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Louisville is the subject of the latest “36 Hours In...” feature in the New York Times. After getting the requisite “Louisville has more than the Kentucky Derby” line out of the way, writer Michael Washburn goes on to praise various parks, museums and restaurants across the city. He even mentions the developed half of Whiskey Row. The harshest criticism is reserved for 4th Street Live, which he calls overwrought, underthought and “frat-tastic.” You can read the full story here.

Diane Rehm hosted a discussion about the new TSA screening procedures. The conversation touched on privacy, the efficacy of the full-body scanning machines and the invasiveness of pat-downs.

Privacy issues have typically dominated stories about the TSA, though more and more news outlets have begun looking into the health effects of so-called backscatter scanning machines. the New York Times explored the issue of radiation in airport scans:

The T.S.A. says that the technology has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The results, the agency said, confirmed that radiation doses for individuals “were well below the dose limits specified by the American National Standards Institute.”

According to the agency, “a single scan using backscatter technology produces exposure equivalent to two minutes of flying on an airplane,” where slightly higher levels of radiation are routine. These safety issues are discussed at www.TSA.gov.

But others who have studied the technology argue that repeated low-dose exposure to radiation at airport checkpoints is a cumulative risk, and that the safety of the backscatter technology has not yet been adequately demonstrated by impartial research.

In a letter on May 28, several organizations and individuals, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Ralph Nader, asked Congress to stop deployment of the devices pending “an independent review of the devices’ health effects.”

While it’s not our place to debate science fact (whatever the eventual verdict on backscatter scanners may be), it’s interesting to note that Nader and several Republican Senators have been wondering why the whole controversy can’t be sidestepped. The TSA, they say, should look into other types of scanners that either use less radiation, are more effective or are more private. One such device is in use in America, it uses millimeter radio waves instead of radiation. The other is being used in Amsterdam.

That technology identifies potentially threatening objects on a person without actually showing naked body images and also “avoids exposing passengers to radiation,” the senators said.

But for now, the agency is committed to the backscatters and millimeter wave machines.

To me, the obvious question is: Given that the two types of machines are both deemed effective by the T.S.A., why doesn’t the agency just abandon backscatters and use the millimeter wave machines, which don’t pose radiation issues?

“I’ll tell you what the T.S.A. told us when we asked,” Mr. Nader said. “They said, ‘We want to stimulate competition in order to get the best price.’ ”

What are your thoughts? Are the scanners and more thorough pat-downs necessary?

This post comes from WFPL intern Cassidy Herrington, a Heine Brother’s Coffee barista who recently traveled to Guatamala with the company to work with Habitat for Humanity.

A group of 16 Heine Brothers’ Coffee baristas and patrons traveled to Guatemala this month to construct homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Sarah Crawford, a Heine Brothers’ employee, served as the leader for the team and previously traveled to Guatemala on five other occasions for Habitat projects. Read the rest of this entry »

This post comes to us from Stephanie Sanders.

Last week, I wrote a story about a predicted 2.6% decline in travel over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The reasons? Gas is relatively expensive (though not as expensive as it was last July), and people don’t have as much money as they did at this time last year. Or is that true?

Roger Boyd is our go-to guy at AAA when we need to talk gas prices and/or holiday travel. He said something in our interview last week that intrigued me: they measure travel predictions not on how well the economy is performing, but on how people feel the economy is performing.

Three months ago, when they started calculating feelings about Fourth of July weekend, they noticed not many people were booking trips through AAA for the traditional long weekend. So they predicted a decline in travel.

I spoke with Boyd on Tuesday of last week, and he said they’d been swamped with people planning last-minute trips for the Independence Day weekend.

So the question is: are we feeling better about the economy in the last couple of weeks than we did in April?

Here’s what we reported on today:

Here’s what we reported on today:

FEATURE – Parking Contract In Its Final Few Months

The State of Affairs crew got this e-mail during their Travel as a Policital Act show, but they weren’t able to get to it while Rick Steeves was in the studio.

I’ve travelled all over the world, and here’s what I do.. and it works great!  Rick Steves is a great guy!  Here’s the simple rules I follow:

I always travel “Off Season”… Getting hotels is super easy, and every business loves to see you.  I never make hotel reservations, so I maintain a lot of flexibility to make things up as I go.

I only carry a map, and a [English]-[Local Language] Dictionary.

I never go to the tourists sites.  They’re always covered better by the Discovery Channel.  Tourist sites take too long to get to, are to expensive to see, and you’re always hounded by locals trying to rip you off.

I take only photographs, and leave only footprints.

I travel alone, by preference.  Here’s why… (and this is the most important part)

I make eye contact with as many people as possible.

If they look back, I’ll say “Hello” in the native tongue.

If they say “Hello” back, I can usually find something to say, anything really,
to get a smile out of them.

If they’re foreigners travelling alone, I guarantee at least a conversation
will ensue.

If we’re talking, and they seem nice, and they ever say “Hey do you wanna….”
and I don’t think it will compromise my safety, I’ll do it.

This way I have the most unique experience possible, and one I can never get vicariously.

I have had more great experiences and met more great people throughout the world.  My overall experience of people worldwide is that the vast majority of them are very nice people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace, and are fine letting you do the same.

— Pete

It’s Monday and that means it’s time for a new week of State of Affairs. The episodes this week are fresh and Laura Ellis has this to say about them:

Summer may not have officially begun yet, but the kids are out of school, and the weather’s hot, so we thought it was time for our annual summer reading show! On Monday we’ll want to hear from you about what you’ll be reading this summer, and what you recommend to others. It’s always interesting to hear people describe their summer reading habits; for me, summer is the one time of the year when I veer away from non-fiction and let myself get absorbed in a novel – a pastime that has resulted in a sunburn or two. Our panel of bibliophiles will tell you which titles are hot this year, and which classics might be worth revisiting.

Travel expert Rick Steves will soon become a familiar voice to WFPL listeners. Starting July 4th, we’ll be carrying his weekly show, Travel with Rick Steves. He’ll be spending an hour on SoA this Thursday to give us a preview of what his show’s all about, and talk about his career and his vast travel resume.

Since the year 2000, thanks to a declaration from President Clinton, the month of June has been Gay & Lesbian Pride Month. It has a special poignancy this year; this month marks 40 years since the Stonewall Riots – demonstrations against police raids in Greenwich Village that birthed the modern gay rights movement. We’ll spend Friday looking back at the history of gay rights in our own city, to see how things have changed – and how they haven’t – for LGBT Louisvillians. We hope you’ll tune in, and call us with your stories if you’ve been involved in the local gay rights movement.

Also on the SoA agenda this week, we’ll talk about green landscaping (Tuesday) and learning disabilities (Wednesday).

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