May 11th, 2010


TSA's War on Moisture is over? Maybe?

Liquid rules: So long, 3-1-1?
Air travelers say TSA security restrictions no longer in effect
By Christopher Elliott
Travel columnist
updated 10:05 a.m. ET, Mon., May 10, 2010

The Transportation Security Administration’s unpopular restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage — better known as the 3-1-1 rule — are history.

Passengers say the TSA has all but stopped screening their baggage for liquids. They say transportation security officers no longer ask them to remove lotions, shampoos and even water bottles from their luggage, and overlook all manner of liquids packed in their carry-ons during screening.

“I was never asked about the liquids in my bag or asked to remove them,” says Doris Casamento, a retiree from Naples, Fla., who recently flew from Miami to Rome. “My husband had a bottle of water from the hotel he forgot was in his carry-on and it was never confiscated. The water was in a shallow shoulder-bag bulging practically in plain sight.”

The TSA initially banned liquids and gels from carry-on bags in 2006 when British authorities reportedly thwarted a plot to blow up planes bound for the United States with liquid explosives. The rule was later revised to allow small quantities of liquids in carry-ons.

The agency in 2008 promised it would ease its restrictions within a year by removing size limits on liquids carried onboard. But liquids still would have to be placed in a separate bin, according to the agency. The 3-1-1 rule isn’t scheduled to be lifted until the end of this year, when X-Ray machines at security checkpoints will have upgraded software proven to detect threat liquids in any configuration.

But a TSA spokeswoman insisted the 3-1-1 rule is still in effect. “The policy continues to be enforced,” says the TSA’s Lauren Gaches. “Although it is important to note that we empower our workforce with discretion.”

However, extensive interviews with air travelers suggest that the policy is largely unenforced.

Among their observations:

The policy was apparently loosened in 2009. Numerous travelers say the TSA started looking the other way last year. “I leave my liquids in my bag about one-third of the time, mostly because I’m brain dead after teaching two or three full days, and forget,” says Gary Zeune, who offers seminars on white-collar crime. “The last time TSA told me to remove the liquids and rescreen the bag was maybe a year ago.”

It’s happening across the board. With only one or two exceptions, travelers report the lack of a liquid rule at airports across the country. “Twice lately I have gone through security and in a rush forgot to take out my little baggie of liquids,” says Dody Viola, a social worker in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I didn’t realize this until I was on board the plane. I’m not trying to test the system — I just honestly forgot.”

No liquids are suspect. Incredibly, no liquids of any kind are apparently scrutinized by the TSA, according to air travelers. “I have small bottle of hand sanitizer and contact solution in my soft-sided briefcase,” says Robert Muncy, a network engineer in Cincinnati. “Never once have they said anything.”


If the 3-1-1 rule has indeed been scrapped, it would mean the TSA has taken a lead in removing the liquid-and-gel restrictions. The European Union last month set an April 29, 2013 deadline for lifting its liquid rules. By that date, the current restrictions on the carriage of liquids in cabin baggage will end, according to a statement issued by Siim Kallas, the EU commission vice president in charge of transport. “For passengers, the aim is also to simplify wherever possible the necessary security controls,” he added.

Of course, the Mexicans are a step ahead of all of us when it comes to liberating carry-on liquids. Consider this sign spotted a few days ago at the Puerto Vallarta airport. That’s right, carry your latte right through the checkpoint and take it home to the States with you. “If it’s safe for me to clear security and then fly from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco with a liquid-filled Venti-sized container that is about seven times the size of the largest allowable toiletry, then why is it not OK for me to do the same from San Francisco to Chicago?” wonders Tony D’Astolfo, who authored the post.

I hear that. I’ve never understood why the TSA had a liquid-and-gel rule, which I’ve openly questioned in previous columns. In response to my claim that liquids were harmless, my friends at the TSA posted a “mythbusting” rebuttal that required its own mythbusting.

Isn’t it time for the TSA come clean about liquids? If there’s any evidence that my tube of Crest is dangerous, or even just a single documented case in which liquids could have brought down a plane, then I think we’ll all quietly empty our toothpaste, hair gel and contact lens solution into one quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag.

Otherwise, the TSA should make it official and let our liquids fly.


