Month: June 2017

TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

(Updated, 10:00 a.m., PDT, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.)

At the beginning of this month, Tales Told From The Road reported “that at ten U.S. airports TSA was testing a requirement that electronic devices larger than a smartphone be removed from carry-on bags.”

News outlets, including The Hill, are reporting that the agency now wants to look at books and reading material in passenger carry-on luggage, stating that:

“TSA began testing the new security requirement for books and other paper products at airports in Missouri and California earlier this month. The new screening process requires passengers to remove all reading material and food from their carry-ons and place them in a bin.

“Travelers already have to remove laptops from carry-on bags and place them in a separate bin. The new policy would let TSA employees flip through books to see if anything is hidden in their pages.”

The American Civil Liberties pointed out that the book-checking policy “raises very special privacy issues.” But the organization agreed that TSA could be justified examining books or other paper materials to make sure that a passenger isn’t trying to bring aboard a flight weapons or explosives, including “sheet explosives” which are flat enough to be hidden within a stack of papers or photographs.

Three months ago, Travel + Leisure reported that TSA was, at times, having passengers remove books from carry-on luggage, examining them for hidden weapons or narcotics, and even swabbing the books down.

In a story dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, about TSA testing new technologies, including 3D scanning of carry-on luggage, The New York Times TSA spokesman, Mike England, who stated that: “At no time has the removal of books been T.S.A. policy, nor are we considering making it policy.”

However, the Times then pointed out that:

“..Mr. England did say that T.S.A. employees may occasionally ask travelers to declutter their carry-ons by removing items from them and placing these items into separate bins so that the bags are easier to screen.”

Presumably that qualifying remark means that TSA could ask passengers to remove books from carry-on bags, if necessary, to allow the bags to be properly screened

A New Way Tip Your Uber Driver

A New Way Tip Your Uber Driver

Four years ago, when I wrote about the ride sharing service, Uber, which lets you summon a car and driver using a smartphone app, I said:

 “If you requested a taxi, Uber will add a 20% tip to the metered fare. No tip is charged if you ride in a Black Car, UBERx, or SUV.”

My assumption at the time was that the driver’s tip was conveniently included in Uber’s charge to me.

That meant, that unlike a ride in a conventional taxi (not hailed by using the Uber app on my phone), I wouldn’t have to dig out my wallet to find a credit card or, more importantly, cash to pay Uber for the ride and tip the driver.

It turns out that my assumption about tipping was wrong, although what Uber apparently was telling both riders and drivers is that it was paying drivers well enough that tipping would be not required or expected.

Once riders discovered that tips weren’t included in the amount Uber charged via its smartphone app, at least some of them tipped drivers in cash, as I did last month when I caught a ride from a Phoenix restaurant back to my hotel. It was hardly convenient for me to do so, and a bit puzzling since I could add tips to payments made using smartphone apps at Starbucks and my barber, and at least some eateries and retail outlets.

But all that will become history as Uber rolls out a new version of its app.

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Did Trump Change How Americans Travel to Cuba?

Did Trump Change How Americans Travel to Cuba?

(Updated August 8, 2017, 12:30 p.m. PDT)

On Friday, June 16, 2017, Donald Trump made a major policy announcement that could markedly affect the ability of Americans to visit Cuba or do business there.

(Bryan Ledgard Flickr Photo)

Initially, Trump appeared set to totally scrap the steps President Obama took to discard over a half-century of failed “isolationist” policy toward Cuba and engage the Cuban people and government in a new era of mutually beneficial relations.

The Website, The Hill, said that the Trump administration had considered severing diplomatic ties to Cuba entirely, but backed away from such a drastic move in favor of a partial reverse of Obama’s policies since it would “be ‘less likely to elicit pushback’ from the business community and regional partners.”

NPR reported that two-thirds of Cuban Americans living in South Florida and that some members of Congress, including at least one Republican, were not in favor of Trump’s announced policy.

And in this Associated Press story, the Cuban government said that Trump’s new policy “would not achieve [its] objective of weakening the [Cuban] government.”

But what will Trump’s policy, if implemented, actually do and what effect will it have on both Cubans and Americans?

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