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JUST IN

Eurail Passes Now Go to the Czech Republic

The Eurail Group, owner of that post-college summer favorite, the Eurail Pass, has announced further expansions to its product range. As of January 1, 2009, the Czech Republic will be included in the Eurail Global Pass, and Bulgaria is a new option for the One Country Passes.

Introduced simply as the "Eurailpass" in 1959, the Global Pass has seen many extensions over the years, increasing from 13 countries to the 20 countries available today. We're told that, to mark a successful half-decade of rail travel, the Eurail Group will launch several anniversary specials in 2009. Details are yet to be announced, so stay tuned.

JUST IN

Discounted Hotel Rates at Sundance Film Festival

Ski
 Photo: Kevin Arnold/Getty Images

by Beata Loyfman

On January 15, Park City, Utah will play host to the annual Sundance Film Festival. As usual, producers, directors, actors, and wannabes will descend upon the city en masse, driving hotel rates into the skies. Thankfully, you don't have to be a deep-pocketed Hollywood honcho to enjoy the slopes and the Park City vibe, even during the 10-day fest.

The Canyons Ski Resort is now offering a 20% discount on rooms in its Grand Summit Hotel, the Sundial Lodge, and the Silverado Lodge for the duration of the festival--that's as low as $264 per night for a studio with kitchenette! The resort requires a four-night minimum booking, but our sources say that's flexible.

Rooms are flying off the shelves, so book yours before that turkey coma hits.


JUST IN

The Best Deals to Europe Are Yet to Come

Today's the final day of a three-day British Airways sale on fares to London and other European cities, with prices starting at an advertised $396 between New York and London. Virgin Atlantic responded yesterday with its own counter offers, starting at an advertised $416.

Something to keep in mind, though: On our sister blog, the Perrin Post, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin writes, "Prices for transatlantic travel will most likely drop lower--perhaps even much lower--thanks to the downturn in business travel, overcapacity, and further reduction of fuel surcharges."

Of course, we all know that the ticket prices airlines advertise and what they actually cost in the real world bear little relation to each other.  Wendy's done the hard work for you, hashing out the actual cost of the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic tickets.

Further reading:
* The Perrin Post
* Recession Special: Palm Springs Getaway
* Just In: Breaking travel news

JUST IN

Palm Springs Getaway: Recession Special

Empty Airport
Soon to be full of sandals and straw hats.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

If you're one of the millions watching your 401K plummet faster than a parachute-free skydiver, you might find it hard to tell what's worse: the economic downturn (cough, meltdown, cough) or the fact that even the nation's brightest minds have no clue what's going on.

Sadly, investment strategies are not our specialty, but we can help you with a money-saving deal on a great escape: 

With the Viceroy Palm Springs' appropriately named Breathe Easy package, you can hide out in the balmy California valley and receive 25 percent off everything--including rooms, spa services, meals, and drinks. Plus, use of the gym, townie bicycles, and WiFi is free. What does this mean for you? A Regency King room at this chic resort for just $149 per night on weekdays. And with round-trip airline tickets from the east coast hovering around $250, this can be your most cost-effective investment all year.

If Palm Springs isn't your cup of tea, not to worry. Check back here for more travel deals every week.

Further reading:
* Take comfort in Harvard's Brief History of Recessions
* Just In: Breaking travel news

JUST IN

One for My Baby, and One More for the Road

by Guy Martin

Good pilots would not be good were it not for a steely confidence brought about by training. Arrogance can be defined as the abuse of that training. We have an excellent example of such arrogance out of Heathrow: On Sunday, a 44-year-old United Airlines pilot was arrested in the cockpit of his San Francisco-bound aircraft. He's strongly suspected of drinking before the flight.

The investigation will tell us more, but given the early departure--9 a.m.--it's likelier, or it's more generous to believe, that he was hung over and still had an elevated blood alcohol level from a bender the night before than it is to think that he was slamming shots for breakfast. Although some headlong drinkers certainly do both.   

