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Foreign Briefing: State Department warns about travel to Philippines

State Department cites 'high threat of kidnapping ... and violence' in warning on travel to the Philippines

The U.S. State Department has issued a new warning on travel to the Philippines, focusing on parts of Mindanao, on the Sulu Archipelago and areas in the southern Sulu Sea.

The Sulu Sea is to the west of Mindanao, the second largest of the more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines.

In its warning, the State Department says U.S. citizens should defer nonessential travel to that area because of the "high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there."

"U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao," the warning, issued May 20, says. "Separatist and terrorist groups continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces."

Mindanao is home to a large population of Muslims in the Philippines, which is about 82% Roman Catholic, according to the World Factbook from the CIA.

More trouble spots

Other State Department warnings:

Lebanon. Because of ongoing safety concerns, the State Department urges avoiding all travel to this country, where two Americans have died in bombings and two have been kidnapped. Issued May 29.

Kenya. The State Department stops short of saying travelers should not visit but says that U.S. citizens should be aware of the problems with violent crime and terrorism. Issued May 13.

To read more: http://www.travel.state.gov.

Something's rotten

Brazilian students created some unusual artwork, but it's unlikely you'll want to be a collector.

They gathered plastic grocery bags, tires and old CDs, among other garbage, from Brazil's heavily trashed Guanabara Bay. The Rio de Janeiro Federal University students used these items and more to create sculptures of ocean animals, the Associated Press reported.

Their exhibition, "The Sea's Not Fit for Fish," on display until Thursday, was designed to draw attention to the plight of the bay, where some of the 2016 Olympic sailing events are to be staged.

The Brazilian government had promised to clean up the bay, but that seems unlikely to happen. Some athletes have objected to the state of the bay, fearing they might collide with trash or suffer illness as a result of exposure to water that contains raw sewage and huge amounts of debris.

Irish woo LBGT community

Ireland's voters last month approved gay marriage, and now the country is promoting itself as a destination for LGBT weddings with an ad campaign called "Ireland Says 'I Do.'" The Outing, an LGBT matchmaking festival (www.theouting.ie), is scheduled Oct. 2-4 in Lisdoonvarna.

Lisdoonvarna, in County Clare, has held a matchmaking festival for more than 150 years. The LGBT festival started in 2013.

Sources: U.S. State Department, Associated Press, Tourism Ireland

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