The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media
Depending on how you look at it, the TSA’s latest efforts to protect air passengers from terrorism are either keeping them safer in the air, or violating their personal dignity and possibly exposing them to cancer on the ground.
There actually are two types of airport full-body scanners. The one that’s causing all the uproar is the X-ray backscatter machine. That’s the one that’s hitting your skin directly with radiation in the form of X-rays.
The radiation dosage is extremely low, hence the government’s insistence that the cancer risk is extremely low. The flip side of that argument is that you’re subjecting millions of people daily to that risk, and many of them repeatedly over the course of a month or a year.
Disclosure this summer that some branches of government had been surreptitiously retaining some of these full-body images — after telling the public that the scanners can’t and don’t do that — hasn’t done much for their credibility, either.
Imagine you’re an airline pilot or flight attendant. Would you want to go through a backscatter machine as many as 400 times a year?
By the way, did you know that you and everybody else aboard an airliner flying at altitude are subjected to low doses of radiation every time you fly?
You can learn about this via this transcript of a recent experts’ discussion on National Public Radio.
Of course, you could decline to be scanned, but that makes you a candidate for what the TSA, showing government’s gift for whimsical wording, calls an “enhanced pat-down,” of a sort most folks first experience as teenagers in the back seats of cars.
This has led to, among other things, a woman being forced to remove her prosthetic breast and a small child being strip searched, as you can see on this YouTube video.
And as you’ve heard a great deal in the news over the last week, not everybody is down with having strangers feeling them up, even in the name of security. TSA’s response is basically: “PHFFFT!”
The TSA has since relented and will now allow uniformed pilots to skip all of this, as long as they go through metals detectors and have two forms of identification. Cabin crew — so far, at least — no such luck.
Meanwhile, some Republican types in Congress are trying to get airports to take TSA out of the equation entirely and turn their screening over to private companies — and some airports are indeed looking into that. Even were that to happen, though, the private screeners would still be required to follow TSA security rules. So for you and I, the flying public, not much would change.
Bottom line: prepare to be groped and/or radiated for the foreseeable future. Or think seriously about taking trains.
And now, here’s this week’s Digest:
Ethiopian Airlines becomes the first African airlines to operate the Boeing 777, its most modern jumbo jet. Another step up in class for EA, and a piece of good new for Africa-bound travelers. It gives EA the ability to connect virtually any two major cities in the world, non-stop.
They also plan to be among the first to fly Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner — provided Boeing can ever get the thing off the ground. Its delivery is now three years late.
Ten things to enjoy in Capetown, South Africa — for free.
from the Guardian (London, UK)
A Guardian reader describes the many social roles played by the beaches in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. They’re not just for tourists. The locals use them for everything from beach soccer to baptisms, and more. Sounds like my kind of beach.
from AP Travel
Where do you find America’s most affordable fine dining? According to the folks at Zagat, it’s New Orleans.
from the New York Times
Argentina produces some of the best wines in the world. A lot of those wines come from the wineries in and around Mendoza, which welcomes visitors. You’ll need to rent a car to get around the 100 or so wineries that welcome visitors, but the experience may be more than worth it.
from the Japan Times
Americans aren’t the only ones giving thanks in November. Instead of turkey, though, a Japanese meal of thanksgiving might include crab cooked wine.
from the Japan Times
Sapporo is more than just a popular brand of Japanese beer. It’s a city with a lot going for the visitor — good food, good fun and good transportation, all packaged in a city smaller and a lot easier to comprehend than Tokyo.
from Europe Up Close
Paris is a city of neighborhoods, 20 districts known as arrondissements. Each has its own personality and character. Some are packed with attractions, and some are where Paris really lives. Not sure which is right for you? This blog post offers an excellent guide.
from the New York Times
In the study of humanity, Man was considered to be advancing when he stopped living in caves. In southern Italy, they’re converting caves into hotels…and putting tourists into them. If you stick around long enough, everything comes back.
from AP via US Today Travel
Follow the path of Catholic faithful on a pilgrimage trail in Spain that dates back more than a thousand years. You’ll need a backpack, a good pair of comfortable hiking shoes — and if you want to do the whole thing, about six to eight weeks.