Nation Digest

Nation Digest: TSA Scraps 'Puffer' Screening at Airports

Friday, May 22, 2009


Airports Won't Use 'Puffer' Machines

The Transportation Security Administration is abandoning a $36 million airport screening program designed to foil terrorists by shooting air blasts at passengers and sniffing for explosives particles dislodged from skin and clothing, an agency spokeswoman said.

The TSA bought 207 "puffer" machines for $30 million from General Electric and Smiths Detection in 2004 but halted deployment of the detectors in mid-2006 because they were too slow, unreliable and expensive to operate. The devices got clogged by dust and confused by humidity or jet fuel fumes, increasing operating costs by as much as $48,000 per $150,000 machine, according to USA Today. The machines will be replaced with full-body scanners.

-- Spencer S. Hsu

EPA Restores Scientists' Role: The Environmental Protection Agency announced a change in the way it considers changes to air-quality standards, reversing a Bush administration decision that was criticized for emphasizing politics over science. The change reinstates a practice of asking for a "staff paper," an opinion prepared by EPA scientists, as a step in the process of setting or resetting standards for pollutants such as smog.

-- David A. Fahrenthold

Hurricane Forecast Announced: Government weather officials estimate that the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1, will have nine to 14 named tropical storms. Four to seven could become hurricanes, with as many as three reaching the dangerous Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That is largely a normal hurricane season, officials said in a briefing at Reagan National Airport.

-- Michael E. Ruane

Senate Passes War Funding Bill: The Senate passed, 86 to 3, a $91.3 billion bill that would fund stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan but deny President Obama money to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

-- Associated Press

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