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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Even after airport security in Edmonton realized a potentially dangerous pipe bomb had been seized from a departing passenger, they did not immediately call the RCMP, inexplicably ignoring the most basic safety and security protocols, sources with direct knowledge of the incident told CBC News.

    The security personnel also did not follow protocol when they removed the steel pipe bomb, with its nearly three-metre-long fuse, from an X-ray machine instead of immediately shutting down the machine, triggering an alarm, calling in a nearby RCMP officer and securing the public’s safety.

    Instead, a security guard, apparently not realizing it was a pipe bomb, offered to return it to the teenage passenger who had inadvertently carried it into the screening area in a camera bag. He declined to take it and was allowed to board a flight to Mexico with his family on Sept. 20, 2013.

    “The gentleman should have been arrested on site,” said one of the security guards, who spoke with CBC News on condition of anonymity. “But the police had no idea this was going on, and they were never called.”

    Security personnel placed the pipe bomb in a so-called “forfeit” bin along with seized items such as scissors and toothpaste. Sources tell CBC News that many security staff saw the pipe bomb. One security guard who saw the device said it was obviously a pipe bomb.

    “People don't carry a lead pipe with two caps on each end around with them,” the guard said. “I mean, it is the perfect picture of what a pipe bomb looks like. And that is what triggered me, when I saw it.  It was so realistic that it scared me."

    Pipe bomb wrapped in ‘head shop’ bag

    Sources in Ottawa told CBC News that Murphy arrived at the airport with the pipe bomb wrapped in a bag from a "head shop" that sells drug paraphernalia. The bag had pictures of marijuana leaves on it. The wrapped bomb was inside the camera bag.

    After the pipe bomb was caught by the scanner, the security screener looked at the images on the bag and assumed the pipe bomb was some kind of drug pipe. The inspector then swabbed the pipe bomb for drugs, but not for gunpowder. It tested negative for drugs.

    Story continues after the gallery

    Souces say the pipe bomb was reported the same day to the management of Garda, the security firm hired by the Canadian Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to screen passengers at Edmonton International Airport.

    Despite this, the pipe bomb sat in an office for four days, until Sept. 24, when it was finally noticed by a CATSA official who called the RCMP. The Mounties arrested 18-year-old Skylar Murphy from Spruce Grove, Alta., when he returned from Mexico on Sept. 27.

    Murphy pleaded guilty to possession of an explosive device and was given a one-year suspended sentence, a $100 fine, and ordered to make a $500 donation to a burn unit.

    When contacted by CBC News, Murphy sought $600 for an interview, saying he wanted the money to pay the fine and the donation. CBC declined to pay and no interview was granted.

    Internal review conducted

    In emailed statements to CBC News, CATSA said an internal review was conducted, changes were made to ensure this type of security failure could not happen again, and employees were disciplined, including being suspended.

    But the guard who spoke with CBC News on condition of anonymity said only minor changes have been made to security protocols, and the operator of the scanning machine, and others who were directly involved with the pipe bomb on that day, were working as recently as this week. 

    These latest revelations raise yet more troubling questions about not only the safety of Canada’s airport-security screening system, but also about how the incident was handled both by the agency responsible for airport security, the federal government, the RCMP and Alberta Justice.

    According to a transcript of Murphy’s court case, the RCMP believed the teenager’s story that he didn’t intend to blow up an airplane because of his “shocked reaction” when security screeners discovered the device.

    The RCMP based this belief on surveillance video from the airport.

    “I didn’t view [the video] but [RCMP investigating officer] Const. [Jim] Kirkpatrick described to me, he said it was obvious on the surveillance video, when the object was pulled out of his bag, the shocked reaction he had,” Crown prosecutor Trent Wilson told the court at Murphy’s hearing on Dec. 5.

    Gunpowder stolen from sheriff

    The court also heard testimony from the teenager that he obtained the gunpowder by stealing bullets from his mother’s fiancé, an Alberta sheriff. Alberta Justice issued a release saying RCMP had investigated the matter and found the sheriff’s weapon and ammunition had been properly stored. 

    Court transcripts reveal that another reason RCMP believed Murphy did not intend to harm anyone was that he returned from the vacation onSept. 27, when he was arrested by a large number of uniformed officers, a SWAT team and bomb-sniffing dogs.

