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Destination Israel

Visiting Israel Can Be Life-Changing for Christians

August 30th 2016

Western/Wailing Wall

For centuries, not only Jews but also Christians have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem -- that City of Peace that has nevertheless seen countless wars and strife over the centuries. It is the city where Jews aspire to find their final resting place and be among those at the dawn of the end of Time when the Messiah reigns. Jerusalem is for Christians the place of the Passion and Death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is for sentiment and in the hope of spiritual rebirth that Christians have sojourned to the Holy Places and the Holy Land in order to walk where Jesus did and where he died and was resurrected. 
So important is Jerusalem to Christians that the First Crusade brought Europeans crusaders at great personal cost to the Holy Land one thousand years ago to ensure the safety of Christian pilgrims who were enslaved and taxed by the Muslim overlords who had wrested it from Byzantine Christian control. Many years later, the modern State of Israel guarantees access to the Holy Places in a manner worthy of respect, admiration, and gratitude.

Destination Israel

For Many, Israel is Geopolitical Tourist Destination

April 28th 2016

El Al Boeing 747-200

For a hard-core segment of travelers to Jerusalem, when the sun sets at the Sabbath, the magic in the air is not just the serene image of a peaceful dusk in an enchanted land. It is the empowering knowledge that the sun still shines on a Jewish State surrounded by fiery military and diplomatic turmoil. Israel remains a nation determined to survive and preserve its sense of magnetic amazement. In the minds of many, a visit to Israel is more than just a vacation. It is a geopolitical destination. Traveling to and enjoying Israel makes a statement to the world and to history. It reflects the steeled determination to be happy and fulfilled in one of the most treasured places on earth, despite a virtual siege around every corner. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Israel Ministry of Tourism Launches Effort To Increase Incoming Flights To Israel

April 22nd 2016


Some 100 world airlines operate regular flights to Israel, but the country's Ministry of Tourism wants more. It has launched an initiative to encourage direct flights from "new" gateways to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV). In recent years, dozens of airlines have inaugurated service to Israel, and while El Al, Israel's national carrier, remains the number one airline operating flights to and from Tel Aviv, EasyJet has become the airport's number two airline, with multiple daily flights from 10 major European gateways.
Within its scope of promoting tourism to Israel, the Ministry views tourism trade professionals as strategic partners and wants to participate in the marketing efforts of airlines that initiate flights from "new" gateways to Israel. For eligibility, flights must operate from November 1, 2016 through October 31, 2017 and possess measurable potential to bring additional tourists to Israel. To be considered a "new" gateway, airports must be located more than 120 kilometers from an airport already servicing direct flights to Israel.

The Digital Edge

Phone Batteries Leak your Browsing History

August 5th 2015

Smart phone running voice recogniton

A European team of security researchers have identified a potential privacy invasion 'black hole' that could exploit phone batteries to pinpoint their owners and track them around the internet. The security issue centres around afeature of the HTML5 specification that allows websites to find out how much battery power a visitor has left on their laptop or smartphone. The security researchers, Lukasz Olejnik and Claude Castelluccia from INRIA Privatics with Gunes Acar and Claudia Diaz of KU Leuven, ESAT/COSIC and iMinds warn n their paper entitled ‘The leaking battery: A privacy analysis of the HTML5 Battery Status API’ that the information can be used to track browsers online.

The battery status API is currently supported in the Firefox, Opera and Chrome browsers, and was introduced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2012 to help websites conserve users’ energy. The energy saving feature enables a website or web-app to check when the phone user has little battery power left to allow the phone to switch to a low-power mode by disabling extraneous features to eke out the battery's energy.  The same information can be used to identify phones as they move around the internet, allowing people to be tracked. Read more ..

Destination the Seas

Crossing The Atlantic On The QM2

July 21st 2015

Queen Mary 2

If you wish to avoid the indignities nowadays associated with international air travel  and can afford the luxury of spending seven days at sea, there is no better way to cross the Atlantic than on board Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2. You will be pampered, wined, dined and entertained around the clock and you will no longer have to wonder why some people yearn for the “good old days” because you will be experiencing them.

