Dealing with the latest crap from the TSA in holiday travel season

Flying during the holidays is never fun thanks to the crowds, but airport security policies are going to make things even more unpleasant. If you’re prepared for this year’s security theater hijinks, however, you can avoid some of the misery. Here’s how you can deal with all the crap at the airport this holiday season…

According to the Consumerist, the TSA warns that you shouldn’t wrap your gifts if you plan to take them through security. This sounds pretty ridiculous, but the TSA’s explanation is actually reasonable:

Wrapped gifts are screened just like any other item. We can see through the paper just like we can see through luggage, but just as we have to open a bag when it requires a search due to an anomaly or an alarm, we have to open wrapped items as well if they alarm or require additional screening…

Basically, don’t travel with a knife set or bomb making kit and you’ll probably be fine with a little wrapping. That said, be prepared to re-wrap your gift should a TSA agent feel the need for further inspection.

Are you traveling alone? You probably don’t want to deal with the massive family in front of you who’s trying to dump their bulk package of juice boxes before heading through the scanners. If you’re a family, you probably don’t want to be rushed by all the single people either. In most cases your airport security checkpoint should now have separate lanes for regular travelers and families…

In my experience, these lanes are often unmarked but tend to fall on the left or right side of the checkpoint. It’s always best to ask, but if you’re unable to find anybody to help you then just look for the line with lots of children. Chances are that’s the one you should join if you’re a family and avoid if you’re not.

Good news! Your kids’ shoes aren’t bomb-laden, presuming they’re 12 years or younger. The TSA has decided that young children can leave their footwear attached to their feet when passing through security. Although this is a generally positive change, the TSA warns that your kids may be asked to remove their shoes under certain circumstances and they may receive a pat-down if they cause an alert…

Remember all the fuss about the body scanning machines that showed some unpleasant renderings of what we look like underneath out clothes? The TSA actually paid attention and offered somewhat of a compromise. When you go through these new scanners you’re no longer naked-ish…

This still doesn’t eliminate the concerns of having a fairly frequent low-level x-ray, but at least you’ll look more like a cartoon than a fat blob to your onlooking TSA agent.

For more information about holiday travel, the TSA has posted a full guide. We’ve covered the important stuff, but if you want a look at some of the basics and enjoy bad turkey jokes you should check out their post.

Or you can make the same decision I have – and refuse to travel anywhere you can’t easily drive to with a 20-year-old Dodge pickup truck.

ALS operation marks another step forward in stem cell research

A 50-year-old man from Trion, Georgia, is the first person to be injected with stem cells in the upper part of the spinal cord, making him yet another pioneer in the scientific quest to use stem cells to heal.

Richard Grosjean received the treatment Friday. He is part of an ongoing FDA-approved clinical trial that is testing the safety of injecting stem cells into the spinal cords of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease…

While the Grosjeans know this procedure is likely to be more helpful to others in the future who have to deal with this “horrible disease,” they have hope and faith that some good will come of this for them, too. In addition to praising Emory University, Tracie also praises her husband’s employer, Mount Vernon Mills, which she says has “bent over backwards” to keep him employed throughout his illness giving him a sense of purpose.

The cause of ALS is unknown, but the disease is fatal because nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain and spinal cord needed to tell muscles to move, waste away or die. Early in the disease, patients have difficulty speaking and walking, both symptoms Grosjean now has. Eventually, the disease cuts off communication between the brain and chest muscles, so patients can no longer breathe.

Most people die from respiratory failure, according the National Institutes of Health, and most patients die within three to five years of diagnosis…

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Australian finally compensated after Oz customs coppers thought his shampoo was ecstasy

Neil Parry fought in court for 17 months for justice

An Australian man has been paid thousands of dollars in compensation after being wrongly accused of smuggling ecstasy in shampoo bottles.

Neil Parry of Darwin spent three days in jail after being arrested at the city’s airport last year. But his bottles were found to contain shampoo and conditioner, not 1.6kg of liquid ecstasy as alleged.

Mr Parry said the AUS$100,000 payout from customs “was not worth it”.

He told ABC radio he had spent 17 months in a legal battle with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and that most of the compensation would go towards his legal costs.

In a statement, the customs service said “mistakes were made during the presumptive testing of Mr Parry’s goods” and additional drug-testing procedures had been introduced.

