Category Archives: News Flash

Protecting the Monarchs

MP News Staff

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will enforce a “zero tolerance” policy against logging that threatens to wipe out the monarch butterfly and will act to stop a rare and ancient oasis from drying up, President Felipe Calderon said on Saturday.Calderon said soldiers will be deployed to clamp down on illegal logging in a protected forest where monarch butterflies winter after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and the United States.

“We will work intensively to establish a zero tolerance policy to illegal logging in the monarch zone,” he told villagers in the region at the launch of a five-year conservation plan.He said 10 million trees would be planted in the butterfly reserve, part of a goal to plant 250 million trees across Mexico in 2007.Calderon said soldiers and federal police would patrol the zone looking for loggers, while the number of personnel in the zone and in other wildlife sanctuaries would increase by 15 percent.Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies leave Canada and the United States, flying distances of 2,800 miles (4,500 km) to the oyamel fir forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains. Experts say the butterfly will become extinct unless illegal logging is stopped soon.

LIFE ON MARS

Calderon also promised to apply stricter controls on the extraction of water from a giant reservoir that sits beneath an ancient oasis in the Great Chihuahuan Desert. Scientists say the Cuatro Cienegas pools in northern Mexico can help them understand Earth’s beginnings, global warming and the possibility of life on Mars. But farmers could dry up the warm water pools by the end of the decade if they keep tapping underground water supplies to grow green alfalfa leaves to feed dairy cows, biologists say.

Prized by NASA researchers, the 170 cactus-ringed pools at Cuatro Cienegas contain fish, snails, turtles, bacteria and unique living rock structures that offer a glimpse of the life forms that flourished on Earth 200 million years ago. A loophole in current Mexican legislation means anyone can dig a well and extract water in the Cuatro Cienegas area. Scientists and locals in Cuatro Cienegas blame big dairy groups in the nearby city of Torreon, northern Mexico’s main milk-producing center, for drilling wells to grow alfalfa and buying milk from producers who feed the crop to their cows.

Mexico will also extend and create new wildlife reserves along the coasts of the Baja California peninsula and in the surrounding seas. Calderon did not mention the total budget for the conservation plan, but said $5 million would be spent protecting endangered Mexican species like jaguars, Mexican wolves, leatherback turtles and the Gulf of California harbor porpoise.

The SoCal Fires

By David Simmonds

This is a web site about Mexico, so how do I tie in the California fires to make sense? Try this: I live in San Diego and one of the fires spread across the border near Tecate. OK, I’m covered, now for my thoughts on what went down this past week here in America’s Fire-Prone City, where well over 1,000 families lost their homes and the damage estimates are over $1 billion.

I’ll ignore the fact that San Diego has a long reputation of back-room deals where developers ensure that they can build where ever they want, which is often in areas surrounded by dry, flammable brush. I get that money buys influence.

What I find perplexing is why in the hell, in 2007, are we fighting fires in much the same way we did 50 years ago? We can send a computer-driven missile a hundred miles, up the tailpipe of a small car, but we’re still fighting fires with helicopters and buckets filled with water? We have perfected the ability to maim and kill, but have done little with new technology to save the homes and lives of our citizens. This is insane.

And get this for a Catch-22 Yossarian replay: after a 48-hour delay in having access to the large C-130’s planes that can carry cover large areas with water and fire-retardant, they couldn’t fly them because of the wind. You see, the fires burn wildly when the Santa Ana wind blows, but you can’t use the planes because it’s too windy. The unbelievably brave and dedicated firefighters deserve the best equipment and technology in the world, but there doesn’t seem to be the will to pay for it or the leadership and vision to find a better way.

These fires did not surprise anyone. The local news had been talking about the fire danger for days as the Santa Ana’s were predicted and the terrain was Sahara-dry from a multi-year drought. Like all fires, they started small and then spread. These fires should have been hit hard and knocked down fast by aircraft that should be, but aren’t, permanently stationed in the area.

It has been four years since the last large inferno here in San Diego, and not much has changed or improved in our ability to fight the fires. And to be sure, it will be pretty much the same when the next one hits, unless we start to elect people to office with vision, integrity, and the huevos to tell the people that we can improve this situation but it’s going to cost you some serious money.

