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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 ..


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 ..

Japan After the Quake

Shocked Hawaii Tourism Reps Scramble As Japanese Visits Drop Sharply

March 21st 2011

Travel - Hawaii bay

Fears emerged in tourist-dependent Hawaii following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. Just hours after the monumental quake in Japan, tens of millions of additional dollars in damage to homes, businesses and boats crashed onto the national economy after a tsunami roared ashore last week. Tourism is the single biggest industry in the Hawaiian archipelago, and hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other businesses dependent on Japanese tourism were concerned that the devastation in Japan would also strike their pocketbooks.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie predicted the economic consequences would be severe for Hawaii, which is already dealing with a projected shortfall of nearly $1 billion over the next two years due to a bearish economy in the US generally. "It's going to be terrible. It's going to be rough," he said following the quake. "It's something that we have to come to grips with."

Some Hawaiian tourism representatives contacted by The Cutting Edge News seem ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the unexpected drop-off. A few were unable to even respond to inquiries. Read more ..

Hotel Review

Glidden House—an Antique Boutique Hotel with a Tense Checkout Policy

March 21st 2011

Travel - Glidden House, Cleveland

The Glidden House in Cleveland is a small boutique hotel favored by artists and intellects, situated adjacent to the Case Western campus—a natural magnet for its customers. But, unlike most boutique hotels, Glidden House is not sleek and modern with art deco furniture. Here you find nothing but the reserved, polished surroundings of a 19th century mansion with wood carvings, traditional antique furnishings, oriental carpets, beautiful paintings and a comfortable ambience. In other words, the Glidden House surrounds you with aesthetics.

The lodge offers a sumptuous breakfast, plenty of cozy sitting places and a home-like atmosphere. Staying at the Glidden House is like being a guest in an old mansion. That makes sense, since the Glidden House was a former mansion. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Leaping Through Leipzig

March 21st 2011

Travel - Leipzig Opera House by Night
Leipzig Opera House

It is ironic that Leipzig has recently been “discovered” as one of Europe’s “new” destinations given that the city has long been known as the home of some of the world’s greatest composers as well as a major publishing and trade fair center. The reason, of course, is that this great Saxon city was “hidden” behind the Iron Curtain for nearly a half-century. Now, however, some two decades after the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has once again taken center stage as one of Europe’s leading cultural and commercial metropolises. Read more ..

Airline News

Hawaiian Adds Osaka in Asia Expansion

February 23rd 2011

Travel - Hawai'i Air jet

Hawaiian Airlines pushed its growth envelope in recent days when it announced new daily nonstops between Honolulu and Osaka, Japan. The new route is the airline's third new Asian destination in recent months. Hawaiian's inaugural flight from Honolulu International Airport to Osaka's Kansai International Airport is scheduled for July 12. 2011.

"The response to our new Haneda service has been stronger than expected," stated Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO, "and we have accelerated our plans to offer our authentic Hawaii travel experience to Osaka, Japan's second most populous region. Our new service will help meet strong travel demand from Osaka, and provide a welcome boost to Hawaiian tourism." Read more ..

Hotel Review

Homewood Suites: The Right Choice in Minneapolis

February 21st 2011

Travel - Homewood Suites Minneapolis

Homewood Suites near St. Louis West Park, even though a chain property, is nothing less than great lodging for the busy traveler visiting Minneapolis. This well-run property, a great location in a great city, is all about accommodating the busy guest. Its mini-suites are spacious and well laid out. Customer service and hotel management are tops, with the guest in mind at all times.

To serve schedule-packed guests, breakfast and dinner availability are actually included features for those who don't have time to grab a bite at one of the several excellent nearby restaurants. A comfortable lobby with fireplace makes those quiet moments after a tough day a bit more calm. That said, what makes Homewood Suites recommended is that while it appears to be in a far-out industrial park, it is virtually a one-minute stroll to an upscale entertainment and shopping complex with awesome restaurants, movie theater and specialty shops. If you are traveling with an extended stay, the in-suite kitchen and the across-the-street supermarket will round out anything you need. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Mexico Works on Re-Building its Reputation to Save Tourism

February 14th 2011

Latin American Topics - Puerto Vallarta Mexico fireworks
Puerto Vallarta belfry

Santos Santana takes in a breath and gives a long gaze at the man pounding away with his jackhammer on the pier, as a frogman dips in and out of the water splashing around the structure gradually being taken apart. For the lanky, 30-year veteran of Puerto Vallarta's tourist trade, the project scheduled for completion sometime this year can't come soon enough.

