Airport body scanners raise radiation concerns
Airport body scanners raise concerns about radiation safety, but officials at the Department of Homeland Security say there is no need to worry.
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A group of doctors and professors from UC San Francisco are raising new concerns about the safety of a type of airport full-body scanner built by Torrance, Calif.-based Rapiscan Inc.
To reveal weapons hidden under a traveler's clothes, the scanner relies on "backscatter technology," which uses the ricochets from low-level X-rays to create what looks like a nude image of the person.
The experts said they fear that the scanners may expose the skin to high doses of X-rays that could increase the risk of cancer and other health problems, particularly among people with weak immune systems.
But officials at the Department of Homeland Security say there is no need to worry.
"The risk is so low it's almost negligible," said Dr. Alexander Garza, the assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer for the department.
The Transportation Security Administration is phasing in the scanners at U.S. airports. TSA says no date has been set for the scanners to arrive at Sea-Tac Airport, but it likely won't be before the end of the year.
Best, worse airlines
for frequent fliers
All airline mileage-reward programs are not created equal. In fact, finding the right one is more crucial than ever.
IdeaWorks, a Shorewood, Wis., airline consulting firm, and EzRez Software Inc., a San Francisco travel supplier, made more than 6,000 booking queries on the websites for 22 frequent-flier programs during February and March.
The study found that Rapid Rewards, the program for Southwest Airlines, had the highest rate of seat availability — 99.3 percent. The lowest rates of availability were for US Airways (10.7 percent), and Delta SkyMiles (12.9 percent).
Jamaica travel alert
Add the popular resort destination of Jamaica to the list of troubled hot spots around the world that the U.S. Department of State warns citizens to avoid.
The department issued a travel alert last week advising against travel to Kingston, Jamaica, and surrounding areas because of escalating violence in the country as police and soldiers clashed with drug gangs. Updated information will be posted on the U.S. Embassy's website at http://kingston.usembassy.gov and the U.S. Department of State's travel website at www.travel.state.gov.
Fare hikes coming?
When Continental Airlines Inc. and United Airlines' parent company, UAL Corp., announced a merger, frequent fliers suspected the result would be higher fares.
According to a survey by Rasmussen Reports, of those who travel by air once a month or more, 71 percent said they expected higher prices because of the merger. They may be right, said Ed Perkins, who writes the "Ask Ed" column for SmarterTravel.com.
Perkins pointed out that both airlines have been struggling financially through the latest economic slump.
By uniting, the two are eliminating competition, he said, and now they can cut routes and bump up prices.
It's just a matter of time before the fare hikes begin, he said. "How quickly they can do that is anyone's guess."
Compiled by Times staff and news services
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