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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 ..


Travel Activism

Hotels in Mexico Prepare for UN AIDS Conference with Prevention

August 4th 2008

Science - AIDS ribbon
HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon

Mexico and Mexican hotels will join hands with the United Nations campaign on HIV/AIDS at the XVII International AIDS conference to be held in Mexico City August 3-8. Joining UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will be President Felipe Calderón of Mexico to inaugurate the conference that expects 20,000 delegates and 2,000 journalists from around the world. This comes on the heels of the July 28 release of the UNAIDS’s 2008 report on the extent of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Mexican hotels are responding to demand by offering “The Life Initiative – Hotels addressing AIDS,” which is aimed at both hotel guests and staff. The Life Initiative will include the distribution of free male and female condoms, the display of AIDS-related leaflets, posters and brochures, art exhibitions and movies. Condoms will be distributed at all participating hotels via the “condom project”, which has been financed with the support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

“In Mexico, we note that nearly 200,000 people are living with HIV and around 5,000 people died in 2006 from diseases related to AIDS," said César Núñez, the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for UNAIDS. "The XVII International AIDS Conference presents a unique opportunity to involve the local hotel industry on issues related to HIV.”

Mexican hotel employees have already been provided with information on HIV prevention and an overview of the epidemic, and received sensitivity training on issues related to discrimination in the workplace. The five national hotel chains participating in the initiative are Mexican hotel industry giants Grupo Posadas, Hoteles Misión, Grupo Empresarial Ángeles, Grupo Del Ángel and Grupo Hoteles Emporio. In addition, the initiative includes eight international hotel chains. They are Best Western International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Ramada International, Group ACCOR and Four Seasons Hotels. Read more ..


Fabrics of Great Britain

The Not Knowing of Another--Bexhill on Sea

July 14th 2008

Travel - Bexhill on Sea
Promenade at Bexhill on Sea
Christine Matthews

An archetypal English afternoon.  Early July in the last week of Wimbledon.  High white clouds scud across the summer sky revealing lakes of blue periodically.  A gentle Westerly drives them inland and the sun creates sparkle in the gently undulating sea tide washing in.  A dog chases a thrown stick along the seafront panting in the heat and a lone vessel sits on the horizon.  Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex.  Nothing really is happening in a quintessentially Home Counties sort of way. 

A lazy Friday in a pleasant shimmering haze. A coastal resort sandwiched between illustrious neighbors, Eastbourne and Hastings.  Empty Tory blue-and-white striped deckchairs sit symmetrically opposite Romanesque colonnades and an ice cream kiosk.  Straw hats and scooters saunter along promenade.  Seagulls circle and squawk chasing discarded chips on the green by the bandstand and the Union Jack gently flutters.

There is a faded Edwardian elegance here. A town retired, looking out to the waves and reminiscing about lost empire and afternoon tea.  Trying hard to fulfill its role as a healthy retreat and holiday destination. Inland up the hill small shops jostle for the unpassing trade of the bygone 60s and 70s when the working classes had not discovered Spain.  An ironically named hairdressers’ shop; wedding dresses in wedloc dropping the K for trendy tourists who may have got lost on the way to Brighton, and knitwear and kilts touting tartan to absent Americans.  Fish shops fighting a price and plastic-fork war.  Cod and chips, salt and vinegar Bexhill by the sea. Gentle English conservatism with a small sea.

Actually, Bexhill is as quirky and alternative as you should want to get.  Yes it is English, yes it expresses in its architecture and legacy something quintessential about tolerance and innovation, about leadership, expression and understanding and about freedom and resistance to the ordinary. If you start to dig a little bit under the surface of this genteel picture postcard place you start to find some extraordinary things.  Television pioneer John Logie Baird spent his last few months on earth in Bexhill.  The great contemporary comedian Eddie Izzard spent much of his childhood there.  British motor racing was spawned in Bexhill with bicycle boulevard polluted with paraffin and petroleum when illustrious competitors including Lord Northcliffe founder of the Daily Mail newspaper competed in the first-ever race on British soil at speeds of over 50 mph.  Ironically it was won by the more eco-friendly steam powered Easter egg driven by the French racer Monsieur Leon Serpollet.  Read more ..


