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TAMI ABDOLLAH   |   November 15, 2013    3:23 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles Police Department official says an internal investigation will be done into an allegation that an LAPD officer delayed medical aid when he told responders that an airport security officer was dead after being shot.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Friday the department always investigates allegations against its officers.

10 Ways To Upgrade Holiday Travel

Rana Florida   |   November 14, 2013    8:44 AM ET

Airline Travel Then and Now
2013-11-13-thenandnow.png Photo: British Air and Orbitz.com


Air travel can be a nightmare under the best of circumstances and the busiest travel day of the year is just weeks away. Between Friday, November 22 and Tuesday, December 3, an estimated 25 million passengers will fly, peaking on Sunday, December 1 when 2.56 million travelers will take to the air. This represents a 1.5 percent increase over last year, according to the industry trade group Airlines For America.

Who is the key demographic? According to the US Department of Transportation, "travelers who begin trips during the holiday periods are younger than travelers during the rest of the year. The average age of Thanksgiving travelers is just under 34," as compared to an average age of almost 38 for travelers during the rest of the year--a statistic that is no doubt affected by so many children who are traveling to see their families.

We've all endured our fair share of stress from overcrowded, overbooked flights, security screenings, delays, and the myriad of other hassles that come with air travel--slow-moving lines, screaming children, filthy restrooms, people sitting and lying on terminal floors like disaster victims.

Is there anything that airlines and airports can do to upgrade the travel experience? Yes there is! Here are 10 simple things that they can do now to make our journeys a little more comfortable and sane.

1. Electrical outlets. Everybody is mobile nowadays--but mobile devices need to be recharged. Go to any airport and you'll see passengers vying for outlets. Having connectivity while enroute is essential, so why haven't airlines and airports embraced this? Who knows? Until there is a more permanent solution, send a staff member out to a hardware store and purchase hundreds of multi plug chargers now. This isn't the 18th century!

2. Wifi. Free WiFi and even paid WiFi too often turns out to be a cruel joke. Airports need to make sure their WiFi system is high-speed and adequate to the demands of a large volume of users. This isn't rocket science. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, this is the most basic but most airports still operate on the level of an AOL dial up connection from the 1990's. They need to up their game.

3. Bean bags. Children shouldn't have to play on the floors of crowded, dirty corridors. Why not buy a few bean bags and park them by the windows of each gate so children can squirm around, lounge with their devices and toys, and watch the planes take off and land without getting under everybody else's feet?

4. Popcorn. Airlines have stripped away the pretzels and nuts. If you do get a bag, it's doll-sized. Everyone loves going to the movies for the popcorn, so why not give travelers the same experience? Provide them with healthy, light, freshly-popped popcorn before they board their flights; it will lift their spirits and it won't make a dent in the bottom line.

5. Helpful & friendly staff. Most airline staff are overworked, underpaid, and yelled at all day; it's no wonder they are neither helpful nor pleasant when you need them the most. Have extra staff on hand so the lines to the gate agents don't get out of control.

6. Wine. And don't try to trick us with the cheap stuff, either. Airports should invest in more wine bars like Vino Vollo and offer passengers a restaurant quality selection once they're on board. If airlines are looking for more revenue, this is a no-brainer. A tasteful selection of wines from France, Italy, and California may be just the ticket to bring an airline back into the black.

7. Lounge-style seating. Wouldn't it be great if you could wait for your flight from what felt like the comfort of your living room. Over-sized sofas, coffee tables with interesting reading materials, and pillows to rest on could take a lot of the torture out of those three-hour delays.

8. Healthy food options. McDonalds, Chili's, Cinnabon. Disgusting!! We already have an obesity crisis in this country; airline travel is making it worse. Passengers aren't permitted to bring in their own liquids and if they're traveling internationally they're not allowed to bring most food across the border. At the very least, how about a fresh salad bar? Or fresh sandwiches--and I'm not talking Subway here, but a real deli with quality ingredients. Anything that's not battered, fried, and processed.

9. Disinfectant. Everywhere you turn, someone is coughing, sneezing, or wheezing. Hand sanitizers such as Purell should be strategically located at every gate.

