Paradise so close, yet so far

Do you sometimes find yourself unjustifiably envied by friends or colleagues for taking a business trip to a place known as “paradise on Earth”? Do you try to explain to them that you don’t really have time to enjoy it, or have you given that up?

“Tough life” is a sarcastic exclamation I often hear before traveling overseas, and to some extent I understand it. As often happens, at the beginning of the summer several friends asked me about my upcoming trips with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Two of our planned destinations were the Greek island of Corfu and the Thai resort town of Phuket. No wonder people think I lead a charmed life. Although I have no reason to complain, the reality is very different…

Career diplomats protest Obama appointments

The White House, unaware of historic norms, had been on track to give more than the usual 30 percent of ambassadorial jobs to political appointees until objections from career diplomats forced it to reconsider, administration officials say.

As a result of the reversal, some donors to President Obama’s election campaign — as well as senior advisers and other supporters of the campaigns of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — are likely to find their hopes of being rewarded with an embassy dashed. “The White House has come around, and we truly expect that, at the end of the process, the balance will be within historical norms,” said one senior administration official who asked not to be named because he was discussing internal deliberations.

Flu controls surprise travelers

How would you feel if you were detained for more than a week upon arrival in a foreign country for reasons that had nothing to do with you — and you missed your meeting or never even made it to your destination?

Thousands of passengers to Asia, where governments have implemented the most draconian measures to prevent the spread of swine flu, have been facing that prospect every day for two weeks. Unfortunately, in most cases, they were not given all the information they needed in advance so they could plan accordingly. Beginning April 28, dozens of planes arriving daily in Japan from North America have been held after landing until a team of health inspectors…

What to do with empty premium seats?

Have you flown in business or first class lately? How many empty seats did you count? With so-called premium traffic falling faster that airlines can cut capacity, what should they do with the growing number of unsold seats?

Should they drastically lower the high prices they charge for them? Should they open up more seats for mileage redemption? Or should they offer free upgrades to their most loyal customers? First and business-class fares have come down somewhat, but a wide dramatic decrease is yet to be seen. Many carriers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to install expensive lie-flat seats and entertainment systems, so they rightly want a return on those investments…

Candid Clinton off script overseas

BEIJING — So much for the “diplo-speak” U.S. officials usually offer on trips abroad. Newly minted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton showed last week that she will not be constrained by diplomatic protocol or follow an official script and, so far, she seems to have the stature and celebrity to pull it off.

As she returns home Sunday from her first overseas trip since taking office, Mrs. Clinton leaves behind thousands of Asians thrilled to have met one of the world’s most famous and powerful women. At the same time, awaiting her in Washington are puzzled analysts, angry human rights activists and career diplomats not quite sure what to make of some of her comments.

Clinton weathers job’s long flights

Flying more than 22,000 miles in a week filled with dozens of official meetings, public events and media interviews didn’t seem to have taken a toll on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her much-publicized trip to Asia. How does she do it?

I’ve been asked the same question about three of Mrs. Clinton’s predecessors I’ve traveled with — Condoleezza Rice, Colin L. Powell and Madeleine K. Albright. My answer is always the same, but it’s not the queen-size pullout sofa in their plane’s private cabin, though having a real bed in the air certainly helps.

In air with Clinton on first trip abroad

Have you ever wondered what it’s like traveling with the secretary of state around the world? Although I’ve been doing it for more than eight years, I’ve resisted frequent suggestions by friends and colleagues to write about it.

Now I’ve found an excuse. There is a new secretary — Hillary Rodham Clinton no less — and she has just completed her first overseas trip since taking office. So it’s time to step back from what has become a routine for us in the press corps and try to look at it through a fresh pair of eyes. The State Department usually gives us 13 seats on the secretary’s plane, but this time we got three more, to accommodate the bigger interest in Mrs. Clinton’s maiden voyage to Asia.

Ups and downs of diplomatic life

Carol Hazzard was a 20-year-old secretary at the University of Buffalo in 1969, but the life she dreamed about was far removed from the monotony of upstate New York. “My only goal in life was to travel and see the world,” she recalled recently.

One night, her mother asked her to go to the corner grocery store for some milk, and on her way there, she ran into her old high-school basketball coach, who was working as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines.

Ms. Hazzard thought such a job would help her realize her dream of traveling. But the former coach was not enthusiastic about recommending her new profession to others. Instead, she advised Ms. Hazzard that she could see the world while continuing to work as a secretary…

Costner’s last stand

Kevin Costner has never given up on his search for the people who he reckons are the most “difficult to find”: the ones “who think outside the box”. He looked for them — futilely yet persistently — when he first called himself an actor and hoped that someone would hire an ambitious college graduate without a single acting credit on his CV.

He broke just about every Hollywood rule when he produced, directed and starred in “Dances with Wolves”, the more than three hour-long western epic he had been repeatedly warned against, and it won him an Academy Award for best director, the respect of the film-making community and tens of millions of dollars.

He then defied all modern trends in his business, choosing non-commercial — and often unattractive by many standards — roles, some of which provoked harsh criticism and doubts about his talent. He has invested more than $20m in businesses that haven’t made him a dime, and has been trying for years to build a luxurious resort in the Black Hills of South Dakota, against the will of the Sioux Indians…