What to do if your vacation is disrupted by a terrorist attack

Julie Hanahan had just checked into the Citadines Las Ramblas, an apartment hotel along Barcelona’s famous La Rambla pedestrian mall, when she heard shouting and sirens.

“People were running by and screaming,” says Hanahan, who flew to Barcelona from Chicago last week with her husband and two children to board a Mediterranean cruise.

Only seconds before, a van had plowed through pedestrians on the tree-lined thoroughfare, killing 13 and injuring 100. Hanahan’s daughter watched the aftermath from her hotel balcony. “We were on the back of the hotel, thankfully, so she did not witness the van going by,” Hanahan says. Read more “What to do if your vacation is disrupted by a terrorist attack”

We’ll always have Paris and other useful advice

The terrorist attack in Paris was our number one story this week — specifically, Ned Levi’s useful advice on how to stay safe on your next international trip.
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Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

Yganko/Shutterstock
Yganko/Shutterstock
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.

It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.

“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”

Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student.
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TSA Watch: Who’s more dangerous — terrorists or the TSA?

For an agency that claims to have “zero tolerance” for criminal behavior, TSA agents sure spend a lot of time declaring their guilt.
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Two-faced TSA ticks off air travelers: Here’s what you need to know

No wonder we’re so confused. The Transportation Security Administration is telling airlines one thing, and it’s telling us another.

“Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a prepared statement yesterday. “These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in.”

Meanwhile, the TSA has been busy ordering airlines to take specific actions (Emergency Amendment EA 1546-09-01, which I can’t confirm or deny that I have received from several sources). The interpretation of this order is certain to inconvenience travelers. Airlines have already turned off their in-flight entertainment systems, forced passengers to remain in their seats an hour before landing, taken away pillows and blankets and limited the use of electronic devices and in-flight wireless Internet connections.

Worse, TSA hasn’t said a word about these directives to the flying public, despite repeated requests for comment.

It’s as if TSA is operating in a parallel universe: In one, everything is just fine; in another, it’s having a kneejerk reaction not unlike the kind the government had after 9/11, when it federalized airport screeners. Based on some of the comments I’m getting from air travelers, I’d say no one is happy with this duplicitous behavior.

Here’s what we know so far:
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New carry-on luggage limits and screening measures after Northwest Airlines terrorist incident

The thwarted terrorist bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday has triggered a series of new security measures by the U.S. government. Here’s what’s being said by the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

Details remain sketchy for now. “Passengers may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights,” according to the TSA.

What, exactly, are “additional screening measures”?
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