    The transcript shows he and a friend built the pipe bomb because they intended to blow up a shed for fun.

    “Mr. Murphy also said he wanted to photograph the shed when he blew it up and that was why he had the bomb inside of his camera bag,” the prosecutor told the court.

    “When Mr. Murphy packed for his flight he placed his camera bag inside his carry-on duffel bag. He emphatically denied that his intent was to cause damage to the airport or any aircraft. He claimed that he forgot the pipe bomb was inside his camera bag and he did not intend to try to take it on the airplane.”

    The court transcript describes how the explosive device was discovered at the airport.

    “An object, which was later confirmed by the RCMP explosive disposal unit members to be a fully functional pipe bomb was first identified by an employee conducting an X-ray inspection of Murphy’s bag,” the prosecutor said. 

    Murphy confirmed he was the owner of the bag.

    “Items were taken out of the bag in front of Mr. Murphy,” the prosecutor said “The object was inside a small cloth bag and was made out of a five and a half inch long metal pipe with two threaded end caps. One end of the pipe had a fuse sticking out of it that measured over nine-feet long. The pipe was filled with black powder.

    “The pipe bomb was not given back to Mr. Murphy and he was allowed to board his flight to Mexico,” the prosecutor told the court. The transcript makes no reference to the security screener attempting to return the pipe bomb to Murphy.

    The prosecutor asked the judge to impose a one-year, suspended sentence to a guilty plea of being in possession of an explosive device, which the judge granted. 

    Several American security experts told CBC News they were shocked Murphy wasn’t charged with a much more serious offence and jailed. 

    In sentencing Murphy, the judge scolded the teenager for stealing from his mother’s fiancé and for his bad judgment in producing such a dangerous device.

    “Pipe bombs are used to kill people, to destroy property, they are used in war, they are used by terrorists, they are used by individuals who are in conflict, and they are very successful at killing people,” the judge told Murphy.

    The judge also told Murphy that had he carried the pipe bomb to Mexico, he might have been facing a different fate.

    “If the authorities had missed that pipe bomb and you had gone, in Mexico, through a screening device, you would not even get a trial, more than likely,” the judge said. “You would be in a Mexican jail and your grandfather and your family would be visiting you in that jail. And you would probably be learning Spanish by now, if you survived. I doubt you would have survived.”

    The security guard who spoke to CBC said media coverage of the security failure has undermined public confidence in the screening system.

    “We have got passengers coming up to us and harassing us now [saying], ‘Why are you searching my stuff or why are you taking my liquids away? I mean you guys let a pipe bomb go,’” the guard said.

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    There is nothing more simultaneously graceful, terrifying, mesmerizing and ominous than the jellyfish.

    Following the sun, drifting with the currents, these floating, fascinating creatures are more than just gelatin and tentacles. Lose yourself in the 11 facts below that are just as mesmerizing as the ethereal creatures themselves.

    1. Jellyfish have been around for more than 500 million years, making them possibly one of the oldest species on Earth.


    2. Different species of jellyfish can be found in every ocean in the world.


    Jellyfish have adapted to all types of waters from warm shallow waters, all the way to the bottomless depths of the sea.

    3. Not all jellyfish sting.

    palau jellyfish lake

    Jellyfish Lake in Palau is filled with millions of nontoxic golden jellyfish that spend their days migrating with the movement of the sun.

    4. The ones that do sting use very small, toxic stinging cells called nematocysts.

    sea nettle

    Some jellyfish have millions of nematocysts in their tentacles, which they use to capture their prey. When humans are stung, the toxins are painfully absorbed through the skin.

    5. Box jellyfish's venom is considered the most deadly in the world.

    box jellyfish

    Its toxins attack the heart, nervous system and skin cells. A box jellyfish sting is so painful that humans have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure after being stung.

    6. Jellyfish have no brain, bones or heart.


    They are actually not really a fish at all. Jellyfish are relatives of anemones and corals, and are considered invertebrate animals because they do not have a spine or backbone.

    7. The Lion's mane jellyfish is the world's largest species of jellyfish.

    lions mane jellyfish

    It can reach up to 8 feet in diameter. The largest recorded Lion's mane jellyfish had tentacles reaching up to 120 feet long.

