Category Archives: Travel

How to Buy Travel Medical Insurance, the ‘Other’ Travel Insurance

Travel SERAPH

No one wants to imagine being sick or injured on vacation; but if the worst happens, it pays (literally) to be prepared. Medical travel insurance can save you considerable hassle, time and money, and offer you peace of mind if you encounter health problems while traveling. But it’s also somewhat separate from most standard forms of travel insurance. While most common—and commonly needed—travel insurance is trip-cancellation (TCI) protection, you should certainly consider medical risks when you’re looking at your travel insurance options, up to and including emergency medical evacuation (also called “medevac”) assistance.

Who Needs Travel Medical Insurance?

The quick answer to that question is: Anyone who isn’t covered by their regular medical insurance when they’re traveling. More specifically, that means:

  • Anyone whose regular health insurance/HMO doesn’t pay for services outside the U.S. There was a time when most private health insurance—and most HMOs—covered you (and emergency medevac assistance) wherever you went, but that’s no longer the case. With relentless cutbacks in benefits in recent years, many standard health insurance programs will no longer cover medical bills in foreign countries. And most do not cover medevac.
  • Any senior dependent on Medicare. Medicare will not pay for anything outside the U.S. Even if you have a Medicare supplement that nominally covers foreign travel, benefits are so meager that you might need additional insurance.

Everyone should check their health insurance and travel insurance’s overseas medical benefits before leaving the country for a trip. If coverage is either slim or nonexistent, you likely need travel medical insurance.

It’s also worth noting that the medical benefits in many travel insurance policies are secondary, which means the insurance pays only for what you can’t claim from your regular health insurer/HMO. On the off chance that you already have good foreign-country coverage, additional travel insurance is probably a waste of money.

Bundled Medical Coverage

Almost all travel insurance bundles include a combination of TCI and medical benefits. For example, for a two-week trip to Europe the least expensive bundled policy might be a few hundred dollars (total) for two people. This usually covers a few thousand dollars in TCI plus somewhere around $50,000 in medical/dental emergency costs per person, and $50,000 in medical evacuation expenses per person. That’s about the minimum coverage: If you think you need more, you could buy a policy providing TCI plus $100,000 in medical emergency and $500,000 medevac per person for slightly more money.

But if you don’t want the TCI, you can buy just the medical coverage, and adjust according to your needs. On a sample trip I tested, I could buy greatly reduced coverage ($5,000 medical, $25,000 medevac) for about $100 total. Or, conversely, I could pay $195 for $100,000 in medical coverage, per person, plus unlimited medevac costs.

For travel to developed countries, my opinion is that $50,000 in medical and $50,000 medevac would more than cover any foreseeable risks. Travel to less developed areas, however, might call for slightly higher limits. It’s ultimately your call.

Yearly Medical and Medevac Coverage

If you travel a lot, you might consider buying medical/medevac insurance by the year (or per six months) rather than per trip. A low-benefit policy for frequent travelers offering about $10,000 in medical and $25,000 in medevac on each trip can cost about $100 per year (for one person). A more generous travel medical insurance policy covering $100,000 medical and unlimited medevac per trip costs about double that for one year (for one person). These policies are designed for travelers who make several short trips each year; policies for long-term overseas trips or extended business assignments might be priced differently.

Medevac: The Fine Print

Most medevac policies I’ve seen call for transport to either the nearest appropriate medical facility or back to the U.S., depending on the circumstances. Typically, that means you start at a local or regional hospital. The insurance pays for transport back to the U.S. only when, in the opinion of the attending physician, local/regional facilities are inadequate.

When you need medevac, the insurance company calls all the shots. That means you must, from the beginning, make all arrangements through the insurance company or its local agents. If you jump the gun and make your own arrangements, chances are the insurance company won’t cover them.

Can Your Credit Card Help?

Several premium credit cards provide lesser travel medical insurance in an emergency in a foreign country. Although the language in the card literature might seem to promise a lot, what you typically get is a referral to file claims, and not any genuine assistance.

The fine print for the AmEx Platinum card, for example, says, “Whenever you travel, have peace of mind knowing that you have 24/7 medical, legal, financial, and other emergency assistance while traveling more than 100 miles from home. We can direct you to English-speaking medical and legal professionals and arrange for a transfer to a more appropriate medical facility, even if an air ambulance is required.” Note that it says “arrange for,” not “pay for.” What you get is help in making arrangements; the cost of those arrangements goes right on your credit card bill, unless moving you is deemed “medically necessary.” As far as I know, most other cards operate the same way.

How to Choose Travel Medical Insurance

The medical risks you face when traveling outside the U.S. are hard to quantify. Basically, the chances of facing a major medical problem are small—very small, for medevac—but the financial consequences of a serious event are potentially quite large.

