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(CNN) –

An extension of flight restrictions to Israel means more uncertainty for travelers in a six-day span marred by the shooting down of a commercial flight over Ukraine and a rocket strike near Israel’s gateway international airport.

Suddenly, many travelers are keenly aware of the risks of flying through conflict zones. Safe airspace is top of mind for people considering trips to troubled spots and those just hoping to get home sooner rather than later.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard. U.S. intelligence officials say that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for shooting down the commercial airliner traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. But they now believe the rebels probably didn’t know that it was a commercial airliner, officials said Tuesday.

On the day of the crash, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice prohibiting U.S. flight operations in the airspace over eastern Ukraine until further notice, extending an April ban on flights over the Crimea region.

On Wednesday, the FAA extended its ban on U.S. airline flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, for up to 24 hours. The order was prompted by a rocket strike near the airport on Tuesday. European aviation authorities issued warnings Tuesday urging carriers to avoid the region.

The unusual string of events has travelers worried.

“I never had a reason to think I was flying over a war zone where missiles might be flying,” said Elizabeth Bratt, 34, an American living in Taiwan, who is planning to travel to Europe and the Middle East in the fall. “I would have trusted an airline to avoid such an area.”

The concern over routes doesn’t surprise aviation security consultant Jeff Price.

“Most travelers were only mildly concerned about where their flights were going prior to the Malaysia flight,” Price said. “Many are probably more concerned about it now. I know I would be, and I would definitely be concerned about anything flying over an ‘act of war’ zone.”

Or into a war zone.

The FAA ban on U.S. airlines flying into Tel Aviv follows on the heels of a State Department travel warning Monday about the region. It advised Americans to consider deferring nonessential travel to Israel and the West Bank and reaffirmed existing guidance against any travel to Gaza. Other countries are cautioning their citizens against some travel to the region.

Tourism taking a hit

The escalating violence and resulting travel restrictions mean tourists are starting to avoid Israel. A country of about 8 million people, Israel welcomed a record 3.5 million visitors last year and a record 1.4 million for the first half of 2014, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The country’s largest airport, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion, handled a record 14.3 million passengers in 2013, up 8% from 13.1 million passengers in 2012, according to Airports Council International, a trade group. (Israel has six commercial airports, two of which handle international traffic.)

Israeli tourism had already been affected by the conflict, and it was further affected by the FAA’s flight ban. Hotel occupancy in central cities has dropped to 50%, according to Yossi Fatael, managing director of the Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association.

Since July 15, the number of visitors cutting short their visits has increased from 25% to 40%. “The accumulating damage figure is some $500 million,” Fatael said.

Should the situation clear up in the next few days, Fatael said, the overall damage might be lighter than expected. If it continues, he couldn’t speculate on the long-term impact on Israeli’s tourism industry.

There’s never been an event that affected tourism in Israel to this level, he said, in part because of the timing. “During the Gulf War in 1991, the situation was somewhat similar,” Fatael said. “Yet it was in January and not during the height of tourism season.”

Still trying to get to Israel

Gil Travel is still sending tour groups to the Middle East, its owner said Wednesday. The Philadelphia-based company had tour groups scheduled to fly into Israel on Wednesday night.

Working with El Al airlines, Gil Travel has been able to get more than 100 passengers switched to flights that would take them from New York to Israel.

“Same goes the other way,” owner Iris Hami said. “Those who need to leave from Israel will fly out El Al or stay late.”

But because the flight restrictions are happening day-to-day, she’s asking travelers with flexible schedules to wait another day, in case they’re able to stick with their original airline.

Hassan Khawaled, a tour guide with travel group Ahalan Olympus, had a group of students scheduled to fly into Tel Aviv on Wednesday for an Islamic-focused tour of Israel. Since flights have been canceled, the Israel-based agency flew them into Jordan and drove into Israel, he said.

Travelers are trying to get home

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Navigating the thousands of travel recommendations online can be tricky; for every reviewer who sings a site’s praises, there is one you couldn’t pay to go back.

A new travel platform helps people to cut through the confusing advice online and go straight to the sites that suit their needs. DELI Amsterdam invites users to take a short personality test to find out which places will meet their preferences in the famous city.

The platform is for tourists and locals who want to go off the beaten track and discover some hidden gems in their locale.

When coming up with the concept, Anna Kolk, the founder of DELI Amsterdam, turned the idea of the traditional travel guide on its head to focus on the user rather than the reviewers’ opinions:

We focus on our users instead of the other way around, we don’t tell people where to go/what to do based on our own opinion or preference but let them take the test which will create a tailored experience with respect to their personality and lifestyle,” she tells PSFK.