This has always seemed like the dumbest of rules to me, and I certainly hope that they are finally ending the War on Moisture.
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South Carolina democrat

Jim DeMint is pissing people off in his own party

Jim DeMint is becoming something of a tea party hero, even a potential conservative kingmaker, a status that is not making the freshman senator many friends among fellow Republicans in Congress.

His Senate Conservatives Fund has steered $622,911 to a half-dozen candidates through the end of March, both through direct contributions and by bundling collections from its 200,000 members. With recent momentum, fundraising is picking up.

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the Senate committee to get Republicans elected, said DeMint may be hurting the party's ability to regain power in Washington.

"I think he has a different goal, which is to try to move the Republican conference in a more conservative direction. If that were possible and we were able to win elections all around the country I would be all for it, but I think as a pragmatic matter we've got to nominate Republicans who can get elected in their states."

SOURCE is watching the nuts off themselves with glee
franklin sherman

Coast Guard detains Deepwater Horizon workers for hours to sign binding legal documents for BP.

In the aftermath of last month's explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, all the survivors wanted to do was get to dry land and call their loved ones. Yet for more than 24 hours, they were told to stay on ships on the water.

One reason was that the Coast Guard wanted to get information about the explosions on the rig and what caused them. And the company that owned the oil rig Deepwater Horizon also wanted answers.

Coast Guard officers boarded the supply boat, the Damon Bankston, soon after it picked up survivors, including Deepwater Horizon crew member Christopher Choy, from the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard wanted to know what caused the explosion, and the officers wanted witness statements.

Choy, a young roustabout on the rig, was handed a form to fill out, asking what he'd seen. "They came on there, and they gathered everybody in the galley on the boat and handed out ... papers and stuff saying, '[These are] statements. You need to sign these. Nobody's getting off here until we get one from everybody.' "

But when Choy read the Coast Guard form, he didn't like what he saw. "At the bottom, it said something about, like, you know, this can be used as evidence in court and all that. I told them, I'm not signing it," Choy says. "Most of the people signed it and filled them out. I just didn't feel comfortable doing it."
Choy shared his story at length with NPR and the PBS program NewsHour, in one of the most extensive interviews from a survivor of the April 20 rig blast.

The Coast Guard acknowledges it kept the men on the water in part so its investigators could get statements. But Choy says he thought the man who gave him the form said he was a lawyer with BP, the oil company. BP says it had no investigators or lawyers there.

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Sufjan Smile

Exhausted Noam Chomsky Just Going To Try And Enjoy The Day For Once

Chomsky tries to clear his head and think of anything but the ills of neoliberalism.

LEXINGTON, MA—Describing himself as "terribly exhausted," famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said Monday that he was taking a break from combating the hegemony of the American imperialist machine to try and take it easy for once.

"I just want to lie in a hammock and have a nice relaxing morning," said the outspoken anarcho-syndicalist academic, who first came to public attention with his breakthrough 1957 book Syntactic Structures. "The systems of control designed to manufacture consent among a largely ignorant public will still be there for me to worry about tomorrow. Today, I'm just going to kick back and enjoy some much-needed Noam Time."

"No fighting against institutional racism, no exposing the legacies of colonialist ideologies still persistent today, no standing up to the widespread dissemination of misinformation and state-sanctioned propaganda," Chomsky added. "Just a nice, cool breeze through an open window on a warm spring day."

Sources reported that the 81-year-old Chomsky, a vociferous, longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy and the political economy of the mass media, was planning to use Monday to tidy up around the house a bit, take a leisurely walk in the park, and possibly attend an afternoon showing of Date Night at the local megaplex.
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Source: The Onion

ngl, this is how I feel most days.

Beau Biden in hospital

ABC News' Karen Travers and Jake Tapper report:

Vice President Biden's son, Beau, is undergoing treatment at a Delaware hospital, according to a statement from the vice president’s office.

A source close to the family tells ABC News that Beau had some discomfort this morning and a headache so he went to the doctors to get checked out. He's at Christiana Hospital and doctors are examining him trying to determine what, if anything, may be wrong.

The statement from the Vice President’s office said Beau is "alert and awake, and communicating with his parents and his wife, who are with him,” but it did not indicate the specific reason for the treatment.

