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Question of the Day: Is Cruising Safe?

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The Costa Concordia’s accident off the Italian coast is a horrible tragedy, with at least 11 people dead and others still missing. But the industry’s record for safety remains strong: Nearly 14 million people cruise each year on major cruise ships, and few industry watchers can even remember the last time a fire or ship failure resulted in passenger deaths.

The U.S. Coast Guard is involved with safety aspects of the cruise ship design before it is even built. Once launched, each cruise ship that sails from the U.S. must pass U.S. Coast Guard certification. Each is inspected at least every six months on both announced and unannounced inspections that include reviewing staff safety procedures. Crews are drilled regularly on safety procedures. Those that don’t sail from U.S. ports still must meet safety standards set by individual countries and by SOLAS, an international safety and standards convention that is set by International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations.

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Hotel Guests Recruited with Homeland Security TV Spots

USA Today |  The Department of Homeland Security is recruiting hotel guests to join the fight against terrorism.

Starting today, the welcome screens on 1.2 million hotel television sets in Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn and other hotels in the USA will show a short public service announcement from DHS. The 15-second spot encourages viewers to be vigilant and call law enforcement if they witness something suspicious during their travels. (…)

The PSA, which will be interspersed with other messages on the welcome screen, will be the same in all 5,400 hotels that LodgeNet serves. It ends by telling viewers to contact "local authorities."

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Major D.C. Monuments Close After Quake

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NBC - Washington, D.C.
|  Cracking was found in the stones at the top of the Washington Monument Tuesday evening, the National Park Service reported.

The crack was located in one of the triangular faces at the top of the monument.  It runs at an angle, and measures approximately 4 inches. (...)

Although the grounds near the Monument reopened on Tuesday, the interior is closed to visitor until further notice.  Authorities put up a fence creating a 150-foot perimeter at the Monument's base.

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Photo credit: Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corporation

Radiation-Free Full-Body Scanners

BBC Travel's Passport Blog |  As controversy simmers surrounding the levels of radiation used in full body scanners, a small company based in the United Kingdom has developed a machine that emits no radiation at all.

Last year, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began installing two types of full body scanners at airport security checkpoints across the country. L3’s Provision millimetre wave scanners beam radio waves through clothing to detect potentially dangerous objects hidden by terrorists. Rapiscan backscatter scanners use low-dose x-rays to do the same.

While both companies and the TSA say the radiation emitted by these machines is at safe levels, the scientific community has not reached a strong consensus either way....

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All-Female Tourist Police to Protect Visitors in Acapulco

eTurbo News |  A help-wanted ad in the Mexican Pacific state of Guerrero is drawing rebuke from some women's rights groups.

In effect, the ad says: Wanted: Women ages 18-26, who are at least 5-foot-5 and whose weight is proportional to that height. Must have good physical and mental health. Knowledge of English is a plus.

The job? A new, all-female tourist police force proposed for Guerrero's most popular visitor destinations, including Acapulco.

"The idea is to have a police force comprised of only women, preferably beautiful ones," said Ramon Almonte Borja, head of the state's public security secretariat.

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Can't Make This Up: Turtles on Runway Cause Delay at JFK

View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

NBC New York |  Travelers were delayed at John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday morning after about 150 turtles ambled onto a runway and blocked air traffic from moving.

JetBlue first tweeted news of the slowdown, with the hashtag #cantmakethisup.

The Port Authority later confirmed that workers had to clear the notoriously slow reptiles out of the area. The migration is a familiar occurrence at the airport, which is located near Jamaica Bay. The turtles typically head out of the bay to nest on the beach each summer.

The turtles were mostly gathered on runway 4L, plus nearby taxiways, starting at about 6:45 a.m., the Port Authority said.

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US and Other Countries Easing Japan Travel Restrictions

BBC.com News |  While the situation in northern Japan is still facing numerous challenges, life in the rest of Japan is returning to normal faster than most would have expected.

As a result, the US State Department and other countries' foreign offices are adjusting previous advice to defer all trips to Japan.

For example, as of this morning, the US State Department advises citizens to defer non-essential trips to Tokyo and defer all travel to the evacuation zone around Fukushima. But it's given the green light to travel elsewhere in Japan.

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Doing the Safety Dance with Richard Simmons on Air NZ

We don't know if this new in-flight safety video from Air New Zealand featuring eccentric  weightloss personality Richard Simmons is brilliant. Or brilliantly bad. But it is entertaining.

Follow the high-kicking spandex-clad crew as they do The Pony and The Duck while stowing carry-ons and reaching for oxygen masks. It's not quite Sweatin' to the Oldies, but it does earn beaucoup points on our '80s kitsch-o-meter.

Lessons from Japan: Earthquake Survival 101

Events are moving quickly in Japan as engineers at a nuclear plant in Fukushima are trying to bring three stricken reactors under control. Tokyo is 170 miles south from Fukushima, and though prevailing winds are sweeping most of the radiation to the Pacific Ocean, residents say a feeling of anxiety pervades the capital. Aftershocks wake them up at night. Lines are long at supermarkets, where staples such as milk and rice are selling out quickly. “The streets are eerily quiet compared to the usual hustle and bustle of this massive city,” says Rachael White, an American teacher and blogger based in Tokyo. White and others, however, note that people remain calm—a reflection of Japanese fortitude.

As a traveler, the most you can do in the event of a nuclear meltdown is get as far away as possible or head for the basement. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival in an earthquake and/or a tsunami. Japan is located in the world’s most seismically active regions—the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the West Coast. About 90 percent of earthquakes happen here, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And Tokyo is still bracing for the Big One that experts say is long overdue. (Friday’s massive quake occurred along the northeastern fault line, rather than the southwest fault line that affects Tokyo more directly. It last ruptured in 1854.) The second most active region stretches from the Mediterranean into northern India.

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East Coast Snow Impacts Travel Nationwide

Here's hoping you got home before Sunday night, when the season's first blizzard blanketed the northeast under several feet of snow. AOL Travel has several stories of stranded passengers and snarled airports:

Some air passengers endured nightmare delays as a blizzard dropped up to 18 inches of snow on the Northeast and travelers tried to get home from the Christmas holiday break.

Airports shut down in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. But there were storm-caused delays and canceled flights elsewhere too as carriers moved planes around to avoid the storm.

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