State Department not budging on European travel warning

The State Department’s terror alert for Americans traveling and living in Europe is alive and well – and nobody cares. Even though there are concerns of a terrorist plot for a “Mumbai-style massacre,” according to Fox News, the State Department isn’t budging and Americans aren’t paying attention. But, the good news is that at least the British haven’t changed their level, which is “severe,” giving us at least some validation and a friend just like us.

Targets being watched include: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, luxury Hotel Adlon near Berlin‘s Brandenburg Gate and Berlin’s Central Station.

According to Fox News:

State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin told journalists in London on Thursday that the American government’s position on the issue has not changed.

“We don’t view the conditions as warranting us rescinding the (travel) alert,” he said.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, the current U.S. alert is only a step below a formal warning to us to stay out of Europe.

[photo by geoftheref via Flickr]

State Department issues “travel alert” for Europe

The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert for citizens visiting Europe. This notification, seconded by countries like Japan and Britain, is of a lesser degree than a formal warning.

“We are not – repeat, not – advising Americans not to go to Europe,” State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy was quoted saying in USA Today. “This is an alert. We put out alerts to ensure that American citizens are aware of possible incidents.”

The alert warns U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe but does not specifically mention a particular country, day, or activity. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.

Last week, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated twice due to bomb threats.

What, exactly, does this mean? In short – don’t be stupid. Stay on your guard, and follow recommended procedures, such as registering your travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website. If you are visiting a country known for having anti U.S. sentiments, be aware of your behavior and speech in public areas.

This Travel Alert expires on January 31, 2011.

[Flickr image via mikescrivener]

Hezbollah theme park: an attraction designed with terror in mind

Are you always searching for a roller coaster that will make your hair stand on end? Well, if you really want to scare yourself, skip the traditional amusement park rides and catch a flight out to Beirut. There’s a “theme park” in town that will open your eyes wide and keep you looking over your shoulder.

Hezbollah has gotten into the Disney business.

Identified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Hezbollah’s new endeavor isn’t doing a thing to change that perception. Called “Landmark for the Resistance,” the theme park celebrates the group’s military efforts against Israel. Enter the park, and you can wander among implements of mayhem and destruction, from tanks to machine guns … and you can even get some photo ops of the kids with their fingers on the trigger!

Designed and built by Hezbollah, Landmark for the Resistance cost a mere $4 million, a pittance compared to what it would cost to get an attraction up here in the United States. So far, the park’s been a success, one of the few in a country that has had trouble attracting tourists because of … well … Hezbollah.

Buoyed by the strong response, especially the smiling children, I suspect, Hezbollah has already committed to expansion plans. Look for a cable car wandering around the guns ‘n’ ammo soon – and a hotel and a restaurant.

State Department issues travel alert in response to planned Qur’an burnings

The State Department has issued a worldwide Travel Alert in response to media reports of planned Qur’an burnings in Florida. The alert urges U.S. citizens to be cautious of “the potential for anti-U.S. demonstrations in many countries in response to stated plans by a church in Florida to burn Qur’ans on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

The alert continues by saying that “demonstrations, some violent, have already taken place in several countries, including Afghanistan and Indonesia, in response to media reports of the church’s plans. The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high. We urge you to pay attention to local reaction to the situation, and to avoid areas where demonstrations may take place.”

Guardian reported yesterday that the Gainsville, Fla.-based church and Rev Terry Jones plan to move forward with the burning despite condemnation by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other religious and political figures.

This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2010.


Israel complains about travel warning, gets change

There are two important steps to take in getting what you want in the travel world. First, you have to complain. Next, you need to do it to the right people. Israel did both, and it seems to have worked out fairly well for the country.

The problem started with a U.S. State Department travel warning for Israel five days ago. The Israeli government, according to the Associated Press, griped that it “unfairly singled out an Israeli resort,” Eilat, on the Red Sea. A new warning has since been issued, the AP continues:

The new warning says only that Americans in southern Israel “should be aware of the risks and should follow the advice of the Government of Israel’s office of Homefront Command.” It makes no mention of Eilat.

The Tourism Ministry in Israel noted that the statement from the State Department didn’t include the Jordanian resort Aqaba. As a result:

“This advisory gives a prize to terror and undermines regional stability and the sense of security that Israel gives to everyone who enters the country,” the ministry said. “Differentiating Israel from its neighbor that actually suffered loss of life is improper and lacks balance.”

[photo by kleindavid via Flickr]