Fortunately, travel health insurance prices are not bad. As with all travel insurance, my suggestion is that you check with one or two of the online travel insurance agencies, enter your personal details, trip details, and the coverages you want, and select the least expensive policy that meets your needs. Some of the major agencies include InsureMyTrip.comSquaremouth, and QuoteWright.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

How to Get Through Airport Security Faster

Travel safely with SERAPH

When you’re late for a flight⁠—or trying to make a tight connection⁠—getting through airport security as quickly as possible is key. Beyond enrolling in TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry or Clear, you can get through an airport security line faster by booking your flight at the right time and organizing your carry-on.

Research waiting times in advance

Before you head to the airport, try researching security waiting times to avoid long lines. Apps like MyTSAhave crowd-sourced reports of waiting times at most airports; because they’re crowd-sourced, however, they may not always be reliable. Still, it might help you better assess when to arrive at an airport—it also uses historical data to make estimated waiting times and includes information on airport delays, as reported by the FAA.

Some airports, like JFK and LaGuardia, also have real-time estimates on their websites, too, though you’re less likely to find these stats from smaller airports. You can also do an online search for your airport’s estimated wait times using iFly.com, which uses flight volume data and “predictive modeling” to make make best guesses (though it doesn’t account for real-time reports); just search for your airport and “security lines iFly” and the relevant times should appear in the first page of results.

As USA Today writes, you might want to schedule an early morning flight when airports are likely to be less busy and long security lines might be easier to avoid. As we’ve written before, early-morning flights are alsoless likely to be delayed. Or you can opt to fly out of quieter airports than major ones; in California, you might choose smaller airports like John Wayne Airport or Long Beach to avoid long wait times (and traffic) at LAX.

It also doesn’t hurt to look up your airport’s map if you’re unfamiliar with it to find the security line itself, which is particularly useful for tight layovers.

“I’m LAX based, and the entire airport is divided into separate terminals,” u/PlaneShenanigans, a pilot, wrote on a recent Reddit thread. “… It’s amazing how many passengers flying through LAX leave 30 minutes to make a connection when they’ll have to change terminals, which essentially guarantees you’ll miss your flight. Just a little planning ahead will prevent things like this from happening.”

While on a recent trip through Tokyo’s Narita airport, I also found a number of different security lines spread out throughout the terminal and was able to locate one with a particularly short line.

Compartmentalize electronics and liquids and dress appropriately

Perhaps the easiest way to expedite the security process is to properly compartmentalize any electronics and liquids you’ll have to remove from your carry-on. I always keep my laptop in a removable sleeve and all liquids (under 3.5 ounces, of course) packed in a clear plastic, quart-sized bag toward the top of my carry-on so I don’t have to sift through my belongings at security. As SmarterTravel writes, keeping any liquids or gels deep in in your carry-on might only delay the security process.

Also be sure to remove any liquids larger than 3.4 ounces as well as rechargeable lithium batteries you might find in carry-on bags like Away suitcases; you can place them in a bin, too, so you aren’t held up at security.

The Points Guy has another good recommendation: Dress appropriately. Wear a jacket with pockets for your phone, Passport, ID or wallet, so you can quickly remove them and place them together in a single bin. Also, wear shoes that can easily be slipped off and remove any belts while you’re in line; in other words, do everything you can before you reach the end of the security line.

If you want, you could check your bag to avoid the extra hassle at security, but that’ll only mean another wait at baggage claim at the other end of your trip.

Personally, I’ve also found that lines for full body scanners generally seem to take a much longer time than those with walk-through metal detectors; if you have the option of choosing one, I’d go with the line with the metal detector.

Book a trip with someone who has TSA Pre-Check and download Mobile Passport

While not an official rule, for the most part, you might able able to use someone else’s TSA Pre-Check status (and the privileges that come along with it); for this to work, the passenger with Pre-Check will have to book both flights under the same itinerary. When you check in, both tickets should show up with the Pre-Check status. We should re-iterate: It’s not fail-proof, but it’s worked a handful of times for me in the past. Some credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve may also offer TSA Pre-Check registration for free as a perk, so be sure to look up your own card’s benefits.

Lastly, if you’re traveling overseas and want to avoid long customs lines, don’t forget to download Mobile Passport; you can submit your information via the app in advance and easily breeze through customs at a number of U.S. airports.

Josh Ocampo

TRAVEL ALERT! The 20 most dangerous cities in the world. Cancún makes List.

Travel SERAPH

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the world’s 20 most dangerous cities – the ones with the highest murder rates – as reported by El Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal (The Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice), a Mexico City-based advocacy group.

 20. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 52
• Homicides in 2018: 179
• Population: 343,613

This northwestern Mexican city debuted on this annual ranking in 2014 with a homicide rate of 37.7 murders per 100,000 residents, the world’s 31st and Mexico’s fourth most dangerous city that year. After nearly dropping from the list in 2015, ranking 50th that year, the murder rate rose to 52 per 100,000 in 2018 largely due to local rival drug-gang violence.