Beau was scheduled to speak tonight on the topic “My Life in Public Service” during a presentation at the University of Delaware, but the university groups sponsoring the event have been informed that he has cancelled.

Beau is currently Delaware’s attorney general. He served a year in Iraq as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard's 261st Signal Brigade.

The vice president’s eldest son considered running for his father's Senate seat in Delaware this November but decided to focus on his job as Attorney General and his family after his year in Iraq.

“My first responsibilities are here in Delaware,” he wrote in a letter to supporters in January after he made his decision. “I have a duty to fulfill as Attorney General -- and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do. Therefore I cannot and will not run for the United States Senate in 2010. I will run for reelection as Attorney General.”

Vice President Biden did a round of television interviews from Wilmington this morning. He was at the White House on Monday morning for meetings with senior advisors and was scheduled to travel to his home state later in the day.


Evangelicals' full-page ad in D.C. will call for immigration reform

Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the National Evangelical Association, tells Yahoo! News the organization is seeking to rally support for comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign begins with a full-page ad Thursday in Roll Call, a Washington newspaper that covers Congress.

"What we say is: There does need to be some workable system that's put in place to address the situation of people that are already here," Carey said.


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Palin Blink

Teacher calls flag drawing "offensive"

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A week after a school Morgan Hill made national news for sending five students home for wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo, a school in Monterey County finds itself in the flag spotlight.

This one involves an art project. A Salinas middle school student said her teacher stopped her from drawing the American flag, while another student's picture of President Obama was praised.
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Thieves take controversial Mojave Desert cross

LOS ANGELES - Thieves have stolen a cross in the Mojave Desert that was built to honor Americans who died in war, less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the religious symbol to remain on federal land.

The 7-foot-high cross was stolen late Sunday or early Monday by thieves who cut the metal bolts that attached the symbol to a rock in the sprawling desert preserve, National Park Service spokeswoman Linda Slater said.

Authorities had no immediate motive for the theft but Slater said possible suspects range from scrap metal scavengers to people "with an interest in the case," Slater said.
The U.S. Justice Department was looking into the case, and a veterans group planned to offer a $25,000 reward to help catch the thieves.

"The American Legion expects whoever is responsible for this vile act to be brought to justice," said Clarence Hill, the group's national commander. "While the memorial has been attacked, the fight will continue to ensure that veterans memorials will remain sacrosanct."

The cross came under legal fire about a decade ago by a former park service employee on grounds that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state. A lengthy court fight ensued, culminating with a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court that said the cross should remain.

Was covered in plywood
The cross had been covered with plywood since the early 2000s while the courts decided whether it was legal, but vandals tore off the wooden cover over the weekend. Maintenance workers went out to the rock to replace the cover and discovered the cross was missing, Slater said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars first placed a wooden cross on the rock in 1934 to honor the dead troops of World War I. The latest cross — made of metal — was put up in the late 1990s by the memorial's longtime caretakers, Henry and Wanda Sandoz.

Wanda Sandoz said the cross had been vandalized in the past, but such instances had become rarer since her husband bolted it to the desert rock more than a decade ago.

"I was really upset and I was crying, and I said: 'Well, we'll show them. We'll put up a bigger one and a better one," she said. "And Henry said: 'No we won't. We will put one up exactly like the veterans put up."'

The VFW promised that the memorial will be rebuilt at its remote rock 70 miles south of Las Vegas and 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

"This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families," National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell said.

It was not immediately clear whether they would be permitted to erect a new cross or whether a new cross would fall under the Supreme Court ruling.

"We're waiting for news from the Department of Justice as to what we should do. The case is still in litigation," Slater said.

Years of court rulings
The cross has provoked a tremendous amount of debate over the years among civil libertarians, veterans and the courts.

Federal courts ruled that the cross was unconstitutional and rejected a congressional effort to solve the issue by transferring the property into private hands.

The high court last month sent the property issue back to a lower court again and, in the meantime, refused to order its removal. Six justices wrote separate opinions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the cross shouldn't be seen merely as a religious symbol.

"Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten," he wrote.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens agreed that soldiers who died in battle deserve a memorial to their service. But the government "cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," Stevens said.

