FYI current reports show that union workers at the docks are refusing to move relief aid because they want more money. Sad!
‘Inept’ Puerto Rican government ‘riddled with corruption’
Jorge Rodriguez, 49, is the Harvard-educated CEO of PACIV, an international engineering firm based in Puerto Rico that works with the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. The Puerto Rican-born engineer says he has dispatched 50 engineers to help FEMA rehabilitate the devastated island — a commonwealth of the United States — after Hurricane Maria. He refuses to work with the local government, which he called inept and riddled with corruption.
For the last 30 years, the Puerto Rican government has been completely inept at handling regular societal needs, so I just don’t see it functioning in a crisis like this one. Even before the hurricane hit, water and power systems were already broken. And our $118 billion debt crisis is a result of government corruption and mismanagement.
The governor Ricardo Rossello has little experience. He’s 36 and never really held a job and never dealt with a budget. His entire administration is totally inexperienced and they have no clue how to handle a crisis of this magnitude.
For instance, shortly after the hurricane hit, the government imposed a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am and then changed it. Now, it’s 7 pm to 5 am, and makes no sense. The curfew has prevented fuel trucks from transporting their loads. These trucks should have been allowed to run for 24 hours to address our needs, but they have been stalled, and so we have massive lines at gas stations and severe shortages of diesel at our hospitals and supermarkets.
I’m really tired of Puerto Rican government officials blaming the federal government for their woes and for not acting fast enough to help people on the island. Last week I had three federal agents in my office and I was so embarrassed; I went out of my way to apologize to them for the attitude of my government and what they have been saying about the US response. When the hurricane hit we had experts from FEMA from all over the US on the ground and I was really proud of their quick response. The first responders and FEMA have all been outstanding in this crisis, and should be supported.
I have 50 engineers that I have sent out pro bono to help local companies get back on their feet. This includes getting people gasoline and cash, and helping them connect to others that can assist with repairs without delays.
I won’t allow my people to work with the local government.
I have a message for the U.S. Congress: Watch out what relief funds you approve and let our local government handle. Don’t let the Puerto Rican government play the victim and fool you. They have no clue what they are doing, and I worry that they will mishandle anything that comes their way.
They don’t need another aircraft carrier. They need experienced people to run a proper disaster command center.
Bed bugs are bed bad. People’s entire lives have been overturned by these (increasingly common) blood-sucking, itch-inducing pests. Thankfully, they’re not disease vectors, but I would rather not share my home with a roommate who wants to eat me, thank you very much.
Scientists have noticed an expansion in bed bug cases across the world, in no small part due to increased international travel. But one team wanted to know how the bed bugs managed to hitch a ride, and how to prevent the spread. It turns out that part of the answer lies with the dirty laundry inside your travel bag.
“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks, but no one has really talked about how they get into the house in the first place,” study author William Hentley from the University of Sheffield in the UK told Gizmodo. “Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”
Scientists already know that human odor attracts bed bugs, though not which chemicals in the odor specifically. But for the newest study, researchers prepared a mock bedroom with laundry bags containing clean and dirty clothes—in other words, there were no humans in the room. The critters were “twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes,” according to the paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the amount of carbon dioxide in the room did not affect their results—the CO2 source would represent a human, since some bugs like mosquitos are specifically attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale.
These results were enough to convince the researchers that bed bugs could travel throughout the world by hitching a ride in luggage containing dirty clothes.
As a caveat, this was an experimental room and not real life, said both Hentley and Toby Fountain, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Uppsala in Sweden who was not involved in the study. But still, said Fountain, the authors “demonstrate a striking pattern that bags containing clothes with human odor were more frequently used as refuges than those without. This result emphases the importance of making sure luggage and other belongings are made as inaccessible to bed bugs as possible when staying in increased risk places, for example by making sure bags are fully closed and secured and kept away from the bed.” Hentley agreed with this advice.
So there you have it. When traveling to possibly bed bug-contaminated locations—like, say, that sketchy-seeming hotel—keep your luggage on metal racks (bed bugs don’t like crawling on metal, said Hentley) or put your whole suitcase in a plastic bag to avoid picking up the horrors that are bed bugs.
Travelling by plane has become an everyday activity – but our bodies and brains are still affected by it.