Weighing in at 150,000 grt, the QM2 is the largest, longest, tallest and widest passenger liner ever built and with lower berths for just 2,620 guests, she is also the most spacious of the world’s great liners. You will notice this the moment you enter her six-storey Grand Lobby with its dramatic staircase and exquisite works of art. This sensation of spaciousness is one of the ship’s hallmarks and you will be surprised that even when she is fully booked, she never feels crowded. Read more ..

Destination California

Navigating Napa Wine Country

May 16th 2015

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The Napa Valley, about an hour's drive north of San Francisco, is well known as one of the world's foremost wine producing regions. Less known, however, are its many unexpected attractions which include an authentic 13th. century Tuscan castle-winery, a vintage train, thermal springs, Michelin-rated restaurants, museums and art galleries galore as well as biking trails, golf courses and even bocce ball. All this plus more than 400, mostly family-owned, wineries can be found in a narrow, 30-mile valley with a welcoming climate year-‘round.

On our recent visit, we made downtown Napa our headquarters. We had a wide choice of hotels and settled into the elegant Napa River Inn, located in the 1884 Historic Napa Mill complex right on the bank of the Napa River on Main Street. This allowed us to explore this charming and pristine town on foot, to "window shop" some of its stylish stores and to admire nearby residential areas with their neat Victorian-era homes and flower-filled gardens. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Fatal Train Wreck Renews Calls for Automated Trains

May 15th 2015

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This week’s deadly Amtrak is sparking fresh calls for automated trains on the nation’s rails, even as industry groups press for an extension of this year’s deadline to implement the technology.

Railroads have until December to install “positive train control” under a law passed in the aftermath of 2008 commuter rail crash in California. But just six weeks before Tuesday’s wreck, which killed eight people, a GOP-backed measure pushing the deadline to the end of 2020 cleared a key Senate panel.

After Tuesday’s crash, Democrats wasted little time criticizing Republicans for the effort to delay the automated train mandate. "The Amtrak disaster shows why we must install Positive Train Control technology as soon as possible,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), who sponsored the original legislation containing the 2015 mandate, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Read more ..

Travel Safe

Lithium Battery Shipments on Passenger Planes Face Ban

March 13th 2015

Boeing 787

Boeing Co has declared that high-density packages of lithium batteries pose fire risks and should not be carried on passenger planes until safer methods for carrying them are developed. Boeing adds another voice to the growing clamour to stop bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft. This week Reuters quoted a Boeing statement as saying that the risk is "continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken".

Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier Inc and Airbus Group NV , that found current firefighting systems on airliners cannot "suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries" thereby posing an "unacceptable risk" for the industry. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

EuroVision 2015 in Austria Offers Schmaltz, Kitsch, and Genocide Remembrance

February 15th 2015

The Armenian Apostolic Church is preparing to declare the sainthood of the thousands of victims of genocide at the hands of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Scheduled for April 23 at the patriarchal headquarters of the Catholicosate at Echmiadzin in Armenia, there will be a solemn liturgy to recognize the sanctity of the 1 million to 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide that began one hundred years ago near the end of the First World War.

In a statement released on February 3, Patriarch Karekin of Echmiadzin said "The Armenian Church does not sanctify. It recognizes the sanctity of saints or of those people that is already common among people or has been shown with evidence. The Church recognizes only what happened, that is, the Genocide." Read more ..

Personal Travelog

Visiting the Jewish Side of Cuba

January 23rd 2015

Cuban Capitol

I joined this trip because my brother with whom I was traveling with knew the trip leader, Leanne Shamash, the Educator at Beth Elohim in Acton, MA.  Leanne's husband, Hooshang (Benny) Shamash, a friend of my brother, served as our prayer leader.  Benny immigrated to Worcester MA from Iran in order to attend College, and prays in the Sephardic style.