Condemning the theft
Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which filed the lawsuit on the ex-worker's behalf, said his organization objects to the cross but condemns its theft.


Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific

Last month, the Rudd Government released a new 'Human Rights Framework' for Australia. Most commentary on this Framework has focused on the Government's failure to commit to a Human Rights Act. This attention is warranted.

The enactment of a Human Rights Act was a key recommendation of the National Human Rights Consultation, supported by over 87 per cent of submissions. The basis upon which a Human Rights Act was rejected - that it would be 'contentious and divisive' - was spurious and an abdication of leadership.

The focus on a Human Rights Act has, however, resulted in less scrutiny of other omissions from the Framework, most notably that the policy is silent on Australia's role in promoting human rights in our own neighbourhood - the Asia-Pacific. This silence is all the more surprising given the Rudd Government's rhetoric on this issue. The Government's UN Security Council candidacy, for example, spruiks Australia as a 'principled advocate of human rights for all', while 'comprehensive engagement' with the Asia-Pacific is said to one of the three key pillars of Australian foreign policy. The new Human Rights Framework itself commits Australia to 'promote and protect human rights within our region', but does not include any concrete actions to give substance to this worthy ambition.

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Vote on federal health care issue set for Missouri ballot in August

Missouri lawmakers set an August vote today on a referendum that will allow Missourians to voice their opinions on the federal health care legislation that passed earlier this year.

The Aug. 2 ballot issue will ask voters to decide whether to amend state statutes to “deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance.”

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TRUDEAU - cut throat

Liberal Democrat MPs 'heartbroken' over Conservative coalition

Liberal Democrat MPs 'heartbroken' over Conservative coalition

Labour negotiators irritated Lib Dems by talking like ministers taking solicitations from visitors rather than equals

Senior Liberal Democrat MPs described themselves as "heartbroken" as their leaders made it clear that they wanted the party to ready itself for a deal with the Conservatives.

They convened Liberal Democrat MPs and the party's ruling federal executive for the largest meeting of the hung parliament negotiations so far. They met at the Local Government Association in Smith Square, in an office the party had last occupied right at the beginning of the negotiation on Saturday morning.

For most Lib Dem MPs, the prospect of a deal with Labour was dead within about four hours of Gordon Brown opening it up as an option by resigning on Monday afternoon, despite negotiations with the Labour party due to continue the next morning.

On Monday night Lib Dem MPs and activists were aghast as Labour MPs took turns on television to denounce the idea of a pact between their two parties as a "coalition of losers" even as the two teams of negotiators were in talks.

When their negotiating team reported back to their parliamentary party after their first two-hour meeting on Monday night there was shock.

Every one of the Lib Dem negotiators gave an individual report back of their meeting with Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Lord Adonis, and they each reached the same conclusion: that the Labour team were uninterested, with no movement on ID cards, the third runway at Heathrow, or increasing the proportion of renewable energy from 15% to 40%.

The Labour team's minds were said to be more focused on their own leadership prospects.

All reported back that the climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, was the "greatest disappointment" since they had regarded him as a fresh broom, unencumbered by the kind of instinctive dislike of electoral reform that some of his colleagues held. Others were angry that the Brown team had put up Ed Balls, the tribalist schools secretary. "I mean, Ed Balls in there? For goodness sake. That's not very serious," said one.

The Lib Dems were dismayed after what they believed were their strenuous efforts to keep Labour in the game, begun by Brown having a phone call with Vince Cable sometime on Friday.

A dinner of Lib Dem luminaries on Monday night, including former leader Lord Ashdown, saw them coming to terms with the end of the road for the Lib-Lab pact.

"The Tories offered everything and Labour nothing," said one. "If I gave you the two offers to us and put labels 'Party A' and 'Party B' at the top of them, you'd have thought the real Tory offer was the actual Labour offer and vice versa."

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I am the Lizard Queen!
  • maclyn

Gordon Brown about to resign as Prime Minister; Tory/Lib Dem coalition look ready to take power.

Labour 'ready to concede defeat'
A close ally of Gordon Brown has suggested to the BBC that Labour are close to conceding defeat in their efforts to do a deal to stay in power.

