January 19, 2004

Over the weekend, Melissa and I played host to the Aforementioned Friend, having him over for dinner and a movie, and dinner & a video game, while the Princess continued her avoidance spree. About that video game bit: Melissa realized that many evenings are spent with her on the computer reading up on Lord of the Rings stuff and me on the PS2. She did some research and decided to buy the "Return of the King" video game, so we could play it together. "I've been wanting to get into video games for a while, and I figured that this was a good way to start," she said. I said it was a great idea, "It's like that Reese's Peanut butter cups commercial...'You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!' 'You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!' but they taste great together kinda thing." She frowned, thinking I was making fun, but I assured her that I was legitimately impressed with the idea.
Our U.K. family, the Nash Family, called us last night. Apparently there's a new Bio-Terrorism law that states that you can't send pre-packaged foodstuffs to the United States. Homemade food is apparently fine, but anything store-bought is banned outright. Par for the course of our administration, this makes no sense. According to this law, terrorists can feel free to send us an "Anthrax Ripple Pie", so long as it's in kitchen wrap, but an innocuous package of Chocolate Malteasers would be seized as contraband and the sending parties taken in for questioning. If you wanted to send food in the mail, you had to register on this website, which appears to be for commercial export businesses and not for individuals. The family had hoped that we might be able to shed some light on this, but as usual, America's foreign policies are largely kept from it's citizens.

So their package of store-bought chocolates and biscuits had to be re-packed without food, and without their letter. Oh, did I mention that? Yeah, you can't send a letter AND a package together, otherwise it'll be confiscated. I have no earthly idea what this is supposed to protect us from, or how your average postal worker is supposed to detect or enforce this. Or maybe this is just a scam by the post office, trying to get more money out of people. As with most things with this administration, you never can tell whether policies are just pooly thought-out and when you're just being taken advantage of. All of these policies were just now put into effect in Britain from an unknown 2002 Anti-Terrorism act.

You might have heard on the news that Airports will be scanning the fingerprints of foreigners flying into American airports. A good idea, but in practice, it leaves much to be desired. The effect on the average world citizen is they have to apply for a new passport with their biometric information, specifically their fingerprints, and pay an additional 60 Pounds (USD~$100) for the upgrade! Travellers without these new biometric passports will not be allowed to travel to the United States after October 22nd of 2004. While I think that this is one of the few good security ideas that we've had, the cost is a bit high, considering that a plane ticket to the US from Britain is only around $400. I understand that there is a signifant cost for issuing these new passports, but it once again runs counter-intuitive: Your average tourist from the U.K. probably won't pay the upcharge, and decide to spend their money visiting somewhere else. Your average terrorist, however, would have no trouble fronting the extra cash, since they're not planning on coming back anyway.

Wow! It not only fails to stop terrorists from coming to the States, but it ALSO deprives our country of Tourism revenues! What a great law!

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