Bullets found on Southwest flight by CNN photographer going to cover Sarah Palin

loaded gun magazine found by flight attendant on southwest airlines flightLet your kids kick the seats in front of them: it could save your life. If you’re the passenger being inconvenienced, it may behoove you to find a way to cope.

A kid who would otherwise be branded a royal pain found a loaded gun magazine … that should have been in the hands of a law enforcement official … on a Southwest Airlines flight. To make matters worse, the media was actually on the plane!

Here’s how it happened:

1. A kid was sitting on his mother’s lap during a flight from Burbank, California to Phoenix, Arizona
2. The plane landed, and the kid crawled across the seats in his row
3. His foot knocked an item to the floor – it was a loaded gun magazine
4. A flight attendant picked it up, but not before someone from a CNN crew, photographer Gregg Canes, saw it
5. The CNN passenger asked to take pictures of it, but the flight attendant would not let him
6. The gun magazine was turned over to the authorities

It’s that simple, folks … but it does get a lot more interesting.According to a statement by Southwest, “The item was immediately turned over to the crew working the flight who called in the local authorities to handle the investigation,” continuing, “The passengers who were remaining on that flight were rescreened and the plane was thoroughly inspected before returning to service.” They were ten allowed to get off the plane.

Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King told CNN that the officer who left the gun mag behind did follow the proper procedures to bring his gun on the plane. CNN adds:

“The full magazine was found in a back seat pocket,” a TSA official told CNN. “We believe it was left by a law enforcement officer on a flight that originated in San Jose and landed in Burbank. The officer was not an air marshal and we are trying to establish contact with the agent.”

Canes put it best: “It was actually almost funny, given the amount of scrutiny that we’ve been paying to the [Transportation Security Administration] and personal security. It seemed almost funny to see a magazine with bullets in it just sort of lying on the floor of a commercial jetliner.”

Need a bit of irony to round this out? Canes must have been in a gun state of mind; he was headed to Phoenix to cover a Sarah Palin book signing.

[photo by gcfairch via Flickr]

Hezbollah theme park: an attraction designed with terror in mind


Are you always searching for a roller coaster that will make your hair stand on end? Well, if you really want to scare yourself, skip the traditional amusement park rides and catch a flight out to Beirut. There’s a “theme park” in town that will open your eyes wide and keep you looking over your shoulder.

Hezbollah has gotten into the Disney business.

Identified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Hezbollah’s new endeavor isn’t doing a thing to change that perception. Called “Landmark for the Resistance,” the theme park celebrates the group’s military efforts against Israel. Enter the park, and you can wander among implements of mayhem and destruction, from tanks to machine guns … and you can even get some photo ops of the kids with their fingers on the trigger!

Designed and built by Hezbollah, Landmark for the Resistance cost a mere $4 million, a pittance compared to what it would cost to get an attraction up here in the United States. So far, the park’s been a success, one of the few in a country that has had trouble attracting tourists because of … well … Hezbollah.

Buoyed by the strong response, especially the smiling children, I suspect, Hezbollah has already committed to expansion plans. Look for a cable car wandering around the guns ‘n’ ammo soon – and a hotel and a restaurant.

Military museums in Rome


The Italian army gets a bad rap.

Sure, it made a poor showing in World War Two, but it was Italian Communist partisans who finally bagged Mussolini. Plus the Italians fought in one of the toughest fronts of the First World War, high in the Alps against the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. They endured freezing conditions on top of glaciers for months on end. One of the favorite tactics was to cause avalanches to bury the opposing side. A few years ago the mummies of three Austro-Hungarian soldiers were found frozen in the ice, and another World War One soldier was found last month at an Italian ski resort.

The Italians are also pulling their weight in Afghanistan with 3,800 troops, and joined in the invasion of Iraq and served there for three years. Sadly they have suffered more than 50 deaths in these wars.

And then there was Operation Alba. Operation Alba? Yeah, that’s been pretty much forgotten. In 1997 the government of Albania collapsed, plunging the country into chaos and leading to fighting that killed some 2,000 people. Italy commanded an international coalition that restored order in a textbook case on how to properly run a peacekeeping operation. The rule of law was established and the troops were gone in five months. Military successes tend to be forgotten in favor of military disasters.

