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 ChristmasInCharleston.com.

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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US Navy drops live bombs in Florida national forest

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 8:29 AM

US Navy Drops Bombs In Florida Forest

Residents in southern Marion, northern Lake or west Volusia counties should not be alarmed if they hear loud booms near their neighborhoods.

The US Navy began bomb training exercises this week at the Pine Castle Range Complex in the Ocala National Forest, officials said in a news release.

F-18 jets fly from Naval Air Station in Jacksonville and conduct the training.

Read: Navy Destroyer named after Winter Park veteran christened

Residents nearby might hear the training or feel the vibrations.

The exercises began Monday and continue Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., officials said.

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Officials said wildlife might be temporarily displaced and that drivers should use caution when driving through the Ocala National Forest and surrounding areas.

The telephone number for noise complaints is 1-800-874-5059. 

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Pope Francis criticizes Trump administration for migrant family separations

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 10:24 AM

Pope Francis delivers his traditional 'Urbi et Orbi' Blessing - to the City of Rome, and to the World - from the central balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square on April 1, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Pope Francis delivers his traditional 'Urbi et Orbi' Blessing - to the City of Rome, and to the World - from the central balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square on April 1, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.(Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in an interview published Wednesday by Reuters.

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“It’s not easy, but populism is not the answer,” he said.

The pope told Reuters that he agreed with statements made last week by Catholic bishops in America who called the family separation policy “immoral.” 

>> Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy

“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement released at the conference’s spring assembly. “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answers and is immoral.”

Francis told Reuters that he is “on the side of the bishops’ conference.”

>> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive,” he said, speaking about the migrant crisis that has sent hundreds of thousands of people into Europe. “You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout Europe.”

He said that populists have been “creating psychosis” around the issue of immigration.

“Populism does not resolve things,” he said. “What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

>> Immigration: Babies and children held in 'tender age' shelters according to report

The Trump administration in April directed prosecutors to pursue cases against all people suspected of crossing the border illegally as part of a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. Parents have been separated from their children as they face prosecution.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that Democrats are to blame for laws that mandate the family separations, however, no law requiring the separations exists.

'Zero Tolerance' Immigration Policy: Why Are Children Being Separated From Their Families

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George Clooney, Amal Clooney donate $100,000 to help immigrant children separated from families

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 11:30 AM

George Clooney and Amal Clooney have donated $100,000 on behalf of their foundation to help immigrant children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Turner)
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Turner
George Clooney and Amal Clooney have donated $100,000 on behalf of their foundation to help immigrant children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Turner)(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Turner)

George Clooney and Amal Clooney are donating $100,000 on behalf of their foundation to help immigrant children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration.

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In a statement to People, the couple, who welcomed twins Ella and Alexander last year, said, “At some point in the future our children will ask us: ‘Is it true, did our country really take babies from their parents and put them in detention centers?’ And when we answer yes, they’ll ask us what we did about it. What we said. Where we stood. We can’t change this administration’s policy but we can help defend the victims of it.

“Today, the Clooney Foundation for Justice will donate $100,000 to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.”

The Young Center, founded in 2004, works to have children in immigration proceedings seen as children, keeping their best interests in the process.

Related: Trump border policy: How to help immigrant children separated from families

“This Administration’s policy disregards international law and basic principles of human decency. To treat children in such a cruel manner not only violates their legal rights but also their basic needs,” The Young Center’s executive director, Maria Woltjen, said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to advocate on behalf of the thousands of children who are separated and alone, and we are grateful for the generous support of George and Amal Clooney and the Clooney Foundation for Justice — it could not be more vital at this time.”

The donation is the latest from the couple, whose foundation has also sponsored the resettlement of Syrian and Yazidi refugees in the U.S. and the opening of eight public schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children. In February, the couple donated $500,000 to Parkland shooting survivors.

For more information on how to help families separated at the border, click here.

Photographer Tells Story Behind Image of Crying Toddler at Texas-Mexico Border

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Which Republicans are speaking out against separating immigrant families? Which governors are recalling guard troops from borders over it?

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 11:43 AM

'Zero Tolerance' Immigration Policy: Why Are Children Being Separated From Their Families

After meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky), said that he and the rest of the Republican caucus plan to work on legislation that would end the practice of separating migrant families at the country’s southern border. 

“I support, and all of the members of the Republican conference support, a plan to keep families together while their immigration status is determined,” McConnell said.

