Technology purveyors converged on Capital Hill Thursday to showcase screening devices they say could help airlines eventually scan 100 percent of all checked airline luggage for explosives.
"We are looking to these technologies to fill the biggest security hole in America, which is that 90 percent of all checked luggage on an airplane is not screened for explosives," Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Org., told UPI.
Inslee has spearheaded legislation that would require all baggage to undergo such checks.
In a caucus room at the Cannon House Office building, a handful of lawmakers pressed palms and fielded technical sales pitches from scanner vendors wanting to be part of that effort.
"We commercialized our (scanner) two years ago but until Sept 11 the airlines and government buyers told us they didn't need all our capabilities," said Steven Botello, marketing and sales director for Ancore Corporation of Santa Clara, Calif.
Ancore and other companies such as the Billerica, Mass.-based American Science and Engineering or AS&E and L3 Communications in Clearwater, Fla. all produce variations of scanning devices that detect people, drugs, explosives, hazardous material and other contraband.
While many powerful scanning technologies are used in federal buildings and at U.S. border points for example, the airline industry has in the past proven reluctant to use the most sophisticated of them because of high costs.
"The airlines unfortunately have historically resisted anything that involves spending a buck," Inslee told UPI. "We need the airline industry's help but that is a Balkanized system that makes it difficult to do things in a seamless way."
No airport security laws have been passed -- thanks to pitched ideological battles between House Democrats, who favor federalizing airport screeners, and House Republicans, who resist expanding the federal workforce to such a degree.
AAA: THANKSGIVING TRAVEL DOWN
People are staying put this Thanksgiving, or driving to their destinations.
That's according to the AAA Auto Clubs, which said Thanksgiving holiday travel is projected to drop by 6 percent from last year in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but automobile travel will be down by only 1.6 percent.
A survey finds 34.6 million people saying they'll travel at least 50 miles from home, compared to 36.8 million in 2000. Of those, 87 percent or 30 million said they would use motor vehicles for the trip.
Although that's less than last year, it's the highest percentage of auto travel for Thanksgiving ever recorded by AAA -- indicating the air attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are still making people think twice about other modes of transportation.
Airplanes, trains or buses will be used by 4.6 million, 27 percent less than the 6.3 million who used commercial transportation last Thanksgiving.
Motorists will be pleased by gasoline prices, which are at least 30 cents per gallon lower than they were at this time a year ago.
ONLINE TRAVEL SITES
The travel industry says its online sales are returning to pre-Sept. 11 levels, even though traditional ends of the business -- such as travel agents and call centers -- haven't done as well.
Computerworld quotes John Marriott III, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Marriott International, telling a conference in Miami this week that Marriott.com booked 12,900 reservations on Tuesday. "The biggest day before that was Sept. 10.
"We're not only back to pre-Sept. 11 channels, but we're ahead of it (online). Clearly, the Internet side" was the quickest area to recover, he said.
Online travel site Expedia also said its hotel and rental car bookings are back to pre-Sept. 11 levels.
(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)
Requests for concealed-gun license applications have nearly tripled in Texas since the Sept. 11 attacks, apparently because of fear and uncertainty about personal safety.
The number of requests has climbed from about 1,000 a week to about 2,800, according to Texas Department of Public Safety figures obtained by The Dallas Morning News. In October, more than 10,000 requests arrived at the DPS office in Austin.
Gun owners don't believe a firearm will protect them from a terrorist, but they fear for their own personal safety if law enforcement is stretched too thin, said Ken Goldberg, owner of the DFW Gun Range and Firing Center.
"They're buying a gun because they're saying, 'I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know that there's not going to be civil unrest,'" he told the newspaper.
To obtain a concealed gun permit in Texas, applicants must go through background checks, attend a training course, and pass a test on gun safety. The process can cost as much as $300.