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Destination Europe

Driving Lessons from Europe

January 16th 2013

London buses

Tougher drunk driving laws, lower speed limits and stricter seat belt laws are the best ways to reduce traffic deaths in the United States, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "Despite recent major improvements in road safety in the U.S., the current safety level is far below the level of the best-performing countries," said Michael Sivak, research professor at UMTRI.

Sivak and colleague Juha Luoma, an UMTRI visiting research scientist from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, compared the amount and kinds of fatal crashes in the U.S., United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands.
They found that the number of road deaths has fallen in all four countries since 2006. However, the fatality rate per population is much higher in the U.S.—124 deaths per million people, compared to 43 in the U.K., 42 in Sweden and 40 in the Netherlands. Read more ..

Haiti on Edge

US State Department Issues Travel Warning for Haiti

December 29th 2012

Haiti Eathquake Devastation

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Americans living in or traveling to Haiti, citing numerous hazards, including murder, robbery and infectious disease, mainly in  the Port-au-Prince area. The advisory issued Friday said "no one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age." The warning said recent travelers have been attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince airport.

At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents this year. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators," the department said. The State Department also noted that while the incidents of cholera have declined, the disease persists in many areas of Haiti. Medical facilities, including ambulance services, are particularly weak.


The Travel Edge

TSA Prepares for Christmas Rush, and Terrorism

December 23rd 2012

Click to select Image

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing for an expected increase in airline travelers as the Christmas holiday approaches. The prep work comes against a backdrop of past holiday attempts to terrorize airplanes. The so-called “underwear bomber” was convicted of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines Flight on Christmas Day in 2009.

A TSA spokeswoman told The Hill that the agency was aware of the potential for holiday copycats. “As the calendar approaches national holidays and terrorist–related anniversary dates (Sept. 11 or Christmas day underwear bomber), TSA is well aware of the symbolism of these dates,” TSA spokesman Lisa Farbstein said in an email. “This holiday season is no different,” Farbstein continued. “Airport checkpoints and baggage rooms are fully staffed as this is a busy time of the year for airline travel.” Read more ..

Destination Macedonia

Dubai-Style Plans Emerge For Macedonia's Ohrid Area

December 1st 2012

Lake Ohrid

When Subrata Roy arrived at Skopje Alexander The Great Airport in mid-June, he received a welcome that included Macedonian Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski and a hostess decked out in Macedonia's traditional dress.

Months of negotiations later, on November 20, the Indian magnate submitted an opulent and ambitious project proposal to the Macedonian government that includes a Dubai-like summer resort complex at the lakeside resort of Ohrid, a popular summer tourist destination.

Roy is chairman of multibillion-dollar Indian business conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar, which is based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The project he submitted was partly the work of engineering and design consultants at Atkins, which also designed Dubai’s symbolic trademark hotel, the Burj Al Arab. Read more ..

Destination the World

After 201 Countries, Man Ends World Tour in South Sudan

November 29th 2012

Graham Hughes

A British man, Graham Hughes, says he has broken a world record by traveling to every sovereign state in the world without flying.  He recently entered South Sudan; the world’s newest country and the last on the list for Hughes. Brandishing an overstuffed passport from all the visas he collected while making what he calls his “Odyssey", Graham Hughes celebrated his self-proclaimed record for being the first person to travel to 201 sovereign states.

The 33-year-old Briton, who hails from Liverpool, has been on the road for almost four years. Remarkably, he made the journey strictly by land transportation and by sea. “Today is the 1,426th day of the Odyssey expedition, which is my world-record-breaking attempt, which is to be the first person to visit every country in the world without flying," he said.  Read more ..

Destination South Korea

'Gangnam Style' Boosts S. Korean Tourism

November 22nd 2012


The South Korean pop song and music video "Gangnam Style" has gone viral worldwide. And now the South Korean tourism industry is hoping to cash in on the song's international success.

Alexis Martinez, 14, is in a tour group that is learning the dance made famous by South Korean musician Psy in his video. Martinez says even back home in Texas the song is a big hit. "It was basically my whole school knew about it, it was crazy," said Martinez. "There was a flash mob in our school that did it, the Gangnam Style."

"Gangnam Style" is one of the most viewed videos ever on the Internet, and it has spawned a multitude of parodies. It has ranked high on music charts in Asia, Europe and North America. And is what many say is South Korea's most successful cultural export. For those reasons, some believe "Gangnam Style" can be used to import many foreign visitors and money. Read more ..

Destination Adriatic Sea

Cruising the Adriatic

November 8th 2012

Cruise Ship

When Captain Mark Dexter of the good ship Seabourn Odyssey urged his 450 pampered cruise guests to arise at sunrise one morning, he must have had a good reason. On our recent Adriatic cruise that reason was our scheduled arrival in Kotor, an 800 year old seaport and one of Montenegros principal attractions.