10. Holiday cheer! How about some warm cider and Egg Nog for the grownups and frothy hot chocolate, Santa Clauses, elves' workshops, and arts and crafts for the kids? And not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas but for other holidays throughout the year. There are so many potential volunteers in every community that would love to contribute to such efforts.

The travel experience doesn't have to be so miserable. Lighten up!

WILL LESTER   |   November 13, 2013   11:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal probe of a Transportation Security Administration program to screen suspicious behavior of passengers at airports suggests the effort, which has cost almost $1 billion since 2007, has not been proven effective, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Government Accountability Office said its investigation found that the results of the TSA program — called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques — were "no better than chance." Under the program, agents identify suspicious looking people and talk to them to determine whether they pose a threat. The investigators looked at the screening program at four airports, chosen on the basis of size and other factors.

NRA, Pro-Gun Movement, Are Major Source of TSA Animus

  |   November 12, 2013    8:48 AM ET

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  |   November 5, 2013   11:54 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Transportation Security Administration officer who was wounded in a gunman's deadly attack at Los Angeles International Airport is speaking out for the first time.

Thirty-six-year-old Tony Grigsby was shot twice in the right foot during Friday's attack. He walked with a cane Monday as he read a statement outside his South Los Angeles home.

Arin Greenwood   |   November 4, 2013    7:52 PM ET

Are Transportation Security Administration agents like Nazis? Blogger Rachel Burger seems to think so.

Here's what Burger wrote on a libertarian website in a piece about last week's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that left TSA agent Gerardo I. Hernandez dead:

As a Jew, I am consistently reminded of the Nuremberg Trials when it comes to the TSA. Those who slaughtered the Jews in the Holocaust were “just following orders,” but that did not mean that they were any less accountable. Just following orders, just doing the job that they signed up for, did not excuse their actions. Of course, the Nuremberg Trials specifically addressed war crimes, but I think that the idea of just following orders extends beyond that. Being an ethical person requires critical thinking about everyday actions, whether commanded or not.

Hernandez signed up to the TSA, an organization devoted to “protect” travelers from terrorists. He could have had very good reasons to do so: he could have believed in the mission and needed to support his family (and on not very much, I might add). He was not a decision maker -- he was an everyday guy doing his job. Hernandez, when infringing on Fourth Amendment rights, was “only following orders.” He might have been a good guy at home, but he was not entirely innocent in this situation. Doing without introspection does not absolve evil deeds.

If unarmed airport agents don't immediately strike you as being a lot like Nazis, you may be surprised to learn that Burger is hardly alone in making this comparison. Ann Coulter called TSA airport screenings "Hitler's last revenge." "We Are All German Jews Now" is the title of a piece on the TSA by Murray Sabrin, a former New Jersey Libertarian Party candidate for governor and the child of Holocaust survivors.

There are so many instances of the TSA being compared to Nazis that in 2010 writer Christopher Elliott, who's long written about the TSA, took stock of them, noting that some seemed sort of facile, while others, like Sabrin's, were more thorough. (Coulter's contribution was dismissed as merely "awkward.")

Elliott also pointed out that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones thinks that the TSA goes further than the Nazis. Here's Jones, also writing in 2010:

It has taken the federal government and its Department of Homeland Security -– an agency on the drawing board well before September 11, 2001 -– to implement police state tactics in regard to travel that far surpass anything devised by the Nazis.

Even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, the government planned to create and impose a police state control grid on the American people. For instance, the Bill of Rights crushing Patriot Act was devised well before the attack and its predecessor, the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, was rushed into law following the first suspicious attack on the World Trade Center and the equally suspicious attack in Oklahoma City. Habeas corpus law was forever changed by the law touted by then president Bill Clinton.

Armed with its new and draconian palette of laws and mandates, the federal government, including the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon, have exploited the September 11 attacks to go after the real enemy –- the American people.

