Newsweek warns of dangerous bunnies and other “baddest breeds”

European RabbitRemember our list of the Top Ten Most Badass Animals Native to the USA? Well, Newsweek has taken it a step further and produced a photo gallery of the baddest animal breeds in the world.

Number 8 on the list: bunny rabbits. Seriously. The cutie pie you see at right is a European rabbit, whose modus operandi is reportedly to “reproduce in the manner they’ve become famous for and overrun whatever habitat they enter. Native to Spain and Portugal, this hopping plague has trampled much of the world, including Washington state’s San Juan Island and Hawaii. In Australia rabbits are partly blamed for killing off more than 10 percent of the mammal species. They rip up farms, ruin soil, and support lots of other troublesome species, including feral cats and foxes.”

Other animals on Newsweek’s list include wild boars and snakeheads in the US, the Indian mongoose, South American killer bees, Russian zebra mussels, Chinese crabs and more. Page through to find out which critters to watch out for on your next trip.

Who knew bunnies were so fierce?

Answer: Monty Python.

Who pays for rescue efforts when people are lost? Who should?

A few days ago, Kraig wrote about the three hikers lost on Mt. Hood. At the time of his post, one of the hikers had been found dead. The other two were still missing. Almost a week after they set out on their climb, they are still missing and most probably are dead. Because of this tragic situation, the question of who foots the bill for rescue efforts has come up once more.

Back in 2005, then Gadling blogger Erik Olsen wrestled with the question about who should pay–the lost hiker who hopefully is found–or tax payers? Olsen’s musings came about after a hiker hurt his ankle while hiking in Colorado. Several fire departments rescued the hiker after he spent a night on the mountain. The sticker price for the rescue was $5,000. In this case, the fire departments wanted the hiker to pay.

Usually, the people who are getting rescued don’t pay anything. But is that fair? Rescue attempts can be pricey. Consider this: From 1992 to 2007, the U.S. National Park Service spent $58 million on search and rescue efforts.

This recent Newsweek article echoes some of Erik’s points. As the article highlights, the hard economics question of who should pay for rescue attempts has as many facets to consider as it always has.

While one might say that people who take risks by heading up a mountain top or straying off a path should pay up once he or she is found, there are other factors to keep in mind.

  • One is a concern that people may avoid calling for help until it’s too late out of fear for what a rescue attempt might cost.
  • Some risks are unknown. A beautiful sunny day could go sour if the wind shifts, for example. Should people be punished when nature is at fault?
  • A large portion of rescue attempts are made by volunteers, therefore the cost is curtailed.
  • When fire departments and military units are part of rescue efforts, they often have hours to log towards rescues. A real live rescue helps them meet their quota.
  • Sometimes a rescue attempt may be launched even though the hiker is not in danger. A seasoned hiker may be holed up somewhere waiting for more favorable hiking conditions while a family member is frantic with worry.

With the knowledge that lost hikers are part of the outdoor scene, being financially proactive seems to be the best approach for handling costs before they occur. Colorado, for example, collects a small portion of the money from state recreational fees to put into a fund that is earmarked for search and rescue.

In Alaska, people who are mountain climbing up Mount McKinley pay $200 for the privilege.

Although planning for a tragic situation is never pleasant, it seems that in this case, planning ahead for the ” just in case” is sound. Otherwise, at the worst possible moment, people will be faced with the question, “How much is a life worth?

So, what exactly is in your Homeland Security travel file?

Back in 2007, Jamie wrote an article outlining how to request getting your hands on your Homeland Security travel file.

Based on the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), anyone is allowed to request that federal agencies hand over the information they keep on file about you. There are of course a couple of exceptions, but your Homeland Security travel dossier is not one of them.

Of course, just outlining how to get this information is not that interesting, actually seeing one of these dossiers is the really good stuff.

Newsweek reporter Sean O’Neill put in his request, and received a large Homeland Security envelope with 20 photocopies containing his dossier.

So, what exactly is in the file? There is of course the usual stuff about where you went, and when you got back. The file listed all his ports of entry, as well as his passport information and various other pieces of data.

The bit that surprised me, was how much information was on file about how he paid for his tickets. Not only does the airline send the government your payment method, they even send the IP address of the computer used to make that purchase as well as any IP address assigned to a computer that was used for other things, like a seat assignment change.

Of course, none of this information is all that sensitive, but it’s obvious that the government is collecting a massive amount of information on every single traveler in the country. On the one hand, it’s a minor invasion of privacy, but on the other hand, if the government puts this information to good use, and masters the art of data mining, they may be able to halt the bad guys before they make it to the airport.

Either way, it’s a very interesting read, and it may prompt you to ask the government for access to your own file, or perhaps it’ll just remind you not to use Al Qaeda computers to pay for your next ticket.


Japan: A Post-Car Society

A post-car society might actually exist? I would love that!

Too bad it is so far from my own back yard, where people obsess about their cars to the point where they actually honestly believe that your choice of car accurately reveals your character. (Sorry, Honda drivers, you apparently have none.) What about the character of all the people in Japan who don’t have cars? God bless them.

In this article, Newsweek called the gadget-crazy Japanese as people who look down at owning a car as “so 20th century.” Apparently, the automobile is losing its emotional appeal in Japan. Sales fell 7 percent in 2006, if you don’t count the minicar market. It is about time the automobile lost its emotional appeal, if you ask me. Mind you, I don’t mind cars, but I really despise the whole concept of car culture and what it has done to large chunks of the world.

Matthew could surely speak more coherently about this trend in Japan, but I am just here to tell you that the end of car culture might be closer than we think.

A Quiz to Test Your Global Smarts

Here’s a recent quiz from Newsweek magazine designed to see just how much you know about the world. If you are a traveling sort, you probably know a lot. There’s a tally that keeps track of your score with each answer so you can see how poorly you are doing–or hopefully, how well. Here’s a tip. Go with your first answer.

The quiz covers topics ranging from politics to the economy to entertainment. Many have a traveling bent. For example which country gets the most visitors? France, Spain or the United States? There are 130 questions so there are plenty of chances for redemption.

The answer is France.

Click here to take the quiz and lots of luck.