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Hotel Edge

Hilton Wilmington Riverside

April 27th 2012

Hilton Riverside-Wilmington, NC
Hilton Wilmington Riverside

The Hilton Wilmington Riverside is a welcoming hotel, commanding Wilmington's best riverfront view of the Cape Fear River. Doormen set the congenial tone from the moment you arrive. Our bellman launched the visit with special congeniality. Too often hotels do not realize that one staff member's cordiality or stiffness in those first few moments can set the tone for an entire visit. Management should bear this in mind whether senior staff or the desk personnel. Hilton Wilmington Riverside obviously does keep this in mind--and successfully. When we had problems with a reservation date mix-up, but managers corrected the date quickly and smoothly.

Although this property is quite large, the lobby is small, comfortable and bustling as guests stream in and out for their many on-site conferences. Somehow the front desk manages to keep it all together as they handle volume visitors with aplomb. This is not a typical Hyatt lobby that entertains or provides alcoves of personal space. It is all business. Read more ..


The Biometric Edge

Facial Recognition Technology Offers Security at Airports and on the Battlefield

April 20th 2012

Eye biometrics

AOptix, a developer of advanced optical technologies and products, announced that Morpho, a high-technology company of the Safran group, has become an AOptix strategic partner in the area of biometric technology. With this agreement, AOptix products, including the combined face capture and iris recognition system, InSight® Duo, will be integrated into Morpho’s solutions offered to countries around the world to check the identities of persons crossing their borders on land, sea and air. Morpho provides advanced solutions for border control, detection, identity management, criminal justice, and secure biometric access.

“For years, we have respected AOptix’s commitment to innovation in enhancing iris usability in biometric identification systems. The match between our two companies is natural as we unite to offer biometric solutions for a vast array of applications,” says Bernard Didier, Senior VP, Technology & Strategy at Morpho. “Combining the knowledge and expertise of our two companies in iris and facial recognition solutions will offer tremendous benefits in security and time savings for governments, airports, airlines and the traveling public.” Read more ..


Travel Safe

Don't Assume The Sand Is Safe

April 13th 2012

Kid on the beach

On warm days, the beach seems an ideal destination for family rest and relaxation. Who hasn't built a sand castle or been buried up to the neck in sand? However, that family fun has a dark side -- sand can harbor illness-causing microbes.

Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for sand quality at recreational sites.Now, environmental scientists at the University of Miami (UM) and at Northern Illinois University have created a reference guide for potentially harmful germs in sand, similar to the guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for marine water. The report is published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology. "These values can be used by beach managers to make decisions concerning sand quality," says Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the UM College of Engineering and principal investigator of this project. "That way, when regulators are faced with a decision about a potential health risk, there is a guideline available with which to decide whether or not the levels of microbes found in the sand are cause for concern." Read more ..


Destination Edge

A Culture Shock Hangover in Tunisia’s Second City

April 4th 2012

Sfax, Tunisia
Sfax, Tunisia by: RichJe

When the bus stopped at the station in Sfax, 170 miles from Tunisia’s capital city, I seriously considered getting back on and heading as far south – away from civilization – as I could get. But the adjacent municipal dump was a strong catalyst for quick decision-making, so when a little yellow taxi pulled up just then, I got in. “To the medina!” I said.

We arrived at the ancient walls via a circuitous route (the driver hadn’t understood my English), as the locals cleared up the market debris. The inside of the medina was dark and deserted. I’ve rarely felt more conspicuous during my travels through the MENA region, nor so depressed. By this stage, I was prepared to pay a cool $5,000 for a room, in which I planned to hide for several days.

Maybe I can’t fault Sfax. I left Tunis in a bad mood after losing thousands of dollars and dealing with over-enthusiastic Tunisian men, but the trash, the staring, the way the buildings are jammed together in no particular order – it all got under my skin, and not in a good way. It was like a rash, coupled with a migraine, that made me want to close the blinds to my room and never leave. Read more ..


Destination Edge

Burma's Tourist Industry Booms

April 3rd 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma's political reforms have drawn international attention and sparked a boom in its still fledging tourism industry. Hotels and tour operators are scrambling to meet the growing demand from visitors eager to witness a country in the midst of transformation. This week in Rangoon 20 contestants competed for the title of Miss Tourism Myanmar 2012, a beauty pageant organized by the tourism board to appeal to foreign visitors.

Tourism Board Secretary Kyaw Htun says Aung San Suu Kyi's endorsement of "responsible tourism" last year has been a vital boost in Burma, also known as Myanmar. "Before 2010 the Lady [Suu Kyi] didn't support visitors to come to Myanmar, but after 2010 she was encouraging visitors to come see Myanmar," noted Htun.