Elliott cites one Holocaust Museum employee who said in an online forum that she's "not sure what Hitler has to do with airport security. And, if you are trying to compare airport screening to the treatment of targeted groups during the rise of the Third Reich, then I suggest [you] read more than just the first section of the Holocaust Museum in D.C."

Indeed, there are plenty of critics, even within libertarian circles, which are sometimes criticized as too prone to invoking the Third Reich, inaptly.

Gina Luttrell, the editor of "Thoughts On Liberty," where Burger's piece was published, spoke up in the comments section of the piece:

In all our years of friendship and partnership I have never, ever disagreed more -- or more vehemently -- with what you've said here.

(a) How is a TSA officer anything remotely like a person who facilitated the holocaust? The difference is so vast that I think you do disservice to the holocaust itself by comparing the two.

(b) Though I think the blowback analogy is more apt, I still think that there is not a fair connection being drawn between foreign policy which deprives the lives and liberties of people across the globe, and the United States government asking you to be scanned before you take part in an otherwise entirely voluntary transaction. It's not as if the gov't puts so much pressure on the citizenry via TSA screenings that it "blows back." One can simply travel by other means if you are really that worried about it (which I did, as you know, for two years before they made the scanner optional.

(c) If you do so roundly condemn violence, as you claim, it seems like the best course of action here would be to actually condemn that violence and not say "Well, what do you expect?" When you say "well, it's just blowback," I think that gives an A-OK for other people to do the same thing.

(d) Compiling all of this into one entire "Rachel, you are so, so wrong" pie is that TSA agents are COMPLETELY UNARMED. They are defenseless against a firearm attack. I don't see how you can't just uniformly, unilaterally, condemn that kind of action. The dude can't have possibly thought that he would do some good or change things (much like what many terrorists profess to believe), nor will his actions.

(e) See: Victim Blaming - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming

I'm sure there are others, but I'll leave it there for now.

Even Burger herself seems to be walking back her argument, sort of.

"No, I absolutely do not think that TSA employees are akin to Nazis," she wrote in an email to HuffPost, before regaining enthusiasm for her original point. "The idea that 'just following orders' does not absolve government agents (whether soldiers or TSA agents) from moral or legal responsibility for their actions is made most famous by the Nuremberg Trials. I believe that this principle applies to people who commit rights violations on behalf of the state."

Burger declined to specify which rights Hernandez was violating when he was killed, other than to say, "Hernandez, in his role as a TSA agent, was violating the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. It ethically compromises him because he is violating guaranteed liberties."

What we can say for sure: There's one law that even Burger likes to follow. That's Godwin's law, which says that every Internet debate will eventually devolve into someone calling someone else a Nazi.

TSA Agents: We're 'Sitting Ducks' In The Face Of Attack

Kathleen Miles   |   November 4, 2013    6:32 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Transportation Security Administration officers are tasked with keeping America's airline passengers safe. But TSA officers are often powerless in the face of danger.

On Friday, three TSA officers were shot by a gunman at Los Angeles International Airport. One of the officers, Gerardo I. Hernandez, a father and husband, died from his wounds. He was the first TSA officer to be killed in the line of duty since the agency was created in response to 9/11.

David Borer, general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents TSA officers, said the officers -- who are always unarmed -- are too vulnerable.

"They're not trained in responding to shooters," Borer told The Huffington Post. "When a shooting starts, they're sitting ducks like everyone else."

Anyone can walk into an airport lobby with anything in his or her luggage. Bags aren't screened until a passenger enters a checkpoint. And TSA officers -- who order passengers to remove their shoes, walk through body scanners and sometimes receive pat-downs or open their luggage -- are often targets of aggression, Borer said.

"This [shooting] is disturbing because we see physical assaults on our officers on a daily basis," he said. "Not with guns but everyday pushing, shoving, kicking, spitting, knocking them down. It happens all too frequently. There's a lot of hatred directed at our officers."

The alleged LAX gunman, Paul Ciancia, carried a duffel bag with a letter stating that he had "made the conscious decision to try to kill" multiple TSA employees and that he wanted to "instill fear in their traitorous minds." During the shooting, Ciancia reportedly ignored everyone except TSA targets.