First minyan was in a meeting room the Crown Plaza Miami Airport on Erev Cuba for those needing to say Kaddish. Everyone else already had met but I knew two other people in the room, Rodney Hass who I went to high school with and Pam Weil, who I had met at conferences and who was once a teacher at Sherith Israel. Among the thirty of us there were two Early Childhood Educators and three synagogue educators. Read more ..

Travel Edge

Ten Hot Tips to Avoid Frostbite on Cold Days

January 7th 2015

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After a warm December, winter returned with a vengeance this week to Michigan and the rest of the Midwest.

And as sure as snow in January, Dr. Brad Uren and his colleagues at the University of Michigan Department of Emergency Medicine have started to see the first patients suffering the effects of super-cold weather.

He’s got the inside track on winter weather – after all, he was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Here’s what he wishes everyone would do, to stay healthy – and stay out of the emergency department this winter. Some of his tips may surprise you!

1: Cover up: The colder it gets, and the faster the wind blows, the more likely you are to suffer frostbite on exposed or poorly protected skin. Read more ..

Destination Israel

EL AL Israel Airlines Inaugurates Only Nonstop Flights Between Boston and Tel Aviv

January 6th 2015


Today, EL AL Israel Airlines has opened bookings for the only nonstop service between Boston’s Logan International Airport and Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Launching June 28, 2015, the flight schedule will include three weekly nonstop flights (every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evening) on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft, conveniently departing Logan International Airport at 9 p.m. and arriving the following day at Ben Gurion International at 3:05 p.m. in the afternoon. The return nonstop flights will also depart Ben Gurion every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 12:30 am and arrive in Boston the same day at 5:45 a.m.  

The 767 aircraft will be configured with 218 seats, including 22 bed-like seats in Business Class and 28 in Economy Class Plus, an affordable class of service offering great value, extra legroom and additional seat recline, a curtain for privacy and more.

All passengers will enjoy a selection of movies, Israeli TV programs, children’s world, games, music and more on an in-flight entertainment system that is based on advanced streaming technology using their own personal device. Read more ..

Looking for America

Las Mañanitas: Tradition of Faith Gains Ground in New Mexico

December 20th 2014

On the evening of December 11th, the pews quickly filled as parishioners and visitors alike patiently waited to hear singers, mariachis, and other musicians sing “Las Mañanitas” to the Virgin of Guadalupe at the stroke of midnight. They gather faithfully each year at her namesake parish in Albuquerque’s historic Los Griegos neighborhood to continue a vibrant cultural and religious tradition that supersedes the modern U.S.-Mexico border.

For 18 years now, the red brick parish has been standing room only on the eve of December 12, the Virgin of Guadalupe’s feast day, as traditional serenades and dances that have traveled up and down the Camino Real for centuries are performed in Spanish. The first Mañanitas at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish was held in 1996, under the leadership of retired Rev. Ramón Aragón, and has become a major event in the local Hispanic community. Read more ..

Travel Health

Dust Mites: One More Thing to Worry About while Sitting on an Airplane

December 13th 2014

As if holiday travel isn't stressful enough. Now University of Michigan researchers say we're likely sharing that already overcrowded airline cabin with countless tiny creatures including house dust mites.

"What people might not realize when they board a plane is that they can share the flight with a myriad of microscopic passengers— including house dust mites—that take advantage of humanity's technological progress for their own benefit," said U-M biologist Pavel Klimov.

"House dust mites can easily travel on an airline passenger's clothes, skin, food and baggage," said Klimov, an assistant research scientist in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Like humans, they use air travel to visit new places, where they establish new populations, expand their ranges and interact with other organisms through various means."

Air travel likely explains some of the findings of a new genetic study conducted by Klimov and U-M visiting scholar Rubaba Hamid that looked at the connections between house dust mite populations in the United States and South Asia. Read more ..

