Myeshia Johnson Stands Up to Donald Trump

Myeshia Johnson Stands Up to Donald Trump

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There were two moments during her interview on “Good Morning
America

when the expression of the face of Myeshia Johnson, the widow of
Sergeant La David Johnson, was transformed by a sudden smile. One came
when George Stephanopoulos asked if it was true that she and La
David—who was twenty-five when he died, three weeks ago, in Niger—had
met when they were just six years old. “Yes, sir,” Johnson said. The
other was when he mentioned that she was expecting her third child, a
daughter, in January. Her oldest child is six now. Those are
circumstances that could overwhelm anyone. But Johnson, throughout the
six-and-a-half-minute interview, was steady, calm, and focussed on two
goals: asking for answers about how her had husband died, and standing
up to President Donald Trump, who, she said, when he called her,
“couldn’t remember my husband’s name.”

“He told me he had my husband’s report in front of him, and that’s when he actually said ‘La David,’ ” Johnson said. “I heard him stumbling
on, trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt the most,
because, if my husband is out there fighting for our country, why can’t
you remember his name?”

It’s a good question, and there might be charitable answers—Trump’s own
emotion at the difficult task at hand, for example—if the President had
not responded to the interview by, in effect, calling Johnson, a Gold
Star widow, a liar. Soon after the “Good Morning America” broadcast,
Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of
Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without
hesitation!” There were no accompanying words of compassion for Johnson,
who said that the call “made me cry even worse.” Beyond the lack of
empathy, this is a steep escalation of Trump’s claims that
Representative Frederica Wilson, who was in a car with Johnson during
the call, and said that the President had not been respectful, had
“totally
fabricated
her account of it. Trump has taken to calling Wilson “wacky”; his chief
of staff, the retired general John Kelly, called her an “empty
barrel

in a press conference last week, and put out a story about watching in
disbelief as she grandstanded during an F.B.I. ceremony a number of
years ago—a story that was, as a video of the event proves, demonstrably
false. Trump and Kelly derided Wilson for presuming to speak on behalf
of a grieving widow—indeed, for presuming to speak up at all in a way
that was critical of the President. Did they think that Myeshia Johnson
would not speak up for Wilson? If so, they were wrong.

When Stephanopoulos said, “The President said that the congresswoman was
lying about the phone call,” Johnson did not hesitate. “Whatever Ms.
Wilson said was not ‘fabricated,’ ” she said, speaking evenly. “What she
said was one hundred per cent correct.” It was all on speakerphone, she
said. “Why would we fabricate something like that?” The Trumpian answer
is that, if it makes the President look bad, it must be a lie.

Johnson, like Wilson, said that the President told her that her husband
“knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.” As she recounted
that, she gave Stephanopoulos a quizzical look, as if wondering, not for
the first time, where Trump had been going with that. She continued,
“And it made me cry, because I was very angry at the tone of his voice.”
(Wilson said that the tone sounded almost like that of someone making a
joke.) Kelly, in his press conference, suggested that Trump’s statements
might have been a mangled version of words that Kelly had found
comforting when his son Robert died in combat, and had repeated to Trump
when the President asked for advice on the call. Perhaps Kelly, knowing
his customer, should have skipped the more philosophical notions and
drilled in on the basics: make sure you know the name; connect. (It is
telling that what Trump saw as his “nice” conversation with Johnson was
apparently one-sided; she told Stephanopoulos that she just listened
while he did all the talking.) And, if you get it wrong, be honest about
it; don’t lie.

Myeshia Johnson also addressed a point that seems to have particularly
outraged Kelly: that Wilson was listening in on the call, which he
portrayed as a violation of something “sacred.” It was an odd complaint,
given that Kelly himself had listened in, too, but Johnson put it to
rest with a reminder that she was an actor in all this, rather than just
a symbol. “I asked Master Sergeant Neil to put his phone on speaker,
so my aunt and uncle could hear as well,” she said, referring to the
service member assigned to them, who was on the line with the White
House, and to her husband’s aunt and uncle, who raised him after his
mother died when he was a small child. (They have been identified as his
parents in some press accounts; his aunt, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, had
earlier backed up Wilson’s account.) Wilson, Myeshia Johnson added, was
there, too, because she had worked with La David’s uncle in an
elementary school and had guided La David in a mentoring program called
5000 Role Models. “She’s been in our family since we were little kids,”
Johnson said.

