Wednesday, April 24, 2013

US Airways Raises Fee for Changing Flights, Matching United Move

US Airways has raised the penalty fee for changing most restricted coach tickets from $150 to $200,  just as United Airlines did last week. The other major airlines are likely to follow, with the exception of Southwest, which doesn't charge fees to change a ticketed itinerary.

The $50 extra fee applies to newly purchased tickets only.

Fees for changing tickets on so-called nonrefundable coach fares are a major source of extra revenue for airlines. In 2011, U.S. airlines raised an extra $2.4 billion in revenue from such fees, according to the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Full-year numbers for 2012 haven't been reported yet, but the revenue seems to be increasing. In the third quarter of 2012 (the last period that the agency has reported data for), the total raised by domestic airlines on such fees was $652 million, compared with $602.9 million in the third quarter of 2011.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hysteria in the Hub

The main headline on the Boston Globe Web site on Saturday was this, "Let the Healing Begin ... Hub Moves Forward."

The issue of fatuous insult to those who lost lives and limbs in that horror aside (what "healing" are we so easily proclaiming, exactly?), and forgetting the annoyance of the Boston media's chronic use of that silly word "Hub" to describe a city of a mere 600,000 (the allusion is to "Hub of the solar system," per Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was evidently drunk when he wrote that about Boston in 1858), I take issue with the questionable notion that the "Hub" should be so ready to move "forward."

Not so fast, Hub of the solar system. Actually, and especially now with the passage of a little time, there might be compelling reason to move backward a bit over last week, to impose better sense about just what the hell happened in Boston, where an entire metropolitan area was shut down while police massed to search "house to house" -- immobilizing the citizenry and businesses to look for a 19-year-old killer who, as it turns out, was found cowering in a boat stored in some guy's yard. As we know,he hid on the boat after somehow managing to escape during the previous night when police, guns blazing, had cornered him and his killer brother.

Wait a minute. Can we ask a few rude questions now? First of all: The guy got away with all those police guns blazing? Nobody is questioning the police performance? Before that, the finish-line mob scene at the Marathon last Monday was also evidently inadequately secured by the police. And nobody is questioning that? (Well, some are, but not in the media. Officers at the NYPD, which knows how to secure a crowd scene, are definitely scratching their heads over how two low-level schmucks with big plans for fame and huge backpacks managed to leave unattended packages, which happened to be bombs, in clear sight on the sidewalk, right at the feet of those crowds.

To its great credit, Salon had this to say on Saturday: "... this week’s spectacle in the Boston area was a testament to the kind of political and media hysteria that, ironically, makes crimes of this sort more likely to happen in the future. ..."

The hysteria had reached full cry after the bombings with the police and political authorities essentially proclaiming martial law in Boston and its suburbs, a stunning move the import of which still seems not to be appreciated in the mainstream media. What kind of a precedent, for example, has this set for the next time there's a nasty bombing or other attack on American soil. Is "lockdown" the new response to danger? What, specifically and legally, does "lockdown" mean, anyway. And why are we so willing to cave to fear and allow constitutional rights to be readily violated?

Besides the dangerous precedent set in Boston by the "Shelter in Place" shutdown and the media
acquiescence, there's another potential disturbing consequence. The right-wing-loon world, always operating in a frisson of anti-government paranoia, has of course seized on the Boston-area police overreaction as an example of what the government is capable of doing with very little provocation to proclaim an emergency. In this case, it was a 19-year-old murderer on the loose. The next time, the way the right-wing media loom-universe is portraying it, this is how the government comes for ... your guns.
The atmosphere of hysteria can enable dangerous psychological reactions among unstable but influential lunatic-fringe nut-cases, rabble-roused by  worthies like Glenn Beck, who quickly sprang into action overthe weekend peddling a delusion that the Obama Administration is shielding a Saudi national who was the true mastermind of the Boston bombings.       

And the paranoid conspiracy right-wing extremist site Infowars, which one of the Boston terrorists happened to be a fan of, as it turns out, has genuine photos and video to show graphically just what a government assault on the citizenry looks like.  Here's the link.

