Baby Saved by Toss to Shore when Car Veers into River


A family’s car was accidentally driven into a river near a pier in China and, as the vehicle was sinking, a father desperate to save a baby, tossed it through the air, over a rocky shoreline to a stranger who caught and saved the infant.

The UK’s Mirror reported that, “The panicked dad, who had been standing on the car bonnet, fell forward with the force of the throw and ended up in the water himself.” But he and other family members were saved when workers on the pier threw them life preservers. No was one was seriously hurt in the incident, which happened neaar Changde City, where the family had been visiting relatives for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Authorities later towed the car from the river.


The year 2015 saw close to 11,000 “Air Rage” incidents, globally


Former U.S. Senator from New York  Alfonse D’Amato Dissing An Airline. (Photo: The New York Post)

The New York Post earlier this week framed an article around an incident where former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato encouraged fellow passengers on a long-delayed flight to deplane with him in protest. The article went on to note D’Amato was hardly alone in being upset to the point of sparking an “incident” over something to do with air travel.

In 2015, according to figures collected globally by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) passengers protested, or became unruly, no fewer than 10,854 times – a 16% increase over 2014’s incident count. Frighteningly, the 2015 incident rate is more than 950% higher than the 1994 count of 1,132 incidents!

What’s going on? What’s causing the amazing increase in “air rage” incidents?

Several things, actually. In a successful effort to cram more passengers into fewer planes, airlines have reduced the point of absurdity the “pitch” of seats – the distance between a given point on a seat and the exact same point on the seat forward or aft of it. While this isn’t, according to “the seat guru,” the exact equivalent of “leg room,” it’s usually a pretty good approximation.

To generate more revenue, back a few years ago, when jet fuel prices – like gasoline/petrol prices were going through the roof, airlines starting eliminating such long-time “freebies” as nuts, meals on all but the shortest flights, blankets and pillows, two-bag limits and whatever else they could sell instead of giving away.

While fliers have squawked to no avail, the airlines have reaped a fortune in “extra” revenue – to the point that losses incurred before and for a few years after the turn of the century are, like the freebies, a thing of the past.

Sadly, so, to an amazing degree, is consideration for passengers’ health: According to “The Credit Repair and Debt Reducer Expert’s blog,” blankets, pillows and even floors aren’t cleaned as regularly or as well as used to be the case – resulting in germs being freely spread from feet to mouths and… well, you get the picture.

Is there any (realistic) hope these issues will change, hopefully for the better, in the foreseeable future? Not really. Similarly, plane overcrowding – with less side-to-side room and even another row of seats compounding the problem.

But as The Credit Report and Debt Reducer’s blog noted, Skype and similar services have largely eliminated the need for a lot of business travel. People need learn about such options and use them.

A very successful blogger I know, no doubt in part to avoid the hassles of air travel, last year drove twice back and forth between Connecticut and Oregon – with side trips in various parts of the country – giving himself a break from the commute from his bedroom to his office, getting in touch with businesses and business people he writes about, and not having to repeatedly cram himself into a tiny plane seat. Fortunately, he did so at a time when gasoline prices were lower than they’ve been in years. But I’m betting he’ll maintain his long-distance driving routine this year, even as gas prices vacillate between low and not-too-bad.

Who’s tempted to fly these days if there’s an alternative – like not going at all, or taking the 60 mph/96.5 kph route? The latter is almost as “phoning it in” via a Skype on online chat connection!

For a couple of year, a lot of years ago, I used to be on the road – often on several flights a day – most days of two weeks (or more) every month. I can’t imagine how I managed it, in the late ’70’s-early ’80’s. I totally couldn’t now.

(An aside: For the first half of the ’70’s, I lived in London. Back then, no matter which travel option you chose – bus-to-air-to-underground-or-taxi, train-to-air-to-train, train-to-boat-to-train, the trip from London to Paris occupied the better part of a daylight day. My wife-of-three-years and I are hoping to make our first-ever real vacation be, soon, a return to London than a Eurostar (train)ride, of 2.5 hours, from Central London to Central Paris. Even having made that trip before, I will undoubtedly be nearly as amazed as she’ll be at the ‘magic’ of being able to cross under 30 miles of water (The English Channel), in next to no time, to get to a different country.)

NC Legislature Likely to Repeal HB 2 – ‘The Bathroom Law’ – In Special Session on Tuesday


North Carolina license plates say that their state was  “first in flight” because the Wright Brothers made the first manned flight there in 1903 — 113 years ago —  on December 17.