Kelly, in his press conference, talked about the people in the militarybeing the best of America at a time “when there’s nothing in our country
anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not
only appropriate but required.” He went on to say that he would only
call on reporters who knew Gold Star families, a proposition that, in a
democracy, has some hazardous implications. (Similarly alarming was a
statement that the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders,
made last week, suggesting that Kelly’s former military rank exempted
him from certain questions.) There is great
selflessness and valor in the military, but there is heroism, too, in
running mentoring programs and getting kids through school—becoming part
of their families in a way that can also be regarded, to borrow Kelly’s
word, as sacred. In the video of the speech that Wilson gave which so
offended Kelly, she asked members of law enforcement in the audience to
stand up and be honored. It is hard to know what bothered Kelly about
her appearance that day. Wilson herself, in an interview with the
Times, said that she had no explanation—“I’m just flabbergasted,” she
said—but she added, in regard to the general context of the affair, that
the Administration is stocked with “white supremacists.” (The Times noted that she was not speaking about Kelly personally.) In any event,
Trump might need to learn that there are women who will neither praise
him nor stay quiet or shrink when he attacks. Some of them are Gold Star
widows. Generals are not the only ones who get to speak, for military
families or for the country.

Myeshia Johnson, as she has made clear, is not done. She knew that her
husband was “an awesome soldier,” and that she could tell her unborn
child that he was a hero. But she wanted to know, among other things,
why it had taken the military two days to find her husband’s body, and
to understand why she been told that he had to have a closed casket.
“They won’t show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband’s body from head
to toe.” She added, “I don’t know how he got killed, where he got
killed, or anything.” There are larger questions about the mission in
Niger, which, according to an NBC
News
report, may have involved operational and intelligence failures.

“Are you confident you’re going to get the answers you need?”
Stephanopoulos asked. “If I keep pushing for them, I will,” Johnson
said. No doubt she will push, but this might also be the moment for
Congress and others to give her some backup. She’s earned it.

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October 23, 2017 at 09:33PM

Dream Job Alert: The New York Times Is Looking for Someone to Travel the World

Dream Job Alert: The New York Times Is Looking for Someone to Travel the World

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If this isn’t the ultimate dream job, then we don’t know what is (besides working at TPG, of course). The New York Times is looking to hire a journalist who will travel the globe for one full year and write about their experiences. The hiree will travel to each of the Times’ 52 Places to Go over the course of 52 weeks — hello, additional passport pages!

Here’s the job description from the Times:

“Every year, The New York Times recommends 52 Places to Go, one place to dream about exploring each week. The list is an ambitious forecast of which beaches will remain unspoiled, which starchitect-designed museums will live up to their renderings and which culinary treasures are worth hopping a flight to eat.

This year, we want at least one ambitious traveler to turn our wish list into an itinerary.

We are seeking a writer who will go to every destination on our list and tell us the story of each place and the story of life on the road. The ideal candidate is a permanent student of life and astute documentarian of the world. This person should have a well-worn passport, the ability to parachute into a place and distill its essence and to render a compelling tale with words and images.”

Thinking that this sounds like the perfect gig for you, you travel-loving, writing-obsessed TPG reader? Yep, we do too — however, there are some basic qualifications you’ll need to meet if you hope to be considered. At the very least, you’ll need to have media experience, fluency in English and expertise in social media and digital devices. In addition, you must have some travel experience, be available to commit to a full year, maintain an active role on social media, have documented your travel in writing, social media or elsewhere and have prior experience at a magazine, publishing company, newspaper, digital publication, film or other media organization.

If you meet those requirements, you’re definitely going to want to apply — just know that there will probably be thousands of applicants just like you. To apply, you’ll need to write a memo answering the following questions:

  • Do you have a passport?
  • What was your most recent trip?
  • What’s the most interesting place you’ve been and why? (500 words)
  • A 500-word memo outlining the themes you would like to explore during your travels

This is an awesome opportunity — anyone even remotely interested should at least send an application. Just think of all the miles you could earn…

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October 23, 2017 at 09:15PM

“Too Funny to Fail”: The Unfortunate Genius of “The Dana Carvey Show”

“Too Funny to Fail”: The Unfortunate Genius of “The Dana Carvey Show”

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There are certain ill-fated projects that loom large in comedy lore—as
examples of terrible ideas, backstage calamity, deleterious studio
interference, or evidence of an audience’s inability to recognize
innovation in the moment. In 1961, the première of Jackie Gleason’s game
show, “You’re in the Picture,” was so bad that Gleason began the second
episode by offering an apology, noting that it “laid, without a doubt,”
a bomb that “would make the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute.” In
1990, a British sitcom that imagined the domestic lives of Hitler and
Eva Braun, called “Heil Honey I’m Home Home!,” was pulled after a
single episode of unrivalled bad taste. In 1993, “The Chevy Chase Show,”
which was heavily promoted by Fox as a late-night challenger to the
other networks, was cancelled after just five weeks, and left behind
such gems as Chase dancing stiffly onstage next to a denim-clad Goldie Hawn.

