The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


Ya Read It Here First....

If you page down to my entry for the 9th, you will see a little blurb about Australia's warning to its citizenry about Reunion Island and it's outbreak of a nasty disease called chikungunya.

According to Auntie Beeb, about one-fifth of the population has come down with it, and it is now spreading to Madagascar and Mauritius. A few cases have even been reported in France, as visitors to the island bring a little souvenir back with them to the mainland. (Reunion Island is a French departement, sorta/kinda like we consider Puerto Rico and Guam to be US territory.) Seventy seven people have died from it or its complications.

About 500 French troops have been deployed to assist the locals with mosquito spraying, and other aid is being prepared to send to the stricken island.

The symptoms are dehydration, extreme pain, and high fever. There is no treatment available for chikungunya (Swahili for "that which bends up").

So....maybe it's time to revisit our favorite travelers' warnings sites and see if there are any updates you gotta know about as you plan your spring break.

Let's start with one I haven't gone to before, but is still a good one to check out. The Centers for Disease Control has some good news to report, actually. Polio outbreaks dating back to 2003 in 21 countries have been eradicated in 15 of them. Be sure your immunizations are current should you be heading to Angola, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, Somalia and Yemen.

Even better, two countries, Egypt and Niger, which had been considered naturally endemic, have not had a single case in over 12 months, and have been taken off the list of endemic countries. (In case you were wondering who the remaining nations are, they are Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.) India and Pakistan are making progress, and have reported half of the cases that they did in 2004.

The US State Department took a break from stabbing Denmark in the back to issue a warning about traveling to remote parts of Algeria, due to terrorist activity in the northern mountain and southern regions of the country. Be sure you are with reputable tour guides if you insist on venturing there, and don't even think about overland travel at night.

The Aussies advise that you stay out of Indonesia. They claim they have intelligence pointing towards another imminent attack aimed against foreigners and western targets, especially in Bali and Jakarta. Saudi Arabia is also on their no-go if you really don't have to list, due to the strong possibility of terrorist attacks.

Canada has some warnings for you if you are planning on visiting parts of Peru. Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, guerillas killed eight policemen in the area of Aucayacu, and has instituted a two month state of emergency in the region. They've deployed troops, and have the authority to break up meetings and raid homes. By the way, watch your step if you are by the border with Ecuador, since there are unexploded land mines in the area. Stay clear of the Colombian border, since every now and then the Peruvian army meets up with Colombian narco-traficante rebels. Just keep your happy butt out of the rainforest there, m'kay??

The Brits have the usual warnings. However, they have joined up with Lonely Planet to issue a guide with basic travel info for their citizens traveling abroad. Best part is, you can download it for free to your computer if you are so inclined. The link provides a few options for "Travel Safe" downloads.

Take care out there, and have a great trip if you are heading to a foreign shore. The Tsar and I will keep you posted on our possible voyages......who knows, I might actually get to meet my in-laws in Moscow in the next few months if the doctor gives me the ok to travel!

I gotta start brushing up on my Russian....

Bankruptcy....It's Not Just For United States Carriers Anymore!

Let's pretend you are running a national flag carrier. 114 out of your 118 domestic routes lose money, and of your international routes, 66 of them lose money.

That's bad, even by our bankruptcy court-addicted domestic airlines' standards. However, it's the ugly reality now being faced by the Jet Set Brother's favorite foreign carrier, Malaysian Airlines.

The three months ending in December put them about $166 million in the hole. They're looking for a little over $1 billion to keep them afloat.

So, anyone out there wanna make an offer for their deluxe HQ in beautiful downtown Kuala Lumpur? All serious offers considered....


Can't Make it to N'Awlins?

You can still celebrate Mardi Gras at yer local IHOP from 7 am to 2 pm.

Every guest gets a free short stack of pancakes....they ask that you make a donation to a charity in return.


Think You Know the Answer?

The role of Detective Harry Callahan, a/k/a Dirty Harry, made Clint Eastwood a superstar.

However, he was not the first choice for the role. The original actor had to bow out when he broke a finger.

Here's a hint....he turned down the lead role in "Death Wish". That role made my fellow Litvak Charles Bronson famous.

Think you know who it was???

Click here to see if you are right.....

Venezuela Says "Manana" on Deadline

Don't throw out your tickets to Caracas on American, Delta and Continental just yet, dahlinks!

Hugo "Castro Jr, but without the great beard" Chavez's government has decided to extend talks after the affected airlines complained. Venezuela's panties are in a bunch over restrictions their carriers face in the competitive US market.

The new deadline is 30 March, and talks to resolve the situation are continuing.


Teen Slut Put on Birth Control!!

Sorry, couldn't resist the headline. It's not what you were probably thinking anyway.

And You Thought Colorado Was the Land of Sky Blue Waters?

No, my friend, you have been misled by those stupid old Coors ads from way back. But it does exist.

It's actually in my home state of Arizona. Havasupai Falls is a delightful oasis in the Canyonlands. The water is much warmer than in the Canyon, and it really is sky blue. No kidding.

Read more about this lesser-known gem here.