Already grappling with a slow season, boatmen and tour operators like Santana on Los Muertos Beach have an additional problem: they find it harder to load passengers directly from the beach's sands while the old pier is torn down and replaced with a new one. "Less people, less money," Santos sighs. "I hope it's better, so there will be better service," he says. "This is the most popular zone of Puerto Vallarta." Read more ..

Travel Safe

Radioactive Isotopes Developed by Government Scientists Sniff Luggage for Bombs

January 10th 2011

Energy Topics - Nickel isotope

When Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspectors swipe a cloth over your luggage and then place it in an analyzer to check for explosives residue, they are using a device containing 63Ni, a radioactive isotope of nickel, made at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Oak Ridge is the exclusive producer for 63Ni in North America and perhaps worldwide. "Our only competition would probably be Russia. They have high-flux research reactors and may well be supplying the material also," explained Mitch Ferren in the ORNL Isotope Business Office. The office coordinates production of the 63Ni and other isotopes.

To detect explosives, or hazardous chemicals and vapors, an area of public safety increasingly important since the September 11 attacks, the 63Ni's beta emitter acts as an annihilation source, stripping the molecules that are given off by a material and analyzing these in the device.

To make 63Ni, technicians at the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center at HFIR prepare targets of enriched stable 62Niand then bombard them with neutrons in HFIR. Each target contains 25 grams of pressed 62Ni metal pellets stacked in a 35 inch long aluminum target capsule, 12.5 grams at each end. Under bombardment with neutrons, 62Ni becomes activated and the result is a new, radioactive isotope useful for airport and transportation security applications. The 62Ni comes from an inventory of stable isotopes maintained by ORNL's Isotope Development Group. Read more ..

The Traveler’s Edge

A Race to the Bottom for Airlines

January 3rd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Considering how much I travel abroad and domestically constantly, I’m actually surprised how much I hate and resent the thought of flying. It’s not the fear of heights, or the turbulence, or even the perpetual fear of a terrorist attack. No, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of airline carriers. Also, the utter agony and different standards for every airport of what can and can’t pass through security screening is baffling.

Think about it. Every major industry today is progressing. Auto manufacturers are building cars with better fuel economies, more room, and more horsepower and with fewer emissions. The same holds true for consumer electronics, power companies, phone carriers, freight rail, and trucking. Even the Postal Service seems to be trending in the right direction. Everyone—except the airlines.

If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself when was the last time you boarded a flight that wasn’t full to the gills? When did you actually have room in the overhead compartment to store your belongings? When do you last recall getting a meal or a cup of coffee without having to hand the flight attendant a major credit card? The seats are smaller and more uncomfortable, and certainly more dirty than they have ever been. Smell that foul stench coming from the back of the plane? It’ll pass. Want a blanket? That’s $5 please. Want to watch TV? Another $5 please. What’s next, a coin-operated toilet? Read more ..

Travel Safe

Government Printer Can’t Locate Laptops with Sensitive e-Passport Information

January 3rd 2011

Transportation Topics - US Passport

The Government Printing Office, often criticized for lax security on passports, can’t locate at least 88 laptops issued to employees, some of whom had access to sensitive information about the e-Passport that is a crown jewel of America’s border security.

The federal printing agency’s internal watchdog says the lion’s share of missing laptops involved the agency’s Information Technology and Systems division, and that some of the losses may have exposed sensitive information about the vulnerability of the e-Passport supply chain.

“The failure to adequately account for laptops may have resulted in the inadvertent exposure of sensitive GPO business information about acquisitions and human capital, as well as the manufacture and issuance of security documents such as U.S. passports,” the inspector general concluded.

The passports store biometric information on tiny computer chips designed to validate the true identity of passport holders, and then transmit the data to U.S. officials at customs checkpoints using a tiny radio antenna. Even the photograph is digitized. The aim is to prevent tampering or unauthorized reading of the data. But GPO’s supply chain for the e-Passport, which controls access at U.S. ports of entry, has generated recent concern. Read more ..

Edge on Law

Parents of US Citizen Demanding Compliance with US Law from State Department

December 13th 2010

Travel - Passport

Lewin & Lewin, LLP—a Washington D.C.-based law firm—has filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the parents of an American-citizen child born in Israel to review a decision by the Department of State to refuse compliance with a law passed by Congress. The law in question directed the Secretary of State to list “Israel” as the child’s birthplace on his U.S. passport. The government’s response to the petition is due on December 29 of this year, and a decision by the high court is expected in February 2011.