On this list, “The Dana Carvey Show,” which ran for seven episodes on
ABC, in 1996, before being cancelled, occupies a special place. It was
favored by a certain kind of comedy fan at the time, and, in the years
since, thanks in large part to the subsequent success of many of the
people who worked on it—Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Louis C.K.,
Robert Smigel, the filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, and others—has remained an
object of fascination and discussion in the comedy world. In April,
while appearing on Colbert’s “Late Night,” Louis C.K., who was the head
writer of “The Dana Carvey Show” at the age of twenty-nine, recalled a story from the taping of the first episode, in which, infamously, Carvey, dressed as President
Bill Clinton, fed an assortment of live baby animals from functioning
synthetic teats on his chest. The sketch didn’t go well—just one such
precarious moment on a show that Louis C.K. called “stressful.” Colbert
was more specific: “I come around the corner, and you’re in the middle
of the hallway openly weeping.”

Louis C.K. is not interviewed in “Too Funny to Fail,” a new documentary
by Josh Greenbaum about “The Dana Carvey Show,” which was released this
weekend, on Hulu. But the other principals appear, including Carvey,
Carell, Colbert, and Smigel, as well as Heather Morgan and Bill Chott,
both featured performers on the show, and Ted Harbert, the ABC executive
who green-lighted and eventually cancelled the show. There is danger in
probing mythology: when the actual footage is dusted off, cult failures
can fail to live up to the hype. Colbert, recalling a bit about the
awarding of the foreign-language Academy Award, calls it “possibly the
most racist sketch ever committed to tape.” As with all sketch comedy, there is plenty
about “The Dana Carvey Show” that is worth
forgetting. But many of the surviving clips make a compelling case for the
show as a noble experiment. And the documentary itself is a rare thing:
a movie about comedy that is, itself, actually funny.

By the time Dana Carvey left “Saturday Night Live,” after the 1993
season, many of his characters had become firmly lodged in the cultural
consciousness—Hans, the Church Lady, Garth, Ross Perot, President George
W. Bush. The documentary skillfully captures the buzz over what Carvey
would do next, showing clips of the comedian teasing his next project on
late-night interviews and in magazine features. It all feels very
nineties—the last gasp of the monoculture. Working with Smigel, his
frequent collaborator on “S.N.L.,” Carvey pitched networks on a sketch
show that would go where few such shows had ventured, and fewer
succeeded: prime time. They landed at ABC, in a coveted Thursday slot
after the family comedy “Home Improvement,” one of the top-rated TV
shows at the time.

The problem, from the beginning, was one of misaligned priorities.
Carvey and Smigel were assembling a band of “badass nerd pirates,”
mostly undiscovered writers and performers, who would bring
bleeding-edge sketch comedy to a big audience. ABC, meanwhile, wanted
Carvey to play the “S.N.L.” hits—“Isn’t that special?” “Not gonna do
it.” “Pump you up!” This tension was nicely encapsulated in the first
sketch that opened the first show: Carvey, the master of impressions,
played Bill Clinton—so far, so good, as the network saw it. But, then,
an odd twist: Carvey opens his shirt to reveal the aforementioned false
teats, and the baby animals feeding off of them. It was choose your
adventure, uproarious, bold, unsettling, offensive, disgusting—and the
audience apparently hated it. Citing real-time ratings, Harbert, the ABC
executive, recalls that in its first few minutes the show lost millions
of “Home Improvement” viewers who had hung around to check it out:
“People ran for their remotes.”