    8. This is the world's smallest jellyfish. It's also the most deadly.

    irukandji jellyfish

    The Irukandji jellyfish, or Common Kingslayer, can deliver a sting that is 100 times as potent as a cobra's and 1,000 times as strong as a tarantula.

    9. Carnivorous anemones eat jellyfish by trapping it in its tentacles and devouring it slowly.

    At :55 in the video above, watch as a Lion's mane jellyfish is "reeled in and eaten alive by "a hundred hungry mouths."

    10. The box jellyfish has 24 eyes, grouped in clusters of six across its bell.

    box jellyfish

    11. There is a type of "immortal" jellyfish that ages backwards.

    immortal jellyfish

    When the Turritopsis dohrnii is near death due to crises such as starvation or physical damage, it transforms itself into a younger state, à la Benjamin Button.

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    There's no question about it: Vancouver is one beautiful city.

    But while the city has its moments in the sun, it also has its fair share of rainy days and grey skies -- enough to leave residents like Dan Barham in need of an escape.

    But while most Canadians would fly down south to tried-and-true destinations like Cuba or Florida to escape the dreary forecasts, Barham heads north to the wilds of the Yukon:

    Away from Dan Barham on Vimeo.

    Mobile readers can watch the video here.

    The filmmaker and photographer frequently travels to the territory ever since a work trip first brought him there in 2009. Prior to that, Barham lived in the United Kingdom, then bounced around in Alberta and Vancouver. But after arriving up north, Barham knew he was in the right spot.

    "I immediately fell in love with the place -- the people, the landscape, the general atmosphere up there," Barham told the Huffington Post Canada in an email.

    And while Barham regularly returns to the Yukon for work, "Away" was something he made in his spare time at a lodge located 30 minutes from Whitehorse, out towards Carcross.

    "People have an idea in their heads that [travel to the Yukon] is completely inaccessible, difficult to get to, and expensive -- I know I did -- but that’s not the case at all. In a matter of hours I’d traded the wet, grey of Vancouver for crisp snow underfoot and breathtaking views."

    Barham says his love and work will keep him going back to the Yukon "until the day he dies," because there is so much that awaits those willing to make the trip.

    "Once you’re there you can’t help but fall in love with the amazing culture, fascinating heritage and the warmest people you’re ever likely to meet."

    Sold? Tell us what you think about the Yukon in the comments below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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    Some places are portrayed just perfectly in photos-- in fact, they look even better in photos, because their real-life versions are polluted with crowds and chaos (cough, Eiffel Tower, cough).

    Other wonders, however, are not so overrated. A picture could never do justice to their majesty, because their majesty is a multisensory, all-encompassing, total body experience.

    Take a look.

    The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
    It's quiet, surreal, "am I actually here?!" moments like these which make travel worthwhile. And you could never capture them on film.

    Waimea Bay, Hawaii
    You won't believe how blissful it feels to slide down waves on a surfboard until you're there.

    Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil
    Does it look like it can be contained in just a photo?

    St. Peter's Square, Vatican City
    There's a sense that you're on hallowed ground here, and it feels all the more magical once crowds leave for the day.

    Everest Base Camps, Nepal and Tibet
    No photo could translate the lonely, silent, icy anticipation before climbing the world's tallest mountain.
    everest base camp

    The Amazon rainforest, South America
    There's nothing like a warm, sticky sunrise.

    The Louvre, Paris
    It's arguably the most famous museum on Earth, and open, airy hallways make it feel larger-than-life. When the sun goes down, everything inside gets all shadowy and 'Da Vinci Code'-ish.

    Banff National Park, Canada
    People who know national parks say it's hands-down the most memorable.

    Rio de Janiero, Brazil
    Standing at the top of Corcovado mountain -- with a city of six million sprawled under you -- isn't a feeling you'll substitute with a photo.

    Central Park, New York
    It's hard to grasp how much of an oasis this park is until you've been swallowed by the urban tangle that surrounds it.

    Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris
    Come for Mass -- not a walk-through tour -- and watch one of Earth's most famous buildings live out its intended purpose. Pretty snazzy, indeed.