The terse early reports from the Metropolitan Police/Heathrow Station are that the man is out on bail, due to report back to Heathrow police in January on the equivalent of a desk-appearance ticket. For their part, United swiftly placed the pilot on leave, pending investigative results. The thornier questions remain. What was he thinking? The answer to that is, obviously, that he wasn't. Put another way, his arrogance was such that he thought he could pilot a Boeing 777 for 5,300 miles under the influence. According to the Daily Telegraph, one of the ground staff is thought to have turned him in. But: Just when it seemed that our pilots were the last bastion of our inflight trust--the bastion of trust that need not be doubted--this incident seems to raise the specter of yet another "control" system.      

Because the only thing that worked this time was that he got ratted out by somebody who saw him drinking, or who thought he was drunk.

So, to our passengers out there: Should we run a Breathalyzer test on all pilots before each flight, or just some of them some of the time, or none of them ever?    

JUST IN

Dream Trips at the Readers' Choice Awards

RCA
Tango on the red carpet: 30 Rock's
Katrina Bowden and Argentina's
Carlos Enrique Meyer.

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

by Julia Bainbridge

Last night's 21st annual Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards was awash in black cocktail dresses and liberal-leaning jokes. Tony Award-winning actress Jane Krakowski, our host, poked fun at her tendency to photograph foreign food (Viennese pretzels, in particular), editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska shared fond memories from a recent trip to Cairo, and celebrity attendees piled into the Champagne- and blue light-fueled after party at the New York Public Library.

What the event was really about, though, was honoring the winning hotels, resorts, islands, cities, and modes of transportation as decided by our readers--32,633 of them, to be exact. 

The night's theme? "Dream Trip." So right after their photo ops with publisher Lisa Hughes and their Frank Gehry-designed trophies, we asked the award winners: "What is your dream trip?" Below, some of the more interesting answers:

Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports in Thailand, was ready to leave steamy Bangkok behind, if only for a week. "If I have a chance, I would like to go to Alaska for once. I just would like to see what it's like in Alaska."

Not surprisingly, Pamela Conover, President and CEO of Seabourn Cruises, will hop on a ship this January. A 14-day cruise on the Seabourn Spirit will take her from Hong Kong to Singapore and down the coast of Vietnam. "It's really an opportunity to visit those places in Vietnam that it's hard to do by land," she said.

Vikram Oberoi of the Oberoi Group said, "I'm terribly boring. I ride a motorbike, and my dream trip is to go up to a place called Dak To on a motorbike." Doesn't sound so boring to us.

Although we didn't talk extensively about his dream trip, Carlos Enrique Meyer, Argentina's Secretary of Tourism, was too passionate about his homeland to resist a mention. (And he should be: Buenos Aires was voted the number one city to visit in the Americas this year.) When asked what it is about the city that resonates with people, he was short and to the point: "the tango." 

And finally, President and CEO of SFCVB Joe D'Alessandro just wants to stay in San Francisco. "It's not like any other U.S. city. We try to be different. We like the fact that we don't fit in any mold," he said. An insider tip from our readers' favorite U.S. city? "Of course, there's Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square, but people don't necessarily know that the Mission is one of the hottest neighborhoods in the U.S. right now. They have great places to eat, great galleries, phenomenal murals--this kind of eclectic culturally young life. I think it's fantastic." We do, too.

Read the full list of winners here.

JUST IN

The Today Show Features the Readers' Choice Awards

This morning, Condé Nast Traveler's Kate Maxwell talked with the Today Show's Matt Lauer about the Readers' Choice Award winners.

JUST IN

Readers' Choice Winners Announced

Top 100

Okay, so perhaps it wasn't the best night to host the travel industry's event of the year. But in all fairness, both the presidential debate at Hofstra University and our very own travel specialist-packed gala at the marvelous New York Public Library had something in common . . . the power of the ballot. This year 32,633 Condé Nast Traveler readers voted on their favorite hotels, resorts, islands, cities, and modes of transportation, with the end result being perhaps the most varied and highly ranked group of properties and locations ever. Not bad! Thank you, readers, for your participation.   

