Tag: Politics Travel

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TSA Has Huge Loophole to Allow Profiling in Airports

December 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM | by | Comments (0)

Here's a feel-good story to ease you into the holidays.

The Obama administration is preparing to issue a new set of guidelines that will for the first time ban national security agencies from conducting profiling based on race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. There are already rules going back to 2003 banning racial profiling by most parts of the federal government, but those rules don't apply to national security agencies and don't encompass religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. These new guidelines are aimed at shoring up those oversights.

All well and good, unless you're the TSA, and part of your job is to apply extra scrutiny to people originating in places like Syria and Yemen just in case they're terrorists. In that case you'd be kind of screwed, unless you could get an exemption from the new restrictions. Want to guess how this story ends?

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What the Resumption of US-Cuba Relations Means for Travelers (Besides Cigars)

Where: Cuba
December 17, 2014 at 12:58 PM | by | Comment (1)

It's true. US visitors to Cuba are now allowed to bring $100 worth of Cuban cigars back into the country and it's all thanks to a little speech this morning by President Obama, to announce the resumption of US-Cuba relations for the first time since 1961.

This major development, which will see the reopening of a US embassy in Havana and easing of travel bans, came about thanks to talks orchestrated by Canada and Pope Francis in the Vatican. According to the NY Times, the final step occurred just this morning, when two world leaders picked up the telephone:

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6 Ways You Could Spend the Navy Secretary's $4.7 Million Travel Budget

December 8, 2014 at 10:08 AM | by | Comments (0)

If you haven't heard, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has spent $4.7 million on travel this year so far. The $4.7 million has taken Mabus over 955,000 miles through Iraq, Afghanistan, numerous trips to German military bases, and a few relationship-typing “we-need-to-talk” type of chats Japan and South Korea.

With this, it’s truly difficult to grasp the magnitude of 955,000 travel miles. To quickly put that in perspective, that’s about the distance between Earth and Mars… times four! For fun, we decided to figure out some crazy, cool, and crazy-cool things to do with a $4.7 million and 955,000-mile travel budget.

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How to Get a Visa to Visit Papua New Guinea

November 24, 2014 at 2:13 PM | by | Comments (0)

When it comes to new opportunities in tourism, Papua New Guinea might be the latest and greatest travel destination not named Myanmar. The latter’s recent surge is due to, among other political improvements, a complete restructuring of its tourism policies in 2013. In very much the same way, Papua New Guinea, after nearly four decades of struggling to find its footing as an independent country, has slowly been transitioning into a destination foreigners can feel comfortable visiting.

According to its Tourism Authorities, only 5,000 Americans visit PNG each year, putting those who make the journey in an exclusive class of travelers. Despite what you might assume from a generally poor population, the cost of living in Port Moresby is on par with other major cities around the world—think the high rates of New York and Paris—mostly thanks to the influx of foreign mining companies over the past decade, a list that includes Exxon and Mobil.

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Local News Panics After Discovering Old, Defunct TSA Program

November 13, 2014 at 2:11 PM | by | Comments (0)

Time for another edition of "People are Idiots, and That's Why We Can't Fix TSA." True story.

Many years ago DHS received a Congressional mandate to secure the nation's airports, which the department duly implemented by putting up TSA checkpoints everywhere. Critics of the agency almost immediately began to complain about its uselessness - "security theater" was a popular catchphrases - and some went so far as to accuse TSA of actively conspiring to destroy America.

After a while TSA responded with: "Listen, we can't just shut down inspections because Congress won't let us. How about instead we establish this new PreCheck system, where for only $85 you can pass a background check and breeze through security?"

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Step Back in Time to 1970s East Germany at These 5 Berlin Spots

November 11, 2014 at 10:22 AM | by | Comments (0)

Brandenburg Gate. Alexanderplatz. Checkpoint Charlie.

The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall has done more than just shed a brighter light on some of Berlin's best-known tourist sites; it's wholly reignited interest in the brief history of the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), aka East Germany. Although the DDR technically ceased to exist upon Berlin reunification in 1990 and East Germany feverishly adapted to Western fashion and culture, the particular details of DDR everyday life continue to fascinate.

