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What Does The TSA Do With Your Confiscated Stuff?

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TSA Blog

Reader Aly, returning from a trip, asks, “What does the TSA do with all those confiscated items? Mostly, they confiscated my shampoo and I want it back, but I am also curious.”

The Transportation Security Administration confiscates all sorts of stuff—which they call “Voluntary Abandoned Property”—at security checkpoints, from handguns and knives to shampoo bottles that are just a little too big for their liking. Where’s it all go? You might assume that TSA screeners just pocket what they want and take it home, but that’s not normally the case. The TSA says it maintains a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to theft, and getting caught with abandoned property is grounds for termination. 

Instead, your confiscated goods usually meet one of three fates: they can be sold, donated or disposed of. 

The TSA is prohibited by law from profiting from items surrendered to them, but other government agencies’ hands aren’t tied the same way. Stuff that could potentially be resold is turned over to the states, who flip what they can in government-run surplus centers and online auction sites like eBay or GovDeals. The return on this isn’t half bad, and the state of Pennsylvania says it made some $800,000 in revenue from re-selling confiscated property online between 2004 and 2012. 

Other stuff is donated to local non-profit organizations, schools and government agencies, who can either use it—scissors might go to underfunded schools, mace might go to police departments or academies—or sell it. 

Aly’s shampoo and most other prohibited liquids and chemicals are simply thrown out. These used to get donated or sold, but the TSA stopped doing that when they realized the liability risk. That shampoo might not really be shampoo, or a water bottle might not be full of actual H2O, so it’s safer and more efficient to just dispose of whatever it is. 

That leads us to another question: If your more-than-3.4-ounce container isn’t allowed on the flight for fear of you blowing up the plane, why is it okay in a trashcan in the airport? According to the TSA, the issue isn’t any one container of liquid, but someone using liquid explosives and other components to make an explosive device on the plane. Without all the other necessary components to complete the bomb, the liquid in the trashcan, on its own, is considered less of a threat. 

Weapons and other select items have their own protocols. If someone tries to board a plane with a handgun on them, for example, local law enforcement is called to investigate, and may take the weapon and arrest or cite the person who had it. 

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Big Questions
How Are Royal Babies Named?
Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Jack Taylor, Getty Images

After much anticipation, England's royal family has finally received a tiny new addition. The birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's second son was confirmed by Kensington Palace on April 23, but the name of the royal newborn has yet to be announced. For the heir to the British throne and his wife, choosing a name for their third child—who is already fifth in line to the throne—likely won't be as easy as flipping through a baby name book; it's tradition for royals to select names that honor important figures from British history.

According to ABC WJLA, selecting three or four names is typical when naming a royal baby. Will and Kate followed this unwritten rule when naming their first child, George Alexander Louis, and their second, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Each name is an opportunity to pay homage to a different British royal who came before them. Some royal monikers have less savory connotations (Prince Harry's given name, Henry, is reminiscent of a certain wife-beheading monarch), but typically royal babies are named for people who held a significant and honorable spot in the family tree.

Because there's a limited pool of honorable monarchs from which to choose, placing bets on the royal baby name as the due date approaches has become a popular British pastime. One name that keeps cropping up this time around is James; the original King James ruled in the early 17th century, and it has been 330 years since a monarch named James wore the crown.

If the royal family does go with James for the first name of their youngest son, that still leaves at least a couple of slots to be filled. So far, the couple has stuck with three names each for their children, but there doesn't seem to be a limit; Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to George VI in 1936, shouldered the full name of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images
CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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