Click here to view the complete list of tonight's winners. Any surprises? Let us know what you think.

JUST IN

Stay Tuned: Readers' Choice Awards

Cntland_contests

Tomorrow evening, Condé Nast Traveler will host the 21st annual Readers' Choice Awards, a celebration of the destinations, lodgings, and modes of transportation that manage to exceed our expectations. It is also a credit to the worldly expertise of Condé Nast Traveler readers: More than 30,000 of them voted this year for properties from Baden-Baden to Bora Bora. (Their Top 100 is truly global.) So from 6:30 to 11 p.m., cocktail dress-clad hoteliers will fill the New York Public Library with their hosting know-how.

Our Boldface celebrity travel guru, Beata Loyfman, will interview red-carpet strutters as they stream out of their town cars, and Julia Bainbridge, the gluttonous one, will chat up award winners as they exit the stage, gleaming trophies in their hands. Stay tuned for the list of winners, an interactive Google Map of the Top 100 properties, and much more from our Readers' Choice Awards. It'll all be here, on the Daily Traveler, starting moments after the event.

PS. The full Readers' Choice list will hit Condé Nast Traveler's Web site on October 21.

JUST IN

Disney Cruising with Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown
   Savvy cruisers: Me and Samantha Brown.
   Photo: Lorenzo Bevilaqua

by Beata Loyfman

Yesterday, at a luncheon at Aquavit in New York, Disney Cruise Line announced several ambitious new itineraries for its 2010 season. Lest you thought it was all Caribbean and Mickey Mouse, think again: Disney is expanding its guests' horizons by organizing 12-night sails to northern European capitals like Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. Of course, Mickey will still put in an appearance, but he might be squeaking with a Scandinavian accent.

In addition, Disney's Mediterranean itineraries will expand to include Corsica, Tallinn, and even Tunis in northern Africa--that's a long way from the Bahamas, Disney's first port of call.   

To help announce this big news, Disney invited Travel Channel guru Samantha Brown to the event. After dessert, I got to chat with Samantha about her travels. Here's what I learned:

Samantha is a serious cruise enthusiast. She had a ball aboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, loved the elegance of Princess ships, and recommends the Carnival Inspiration for its excellent staff and affordable rates.

Her next trip? Santa Monica, California, to film another installment of Passport to Great Weekends. Travel wish list? Alaska and the Baltic countries. Travel must-haves? Ear plugs, energy bars, and peanut butter.

JUST IN

Queen Rania's Diary

by Julia Bainbridge

We're blogging, you're blogging, Queen Rania's blogging! In her first entry of a weeklong "electrical journal" on Slate, posted yesterday, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan notes that New York is a great place to have jet lag. Good thing she's so positive, since her schedule was packed with Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress, meetings with UNICEF and BRAC, the U.N. General Assembly, and caring for her cold-ridden three-year-old from afar. Whew! Read the full story here.

Further reading:
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* The Daily Traveler blogs live from the World Savers Congress

JUST IN

Air India Bids Paris Adieu

by Bryan Pirolli

Bad news for budget travelers. As of October 24, there will be no more cheap flights from New York to Paris aboard Air India. The carrier will cut its direct service between Newark International and Paris's Charles de Gaulle airports, according to a supervisor at the company. The flight, which ends in India but stops in Paris, has been one of the most inexpensive ways to get to the City of Lights for years. 

I only found this out when I called to change my flight and a representative told me that my flight from Paris would now be aboard Continental. Air India is currently facing the task of arranging flights for all passengers who booked before October 24.

With so many industry changes afoot, this alteration comes as no surprise. But it is a big hit to budget-conscious travelers who rely on the airline to get to France. Fortunately, it seems they can trade in their chicken tikka masala for some coddle and a Guinness. Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier, offers a nice alternative to Air India with a slight difference: The carrier makes a stop in Dublin before heading to Paris. The price, though, is almost unbeatable. 

That being said, in this time of financial uncertainty--Aer Lingus is facing a possible buyout by Ryanair--I wouldn't be surprised if I booked the flight and ended up on United. 