    Sequoia National Park, California
    You've gotta be there for the heavenly combo of clean-air scent and whirly sensation of looking upward.
    sequoia national park

    Angkor Wat, Cambodia
    The overwhelming sensation of standing smack-dab in a 900-year-old, 203-acre temple complex isn't something you can print on a postcard.

    Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland
    Yes, the sky actually looks like that when the Northern Lights appear. You should be there in person to see them.

    Damnoen Saduak floating market, Thailand
    The chaos is real, and you've gotta be there to feel it.

    Machu Picchu, Peru
    Tiptoeing through these fragile ruins feels like balancing on the edge of the world.

    The Gardens of Versailles, France
    They're ultra-famous, but they're also so expansive that you can get totally lost and end up all alone in a maze of trees.

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    Phil's Fish Market is located in Moss Landing, a small inlet near the coast of San Francisco. The cozy family eatery is famous for its cioppino, but other than the simple fish stew and local marine research center, there's not much to speak of in Moss Landing-- with just over 200 residents, the peninsula is pretty darn empty.

    Then how is the restaurant's "where are you from" map covered in pins from visitors around the world?

    "It’s real. It’s not a fake," Phil's crew member Juanita Quintanilla told the Huffington Post. "This restaurant is in a little tiny town, and you wouldn’t go out of your way to come here. But people do."

    The world map -- which Quintanilla replaces every two to three years because it gets so crowded -- has pins marking every corner of the planet, from the coast of Peru to the heart of Russia to the Australian outback. Each was placed by someone who recently dined at Phil's.




    Every Friday for 13 years, Quintanilla has refilled the magnetic plates in the restaurant's hallway with about 500 pins. Customers use them to mark their hometowns on maps of the world, the United States, and California. Each map is equally bursting with dots, and Quintanilla says people spend hours examining the homelands of Phil's fans before them.

    The map is a testament to the far-flung trips we take nowadays, thanks to globalization, the accessibility of air travel, and the Food Network, on which Phil's has been repeatedly featured.

    "We get every walk of life coming in here," Quintanilla said. "You would be surprised."

    After looking at Phil's maps, we already are.



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    A major landslide has caused property and ecological damage in an area of the Great Bear Rainforest where environmentalists have long said industrial logging should not be permitted.

    The slide occurred Monday in the Johnston Creek drainage of Rivers Inlet, but is just coming to light now after being reported to The Vancouver Sun.

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    If you just can't get enough of Disney's "Frozen," you are not alone. The successful flick, starring Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, is winning the hearts of millions and now there's a way to really feel like you're a part of the magic.

    Walt Disney Studios released images of the "Frozen Suite" at the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec City, and it's just as fantastic as you'd imgaine. The famed ice hotel houses the suite, modeled after Anna and Elsa's own bedrooms, and is made entirely out of sculpted ice and snow. The "Frozen" room will be unveiled to the public this weekend and will stay open until March 23.

    "Frozen" is the smash hit animated feature that is inspiring internet sensations, winning awards, heading to Broadway and now inspiring hotel decor.

    Check out images of the super cool room below.
    hotel de glace

    hotel de glace

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    There are few other pre-vacation rituals as equally loved and hated as packing: 'Tis both a chore and a sign of good times ahead. We all have our own preferred packing method, but what does your suitcase really say about you? Read on to discover which of's 11 Packing Personalities best suits you and what it may reveal about you as a traveler.

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    Last week, The New York Times published its "52 Places to Go in 2014" list. Our deal experts, always on the pulse of the hottest travel trends, already scoured the globe for deals in these must-visit destinations. We've rounded up our favorite deals in these recommended vacation spots to make 2014 the year you check a new city off your bucket list, explore a remote tropical paradise or get up close to a world-famous landmark.

    1. Cape Town, South Africa: Spend seven nights in award-winning accommodations in Cape Town and on a private game reserve for $3,999 per person (save $2,300) May-October. Spot wildlife on six game drives and a helicopter ride, tour South African wineries and dance along to a drum session in the capital. Airfare, transfers and 15 meals are included in the package

    3. Northern California: Sneak off for a two-night, romantic retreat at Mendocino's historic Wharf Master's Inn for $169 (regularly $290) through April. Guest rooms feature Jacuzzi tubs, fireplaces and private balconies overlooking the coast. Take a scenic horseback ride on the beach, tour one of the area's 35 wineries or visit nearby redwood forests. Stays include a bottle of wine, dining credit and free slot play at Garcia River Casino.

