The Amazing Race 32, Episode 3

Bogotá (Colombia) - Manaus (Brazil)

Tourists who go to Manaus as the gateway to the "wilderness" of Amazonia, as the contestants on The Amazing Race 32 did this week, may expect to find a small provincial town. But with two and half million people in a metropolitan area growing even faster than the rest of Brazil, Manaus is the most populous and cosmopolitan city for more than a thousand miles in any direction, It's the regional center for transport, infrastructure, services, and industry. Located in the center of South America, Manaus is not only one of the world's greatest inland ports but also a major air cargo hub and general aviation technical (refueling) stop between the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe and Asia) and the larger population and industrial centers of the Southern Cone.

However, despite some direct international flights including to Miami, and extensive domestic Brazilian air services, Manaus has had relatively few direct international passenger airline connections.

It's harder to obtain historical airline schedules than current ones, and many services, especially international ones, have been discontinued because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The contestants on The Amazing Race 32 were all on the same flights(s) from Bogotá to Manaus. They might have been on a nonstop flight on the venerable Colombian airline Avianca (operating in bankruptcy since the pandemic, like many other airlines, but no longer flying that route). Or the racers might have flown via Panama City on COPA. The TV show included an establishing shot of a COPA plane, but that doesn't resolve the question: The Amazing Race has often included pictures of planes taking off and landing that aren't the ones the racers were on.

This isn't irrelevant to our plans or fantasies for future travel A.C. ("after coronavirus"), if there is such a time and if we live to see it. Even if the volume of travel rebounds, and even for those airlines that don't go out of business (as many probably will), airlines have already made clear that they do not expect the traffic patterns of air travel -- especially internationally -- to be the same as they used to be B.C. Some airline route maps, again especially internationally, may and probably will be redrawn from scratch. It's impossible to predict which routes will have direct flights, or with what frequency, a year or two from now.

After a shopping challenge at market in central Manaus, the racers took tour boats to a Desana village on the outskirts of the city. The village is a standard stop on the most common one-day boat tours of the Manaus region. Tours to the village typically feature a "cultural show" and chances to take pictures of people in "native" costumes and buy handicrafts,

The Desanos are indigenous to Amazonia, but not to Manaus. Like many Native Americans who reside today on reservations far from their ancestors' traditional territories, the Desanos were originally from areas several hundred miles up the Rio Negro from Manaus to the northwest. Between the 1970s and 1990s, several waves of squatters and migrants, displaced to the city from their traditional lands, established a cluster of informal settlements just outside the built-up area of Manaus. Later, the area was designated as the Tupé Sustainable Development Reserve, and a process is underway to "regularize" title to the land in the settlements. Tourism plays an important role in the government's plans for economic "development" of the reserve.

"Ten percent of the indigenous tribes living along the Amazon River have never had contact with the outside world," host Phil Keoghan says to introduce the racers' visit to the Desana village. Whether or not that number is correct, it reflects a significant part of the allure, and the contradiction, of village visits and indigenous tourism: Tourists want to observe and interact with those people and communities that have had the least contact with other outsiders -- including other tourists.

The Desanos, who mingle every day with boatloads of tourists from throughout Brazil (most tourism to Manaus is domestic, from places like São Paulo) and around the world, are hardly removed from awareness of "civilization", much less uncontacted. But even on the outskirts of the city, this sort of tourism poses many ethical issues for the travel industry and for travellers.

The closer travellers get to truly uncontacted tribes, the more serious the problems become. We've been accustomed to thinking that the risks we take when we travel are risks to ourselves, that we can choose. During the current novel coronavirus pandemic, we've had to get used to the idea that how we travel can create risks for others as well as, or in some cases more than, to ourselves. That's always been an issue for contact -- including tourism -- with isolated peoples.

For uncontacted tribes that haven't been sufficiently exposed to the diseases of civilization to develop immunity, the common cold is a novel virus. First contact is often fatal to entire communities, or decimates their populations.