With the tiny screen bouncing around in front of us, tinny sound quality and frequent interruptions, watching a movie during a flight is hardly an immersive experience.
Yet, frequent fliers may have found themselves – or at least witnessed others – welling up at the most innocuous of films while on a long airline journey. Even lighthearted comedies such as Bee Movie, Bridesmaids and The Simpsons can trigger the water works in passengers who would normally remain dry-eyed if watching these on the ground.
One major airline has gone as far as issuing “emotional health warnings” before inflight entertainment that might upset its customers.
There are many theories about why flying might leave passengers more vulnerable to crying – sadness at leaving loved ones, excitement about the trip ahead, homesickness. But there is also some evidence that flying itself may also be responsible.
An emerging body of research is suggesting that soaring 35,000ft (10km) above the ground inside a sealed metal tube can do strange things to our minds, altering our mood, changing how our senses work and even making us itch more.
“There hasn’t been much research done on this in the past as for healthy people these do not pose much of a problem,” says Jochen Hinkelbein, president of the German Society of Aerospace Medicine and assistant medical director for emergency medicine at the University of Cologne. “But as air travel has become cheaper and more popular, older and less fit people are travelling by air. This is leading to more interest in the field.”
Hinkelbein is one of a handful of researchers who are now examining how the conditions we experience on flights can affect the human body and mind.
The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts
There can be no doubt that aircraft cabins are peculiar places for humans to be. They are a weird environment where the air pressure is similar to that atop an 8,000ft-high (2.4km) mountain. The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts while the air pumped into the cabin is cooled as low as 10°C (50F) to whisk away the excess heat generated by all the bodies and electronics onboard.
The reduced air pressure on airline flights can reduce the amount of oxygen in passengers’ blood between 6 and 25%, a drop that in hospital would lead many doctors to administer supplementary oxygen. For healthy passengers, this shouldn’t pose many issues, although in the elderly and people with breathing difficulties, the impact can be higher.
There are some studies, however, that show even relatively mild levels of hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen) can alter our ability to think clearly. At oxygen levels equivalent to altitudes above 12,000ft (3.6km), healthy adults can start to show measurable changes in their memory, their ability to perform calculations and make decisions. This is why the aviation regulations insist that pilots must wear supplementary oxygen if the cabin air pressure is greater than 12,500ft.
But there is some research that shows there can also be small decreases in cognitive performance and reasoning at oxygen levels found at 8,000ft (2.4km) – the same as those found in airline cabins. For most of us, this is unlikely to cloud our thinking much though.
Flying also plays havoc with our other senses too
“A healthy person like a pilot or passenger should not have cognitive problems at this altitude,” says Hinkelbein. “When you have unfit people, or someone with the flu or pre-existing problems, then hypoxia can decrease oxygen saturation further so cognitive deficits become noticeable.”
But Hinkelbein says the mild hypoxia we experience during flights can have other, more easily recognised effects on our brains – it makes us tired. Studies in hypobaric chambers and on non-acclimatised military personnel arriving in mountainous regions have shown short-term exposure to altitudes of at least 10,000ft (3km) can increase fatigue, but the effects could start at lower altitudes in some people.
“Whenever I am sitting in a plane after take-off, I become tired and find it easy to fall asleep,” explains Hinkelbein. “This is not the lack of oxygen causing me to lose conciousness, but the hypoxia is a contributing factor.”
Should you manage to keep your eyes open for long enough to see the crew dim the cabin, however, then you may experience another effect of the lower air pressure. Human night vision can deteriorate by 5-10% at altitudes of just 5,000ft (1.5km). This is because the photoreceptor cells in the retina needed to see in the dark are extremely oxygen-hungry and can struggle to get all they need at a high altitude, causing them to work less effectively.
The dry air can also rob us of much of our sense of smell, leaving food tasting bland. It is why many airlines add extra seasoning to the food they serve to make it palatable during a flight. It is perhaps fortunate that our sense of smell is diminished during flights, however, as the change in air pressure can also lead to passengers breaking wind moreoften.
And if the prospect of breathing in the bodily gases of your fellow passengers doesn’t make you feel awkward enough, it seems reductions in air pressure can also make passengers feel less comfortable. A study in 2007 showed that after about three hours at the altitudes found in airline cabins, people start to complain about feeling uncomfortable.