Standard Time Change

MP News Staff

If you plan to travel to Mexico this next week, be aware that they will begin Standard Time a week earlier than the U.S. this year. Mexico will dial back the clock an hour this Sunday, October 28th. Presumably, all of the airlines will make the necessary adjustments, but it would be a good idea to call in advance to verify flight departure times and arrivals. Then again, missing your return flight back to the grind might work out just fine.

BookIt.com and Alaska Airlines Partnership = Great Travel Deals!

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–BookIt.com (www.BookIt.com), the fastest growing online travel company, has announced a Preferred Partnership Agreement with Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air for Packaged Vacations.

“We are very excited about our new relationship with Alaska Airlines, said Dan Sickel, Director of Airline Relations and Packaging. Alaska Airlines complements our existing Airline Partners and this agreement will give us the opportunity to provide even greater Packaged Vacation values to our travelers to Mexico, Colorado, Reno/Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, California and Florida. It will also facilitate a shift in market share to our new Preferred Partner, he added.

Our participation with BookIt.com will help Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air in delivering to travelers a beneficial partnership that aligns with both of our objectives superior product and service, said Brenda Spivey, Manager, National Tour Accounts, Alaska Airlines.

BookIt.com provides travel values in over 100 managed vacation destinations via their internet booking technology and Call Center located in Panama City Beach, Fla. Under this strategic partnership, all of the carriers published fares, unpublished fares, schedules and inventory will be available through the companys website.

According to BookIt.com President Bud Finlaw, the BookIt.com Net Air program has grown substantially in the last few months under Sickels leadership. Guests have definitely noticed that their hotel stays are being coupled with some of the biggest names in the airline world, and often include discounted rates from the list of legacy carriers participating in our Net Air Program, said Finlaw.

We are always looking for a way to elate our guests, Finlaw added. Being able to provide complete packages including the best airfare is a huge part of our recent upsurge.

About BookIt.com

BookIt.com is an online travel company determined and dedicated to becoming the leader in providing travelers with the most intuitive online booking experience. Based in Panama City Beach, Fla., BookIt.com offers a full range of services including vacation packages, airfare, hotel reservations, car rental, cruises and in-destination activities, attractions and services from a broad selection of destinations both domestically and internationally. For more information, visit www.BookIt.com.

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air serve 92 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. This year Alaska Airlines celebrates its 75th anniversary, marking the airline’s growth from a single-aircraft operation in 1932 to one of the largest U.S. carriers. For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at alaskaair.com/newsroom.

A Farewell To Nick Gallo

By David Simmonds

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Nick Gallo died a week ago. No one saw it coming, certainly not his wife, Laurie, and the two sons he loved so much, Alex and Noah. From his Seattle home he boarded a plane bound for Greece on yet another writing assignment and he didn’t come home, succumbing to pericarditis and pneumonia after several days in an Athens hospital. By all accounts he was getting better after several bed-ridden days, then suddenly his temperature was 104 degrees and then he was gone at 57.

By definition Nick was a freelance writer, taking jobs where he could find them, often traveling to Mexico to research a travel piece. But Nick was much more than a travel writer. He was a damn writer…period. He had the gift– the talent, the humanity, the honesty to tell a story that you would read and believe. He told it straight and pure, often with wicked humor, and hacks like me knew that we had to always try harder if we wanted to compete. Quite simply, Nick was the best of the bunch. He was my friend and I will miss him dearly, but he will not be forgotten.

Mexico Premiere will be establishing an annual excellence in writing award focused on Mexico travel, to be named The Nick Gallo Award. One day, perhaps twenty years from now, some young journalist will ask “Just who was this Gallo dude”? Nick would like that.

Here is a web site where you can see some photos and read some of Nick’s excellent writing http://www.cathybrown.com/nickgallo/index.html

And here are some thoughts from a few of Nick’s many travel writer friends.

Marty Adair

How I miss our Nick. Smiling always. Spreading his sunshine. Casting humor on his foibles. Boyishly humble and polite. Endowed with a family he obviously loved. Enthusiastic about so much — his family, friends, life, work. Mexico. Imbued with the joy of a well-turned phrase. Brimful of ideas to spin into perfectly crafted stories. Deeply intrigued by people and places and feelings. Compassionate. So refreshingly unafraid to embrace emotion. How much I admired all of this about him. I will always remember Nick Gallo.

Susan Kaye

Nick–you were one of the all-time greats among travel writers. Your words always made me envious.