Kotor is situated at the end of Europes southernmost fjord. As you approach it from the open sea, your ship glides through calm, mirror-smooth waters and is surrounded on either side by the black mountains from which Montenegro derives its name. And, as the sun rises over the mountains, you will spot fairy-tale villages along the shore. A truly magical experience well worth the sacrifice of an extra hour of sleep! Once ashore, you will want to explore this colorful walled mediaeval town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of museums, churches and delightful shops and cafes.


Restaurant Review

Detroit's Chaldean Food Epicenter Exemplified by Sahara Restaurant

November 3rd 2012

Sahara Mediterranean Grill-Detroit

New Sahara Restaurant & Grill, 24770 Coolidge Hwy., Oak Park, MI 48237; 248 399-7744.

Most people have dined on generic Arabic food, commonly mislabeled “Mediterranean” and often conflated with Israeli food. We all know the leading delicacies, such as falafel—deep fried balls of seasoned chickpea mash,  shawarma—savory slices of beef, lamb, goat, or combinations thereof,  kibbee—fried bulgur wheat stuffed with seasoned meat, kebab—skewers of grilled cubed meats, sarma—grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice, and other tangy dishes. Most have deep culinary roots in Turkish cooking.

The Ottoman Empire, of course, dominated the Mideast for centuries. The gluttonous sultans organized an elaborate social structure around exotic feasting, even militarizing the kitchen staff.  Rivaling the most ostentatious excesses of the Czars and Europe’s monarchs, the Ottomans constructed a complex kitchen staff pecking order comprised of numerous imperial door potentates, food tasters, and even pickle holders. Most were dressed in elaborate, turbaned vestments. With rigid regimentation, the working staff reported to a hierarchy of servitor captains and other martial-style household superiors, clept with such inflated honorifics as Chief Turban Folder, Chief Attendant of the Napkin, and Senior of the Dishes. Read more ..

Destination Jaffa

Ten Best Reasons to Visit Jaffa

October 25th 2012


Middle Eastern smells, the frenetic mix of old and new, Levantine culture flavored with Europe: The city of Jaffa is linked directly to Tel Aviv by a common municipal government, but the ancient port city is worlds away from the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv.

The oldest seaport in the world — the “Bride of the Sea,” as it was once called — Jaffa is home to a vibrant multiethnic community of Muslims, Christians and Jews. It was once conquered by Napoleon, and more recently visited by celebrities such as Natalie Portman and Claire Danes.

A former shipping and pilgrimage hub for the faithful heading to Jerusalem, Jaffa today retains remnants of old shops and houses of worship peppered throughout the gritty city. Take it from a Jaffa resident: You don’t have to dig around for long to find out what makes the city so much fun –– and a not-to-be-missed stop for any tourist in Israel. Read more ..

Destination Eilat

A New International Airport in the Offing for Israel

October 19th 2012

Ramon Airport Eilat
A rendering of the planned airport at Eilat, Israel.

The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) on October 17 published the first tenders for the construction of a new international airport slated to be built in Timna, near Eilat. The new airport, which will be located 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) north of Eilat, will be a point of transit for both domestic and international flights and provide an alternative emergency landing site to Ben-Gurion International Airport just outside of Tel Aviv.

It will also replace the smaller domestic airport currently located downtown Eilat. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the closure of the downtown airport will free up land for development in the heart of the southern resort city and significantly improve Eilat residents' quality of life. "The publication of the first tenders is a historic day for the city of Eilat and the State of Israel," Katz said. "This will enable, for the first time, an alternative international airport to be established, from which large jets will be able to take off to all destinations in Europe." Read more ..

Inside America

Where Old Ships Fade Away and Never Die

October 18th 2012

USS Long Beach
USS Long Beach

It’s a good thing that U.S. warships are inanimate objects and don’t have feelings. When their seagoing days are done, the end for most of them is not pretty. Now it’s true that a few are sold to friendly foreign governments and are still sailing the deep blue seas. And 48 U.S. Navy ships that have historical or sentimental significance are enjoying cushy retirements as museum pieces, permanently anchored in various harbors, all spit-shined for the tourist trade.

For instance, the retired battleship U.S.S. Iowa, launched in 1942 and called “The World’s Greatest Naval Ship” because of its roaring guns, heavy armor, speed, modern technology, and longevity, just opened to tours in its new and permanent berth in San Pedro, California, in July. In fact, a lot of people in the midwestern state of Iowa wanted to see the ship parked somewhere much closer to its namesake home, but getting a battleship to a landlocked place with more cornfields than bodies of water proved impractical. Water levels in the neighboring Mississippi River have been so low at times that even shallow-draft barges and steamboats have had to wait for rain or snow runoffs to navigate the Big Muddy. Read more ..

