Do Airport Screeners Know What They’re Doing?
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General had a good idea: It conducted 70 tests of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screeners to see how easily banned items such as explosives and weapons could make it through the screening process. Turns out the answer was pretty darn easy: In 67 out of 70 cases, banned items passed unnoticed.
Homeland Security’s report on the tests will be published later this year, but the reporting of details by ABC News and CNN have already let the cat out of the bag, leading to the reassignment of TSA’s current administrator and a statement from Homeland Security assuring the public that the screening process is safer than the 67/70 results may suggest. My favorite quote about this comes from a Homeland Security spokesperson, reported by CNN: “the numbers in these reports never look good out of context.” (On second thought, my actual favorite quote about this came from The Onion: "TSA Agents to Now Simply Stand at Checkpoints and Remind Passengers That We All Die Someday.")
My hope is that the “context” is that the 70 tests were targeted to airport screeners already suspected of lax practices. But if that were the case, why doesn’t Homeland Security just say so, instead of reassigning TSA’s leader?
WE WANT TO KNOW: The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on airport screening. Does this news about inadequate screening practices make you rethink your vacation plans?
WATCH: Wild Animals in Africa See Themselves in the Mirror and Freak Out!
Can you really blame a silverback gorilla for trying to attack its own reflection? In a fascinating experiment, French photographer Xavier Hubert Brierre placed mirrors and hidden cameras in the Gabon rain forest in Africa to capture the reactions of wild animals, the New York Post reports. Caught on tape: leopards, monkeys, birds, elephants, and a huge silverback gorilla who was none too pleased about seeing a "competitor." Watch how the animals react below, and read on for tips on how you can visit Africa on a budget: Want to go on a safari in Africa without cleaning out your savings account? Go during low season: • East Africa's two rainy seasons are March/April through May/June, and October/November through December. • South Africa's low season is when it's cold and drizzly in Cape Town, May through September. • Namibia's and Botswana's shoulder months are May and November. For more BT safari tips, read How to Find an Affordable African Safari, or check out our current travel deal for five nights in Kenya, including airfare and safaris, for less than $2,400.
Awesome Summer Food Festivals
Ready to get an early start on your summer travel? Some of the world's tastiest food festivals are happening over the next few weeks in some of the world's most beautiful spots. Pack a bag, and an appetite. EXPO MILANO Milan, Italy, is hosting this world's fair event from May through October. The theme is Feeding the Planet. You can sample food from 20 regions of Italy, not to mention more than 100 nations. Top chefs are doing demonstrations, top architects have designed stunning pavilions, and there are cultural events all day and night, including a brand-new show by Cirque du Soleil. And don't miss the expo's mascot, Foody, designed by Disney. STAY: Milan Hilton, from around $120. (The exchange rate with the euro gets you a bargain.) NATIONAL CHERRY FESTIVAL Traverse City, in northern Michigan, is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, but when the cherry harvest is in, it's heaven on the lakeshore beaches. From July 3 through 11, a half-million people will visit the festival. Of course there's a parade and a pancake breakfast with cherry syrup, preserves, and pie. But there's also an amazing air show, "Blues, Brews, and BBQ" and on the Fourth of July... the Cherry Pit Spit Contest. STAY: Great Wolf Lodge, from $180. GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL Four words: Free. Garlic. Ice. Cream. A day trip from San Francisco, the "World's Greatest Summer Food Festival" celebrates Gilroy's aromatic crop July 24 through 26. The Bay Area has some serious foodies, and they flock to Gilroy each summer to sample the garlicky concoctions on the festival's Gourmet Alley (with its "flame ups" by its famous "pyro chefs") and a bunch of cook-offs and demonstrations. STAY: Hotel Del Sol, San Francisco, from $120.
WATCH: Delta's Hysterical New Safety Video Stars the Whole Internet!
If you're a fan of viral internet memes, you are going to love Delta Air Lines' new safety video, dubbed "the Internetest safety video on the Internet." What makes it so internety? The video, which began airing on Delta aircraft yesterday, features cameos from beloved Internet stars including Double Rainbow guy, Keyboard Cat, a Screaming Goat, and many more. Spot 'em all below! Fun travel fact: Delta also gives props to one of its own viral stars in the video—popular redheaded flight attendant Deltalina (pictured above), who gained a cult following after her appearances in Delta's safety videos beginning in 2008.
When Were You First Bitten By The "Travel Bug"?
We've got family travel on the brain, the theme for our May/June digital edition of Budget Travel magazine (now available on BudgetTravel.com, in the Apple App Store, on Google Play, and for Nook and Kindle). To get into the spirit of things, we asked several of our staff members to share when they were first bitten by the "travel bug." Here's what they said: "The moment I stepped off the ferry in Martha's Vineyard as a boy. A whole new world just a road trip away from the Bronx." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Executive Editor "When I was 15, I saved up all my babysitting money so I could fly to visit my uncle on the East Coast and see New York City for the first time." —Jamie Beckman, Senior Editor "My first flight at age four. I've been told I cried because we had to land!" —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "I've been traveling since before I can remember! I was only one when I took my first plane ride to San Diego." —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "My first family vacation, when my parents let us kids smuggle 11 live hermit crabs into my mom's purse coming home from the Bahamas." —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "I think I came into the world this way. I've always been a wanderer." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "In my early 20s, when my sister became a flight attendant and I used her buddy passes for quick last-minute trips."—Cathy Allendorf, Director of Digital Media "My parents definitely instilled a wanderlust. We drove all over the United States, and the minute I was making enough money, I got a passport and spent a month in Europe." —Jeannea Spence, Southeast Advertising Manager "I went to the Florida Keys for my senior high school spring break. I loved the sense of freedom in a tropical climate." —Chad Harter, Lead Developer Now it's your turn: We want to know, when were you first bitten by the "travel bug"? Tell us about it below!