From that point, the documentary posits, “The Dana Carvey Show” was
doomed. Advertisers objected, and the network took a new interest in
just what the weirdos it had hired were up to. Carvey, like Jackie
Gleason three decades earlier, began the second episode by referring to
the calamity of the previous week. But, rather than offer an apology,
the show’s creators did what comedians do: they became oppositional and
openly hostile to the people paying the bills, doubling down on the kind
of comedy that would hasten its own demise. The show mocked the
advertisers, and Smigel appeared in a recurring segment as a network
executive demanding that the show become more appealing. There were the waiters nauseated by food; Grandma the Clown; “Skinheads from Maine”; pranksters who unknowingly prank themselves; and “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” a cartoon short, later revived by Smigel to
greater fame on “S.N.L.,” in which two superhero “special friends” drive
a flesh-colored car shaped like a penis. The documentary generates great
comedy by juxtaposing these oddities with clips and promotional material
for the family-friendly content of the network’s other shows. After ABC
cancelled the show, and declined to air its final completed episode, it
replaced it with a rerun of “Coach.”

A popular show can’t become a cult favorite, and perhaps a show that has
been elevated in memory because it failed never could have succeeded.
And so, for a movie about a cancelled TV show, “Too Funny to Fail” is
surprisingly cheerful, in large part owing to the fact that so many of
the performers and writers on the show went on to such great comedy
heights. The stakes, so high at the time that they brought Louis C.K. to
tears, are lower now, and tragedy has been burnished into something more
akin to pleasant melancholy. Yet, despite the collection of fond
memories, and the film’s argument for the show as an incubator of talent
and an expression of integrity, it’s clear that, for some, the scar
still itches. “Hopefully I’ll watch this show, and I’ll look at the
clips, and for a day I’ll feel good about it,” Smigel, who emerges as
the most soulful of the show’s eulogizers, says, with a faint smirk.
“Then back to abject regret.”

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October 23, 2017 at 09:12PM

Chelsea Manning Talks to Larissa MacFarquhar About Life After Prison

Chelsea Manning Talks to Larissa MacFarquhar About Life After Prison

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In 2010, the Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, sent nearly seven hundred and fifty thousand classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. The leak earned Manning a thirty-five-year prison sentence, which was commuted by President Obama to seven years.

Less than five months out of prison, she sat down with The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar at the 2017 New Yorker Festival. Manning discussed her tumultuous upbringing, including her months living as a homeless teen in Chicago; her highly public gender transition; and her treatment in military prison. She also described the quick decision that led her to send the documents to WikiLeaks. Having seen “All the President’s Men,” Manning had originally intended to send the documents to the Washington Post or the Times, but, at the time, she said, the newspapers struggled to provide her with the security protocols she insisted on. Only WikiLeaks offered the necessary level of security, and she took the chance. “I was running out of time,” she told MacFarquhar. “They just had the tools available, they knew how to use them. That’s all it boiled down to. I had to go back to Iraq.”

Though the trial is behind her, Manning maintains a fierce conviction that her leak posed no threat to U.S. soldiers or local sources in Iraq or Afghanistan, a view disputed by the government and by many N.G.O.s, including leading human-rights groups. Her disclosures profoundly embarrassed the government, made WikiLeaks a household name, and, by some accounts, served as a catalyst for the Arab Spring. But Manning hopes to be done with the leaks, and to spend the next phase of her life as an advocate for trans people.

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October 23, 2017 at 09:12PM

Trump Says He Is Only President in History with Courage to Stand Up to War Widows

Trump Says He Is Only President in History with Courage to Stand Up to War Widows

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WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Calling himself “unbelievably brave,” Donald Trump said on Monday that he is the only President in U.S. history with the courage to stand up to war widows.

“You look at guys like Obama and Clinton and the Bushes, when it came to war widows, they all blinked,” he said. “For years, we weren’t winning at widows.”

In contrast, Trump said, he has made defeating war widows one of his top priorities as President. “Forget about Iran and China and Little Rocket Man,” he said. “This country has been pushed around by war widows for far too long.”

Trump said that Senator John McCain, who has mocked his draft-dodging during Vietnam, has “never shown an ounce of courage when it comes to fighting war widows.”

“McCain can talk about what he did in Vietnam all he wants,” Trump said. “But the guys who have gone toe to toe with a war widow, contradicted her version of events, and refused to back down—we are the true heroes.”