Since Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in 2010, tourism has more than doubled, and is projected to keep increasing at a rate of 30 percent per year. Burma's political isolation has long kept it off the typical itinerary of holiday travelers. Now, it is that isolation and ongoing political reforms that are drawing newcomers - some of whom are still anxious about visiting.

"The reason I'm here in Myanmar, I'm interested in the political situation," said Mari Nakogawa, a tourist from Japan.  "Like Aung San Suu Kyi, I cannot say it here, it's kind of scary. Most of Japanese newspapers say Myanmar is dangerous." Read more ..


Destination Edge

How To Choose a Cruise

March 18th 2012

Cruise Ship

The recent tragic events experienced by Costa Cruises notwithstanding, cruising remains one of the safest and most popular holiday choices and were enjoyed by more than16 million people last year.

If you are planning a cruise holiday you have more than 200 ships from which to choose. The question therefore arises which is the right cruise for you and what should you look for before handing over your money.

Once you have decided on your travel dates, how long a cruise you wish to take and the region of the world you wish to visit it’s time to check out which companies and which ships meet your requirements. You can begin by going to the website of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has two handy tools: a “Cruise Ship Destination Finder” and a “Ship Features Finder.” After you have narrowed down your choices to a manageable few it’s time to consult a travel agent to help you with your booking. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Commercial Jets not Affected by Rules for Grand Canyon Tours

March 17th 2012

Grand Canyon

New rules planned for air tours of the Grand Canyon would not affect commercial aircraft flying over the park, under a measure approved by the Senate. A deal brokered by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., clears the way for the National Park Service to develop rules that set new limits on the number of sightseeing flights over the canyon while reducing noise pollution. The measure was included in a broad transportation bill approved Wednesday by the Senate. McCain and Reid said they were concerned that passenger jets flying high above the park on the way to Las Vegas and other airports could be negatively affected by the Park Service plan, which is intended to increase the number of air tours over the Grand Canyon while at the same time making the environment quieter.

McCain was originally a champion of decreasing noisy air traffic over the Grand Canyon. In 1987, he co-sponsored a Senate bill to restore "natural quiet," saying, "When it comes to a choice between the interests of our park system and those who profit from it, without a doubt the interests of the land must come first." Fast-forward to yesterday's Senate decision, when McCain opposed the overall plan for noise reduction, which he said could "decimate" air tours through unfair noise restrictions. McCain said the plan could eliminate hundreds of tourism jobs and cause tour operators to lose as much as $18 million in the first year alone. "Air tours provide a unique sightseeing experience for people who might otherwise not be able to visit the Grand Canyon, particularly the elderly and the disabled," the Arizona senator said. Read more ..


South of the Border

Texas, Mexico and the U.S. Contend over Tourist Safety in Advance of Spring Break

March 11th 2012

Mexican soldiers at the beach

The latest Mexico travel warning emitted by the state government of Texas has set off a wave of criticism south of the border. Government officials and representatives of the international tourism industry lashed out against a March 6 advisory issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) that urged young springbreakers not to visit Mexico this vacation season because of ongoing narco-violence and other criminal activity in the neighboring country.

Citing information from the U.S. Department of State, the TDPS warning highlighted an increase in the number of U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico, from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011, as well as other violent crimes including kidnapping, carjacking, highway robbery and more. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Istanbul’s Main Square To Become Lifeless And Isolated In New Urban Plan

March 5th 2012

Istanbul

Today, Istanbul’s Taksim Square is a bustling hub of activity, with majestic Gezi Park providing some natural solace — even when the trees are brown in winter, as in the above photo. But a new plan would eliminate most of the greenery in this photo and cut off Taksim from the rest of the city. That’s the argument of the Taksim Platform, a group of concerned citizens, urban planners, lawyers, and academics who have so far collected more than 13,500 signatures against the project. See what the new square would look like after the jump.

In the government’s vision for the new Taksim Square, the front of Gezi Park would be replaced by a building with a courtyard, while the back would be reduced to a small patch of grass and a mall. The streets running through and around Taksim Square would be paved over and replaced by deep underground tunnels, increasing the volumeand speed of traffic as vehicles exit the tunnels. Read more ..


