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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 ..

Hotel Review

Marcel Hotel Subverts its Attraction with Failures

February 25th 2010

Travel - Marcel Hotel
Marcel Hotel New York City

This hotel could be a major address for the informed traveler on a budget. Certainly, the rooms in this beat-up building are updated, sleek, bright and even playful. Travelers will find the accommodations warm and cozy with a flare. Service is exemplary as the friendly staff tries hard. A rooftop patio has enormous potential.

But two major problems rule this property out as a first, second, or third choice. Management has chosen to make the coffee machine inoperable during the breakfast hours and turns it on only after say 10 AM or 11 AM. This means groggy people waking up with typical early morning departures or commitments cannot grab a cup of coffee easily as they would expect at the public access coffee machine. This is deliberate. Management wants to drive morning coffee and breakfast to the expensive restaurant connected to the property. Anyone who wants to go outside for coffee can cross a few busy intersections for a Starbucks--but this is not inviting as a wake-up. Hence, management is willing to inconvenience their customers to score a meal for the rental property. Read more ..

Destination Spain

The Ghosts of Europe's Past, Present, and Future in Spain's Pyrenees

December 28th 2009

Architecture - Estacion Canfranc

In the midst of the Pyrenees range of Spain lies a relic of history that continues to attract visitors to the scenic valley of Canfranc in Aragon. One of the most beautiful rail stations in the world, that served as a location for the filming of “Doctor Zhivago,’ lies mouldering in the a valley that for centuries served as a way station for pilgrims crossing the mountains from France as they made their way to the shrine of St. James the Apostle at the eponymous city of Santiago de Compostela. Situated in the province of Huesca, in what was once the Kingdom of Aragon, Canfranc (‘field of foreigners’) lies in the vertiginous valley of the Aragón river.

Few places in Europe are as evocative of the past, and the tangled international interests of Continental governments, their pomp and misplaced optimism. Inaugurated with pomp and circumstance on July 18, 1928 by King of Spain Alfonso XIII and Gaston Doumergue President of France, the station at Canfranc was at the time the largest train station in Europe, surpassing even St. Pancras station in London. No doubt the two heads of state believed then that national sovereignty, and the principle that good borders make good neighbours, would always be true and that their monument to those raisons d’etat would always stand to attest their memory.

Certainly, nothing was spared in engineering the railways that led to the station nor in the building itself which was to become an exemplar of Art Nouveau. Created by Spanish architect Fernando Ramírez de Dampierre, construction continued from 1921 to 1925. It was decided that the station would be built in Spain since the terrain in nearby France would have been impossible. The station measures some 750 feet long, with 75 doors on each side and more windows than days in a year.

Edge on Germany

Dresden: Up from the Ashes

October 12th 2009

Travel - Dresden

Dresden, the capital of Saxony, was founded in the early 13th century, but the date that is indelibly etched on the minds of all Dresdeners is February 13, 1945 – the night when the city was razed to the ground in an iconic air raid and some 25,000 of its citizens perished. Prior to that fateful night, Dresden was one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and was often called “the Florence of the North.” Arguments have persisted ever since whether the raid was strategically justified or whether it was “Churchill’s revenge” for Coventry-- and the discussion continues.

What has happened, however, is that like the proverbial Phoenix, Dresden has risen from the ashes and has regained her stunning beauty. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Roaming the Hunting Grounds of a Zulu King

October 5th 2009

Travel - Thula Thula Africa
Thula Thula

If you dream of an African safari adventure, but the idea of roughing it seems a bit daunting, Thula Thula Exclusive Private Game Reserve and Safari Lodge offers the best of both worlds for people who crave nature but want to be nurtured. Located on a malaria-free reservation in Zululand forty-five minutes from Richards Bay Airport and two hours from Durban, guests of Thula Thula have the opportunity to experience the African wilderness while dining on gourmet cuisine and sleeping in luxury tents and lodges.