Armenia on Edge

Armenia Seeks to Preserve its Millennial Christian Heritage

October 16th 2012

Sanahin monastery Armenia
Sanahin monastery, Armenia.

As the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, it's not surprising that many Armenians are proud of their religious heritage. With a national church that dates back to A.D. 301, as well as thousands of ancient churches and monastic sites across the country, it's fair to say that religion looms large over Armenia's physical and psychological landscape.

That's one of the reasons why Yerevan has in the past been quick to criticize Georgia and other neighboring countries for apparently neglecting their Armenian Christian heritage. Now, however, the conservation of Armenia's own religious monuments has come under scrutiny. According to a recent report by EurasiaNet.org, nearly 50 percent of the country's 24,000 Christian sites are in dire need of repair and almost one-third are on the verge of collapse. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Ten Top Christians Sites in Israel, the Holy Land

October 11th 2012

Mt Tabor Church of Annunciation
Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor. 

The most significant places in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth aren’t in Jerusalem, but in the picturesque Upper Galilee.
More than 60 percent of the 3.4 million tourists who visited Israel last year were Christian. And though Jerusalem is a significant stop in tracing the steps of Jesus in the Holy Land, the real must-see is the Sea of Galilee area nearly 100 miles to the north.

The Sea of Galilee — really a lake that modern Israelis call the Kinneret — lies on the ancient Via Maris trade route that linked Egypt with the northern empires. The location and the excellent fishing drew many Greek, Roman and Jewish settlers – including the families of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples Simon, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), John and James. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Coffee, Culture and Restoration in Mexico's Borderland

October 7th 2012

Juarez Mexico

As Ciudad Juarez lurches ahead in an uncertain recovery from years of extreme violence and economic decline, signs of renewed night life are stirring in the northern Mexican border city. Especially in the Pronaf and Gomez Morin zones, new bars and clubs, known as antros in Mexican lingo, are open for business. And across the street from the Rio Grande Mall near the Pronaf area, a different option now exists for people interested in more than just bouts of mindless drinking and dancing.

Open since August, Bumps Café Trilce proposes to be a center for creative connection, cultural revival and collective healing in a city traumatized by multiple crises. Housed in a former billiard joint, the new establishment is refurnished with comfy couches, several tables, a long liquor bar and decent space for artistic exhibitions and performances. A message on the wall behind the bar proclaims, “Life is Too Short for a Bad Coffee.” Fine cheeses, cold cuts and sandwiches round out the menu. Read more ..

China on Edge

Hong Kong Ferry Disaster Reaps More than 36 Lives

October 2nd 2012

Hong Kong ferry disaster

Rescuers continue to search in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor for survivors of a ferry boat collision that killed at least 36 people who were headed to watch a holiday fireworks show. Over 100 survivors have been rescued from the sea. The ferry, belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company, sank within minutes of colliding with another passenger boat late on October 1, leaving little time for passengers to put on life jackets. Distraught family members and friends searched hospitals and morgues on October 2, seeking missing family members who were aboard the ferry, which was carrying around 120 of the company's staff and relatives. The disaster occurred at approximately 8:30 PM local time.

The other vessels involved in the disaster is owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings and suffered a damaged hull but made it safely to shore, with several of its crew and passengers taken to hospital for minor injuries. Read more ..

Destination Washington

A Capital Steak House in D.C.

September 24th 2012

Del Frisco Washington DC

If there is one thing Washington, D.C., isn’t lacking, it’s steakhouses. The city is chock-full of power-lunch porterhouse places with dim lighting, white tablecloths and high price tags.

Appealing to this already well-covered suit-and-tie crowd can be tough for a new eatery, but Del Frisco’s Grille is looking to target a different, less stuffy demographic.

Opened in July, the eatery — located along Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 12th Street — is the latest in a national chain of relaxed steakhouses run by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group.

“We wanted to make it more a casual but upscale experience for the guest,” CEO Mark Mednansky said. “A place you don’t really go to do a business deal, but you go to celebrate.” All of the typical steakhouse staples are present at Del Frisco’s, but with a slight twist. The decor in the 8,000-square-foot restaurant is decidedly modern and sleek, but features warm, rich colors and inviting, cushy booths. The lighting is still subdued, but huge sliding windows open out onto a large front patio area, bringing in lots of natural light. Read more ..

Travel and Politics

Senator Rubio Tweets his dispute with American Airlines

September 22nd 2012

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ran into trouble with his flight back to Washington on Friday and took to Twitter to vent his frustrations. “Trying to get to DC for early morning votes tonight but let's just say this has not been the best week in American Airlines history,” Rubio tweeted. “Every American flight I have been on this week has been at least two hours late or cancelled. This one already one hour delayed.”

The rising Republican star was coming back to Washington to vote on the six-month spending bill that will keep the federal government open until March next year. Rubio complained that the airline was delaying his flight back to the nation’s capital. “Delaying flight for ‘maintenance’ to squeeze connectors from other flight, oldest trick in book.Feel bad for crew.#cmonman#AmericanAirlines,” Rubio tweeted. Read more ..