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October 23, 2017 at 08:29PM

Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review

Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review

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Kirkus Reviews is a magazine, though few readers of its work have ever
seen a copy. Like the Michelin guides, it’s known for verdicts spread
across the publishing world, bringing good books to first attention and
helping to sweep aside huge piles of dross. A Kirkus review is
short—fewer than four hundred words—and written to a form. There’s a
one-line précis to start. There’s a paragraph of plot and character
summary, culminating in formal assessment. And there’s a quotable
verdict of one line or one word
(“Stunning”).
Kirkus’s main virtue is its comprehensiveness: it gets through
hundreds of titles even in a slow month. To people who stock shelves, it
can be orienting, and, for publishers, it is a geyser of back-cover
praise. Kirkus gets its authority from its scale, yet readers
generally encounter its reviews individually, book by book.

Kirkus has been getting reviews of its own recently, after deciding to
remove a star—its marker for exceptional books—from a young-adult title
and revising the accompanying review. At first, it praised “American
Heart
,” by Laura Moriarty. The novel, to be published this winter, is
about a fifteen-year-old white girl from Missouri who supports
Muslim-detainment camps until she meets a Muslim woman whom she helps
escape to Canada. (The novel is said to echo “Huckleberry Finn.”)
Kirkus took down the review, and its editor-in-chief, Claiborne Smith,
responded to public concern that “American Heart” was a “white savior”
narrative: a story about a person of color who relies on the compassion
of a white protagonist for rescue.

The book’s female Muslim reviewer, he
wrote,
was “well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives.” Even so, he
seemed to override her first assessment. In interviews with Kat
Rosenfield
,
of Vulture, and with NPR,
Smith acknowledged that Kirkus removed the star after noticing the
book’s white point of view. A new, charier review of “American Heart,”
meanwhile, replaced the original,
noting that the white heroine’s “ignorance is an effective worldbuilding
device, but it is problematic that Sadaf”—the Muslim woman—“is seen only
through the white protagonist’s filter.”

Kirkus says that the reviewer merely updated her assessment in a way
that was “listening” to public complaint. Yet the controversy rattles
on, especially because the emendation touches on a broader change, from
late 2015, in how the magazine writes about children’s and young-adult
fiction. Reviews now explicitly note major characters’ skin colors.
Reviewers of books for young readers are given special training to help
“identify problematic tropes and representations,” and the reviews
themselves are assigned to what Kirkus calls “own voices”
reviewers—that is, writers who share an affinity of “lived experience”
with characters in the book.

To understand why Kirkus’s decision to revise its review of “American
Heart” is insidious, it is helpful to look first at what the magazine
has done right. There is nothing unacceptable about removing a book’s
star, for the same reason that there is nothing unacceptable about
adding one: editors who bestow a distinction of their own invention are
entirely entitled to take it away. There is also nothing wrong with
trying to balance point-of-view biases in writing and reviewing. In
fact, there is a lot to like. The Kirkus editor responsible for
instituting these policies, Vicky Smith, has written about her
rationale, which appears sane and well-considered.

“Over and over, I’ve heard from parents, librarians, teachers, and kids
themselves that it would be wonderful to read books about black kids, or
Indian kids, or Native American kids who are just being kids instead
of being oppressed in some way,” Smith
explained.
If you start noting ethnicity to make those books recognizable, she
pointed out, you really ought to report whiteness, too. Smith conceded
that all of this gratuitous description can read strangely, and anyone
who makes a survey of Kirkus’s young-adult reviews will agree. “The
torment that has followed the young white woman since freshman year
disappears,” one
review
reads.
Another:
“Lyra, Gemma, and Pete are white, Caelum has dark skin, and a number of
important minor characters are described as having dark, black, or brown
skin.” O.K., well, thanks. Still, the laborious specificity seems a fair
price for a chance to nudge American fiction toward a state that better
reflects American society. Some awkwardness and growing pains are
inevitable in a moment of change.

That is not what’s going on with the “American Heart” review.
Circumstances conducive to contemporary enlightenment were in place from
the start: an observant Muslim woman, presumably given Kirkus’s sensitivity training, was assigned a review about a book featuring a
female Muslim character; the protagonists’ races and relationships were
adequately described. The reviewer published her assessment. Then, moved
to reconsider either by her editorial superiors or by public response
(or both), she allowed Kirkus to publish an update to her judgment.