Once the private hunting grounds of Zulu Empire founder King Shaka, Thula Thula Private Game Reserve is home to hundreds of wild animals, including elephants, baboons, zebras, giraffes, leopards, buffaloes and hyenas. Resort guests are encouraged to participate in morning and evening game drives. Each drive is approximately two and a half hours with a break for coffee, tea or wine.

Thula Thula trackers and rangers are professional, knowledgeable and friendly and if there is a particular animal you would like to see, they will make every effort to locate it for you. Be sure to take both the morning and early evening drives, as each offers a different experience. Guests are also encouraged to participate in guided bush walks, where they will learn about native South African flora and fauna and facts about wildlife habitat and habits.


Destination Edge

Wagner Lives on in Bayreuth

September 28th 2009

Travel - Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Bayreuth is the site of the annual Wagner Festival and one of the prettiest towns in Bavaria. Although it is often confused with Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, it remains largely undiscovered except, of course, by passionate Wagnerians lucky enough to obtain festival tickets.

Located on the banks of the River Main in Upper Franconia (the northern- most Principality of the former Kingdom of Bavaria) Bayreuth and Richard Wagner are inextricably linked, a connection which overshadows many attractions of the city. It is true that no visit to Bayreuth is complete without at least touring the Festspielhaus, the unique opera house which sits on a hilltop location that dominates its surroundings. This historic structure was built for Wagner exclusively for performances of his “Ring”. But that is only the icing on top of the Rococo cake that is Bayreuth.

Due to Hitler’s admiration for Wagner, Bayreuth was tarred with the Nazi brush during the Third Reich. However, when we visited recently we found not a trace of Neo-Nazi sympathy. On the contrary, possibly due to the establishment of a first-class research university in 1975, as well as the annual pilgrimage of world-renowned musicians, Bayreuth today is an international cultural center. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Visit East Africa and say 'Hakuna Matata'

September 14th 2009

Travel - Wildebeests in Serengeti

No more snow or below-zero temperatures? Wake up every morning to bright sunshine and the songs of tropical birds? That’s the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on the edge of Lake Victoria. Or to the roaring of the ocean, with a spectacular sunrise guaranteed every morning? Zanzibar, the spice island, or Mombasa, the vibrant tourist centre on the Indian Ocean, with its 16th century fortress and old town largely intact. Perhaps a national park within a stone’s throw from your room, with lions, gazelles, rhinos, hippos and a bewildering array of monkeys.

You’re in Nairobi, the mile-high capital of Kenya, home of the marathoners and long- and medium-distance men and women runners. Or further inland, forested mountains rise beyond more forested mountains, as far as you can see. Kigali, the spick and span, highly organised capital of Rwanda, whose only offer to tourists is the mountain gorilla? Only offer? A comfortable two-hour drive from the capital and you reach the forest where the shy creatures hide and can be visited by few people at a time. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read more ..

Destination Edge

A Summer of Enlightenment and Memories in Edinburgh

August 24th 2009

Europe Topics - Edinburgh

This August, let us forget for a moment our economic woes and take a stroll in the beautiful city of pre-Goodwin Edinburgh, where I spent many years at school and university and working in a stockbroking firm. In those days, Scotland did not yet have its own Parliament, but it still had its own stock exchange, the former Scottish Stock Exchange with a small trading floor in Glasgow.

Edinburgh manifests in various ways the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. The royal palace of Holyrood was rebuilt in the seventeenth century in good Louis XIV style. The famous New Town was built from 1767 onwards for the nobility and upper classes of the Age of Enlightenment, who no longer tolerated the gloom, congestion and squalor of the mediaeval Old Town, clinging to the skirts of the grandiose Castle, high in its rock. The New Town is vividly reminiscent of the gracious streets of eighteenth-century Bordeaux. The more recent Victorian buildings and park of Bruntsfield give this open, elegant quarter some resemblance to the Parisian Champ de Mars. Read more ..