Destination Tel Aviv

Where Pink and Tony Blair dine in Tel Aviv

September 21st 2012

Messa - Tel Aviv

Chef Aviv Moshe and three partners opened Messa in 2004, aiming to redefine the White City’s dining experience.

Tony Blair, Pink and Jean-Claude Van Damme are among a roster of celebs who’ve sampled Chef Aviv Moshe’s dishes at Messa near the Tel Aviv Cinematheque — intrigued, no doubt, by the eatery’s inclusion on the 2005 Condé Nast Traveler global Hot Tables list, and recommendations by Italian and French restaurant critics including Gilles Pudlowski.

After eight years, Messa is still getting attention. In June, The Address magazine included Messa as one of nine “must to-do list” destinations. The Lonely Planet review gushes: “More than a restaurant with impeccable haute cuisine, Messa has a magical quality that raises the restaurant experience to a new level. … Following your meal, spare time for a drink in the stunning jet-black bar.” Read more ..

Destination Arizona

Southwest Focuses on Innovation in Food, Agriculture and Land Use

September 12th 2012


In the waning days of summer, southern Arizona will become the hot spot for food. Convened by the Southwest Marketing Network, the upcoming Border Food Summit is meant to attract people from across the region for three days of farm tours, presentations, workshops, discussions and, of course, traditional foods sampling.

Scheduled for September 16-18 in Rio Rico, Arizona, a community located south of Tucson, the summit will address soil and land conservation, sustainable farming in an arid environment, community food systems, alternative food financing models, food justice and more. Gary Paul Nabhan, endowed chair for sustainable agriculture at the University of Arizona in Tucscon, set the tone for the meet in an article for the Southwest Marketing Network newsletter: “This is a region where tremendous innovations are occurring at the grassroots level-from La Semilla Food Center’s work between Las Cruces and El Paso, and the Why Hunger/Somos La Semilla initiative in border counties of Arizona, to innovations found in Mexico’s border towns, farms and ranch communities. Read more ..

America on Edge

National 9/11 Museum Still Unfinished Eleven Years Later

September 10th 2012

Twin Towers 9/11

More than 4 million people have visited the September 11 Memorial in New York City since it opened last year on the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Visitors from around the world come to watch the waterfalls rush into the deep footprints of the former World Trade Center Twin Towers and to read the names of those who died, etched in bronze panels surrounding the pools.

But work on the September 11 Museum at the site, which was to open in time for the 11th anniversary of the attacks, stopped months ago because of financial disputes between the private foundation that owns the Memorial & Museum, and the public Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center site.

The museum’s steel and glass entry hall is built, but its interior is unfinished, and a sign outside warns visitors away. Monica Iken, whose husband, Michael, died in the attacks, calls the impasse a disgrace. "It’s an embarrassment for the world to see," she said. "They come there, and I’ve been there several times where people come up to me and say, 'Where’s the museum, why is it not open?' How do you explain that: 'Oh, because we’re fighting over some money?'" Read more ..

Destination Israel

Tel Aviv Bids for Artificial Island International Airport At Sea

September 7th 2012

Macau Island Airport
Macau's Island Airport - Simialr to Tel Aviv Plan

There has been talk for a couple of years already that Tel Aviv’s international airport will move to the sea, literally. A proposal has been submitted to create an artificial island off the city’s coast to replace the Ben Gurion Airport, one that services local, domestic and international flights. A couple months ago I interviewed a geologist helping to develop feasibility studies for such a structure. And according to media reports it looks like the crazy plan is going ahead despite environmental risks to the fragile Mediterranean Sea, and security risks of sabotage.

A new committee from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Israel developed a feasibility report for this artificial airport island to be built off the coast of the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon LeZion. Goodovitch Architects have drafted some sketches (above) of how the airport could look. Among the parties involved in the far-flung idea is Elie Schalit, 92, a chairman and founder of the Colbert Group, which builds giant cruise ships. He was the man who built the first ships for Ted Arison and his Carnival Cruise Lines. Read more ..

Destination Lebanon

Greenpeace Investigation Reveals Toxic Coast Pollution

September 2nd 2012

Greenpeace Activists

Ranking a lowly 114 in the Global Health Index, Lebanon was under no illusion that its waters were the cleanest or most biodiverse. However, a recent report by Greenpeace Lebanon has revealed some rather shocking finds about the toxic nature of the country’s coast. From November 2011 to February 2012, the Greenpeace Lebanon team collected a total of 30 samples from various locations along the Lebanese coast. These were then sent to to the Greenpeace International Science Unit in the UK for assessment. The results showed a “a plethora of dangerous and toxic compounds present in the waters [which] represent a serious risk hazard, both to human and environmental health.”