Litigation of the issue began in Washington, D.C. in September 2003, before Menachem Zivotofsky had reached age of one year. His parents were born in the U.S. but now reside in Israel. Menachem was born in West Jerusalem. The law enacted by Congress in September 2002 had directed the Department of State to “record the place of birth as Israel” for any American citizen born in Jerusalem who requested such a designation. The children of U.S. citizens born outside of the U.S. have a right to American citizenship. Menachem’s parents asked the American embassy in Tel Aviv to list their child’s birthplace as “Israel,” but following long-standing instructions, the embassy refused to do so and recorded the place of birth as “Jerusalem.” Read more ..

Destination Edge

Berlin--After the Wall

November 15th 2010

Travel - Berlin by Night

Just twenty years after The Wall came down, Berlin, more than any other world capital, is a city of the twenty-first century. And yet, like Janus of Roman mythology, it simultaneously looks both into the future and into the past.

The dismantling of The Wall resulted in an enormous building boom in Berlin so that, just a few years ago, it still looked like an enormous building site whose skyline was punctuated by giant cranes. On our recent visit, most of the cranes were gone and dramatic new high rise office and residential towers, designed by some of the world’s most creative architects, took their place. And, at a time when passenger rail service is becoming virtually extinct in the USA, Berlin now boasts a spanking new, multi-level, futuristic Hauptbahnhof (central railway station), Europe’s largest rail hub, in what was once “no-man’s land.” Read more ..

Destination Edge

Palm Desert and Indian Wells--Oases in the Desert

November 1st 2010

Travel - Indian Wells

To most people, deserts are forbidding places hardly suitable for pleasant holidays. That, however, does not describe the kind of desert you will find in the Coachella Valley located some two hours by car east of Los Angeles. There, you will find a golfer’s paradise with nearly two dozen world-class golf courses, one of the largest tennis centers anywhere, fashionable resorts with luxuriant spas; shops and restaurants galore and a world of natural wonders. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Safety Board Less Aggressive in Last Decade

October 27th 2010

Social Topics - train on fire

The National Transportation Safety Board issued significantly fewer recommendations for improvements in travel safety during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration than during any other presidency in its 36-year history.

An analysis of NTSB data shows that for most of its history the board has been fairly consistent, issuing an average of 300 to 450 safety recommendations a year. But after Bush took office in 2000, the agency’s activity dropped to the lowest level in its history. In 2005, the board issued just 110 recommendations—by far the fewest of any year since the NTSB was established as an independent voice for transportation safety in 1974. Read more ..

The Edge of Safety

Sleep and Fatigue Endanger All Travel

October 18th 2010

Health/Medicine - airplanes shadows

Accidents happen in a matter of seconds.

An airplane pilot takes a moment too long to react in an emergency. A trucker who has been on the road all day wanders across the median. A train engineer is lulled to sleep by the isolation and monotony of the job and misses a signal.

It’s impossible to say how many accidents are caused by operators who are just too tired to do their jobs, in part because fatigue can’t be measured like the level of alcohol in a person’s system. But fatigue is frequently cited by investigators as a factor in accidents in the air, on the water and on railways and highways. Read more ..

Travel Safety

U.S. Pilots and Unions Nix Cockpit Video Recorders

October 11th 2010

Transportation Topics - United Airlines jet liner

Eight federal water-management officials climbed into a Cessna 208B aircraft in Montrose, Colorado, just after dawn on Oct. 8, 1997.

They were headed to the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, but the chartered plane disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff. Two days later, searchers found the plane flattened among 60-foot-tall pine trees. Everyone on board died.

It was clear from the wreckage that the Cessna dropped from the sky at about a 65 degree angle, according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. There was no fire. The plane had passed all inspections, and there was no evidence of a mechanical malfunction. There was some fog reported in the area, but no weather advisories had been issued. The pilot, in his early 60s, had no serious medical conditions or drugs in his system and didn’t issue a distress call. Read more ..

Travel on the Edge

Travel Safety Recommendations Ignored for Years

October 4th 2010

Disaster - USAir ditch in Hudson

Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel that could be reduced if federal regulatory agencies and states moved faster to carry out recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents and proposes ways to prevent them.

More than 710 people have died over the past 30 years in plane crashes in which ice built up on the wings of aircraft while the Federal Aviation Administration considered NTSB recommendations to reduce icing dangers. Read more ..

