Flying used to be so much easier: Not too many decades ago, you'd just walk up to the gate with your ticket, board the plane, take your seat, light up your cigarette, and wait for the stewardess to bring you a complimentary cocktail, a deck of cards, and hot meal.*
On Sunday, the TSA added yet another layer of annoyance for U.S.-bound air travelers from certain foreign airports: Before boarding the plane, you may now have to turn on your electronic mobile devices, presumably to prove they aren't covert explosive devices. Watched too much battery-draining World Cup action on your iPhone while waiting in the long security line? Too bad. "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft," the TSA said in its statement, adding that "the traveler may also undergo additional screening."
U.S. officials say they aren't responding to a specific threat, but ABC News reported last week that terrorists in Syria and Yemen are working on "creative" new bomb designs to take down a U.S.- or Europe-bound airliner, presumably using U.S. or European nationals who have joined the civil war in Syria. The new bombs may be housed inside toothpaste tubes, shoes, and cosmetics packages, ABC News reported. This fear isn't exactly new, as this 2005 Slate article explains:
No one worried too much about electronic devices in carry-on baggage until the 1989 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The device that destroyed that plane — and killed 270 people — turned out to have been hidden inside a boom box. After this incident, Congress briefly considered banning electronic devices in the cabin. Instead, the FAA asked airlines and airports to exercise more scrutiny over cell phones, radios, alarm clocks, computers, and other electronics. As a result, many travelers were asked to turn on their laptop computers at screening checkpoints, to prove that they functioned normally. [Slate]
The laptop power-up rule isn't that common now, after a big uptick following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. No word on how long or how widespread the smartphone rule will be in effect. --Peter Weber
*Air travel was also much more expensive, and who misses cigarette smoke in the cabin?
On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that, as Pope Francis had suggested four months ago, Rev. Junipero Serra will be canonized, at a ceremony on Sept. 23 while the pope is visiting Washington, D.C. Over the weekend, Francis celebrated a mass in honor of the 18th century Franciscan missionary at the U.S. seminary in Rome, after an academic conference on Serra's controversial legacy in California.
Serra, born Majorca in 1713, gave up his life as a professor of theology to become a missionary to the New World. He walked almost the entire length of California, establishing 21 missions. Many Native Americans view Serra negatively, accusing him of forcibly converting Indians and exposing them to deadly European diseases. The Catholic Church describes Serra as a protector of Indians who, along with bringing Christianity to the U.S. West, gave the indigenous Californians an education. Peter Weber
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the lead for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination — and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a distant seventh place.
Only 5 percent of Iowa Republicans said that they would vote for Bush if the caucus were held the day of the poll. Twenty-one percent of respondents, meanwhile, said they would vote for Scott Walker.
Other candidates who fared better than Bush in the poll include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (13 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (13 percent), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (12 percent), and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (11 percent).
Forty-five percent of respondents indicated that Bush is "not conservative enough," and only 39 percent of respondents indicated they had "favorable" opinions of Bush. The phone survey was conducted from April 25 to May 4 and included 667 likely participants in Iowa's Republican caucus. Meghan DeMaria
The CBC calls Tuesday's provincial elections in Alberta a "massive shock that turns Canadian politics on its head." When the ruling Progressive Conservative government called the election a year ago, the party had 70 of the Alberta legislature's 87 seats, and in December the Progressive Conservatives celebrated 43 years in control of Alberta, a record for any party in any Canadian province.
On Tuesday, the leftist New Democratic Party crushed them, winning 53 seats and pushing the Conservatives to an embarrassing third-place finish, 11 seats, behind the further-right Wild Rose Party, with 21 seats. This is not only surprising because conservative, oil-rich Alberta "has long been cast as the Texas of Canada," as The New York Times notes, but also because it is the home and political base of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight," said NDP leader Rachel Notley on Tuesday night. She will be the next premier, with the Wild Rose Party assuming the role of official opposition. Outgoing Premier Jim Prentice resigned as party leader and member of the provincial legislature, announcing that his "contribution to public life is now at an end." Political analysts attributed the Conservatives' sharp turn in fortunes to budget deficits brought on by falling oil prices, political missteps, and shifting demographics. Peter Weber
Newly official Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was on Tuesday's Late Night, and along with amusingly informing Seth Meyers that she just purchased the domain name SethMeyers.org (well-played, Fiorina), she acknowledged that she believes climate change is caused by humans. "I'm prepared to take the scientists at their word," she said, "but the problem is we never finish the scientists' sentence.... A single nation acting alone can make no difference at all."
Lest you think Fiorina is backing President Obama's push to enact an enforceable global pact on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions or cheering his landmark deals with China and India, fear not. "Why would we destroy all these jobs with regulation when the answer to climate change is innovation, not regulation?" she asked. There follows a short but interesting conversation on when and how the U.S. can and should lead in the world, and then Fiorina changes the subject to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is both "a bad dude" and funny. —Peter Weber
Islamic State appears to have taken credit for the attack on a cartoon-drawing contest in the Dallas suburb of Garland on Sunday, calling gunmen Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi "soldiers of the caliphate." Simpson had been interacting with ISIS figures on Twitter, the FBI says, but intelligence analysts are skeptical that ISIS ordered the attack. It's likely the attack was less directed by ISIS than "inspired by them," says Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, citing intelligence officials.
That's not necessarily something to be happy about. "ISIS and its caliphate is becoming a brand, looser even than a network like Al Qaeda," Omer Taspinar, an expert on political Islam at the Brookings Institution, tells The New York Times. "It's a kind of spiritual belonging. Claiming credit does not necessarily indicate any kind of organizational link." That suggests more lone-wolf ambushes like the Garland one and fewer big operations like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Unlike Al Qaeda, says terrorism scholar J. M. Berger, ISIS "can retroactively ratify attacks that they like and ignore those that don't serve its purpose." In that sense, the Garland attack is an odd one to try and own: Despite firing assault rifles, wearing bulletproof vests, and having the element of surprise, Simpson and Soofi were apparently shot dead by a traffic cop with a pistol, after incurring only one minor injury. Peter Weber
"There are so many hopefuls in the Republican race, we've got to start narrowing the field," Jon Stewart said on Tuesday's Daily Show. He had a helpful suggestion, too. "Let's do it with a game I call 'Let's Get Rid of Ted Cruz.'" The game show isn't just out of personal or policy animus, Stewart insisted. It's that "Ted Cruz cannot live up to the extremely high standards set for a candidate by... Ted Cruz.” Over the next 5 minutes, Stewart laid out his case, using Cruz's words against him, Daily Show–style. Surely, um, Republican primary voters will be persuaded. —Peter Weber
The star of Sunday's Met Gala — a fundraiser for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's costume wing — was probably Rihanna, with her elaborate yellow dress designed by China's Guo Pei. After providing some unabashedly snarky color commentary on the Met Gala fashion choices of various celebrities, Jimmy Kimmel got down to business on Tuesday night's show: poking fun at Rihanna's gown. (Maybe he's still sore about being woken up at midnight?)
Kimmel said that although designers spend so much time making these dresses — Rihanna's took two years — they never capitalize on that by selling them to the public. Until now. "One thing about the Chinese, they know how to get products made and onto the shelf here in America," he said, setting up a faux late-nite infomercial for the "Rihanket," and also a much smaller product inspired by Kim Kardashian's dress. You won't believe all the amazing things you can do with your Rihanket! Watch below. —Peter Weber