Destination Edge

The Waldorf-Astoria's Newest Hotel: Creatively Built by Inhabitants of the Negev Desert

March 3rd 2012

Semadar Art Center
Semadar Art Center

Take the Waldorf-Astoria, a beacon of luxury, and add a group of environmentally conscious mud-brick builders from the middle of the Negev Desert. Though an unlikely partnership from the outset, together they cooperated on a building that is sure to be designated one of Jerusalem's most inspired architectural works. The interior design of the soon-to-be-opened upscale hotel is the work of acclaimed Turkish architect Sinan Kafadar. Knowing that the Waldorf-Astoria is located on the grounds of the former Palace Hotel, Kafadar painstakingly preserved and restored the 1923 building to its original magnificence. As any hotel guest would agree, it's the little things that make the biggest difference. So when Kafadar needed glass fiber-reinforced concrete for intricate details, in addition to complex geometries, he turned far south to Kibbutz Neot Semadar, which is best known for its communal living, organic farming and environmental activities. It's also acclaimed for its unique desert architectural techniques and new building materials. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Diving in the Dead Sea: An Adventure Well Worth the Challenge

February 25th 2012

Diving
Dead Sea Divers

The first time Avraham Bresler was asked to dive in the Dead Sea, he was being paid to purge an air pocket in an underground pipe. More than 20 years later, he is still plunging into waters often deemed unfit for scuba divers. What's more, Bresler runs tours for extreme diving fans in the cloudy Dead Sea. "The water is warm but it's as if you're in the Antarctic. Everything is white; it looks like you're diving in ice. The water glitters because of all the salt. It really is another world," according to Bresler. The Dead Sea has always been one of Israel's most popular destinations. It is the lowest point on Earth and a place renowned for its vistas, healing powers and natural beauty. The 47-year-old Bresler never dreamed of turning the Dead Sea into an extreme water-sport destination. Rather, diving is his profession. But then, out of nowhere, a Japanese television crew asked him whether it was possible to film in the Dead Sea. They wanted to verify whether cucumbers could be pickled in the salty water (they could, but Bresler says they were "not very tasty").

  Read more ..


Bhutan on Edge

Bhutan Seeks More Tourists to Boost Economy

February 24th 2012

bhutan

Rising incomes across Asia in the last decade have helped create millions of new tourists, eager to explore foreign places. Bhutan, an Asian nation that has seen relatively few international visitors, is hoping to dramatically boost its tourism industry and provide a vital jolt to its economy. Guests are welcomed by a Bhutanese traditional song of greeting as they arrive at the hotel in the capital Thimphu. The kingdom, with its snow capped ranges and forested valleys, is preparing to draw more travelers interested in its Mahayana Buddhist faith and traditional artwork, distinctive architecture, forested treks and crisp clean air. With a population of just 700,000, Bhutan is braced between Asia’s giants of India and China. Officials here have long sought to protect local culture from the influence of foreign visitors.

Tshering Tobgay, a resort owner in Paro Valley, 55 kilometers from Thimphu, says avoiding the excesses of mass tourism that have damaged or overdeveloped other locations in Asia remains a priority. “The government is taking a very good initiative to promote tourism in a way that we don’t want a lot of people in one go. So we focus on high value and low volume. It’s a very good concept - that is a small country, we don’t want a lot of tourists to come in and spoil our culture and heritage likewise in other countries,” said Tobgay. Read more ..


Air Quality

Pollution From North Africa Shuts Down Israeli Airports

February 13th 2012

Israel Topics - Polluted Sky over Tel Aviv
Polluted Sky over Tel Aviv,                        Photo by: Austinevan on Flickr

Last week two airports in Israel had to shut down because the sky was so hazy and visibility was so limited, Haaretz reports. Both the Sde Dor Airport in Tel Aviv and Eilat’s airport shut down on 7th of February as a result of air pollution concentrations more than twelve times higher than usual. These conditions are expected to continue through Wednesday.

Israel’s Environmental Ministry explained that a low pressure weather system over Southern Greece moved into Israel and trapped particulates that traveled from a dust storm in North Africa. This is not the first time that Israeli researchers have discovered pollution stemming from outside the borders – sometimes laced with heavy metals.

Pollution travels

We often note that nature has no borders and this is a classic example. Pollution from Eastern and Western Europe hover in Israeli skies 2/3 of the year, according to a Haaretz news report from last year. And for 1/5 of the year, harmful pollutants travel from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and North Africa. Read more ..


Destination Edge

From Byzantine to Bauhaus: Israel's Top Ten Architectural Wonders

February 11th 2012
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we have attempted to identify some of the most striking buildings in the Holy Land. There is more than enough to choose from, as modern Israel's architecture is an eclectic mix of the ancient to the avant-garde.

1. The International YMCA, Jerusalem

Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

A landmark on the Jerusalem skyline, the YMCA was designed by Arthur Louis Harmon, the same architect behind the Empire State Building. Like its New York cousin, the YMCA was the tallest building in the city at the time of its opening around 1935.