North Carolina last month elected a new governor to replace Pat McCrory. As the latter leaves the stage, he is asking the state legislature to “consider” repealing his legend-making “bathroom law”, which insists people use the public relief facility intended for people of the sex they were born as.

Odds are they will do so, at a special session tomorrow (Tuesday), for at least a couple of very good reasons: [1] The state has lost untold millions in income and many thousands of jobs as several major sports organizations pulled their national tournaments out of the state and at least a few companies intending to move there decided not to, and [2] HB2, widely seen as an anti-LGBT bill, made North Carolina a national laughing stock because of its blatantly biased, discriminatory nature.

The special session was announced Monday by Governor-elect Roy Cooper, shortly after the Charlotte City Council voted 10-0 vote to rescind the LGBT ordinance that prompted HB 2. The council vote came after late night lobbying by Cooper himself, the Greensboro News & Record reported. Council member Julie Eiselt said the Governor-elect called her at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night.

Clearly the about-to-be governor wants to work at bringing some of those tournaments – including the NCAA’s women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, men’s basketball, baseball, and men’s and women’s soccer and tennis – back to the state. Currently the state’s attorney general, Cooper on Monday released a statement saying, “Enough is enough; We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”

A Less-Than-Friendly Lounge Preceded United’s ‘Friendly Skies’ At Newark Airport Last Week



I recall once seeing an airplane crew member in an argument with one of the ground crew as the latter was trying to deliver something for the in-flight catering service. I thought, “They do this every day! How can they not get the job done smoothly?”

One of the jobs done infrequently, but just as important as the daily tasks, is ensuring that necessary licenses are updated as needed. Someone at United Airlines slipped up in that department recently, and failed to renew the liquor license for the carrier’s club room at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C. So, for two days last week, passengers passing through that lounge in one of United’s busiest terminals had to do without the free drinks the carrier usually dispenses there.

No beer, wine or spirits could be served – even for free! – until someone made a trip to Newark’s City Hall to get the matter sorted out. That happened in time for Friday morning travelers to innocently – most of them can be presumed to have not been flying out of there on Wednesday or Thursday – carry on consuming free cocktails before jetting off. (And yes, many fliers do enjoy getting a ‘lift’ before being taken airborne!)

“We resumed service this morning and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said on Friday.

Foolish ‘Student’ Sentenced to 15 ‘Hard’ Years in North Korea



A 21-year old American, a student at the University of Virginia, has been sentenced to 15 years of ‘hard labor’ in North Korea for taking as a souvenir a poster featuring a political slogan.

At his age, Otto Warmbier should be aware enough of world affairs – particularly concerning a country he plans to visit – to know that the South Korean government is like few others: It is a based, in effect, on the concept that the country’s leader, no matter his (in-)experience or (lack-of-)knowledge level, is a deity – a walking, talking, bad-decisions-making god, of sorts. That, in a nut shell, is what Kim Jong-il – an overweight idiot with a bad haircut – is.

There was a case a couple of years ago where two/three ‘tourists’ were taken into custody while hiking through a remote part of … was it Iran? Probably. Iran’s leaders, like those in a few other countries, are fanatics with missions no right-thinking person can make a lot of sense of. And this is, or should be, general knowledge – to anyone who reads a newspaper or online news services. And especially to anyone intending to stroll into some such country!

So why, you have to wonder, would two twenty-somethings be wandering around on a magical mystery adventure tour, in the backyard of a country known full-well to abhor Americans and everything America stands for?

I grant you, 15 years is, even for North Korea, a pretty harsh sentence for someone who misappropriated a poster. And in all likelihood, a deal will somehow be worked out so that Warmbier serves only a fraction of the sentenced time.

But it’s hard to have much sympathy for someone who put themselves in that position – by [1] even being in North Korea (is he totally nuts?)  and [2] effectively defacing public – nee, ‘sacred’ – property by taking with intend to keep a political poster.

I know this is hardly comparable, but here’s the story: I was in Versailles, France, to visit the palace there – and a grand place it indeed is. Walking back to the train for Paris, I saw a poster in a butcher’s window for a Mozart concert that had taken place the night before. Knowing he really had no further use for it – and assuming he’d allowed it to be placed in his window as a favor to someone – I asked, in my petit Francais, if I could have the poster. He assented, and I carefully conveyed it back to the U.S., where it was, for a long time, a prized feature on one of my office walls. (I have no idea what ever happened to it. I’ve had 39 homes in two countries in my 73 years, and I’m sure most of them have seen something left behind.)