Looking for America

Kings and Queens of New Mexico's Taco Truck Boom

December 8th 2014

As the neon lights from motels on Central Avenue go dark, the lights and smells from taco trucks are slowly moving in to take their place. A taco truck boom has been taking place in Albuquerque for over a decade now as immigrant entrepreneurs bring the flavors of their home countries via mobile food units to hungry customers.

Mobile food units, popularly called taco trucks because many of them specialize in Mexican-style tacos, are kitchens on wheels. Customers order an array of food options from the trucks that are then prepared on the spot. If tables and chairs are provided, customers can eat there but food is typically packaged for take away to be consumed in vehicles or at home.

Carlos Sánchez is the owner of Sánchez Tacos and has been in business for ten years now in front of the Fair-N-Square supermarket on Central Avenue. Business has been booming for him and recently his fifth taco truck opened for business near Griegos Road and 4th Street in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Read more ..

Driving on the Edge

The Worst Places to Drive in America on Thanksgiving

November 27th 2014

Millions of people traveling for Thanksgiving will face daunting traffic problems that critics say have been magnified by Washington’s inability to move a long-term bill to pay for new highway projects.

With a nor’easter bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard this Thanksgiving, it’s expected to be an especially brutal few days on the road.

Congress hasn’t approved a long-term highway bill since 2005, and it’s become much more difficult to move legislation since then because of a variety of reasons, including the end of earmarks that directed money toward specific lawmaker-backed projects and a financial crisis and recession that made it tougher to move big-budget bills.

Business groups, labor unions and other players have pressed Congress since then to focus on infrastructure, but to little avail. Read more ..

Travel Edge

New Terahertz Radiation Device May Improve Airport Security

November 24th 2014

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.

But current terahertz sources are large, multi-component systems that sometimes require complex vacuum systems, external pump lasers, and even cryogenic cooling. The unwieldy devices are heavy, expensive, and hard to transport, operate, and maintain. Read more ..

Travel Advisories

Volcanic Ash Clouds Travel Further than Previously Believed

November 20th 2014

Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have led the discovery of a volcanic ash cloud that traveled from Alaska to Northern Ireland and beyond Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have led the discovery of a volcanic ash cloud that travelled from Alaska to Northern Ireland and beyond - overturning previously held assumptions about how far ash deposits can drift, with major implications for the airline industry.

The discovery, which was made in partnership with an international team of academics and has been published in the journal Geology, is the first evidence that ash clouds can travel across the Atlantic Ocean, confirming Queen's as a global leader in research. This particular ash, found in sites across Europe, including Sluggan Bog near Randalstown, County Antrim, has been traced to an eruption from Mount Bona-Churchill in Alaska, around AD 847. Read more ..

Travel Edge

How Outsmarting Airlines is Becoming More Difficult

November 10th 2014

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Technology and competition have made it easier for consumers to capture deals on airline tickets with the right strategy. These people are strategic consumers, and the focus of University of Michigan professor Jun Li's new research. She found that while they comprise a relatively small percentage of airline ticket buyers, their habits can have a profound effect on revenue.

Her study, "Are Consumers Strategic? Structural Estimation from the Air-Travel Industry," explores consumer behavior and how airlines should adjust their pricing strategy. Li's co-authors are Nelson Granados of Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Serguei Netessine of INSEAD in France. Read more ..

The Way We Were

Historically Significant Roman Archaeological Find Unearthed in Jerusalem

October 29th 2014

A find of "tremendous historical significance," was announced today in Jerusalem by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. A stone fragment bearing an official inscription in Latin dedicated to Roman emperor Hadrian was found during excavations north of the Damascus Gate. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald of the IAA told the press that the inscription's importance is in the naming of Hadrian and his titles. The stone provides a clear date, and thus a tangible confirmation that the Tenth Legion of the Roman army was present in Jerusalem during two important revolts of the Jewish against Roman rule. The archaeologists said that it may be "the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem." Read more ..