Solid waste problems, wastewater problems and industrial emissions were highlighted as the three main areas causing contamination. In the case of the wastewater and solid waste, lack of infrastructure and management law were the major problems as well as the “immense lag from the Lebanese state in establishing a proper wastewater network and water treatment plants.” The report added that industrial emissions represent a more sizeable challenge as solutions exist in terms of legislation but aren’t properly implemented. Read more ..

Destination Jordan

Cosmic Love Lantern Festival Will Light Up Jordan’s Wadi Rum

August 31st 2012

Sky Lanterns
Sky Lanterns

The Cosmic Love Sky Lantern Festival is sure to be a feast for the eyes this fall in Wadi Rum.  As if the dramatic mountain scenery weren’t breathtaking enough, sky lanterns will rise like one thousand moons over the vast expanses of the desert at 9:00pm on the projected date of September 27. Crafted of paper, a sky lantern, also called a sky candle or fire balloon, is typically made by attaching oiled rice paper to a bamboo frame, and the light inside is either a candle or a fuel cell.  After the air inside the lantern is heated, the density is lowered enough to cause the vessel to rise and fly for as long as anywhere from five minutes to half an hour.

Sky lanterns are traditionally used in East Asian cultures; as per the belief, good luck comes to those who launch sky lanterns, which when flying, symbolize hardships floating away.  Throwing cares to the wind is so much more glamorous when sky lanterns act as emblems, in my opinion. The autumn event will be held near the Bait Ali settlement in Wadi Rum; attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the chic accommodation of the campsite, perhaps extending their Wadi Rum adventure a few days past the conclusion of the festival. A Facebook event page will keep those who are interested informed; the allure of exclusivity entices Facebookers to “join” the event. Read more ..

Destination Tibet

Tibet Theme Park

August 30th 2012

Potala Lhasa Tibet

Just outside Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, the Chinese government is building a $4.7 billion theme park that critics describe as a fairy tale universe that trivializes Tibetan culture and glosses over the nation’s troubles. The construction gets into high gear as Tibetans continue to demonstrate and set themselves on fire to protests Chinese policies in the nation Beijing invaded 63 years ago. The 50th such self-immolation took place this week.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington refuses to comment on the theme park project, or the self-immolations. But Beijing’s official news agency, Xinhua, quoted the deputy mayor of Lhasa, Ma Xingming, as saying the project “is designed to improve Tibet’s tourism credentials and be a landmark of the cultural industry.”

Xinhua said the park, scheduled for completion in three to five years, will be centered on the theme of a Chinese princess who marries a Tibetan king. It said the park will include displays of Tibetan handicrafts, medicine and folklore. Read more ..

Destination London

Europe's 'Biggest Street Festival' Rocks London

August 30th 2012

London Carnival

During a summer dominated by the Olympics, Europe's largest street festival, the Notting Hill Carnival, gave London revelers another thing to smile about Sunday and Monday. The carnival is an important cultural event led by the West Indian community in London.

About 1 million people poured onto the streets of west London during the two days of the Notting Hill Carnival. Swamped on all sides by massive crowds, hundreds of groups took part in the parade, dancing to the beat of pounding music that pumped through loudspeakers. Their costumes ranged from the colorful and extravagant to the surprising and surreal.  The members of a group called "Chocolate Nation" arrived splattered head to foot in melted chocolate. I accompanied one band, called Jamboulay Carnival Arts, along the route. It is run by Francesca Bailey, who said getting ready for Carnival takes her the whole year.

She has to raise the money, around $10,000, to run workshops, build a float, and get the costumes ready.  But she says she does it to keep her culture alive. "We do it every year because for us it is a very cultural thing, and it is important that we continue with our culture. Carnival is something that began many years ago in Trinidad and Tobago, and it was based on the emancipation of slavery and it has over the years, it has progressed and evolved.  So, it is nice to see that it has come to Britain and really evolved over the years," Bailey said. Read more ..

The Violent Roads of Mexico

Harassment of Tourists by Mexican Police a New Reality South of the Border

August 22nd 2012

Mexico City mounted police

A friend and I had lunch in Ciudad Juarez last week. For a few bucks each, we savored different versions of sumptuous fish soup. Tasty and flavorful, the soup was as good- and much cheaper than the same food sold in Mexican beach resorts. Feeling fine, we paid the bill and headed out the door of the restaurant with a pair of satisfied stomachs.

Then we got a taste of the reality that many of the residents of the troubled border city experience on a routine basis. Strolling down Avenida Juarez, the main drag of the battered downtown tourist district, we were motioned aside by a group of three men who were wearing municipal police uniforms. Without any explanation, one of the officers demanded to search us.

Since the Mexican Constitution guarantees freedom of transit, and because the officer had not stated a reason for the requested search, I felt the order was out of line. But studying the looks of this particular trio of Ciudad Juarez’s finest, I judged it best not to challenge their command at the moment. So it was, “Up against the wall, mother..!!!”