>>President Trump to reverse course on immigrant family separations

McConnell is the highest-ranking Republican to publicly disagree with Trump on the “zero tolerance” immigration policy announced in April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The policy calls for adults illegally entering the country to be criminally prosecuted. 

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Children who accompany those arrested for illegally entering the country are separated from their parents or guardians and taken into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Photographs of children behind fenced areas inside large facilities and an audio tape of children crying for their parents have led legislators to call for Trump to immediately end the policy of separating migrant families.

According to immigration records, during April and May, federal authorities separated at least 1,995 children from parents apprehended crossing the border illegally.

>>Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy

Sen. Ted Curz, (R-Texas), introduced a bill Tuesday that would require children be kept with their family members unless the child appeared to be in danger or the victim of human trafficking. The bill calls for doubling the number of federal immigration judges and authorize new family shelters.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah), and a dozen other Republican senators sent a letter to Sessions asking him to stop the policy of separating migrant families while Congress works on a solution to the issue.

The letter read in part: "The immediate cause of the crisis is your Department's recent institution of a 'zero tolerance' policy under which all adults who enter the United States illegally are referred for prosecution, regardless of whether they are accompanied by minor children. We support the administration's efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents.”

Those senators signing the letter:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)

Sen. John Boozman (Arkansas)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (Louisiana)

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

Sen. Bob Corker (Tennessee)

Sen. Cory Gardner (Colorado)

Sen. Dean Heller (Nevada)

Sen. James Lankford (Oklahoma)

Sen. John McCain (Arizona)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas)

Here are some other Republicans who have spoken out against the policy:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt

“We clearly have a border security problem," Blunt said in a statement to KCUR. "I agree with Mrs. [Laura] Bush and Mrs. [Melania] Trump that separating families does not meet the standard of who we are as a country. Strengthening our border security and upholding our laws in a manner consistent with our values will help facilitate progress toward addressing all aspects of our broken immigration system.”

Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder

“As the son of a social worker, I know the human trauma that comes with children being separated from their parents,” he tweeted. “It takes a lasting, and sometimes even irreversible toll on the child’s well-being. That’s why I’m demanding that Attorney General Sessions halt the practice of family separation at the border immediately as Congress works toward legislative solutions.”

Texas Sen. John Cornyn

“Parents who are awaiting court proceedings shouldn’t have to do so separated from their children, and children shouldn’t be taken from their parents and left frightened and confused about where they are and what is transpiring around them.”

Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman

“This afternoon I reached out to Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office to let her know I want to help her put a stop to this human rights disaster at the border. If that means introducing her bill in the House, I’d be honored to stand with her. If there is a better bill sponsor to get this done, or if there is a better approach from Sen. Ben Sasse, I’m open to all reasonable options. Tearing children from the arms of parents and then isolating them alone is antithetical to the America I grew up in, and to the America I have fought many times to defend. This isn’t who we are. My colleagues should mark their words and this moment — history won’t remember well those who support the continuation of this policy.”

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse 

“The president should immediately end this family separation policy.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd

“This is part of the problem with this administration on this policy. There's different elements of the government that don't understand what's really going on. Kids are being separated from their parents. In the last two months, there's been about 2,000. The previous year, it was almost 700. And a hundred of those kids were under the age of 4. This is just absolutely unacceptable. Taking kids from their mothers is not preventing terrorists or drugs from coming into this country.”

Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers 

“I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.”

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith

"There is nothing more important than protecting vulnerable children from physical and psychological harm. The policy of forcibly separating children from their parent or parents at the U.S. border is seriously wrong, hurts families, and needs to immediately end.

"The departments of Justice and Homeland Security must halt the practice of family separations, except in the cases of criminal felonies by an adult including rape, murder, sexual assault on a minor, or human trafficking."

Not calling out the Guard

Governors of at least 13 states have said they will not send their state’s National Guardsmen to help secure the southern border, according to a story from The New York Times.

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia have all said they will not deploy National Guard troops to the southern border. 

Governors of other states have said they will not use state resources to separate adults from children at the border.

In April, Trump called on the country’s governors to deploy more National Guard troops to the border to help with border security. State governors control National Guard deployment.

Most of the governors who have said they will either recall or refuse to send troops are Democrats. Two of the governors who have spoken publicly about National Guard troop deployment to the border are Republicans – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

The role of National Guard troops is limited. National Guard troops are forbidden by the Posse Comiatus Act from detaining suspects, from using force or from other law enforcement functions. Their role at the border would be one of providing support and possibly helping in surveillance.

In this Monday, June 18, 2018 file photo, Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest in front of the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Court building in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

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