Guardian Angels in Venice?

Ok, technically, they may not be angels, but if a pickpocket targets you in the City of Canals, the Cittadini Non Distratti (Undistracted Citizens) might be your new best friends.

A citizen's group has been a major player in lowering the amount of pickpocketing going on, much to the dismay of the criminals and one deservedly embarrassed local government official. However, the locals and the police squad responsible for targeting this kind of crime are very happy with them. Read more about the group here.


I Leave Arizona For a Few Months.....

And stopped being acclimated to my ol' hometown of Phoenix.

First, a little travel advisory to those of you renting a car at the convenient Sky Harbor airport location. Yes, they do have a spiffy new centralized rental car agency location, with every single company represented. I sure hope you appreciate the architecture and the shuttle bus there, because you are going to pay for that.

How much, you ask? Try adding approximately 50% in taxes and fees to the stated rental rate.

Yup. You read that right.

It may be worth your while to take a cab to a location a couple of miles away if you are heading to the Valley of the Sunny Pollution.

Speaking of pollution, be sure to pack plenty of eye drops until Phoenix gets some rain. Me & the Tsar were ready to claw our eyes out the first night. It is that bad. Half the sales clerks we ran into were having what looked like allergy attacks, and the pollen readings out there aren't that bad. Everyone was griping about the crappy air. They have gone 120 some days without rain, and there is not a drop forecasted any time soon.

Asthmatics should definitely not even think about heading out there without their inhalers, either. (I forgot mine back in Florida. I got spoiled by my lack of need here in the Sunshine State and didn't remember to bring it. Not a good move on my part.)

Before I get a bunch of "stop hatin' on P-town" crap, I did enjoy the sunrise I got to watch while enjoying my whole wheat bagel with jalapeno cream cheese and a well-prepared cuppa. All that pollution and dust is good for something. And of course, they know how to make spicy food out there. This native (I have the birth certificate to prove it, pal) missed her version of "soul food". We stocked up on Trader Joe's, caught up with our old friends, and heard my future niece or nephew's heartbeat for the first time.

But, didn't feel like home any more. Me & the Tsar both couldn't wait to get to Orlando, step off the plane, and feel that blast of humidity as we came down the jetway. Sure, it was contaminated with airplane fumes. Compared to Phoenix, it was sweet as a meadow breeze. We drove back to the Space Coast with the windows rolled down and felt our skin and lungs forgiving us for the last few days.

Thank God it's the Jet Set Brother and his lovely bride's turn to come fly out here for the next family reunion!


Best of Everything to My Favorite Soon-to-Be Newlyweds!

Ladies of the world, yet another good guy is off the market, effective Saturday.

My little brother has found the lady of his dreams, and will make an honest woman out of her on that day.

And so, in honor of George and Mary and their new life together, a traditional Irish blessing:

May you have love that never ends,

Lots of money, and lots of friends,

Health be yours, whatever you do,

And may God send many blessings to you.

I'll be off on hiatus until about Tuesday or so in the lovely Valley of the Sun. Take care and have a good weekend!

Hawaiian Airlines Hopping Mad About Island Hopping Competition

It can be ugly when former business partners attempt to use confidential info against each other.....or at least, that's what Hawaiian Airlines claims about Mesa Airlines' plans to offer interisland fares as low as $43.

Nothing says "Die, dammit, die!" like a lawsuit.

Hawaiian claims that Mesa used over 2000 pages of confidential info to plot their new strategy of cheap island hopping fares.

Score One for Southwest Airlines

A woman so obese that she required two seats lost her case against Southwest Airlines when she apparently annoyed everyone with her behavior.

One of the jurors said he initially sympathized with Nadine Thompson, but her lack of evidence that she was targeted because of her race (Thompson is black), plus the testimony of how rude she was to the Southwest employees when told she would need another ticket, convinced them to decide against her and for the airline. One of the jurors, Lance Hellman, stated they were particularly swayed by the testimony of one of the employees who claimed that the plaintiff called him "a racist (bleep)" .

That was the newspaper's choice of words, honest. Fill in the blank as you will.

Ms Thompson will not appeal the verdict, implying that the all-white jury was also racist.


This Year's Valentines Go To....

Denmark, for reminding us all that the most threatening thing in the world is freedom of speech.

That tiny country is really taking it in the shorts, not only with rent-a-mobs going batshiat crazy in all of the usual Islamic "centers of learning and explosives", but also from their partners in the European Union who aren't backing them up like they should.

Our State Department isn't backing them up either. Big shocker there.

And, of course, our media conglomerations are showing that they have no damn spine. I'm disgusted with them, frankly. The Fisrt Amendment? That only applies when they are sure their targets are going to act civilized (CIA, evangelicals and Catholics annoyed by "Piss Christ"), not the ones who might hurt them (crazed guys in turbans calling for beheading of infidels). In the second case, they do the journalistic equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

Apparently taking a page from the old Pravda stylebook, they feel that telling us the cartoons are offensive is enough. We aren't mature enough to look at them and make up our own damn minds if they are or not. After all, they have degrees in journalism and are much smarter than we are.