The personality test features questions about lifestyle, entertainment and culture to sort users into 14 different personality types. There are 7 types of tourist, including the Alternative Souls, Family Guys’ and the Wild Ones who “see Amsterdam as a modern Sin City where they can taste elsewhere forbidden fruits”.

Among the 7 types of local, there are the Nouveau Riche, the Explorers and Forever Young. For the latter, “a day isn’t complete if they don’t enjoy a glass of cold beer, a portion of bitter-ballen and a lovely chat with a friend on a sunny terrace.”

The website uses the results to create a personalized guide for each user which includes 6 categories: music (including clubs, DJ parties and festivals), bars (including pubs, cafes and bars), culture (featuring museums, theaters, and exhibitions), shopping, restaurants and outdoors (parks, sport events).

Each category is presented in an interactive circle with 15 rings, each of which includes a bespoke travel suggestion which is also plotted on a map. These are arranged in order of suitability; the circle closest to the center is the most relevant to the user.


The platform is engagingly designed and continually updated, so users can save their profiles and revisit the site in the future for new suggestions. They can also retake the test at any time to modify their recommendations.

What’s more, the site offers all of these services for free and will continue to do so:

“Our model is to make money from advertisements, we have banners and advertorials integrated in the website which differ per user profile,” Kolk adds.


DELI Amsterdam offers a new approach to the standard travel guide, by making suggestions personalized and presenting them in a infographic style. It promises to help tourists and locals alike go beyond the iconic canals and coffee shops of Amsterdam to discover other sides to the city.

The platform officially goes live on July 23 with a launch event at Hutspot in Amsterdam. In the future, DELI plans to take the concept to other cosmopolitan cities around the world.

DELI Amsterdam

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* German football federation says watching events

* FIFA executive member plays down possibility of move

* Dutch, English soccer bosses say too early to consider (Adds comment from DFB soccer federation, FIFA committee member)

By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN, July 23 (Reuters) – Several senior German lawmakers have raised the possibility of stripping Russia of its right to host the 2018 World Cup and the national soccer federation said it was very worried about events following the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

Western states have blamed pro-Russian separatists battling Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17 in which 298 people were killed.

The European Union has threatened to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia, though on Tuesday ministers delayed action for a few days.

Taking away Russia’s right to hold the soccer tournament may have a significantly greater impact than more economic sanctions, said Michael Fuchs, deputy head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in the German parliament.

“The FIFA football association should think about whether Moscow is an appropriate host if it can’t even guarantee safe airways,” Fuchs told Handelsblatt Online, adding that Germany and France could take over the tournament if needed.

It would be unprecedented for the footballing world to deprive a country of hosting the World Cup once it has been awarded. Russia was selected in 2010 to host the event.

But Peter Beuth, interior minister of the state of Hesse, told top-selling Bild daily that staging the World Cup in Russia in 2018 would be “unimaginable” if Russian President Vladimir Putin did not actively cooperate with the crash investigation.

Withdrawing the World Cup from Russia “should not be taboo”, said Stephan Mayer, a member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU).

Germany’s DFB football federation President Wolfgang Niersbach said Germany, which won the World Cup in Brazil this month, had very good relations with the Russian football association and the World Cup organisation committee.

“But we are watching with very great concern political events in Russia which could not be predicted at the time of the awarding of the World Cup in 2010,” he added in a statement which stopped short of backing Russia’s right to host.


FIFA said earlier this week it could not comment. Germany’s FIFA executive committee member, Theo Zwanziger, played down the possibility of moving the tournament.

“The World Cup has been awarded to Russia, contracts have been signed and rights issued,” Zwanziger told Handelsblatt.

He also rejected any calls for a boycott.

“A boycott in sport only rarely yields results and therefore I don’t think much of such suggestions,” Zwanziger told Handelsblatt, adding that Fuchs’ comments sounded populistic.

“Sport must go places even if it is painful. Only then can it stand up for its values and convictions such as tolerance, fairness and peaceful cooperation,” said Zwanziger.

Several Western nations, including the United States, boycotted the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980, in protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in February shortly before relations between Western nations and Russia deteriorated sharply due to the Ukraine crisis.

Trade groups in Germany have said new EU sanctions could hurt business between Russia and Europe’s biggest economy.

The Malaysian plane had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down near Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels.

In the Netherlands, where many of the passengers came from, the Dutch football association said it was too early to review Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

“The association believes it is more appropriate to conduct a discussion over a future World Cup in Russia at a later moment, once the investigation into the disaster has been completed,” it said in a statement.