The Ebola Pandemic

Top U.S. Health Official Fears Ebola Virus is 'Hard to Keep up With'

October 5th 2014

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday admitted that Ebola was spreading fast enough in Africa that it was "hard to keep up."

CDC Director Tom Frieden said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. and other nations were achieving a "more rapid, more effective response" to the disease in West Africa, the only sure way to keep it from spreading internationally.
"But it's going to take time. The virus is spreading so fast that it's hard to keep up," he said. "That's why it's terrific the president has deployed the Department of Defense there in support of the disease control efforts. This is exactly what's needed and it's going to make a difference, but it's going to take time." Read more ..

Ebola Pandemic

Ebola-Quarantined Family in Dallas Now Under Armed Guard

October 3rd 2014

The four-member family that hosted the Dallas Ebola patient is now under armed quarantine after disobeying a request from authorities not to leave their home.

Crews have yet to decontaminate the apartment due to inadequate permitting, according to the Associated Press.

"We didn't have the confidence we would have been able to monitor them the way that we needed to," Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said about the need for the unusual order.

The family — including a woman, her 13-year-old son and two nephews in their 20s — were ordered Wednesday to stay in their apartment for 21 days, the incubation period for Ebola, unless local or state health officials approved them to leave, USA Today reports. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Significant War Damage Done to Syrian World Heritage Sites

September 25th 2014

Great Mosque of Aleppo before its destruction.

In war-torn Syria, five of six World Heritage sites now "exhibit significant damage" and some structures have been "reduced to rubble," according to new high-resolution satellite image analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS analysis, offering the first comprehensive look at the extent of damage to Syria's priceless cultural heritage sites, was completed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian Heritage Task Force. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the analysis provides authoritative confirmation of previous on-the-ground reports of damage to individual sites. Read more ..

Fracking America

Fracking Natural Gas Wells Mean Too Many Hotel Rooms in Pennsylvania

September 19th 2014

Drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region led to a rapid increase in both the number of hotels and hotel industry jobs, but Penn State researchers report that the faltering occupancy rate may signal that there are now too many hotel rooms.

"Demand is still high in many of the counties in the Marcellus Shale region, but the occupancy rate is starting to come down," said Daniel Mount, an associate professor in hospitality management. "The case could be made that this is a sign that hotels were overbuilt."

Marcellus drilling operations generated approximately $685 million in hotel revenues and added an extra 1,600 new hotel jobs since 2006, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education Penn State Research Reports. However, the latest figures show that demand for rooms may be decreasing. For example, in 2012, demand was flat and occupancy was down 4.1 percent. Read more ..

Ukraine on Edge

Dutch Report Confirms Malaysia Airlines MH17 Downed by 'High-Energy Objects'

September 9th 2014

Dutch investigators say Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 likely broke up mid-air over eastern Ukraine after being hit by numerous "high-energy objects." The preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board comes nearly two months after the plane crashed in rebel-held territory in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Western governments have accused pro-Moscow separatists of using a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile to shoot down the plane. The report did not explicitly say a missile was to blame, but David Kaminski, air transport editor at Flight International, told VOA the evidence seems to continue to point in that direction. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Land of a Thousand Caves

Denisovan cave dig

The 480 caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha, Israel’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, are very cool – in more ways than one.

You don’t have to be a professional spelunker to explore hundreds of ancient Beit Guvrin-Maresha caves between Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat in central Israel. Just put on a good pair of walking shoes.

Always a popular family destination, this 1,250-acre national park Israel was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2014.

The main attraction for some 200,000 annual visitors is the manmade chalk caves — 200 in Beit Guvrin, 200 in Maresha and 80 in between. Over the course of 2,000 years, people used these caves as quarries, stables, granaries, storerooms, water cisterns, workspaces for pressing grapes and olives, cultic houses of worship, dovecotes, hideouts and gravesites. Read more ..