Rome has several military museums dedicated to its fallen heroes. Usually overlooked in favor of the giant archaeology and art museums, they offer an interesting glimpse into forgotten history and weapons you’re unlikely to see anywhere else. Take this little tank I’m standing next to, for instance. This is an L3/35 with twin machine guns (now removed). They were introduced in the 1930s and are a stage in development between the lumbering behemoths of WWI and the more practical tanks of WWII. They proved useful during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and 1936. Despite their thin armor, the Ethiopians didn’t have anything to destroy them, although some brave warriors managed to immobilize them by sticking pieces of railroad track or even sabers into their treads! The L3/35 also saw service in North Africa in WWII where they proved easy prey for the more advanced British tanks.

%Gallery-102423%Here are some of the military museums in Rome:

Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Esercito: The Italian army archives has an interesting collection of tanks and weapons, mostly from the two World Wars. Several display cases show artifacts dug up from the Alpine front of World War One. It’s in a military building, so bring some ID and expect to have your bag searched. Via Etruria 33.

Museo Storico della Fanteria: The Infantry Museum houses the best and largest military collection in the city with artifacts dating from Roman times up to the present day. The garden is decorated with tanks and cannon set beneath an ancient Roman arch, and the three floors inside are filled with racks of guns, full uniforms, paintings, and dioramas. Piazza San Croce in Gerusalemme 9.

Museo Storico dei Granatieri di Sardegna: Two doors down from the Infantry Museum is one dedicated to the grenadiers of Sardinia. It traces their history from 1659 when they were armed with primitive grenades to their present-day duties as part of the Mechanized Infantry. Piazza San Croce in Gerusalemme 7.

Museo Storico dei Bersaglieri: The Bersaglieri are an elite force in the Italian army famous for running everywhere, even when they’re in their barracks. This makes them very fit and they’re considered some of the toughest troops in the army. Founded even before the unification of Italy, they’ve fought with distinction in all its wars. Porta Pia i Via XX Settembre.

Museo Storico della Motorizzazione Militare: This museum dedicated to military vehicles displays more than 300 tanks, trucks, helicopters, mobile rocket launchers, motorcycles, and more. It’s located in a large military base. Bring ID and expect to be searched. Viale dell’Esercito 170. If you like tanks, you might want to check out our list of other great tank museums.

There are several more military museums worth seeing, so check out the list the Italian army has here. It’s in Italian, but the basic information is easy enough to puzzle out.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Vacation with the Dead: Exploring Rome’s Sinister Side.

Coming up Next: The Catacombs of Rome!

Flight attendant: Packing heat was a mistake

Let’s be clear: Amber Robillard said she didn’t mean to put a loaded handgun into her carry-on bag. The flight attendant – keeper of order, safety and beverage cart service … not to mention explainer of the rules – says she accidentally packed heat, without a license, when she went to Indianapolis International Airport.

It’s all a big mistake.

On June 4, Robillard was charged with carrying a handgun without a license, in addition to “entering a controlled area in an airport with a weapon,” according to the Associated Press. The AP further explains:

Court records say the 39-year-old told police she mistakenly picked up a bag containing her gun during a trip to Indianapolis. Inspectors found the gun in her bag when she arrived at the city’s airport to work on a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta.

Yeah, she took her gun to work – with an airline. Genius. Next time this flight attendant tells you to turn off your Kindle or BlackBerry, how much credibility will she have?

JetBlue pilot removed from Boston plane after gun threat incident

A JetBlue co-pilot has been removed from his Boston crew lounge when he sent an email to his ex-girlfriend mentioning his plans to harm himself.

The pilot is a member of the TSA Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which allows pilots to carry guns on their plane – the program was developed after the attacks on 9/11. Upon being confronted by authorities, the pilot handed over the gun and was taken to a local hospital for mental evaluation.

Local authorities were quick to point out that the man never threatened passengers and was only considered a threat to himself.