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Foreign travel: Warnings on Crimean Peninsula, Mali

Risks and warnings

The State Department continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine and all travel to the Crimean Peninsula and eastern areas of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk due to tensions in the region. The U.S. believes that Russia is likely to continue to take further actions in the Crimean Peninsula consistent with its claim of annexation. The State Department also warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Mali, given terrorist activity there. "We strongly warn against travel to the northern parts of the country and along the border with Mauritania," the department said. More info at (888) 407-4747 toll-free in the United States or, outside the country, (202) 501-4444.

Malaysia and the media

Did the level of public and media interest in the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 affect the flow of reliable information on the crash? "Yes," according to a poll by travel booking site Airfarewatchdog.com, which surveyed more than 1,300 fliers about the media's influence on obtaining timely information. The poll asked: Do you think the international media has influenced Malaysian authorities to prematurely release information on Flight 370?

41% said, "Yes, and that's why too much misinformation has been reported."

23% said, "Yes, without the media, we probably wouldn't even know as much as we do."

22% said, "No, they've been slow to share information."

14% said, "No, they probably would have taken this pace anyway."

Theater collapse

Weakened century-old cloth and plaster ties caused a partial ceiling collapse that injured almost 80 audience members at London's Apollo Theatre in late December, investigators have found. The ties had been in place since the Apollo opened in 1901. Seven people were seriously hurt and scores more slightly injured when chunks of plaster and wood fell from the ceiling during a performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" on Dec. 19.

Sheep shortage

The Irish require at least 6,000 sheep as hosts of this year's Golden Shears World Championships. But they're more than 1,000 short with just weeks to go before an event dubbed "the Olympics of sheep shearing." Organizers said last week they need ewes, ages 12 to 14 months, to ensure that all competitors are supplied similarly shaped sheep. Prices for such animals in Ireland are running high, and farmers are under pressure to sell them before the May 22 start of the four-day competition in Gorey, south of Dublin.

Moon camera

A Hasselblad 500 camera that went to the moon in 1971 aboard Apollo 15 fetched nearly $760,000 at a Vienna auction. The new owner was identified as Japanese businessman Terukazu Fujisawa. The owner of an electronics chain placed his winning bid by phone. Bidding started at just over $110,000.

Zoo attacks

German police are hunting a killer responsible for the death of 15 flamingos at Frankfurt Zoo, some of which were beheaded as they slept. The culprit or culprits struck twice, both times at night. Keepers found nine of the long-necked pink birds dead in their enclosure one day, and six more the next. Zoo director Manfred Niekisch says despite putting in place extra security after the first incident, guards weren't able to prevent the second attack.

Sources: U.S. State Department, Associated Press

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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