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UNESCO's Dubious Intangible Culture Awards

It's even better than reading The Onion. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has just released its latest list of cultural practices worth preserving. While some of them are obvious choices (French gastronomy, flamenco), others are certain to leave you baffled—and perhaps even asking, "Do we really want to preserve some of these things?!" Once you read the list, you'll be left wondering why they forgot to add goldfish swallowing, 1K charity walks, and the Macarena.

Here are some doozies from the 2010 list, along with our 10-point Intangible Rating Scale (IRS) score and commentary:

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TSA to Passengers: Radiation or Groping?

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How would you like a tough-love security pat-down so thorough it would shame the most inveterate serial groper in the Tokyo subway system? No? Then how about a full-body backscatter X-ray that amounts to a virtual strip search (or as Stephen Colbert said, "that X-rays your X-rated parts")? If you're troubled by either option, voice your opinion in the new Your Travel Voice survey, sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.

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Airfare Site Adds Icon for Baggage Fees

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We like the new baggage icon at Fly.com, an aggregator website that compares airfares and itineraries from hundreds of airline and travel websites around the world. Click on the little suitcase next to the airfare for your itinerary and you'll get a window showing the checked baggage fees charged by that airline, giving you a better idea of the full price.

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San Francisco's Famous Tonga Room Tiki Bar May Close in 2011

Tonga Room at Fairmont Hotel

The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar—the famous and famously over-the-top tiki lounge at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel—may soon be sold, dismantled, and moved, or even closed altogether, as the hotel prepares a major renovation.

This is San Francisco, though, where the unexpected is an everyday occurrence, so it's not surprising that the city planning commission is withholding its approval of the hotel's plans while considering the room's "historic importance." A Tiki bar? Historically important? As I said—this is San Francisco, after all. Check out this amateur video for a sense of the bar's charming weirdness.

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What Part of 'Fasten Your Seat Belts' Don't You Understand?

Eighteen passengers on a Vietnam Airline flight from Hanoi to Paris were injured this morning when their plane encountered severe air turbulence, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane later landed safely at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and none of the injuries were thought to be serious.

But here's the interesting part: according to the story, these passengers—excuse me while I crank up the old caps lock and put the italics in gear—WEREN'T WEARING SEAT BELTS.

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New High-Speed Train to Challenge Eurostar from London to the Continent

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A bullet train capable of traveling 200 mph arrived from Germany today in London's St. Pancras Station, heralding a broad expansion of high-speed Continental rail service from the British capital. It also marks the first challenge to Eurostar's virtual monopoly on passenger service through the Channel Tunnel. If all goes according to plan, starting in 2013 passengers will be able to travel by rail from London to Frankfurt, without changing trains, in only five hours.

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Airline Surcharges to Soar, Leaving Passengers Sore

Mark Reynold Airport

Just in time to ruin your day comes a report that airlines stand to earn $22.6 billion in surcharges in 2011. That's up from $10 billion just two years ago.

The prediction comes from Ideaworks, an airline consultancy, and Amadeus, a tech firm that processes travel transactions. Both companies have a vested interest in airlines making more money through surcharges, so let's hope they're just being optimistic. (Or, I guess, pessimistic, depending on your point of view.)

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Hyatt Cleans Up Its Act with New Hypoallergenic Rooms

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When you check into a hotel, you naturally want a clean room. But if you want a science-fiction-scary clean room, look to Hyatt. The hotel chain recently introduced its Respire rooms, which are sterilized, sanitized, antisepticized, and deodorized to the extreme. They're so clean you're unlikely to find so much as dust mite feces under the decorative pillow shams.

"We basically kill all living organisms in the room," said Brian Brault, chief executive officer of Pure Solutions, the company behind the purified rooms. Presumably he was referring to mold, fungi, bacteria, and viruses -- not hotel guests.

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New Ad Campaign Challenges California Stereotypes

Kim Kardashian for California Tourism

When I left my native California for New York, people would say (and still do), "You were probably a tanned surfer dude hanging out in hot tubs in Malibu and meditating on hilltops when you weren't partying with rock stars on the Sunset Strip." Which in my case happens to be true. But I still need to remind my East Coast friends that not everyone in the Golden State is like me.

Now, however, I don't have to do any more explaining. A new advertising campaign from the state's tourism department, launching nationwide on Monday, dispels the myths of living in California. Sort of.

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London's Legendary Savoy Hotel Returns After Renovations

The Savoy Hotel in London

London's iconic Savoy Hotel greets its first guests this Sunday following a nearly three-year renovation. The $350 million top-to-bottom restoration took months longer than originally planned, but that's what happens when you stage what the hotel calls "the most ambitious restoration in British history." And from the pictures I've seen, it looks like it was worth the wait.

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