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Seating Company Patents Fresh Hell for Economy Flyers

Van Winkle's   |   July 9, 2015    3:50 PM ET

I’m that guy who doesn’t mind flying. Not just being up in the air, but the whole process. I don’t mind airports. I don’t get angry with the TSA; I don’t snarl back at the surly ground crew. By and large, I accept the indignities with a smile and good grace. The world doesn’t need more bitching about the inevitable, unfixable shitshow that is modern air travel.

It’s partly my nature to not moan, but I’ve also learned how to hack flights to my liking. For starters, always spring for Economy Plus. Yes, it’s an act of consumer fuckery that airlines have successfully placed a premium on two more inches of legroom in the front of the cabin. But that’s the new reality. You’re welcome to sit in the back of the plane, choking on bathroom fumes and fighting for overhead space. Those of us in the first few rows enjoy a more civilized flight.

Second, for the love of all that’s holy in the skies, check your goddamn luggage. Checked-bag fees are another new reality not worth bitching about. Unless you’re a single person traveling with a small weekender, just pony up and sit down with fewer hassles. Okay, you don’t want to wait at baggage claim — I get that. But jesus, stop being such a crybaby about it. Just pay the fee and move on. Or, get an airline-backed credit card and watch those fees magically disappear.

Finally, medicate yourself. My formula for happiness is 5 mg. of hydrocodone plus two mini-bottles of red. Even on long-haul flights, crammed into a chair designed to cause blood clots, it will never let me down.

That is, as long as Zodiac Seats France doesn’t make good on its threat to introduce “Economy Class Cabin Hexagon” seating:

Zodiac Seats France Hexagon Passenger Map

According to the provisional patent, this configuration seeks to “increase cabin density while also creating seat units that increase the space available at the shoulder and arm area by creating an overlap in the shoulder areas of adjacent seats.”

In other words, Zodiac wants to sit passengers in a mile-high version of sleeping head-to-foot. For those of us who enthusiastically refuse to chit-chat with fellow passengers, the Hexagon is a game-changing hell.

What about seat-back trays and in-flight entertainment? Zodiac has thought of this, sort of. From their patent application:

“In some embodiments, the at least one forward-facing seat and the at least one aft-facing seat each comprise a seat back comprising a receptacle for removably mounting a tray table. The at least one forward-facing seat and the at least one aft-facing seat may each comprise a seat back comprising a receptacle for removably mounting a personal electronic device.”


As Wired noted, this groundbreaking new seating technology is but a patented pipedream. To reach market, the configuration “would have to pass a battery of tests, including passengers’ ability to quickly evacuate, and the seats’ capacity to withstand 16g forces in the event of a crash.”

Let’s hope the Hexagon fails those tests.

-- Jeff Koyen

Read more at Van Winkle's

TSA Tweets Photo Of Luggage Filled With Cold, Hard Cash

Carly Ledbetter   |   July 1, 2015   11:43 AM ET

It seems "TSA" may stand for "tweeting savings account," after the agency's public affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted a photo of a passenger's cash-stuffed luggage Tuesday afternoon.

Along with sending the photo of what she said was $75,000 in a suitcase to her 1,700-plus followers, Farbstein even revealed the location of the incident by using the hashtag #RIC for Richmond International Airport.

While it isn't unusual for the TSA to tweet or Instagram photos of weapons or explosives found in people's luggage, Farbstein's tweet caused many people who saw the photo to argue that it was a clear invasion of this passenger's privacy.

Farbstein, who has been with the TSA since 2011, is "part of an external media team that works to place positive stories in the media with a focus on the agency’s counterterrorism mission," according to profile written in 2013 on the TSA website.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Farbstein refused to answer any questions regarding potential privacy issues, instead telling the Post, "the carry-on bag of the passenger alarmed because of the large unknown bulk in his carry-on bag. When TSA officers opened the bag to determine what had caused the alarm, the money was sitting inside. Quite unusual. TSA alerted the airport police, who were investigating."

Richmond International Airport spokesperson Troy Bell corroborated Farbstein's statements when he spoke with The Huffington Post. Bell said the TSA did indeed alert airport police, who then notified federal agents of the stash of cash. Now, he says, the money becomes part of an asset forfeiture case, which Bell says is not uncommon at airports, but also not an everyday thing.

"If you're traveling with a large amount of cash with no real explanation as to why, it can be seized, which was the case here," he said. As you might expect, the asset forfeiture program that allows police to seize large amounts of cash found on people has long been the subject of intense scrutiny.

Bell said that so far, the money is a part of an "ongoing investigation" and has not been returned to the passenger, though the traveler wasn't issued a citation and was allowed to continue with his journey. And even though Farbstein tweeted out an amount of $75,000, Bell said the money had not even been counted yet, as that's a responsibility left to federal agents.

When asked if he thought the photo was an invasion of the passenger's privacy, Bell said, "We were surprised to see the tweet, simply because we wouldn't take a photo of an ongoing investigation. Would we do the same? No."