Ebola Outbreak

CDC Director Friedan Says Ebola Outbreak is Getting Worse

August 28th 2014

According to Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will get worse before it gets better, needing an "unprecedented" response to bring it under control.

Dr. Frieden met Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on August 27 to discuss ways to fight the disease. "The cases are increasing. I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better," he admitted.

"The world has never seen an outbreak of Ebola like this. Consequently, not only are the numbers large, but we know there are many more cases than has been diagnosed and reported," he said. Read more ..

Destination Crimea

Chaos In Kerch: Russia Struggles To Ferry Tourists To Crimea

August 23rd 2014

Traffic Jam

Since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March, the Kremlin has said it is Russians' patriotic duty to spend their summer holidays at the peninsula's resorts.

But Russian tourists taking up the call have found that actually getting to Crimea for their Black Sea vacations is no easy task.

With the tourist season hitting its peak, thousands of Crimea-bound vehicles have been forced to wait in line for as long as 40 hours for the ferry crossing the Kerch Strait, the only point -- other than by air -- where Russians can cross into Crimea.

According to Russia's transport authorities, at any given time more than 2,000 vehicles are lined up on both sides of the Kerch Strait crossing. Just five ferries sail between Crimea and Russia's southern Krasnodar region. Photos and videos posted on the Internet depict angry tourists complaining about the heat, the dust -- and each other.

The summer heat has forced many to strip down to their swimwear. Others sought shelter from the scorching sun behind cardboard shades on their windshields.  And some try to attack cars trying to skip the queue. "I've been waiting for 20 hours with a sick child inside the car. Please, let me pass," cries a woman in a video posted on YouTube as several men and women block her way. Read more ..

Travel Safe

FAA Sparks More Safety Fears Regarding Lithium Batteries

August 13th 2014


New research by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has sparked fears that lithium batteries can explode and burn even more violently than previously thought.  The test results raising questions about lithium battery use and shipment on airplanes. The FAA tests were conducted because many airlines are replacing paper charts with laptops and tablet computers and the regulator wanted to see what would happen if one of their rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells ignited. In one test, the cockpit filled with smoke thick enough to obscure instruments and vision out the window for about five minutes.

The findings, posted on the FAAs website, raise an even bigger issue beyond laptops as makers of the rechargeable cells can ship the products in bulk in the cargo areas of passenger airplanes. One test found the batteries may blow up, which might render airplane fire-suppression systems ineffective. Read more ..

Ebola Outbreak

North Carolina Imposes Quarantine for Health Workers Returning from Africa

August 12th 2014

North Carolina is stepping up efforts to guard against the possible spread of the Ebola virus to the United States.

On August 10, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said anyone returning from Africa who worked with Ebola patients will be put into quarantine.

That precautionary measure will mean isolation for three weeks after a missionary’s last contact with an Ebola-infected person.

Two missionaries from North Carolina-based aid organizations contracted the deadly virus working at a clinic in Liberia with Ebola-infected patients. Read more ..

Destination America

Historic US Route 66 Still Sparks Wanderlust

August 9th 2014

Route 66, the legendary highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, offered a road to a better life for many Americans, and became a symbol of wanderlust in 20th century. The highway, called the main street of America, is the focus of an exhibit in Los Angeles. 

Route 66 covered nearly 4,000 kilometers of the American heartland and West, and generations came westward on this route long before it became a paved highway. The writer John Steinbeck called it the "Mother Road," and it became a symbol of freedom for 1950s Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road.

Great migration
His manuscript, typed on a 35-meter scroll, is on display at the Autry National Center of the American West, which has put on the Route 66 exhibit. Also there is Woody Guthrie's guitar. The folk singer was one of many who celebrated the highway, which offered an escape from drought-stricken Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. Read more ..

Destination Tunisia

Mysterious Lake Pops Up Overnight In Tunisia

August 6th 2014

Tunisia Mystery Lake

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake.

Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake.

Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake. Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

Authorities have calculated that the lake area exceeds one hectare, with depths ranging from 10 to 18 meters; that indicates a total water volume of one million cubic meters – liquid gold for the drought-ridden country.

Locally dubbed “Lac de Gafsa”, so far more than 600 people have traveled to the pool and a makeshift beach has grown along its shoreline.  Authorities have warned that the water, which began as a transparent turquoise until rapidly blooming algae turned it murky green, could be radioactive. That hasn’t deterred visitors who buck the 40°C  heat by swimming, diving, and floating atop inflatable rafts.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Authorities have calculated that the lake area exceeds one hectare, with depths ranging from 10 to 18 meters; that indicates a total water volume of one million cubic meters – liquid gold for the drought-ridden country. Locally dubbed “Lac de Gafsa”, so far more than 600 people have traveled to the pool and a makeshift beach has grown along its shoreline. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Traditional Burial Practices Hamper Fight with Deadly Ebola Virus

August 3rd 2014

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World Health Organization officials say traditional burial practices are among the obstacles that are making it difficult to control the worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa's history.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said health and relief workers have been trying to educate families in the affected region about how to bury their loved ones without exposing themselves to the virus.

He said people who touch the dead could be putting themselves at risk.

"At the moment when a person died from Ebola, this is the moment when the person is the most infectious and when the viral load is the highest," he said.

Dangerous practice

Jasarevic has been working with local officials in Guinea and Sierra Leone. In many cultures, he said, families wash the bodies of their loved ones before burial, but this practice is dangerous for Ebola victims because of the presence of bodily fluids.

"Usually there is the point just before the death, there is bleeding," he said.

Jasarevic also said their could be vomit or diarrhea.

Peter Schleicher, a Red Cross operations manager in Liberia, said another obstacle for relief workers in affected communities is fear, explaining that people in some communities have prevented trained health professionals from safely burying Ebola victims.

"We got a report back from one of our teams in the field that they have now been blocked by the angry community and they have been denied access," he said. Schleicher said the team members were told to turn back to keep from putting themselves at risk. Read more ..

Air Travel on Edge

Putin has Blood on His Hands, But Ukraine Airliner Disaster is No Re-Run of KAL 007

July 26th 2014

The tragic shoot-down over Ukraine of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 Boeing 777 that killed 298 people on board revives gruesome memories of similar events during the last phase of the Cold War in the 1980s. But the comparisons are not quite what we might expect.

The best explanation of the MH17 disaster is on a strangely-titled website, Scallywag and Vagabond, which draws from a variety of sources including the UK’s Daily Mail and the Kiev Post, and cites Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a Research Fellow in Russian Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU], and other Ukrainian officials.

This article presents evidence that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in late June bragged about obtaining a BUK missile launcher, and just before the shoot-down of MH17 had placed it in a civilian area with the goal of shooting down Ukrainian military planes. The article includes images that it suggests might be the missile launcher in transit and in placement. The BUK can hit objects up to 25 km or 75,000 feet in altitude, well above the altitude of commercial airliners. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

President Obama Hopes Ukraine Jet Disaster will 'Stiffen' Europe's Spine

July 25th 2014

President Obama on Thursday said the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight last week "may stiffen the spine of our Europeans partners moving forward” as the U.S. pushes for tougher sanctions on Russia.

In an interview on CNBC, Obama said the United States is seeing Europe "move with us" behind additional penalties on Moscow.

Obama, though, acknowledged that many European counties are "concerned about a robust response to the violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity that Russia's been conducting." Read more ..