The BBC's Nick Robinson said he was told the Lib Dems had decided to back the Tories and Labour would regroup as the only "progressive" party.

It would clear the way for a Lib Dem and Tory deal which would see David Cameron becoming prime minister.

Mr Brown is understood to have spoken by phone to former PM Tony Blair.

He is in his office with his wife Sarah and close allies Lord Mandelson, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Alastair Campbell and Sue Nye.

But a Downing Street source said Mr Brown would not announce his resignation until there was an announcement of any deal between Nick Clegg and Mr Cameron.
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A lectern has been put outside Number 10, and it seems Brown is getting ready to go to the palace. Shit just got real, folks. We're in for a Tory government. I am properly shitting myself. Labour have been awful, true, but the Tories are still the preserve of the upper classes, and are, if it's possible, even more vicious in their anti poor rhetoric, they're more backwards socially, and I'm getting ready for them screwing Scotland over once again. Thanks for nothing, Tory voters.

ETA @ 10:25PM GMT: according to the Guardian, William Hague is going to be Foreign Secretary, and the Lib Dems are going to be given Scottish Secretary. GRAND. What a fantastic move to make them even more hated up here!

ETA @ 22:42: We need cheering up. Have some awesome Italodisco.

ETA @ 23:14: Downing Street has just confirmed Nick Clegg as Deputy PM.

ETA @ 23:52: Douglas Alexander is being touted as the one to take the Scottish Secretary job.

"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy calls for boycott of Newsweek

Glee creator Ryan Murphy has issued an open letter, urging people to boycott Newsweek until it apologizes for a now-notorious article about gay actors playing straight roles. The Newsweek article states that Glee star Jonathan Groff seems like a “theater queen” on the show. The article also says of Sean Hayes’ performance in Broadway’s Promises, Promises: “It’s weird seeing Hayes play straight.” Hayes’ costar, Kristin Chenoweth, has also condemned the article, which Murphy calls “damaging, needlessly cruel and mind-blowingly bigoted.” is the first to obtain Murphy’s open letter (read it in its entirety after the jump):

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Lars Vilks attacked during lecture

Artist Lars Vilks, who caused controversy by drawing cartoons that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a dog, has been attacked while giving a lecture at Uppsala University.

Vilks, who has been the subject of numerous death threats, was attacked while speaking at the university’s philosophy faculty on Tuesday afternoon. He was not badly hurt.

“The man was sitting in the front row and suddenly came rushing towards me. He headbutted me, and I was thrown against the wall and dropped my glasses,” he said.

According to local newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning, the atmosphere in the lecture theatre became rowdy after Vilks showed a film with sexual content.

“A crowd of people pushed forward. When a police officer tried to stop them he was hit. As things stand, two people have been arrested,” said police commander Tommy Karlsson.

Vilks was taken to a secure location following the attack.

“I have not been injured, just a bit knocked about,” he said.

Vilks became notorious in parts of the Muslim world for portraying the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog.

The publication of the drawings in the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper led to death threats from a number of organizations, including an al-Qaeda-affiliated organization which offered $150,000 for his murder. Vilks was consequently forced to accept police protection.

An alleged plot to kill Vilks was revealed in March: American Colleen R. LaRose was charged with trying to recruit terrorists to murder the artist. At the same time, seven people were arrested in Ireland over a plot to kill Vilks, although four of those detained were later released.


comedy | Rudy Huxtable

ONTD_Political's PotD: May 11, 2010.

A LITTLE TLC: Leonie, left, and a medical student “operated” on a stuffed animal at the “Teddy Bear Hospital” of the Virchow Clinical Centre in Berlin Monday. The “hospital” is meant to alleviate children’s fears of doctors and medical facilities.

Timur Emek | Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
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I am the Lizard Queen!
  • maclyn

Salmond warns Cameron that Scotland will not be a "helpless bystander" in the face of cuts.

Salmond warning to new PM Cameron

The Scottish first minister has vowed to co-operate with new UK Prime Minister David Cameron when he "acts in Scotland's interests".

But Alex Salmond warned Scotland would not be a "helpless bystander" in the face of potential spending cuts.
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Goldie thinks he'll repair relations between Holyrood and Westminster. Good luck wi that!