Travel risky in Gaza Strip, West Bank and Israel, U.S. warns

Tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem have led to increased violence and a new warning for U.S. travelers.
(Susan Spano)

A new travel warning for Israel, issued Feb. 18, notes that “U.S. citizens need to be aware of continuing risks of travel” to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and some metro areas, “including Tel Aviv and Haifa and surrounding regions,” which the warning says are “comparable to other major global cities.”

But, it says, “the July-August 2014 Gaza conflict … and subsequent political and religious tension associated with access to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem led to increased levels of violence, particularly in Jerusalem and West Bank environs, not seen in those areas in a decade.

“Attacks on individuals and groups have occurred in East and West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Bethlehem, as well as various places in the West Bank. We have no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality.”

To read the full warning, go to


Ebola fears hit North Korea

If you had planned to run in the annual Pyongyang marathon in North Korea, you may be disappointed. Because of fears about Ebola, the Hermit Kingdom has banned foreign tourists from running in the April 12 event.

The marathon was expected to attract scores of foreign runners. Last year, the competition was opened to them and was deemed a success.

Nick Bonner, co-founder of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, had already signed up 400 foreign runners. Its website and that of Young Pioneer Tours noted the news of the ban.


Cooking with insects

Local eating habits sparked a new seminar at Le Cordon Bleu’s branch in Bangkok, Thailand: “Edible Insects in a Gastronomic Context.” Five dozen people — student chefs, scientists, professors and insect farmers — attended the seminar, which offered cricket consommé and ant-infused gin.

“The taste of the alcohol was amazing,” Fabrice Danniel, master chef at Bangkok’s Cordon Bleu, said in an Associated Press article. “It’s more than alcohol. The taste was unique.”

In April 2012, 1,900 insect species were considered edible, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and even fish (from ocean catch),” it said.


Soccer fans’ slurs investigated

Police are investigating an incident in which Britain’s Chelsea soccer fans are said to have shouted racist chants as they returned from a match in Paris.

British Transport Police are asking for witnesses to the incident, in which a black man was barred from boarding a train. Chelsea fans are said to have chanted, “We’re racist, and that’s the way we like it,” according to the Associated Press.

Chelsea has issued a public apology and invited the target of the slur to attend a match. The man declined.


Hip-hop revives ancient words

Visitors to Guatemala may get a new glimpse into a pre-Columbian language through a group of musicians who use hip-hop to spread the message of the ancient tongue.

The group Balam Ajpu is to release “Tribute to the 20 Nawuales,” its first album, on March 20. The songs are in Tz’utujil and Spanish and also include such sounds as bird song and water. The album pays homage to Guatemala’s 22 provinces plus Mexico’s Chiapas and Yucatán, where the Maya flourished until about 900 AD.

The group has performed in such communities as Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, San Pedro la Laguna and Sololá, in the highlands west of Guatemala City.


Sources: U.S. Department of State, the Associated Press