The Huffington Post has reached out to both the TSA and Farbstein and will update this post accordingly.

H/T Boarding Area

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Ann Brenoff   |   June 27, 2015    6:26 AM ET

Summers of our youth were carefree and easy, at least in our memories of them they were. But now we worry about things we never had to before. Here are five things about summer that have changed:

1. Our relationship to the sun.

The sun used to be our friend. We would lie out in it for eight hours a day, vying for the title of "Teen With The Best Tan." Here's how it would go down: Pour baby oil over every inch of your body, head to the beach never spending a single minute under a sun umbrella, and fry your skin to a crisp. It would burn, peel and then tan -- mission accomplished. This was repeated every chance you had.

Compare that to going outside in the summer today. We wear special fabric clothing that offers UV protection. We don't leave the house without sunscreen on every exposed part of our bodies. And if we do go to the beach, it's equipped with a shade umbrella or tarp, a wide-brim hat, and we spend most of the time reminding one another to put sunblock on our earlobes and toes.

2. The way we travel.

Airplane travel used to be a big deal. Your family saved and scrimped and maybe once every few years got to board a big bird in the sky. For the weeks leading up to the trip, your Mom would point to the sky and say things like, "just think, in 63 more days, that will be you up there!" On the Big Day, you would get dressed up in your church clothes and arrive hours early to the airport just to watch the planes take-off and land. It was thrilling. Airlines even used to roll out a special welcome for kids instead of trying to ghettoize them on the plane. The stewardess (yes, that's what she was called) would give every kid a little pin of an airplane that they could keep and show their friends. And if a kid asked really nicely, he might even get to say hello to the captain in the cockpit.

Today, if you so much as look at the cockpit door, three air marshals will tackle you to the ground.

And as for looking forward to air travel nowadays? Sure, maybe if you are a sardine or enjoy being packaged as one.

3. TSA screening.

Arguably, the single most-demeaning aspect of flying today is going through the TSA security screening, where they will take away your water (so that you can buy more at double the price on the other side of the checkpoint). They will also limit you to three ounces of shampoo for your two-week vacation and make you remove your shoes and walk barefoot on floors that feel like they haven't been washed in a half-century. All this is being done in the name of your safety, of course -- but if you'd like to skip the humiliation and keep your shoes on, you can pay $85 to apply for that privilege and apparently we can all still be safe.

4. The fact that many of us don't get enough time off work to do both something and nothing.

Work today means longer hours and fewer breaks. Work stress is real and many of us are afraid or unable to get away from the computer for a long weekend. Long live Austria with its 35 paid days off a year! That's civilization, folks, not the lousy two weeks off Americans get. As a result, we over-schedule ourselves when we travel and jam our days and nights with things to do. We say things like "we'll never be here again," and then run around like headless chickens. The end result is that we return from vacation anything but relaxed. We are exhausted.

And then there is the other side of that coin. The side where we decide to just stay home and relax -- sleep late, catch up on Netflix, read a few books. Except that for the most part, staycations leave us feeling like we didn't get a real break. They degenerate into working around the house and running errands. If you can still check emails, you will.

We need more time off.

5. The abundance of information.
Go ahead and just try to book a hotel room online. A few zillion websites will pop up offering reviews and varying prices to book it. Seriously varying prices. Same thing for airline flights and car rentals. It used to be simple: You bought a copy of Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day and you earmarked the important pages. Now, there is just too much information to process and it seems to change hourly.

Everything can be done online, which is both good and bad. While we like to hear others' opinions of places, sometimes we don't know how much weight to give them since the "others" are strangers. And while we'd personally like to thank the TripAdvisor Forum poster who told us precisely how to use public transportation to get from the cruise ship docked in Pireaus to the Acropolis -- part of the joy of travel is the joy of discovery. That poster denied us the chance to get lost, wind up somewhere else, and then have a story to laugh at for years to come. Note: I'm still thanking him.

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Steven Hoffer   |   June 23, 2015    8:52 AM ET

There's no sweet talking out of this jam.

Police say a man tried to smuggle weed through security at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey on Friday by hiding his stash in Mary Jane candy wrappers.

As the following image shows, the “green leafy vegetation” was “artfully concealed" inside the suspect's checked luggage, police said, according to the New York Post.


Indeed, Mary Jane is slang for marijuana.

Authorities identified the suspect as Gregory Murphy, 49, of Toms River, New Jersey, according to the New York Daily News. He was arrested and issued summonses for possession of marijuana under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Believe it or not, Mary Jane candy, a delectable blend of molasses and peanut butter, is named after the favorite aunt of the brothers who created it, according to NECCO.

Prisons Without Walls: We're All Inmates in the American Police State

John W. Whitehead   |   June 16, 2015    3:44 PM ET

"Free worlders" is prison slang for those who are not incarcerated behind prison walls. Supposedly, those fortunate souls live in the "free world." However, appearances can be deceiving.