Travel Edge

Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons Unwelcoming--Try Another

September 16th 2010

Travel - Sheraton Greensboro lobby
Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons

The Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons is a large-bustling property that struck us an immensely unwelcoming hotel with strange and unexpected hostility at every turn in the management hierarchy--probably resulting from too much over-confidence despite a down economy. In many cases, when we called an extension, no one answered the phone and when someone did, the attitude was somewhere between persnickety and downright rudeness. Various members of the management team displayed so much dense rudeness, we found the hotel completely unrecommendable. Sheraton and Starwood are great names and reliable brands that create favorites on everyone's list. But this property does not seem to live up to the Starwood image of sharp, bright and welcoming personnel. There are many fine properties in Greensboro. Our suggestion is try the Marriott, the beautiful Proximity Hotel, the old-style grandeur O.Henry, or for budgets even the Hyatt Place. But put the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons on your no-go list. Read more ..

Travel Safe

America's Security at Risk from Fraudulent e-Passports

August 2nd 2010

Computer Topics - passport

A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought to light the dangers of fake IDs, federal undercover agents are still able to easily obtain genuine U.S. e-Passports using clearly fraudulent information that should have raised red flags at the State Department.

Gregory Kutz, an investigator for the Government Accountability Office, is set to testify Thursday to a Senate panel about how his team was able to get the State Department this spring to issue five of the seven e-Passports it requested using fraudulent information.

The government failed to detect such basic red flags as a fake driver’s license, a 62-year-old using a recently obtained Social Security number, and the name of a dead applicant using faked identification, Kutz plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“State’s passport issuance process continues to be vulnerable to fraud,” Kutz said in prepared testimony.

Kutz plans to tell senators that State only detected two of the seven fraudulent applications “despite multiple indicators of fraud and identity theft in each application.” Read more ..

Travel Safe

The Shifting Landscape of Passport Fraud

July 26th 2010

Crime Topics - Passport Fraud

The recent case involving the arrest and deportation of the Russian intelligence network in the United States has once again raised the subject of document fraud in general and passport fraud in particular. The FBI’s investigation into the group of Russian operatives discovered that several of the suspects had assumed fraudulent identities and had obtained genuine passports (and other identity documents) in their assumed names. One of the suspects assumed the identity of a Canadian by the name of Christopher Robert Mestos, who died in childhood. The suspect was arrested in Cyprus but fled after posting bail; his true identity remains unknown. Three other members of the group also assumed Canadian identities, with Andrey Bezrukov posing as Donald Heathfield, Elena Vavilova as Tracey Foley and Natalia Pereverzeva as Patricia Mills.

Passport fraud is a topic that surfaces with some frequency in relation to espionage cases. (The Israelis used passport fraud during the January 2010 operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas militant commander.) Passport fraud is also frequently committed by individuals involved in crimes such as narcotics smuggling and arms trafficking, as well as by militants involved in terrorist plots. Because of the frequency with which passport fraud is used in these types of activities — and due to the importance that curtailing passport fraud can have in combating espionage, terrorism and crime — we thought it a topic worth discussing this week in greater detail. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Security Features for e-Passports Assembled in High-Risk Locations

June 21st 2010

Travel - Passport

Last month, a gunman opened fire on an insurance building in the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya, piercing the glass windows of the People’s Alliance for Democracy headquarters with 11 millimeter caliber bullets.

A few weeks earlier, bombs made from powerful plastic explosives were detonated near transmission towers in the same city in an unsuccessful effort by terrorists to darken the manufacturing district. The violent episodes hardly registered in the United States. Few Americans have heard of Ayutthaya, after all, or know of a reason to pay attention to it.

But there is a reason, one directly connected to America’s security. The key electronic components for millions of American e-Passports, the crown jewel of a new U.S. border security system, have been put together inside a little-known factory in Ayutthaya for the past four years. Read more ..

Destination Africa

Be Prepared for Spontaneity while Traveling Africa by Taxi

May 24th 2010

Africa Topics - Taxi in Guinea

Travel in Africa has always been precarious; but somehow, and often miraculously, one usually gets from point A to point B, and often on time too. Instead of modern, efficient and congested subway systems –too difficult and costly to construct- urban Africa moves above ground. Although the wheel wasn’t invented here, it would have been sooner or later, if it hadn’t been introduced. 

