By most accounts, President Obama had a pretty successful maiden voyage to Europe this past week. But it was not without its gaffes.
But relative to the era of George W. Bush, this one seems pretty minor.
In response to a question from an Austrian reporter about his impressions of European leaders, President Obama said that in fact the interaction between European lawmakers was really not all that different than the way in which the US Senate operates (it's unclear whether he meant to draw the comparison between the two sides as examples of people who can't seem to get things done).
Elaborating, President Obama said on both sides of the Atlantic "there's a lot of -- I don't know what the term is in Austrian -- wheeling and dealing -- and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics."
Of course, there is no such language as Austrian, though if you're a speaker of high German hearing a Viennese speak can seem like you're hearing a different language. But that's more of an issue of dialect. Austrian German is certainly night and day more intelligible than Swiss German, which can be nearly impossible to understand even for native German speakers.
Anyway, my guess is most people missed this little misstatement, and just as well as in the scheme of things it matters not ounce.
A few weeks ago I commented on Shoba Narayan's rather stuck-up dispatch about elephant and tiger watching in India that appeared in the Washington Post. These types of treks for the rich are nice and all, I thought, but what happens when nature acts more unpredictable than the Four Seasons?
I'm not saying there's a connection between that piece and the news today that a Dutch tourist has been trampled to death by a wild elephant while on safari in India. Still, obviously there's more of a danger to journeying into the wilds than most travel writers like to mention in their essays.
The Dutch man has been identified as Robert Goldbach.
His group was in the Kaziranga National Park looking for rare birds and monkeys when a wild male elephant appeared. Most of the group managed to run to safety. Goldbach tripped and ended up getting trampled to death.
The guides escorting the group opened fire on the elephant, but it's unclear whether they were able to wound it.
Washington Post travel writer Scott Vogel pulls triple duty this weekend, producing the newspaper's "Europe 2009" package with three stories: from London, Florence and Berlin. The dispatch from Florence is the best of this bunch, the one from Berlin easily the worst, a tour through cliche as he moves from museum to museum to museum, focusing entirely on Berlin's troubled past without making much of an effort to link it to how this vibrant city lives today.
I'm betting a few of our readers have had an experience a little like the one Australian singer Paul Kelly describes in this song.
A man and woman start out traveling together in Europe. They fight, make up, fight some more, break up, meet back up and then the guy, in this case, just basically followers her hoping to make things right.
It's a lament, and also something of a parody of the backpacker's story.
Iraq is reopening the ancient city of Ur to the public next month when the United States military hands it back. It's been closed since the US invasion in 2003.
The archaeological site is the birthplace of Abraham and dates to 6000 BC, where it once resided on a bank along a former course of the Euphrates River. It's one of Iraq's oldest and best preserved archaeological sites, famous for its ziggurat, or stepped platform (pictured).
Ur is also famous as the site of a great conquest by Alexander the Great a few hundred years before the birth of Christ.
The site likes next to the US air base of Talila, just outside of Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq.
It's not often that you get to here the truculent questioning of our fine officers from the Transportation Security Administration, but traveler Steve Bierfeldt managed to surreptitiously record an encounter with the TSA when he was detained in St. Louis.
What was he detained for? Carrying $4,700 in cash.
If you watch this video, you'll hear about 2 minutes of back-and-forth between TSA personnel and Bierfeldt in a windowless detention room in the St. Louis airport. The TSA wants to know what Bierfeldt does for a living and why he's carrying that kind of cash. All Bierfeldt asks in reply is whether he's legally required to answer those questions. The audio leaves off with personnel telling Bierfeldt that he's being taken downtown to a regional Drug Enforcement Agency office for further questioning.
Fox New's Freedom Watch, of course, jumps on this like Oprah on a buffet line, flashing a picture of the 25-year-old Bierfeldt and asking, "Is this the face of a terrorist?"
Why was he carrying $4,700? Turns out Bierfeldt was working for an organization called Campaign for Liberty and was returning from a local fundraiser carrying the proceeds from book sales, ticket sales and other merchandise.
Missouri is one of the only states in which law enforcement maintains that the Campaign for Liberty is a terrorist militia group.
The world's largest swimming pool is coming to a new, $5.5 billion real estate development in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh .
This is going to be one monster pool, measuring 8.8 hectares in size (that's 21 acres!) And the best thing is that it's just one of 12 giant lagoons that will be built right at the beach.
The company building the pools is called Crystal Lagoons, and they build huge swimming pools all over the world (currently the largest pool in the world is a nearly 20-acre number that the company has built in Chile).
Crystal Lagoons is working with local Egyptian investors. The entire development is going to include 30,000 home units, several five star hotels, a museum and a shopping center.
No word yet on when the development is expected to be completed.
United Airlines has settled a two-year-old lawsuit in which it faced sexual harassment charges from a former female pilot who alleged she repeatedly found pornography hidden in the cockpits of domestic airline flights.
The Seattle Timeslays out the case, in which former Capt. Lisa Stout, a 737 pilot based in Seattle, says she found pornographic pictures of women on more than 20 flights over a two year period starting in 2004. Who was putting them there? Presumably her co-pilots.
These pictures were hidden, either taped under unused ashtrays or -- and I just love this -- under a safety device known as the "stick shaker." Indeed.
Each time Stout would find one, she'd record a complaint in the flight log. She alleges that United didn't do enough to get to the bottom of who was sneaking porn into the cockpits on its domestic route.
Finally it got so bad that Stout grounded herself, saying the ordeal gave her a medical condition that prevented her from flying.
The lawsuit got ugly: United claims that Stout is essentially faking her medical condition to receive long-term disability to support a fledgling career as a painter. What does she paint? You guest it: Nudes.