"As I got closer to retiring from the Federal Bureau of Prisons," writes former prison employee Marlon Brock, "it began to dawn on me that the security practices we used in the prison system were being implemented outside those walls." In fact, if Brock is right, then we "free worlders" do live in a prison--albeit, one without visible walls.

In federal prisons, cameras are everywhere in order to maintain "security" and keep track of the prisoners. Likewise, the "free world" is populated with video surveillance and tracking devices. From surveillance cameras in stores and street corners to license plate readers (with the ability to log some 1,800 license plates per hour) on police cars, our movements are being tracked virtually everywhere. With this increasing use of iris scanners and facial recognition software--which drones are equipped with--there would seem to be nowhere to hide.

Detection and confiscation of weapons (or whatever the warden deems "dangerous") in prison is routine. The inmates must be disarmed. Pat downs, checkpoints, and random searches are second nature in ferreting out contraband.

Sound familiar?

Metal detectors are now in virtually all government buildings. There are the TSA scanning devices and metal detectors we all have to go through in airports. Police road blocks and checkpoints are used to perform warrantless searches for contraband. Those searched at road blocks can be searched for contraband regardless of their objections--just like in prison. And there are federal road blocks on American roads in the southwestern United States. Many of them are permanent and located up to 100 miles from the border.

Stop and frisk searches are taking place daily across the country. Some of them even involve anal and/or vaginal searches. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved strip searches even if you are arrested for a misdemeanor--such as a traffic stop. Just like a prison inmate.

Prison officials open, search and read every piece of mail sent to inmates. This is true of those who reside outside prison walls, as well. In fact, "the United States Postal Service uses a 'Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program' to create a permanent record of who is corresponding with each other via snail mail." Believe it or not, each piece of physical mail received by the Postal Service is photographed and stored in a database. Approximately 160 billion pieces of mail sent out by average Americans are recorded each year and the police and other government agents have access to this information.

Prison officials also monitor outgoing phone calls made by inmates. This is similar to what the NSA, the telecommunication corporation, and various government agencies do continually to American citizens. The NSA also downloads our text messages, emails, Facebook posts, and so on while watching everything we do.

Then there are the crowd control tactics: helmets, face shields, batons, knee guards, tear gas, wedge formations, half steps, full steps, pinning tactics, armored vehicles, and assault weapons. Most of these phrases are associated with prison crowd control because they were perfected by prisons.

Finally, when a prison has its daily operations disturbed, often times it results in a lockdown. What we saw with the "free world" lockdowns following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the melees in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, mirror a federal prison lockdown.

These are just some of the similarities between the worlds inhabited by locked-up inmates and those of us who roam about in the so-called "free world."

Is there any real difference?

To those of us who see the prison that's being erected around us, it's a bit easier to realize what's coming up ahead, and it's not pretty. However, what most Americans perceive as life in the United States of America is a far cry from reality.

This state of denial and rejection of reality is the essential plot of John Carpenter's 1988 film They Live, where a group of homeless men discover that people have been, in effect, so hypnotized by media distractions that they do not see their prison environment and the real nature of those who control them--that is, an oligarchic elite.

Caught up in subliminal messages such as "obey" and "conform," among others, beamed out of television and various electronic devices, billboards, and the like, people are unaware of the elite controlling their lives. As such, they exist, as media analyst Marshall McLuhan once wrote, in "prisons without walls." And of course, any resistance is met with police aggression.

A key moment in the film occurs when John Nada, a homeless drifter, discovers a handful of cheap-looking sunglasses, referred to as Hoffman lenses. Grabbing a pair and exiting the church, he starts walking down a busy urban street. Sliding the sunglasses on his face, Nada is shocked to see a society bombarded and controlled on every side by subliminal messages beamed at them from every direction. Billboards are transformed into authoritative messages: a bikini-clad woman in one ad is replaced with the words "MARRY AND REPRODUCE." Magazine racks scream "CONSUME" and "OBEY." A wad of dollar bills in a vendor's hand proclaims, "THIS IS YOUR GOD."

This is the subtle message of They Live, an apt analogy of our own distorted vision of life in the American police state. These things are in plain sight, but from the time we are born until the time we die, we are indoctrinated into believing that those who rule us do it for our good. The truth, far different, is that those who rule us don't really see us as human beings with dignity and worth. They see us as if "we're livestock."

It's only once Nada's eyes have been opened that he is able to see the truth. Disillusioned and fed up with the lies and distortions, Nada is finally ready to fight back. What about you?

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the warning signs have been cautioning us for decades. Oblivious to what lies ahead, most have ignored the obvious. We've been manipulated into believing that if we continue to consume, obey, and have faith, things will work out. But that's never been true of emerging regimes. And by the time we feel the hammer coming down upon us, it will be too late.

The message: take the warning signs seriously. And take action because the paths to destruction are well disguised by those in control.