Did we really want to provide actual indisputable evidence -- with video -- to fuel these anti-government paranoid fantasies? Did we really want to send a message to two-bit would-be terrorist bombers everywhere: Look how easy it is to shut down a major metropolitan area, terrify the population, and cause staggering financial losses?



Most of Us in USA Still Alive, Excluding Al Neuharth

I had a couple of encounters with the legendary Gannett corporate pirate and USA Today founder Al Neuharth over the years, but my favorite occurred sometime in the late 1980s, when I was a Wall Street Journal reporter covering the then gala annual meeting (those were the days) of the American newspaper publishers association.

At the closing reception, I was talking with the late Katherine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post, when Al Neuharth sailed up, dressed in his signature black, white and gray ensemble (he always styled himself with that color pattern) -- with open shirt-collar and lots and lots of fancy jewelry. Al loved bling.

Kay Graham shook Al's hand and gave him her best patrician look.

"My, Mr. Neuharth," she said appraisingly, "you're so shiny."

It was hard to knock Al Neuharth off balance, but Kay did it. After some perfunctory pleasantries, he skulked off with his handlers fussing alongside him.

On the Poynter Institute site, Roy Peter Clark has a piece that takes a refreshingly dim postmortem view of the legacy of Al (whom Ben Bradlee despised as a "mountbank') and his invincible "pursuit of mediocrity."  Clark alludes to an old insiders' joke about Al and his style. It went this way, "When Al shows up in his sharkskin suit, it's hard to tell where the shark ends and Al begins."

Coming as it did at the height of the Boston bombings coverage, Al Neuharth's death at age 89 last week received respectful but restrained coverage. Yes, yes, yes, the serious obits all agreed. The man did certainly have an effect on ... uh, newspaper design. Why, he introduced spashy color and ... uh. well, he was pretty good at hiring women and minorities, that's for sure. And well, he invented USA Today, one of the greatest acts of sheer newspapering audacity since Pulitzer and Hearst arrived on Park Row. You must grant him that.

Well, one other thing that Al introduced and invented was sham circulation-reporting standards, after he pressured the main industry circulation-verification agency to accept the idea that "bulk circulation" -- that is, copies of newspapers that are essentially given away free through barter deals with advertisers, or at huge discounts off the cover price -- could be claimed as actual paid circulation. Since the yellow journalism heyday of Hearst and Pulitzer, many newspapers have always hyped their circulation figures, but Al Neuharth refined the hype into art. The obituaries dutifully stated that USA Today was the largest-selling newspaper in America, even though everybody in the industry has known for decades that about half of the stated circulation of USA Today was give-aways at hotels and in other places where travelers have long been accustomed to getting the paper for free.

Under Neuharth, the Gannett media empire grew tremendously, as Gannett rapaciously snapped up prosperous newspapers in monopoly markets (or engineered deals where the markets would soon become monopolies). In over 40 years in the business, incidentally, I have never once heard anyone say that Gannett improved any newspaper after buying it. Just the opposite.

USA Today, alas, has been on a steady decline that's accelerated in the last year, especially as hotels and other places where the paper traditionally has been handed out for free are turning it down because more often than not, USA Today sits untouched in the morning outside hotel-room doors. Still in at least in some areas of coverage, it used to be a contender, and in a few areas like sports, it still is.  My own guess now is that within a year, USA Today will no longer have a print newspaper and will be concentrated, as so much of the Gannett news product now is, in a centralized online operation. My guess is that it will become the great mothership in the cloud from which will rain most editorial functions for the national network of 85 local Gannett papers (which the Gannett company is already referring to not as newspapers but as "community digital information centers.")

That'll be Al's legacy. And all the "Newseums" in the world won't matter. (The Newseum, that preposterous gillion dollar monument in Washington to Al's stupendous ego, his ability to channel huge sums of money, and his disdain for the English language, has devolved mostly into what it was essentially created as: a venue for swanky media parties and corporate events).

And oh, there's also this part of the Al Neuharth legacy, which was curiously unmentioned in the respectful obituaries.


Correction: An earlier version of this had a typo and stated that the incident with Kay Graham and Al Neuharth occurred in the late 1990s. It was the late 1980s.  Oh and, um, of course, it was Ben Bradlee, not (uh) Ben Brantley! Who says we don't need copy editors?