Though overshadowed by Nairobi, the current regional hub of eastern Africa, Kampala, Uganda, is catching up fast, thanks to the mobile phone (which reached here several years before Kenya), - and the wheel. While it is normal to take two hours to cross down-town Nairobi, longer when it rains, Kampala has the “boda-boda,” the motor-cycle taxis, which move you around fast. In Nairobi they hardly exist. Read more ..

The Traveler's Edge

Volcanic Ash Again Disrupts European Air Travel

May 10th 2010

Environment Topics - Iceland volcano
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland

Volcanic ash from Iceland's erupting volcano is again grounding flights in Europe as it continues to spread across the continent. Millions of travelers are being affected as flights are canceled and delayed. Civil aviation authorities say the disruption could last for several more days.

The European Air Traffic navigation and safety organization, Eurocontrol, says it expects further flight disruptions across European airspace as a plume of ash from the Icelandic volcano snakes through southern France, Switzerland and northern Italy. The ash, stretching up from the surface to about 6,000 meters (about 3.7 miles), has forced the closure of a number of airports in northern Italy. The Italian civil aviation authorities announced there would be no flying over a large part of the north of the country most of Sunday due to the ash cloud. The airport in Venice, a major tourist destination, has so far been spared and is still open for travel. But other popular arrival points, like Pisa and Florence, are closed. Passengers are being urged to check details of their flights before traveling to airports. Read more ..

The Traveler's Edge

Be Secure in Your Hotel

April 26th 2010

Travel - Do not disturb

“Be Prepared” is the official motto of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but its message is equally important for travelers as well.  While attacks on hotels such as those in Pakistan, India and Indonesia are extremely rare, it is a good idea to be prepared for any and all emergencies when staying in hotels, regardless where they are or how many stars they sport.

The following tips come partially from American Airlines, but are equally applicable no matter whether you travel by land, air, or sea:

Upon arrival in your room, locate the nearest emergency exits, elevators and public phones. Always keep your door closed and locked when in your room. Never open your door without first making sure you know who is on the other side of the door. Call the Front Desk to verify unexpected deliveries, room service, or repairs. Place all your valuables in the hotel safe and obtain a written receipt for what you store. Gheck that the hotel’s insurance will cover your items if stolen. Leave the TV or radio on when you leave your room. Do not place the “require maid service” sign on your door; it signals that you are out. If you lose or misplace your key, notify the Front Desk immediately. Avoid riding alone in the elevator with a stranger; ask the hotel for an escort to your room, or ride when there are more people. Check that your room has a deadlock, a chain, and a regular door lock. Make sure you use all of them before going to sleep. If you are concerned about fire or power outages, request a room on a low floor. Keep your mobile phone at hand, pack a charger and make sure the phone is always charged. When traveling abroad, make sure you have a mobile phone that will work in the countries you are visiting. Read more ..

The Traveler's Edge

Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Stalls Air Traffic Across Europe and Grounds Thousands of Passengers

April 19th 2010

Europe Topics - Iceland volcano ash cloud

Meteorologists continue to examine how winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere will be set up between Iceland and Europe over the next few days as an indication to how the ash plume from an Icelandic volcano will behave and affect air travel.

It appears the plume could end up shifting farther south April 20 into April 21 , potentially becoming more concentrated over the United Kingdom and possibly even reaching Germany. Millions of airline passengers will likely continue facing flight delays and cancellations as a result through midweek.

Most recent observations as of April 18 have shown the top of the ash plume extending up to 10,000 feet, on average, above the ground. This height has dropped substantially from the 33,000 feet it was at earlier this past week after the volcano first started erupting. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Shore Leave while Cruising

March 1st 2010

Travel - Cruise Ship

Once you have decided on a cruise holiday, the most important decision you have to make is to choose your ship. After all, no matter how many ports you visit, you will still spend more time aboard ship than ashore. Assuming, however, that the cruise itinerary played a significant role in your selection, it’s most important that you give considerable thought to your shore excursions before you embark on your cruise.

If you or the person you are traveling with has even the slightest mobility problem such as trouble walking or poor balance, avoid a cruise which calls at ports where the ship anchors off-shore rather than alongside a dock. When a cruise ship anchors off shore, the passengers must use the ship’s lifeboats or a tender from the host port to go ashore. Boarding and disembarking from these boats, even in relatively calm waters, can be quite challenging.

As a result, the elderly or the frail often miss going ashore when their ship is anchored. Since brochures rarely spell out this information, call the cruise company and ask them about this before making your booking. Read more ..

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