Harmon wanted to embrace the architectural traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so the YMCA's design has elements of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and neo-Moorish styles and its foundation contains stones from quarries believed to have been used in the construction of the Second Temple. Forty columns in the courtyard represent the 40 years of Israelite desert wanderings as well as the 40 days of temptation of Jesus, while the 12 windows in the auditorium and 12 cypress trees in the garden symbolize the 12 tribes, the 12 disciples of Jesus and the 12 followers of Mohammed.

The Jerusalem YMCA is considered the most beautiful YMCA building in the world. At the top of the 50-meter tower is a relief figure of the six-winged seraph described by the prophet Isaiah. The capitals of two entryway columns depict the Woman of Samaria mentioned in the Gospels and a lamb represents Jesus. Read more ..


South of the Border

A Mexican Resort City Fights for its Collective Soul

February 7th 2012

Mexican Topics - Puerto Vallarta Mexico

It might be called Puerto Vallarta's "Stairway to Heaven." Climbing up a double row of steps and fronting white homes with red-tiled roofs, the cobble-stone heights of Iturbide Street offer a magnificent view of blue Banderas Bay and its population of wintering humpback whales and playful dolphins. From the high ground, the eyes can see the far-off flutter of sail boats, the medium-shot profile of the upright Sea Horse statue on the boardwalk below and the close-up touch of the downtown's historic Roman Catholic church.

Usually exuding calm, Iturbide Street is actually one of the flashpoints in an ongoing struggle to shape, re-define and direct the Mexican resort city's future. On a recent January day, as workmen pounded away with a jack hammer to make way for a new garden at the bottom of the street, a small group of residents held a protest against a city project they contended would choke off circulation in the neighborhood. A placard posted on the construction enclosure read: "No to street closures." The new garden, they charged, would make parking impossible and hurt small, struggling local businesses in tough economic times. "We need ambulances to have access," added Berta Elena Martinez, a 57-year resident of the neighborhood. Read more ..


Edge on Travel Safety

Risk-Based Security Analysis Increases Travel Safety and Diminishes Costs

February 1st 2012

Travel - tsa security

Anyone who has flown on a commercial airline since 2001 is well aware of increasingly strict measures at airport security checkpoints. A study by Illinois researchers demonstrates that intensive screening of all passengers actually makes the system less secure by overtaxing security resources. University of Illinois computer science and mathematics professor Sheldon H. Jacobson, in collaboration with Adrian J. Lee at the Central Illinois Technology and Education Research Institute, explored the benefit of matching passenger risk with security assets. The pair detailed their work in the journal Transportation Science.

“A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system,” Jacobson said. “This actually makes the system less secure by over-allocating security resources to those in the system that are low on the risk scale relative to others in the system.” When overestimating the population risk, a larger proportion of high-risk passengers are designated for too little screening while a larger proportion of low-risk passengers are subjected to too much screening. With security resources devoted to the many low-risk passengers, those resources are less able to identify or address high-risk passengers. Nevertheless, current policies favor broad screening. Read more ..


Destination Edge

Eilat, Timna and the Negev

January 26th 2012

Israel Topics - Timna Valley
Timna Valley in Israel's Aravah

When we planned our visit to Eilat, we expected a glorious seaside holiday, but little did we know that we would also walk in the footsteps of the ancient Kenites and Midianites and that we’d also enjoy an encounter with “kibbutzniks” who create exquisite works of art and raise organic foods in the Negev desert.

Moments after our El Al flight touched down at the Eilat airport, we checked into the luxurious Dan Eilat Hotel, located on the Red Sea beach front, in the centre of this thriving resort community. We knew the hotel’s reputation but we were not prepared for the splendour of our room. Like the hotel itself, the room was decorated in hues of pink, turquoise and beige and its furnishings had a distinct art deco look. But the icing on the cake was an enormous terrace complete with hot tub and breathtaking views. We felt as though we had landed on the set of a 1950’s Hollywood musical spectacular and expected Gene Kelly and Doris Day to sweep in at any moment. Read more ..


Travel Safe

TSA Collected $400,000 in Spare Change Left in Airports by Passengers in 2011

January 14th 2012

Travel - TSA Checkpoint

Airline passengers left more than $400,000 at airport security checkpoints operated by the Transportation Security Administration in 2011.

TSA found $409,085.56 in spare change last year that was unclaimed by passengers, according to figures released by the agency. Historically, if no one comes back to get the money, it stays with the TSA.