Monday, April 22, 2013

TSA Caves on Small Pocketknives

TSA Announcement in March. Uh ... never mind

A coalition representing flight attendants unions is hailing a decision by the T.S.A. to postpone its plan to allow passengers to carry small pocketknives with blades smaller than 2.36 inches on planes starting Thursday.

 Acording to a T.S.A. spokesman, “In order to accommodate further input from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), which includes representatives from the aviation community, passenger advocates, law enforcement experts, and other stakeholders, TSA will temporarily delay implementation of changes to the Prohibited Items List, originally scheduled to go into effect April 25.  This timing will enable TSA to incorporate the ASAC feedback about the changes to the Prohibited Items List and continue workforce training."
The group, the Flight Attendants Union Coalition said today it would continue efforts to maintain a
permanent ban on knives. The vociferous opposition from unions, which received strong support among some Democrats in Congress, was based on assertions that small knives would constitute dangers to flight crews. The T.S.A., in announcing the decision in March to allow the knives and other items such as hockey sticks, stated at the time that similar items,  such as knitting needles and screwdrivers, have been allowed for years, with no problems.

In caving to union pressure after insisting it would not, the T.S.A. appears to raise questions about its determination to revamp security protocols more toward risk-based intelligence and less on having screeners search for things in carry-ons. At the heart of the T.S.A. rationale about allowing pocketknives (which many travelers use as tools, like small Swiss Army Knives, when on the road) was an assertion by T.S.A. director John Pistole that a small pocketknife poses no danger in the era of reinforced cockpit doors and passenger vigilance about any kind of onboard threatening behavior.

Incidents of unruly or disorderly conduct on board airplanes have fallen sharply in recent years, although many in the media persist in credulously writing about "air rage."

Here's a link to the Web site of the union coalition that argues for continuation of a ban on knives. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

American Airlines Flights Grounded Today


If you were flying or scheduled to fly American Airlines this afternoon you already know this, but:

American grounded all of its flights this afternoon because of some unspecified computer foulup.

From the American Web site: 

American's network system is experiencing intermittent outages. At this time, we are holding all flights on the ground until later this afternoon, when we will provide another update. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as we can, and we apologize to our customers for this inconvenience.

If your travel plans are flexible, there will be no charge if you would like to change your reservation and we will provide full refunds if your travel plans are not flexible. However, we are unable to make changes to current travel plans until we have resolved this issue.

We will provide another update as soon as we have more information.

Oh yes, American. Please do just that.

UPDATE -- As of 4 p.m. eastern time, the American system was lumbering back, but thousands of passengers were still stuck on planes that hadn't been able to take off. The mess was especially pronounced at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport --not that the Dallas newspaper was of any use. As of 4 p.m. eastern time. Central time, the Dallas News had not a word about the American mess -- in American's home town. The Fort Worth paper did a little better informing the locals.

UPDATE -- Somebody unpleasantly and anonymously pointed out (sorry, lost the comment) that the Dallas News aviation "blog" had updated news on this throughout. Dunno. It sure wasn't part of the general news coverage one could find on the online site, indicating that it was aimed at travelers who are already primed to consult it. The Fort Worth paper, on the other hand, had readily accessible news. I guess my point is that an event like this is general news, not niche news. The same anonymous commenter said that the web site had timely updates, which was beside the point. I'm sure it did. That's a subscription site with updates and commentary specifically marketed to frequent business travelers, and I am not a subscriber. My point was that this kind of event -- major airline delays caused by a computer problem -- ought to be treated as general "run of the paper" news. It isn't niche news, and some people who make a living in the intensely narrow field of airline news forget that airlines are a major component of the national transportation network. Sometimes airline news is inside-baseball. Sometimes it's actual news. This blog is not aimed at the aviation and business-travel community, except sometimes.

Also, I have always made it very clear here that I am a self-employed freelance writer, and have been for 25 years, and that this blog is a probably insane personal initiative with no relationship whatsoever to any news organization. I'm the sole reporter, writer, columnist, editor and publisher and capital investor. And I don't care at all for "ombudsmen" with slight journalism credentials separating flyshit from pepper, so that position remains unfilled.