Combine this with the low humidity and it is little wonder we find it hard to sit still for long periods on flights. A study by Austrian researchers has shown that a long-distance flight can dry out our skin by up to 37%, and may lead to increased itchiness.
For those who are already nervous fliers, there is perhaps some more bad news.
“We have shown that some aspects of mood can be altered by exposure to cabin pressures equivalent to altitudes of 6,000-8000ft,” says Stephen Legg, professor of ergonomics at Massey Univeristy in New Zealand, who is studying the impact of mild hypoxia on people. This may go some way towards explaining why passengers often find themselves crying at films more mid-flight, but most effects in scientific studies seem to only occur at altitudes above those that commercial airline cabins are set to. Recently Legg also showed the mild dehydration that might be expected on a flight can also influence mood.
“We know very little about the effect of exposure to multiple mild stressors on complex cognition and mood,” he adds. “But we do know that there is a general ‘fatigue’ associated with long distance air travel, so I guess it is probably the combined effects of these concurrent multiple mild exposures that give rise to ‘flight fatigue’.
But Stephen Groening, a professor of cinema and media at the University of Washington, believes this happiness may also manifest itself as tears. The boredom on a flight and relief given by an inflight movie, combined with the privacy of the small screen and headphones used to watch one, could lead to tears of joy, not sadness, he says.
“The configuration of inflight entertainment apparatus produce an affect of intimacy that might lead to heightened emotional responses,” says Groening. “Crying on airplanes actually consists of tears of relief, not tears of sadness.”
But Hinkelbein has uncovered another strange change in the human body that could also be messing the way our bodies normally work. A new study he conducted with colleagues at the University of Cologne, but yet to be published, has shown even 30 minutes in similar conditions to those experienced on a commercial airliner can alter the balance of molecules associated with the immune system in the blood of volunteers. It suggests the lower air pressure may cause a change in the way our immune systems work.
If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too
“People used to think they got a cold or flu when travelling due to changes in the climate,” says Hinkelbein. “But it could be because their immune response changes while on a flight. It is something we need to research in more detail.”
If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too. Increases in inflammation triggered by the immune system are thought to be linked to depression.
“A one off inflammatory challenge from a vaccine can produce a mood dip that resolves in about 48 hours,” says Ed Bullmore, head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and who studies how the immune system influences mood disorders. “It would be interesting if a 12-hour flight to the other side of the world caused something similar.”
Which is why he can’t understand “why they don’t do the same thing with Cuba’s dictatorship. When it comes to Cuba, they all seem to look the other way,” even though it’s been “a hereditary dictatorship since 1959” and likely will remain so.
Even President Trump “has left intact most key aspects of former President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba.” Indeed, “US trade and tourism to Cuba is flourishing under Trump.” Denouncing Venezuela “is the right thing to do. But ignoring Cuba’s abuses is morally wrong.”
A book released this year claims that Americanisms will have completely absorbed the English language by 2120. Hephzibah Anderson takes a look.
So it turns out I can no longer speak English. This was the alarming realisation foisted upon me by Matthew Engel’s witty, cantankerous yet nonetheless persuasive polemic That’s the Way it Crumbles: The American Conquest of English. Because by English, I mean British English.
Despite having been born, raised and educated on British shores, it seems my mother tongue has been irreparably corrupted by the linguistic equivalent of the grey squirrel. And I’m not alone. Whether you’re a lover or a loather of phrases like “Can I get a decaf soy latte to go?”, chances are your vocabulary has been similarly colonised.
Speaking on the wireless in 1935, Alistair Cooke declared that “Every Englishman listening to me now unconsciously uses 30 or 40 Americanisms a day”. In 2017, that number is likely closer to three or four hundred, Engel hazards – more for a teenager, “if they use that many words in a day”.
As a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it
But how did this happen and why should we care? After all, as a nation we’ve been both invaded and invader, and our language is all the richer for it. Words like bungalow, bazaar, even Blighty, have their roots elsewhere. Heck, go far enough back and isn’t it pretty much all just distorted Latin, French or German?
