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TSA is officially allowed to lie to you in order to cover its ass

The TSA is allowed to lie in its responses to Freedom of Information Requests. Its court-granted ability to lie to the public it nominally serves isn't limited to sensitive issues, either: they're allowed to pretend that they don't have CCTV footage of their own officers violating their own policies, even when they do.

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Burning Man drone rules

This year, the Burning Man Organization has set out rules for drone operation on the playa, developed in concert with drone-hobbyist/burners who attended a summit at BMOHQ on July 17. The rules include a common-sense safety code, parameters on where/when/who can be videoed; fire safety rules; spectrum management procedures; and guidance on elevation and wind.

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Dear airline execs: crowing about new fees and price hikes before your merger makes the DoJ mad

The DoJ has filed suit to block the merger of US Air and American Airlines, because they've noticed that while the airlines' executives publicly gave the reason for the merger as "synergies" and efficiency, they told the industry that the merger would allow them to jack up prices and charge more fees. Pictured to the right, Scott Kirby the US Air President who took to the podium at a conference to say it was "impossible to overstate the benefit" of the new fees he'd be able to charge after a merger.

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TSA screening about to get a lot worse

The major check against the unreasonable, horrible practices on the part of the TSA is that people who fly are wealthier, on average than people who don't -- and people who fly a lot are wealthier still. That meant that the worst stuff the TSA did was felt disproportionately by people who had a lot of political juice -- people who get listened to. Increasingly, though, rich people can opt out of the worst of TSA treatment by buying voluntary background checks and bypassing the rigmarole of the plebs. Now, the TSA is expanding its Pre-Check program, ensuring that pretty much everyone with any political clout will be spared the worst of it, letting the TSA's treatment for aviation's 99 percent spiral steadily downward, moving from mere Security Theater to Security Grand Guignol. Cory 23

TSA orders airport valets to search parked cars

A woman who valet-parked her car at Rochester airport returned to find a notice informing her that the valet had searched her car, on orders from the TSA. The TSA does not search cars in the other garages, and they do not provide notice to valet parkers that their cars are subject to search. The TSA says it searches the parked cars because they are stored close enough to the terminal that a bomb could do serious damage.

John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”

News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.

We asked, “You're required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”

My prediction: the TSA will erect a sign at the valet drop-off saying, "By valet parking, you agree that we can search your car." And that will be the end of it. Because in the 21st century, posting a notice of your unreasonable conduct is the same as getting consent for it.

TSA searches valet parked car [Berkeley Brean/WHEC.com]

Human-powered helicopter takes the Sikorsky prize

The Sikorsky prize for human-powered helicopters has been claimed by a Kickstarter-funded startup called Aerovelo. Aerovelo's founders, Canadians Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, won the $250,000 purse for the 30-second flight of Atlas, a huge quadrotor with a bike in the middle whose flight is an absolute marvel to behold.

At that point, Reichert knew that the challenge was to keep supplying enough power through his legs to keep the craft from descending too quickly. On two previous flights in which he'd flirted with the three-meter mark, Reichert had descended too abruptly and fallen afoul of a phenomenon called vortex ring state, in which a helicopter essentially gets sucked down by its own downwash. Both times Atlas had been wrecked. This time, Reichert spent the balance of the flight easing the craft down gently to the ground. "You're so focused on having the body do a very precise thing," he told Pop Mech. "If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash."

Finally! A Human-Powered Helicopter Wins the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize [Jeff Wise/Popular Mechanics]

(via Kottke)

777 from Korea crash-lands at SFO

An Asiana Airlines 777 from Seoul, Korea crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last night. Two were killed, ten were critically injured, 181 others were taken to hospital.

David Eun, whose Twitter biography includes "frequent flier," was aboard the plane and tweeted a photo of the wreck as he was evacuated.

This Reddit thread contains a lot of great, breaking information, including audio from the SFO air traffic control during and after the crash, and eyewitness accounts from SFO and from diverted fliers who were landed elsewhere (SFO is closed until further notice).

It's not clear what caused the crash. Forbes has some early analysis of the debris field based on aerial photos. A prominent theory cited in several news reports is that the tail of the 777 caught the seawall and ripped free (this also suggests that the two fatalities were flight attendants in the rear jumpseats). Update: An Asiana Airlines rep has confirmed that the two dead were passengers; specifically, teenagers from China.

