Air Marshals Or Cowboys?

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Only one country has proved as excitable as the U.S. Deeming the U.S. practice of fingerprinting and photographing Brazilian and other visitors "a violation of human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors perpetrated by the Nazis," Brazilian Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva ordered that Americans be subject to the same treatment at Rio de Janeiro's international airport. Americans were processed there ever so slowly last week and fingerprinted with old-fashioned ink pads (the U.S. uses electronic ones). At one point the line stalled for half an hour while officials recharged their camera battery. "It was clear the guy was trying to drag it out as long as possible to annoy the gringos," says John Leonard, a New York City — based consultant enduring the reciprocity.

After days of complaints about all the new rules, U.S. officials seem to be considering some small compromises. While it would prefer marshals to be armed with guns, the Department of Homeland Security is "open to further discussions" about what "armed" means, says a spokeswoman. Perhaps countries should take a cue from China, where guards trained in martial arts rely on the only weapons that can never be wrested away or left in a lavatory.

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