Pentagon seizes foreign reporter’s phone during official travel


In a statement to POLITICO, Air Force spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the incident was a “miscommunication” and said the service will “be reviewing the policy going forward.”

“Like everyone serving in uniform, U.S. Air Force aircrews are expected to protect classified information aboard their aircraft. In accordance with a new policy, the aircrew in this case applied a more restrictive approach to communication security, which led to a miscommunication about the reporter’s use of personal electronic devices on the aircraft,” Ryder said.

The policy will not be applied to the reporter during the remainder of the trip, Ryder said.

“We respect the role of a free press and welcome them aboard our flights. We regret the inconvenience we caused this reporter, and we will be reviewing the policy going forward.”

The first reporter, who has covered the Pentagon for years and has traveled to secure locations including Iraq and Afghanistan with top officials, had been informed a few days earlier that “there might be a problem,” but assured that “they were working through it and they were hopeful they could figure something out,” according to the person, who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so.

During the flight, the pilot came back multiple times to explain to the public affairs officer that the reporter could not use their phone at any point because the deputy Defense secretary needed to be ready at all times to take a secure phone call.

The reporter was given their phone back upon landing after an eight-hour flight. The deputy, Kathleen Hicks, is traveling to Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany to meet with senior military and government leaders, including the heads of U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.

Reporters of many nationalities — typically those in the Pentagon press pool who have a Pentagon badge and have undergone a background check — routinely accompany top defense officials on official travel. They often travel to secure locations and have access to classified information. Officials frequently brief reporters on and off the record during the flights, and reporters typically file stories from the planes using their devices.

“It’s not only impossible to do my job without a phone and laptop, it’s also a bit insulting that after doing dozens of trips over the past six years (many to more sensitive locations) my phone was taken and there isn’t enough trust to be able to get some sort of exemption so I can continue to write stories on the plane,” the reporter wrote in an email to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby that was viewed by POLITICO.

“We have expressed our concern about this rule change regarding members of the press who are non-U.S. citizens being able to access electronic devices during travel with the U.S. Department of Defense and are seeking further information on the issue,” a Reuters spokesperson told POLITICO.



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Alabama Men’s Basketball Announces Summer Foreign Tour


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama men’s basketball will be taking a trip to Europe this summer, the team announced in a release on Friday morning.

The Crimson Tide will travel to Spain and France over a 10-day stretch from Aug. 5-14, playing three games between Barcelona and Paris.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to have our program go on a foreign trip as a team to Barcelona and Paris,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said in a statement. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our guys. It will give us all an opportunity to come together as a team before the season begins through the extra practices we’ll have, the educational and cultural experiences that we’ll encounter and the high-level competition that we plan on facing. It will be an experience that will remain with us all.”



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Alabama Men’s Basketball Announces Foreign Trip to Spain, France in August


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama men’s basketball team will venture on a 10-day foreign tour to Barcelona, Spain, and Paris, France, in August, head coach Nate Oats has announced. The Crimson Tide will play two games and spend four days in Barcelona before traveling to Paris for another four days and one contest.

Per NCAA rules regarding a foreign tour, Alabama will hold 10 days of practices prior to departing Tuscaloosa. The Tide’s trip will begin on Aug. 5 when it departs Tuscaloosa for Atlanta. The Tide will arrive in Barcelona at 8:55 a.m. local time on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The two games in Barcelona will be played Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, with the team departing for Paris on Aug. 10. The lone contest in France will take place Aug. 12. The team will return to Tuscaloosa on Aug. 14.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to have our program go on a foreign trip as a team to Barcelona and Paris,” head coach Nate Oats said. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our guys. It will give us all an opportunity to come together as a team before the season begins through the extra practices we’ll have, the educational and cultural experiences that we’ll encounter and the high-level competition that we plan on facing. It will be an experience that will remain with us all.”

Further details surrounding the trip including opponents, tip times, locations and more will be announced at a later time.