In surveillance footage of Friday's shooting, TSA officers can be seen shepherding passengers away from the sound of gunfire. "In this kind of incident, their job is to help the passengers and themselves get out of the area, and they did that quite well," LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon told HuffPost.

Neither the union nor the agency has asked to arm TSA officers. According to Brian Jenkins, who studies terrorism and aviation security at Rand Corp., arming TSA officers would be relatively ineffective.

"Armed personnel may be able to stop a shooter but they wouldn’t prevent shootings," Jenkins said to HuffPost. "Shootings take place in lots of crowded places, and we don’t get a net security benefit if we move the shooter down the road a bit."

However, prior to the Nov. 1 attack, the union had requested that the TSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, advocate for law enforcement officers at checkpoints at all times. But it's up to local law enforcement at each airport to decide which areas their police officers patrol. "It's kind of a patchwork across airports," Borer said. "We need more consistency nationwide."

Union officials had also previously requested that TSA officers be given the power to arrest passengers displaying aggression. "Right now, if an incident happens, our people have to wait until [a police] officer is available," Borer said.

Earlier this year, armed police officers at LAX were shifted from fixed positions at TSA checkpoints to patrolling inside and outside passenger terminals. Gannon said the shift was made to enhance security.

"We were creating a different security look so that people who were paying attention -- from a bad-guy perspective -- would not see us as being predictable," he said.

Gannon added that a "cookie cutter" nationwide approach to airport law enforcement would be ineffective. "Every airport is very different. In fact, even each terminal here is different, like it's its own mini airport," he said.

He acknowledged that he has heard reports of increased aggression toward TSA officers and said that he will consider that as the department re-evaluates after the shooting.

But Gannon added that aggression isn't limited to TSA officers. "I also have ticketing officers who feel equally vulnerable," he said. "My time has to be spent addressing all of those issues -- not just one."

The chief said he does not think that more armed officers are needed. In addition to LAX police, the airport is protected on the ground by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI. According to a 2011 report from a panel set up by then-L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, $1.6 billion had been spent on new security measures at LAX since 9/11, including 250 additional airport police officers, bringing the force to about 1,000 officers. There are about 2,000 TSA officers employed at LAX, according to Borer.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the TSA was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems. Prior to 9/11, airline passenger screening had been handled by private companies that contracted with the airport or airline.

Today, there are nearly 50,000 TSA officers who screen for explosives and other weapons at checkpoints in airports across the country. According to the agency, job applicants take a series of image interpretation tests, and about one in 20 applicants becomes an officer. TSA agents make between $29,000 and $60,000, Borer said.

At a news conference Saturday, TSA Administrator John Pistole said the agency will work with Congress to re-evaluate security issues. A TSA spokesman declined to tell HuffPost whether the agency will seek fixed law enforcement at checkpoints.

Ultimately, Gannon said, there is only so much that can be done.

"We could lock this place down and have armed, helmeted officers with rifles and machine guns," he said. "But even with people all over the place, there's never a 100 percent certainty that someone won't get hurt."

Alleged Los Angeles Airport Shooter May Be More Than a Lone Nut

  |   November 3, 2013    1:25 PM ET

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A Moment of Dignity from the TSA

Eva Moon   |   October 30, 2013    4:19 PM ET

I know, I know. TSA? Really? The abominable agents of airport angst? The humorless automatons whom we meekly obey, no matter how capricious the rules, since they have the power to thwart our best laid plans? That TSA? Yes, them.

I traveled from Seattle to Los Angeles yesterday. It's been one year since my mother passed away and I was heading to a family memorial. I was carrying her ashes.

Airport security is a little like death, if you think about it. You are divested of your earthly belongings before you pass through the gates to be judged. Will you be deemed worthy to enter? Or will there be a period of purgatory first? It's a mystery.

I was a little nervous about it. You never know what they'll do, even if you check the rules in advance. You are at the mercy of your particular agent and there are a million hellish stories.

