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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travel Safety-- WE ARE Passengers Not Prisoners

I want to share a little website with you than my old friend Ian put together, Passengers Not Prisoners. I think any traveler will relate to it. Ian's an anger-management and conflict resolution counselor and lecturer. He's way into violence prevention and is always on the road speaking at shelters, schools, hospitals, clinics, and drug-treatment programs. (He's also a record producer and concert promoter.) This is the intro he wrote for Passengers Not Prisoners:

“(Don’t) stay in your place.”

Freely exercise the right to travel, and more fully know your world and that it is almost invariably a safe place. The vast majority of the people on the planet are not benevolent, they are simply indifferent to you.

The world is not becoming more dangerous, it is becoming safer. A person was six times more likely to be murdered in the Middle Ages than today. It is just that today, through the mass-media, we hear about more instances which leads to a distorted sense of jeopardy.

People invariably only attack one category of victims: those that they feel deserve it. Out of the over 6-billion people alive today, they have better people to harm than you so the key is to not give them a reason to do it. (Even among those incarcerated for violent crimes, in study after study it has consistently been found that less than 6 percent of them can be clinically classified as sadistic.)

Aggression is communication, arguably the first act of communication. All individuals, no matter how wrong they may be, at the moment of action believe that they are right. Counter-attacking only leads to an intensification of conflict and a greater sense of isolation and opposition. Empathy (emotional understanding of others) and education are the most potent antidotes to softening adversarialism.

I've been traveling since I was 16 years old, when I tried to hitch hike to Miami Beach from Brooklyn to spend Pessach with my grandparents. Two years later I succeeded in hitching to Los Angeles, where I stowed away on a ship headed for-- in a roundabout way-- Tonga. I still haven't gotten to Tonga... but I'm workin' on it. Meanwhile, all of what Ian is talking about is the kind of stuff I've experienced first hand-- walking around in "wild" places, from Timbuktu and Cairo, East Jerusalem, Tangier, Kandahar, Katmandu, Tehran, East Berlin (back in the day), Mexico City, the slums of Bombay, Calcutta, Istanbul... and, yes, it all seemed mighty safe.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like the ruling elites are discouraging travel and drumming up divisiveness across the world. Ian addresses it as Homeland Insecurity:

A fundamental confusion seems to have occurred. The government and the entire transportation industry exists because of us. They work for us (the citizens), we do not work for them. The harassment and systematic subjugation of innocent and law-abiding individuals must stop.

Positive change almost always fails because of the inability of a system to admit its own failure, instead amplifying the intensity of what it is already doing rather than truly changing course, and, thus, compounding the original error.

Raise the bar higher and the competition inevitably rises as well. Feeling secure does not equal true security. Some risk will always exist. We will never have (…and never have had) total world peace. All that we can strive for is ever-increasing relative peace. 80 percent of the resources should not be spent attempting to control the ultra-exceptional (i.e., far less than 1 percent of instances) that by their very unique and extreme nature are unpreventable.

Clearly, the next terrorist attack will come from within the system designed to prevent it. As the system grows larger and the number of employees goes up, so does the exposure, as well as standards and ability to supervise going down.

UPDATE: Airline Food-- Worse Than You Thought

It's kind of been a truism of air travel for decades that the food isn't too good-- although in international first class it kind of is. But do the roaches and bacteria know first class from steerage? FDA inspectors found a host of health violations in recent inspections of the 3 major airline catering facilities (serving Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental). The conditions for the food prep were rated "unsanitary and unsafe."
The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control.

Friday, June 18, 2010

10 Most Well-Known Addresses in the World

Sheryl Owen asked me to share a post, 10 Most Well-Known Addresses in the World from her blog here. The first thing that struck me off about it was that the 4th best known address in the world, and the first outside of the U.S., was 221B Baker Street in London, home of the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I used to have an office in London down the street from there. I would pass it every day. It was never all that busy-- not in the mornings, not at lunch time, not in the evenings, not in the summer and not in the winter. It wasn't deserted. It just wasn't a big deal. And it's better known than 10 Downing Street? And no Kremlin? Tiananmen Square? Masjid al-Haram, home of the Kaaba? The UN? [UPDATE: Bruce Tenenbaum e-mailed me three minutes after this was posted and asked where the Taj Mahal is on the list. Good question.]

Well, thank God there's nothing in Las Vegas listed. My next stop is Marrakesh and I would have thought the Djemaa el Fna would at least be as well known as... 221 B Baker Street. Their post:

We thought it would be interesting to put together a list of the 10 most popular and/or well-known addresses in the World.  Now the tenants in several of these addresses (at least #1) change on a regular basis, but the fact that these addresses are significant does not change.  The structures and history surrounding each of these will keep them well known for years to come.

1. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC-- This is the address where arguably the World’s most powerful man lives: the President of the United States. Known as the White House, it is located in Washington, DC and it is a national treasure.

2. 11 Wall Street New York, NY-- This is home of the New York Stock Exchange.  Tourists travel here year-round to visit the charging bull statue and to take in the hustle and bustle of one of the financial centers of the world.

3. 350 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10118-- This is where the previous world’s tallest building stands: the Empire State Building. It’s 102 stories high, and is a world-famous attraction for tourists and locals alike.   In addition, it is featured in several Hollywood movies.

4. 221 B Baker St, London, England-- This is the address to the Sherlock Homes Museum (given the address in March of 1990).  When the Sherlock Holmes series of books were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, street numbers in London mostly stopped at 100 and even to this day the Museum’s address is out of sequence on the block.  That didn’t stop it though from becoming one of the most popular addresses of all time.

5. Tour Eiffel Champ de Mars, Paris-- Paris’s number one attraction is this address where the Eiffel Tower stands. For tourists, going to Paris is never complete unless you’ve been here. At night, there are beautiful lights you can’t help but stare at.

6. 4059 Mt Lee Dr. Hollywood, CA 90068-- This is the exact address where the Hollywood sign stands. It’s a mountain, but is now a preserved site to prevent its destruction. It’s featured frequently in Hollywood movies as well.

7. Buckingham Palace, London, England-- The most famous place in the United Kingdom. This palace is where the royal family lives and is often a place of attraction because of its important and beauty. It’s very old and retains its classic yet elegant look.

8. Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island New York, NY 10004-- This is yet another attraction in New York, the Statue of Liberty.  This is a symbol of America’s open arms and welcomed many immigrants into the country.  It’s known around the world and a top tourist destination in the U.S.

9. Manager Square, Bethlehem, West Bank--The Church of the Nativity is located here and this is a very well known and holy site for Christians from around the World.  This is cherished as the site where the baby Jesus was born and laid in the manger.

10. 2 Macquarie Street, Sydney-- This is the most popular place in Australia, the Opera House. Here, you can watch plays, operas, etc. and enjoy the beauty of the place at the same time. It’s a must-see if you’re in Australia and is no doubt the most recognized place in Australia.

It’s actually difficult to stop with just 10 famous addresses from around the World there are so many great places to go and visit and addresses that are extremely important to individual nations and to various religious groups. There are lots of honorable mentions from the Vatican to the world’s tallest building in Dubai, we hope you spend a few minutes to think about all the addresses that you think should be in the top 10 of the World.