Joe's Travel Newsstand
The Electronic Border Battle
February 16, 2017 --The Trump travel ban continues to be temporarily banned by court order, but it is shedding new light on some uncomfortable government practices at the U.S. border. As this much-circulated story explains, an American-born scientist for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory claims he was detained last month at Houston/Intercontinental Airport by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). He said Customs agents wouldn't release him until he surrendered his phone and its password. The scientist incorrectly inferred that his detention and the digital intrusion was due to the President's January 27 executive order on travel and immigration. Not true. Customs agents have asserted--and the courts have upheld--the right to rummage through your computers and phones since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Electronic Frontier Foundation created a guide to your digital rights in 2011. this week updated the discussion. The New York Times covered the matter, too. And here is CBP explaining its policies and flexing its bureaucratic muscle. Concerned? The obvious answer: Store nothing on your laptop. Keep everything in the cloud and leave no obvious links to your storage site on the computer. Ditto for your laptop and phones. And make sure you have completed Customs Form G-28 before you travel. It authorizes an attorney to come to your aid if you are detained while returning to the country.

Toto, I Don't Know Which Kansas City We're In Anymore ...
Kansas City International Airport is confusing. Locals call the Missouri airport KCI and its Web address is However, the airport's official three-letter designation is MCI. And MCI isn't in Kansas City per se, but 15 miles away in Platte County, Missouri. But wait, there's more. Kansas City stretches over three counties: Platte, Jackson and Cass. The 15-county greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area also covers Kansas City, Kansas, across the Missouri and Kansas rivers. Now things are really getting convoluted. Plans to renovate 45-year-old MCI have stalled, so Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wants to build his own Kansas City Airport in Johnson County, Kansas. Beware anything with the Brownback imprimatur, however. He's an outspoken proponent of trickle-down economics and that's been a fiscal disaster for Kansas. Repeated tax cuts have slashed revenue without reviving the sluggish local economy and everything from schools to roads have suffered. Things are so bad that Brownback hides the news by eliminating reports on the state's economy. So you probably will be flying into KCI--I mean, MCI--in Missouri for years to come.

He Lands ... Poorly
Harrison Ford may have chosen wisely when selecting the Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but he lands ... poorly. As you may have heard, the 74-year-old actor almost landed atop another aircraft this week during a scary mishap at John Wayne/Orange County Airport. Perhaps best known for his derring-do as captain of the Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars franchise, Ford's piloting skills in real life are less polished. Two years ago, he pranged his vintage aircraft on a golf course a few blocks from Santa Monica Municipal Airport. He also crashed a helicopter in 1999 near Los Angeles.

Wild and Woolly at the Airport
Airports are crazy enough when things are normal--or at least as normal as life on the road allows. But when things go off the metaphoric rails, airports can become wild and woolly places. At Austin/Bergstrom airport, United Airlines passengers appeared for their flight to San Francisco and were met by a raving, out-of-uniform pilot. At Hamburg Airport, dozens of passengers suffered eye irritations and breathing difficulties after a corrosive substance was found in the air conditioning system. Meanwhile, at Kuala Lumpur International, the estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was apparently assassinated. And legislation proposed by Canada's Liberal government would give U.S. border officials more power to reject Canadian citizens trying to fly to the United States from Canadian airports. The new bill is part of a 2015 reciprocal agreement between Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama. The U.S. Congress passed enabling legislation in December.

Tight Connections ...
Hotels in Florida now cater to spring training visitors coming for the Grapefruit League, Major League Baseball's annual exhibition season. ... A 52-year-old ferry is up for auction after decades operating in and around Vancouver. The Queen of Burnaby has an opening bid of $400,000, which the CBC notes is cheaper than a Vancouver condominium. ... Africa's first transnational railway is now running between Djibouti and Ethiopia. The train and the network are products of Chinese technology. ... From the archives: This week in 1995, I was writing in Popular Science about America's polluted beaches. The bad guys? The average American, of course. "If our society produces it," I wrote at the time, "Americans are perfectly willing to dump it in the ocean or leave it lying around on the sand." -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.