This is the lesson of history.

11 Interesting Sights In The Kingdom of Bahrain

Janice S. Lintz   |   June 15, 2015    1:47 PM ET


When I recently visited Bahrain, the TSA agent reviewing my passport looked at me curiously and asked me, "Why did you visit Bahrain?" Simple answer: The Kingdom of Bahrain is a great extension to a Dubai or an Abu Dhabi trip. The flights are inexpensive and under an hour.

A visa can easily be obtained online for American visitors. Double-check to confirm that the visa to Bahrain is purchased from the government site versus an unnecessary and overpriced expeditor.

Manama, its capital city, isn't as glitzy as some of its Gulf neighbors, but it's rapidly evolving. The Four Seasons Bahrain Bay opened in March, joining the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel & Spa as Manama's premier properties.

The tourist infrastructure is expanding. There is massive construction everywhere. The sites are relatively close together, but a car is needed to travel between them. My recommended sights are:

1.The Oil Museum And Oil Well
Bahrain's former economy was based on pearl diving until the discovery of local oil. Bahrain and oil are now synonymous. This is an industry town. Oil rigs and pipes appear to line the roads.


The one room Oil Museum details the discovery of oil and its drilling process. Bahrain was the site of the first oil well in the Arabian Gulf, which is adjacent to the museum. The well is basically a hole in the ground. But how can you not see the first one?


2.The King Fahad Causeway
Visiting Saudi Arabia is complicated, but you can see its modern skyline from the Causeway that links Bahrain with Saudi Arabia. This has to be the most dignified entrance into a country. A man wearing black trousers and a white shirt with a vest greets dignitaries at their car with a silver tea pot of Arabic coffee and bottles of water as they enter or exit Bahrain. Can you imagine this service by the Canadian or Mexican border?


3. Bahrain Architecture
Bahrain's skyline is maintaining a traditional Arabic while building a new modern skyline thanks to innovative architecture by leading starchitects. Buildings with jarring angles and twists like licorice populate the Manama Corniche.


4. Bahrain And Riffa Forts

Bahrain Fort also known as Qalat al-Bahrain is now an archeological dig. The former Dilmun capital is the country's first UNESCO World Heritage site and a "must see."

Riff Fort was initially a fortress, it later became the home for Shaikh Salman Bin Ahmed Al Fateh. Panoramic views are visible from the overhanging seating area behind the Saffron Café.


5. Al Fateh Mosque
Named for the conqueror of Bahrain, it is the largest mosque in Bahrain and one of the largest in the world. The finest global craftsmen contributed to its construction. The vast white structure gives it a similar feel to the Taj Mahal.

6.The Royal Camel Farm
There is no charge for an up-close look at King Sheikh Mohammed's private camel collection. Feeding the camels seems to be permissible despite clear notices requesting they not be fed.


7. The Bahrain National Museum
Bahrain's history and nomadic culture are described through archeological artifacts, dioramas and manuscripts. Exhibits cover Bahraini life and the pearl trade. Their Dilmun Burial mounds display was under renovation. The museum also showcases temporary exhibits.

Don't miss the iconic Bahrain National Theater adjacent to the museum. It is one of the largest theaters in the Arab world. The golden roof shimmers into the adjoining sea.


8. The Dilmun Burial Mounds
The prehistoric cemetery dates back to ancient times. A new Welcome Center is on the drawing board. Detailed descriptions are currently only available in The Bahrain National Museum, although the exhibit was under construction.


9. The Manama Souk
This the center of Manama and Bahraini life with a mix of old and new shops selling everything from spices to textiles. Visitors can sample local specialties or just peer into a shop and watch a man having a thawb, an ankle length garment altered.


10. The Traditional Houses Of Muharraq
The old homes that line the narrow and winding streets were restored. The buildings are dedicated to various aspects of Bahrain's cultural life including poetry, the press or music.

11. The Tree Of Life
It is the sole tree in the middle of the desert that attracts visitors from around the world. The tree is believed to be four centuries old. The water source is unknown. Each person who arrived at the tree, while I was there, looked at it and said, "Yes, it is a tree."


A nearby sun dial was more compelling. The sunlight casts a shadow on the time when you stand on the current month.


Why I Hate the TSA (But Not All the Agents)

Tristan Higgins   |   June 8, 2015    2:16 PM ET


I've just had another experience with the TSA. This time, I am in Detroit and headed home from a business trip. I am tired and ready to go home. I miss my wife, who is home in Scotland for awhile. I got to the airport in plenty of time to not be rushed, which turned out to be a good thing today.

The first piece that I wrote for Huffington Post was titled "Why I Hate the TSA." In that post I railed against the gender conforming system and lack of training. I wondered why -- when so many people do not match gender stereotypes -- we have a system involving a pink and blue button. Why the millimeter wave machine has been programmed to raise alarm whenever someone's body doesn't match up just right with the database. I filed a complaint with the TSA, following all their stated procedures, and I followed up several months later to ask about the complaint (they still have not replied).

