State Department website lists where American travelers have died abroad

The LA Times recently linked to a tool on the US State Department website that allows you to search by date range and country to find out where around the world Americans have died of “non-natural” causes.

The information goes back to 2002. No names or details of the deaths are disclosed, they are only reported as suicide, drowning, drug-related, homicide, disaster, or vehicle, air or maritime accident, and listed according to date. The disclaimer on the site states that the stats may not be entirely accurate however, as they only represent those deaths disclosed to the State Department.

So can this tool tell you where you should or shouldn’t go based on your likelihood of drowning, getting into an accident, or being killed as a tourist there? Not really. Circumstances of the deaths are, of course, not disclosed and there is no distinction between expats or people who have lived in the country for many years and those who are tourists visiting on vacation.

Even countries with high numbers of deaths shouldn’t automatically be crossed off your list. Mexico, for example, lists 126 American deaths in 2009. 36 of those were homicides. Sounds like a big number, but not as big compared to the 2.6 million Americans who fly to Mexico every year. As the LA Times points out, “the odds overwhelmingly suggest that your vacation will be nonfatal.”

Feds spank spankers with arrest

Two kids were arguing over a window shade on a plane. Sound familiar? We’ve all lived through it, and we’ve all griped about it. Unlike most parents, who seem to let their kids go on this way until they’ve exhausted themselves, Tamera Jo Freeman took decisive action, according to an article in the LA Times. After their fighting caused a Bloody Mary to spill into her lap, she spanked each kid on the thigh. Three times per perpetrator.

Apparently, this makes her a terror suspect.

A flight attendant responded to the situation, prompting Freeman to hurl obscenities and the remains of her tomato juice. Freeman has since been arrested and convicted under the USA PATRIOT Act. The chain of events that began with trying to keep her kids under control has turned Freeman into a felon.

And, she’s not alone. At least 200 people have been convicted under an amended version of this law, in most cases with no evidence of an attempted hijacking or physical attack on the flight crew. Loud voices, inappropriate language (this would land me in deep shit) and drunken behavior (ditto) have prompted arrest and prosecution, leading many to believe that the law is being misused.


It’s time for us to be a bit realistic here. What Freeman did was inexcusable. Her approach to the flight attendant, both in language and in deed, was wholly inappropriate and certainly called for some sort of disciplinary action. Press charges, treat her like she treats her children … do what ever it takes. But to pursue the spanker as a terrorist? That seems like too much. It’s not like she went after the hell-raisers with a box-cutter.

I think the more appropriate punishment would be to make her fly to Cuba with drunken Irish hooligans.

[Via LA Times]

Jamie Lynn, Britany, Kanye: Celebrities at Los Angeles airport create problems for the rest of us

Let’s say you’ve arrived at LAX airport and you happen to look, kind of, like Jamie Lynne Spears, and it–kind of, looks like you are carrying a baby. From this LA Times article’s account, you’d be surrounded by some paparazzi in a wild flurry as they snapped your picture hoping to sell it to TMZ, Perez Hilton, or some other celeb loving publication.

That’s what happened Wednesday night when Jamie Lynne Spears was to arrive at the airport with new baby in tow. Spears did show up, but the paparazzi were going after a decoy. [Although, by this account, she wasn’t a decoy–but someone who just happened to look like Jamie Lynn Spears who the police were helping get through the airport in the flock of paparazzi. I’m confused.]

At any rate. Supposing you weren’t a decoy, but someone who REALLY does look a bit like Jamie Lynn Spears? What Wednesday’s story does illustrate is that LAX is becoming increasingly a paparazzi paradise for snapping pics as celebrities haul themselves and their luggage through the airport.

Big deal, you might think. But, according to what I read, it’s having an influence on travel for the rest of us. Sure, you may not be hounded by people trying to take your picture, but when Kanye West was arrested earlier this week, it gummed up the airport’s flow. Security was busy handling Kanye West’s arrest outside the passenger security areas of Terminal 4. As exciting as it may have looked to be part of the melodrama, what about catching that plane?

The article also said that such nonsense creates flight delays for everyone else–not just the celebrities whose pictures are in high demand. The article also talked about how people happened to be at the airport the same time when Britney Spears was flanked by photographers who were vying for a good angle while she was making her way on the escalator.

It’s not that she was on the escalator by her lonesome. As the paparazzi flocked, some people were knocked askew. From the article’s description, it sounds like celebrities make it through the airport often, so much so that photographers stake themselves out there daily.

If you want to see what it’s like to be a celebrity, figure out which one you look like, head to the airport and try to act like you don’t want your picture taken. Might be fun—or not.

The question is. Is the photo of Jamie Lynne Spears or the decoy? I think it’s the decoy.

Amazing Race 13 cast revealed: Yeah!

Joy! Rapture! A bit of excitement is heading to Sunday night TV on September 28 at 8 PM on CBS. Yes, folks. The Amazing Race returns. This round is season 13.

The cast has been revealed and is now up at the Amazing Race website. Thanks to Jaunted for giving me the heads up when I received my daily Jaunted missive yesterday.

There’s a link in the Jaunted post to the L.A. Times travel blog, “Daily Travel and Deal.” Here, editor Maret Orliss, senior programming manager for Los Angeles Times Events presents her impressions of each couple after chatting with them in person.

As usual, there are the team combos that we’ve come to know and count on for good TV:

  • The blondes
  • The parent/child where someone wants to bond more with the other
  • The incredibly competent couple who gets along so well that you’re left wondering what the hell is wrong with your own life
  • The couple whose non-stop squabbling is something you recognize, or if you’re lucky, leaves you feeling like the couple in the above example.
  • The older couple who is too sweet for words and have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning
  • The sibling pair who think that each of them are the best thing since sliced bread
  • The pair who is sure they will win because of they are so much better qualified than any others. Duh.

I’ll miss seeing two of the couples from last season when I tune in. They are:

Kynt and Vyxsin, the Goth pair who I consistently rooted for, and Donald and Nick, the grandfather/grandson team who came in second. Don was the oldest contestant to do so well and watching the two of them was TV worth watching.

Here are the countries the teams hoped to see by being Season 13 contestants, according to Orliss’s reporting. As we watch this season, let’s see if any of them get to go to the country of their dreams.

  • Latvia
  • Argentina
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • New Zealand
  • Egypt or another African country
  • Tibet
  • Nepal
  • Mongolia
  • Fiji
  • Israel

Click here for the video clip of “Meet the Cast.” As Phil Keoghan, the host of the show says, one reason to tune in week after week is that this is a chance to see “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”