England’s football association chairman also said on Tuesday it was premature to talk of moving the World Cup from Russia. (Additional reporting by Brian Homewood and Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Editing by Stephen Brown and Alison Williams)

Article source:

The global spotlight has fallen on Russia once again as the country fields blame for the Malaysian passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine and the 298 people killed as a result, according to Associated Press.

Russia’s response to the disaster has left world leaders wanting, but in addition to the secrecy cast around the crash site, the Russian press has been reporting vastly different stories than its Western counterparts. Below are five Russian news stories that have raised eyebrows, and how closely they correspond to Western news sources.

1. The plane was full of corpses when it left Amsterdam

The Russian news site Vesti ran a story arguing that nobody was killed in the crash because everyone on the plane had been dead the whole time, blaming the Ukrainian government for the elaborate hoax. The site quotes militia commander Igor Shooters as saying that when found, the bodies had all been dead for several days, and that the plane had a suspicious amount of medical cargo on board. The site also commented on the “amazing” state of the passports found on board, which the author described as looking brand new.

The large amount of medical cargo was not the result of a staged accident but was due to the approximately 100 HIV/AIDS doctors and specialists who were on board and headed to a conference in Malaysia, according to RawStory.

“Where Girkin believes the Ukrainian government obtained nearly 300 corpses is unclear,” wrote RawStory author David Ferguson. “Let alone how officials managed to dress the bodies and provide them with passports and travel information.”

2. The actual target of the attack was President Putin

An anonymous source told Russia Today that the attack on the civilian aircraft might have been meant for Putin’s private jet.

“The contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the coloring, at a quite remote distance they are almost identical,” the source said.

Putin’s plane often takes a route similar to the path of the Malaysian flight, the site said, and would have been a prime target for Ukrainian rebels.

There may be some credence to this theory, according to International Business Times. Writer Vasudevan Sridharan stated that “Putin’s plane was in a similar flight path coinciding with the crash as he was returning from the Brics summit in Brazil.”

However it ultimately seems unlikely, Sridharan concluded. Since the turmoil in Ukraine began, Putin has avoided flying over the country. Russia Today agreed, writing that “the president does not fly over the conflict-gripped neighboring country (of Ukraine).”

3. The downed flight is actually MH370, the Malaysian flight that disappeared over the Indian Ocean

MH370 was hijacked by Americans, who flew it to the military base “Diego Garcia,” according to Russian news blog News2. Months later, the Americans loaded the plane with corpses, forged the necessary documents, and staged the crash, using the plane that was supposed to have disappeared into the ocean. “In the necessary spot, (the plane) was blown up, without even using a surface-to-air missile. Instead the plane was packed with a bomb, just like the CIA did on 9/11,” the New Republic quoted the Russian site as saying.

No other major players seem to be giving this theory any credence, based on a report from the Financial Times stating that Malaysia and Australia, two of the countries most affected by both disasters, are actively pursuing both events.

“Search efforts for MH370 continue unaffected by recent developments,” read an email from the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center. “Finding Malaysian Flight MH370 is a high priority for the Australian government, as well as Malaysia, China and other countries involved in the search efforts.”

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The race should be returning to Maldon next year on the late May bank holiday.

World Pea Shooting Championships

Since 1971, when the headmaster of the village school in Witcham,
Cambridgeshire, came up with the idea, the World Pea Shooting Championships
have taken place annually as a fundraising attraction at the village fair.
The event is popular among locals and held on the second Saturday of July
every year.

World Hen Racing Championships

What began as a small summer activity more than 100 years ago has now become
the official World Hen Racing Championships of Bonsall, Derbyshire. Anyone
can enter their hen into this fast and furious event for free, with the hens
competing in heats to determine which can make it over the 15 metre track
the fastest.

If you think your hen is in with a chance, the competition is held on the
first Saturday in August annually.

Bog Snorkelling Championships

Another event held in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales is the World Bog Snorkelling
Championships. This light-hearted race has been known to lure competitors
from all over the world, and is a particular favourite among stag dos. The
enthusiasts in their fancy dress costumes are a sight to be seen. Lonely
Planet has described the Bog Snorkelling Championship as one of the top 50
‘must do’ things from around the World in 2014, so perhaps its time to
invest in that snorkel…

Haxey Hood

Legend has it that this 700-year tradition began when Lady de Mowbray was out
riding and a gust of wind blew off her hat. Some farm labourers set about
retrieving it and she was so pleased that she named the person who handed it
to her “Lord of the Hood”. A man who had caught the hat but been
too afraid to hand it to her was dubbed “The Fool”. On the Twelfth
Night of Christmas (January 6 in 2015) the tussle is replayed, started by
the Fool from a stone in front of Haxey Parish Church, Lincolnshire.