One cop did the talking and searching while the others stood guard. The active one asked what we were doing in his city, and gave a blank look when we responded that I was a journalist and my friend an academic from the U.S. Read more ..

The Destination Edge

Coney Island Amusement Park Still Up and Spinning

August 19th 2012

Ferris Wheel

For over a century, tourists and New York natives have flocked to Coney Island, a peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn. It's best known for its amusement parks and exciting rides but also features cool sea breezes and world famous hot dogs. Coney Island is only half a kilometer wide, but this “playground by the sea” has been offering giant-sized fun ever since the early 19th century.

It's been a "Big Apple" summertime destination, beginning with its first carousel in 1876, Luna Park in 1903, and the Cyclone in 1927 - reputed to be the world’s first roller coaster and now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wonder Wheel ride, Coney Island’s most visible landmark, has been family-owned and operated since it opened in 1920.  “Dee-Jay” Vourderis works seven days a week helping to maintain and operate the 180-metric-ton contraption. "I’m proud because not only do I have a job that I enjoy doing but I’m proud because I feel like I’m part of maintaining the jewel of Coney Island," he said. Read more ..

Looking for America

The Ancient Roots of New Mexico's Harvest Festivals

August 15th 2012


In a year of drought, wildfires, roaring winds and changing climate, some things endure the tempest-at least for the most part. From north to south and from east to west, New Mexicans are turning out to savor the year’s harvest, prepare for holiday commemorations, pack local fairs, honor patron saints and just celebrate life in general amid tough times.

In Las Cruces, Sunland Park, Albuquerque and elsewhere, farmers’ markets where the consumer buys directly from the producer, are back in business and brimming with fresh produce, homemade pastries, handmade crafts and down-home musical sounds, As the first roasts of fresh green chile send intoxicating smells into the air, mounds of egg plant, cucumber, sweet corn, red and yellow onion, squash, okra, honey and other rich morsels of the New Mexican soil invite a feast. It’s the harvest season, and with the offerings of the earth ready for sampling, fiesta time to boot. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Top 10 Things to do at the Sea of Galilee

August 8th 2012


Did you know that Israel’s famous Sea of Galilee is actually a lake? It’s had a variety of names since biblical times, but in Israel it’s called Lake Kinneret, and it holds several distinctions: the largest freshwater reservoir in Israel, the only natural freshwater lake in Israel and the lowest freshwater lake in the world. (The only lower lake is the Dead Sea, also in Israel.)

No matter what you call it, the Kinneret is the focal point of the Galilee. Its cool waters are surrounded by both sandy and rocky beaches, kibbutzim—including the very first one, Degania (“Cornflower”)—and a huge assortment of historic, natural, archeological, recreational, and religious attractions that bring in visitors from all over the world. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Tourism Stays Strong, Despite Violence in Mexico

August 4th 2012

Mexico crosses

The gruesome violence associated with the drug war has done grave damage to Mexico’s global image, and potential tourists searching for a sunny, safe vacation cannot overlook the 50,000 drug-related homicides that have been committed throughout the past six years. Tourism accounts for nine percent of the country’s GDP and provides 2.5 million jobs for Mexican citizens. The importance of sustaining this industry is twofold in that it is not only an important sector of the economy, but also a shrinking tourist industry will come with the cost of already scarce jobs, with the unemployed being inclined to resort to the illicit drug market as a source of income. The year 2009 proved to be a low point for tourism in Mexico, but since then, President Felipe Calderón’s administration’s attempts to protect this key industry have led to positive and visible results. Despite the drug war’s widespread violence and Mexico’s besmirched image, the tourism industry has continued to perform in spite of the persistent violence.

According to former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, drug-related violence has plateaued at a relatively high level but is not increasing, with a steady 1,000 drug-related homicides per month, which eventually could prove to be a disaster to the Mexican economy. Although foreign media networks tend to concentrate on the violence in Mexico, the rate of homicides per every 100,000 people in Mexico is still less than Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, and Brazil. Read more ..

Hotel Review

Farmington Courtyard Descends into Pure Grime

August 3rd 2012


It is always hard to write negatively about a hotel when service by its staff is clearly excellent and thoughtful. But on a recent stay the Courtyard in Farmington Hills was truly so filthy, I could advise no one visit until it is cleaned up. By filthy, I mean layers everywhere, from the furniture to the carpets. Particularly grime was the bathroom sink. The one in my room was dark brown around the drain. When wiped with a clean towel, the grime actually came off, meaning that it was not being cleaned before I arrived and had a build up of residue.