Last month it made headlines when an official of Brazil's ministry of Indian affairs was killed by an arrow shot by a member of one of the indigenous tribes in the area he administered. There are no comparable headlines each time an Amazonian tribe is wiped out by disease or displaced by wildcat gold miners, loggers, settlers, or ranchers clearing the jungle -- with or without land titles -- for cattle pastures, orange groves, and other plantation agriculture, or when something similar happens to a tribe in Borneo or New Guinea.

The threats to indigenous Brazilians have escalated under the government of President Trump's Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, and include expansion of favelas (shantytowns) further and further into former jungle surrounding Manaus itself. Brazil, like Indonesia, sees lightly populated jungle regions of the country as a "safety valve" for internal migration to relieve pressure (and possible political blowback) from overcrowded urban slums -- and to provide a supply of cheap labor for owners of factories and farms in and around places like Manaus.

It's not a pretty picture, and it's not unique to Brazil or the Third World. Many of the same issues confront tourists in the Navajo Nation in the USA.

There's no clear answer for travellers who want to "do the right thing". But it's important to consider the impact of our travel on others, especially on those more vulnerable than ourselves. Tourism Concern has a more detailed survey of issues to consider, but here are a few key questions to ask yourself and your hosts about visits to indigenous peoples, territories. and communities:

  • How much of the money you spend on tourist services or other products stays in indigenous hands? What impact does your visit -- and those of other people like you, repeated day after day -- have on the people and communities you visit?
  • Who decides what is being performed for visitors? Whose stories you are being told, and who is telling them?
  • Does tourism drive the creation of infrastructure and the availability of services that improve the lives of indigenous people, that exacerbate the threat to their autonomy and cultural survival -- or both?

Read original article: The Amazing Race 32, Episode 3

(Posted by Edward, 28 October 2020, 23:59)

The Amazing Race 32, Episode 2

Tobago (Trinidad & Tobago) - Bogotá (Colombia) - Nemocón (Colombia) - Bogotá (Colombia)

Are you watching The Amazing Race 32 to look back at the way travel used to be in the time B.C. ("Before Coronavirus")? Or are you looking forward to the ways travel around the world will be different after coronavirus (if there is an "after)? Please let me know, in the comments or by e-mail.

The entire season of the reality-TV travel show was filmed, edited, and ready for broadcast long before the current pandemic. It would be unfair to expect any explicit reference to, much less focus on, the issues the pandemic raises for travellers. But even with that caveat, I found this week's episode disappointing.

What I've found most valuable in travel, and miss most about it, are the opportunities it provides to meet people and see and do things that are different from my previous life experience. I don't need or want to burn enough kerosene to fly halfway around the world to meet people like myself (such as other tourists from the USA and/or from similar backgrounds) or to see or do things that I could find in my own backyard.

The producers of The Amazing Race kept the cast members largely isolated from anyone other than each other during this episode in Colombia. They went everywhere in separate taxis, rather than by mass transit. For the most part, the "challenges" they had to complete could have been staged almost anywhere. And they spent the night with only their fellow racers for company, all laying out their sleeping bags on the floor of one underground chamber of a salt mine. A cool photo op, but unnecessarily isolated. I'd rather spend a night in an ordinary-looking hotel with an interesting clientele of local travellers to hang out with. I'm especially partial to hotels that cater to travellers from other parts of the country I'm in, rather than to international visitors.

The lack of opportunities for cast members of "The Amazing Race" to meet more Colombians is especially unfortunate because, as U.S. citizens, we have more connection with, and more responsibility for, what life is like for people in Colombia that most of us realize.

As I noted the first time The Amazing Race went to Colombia four years ago, "The U.S. government has been a perpetrator and participant, not a bystander and certainly not a force for peace, in the war(s) in Colombia. One of the reasons for me to visit Colombia would be to try to learn, to the extent that it's possible to do so as a tourist, something about what's been done with my tax dollars and in my name."

Some things about Colombia have changed since then, but twenty years after the launch of the U.S. Plan Colombia, Colombia is still the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere, by a factor of three or four over any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean. Mexico ranks a distant second on that list, despite its much larger population.

(Most of the guns used in the epidemic of violence in recent years in Mexico have been made in the USA -- raising important issues of the U.S. role in international trafficking in small arms -- but for the most part those guns haven't been directly paid for by the U.S. government.)