The Hood, a long leather cylinder, is thrown into the air to launch the
proceedings. When it falls the participants try to rustle it out of the
field and back to their favourite pub for a celebration and the honour of
holding it for the coming year. The Lord of the Hood referees the match.

World Stone Skimming Championships

Anyone can enter this competition, on Easdale Island in Argyll, Scotland. Each
competitor is allowed three skims, using specially selected Easdale slate
skimming stones. The pre-skim party takes place on the Saturday before the
event and can be fantastic fun, with a licensed bar and live music.

This year you can go skimming on September 28.

World Egg Throwing Championships

Swaton, Lincolnshire, hosts a cracking, annual eggstravaganza that involves
egg-catching, egg-and-spoon relays and machine-assisted egg-hurling – all
for a good cause. The games are no yolking matter for the eggstroverts of
the Lincolnshire village, as they compete for as many points as possible.

The dates are not yet confirmed for 2015’s Championships, but watch this space
as they’re guaranteed to be eggsellent.

Cheese Rolling

Synonymous with barmy British traditions, the Cooper’s Hill event in
Gloucester is almost too popular for its own good. The event, which dates
back hundreds of years, sees crowds of participants chase a 7lb Double
Gloucester cheese down a dangerously steep hill in a series of daredevil
races. Broken limbs are not uncommon. The festival traditionally takes place
on the late spring bank holiday Monday – May 25 in 2015.

Stilton Rolling

A tamer, and somewhat less cheesy alternative, is the annual Stilton rolling
held in the village of Stilton, Cambridgeshire, which took place this year
on June 1, 2014. Again, this tradition was the brainchild of a pub landlord
who somehow fell on the idea midway through the 20th-century. A block of
cheese-shaped wood is nudged along the road by single-sex teams who compete
to be the first to push it over a finish line.

Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa is a community festival of fire in Lerwick, Shetland Islands,
which takes place annually on the last Tuesday of January. During the day a
march of the Guizer Squad, led by the Guizer Jarl (Chief Viking), visits
various schools, the local hospital, and ends up at the Shetland Museum,
where spectators can see the armour worn by squad members up close. The
evening culminates in a torch-lit procession involving almost 1,000 people,
and concludes with the burning of a galley which is then pushed into the

Up Helly Aa returns on January 27, next year.

Nettle Eating

Visit The Bottle Inn in Marshwood, Dorset, in June and you could be enjoying
some rather unusual bar snacks. With its origins rooted in a “longest
stinging nettle” competition – “If anybody beats that I’ll
eat it”, someone once declared – this unusual event leaves entrants
with unsightly black tongues but, thankfully, very few stings. Ale is on
hand to wash down these particularly prickly mouthfuls.

Race the Train

Based in Tywyn, mid-Wales, Race the Train is the ideal event for multi-terrain
runners, whereby competitors are not only racing against each other, but
also the Talyllyn Railway Train on its journey to Abergynolwyn and back. The
running track uses a mixture of lanes, roads, tracks and agricultural land,
with the main Rotary challenge being 14 miles, though shorter challenges are
available. This year’s competition is being held on August 16.

Dwile Flunking

This pub game, where a soggy dishcloth is lobbed at a ring of players,
traditionally takes place outside a tavern. It is a social highlight at the
Lewes Arms in Sussex, where matches between pub regulars and the Lewes
Operatic Society date back to the middle of last century. The two teams
compete for the traditional ceremonial pewter ‘gazunder’, a rather
interesting portable potty.

Obby Oss Day

This strange celebration is rumoured to be the oldest dance festival in the
country, possibly relating to a Celtic festival held in honour of the sun
god Bel, who was thought to cause crops to grow and daylight hours to
lengthen. Inhabitants of Padstow, Cornwall, dance to drums and accordions,
and dress either in red or blue, depending on which ‘Oss they support. The
Old ‘Oss resembles a black horse and is prone to pulling women under its
cape to portray a fertility rite. The Blue ‘Oss represents peace. The
festival takes place annually on May 1.

Man vs Horse (courtesy Martin Buck)

This strenuous event involves horses and riders competing against runners in a
race of more than 22 miles in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. It originated back to
1980, when two men were discussing whether horse and man have equal
competence, which soon led to the first public trial. The race takes place
annually every June.

The next race is planned for June 13, 2015.

