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10 places to spend the holidays away from home

Published: Monday, November 27, 2017 @ 4:50 PM

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In the mood for a new adventure or looking for a change of scenery? The holiday season is the perfect time to explore a new destination, see new things and learn about different cultures. 

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Here are 10 places to consider visiting: 

1. Tromso, Norway

ALTA, NORWAY - MARCH 29: A general view of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights between Jokelfjord and Alteidet on March 29, 2017 in Troms, Norway. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

If you like the night life, Tromso is the place for you. Daylight during the holiday season is just a couple of hours long.

But the darkness is lit up by incredible views of the northern lights (look for them between 6 p.m. and midnight) and a chance to say you’ve been to the North Pole -- well, the Arctic Circle, anyway -- for Christmas.

2. Prague, Czech Republic

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - APRIL 12: The Moldau River flows under the Charles Bridge (2nd from bottom) and past buildings in Old Town on April 12, 2009 in Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is among Europe's major tourist destinations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Seeing “The Nutcracker” is a great experience. Seeing it in Prague, one of the homes of ballet, is an even more noteworthy experience.

After leaving the Czech ballet, enjoy historic Nerudova Street in Mala Strana, which is filled with Gothic and Baroque architecture. Don’t miss the holiday markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

3. Lapland, Finland

ROVANIEMI, FINLAND - NOVEMBER 27: Entrance of Santa Claus' Main Post Office in Santa Claus' Village on November 27, 2006 at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Province of Lapland, Finland. Each year over 600,000 letters are received from children in over 150 countries, particularly Great Britain, Poland and Japan. The staff speak many languages and endeavour to reply on Santa's behalf to all those who provide a return address.(Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Want to walk in a real winter wonderland? Urho Kekkonen National Park, a 90-minute flight from Helsinki, is the real thing. Cross the frosty landscape via a reindeer-pulled sled or go cross-country skiing on the Saariselkä trails.

If you want to watch the northern lights warmly, some of the igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen are made of thermal glass.

4. Zurich, Switzerland

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 21: Snow covered alpine mountains seen from a commercial flight from Athens International Airport to Heathrow Airport on February 21, 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)(Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe believes in lighting up the holidays. A display of 12,000 crystal lights are turned on to mark the season starting in late November.

On the eve of Dec. 19, children set candles afloat on the Limmat River near City Hall. And don’t miss the Conelli Christmas Circus.

5. Charleston, South Carolina

Market Hall is a Greek Revival style building and is part of a Colonial era historic market complex in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Located on Meeting Street, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a National Historic Landmark.(John Coletti/Getty Images)

If you’re not in the mood for Europe, Charleston has its own spin on the holidays. Pecans roasting instead of chestnuts, eggnog spiked with bourbon, and choirs singing spirituals at Drayton Hall plantation are among the signs of the season.

The city has an extensive list of events at

6. Reykjavik, Iceland

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - APRIL 07: Tourists visit a geyser Ioutside of Reykjavik on April 7, 2016 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Tourism is one of Iceland's most important sectors with thousands visiting every year to indulge in nature and to see the Northern Lights. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Iceland has been a hot vacation spot for the last several years, and the center of that is Reykjavik, the capital city. It’s another northern location where daylight is a four-hour affair and the aurora borealis is the biggest holiday light of them all. Statues of the 12 Yule Lads -- the Icelandic version of Santa Claus -- peek around every corner and from every window.

7. Santa Barbara, California

SANTA BARBARA, CA - MAY 07: Butterfly Beach on May 7, 2009 in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)(David McNew/Getty Images)

So you’d rather be warm for Christmas -- who wouldn’t? Hotels in the Santa Barbara area can give you the New England winter lodge feeling just steps from the beach.

If you are there on a Sunday, check out the Sunday Arts & Crafts Show for last-minute shopping.

8. Boston

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 13: A girl sleds on Boston Common following a winter storm February 13, 2017 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)(Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

If you want New England’s Old World ambience with snow, Boston is the place to go.

Enjoy Beacon Hill’s cobblestone streets dusted with snow, and celebrate the ghosts of Christmases past with the Christmas Revels at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Get some skating in on Boston Common.

9. Edinburgh, Scotland

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of Edinburgh Castle on February 7, 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The castle dominates the city skyline was built on top of an extinct volcano, and has had a human settlement on the castle site since 900BC. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Fireworks lighting up over Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse? Yes, please. Add in bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” around the Sir Walter Scott monument, and the sounds of the season are fully engaged here.

10. Taos, New Mexico

Rio Grande by John Dunn Bridge in Arroyo Hondo in Taos County, New Mexico. A popular recreational spot for locals and tourists alike for hiking, biking, swimming and fishing.(Mona Makela Photography/Getty Images)

For a unique holiday season, light a farolito (little lantern) in Taos. The Native American and Hispanic influences are prevalent, bringing a multicultural twist to the holiday season with activities like the lighting of Ledoux Street with the tiny lanterns.

In the days before Christmas, the town also celebrates the Hispanic tradition Las Posadas.

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Democrats hope marches can sway Congress on guns

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 12:00 AM

After watching lawmakers agree to two bills this week dealing with guns and school safety in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Democrats say the gun violence marches around the nation on Saturday have the chance to change the political dynamic on gun control in the Congress.

“Their hope gives me hope,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and others who have joined in calling for action on gun violence.