The first American words to make it across the pond were largely utilitarian – signifiers for flora and fauna that didn’t exist back in Merrie England. Moose, maize and tobacco were among them. But there were others, too, that in retrospect might seem laden with significance – words like plentifulness, monstrosity and conflagration.
With no means of swift communication or easeful passage between the two countries, American English merely trickled back into its source to begin with. But as the balance of power between Britain and her former colonies shifted, as America ascended to military, economic, cultural and technological dominance, that trickle swelled to a torrent, washing away any kind of quality control.
Cookies and closets
Throughout the 19th Century, Engel contends, “the Americanisms that permeated the British language did so largely on merit, because they were more expressive, more euphonious, sharper and cleverer than their British counterparts”. What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’? That long ago ceased to be the case, leaving us with words and phrases that reek of euphemism – ‘passing’ instead of dying – or that mock their user with meaninglessness, like the non-existent Rose Garden that political reporters decided No 10 had to have, just because the White House has one (it doesn’t exactly have one either, not in the strictest sense, but that’s a whole other story).
What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’?
Call me a snob, but there’s also the fact that some American neologisms are just plain ungainly. I recently picked up a promising new American thriller to find ‘elevator’ used as a verb in the opening chapter. As in, Ahmed was ‘elevatoring’ towards the top of his profession in Manhattan.
Nowadays, no sphere of expression remains untouched. Students talk of campus and semesters. Magistrates, brainwashed by endless CSI reruns, ask barristers “Will counsel please approach the bench?” We uncheck boxes in a vain effort to avoid being inundated with junk mail that, when it arrives regardless, we move to trash.
It’s understandable, of course. Sometimes, American words just seem more glamorous. Who wants to live in a flat, a word redolent of damp problems and unidentifiable carpet stains, a word that just sounds – well, flat – when they could make their home in an apartment instead? Sometimes that glamour is overlain with bracing egalitarianism – it’s a glamour untainted by our perennial national hang-up, class.
Take ‘movie’. The word has all the glitz of Hollywood and none of the intellectual pretensions (or so it might be argued) of the word ‘film’, which increasingly suggests subtitles (‘foreign-language film’ is one of the few instances in which the f-word doesn’t seem interchangeable with its American counterpart – ‘foreign-language movie’ just sounds odd). Other times they fill a gap, naming something that British English speakers have been unable to decide on, as is increasingly the case with ATM, a boring but brief alternative to cash point, cash machine, hole in the wall. Also to be factored in is what Engel dubs “Britain’s cultural cringe”, which predisposes us to embrace the foreign.
It’s often pointed out that plenty of these Americanisms were British English to begin with – we exported them, then imported them back. A commonly made case in point is ‘I guess’, which crops up in Chaucer. When Dr Johnson compiled his seminal 1755 dictionary, ‘gotten’ was still in use as a past participle of ‘get’. But as Engel points out, good old English is not good new English. Moreover, his beef isn’t really to do with authenticity; it’s more to do with our unthinking complicity. Because it’s not just the cookies and the closets, or even the garbage, it’s the insidiousness of it all. We’ve already reached the point where most of us can no longer tell whether a word is an Americanism or not. By 2120, he suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely. As he puts it, “The child will have eaten its mother, but only because the mother insisted”.
By 2120, Engel suggests, American English will have absorbed the British version entirely
The new Esperanto?
For more than half-a-dozen years (I almost wrote ‘more than a half-dozen’), I was a UK book columnist for Bloomberg News. Despite the nature of my beat, my identity as a Brit, and the organisation’s proudly global nature, I was required to write in American English. A cinch, thought I, but even at the end of my tenure, I was still bumping into words my editors deemed Briticisms. (‘Charabanc’, sure, but ‘fortnight’? That one was a minor revelation, suddenly explaining the many blank looks I’d received over the years from American friends.) Which is fair enough – Bloomberg is, after all, an American company. And yet I can’t help feeling a little retrospective resentment towards my British editors for all the Americanisms that I’ve got past them unquestioned. Likewise, when I published a book in America, I was excited to find out how it would read after it had been ‘Americanized’, but I’ve noticed it’s fast becoming the norm for American works to make it into print over here without so much as having a ‘z’ switched for an ‘s’ or a ‘u’ tacked on to an ‘o’. And if we can’t rely on our publishers to defend British English…
Like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis
None of this would matter if these imported words were augmenting our existing vocabulary. It’s impossible to have too many words, right? But like some hoity-toity club, language seems to operate on a one-in, one-out basis. Engel quotes researchers behind 2014’s Spoken British National Corpus, who found that the word ‘awesome’ is now used in conversation 72 times per million words. Marvellous, meanwhile, is used just twice per million – down from 155 times a mere 20 years earlier. ‘Cheerio’ and, yes, ‘fortnight’, are apparently staring at the same fate.