JUST IN

A Polar Year

Polarmeltdown
Photo: Arne Naevra

by Sara Tucker

When Norwegian photographer Arne Naevra entered this picture in the London Natural History Museum's controversial Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the question of whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species was still the subject of hot debate in the U.S. In May, the bear was officially added to the ranks of the threatened. Meanwhile, four months after Naevra's photograph was chosen as runner-up for the One Earth Award, which honors images that "demonstrate the power and resilience of our planet," the contest's sponsor placed a record-breaking bid for drilling rights in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. The sale, opposed by environmentalists, opened 30 million acres of polar bear, walrus, and whale habitat to oil and gas companies. Friends of the world's 25,000 or so remaining polar bears filed suit, generating enough support to win legal protection--for Shell and the six other oil companies involved in the sale. Summer gifted the Arctic with unprecedented melting of sea ice, as well as a record number of tourists, lured in part by doomsday predictions. In early June--as countries scrambled to lay claim to Arctic oil reserves and opponents of the bear's new status gathered their forces--a lone polar bear swam over 200 miles through Arctic waters before reaching the coast of Iceland, where it was shot dead.

JUST IN

Can Travel Help Change the World?

Klara in Rwanda
Klara traveling in Rwanda.

Condé Nast Traveler's editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska thinks so as she wrote in the Huffington Post yesterday:

"The travel industry will generate $8 trillion dollars this year, a figure that is expected to rise to approximately $15 trillion by 2025. That's real global power. Think of the enormous impact this industry can have on the environment and on people's lives. Working together, we can make a positive difference in this world, and now is the time to start."

Read the post, in which Klara Glowczewska talks about Rwanda, our Five & Alive Fund, and this year's upcoming World Savers Congress.

Further reading:
* Klara's week of (not) living dangerously in Rwanda
* Make a Difference
* The CNT Five & Alive Fund
* 2008 World Savers Awards

JUST IN

From the Gulf, With Love

Ike_noaa
Hurricane Ike.
Enhanced satellite image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

by Guy Martin

In the Gulf of Mexico, hurricane season is an endless, hearty series of football weekend frat parties...for the hurricanes. For the 62 meteorologists, forecasters, administrators, and tech support specialists of the National Hurricane Center hunkered down in their war rooms in Miami, it's more like a gauntlet of headlong keggers as faced by campus security.   

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration--the NHC's parent entity--has upped its prediction for the number of storms before November 30, the official end of the season. Specifically, the NOAA puts an 85 percent probability on the gulf and the Atlantic coasts receiving 14 to 18 named storms, of which 7 to 10 will become hurricanes. At least three but as many as six of those will be classified category 3 or higher. The Texas coast, which will be struck by Hurricane Ike this coming Saturday morning, has already been hit twice this season.

"You picked some time to call," says National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen from the depths of the NHC's bustling HQ. Feltgen's got ten minutes; he's apologizing for his lack of time. 

"So here we go," he said grimly. 

The city of New Orleans had just white-knuckled its levees through Labor Day's Hurricane Gustav, 72 hours after which Hanna hit Charleston, and a scant 72 hours after that, Hurricane Ike had polished the western tip of Cuba before, early Wednesday morning, moving out into the gulf.   

Continue reading "From the Gulf, With Love" »

JUST IN

Does Sunscreen Really Screen?

Winter Sunbathe
Perhaps this is a safer bet?
AP Photo

by Tom Loftus and Julia Bainbridge

Next time you pack for an island vacation, you might want to think twice about what sunblock you throw in your bag. The New York Times reported on a study from an organization called the Environmental Working Group that questioned sunscreen safety--mainly because of an ingredient called oxybenzone.

The Environmental Working Group tested nearly 1,000 sunscreen products and found that four out of five either offered skimpy protection or contained ingredients that posed possible health risks. 

The Times noted some disagreement.

But dermatologists who reviewed the group's research say the biggest problem is that it lacks scientific rigor. In particular, they are critical of a sunscreen rating system that they say is arbitrary and without basis in any accepted scientific standard.