    4. Albanian Coast: Tour the Adriatic for 10 days and visit Albania along with Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro for $2,399 per person (save $1,620) when traveling April through October. The itinerary includes 4- and 5-star hotels, English-speaking tour guide, all transportation and 17 meals.

    5. Downtown Los Angeles: For $159 per night (45 percent off), stay at the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel and receive complimentary valet parking, regularly $37 per night. The hotel is near the Staples Center and within walking distance of Grand Central Market as well as Alma, Bon Appetit's "Best New Restaurant in America."

    7. Ecuador: For $1299 ($900 off similar tours), book a weeklong stay at Red Mangrove Galapagos Island. Called a "living museum," the archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet. The itinerary includes one night in Quito or Guayaquil, six nights' lodging on the islands, boat rides, daily breakfast and escorted tours through bays of tropical fish, lava tunnels and giant cactus forests.

    22. Yorkshire, England: Spend two nights at Simonstone Hall Country House Hotel, a restored hunting lodge in Northern England, including an upgraded room and meals for $162 per person (£99 per person, 30 percent off). The historic hotel overlooks the Yorkshire Dales and offers diverse outdoor activities including clay pigeon shooting and fishing on its lavish lawn.

    34. Indianapolis: Stays at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis start at $79 per night for travel through April (55 percent off). The downtown hotel is home to the city's only revolving rooftop restaurant featuring 360-degree skyline views. Guests can walk to the NCAA museum or tour countless historic sites on the newly opened, bike-friendly Indy Cultural Trail.

    36. Athens, Greece: Tour the ancient capital before heading to the country's most popular islands, Mykonos and Santorini. The eight-night package includes airfare, 4-star accommodations, ferries and daily breakfast in autumn for $1,699 per person (save $700).

    40. Downtown Atlanta :The chic W Atlanta Midtown is walking distance to Piedmont Park and a short drive to historic sites like the Centennial Olympic Park, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, slated to open in May. Rooms with breakfast for two at the trendy 4-star hotel are $212-$245 per night through February (save $50); a two-night stay is required.

    52. Niagara Falls, NY : Stay and play at the Sheraton at the Falls hotel for $79 per night (regularly $169) through March, including $30 slot play for the Seneca Niagara Casino across the street and $20 dining credit at the on-site T.G.I. Friday's. The hotel is within walking distance of the falls, two blocks from the Canada-U.S. border and a 15-minute drive from shopping outlets where guests enjoy an exclusive discount.

    Travelzoo Tip: Travelzoo Deal Experts narrowed down our five favorite destinations for the new year based on recent travel trends and industry buzz. Plan your 2014 travel itinerary with deals in our favorite "wow" destinations: Ecuador, Jersey Shore, India, Palm Springs and Europe's Rivers.

    Elisabeth Barker is an editor at Travelzoo and based in New York City. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.

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    Super Bowl 2014 is almost here, that day when those commercials, half-time show and game become Monday water-cooler talk. So where to watch? The contest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy takes place with a kickoff time set for 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT) on Sunday, Feb. 2, with the AFC and NFC champs facing off at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Super Bowl game will air on CTV in Canada, and on CBS in the United States.

    Interestingly, Super Bowl XLVIII is the first time the big game has been held in a (potentially) cold environment. The conference championships take place on Jan. 19. The New England Patriots are taking on the Denver Broncos in the AFC, and the San Francisco 49ers are facing the Seattle Seahawks.

    Canadians interested in watching the U.S. commercials on TV are probably out of luck unless you subscribe to U.S.-based football-specific channels -- CTV will substitute the American ads with Canadian ones. But you can watch out for Super Bowl 2014 commercials on HuffPost Canada on game day.

    Pop superstar Bruno Mars is set to perform at the halftime show, and he's personally invited rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers to accompany him as a half-time act.

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    This stunt could go down in record books for "The Dumbest Thing Ever Done In Shark Infested Waters."

    When Shaun Harrington found out that there was a six to eight foot tiger shark spotted in waters off Coolangatta, Queensland, he did what any reasonable, life-loving person would do. He grabbed a flimsy, wire birdcage and a GoPro and jumped into the water.