(Side note: I remember when I went to Arizona State. It seemed like the ugly communications school students went into journalism. The ugly ones with decent voices sometimes chose radio. The cute ones went into television. But none of them were towering intellects. I know. I started out as a communication major, but found myself wanting classes with actual intellectual vigor and not discussions of mind-melding a la Spock or dusty old theories of Marshall McLuhan. Heaven help me, I was engaged to another communications major at one time....but my tastes improved with wisdom, age....and exposure to the real world outside of school.)

Since I still have to get better at HTML, here's the offending cartoons. I trust you to make up your own minds about them.

Another Valentine goes to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

For those of you not familiar with her, she is a Somali refugee turned Dutch legislator who has been an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism. She collaborated with the filmmaker Theo van Gogh on a movie called "Submission". The movie offended some Moroccans in Holland, and Mr van Gogh paid for this "offense" with his life. Ms Ali was forced to go into hiding after similar threats were made against her.

To her credit, she has shown that she will not be silenced even in the face of personal danger. This editorial by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a prime example.

A third Valentine goes to a blogger by the alias of "Big Pharoah". If some of his co-religionists got their panties in a bunch over those cartoons, they sure aren't going to like what he wrote here.

They are my heroes on this Valentine's Day.

I'm going to go get a tin of Danish butter cookies and salute them all.

Still Hanging in There!

Hey there, fellow denizens of the Jet Set Lounge!

I'm still here, but have to meet two conditions when I post:

1) Have to sneak in and use the computer when the Tsar doesn't need it for work, and

2) Have to be awake and not too green around the gills. Considering the Tsar's new nickname for me is "Napster", well....let me put it this way. After decades of hyperactivity on my part, I think I finally found the cure.

How my mother did this twice, I'll never know. We just might adopt the second one if it keeps being this fun.

In the meantime, here's a little article from the Miami Herald about the joys of traveling solo. (Hey, it's Valentine's you gonna pick up that hottie in a faraway place if your traveling companion is a howling dork?)


Travel Warning Update

Whilst I sit here enjoying the lovely tropical morning with a bit of Danish butter cookies, let's peruse what the big English-speaking guvmints are telling their populace about international travel.....

Australia is advising their citizenry about an outbreak of Chikungunya on Reunion Island and the Seychelles. It is a nasty mosquito-spread virus that causes a very high fever, severe rash and horrible pain in the joints. It can kill the elderly and newborns if they catch it. About five percent of the population of Reunion (a part of France just off the coast of Africa) has been infected. There is no known treatment except waiting it out. This disease also has no known vaccine. Lovely.

(As a side note, the French Government also advises against travel to the African nation of the Comoros for the same reason. Heh.....good thing to be multilingual, ain't it!)

Canada has issued a warning about Caracas' Simon Bolivar "Maiquetia" International Airport. The old road leading to the airport has been closed due to structural damage, and the alternate route is is in bad shape. Plus, the bad neighborhoods it passes through has convinced the local authorities to open up seven military posts along the road.

I'm not sure how many are along the road to Baghdad International, but it looks like we have another contender for the "Most Hazardous Trip Before Boarding Your Flight" award....

Meanwhile, Britain is closing their High Commission in Tonga, and reporting that thefts are on the upswing. If you are a Brit needing assistance, contact the New Zealanders.

Speaking of the Kiwis, they are the only ones to report some good news, at least for those of you heading to the Solomon Islands. Law and order is being restored and the threats against traveler safety have been reduced.

Last but not least, the US State Department has issued a warning about the Sudan. Why anyone would want to go there is beyond me, but if you sure to register with the embassy in Cairo first. Oh, and be sure to duck the flying rocks the locals like to wing at Westerners.

I wish I could say what the Germans are telling their people, but the party places they list are pretty much what everyone else has already warned about.

Of course, all countries advise against going to wonderful tourist meccas like Bangladesh, parts of the Middle East known for protests featuring slogans like "Death to the Infidels!", etc.

Well, I'm out of cookies and out of time. The Tsar is working from home for a bit, so my access to the 'puter will be limited. Don't think that I've forgotten you guys and gals in the Jet Set Lounge!

Bonnes Voyages!!


Get Well Soon, Deacon Blues!!

Was finally able to get back to Rantburg after days of not being able to access it....what happened, anyway? Ah, nevermind....and found out that Jet Set Lounge denizen Deacon Blues done broke his foot at the end of last month.


Hope you are healing up nicely, completely and quickly!!!

New Travel Accessory.....Small Denominations?

Get ready to pay for more formerly free things when you fly. We may soon see the demise of the complimentary soda and nut "snack", among other things, according to this article.

There is one thing that Ms Weston thinks should be an extra that I think is way warped, however. I hope that they don't accept her idea that more "desirable" seats (as in, anything other than a middle seat) come with a premium charge. I'm 5'8", and have long legs. A blessing, yes, but assuredly not when you are in a plane and rely on the aisle seats to make a long trip bearable. We won't get into the Jet Set Brother's trials and tribulations with his over 6' frame.....