A Florida lawmaker is trying to change that, however: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) filed a bill in April of 2009 that would require TSA to transfer money that is not claimed by passengers when they leave airport security checkpoints to United Service Organizations. Read more ..


Inside Travel

McCain Changes Tune on Support for Grand Canyon Air Tours

January 1st 2012

Travel - Grand Canyon

A quarter century has elapsed since Sen. John McCain championed a new law to restore “natural quiet” in the majestic Grand Canyon where the clatter of choppers and small planes reverberated as they ferried sightseers over the national park. Vowing to curtail air traffic that was both noisy and that had seen fatal collisions, the Arizona Republican said that parks regulate dogs, campfires and trail and river use, and “I see no reason why overflights should be any exception to the rule.” The Grand Canyon, he proclaimed, “does not exist for anyone’s financial benefit.”

Today, however, McCain defends air tourism and its operators - including one of his biggest campaign backers - against what he sees as overzealous restrictions that the National Park Service is planning under that 1987 law. Following years of squabbling and litigation, the agency is finalizing rules on when and where the flights can go, including a cap on daily traffic. McCain believes the restrictions, which are outlined by the agency in a long-awaited environmental report, could “cripple” air tourism and jeopardize more than 1,100 jobs. Read more ..


Travel Safe

Turkey Day provides TSA a Chance to Test New Security Procedures

November 24th 2011

Travel - US passport

The Transportation Security Administration says passengers will likely notice fewer pat-downs of children and other changes at airports over this long weekend, the busiest travel days of the year.
 
The changes are part of TSA’s move toward a “risk-based” security approach. Most of them have been in place since earlier in the fall, but they will be new to an estimated 3.4 million people who are expected to fly for the holidays.
 
“When traveling this holiday travel season, passengers may notice new procedures in place at airports, including modified screening for passengers 12 and under and additional privacy protections on more than half of our imaging technology units,” the agency said in a statement provided to The Hill.  “TSA is also in the process of testing new ideas at some airports to further strengthen security while enhancing the passenger experience whenever possible,” the agency continued. Read more ..


Among the Druze

Daliat el-Carmel, the epicenter of Druze culture

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Daliat el-Carmel
A View of the Streets in Daliat el-Carmel

Most people go to the Galilee Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel to sample ethnic cuisine or bring home bargains from the bazaar. But the town, located between the bucolic wine country in Zichron Yaakov and the high-tech hub of Haifa, is also rich in history that Ragaa Mansour is eager to share.

"This is the southernmost Druze town in the world and the largest in Israel," says Mansour, a member of the Druze sect that is based mainly in Lebanon and Syria.

Two years ago, Mansour opened the Carmel Center for Druze Heritage, a hands-on living museum dedicated to educating visitors about the Druze people, religion and culture through exhibits on dress, foods, crafts and industries. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Google Rides the Swiss rails for Spectacular StreetView

October 20th 2011

Switzerland railway

Google Street View technology has put imagery of some of the world’s most interesting and significant sites online. So now Google has now captured the beauty and majesty of the Swiss Alps from its winding train tracks and switchbacks.

Cooperating with Rhaetian Railways of Switzerland, a Google Street View team collected images from the Albula-Bernina line in Switzerland that will soon be live on Google Maps. The route winds through the Swiss Alps and is one of most famous in the world, passing through alpine forests from Thusis, Switzerland and past the resort town of St. Moritz, then to its final stop just over the border in Tirano, Italy Read more ..


Hotel Review

Chicago's Sofitel

October 12th 2011

Travel - Sofitel Chicago

Coming Soon

One of Chicago's architectural gems is the Sofitel on Chestnut, where the stunning corner suites make you feel like your flying. Flying in style. Coming soon from the Cutting Edge Traveler. 


Destination Edge

The Three Centuries of San Miguel nestled in the Mountains of New Mexico

October 6th 2011

Travel - San Miguel NM chapel

Driving south of Las Cruces on Highway 28, travelers pass through the shady canopy of Stahmann Farms’ pecan forest before gliding into the small town of San Miguel. There, along the few blocks of old abode buildings and signs for fresh farm produce, day trippers might very well encounter friendly folk like Mike Otero.

A federal government retiree, Otero stands outside the striking stone façade of the San Miguel Church reminiscing about decades past and his wedding at this very place in the 1950s. Originally a mountain boy from the village of Manzano in north-central New Mexico, Otero says his real first name is Miguel but everybody just calls him Mike.

After completing military service in Korea, Otero came to Dona Ana County to work at White Sands Missile Range, where he soon met a young woman named Dora from San Miguel. The couple exchanged vows at the historic church and raised a family during a time when Dona Ana County was transitioning from a rural, agricultural-oriented county into part of a border metroplex with a growing university and an expanding federal government presence. Read more ..