Perspective and Proportion in Security

Hysteria always follows a terrorist attack of any sort. Proportion can get lost in crowd-induced (and media-induced) panic.  

In my opinion, the most sane and sensible security expert in the country is Bruce Schneier. So I recommend his essay today on the Atlantic web site. Here.

Security in Boston?

Boston media sometimes hilariously refer to that city as the "Hub," as if it had a universal importance far in excess of its actual minimal importance in the country or world. But it is a big city, and one would assume (with scant evidence, incidentally) that its police department is up to the job.

But in all of the (often very weak) reporting coming out of yesterday's horrific bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, some obvious questions are not being asked.

Here's a big one, in my opinion: Did Boston police prepare for this event the way a big-city police force should have? Did the Boston cops make serious attempts to fully secure the area of the finish line in the days and hours before the Marathon? Did they perform at international big-city standards?  (Or did they fail to prepare adequately for this event and then, afterward, charge around grabbing   people who looked Middle Eastern, just like in the old days when they used to charge into Mission Hill to toss black kids on the street whenever a big crime occurred?)

In New York for a major public event that draws tens of thousands into a confined urban area like that, the N.Y.P.D. would have assiduously secured the location beforehand. For example, trash cans would have been inspected and secured. Surveillance cameras would be deployed.  Officers trained to identify suspicious behavior would have mingled in the crowd. Disasters might still occur, but the likelihood would be greatly diminished, and the culprits would be likely grabbed.

The bombs that caused death and injury yesterday appear to have been fairly crude, breathless accounts in the media about "powerful bombs" aside. All bombs are powerful, by definition. But anyone who has even been in the proximity of, say, a 500-pound aerial bomb that hits the ground knows the difference between a huge, sophisticated blast and a crude improvised explosive blast -- and these in Boston appear to have been the latter. Deadly, but simple. That is, exactly the kind of bomb that can be placed in a street trash receptacle, or hidden in a package on a corner.

The sort of crude bomb that the despicable Irish Republican Army used to deploy to terrorize London back in the days.

And they should know something about the IRA in Boston, where bars that supported fundraising for the terrorist group used to sell drinks called the Irish Car Bomb.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Patriots Day 2013 in Boston

It's impossible to say right now exactly what happened in Boston with those horrific explosions during the running of the Boston Marathon today (and made especially difficult by what seems to be to be pretty weak breaking-news performance by the always self-regarding Boston media -- though none remotely as inept as the sad-sack New York Post, which has had howlingly bad reporting all day).

But consider:

Today is Patriots Day, which is officially celebrated on the third Monday in April and which nominally commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Patriots Day is especially near and dear to the paranoid right-wing militia movement in the U.S., elements of which celebrate the day on April 19. The Branch Davidian Waco debacle by the federal government -- long a rallying point for the right-wing paranoids -- occurred on a Patriots Day in 1993. Two years later, on a Patriots Day 1995, the right-wing lunatic Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring 800, in the worst homegrown terrorist incident in  U.S. history.

And today, which is also federal income tax filing day, is Patriots Day in Boston ...


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ta Ta

Margaret Thatcher and her good garden-party pal, vile murderer Augusto Pinochet, in 1994. Why is this man smiling?

Enough said. But Alex Pareene in Salon today said it very well.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hey, NRA: Sister Angelica Explains it All for You

The National Rifle Association,  this time in the guise of a hired "task force" that the firearms lobby hilariously describes as "independent," wants to arm teachers and principals with guns in the classroom, in preparation for the next homicidal maniac who slaps one of those high-capacity magazines into another one of those assault weapons and charges into a school firing on the children.

Hey, what could possibly go wrong with having your social sciences teacher packing heat?

I'm suggesting that the NRA's loud-mouth draft-dodger head Wayne La Pierre and his hired stooges could benefit from what has been shown to be an extremely effective classroom deterrent, a knuckle  sandwich from the likes of Sister Angelica of blessed memory.

Instead, the press-release warrior La Pierre, who has been an NRA bureaucrat since a few years after he cravenly dodged the Vietnam draft while at the same time expressing support for the Vietnam war, is parading around with a new 225-page "report" from a task force composed of people who stand to make money if its recommendations are somehow stupidly adopted (as Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out on MSNBC last night).  Of the task force's 13 members, I see from the report, four are employed by an Idaho-based armed "combat reality training" company called Phoenix RBT Solutions.

