The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Don’t light up in NY, or lock your luggage

Washington, Jan. 1: America will be a different place in the New Year. And this, only pa- rtly because of the all-consuming fear of terrorism since September 11.

New York, which has been in the news for much of last year for the wrong reasons, will radically transform in 2003. And it will not be a change which many tourists are likely to look upon favourably.

On the eve of the New Year, the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, defied protests and signed into law regulations prohibiting smoking in most public places, bars and all restaurants.

Timed to take effect in 90 days, the only exceptions will be owner-operated bars with no employees, cigar bars and bars outfitted with special ven-tilation.

Private clubs are also smoking areas, but wait — only if it has no employees!

Also in 2003, the US state department has something unprecedented to worry about: Whether to issue a US passp- ort for the cloned baby, whose arrival was announced a few days ago.

The department’s briefer, Philip Reeker, was asked about the problem this week. “In the hypothetical situation of a cloned baby, this would be a new situation,” he admitted.

“Therefore, at this time we would be unable to determ- ine how US laws regarding nationality would apply to this child,” he told reporters.

There are reports here that a 31-year-old American, who is claimed to have delivered a clone of herself abroad, is heading back to the US with the baby, appropriately named Eve. Even infants require a passport to enter the US.

New Year’s eve celebrations this year underlined a new effort to curb the menace of drunken driving spreading in America.

Four years ago, an innov-ative funeral home in Tenn- essee offered free funerals to those who signed a pledge to drive drunk on the night of December 31.

This year, several funeral home owners in south-eastern US offered the same prize to revellers. Of course, there were no takers although funerals are a crippling expense in the US for those who are left behind.

Americans woke up on January 1, as usual, to an annual list of unacceptable words compiled by Lake Superior State University in Michigan. What was unusual this time was that four of the 23 expressions in this year’s list are the favourites of President George W. Bush.

Known as “Bushisms”, the banned words in this year’s university list are: “Make no mistake about it”, “material breach” and “weapons of mass destruction”, both used by Bush almost daily in references to Iraq and “homeland security”, the President’s favourite topic since the terrorist attacks on September 11.

It may interest journalists that one of the banned expressions is “untimely death”. There is no such thing as a timely death, it was asserted during the release of the list.

Travelling to, from and within the US will also be different from January 1. As part of sweeping changes to aviation security procedures, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created last year, has advised travellers not to lock their checked-in baggage.

“In some cases, TSA will have to open your baggage as part of the screening process...Therefore, TSA suggests that you help prevent the need to break your locks by keeping your bag unlocked,” says its new advisory.

Offering hope to those who fear that their unlocked baggage may be pilfered, TSA has assured travellers that “in the near future”, it will provide seals at airports to secure luggage as an alternative to locking bags.

But till such time, the advice is not to travel with anything that you may worry about losing.

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