U.S. lifts ban on travelers with HIV or AIDS

For the past 22 years, if you had HIV or AIDS and weren’t American, you couldn’t enter the U.S.

That changed today as President Obama lifted the ban. Since the Obama administration is planning to host the 2012 World Aids Conference, the change in policy was necessary.

The biannual conference naturally includes many people living with HIV and AIDS, and barring their entry would have been bad PR for an administration that wants to be seen as a global leader in the fight against the disease

There are only ten countries that now ban people with HIV/AIDS from entering. They are: Brunei, China. Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

According to the website hivtravel.org, some of these countries allow people to enter under “special circumstances”. Some other countries not on the list put restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS but not full bans.%Gallery-13474%

Man arrested for smuggling kangaroos

It seems that animal smuggling has become the trendy thing lately. Just in the past month a man was nabbed at LAX smuggling lizards, and another man was arrested in Norway smuggling pythons. Both of these guys had wrapped up the critters and strapped them to their chest.

Now a man in Indonesia has been arrested for smuggling kangaroos. Since roos are a wee bit too big to tie to one’s body, especially when there’s ten of them, he made the logical choice of smuggling them by boat. That didn’t stop him from getting caught, though. Initial reports state the animals were red kangaroos, a protected species from New Guinea. Five were dead at the time the man was arrested.

The international trade in protected and endangered species is a lucrative business. All of the animals in the incidents mentioned would have fetched large sums of money on the black market. It seems customs officials have more to look out for than drugs, bombs, and bottles of water.

The smuggler faces up to five years in prison. The surviving kangaroos have been given to an animal sanctuary.

Should a medical exam be required before a major trek?

Physicians and politicians in Australia are calling for mandatory physicals for any trekkers preparing to hike the Kokoda Track according to Aussie newspaper The Age. The Kokoda is a difficult and remote trail in Papua New Guinea, which has claimed the lives of three hikers this year alone. The track runs 60 miles in length through a region where the Australian military fought a pitched battle with the Japanese during WWII, and it has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years.

The latest person to die on the Kokoda was a 38 year old man named Paul Bradfield who was hiking the trail as part of a fund raising effort for a children’s charity. Before the hike he was believed to have been in good health and spent weeks training for trip. The exact cause of his death is still unknown, but it is believed that he suffered a heart attack while hiking. The other two people to die on the trail this year were also quite young as well. One was a 26 year old man, and the other a 36 year old woman.

This story brings up an interesting debate. Should a physical be required before embarking on any major trek? At what point does a government begin enforcing such requirements and how exactly do they do so? At the moment, Australia has no requirements of the trekking companies that operate on the Kokoda, but they are developing a “code of conduct” for those hiking the trail, and are now strongly considering the requirement of a medical check as well.
While three deaths is certainly something to be concerned about, it is also a very small number when you consider that 6000 people take on the Kokoda each year. Similarly, on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, roughly ten people die in a given year as well, usually due to altitude sickness. But that too is a small number when you consider the thousands that climb the mountain each year. Should these relatively minuscule numbers of deaths cause a change in policy that will effect all the trekkers that go to these places? And would a mandatory health check have saved these three hikers to begin with?

On the other hand, there is a certain inherent danger to these kinds of trips, and obviously anyone can be at risk, no matter what condition they’re in. Wouldn’t a responsible traveler want to ensure their safety by having a physical anyway? Don’t they owe it to themselves and their families?

If Australia does institute a change, it’ll probably require the tour operators to be the ones that have to enforce it by requiring all hikers to show proof of a medical examination before they join the trek. The question is should they make this change, and if so, should other major treks around the world follow suit?

Gadlinks for Monday 9.14.09

In keeping with the Weird America theme today on Gadling, here are some weird travel reads for you, this glorious fall (it is fall, right?) Monday.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.

Explorers discover ‘lost world’ in Papua New Guinea

A team of explorers from the U.S. and Britain, along with locals from Papua New Guinea, recently descended into the volcanic crater of Mount Bosavi, where they discovered a “lost world” with a host of new species that have been evolving in isolation for thousands of years. The crater is more than a kilometer deep and three kilometers across, and lacks the major predators that are often common in rainforests around the globe. The result, is that many creatures were able to adapt to living side by side in an environment that remains nearly completely cut off from the outside world.

In the five weeks that the explorers and scientists were in the crater they found a wealth of interesting creatures, including kangaroos that live in trees, a new type of bat, and a fish that makes grunting noises. They also discovered 16 new species of frogs, including one with a set of fangs, as well as a new breed of rat that my now hold the record as the largest in the world.

The scientists on the expedition were surprised and amazed at these discoveries, and are now making renewed calls for the preservation of rainforests across the planet. The amount of new species they found in just five weeks makes you wonder what else is out there, still hidden in the jungles, that we don’t know anything about. There is still a lot of this world left to explore and plenty of new things to discover, despite what we might think.