For all the latest information on the team, follow AlabamaMBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. General athletic news can be found @UA_Athletics on Twitter and Instagram and Alabama Athletics on Facebook.



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Alabama Men’s Basketball Announces Foreign Trip to Spain, France in August


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama men’s basketball team will venture on a 10-day foreign tour to Barcelona, Spain, and Paris, France, in August, head coach Nate Oats has announced. The Crimson Tide will play two games and spend four days in Barcelona before traveling to Paris for another four days and one contest.

Per NCAA rules regarding a foreign tour, Alabama will hold 10 days of practices prior to departing Tuscaloosa. The Tide’s trip will begin on Aug. 5 when it departs Tuscaloosa for Atlanta. The Tide will arrive in Barcelona at 8:55 a.m. local time on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The two games in Barcelona will be played Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, with the team departing for Paris on Aug. 10. The lone contest in France will take place Aug. 12. The team will return to Tuscaloosa on Aug. 14.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to have our program go on a foreign trip as a team to Barcelona and Paris,” head coach Nate Oats said. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our guys. It will give us all an opportunity to come together as a team before the season begins through the extra practices we’ll have, the educational and cultural experiences that we’ll encounter and the high-level competition that we plan on facing. It will be an experience that will remain with us all.”

Further details surrounding the trip including opponents, tip times, locations and more will be announced at a later time.

For all the latest information on the team, follow AlabamaMBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. General athletic news can be found @UA_Athletics on Twitter and Instagram and Alabama Athletics on Facebook.



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Japan to test tourism with reopening for 50 foreign travelers


Japan is preparing to welcome a small number of tourists back to the country after shutting its borders during the pandemic — but don’t count on being one of them.

In a test to prepare for a larger resumption of travel, the country is planning to allow about 50 vaccinated-and-boosted travelers to visit as part of organized tours later this month, the Japan Tourism Agency said Tuesday. The pool of 50 travelers will be allowed from four countries Japan has designated as priority markets: the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.



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Foreign Office changes advice on passport rules for EU travel


The Foreign Office has finally changed its advice on passport validity for travel to the EU after dozens of airline passengers were wrongly told they couldn’t fly.

Officials have changed the wording of travel advice to bring it into line with the European Commission.

It comes after The Independent reported the plight of passengers wrongly turned away at check-in by airlines because of the discrepancy.

The advice for Spain has been changed to tell UK travellers their passport must be:

  • Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the “date of issue”)
  • Valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (check the “expiry date”)

Advice on France, Italy and other EU and wider Schengen destinations is expected to be updated shortly.

Previously the FCDO travel advice for countries in the European Union and Schengen Area included the misleading statement: “For some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”

The Independent made its own enquiries and received official confirmation correspondence from the European Commission last November.

On 10 November 2021, the correspondence was passed on to the Foreign Office with a request “to ensure that all communications from the UK government recognise the correct European Union position”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “FCDO travel advice is kept under constant review to ensure British travellers are aware of the risks and have accurate information to help plan their trip.

“We welcome that the European Commission is now updating its guidance in regards to their rules affecting some UK passports”

The ambivalence in the UK government position has caused widespread confusion and distress.

It has also put extra pressure on HM Passport Office, with many travellers seeking early renewal of passports that were perfectly valid for travel to Europe.

Airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair previously used the Foreign Office travel advice as grounds for denying boarding to passengers who were perfectly entitled to travel. All the major airlines are now aligned with the European Commission rules; Ryanair was the last to fall into line.



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UK Foreign Office update: 21 countries Brits can now travel to without any tests or vaccine proof


With coronavirus travel restrictions significantly easing, there are a number of countries British tourists can now visit without taking a covid test.

But in what will likely come as a blow to some, Spain is not yet one of them. The nation has retracted earlier changes which had been announced to its coronavirus travel rules.

It was reported that Spain had loosened restrictions and was allowing unvaccinated Brits into the country just in time for the Easter holidays. But now, in a rare reversal, the Spanish tourist board in London has withdrawn the promise of opening up to unvaccinated British visitors.

