Monday, January 26, 2015

Religious Freedom and Beards: Unanimous SCOTUS tackles hairy issue

A Muslim prisoner in Arkansas named Abdul Malik Muhammad says that his faith requires him to maintain a beard.  But the Arkansas Department of Corrections's grooming policy prevents prisoners from growing beards (with a 1/4"-beard exception for prisoners with diagnosed dermatological problems).  As a compromise, Muhammad offered to keep his beard at 1/2", but the Department refused.

Should Muhammad be allowed to grow his beard?  Last week, the Supreme Court said yes.  More after the jump.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reinstated: Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Korean Air SkyPass

Chase Ultimate Rewards is probably the most versatile credit-card rewards program, with transfer partners ranging from Hyatt to British Airways to Amtrak.  I booked my recent Los Angeles > Tokyo > Singapore > Shanghai trip in Singapore Airlines Suites Class by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airline's KrisFlyer loyalty program.

(With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can earn two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on dining and travel, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.  Chase Freedom points transfer 1:1 into the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but only if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink cards).

In late November 2014, Chase abruptly dropped Korean Air as a transfer partner without an explanation.  But as of today, Korean Air is back as a transfer partner.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Partners
Source:  Chase

Monday, January 19, 2015

United makes me an offer that I can't refuse (not)

For the past few years, I've been a Premier Gold member with United (50,000 miles per year).  But in 2014, I came short of requalification, having flown 43,908 miles.  That's only enough for Premier Silver (25,000 miles per year).

United just sent an email offering a buy-up to Gold status for 2015.

But at what price, United?  At what price?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage appeal

Earlier today, the Supreme Court decided to grant review of the Sixth Circuit's same-sex marriage decisions.  Back in November 2014, the Sixth Circuit became the first federal court of appeals to uphold states' bans on same-sex marriage.  Four other federal appellate courts have struck down the bans as unconstitutional.

The Court's order stated that it granted review for two questions:

  1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
The Court has not yet set a date for oral argument.  But the final briefs are due April 17, and the Court's final oral-argument session is from April 20 through 29.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Abortion & Same-Sex Marriage: Fifth Circuit's week of hot-button cases

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit enjoyed some unusually newsworthy appeals last week. It held held oral argument in high-profile appeals involving state laws restricting same-sex marriage and abortion facilities.

The Fifth Circuit, which the American Bar Association describes as "staunchly conservative," hears appeals from federal district courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

What are these cases about?  Find out after the jump.

Fifth Circuit Courthouse in New Orleans

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lounge Report - The Centurion Lounge, Las Vegas & San Francisco

One of the best benefits of the American Express Platinum card is complementary access to The Centurion Lounge.

The Centurion Lounge is a breath of fresh air for flyers accustomed to stale baby carrots and trail mix at the United Club. And it's not just the physical beauty of The Centurion Lounges that differentiates them from the Delta SkyClubs of the world.

The Centurion Lounge, San Francisco

The Centurion Lounge, Las Vegas

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Foie gras relegalized in California

Earlier today, a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, issued an order preventing California from enforcing its ban on selling foie gras.

The case is Association des √Čleveurs de Candards et d'Oies du Qu√©bec v. Harris (opinion here).  The plaintiffs argued (and Judge Stephen Wilson agreed) that California's state-law ban on selling foie gras is preempted by federal law.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Iggy Itinerary: Air Canada rouge - Premium rouge Class, Vancouver > San Francisco (A319)

< Prev  |  Air Canada rouge, Vancouver to San Francisco

When booking an exciting itinerary with Lufthansa First Class and Singapore Suites Class, the short flight from Vancouver to San Francisco wasn't something I researched.

For non-stop Star Alliance flights, I could choose among United, United Express, or an Air Canada product I had never heard of called "Premium rouge" (with a lower case "r"). I booked the latter but didn't bother looking it up, assuming that it would look like United/Delta/American's domestic first-class products.


Source:  Air Canada rouge

"[M]iddle seat blocked for your comfort"?

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Vancouver

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Vancouver International Airport is the only airport I've been to that has different customs requirements depending on your arrival airline.

Some airlines' passengers have to clear two rounds of customs when transiting through Vancouver to the United States. First, they clear Canadian customs; next, they clear American customs (so their onward flight arrives as a domestic flight).

Passengers on other airlines (including Lufthansa) can skip Canadian customs and proceed directly to the American customs line. Much, much faster (even though Global Entry is only available to the double-clearance group) - which got me to Air Canada's Maple Leaf Lounge even faster.

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Vancouver

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Iggy Itinerary: Lufthansa First Class - Frankfurt > Vancouver (747-400)

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Lufthansa First Class on the iconic Boeing 747-400 used to be 16 seats in the plane's upper deck - four rows in a 2-2 configuration.

But in May 2011, Lufthansa designed to remodel its first-class offerings fleetwide. The color scheme evolved from blue and silver to brown and tan.

Lufthansa 747-400 New First Class

And they decided to eliminate the eight window seats and replace them with standalone beds.