Trump's latest travel ban. Kurdistan and Catalonia independence votes.

By: David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the November 2017 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Detail of a curved-back dragon on the roof of Casa Battló, the exterior of which was designed by Antoni Gaudí — Barcelona, Spain. Photo: ©portokalis/123rf.com

Welcome to the 501st issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine.

As you can see, we have just passed a publication milestone. And our celebrating includes you, each of our subscribers, because it is your participation that has made the success of this magazine possible.

We print in ITN trip reports and articles submitted by subscribers. Whenever you come back from a trip, write us about something that other travelers would appreciate knowing.

When you get around to taking your next trip, tell other travelers you meet about this earnest newsprint magazine, and let them know that we’ll send a free sample copy of the next-printed issue to them anywhere, upon request. (Any names and addresses sent to ITN will not be sold or traded to any other firm.)

Or buy a traveling friend a gift subscription to ITN. Twenty-six dollars for a year’s worth of print issues isn’t bad — and $15 for an online-only subscription is ridiculously cheap for what they’ll get. Go ahead and tack on that gift subscription while you’re renewing your own. Visit www.intltravelnews.com and click on “Subscribe” or just call the toll-free number (1-800/486-4968), where you’ll reach an actual human being! 

And consider using the services of the travel companies advertising in these pages. When you call or email a company, let them know where you read about them. A number of tour operators advertise only in ITN. Show them that their dollars are well spent.

Whatever part you’re playing in helping us to put out a new issue of this travel forum every month, your support is appreciated.

Here’s a new one on us. While ITN no longer offers a lifetime subscription for purchase, it used to be an option, and earlier this year a Hartville, Ohio, reader (whose anonymity I am preserving) wrote, “I have a life subscription to ITN. I really appreciate and enjoy the magazine each and every time, thus I am enclosing a check to help cover the VALUE of the subscription to me, with my thanks.”

What a generous gesture!

We’ll keep up our part of the bargain and keep presenting the news….

Out of Washington, DC —

President Trump’s executive order banning citizens of six countries (Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iran) from traveling to the US expired on Sept. 24th, after 90 days of being in effect.

The ban was originally signed in March, but decisions in lower federal courts delayed its implementation. On June 26, the Supreme Court decided to allow the ban to be enforced, but with some restrictions, while it reviewed the order. (Under the restrictions, someone from any of those six countries could enter the US only if they had an employment offer or a close familial relationship with someone already living in the US.)

On the day the ban expired, President Trump announced another ban, one that focuses on citizens of countries that (1) cannot perform adequate security screenings on departing air passengers or (2) are not cooperating with the US in regard to preventing terrorism. 

Of the six countries covered in the expired ban, only Sudan is no longer included; its citizens can once again travel freely to the US. However, two more countries have been added to the list: Chad and North Korea. 

In the case of North Korea, the reasoning behind its being banned seems fairly obvious, what with the escalating war of words between President Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. As for Chad, the White House said it was added to the list because it was not sharing with the US any intel about terrorism.

One other country was tentatively added to the list. All Venezuelan government officials and their families are banned from getting tourist or business visas to the US. All other Venezuelan citizens are still free to travel to the States.

After the new ban was put in place, the Supreme Court said it was no longer going to consider the constitutionality of the former ban, and it asked groups with legal challenges to the new ban to file with lower courts. 

As of press time, it is not clear whether or not the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding employment offers or close familial relationships in the US remains in place.

In the days before this issue of ITN went to press, two semiautonomous regions voted for independence from their home countries.

• On Aug. 25, Iraqi Kurdistan (along with some other areas of Iraq controlled by Kurdish forces) voted for independence. If recognized, the vote would carve a Kurdish state from the northeast corner of Iraq, one that shares borders with Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the vote illegal and demanded that Kurdish forces return control of the region to the Iraqi government. He threatened to send soldiers into the disputed territory currently held by the Kurds. 

(The Kurdish military is responsible for security within the agreed-upon borders of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, but during the war with the Islamist militant group Daesh [ISIL], Kurdish soldiers expanded their area of control.) 

Turkey and Iran, which also have ethnic Kurds living in their border regions near Iraqi Kurdistan, also criticized the referendum. Turkey has long been in conflict with Kurdish independence groups in its eastern regions and worries that an independent Kurdistan could embolden the Kurdish-nationalist militants at its borders. 

The Kurdish people comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East, but they have never had their own country. About 3.3 million people in the region, both Kurds and non-Kurds, voted (a turnout of roughly 70%). The electoral commission reported that 92% of the votes were for independence.

• On Oct. 1, an independence referendum was held in northeastern Spain, in the Catalonia region, which calls Barcelona its capital. 

The story in Catalonia is a bit different than that in Kurdistan. Throughout the centuries, Catalonia has had varying degrees of independence. It wasn’t until the regime of General Francisco Franco (1939-1975) that Catalonia became an official part of Spain. 

After Franco’s death, Catalonia regained some autonomy, which seemed to work out for everyone until 2010, when Spain’s Constitutional Court rescinded much of the region’s rights. Since then, a Catalan independence movement has been growing.

