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TSA Increases Terrorist Matching, But Security Gaps Remain

Sounds like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken a big step to keep us safer from terrorists in the sky. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that 100 percent of passengers on domestic and international flights by U.S. airlines are now being matched against government watchlists through the Secure Flight program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Previously, individual airlines were responsible for matching passenger names against terrorist watchlists.

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That’s all well and good. But here’s a remaining security gap:

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Three Kids Fly Southwest Without Parental Permission, Without I.D., Paying Cash for One-Way Tickets

How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.

The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.

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29th Street: New York’s New Hotel Corridor?

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Continuing the precedent  set by the new Eventi of building hotels in unexpected Manhattan neighborhoods, the new Gansevoort Park Avenue will open on August 16 at the interesting but decidedly unhip corner of Park Avenue South at East 29th Street. In a sort of no-mans-land between Gramercy Park, Murray Hill, and Kips Bay (call it Grammurray Bay? Kipsmercy Hill?), the swanky new hotel may do for its neighborhood what its sister hotel, the Gansevoort, did for the now-ubertrendy Meatpacking District.

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Spirit Air: Money Talks, and Talking Costs Money

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In its latest salvo against the traveling public, Spirit Airlines said it is considering a new surcharge—a fee to speak with Spirit airport employees. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News that it is considering such a fee in light of its airport kiosks that allow customers to buy tickets, check-in, and select or change seats without any human interaction. Baldanza told ABC News that flyers won’t see this new surcharge “any time soon.” What customers are seeing this week, however, is Spirit’s newest surcharge—a fee of up to $45 for carry-on bags placed in an overhead bin. That new fee began on Sunday, August 1.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

Ryanair: A Stand-Up Airline—Run by A Bunch of Fruitcakes

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The British media are all atwitter about the supposed plans by Ryanair to install vertical seats—that is, standing-room-only seats—in the last 10 rows of its Boeing 737-800s. Price of airfare in one of those seats? Just 4 pounds sterling (about U.S.$6). And how, you ask, can they afford to do this? Why, by charging you to use the toilet.

Wait a minute… Didn’t they already float (and later flush) the idea of a loo fee only to be publicly remonstrated, humiliated, and pilloried? Yeah, kinda—except that Ryanair doesn’t know the meaning of the word humiliation. On the other hand, it seems not to know the meaning of a lot of words, like “safety,” “concern for our passengers,” and “common sense.”

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Time To Reapply Your Sunscreen?

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Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, my friends and I would start off each summer’s quest for a tan by heading to the beach to lay down a good “base coat”—or what doctors like to call a second-degree burn. I had so many sunburns by the time I graduated high school I can’t even count them. We didn’t use high-factor SPF sun protectants; we used cocoa butter and tanning oil to really soak up those UV rays. Then someone went and discovered that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having even one severe sunburn as a child doubles your risk of developing melanoma as an adult.

Now you tell me.

I travel frequently and like to explore the outdoors wherever I go—swimming in Phuket, scuba in the Great Barrier Reef, early morning walks beside the Huangpu River on the Bund in Shanghai. At home in the States I dig biking and body surfing. I love doing the morning crossword puzzle sitting by my backyard pond. I even enjoy weeding my lawn. The point is, I’m outside a lot, and I can’t afford to get sunburned again. That’s why I was especially glad about a recent unplanned meeting with an acquaintance in the green room at CNN.

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Shame on Virgin Atlantic, Shame on Bradley International

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File this under "What the Hell Were They Thinking?" Just weeks after the new DOT airline rule went into effect limiting tarmac delays to three hours comes word that passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut yesterday were held on the ground as virtual hostages in intense heat and darkness for four hours. Apparently there were insufficient immigration officers to handle the unexpected arrival. The fact that Virgin and Bradley officials could not figure out a way to treat the passengers humanely does not speak well for either of them.

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Philly to Debut 360-Degree History in 3-D

Forget your Imax 3-D and your 3-D TV. I have seen the future, and it’s called Liberty 360. Philadelphia’s soon-to-be newest attraction, scheduled to open in July, will be a mind-blower: the first 360-degree 3-D experience ever devised. Audiences will stand on a cantilevered platform in the center of a cinematic cylinder, 50-feet in diameter and 8 feet high, and find themselves entirely surrounded by a three-dimensional movie that begins with Benjamin Franklin and a mysterious box in his workshop then takes viewers on a “journey of discovery” of America’s most beloved symbols.

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New York Celebrates Latin Cuisine, June 4–12

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Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, I thought I knew all about Latino cooking—which to my then-uninformed taste buds was pretty much limited to tacos, burritos, tamales, and other staples of Cal-Mex cuisine. I know different now, thanks to memorable plates of Brazilian feijoada, Puerto Rican mofongo, Cuban ropa vieja, and cosmopolitan Mexican dishes spiced with pico de gallo, mole poblano, ranchera, adobo, and dozens of other piquant sauces from south of the border. My eyes—and mouth—have been opened to the breadth of the region’s culinary treasures. (I confess, though, that I put my foot down when it comes to Andean guinea pig.) And then there are the cocktails: mojitos, daiquiris, caipirinhas, margaritas, pisco sours, pina coladas, Cuba libres…well, I get carried away.

It helps that I work in New York, where one can find restaurants from nearly every Central and South American nation, plus scores of Mexican eateries. So it’s fitting that New York is home to the new Gourmet Latino Festival, “the first world-class, socially conscious celebration of Latin culture and culinary traditions,” according to the organizers. Dozens of mixologists, chefs, authors, and wine experts will be on hand to share their knowledge and love of coffees, spirits, wines, beers, cultural traditions, and, of course, regional cooking.

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Just in Time for Father’s Day: A Private Jet With Viewing Platform

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The latest mod con in luxury private jets? An open-air viewing platform, perfect for watching wildlife, engaging in full-contact Parcheesi, or simply lounging with a postprandial sherry while the aircraft is parked overnight. (You didn’t really think you could stand on it while the plane was in flight, did you?!)

Here’s how it works: While the aircraft is on the ground, a massive side door opens up and serves as an awning. The platform, hidden in the fuselage, extends out to create a balcony for the deluxe living space within the plane.

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