 19. Kingston, Jamaica
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 54
• Homicides in 2018: 639
• Population: 1,180,771

Local organized crime drove the homicide rate in Jamaica’s capital city to a recent peak of nearly 60 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. That rate has declined to 54 per 100,000 in 2018, pushing Kingston’s ranking up from 16th to 19th in this annual list of the world’s 50 most dangerous cities that started with 2013 data.

 18. Uruapan, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 55
• Homicides in 2018: 189
• Population: 346,640

A recent increase in violent crime has put this highland inland city on this list of the world’s most dangerous cities for the first time since records began in 2013. Violent crime, largely in the form of gun-related homicides, continued in 2019, despite reported heightened security operations. The governor of Michoacán state has pledged to further increase police presence to stem a rising tide of organized criminal activity.

 17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 57
• Homicides in 2018: 683
• Population: 1,205,142

Venezuela’s fourth most populous city became its fourth most dangerous in 2018. The city’s murder rate rose from 8.2 per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 57 per 100,000 residents in 2018. The murder rate has hovered between 46 and 60 per 100,000 residents since 2014.

16. Culiacán, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 61
• Homicides in 2018: 585
• Population: 966,609

The capital of northwestern Sinaloa state has a long history as a center of drug cartel activity, and though it ranks high among Mexico’s most dangerous cities, it’s fallen from second place in 2014 to seventh in 2018. The homicide rate declined in 2018 from 70.1 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. Like other cities in Mexico’s northwest and border regions, Culiacán struggles to contain drug-gang gun violence with only a recent modest decline in killings.

 15. St. Louis, USA
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 61
• Homicides in 2018: 187
• Population: 308,626

Chicago is often derided for its violent crime, but St. Louis has been the murder capital of the United States since 2014, while Chicago has never made this list. The homicide rate in St. Louis declined in 2018 to 61 murders per 100,000 residents from nearly 66 per 100,000 in 2017. The last time the rate was below 50 was in 2013 (the first year of this annual report), when the murder rate was 34 per 100,000 and St. Louis as the fourth most dangerous U.S. city.

 14. Feira de Santana, Brazil
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 63
• Homicides in 2018: 386
• Population: 609,913

Located roughly 60 miles northwest of Salvador, Brazil (ranked 29th on this list), the homicide rate in this inland city increased in 2018 from 58.8 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. This is the fourth consecutive year that Feira de Santana appears on this annual report. The city is a major commercial center for Bahia state, making it an ideal conduit for regional drug trafficking.

 13. Cancún, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 64
• Homicides in 2018: 547
• Population: 848,465

The popular tourist destination of Cancún on the country’s Caribbean coast has emerged for the first time on this annual ranking. The local murder rate more than doubled in 2018 as violence escalated amid a nationwide record-breaking homicide rate in 2018 attributed to drug and non-drug related criminal gang violence. More Mexican cities have appeared on this list for the first time than the number cities that dropped from the list last year.

 12. Belém, Brazil
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 65
• Homicides in 2018: 1,627
• Population: 2,491,052

This eastern gateway city in the lush Amazon region, the capital of Pará (Brazil’s second largest state by landmass) is Brazil’s third most dangerous city for a second consecutive year. The city was the country’s second most dangerous city in 2016 with a rate of 67.4 homicides per 100,000 residents. The rate increased a year later, to 71.4 per 100,000, but the city’s ranking among Brazil’s most dangerous cities fell from second to third place in 2017 because of a sharper increase in murders in Fortaleza (No. 9 on this list) and Natal (No. 8 on this list).

 11. Cape Town, South Africa
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 66
• Homicides in 2018: 2,868
• Population: 4,322,031

South Africa’s legislative capital is consistently also the country’s murder capital, with a homicide rate that hit a record high since the first edition of the annual report by The Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice in 2013. The murder rate increased last year to 66 homicides per 100,000 residents following two consecutive annual declines from 65.5 per 100,000 in 2015. Cape Town also fell in the ranks from the world’s 15th most dangerous city in 2017 to 11th in 2018. In 2015, the city was the top 10 most dangerous cities on this list, at No. 9.

 10. Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 69
• Homicides in 2018: 264
• Population: 382,095

Violent crime has flourished as Venezuela has been in the process of collapsing into a failed state. Ciudad Bolívar, located 75 miles up the Orinoco River from Guyana City (No. 7 on this list), debuted in 2018 on this list of the 50 world’s most dangerous cities. In addition to the rise in violent crime in the city, Bolivar was flooded in August of last year. This may lead to a rise in opportunistic criminal activity.

