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?
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi directly blamed the Islamic Republic on Saturday for his country's current chaos, calling the Shiite rebels who have forced him to flee Yemen "puppets of Iran," The Associated Press reports.
"You have destroyed Yemen with your political adolescence and by manufacturing domestic and regional crises," Hadi said, speaking directly to the rebels and their backers.
Hadi fled the country and made his way to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, after the rebels, known as Houthis, pushed farther toward the southern Yemen city of Aden, where he had been staying. An Arab summit on Saturday addressed the Houthi advances, with one Gulf diplomat warning that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen could continue for months. And while other leaders did not mention Iran by name, they criticized the Shiite power indirectly, which they claim is supporting the Houthi rebels in their advances on the Sunni nation.
It's a good thing Michigan State's men's basketball team pulled off a 62-58 win over Oklahoma on Friday night, or Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart might have been hearing from Tom Izzo.
The Spartans' coach joked with MLive.com that the team's slow start in the Sweet 16 game was probably due to his allowing the players to go see a movie earlier in the afternoon. And Izzo picked Get Hard, because, "I didn't want anything too deep," that might throw the team off mentally.
"This wasn't too deep," he added.
The No. 7 Spartans survived to take on Louisville Sunday, so a suggestion for Izzo if he needs another movie to keep his team occupied before warmups: Pick something else. Literally, anything else.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may be readying an official start to his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Reuters reports.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday that Rubio has reserved the Freedom Tower, in downtown Miami, for an "undisclosed event" on April 13. While Rubio staffers declined to comment on the reservation, the Tampa paper notes that the Freedom Tower was used to assist Cuban refugees who fled after Fidel Castro took over the country in 1959; and that Rubio could consider the Miami landmark to be "an ideal, postcard setting to kick off a presidential campaign promoting the promise and greatness of America by the son of Cuban immigrants."
Health officials got some rare good news in the fight against Ebola this week, thanks to new research published on Thursday in the journal Science. Virologists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that the current outbreak has not given rise to an even more virulent and contagious form of the virus, despite "extensive and prolonged human-to-human transmission," the researchers note.
The Los Angeles Times reports that earlier research suggested the virus was mutating at nearly double the rate as in past outbreaks; if that were the case, it could evolve past experimental tests and vaccines in progress. But researchers genetically sequenced samples of Ebola taken from patients in October and November of 2014, and found that the virus had not significantly mutated.
"Whereas from a public health perspective, the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa continues to be an extremely pressing emergency, it is doubtful that either virulence or transmissibility has increased," the researchers added.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 10,000 people and infected another 24,907, according to the World Health Organization.
Saying he wanted to create "a tribute to my dad and Spock," Adam Nimoy told Variety on Friday that he plans to produce and direct a documentary about the iconic Star Trek character, played by his father Leonard Nimoy.
The elder Nimoy died in February at the age of 83; he had been suffering for nearly a year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But Adam Nimoy said he and his father had discussed the documentary, which will be entitled For the Love of Spock, at length.
The project will reportedly highlight the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which premiered on Sept. 8, 1966. Zachary Quinto, who has played Spock in two recent film takes on the franchise, will narrate, and William Shatner, who played James T. Kirk in the original series, plans to appear in the documentary.
Despite violence, technical difficulties, millions of Nigerians turn out to vote in presidential election
Millions of Nigerians arrived at polling stations across the country on Saturday, ready to cast their votes in a tight presidential election, The Associated Press reports.
The race between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari is the first election since Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960 that has even a chance of favoring an opposition candidate over a sitting president.
That may be in large part due to the continuing Boko Haram insurgency in the country; Buhari has criticized Jonathan for his failure to force the militants out of Nigeria. The election was originally scheduled to take place in February, but it was postponed due to security fears. Jonathan's opposition has suggested the move allowed the sitting president more time to garner support.
Saturday's election has not run perfectly, AP notes: Local officials have reported at least two car-bomb explosions; Boko Haram militants waving guns have turned some villagers away from polling sites; and some polling stations have reported technical difficulties with biometric voting cards, meant to discourage fraud at the polls.
For much of the 2014-15 regular season, Michigan State's men's basketball team was decidedly average. The Spartans went 21-10, and there was some talk as to whether they'd even land a spot in the NCAA tournament. Having downed No. 2 seed Virginia and, on Friday night, No. 3 seed Oklahoma, the No. 7 Spartans are headed for the Elite Eight as the lowest seed left standing.
And Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo should be happy, especially considering he's now earned 12 wins coaching the lower-seeded team in the NCAA tournament — the most by any coach in history. You can check out the rest of this weekend's matchups via Sports Illustrated, but ahead of the Spartans' Sunday game against Louisville, let's enjoy this gem of a commercial for Werner ladders, in which someone convinced Izzo to dance to Ginuwine's Pony.
Why? Why not? —Sarah Eberspacher