    Of course -- of course! -- things didn't go as planned.

    After yelling, "Feel me rage, I'm in the cage!" and jumping into ocean, Harrington suddenly "just didn't feel right," he told Australia's Today. He yelled to the camera crew, who was shooting a video for their website, to pull him out. They just laughed.

    That's when the tiger shark lunged towards Harrington from behind. In a last minute attempt to save himself, he threw the cage at the shark.

    Luckily, the 27-year-old daredevil walked away from the waters unharmed. He may have lost his wife, however, who Harrington says is not talking to him.

    "It's not the smartest thing," Harrington said of the stunt.

    We totally agree.

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    Hawaii smells like blooming eucalyptus and fresh salt air, right?

    Unfortunately, not always.

    Earlier this week, Haunama Bay -- a popular Oahu tourist attraction and Obama family favorite -- was closed to the public because of backed up sewer pipes. The Bay draws thousands of tourists a day as a world-famous snorkeling destination, but the site was closed on Thursday for "emergency maintenance." Apparently wastewater backup shut down the facility's restrooms and forced the beach's closure for about 90 minutes.

    Over on the other side of Honolulu, the residents of Kakaako felt Haunama Bay's pain. As an up and coming neighborhood, Kakaako is undergoing serious growing pains -- mostly in the olfactory system.

    In response to numerous complaints and questions surrounding Kakaako's stench, the Honolulu City Council was recently forced to report about its causes and potential solutions. Pressure in the sewers, they concluded, was to blame, and they promised that remedies like new devices in manholes would alleviate the odor.

    But with as many as 30 new buildings being planned in the neighborhood, including several luxury high-rises, many in Honolulu worry that the existing sewer system just isn't up to the task.

    "I thought about moving because of the smells," Deborah Whisnand, a Kakaako resident told Hawaii News Now back in September.

    "You can tell it's sewage smell," Regina Torres told KHON2. "It's very strong, it's hard to breathe at times. If you don't have AC in your car and you're driving by, it'll just hit you."

    Honolulu is one of the only major metropolitan areas in the country that does not have a secondary sewage treatment. The city's current system filters the solids and then discharges the wastewater a few miles out in the ocean. But when the wastewater gets backed up, like at Haunama Bay, or undergoes pressure in the pipes, like in Kakaako, the effects are immediately noticeable. On more than one occasion, the city has been forced to divert wastewater into the Ala Wai canal, which runs through the famous Waikiki, to divert pressure in the system.

    In compliance with a 2010 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Honolulu is in the process of installing major overhauls to Oahu's sewage system and the city's mayor promises that they're even ahead of schedule. But the schedule gives the city until 2035 to complete all of the E.P.A.'s requirements, which begs the question: will paradise stink until then?

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    This is Mike Coots.

    When he was 17 years old, he lost his right leg to a shark attack while surfing off waters in his home island of Kauai.

    For some, his story might be terrifying just to hear, even 17 years later...

    But for Coots, it's just something you "gotta laugh" about.

    While babysitting his six-year-old-nephew, this was presented to him: "It's you, uncle Mike," his nephew told him.

    He has immense respect for the ocean and does his part in keeping it clean.

    "We need to take better care of our oceans," Coots writes. "Here is a crapload of net and rope this morning. Must of been a few hundred pounds."

    And he shows incredible compassion for the creature that once caused him so much pain.

    Coots is an ambassador for the conservation of sharks. In 2010, he was part of the effort to pass a ban on the possession and sale of shark fins.

    "I remember the first time getting back in the water ... I remember jumping in the ocean, and it felt glorious,"

    Coots recalls in a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post.

    To this day, he continues to inspire all those who view his incredible photos...

    ...and hears the story of that one day...

    ...seventeen years ago...

    When a majestic creature changed his life, forever.

    Mike Coots is now a professional photographer whose work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Hawaii Magazine, Discovery Channel and more. See a portfolio of his work here.

    Follow him on Instagram here.

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    Take one look at Pamukkale and you'll understand why it means "cotton castle." It looks like it comes right out of a fairytale.

    The Turkish UNESCO World Heritage Site has a magical, otherworldly quality that has us wanting to know more. The landscape consists of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and ethereal hot springs that you can actually swim in.

