New Georgia border crossing provides a whimsical welcome

Customs checkpoints tend to be dreary, depressing places.

A rare exception is the new Georgia border crossing with Turkey, located right at the crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. There, German architect Jürgen Mayer H. recently unveiled a modern, state-of-the-art border crossing that rises from the shores of the Black Sea in a white, whimsical squiggle. How’s that for a friendly welcome? The building houses standard customs facilities, a terrace viewing platform, a cafeteria, staff rooms, and a conference room. According to J. Mayer H., the project represents “the progressive upsurge of the country.”

Georgia, a former Soviet state, has only recently started to attract tourists drawn by the charming capital city of Tblisi, the ancient religious sites of Mtskheta, and the fresh, delicious cuisine. Hopefully off-beat architecture and design like that of the new Georgia border crossing continues to develop along with the country’s infrastructure.

[via Fast Co.Design, image via Jürgen Mayer H.]

Canadian family arrested for making wrong turn at border crossing

After visiting church, the McDaniel family decided to take a drive to visit a new farm built up the road from their own new home in New Brunswick.

What happened next sounds like something out of an April fools joke – the family was forced to stop, removed from their vehicle and arrested. Their vehicle was seized and the parents and their two kids were transported to a border processing facility to be fingerprinted.

Their crime? They had foolishly crossed into the United States by mistake. Thanks to some unclear signage, the family assumed they were still in Canada – without knowing that they had actually illegally entered their neighboring country.

Common sense would usually mean a quick search of the vehicle, and sending them back to Canada, but common sense is something often lacking in homeland security. A border patrol officer had the following to say:

“[The border officers] determined that none of the subjects had permission to be or remain in the United States legally, and they had effected an illegal entry, at which time they were transported into the Fort Fairfield border patrol station, where they were processed and given a voluntary return into Canada,”

So there you have it – while our government is hard at work letting a known terrorist board a plane with explosives strapped to his genitals, they are also hard at work harassing a family who are guilty of nothing more than missing a sign.

More power for the government to search your laptop at the border

For years, border protection agents have been permitted to inspect and/or seize your laptop, smartphone or other data storage device.

Under new legislation introduced today, those rules grant even more power, while trying to give the appearance of increased privacy for the owner of the data.

Previously, it didn’t really matter what you had on your computer – anything was allowed to be inspected. This obviously meant that legal documents, medical records and even classified business documents could be inspected, without you being allowed to do anything about it.

With these new rules, border agents can search all the “business documents” they want, but need to contact their own counsel when they encounter legal or other sensitive files.

One other new addition to the rules is that agents are now allowed to inspect the contents of your computer when you arrive and when you leave the country.

What this means to the common traveler? Well, unless you are carrying child porn or anything else illegal, you have nothing to worry about.
If you are carrying business documents that under no circumstances can be leaked, don’t keep them on your laptop – encrypt them and send them by email or any other secure online service.

The rules for inspecting business documents state that the inspector can view the files, but that he needs to keep them a secret, you be the judge of whether you can trust them enough with your information.

If you are an attorney with documents you can’t permit getting out in the open, be prepared for a battle, especially if you are stopped at the border and are suspected of being a criminal or terrorist.

Encrypting your files is one way to keep them away from prying eyes, just don’t expect to walk away with your laptop without showing the inspector the contents of the encrypted file. If you refuse to cooperate, they’ll just keep your laptop and send it off to specialists who may be able to break whatever encryption you are using.

The Department of Homeland Security has released three documents outlining the new rules, and they are a really interesting read (if you like reading boring legalese that is).

CBP Border Search of Electronic Devices Containing Information (PDF, 10 pages)
ICE Border Searches of Electronic Media (PDF, 10 pages)
Privacy Impact Assessment: Border Searches of Electronic Information (PDF, 51 pages)

Want to illegally enter the UK? Hide under a border police bus!

An illegal immigrant managed to sneak into the United Kingdom last week by hiding under a bus taking the channel tunnel.

This probably happens 100’s of times a week, and most of the immigrants get caught. What made this story interesting was not that this illegal alien picked a bus, but what the bus was being used for.

Instead of a bus full of tourists heading back home, this guy managed to pick a busload of UK border protection agents. A pre-departure check did not spot the stowaway, as he managed to hide next to the fuel tank.

When the bus arrived in Folksestone, the immigrant sprinted off, and even a bus load of border cops couldn’t catch him.

Illegal immigration into the UK is a huge problem, the large number of trucks and other vehicles making the crossing doesn’t make things easier – immigrants hang on to speeding freight trains, hide under cars and climb inside trucks to hide between their cargo.



Vote for America’s best bathroom

It’s a room we visit several times each day, but the humble bathroom (john, head, bog, loo, etc.) is rarely celebrated in its true glory. Cintas Facility Services, a leading provider of bathroom supplies, wants to change that with its America’s Best Restroom Award. Check out their website to see the nominees and vote for your favorite. A good bathroom is the traveler’s best friend, and should be appreciated.

But we here at Gadling are too well traveled to get all starry-eyed about the glories of the garderobe. We’ve dealt with squishy Asian squat, public lavatory putrescence, and outhouse odor. So let’s hear your votes for the world’s worst bathrooms. Here’s my nominee:

In 1996 I left the Iranian border town of Zahedan and entered Pakistan. My first stop was Taftan, a miserable hole if I ever saw one. The streets were nothing but sand. Trash blew between bare concrete houses. Moneychangers swarmed around me like flies. Flies swarmed around me like moneychangers. Then disaster struck–I had to go to the bathroom.

The public toilet next to the bus station was an area about ten feet to a side enclosed by a concrete wall. There was no roof. There was no door, only a blind turn before you entered a sandbox that looked just like the street except that it was covered in crap. The flies here were so thick that I put my bandanna over my nose and mouth so I didn’t inhale any. There was no escaping the smell. I picked my way through a minefield of human waste until I found a clear spot for both my feet. The flies were relentless, and I had to fan myself constantly so they didn’t get stuck to my business end.

Like everywhere in South Asia, foreigners get stared at in Pakistan, and they make no exception for foreigners squatting with their pants down. A small crowd of other squatters stared at me with undisguised curiosity as I did what I needed to do and fled as quick as I could.

I only stayed in Taftan an hour until I could catch a bus for Quetta, but I will always remember the bathroom there, and the fact that I got pick-pocketed. They only got about five dollars worth of Iranian rials, but it’s the thought that counts. The thought of some guy’s hand in my pocket. I hope, I pray, that it wasn’t one of the guys watching me in the bathroom.

Think you can beat that? Give it your best shot.