Cuba on the Edge

Cuba Elevates Urban Gardening To a Cause

August 17th 2009

Latin American Topics - Cuban Urban Gardening

Sunlight brightens the paved streets and historic buildings of Havana, Cuba, bouncing off the tents of vendors and the tin drums of a street band. Once stricken by poverty and inequality, the city has slowly blossomed as a result of the bustling enterprise of urban agriculture. Between buildings and behind street walls, in every green space available, locals have cultivated crops, utilizing the techniques of sustainable urban farming.

After years of isolation from the United States and the former Soviet Union, Cuba has independently fostered development of urban agriculture and now provides an environment of growth and structure for its economic, social and political policies.

Cuba is the only country in the world that has developed an extensive state-supported infrastructure to support urban food production. Functionally, this system was established in response to acute food shortages in the early 1990s, which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the island was forced to find an alternative manner of cultivating crops. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Visiting Portland Means Sailing into a Seafaring Tradition

August 10th 2009

Travel - Portland ME Lighthouse
Portland, Maine

Maine is not only the most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi, but one of the most beautiful, whose people are hospitable to a fault, cherish traditional American values and have a deep sense of pride in their history. You sense this immediately when visiting Portland which, with a population of only 65,000, is the largest city in the state. As you stroll through downtown, you are impressed by the Victorian architecture and cobblestone streets. In the Old Port, great brick buildings, once warehouses for local merchants, now house funky shops, galleries and restaurants catering to every taste and budget.

Portland is still a great seaport with an amazing, rocky shoreline. The best way to experience this is to take a short cruise on Casco Bay, where you will see some of America’s oldest and best known lighthouses as well as gracious summer homes built atop hills looking down upon the sea. During World War II, Portland was home port to the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic fleet and it was there that the legendary Liberty ships were built. Read more ..

Traveler's Edge

Can Mathematics Overcome Jet Lag?

June 29th 2009

Travel - Jet Lag

We all know what jet lag feels like. But is it really. Doctors tell us a major cause of jet lag is the desynchronization of the body’s internal clock and the local environment when a person travels across several time zones. Symptoms include trouble sleeping at night and trouble staying awake during the day.

Now reducing jet lag is the aim of a new mathematical methodology and software program developed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The new methodology and software program helps users resynchronize their internal clocks with the local time using light cues. The software program gives users exact times of the day when they should apply countermeasures such as bright light to intervene in the normal course of jet lag.

The findings were published in the June 19 issue of PLoS Computational Biology.

“This work shows how interventions can cut by half the number of days needed to adjust to a new time zone,” says Daniel Forger, an assistant professor of mathematics and a research assistant professor in the Department of Computational Medicine and Biology at the U-M Medical School. Forger is an author of the paper. Read more ..

Edge of Africa

Cape Verde's Largest Island Struggles to Balance Tourism, Development

June 15th 2009

Travel - Cape Verde
Cape Verde

With a growing tourist industry sweeping the islands of Cape Verde, the nation faces a quandary over how to preserve its tradition and culture while maximizing the potential windfall from the spectacular natural beauty of the remote African archipelago.

Guide Joao Monteiro steps lightly amidst the ruins of a 16th century fort, on a hill overlooking the town of Cidade Velha on the southern coast of the Cape Verdean island of Santiago. The impressive stone walls of the structure, he explains, have recently been rebuilt with financial support from the Spanish government, with the hopes of bringing more tourists to the town.

Cidade Velha, founded by the Portuguese in 1462, is the oldest European settlement in the tropics. But on this day at the fort, painstakingly reconstructed stone by stone by Spanish archaeologists with the help of the local population, few visitors are to be found. Monteiro says tourism on Santiago is not growing at the rate of other Cape Verdean islands.


