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Speedier screening may be coming to an airport near you

Security MeasuresTravel AlertsTransportation Security AdministrationNational SecurityU.S. Department of Homeland Security

In the near future, airline passengers may be screened for weapons without having to stop walking or remove their coats and shoes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pushing for private contractors to create a screening machine with "screen and walk" capability for use at the nation's 160 international airports and thousands of federal facilities.

The agency recently requested information from high-tech companies and other private firms about any new technology that can help speed up the security checkpoints managed by the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Protective Services.

The Department of Homeland Security asked for technology that can screen a minimum of 250 people per hour, which is slightly faster than the current pace of about 200 per hour for the full-body scanners. The new technology would not replace but would add to the screening technology now used at airports.

"The system will detect an explosive or assembled IED [improvised explosive device] with and without divestiture of outer garments, shoes and through clutter depending on the deployment," according to the government request. "In addition, detection should occur through a minimum of 2 layers of clothing concealment where those layers are composed of cotton, cotton-polyester, wool, silk and leather materials among others."

The federal agency asked for responses by March 11.

The TSA has been under pressure from travelers and airlines to speed up the screening process, which Americans rank as one of the top sources of frustration when they travel.

In a statement, the TSA said it "is always looking for new technology and procedures that will enhance security and increase efficiency."

Get away, relax and help the U.S. economy?

Help the economy by taking more time away from work.

That is the message from the U.S. Travel Assn., the nation's trade organization for the travel industry. A study commissioned by the group found that more than 40% of U.S. workers who receive paid time off finish the year without using all of their allotted vacation time.

Workers who are given paid time off had an average 3.2 days of unused vacation time in 2013, according to the study by the research firm Oxford Economics.

The study concluded that if Americans spent all of their allotted vacation time, the economy would gain an additional $160 billion in vacation spending and $21 billion in tax revenue, supporting 1.2 million jobs.

"Underutilized time off is a monstrous missed opportunity, not only for American workers and their families, but also for employers and the broader economy," said Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the Travel Assn. "We seem to be wired to put the pedal to the metal, but there are also undeniable benefits to tapping the brakes."

Stormy weather in 2013 brings drop in golf activity

In golf terms, 2013 may go down as a "whiff."

Interest in golf began to surge in 2011 and 2012, following a drop during the Great Recession.

Golf is closely tied to the highs and lows of the economy because it is the most popular pastime of business travelers, according to surveys.

But a series of storms that battered the Midwest and East Coast in 2013 was largely to blame for keeping many golfers off the greens last year.

On average, golf courses nationwide were open 268 days in 2013, down an average of 10 days from 2012, according to a report by the PGA of America. That resulted in a 5% drop in the number of golf rounds played, the report said.

"When you compare apples to apples, it all has to do with the weather," said Paul Metzler, senior director of marketing and industrial relations for the PGA.

Only California and Washington reported an increase in the average number of days golf courses were open and rounds played last year, compared with 2012, the report said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Security MeasuresTravel AlertsTransportation Security AdministrationNational SecurityU.S. Department of Homeland Security
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