Destination Israel

WeMakeIt Mobile Pocket Hotspot Connects Israel Travelers to the Country and the Planet

October 1st 2011

Jerusalem-Temple and Wall

More than three million people visit Israel each year. More every month. They are tourists, pilgrims, businessmen, diplomats, students, and celebrants. 

Most visitors to Israel are highly wired and connected individuals who need to stay in touch with home and business. But they also need to maximize their enjoyment of Israel's endless attractions. The problem is that getting connected in Israel is difficult. Naturally, your smartphones are going to become completely stupid in Israel due to incompatible signal. Therefore, any hookup for telephone is still going to require a global phone--very expensive, or a travel phone rental--less expensive.

The workaround for smartphone apps is your laptop or iPad. But your iPads and tablets will not work because you lack an Israeli wireless connection. When you finally connect at your hotel, the daily connect fee is often double or triple the cost of a typical US hotel fee—as much as $20 to $30 per day plus tax just to get connected. All this aggravation can be avoided with a small box about the size of a wallet--the mobile hotspot. It is offered by a recently formed Israeli hi-tech company called WeMakeIt. You will find it easily available on demand from the leading car rental company, Eldan, or delivered to your hotel. The fact that Eldan makes the mobile hotspot—or MiFi—as easily available as US rental agencies do for navigators, sets Israeli travel ease a notch ahead for ease and access. Read more ..


Travel Safe

90 Percent of Passports to be e-Passports by 2016

September 13th 2011

Technology - RFID TAG

Within five years 90 percent of passport holders will be using e-passports that integrate a smart card IC chip. This is one of the conclusions drawn from IMS Research's recent report “Electronic Government and Health Care ID Cards – World – 2011.” A rapid migration from paper or machine readable passports to smart card-based passports (complying with the ICAO standard for ePassports) started in 2007. This has led to nearly half of all passports now in use being e-passports.

“This trend is set to continue” stated the report author Alex Green. “There are still a few countries around the world that are not yet issuing e-passports. However, most have started and with the typical five to ten year replacement rates for passports, it is only a matter of time before all passports in circulation are e-passports.” Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Driving Responsibly can cut Fuel Consumption even for Gas Guzzlers

September 8th 2011

Automotive - car door

While driving a fuel-efficient vehicle is the best way to save gas, motorists can still cut fuel consumption nearly in half by driving slower and less aggressively, properly maintaining their vehicles and avoiding congested roads, say University of Michigan researchers. See their report here.

"Driving a light-duty vehicle in the United States is currently more energy-intensive than using a bus or a train and even flying," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "How can we improve on this performance? Vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect—the best vehicle currently available for sale in the United States is nine times more fuel-efficient than the worst vehicle.

"Nevertheless, remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45 percent reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing." Read more ..


Mexico and the US

Changes and Challenges in a New Mexico Border Town

August 27th 2011

Mexican Topics - US/Mexico border marker

Down a country lane in southern New Mexico‘s Mesilla Valley, a new walk-path and park took shape as the summer heat beat relentlessly down upon the land.

While a similar project might not even draw so much as a wink in a bigger community, residents of the rural community of Vado-Del Cerro are “very excited” about getting a new recreational space, says Vado Village Council Chair Mitch Boyer. According to the community leader, donations from private businesses and individuals are bringing the project to completion.

Constructed with the assistance of the non-profit organization Groundwork Dona Ana and its crew of youth workers, the building of the walk-path/park presented an opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane.

The late Boyer family patriarch and African-American community pioneer Francis Boyer once lived near the construction site, and an adjoining, small pecan orchard belonging to one of Mitch Boyer’s cousins still shades this slice of Dona Ana County just north of the US-Mexico border. A graduate of the old school, Boyer recalls growing up in Vado, in an era before computer games, text-messaging and Facebook absorbed the attention of the young. Read more ..


Destination Edge

Behind the Truck Stop at New Mexico's Vado-Del Cerro

August 23rd 2011

Travel - El Vado, New Mexico
El Vado Lake

Rambling along Interstate 10 between Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, travelers might see the Vado exit sign and notice a truck stop that’s seen better days. They might catch a glimpse-and a whiff-of the numerous dairies that line the southern Mesilla Valley.

Few, however, will probably ever hear about the rich history this border region community of several thousand people offers to visitor and resident alike. Scratch the history of Vado and a prism of windows opens up into the past, present and future of New Mexico, Mexico and the United States.