Even so, you might ask, is this really such a bad thing? When my grandfather returned home from the front in World War Two, he became a firm believer in the unifying powers of Esperanto. Along with Volapuk, Ekselsioro and Mondlingvo, that idealistic tongue came to nothing. American English is succeeding where it failed. But it’s hard not to feel that diminishing linguistic variance isn’t shrinking the world. Engel rues the way in which our national character is going the way of London’s ‘Manhattanized’ skyline, reticence yielding to self-promotion.
And then there’s the very valid theory that you can’t feel or think things for which you’ve no language. A borrowed vocabulary, one that’s evolved to meet the needs of people whose lives are subtly but profoundly different (ask anyone who’s lived Stateside for a while – those superficial similarities and familiarities soon fall away to reveal a decidedly foreign country), deprives us of fully experiencing our own. It’s nothing short of a “crisis of self-imposed serfdom”, Engel says. “A nation that outsources the development of its own language – that language it developed over hundreds of years – is a nation that has lost the will to live”.
It might seem tactless to bemoan the state of any branch of all-conquering English when so many other languages are being wiped out entirely. But ultimately, the battle isn’t really one of British versus American English, but of individual experience versus the homogenising effects of global digital culture. For a provocative glimpse of where this might all lead, it’s worth noting that Globish, a “sort-of language” (Engel’s phrase) created for business types by former IBM exec Jean-Paul Nerriere, consists of just 1,500 words. Jokes, metaphors and acronyms are verboten, being too fraught with potential for misunderstanding. Personally, I think I’d rather communicate in emojis. But here’s hoping it won’t come to that. Engel’s book is certainly a wake-up call. Sorry, cri de coeur. Wait, better make that a call to arms.
“The fact that a war criminal could become the president of Colombia makes no sense,” former Peace Commissioner Camilo Gomez said at a recent court hearing.
After more than five decades of battle in Colombia’s jungles, the nation’s largest rebel movement initiated the launch of its political party Sunday at a concrete convention center in the capital, vowing to upend the country’s traditional conservatism with the creation of an alternative leftist coalition.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will transform into a political party under a new, still-to-be-announced name as part of a historic peace deal signed last year. The accords guarantee the ex-combatants 10 seats in Congress and the same funding the state provides to the nation’s 13 other political parties, in addition to a half-million dollars in funding to begin a think tank to develop their political ideology.
“We are taking an extraordinary step in the history of the common people’s struggle in Colombia,” said Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, to an audience of former guerrillas dressed in white T-shirts with the hashtag #NuveoPartido (#NewParty) on the back.
“This doesn’t mean we are renouncing in any way our fundamental principles or societal project,” he said.
The organization has signaled that it will adhere to its Marxist roots and focus on winning votes from peasants, workers and the urban middle class with a social justice platform, but it faces opposition from many who identify the guerrillas with kidnappings and terrorism.
A poll released in August found that fewer than 10 percent of Colombians said they had total confidence in the rebels as a political party and a large majority said they’d never vote a former guerrilla into Congress.
“They’re not going to be received very warmly in most of Colombia,” said Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. “Their human rights record hurt them. Their media image is terrible. Most Colombians quite simply aren’t socialists or communists.”
But, he added, “All is not lost. A message of wanting to redistribute wealth and undo economic injustice could probably do quite well in a lot of poor areas of Colombia.”
The group’s entrance into politics has been met with fierce resistance from leaders like former President Alvaro Uribe, one of the peace agreement’s staunchest critics. After passing a law earlier this year ratifying the group as a political party, the nation’s Supreme Court is now debating the legislation’s constitutionality. Critics say the former rebels shouldn’t be allowed to participate in politics before first going through a special peace tribunal.