 9. Fortaleza, Brazil
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 69
• Homicides in 2018: 2,724
• Population: 3,939,460

The murder rate in one of Brazil’s biggest cities dropped from 83.5 homicies per 100,000 residents in 2017, the highest rate for the city in over five years. Located about 1,400 miles north of São Paulo, the capital of northeastern Ceará state, Fortaleza was Brazil’s second most dangerous city last year.

 8. Natal, Brazil
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 75
• Homicides in 2018: 1,185
• Population: 1,587,055

The capital and largest city in Rio Grande do Norte, the second largest oil-producing state in Brazil, experienced a decline in the homicide rate from nearly 103 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 75 per 100,000 in 2018. Fortaleza (ranked ninth on this list) slightly edged out Natal as the country’s most dangerous city in 2015. But since then, Natal, a port city 120 miles up the coast from João Pessoa (44th on this list), has been country’s murder capital for three consecutive years.

 7. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 78
• Homicides in 2018: 645
• Population: 823,722

This Venezuelan port city on the banks of the Orinoco River is Venezuela’s second most dangerous city for the second consecutive year despite a slight drop in the homicide rate last year, from 80.3 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. Violent crime appears to be spreading along the Orinoco, with Ciudad Bolivar, 65 miles west of Guyana City, appearing on this list for the first time at No. 10. Like elsewhere in the country, the region’s cities are struggling with food scarcities and high crime amid Venezuela’s years-long and worsening economic and security crisis.

 6. Irapuato, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 81
• Homicides in 2018: 473
• Population: 580,808

A newcomer to this annual ranking, Irapuato has debuted with 81 murders per 100,000 residents in 2018. Suddenly, this lush city in the center of Mexico’s Guanajuato state, known for its scenic gardens, has become Mexico’s fifth most dangerous city. Irapuato has been sucked into a regional rise in criminal gang activity, including kidnappings and extortion.

 5. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 86
• Homicides in 2018: 1,251
• Population: 1,462,133

This border city of over 1.4 million people across the river from El Paso experienced a sharp increase in murders in 2018, with the murder rate rising from 56.2 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 86 per 100,000. The city appeared first on this list with a homicide rate of nearly 38 per 100,000 residents in 2013, at the time Mexico’s seventh most dangerous city. The city fell off the list in 2015 but reappeared a year later. Since then, the homicide rate has increased in each of the past three consecutive years, and Juárez now has the third highest murder rate in Mexico.

 4. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 86
• Homicides in 2018: 314
• Population: 365,089

The capital of Tamaulipas state, at Mexico’s northeastern border with Texas, has been ravaged in recent years by turf wars between offshoot gangs that split off from the Gulf and Zeta cartels in the wake of heightened security operations. Killings flared in 2016, when the city’s homicide rate jumped to nearly 85 murders per 100,000 residents from just over 30 per 100,00 a year earlier. Victoria is currently Mexico’s third most dangerous city.

 3. Caracas, Venezuela
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 100
• Homicides in 2018: 2,980
• Population: 2,980,492

Caracas holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s most dangerous national capital each year since data was first compiled for the study in 2013. It’s also been either the most or second most dangerous city on this annual ranking until it fell to third place in 2018, displaced by the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Acapulco.

 2. Acapulco, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 111
• Homicides in 2018: 948
• Population: 857,883

Tijuana may have been the murder capital of Mexico last year, but the touristic western port city of Acapulco has been the most or second most dangerous Mexican city every year since 2013, the first year of this report. Acapulco has racked up a significantly higher body count over the years than other Mexican cities on this list, with homicides rates of between 104 and 113 murders per 100,000 residents in each of the past six years.

 1. Tijuana, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 138
• Homicides in 2018: 2,640
• Population: 1,909,424

This Mexican border city 15 miles south of downtown San Diego has long been one of Mexico’s most violent cities. But even by murder-capital standards, Tijuana has an extremely high murder rate, with no signs of the killings abating. Already, 2019 kicked off with three murders on New Year’s Eve. The city’s homicide rate jumped from roughly 100 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 138 per 100,000 in 2018.

8 Things to Know About Travel Insurance

Travel SERAPH

Will you regret not buying travel insurance? Sometimes costly and often confusing, travel insurance coverage might seem like a trip-planning technicality that’s all too easy to ignore. But Murphy’s law is Murphy’s law, and a good policy could afford you priceless peace of mind. Below are a few things to know about travel insurance before you purchase coverage, including which policies might work best for your type of trip, which policies could be completely useless, and how to shop for the best plan.

You Might Need It

Is travel insurance worth it? That’s the big question for any traveler considering travel insurance. Here’s my general rule: If you’re taking a long, expensive, or ambitious trip to a far-flung destination, travel insurance could be a smart choice. If a natural disaster or sudden illness were to ruin your travel plans, would you lose a great deal of money? Is this the trip of a lifetime? Have you been saving for this getaway for years? Are you traveling to a place with poor local healthcare facilities? Are your accommodations and plane tickets costly and nonrefundable? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you’d do well to seriously consider a plan.

