Which is basically everywhere except 'The Land of the Free'. )
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Old 06-08-2010, 02:51 PM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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Here in Wisconsin we have a guy who rights books on poisons and instructions on how to make illegal drugs in your kitchen.
So, you're saying nobody can wrong his rights?

Also, bad comedy is perfectly legal to possess and manufacture.
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Old 06-08-2010, 02:58 PM
mrklutz mrklutz is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
U.S. Customs & Border Protection suggest otherwise as well. (Emphasis mine.)


Technically it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to smoke a Cuban cigar in a country where they are not prohibited. (Which is basically everywhere except 'The Land of the Free'. )
Ok, that's odd. When I came back from Cancun two winters ago, I brought in a box of Cubans and declared it in customs. I had no issues, and was told in the duty-free shop I could have brought a second box with me.
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  #33  
Old 06-08-2010, 03:02 PM
villa villa is offline
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My guess is you were perfectly able to bring them back in, because while they were advertized as Cuban they were Dominican or Honduran, as I hear a staggering percentage of the cigars sold as Cuban in border places are.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:03 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Maybe they weren't really Cuban? Many Cuban cigar makers fled the country kept the name. For example, Cohibas are made in Cuba by the state-owned company. They are also made by what I assume to be the original company, only in the Dominican Republic.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:20 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Technically it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to smoke a Cuban cigar in a country where they are not prohibited. (Which is basically everywhere except 'The Land of the Free'. )
Has anyopne ever been prosecuted for this?
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Maybe they weren't really Cuban? Many Cuban cigar makers fled the country kept the name. For example, Cohibas are made in Cuba by the state-owned company. They are also made by what I assume to be the original company, only in the Dominican Republic.
"Cuban-style" cigars?
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  #36  
Old 06-08-2010, 03:35 PM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Originally Posted by StusBlues View Post
That would be Hogg. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
He's gone, and unless AClockworkMelon is a sock for Argent Towers, a further discussion is unlikely to ensue.




(The dates would work, by the way)

Last edited by Attack from the 3rd dimension; 06-08-2010 at 03:36 PM..
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  #37  
Old 06-08-2010, 03:56 PM
tr0psn4j tr0psn4j is offline
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Do not read this post, under penalty of law.
Doh!
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  #38  
Old 06-08-2010, 03:57 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Has anyopne ever been prosecuted for this?
Not that I'm aware of. That's why I said 'technically'.
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Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
"Cuban-style" cigars?
Interesting question. If the actual company that made the cigars fled the country with a supply of seeds and employees who knew how to grow tobacco, are those the 'real Havanas' even though the tobacco is grown in Honduras or The Dominican Replublic? Or are the ones that only have the 'name' but are actually made in Havana the 'real Havanas'?
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Old 06-08-2010, 04:05 PM
mrklutz mrklutz is offline
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My guess is you were perfectly able to bring them back in, because while they were advertized as Cuban they were Dominican or Honduran, as I hear a staggering percentage of the cigars sold as Cuban in border places are.
I suppose that's possible. I did tell the guy at the customs desk they were Cuban -- maybe he knew they only sold "Cuban" and not Cuban cigars.
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Old 06-08-2010, 04:13 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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The closest two cases I can think of are both for writing/online distribution of written stories--the Red Rose case ended with a plea bargain instead of going to trial, last I heard the Frank McCoy case was still ongoing.
I can't find any recent news articles on the disposition of the Frank McCoy case either.

"Red Rose" was Karen Fletcher and she is the best example of someone convicted for purely written child pornography. From what I've read, it was absolutely a case of a zealous prosecutor. I can't find anything that makes the verdict understandable except for sheer repugnance on everybody's part. She was an agoraphobe and sentenced to house arrest. I would bet that if she had been sent to jail that the ACLU or someone would have jumped in.

Here's a legal blog page that talks about child pornography cases. And this:
Quote:
Now, in United States v. Williams, 128 S.Ct. 1830 (2008), a few months ago, the Court upheld the constitutionality of a law that banned solicitation (that is, offers to provide, or requests for) child porn. The law also makes it illegal to offer virtual child porn as depicting actual children. Id. at 1839. But here, too, the Court emphasized that it was not expanding the category of unprotected speech: “an offer to provide or request to receive virtual child pornography is not prohibited by the statute. A crime is committed only when the speaker believes or intends the listener to believe that the subject of the proposed transaction depicts real children. It is simply not true that this means ‘a protected category of expression [will] inevitably be suppressed.’ Simulated child pornography will be as available as ever, so long as it is offered and sought as such, and not as real child pornography.” Id. at 1844.
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  #41  
Old 06-08-2010, 04:14 PM
tr0psn4j tr0psn4j is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Not that I'm aware of. That's why I said 'technically'.


Interesting question. If the actual company that made the cigars fled the country with a supply of seeds and employees who knew how to grow tobacco, are those the 'real Havanas' even though the tobacco is grown in Honduras or The Dominican Replublic? Or are the ones that only have the 'name' but are actually made in Havana the 'real Havanas'?
Aren't they supposed to be rolled between the thighs of cuban women or something?


I don't know jack about cigars.
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  #42  
Old 06-08-2010, 04:41 PM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Not that I'm aware of. That's why I said 'technically'.