Continuing in the realm of housekeeping neglect, the coffee pot in my room still bore the coffee grounds from the previous guest. Indeed, our room was left unmade until we finally asked at 1 PM that someone come in to clean up and make the bed. After that was done, we had to call housekeeping back to clean the bathroom. The sink was still not cleaned or even touched and was left with a dirty coffee cup as well as dirty glasses. Moreover, we had to ask for a second clean cup for morning coffee as that was not furnished when the room was cleaned.

Beyond just grime, the air itself was oppressive. Air conditioning in the lobby was broken and the lack of ventilation was suffocating. The poor staff struggled to cope with their awful infrastructure, offering apologies, courtesies, and stand-up fans. But that did not change the reality. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Dan Carmel--Unrivalled Majestic Views of Haifa City and Bay

August 1st 2012

Dan Carmel Haifa

When most people travel to Israel, they think of that country’s two major compelling cities—Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is the spiritual epicenter of Israel’s historic legacy. Tel Aviv offers the national mad dash to cosmopolitan nirvana. But, there is a third major city that most tourists often don’t visit. It is, of course, Haifa--Israel’s gleaming maritime city along its northern coast.

Haifa is a paragon of cross-ethnic cohesion where Arab and Jewish citizens have lived together as neighbors. Its great bay vistas and muscular architecture, buttressed by a diverse fabric of cultural and artistic enterprise, are exceeded only by its maddening traffic congestion. This is a city revolving ever faster around a multidimensional axis of technology, shipping and boating, Israel’s mushrooming business sector, and the de facto gateway to the country, Galilee and the northern realm. Here you find the wondrous Baha’i Temple with its hanging gardens and iridescent sheen, a spate of museums devoted to Israel’s historic intersection with the sea, an urban-functional mountain cable car, the pantheon of Israel’s technological magic including the Technion University, and of course the front door to Israel’s Golan and Galilee. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Have a Safe Flight, Thanks to Israel's Xsight

August 1st 2012

Runway debris costs about $14 billion in damages yearly. That’s why the FAA likes an Israeli system to detect birds and metal fragments 24/7. Debris on runways causes an estimated $14 billion in direct and indirect damages every year. Lots of people complain about airplane food, but what about FOD?

That acronym, which stands for “foreign object debris,” refers to stuff on the runway – birds, small animals and fragments that break off planes – causing far more dangerous problems than rubbery rolls on your dinner tray.

The Israeli company XSight Systems has swooped in to prevent harm in a unique way that’s already been adopted at international airports in Boston, Paris, Bangkok and Tel Aviv.

Using integrated radar and electro-optical sensors in a fixed installation on the runway, XSight’s FODetect system “was able to detect the objects of various shapes, sizes, and materials on runway surfaces and perform satisfactorily in nighttime, daytime, sun, rain, mist, fog, and snow conditions,” according to a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report issued in June. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Nantucket Island Offers Paradise at a Price

July 30th 2012


Forty-three kilometers off the coast of the northeastern state of Massachusetts lies the island of Nantucket.

It’s the size of New York City’s Manhattan Island, but with about a million and a half fewer residents. Just 10,000 or so year-round - but at least five times that number each summer.

There’s no bridge or tunnel to the island, so you have fly or take a ferry to get there. Its isolation, and the treacherous shoals that surround it, kept Massachusetts’ early settlers away and the landscape wild.

Nantucket was once the biggest and busiest whaling port in the nation - the place from which the fictional Captain Ahab set off in search of the great white whale Moby Dick in Herman Melville’s novel. These days, Nantucket is still relatively unspoiled. It’s a peaceful place with none of the high-rise hotels, honky-tonk boardwalks, amusement parks, or shopping centers of other beachfront resorts. Read more ..

Inside New Mexico

New Mexico's Pecan Growers Face Uncertain Times with Aplomb

July 29th 2012


Observant travelers on New Mexico Highway 28 that passes through the immense, shady corridor of the Stahmann Farms pecan orchard in Dona Ana County will notice something is not the same. “Closed” signs now hang on the large white building off to the side of the road that was once the popular Stahmann’s Country Store, a place where shoppers could encounter not only a tasty bite of pecan candy but learn about southern New Mexico’s agricultural history as well.

Two months ago, the reality of the establishment’s pending closure was gnawing at Eva Valerio, then Stahmann’s Country Store manager.

“It’s starting to hit me. It’s an emotional roller coaster. It’s sad to see it go down,” Valerio told Frontera NorteSur, as the last customers strolled in on Memorial Day weekend to get a few final scoops of pecan ice cream or perhaps a bargain on the rapidly diminishing furnishings and office supplies for sale. “I’m going to miss a lot of the customers. We’ve built a lot of personal relationships,” Valerio said.

A second Stahmann’s store, on the historic Mesilla Plaza, was closed on May 6, Valerio said. According to the longtime New Mexican, 35 to 40 employees in the two outlets were impacted by the business decision, with a dozen or so quickly assigned new jobs within non-retail parts of Stahmann’s operation Read more ..