My experience this morning was even more involved and invasive than my painful experience several years ago, but it was quite different, and I think it makes sense to share that.

I walked into the machine after carefully removing everything required. I even pulled up my jeans because recently there have been several rescans since I do not have a penis and the machine has called this out in some alarm. When the agents handle this well, it makes me laugh. I understand that when one's jeans are baggy, the machine has more trouble, so I hike them up on my waist. I step into the machine and raise my arms. The male agent says "ma'am" so I am confident that he will push the pink button. "Please wait here a moment." Yup, I know the drill.

The female agent standing between me and my flight looks with concern at the machine so I turn around to see what she sees. There on the screen are several yellow boxes of alarm: one on my wrist (a watch), one on the center of my chest (my necklace), and a big box on my groin. I laugh a bit and ask her if it was because I don't have a penis. "I'm not even packing," I joked. She seemed to understand and smiled at me. I go through the machine again but the yellow boxes remain. There is some discussion between her, the male agent and the supervisor. I will need to have an extensive pat down because they could not clear the "anomaly." We are just waiting for a second female agent. It took a few minutes.

I notice that the agent handling the bag scanner is searching my briefcase. I politely ask him what he is looking for, and joke that I lost my multi-tool last week when I forgot and left it in my bag; so I know there's nothing like that in there. He doesn't answer but says he needs to scan it again. Seems odd, but certainly within their procedures. My bag gets scanned again, and the female agent collects my things from him. The scanning agent catches her as we are walking away to hand over my tablet, which he had taken out to scan. This causes me concern as to what else might have been removed and not collected. Nothing else, he says.

The second female agent joins us and we walk to the dreaded private screening room. Now, I am a law-abiding American. As a rule follower, I know I have nothing to fear, but still private rooms in airports have always scared me. They seem like places -- at least in the movies -- where you go in, bad things happen to you, and you stay a long time without any family or counsel. I have never been in such a room until today. They close the door and lock it. All the while, the agents are explaining to me what is happening.

They describe exactly how the extensive pat-down will go. How I am to stand (arms out, palms up, feet more than shoulder length apart), how she will touch me, in what order, and where. I am instructed to turn around and face the table in the proper position. The comic inside my head (read this as coping mechanism) jokes silently that in a different situation this could be hot, but it is not hot. Not at all. Neither is it scary, because they were so careful to tell me what to expect, and even as she was conducting the pat-down, she kept a running narration of what she was doing to me. I tried to keep it light and joked that I'd like them not to mess up my hair. She kindly followed along and said something about trying not to while she patted down my head. Next my collar, shoulders, arms, wrists, palms, armpits, back, and side. I had to lift my shirt for my waistband to be felt. This was followed by her patting down, squeezing, or running her hands down my legs, butt, and groin, and then I turned around. She went through the same routine for the front of my body.

I have had the standard (quite personal) pat-down on several occasions, but never this extensive one. I won't say that it was pleasant, but they were so professional that it was business-like. Albeit the business of violating my privacy, but still they were business-like. It is a very odd feeling to have someone touch all of the parts of you. Parts no one touches but my wife. When was the last time someone touched your thigh or side? Just think how you feel when a stranger bumps into you, or you accidentally touch someone in a shop or on the street.

The second agent went to scan my shoes. While she was gone I commented to the first agent that it is very frustrating as a person who does not conform to gender stereotypes to deal with this. I told her that I fly all the time, and that I have to be rescanned about half the time. I wondered out loud what she would have done if I had been packing or if I was transitioning. She understood and said that sometimes it is hard -- especially when someone has had facial surgery. We had an interesting discussion about people in transition, or packing. She was clearly aware. She understood, at least in part, what I was dealing with as a gender non-conforming person, and I understood, at least in part, that she is an agent trying to do her job and be respectful of people like me with whom she comes in contact.

My shoes came back fine as did my bag and my person, of course, and I was free to go. The whole experience was so odd. I made sure to thank them both for being professional, and they were both very appreciative of my friendly attitude. I am not exactly sure what my take away from this experience is. Maybe that even when a system is flawed and ignores gender non-conforming people like me, that the people who are in charge of enforcing and using that system can still make a connection and keep our experience from being too painful. Is that too sunshine and rainbows? You tell me.

Be Butch.

Week to Week News Quiz for 6/5/15

John Zipperer   |   June 5, 2015    1:12 PM ET

Sometimes, it feels as if you're the only person not running for president. Take our latest Week to Week news quiz and see if you know enough to throw your hat in the ring.

Here are some random, but real, hints: Facebook will win the war, Rand Paul's victory, that's practically a rounding error, and he only served it to guests. Answers are below the quiz.

