Airport Updates From China, Russia, Spain, and (Sigh) the United States

(Please see peeved update below.)

China: Earlier this month, in Shanghai, passengers who were peeved about a long delay stormed out of the terminal onto the taxiway, milling around amid arriving airliners.

Taking no chances, this week airport authorities in Dalian decided to keep passengers amused during their delays. The obvious solution: bring in teams of cheerleaders.


That story comes via ChinaSmack, which has many more pictures of the performing troupes. Also this shot of the "fog" that caused the delays in Dalian. (Thanks to reader Z.)


2) Russia. Via Moscow Times, news that travelers going through TSA-style screening in Russian airports will be allowed to keep on their belts and shoes. And -- gasp!! -- they will be able to bring water and other liquids right onto the plane! On the other hand:
Flammable substances such as vodka will still be banned.
The joy of that sentence is of course the illustration that comes after "such as." You can think of the ways that sentence would be completed in different cultures around the world.

3) Spain. Combine gusty crosswinds with a photographer next to a runway, and you have another set of dramatic shots of airliners crabbing their way toward a landing, this time at Bilbao's Loiu airport. (The link is to a BBC site, with pre-roll ad.) For previous crosswind adventures, see this and this.

4) America. Meanwhile, in depressing airport-security news:
    - A four-year old girl in Missoula arouses suspicions that she might be a terrorist courier.
Brademeyer's mother [grandmother of the little girl] had triggered an alarm and was awaiting a pat-down when Isabella ran to her. That's when Transportation Security Administration officers told Brademeyer her mother could have passed something to her daughter during that brief encounter.
"They said (to Isabella), 'You need to sit down right now!' and they told me, 'She made contact!' " Brademeyer said Tuesday afternoon.
In her Facebook note, she wrote, "When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, 'No! I don't want to!' then did what any frightened young child might, she ran in the opposite direction.
"That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter 'a high-security threat,' " she wrote.

- In New York, a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy is involved in the same sort of incident. Picture and description from The Daily:


With her crutches and orthotics, Dina cannot walk through metal detectors and instead is patted down by security agents. The girl, who is also developmentally disabled, is often frightened by the procedure, her father said.

Marcy Frank [her mother] usually asks the agents to introduce themselves to her daughter, but those on duty on Monday were exceptionally aggressive, Joshua Frank said, and he began to videotape them with his iPhone.

"And the woman started screaming at me and cursing me and threatening me," he said
More on the episodes here. I don't have time now for the full argument about the balance between "perfect" security and civic liberty. There's more about it here and passim. Yes, any toddler could be an explosive-carrier working with her grandmother. Yes, a disabled girl could conceivably have weapons concealed in her crutches. And by the same logic, every van going down the street could be carrying bombs, and every passer-by on the sidewalk could be carrying a gun. (In some jurisdictions, most passers-by probably are!) A system that "defends" itself by applying worst-case logic/paranoia to every possible contingency will soon have little worth defending.

More anon.

UPDATE: I wrote the material above at home, but didn't post it, before heading out to Dulles airport for a flight to LAX at noon.

I love airplanes. I love airports. I detest Washington Dulles airport, for reasons not solely related to its TSA procedures but significantly affected by them. Including one just now that I am too angry to write about in ways I won't regret.  (Enforced several-hour cooling off period begins as soon as the plane door closes in a minute or two.)

But it prompts me to quote this note from a reader that came in recently:
‪In your own post on the Khan story, you once again write as if Homeland Security was some sort of independent federal entity like the Federal Reserve or (my personal favorite as a chemist) the Chemical Safety Board -- answerable to no one but themselves. That's not true, is it? DHS and their behavior are somehow connected to the executive branch, right? Why can't President Obama do something about this? ‬

‪I will not hide my political preferences -- I am a conservative, and I have voted for the Republican in the past. But (as I said in my very first e-mail to you on this issue), it was my hope that the Obama Administration would change the TSA's procedures. ‬

‪Perhaps I'm too blinded by my political preferences to understand this issue. But I see it with (wonderful, intelligent, very liberal pop culture critic) Alyssa Rosenberg's complaints about Khan's detention as well. Once again, DHS is apparently some sort of unmoored federal bureaucracy, unanswerable to the White House, randomly stopping innocent people and embarrassing the United States.‬

‪If you guys act like our President can't control these people (DHS/TSA), who will? ‬

‪I cannot state how much this small issue is coloring my perspectives on our federal government and our ability as a nation to have control over it. If I have voted (and I did, indirectly, much to my chagrin) for the creation of a unchangeable, unmanageable federal bureaucracy that can never be corralled or corrected, I should learn my lesson and never support the creation of a federal office again. ‬

I don't reach quite that conclusion, as I'll go into more another time. But I will be reflecting yet again these next few hours on the varied excesses of the security state.

Update-update: Just saw this from Jeffrey Goldberg. Now the door is closing.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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