Lydia Gregory

I guess when writing about Nick’s smile and laugh, I’d have to paraphrase the Borg: resistance was futile. Why even try? With his biting wit, his keen insight and amazing power of observation — tempered buy his ever-present sense of humor — Nick Gallo easily peeled off the layers of pretentiousness that so many people love to wrap around themselves. After one tequila, two tequilas, three tequilas (but never floor), he regaled those around him with stories that would touch off fits of laughter. I feel privileged, very privileged that he included me in his circle of friends. Our communication wasn’t constant, but it was real. Just like everything about Nick, who will always be for me “el Gallo Mas Gallo”.

Dan Millington

I’m in shock!!! Man, he’ll be missed. Damn it for taking him. Nick was and always will be a great spirit. Always up, always had something funny to say or write. His compassion for Mexico and his writing about the country is unparalleled. The way he carried himself was a lesson in manners and dignity. Always respectful of the Mexican people and their culture. I considered him to be a very good friend of mine. He never let me down and I could always rely on his counsel with respect to our industry.

I will miss not being able to talk to him. I will miss his wonderful spirit. I will miss his friendship.

Lisa Coleman

When I heard the tragic news about Nick Gallo, I was devastated. It wasn’t that we talked often or knew each other beyond our occasional crossings in Mexico, it was because people like Nick don’t come along too often in the freelance writing world. He was so kind, generous and everyone knew him as a consummate professional. After we met for the first time at the annual Tianguis trade show in Acapulco, I asked him to send me some of his work. I was more than impressed; I was moved by the passion in his words and quality of his articles. He had won the Pluma de Plata and was kind of a celebrity to those of us who aspired to be at the top of our profession. But all that aside, he was just a hell of a good guy. I know I’m on a long list of people who feel that way. Nick Gallo was an icon in this business and I’m privileged to have known him.

Maribeth Mellin

As the air darkens and darkness descends earlier each day, my thoughts turn to my favorite Mexican celebration. It’s called Dia de los Muertos, and falls just after Halloween on the Catholic feast days of all souls and saints. At the end of each October, my thoughts turn to those people who linger in my life long after their bodies leave this earth, as I practice my romanticized version of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I gradually assemble an altar, searching for Dad’s cuff-links and Mom’s engagement band. You’d think after so many years building altars small and large I would keep everything in one place. Not me — I do best with scattered memories.

This year, sad to say, some memories are far too recent to be set aside. A few days ago, while traveling in Baja, I found out through cyberspace that a dear friend and fellow travel writer had died alone in Athens. His home was in Seattle, where his wife, sons, relatives and abundant friends were in total crisis mode. His body was on some soulless morgue in Greece. And all around the world people were mourning a loss that seemed utterly unreal.

Nick Gallo’s death has affected me on so may levels I’m not sure I’m ready to put his picture on my altar. The pain is sharp and reverberations raw.

To be honest, I didn’t even know Nick all that well. We shared e-mails weekly, talked on the phone every few months, and saw each other almost annually at Mexico’s big tequila-fueled bash. I can’t even tell you how many years that cycle’s been repeating itself. Bit I do know he was one of the first people I wanted to email when I heard of his death, odd as that sounds. It was one of those the sum is far more than its parts moments. I wanted Nick to know I missed him and that someone we shared and cared so much for was gone.

Let’s say I’ve known Nick for eight years, maybe. We met in Mexico — I’m sure of that. Our acquaintance moved quickly into friendship and camaraderie built upon a place and a profession. We were writers sharing a common topic and plenty of similar complaints. We both suffered from “whining and dining” syndrome, as Nick once wrote.

Few people outside the business get the downside of travel writing. Nick, being (I think) genetically sensitive, got it in spades. He loved exploring new places — and hated leaving his family. Though outgoing and funny and genuine, he wasn’t all that crazy about being thrown into trying circumstances with perfect strangers. Yet he wanted so very much to experience something new and powerful and to write about it from the heart, giving readers a true feel for his experiences. In doing so, Nick gave me, and many others, a tremendous gift. Writing was a passion for him, a talent he treasured and used judiciously. He cared so much about every word, even when his assignments trivialized his abilities. He had the fury to fight for his words and their meanings and the drive to spend hours composing thoughts that might never be published.

Those of us who write for a living sometimes lose our voices as we labor to earn dollars for every word. Granted, I only read the best of Nick’s writing and didn’t see his everday labors. but when Nick was on, he could write with a worldly, yet personal, perspective that comes only from genuine practice, persistence and skillful observation. I loved reading Nick’s work, and I’ll miss his words.