The Times article also said:

Another study, published two years ago in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, raised troubling concerns about what happens when sunscreen is absorbed into the skin and reacts with the sun. The report suggested that under certain conditions, sunscreens with oxybenzone and other ultraviolet filters could lead to free-radical damage to the skin, a process that in theory could lead to skin cancer. The study used laboratory models of skin, so some researchers say it is not a reliable indicator of what happens in people.

In the end, it looks like doctors still recommend applying (and re-applying) sunscreens with a high SPF. Keep in mind, though, that this is only one way to protect your skin.

"People focus so much on sunscreens," Dr. Morison said. "It should be a package of protection. A hat, staying out of the sun, avoiding the hottest part of the day, and covering up are all part of the whole story. It's not just the sunscreen."

Amen to that.

Further reading:
* "Sunscreen Safety Is Called Into Question"
* "Sunscreen Summary--What Works and What's Safe"
* The FDA aims to upgrade sunscreen labeling
* The CDC's breakdown of oxybenzone, a toxic sunscreen chemical

JUST IN

Marathon Flights Tiring Early

The Daily Traveler's editors don't brag about being mathematical geniuses (we live and die by our calculators), but it seems obvious to us that a straight line is the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. When it comes to air travel, though, this is not the case--neither economically nor environmentally.

The Wall Street Journal says airlines are cutting long intercontinental flights to save on fuel costs because, for example, "a passenger on a 15-hour flight uses more fuel for each mile of the trip than someone on an eight-hour trip, but the airfare per mile generally doesn't rise proportionally."

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has been hyped as the industry's magic (green) bullet, but the release of this super-efficient plane has been delayed by software glitches and hiccups in assembly production. The airliner's target launch date is now early 2009.

Thoughts? Post 'em.

JUST IN

Hurricane Protection Plan

Bertha
Hurricane Bertha as of yesterday.
Photo: NOAA

Hurricane season is upon us, and if recent years are any indication, Bertha is the first-born of many sisters. Travelers headed south for summer getaways have had to deal with the possibility of hurricanes interrupting their beaching and mai tai-ing, but resorts are wising up and softening the blow with hurricane protection.

The Bermuda Department of Tourism, for example, is reassuring pink sand-loving travelers with a Hurricane Guarantee. Here's how it works:

* In the event that a hurricane-force storm is predicted by the Bermuda Weather Service to approach within 200 miles of Bermuda and within five days, guests can cancel their reservations without penalty. Deposits can be refunded or applied to any future booking.
* If a hotel's services are affected by a hurricane, guests will not be charged for rooms, food, beverage, or other essential services used during that time.
* If a hotel is not able to continue its operations, guests can return for a complimentary stay within one year from the hotel's reopening. (Other expenses, including airfare, food and beverage, and incidental room charges are not covered by the guarantee.)

Check the Bermuda Tourism Web site for more information and for participating properties. Hotels not listed there might have their own policies in place; just contact your hotel directly for details.

JUST IN

Starwood Aloft Hotel Opens in the States

Aloft
Aloft Cucamonga's colorful lounge.
Photo: msnbc.com

HotelChatter has the first-ever review of a Starwood's first Aloft hotel in the United States--Ontario, CA, to be exact. Check out their video, ratings, and run-down of the much-hyped Aloft Rancho Cucamonga here.

And here's what else the popular site has to say about the new digs:

Rates for this weekend were a little pricey for this area in between Los Angeles and Palm Springs at $139 a night (that's an Internet/no cancellations rate). Considering we stayed at a Palm Desert resort (albeit an aging one) for $94 a night two weeks ago, this is not really a budget stay. So Aloft--you better live up to the hype!

Starwood plans on opening an additional 16 Aloft hotels worldwide this year.

