Archive for July 6th, 2014

July 6, 2014

US increases airport security worldwide, following report of increased terror threat

US increases security at foreign airports, focus on cellphone, other electronic devices

By Catey Hill, MarketWatch

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport.

Between shelling out hundreds of dollars in airfare and forking over even more for ancillary fees, travelers are already spending more than they have in years for plane tickets. And that’s about to get worse.

Starting on July 21, the Transportation Security Administration — you know, the folks who are in charge of confiscating your shampoo at the airport and taking you aside for an “additional screening” — will more than double the mandatory fee they charge many passengers and will no longer cap these fees. Under the old law, the fee, which is used for security, was $2.50 for each leg of a flight with a $5 cap on each one-way trip or a $10 cap on each round trip. But beginning July 21, the fee is $5.60 for each leg of a flight and that is not capped; if your layover is more than four hours on a domestic flight or 12 hours for international destinations, that counts as a second leg of the flight and you will be charged an additional fee.

While that may not sound like a lot, consider what this could mean for your wallet. If you book a domestic round trip and have two total connections (and the layover is four hours or more during each connection), you’ll end up shelling out nearly $25 to the TSA. That jacks up the average domestic airline ticket price by more than 5%.

This move will hurt all travelers — as the fees are mandatory and built into ticket prices — and it could especially hurt business travelers, says George Hobica, founder of That’s because business travelers often take multicity round trips — a round trip simply means any trip where the traveler leaves and returns from the same spot, so a traveler could stop in a city for a day or two, as many do — and will now have to pay a fee (and now there’s no cap on those fees) on each leg. The TSA uses the examples of a traveler who takes a round trip flight to and from Newark with stops in Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas and pays $28 in fees; before, that would have only been $10. It could also particularly impact those who live in small towns and have to take connecting flights, says Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group that represents many large airlines; for the same reason, budget travelers who get superlow fares in exchange for taking flights with connections might also be especially impacted.

The higher fees — which will generate an estimated extra $16.9 billion over the next 10 years, according to the government — are slated to help pay for flyer security, and it’s hard to argue against that notion; and the TSA notes that the current fees have never fully covered its costs. There is still a chance that the fee change will be overturned if Congress acts, says Hobica. Plus, even though these fees have increased significantly, they are still a small part of travelers’ overall airline ticket bill.

Still, these fees are likely to anger consumers, as they come amid rising ticket prices and fees and as flying becomes more unpleasant. Since 2010, average domestic airfare, adjusted for inflation, has climbed more than 6% to nearly $382 . Plus, airlines have been upping and adding ancillary fees left and right: Just this year, Frontier began making passengers pay to put their bags in the overhead bin and Spirit raised their baggage fees. And this all comes at a time when airline seats are getting thinner and less padded so that airlines can save on fuel.

Though there isn’t much you can do about these fees other than write your congressman to complain, says Hobica — MarketWatch has a few suggestions.

  • To offset the fees, try to cut the cost of the plane ticket by using a site like that tells you the best time to book for optimal deals or by creating fare alerts on the search engines.
  • Travelers can also opt to book direct flights (but those are often more expensive) or those with short layovers.
  • And they also may want to consider having someone drive them to a larger, nearby airport that has direct flights to avoid these fees, but with gas included, just make sure that makes economic sense.




July 6, 2014

Laos hydropower plant threatens Vietnam’s Mekong

Laos hydropower plant threatens Vietnam’s Mekong

VietNamNet Bridge – Experts in Vietnam continue to voice their worries about the Lao government’s determination to build the Don Sahong hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

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Laos hydropower plant, mekong river

VIETNAM RIVERS NETWORK (VRN) –Rivers and water resources are among the most valuable assets to humanity that need to be protected.

“It will be a major threat to Vietnam’s Mekong River delta,” said Dr. Pham Bich San, Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), adding that the dams on the Mekong mainstream will have negative impacts on the ecological environment, especially the lower course.

San cited recent research which found that the Mekong is one of the five biggest river basins in the world which has seen its current reduced the most sharply. The average annual flow in the lower course has declined by 10 percent over the last 30 years.