So, this year Nick Gallo will prominently displayed on my Day of the Dead altar. I’ll choose a photo that best portrays his spirit and smile, and the finest bottle of tequila I can fined. I’ll fan out the pages from his essay on walking the dog and his stories about traveling with his wife and sons in Mexico. One night, when I’m trying to come up with the perfect sentence or am internally raging at some absurd abuse of my words, I’ll talk with my elusive friend. And I’ll thank him for being a part of my life forever.

Jane Onstott

Nick was a travel writer friend of mine; we saw each other most every year at the annual travel writers convention in Acapulco and kept in touch via email and the occasional phone call. When I think of Nick I remember his laugh, which seem to gain momentum quickly and ranged from husky through a whole range of notes and pitches, depending on the joke or situation.

Nick wan’t usually the center of attention, preferring, it seems to me, a one-on-one or small group conversation. Although I didn’t see him as a late-night party person, he didn’t abandon the fray. During after-hours convention parties and club visits he’d usually hang on ’til the more effusive among us called it quits, even if he was on occasion spotted napping at the table, while others danced on.

The two of us sometimes groused about the state of the world, and although politics and pettiness sometimes made him blue, he was also always philosophical and stoic. Thoughtful in all senses of the word. He was proud of his work but extremely modest, while always quick with praise and generous with suggestions and advice for others.

John Mitchell

Like everyone who knew Nick Gallo, I was shocked and saddened to hear of this recent death. I valued him both as a colleague and as a good friend. Nick was a gifted and dedicated writer. I never failed to learn something new from him every time we found ourselves traveling together, usually on a press trip to some corner of Mexico. His warmth and irreverant sense of humor were infectious, as was his love of Mexico. If Nick were here, I’m sure that he would still be telling us “Yes, folks, you can find plenty of Cheez Whiz atop your huevos rancheros south of the border these days, but here’s an antidote…” And Nick never failed to deliver that antidote. We’re all going to miss him.
Nic05fix

Greener Pastures: Mexico and Al Gore Unite

MP Staff

According to the Spanish news group EFE, Mexico is joining forces with Brazil, Chile and Argentina to embrace Gore’s Climate Project in 2008.

Juan Verde, director of the Spanish office of the Climate Project, made the announcement as he prepared to take part in the first Spanish Leader’s Summit on Climate Change, which will take place October 26-28. This is the fourth such summit, following in the footsteps of the United States, Great Britain and Australia. It is also the first of its kind aimed at a Hispanic audience.

Some 200 people will participate in the Summit, chosen from among more than two thousand aspiring presenters. They will receive instruction on climate change and will pledge to spread the word with no expectation of monetary gain.

The director of Spain’s Climate Project explained that the movement will propose “at least” four more encounters to create new leaders in Latin America.

“Our intention is to develop this project throughout Latin America and we are already in advanced negotiations with different activist groups and private foundations in order to coordinate these events,” he added.

Verde emphasized that both Latin America and Africa play a very important part in climate change because they are “very affected” by this menace, which could potentially compromise their future.

He pointed out that the American continent suffers bigger and more serious natural catastrophes with each passing year, events that have a direct impact on economic and social development.

“There is a direct link between climate change and cultural and economic development in these countries, places that can contribute significant solutions to this problem,” he said.

He continued by saying that Latin America can become the ideal backdrop for the development of useful technologies to counteract climate change, such as renewable energy sources, which avoid the investment in polluting infrastructures that have either been forbidden or cast aside by developed countries.

The Greenberg Good Book

MP News Staff

Peter Greenberg has written the most complete travel advice tome to date. His new paperback book, “The Complete Travel Detective Bible”, will answer travel questions that you have never asked or imagined. But if you want to know how things work in the real post 911 travel world apart from the kick-back-and-relax airline and resort ads, this will be $17.95 well spent.

As travel editor of NBC’s Today show, where he frequently reminds breakfast viewers that there are two kinds of luggage…carry-on and lost, Peter is always going somewhere. At 624 pages, the bible of travel covers everything from initially planning your trip to medical evacuation insurance, should you require it. With more tips than a porcupine, Greenberg has organized all of the material in an easy-to-find manner that will mitigate the risk and enhance the reward on all of your future travels, or at least until the world changes….again.

Published by Rodale and available at bookstores and online.