Supporters like Ivan Cepeda of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole contend that political incorporation of the group known as the FARC is the best means of ensuring a lasting peace.
“We have had to pay a very high cost in lives, in infrastructure … that today we are saving with the end of the conflict,” Cepeda said. “It’s more an investment in the democracy of Colombia.”
The FARC was formed in the early 1960s by guerrillas affiliated with Colombia’s Communist Party. Over the next 53 years the battle between the rebels, government forces and right-wing paramilitaries claimed at least 250,000 lives, left another 60,000 people missing and displaced millions, becoming the region’s longest-running conflict.
Four years of negotiations in Havana between rebel leaders and the government culminated with the signing of a peace accord in which guerillas agreed to turn over their arms, confess their crimes in a special peace tribunal that will spare most of any jail time, and turn over their war spoils as reparation to victims.
The agreement also addresses thorny issues like how to reduce Colombia’s booming coca production and provide economic alternatives to poor farmers. The U.S. once labeled the FARC one of the world’s largest drug trafficking organizations.
Colombian voters rejected the accord by a razor-thin majority in a post-signing referendum but a modified version with relatively minor changes was later approved by the legislature. A poll this summer by the Colombian firm Politmetrica found that optimism about the peace process has declined since last October’s referendum, from 67 percent of those surveyed to just about 53 percent.
The conference launched Sunday is expected to gather 1,000 former combatants from around the nation and define the FARC’s political platform. In a document leaked this spring — called the “April Theses” in a nod to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin’s directive by the same name — the FARC leadership described its political party as rooted in “Marxism, Leninism, emancipatory Bolivarian thought and the people’s revolutionary ideology.”
The rebel leader known by the nom de guerre of Pastor Alape said the party’s would quickly seek a leftist coalition to advance implementation of the peace accords.
FARC leaders have toyed with keeping their same acronym and changing their name to the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia, but the idea hasn’t received a warm reception.
“If the FARC intend to grow it’s a mistake,” journalist Angel Becassino told news magazine Semana. The acronym “signifies a past that generates a lot of confrontation.”
An October 2015 piece published here about the potential dangers of tossing out or posting online your airline boarding pass remains one of the most-read stories on this site. One reason may be that the advice remains timely and relevant: A talk recently given at a Czech security conference advances that research and offers several reminders of how being careless with your boarding pass could jeopardize your privacy or even cause trip disruptions down the road.
In What’s In a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot, KrebsOnSecurity told the story of a reader whose friend posted a picture of a boarding pass on Facebook. The reader was able to use the airline’s Web site combined with data printed on the boarding pass to discover additional information about his friend. That data included details of future travel, the ability to alter or cancel upcoming flights, and a key component need to access the traveler’s frequent flyer account.
A search on Instagram for “boarding pass” returned 91,000+ results.
More recently, security researcher Michal Špaček gave a talk at a conference in the Czech Republic in which he explained how a few details gleaned from a picture of a friend’s boarding pass posted online give him the ability to view passport information on his friend via the airline’s Web site, and to change the password for another friend’s United Airlines frequent flyer account.
Working from a British Airways boarding pass that a friend posted to Instagram, Špaček found he could log in to the airline’s passenger reservations page using the six-digit booking code (a.k.a. PNR or passenger name record) and the last name of the passenger (both are displayed on the front of the BA boarding pass).
Once inside his friend’s account, Špaček saw he could cancel future flights, and view or edit his friend’s passport number, citizenship, expiration date and date of birth. In my 2015 story, I showed how this exact technique permitted access to the same information on Lufthansa customers (this still appears to be the case).
Špaček also reminds readers about the dangers of posting boarding pass barcodes or QR codes online, noting there are several barcode scanning apps and Web sites that can extract text data stored in bar codes and QR codes. Boarding pass bar codes and QR codes usually contain all of the data shown on the front of a boarding pass, and some boarding pass barcodes actually conceal even more personal information than what’s printed on the boarding pass.
As I noted back in 2015, United Airlines treats its customers’ frequent flyer numbers as secret access codes. For example, if you’re looking for your United Mileage Plus number, and you don’t have the original document or member card they mailed to you, good luck finding this information in your email correspondence with the company.
