Terrorism still causing terrible travel disruptions...But you can get new boobs!
Well, there's no shortage of stuff to talk about in travel today, is there?
The latest news comes from Oahu, Hawaii, where U.S. President Barack Obama had to give up some beach time to talk about the attempt to destroy a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
According to Associated Press, Obama said he has ordered a review of the American "watchlist system" and of its air safety regulations.
"As an al-Qaida group claimed responsibility for the assault, the president said he has directed his national security team to keep up the pressure on those overseas who aim to attack the U.S.," AP reported.
“It’s absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism,’’ Obama said in his first public remarks since the attack on the Detroit-bound airliner.
The group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempt to bring down the jet, saying the attack was in retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.
“We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will ... do more than simply strengthen our defenses,” Obama said in a brief statement from Hawaii. “We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland."
If it sounds like things are being made up as we go along on the airport security front, there's good reason for that. I've been going through all sorts of web sites today and checking the news and it's pretty damned hard to find out what kind of new rules have been brought in. You can find stories that talk about all inflight entertainment being banned. Other stories say it's just the flight-tracking maps. Still others say pilots have been told not to announce major sights folks can see out the window of their plane, lest a terrorist get information.
Personally, I'd have to think someone who goes to the trouble of trying to blow up an airplane probably knows when the aircraft is over a major American city and when it's flying over the prairies of Nebraska, but I guess it's better to err on the side of caution in any security situation.
Folks at Pearson say things are better today than Sunday. Airlines have consolidated flights and officials have brought in extra help to try to make check-in and security a little smoother.
I also see that U.S. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano was saying on the weekend that security systems hadn't failed. This kind of comment goes way beyond absurd, of course, and there she was on tv today saying the exact opposite.
"Our system did not work in this instance," she said on NBC's Today Show. "An extensive review is under way."
One Associated Press story I read this morning said U.S. government officials were deliberately not telling people what the new rules are, the thinking being that they don't want to alert potential terrorists. Can't say I blame them, but perhaps that's why airlines and customers appear to be taking radically different approaches from one flight to another. It's certainly understandable if flights in and out of New York or Washington D.C. would have more rules than, say, flights from Tulsa to Topeka.
You gotta think those new body-imaging machines are coming to an airport near you, despite privacy concerns.
"I think those privacy concerns which are, frankly, mild, have to fall in the face of the ability of these machines to detect" potential explosives, said U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who heads the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
A co-worker here at the Star wondered this morning when Canadian and other airlines will start shouting at U.S. officials and making the point that these regulations could do serious damage to an already struggling industry. I don't think they care. Their job is to protect people and make the skies' safe, not to build up the stock value of Air Canada or make travel easier. Mind you, that's where elected officials like President Obama might step in. There is tremendous potential for damage to the travel and tourism biz if rules get too restrictive.
For now, you'd have to think anyone thinking of flying to South Carolina or Florida for a week would be better off to simply pack up the car and drive, not that the bridges to the U.S. are likely to be a picnic. If you DO have to fly to the U.S. - and, remember, these bag restrictions and searches are for flights to the U.S. only, not to Mexico or the Caribbean or Europe or Asia - you might be better off to fly out of Buffalo and not face U.S. customs lineups at Pearson.
You'd have to think a lot of business travelers who don't want to wait six hours in line might cancel their trips. Trouble is, airlines depend heavily on business fares to subsidize the rest of us. So the last one thing the average consumer wants is less biz travel.
(I'm also wondering if people who have those NEXUS passes that allow them to use the automated eye-scanning equipment and bypass the usual customs lineup at Pearson and other airports are able to use them right now. That would certainly save an enormous hassle, but I suspect they're not in operation.)
It's certainly a huge mess. It MIGHT be that rules will ease by Dec. 30. There's lots of talk of that. But it doesn't appear anyone knows for sure.
Not to be overly glib, but this has certainly pushed Tiger Woods off the news cycle, hasn't it?
BIZARRE NEW YEAR'S HAPPENINGS IN NEW YORK
Couple of weird items here. First comes an Associated Press report that says folks who want to purge their bad memories from 2009, and there are a few of them, are invited to Times Square today to "slip their unpleasant remembrances through shredders."
The third annual "Good Riddance Day" got underway at noon today and goes on for only an hour, so I guess most of us won't make it.
Apparently there's a $250 prize for the most creative shredded memory. In the past, folks have tossed in bank statements, "Dear John" emails or written notes with words such as "cancer" or "the stock market" on them. And for folks who have other, unshreddable things they'd rather forget, the Times Square Alliance is providing a dumpster...and a sledgehammer.
That's kinda goofy. But not as crazy as the offer I spotted a few minutes ago from a plastic surgeon in the Big Apple. I don't know if it's true, but it's hilarious.
According to the press release I was sent, Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Greenberg today was supposed to unveil "The Nation's Most Expensive New Years Eve package" outside the W Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami.
"The $100,000 dollar special will treat you in the life of luxury with three tables for New Years Eve for concerts by Lady Gaga, John Legend and Brody Jenner," said the statement. "The package also includes round trip first class tickets from New York to Miami, a choice of Penthouses at 5 star hotels in South Beach for a month and, yes, new breasts for the new year.
"A breast argumentation is featured for the holiday package with a 24 hour nurse and unlimited spa treatments. You even get a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur for all the parties and events."
Gee, whatever happened to Dick Clark and a bottle of champagne?