Good news to end the year with: TSA withdraws subpoena of “leak blogger”

What better way to end the old year, than with a piece of good news? Apparently taken by surprise from the immense fallout of their insane actions, the TSA has withdrawn its subpoena of travel blogger Christopher Elliott. No word (yet) whether they did the same with Steven Frishling.

Update: Frishling is also cleared.

For those that haven’t been following Twitter and the mainstream media – both Elliott and Frishling published a “leaked” TSA directive telling airlines how to deal with security after the failed bomb attempt on Northwest Airlines.

The TSA was hell-bent on finding the source of the leak, but did so by sending federal agents to private residences at 8pm, and even by seizing a laptop computer (and subsequently damaging it).

So, all’s well that ends well? I hope the TSA realizes how things like this can seriously backfire. The agency needs to remember that finding terrorists is just part of their job – the other part is informing the traveling public. Sadly, they really need to take a refresher course on how PR works, and how quickly actions can (and will) backfire on them.

Kudos to Chris for the way he handled this nasty event, I’ve been very impressed at the huge amount of support for him from the travel writers world. Especially since he found himself in a situation we can all end up in. Now, go enjoy your Champagne and lets all toast to a fantastic 2010!

Photo of the Day (12.31.09)

More snow is expected for today in the Boston area. I’ve been trying to capture snow with as much impact as possible, but I haven’t been happy with the results.

This picture from PDPhotography taken in Toronto really gave me a chill. Now I’m off to try to re-create the look. If I could just find a bus around here.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful new year. Why not make it a New Year’s resolution to make an appearance on one of our Photo of the Day posts? Submit your picture to Gadling’s Flickr group right now! We just might use it for a Photo of the Day for 2010.

Somali man tried to bomb airplane

Police in Mogadishu have revealed that a Somali man tried to bring a chemical bomb onto an airliner back in November.

The man was carrying chemicals similar to the ones used by the Nigerian bomber on Christmas day. He was caught at Mogadishu airport when he tried to board a Daallo Airlines flight from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, continuing on to Djibouti and Dubai.

Most of Somalia is controlled by various militias, including several that follow fundamentalist Islam. The government controls only part of the capital of Mogadishu and the airport. It’s nice to see that while they don’t have much control over their country, they can still enforce some law in their own turf.

No motive has been given, but it may be significant that Hargeisa, the plane’s first destination, is the capital of the Republic of Somaliland, a breakaway republic in the north of former Somalia. No country recognizes this nation, but it has been able to establish the rule of government in its corner of the Horn of Africa.

It is unclear why the incident wasn’t reported for more than a month.

Afghanistan’s first skateboarding park, Skateistan

Skateistan
Two years ago, a couple of Australians started teaching kids in Kabul to skateboard. For free. The activity instills them with confidence and courage, and offers them what youths all over the world want: a way to escape. “Teenagers are trying to dissociate from old mentalities, and I’m their servant,” Oliver Percovich, one of the Australians, told the New York Times last January. “If they weren’t interested, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

Now, with the help of over $650,000 in private donations and land, water, power and security from the Afghan Olympic Committee (AOC), Afghanistan has opened its very first first skatepark, Skateistan. Skateistan is a 19,380 square foot indoor arena which contains a learning area at the back with classrooms for studying and computer use.

“We managed to bring together about 200 street children, this sport is not only entertainment for them, it is also giving them hope for their future,” said AOC head Mohammad Zahir Aghbar. Classes are still free, and the children of the rich and poor come together at Skateistan, many of them sponsored by the organization itself — Reuters reports that at least one child is able to skate and learn there instead of selling gum on the street because Skateistan pays her parents the $1 per day she used to earn.

Check out more information about the Afghan Stake School and how to get involved and/or visit at Skateistan.org.

[via Reuters]

Cycling the Iron Curtain

Paul Kaye had an idea. He loves cycling, photography, and Cold War history, so he decided to combine the three by cycling the length of the old Iron Curtain from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic and documenting his journey.

The 3,600 km (2,237 mile) ride took in several different countries, some of which didn’t even exist when the Cold War was on, and countless towns and villages that are now reunited after a long period of separation.

His photos of crumbling watchtowers and scraps of the Berlin Wall are highly evocative, especially to someone like me who grew up with the threat of nuclear war hovering over his head. I remember in high school when someone was talking about something that might happen in the far future, they’d qualify it by saying, “If we don’t blow ourselves up first.” I’m very happy I haven’t heard that expression for twenty years now.

Paul’s Curtainrider blog tells the whole story. The BBC has a great gallery of his photos here. He’s also come out with a lavishly illustrated book telling of his adventures.

The European Union is turning the entire route into an Iron Curtain Trail for hikers and cyclists, so get your bike ready and head out to see some history.