10 Strange Items the TSA Found in People’s Luggage in 2018

Thanks to the TSA’s Webby-winning Instagram account—made famous by the agency’s late social media guru Bob Burns, who passed away in October—officials have kept track of the wackier things airport security agents saw in 2018. Every year, the TSA screens about 700 million travelers across nearly 450 airports. That’s more than 2 million passengers each day. And while most people pass through security checkpoints without incident, a handful of travelers are stopped every day—sometimes for attempting to lug some truly bizarre items to their departing gate.

1. A Python in a Hard Drive

A traveler bound for Barbados apparently thought it was a good idea to reenact Snakes on a Plane when they socked this ball python into a nylon stocking, hiding it inside an external hard drive. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service swooped in to take the critter.Healthy Recipes – Awesome Quick Recipes – Thousands to Chose FromSimple, Quick Recipes. Fast Prep. Easy Steps, Great Taste. Free InstallSponsored by getrecipes.net

2. A Fake Bomb

It might resemble something Wile E. Coyote would have concocted—and it may be 100 percent fake—but it’s still not allowed through security at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Anything that remotely resembles a weapon will cause intense security checks. (In this case, the security checkpoint was closed for 19 minutes, inconveniencing countless passengers.)

3. Firecrackers

Please excuse this brief announcement: Don’t carry firecrackers—or anything else that goes “boom”—in your hand luggage. Especially a brand that has the word “Killer” in it.

4. Wedding-Themed Hand Grenades

We’ll let the TSA’s Instagram account explain why these are a bad idea: “When our officers spot a potential explosive on the monitor, they cannot just open the bag and take a looksee to find out if it’s real or not. A TSA explosives specialist or a police department bomb squad must respond before the bag is ever opened. This can lead to costly evacuations, delays, and missed flights. These types of items can also lead to hefty fines and arrest. Contact your preferred shipper about your options, because they can’t travel via commercial aircraft. So even though they aren’t real, they can cause a lot of headaches.”

5. Freddy Krueger’s Hand

There is no loophole around the TSA’s knife policy: You may not bring any knives in your carry-on. You especially can’t bring them if they’re affixed to your fingertips. As the TSA elaborates, “While worn out fedoras and tattered green and red sweaters are discouraged in the fashion world, they are permitted at TSA checkpoints.” (You may stow a knife in your checked luggage.)

6. Giant Scissors

Unlike knives, scissors are allowed in your carry-on luggage—as long as they are shorter than four inches from the fulcrum. These ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors found at Nashville International Airport didn’t make the cut.

7. A Phony IED

This fake improvised explosive device caused six checkpoint lanes to close at Newark Liberty International Airport. The TSA later learned that “the man carrying the IED in his carry-on bag was traveling to Florida to participate in a training event focused on X-ray detection of explosive devices.” Thankfully, the agents already had their training.

8. Bullet-Shaped Whiskey Stones

It’s OK to transport a gun and ammunition on a flight as long as it’s properly stored in checked luggage. But placing it in your carry-on is a big no-no. In 2017, the TSA discovered nearly 4000 firearms at security checkpoints—most of them loaded—and that number is expected to rise when 2018’s numbers are finally tabulated. To say the least, the TSA is strict when it comes to anything that remotely resembles a weapon. That’s why these ammunition-shaped whiskey stones (usually used to chill a drink without watering it down) weren’t allowed.

9. An Inert Mortar Round

People try to bring inert weapons of war, like this mortar found at Evansville Regional Airport, through the security checkpoint more than you think. (Case in point: Somebody tried bringing rocket launchers through Hawaii’s Lihue Airport.) When security officials spot something like this, they have to bring in explosives experts to ensure the device is actually inert. Delays ensue. So just leave your faux bombs at home.

10. A Live Cat

There are proper ways to transport your pet to your destination. Haphazardly stuffing your furry friend into your checked luggage is not one of them. At Erie International Airport, a security screener discovered this kitty (named Slim) stowed in a Florida couple’s checked baggage. Slim was turned over to the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. The couple, meanwhile, was charged with animal cruelty.