I called the airline when I made my travel arrangements to see if there would be a problem. They told me I'd need a death certificate and the container would need to be scannable (not metal). She's in a plastic box at the moment but heading to a beautiful urn my sister and her husband made. He turned the wood and she (a jeweler) made silver fittings.

I held my breath as I approached the scanning station.

When I told the agent I was carrying my mother's ashes, the first thing he did was respectfully express condolences for my loss. Then he alerted the other agents at my station and cleared it completely so that her ashes would not be on the conveyor belt at the same time as other people's belongings. I was surprised and also grateful for the patience of those behind me. It couldn't have taken more than an extra minute or two. Tears pricked my eyes as we watched her little box pass out of view.

It seems a little silly, I know, making a ceremonial occasion on an x-ray scanner in a bustling airport, but it was oddly moving too -- a moment of humanity in the middle of a dehumanizing process.

The agent stood vigil next to her ashes while I completed my own passage to the other side.

Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly

Kate Auletta   |   October 22, 2013    2:25 PM ET

Read More: tsa, TSA Security

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.

While the agency says that the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States.

TSA, Remove These People From Security Lines at Once!

  |   October 16, 2013   10:17 AM ET

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It's Past Time to Put an End to the 'War on Shoes'

  |   October 10, 2013    5:45 PM ET

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Is This the Best Thing to Happen to Airport Terminals?

Conde Nast Traveler   |   October 9, 2013    3:37 PM ET

2013-10-09-cn_image.size.3flozairportvendingmachine.jpg

By Tara Abell, Condé Nast Traveler

We've all been there. You line up at airport security and start putting everything on the conveyor belt -- shoes, laptop, scarf -- but then realize you packed a full-sized bottle of shampoo in your carry-on. The TSA agent raises his eyebrows, so you reluctantly walk over to the garbage can, toss the bottle in, and clunk, there goes your good vacation hair. At least, that was the case until recently. Genius beauty company 3FLOZ just installed 25 vending machines filled with travel-sized beauty products -- the good stuff, including Burt's Bees and Frederic Fekkai -- in airports across the country, so you can replenish post-security. Clearly, the minds behind this invention know a thing or two about travel, so we asked 3FLOZ co-founders Alexi Mintz and Kate Duff to share their packing essentials and routines...

See Also: Expert Tips for Women Traveling Alone

What are three things that are always in your carry-on?
Alexi Mintz:
Air Repair Rescue Balm, David Kirsch Raspberry Vitamins and Warby Parker Sunglasses.
Kate Duff: I never travel without my Air Repair Rescue Balm (my hands and lips are always dry when I travel), socks (keep my feet warm), and my Beats by Dre headphones (soundproof and I can listen to music or catch-up on my fave shows).

What are some of your tried and true packing strategies?
AM:
Always wear your heaviest clothes on the plane and roll your clothes.
KD: [Pack] shoes first (always in bags), then toiletries, then clothes laid out flat, not folded.

Which beauty products are essential for traveling? Which can you probable leave at home?
AM:
An anti-frizz hair product regardless of the destination, sunscreen serum, and a facial scrub. These days, I pack travel versions of everything I have in my bathroom. You never know what you may want at any given time.
KD: Moisturizers and sunscreens are essential for traveling. I am not one to leave any part of my regime at home. I'm high-maintenance, so I'm not the one to ask.

Which hotels have the best beauty minis in their bathrooms?
AM:
I love the Morgan hotels. They carry Malin + Goetz (which we carry as well).
KD: The W hotels because they have Bliss, and I stayed at the Regency Beverly Hills Wilshire (Reg Bev Wil, if you have seen Pretty Woman) a few years ago and they had their own brand of amenities, which smelled amazing.

Why is it important to have the 3FLOZ vending machines in airports?
AM:
They provide accessibility and convenience to a curated selection of products needed for travelers, right when they need them.
KD: 3FLOZ automated retail stores in airports were the logical next step for us. We are focused on helping travelers look and feel their best while on-the-go, and we can only do that if we are everywhere travelers need us to be.


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  • Will The TSA Allow Passengers To Fly With Weed?

    Katelyn Mullen   |   October 8, 2013   10:02 AM ET