The Destination Edge

Turkmenistan’s Tourism Dream Stands Empty For Now

July 22nd 2012

Awaza, Turkmenistan

Just five years ago, Awaza stood as a tiny dacha retreat along the Caspian coast where Turkmen could take refuge from the daily hustle and bustle. But the rustic mud-brick cottages that once dotted the seaside have been swept away and replaced with gleaming, high-rise luxury hotels. Dusty dirt roads have given way to smooth asphalt highways and marble sidewalks. Natural beach surroundings have been sculpted into carefully manicured parks.

Behold the transformed Awaza, a luxurious resort town that looms as the centerpiece of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s dreams of building world-class tourism infrastructure in Turkmenistan. Since taking office in 2006, Berdymukhammedov has channeled a reported $1.4 billion into the project, with Awaza accounting for a major slice of the pie. But if Awaza was constructed on the adage of, “if you build it they will come,” one thing is still missing from the equation—visitors.

During a recent trip to the newly opened resort, a reporter did not have to fight off flocks of tourists clamoring to vacation in luxury. The resort’s eight ritzy hotels, rather, were largely empty. The listed prices appear reasonable by international resort standards. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Israelis Cancel Vacations in Bulgaria, How Soon Will They Go Back?

July 21st 2012

Bulgarian Bus Explosion 7-18-12

Thousands of Israelis who planned to vacation over the next month in Burgas, Bulgaria have cancelled their plans, following Wednesday’s deadly terrorist attack against Israeli tourists.

“All the Israelis who bought a holiday package in Burgas, and were due to depart today, have cancelled their trips,” a travel executive with knowledge of Israeli bookings told Globes. “Everyone has been offered an alternative package in Greece.”

According to the publication’s report, 49,000 Israelis chose the Black Sea resort of Burgas as their vacation destination in July and August of last year. At an average cost of $500 per person for a 3 night stay, Burgas is a popular choice for young Israelis on holiday. “All the Israelis who were due to fly today have cancelled. We’ve offered all of them alternatives on the Greek island of Kos,” a spokesman for the Israeli travel site Kavi Hufsha told Globes. Read more ..

The Festival Edge

Boston Symphony Makes Music in Mountains

July 18th 2012

Tanglewood concert hall
Wikipedia Commons: created by Matt Wade

Open-air classical music concerts are now a summer tradition in the United States. However, that wasn't the case 75 years ago, when the Boston Symphony first performed on a former estate called Tanglewood in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. Since then, Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony.

When Serge Koussevitzy, the Russian-born conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, opened Tanglewood in 1937, he chose an all-Beethoven program, including the Pastorale Symphony. When conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi opened the 75th anniversary season in early July 2012, he recreated it. Beethoven’s musical tribute to nature, complete with bird calls, seems a perfect companion to the charms of Tanglewood. Read more ..

Traveling Safe

Beware the Bacterial Yuck-Factor in Hotel Rooms

June 21st 2012

Hotel lavabo

A new study of U.S. hotel room hygiene has found that potentially dangerous bacteria can lurk on surfaces such as TV remotes and lamp switches. These results, say researchers, show that the hospitality industry - the nation’s third largest industry - must move beyond visual inspections.

Researchers collected samples from nine hotel rooms in three American states. Team members checked 19 different spots per room for aerobic bacteria and coliform bacteria, which is associated with fecal matter.

The most contaminated surfaces weren’t always the most obvious ones. In addition to toilet seats and bathroom sink counters, surfaces with the highest bacteria counts included TV remotes and bedside lamp switches, as well as sponges and mops from cleaning carts.

That last finding is especially worrisome, says Katie Kirsch, a University of Houston undergraduate who helped conduct the study, because if housekeeping carts are infected, they have the potential to cross-contaminate rooms. Read more ..

Destination Edge

From Coal Mines To Gold Mine

June 18th 2012

coal mine

Swarms of tourists stroll through the vast facility, taking time to soak in the architectural wonders, visit the high-tech museum, and perhaps to dine at the swanky restaurant along the way. 

Welcome to the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex -- a once rusting anchor of western Germany's coal and steel industries whose transformation has given hope for a brighter, and greener, economic future.

The complex became the largest coal mine in Europe when its famous 12th shaft, built in Bauhaus style, opened in the 1930s on the site in Essen, in Germany's Ruhr region. But the boom times didn't last. As mining ceased to be viable, economic decline and mass unemployment followed.

What was once "the most beautiful coal mine in the world" eventually became the last coal mine in Essen. By century's end, mining had stopped altogether, and Zollverein became a symbol for the region's decline. Essen's chief planning officer, Hans-Juergen Best, was among those who saw gold in the mine. He likens the effort to restore Zollverein to past efforts to preserve castles from the Middle Ages." Zollverein, I always say, is our industrial castle," Best says. Read more ..

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