To no one's surprise, the task force recommendations are predicated on putting guns into schools, not reducing firearms outside of schools. The recommendations are that armed officers be hired for every school in the country, and that states relax gun-carry restrictions to let teachers and administrators pack firearms in all schools.

Of course, besides serving the NRA's main purpose of selling more guns, the plan would peddle some kinds of "training." That is, firearms training from ... corporate interests who make money selling weapons training and defensive strategies. (See Phoenix RBT Solutions, for example) And, of course, there would be a component of  psychological "evaluation" -- that is, intervention into the daily routine of a school by outside interests from the psychology industry, which makes a lot of dough already peddling intervention services to the worried who happen to be covered by insurance or government reimbursement policies. Oh, and police officers and other outsiders would have a daily role in identifying potential trouble within the school, by staying informed through routine interaction with students and teachers. Basically, the police officer at the school would always be nosing around, rather than just standing guard.

On my old block in Philly, we called that a police state.

Yesterday, a gun-lobby mouthpiece named Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas mainly distinguished for having been in the forefront of the pitchfork-carriers leading the House impeachment against Bill Clinton, got lots of credulous publicity in Washington. Summoned by the NRA, members of the so-called Washington press corps trooped dutifully into the risibly named National Press Club to sit quietly while Hutchinson sold the seemingly unsellabe.

[To its credit, the New York Times, reporting today on this "news conference," noted that the event,  packed with reporters, had "unusually heavy security," including an explosive-sniffing dog. "A dozen officers in plain clothes and uniforms stood watch as [Hutchinson] spoke; one warned photographers to 'remain stationary' during the event," the Times reports.]

No indication of whether photographers meekly complied, though I'm guessing they did. No information on who paid for those "uniformed officers" (Washington D.C.?) on hand to guard the honorable Asa Hutchinson against the perceived lethal threat from the notebook-and-Nikon-wielding news people.

And by the way, media, can we please stop reporting on staged events like this at the "National Press Club" (which touts itself as the "world's leading professional organization for journalists")  without also providing the information that the National Press Club, its fancy facilities, and its impressive podium, are available for hire to anyone seeking to promote anything in a setting that appears to be professionally sanctioned by journalists. 

From the National Press Club Web site: "...the Press Club is a world-class conference and meeting facility that hosts thousands of events each year for sophisticated clients from around the globe. Our professional staff is expert at coordinating banquets, receptions, news conferences, meetings, symposiums, webcasts and satellite media tours..."

Put simply: "Yo! We're for hire."  Just like Asa Hutchinson and the NRA task force which, as Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out, included not a single teacher or school administrator.

[For anyone inclined to wade through, here's a link to the 225-page NRA report released yesterday.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Brutal Gang-Rape of American Tourist in Brazil

A 21-year-old female American student was brutally gang-raped in a six-hour attack on a bus in the famous tourist Copacabana beach tourist section of Rio de Janeiro over the weekend.

After the attackers forced other riders off the bus, they drove it to various locations, beating and repeatedly raping the woman and severely beating her male French boyfriend, who they handcuffed and forced to watch the woman being assaulted. Then the Brazilian attackers -- police have identified three males, who were also implicated in a gang-rape of a Brazilian student two weeks ago -- drove around to various ATMs and forced the couple to withdraw cash before dumping the victims 30 miles from Copacabana.

Here's a news link.

The incident was the latest brutal sex assault by local males on a female tourist traveling abroad and, as the Associated Press reports, it "paralleled other gruesome gang rapes against women and tourists in developing countries."

Let me make a little point right here. In Brazil, there is always a loud cry that Brazil is not a "developing country" but rather has evolved into a first-world country, where safety and justice prevail. That questionable assertion underlies the triumph Brazil had in securing the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, despite grave concerns about street crime and air-travel safety, not to mention the proclivity in Brazil for reacting to any criticism with cries that it must reflect dark imperialist conspiracies generated by "North Americans" and others.