Plague Days

Mexico's Tourism Industry Reels from Latest Body Blow--Swine Flu

April 28th 2009

Latin American Topics - Mexico Plague Days

Mexicans, known to lament ironically that their country is too far from God and too close to the United States, now have even more to worry them following a triple whammy of an economic downturn, continued narcotics-related violence, and now the outbreak of what could become a pandemic of swine flu. Tourism, a mainstay for Mexico – which has not only glorious beaches, but also soaring pre-Colombian temples and Spanish colonial cathedrals – has already taken a hit but now stands to receive a mortal body blow. 

Victims of swine-flu in New York City, among them a group of students who had recently visiting Mexico’ sun and sin capital Cancún, are among the tourists directly affected. Now it is tour operators, airlines, and hotels which are also affected. The Mexican government has shuttered schools and universities, as well as other public venues throughout Mexico City, while armed soldiers are grimly handing out surgical masks to the citizenry in an effort to stem the contagion of swine flu. Read more ..

Travel Advisory

Deadly Outbreak in Mexico Jumps the Border into the U.S.

April 27th 2009

Science - Virus

A deadly flu virus, never before noted, has killed at least 20 persons in Mexico and has now appeared in the United States. Eight people were infected by the H1N1 swine flu virus in the U.S. but have now recovered. The virus found among the U.S. patients, according to the World Health Organization, is the very same that was found in 12 of the Mexican patients. The border between the two countries remains open to tourist and business visitors even during the outbreak and despite increasing concern at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta GA.

According to health officials, the outbreak has not yet reached pandemic levels. However, Mexican authorities are not taking any chances with the virus that has now spread to human-to-human contact. On April 23, Mexico cancelled school in the nation’s capital and surrounding districts in an effort to stem the wave of infection. Large public gatherings such as concerts and sporting events have been suspended.

Ordinary citizens have taken to wearing surgical masks so as prevent contagion. Workers at Mexico City's restaurants and taco stands are taking precautions too. At least one pharmacy has reported a run on surgical masks: it sold out its stock within hours. Read more ..

Edge of the Mexican Crisis

Mexico Opens a Public Relations Front in the Narcotics War

March 9th 2009

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2
Mexican police

The Mexican government’s battle against drug cartels has opened yet another front attempting to repel the onslaught of bad publicity that the bloodshed has cast onto the country’s international image. Mexico’s instinctual reputation is being eroded into one that invokes chaos and violence rather than stability and order, making many uneasy and concerned over the country’s future political and economic future. Some of these are friends of Mexico; others are not.

The murmurs from Washington come in the ominous shape of travel advisories and insecurity threats from the State Dept. and the dire analysis by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which dares to think the unthinkable:

Mexico’s possible implosion into a failed state

Mexico City has duly responded to the criticism in full force this week by mobilizing a coordinated response to placate the wave of negative press. In an interview with the AP, President Calderon attempted to diffuse the idea of a failed Mexico by claiming, “To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false, I have not lost any part — any single part — of the Mexican territory.” Read more ..

Destination Mexico

Sample Mexico's Aztec Heritage at its Restaurants

January 19th 2009

Travel - Mexican Appetizers

No offense meant to Mom and apple pie, but the best American cuisine (that is to say, on the two American continents) by far is found in Mexico. The mestizo culture that ensued after the intermingling of Spanish adventurers and native American peoples produced a bronze race and fascinating cuisine of an infinite variety of textures and flavors. Mexico gave to the world its foods and flavors, including cacao, turkeys, maize, avocados, tomatoes, and chilies. These have gone on to embellish the cuisines of countries all over the world.

It is unfortunate that most Americans’ exposure to Mexican cooking may be limited to Taco Bell or the seemingly infinite number of family-owned restaurants serving Mexican fare. This food, which is largely Tex-Mex – which may have given the United States both burritos and chile con carne – is good but only faintly Mexican. The best path to true Mexican is to go to land of the Aztecs itself and sample the best the country has to offer. Read more ..

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