Inside Poland

Warsaw: The New Jewish Destination

February 20th 2008

Jewish Topics - Warsaw

Many Jews hear the word “Poland” and are filled with visions of anti-Semitism. I understand that perspective.

In the late ’70s, I traveled twice to Poland, both times with Jewish federation missions. Each trip revolved around visits to Auschwitz- Birkenau — experiences that are among the most emotional and up-setting times of my life. I felt confusion, anger and impotence. In this gray communist society, all Poles looked anti-Semitic to me. I wore a yarmulke throughout my time there to show that we had survived, and as a challenge to all around me. From Poland we went to Israel. The message was simple: from the Holocaust to rebirth, from almost unquenchable evil to light and hope.

I never thought I would go back to Poland. But I returned last month at the urging of Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube and Jerzy Halbersztadt, the director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. I went from Israel to Poland on El-Al. That the order of my trip was reversed was a harbinger of the whole experience.

Warsaw was its customary winter gray, but not as cold as I was warned it might be. My room at the Novotel Centrum Hotel was brighter and more user-friendly than the one I had just left in Herzliya Petuach. In discussions with many Poles, I found the attitude of the people and government much like what I had experienced in Germany during the early ’90s — the government was supportive of America and Israel, the people were hungry for democracy and capitalism.

I am not saying that anti-Semitism has vanished. One only has to read “Difficult Questions in Polish-Jewish Dialogue,” co-published by the American Jewish Committee and the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, to be disabused of that notion, but there is a dramatic difference from my trips in the ’70s. Read more ..


Reporter's Notebook

24 Hours in London

December 11th 2007

Contributors / Staff - David Horovitz
David Horovitz

I touched down at Heathrow at a little after one in the afternoon on Tuesday, knowing that I would be back at the airport precisely 24 hours later.

I'd been invited to London by the Zionist Federation, a venerable institution now undergoing a certain reinvigoration, which had organized a lecture to mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War.

I'd imagined that my talk would be one of a series of such events arranged by the Anglo-Jewish community, an opportunity to recall Israel's near-miraculous confounding of President Nasser's plans for our elimination and to inform another generation - Jews and the rest of the Brits - about the circumstances of that defining conflict.

But I was mistaken.

Despite the snowballing campaign in the UK to delegitimize Israel, and the consequent imperative for Israel's diplomatic representatives and the Anglo-Jewish leadership to seize any and every opportunity to promulgate a nuanced narrative, there was no such communal celebration and education program.

There had been a ceremony to mark the coincidental 25th anniversary of the shooting at the Dorchester Hotel of ambassador Shlomo Argov on June 3, 1982, the act of terrorism that precipitated what we must now learn to call the First Lebanon War. But this was a low-key, formal commemoration. The embassy had planned no major '67-related event.

A respected former cabinet minister flew in on the same day as I did to give lectures about the Six Day War anniversary, but it turned out these were private briefings to a select few. Read more ..


Culinary Edge

Iron Chef meets IndeBleu

November 18th 2007

IndeBlue Chef
Chef Ricky Moore

Washington’s tres chic Indebleu Restaurant has just appointed Chef Ricky Moore as its new Executive Chef.  He replaces Chef Vikram Garg who oversaw the Indebleu kitchen for nearly three years and helped establish modern Indian cuisine in Washington, DC area. Chef Moore will oversee all operational aspects of the kitchen while continuing to develop Indebleu’s modern cuisine featuring Indian flavors.


Chef Moore previously worked at several noted Washington establishments, including Agraria at Washington’s Waterfront, as well as Equinox, Galileo, Vidalia, and Lespinasse restaurants. He also served as exec chef at Parrot Cage and South Water Kitchen, both in Chicago. 
Chef Moore is scheduled to compete on a special Thanksgiving themed "Iron Chef America" November 18th on The Food Network. The restaurant will host its best customers for a special viewing that night in its lounge with the Chef on hand to serve themed appetizers.


Discriminatory Insurance

Stop Life Insurance Discrimination Against Travelers

September 23rd 2007

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

The U.S. House of Representatives finally has passed a bill to protect consumers from unfair life insurance discrimination on the basis of past or future foreign travel. This is a much needed and welcome development. For far too long, insurance companies have routinely denied coverage to individuals because of their travel plans.