If we vote and/or pay taxes in the USA, we can no more be "just a tourist" in Colombia than an American could have been "just a tourist" in Saigon during the U.S. war in Indochina, or "just a tourist" in Pakistan during the U.S. proxy war with the USSR in the 1980s, when I travelled there. That doesn't mean we can or should try to travel to combat zones, but it does give us some responsibility to keep our eyes and ears open to the impact of our decisions in the USA -- both in politics and purchasing -- on people's lives in the places we visit.

Read original article: The Amazing Race 32, Episode 2

(Posted by Edward, 21 October 2020, 23:59)

How the Chicago 8 ("Chicago 7") might have been the Chicago 9

There's a footnote to the trial of the Chicago 8 (popularly but wrongly known as the "Chicago 7") -- featured for the fourth time in yet another cinematic adaptation that premiered this past weekend on Netflix -- that few people know, and maybe nobody other than me knows:

The eight defendants indicted and tried for "conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot" in Chicago in 1968, reduced to seven after the case of Bobby Seale was severed from the others, might have been nine (or perhaps a different eight) if the FBI had been able to figure out when, where, and how Eric Weinberger crossed the Illinois state line en route to Chicago for the demonstrations outside the Democratic Party's national convention.

Who was Eric Weinberger? How do I know about his close call with indictment in the Chicago conspiracy trial? Why might the government have considered including him along with the Chicago 8? And why does this matter (or does it matter at all)?

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<p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href=""></a></p><p>There's a footnote to the trial of the <a href="">Chicago 8</a> (popularly but wrongly known as the "Chicago 7") -- featured for the <a href="">fourth time</a> in yet another cinematic adaptation that <a href="">premiered this past weekend on Netflix</a> -- that few people know, and maybe nobody other than me knows:</p> <p>The <strong>eight</strong> defendants indicted and tried for "conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot" in Chicago in 1968, reduced to <strong>seven</strong> after the case of Bobby Seale was severed from the others, might have been <strong>nine</strong> (or perhaps a different eight) if the FBI had been able to figure out when, where, and how <a href="">Eric Weinberger</a> crossed the Illinois state line en route to Chicago for the demonstrations outside the Democratic Party's national convention.</p> <p>Who was Eric Weinberger? How do I know about his close call with indictment in the Chicago conspiracy trial? Why might the government have considered including him along with the Chicago 8? And why does this matter (or does it matter at all)?</p> <p><a href="" title="CONTINUE READING: How the Chicago 8 (" chicago="Chicago" 7")="7&quot;)" might="might" have="have" been="been" the="the" chicago="Chicago" 9"="9&quot;">CONTINUE READING: How the Chicago 8 ("Chicago 7") might have been the Chicago 9</a></p> (Posted by Edward, 19 October 2020, 16:56)

The Amazing Race 32, Episode 1 (Travel during the pandemic)

Los Angeles, CA (USA) - Port of Spain, Trinidad (Trinidad & Tobago) - Tobago (Trinidad & Tobago)

Travel during the coronavirus pandemic

Season 32 of The Amazing Race, which premiered today -- almost two years after it was filmed -- on CBS-TV in the USA, has both planned and unplanned similarities to the first season of the reality-TV show about travel around the world.

First, and no doubt deliberately, the members of the cast have once again been selected, as they were in first few seasons of the show, to represent what could be presented as a cross-section (although still limited to U.S. citizens, unfortunately) of "ordinary" Americans.

Some recent seasons of The Amazing Race have featured cast members many of whom (or in one season all of whom) were already actors or TV or social media stars selected to attract their followers to the TV show. This time around, the producers appear to have gone back to trying to choose a cast of characters viewers could identify with. I like that, and I think most viewers will too. Part of the fun of "The Amazing Race" is trying to imagine, "What would I do if I and my companion were put in this situation?" or "What would ordinary Americans do?" And I'd rather see cast members who are being themselves than professionals trying to put on an act to get themselves another TV or acting gig or product endorsement contract. Yes, the cast this season includes several professional or Olympic athletes. But they aren't people who are likely to be recognized by strangers around the world who have already seen them on TV or on their YouTube channel, as has happened to some cast members on recent seasons.