The Catalan Parliament (which, as an expression of Catalonia’s semiautonomy, exists alongside Spain’s national parliament) drafted a law saying that if the referendum passed, Spain must declare the region independent within 48 hours. However, Spain’s Constitutional Court and president called the vote illegal, and national and military police were sent to the region to take over law enforcement and try to prevent the vote from taking place.

The Oct. 1 vote was marred by violence as large groups of Catalonians clashed with national police, who were attempting to take over polling places and block residents from voting. Nearly 900 people, including police officers, were injured in the fighting, and a number of people were arrested.

Catalonian officials said that the vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of succession. Despite police presence, voter turnout was estimated at more than 40%, around 2.2 million people.

How successful the independence campaigns of Kurdistan and Catalonia will be is uncertain, but one thing that either “state” would require before attaining true statehood is recognition from other countries. As of press time, no recognized sovereign nation had declared its support for either region.

From the mailbox —

• Edna R.S. Alvarez of Los Angeles, California, read Mark Gallo’s article “Plugging in Overseas”(Aug. ’17, pg. 52) and had information to add. She wrote, “The article included photos of three stand-alone adapter plugs that can be used in different countries. But they now package four types of adapter plugs linked together in a single, lightweight, all-in-one ‘widget.’ 

“When traveling between countries with differing plug configurations, I find this much easier to carry than four separate adapter plugs. See Amazon.com for examples of ‘multi-country all-in-one adapters.’ Some have USB ports as well.”

Mark commented, “As Ms. Alvarez suggests, there are many ‘all-in-one’ units that provide different non-grounded adapters for use in 150 countries across continental Europe, the UK, Asia and the Americas. 

“The tradeoff is increased size and cost for an all-in-one unit versus purchasing and carrying a single adapter for a particular area. Not everyone needs more than one or two adapters for their travels, but if they did (as many ITN readers do), the all-in-one type can be a good option.”

• Referring to the same article, Robert A. Siebert of Jamaica, New York, wrote, “There are pictures of three adapter plugs, all of which I carry in my camera case. However, my set of plugs contains two that have round prongs.

“The plugs I carry have a statement indicating where to use each one. The thicker-pronged one is for Northern Europe. The more slender-pronged plug is for use in Southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  

“If your set of plugs contains both of the rounded models and you’re not sure which to use, merely select the one that fits the best.”

CORRECTIONS to note —

• A Travel Brief about the exhibit “Dutch Masters in Amsterdam” (Oct. ’17, pg. 4) stated that the paintings will be on display until March 28, 2018. That exhibit actually runs until May 28.

• We’ve got essay contest winners in this issue! Warsaw was the subject. The next topic is “I’m Sweet on Sweden,” although in the box announcing that in the September issue (page 60), our instructions go on to say, “…describe what you experienced in Nice, France.” 

I didn’t see Edna R.S. Alvarez’s email alerting us to that error until the day after the October issue went to press, so that error was repeated in that issue.

I thank Carroll Shipplett of Yorba Linda, California, and Theodore Lieberseld of Boynton Beach, Florida, for also taking the time to note that mistake — one more way that our subscribers help out.

Another reader pointed that out too, one from Glen Cove, New York, whose nice comments about ITN I printed in this column just last month, only I misread her handwriting. Her name is actually Amy Romano (not Romaine).

ITN’s Webmaster, Demian, has been steadily making improvements to our website.

On the homepage, in the left-hand column, if you click on “CLICK HERE to access the [latest] issue,” you’ll be taken to a table of contents page, where you have the option of clicking on individual articles, letters and news items or leafing through a PDF copy of the print issue, ads and all.

Most of the pictures online are in color, and if you’re interested in something mentioned in an article you’re reading, there are live links to click on.

Demian keeps making things simpler while providing more options. If you have any suggestions, please send them in.

I’ll tell you about more new features on the website next month.

Marking our 500th issue last month, I quoted a couple of readers’ letters printed in ITN’s first year, including their hotel room costs. 

That inspired Brenda Milum of Reno, Nevada, to write, “Here is a quote from my 1959 diary from Istanbul: ‘… then we went cheaper-hotel shopping. Last night’s cost $4.20. No water in room, smelly john, etc. Looked in about six of them — really liked one at $4 but took a not-too-awful one for $2.40. The room is nice, but halls, john, etc., not too great.’  

“Ahhh, youth! What we poor wanderers had to put up with! But what fun we had!”

Now let’s hear from YOU.


• Regarding a statement I made in my November 2017 column — "It wasn't until the regime of General Francisco Franco (1939-1975) that Catalonia became an official part of Spain" — Arlene Lighthall of Del Mar, California, wrote in to point out that Catalonia was "officially" part of Spain centuries before Franco's rule.
She is correct. Though Catalonia enjoyed autonomy for centuries, including after the unification of Spain in the 15th century, this autonomy was stripped after the defeat of the region during the War of Spanish Succession, in 1714, when Philip V abolished the Catalan constitution and, consequently, the region's independence (a fate similar to that imposed by Franco in 1939, which voided the autonomy that Catalonia had since regained, something not reinstated in full until 1979).
Thanks, Arlene, for writing in to set the record straight.