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?
At first glance, this Hillary Clinton email released in the latest State Department dump would be enough to leave anyone more than a bit baffled.
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) September 1, 2015
For the uninitiated, gefilte fish is a Jewish food primarily eaten on Passover that essentially consists of ground white fish and egg whites. It seems to be somewhat of an acquired taste. "It may taste like cat food, but that's why I love it," a fan told The New York Times last year.
So why, exactly, was the then-U.S. secretary of state so worried about a fish dish? Turns out, back in February 2010, the shipment of nearly 400,000 pounds of frozen Asian carp fillets — an essential ingredient for gefilte fish — had been blocked by Israel ahead of the Passover holiday. Israel had slapped a 120 percent import duty on the American-caught fish that were supposed to be sent over to the Holy Land. The crates of fish were stranded, and the appearance of gefilte fish on the Seder table was in serious jeopardy.
Clinton rose to the challenge. "Sounds to me like one of those issues that should rise to the highest levels of our government," she reportedly said at the time. "I will take that mission on." She did — and probably ruined Passover for millions of gefilte fish-hating American children. Becca Stanek
The "main suspect" in the Aug. 17 Bangkok shrine bombing that killed 20 was arrested at a checkpoint on the Cambodian border, Thailand's prime minister said Tuesday. The suspect is the second foreigner to be detained in connection with the attack.
The motivation for the bombing is still unknown, although there are many possibilities revolving around political rivalry, organized crime, Thailand's southern rebellions, sympathizers of China's Uighur minority, or Islamist militants, AFP reports. Thailand says they are interrogating the suspect, noting that he was in the checkpoint town because he was "probably running away."
Pope Francis has allowed priests the "discretion to absolve the sin of abortion," the Vatican announced on Tuesday. In the Catholic Church, abortion is a serious sin and those that procure or perform it are automatically excommunicated. However, in the upcoming Holy Year, Francis will allow priests — and not just missionaries or the chief confessor of a diocese, as per traditional Church teachings — to consider absolving individuals who, "with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it."
"I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal," Francis said, adding he has "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision." Francis went on suggest priests might "fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence."
The Holy Year begins December 8. Jeva Lange
Sometime in the third or fourth century A.D., a Roman merchant ship carrying tin and pottery sunk in the Bay of Morlaix, on the northern coast of France. Recently rediscovered by a local diver, archaeologists are now eager to learn the secrets of the shipment of tin the Roman ship was carrying, Spero News reports.
Because the Mediterranean is devoid of major tin lodes, ancient Greeks and Romans who wanted to produce bronze, used in coins and tools, had to search abroad for tin to add to their copper, which was readily available in Cyprus. Since Julius Caesar's time, Romans had exploited the deposits of northern Europe, but the Roman shipwreck indicates tin could have been an integral part of early pan-European trade between Rome and what was then considered "barbarian lands."
The Brittany wreck turned up tin ingots in different sizes, some that were masses of metal while others were shaped like squat cones. Several bore the letter M, which researchers believe might indicate either where the metal was mined, or who it was being shipped to. Researchers plan to study key isotopes to discover the exact origins of the metal, which could possibly reveal a large-scale production and transportation operation in France's Brittany region. Five hundred ingots-worth of tin were recovered by divers from under the sea. Jeva Lange
On Tuesday morning, New Zealand unveiled four final designs for a new national flag that will go to a vote in November. Three of the designs feature a silver fern leaf while the fourth depicts a koru, or unfurling fern frond. The voters' choice will then be pitted against New Zealand's current flag in a second referendum next March.
A 12-person commission winnowed down 10,292 submissions to 40 semifinalists, then finally these four designs. "It is important that those designs are timeless, can work in a variety of contexts, are simple, uncluttered, balanced, and have good contrast," explained John Burrows, a professor and the chairman of the flag commission. In a recent poll, The New Zealand Herald reports, 53 percent of New Zealanders favored keeping the 1903 flag, which features Britain's Union Jack design and the Southern Cross constellation.
You can see high-resolution images of the four flags, along with the official description and the designer's description, at New Zealand's government website, or just get a glimpse of all four finalists waving in the video below. Peter Weber
On Monday, Donald Trump gave Jeb Bush "the Willie Horton treatement," releasing a nasty Instagram video of Bush calling illegal immigration an "act over love" juxtaposed with photos of three undocumented immigrants accused or convicted of murder:
Later Monday, the Bush campaign hit back by suggesting that Trump is soft on crime, mostly because he supported legalizing some drugs and "has spent years supporting soft-on-crime liberals" like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. "Donald Trump even supported Nancy Pelosi — who supports sanctuary cities and backed a moratorium on the death penalty," Bush said.
This isn't the first time Bush has tried to swat back at Trump's barrage of personal insults and criticism with tough (for Bush) words. And this time probably won't be any more effective at knocking Trump down from his pole position in the polls.
"For huge sections of the electorate, the definition of who is a conservative is based on who's making the most incendiary comments," not their policy positions, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt tells Politico. "What Trump is conveying in every speech he makes is strength. If you respond to someone who is attacking your character by talking about issues, you're in the wrong type of fight." Peter Weber
If you missed Sunday night's Video Music Awards, or only watched snippets of it, or even watched the whole thing and didn't understand why Nicki Minaj was calling host Miley Cyrus a "bitch," Jimmy Kimmel provided a small public service on Monday's Kimmel Live. And rather than just explain what happened, he illustrated the tiff with emojis, like any grown man might. You can watch and learn below. Peter Weber