TSA PreCheck is about to get a lot easier to access. The program, which allows pre-approved passengers to go through dedicated express lines at airport security, will no longer require hoofing it to an airport or other inconvenient sign-up center to file an application. Instead, you can head to your nearest Staples store, which will soon be offering PreCheck services, according to the frequent flyer blog View From the Wing.
Through PreCheck and Global Entry (its sister program for international flyers), travelers who go through a background check can speed through security lines at the airport without removing their shoes, belts, jackets, liquids, or laptops. After you pay the $85 application fee and get approved, you’re covered for five years. TSA says that most of its PreCheck passengers spend less than five minutes per airport trip waiting in security lines, so it essentially pays for itself as long as you run late for a flight at least once a year (or just really hate waiting in line).
Though the PreCheck program has expanded its locations in the past few years, offering application services in some H&R Block storefronts, DMVs, and other easily accessible public places, it’s still harder than it should be to enroll. From my hometown in California, for instance, the nearest enrollment center is almost 50 miles away. Even in big cities like New York, high demand and few enrollment centers mean you could be stuck waiting weeks for an appointment, depending on the location and time of year.
This summer, Staples will become one of the few national businesses to host PreCheck enrollment centers. The Staples PreCheck application program will be administered by the security agent IdentGO, which already provides PreCheck application services at places like H&R Block, and will begin in Boston, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The first wave of the program will encompass 50 new centers, but eventually, the company hopes to expand it even further.
The lack of accessibility might be one reason the program initially fell short of its enrollment goals, signing up just 2.7 million members in its first three years. Now it has 6 million people on board, but that’s still a far cry from the 25 million the agency hopes to get enrolled in its trusted traveler programs by 2019.
It looks like you’ll only be able to apply for the domestic PreCheck program at Staples, not the Global Entry program. The latter, while a bit more expensive, comes with domestic PreCheck benefits as well as express service at U.S. customs.
[h/t View From the Wing]
Some say mindfulness meditation can cure anything. It might make you more compassionate. It can fix your procrastination habit. It could ward off germs and improve health. And it may boost your mental health and reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
New research suggests that for people with anxiety, mindfulness meditation programs could be beneficial after just one session. According to Michigan Technological University physiologist John Durocher, who presented his work during the annual Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, California on April 23, meditation may be able to reduce the toll anxiety takes on the heart in just one session.
As part of the study, Durocher and his colleagues asked 14 adults with mild to moderate anxiety to participate in an hour-long guided meditation session that encouraged them to focus on their breathing and awareness of their thoughts.
The week before the meditation session, the researchers had measured the participants' cardiovascular health (through data like heart rate and the blood pressure in the aorta). They evaluated those same markers immediately after the session ended, and again an hour later. They also asked the participants how anxious they felt afterward.
Other studies have looked at the benefits of mindfulness after extended periods, but this one suggests that the effects are immediate. The participants showed significant reduction in anxiety after the single session, an effect that lasted up to a week afterward. The session also reduced stress on their arteries. Mindfulness meditation "could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure," Durocher said in a press statement, helping protect the heart against the negative effects of chronic anxiety.
But other researchers have had a more cautious outlook on mindfulness research in general, and especially on studies as small as this one. In a 2017 article in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, a group of 15 different experts warned that mindfulness studies aren't always trustworthy. "Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed," they wrote.
But one of the reasons that mindfulness can be so easy to hype is that it is such a low-investment, low-risk treatment. Much like dentists still recommend flossing even though there are few studies demonstrating its effectiveness against gum disease, it’s easy to tell people to meditate. It might work, but if it doesn't, it probably won't hurt you. (It should be said that in rare cases, some people do report having very negative experiences with meditation.) Even if studies have yet to show that it can definitively cure whatever ails you, sitting down and clearing your head for a few minutes probably won't hurt.