The second way that this season resembles the first season of The Amazing Race is that, for the second time in the twenty years of the show, a season filmed in a time of rising expectations and opportunities for world travel is being broadcast in the aftermath of traumatic events that have caused an unprecedented decline in travel and have created even greater uncertainty as to the future of travel in general and globetrotting in particular.

The Amazing Race 1 was filmed in March and April of 2001, and the first episode was broadcast on 5 September 2001 and again (to build buzz for the new show) on 9 September 2001. After the events of 11 September 2001 -- which grounded flights and stranded travellers around the world -- it wasn't clear if travel, especially international travel, would ever recover (it did, in some but not all respects, but it took several years), how it would be different (a question that is still being answered by events, as the largely-undiagnosed and untreated societal traumas of September 11th continue to influence travel policies and practices), and whether there would still be an audience or advertisers for a TV show about travel around the world.

Who would have thought that, almost twenty years and more than thirty TV seasons later, we would once again be watching a "reality" travel show that was filmed during less worried times and depicts travellers doing things most of us wouldn't choose to do right now?

It appears that, as they did after September 11th (although in that case after a two-week delay), CBS is going through with its broadcasts of The Amazing Race. The coronavirus pandemic makes filming new TV shows or movies difficult, so CBS is undoubtedly reluctant to scrap a series that is already bought, paid for, filmed, edited, and ready to air. But I expect that throughout this season many of us will be watching The Amazing Race 32 with part of our mind on what is happening on the screen, and another part constantly asking, "How would this scene or setting be different today during the pandemic?" and/or "Will we ever see or do anything like this again?"

Meanwhile, I expect that many of us will be wondering, as we did after September 11th, whether we should still (or again) be travelling, where or how we can travel safely today, or what we should be doing differently if we travel.

These are important questions, as they were in 2001, and there's much we can learn by comparing our responses as travellers to the traumas and fears of the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the current coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, some of the issues -- and, at least for me, many of the answers -- are very different for people contemplating travel today than they were after September 11th.

If there's one thing that's the same now as it was after September 11th, it's that we can't trust, and shouldn't rely on, either the travel industry or the U.S. government to tell us when, where, or how to travel or whether it's safe.

Airline cabin crews are in as much danger as anyone. But they aren't the ones making the decisions about what to say in press releases or signage. One might hope that airline owners and managers would care about their employees' health as well as that of their customers. But airline owners have a poor track record when it comes to concern for their employees' health and safety, much less that of passengers -- especially when the interests of employee or passenger health and safety conflict with those of corporate profits or executives' jobs.

Travel company owners' profits, and travel company managers' jobs, depend on convincing you that it's safe to travel. Just as they did after September 11th, travel companies will enthusiastically endorse whatever theatrics they think will make you feel it's safe to travel, even if they know that travel in a time of pandemic increases the risk of infection for guests and hosts alike.

Some travel companies, such as Rick Steves' tour company, have deep enough pockets and strong enough morals to afford to do the right thing and wait out the pandemic. Most don't, including almost all airlines. If they can't persuade you to start travelling again soon, in large numbers, like it was 2019 again, they will go bankrupt soon. They will say what they think they need to say to persuade you to travel, and to travel soon.

Governments also have ulterior motives for their story line on travel safety. As they did after September 11th, they are using safety, security, and panic as pretexts for preexisting agendas of travel surveillance and control, even when the measures being taken in the name of the pandemic actually increase the risks to travellers. Whether, where, or how we are "allowed" to travel says little about whether we should, or how safe it is.

For example, as I've been writing about for the Identity Project, airlines, airport operating authorities, and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration all wanted to use facial recognition for automated identification of travellers, long before the pandemic. Now they all claim, disingenuously, that facial recognition is safer because it is "touchless". But they ignore the fact that it necessarily requires travellers to remove their face masks for mug shots -- at some of the most crowded airport choke points: check-in counters, TSA checkpoints, boarding gates, customs and immigration inspection stations, etc. Facial recognition serves airlines' desire for automation and labor cost savings and governments' desire for surveillance and control, at the expense of passengers' safety during the pandemic.