In doing so, Kirkus, one of the country’s most prolific book reviews,
has somehow managed to misapprehend both the nature of reviewing and the
nature of books. As I’ve written in this
magazine
,
criticism exists in different flavors, but its defining feature is an
individualism of response. That response can be wise or unwise, popular
or unpopular. A reviewer can squander authority by seeming too often at
odds with good judgment. But, without critical autonomy, the enterprise
falls apart. The only reason to hire a critic, instead of giving a
megaphone to the crowd, is that creative work—books most of all—isn’t
processed as a collective. People make sense of art as individuals, and
their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer
speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to
high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism
movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the
Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes
Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the
range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath”
anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel
boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American
literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I?
The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a
balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way
into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith
seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers.
It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing
a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a
published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics
is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of
color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s
in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to
be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But
its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people
find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to
concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a
crowd.

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October 23, 2017 at 08:29PM

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Redeem Iberia Plus Avios for Award Flights

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Redeem Iberia Plus Avios for Award Flights

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Need more award flights? Check out more of our Step-by-Step redemption guides:

Iberia Plus is Iberia’s frequent-flyer program. Based in Madrid, Iberia belongs to oneworld alliance and uses Avios as its currency. These Avios can be redeemed for flights on oneworld partners as well as some non-alliance partners, including Iberia, Air Nostrum, Vueling, LEVEL, airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Avianca, Binter Canarias, Meridiana, Royal Air Maroc, TACA and Interjet.

Iberia Plus utilizes a distance-based award chart, which means the shorter the trip, the fewer miles you need to book an award flight. Redemption rates also depend on the season. It’s possible to book one-way and round-trip flights.

Below is a step-by-step guide for redeeming your Iberia Avios.

To begin your search for available flights, you must be logged in on Iberia.com. Enter your member number and your PIN. To search, enter your departure point and your destination. Choose a return or a one-way flight. Enter your dates and make sure “Pay with Avios” box is selected.

Recently, I missed my flights to Portugal and Morocco and was in a bind. I rebooked two of my three flights with cash and wanted to come back to John F. Kennedy International Airport using miles. Iberia’s distance-based chart saved my life.

Iberia offers three booking classes: Blue Class, Economy Class and Business. They all require a different number of points. You may need more or fewer points, depending on availability.

I was able to book Casablanca, Morocco, to JFK for 26,100 Avios + €116. To give you an example, a similar one-way flight booked with a zone-based program like United MileagePlus would require 40,000 miles. This is where distance-based programs shine and give you a reason to diversify your points and miles portfolio.

Another thing that Avios programs offer is the option to spend fewer miles and pay a larger cash copay. For example, you don’t have enough miles for a specific award and a revenue flight is too expensive, you can choose how many miles you want to redeem. The fewer miles you spend, the larger the cash portion remains.

Once you select a flight, continue to passenger information and then to payment. Congratulations, you just redeemed Avios for a flight with Iberia or its partners!

Need more Iberia Plus Avios? American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to Iberia Plus at a 1-1 ratio. Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints also can transfer to Iberia, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints converted. Additionally, it’s possible to convert Avios earned with British Airways Executive Club to Iberia Plus. Your Iberia Plus account must be at least 90 days old and active, so I recommend creating one sooner than later. You never know when you might need to make a transfer. You can do so by going to BA.com.

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October 23, 2017 at 08:08PM

Sun Country Just Took the Next Step to Become More Like Spirit

Sun Country Just Took the Next Step to Become More Like Spirit

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It’s no surprise that Sun Country is entering the ultra low-cost carrier market. And just a few months after it announced its intentions to become a ULCC, the carrier already has new plans in place for how it’ll charge customers for their bags and seat selections.

Effective October 25, 2017, Sun Country is changing its baggage policies, making it more expensive to carry your bags on a Sun Country flight than if you were to check your luggage. The way that the carrier’s rolling out its new fee structure is complicated, and how much you’re charged will depend on your travel dates and when your trip was booked. For new coach class bookings made on or after October 25, 2017 for travel beginning on or after January 19, 2018, you can choose from one of three pre-purchased bundle options:

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If you’re traveling light with just a personal item, you won’t have to pay for anything. Where the more expensive carry-on price comes into play is with the Check & Go and Store & Go packages. The Check & Go (one personal item and one checked bag) will cost you $20 when flying within the continental US, and $25 for all other destinations. The Store & Go package (one personal item and one carry-on bag OR checked bag) will cost you $30 in the continental US or $35 for all other destinations. To travel with a personal item and carry-on bag, you’ll be paying $10 more than if you were to check the bag.