    Pamukkale is truly a natural wonder. If it's not already on your list of gorgeous places to see, you'll be adding it after looking at the photos below.









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    Halo, nimbus, icebow... what ever you call it, this natural occurrence is really pretty, especially if it shows up while you're visiting a beautiful place.

    This optical phenomenon is produced when ice crystals create arcs, often around the sun or moon. The ice halo is similar to a rainbow, but rather than being composed of water droplets, it's made up of ice.

    Check out photos of halos occurring around the world!

    Oberstdorf, Germany

    Marin County, California
    ice halo

    Saxony, Germany
    ice halo

    Stockholm, Sweden
    ice halo

    Arches National Park, Utah
    ice halo

    ice halo

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    The world welcomed the start of the new year with applause and fireworks, and now it's time to do it again.

    Yes, the countdown to 2015 is still many months away, but the start of a new Lunar New Year is fast approaching. This won't mean much for some, but for globe-trotters, Jan. 31 will be a hectic time for travel. An estimated 3.6 billion trips are expected to be made during the Chinese New Year holiday, according to officials with the Chinese government.

    Most of the trips are expected to take place within Asia but the countdown to Chinese New Year always brings a renewed sense of mysticism around the world. Each New Year ushers in a new zodiac animal, the Eastern equivalent of horoscopes.

    Zodiac animals are divided up into 12 creatures and are assigned according to the year you're born, rather than the day. Similar to astrological horoscopes, zodiac animals govern many aspects of life including wealth, health, romance and even travel.

    This year brings the year of the horse, making it a fortuitous year to travel if you're born in the year of the monkey, rat, or dragon, according to Paul Ng, a Toronto-area philosopher and geomancer.

    As with many predictions using astrology, there's always a healthy-level of skepticism. But Ng, who makes his predictions based on mathematical calculations, has a solid track record.

    Last year, the former computer scientist predicted 2013 would be a good year for airlines. In December 2013, a lobby group predicted airlines would reap in a record-high USD$12.9 billion in profits, according to Reuters.

    For the average traveller, Ng suggests the west and south-west parts of countries to expect a boom in popularity for 2014. For his other predictions, take a look at Ng's breakdown for your zodiac animal. And if you're not sure what your zodiac animal is, give this site a visit.

    With previous files from Rebecca Zamon and Brian Vinh Tien Trinh

    Like this article? Follow us on Twitter

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    HALIFAX - Some passengers angered by air travel ordeals say its time airlines in Canada be required to publicly disclose complaints of baggage problems, cancelled flights and tarmac delays, just like their counterparts do south of the border.

    Tiffany Flowers said she waited six days in Halifax after a weather delay cancelled her Jan. 3 Porter Airlines flight to Montreal, despite clear days in both cities.

    Flowers said her autistic son, 14, missed a medical appointment to adjust his medication as a result.

    "You're at the mercy of the airlines," said the 32-year-old student and graphic designer.

    Flowers said Ottawa should post airline records for delays, baggage mishandling and cancellations online for travellers.

    "People put their lives in the hands of these airline companies, and we have no record," she said.

    Brad Cicero, a spokesman for Porter Airlines, said in an email that severe weather and fully booked flights led to a seat shortage. He said the company is reviewing how it operates when there are weather disruptions.

    Michael Janigan, a lawyer for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Toronto, said an overhaul of passenger rights laws is needed, beginning with public disclosure of complaints on mishandled baggage, boarding denials due to overbooking, cancellations and delays.

    He said the federal government could follow the model of the U.S. Department of Transportation website, which posts such records online.

    "What we have here is a complete lack of keeping performance statistics like we have in the United States ... to keep track of barometers of airline success," Janigan said.

    A spokeswoman for Transport Canada said in an email there is no law in Canada requiring airlines to publicly disclose consumer complaints. She did not comment on whether Ottawa keeps any records internally.

    "The government continues to monitor the situation and will take whatever measures are required to ensure consumers are treated fairly," said Karine Martel.

    Marc-Andre O'Rourke, executive director of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said in an email it is difficult to comment on a public disclosure system since no proposal is before the government.

    "Each airline has a very different type of operation and network," he added. "This means varying numbers of passengers, baggage, number of connections, etc. As such it makes timely and useful comparisons more difficult."

