More changes for U.S./Cuba relations, a rare coin discovered, SeaWorld finally succumbs to pressure and more—this week in travel news.
U.S. student sentenced in North Korea
BBC News reports that Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student accused of stealing propaganda from a North Korean hotel, has been sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for crimes against the state. The White House is urging the North Korean government to grant Warmbier amnesty and immediate release.
The BBC notes that the sentence is high compared to those given to foreigners in the past. This could be due to increased tensions following new sanctions doled out by the U.S. after North Korea’s missile tests.
Amtrak train derails in Kansas
CNN reports that an Amtrak train traveling from LA to Chicago derailed in rural Kansas shortly after midnight on Monday morning. Five of nine passenger cars came off the tracks. At least 32 were sent to area hospitals, and most soon discharged; none were killed. Federal investigators are looking into the cause of the derailment.
SeaWorld to stop breeding orcas
Skift reports that SeaWorld has announced it will end its practice of breeding killer whales. SeaWorld will also be ending theatrical shows featuring orcas. Controversy has been building since the death of whale-trainer Dawn Brancheau back in 2010.
Tourist finds 2,000-year-old coin in Israel
CNN reports that, while hiking in the hills of eastern Galilee, tourist Laurie Rimon discovered a gold coin so rare that only one other is known to exist. It is part of a series of coins minted in 107 A.D. by Roman Emperor Trajan as a way to honor emperors who came before him. The coin shows the face of Emperor Augustus Caesar, founder of the Roman Empire.
The coin may have been part of a payment to a Roman soldier who had been in the area to suppress the Bar Kokhba revolt. It is expected to go for up to $5 million at auction.
Passenger surge heightens airport woe
NBC reports that spring break travel volume is up 7 percent from last year (140 million people are expected to travel this spring). The TSA says it don’t have enough staff to cover this passenger surge. Couple that with the trend of passengers carrying more luggage on board to avoid baggage fees, and the result is that TSA scanners are experiencing serious bottlenecks.
Don’t expect the problem to improve any time soon. Remember: summer is coming.
U.S. further eases Cuba restrictions
The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has further eased travel restrictions to Cuba ahead of the president’s scheduled trip to Havana next week. American citizens will now be able to make educational trips as individuals without needing special permissions.
The Department of Commerce also amended regulations to allow Cuban citizens to earn salaries and maintain bank accounts in the U.S. The Cuban government still imposes a 10% fee to exchange U.S. dollars.
Mass shooting suspect blames Uber app
BBC News reports that Jason Dalton, the Uber driver accused of killing six in Kalamazoo, Michigan in February, claims that the Uber app told him to kill. Dalton told investigators that the rideshare app made him “feel like a puppet.”
None of the victims were Uber customers, and appear to have been selected at random. Dalton passed Uber’s mandatory background checks; he had no prior criminal record.
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