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DHS stalls no-fly list trial by putting witness on no-fly list

Phil writes, "Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project is doing a fantastic job of reporting on-site from Ibrahim v. DHS, the first legal challenge of United States government's no-fly list that has ever seen a courtroom. On the first day of trial, the judge learned that the plaintiff's daughter, scheduled to testify, was delayed because she had been denied boarding of her flight because she was put a Department of Homeland Security no-fly list. DHS staff deny this. The government's lawyers told the judge that the daughter is lying. The airline provided documentation of the DHS no-fly order. The subject matter of this trial is intense---restriction of movement based on blacklists---but there's no sign of an end to the jaw-dropping entertainment."

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Terrifying weapons made with objects from airport shops


Last March, Evan Booth presented a blockbuster talk at Kuala Lumpur's Hack the Box conference, explaining how to improvise lethal weapons from items in airport gift shops and duty-free stores. He's kept up the work since then on a website called Terminal Cornucopia, and he's presented 10 of his scariest weapons for a Wired story. And though the functional, breech-loading shotgun made from Red Bull cans, Axe body spray, and batteries (above) is impressive, it's only for beginners. There's also fragmentary grenades made from coffee tumblers, and a dart gun that uses braided condoms for its elastic.

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United nearly kills shipped dog, refuses to pay vet bills without NDA


Janet Sinclair and her dog "Sedona"

When Janet Sinclair shipped her greyhound from San Diego to Boston with United Airlines' PetSafe program, she was horrified to discover her dog nearly dead on arrival, covered in feces and blood, with blood in its stool and urine. The dog had been exposed to punishing heat, its cage had been kicked across United's shipping facilities by their handlers. The vet bill was $2700, and the vet confirmed that the dog's injuries were the result of heat stroke and rough treatment.

United agreed to pay the vet bill, but only if Sinclair would sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to tell anyone about their monumental screw-up. Instead, Sinclair went public. The ensuing media attention revealed hundreds of other people whose pets were injured and killed by United.

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TSA blows a billion bucks on unscientific "behavioral detection" program, reinvents phrenology


10 years and $900M later, the TSA's behavioral analysis program is a debacle. Here's the US Government Accountability Office on the program: "Ten years after the development of the SPOT program, TSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its behavior detection activities. Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose threat to aviation security, the agency risks funding activities [that] have not been determined to be effective."

Basically, the TSA has spent a decade and nearly a billion dollars reinventing phrenology. I feel safer already.

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Amazon discounts Kindles to commemorate FAA devices-during-takeoff/landing rulechange


The FAA's rare display of sanity in allowing electronic devices to be used during takeoff and landing is being celebrated by Amazon in the form of a 15% discount on Kindles when you use the discount code ThnksFAA.

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Coach seating is getting even worse


Uh-oh: airlines ordering new Dreamliner 787s and Airbus A330s are asking to have them fitted with 16.7"-wide coach seats, a new low for long-haul travel. These are planes intended for intercontinental flights -- six to 14 hours! -- and they're shaving the armrests, squeezing the seats, and otherwise cramming in ways that beggar the imagination. The airlines say it'll all be OK -- they'll just distract you from your terrible circumstances with big meals and TV.

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TSA admits "terrorists in America are not plotting against aviation"

An accidentally published, unredacted document from a lawsuit against the TSA reveals that the Taking Shoes Away people believe that "terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports." That is to say, there is no identifiable risk to America's skies -- and all of business with shoes and pornoscanners and horrible, abusive incidents involving toddlers, people with mental disabilities, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and the whole business of treating travellers like presumptive terrorists is all to prevent a problem that, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.

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Beautiful blimps

S a15 01010198

The Atlantic posted a slew of glorious photos of airships in history. Seen here, "The U.S. Navy's dirigible Los Angeles, upended after a turbulent wind from the Atlantic flipped the 700-foot airship on its nose at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1926. The ship slowly righted itself and there were no serious injuries to the crew of 25." In Focus: Airships

Phoenix TSA makes breast cancer survivors remove their prostheses

The Arizona Republic has found a large cohort of elderly and retired people who claim to have been abused by TSA staff at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport. The passengers claim that they were required to remove their prostheses (particularly prosthetic breasts worn by cancer survivors), and that their objections were met with threats and hostility.

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Nine-year-old hitches a ride on Delta from Minneapolis to Vegas

A nine-year-old boy with "behavioral problems" snuck onto a plane in Minneapolis and flew all the way to Las Vegas, though he was taken away by Child Protective Services on landing (a flight attendant noticed he wasn't on the roster). The kid travelled to the airport by light rail on two consecutive days, once to scope it out and once to fly. That kid is going places.

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TSA may allow in-flight marijuana

As more states pass medical marijuana laws, or legalize it outright, the TSA is heading for a don't-ask/don't-tell police on weed at airports. The official policy is to refer drug possession to local law, but where the law doesn't care, that's rather pointless.

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Soviet plane-spotting head-gear


Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling)

FBI: We know you're innocent, but you're not getting off the No-Fly list unless you rat out your friends

An ACLU report on the FBI called Unleashed and Unaccountable details how three ACLU clients were added to the no-fly list, and were told by FBI agents that though they were understood to be innocent of any wrongdoing, they would not be taken off the list unless they agreed to inform on their friends. In one case, the FBI waiting until their victim was in Yemen before sticking him on the no-fly list; they told him he would be stranded there until he agreed to act as an informant.

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Easyjet tells law professor he can't fly because he tweeted critical remarks about airline

Mark Leiser, a law professor who writes a tech law column for The Drum, says he was denied boarding on an Easyjet flight after he tweeted critical remarks about the airline (he said that a delayed flight had caused a soldier on his flight to miss a connection and that Easyjet had refused to help). According to Leiser, a member of staff told him, "You're not allowed to talk about Easyjet like that and then expect to get on a flight."

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Ryanair vows to reduce fewer customers to tears


Ryanair (officially "the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market") is changing its culture because the board are sick of seeing people weeping in the departure lounge and being harangued at dinner-parties by friends and relatives who hate the airline and refuse to fly it. The airline's latest scandal: charging a neurosurgeon £160 to change his ticket home from Dublin to Leeds, after he explained that he was flying home in a rush because his wife and children had been killed in a housefire.

They've never been quite that horrible with me, but they were bad enough on a 2008 trip to Berlin that I have never flown them since.

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