Shrovetide Football

Every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, locals take to the streets of
Ashbourne to play an oversized football match where the entire town is the
playing field. The game is thought to date from Elizabethan times. Those
born on the north side of the river play against those from the south in
this Derbyshire town, with the two goals set three miles apart, where mill
wheels once stood. To score, players must tap the ball three times against a
marker board. Shops board up their windows and cars are parked elsewhere as
the resulting match becomes something of an unruly scrum. Only for the

Flaming tar barrels

Each year on November 5 the streets of Ottery St Mary are cut by red wraiths
of flame as figures knife through the crowds with flaming barrels hoisted
onto well-protected shoulders. While you have to be a local to take part,
it’s not just the men of Ottery St Mary who hoist the barrels. Children run
in the afternoon with smaller barrels, followed by the women and concluding
with “gert big unz” for the chaps. It’s an anarchic spectacle, elemental in
its invocation of fire, spine-chilling and deliciously eccentric.

Porthcawl Elvis Festival

Porthcawl’s annual celebration of Elvis Presley sees thousands of fans travel
to the Welsh seaside town dressed in full Elvis attire to celebrate their
hero, some not looking quite the replica of the King. The Elvies, the
world’s leading award show for Elvis tributes, takes place over the weekend
in the Grand Pavilion, and is enjoyed by hundreds of spectators.

Taking place this year on September 26-28.

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The final display, back on the ground floor, is a dignified extension over the
burial site, with yellow discs showing the skeleton’s position and clear
evidence of the scoliosis that deformed its spine. But the star exhibits
will undoubtedly be the eerie facial reconstruction of Richard and the
stark, skeletal reminder of the brutality of his age.

The centre ( opens
at 10am on July 26. Booking for timed slots recommended. Admission: adults
£7.95, children three-15 £4.75, families £21.50.

Leicester City Council’s excellent Richard III Walking Trail leaflet (50p)
is available from the Visit Leicester Centre or online (

The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park (01455 290429;
is 11 miles west of Leicester and has an exhibition on Richard and the
battle and regular costumed guided walks. Adults £7.95, children 3-15 £4.75,
families £17.50.

The Leicester Central Travelodge (0871 984 6254;
is on the site of the Blue Boar, the inn where Richard stayed before the
battle. Doubles from £47 a night.

King Richard III’s remains were discovered in 2012

York Castle Museum, Yorkshire

As part of the new exhibition 1914: When the World Changed Forever the museum
is running a series of First World War activities for children from July 23
to August 31. They can try trench food and learn about the soldiers’ diet,
learn to decode messages in Morse code, try drilling sessions and undergo a
‘recruitment’ procedure.

Open daily: 9.30am-5pm. Admission: Adults £9.50, children under 16 free
with one paying adult (01904 687687;

York Castle Museum

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-on-Sea

From August 1 to 31 the Royal Shakespeare Company is providing free family
entertainment on the Bancroft Terrace ‘seaside’ outside the theatre in
Stratford-upon-Avon. This includes a family trail around the theatre,
picking up clues to complete a daily quotation from Shakespeare’s play The
Tempest and dressing up as Shakespearean characters. Afterwards, collapse in
a deckchair with a cold drink and enjoy views of the Avon.

Open daily 10am to 5pm. Admission free (0844 800 1110;

Victorian nursery at Audley End, Essex

The great house in East Anglia that doubled as a palace has recreated the
world of the 1830s nursery, using household accounts, diaries and
watercolours. Children can visit the nursery floor, play with toys and
imagine the lives of the nannies, tutors and their eight not-so-angelic
charges. There will also be costumed ‘Above and Below Stairs’ days.

Open daily 12 midday to 5pm; adult £15.40, children 5-15 £9.20, families
£40, EH members free (01799 522842;

A costumed ‘Above and Below Stairs’ day at Audley End

Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Stirling

Seven years after the decisive battle of Scotland’s Wars of Independence, a
new visitor centre has opened at Bannockburn, re-creating the spirit, sights
and sounds (but not the smells of blood, mud and fear) of medieval warfare.
The technology is astounding and the scholarship sound. Visitors will find
themselves ducking beneath flights of arrows and flinching from cavalry
charges. The centrepiece of the four-stage experience is the computerised
Battle Game conducted on a giant relief map of the field. Here visitors take
sides under the expert tutelage of a “battlemaster”, deploying divisions of
archers, infantry and cavalry to re-fight those two desperate days in June

Open daily 10am to 5.30pm; adult £11, children £8, families £30, NT
Scotland members free (0844 493 2139;

Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent

See how one of Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous Victorian potteries worked – and
continues to work – after an £9 million restoration by the Prince’s
Regeneration Trust. Middleport is home to the ceramics company Burleigh,
known for its blue and white china. Children can watch tableware being
designed, made, decorated and packed as it has been for almost two centuries
and there is a programme of summer events, including free trails around the
pottery, and craft activities (£1 to £2.50 a session) from July 21 to August
31. On August 12 at 4.30pm ‘Tea Gowns and Teatime’ is a free, costumed talk
about cakes, kings, crockery, fads and fashions from the 1930s. Booking

Visitor Centre opens Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm (01782 499766;,
admission free. Factory tours (Tuesday to Friday, adults £6, children aged
10-18 £3, families £15 – minimum age 10).