READ MORE: Spain retracts latest covid travel update

Just hours after issuing the announcement, travellers were told the information provided was incorrect. The announcement resulted from an error of interpretation of the official state bulletin.

UK travellers aged 12 and above are still required to show proof of being fully vaccinated or a certificate of recovery (dated no more than 180 days previously). The only exception is for those aged 12 to 17 (inclusive) who can show a negative Covid test (PCR or similar) taken within the 72 hours before arriving in Spain.

The good news is there are currently 21 countries that don’t require unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers to test before arrival. Let’s take a look at places you can visit without having to prove you’ve been vaccinated, or take a test.

Ireland

If you are travelling to Ireland you do not need to show any proof of vaccination, proof of recovery, proof of negative test or Irish passenger locator form receipt. There are no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirements for travel to Ireland.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms while in Ireland should follow the HSE guidance in relation to isolation and undertaking antigen or PCR testing as appropriate.

Poland

Since March 28, the obligation to undergo quarantine on arrival in Poland has been lifted. There is also no longer a requirement to demonstrate your vaccination status on arrival. A pre-departure test is no longer required for travellers arriving from non-Schengen countries, which includes the UK.

Sweden

As of April 1, people travelling to Sweden from the UK or other countries outside the EU/EEA will no longer be required to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination.

Denmark

There are no COVID-19 related requirements regarding test or self-isolation when entering Denmark.

Mexico

Most visitors from the United Kingdom can enter Mexico without taking a test, as Mexico is open to travellers regardless of their vaccination status. Travellers are required to complete a Health Declaration Form and scan the QR code it generates on arrival.

Norway

Entry requirements for Norway are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. You don’t need to provide your vaccination status for entry to Norway.

Iceland

There are no COVID-19 related travel restrictions for Iceland.

Montenegro

You do not need to provide your vaccination status or a negative test result for entry to Montenegro.

Hungary

On March 7 all COVID-19 restrictions on entering Hungary were lifted. Hungary does not require any COVID-19 vaccination proof, or a negative test result to enter the country, regardless of your vaccination status.

Romania

All restrictions related to COVID-19 ceased on March 9. There is no longer a requirement to quarantine, to test before entering Romania, or to complete the PLF (Passenger Locator Form).

Slovenia

You no longer need to provide proof of your vaccination status for entry to Slovenia.

Lithuania

British nationals travelling to Lithuania from the UK are no longer required to prove their vaccination status, recovery from COVID-19 or have a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival.

Madeira (Portugal)

It is recommended that you complete a passenger locator form before you travel to Madeira and Porto Santo. If you’re travelling with children aged 11 and under, include their details in your form. There are no other requirements for entry to Madeira and Porto Santo.

Cuba

As of April 6, there is no requirement for travellers arriving from the UK for either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test. All travellers are required to complete a Health Declaration (Declaracíon Jurada de Sanidad) online before travel.

Costa Rica

Adults who are not fully-vaccinated can visit Costa Rica without taking a test as long as they have proof of travel insurance that covers lodging and medical expenses in case of contracting Covid-19. Anyone aged 18 or under, along with fully-vaccinated adults, can enter Costa Rica without mandatory insurance.

El Salvador

Most travellers can enter El Salvador without a negative test result and do not have to quarantine on arrival. You also do not need to be vaccinated, however, travellers are advised to bring proof of vaccination as this may be required for entry to specific events and premises.

Saudi Arabia

There is no requirement to provide a vaccination certificate or negative PCR or antigen test certificate to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All visitors must fill out the Registration Immunization Information Form, and you will need a visa to enter or travel through Saudi Arabia.

Jordan

All travellers regardless of their vaccination status, are no longer required to conduct pre-departure PCR tests and PCR tests on arrival in Jordan. You will need a visa to enter or travel through Jordan as a visitor.

Latvia

If you travel to Latvia from EU, EEA countries, Switzerland or the UK, you are not required to show proof of vaccination, take COVID-19 tests or self-isolate when you arrive.