Further reading:
* About Aloft
* HotelChatter partnered up with Conde Nast Traveler for our Layover Nation Contest. Enter now!
* Check out what's new in nearby LA from chef Jose Andres

JUST IN

After Iran: A Chat with Rick Steves

Ricksteves_dailytraveler
Rick Steves in Iran

Just a week after Rick Steves' return from a ten-day shoot in Iran, the Daily Traveler's Julia Bainbridge chatted with the travel guidebook writer and television host about what he calls "the most poorly understood yet fascinating land" he's ever visited. His upcoming hour-long public television special will air in January 2009.

CNT: So, why Iran?

Rick Steves: The whole mission of a travel writer is to help his countrymen better understand the world. Our understanding of Iran is miserable; [it's] stuck in 1978. We can learn a lot by going there.

When I teach about Iran, I'm not saying we're right and they're wrong or we're wrong and they're right or anything like that. We have to deal with Iran; it's a powerful, rich culture that's been a leader in its corner of the world for years. We have to learn more about it. I went in there with all sorts of misperceptions and had a fascinating ten days.

Continue reading "After Iran: A Chat with Rick Steves" »

JUST IN

Give a Bike

Bikes for Education
Alaffia founder Olowo-n'djo
Tchala with bike recipients

by Julia Bainbridge

As a follow-up to our post on Alaffia's Bicycles for Education project, we found ways you can donate:

* If you happen to live in the Puget Sound area of Washington, you can donate bicycles by calling 360-866-0080 or emailing bike@alaffia.com.

* People the outside this area can donate bike parts such as inner tubes, chains, helmets, cables, and tires by mailing them to 540 B Ronlee Lane NW, Olympia, WA 98502. 

* Don't have bikes or bike parts but want to help? You can donate funds through the Alaffia website. Shipping from the US to Togo, initial repairs, and maintenance for two years costs about $40 per bike, so these donations really help. You can also mail a check to Alaffia's non profit, the Global Alliance for Community Empowerment (GACE) at PO Box 12114, Olympia, WA 98508-2114.

Further reading:
* Learn how you can improve children's health worldwide
* Make a difference

JUST IN

Layover Nation Contest

Layover Nation

In September, Conde Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley will be racing around the globe, testing some of the best activities you can do during airport downtime.  But there's one problem:  We don't have his itinerary.  That's where YOU come in.  Send us your best ideas for things to do between flights when you're in or near major international air hubs.

An example? Here's what consumer news editor Wendy Perrin thinks:

Munich Airport: If Michael has four hours to kill, he has time to take the S-Bahn train from the airport to Marienplatz, Munich's medieval town square, see the sights--the Rathaus (City Hall) with its famous glockenspiel, the beautiful old Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady), et al.--then walk 10 minutes to the Hofbrauhaus, the world's most famous beer hall, dating from 1589. Sit down at one of the long communal wooden tables of old, order up a liter (you won't drink the whole thing, of course, but you want to have to use both hands to lift that giant mug; makes for the best snapshot), listen to the oompah band, and soak up the Bavarian atmosphere. Yeah, sometimes it can get a little touristy, but it's one of the most colorful places in the world to have a beer, what with the Stammtisch (a table reserved for the regulars) and the locals dressed in traditional lederhosen and Bayern hats adorned with feathers and brushes. Michael can even strike up a conversation with the locals sitting next to him; enough of them speak English.  Caveat: IF Michael is making this trip between September 20 and October 5, forget Marienplatz and the Hofbrauhaus: Just go straight from the airport to Oktoberfest!

Check out her blog, the Perrin Post for how to enter--and what you might win!

JUST IN

Bicycles for Education in Togo, West Africa

Alaffia shea butter
Shea butter production for
Alaffia skin care products

As responsible travelers, the Daily Travelers are always looking for ways to give back to the communities they journey through. Condé Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund, for example, created in partnership with Population Services International, helps children five and under access malaria prevention and treatment, nutritional supplements, pneumonia treatment and safe water. Here's another cool project we found in West Africa called Bicycles for Education.

by Julia Bainbridge

Bicycles for Education, a project founded by Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care and the Global Alliance for Community Empowerment, just shipped its second round of over 2,000 bicycles to disadvantaged students (mainly girls) in Togo, West Africa.