I took many photos in Russia and in Kosovo in 1974. Russia was just then opening itself up to tourists. Kosovo hosted me and a group of German journalists set on touring vineyards and sampling wine for six or so days. (Who keep track of time when you and your colleagues are consuming multiple bottles of wine daily at restaurants where you are a guest of the government – eating, by the way, essentially the same ‘local’ foods twice a day, because Kosovo is small, and most towns have the same or very similar ‘specialties’.)

Never, in either of those countries, both under more-or-less ‘communist’ governments at the time, did I have any problem with my capturing images of things the locals saw every day. Those governments may have been repressive in some ways, but they fully realized the value of hosting foreigners – tourists, in the case of Russia, guests of a wine-exporting company in the other.

North Korea is, or seems to be, bound and determined to remain a pariah nation – existing outside any ‘norm’s established elsewhere in the world, causing, for whatever reason, its people to suffer dietary and an assortment of other sufferings for … what?

The 1950-53 Korean War between the north and south entities on that peninsula was never ‘settled’, in that a truce was agreed, but peace never was. Meanwhile, under a democratic system, the south has prospered, and the north has struggled – hardly seeming to even attempt to overcome the hungers – for food, education, jobs and more – of its people.

Now that miniscule nation, such as it is, is messing around with developing nuclear bomb technology! One has to assume Kim Jong-il  is getting advice as wise in that area – in creating the ability to do nuclear bomb-related harm to neighboring countries, and even the U.S. –as what he hears from whomever is cutting his hair!

Otto Warmbier Humbles himself in N. Korean court, the just-sentence ‘student’

Good luck, Otto.  If you haven’t already, accept that kimchi is both a healthy (cabbage-based) side dish… and one more than likely to distract you, given its strong flavor, from other issues.

A Consequence of Over-Eating: Trying To Fit in Smaller Plane Seats

airline seats

Stephanie Rosenbloom, a New York Times reporter, has back-handedly pointed out why frequent or even infrequent flyers should be paying more attention to what they’re eating while on land. (They’re not eating nearly as much as they used to when in the air, as airlines have cut back on everything but fares!)

The shrinking-seat problem – they’ve gone from a width of 18 inches in the 1970’s to 16 or so inches today, while seat ‘pitch’, the distance from the back of one to the seat of the one behind it, has shrunk from 35 to 31 inches – has become so severe that Congress is being asked to rule on the matter as it considers how it should deal with the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. Like most acts of Congress, you want to know as much about this one as about how sausage is made.)

Airlines want, naturally enough, to be able to squeeze as many people onto planes as they possibly can. Never mind that this often means compressing individuals’ space to something like Jews had in freight cars on their way to concentration camps or gas chambers.

Nevertheless, as all that onboard shrinking has occurred, the around-the-waist story is diametrically opposite: Men, according to Rosenbloom’s Times article, weight 30 pounds more, on average, than they did in the ‘70’s, when the airlines were deregulated. This has, of course, in addition to putting peanut farmers at risk, presented medical challenges those consumers of . . . what?

What is it American flyers are eating more of? Everything, various reports suggest, except the fresh fruits and vegetables that could be helping keep that waistline in check.

Men’s gain amounts to an unhealthy upshot from 166 to 196 pounds. And women have fared little better: They are, on average, up from 140 to 166 pounds, a belt-busting 26 pounds.

Eateries in airports don’t help: Most of them offer the same sort of calorie-heavy, sugar- and salt-saturated stuff to be found in fast food places across the country.

Meanwhile, passengers are less able to carry healthy food onto planes because of restrictions by the airlines themselves and the so-called Homeland Security teams who seemingly assume nearly every edible is a potential bomb.

(Did you ever notice that we never had a ‘homeland’ before 9-11? The insidious nature of ‘security creep’ is costing us freedom losses the Founding Fathers never could have imagined!

(‘Homeland’ has a Nazi-like ring to it – virtually a cause to rally around, and endure, while freedoms are bit by bit snuck aware from us. Think about that.)

U.S.-based  and other airlines continue to consolidate, supposedly to save money, but not for fliers – to protect the jobs and often outrageous perks of people running those corporations. And, sadly, workers’ jobs too often are lost these days through the greed of company officials and stock holders who clearly look after only their own interests – not those of the humans being around the country day in and day out.

I was a frequent flyer for 20 or so years. ‘Did far more miles than anyone should have to. ‘Got some great perks from the frequent-flyer miles programs, but in the end, I’d have preferred to be home, working as I now do – from a home office, well clear of New York City taxi- or helicopter-rides to airports, being able to ‘dress down’ and often sleep in beyond the start of the ‘normal’ business day.

But I do need to do something about that extra 20 or so pounds I’ve put on!

And Congress needs to do somethings about airlines’ shrinking space for those who pay its bills.