Dora Dorado has lived a good part of this history. Guiding her vehicle through a jumble of paved and unpaved roads, Dorado takes the visitor on a tour of the site-built houses, stone walls and mobile homes that make up Vado and its neighboring community of Del Cerro. In recent decades growth has practically merged the two communities together, making it more proper to speak of Vado-Del Cerro, as opposed to just Vado. Read more ..


Travel Green

Greensboro's Proximity Hotel Excels in Comfort and Green Innovation

August 8th 2011

Travel - Proximity Hotel

Proximity Hotel in beautiful Greensboro, North Carolina, is uncommon in that it not only offers luxury, but it sits on the cutting edge of a trend towards environmentally-friendly and energy efficient accommodation. Opened in 2008, Proximity Hotel is in the heart of Greensboro’s business and shopping district where travellers can not only make their appointments, but also enjoy natural surroundings in this quiet retreat. While it less than 300 feet away from one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares, at Proximity Hotel you will be soothed and energized by a restored natural stream that wends its way through tall grass where a colony of turtles and other wildlife can be seen. Read more ..


Travel South of the Border

Mexico's Tourism Industry Takes a Nose Dive as the Narco-war Grows Ever More Heated

July 25th 2011

Mexican Topics - Spent cartridges Mexico

Back in the summer of 2010, Mexican Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara stood before a crowd in Beverly Hills and proclaimed a new strategy to recapture US visitors. In a speech, Guevara stressed the myriad cultural amenities her country offers tourists.

“Mexico has 29 sites that are patrimonies of humanity, 62 ethnic groups and more than 30,000 archaeological zones,” Guevara told an audience in the star-studded city of the rich and famous. “We are number two in the world for luxury tourism.”

But a year after Guevara’s presentation, and some months after President Calderon declared 2011 “The Year of Tourism” in Mexico, the campaign has fallen flat. Read more ..


Festivals

Sydney's Limmud Oz Attracts 1,100 to Nonstop Festival of Learning

July 5th 2011

Jewish Topics - Limmud Oz Banner
Limmud Oz--the Australian Festival

Despite a rainy and windy long weekend, over 1100 people enjoyed hearing over 200 presenters talk, act, sing, and argue about everything from Israel to asylum seekers. The atmosphere was amazing. It was abuzz from the first Saturday night June 11 through its Monday evening June 13.

Headline international presenters like Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, Israeli singer Efrat Gosh, journalist and author Edwin Black, and former Knesset member Naomi Chazan drew the largest crowds, but participants enjoyed the opportunity to choose from a spectacularly diverse array of sessions and subjects. Limmud-Oz is one of the few opportunities for the entire Jewish community to come together. Israeli singing sensation Efrat Gosh performed while others attended sessions on Jewish identity, interfaith dialog, and Martin Buber.
The majority of participants came from Sydney, but there were also a number of attendees from Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia.  Read more ..


Edge on Travel Safety

New Rules about Exposure to Sunlight and Your Skin

July 1st 2011

Social Topics - Kid on the beach

The July 4 weekend is a time for barbequing, lounging poolside or just goofing off in the backyard. But it’s important to practice good sun safety, stress dermatologists at the University of Michigan Health System.

They offer tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones, along with guidance to help understand the Food and Drug Administration’s new rules about sunscreen. For example, one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Babies and young children can't protect themselves from sunburn, so adults must do it for them. Read more ..


Edge on Travel

Road Warriors at Risk for Increased Body-Mass Index and Worsened Cholesterol Levels

June 16th 2011

Travel - Sacramento airport traveller

Road warriors who travel for business two weeks or more a month have higher body mass index, higher rates of obesity and poorer self-rated health than those who travel less often, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The study, conducted by Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH and Catherine A. Richards, MPH, drew data from medical records of more than 13,000 employees in a corporate wellness program provided by EHE International. Nearly 80 percent of employees traveled at least one night a month and 1 percent traveled more than 20 nights a month.
Overall, the researchers found that business people who traveled the most (20 or more days a month) have poorer health on a number of measures compared with those who travel between 1 and 6 days a month. For example, extensive travelers:

•Had a mean Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.5 kg/m2 versus 26.1 for light travelers
•Had a mean HDL level of 53.3 mg/DLversus 56.1 for light travelers
•Had a mean Diastolic pressure of 76.2 mmHG versus 74.6 for light travelers
•Were 260% more likely to rate their health as fair to poor compared to light travelers Read more ..


Destination Edge

Tel Aviv: The White City

June 8th 2011

Israel Topics - Tel Aviv chillin'

If you peer out of the window as your plane makes its final approach to Ben Gurion Airport, you will be astounded by a string of ultra-modern high rise buildings stretching along the 14 km coastline of Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.