This unfair practice has adversely impacted everyone from tourists to corporate executives to students studying abroad. Insurance companies typically ask questions on life insurance applications about past or future travel destinations. Those travelers listing countries appearing on the U.S. State Department’s advisory list – including Israel - have too often found themselves rejected for coverage.

We understand that the insurance industry relies on risk assessment to determine whether to provide coverage, but denials should only occur when bona fide statistical differences in risk or exposure have been substantiated. Read more ..


Travel on Television

History Channel Finding Its way with Lost World--Masada

History Channel logo

No one should venture a trip to Masada without first viewing the History Channel's "Lost World" episode regarding Herod's monumental works in ancient Israel, especially at Masada.The "you discover" epsiode is packed with the type of computer graphics and visualizations that generate greater views and perspectives than the standard long shots of the ramps and staging areas below. Of particular interest is the explanation of Herod's innovative mountaintop mid-desert bath houses which generated both steam and cool water in an arid desert where nearby water did not exist. To bring even greater life to the history, trying viewing the two-part dramatic series Masada. The story of Masada is one of history's first great mass sacrifice for freedom, and enduring tale to this day.

Grand Opening

Spertus Institute Readies for a Grand Reappearance--from Wolfgang Puck to "The Transfer Agreement"

September 7th 2007

Spertus
Spertus Institute

Chicago’s Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is finally moving into its long-awaited new home on trendy South Michigan Ave. November 30, 2007, the acutely angular 10-story glass edifice, $55 million in the making, will open its doors for studies, research, and cultural amazement. Spertus’s college, museum, collections and performance venues along with the Asher Library and Chicago Jewish Archives will function beneath tenth floor garden bestowing sweeping views of majestic Lake Michigan and Grant Park.

Among the special features, Spertus will provide a 400-seat multimedia theater for speaking events, music, dance and film. Wolfgang Puck Catering will operate the kosher café. The Chicago Jewish Archives, managed by archivist Joy Kingsolver, offers more than 200 valuable collections, including the pivotal records of Chicago Zionists instrumental in the dramatic events swirling around the Holocaust and establishment of the State of Israel.

Among the Chicago Jewish Archives collection supervised by the hardworking Kingsolver is collection 72, the original research files used by author Edwin Black in assembling his bestselling award-winning book, The Transfer Agreement. Read more ..


Human Rights

An Olympian Challenge in China

August 11th 2007

World Scenes - Olympic torch
Yao Ming with the olympic torch

The world was riveted by the photograph of a young man facing down a caravan of tanks on Tiananmen Square in June, 1989.
If people were unaware of human rights violations until then, this vivid illustration of protest left no doubt. The unknown “Tank Man” became an everlasting symbol of resistance to tyranny.

With the Beijing Olympics (“One World, One Dream”) less than a year away, attention once again focuses on The People’s Republic. Now that China ranks as chief trading partner of the US, fifth largest of Canada and crucial to the economy of many other nations, it is becoming more difficult for outsiders to remain ostriches about the Human Rights issue.

Stories abound of religious oppression, slave labor, harvesting organs of political prisoners, implementation of the one child policy through forced abortion, capital punishment for minor crimes, incarceration of journalists and political dissidents. Like the weather, everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Well, not exactly nobody.

Tibet is a prominent human rights issue. Students for a Free Tibet, who recently unfurled a banner saying “Free Tibet” at the Great Wall, were expelled from China and received wide press coverage. The exiled Dalai Lama is a tour de force of publicity for the Tibetan issue.

The Chinese attempt to do away with Tibetan feudalism has resulted in a form of cultural genocide. Violence is not the only tool used to accomplish this end. The recent construction of a railway from Beijing to Lhasa encourages Han Chinese, the ethnic majority, to migrate to Tibet where they are given priority in employment and housing. Tibetans have become a minority in their own land, allegedly forbidden to be taught in their language and paying more for education than their Chinese “invaders.” Concern that the railway will be instrumental in ecological destruction weighs heavily on environmentalists. Read more ..



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