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire

On August 5, Stanley Spencer’s vivid, surreal murals of his experience
fighting in the First World War will return to this red-brick Hampshire
chapel after restoration. Older children will be fascinated by the amazing
details and symbolism and the paintings’ dreamlike quality. There is a new
exhibition and a garden for contemplation.

Gift Aid adult £10, children £5, families £25, NT members free. Pre-booking
is essential because the chapel is tiny (01635 278394;;
closed on Mon and Tues.

Sandham Memorial Chapel

Glamping at Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Three new extra-large ‘Kings’ Tents’ have been added to last year’s Glamping
experience in the grounds of this spectacular 14th century castle, and even
the 38 standard tents can fit up to six people. The price includes two-day
castle admission, parking and evening entertainment such as Knight or Jester
School or archery lessons. Read more: castles where you can spend the night.

Until September 26. From £200 per night for four people (camp beds can be
added for two extra children), including two days’ breakfast, evening
activities and Castle entry (0871 663 1676;

Read more

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Britain’s best ice cream
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Pro-Russian rebels move journalists away from Malaysian investigators and monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Tuesday. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was allegedly shot down by a missile Thursday; today, U.S. intelligence says it has verified that two rebel leaders spoke by phone about shooting the plane down.American analysts say they’ve verified several pieces of evidence that show pro-Russian separatist rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, according to U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters Tuesday.

Here’s a quick rundown of the officials’ updates on what U.S. investigators have found, from notes taken by NPR’s Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman:

A U.S. spy satellite detected the launch of a surface-to-air missile in the area just before the plane went down.

Voice analysis confirms that a phone conversation about the shot-down plane was between two well-known separatist leaders. Their conversation was intercepted and publicized by Ukraine shortly after the airliner was shot down Thursday.

The weapon that likely took the plane down a Russian-made SA-11 anti-aircraft missile wasn’t being used by Ukraine, which the U.S. says has used planes, not missiles, in its fight against the separatists.

The information comes as an update into the inquiry of how the commercial flight was shot down with nearly 300 people aboard. The U.S. has laid the blame at the feet of the separatists and criticized Russia for supporting them.

“But U.S. intelligence said they still don’t know who pulled the trigger, that person’s rank or nationality,” Tom says. “They also don’t know why this was done they said it was most likely a mistake.”

Dutch and Malaysian experts are combing over the wreckage of the flight that had been bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur.

And at the scene of the crash, NPR’s Corey Flintoff reports that the stories from many residents are close to the version of events coming out of Moscow, which has suggested alternative explanations for the downing.

Some of them suspect Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko might be behind the attack; others said a man parachuted from the mid-air explosion, but that he had likely died.

Another family has saved a pock-marked piece of aluminum that they say is from the plane when it fell from the sky, it crashed into their garden and killed their cat, Corey reports for today’s All Things Considered.

U.S. officials say experts still need to perform forensics analysis to provide hard proof that the Malaysian plane had been hit by a missile.

The forensics work could be complicated, given the restricted access investigators had to the crash site for days after the jet was shot down and given today’s reports that some of the plane’s wreckage had been cut apart.

That’s the version of events reported by USA Today, which says “the Boeing 777′s cockpit inexplicably had been sawed in half while under the control of Russian-backed separatists.”

The newspaper also quotes a spokesman for the group of international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (the OSCE) who said, “The rear part of the aircraft, one of the biggest intact pieces, has definitely been hacked into.”

As we reported earlier today, the separatists have finally released the black boxes and 282 bodies that were found among the wreckage, for analysis by experts in the Netherlands (and, in the case of human remains, repatriation to their home countries). The remains of some passengers have reportedly not been found.

For weeks, U.S. intelligence agencies have been saying that Russia was supplying rebels in Ukraine with weapons. And after today’s briefing, Tom reports that analysts now say “Russian equipment, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, are still continuing to roll into Ukraine from Russia.”

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When U.S. and European airlines quickly canceled flights to Israel on Tuesday, they showed both a skittishness and a new sense of urgency in dealing with global trouble spots following last week’s downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

Delta Air Lines turned around one of its jets midflight and indefinitely canceled all future flights between the U.S. and Israel after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport. Other U.S. airlines quickly took similar action, and counterparts in Europe and Canada followed within hours, despite protests from the Israeli government. Israeli airline El Al maintained its regular flight schedule.

The airlines were out ahead of aviation regulators in stopping service. The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour ban on flights to Israel after the U.S. airlines acted. Germany’s Lufthansa, Italian airline Alitalia and Air France all acted before the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an advisory.