Policies generally cost 5 to 15 percent of the total cost of a trip, depending on the age of the traveler, the level of coverage, and your trip details. If a good policy fits within your budget, it certainly can’t hurt to guard your health and your wallet against calamity.

Your Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance Might Offer Sufficient Coverage

If it’s simply your valuables you’re worried about, travel insurance might not be your best bet. Although many travel insurance policies include coverage of stolen or lost items, your belongings may already be covered by homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

Most homeowner’s and renter’s policies will cover your belongings even if they’re off premises, though you may be limited to 10 percent of the total value of your coverage. If you have a policy like this, travel insurance policies that include coverage for baggage or personal items could be unnecessary. Consumer advocate and SmarterTravel contributor Ed Perkins advises, “Buying a bundled policy is clearly overkill if you just want property coverage.”

Your Credit Card Might Be Enough

Check your credit card’s travel protections, too. According to Ed Perkins, “Several premium credit cards include baggage coverage, provided you pay the entire trip cost with the card. The American Express Green Card, for example, covers replacement cost, not just depreciated cost, and it even covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage. This is a no-charge extra. Many Mastercard and Visa credit cards also offer similar benefits, depending on the issuing bank.”

Trip Cancellation Insurance Only Covers Select Reasons

Trip cancellation insurance is a good coverage option when you’ve paid a substantial amount of money for a getaway and wouldn’t be able to comfortably absorb the financial loss if your trip fell through. If things don’t work out, you’ll at least get your nonrefundable, prepaid travel costs back.

It’s important to note, though, that you’ll only get a payout if your travel plans are canceled for reasons listed in the policy. For example, the OneTrip Cancellation Plus plan from Allianz Travelcovers trips canceled for a range of reasons, including illness or injury to you or a travel companion, the loss of your job, and a natural disaster that prevents you from getting to your destination. Not on the list? If your family member has a baby, if you get a new job voluntarily and can no longer take the time off for vacation, or if your pet falls ill.

You can protect yourself against any conceivable reason for cancellation with a cancel-for-any-reason policy.

Read the Fine Print

This one’s a given, but it’s one of the ultra-important things to know about travel insurance: Read the fine print. In the unlikely event that you’ll have to use your travel insurance policy, you want nothing to come as a surprise. For example, depending on the policy, hurricane coverage doesn’t apply if you buy the insurance after the storm in question has been named; that’s a bit of (seemingly arbitrary) fine print that could essentially nullify a policy purchased too late. Take the time to read the details of your plan and become familiar with the documentation you might need when submitting a claim. Take note of coverage limits and exclusions.

Many travel insurance plans come with a review period; this is a grace period during which you can look over your policy and make adjustments.

You Might Be Covered Under Your Current Health Plan

Check your health insurance policy to see whether you’re covered for medical care in a foreign country. Some plans offer full coverage abroad; others offer spotty coverage; and still others, such as Medicare and Medicaid, don’t provide much medical coverage outside of the U.S. at all.

If you lack adequate medical coverage overseas, consider a travel insurance policy with primary or secondary medical coverage. A primary policy will function as your go-to coverage in the event of accident or illness, whereas a secondary plan can be used as a backup to a health insurance policy that offers limited overseas coverage.

An Evacuation Plan Could Be a Good Idea

Various firms offer Travel Safety Planning and training such as SERAPH. Some insurance plans are evacuation plans; that is, in the event you need medical care, your insurance provider will pay for the costs of getting you to a hospital. If you suffer a serious illness or accident while abroad in a remote location, the most expensive component of treatment will likely be evacuation. Depending on where you are, it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly you to a hospital or your home country for emergency treatment; an evacuation plan will cover these costs.

There are two things you should know about this benefit: First, evacuation policies may only cover the costs of transportation to the hospital—not your medical expenses. Second, you may not be able to choose your hospital. While some policies offer a “hospital of choice” option that allows you to pick a preferred hospital, others don’t and will simply take you to the nearest facility deemed appropriate by the insurance company. As always, read the fine print.

Aggregator Sites Can Help You Shop

An easy way to compare plans when shopping for insurance is to use an online agency that functions as an aggregator. On such sites, you’ll enter details about yourself and your trip and get a results list of suggested policies. Check out sites like InsureMyTrip and Squaremouth, both of which allow users to perform side-by-side comparisons of different travel insurance plans and to read customer reviews.

CAROLINE COSTELLO

PARENT ALERT: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning – the guide every parent should read

Parent Alert

It is a far more common occurrence than you might think, yet most of us have no idea what drowning really looks like. Clue number one: forget everything you’ve seen in the films. There’s no yelling or splashing; it’s undramatic and easy to ignore.

Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death worldwide, with children particularly susceptible, according to the World Health Organization. For infants up to the age of three, it’s the number one cause in countries like Australia where exposure to water is more regular.

Alarmingly, nearly half of these drownings will take place within 25 yards of the caregiver, and in 10 per cent of cases, the adult will watch it happen without realising.

Mario Vittone, a Florida-based expert in sea rescue, develops training courses on the subject of drowning. Below he explains how to spot the signs, and possibly even save a life.

A cautionary tale

The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and dashed through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach.

“I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard.

”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears.

How did this captain know – from 50 feet away – what the father couldn’t recognise from just ten? 

Common misconceptions

Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognise drowning by experts and years of experience.

The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s almost all of us) then you should make sure that you know what to look for whenever people enter the water.

Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” upon rescue, she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event.

The Instinctive Drowning Response

– so-named by Francesco A Pia, PhD, is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect.

There is very little splashing, no waving, and no shouting or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents); of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In 10 per cent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.

Extremists: France’s Many Burning Churches

France Church Burnings

The fire that burned Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral horrified the world, but many other deliberate blazes and acts of vandalism targeting French churches go unnoticed, says Nina Shea at The National Catholic Register.

“In February, Notre Dame of Dijon was vandalized, with hosts scattered about,” she notes. “At Notre Dame Church in Nimes, a cross was recently drawn on the wall using excrement and consecrated Communion hosts. Notre Dame of France Catholic bookstore was vandalized last September.”

Indeed, according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, such attacks in France have been relentless for the past four years.” Who’s behind this trend? “A variety of extremists enraged by the identities and teachings that the churches symbolize — Christianity, French nationalism and Western civilization at large.”

Anglican & Catholics: Persecuted Christians and Their Passive PC Leaders

Murder of Christians

After the Easter slaughter in Sri Lanka, why did bishops fail to stand up for their flock?

Last week, I wrote about the West’s unerring capacity for self-immolation. Forgive me for returning to the subject, but last weekend’s massacre in Sri Lanka has underscored how self-destructive our elites can be.

When 250 people were killed by suicide bombers, many of them as they attended Easter Sunday services, it was a harrowing reminder of the intensifying persecution of Christians around the world. The slaughter followed similar assaults in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia and a dozen other countries in the past year alone. According to a recent Pew Research study, Christians are the most widely harassed faithful on Earth. They were attacked for their religion in 144 countries in 2016, more than Muslims, Jews or any other group.

So you would think that the latest horror might induce the official Christian leadership to speak out in defense of their people. John Sentamu, the archbishop of York—the second-highest-ranking cleric in the Anglican communion—had an opportunity. Interviewed on the BBC on Monday, he was asked if this was now a moment to plant a flag for Christians who find themselves under siege.

The archbishop whiffed. “Violence of any sort, to any community, any group, is totally unacceptable. The flag I want to fly is a flag of peace,” he said. Along with the Catholic cardinal of Colombo, he wanted to “ask Christians to refrain from taking any retributory steps against their Muslim brothers.”

One of the most prominent pastors in the world, faced with the scattering of his flock by a pack of murderous wolves, manages to avoid blaming the perpetrators for the carnage and actually worries aloud that the problem might actually be the Christians. Quite a feat after 300 or so of your coreligionists have been blown to bits by supporters of a fanatical religious ideology. Jesus wept, as the Bible tells us.

Why does this keep happening? To be fair, part of the explanation is that this is the very essence of the Christian message: Turn the other cheek. Find the beam in our own eye before pointing to the mote in others. As a creed for individual living, it is imperfectible. But for an entire community under attack, it’s a recipe for self-extinction.

Christian leaders in the West are afraid to upset the politically correct crowd who control the media.

According to another Anglican bishop, Philip Mountstephen of Truro, who is leading a church inquiry into the rising persecution of Christians, the reason for the widespread reluctance among leaders—religious and secular—to take the continuing war against Christians seriously is a lingering sense of historical responsibility. “There is a lot of postcolonial guilt around a residual sense that the Christian faith is an expression of white Western privilege,” he told the Times of London.

This would be absurd even if the people who were being murdered in their hundreds each year were indeed wealthy white Christians in stately homes and colonial mansions. Yet, as the bishop went on to point out, the vast majority of Christians suffering today aren’t white wealthy Westerners. Most are from the relatively poor global South: Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America. To their already unsupportable lot of grinding poverty, they must add the risk of being assaulted by governments, religious vigilantes, gangs and others.

To compound their plight, it seems many Christian leaders in the West are so afraid to upset the politically correct crowd who control the media and cultural establishment that they won’t even speak out. These clerics often find it more congenial to weigh in forcefully on other issues of pressing concern, where they know they’re in no danger of losing invitations for TV interviews and fancy premieres.