TSA's new Instagram shows all the dangerous items that presented no danger

The TSA has launched an Instagram account, showing all the “dangerous items” they steal confiscate from air travellers. The message is clear: we are keeping you safe from in-flight danger.

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No-Fly list doesn't fly with judge

Things seem to be going well at the ACLU's day in court over the no-fly list. The judge is pretty skeptical at the idea that using secret criteria to secretly limit the ability of Americans to fly (or board an ocean-going vessel) is consistent with democratic principles. "To call it 'convenience' is marginalizing their argument." -Judge Anna J. Brown Cory

America hates pornoscanners

Two and a half years after the TSA rolled out the nation's pornoscanners, they finally got around to fulfilling their legal obligation to ask Americans how they felt about them. 97% don't want them. Perhaps that's why they didn't want to ask. There were 4,321 responses. Cory

TSA Denver tries to confiscate Chewbacca actor's light-saber cane

Peter Mayhew, the seven-foot-tall actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, livetweeted his dustup with the TSA operatives at Denver airport as they attempted to confiscate his light-saber-themed cane, which he needs to walk. The TSA agents apparently objected to the cane because it was too long (Mayhew explains, "Giant man need giant cane.. small cane snap like toothpick.... besides.. my light saber cane is just cool.. I would miss it.."). The tweets came to the attention of American Airlines, with whom Mayhew is a million-mile flyer, and they intervened with the TSA to get him on his flight with his mobility aid.

Mayhew was returning to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from an appearance at Denver Comic Con early this week when TSA agents refused to let Chewie board his plane with one of a kind cane.

Chewbacca Actor Battles TSA Over Light Saber Cane

TSA chickens out, won't allow items that don't threaten airplanes back on-board

The TSA has backed down from its moment of sanity in which it decided to allow golf-clubs, small knives and other items that pose no threat to airplanes back in the sky. The TSA's move had been a welcome effort to clarify that it was attempting to prevent terrorists from crashing airplanes, not prevent bodily harm to passengers (in order to do the latter, it would have had to also ban socks full of quarters, large booze-bottles from the duty-free, and innumerable other objects capable of harming crew and passengers). However, after hysterical criticism from flight crews, flier groups and cowardly congressmen, it changed its mind.

"After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list," Mr Pistole said.

TSA cancels proposal to allow knives on planes

Spirit Airlines is sure you'll enjoy its new 6% alcohol wine-in-a-can

Because "Your choices at 30,000 feet are pretty limited." Cory

TWA's Idlewild lounge: Escher, eat your heart out


No, it's not a lost Escher print, it's a photo of Saarinen's long-lost TWA lounge at Idlewild, and you can buy it as a print:

Circa 1964. "Trans World Airlines Terminal. Idlewild Airport, Queens, New York." Acetate negative by Balthazar Korab (1926-2013), Hungarian-born architectural photographer who documented the work of Eero Saarinen.

TWA: 1964 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

TSA random secondary screening is trivial to dodge


An anonymous reader of Dave Farber's Interesting People list has discovered a glaring flaw in the TSA's protocol for secondary screening:

today at newark airport i used a paperless electronic boarding pass on my cell phone (as i usually do). i got through the id check, stripped down to my skivvies (almost), and as i was about to walk through the magnetometer (they still have those at united newark), they were yelling out that they were checking boarding passes, take them along through the mag.

i said, it's on my phone, you really want i should take my phone through the mag?

they said "no, only take your paper boarding passes".

huh? sure enough, if you said you used a mobile boarding pass, they believed you (anddidn't even look at it (of course, only another scanner could really verify its authenticity.)

so after a bit of conversation, i found out that they were checking the paper boardingpasses to check for the dreaded four esses, meaning "secondary screening". if you are randomly selected for secondary screening at checkin, they currently won't issue you an electronic boarding pass, you have to do a manual check-in.

so now they have created a situation where someone selected for secondary screening can get through the id check with their paper boarding pass showing the SSSS, and then, when they reach the mag where the screening would occur, simply lie, saying they are using an electronic boarding pass to avoid secondary screening.

the latest in TSA improved stupidity equips people to avoid a secondary search

(Image: ssss.JPG, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jcortell's photostream)