How long the cessation of flights will last is unclear. U.S. airlines now must wait for the FAA, which said it will provide updated guidance by midday Wednesday.

Scandinavian Airlines canceled two flights from Copenhagen to Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, and said it will rethink the situation Wednesday for two more flights this week. Budget airline Norwegian said it had scrapped a flight from Stockholm to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and was monitoring the events closely, the airline’s spokeswoman Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson said.

Also Wednesday, Royal Jordanian suspended its flights to Ben Gurion until further notice, according to the airline’s spokesman, Basil al-Kilani.

Korean Air Lines Co. said on Friday that it was suspending its flights between Incheon International Airport near Seoul and Tel Aviv until at least Thursday, citing tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Aviation and legal experts said that airlines are now taking risk assessment into their own hands, both for the safety of passengers and to avoid claims of negligence, following last week’s Malaysia Airlines disaster.

“Most airlines have security departments that try to evaluate those sorts of risk,” said William Waldock, a professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Some do it better than others, but I would expect that everyone is on a very heightened sense of alert right now.”

Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, said airlines might be more proactive about avoiding hot spots, although he noted that there are very few areas where non-government militaries have weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down a plane.

Western governments have accused pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a surface-to-air missile while it was flying at 33,000 feet. Some experts have second-guessed the airline’s decision to fly over the area. But Malaysian officials have countered that the plane’s path from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was approved by international regulators.

The Israel government felt the airlines overreacted Tuesday. The Transportation Ministry called on the companies to reverse their decision, insisting Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and saying there is no reason to “hand terror a prize,” by halting the flights.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly urged the FAA to “reverse course” and permit U.S. airlines to fly to Israel.

Bloomberg released a statement saying he is flying on El Al to Tel Aviv on Tuesday night to “show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.”

“The U.S. flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an underserved victory and should be lifted immediately,” Bloomberg said.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, and several heading toward the area of the airport have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, but police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Tuesday’s landing was the closest to the airport since fighting began on July 8.

While Hamas rockets aren’t as sophisticated as the guided missile that the U.S. and others contend hit the Malaysian jet, they can cause massive damage if they hit an aircraft. For instance, unguided mortar fire in Tripoli from a militia batting to control its international airport destroyed a $113 million Airbus A330 used by Libya’s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways over the weekend.

Last year, an average of 1,044 passengers flew each way on the four daily flights between the U.S. and Israel on American carriers, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Jack Ram, 50, of Tel Aviv, who was in New York visiting friends, said threats of violence and disruptions while traveling were nothing new for Israelis. He prayed Tuesday before entering the departure area at Newark, New Jersey, for his El Al flight to Israel.

“We’re used to it. That’s how we live for the last 30 . 3,000 years actually,” Ram said.

Jonathan Reiter, a prominent New York aviation-accident attorney, said flying into an airport after a near-miss by a rocket could be used to show that the airline was negligent. That explains why the airlines are suspending service to Israel.

“I’m sure it is human concern as well,” Reiter said, “but I think (the airlines) feel it is wise to err on the side of caution because it is their burden to prove they are doing everything possible to avoid injuries and deaths.”


Associated Press Writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.


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In the week since the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet snapped the world’s attention onto the war in Ukraine, President Obama has made three statements, called several world leaders, identified the parties responsible and repeatedly expressed moral outrage.

But he has not yet said what, if anything, he plans to do in response.

That no-drama approach has drawn fire from domestic critics and skepticism from some allies: Both groups say an American president should be more active in responding to a tragedy that killed 298 people and has the potential to escalate a European war.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down the jet by mistake, not realizing it was an airliner, senior American officials said Tuesday. The intelligence indicates the separatists used a surface-to-air missile launcher provided by Russia, the officials said.

Related story: EU expands sanctions on Russian officials, weighs broader penalties

Meanwhile, Obama’s insistence on keeping to his schedule of fundraisers, lighthearted lunches and political travel has become fodder for partisan debate.

White House officials contend that their relatively low-key response serves a strategic purpose, calibrated to fit the complicated politics at play in Europe and the delicate diplomacy involved in clearing and investigating the wreckage site.

Administration officials insist they are playing a long game, giving Europe time to form its own response and, they hope, to finally take a harder stand against Russia for its role in fueling the Ukrainian conflict.

After months of watching European leaders drag their feet on imposing sanctions strong enough to rattle Russian President Vladimir Putin, administration officials say they are cautiously hopeful that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will be a pivot point.

lRelated U.N. Security Council unanimously approves probe of crash in Ukraine
EuropeU.N. Security Council unanimously approves probe of crash in UkraineSee all related

For now, the White House wants to let pressure from outraged publics within Europe — rather than prodding from a U.S. president — do the work. Launching into heated rhetoric that would frame the debate as a Moscow versus Washington confrontation would be counterproductive, U.S. officials say.