1. What did the Labor Department's report for May show?
a. Zero net job growth
b. Decrease of 75,000 jobs
c. Increase of 280,000 jobs
d. Increase of 150,000 jobs

2. Which one of the following is a real headline?
a. ISIS troops within 1 mile of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
b. 'Moron' terrorist takes a selfie in front of ISIS headquarters, Air Force bombs it 22 hours later
c. Iraqi forces repulse ISIS from Baghdad suburbs
d. Iran, U.S. troops team up for Syria attack

3. What did former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee say the U.S. should do if he's elected president?
a. Defeat ISIS within nine months
b. Join the metric system
c. Land a man or woman on the moon before the end of the decade
d. Ensure there's a chicken in every pot, and pot in every chicken

4. What expired at midnight last Sunday after the U.S. Senate failed to renew it?
a. The federal school lunch program
b. The 19th Amendment
c. The PATRIOT Act
d. The Affordable Care Act

5. The Air Force looks set to join the Army in making it more difficult to discharge whom?
a. Four-star generals
b. Service members over the age of 40
c. Transgender service members
d. Atheists

6. Who is Sepp Blatter?
a. The head of the international soccer federation FIFA who says he will resign
b. The new hero of the seventh Star Wars film, to be released later this year
c. Moesha Blatter's son
d. The latest Republican senator to announce his presidential candidacy

7. In tests at major U.S. airports, what was the success rate of the TSA at catching smuggled weapons, explosives, and other contraband?
a. 50%
b. 100%
c. 5%
d. 65%

8. What magazine cover features former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner and the words "Call me Caitlyn"?
a. Sports Illustrated
b. Vanity Fair
c. National Review
d. People

9. Why was Della Curry, a kitchen manager at a Colorado elementary school, fired?
a. She poisoned the Taco Tuesday special
b. She refused to serve anything that wasn't vegan
c. She wrote a letter threatening armed insurrection against the federal government
d. She gave free food to kids who couldn't afford to pay for it

10. After its bombshell indictments of world soccer authorities, how did the FBI follow up this week?
a. It is investigating the NFL for tax evasion
b. It has indicted Major League Baseball executives for running a cartel
c. It is investigating the awarding of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar
d. It has accused the International Olympic Committee of taking bribes

BONUS. What World War II relics have been found after lying undiscovered for 76 years?
a. Fifty-three undetonated U.S. bombs underneath the streets of Berlin's toniest shopping street, der Kurfürstendamm
b. Priceless 15th-century Flemish paintings looted by Nazi troops from Belgian and French museums
c. A 1939 birthday card from Joseph Stalin to Adolf Hitler
d. Adolf Hitler's stash of champagne and cognac

1) c.
2) b.
3) b.
4) c.
5) c.
6) a.
7) c.
8) b.
9) d.
10) c.

Want the live news quiz experience? Join us Monday, June 8 in downtown San Francisco for our next live Week to Week political roundtable with a news quiz and a social hour at The Commonwealth Club of California. Panelists include CBS SF's Melissa Griffin Caen, KCBS Radio's Doug Sovern, and Hoover Institution's Carson Bruno.

Explanations of the hints: Facebook will win the war: our military doesn't need the NSA to monitor the social media posts of terrorists who are dumb enough to post photos of themselves bragging about their locations; Rand Paul's victory: Senator Paul led the fight against the PATRIOT Act; that's practically a rounding error: yes, just 5% of the attempts to smuggle dangerous things was detected; and he only served it to guests: the Nazi leader himself wasn't a drinker, but he nonetheless had a hoard of the good stuff.

LOU KESTEN   |   June 1, 2015   10:37 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday reassigned the leader of the Transportation Security Administration and directed the agency to revise airport security procedures, retrain officers and retest screening equipment in airports across the country.

The TSA's acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, is being reassigned to a different job in the Department of Homeland Security. Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield will lead the agency until a new administrator is appointed.

Andy Campbell   |   June 1, 2015    2:07 PM ET

As thorough as the Transportation Security Administration screeners may be as they rifle through your belongings, the agency isn't performing where it counts.

In a series of trials, the Department of Homeland Security was able to smuggle fake explosives, weapons and other contraband past airport screeners in major cities across the country, according to ABC News. Officials briefed on the Homeland Security Inspector General's investigation told the station that the TSA failed 67 out of 70 tests conducted by the department's Red Teams -- undercover passengers tasked with identifying weaknesses in the screening process, reports.

During the tests, DHS agents each tried to bring a banned item past TSA screeners. They succeeded 95 percent of the time.

The internal investigation was designed to find the TSA's most egregious vulnerabilities. The TSA has said Red Team agents are "super terrorists" who “push the boundaries of our people, processes, and technology,” but DHS officials told ABC the test results were frustrating at the very least.

ABC reports:

In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.

Officials would not divulge the exact time period of the testing other than to say it concluded recently.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. U.S. officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests.

The TSA referred all questions to the DHS. A DHS spokesman told The Huffington Post that "Red Team testing of the aviation security network has been part of TSA's mission advancement for 13 years."