Considering that Tel Aviv is only a little over a hundred years old, it is quite remarkable that it has become a mecca not only for refugees in search of a safe haven from persecution, but has also attracted some of the world’s great architects including Philippe Starck, Richard Meier and I.M. Pei who have transformed the city from a small seaside outpost at the edge of a desert into a flourishing 21st. century metropolis. Read more ..


Edge of Space

Virgin’s Galactic Space Travel—From LA to Abu Dhabi in Two Hours

May 25th 2011

Last week, in the historic large lecture theatre at the Royal Institution in London, the oldest independent research body in the world, Stephen Attenborough—the Commercial Director for Virgin Galactic—spent two uninterrupted hours mesmerizing a private audience on the future of commercial space travel. By the end of the session, even skeptics like myself, who came in thinking this was another wasted venture for the rich, were converted, captivated by the advancement of human ingenuity and the potential that space travel holds for the future of scientific research and sustainable travel.

It’s been just over a century since the Wright Bothers made their inaugural flight in North Carolina and fifty years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. When Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the surface of the moon in 1969, space travel seemed poised to enter a golden era. However, space programs proved prohibitively expensive—and dangerous.

As Virgin’s Attenborough reminded us, in the last fifty years only 550 people have been to space, far fewer than what one would have expected at the time when human spaceflight first began. Read more ..


Destination Edge

Santa Fe: Beauty All Around

May 8th 2011

Travel - Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the U.S and is known, among other things, as a major art center. The city has a lively gallery scene with some 200 private galleries as well as several important museums.

With so many artists living and creating in one small city with a population of just 70,000 we were somewhat skeptical of the quality of the work and expected to see more than a little “kitsch”. But we need not have worried: even on fabled Canyon Road, a “must-stroll” country lane with breathtaking views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and more than 100 galleries, the variety and quality of the art on display is amazing and a far cry from what you might expect in such a popular destination. Read more ..


Hawaii on Edge

Sustained Drop in Japanese Visitors Has Befuddled Hawaiian Tourism Officials At a Loss

April 18th 2011

Travel - Hawaii bay

Emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere, as well as more Mainland U.S. visitors will be needed if Hawaii expects to recover from the tectonic drop in tourism from Japan. But befuddled tourism officials in Hawaii, unaccustomed to fast turnarounds and sharp rebounds, seem to be at a loss. 

Following the devastating March 11 tremor, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan, Hawaii saw a drop of nearly 25 percent in the number of Japanese visitors, compared to a year ago. The drop followed a 28 percent increase in Japanese tourists from January 1 through late February from a year ago, says the state agency. With hotels reporting cancellations of future bookings as high as 45 percent, the Aloha State is braced for a significant economic impact. Hawaii’s state government predicts that the decline in Japanese visitors could reduce the state's projected 3.2 percent rise in gross domestic product by as much as a percentage point. The state estimates that Hawaii’s tsunami damage totaled $30.6 million. Read more ..


Border War

Mexico Struggles to Shake Off the Perception of Danger in its Vital Tourism Sector

April 18th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico City mounted police
Mexico City mounted police

As Mexico gears up for its annual Holy Week and Easter Week holiday beach bash, polemics continue to fly over the state of the country’s tourism sector. At the heart of the debate is how violence and the media’s coverage of it may or may not be discouraging tourism.

Immediately challenging the declarations of an important industry official, the federal Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur) repeated earlier contentions this week that foreign visitation is on the upswing. The federal agency reported that Mexico received last year 5.9 million US tourists, a number which represented a 5.9 percent jump from 2009 and a 1.5 percent increase from 2008. Read more ..


Hotel Review

A Paramount Hotel in Manhattan

April 1st 2011

Hotels - Paramount lobby

For decades, the Paramount Hotel, just steps from Times Square, has been a major address for travelers to New York. Certainly, the hotel has always been known for its avant-garde, architectonic lobby, which creates its own energy; where chairs crafted from logs are stationed beneath the hubbub of busy mezzanine corridors. Of course, the Paramount has also been known as the small wonder of New York since the rooms have been traditionally considered “not even large enough to change your mind.” The theory was always that no one came to New York to spend time in their room—which is good, because there is virtually no room in the room—and that everyone came to New York to explore the city.

Exploration from the Paramount is supremely enabled from the hotel's prime location inches from Broadway, around the corner from Hell's Kitchen, a short walk from the best shopping, an easy stroll from a dozen great restaurants, and more or less in the middle of everything. Read more ..



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