Similarly, government agencies are using health concerns as the pretext for ordering airlines to collect and provide the government with even more information about travellers, even while they are working to mandate that airlines hand over whatever information they have entered in your reservations to the government of every country you visit. Are they trying to protect us, or to police us? You may trust the government in some countries, but do you trust the government and the police of every country you visit?

The fact that both travel companies and government agencies have ulterior motives for what they tell travellers makes it harder than it should be to make choices about whether, when, where, and how to travel. We have to make potentially life-or-death decisions about matters in which we aren't expert. That's often true in life, but it doesn't allow for the "worry-free" travel we want, at least if we want to travel responsibly. And as I also noted after September 11th, our fears are often poorly correlated with actual risks, so that following our instincts may lead us into greater danger.

I might have to take a 5000 km (3000 mile) cross-country trip soon for family reasons. While I know people who, in similar circumstances recently, have decided to drive and camp or sleep in their vehicle along the way, to avoid the risk of infection on a six-hour flight, I would choose to fly to avoid the many close encounters with other people, and the risk of infection, that a cross-country road trip would inevitably require. That's a personal judgment call, not a recommendation for what anyone else should do. I'm an expert in travel, not in infectious diseases.

Phil Keoghan starts each season of The Amazing Race with the send-off, "Travel safe!" But safety is never about the elimination of risk, and it's almost always a mistake to think in terms of, "Is this safe or not?" Everything we do in life has inherent and unavoidable risks. There are no perfectly safe choices and there is no risk-free way to live -- or to travel. There's never a completely safe time to travel, completely safe place to travel, or completely safe way to travel. Choices about safety are choices made under uncertainty about the weighted balance of probabilistic predictions. That's what "risk" means. Experts in risk think in terms of risk assessment, risk reduction, risk choices, and risk mitigation, not the (impossible) elimination of risk.

The question is what risks to put on each side of the scale, and how to weigh them against each other.

Some of the current risks and weightings are quite different than they were after September 11th.

After September 11th, world travel was no more dangerous than usual, and in most cases no more dangerous than staying home. Travel today during the coronavirus pandemic really is both more dangerous than usual and, unless you live in especially hazardous conditions, more dangerous than staying home.

In addition, the hazards of travel, or at least those we think about, are usually the hazards to ourselves. We might get robbed by pickpockets or snatch-thieves (it's happened to me four times, in Chicago, London, Durban, and Dar es Salaam, although it could have been anywhere) or we might get hit by a car (as happened to my father-in-law in Harare, although it could have been anywhere). We might get sick or injured and wind up in a hospital far from our home or our doctors, as has happened to several of my family members on different continents. Or our bus could crash (that hasn't happened to me yet, but it's always a risk).

Today, travelling creates risks not just for ourselves but for everyone we meet along the way, and for everyone in their homes and workplaces. Imposing risks on others requires a higher level of justification, I think, than choosing to take risks with our own life. So I ask myself, "Is this trip worth the cost in risk to myself and to others?"

If there's a parallel in the past to this sort of thinking, it's the kind of thinking I've been doing for years about air travel. Each time I choose to fly, that imposes a cost on everyone in the world in the contribution it makes to global warming. I try, not always successfully, to include that fact in my cost-benefit analysis each time I consider buying an airline ticket. I don't think I or anyone should fly -- or travel by car, which imposes other costs on the world -- without a good reason. What's a good reason is, of course, a personal decision.

During this pandemic, we face difficult travel choices: How much risk does our planned trip impose on ourselves and others, and is there a sufficient reason and likely benefit from this trip to outweigh that risk? That's an unpleasant, unwanted choice to have to make, but it's not one we can or should avoid thinking about.

These are some of the questions I'll be considering as The Amazing Race 32 continues.

Read original article: The Amazing Race 32, Episode 1 (Travel during the pandemic)

(Posted by Edward, 14 October 2020, 23:59)