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And, if you choose not to pre-purchase a bundled package, you’re going to be paying even more. Again, a personal item alone will be free of charge. But if you want to bring a carry-on bag, you’ll have to pay $40 — $10 more than if you were to pre-purchase the package. Or, you can purchase the checked bag at the airport for $25, which is only $5 more than if you were to purchase a package in advance.

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The new fee scheme is one that’s already in place for many other ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit. Since carriers began charging passengers for checked bags, travelers have taken to packing their goods in carry-on sized luggage to avoid the fees. However, that’s led to problems with space in the overhead bins, as well as slowing down the boarding and deplaning processes.

In addition to these new bundled baggage options, Sun Country is also introducing the option for travelers to pay for their seat selection. If you choose to select your seat during the booking process, you’ll pay anywhere from $2 to $35, depending on the location, flight length and time of year in which you’re traveling. And, as you’ll see in the bundled package options, if you purchase a Check & Go or Store & Go option, you’ll get a $5 discount on your seat selection.

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If you already have a flight booked with Sun Country, you won’t have to worry about these changes in baggage policy. The new bundled fares affects only Sun Country passengers who have booked a new flight on or after October 25, 2017, for travel on or after January 19, 2018.

This structure may seem familiar if you’ve ever traveled with an ultra low-cost carrier before. While maybe not as drastic as what competitor Spirit charges, Sun Country’s new policy is the latest step for the carrier to become a full-on discount carrier. As a point of comparison, when purchased during the booking process, Spirit charges $39 per carry-on and $32 per checked bag. The longer you wait to purchase, the more costly it’ll get. If you wait to get to purchase bags for your trip with Spirit, you’ll pay as much as $69 per carry-on bag and $62 per checked bag if you pay at the counter.

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October 23, 2017 at 08:07PM

United’s Queen of the Skies Amenity Kits Are a 747 Lover’s Dream

United’s Queen of the Skies Amenity Kits Are a 747 Lover’s Dream

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In just a few weeks, United Airlines is retiring its entire 747 fleet. The final flight will carry passengers from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) on November 7, and the airline’s pulling out all the stops, commemorating both the retirement and its 747 inaugural from July 23, 1970.

Tickets for the final flight sold out within minutes, and two packages for a pair of economy seats on United Flight 747 ended up going for more than 500,000 miles each — this is clearly a moment that frequent flyers are willing to go far out of their way to experience.

You don’t need to be flying a 747 to take home a piece of United’s latest Queen of the Skies memorabilia, though — from late-October through January 2018, the airline is offering special 747-themed amenity kits on many of its flights.

Passengers flying in intercontinental Polaris business class will receive a large blue tin, with all of the usual items, including some with special 747 branding. Polaris first-class customers will receive a similar kit, with a silver finish, while transcon business-class passengers on premium routes will get a smaller tin.

United sent a few sample kits to TPG HQ — let’s take a look inside…

Polaris Business Class

Customers traveling in Polaris business class — on the Boeing 747 and all other aircraft, such as the 777-300ER and 767-300 — will receive the blue tin below.

United 747 Amenity Kits

The contents are fairly standard, but several items are branded for the 747, including some pretty awesome disposable socks and a 747 eye mask. You’ll also get a set of four 747 trading cards — there are 15 in total, and if you fly enough there’s a good chance you’ll eventually end up with all 15.

United 747 Amenity Kits

The Polaris first-class kit appears to be similar in size, but with a silver finish. Personally I prefer the blue — I imagine if you’re flying first class you can request the business kit if you’d rather have that one.

Premium Transcon

United’s also offering 747-themed tins in business class on its premium transcon routes, including Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO), and Boston (BOS) to San Francisco.

United 747 Amenity Kits

These kits also include trading cards, in addition to an eye mask, ear plugs, dental kit, lip balm and hand sanitizer.

United 747 Amenity Kits

747 Trading Cards

I also received the full set of trading cards — a total of 15 are available, ranging from the 747-100 Friend Ship to the 747-400 flying today. You’ll get four cards in each kit.

United 747 Amenity Kits

There was some overlap in the two kits I received, so it may take a few flights to build out the full collection.

Bottom Line

These commemorative amenity kits were quite a nice surprise — from the official November 7 farewell to hub-to-hub employee flights, United’s really going all out to honor the Queen of the Skies.

United 747 Amenity Kits

If you’re flying in Polaris first or business class, or in biz on a premium transcon flight, be sure to grab one of these kits — I know I’ll be holding on to mine for years to come.

For more on the 747 retirement, see:

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October 23, 2017 at 07:12PM