About 90% of girls in rural areas of Togo drop out before finishing secondary school, according to UNICEF. Only large towns house these schools, so students from outlying villages can walk up to 10 miles just to get to class every day (there is no bus service). It's physically demanding, often leaving them tired and unproductive, and given girls' household roles as their mothers' assistants, domestic responsibilities come first. So, in the end, the choice is simple for them: stay home.

Enter Alaffia. By supplying qualifying individuals (depending on household income, distance from school, and gender) with a bicycle, helmet, and training session, the people behind the Bicycles for Education project believe they will gradually reduce the reliance of African countries on Western societies. The thinking goes something like this: Get girls back in school, reduce gender and economic inequalities, increase self-empowerment, and eradicate poverty.

Since the first shipment in 2006, bicycle recipients in the 15 communities where they were distributed are still using the bikes for their intended purpose (getting to school). The next 2,000 used bikes were collected through drives in the US and shipped to Togo, where they will be repaired by local mechanics and prepared for distribution. (Bicycles for Education impacts donor communities, as well: It keeps bikes from ending up in landfills and recycles those in bad condition.) Funding for all aspects of the project comes from the sales of Alaffia's skin care line.

Further reading:
* Learn how you can improve children's health worldwide
* Make a difference

JUST IN

Myanmar: Relief at the Community Level

With big relief efforts stunted by the junta, whatever help reaching Myanmar cyclone victims is occurring at the community level. A dispatch from Brett Melzer, owner of tour company Balloons Over Bagan and Malikha Lodge in northern Myanmar, follows.

May 29, Yangon, Myanmar

Dear friends: Following our first update, on May 15, on the Balloons Over Bagan/Malikha Lodge cyclone relief fund, I would like to take this opportunity to update you.

Thanks to your generosity together with Friends of the Rainforest Myanmar (FORM), we have raised over $20,000 so far. From this amount, Balloons Over Bagan and Malikha Lodge has spent approximately $2,500 in local currency in purchasing supplies and arranging their safe passage down to the delta area. Our efforts and your donations have been divided as follows:

Continue reading "Myanmar: Relief at the Community Level" »

JUST IN

Myanmar: PSI's Response to the Cyclone Crisis


Rice distribution in Rangoon.
Associated Press

After an exhausting week dealing with (and living through) Cyclone Nargis and meeting with Washington, D.C., decision makers, John Hetherington, Myanmar's country representative for Population Services International, sat down with Conde Nast Traveler's Julia Bainbridge to tell her what the situation in Myanmar is like now, how PSI plans to address problems there, and how you can help.

Conde Nast Traveler launched the Five & Alive Fund with Population Services International.

CNT: Have you been on the ground in Myanmar since the cyclone? Could you briefly describe what the situation was like there?

JH: I was in Yangun with my family during the cyclone, which was pretty intense--130-mph winds sustained for six hours. We slowly got our things and moved into a one-room house where rain wasn't coming through the roof. We got the team together, assessed our own staff--we have 400 staff in the region--and helped them get on their feet. Most of them lost roofs; many lost families. This was a major task: We had no electricity, no water, no phone, no fuel, no access to money. We started by counting money in the safe, taking inventory of petrol, and getting in vehicles to drive around and talk to people, but this was difficult since 80 percent of the trees were ripped up (100-year-old oak-size trees). So sort of like on planes when they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before those of your children--we had a meeting, got our own staff up, and then turned towards others.

CNT: How many people does PSI currently have in Myanmar?

JH: We have 500 core staff, but when you count field outreach workers and those from the community who work with us on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 600 and 700.

CNT: What services did PSI provide before the cyclone hit?

JH: We're a health organization in Myanmar; we've been there for 12 years and it's a pretty broad program. There's a network of 800 private-sector doctors who deliver health care to low-income populations, addressing malaria, TB, pneumonia, reproductive health, and AIDS prevention, among other things. Beyond that network, we have around 22 drop-in centers for female sex workers and men who have sex with men (where we distribute condoms, provide sex education, etc.).

Continue reading "Myanmar: PSI's Response to the Cyclone Crisis" »

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