Interesting question. If the actual company that made the cigars fled the country with a supply of seeds and employees who knew how to grow tobacco, are those the 'real Havanas' even though the tobacco is grown in Honduras or The Dominican Replublic? Or are the ones that only have the 'name' but are actually made in Havana the 'real Havanas'?
If I have my facts straight, the same basic question could come up with Bacardi rum -- the Bacardi we US folks get is from Mexican sugar cane, but do they still use the same Cuban "formula"? Whatever.
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  #43  
Old 06-08-2010, 04:47 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Aside from cigar labels and child porn, does anyone know of another country with this level of freedom?
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  #44  
Old 06-08-2010, 04:52 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Re: classified documents, all I can say is, according to Clifford Stoll, the guards at CIA headquarters take that stuff pretty seriously.

When he visited Langley (as related in his book The Cuckoo's Egg), he was so entertained by the array of rubber stamps on one person's desk, he filled several blank pieces of paper with them.

Classified.
Top Secret.
Eyes Only.
Shred After Reading.

That kind of stuff. He managed to leave, but his "rubber stamp sampler" collection stayed behind, confiscated by security guards.
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  #45  
Old 06-08-2010, 05:12 PM
Deeg Deeg is offline
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What books, if discovered in my home along with the absence of any illegal motive, would I be in trouble for owning?
This may be covered under "illegal motive" but you can't own copyrighted material that you didn't pay for (or somehow acquire legally).
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  #46  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:19 PM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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Maybe they weren't really Cuban? Many Cuban cigar makers fled the country kept the name. For example, Cohibas are made in Cuba by the state-owned company. They are also made by what I assume to be the original company, only in the Dominican Republic.
This. Also, somewhat tangentially, Americans (who, being unable to get the real thing, don't always know what it should look like) provide a good market for fakes advertised as being Cuban, using non-Cuban tobacco and such things as forged Cuban bands and boxes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
Interesting question. If the actual company that made the cigars fled the country with a supply of seeds and employees who knew how to grow tobacco, are those the 'real Havanas' even though the tobacco is grown in Honduras or The Dominican Replublic? Or are the ones that only have the 'name' but are actually made in Havana the 'real Havanas'?
No. Only tobacco grown and cigars made in Cuba can be labelled as "Havanas." I believe, but am not sure, that "Havanas" and "Habanos" is a trademark that Habanos S.A. protects around the world (except, of course, the USA). Note also that there are a number of cigar factories in Cuba, but not necessarily in Havana. But any cigar made in Cuba of Cuban tobacco can properly be called a Havana.

Even cigars sold in the USA that carry the old Cuban brand names (examples: H. Upmann, Partagas, Bolivar, Montecristo, and Punch) but are not made in Cuba make no claim as to Cuban origin. The boxes and bands often look like their Cuban counterparts, but do not mention "Cuba" or "Havana." They do this either by inserting the year of the factory's founding in place of "Havana" (as H. Upmann does), or stating the manufacturing country (Honduras, Dominican Republic, etc.), or simply incorporating a design of some sort instead.

Cigars can be grown with "Cuban seed," if it can be got out of Cuba; but the seed doesn't really make a difference. What matters, for cigar tobacco anyway, are soil and weather conditions. Tobacco grown from Cuban seed in Honduras, is still Honduras tobacco.

FWIW, it is a myth that Cuban cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins. They are rolled on tables, by rollers of both sexes. I have had the privilege of watching a master Cuban roller (a male) make a cigar for me--it was quite the elaborate process. But it was obvious that it could be done only on a smooth, flat tabletop; and not on somebody's leg.

One of my former clients was a Canadian tobacconist authorized by Habanos S.A. and its Canadian distributor to sell Havanas. As you can see, I learned a lot.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:42 PM
not_alice not_alice is offline
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
Re: classified documents, all I can say is, according to Clifford Stoll, the guards at CIA headquarters take that stuff pretty seriously.

When he visited Langley (as related in his book The Cuckoo's Egg), he was so entertained by the array of rubber stamps on one person's desk, he filled several blank pieces of paper with them.

Classified.
Top Secret.
Eyes Only.
Shred After Reading.

That kind of stuff. He managed to leave, but his "rubber stamp sampler" collection stayed behind, confiscated by security guards.
I used to work with Cliff Stoll in the period of his career jsut before the Cuckoo's Nest Adventure. I very much believe he would do something like this, partly absentmindedly. He probably didn't lose any sleep over having it confiscated.

Thanks for mentioning this, just a couple of weeks ago he came up in conversation, and I wondered whatever became of....off to google!
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  #48  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:43 PM
DocCathode DocCathode is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Aside from cigar labels and child porn, does anyone know of another country with this level of freedom?
Back when I was shipping manager for a small business, I skimmed the UPS guide on forbidden materials. Quite a few countries ban the import or export of any ivory. A shocking amount ban 'any material critical of the government'.
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  #49  
Old 06-08-2010, 06:56 PM
kun11 kun11 is offline
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The Anarchist's Cookbook has caused a kerfuffle or two in the past. A boy was arrested in the UK for having a copy of one a few years back but I believe that the charges were later dropped.
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  #50  
Old 06-08-2010, 11:37 PM
oliversarmy oliversarmy is offline
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I'm pretty sure you can read whatever you want. You may have to answer questions about how you acquired the reading material according to the circumstances, however.
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