Some indication of whether the administration’s hope will be realized should come this week as European foreign ministers debate further sanctions. At an initial meeting Tuesday, “deep sorrow, but also increasing anger,” over the shooting down of the plane set the tone, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote in a Twitter message.

Related story: Obama: Downing of Malaysia flight wake-up call on Ukraine conflict

Related story: Obama: Downing of Malaysia flight ‘wake-up call’ on Ukraine conflict Kathleen Hennessey In his first extended remarks on the fiery crash of a Malaysian airliner, President Obama confirmed Friday that at least one U.S. citizen was killed in a global tragedy he said should serve as wake-up call to end the conflict in Ukraine. In his first extended remarks on the fiery crash of a Malaysian airliner, President Obama confirmed Friday that at least one U.S. citizen was killed in a global tragedy he said should serve as wake-up call to end the conflict in Ukraine. ( Kathleen Hennessey ) –>

Obama spoke by phone Tuesday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost 193 people on Flight 17, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The two agreed that the European Union and the U.S. “must remain united with regard to events in Ukraine and that Russia will face increasing costs if it continues its support for violent separatists and fails to cease its efforts to destabilize Ukraine,” the White House said in its account of the call.

But the Europeans remained divided. The foreign ministers agreed to a limited list of new sanctions but put off decisions on more consequential penalties until later this week.

Washington has sometimes shown impatience with that sort of slow European process. Just the day before the downing of Flight 17, for example, the U.S. had issued a new set of sanctions against Russia. That move came after months of largely fruitless hope that the Europeans would take similar action on their own.

The decision “was sort of an act of frustration; the White House wanted to do this in tandem with Europe,” said Heather Conley, an expert on U.S.-European diplomacy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The tension over how directly to confront Russia plays out against a background of rocky relationships that Obama and his top aides have had with some European allies.

Early in Obama’s tenure, the administration’s efforts to intervene in the European economic crisis often irked more than it helped, some European leaders said. Obama’s hope for a massive trade deal across the Atlantic seems distant. And in the last year, relationships, particularly with Germany, have eroded under the weight of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and the unmasking of U.S. spies in German ministries.

Administration officials have often talked of wanting to see Europe take a more active role in providing for its own defense and security needs. That theme long predates Obama’s tenure. What makes the Obama approach different is the apparent belief by the president and his top aides that hanging back will encourage the Europeans to step forward.

Related story: Ukraine separatists begin allowing access to Malaysian jet crash site

Related story: Ukraine separatists begin allowing access to Malaysian jet crash site Steven Zeitchik International investigators began gaining access Monday to the site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed last week, as pro-Russia separatists holding the area turned over the planes flight recorders to Malaysian officials. International investigators began gaining access Monday to the site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed last week, as pro-Russia separatists holding the area turned over the planes flight recorders to Malaysian officials. ( Steven Zeitchik ) –>

Many U.S. experts express skepticism about that idea. In the current crisis, some leaders, notably British Prime Minster David Cameron, seem freshly mobilized for tougher sanctions; others, particularly those in France and Southern European nations with fragile economies, appear more reluctant to risk economic turmoil at home to punish Putin.

French President Francois Hollande has not stopped a massive arms deal with Moscow, saying the deal will depend on Russia’s attitude toward the downing of the plane.

“The White House is just going to have to show leadership here,” Conley said. She suggested the U.S. may have to consider measures that would force European businesses to choose between access to American financial institutions and access to Russian ones.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is among Democrats who have prodded Obama to take a more active stance.

“This is a very hard time,” Feinstein said in a recent interview on MSNBC, citing the turmoil in the Middle East as well as the troubles in Ukraine. “I’m not going to tell the president what to do, but I think the world would very much respect his increased attention on this matter, and I think there ought to be increased attention.”

For now, however, the White House has not indicated that it’s looking at dramatic new steps.

Instead, the president is keeping to a schedule. On the day of the crash, Obama stuck to a planned barbecue lunch with a Delaware woman, followed in the evening by fundraisers for Democratic House and Senate candidates. On Tuesday, he headed to the West Coast for a string of Democratic fundraising events.

White House officials say the president can do his job from wherever he is, noting that, like every modern president, he travels with his aides and secure phone lines.

“As was demonstrated last week when the president was on the road and two of these crises flared up, the president was able to fulfill his responsibilities as commander in chief and as the leader of this country from the road,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during his daily White House briefing Monday.

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