Be Aware if You Travel To USA

Returning from a brief vacation to Germany in February, Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Agents searched Hogan’s luggage and then popped an unexpected question: Was he carrying any digital media cards or drives in his pockets?

“Then they told me that they were impounding my laptop,” says Hogan, a freelance investigative reporter whose recent stories have ranged from the origins of the Iraq war to the impact of money in presidential politics.

Shaken by the encounter, Hogan says he left the airport and examined his bags, finding that the agents had also removed and inspected the memory card from his digital camera. “It was fortunate that I didn’t use that machine for work or I would have had to call up all my sources and tell them that the government had just seized their information,” he said. When customs offered to return the machine nearly two weeks later, Hogan told them to ship it to his lawyer.

The extent of the program to confiscate electronics at customs points is unclear. A hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution hopes to learn more about the extent of the program and safeguards to traveler’s privacy. Lawsuits have also been filed, challenging how the program selects travelers for inspection.

Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized. Congressional investigators and plaintiffs involved in lawsuits believe that digital copies?so-called “mirror images” of drives?are sometimes made of materials after they are seized by customs.

A ruling this year by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that DHS does indeed have the authority to search electronic devices without suspicion in the same way that it would inspect a briefcase. The lawsuit that prompted the ruling was the result of more than 20 cases, most of which involved laptops, cellphones, or other electronics seized at airports. In those cases, nearly all of the individuals were of Muslim, Middle Eastern, or South Asian background.

Travelers who have their computers seized face real headaches. “It immediately deprives an executive or company of the very data?and revenue?a business trip was intended to create,” says Susan Gurley, head of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, which is asking DHS for greater transparency and oversight to protect copied data.

“As a businessperson returning to the U.S., you may find yourself effectively locked out of your electronic office indefinitely.” While Hogan had his computer returned after only a few days, others say they have had theirs held for months at a time. As a result, some companies have instituted policies that require employees to travel with clean machines: free of corporate data.

The security value of the program is unclear, critics say, while the threats to business and privacy are substantial. If drives are being copied, customs officials are potentially duplicating corporate secrets, legal records, financial data, medical files, and personal E-mails and photographs as well as stored passwords for accounts from Netflix to Bank of America. DHS contends that travelers’ computers can also contain child pornography, intellectual property offenses, or terrorist secrets.

It makes practical sense to X-ray the contents of checked and carry-on luggage, which could pose an immediate danger to airplanes and their passengers. “Generally speaking, customs officials do not go through briefcases to review and copy paper business records or personal diaries, which is apparently what they are now doing now in digital form?these PDA’s don’t have bombs in them,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

More troubling is what could happen if other countries follow the lead of the United States. Imagine, for instance, if China or Russia began a program to seize and duplicate the contents of traveler’s laptops. “We wouldn’t be in a position to strongly object to that type of behavior,” Rotenberg says. Indeed, visitors to the Beijing Olympic Games have been officially advised by U.S. officials that their laptops may be targeted for duplication or bugging by Chinese government spies hoping to steal business and trade secrets.

Source is HERE.

I agree we have to fight against terrorists. But with that… In which world are we living?

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Pilots in India Often Fail Alcohol Tests

This story reminds me the situation in the former USSR, at the time when it was usual to see chickens in the cabin, and drunk pilots.

Around 50 pilots each year in India are being grounded because they had consumed alcohol before taking a flight, the country’s civil aviation authorities said Tuesday.

Civil aviation rules specify that pilots and cabin crew cannot consume alcohol 12 hours before taking a flight.

“We do catch pilots who had taken alcohol routinely and so does the airlines,” Kanu Gohain, a top DGCA official told Reuters Tuesday.

A pilot can be grounded for three months and he can lose his license if he repeats the mistake again, Gohain added.

A flight from India’s capital to the eastern city of Patna was cancelled Saturday after a routine medical test on crew members revealed the pilot had consumed alcohol.

That was from DGCA.

Do domestic airlines report all the cases?

A question for Shiva 🙂

A story from Reuters.


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Taiwan – China: Something I Don’t Understand

Everyone knows about the meaning of Formosa.

And for sure, Taiwan is a beautiful country.

No doubt.

Each time I am visiting a new place or even going back to a same spot (for hiking for example), I am always amazed by the beauty of the landscape.

But I also remember a lot of comments and articles on the local forums or news paper about tourism. Obviously at that time, the cabinet did not seem to show any strong willing to develop a strategy for that services industry.

But since now cross-straight tourism will be allowed starting from July, we can notice some strange announcements.

For example, the actual cabinet is devising measures to upgrade services for Chinese tourists. See for example HERE or HERE.

What does it mean?

Other tourists do not deserve an upgraded service?

Other tourists are not very important?

The related inflows were not so insignificant until now, right?

Besides, on the today Taipei Times, some local officials want to push the Falun Gong to leave the tourist place they used to protest.

What is the main reason?

Because they are on a tourist spot?


The point is to satisfy future Chinese tourists and avoid any clash with them.

I do believe it is good that more Chinese tourists are allowed to visit Taiwan. It could improve mutual understanding between people.

But what I just mentioned before, could mislead foreign visitors, letting them think that Taiwan is abandoning its core value.

I don’t get the logic of that.

Any idea? (even if of course, anyone has already an obvious answer… 🙂 )

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Hsinchu City Needs You!

Are you still not too old?

Are you male?

Are you single?

Hsinchu city needs you!

According to municipal tallies, there were 188 more female than male residents in Hsinchu City as of the end of May after first surpassing the number of males in March this year.

Welcoming single males from the rest of the country to find their life partners and settle down in Hsinchu City, M. Lin (the Mayor) asserted that the city offers a variety of incentives to its citizens.

Do you want to know what is waiting for you if you move there?

Have a look HERE.



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Typhoon Is Approaching Taiwan

The same Typhoon which just caused disasters in Philippines is approaching Taiwan.

It is too early now to know if its status will change when it will reach the China Sea. We have to wait tomorrow.

Temperatures are expected to be lower this week.

I hope so because yesterday it was 36.8 C. !!!


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Ferry Boat Sinks Off Philippines

Close to 230 people were confirmed dead and many remained missing after Typhoon Fengshen swept through the country.

The MV Princess of the Stars went down at about noon on Saturday, several kilometers off the coast of Sibuyan Island, after being battered by huge waves overnight when its engines failed, officials and survivors said.

But I have one question: why the ferry was allowed to leave from Manila with the typhoon about to hit the country.

Who made the decision?

Totally incredible!

Words are failing me…

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Robots Are Jealous


Do you want more?

Go to have a look HERE. A good cartoonist.


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