To see our 2017 roundup of the TSA’s strangest finds, click here.


For nearly four years, Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has been ravaged by war. With on-the-ground reporting still difficult, the death toll from fighting and bombing — currently over 60,000 — is thought to be vastly underestimated. Beyond that, starvation and disease have killed 85,000 children, and cholera alone has cost 2,600 lives.

Since October 2016, Yemen has been in the grips of one of the worst epidemics of cholera seen in modern history: From April 27, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, 1.3 million suspected cases were reported, and as recently as October 2018 the WHO estimated about 10,000 new cases were added every week. Cholera is caused by a water-borne bacteria, meaning water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming is essential to stopping its spread. But that means such projects can be effective extremely quickly. In fact:


Those figures were taken from the electronic disease early warning system (eDEWS), which showed that in the month of August 2017there were 15,020 suspected cases of cholera, 59 deaths and 958,668 people thought to be at risk. The plant became fully operational in September 2017, and by January 2018, these numbers had dropped to 164 cholera cases and zero deaths.

Explore inside the restored water plant in Yemen with this 360 VR video:

Al Barzakh is one of around 10 water treatment centers in Yemen, and it serves four different districts in Aden, in southern Yemen, as well as the Lahij and Abyan governorates. After conflict damage in 2015, however, it was only partly operating, meaning just a portion of the population was getting served and that the water wasn’t getting thoroughly cleaned. UNICEF undertook the plant’s restoration two years agowhile also analyzing the infrastructure needs of the region.

As Aref Ahmed Abdullah, the supervisor of chlorination at Al Barzakh, explains, his main task is to chlorinate and sterilize the water tanks daily. Previously tablets were added to the main water tanks — but it wasn’t enough to eradicate germs, so now they add chlorine, which eradicates all forms of cholera-forming bacteria.

Matteo Minasi, filmmaker for OCHA, the U.N.’s humanitarian agency, explains, “Cholera can spread from both water and food and even just very basic household practices like not washing a container properly.” That means education is key, and UNICEF’s $2 million program also involved going door to door to show people how they should wash their dishes. While Minasi says these efforts may have contributed to reducing the spread of water-borne disease, the new chlorination system killed 90 percent of the germs.

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The UNICEF team visits each home in Bani Harith, Sana’a, to check if there are people there affected by cholera, and to raise the awareness of cholera prevention techniques.


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The team also distributes cleaning and sterilization tools to the region’s population.


The project began in 2016 but encountered a number of difficulties and delays. The country is still in conflict, with Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-backed government with the help of coalition forces, recently the subject of a recent U.S. Senate vote overwhelmingly favoring the withdrawal of American support. Government bans on essential materials like adequately-sized water pipes or chlorine meant U.N. advocacy was required to get basic supplies, according to UNICEF’s Robert Kizito Ojok, a water and sanitation specialist in Aden. But now there are more hiccups: “The willingness of the population to pay their water bill is one [issue] that is dragging on,” Ojok says, so his team is working to establish what affordable tariffs the general public might be willing to pay to help sustain it. The WHO recorded cholera outbreaks in several other countries in 2018 — Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Somalia among them — and the plant’s success in Yemen underscores the importance of water maintenance in other affected regions.

Meanwhile, Ojok notes that internally displaced persons have been fleeing the north of Yemen for Aden, settling in the fields from which the plant extracts water. Their presence ups the risk of contaminating ground water, so the U.N. is working to advocate for an alternative space for them. Further next steps for the WASH program will depend on the next round of donor funding.

While peace talks to attempt to resolve conflict in Yemen have taken place in Sweden, water isn’t an issue that can wait. It’s increasingly used as a tool of war that can be used strategically to target the enemy, by poisoning or destroying infrastructure — as in Syria, where the government has been accused of war crimes for bombing the water supply of rebel-held Damascus in 2016. Aden is currently stable, but Al Barzakh is guarded by the Yemeni government’s military. Should it be targeted again, the entire region could be back to square one on fighting disease.

In collaboration with U.N. OCHA

  • Sophia Akram, OZY Author