"The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security," the statement continued. "Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General's report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report. These actions are in addition to a number of security enhancements the Secretary has directed TSA to implement to our aviation and airport security since the beginning of his tenure."

The administration still touts its dedication to safety and security. In a weekly report published May 29, TSA officials said they found 45 firearms and continue to discover inert grenades and other weapons "on a weekly basis." Many of the guns were found in carry-on luggage and had rounds in the chamber.

"Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds," TSA officials wrote in the report. "Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the line is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested."

In 2014, the TSA confiscated 2,212 firearms at 224 airports, after screening 653 million passengers.

UPDATE: Top TSA administrator Melvin Carraway has been reassigned, Johnson announced on Monday evening. Johnson also ordered TSA to take measures to reform security by revising protocol, retraining staff, retesting airport screening equipment and conducting more random testing at checkpoints.

Ed Mazza   |   April 14, 2015   11:20 PM ET

Two Transportation Security Administration agents at Denver International Airport have been fired for allegedly conspiring to grope male passengers in an elaborate plot that involved hand signals and the manipulation of the settings on a full-body scanner so that more thorough pat-downs could be conducted on men found attractive.

One agent, a man, would allegedly signal to a female coworker when a male passenger he found attractive was coming through the scanner, according to The Denver Post, which cited a police report.

The female agent would then allegedly press a button on the touchscreen that would change the gender of the passenger to female, thus triggering an alert for an anomaly detected in the passenger's crotch. That would lead to a physical pat-down of the groin, conducted by the male TSA agent.

The agency received an anonymous tip about the alleged gropings from an employee in November, according to KUSA-TV in Denver.

However, the agency reportedly did not look into the allegation until February, when an investigator stood in the screening area, watched the scheme unfold firsthand and reported it to Denver police.

The investigator witnessed the male screener giving the signal and the female agent changing the gender setting, before the male agent conducted "a pat down of the passenger's front groin and buttocks area with the palms of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy," according to a police report cited by KUSA.

When questioned, the female screener admitted to doing this at least 10 other times, according to FOX31 Denver.

Neither of the fired screeners has been publicly named.

CBS4 in Denver, which first broke the story, said the TSA has refused to release documents and videos related to the case, saying they are part of an ongoing investigation.

The TSA released a statement saying "these alleged acts are egregious and intolerable," per KUSA. The agency said all misconduct accusations are investigated "and when substantiated, employees are held accountable.”

Ryan Grenoble   |   April 7, 2015    6:47 PM ET

Next time you pass through airport security, double-check your pockets. It's just common cents.

On Monday, the Transportation Security Administration released its 2014 fiscal year report, which disclosed the government agency collected almost $675,000 in loose change left behind by travelers in 2014 -- and it gets to keep every penny.

"TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint, however there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed," TSA press secretary Ross Feinstein said in a statement Tuesday. "Unclaimed money, typically consisting of loose coins passengers remove from their pockets, is documented and turned into the TSA financial office."

Last year's haul of $674,841.06 is only the latest in a steady increase of yearly collections: In 2008, the TSA collected a "mere" $383,413.79.

In a followup to the report, Feinstein added the airport with the most loose change last year was New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where passengers left behind $42,550 in spare change at the security checkpoint.

Last year's other top grossers include Los Angeles International Airport ($41,506) and San Francisco International Airport ($34,889). Here are the top 20:

loose change tsa airports

TSA Says It Will Stop Touching So Many Black Women's Hair

Julia Craven   |   April 3, 2015    3:13 PM ET

No, you cannot touch my hair -- but it isn’t as if the woman had asked for my permission.

An agent of the Transportation Security Administration is running her fingers across my scalp. Again. It feels dehumanizing as she pats my head. She needed to check my hair for weapons, she said. It feels gross. I feel like "the other."

But all I can do is stand there, endure the stares and pray her latex gloves don’t cause my ends to break off.

As I wait for the unwanted scalp massage to end, I look at the women who have gone through the checkpoint before me. The agent hadn’t checked their hair. Some wear ponytails or buns. Some have hair much thicker than my curly afro. Plenty of room to stash a knife or a grenade or whatever.

But none of them are natural-haired black women.

This uninvited hair fondling apparently occurs across the nation, and the TSA has finally promised to do something about it. Earlier this year, the agency agreed to clarify its policy on patting down people’s hair following an April 2014 complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California that black women were being targeted. Later this month, an ACLU staff attorney told HuffPost, the TSA begins its new improved training at Los Angeles International Airport, one of the airports named in the complaint.

“Racial profiling is not tolerated by TSA,” said an agency statement provided to The Hill. “Not only is racial profiling prohibited under [Department of Homeland Security] and agency policy, but it is also an ineffective security tactic.”