“Their determination gives me determination,” Nelson said at a U.S. Capitol news conference, even as he and other Democrats again acknowledged that they are far from having the votes to press ahead with gun control plans.

Among the plans that Democrats have focused on in recent weeks include:

+ The Manchin-Toomey ‘universal background checks’ bill, which would require checks for almost all private gun sales.

+ A federal law raising the minimum age to purchase a weapon to 21, mirrored on a law just passed by the state of Florida.

+ A ban on the sale of weapons like the AR-15.

+ Limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“We have an important role to play in insuring that no students should ever be afraid to walk down the hallway of their school,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose district includes Parkland, Florida.

“It is our job, and everyone working in that building behind us, to pass laws, to keep our communities safe,” Deutch said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

But the last five weeks were also a reminder of the difficulty of acting on any gun-related legislation – no matter how minor it might be.

The “Fix NICS” bill approved this week as part of a giant spending bill was bipartisan, yet it also had some sharp opposition from Republicans in the House.

And that makes the idea of the ‘Buy 21’ bill, or any ban on assault weapons, difficult to see getting through the Congress, unless there is major change in the makeup of the U.S. House and Senate.

“You know the politics, but you got to start somewhere,” said Nelson. “This is the first step at the federal level.”

“There is no better example of the youth of our country becoming engaged, than in this march,” said Deutch.

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Mother crashed car into pole to prove to kids God is real, police say

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 9:24 PM

Bakari Warren, 25, is seen here in a mug shot. She’s jailed on a $22,000 bond on two charges of cruelty to children.
Gwinett County Sheriff’s Office
Bakari Warren, 25, is seen here in a mug shot. She’s jailed on a $22,000 bond on two charges of cruelty to children.(Gwinett County Sheriff’s Office)

Police say a mother intentionally crashed her SUV into a pole to prove to her two small children that God is real.

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Investigators say Bakari Warren, 25, told officers after the crash that she did it on purpose to show her kids that if they believe, God would protect them.

The crash and the 5- and 7-year-old kids’ explanation were all caught on camera. 

Police say Warren was driving northbound on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard when she crossed into the southbound lanes and drove head on into a concrete pole.

Sitting in a police car, her children explained what happened before the crash.

“You think she did it on purpose?” the officer asked.

>> Related: 12-year-old boy missing after getting on wrong school bus found near his home

“Yeah because she turned. Her eyes was closed and she was saying, blah, blah, blah, ‘I love God,’” one daughter said. “She didn’t want us to just have a car accident. She wanted us to know that God is real."

Police said Warren told her children to buckle up their seat belts just before she accelerated into the pole. Warren was frisked and handcuffed right after she got out of the SUV.

“When the officers asked the driver of the vehicle what had happened her first statement was to check her Facebook, and it would explain what happened,” Norcross police Sgt. Eric Butynski said.

>> Related: Missing Iowa family of 4 found dead in Mexico 

Nothing was found directly referencing the incident on what appeared to be her Facebook page, but police say she later gave the same reasons as her kids -- to prove that God will protect them. 

No one was hurt in the accident, but officers say it could have been much worse.

“It could have been a lot worse. It could have been heavier traffic at the time, she could have hit the pole at such an angle that she did more damage to the car,” Butynski said.

Warren remains in jail on $22,000 bond. She is charged with two counts of child cruelty. 

>> Related: College student seriously injured while on spring break in Cancun 

The children are now with their grandparents

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Justice Dept. announces proposal to ban bump stocks ahead of anti-gun rally in DC

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 10:25 PM

What is a Bump Stock?

The Department of Justice announced a proposal Friday to ban bump stocks, device that essentially convert semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. The announcement came just a day ahead of the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington.

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Thousands of young people are expected to converge on the nation’s capital to demand gun control following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 people dead.

President Donald Trump announced the new proposal on Twitter. “We will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns,” the president tweeted.

>> Related: What is a bump stock, how does it work and is it legal?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement on the proposed ban, referring to the Las Vegas massacre in October that left 58 people dead. The shooter used bump stocks on a number of weapons to increase their firepower.

“After the senseless attack in Las Vegas, this proposed rule is a critical step in our effort to reduce the threat of gun violence,” Sessions said.

>> Related: Trump sends memo to DOJ asking for bump stock ban after Parkland massacre

On Feb. 20, Trump issued a memorandum instructing Session to ban bump stocks. The proposal announced on Friday is a response to that memorandum.

A bump stock is installed on an AK-47 and its movement is demonstrated at Good Guys Gun and Range on February 21, 2018 in Orem, Utah. The bump stock is a device when installed allows a semi-automatic to fire at a rapid rate much like a fully automatic gun. (George Frey/Getty Images)

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs year-round daylight saving time measure

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 9:58 PM


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is signing off on a measure that would let Florida stay on daylight saving time all year long.

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Scott on Friday signed 74 bills into law, including the "Sunshine Protection Act." The measure won't take effect unless Congress also changes federal law.

But if Congress were to go along, Floridians would no longer set back their clock an hour each November.

>> Related: Florida Senate passes bill approving year-round Daylight Saving Time

That would translate into later sunrises and sunsets from November to March.

Scott in a statement said he supported the move because it would help the state's tourism industry. He said it would allow residents and visitors to "enjoy everything our beautiful state has to offer later in the day."

>> Related: Sen. Rubio files federal legislation to make daylight saving time permanent

The Florida PTA had asked for a veto because more children would go to school in the morning in the dark.

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