The Mekong section which runs across Vientiane in Laos has been so depleted in the last 10 years that people can wade across the river in the dry season.

In Thailand, the Chao Praya River, as it’s known by locals, which has traditionally been mild, unexpectedly caused major floods which lasted many months in 2011.

In the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, salt water has encroached on the Tan Chau area in An Giang Province. This never happened in the past.

The Mekong River has always played a very important role in Vietnamese socio-economic development and regional food security. The Mekong River delta is home to 20 million people who are responsible for 27 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, 90 percent of rice exports and 60 percent of Vietnam’s seafood exports.

“VUSTA has many times in the past voiced its concern about the negative impacts of hydropower dams on Vietnam. Nevertheless, Laos went ahead and built its Xayabury hydropower plant. Now Vietnam needs to have a stronger voice over the Lao Dong Sahong project,” San said.

Professor Dr. Ho Uy Liem, a renowned scientist, some years ago warned that if Xayabury dam was built, it would create a very dangerous precedent for another 11 dams to be set up on the Mekong main stream.

“If so, this will be the destruction of the river,” Liem said. “This will deprive the livelihood of the 60 million people living along the riverside, especially the Vietnamese in the Mekong River Delta,” he said.

And Liem’s warning seems to turn into reality.

Le Bo Linh, Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Science & Technology Committee, has also expressed his deep concerns about the Lao decision to build Don Sahong dam, affirming that the work will affect the river’s hydrological regime, causing depletion in the dry season and bringing salinity to Vietnam’s Mekong River delta.

According to Linh, at the international meeting of the Mekong River Commission in April in HCM City, the involved parties approved a declaration which says that countries need to consult with others in the region if they plan to execute construction works on the Mekong main stream.

The Lao government, which promised at the meeting that it would consult with other countries, still has decided to set up its hydropower dams.

Linh said the government of Vietnam needs to express its official viewpoint on Laos building dams on the Mekong River, because it seems that concerns voiced by scientists and environmentalists, institutions and individuals are not enough for the Lao government to rethink the project.

Dat Viet


VIETNAM RIVERS NETWORK (VRN) –Rivers and water resources are among the most valuable assets to humanity that need to be protected.


News and Events

    Mekong Matters: Workshop and Network for Development Journalists

    The rapid pace of development leading up to the the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is creating opportunities for journalists to find innovative and important environmental, business, investment, health and culture stories. Are you a Mekong-area journalist who reports on social and environmental impacts of development projects such as dams, mines, roads, ports or economic land concessions? Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) may have workshop, fellowship, resource and networking opportunities for you.


    Hanoi, VietNam –  A recent press release by International Rivers on 18/06/2014 has confirmed that the construction towards the controversial Don Sahong Dam in Southern Laos has continued despite growing opposition from neighboring governments and ongoing calls for regional consultation. The Don Sahong Dam, which is located on the Mekong mainstream, must undergo the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) as required by the 1995 Mekong Agreement. Nevertheless, the Lao government argues that Don Sahong Dam would not have to go through the PNPCA since it is not located on the mainstream. Laos continues to move forward unilaterally with this project despite opposition from regional communities and the governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

    2nd VRN’s letter to Kasikorn Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Bangkok Bank: Careful consideration and suspension of the loan to the Xayaburi hydropower dam project.

    The Xayaburi project is the first dam under construction, among 11 dams proposed on the lower Mekong mainstream. Many studies have already highlighted that the dams will cause severe impacts to the fish migration in Mekong River. Moreover, the dam will block sediment flow along the Mekong mainstream. The sediment prevents the Mekong Delta sinking and shrinking, and is the main source for the fertile delta land of Vietnam, which is known as the world’s rice basket. By unilaterally pushing forward with the project, Lao PDR has violated the 1995 Mekong Agreement signed by Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. Thus the project has been designed, and constructed started, without complying with the Mekong River Commission’s Procedure of Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), which is mandatory for all mainstream projects on the lower Mekong River.

July 6, 2014


Thailand Deports Ex-Resistance Leader to Laos

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