When United does include this code in correspondence, all but the last three characters are replaced with asterisks. The same is true with United’s boarding passes. However, the customer’s full Mileage Plus number is available if you take the time to decode the barcode on any United boarding pass.
Until very recently, if you knew the Mileage Plus number and last name of a United customer, you would have been able to reset their frequent flyer account password simply by guessing the multiple-choice answer to two secret questions about the customer. However, United has since added a third step — requiring the customer to click a link in an email that gets generated when someone successfully guesses the multiple-choice answers to the two secret questions.
It’s crazy how many people post pictures of their boarding pass on various social networking sites, often before and/or during their existing trip. A search on Instagram for the term “boarding pass”, for example, returned more than 91,000 such images. Not all of those images include the full barcode or boarding record locator, but plenty enough do and that’s just one social network.
Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.
For anyone interested in how much of today’s airline industry still relies on security by obscurity, check out this excellent talk from last year’s Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Berlin by security researchers Karsten Nohl and Nemanja Nikodijevic. Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.
“You would imagine that if they treat it as a password equivalent then they would keep it secret like a password,” Nohl said. “Only, they don’t, but rather print it on everything you get from the airline. For instance, on every piece of luggage you have your last name and the six-digit (PNR) code.”
In his talk, Nohl showed how these PNRs are used in code-sharing agreements between and among airlines, meaning that gaining access to someone else’s frequent flyer account may reveal information associated with that customer’s accounts at other airlines.
Nohl and his co-presenter also demonstrated how some third-party travel sites do little to prevent automated programs from rapidly submitting the same last name and changing the PNR, essentially letting an attacker brute-force a targeted customer’s PNR.
My advice: Avoid the temptation to brag online about that upcoming trip or vacation. Thieves looking to rob someone in your area will be delighted to see this kind of information posted online.
Don’t post online pictures of your boarding pass or anything else with a barcode in it (e.g., there are currently 42,000 search results on Instagram for “concert tickets”).
Finally, avoid leaving your boarding pass in the trash at the airport or tucked into that seat-back pocket in front of you before deplaning. Instead, bring it home and shred it. Better still, don’t get a paper boarding pass at all (use a mobile).
Bob McManus at City Journal has a simple question: “Why did the city of Charlottesville and the state of Virginia suspend the First Amendment for Saturday’s calamitous ‘Unite the Right’ rally?”
Nazi swastikas may “inflame and provoke,” but waving them reminds us of “a fundamental principle of American democracy: the individual’s right to free expression and the concurrent obligation of government to protect that right.”
Yet in Charlottesville, “there was plenty of expressing going on” but “precious little protecting.” And “when push came to shove — literally — police and National Guardsmen were to be found only on the periphery of the brawling.” In fact, police refused to intervene “unless specifically ordered to do so.”
Sadly, “when the sun went down over Charlottesville Saturday, the First Amendment was lying in the dust.”
A video advising UK holidaymakers what to do in the event of a terror attack abroad has been released by police.
The four-minute film depicts a firearms attack unfolding at a hotel and uses the “run, hide, tell” safety message.
Thirty British tourists were among 38 people killed when a gunman attacked a Tunisian beach resort in June 2015.
Counter terrorism police said there is no specific intelligence Britons will be targeted this summer and the film is part of a general awareness campaign.
But Det Ch Supt Scott Wilson told the BBC it was “only right” to offer advice following the terror attacks in London and in Sousse, Tunisia.
“These people are not there to steal a mobile phone or steal your watch, they are there to kill you, you have to get yourself out of that danger zone,” Mr Wilson told the BBC.
“It’s very unlikely [that you will be caught up in a terror attack].
“It’s very much like the safety briefing you get on an aeroplane before it takes off – it’s very unlikely that plane is going to crash, but it’s very important you are given that knowledge of what you should and what you shouldn’t do.”
The video has been produced with the Foreign Office and travel association Abta.
Mr Wilson said 23,000 representatives from major UK holiday companies at resorts all over the world had been trained in what to do in the event of a terror attack as well as how to spot suspicious items and activity.
Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “While there is no specific information that British holidaymakers will be targeted this summer, it sets out some simple steps we can all take to minimise the impact of an attack if one does take place.”
The run, hide, tell message was first introduced by police in December 2015.
If there is a safe route run
Insist others go with you, but do not let their indecision slow you down