I would respectfully suggest to the bishops of the Anglican persuasion—and quite a few of their Catholic brethren too—that however serious and acute you might think the threat of climate change or workplace discrimination, the larger and more immediate threat to Christians in many parts of the world is that they might not get through their next church service without someone dispatching them to eternity to shouts of “Allahu akbar.”

Addressing the rising threat of persecution will require concerted and complex action, policies enacted by governments to isolate and pursue the murderers and those who abet them, and direct support of threatened communities. None of that will be easy. But surely it must start with a willingness by church leaders to call the threat what it is.

By Gerard Baker

The truth about the ‘global white extremist threat’

No Jews

Last week, The New York Times featured an illustrated timeline of “white extremist” killings over the last nine years. According to the Times, the record shows “an informal global network of white extremists whose violent attacks are occurring with greater frequency in the West.”

The idea that white supremacist violence is a growing global threat has gained more currency recently, notably in the wake of the ghastly Christchurch mosque massacre. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, asserted that “White supremacists committed the largest # of extremist killings in 2017.”

No one will deny that people who kill in the name of white supremacy commit evil, but is it true that white extremists are sowing a growing amount of worldwide mayhem? The evidence suggests otherwise.

Even a superficial glance at the record indicates that of the nearly 20,000 people killed in thousands of extremist killings in 2017, white supremacists were responsible for very few.

The worst terrorist event of 2017, according to the State Department, was the explosion of a truck bomb in Somalia, which killed more than 580 people. This act is believed to have been the work of Al-Shabaab, which was responsible for 97 percent of the 370 instances of extremist killings in Somalia in 2017, accounting for about 1,400 deaths.

The deadliest extremist attack in Egypt’s history took place in 2017, when ISIS-Sinai terrorists converged on a mosque and slaughtered 312 people when they came outside.

White nationalists committed none of the above violent acts, and that’s nothing remarkable: Almost all the world’s extremist violence is concentrated in a handful of regions, where very few white people live. In areas where whites do live (America, Canada, Europe and Australia/New Zealand), white nationalists do indeed perpetrate a significant proportion of the relatively uncommon acts of extremist violence.

Again, this is unsurprising, because whites make up the overwhelming majority of the population there.

The New York Times timeline of “white extremist” murders covers nine years and 15 incidents, bookended by the heinous and indisputably racist attacks in Norway (in 2011) and Christchurch. Some of the most prominent killings among the remaining 13 incidents, though, resist categorization as acts of white racial terror.

Ali Sonboly, the son of Iranian Shiite Muslim immigrants and visibly a racial minority, carried out the 2016 Munich mall shooting. The 2016 Umpqua Community College shooting was carried out by a self-identified “mixed-race” man, as was the 2014 Isla Vista massacre, whose perpetrator believed that being half-Chinese made him unattractive to women.

The 2018 Toronto van massacre was perpetrated by a white man who declared that he was part of an “Incel Rebellion” against the “Chads and Stacys” of the world — in other words, he was angry that he could not get a girlfriend and was committed to overthrowing the “beautiful people.” The Times’ inclusion of these four incidents calls into question the value of its diagnosis of “white extremist killers.”

When Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that white supremacists were responsible for the most extremist killings of 2017, she was obviously wrong (if she meant worldwide, which is unclear from her tweet). There were at least 8,500 such incidents worldwide that year, and white supremacists accounted for perhaps 15 or 20 of them, depending how you count.

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez was thinking of the US and relying on an Anti-Defamation League report, “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017.” According to the ADL, 34 people were killed as a result of extremist violence that year in the United States, eight of them by Sayfullo Saipov on Halloween in lower Manhattan. Another victim was Heather Heyer, who was run over by James Fields during the Charlottesville protests.

Heyer’s killing can legitimately be labeled an act of white-nationalist violence, as Fields was an open admirer of Hitler and the Confederacy. But the other murders that the ADL counts as “extremist-related” are fuzzy, even by the ADL’s standards.

For instance, Frank Ancona, a Klan member from Missouri, was killed in a domestic dispute by his wife, also a Klan member.

The Wall Street Journal, citing the US Extremist Crime Database, reports that the frequency of violent hate crime in the United States has been about the same for 50 years.

White supremacy is insane and immoral, and it may be a significant threat. But it doesn’t account for anywhere near the preponderance of global extremist violence, though one might get a different impression from recent coverage.

Seth Barron is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, from which this column is adapted.

JetBlue apologizes after cop-killer featured in Black History Month tribute

JetBlue was forced to apologize Thursday after honoring convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur – mother of Tupac Shakur – as part of Black History Month at a John F. Kennedy International terminal in New York.

The airline removed the poster after an image of the Shakur tribute appeared on social media.

$79.98 Featuring a wonderful, wandering floral print on a refreshing pastel background, this dress feels both festive and romantic. It has an embroidered mesh yoke pan…

“The intention was always to unite our crewmembers and customers around the importance of Black History Month and we apologize for any offense the poster may have caused,” a JetBlue spokesman said in a statement, according to FOX 29 Philadelphia.