Well, they got that right. It’s doubtful that the sisterlocks sported by Malaika Singleton -- the woman at the center of the ACLU complaint -- constituted one of those worrisome “anomalies” on the scanner that TSA agents must investigate further. It’s doubtful that a TSA agent squeezing her locks did anything to make the plane safer.

“The humiliating experience of countless black women who are routinely targeted for hair pat-downs because their hair is 'different' is not only wrong, but also a great misuse of TSA agents' time and resources,” Novella Coleman, the staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement last week.

Targeting black women's hair for extra scrutiny isn’t new for the TSA. The New York Times noted the problem as far back as 2011, and the ACLU of Northern California pointed out in its complaint about Singleton's treatment that it had raised the issue before.

When singer Solange Knowles had her afro searched in 2012, a TSA spokeswoman said the agency didn’t have a policy that targeted afros for searches.

"If someone is passing through the advanced imaging technology machine, it shows an outline of an individual, the same for every single person," the spokeswoman told CNN. "If the hair area is highlighted, the machine may have picked up an anomaly or a possible threat in the head area."

Anomalies may be such things as bobby pins, hair clips, extensions, ponytail holders and headscarves, CNN wrote at the time.

But as the ACLU statement said this month, the Constitution prohibits both "unreasonable searches and selective enforcement of the law based on race." Moreover, the group wrote, a search must be “tailored to detect threats to security.”

"We have not received clear guidelines from TSA about what their policies up to this point have been for searching passengers' hair," Coleman told HuffPost. She said the ACLU has received different explanations for what sparks a hair pat-down, including the so-called abnormalities, hair extensions and an agent's inability to see the passenger's scalp.

"We have identified these as problematic because they're all subjective criteria that allow racial bias to operate," Coleman said. "When we attend the training [at LAX], we will be looking for more clear and objective guidelines going forward."

I wasn’t wearing anything in my hair when I was searched, and the agent never explained to me why she thought I might be hiding weapons even though my full body scan was clean.

So I wondered: Why is thick, kinky, puffy black hair such a perceived threat?

No one has a definite answer here -- especially not the TSA. A good place to start, however, could be with historical perceptions of kinky hair.

Lots of black people rocked afros in the 1960s in order to “actively define their newly politicized racial identity,” to quote an essay in Women & Therapy. The following decade, afros were donned by black folks who wanted to proclaim their blackness and upset the status quo. Or, as Steven Thrasher put it for BuzzFeed, the 'fro was “a cultural symbol of black ass-kicking.”

Black people choosing to wear their hair natural is an unmistakable challenge to Eurocentric beauty standards and culture. So it isn’t shocking that black hair is seen as something scary, distracting or militant. Just look at the controversial cover of The New Yorker from 2008 portraying Michelle Obama as an afro’d revolutionary.

Nonetheless, the TSA’s agreement to improve its employee training and to specifically track future complaints about hair pat-downs for discriminatory impact is a step in the right direction.

"I hope that this agreement and the proposed trainings will lead to a more equitable treatment of all travelers throughout the U.S., regardless of their ethnic or cultural background and or how they wear their hair," Singleton said in the ACLU statement.

Me too, girl. Me too.

Rahel Gebreyes   |   March 31, 2015    4:52 PM ET

Accusations of racially selective airport searches by the Transportation Security Administration have prompted officials to deem the practice discriminatory. This comes years after Solange Knowles spoke out about her own experience with airport "Discrim-FRO-nation" on Twitter but it appears as though black women are still receiving routine hair searches.

ACLU staff attorney Novella Coleman joined HuffPost Live on Monday and described how she was singled out for "subjective" and "racially discriminatory" searches by the TSA on three separate occasions. She explained:

The first time it happened to me, I was completely caught off guard. I went through the full body scanner at the airport. I turned around and looked at the screen, nothing unusual was on it. And then the TSA agent next to me said, 'Now I need to search your hair.' And then she proceeded to grab my hair and just squeeze it from top to bottom. And then she found nothing. … The two white women that I was with from work went through. Nothing happened. They weren't searched.

When Coleman pressed the TSA agent to explain why she was inspected, she received a multitude of responses. First she was told the TSA's policy is to search passengers' hair if it has extensions. Then the agent widened the policy to include extensions or "abnormalities." Then after Coleman asked again, a manager rephrased the policy once more, stating that they will search a passenger's hair if they cannot see her scalp.

Coleman, who wears her hair in dreadlocks, said that her experience with the "intrusive" searches is not unique.

"I noticed that there was a pattern among black women, particularly those with their hair in a natural style, being singled out for these discriminatory and intrusive hair searches," she told host Alyona Minkovski.

Coleman and her client Malaika Singleton, who has also spoken out about racial profiling in airport security protocols, have reached an agreement with the TSA to ensure that all passengers are treated with "respect and dignity."

Per that agreement, TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport will undergo training to emphasize racially neutral practices, and the agency will "specifically track" complaints "to assess whether a discriminatory impact may be occurring."

Learn more about accusations of racial profiling in TSA searches in the video above.

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