North Africa on Edge

Algerian Airliner goes Missing over Conflictive Sahara Desert

July 24th 2014

Air Algerie, Algeria's national airline, says it lost contact with one of its planes flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers across the Sahara at approximately 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou. The plane was last seen at 01:55 GMT. There were 50 French citizens among the 110 passengers and six crew on board Flight AH 5017. There were also 10 Lebanese nationals on board. Reportedly, the pilot contacted Niger's control tower in Niamey to change course because of a storm. The plane was flying a route frequently used by French travellers. A spokesperson for Air Algerie said that a provisional passenger lists included 24 people from Burkina Faso, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian and one Romanian. Read more ..

Destination France

Barging in Burgandy

July 22nd 2014


Good food, good wine, good company, the rolling hills of Burgundy and tranquility. That’s what we found aboard the barge l’Impressioniste as we slowly cruised the historic Burgundy Canal in Eastern France. 

Unlike cruises on board ocean-going ships with hundreds or even thousands of passengers, a cruise on a European Waterways (EW) barge is custom-tailored for sophisticated travelers who value simple pleasures and the companionship of like-minded folks in a floating "house-party" atmosphere. Like all EW barges, l’Impressioniste first saw life as a working barge and was later converted into a hotel barge. She accommodates twelve passengers in six comfortable staterooms, each with ensuite bathroom. Her public space includes an expansive deck, complete with hot tub, and a spacious, "clubby" saloon, a perfect setting for memorable meals and good conversation. Read more ..

Destination Saudi Arabia

Desert Tourism Gets Hot in Saudi Arabia!

July 21st 2014

Rub al Khali Saudi Empty Quarter

What’s a beach without a shoreline, or a dune perch that overlooks a horizon of…more sand? According to the World Tourism Organization, it’s the newest frontier in eco-tourism – welcome news for the Middle East.

Deserts hold huge potential when it comes to environmental tourism. For Saudi Arabia, largely covered by desert, the possibilities soar. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is looking to transform Saudi deserts into cash machines by attracting adventurous people with a love for exotic nature and extreme sport. Newfangled activities such as dune-riding and sand-surfing capitalize on alternative “powder” surfaces.

There are camel and horse races to observe or participate in. Looking for a trip with less testosterone? Try camping under tranquil nighttime skies unfettered by light pollution; hike and observe exotic animals and plant life in virgin oasis settings. Read more ..

Destination Washington DC

Unique US Festival Showcases Wonders of Chinese Culture

July 18th 2014

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

A curious child waddles up to the man holding a brightly colored kite. She asks him a question but he can only sheepishly smile to show that he does not understand her language. She nonetheless smiles back broadly as he lets her hold the paper kite. Though they cannot speak with each other, they’ve just experienced what the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., is all about: cultural exchange.

Between the classic American landmarks, the Capitol building and the Washington Monument lay China and Kenya -- or, rather, a small taste of the culture and traditions that these countries have to offer. They're this year's featured countries for the annual festival, which opened last weekend on the National Mall and resumes July 2-6. The festival attracts almost one million visitors each year, who come to see an array of performers and artisans.

"We're bringing about 120 people from China - musicians, dancers, calligraphers, kite makers, embroiderers, batik dyers - to demonstrate and to share their traditions with our public," said Jim Deutsch, the Smithsonian's program curator. Together, they provide a diverse picture of China's landscape. Read more ..

Destination NYC

From Vast to Nano, at NYC Museum

July 17th 2014


Inside the Queens Museum in New York, there's another New York City, in miniature: a 50-year-old diorama of the city, built as an exhibit for the New York World's Fair in 1964.

At nearly 870 square meters, the Panorama of the City of New York is the world's largest scale-model of an urban environment. Every New York street, building, and landmark erected before 1992 is represented, from the Chrysler Building to Central Park, and all 100 or so bridges.

Visitors gawk from the surrounding ramps and balconies as day turns to night every 20 minutes, and tiny lights twinkle on - until dawn breaks again. But the museum's central and permanent attraction also presents an unusual problem for exhibitions director and curator Hitomi Iwasaki. "No matter what fantastic exhibition you think you put outside, everybody goes back to the Panorama and goes 'wow!'" she said.  Read more ..

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