Is Brazil a modern, developed country, as its booming economy would indicate? Or does that top-level economic veneer merely layer over third-world squalor and political malfeasance in a dystopia where crime is out of control, where "cover your ass" is the default official response, where local media rush to blame foreign victims, where xenophobia defines responses to outside criticism, where foreigners expressing concerns about crime are lectured -- totally falsely -- that crime rates are as high in U.S. cities?

The jury (all irony fully intended, from someone who's had some experience here) is out.

But the evidence about gang rape in Brazil is deeply troublesome. As the Times reports today, the same men identified in the weekend attack were implicated by a 21-year-old Brazilian woman who said they raped her after boarding a similar bus on March 23. She reported the attack to police but, according to the Times, "the authorities were said to have slowly investigated the claim. Two police officials in charge of investigating the March 23 case were abruptly removed from their posts on Monday."

The Times report continues: 

"Brazil has recently grappled with other high-profile cases of gang rape, including one episode in 2012 in Queimadas, a city in the northeast ParaĆ­ba State, in which six men were convicted of raping five women at a birthday party. Two of the women were killed after recognizing their attackers.
More broadly, reports of rape in Brazil have climbed significantly since 2009, when the nation’s criminal code was changed to expand the legal definition of rape to include crimes involving anal penetration. More than 5,300 people, about 90 percent of whom are women, registered cases of rape in the first six months of 2012, an increase of more than 150 percent since 2009."


Meanwhile, international tourists need to pay very close attention to warnings about street crime in countries where crime is out of control, and especially in countries where all forms of street harassment against women, even just the verbal kind that prevails culturally in the Middle East and some Latin American countries, are routine. The U.S. based international group called Stop Street Harassment is helping to sponsor Anti-Street Harassment Week next week, by the way. Here's a link.

And here is a link to the current State Department travel warnings for countries where foreign travelers  are considered most at risk.

And following, in full, is the section on crime from the State Department's current travel advisory for Brazil. I've highlighted some sections in bold-face:


CRIME: Brazilian police and media report that the crime rate remains high in most urban centers, including the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and is also growing in rural areas within those states. Brazil’s murder rate is more than four times higher than that of the United States, and rates for other crimes are similarly high.
Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, are often targets, especially in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife. While the risk is greater during the evening and at night, street crime also occurs during the day, and safer areas of cities are not immune. Incidents of theft on city buses are frequent. You should keep a copy of your passport with you while in public and keep your passport in a hotel safe or other secure place. You should also carry proof of your health insurance with you.
The incidence of crime against tourists is greater in areas surrounding beaches, hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs, and other tourist destinations. It is especially prevalent prior to and during Carnival (Brazilian Mardi Gras), but also occurs throughout the year. Several Brazilian cities have established specialized tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists.
Use caution when traveling through rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles. Robberies and “quicknappings” outside of banks and ATMs occur regularly. In a “quicknapping,” criminals abduct victims for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim’s ATM card. Some victims have been beaten and/or raped. You should also take precautions to avoid being carjacked, especially in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and other cities.
In airports, hotel lobbies, bus stations, and other public places, pick pocketing and the theft of hand-carried luggage and laptop computers is common. You should "dress down" when in public and avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewelry or expensive watches. "Good Samaritan" scams are common. If a tourist looks lost or seems to be having trouble communicating, a seemingly innocent bystander offering help may actually be a participant in a scam. Take care at and around banks and ATMs which accept U.S. credit or debit cards. Travelers using personal ATM or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with unauthorized charges after returning from a visit to Brazil, or discover that their cards were cloned or duplicated without their knowledge. If you use such payment methods, carefully monitor your bank records for the duration of your visit.
While the ability of Brazilian police to help recover stolen property is limited, we strongly advise you to obtain a "boletim de ocorrencia" (police report) at a "delegacia" (police station) if any of your possessions are lost or stolen. This will facilitate your exit from Brazil and assist with insurance claims. Be aware, however, that the police in tourist areas are on the lookout for false reports of theft for purposes of insurance fraud.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. These goods are illegal in the United States, and if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Brasilia: Brasilia has significant crime problems. Reports of residential burglaries continue to occur in the generally affluent residential sections of the city. Public transportation, hotel sectors, and tourist areas report the highest crime rates, but statistics show that these incidents can happen anywhere and at anytime. The “satellite cities” that surround Brasilia have per-capita crime rates comparable to much larger cities. Police reports indicate that rates of all types of crime, including “quicknappings,” have risen dramatically in Brasilia in the last two years. Brasilia’s Central Bus Station or “Rodoviaria” is a particularly dangerous area, especially at night. This location is known to have a large concentration of drug dealers and users. Illegal drugs such as crack cocaine and “oxi” (a derivative of cocaine base produced with cheaper chemicals) have become very common in the “Plano Piloto” area and satellite cities.
Rio de Janeiro: The city continues to experience high incidences of crime. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies in the evening and at night especially in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions. There have been attacks, including shootings, along trails leading to the famous Corcovado Mountain and in other parts of the Tijuca Forest. If robbed, do not attempt to resist or fight back, but rather relinquish your personal belongings. At all times, pay close attention to your surroundings and the behavior of those nearby. There have been reports of thieves and rapists slipping incapacitating drugs into drinks at bars, hotel rooms, and street parties. While crime occurs throughout the year, it is more frequent during Carnival and the weeks prior.
Choose lodging carefully considering location, security, and the availability of a safe to store valuables. Do not answer your hotel room door until you positively confirm who is on the other side. Look out the peephole or call the front desk to confirm the visitor. There have been several recent incidents where mass holdups of guests have occurred at hotels and hostels in the city. 
Rio de Janeiro’s favelas are a subject of curiosity for many U.S. travelers. A favela pacification program, instituted in 2008, installed police stations in some favelas, primarily in the Zona Sul area. However, most favelas exist outside the control of city officials and police. Travelers are urged to exercise caution when entering any “pacified” favelas and should not go into favelas that are not “pacified” by the state government. Even in some “pacified” favelas, the ability of police to provide assistance, especially at night, may be limited. Several local companies offer “favela jeep tours” targeted at foreign tourists. Be aware that neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas.
Be vigilant while on the roads, especially at night. There have been shootings and carjackings on the Linha Vermelha that links the airport to the Southern Zone of the city. In Rio de Janeiro, motorists should be especially vigilant at stoplights and when stuck in traffic. Carjackings and holdups can occur at intersections, especially at night.
Visitors should also remain alert to the possibility of manhole cover explosions. There have been multiple manhole cover explosions in Rio de Janeiro in the past few years, with a higher incidence in the Centro and Copacabana neighborhoods.
Report all incidents to Rio's tourist police (DEAT) at (21) 2332-2924. The tourist police have been very responsive to victims and cooperative with the U.S. Consulate General. 
Sao Paulo: All areas of Greater Sao Paulo have a high rate of armed robbery of pedestrians and drivers at stoplights and during rush hour traffic. The "red light districts" of Sao Paulo, located on Rua Augusta north of Avenida Paulista and the Estacao de Luz metro area, are especially dangerous. There are regular reports of young women slipping various drugs into men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious. Armed holdups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles (“motoboys”) are a common occurrence in Sao Paulo. Criminals have also begun targeting restaurants throughout the city including, but not limited to, establishments in the upscale neighborhoods of Jardins, Itaim Bibi, Campo Belo, Morumbi and Moema. Victims who resist run the risk of violent attack. Laptop computers, other electronics, and luxury watches are the targets of choice for criminals in Sao Paulo.
Throughout 2012, armed groups in Sao Paulo targeted restaurants, robbing patrons during the peak business hours of 2100 to 2400. These criminal events are not isolated to one area of the city and target both rich and poor neighborhoods.
Efforts of incarcerated drug lords to exert their power outside of their jail cells have resulted in sporadic disruptions in the city, violence directed at the authorities, bus burnings, and vandalism at ATM machines, including the use of explosives. Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution at all times. Respect police roadblocks and be aware that some municipal services may be disrupted. 
As in Rio de Janeiro, favela tours have recently become popular among foreign tourists in Sao Paulo. We advise you to avoid Sao Paulo’s favelas as neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas.
Recife: As in Rio de Janeiro, tourists in Recife should take special care while on the beaches, as robberies may occur in broad daylight. In the upscale Boa Viagem neighborhood, carjackings can occur at any time of the day or night.