The image of Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, was in the exhibit for 21 days before one flier noticed.

View image on Twitter

Jen Muzio@Jennymz76Jenny

@JetBlue Rumor has it that you are celebrating Black History month at LGA by celebrating Assata Shakur? She is a convicted cop killer. Please tell me this is not true.697:55 PM – Feb 23, 201996 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

“Became the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after escaping to Cuba from prison where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a police officer,” one of the bullet points read.

The tweet posted by Jen Muzio originally said the poster was at LaGuardia Airport, but she later clarified the poster was seen at JFK.

Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted of murder for a 1973 shooting that led to the death of a New Jersey State Trooper. She escaped from prison in 1979 and is believed to be living in Cuba.

By Ryan Gaydos

Democracy at Stake: Understanding The Seriousness of the Venezuela Crisis

U.S. vs. Venezuela

Global battle lines in Venezuela

IN one of his most decisive foreign-policy moments, President Trump recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim leader. Free countries from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and beyond, including some adamant Trump critics, joined the US in support of Guaidó and against Nicolás Maduro’s crumbling socialist dictatorship.

Dictators’ club: China, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah are lining up behind the socialist thug Nicolás Maduro. The US is leading the global pushback.
Yet China, Russia, Iran and others jumped to Maduro’s defense. Cuba — the country that installed Maduro in power in 2013, as Hugo Chavez was dying in Havana — has overseen the vicious crackdowns against impressive pro-democracy rallies.

Since Wednesday, more than 800 anti-Maduro demonstrators have been thrown into Cuba-modeled dungeons.

So the lines are drawn. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council Saturday, every country must now pick sides: “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

But how does America help the forces of freedom win? It’s about money. And, true, the global antidemocratic club has been bolstering Maduro for a long time, while we’re fairly new to the game. Even so, Washington has the advantage.

China, for one, has offered Venezuela some $65 billion in loans. But Caracas hasn’t made much progress toward repayment, and so Beijing isn’t likely to invest further for now. Sure, China’s communist rulers express public support for Maduro, but cautious Beijing will await the outcome of the current uncertainty. PS: China isn’t looking for additional anti-US fronts.

Russia might go further. According to Reuters, Moscow is already sending paramilitary troops and contractors to Caracas. The Kremlin uses such mercenaries where it wants to be involved militarily while keeping plausible deniability, as it has in Syria and Ukraine. But while Venezuela may be yet another site to confront America, the Kremlin doesn’t see it as Russia’s hill to die on.

Cuba is most deeply involved. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union financed the Castro regime in exchange for sugar cane. Needing a new sugar daddy after the Soviet collapse, Castro found Chavez. Venezuela supplied all of Cuba’s energy needs, while Havana guaranteed the regime’s survival.

It is the Cubans who train and reinforce Maduro’s notorious intelligence apparatus. Like in Cuba, the top Venezuelan army brass is getting rich through high positions in the country’s oil and other enterprises. Venezuelan generals, like their counterparts in Havana, get to profit from illicit drug and arms deals.

Such clandestine deals are aided by the Iranian regime and its Lebanese-Shiite proxy, Hezbollah. Relations between Caracas and the Mideast’s Iranian-led Shiite axis go back to the early days of Chavez’s rule.

Today the No. 3 official in the Maduro regime’s hierarchy, the Lebanese-born Tareck El Aissami, is “a bagman for Hezbollah,” says Vanessa Neumann, president of the consultancy group Asymmetrica and a leading researcher of Mideast terrorist activities in Latin America.

Hezbollah, along with the Maduro regime, funds much of its operations with the narcotics and arms trades. And that, says the Venezuela-born Neumann, could help the opposition she strongly supports. “With friends like these,” she says, “it makes it easier for us.” The opposition is making the case for the West to place Caracas on the list of terrorist-sponsoring states, leading to automatically imposed sanctions.

The American response has now gone beyond sanctions. On Thursday, soon after Guaidó was sworn in, Pompeo pledged $20 million to help him and the Assembly. That’s small change, but it’s a start.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced $7 billion in sanctions, including on government-owned oil giant PdVSA. While Venezuelan assets in the US, including oil giant Citgo, will continue to operate, profits will no longer go to Maduro’s cronies. They will be deposited instead in “blocked accounts” designed to benefit the people through the US-recognized Guaidó leadership.

Combined with similar measures by America’s global allies, the latest US move can help turn the tide in Caracas.

Democracy “never needs to be imposed. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed,” Elliott Abrams, Trump’s new point man on Venezuela, said at the UN Saturday. But while Maduro’s allies impose, America can unite the free world in isolating him economically — and win one for democracy.

by BENNY AVNI