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What the comforting, not creepy, Día de los Muertos can teach us

Día de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — will be celebrated Saturday and Sunday in Mexico and parts of the U.S., including the Southland, but unlike Halloween, it’s not a fright fest.

“The Mexican … is familiar with death,” wrote Nobel-prize-winning poet Octavio Paz, who was born in Mexico City. “[He] jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. It is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.”

Which may explain some of the underpinnings of a celebration that embraces death as another phase of life. You’ll see skeletons and hollow-eyed faces painted to look like skulls and you’ll see pan de muerto — bread of the dead — but the day isn’t supposed to scare you witless.

Rather, it’s to let you remember your loved ones who have passed on and to keep death from being a much-to-be-feared finale, a distinctly different approach from Americans' mind-sets.

“For many Americans, modern medical advances have made death seem more like an option than an obligation,” Dr....

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Look to Floor 102 for wow views when NYC's One World Trade Center opens

When the observatory atop New York City's One World Trade Center opens in the spring, visitors can tour three floors and take in panoramic views. Three restaurants, a bar and a virtual concierge to greet you also are planned at what is being touted as the nation's tallest building.

The observatory will be on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of what was once called the Freedom Tower next to the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which opened in May. The big views will be on the 102nd floor with wall-to-ceiling windows that look out more than 1,250 feet above the city.

The building reached a height of 1,776 feet in May to surpass Chicago's Willis Tower (1,451 feet).

The tour will start at lobby level with a "Voices of the Building" program about its construction, and "Foundations," which will allow visitors to walk along the bedrock below the skyscraper. From there, five elevators are outfitted with a screen simulation showing the development of Manhattan's skyline as the cars take...

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Get ready to OD on cute: White lion cubs debut at European zoos, circus

The impossibly cute white lion cubs born in July in Las Vegas seem to have set off a lion cub boomlet at zoos and a circus in Europe.

Earlier this month, a pair of white lion cubs less than a month old were displayed for the first time at the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia. Discovery News said the babies had been rejected by their mother and were being bottle-fed by zookeepers.

Also this month, two lion cubs were born at a private zoo in Borysew, Poland, the zoo announced. The mom, Azira, had given birth to triplets in January. She too rejected her latest cubs, according to media reports.

And in August, the Circus Krone, which tours Germany, said its lion, Princess, had given birth to three males and a female.

The trendsetters of this baby boomlet: Freedom, Madiba and Timba-Masai, white lions born in South Africa that now live at Siegfried

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Canada: Take a photo tour along British Columbia coast

Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is the location for a hands-on photo tour offered by Outer Shores Expeditions.

The five-day excursion departs from (and returns to) Ucluelet, British Columbia, and takes in the open ocean, scenic archipelagos, estuaries, bays and tide pools, as well as an ancient coastal rain forest. The wide variety of habitats offers plentiful opportunities to photograph whales, dolphins and other ocean wildlife, black bears and a number of bird species.

The experience is enhanced by the onboard presence of wildlife and landscape photographer James Thompson, who will offer participants tips and tricks to improve their nature photography and is available for one-on-one coaching. Accommodations are on the Passing Cloud, a 70-foot wooden schooner. Group size is limited to six.

Dates: April 21-25
Price: About $2,300 (U.S.). Includes accommodations on the Passing Cloud, meals and transportation to photo locations. Airfare is not included.
Info: Outer Shores...

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Marriott near Disney's Oahu resort to become a Four Seasons

The JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort, about half-a-mile from Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu, will be rebranded as a Four Seasons.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts plans to offer privately owned residences alongside hotel rooms at its new acquisition.

This is just one of the developments expected to lure visitors to lesser-known west Oahu.

No date has been announced for the name change, but  the Marriott Ihilani website shows that it is accepting reservations for stays only through Jan. 10. Four Seasons promises a redesign of the property, which will be called the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, according to a news release.

It will be Four Seasons’ first property on Oahu and the company’s fifth in Hawaii.

Marriott will maintain a nearby presence with the Ko Olina Beach Club. The nearby Disney Aulani resort opened in 2011.

The properties are near the town of Kapolei, about 17 miles northwest of Honolulu International Airport and 25 miles from Waikiki.

They are all within the Ko...

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Carowinds' Fury 325 joins an elite club of world's tallest coasters

The $30-million Fury 325 coming to Carowinds in 2015 will be among the fastest, tallest and longest roller coasters in the world.

Set to debut in spring 2015, the 325-foot-tall giga coaster will fly over and under a new entrance plaza planned for the amusement park located on the North Carolina-South Carolina state line.

Built by Swiss-based Bolliger and Mabillard, the Fury 325 will reach a top speed of 95 mph over a 6,600-foot-long track featuring airtime hills and overbanked turns.

After climbing to the top of the 32-story lift hill, riders will descend an 81-degree first drop into a 190-foot-tall barrel turn and a high-speed S-curve.

After racing over Carowinds’ front gate, Fury will whip around a 157-foot-tall, 91-degree overbanked horseshoe turn before diving under a pedestrian bridge near the entrance plaza.

Following a 101-foot-tall curve and a 111-foot-tall hill, the last leg of the ride concludes with a double helix carousel and a pair of camelback hills.

...

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