    He said on-time performance statistics are tracked for some flights on FlightStats, a privately run website.

    But Brooklyn Elhard, whose Air Canada flight from Orlando, Fla., to Toronto was delayed Jan. 4 for two days due to mechanical problems, said she wants more information about airlines in the future.

    "It would change the way people travel if they actually knew what they were signing up for," said the 24-year-old music student.

    Elhard's flight took off for Toronto but returned to Orlando after experiencing the mechanical problems.

    She said money was provided for meals but that didn't fully cover the cost, a taxi refused to honour an Air Canada voucher, baggage was left unattended on a carousel for more than an hour and a subsequent flight was cancelled when a warning light came on in the cockpit of the same plane.

    Isabelle Arthur, an Air Canada spokeswoman, said in an email passengers on the flight were offered discounts for future travel and said the incident occurred as the airline was struggling with extreme weather conditions that reduced the availability of aircraft and crew.

    Statistics on the Canadian Transportation Agency's website indicate the number of complaints handled informally by the agency has grown over the past year.

    From April 1 to Sept. 1 of last year, the agency was involved with 230 Canadian airline complaints after passengers tried to resolve them matters with their airlines. That compares to 143 complaints for the same time period the year before.

    But Janigan said the agency's complaints-based system isn't particularly consumer-friendly, and he sees a need for an airlines complaint advocate and tougher enforcement laws.

    The agency said passengers who formally complain to the agency must show that a domestic airline's compensation rules for problems such as damaged baggage, cancelled flights and refused boardings aren't reasonable based on existing law, rules of natural justice and evidence.

    Janigan said he prefers the enforcement penalties the U.S. Department of Transportation sometimes imposes if it finds airlines are violating set rules on minimum compensation rates.

    In 2013, Delta Airlines was penalized $750,000 for improperly bumping passengers due to overbooking, while United Airlines was fined $1.1 million for stranding passengers aboard airplanes on the tarmac during a weather delay in Chicago in July 2012.


    On the web:

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    (Relaxnews) - Quebec City’s iconic ice hotel has carved out a bedroom fit for a snow queen in a collaboration with Walt Disney Studios with their “Frozen”-inspired suite.

    To be unveiled this weekend at the Hotel de Glace, the “Frozen Suite” is modeled after the royal bedrooms of sisters Anna and Elsa featured in the animated film.

    The movie itself is set in the dramatic landscapes of a wintry Norway and the film’s fictional town of Arendelle, inspired by the picturesque Nordic town of Bergen.

    frozen suite hotel de glace

    The Frozen Suite, meanwhile, features an ornate, ice-carved bed, armchair and bench, and will be open through March 23.

    The hotel is located 10 minutes from the center of Quebec City, which will be hosting the 60th edition of the world’s largest winter festival, the Quebec Winter Carnival between January 31 and February 16.

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    Welcome to heebie-jeebie central.

    New photos from British photographer Damien McFadden capture the grisly interior of a building most recently known as St. Edmund's Hospital. The multi-story brick structure in Northampton was abandoned in 1998-- uncontrollable weeds and debris now clog its crumbling interior.

    The building has an even darker past than people realize, though: it was originally constructed as a workhouse in 1836. In workhouses, Britain's "poor and destitute" would come to make meager money for tedious labor, like breaking stones or crushing bones to make fertilizer.

    In the abandoned building -- now a destination for both the homeless and adventurous -- you'll find empty offices, broken bathrooms and signs warning staff to avoid sitting on patients' beds. It's a living monument to Britain's long history... and a creepy one at that.

    For more images, follow Damien McFadden on Facebook.

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    This week's Moment of Travel Zen comes to us from Arzu Çakar. Of her photo of Bodrum, Turkey, she says:

    "Bodrum is a beautiful seaside village in Aegean Coast of Turkey. It’s getting more and more popular everyday, and many famous people prefer spending their summer holiday there."

    From historic Istanbul to seaside towns like Bodrum, Turkey offers an array of experiences and activities. With unique architecture, cuisine, landscapes and beaches, Turkey is rich in many ways. A visit to Istanbul will renew your sense of culture and a trip to the beach will leave you feeling tranquil and refreshed.

    Where have you traveled for a moment of zen? Email with your travel zen or submit below!

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