Mr Parry’s boat and the homes of two friends were searched during the customs investigation.

I know we all tire of asking these questions. Why does it take 17 months for governments to admit they’ve screwed up? It’s bad enough they’ve messed with the life of an innocent citizen – but, they care so much about protecting their pimply-ass bureaucratic turf that someone like Mr. Parry has to hire a lawyer and sue to get any compensation for being locked-up and his home, his friends, being tossed by the coppers. They are the criminals.

The funny thing is I went through exactly the same hassle decades ago landing in Scotland. A dillweed customs copper thought the Woolite cold water soap powder in a plastic bag in my backpack was heroin or coke or whatever. He snorted a tiny bit on the spot to prove I was a drug smuggler – and his mates rolled on the floor while he ran for water to flush through his sinuses while bubbles popped out of his nose.

They let me go; but, required I had to exit the UK within 30 days. They had to apply some sort of sanction to cover their stupidity.

Newt Gingrich, the man who changed Washington – for the worse

Altogether, now – how can you tell Newt Gingrich is lying?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The Gingrich campaign has now confirmed a longstanding business relationship that enabled his consulting group to receive between $1.6 and $1.8 million from mortgage giant Freddie Mac. But it wasn’t for “lobbying,” Newt Gingrich insists. It was for “strategic advice on a wide range of issues…”

“It reminds people,” Gingrich said, “that I know a great deal about Washington.” And as he continued, “If you want to change Washington, we just tried four [sic] years of amateur ignorance and it didn’t work very well, so having some-body who knows Washington might be a really good thing.”

Newt Gingrich is certainly right about that. There is no candidate for president who has had more experience in changing Washington than Gingrich. Indeed, there may be no American since James Madison who has had more of an effect in making the institution of Congress what it is today.

For as far too few remember, more than any other living American, it is Newt Gingrich who gave us the current version of our hopelessly dysfunctional Congress — an institution which, according to a New York Times/CBS poll, now has the confidence of 9% of the American people. That monster is his baby, and no one should deny him his parental bragging rights…

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Myth that antibiotics cure coughs and colds still fools people

A quarter of people wrongly believe antibiotics work on most coughs and colds, a Health Protection Agency survey has found. However antibiotics cannot treat viruses, which cause most respiratory tract infections.

The HPA poll of 1,800 people in England also found one in 10 people keep leftover antibiotics – and many would self-medicate next time they got ill…

Speaking on European Antibiotics Awareness Day, the HPA’s Dr Cliodna McNulty said self-medicating was unsafe and could fuel drug resistance.

Dr McNulty, head of primary care for the HPA, said: “The majority of people can treat themselves at home using over-the-counter medicines to relieve symptoms…”

The HPA says health professionals must learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds. It found 97% of those questioned said that the last time they had asked their GP or nurse for an antibiotic, they were prescribed one…

Dr McNulty added: “Despite many years of public health campaigns advising people that antibiotics don’t work against coughs, colds and flu, our research results show that these myths prevail…

RTFA for even more opinions – all agreeing that self-medicating with leftover antibiotics is a fool’s game. There are more and better over-the-counter symptomatic reliefs available every year. And the best bet is still to stay home and rest, force fluids, catch as much sleep as possible [watch TV talking heads deliver what they call “news” – it could put a meth junkie to sleep].

Jay Leno has driven 11,000 miles in his Chevy Volt — and he still hasn’t bought gas

Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Jay Leno has driven his Chevrolet Volt nearly 11,000 miles and doesn’t have a single gas station receipt to show for it. According to The New York Times Wheels blog, Leno has had his plug-in for 11 months and, as he told them, “I’ve never had to put gas in it yet… They gave it to me with a full tank of gas. I’ve used less than half of that.”

Given that Leno has an entire fleet of gas-swilling rides in his garage, he can just take the Volt out whenever he knows he can get to Point B and back without refueling. You have to be kind of careful to put 11,000 miles on a Volt without ever going more than 40 miles (plus or minus) at a stretch. Luckily, Leno said his commute is less than 35 miles a day, and so he uses the Volt as his daily driver.

Which matches the stats from the DOT which says the average American commute is 40 miles or less. Which is also why we’re considering an electric car for our next family vehicle – if and when my wife’s ancient Volvo ever kicks the bucket.

And we can find an electric car we can afford.