A handful of Berlin sites continue to preserve DDR design, and anyone is welcome to visit. Here are five of our favorites:

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Another Day, Another Wave of Airport Ebola Panic

October 30, 2014 at 1:28 PM | by | Comments (0)

Boy this whole Ebola outbreak thing has been a real boon for travel journalism, eh? Nary a day goes by without an airport getting locked down because some nurse has a fever, or a plane getting emptied because some idiot makes a joke about feeling sick, or a state getting quarantined because some politician was psychologically scarred by watching Outbreak on a date in the '90s. We can't remember the last time there were so many stories about airports and airplanes and travel politics. It's really just a delight.

Seriously though, the only thing less fun than having Ebola is watching global commercial aviation try to scramble to deal with Ebola. People are not always very bright.

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Is Travel to Hong Kong Still Safe? An Update from the 'Umbrella Revolution'

October 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM | by | Comments (0)

As the "Umbrella Revoltution" in Hong Kong continues into its second week, is it still safe to visit the city?

Last week we said yes, and this week we stand by that verdict, but now have the first-hand experience to back it up since arriving to HK a couple days ago.

Things we have not seen: violence, police, more than a few closed roads, loud demonstrating.

Things we have seen: signs, a wall of post-it notes with inspirational quotes and Tupac song lyrics, protesters napping or reading in the midday sun, and news crews desperate for new video footage.

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Is Travel to Hong Kong Safe Right Now?

September 29, 2014 at 3:42 PM | by | Comments (0)

In light of this week's mass protests and #OccupyCentral movement in the heart of Hong Kong, some travelers may be worried about disruptions to their travel plans.

Approximately 70 people were arrested in Saturday's protests, and Sunday saw the movement spread to Kowloon, in the always-busy Mongkok neighborhood. An excellent and quick explainer of what's happening in Hong Kong can be found at CNN.com, and also via video on Vox.com. What's most important to remember is that the protesters are not violent; it's about voices, presence, and future freedoms for Hong Kong.

So, should you go? Yes, absolutely still travel to Hong Kong, but do know these things:

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Flight Attendants Absolutely Do Not Want In-Flight Cell Phone Use Legalized

September 25, 2014 at 9:29 AM | by | Comments (0)

Less than a year ago, the FCC floated the idea of allowing cell phone use in-flight, a movement that most, including us, think would be a terrible, terrible decision. This week, the Association of Flight Attendants, an organization that represents about 60,000 flight attendants working across 19 carriers, confirmed that it too thinks allowing passengers to use cell phones in midair would be absolutely insane.

Here's an update on the situation: This week, a bipartisan group of 77 House Representatives sent a letter to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission that expressed their concerns over the safety and security issues in-flight cell phone use would bring up.

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New Law Would Ban TSA from Accepting IDs That Aren't IDs

September 11, 2014 at 4:51 PM | by | Comments (0)

What a strange little story. Over the summer news began to emerge that TSA was letting people confirm their identities, and then to board planes, using only Notice to Appear letters and paperwork. Those documents don't have photos or really any kind of security information - so that would have been problematic, which was one problem. But the story was actually much more about travel politics than about airline security, because it was wrapped up in the immigration debate. In any case it eventually made international headlines.

TSA for its part promptly denied that it was doing something as stupid as just letting people show random letters they could have printed at home. Agency spokespeople actually got kind of pissy about it - "completely wrong... never contacted us for a statement" - and made sure to let people know. Snopes.com rated the story flat out false.

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Airlines Suing TSA for Cheating on Controversial New Security Fees

August 1, 2014 at 8:30 AM | by | Comments (0)

As you know because you've been following along, the new TSA fees that we've been trashing since 2010 went into effect earlier this month. They had been jammed up for years by airlines - more on that below - but the administration finally managed to get them passed. The old caps, which had been set at $2.50 per flight segment with a $10 roof for a four-flight round trip, were abolished.

Would you believe that TSA may have taken advantage of the new situation to collect fees even higher than what Congress allowed? That's the argument being made by airlines, who are now suing the security agency. Game on.

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