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East Coast Snow Impacts Travel Nationwide

Here's hoping you got home before Sunday night, when the season's first blizzard blanketed the northeast under several feet of snow. AOL Travel has several stories of stranded passengers and snarled airports:

Some air passengers endured nightmare delays as a blizzard dropped up to 18 inches of snow on the Northeast and travelers tried to get home from the Christmas holiday break.

Airports shut down in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. But there were storm-caused delays and canceled flights elsewhere too as carriers moved planes around to avoid the storm.

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Pilot Posts Video Exposing Gaps in Airport Security

If you've ever wondered about the ground crew responsible for handling your baggage, refueling your plane, heck, even loading your meals onto the plane — you're not alone. An unidentified pilot recorded one airport's seemingly lax security on his cellphone, then posted it to YouTube. AOL Travel has the full story (and the video):

An anonymous 50-year-old airline pilot is in hot water with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after posting on YouTube a behind-the-scenes tour of what he says are security flaws at San Francisco International Airport...

"Well, folks, I just wanted to give you an idea of what type of security for the ground personnel there is. This is their screening. As you can see, there's only a card slide and one door," the pilot says in the video. "And right here's a sign, 'Think security.' Well, I don't think there's much security here."

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Locked and Loaded, the TSA Is Ready to Serve You This Weekend

Don't let the chaos in Europe get you down—it's god, not man, getting in the way of smooth travel. Stateside, the Transportation Security Administration is fully prepared for the holiday crush. At least that's what they told our friends at AOL:

"We have coordinated staffing and are committed to maintaining the flow of passenger traffic while properly screening travelers as they move through the security checkpoints," spokesman Nicholas Kimball tells AOL Travel News.

"As we always do during the holiday season, TSA will deploy additional risk-based security measures based on the latest intelligence and continue to work with our international, federal, state, local and private sector partners across the nation to protect the American people," he says.

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Oops: TSA Screeners Missed Loaded Gun (but Probably Found Those Nailclippers)

If this story is any indication, the TSA's airport screeners should spend less time looking out for attractive women and more time watching the x-ray screens. AOL Travel has the story of a loaded gun that flew the friendly skies:

A Houston businessman has a cautionary tale for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) authorities just in time for the busy holiday travel season. Iranian-American Farid Seif says last year he boarded a Continental Airlines flight with a loaded handgun in his carry-on.

Seif says he passed through security at Houston's Bust Intercontinental Airport during last year's holiday season without realizing he had forgotten to unpack the gun – a loaded snub nose Glock pistol – in his empty computer bag.

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'Stomach-Churning' Sanitary Conditions at Top Australian Hotels

A secret forensic survey revealed some five-star hotels in Melbourne, Australia have a serious hygiene problem.

Armed with swab tests and a black light, former police forensic investigator Peter Guerin scrutinized seven of Melbourne's top hotels. What he found was nauseating: mold in bathrooms, urine stained toilets, human body matter in beds, and even strains of dangerous bacteria such as E coli.

None of the hotels passed inspection. In every hotel tested, Guerin found an "unacceptable level" of potentially health-threatening microbes.

READ MORE (AND WATCH THE VIDEO)...

Rogue Wave: 1; Cruise Ship: 0

Some environmentalists say we shouldn't allow too many tourists to visit Antarctica, for fear of disrupting the ecosystem. Seems that God may agree: He sent a 30-foot wave to punish passengers on a small luxury cruise ship returning to Argentina. AOL Travel has the full story (and video):

A massive wave in the Antarctic hit a small luxury cruise ship with 160 passengers and crew onboard so badly the vessel lost one of its engines.

The all-suite Clelia II was in the Drake Passage, heading back to Argentina, when the 30-foot wave washed over the deck.

The wave wiped out the expedition ship's power and communication system and shattered windows, according to various press reports. The ship declared an emergency.

The Clelia II is being operated by Oregon-based Polar Cruises, and all the passengers onboard are American. No injuries were reported.

Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, operated by Lindblad Expeditions, happened to be nearby and was able to offer aid, including rigging a satellite phone to the distressed ship.

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Are Red Sea Shark Attacks on the Rise?

Mentioning Jaws is de rigueur whenever a shark attack draws headlines. For this weekend's fatal incident in Egypt, however, the reference actually makes sense. Having already caught two sharks in the area of earlier (non-fatal) attacks, authorities assumed the coast was clear. Now they're worried that more attacks are in their future. AOL Travel explains:

Authorities in Egypt gave the all clear, thinking they had caught the killer shark that had severely injured four tourists in a Red Sea resort area. They were wrong. And now an elderly German woman is dead from a shark attack.
The most recent attack occurred just a day after beaches were reopened in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, popular with divers and snorkelers.
The incident is drawing comparison to the storyline of the movie "Jaws," in which the mayor makes the wrong decision in the wake of a shark attack.
The woman was swimming off Sharm el-Sheikh when the shark tore off her arm, according to Egyptian officials. Witnesses reported hearing the victim screaming. She was killed almost immediately.
"It was definitely a shark attack," says Hesham Gabar, the head of Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Water Sports.
READ MORE

Amtrak says, Guns Allowed on Board

Thanks to efforts by gun advocacy organizations, Amtrak passengers will now be allowed to bring their firearms on board. There are some restrictions. AOL Travel explains:

Congress ordered the reversal of a gun ban that had been in place on the government-owned railroad for nearly a decade, reports the Sacramento Bee. The policy change takes effect Dec. 15.

The new rail policy is in line with air travel rules that allow unloaded guns to be stored in locked baggage holds.

Gun owners will need to let Amtrak know 24 hours in advance of their intention to bring firearms onboard and the unloaded guns will need to be packed in hard-sided containers. These will be placed in special storage lockers - guns will not be allowed on trains that don't have checked baggage service.

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Celebrity Cruises Reacts Swiftly After Armed Attack in St. Kitts

St Kitts

Fresh from the Carnival Splendor mess, the cruise industry is facing yet another public relations problem after armed robbers accosted a busload of Celebrity passengers in St. Kitts. The cruise company was quick to respond. AOL Travel explains:

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines tells AOL Travel News a call at St. Kitts by the Carnival Miracle, scheduled for today, has been canceled "as a precautionary measure," while the line awaits information from tourism and law enforcement officials on the island...

The attack by the masked gunmen occurred over the weekend as passengers from the Celebrity Mercury were visiting Brimstone Hill Fortress, a popular tourist spot on bus tours of the island.

The masked robbers reportedly blocked the road with a fallen tree and then emerged from the bushes to rob those on the bus. The armed gunmen then disappeared into the woods.

No one was injured in the incident. The robbers made off with valuables including cash, jewelry and cameras. Local police are investigating.

READ MORE

Photo courtesy of iStock.

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