Moldova

All COVID-19 entry requirements were removed, both for Moldovans and foreign nationals, on March 22. Border Police will permit you to cross the Ukrainian-Moldovan checkpoint with a national ID card or a birth certificate.

Mongolia

COVID-19 related restrictions for entry have been lifted. Negative COVID-19 PCR tests before and after arrival are no longer required. You should contact the Mongolian Embassy in London for the most up-to-date advice on entry requirements and visas. Borders between China and Mongolia are closed except for freight traffic.

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Estonians embarked on foreign travel again in 2021 – Baltic News Network


In a sign of Baltic travel recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions, Estonians made 575 000 international trips in 2021, which was 3% more than the year before, official statistics showed.

Statistics Estonia wrote in a press release on Tuesday, March 29, that the number of overnight domestic trips was close to 2.3 million – this is 6% more than in 2020. Last year, the expenditures on outbound trips amounted to over 495 million euros and the expenditures on domestic trips to more than 402 million euros.

Read also: Tallinn petition against Russian singer’s concert draws 5 000 signatures

With the increase in the number of trips, the total expenditures on trips grew by 98 million euros. However, compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019, Estonian residents spent nearly 980 million euros less on travel.

Epp Remmelg, analyst at Statistics Estonia, commented that travelling among Estonians increased at the end of the second quarter of 2021, but outbound trips made last year still totalled only a third of the number of outbound trips made in 2019. «The number of outbound overnight trips grew the most in the fourth quarter – by four and a half times compared to the fourth quarter of 2020,» noted Remmelg, according to the press release.



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New Zealand May Raise Fees for Foreign Travelers Upon Reopening


Following up on the recent announcement that New Zealand will soon reopen its borders to international travelers for the first time in two years, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash today indicated that the Kiwi government may require outside visitors to pay more to enjoy its “100% Pure” natural splendor.

Like many other destinations, New Zealand was allowed breathing room during the pandemic to reassess the way it conducts tourism and to reevaluate its priorities, realizing that, perhaps, quality is preferable to quantity when it comes to attracting international visitors.

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In pre-pandemic times, New Zealand’s tourism industry generated more revenue from foreign sources than its dairy industry, according to Bloomberg. But, concerns had arisen about overcrowding and insufficient infrastructure that undermined the country’s famously green, pristine character.

Speaking on Friday at a University of Otago conference, Nash said, “As international visitors return, we will not fall back into the old ways,” adding, “Tourism won’t return to the way it was. It will be better.”

As part of that commitment, he said that he is, “planning ways now to ensure that our future visitors pay their way.”

Back in 2019, the government implemented a non-refundable International Visitor Levy (IVL) of NZ$35 (about US$24) per person, which travelers pay alongside visa or NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) fees. It’s intended to ensure tourism sustainability by funding environmental conservation and enhancement projects, as well as improvements in destination management and tourism infrastructure.

“Most of us could agree that NZ$35 for the IVL was fine when it first came in, but is not sustainable in the long term if we are to meet the expectations of visitors for world-class infrastructure and facilities,” said Nash. “I am continuing to look at the IVL but no immediate changes are in store, and no cabinet decisions have been made.”

The tourism minister declared that the sector needs to reset its approach by targeting “high value” visitors—a set that’s distinctly different from the “high net-worth” crowd, and which still includes backpackers and budget travelers.

“High-value, high-quality visitors give back more than they take,” he said. “They travel across seasons and across regions. They are environmentally conscious. They want to learn about local history and culture, and try new experiences.”

New Zealand is set to open quarantine-free to a select set of foreign travelers on May 1—two months sooner than anticipated. Overseas visitors will need to have proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, provide a negative pre-departure test and will be given two rapid antigen tests upon arrival at Auckland Airport, to be self-administered on Days 1 and 6 of their stay.

For the latest insights on travel to New Zealand, check out the guide below:



For more information, visit newzealand.com.





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