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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?
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Cuba Travel / Barack Obama / Havana Travel / Tourism / Insight Cuba / → All Tags
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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If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Would you enjoy the sunsets on a beach in Phuket? Maybe you’d prefer a diet of pasta and Chianti in a Tuscan village? For those wanting to experience life in another country, it can be difficult on pesky 30- or 90-day tourist visas. Do you really feel as if you experienced life in another city, or even country, based on these limited days? That’s not even enough time to learn how to properly order two Big Macs—one without tomato and one easy on the dressing—in a new language.
Operating outside of these visas can be difficult. Stay beyond those days and you risk deportation and the possibility of never returning to that beloved country. So, for those itching to get out of America, here are some spots where obtaining an extended visa is quite easy.
Oh, and we’re not talking about student visas or the like. If that were the case, you could easily relocate to Vietnam as an English teacher. These countries allow Americans to easily uproot and emigrate.
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?"
Last week, the 2014 World Travel Market Industry Report was released to the public. In short, it is an annual global survey of exhibitors and buyers that highlight travel trends, including who’s buying what and who’s going where and how they’re going about doing it. Like any industry report, it is to be analyzed and regarded as a single, general resource amongst a sea of information, but it is fun, and often useful, to step back and consider some of the major themes brought forth by the report.
The thing that jumped out at me has to do with the ever-emerging and ever-growing segment of peer-to-peer travelers. If an attitude of “ew, I don’t want to sleep in someone else’s bed” ever existed amongst travelers, it has certainly been silenced to the point of a whisper. Preference for vacation rentals, including the rooms to rent found on sites like AirBnb, have grown incredibly in the past decade.
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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.
Travel Politics / DAL / Dallas Travel / Texas Travel / Southwest / American Airlines / Airline News / Airport News / Airports / DFW / Wright Amendment / → All Tags
...As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas - even if the federal government has to force it to be.
The Wright Amendment was enacted in 1980 as a change to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. It was all about protecting the risk and financial investment put into opening Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport in 1974, sheltering it from the older, smaller Love Field just a 21-minute drive away.
While the amendment was not technically created because of Southwest Airlines, the fear was that if Southwest, or any large carrier, continued to operate out of Love Field (previously the main airport in North Texas) it would decrease passenger numbers at the shiny, new and expensive DFW Airport.
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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.
TSA / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Travel Safety / Airport News / Airport Security / → All Tags
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.
We'll readily admit that don't have that much North Korea travel content. The section's not totally empty, since we take care of business. So you can find posts on travel safety near the country to how you can get inside to what the airplane food might look like along the way. But it's not exactly bursting with content.
There are a couple of reasons for that.
First, North Korea is - all things considered - not a very nice place. The people functionally live as slaves who are owned by the central government. The leaders are constantly threatening to destroy their neighbors and launch ballistic missiles at the United States, and they make a point of reminding people that they have nuclear weapons. The entire place is kind of a batshit crazy basketcase.
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Meeting of the minds between Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (center), Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov (right), and Aeroflot's Deputy General Director Vadim Zingman (left).
Citing sources within the Russian government, a series of news articles ran yesterday reporting that Russia was considering banning all European air carriers from flying in its airspace.
In general, such a move would be in response to the growing tension between the European Union and Russia over the political issues surrounding Crimea. More specifically, Russia is upset that the EU canceled its leasing agreement with the low-cost carrier Dobrolet, a subsidiary of the country's national airline, Aeroflot. Originally, the EU cancelled the agreement because the airline flew to Crimea, and the sanctions against Russia were widened after MH17 was shot down a few weeks ago.
TSA / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Airline Fees / Travel News / Airline Security / Airport Security / → All Tags
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.