Traveler's Advisory North America

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What Paris is to supermodels, Washington, D.C., is to spies. Since the 1930s, trench-coated men seeking top-level secrets -from Alger Hiss to Aldrich Ames-have been sidling in and out of the city's embassies, alleys and nightclubs, swapping secret handshakes and cash-filled briefcases, sending coded messages, and taking tiny photographs. Now ordinary folk can don metaphorical x-ray specs and tour the secret venues of the city's spy wars. The 2.5-hr SpyDrive-run by the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (whose staff includes ex­kgb agent Oleg Kalugin and espionage historian Nigel West)- takes in safe houses, meeting places and signal sites, and explains how the spies who used them helped change history. See.

Miss out on an Olympic medal? To a soundtrack of cheering fans, wannabe athletic stars can practice their jump shots, fast balls, slam dunks and soccer kicks at a new long-term exhibit at the Franklin Institute. "Sports Challenge" includes a rock-climbing wall, a virtual ski slope, a surfboard that simulates the pitching of a wave and "It's in the Hole!," a golfing exercise that involves putting uphill. The exhibit is intended to help amateurs improve their game by explaining the physics and physiology involved in their favorite sports. Those who can't make the trip can see webcam video of visitors in action at .

If you've never seen Santa Claus, it's most likely because he lives far, far away-on the Arctic Circle, to be exact, inside a hill near Rovaniemi, 800 km north of the Finnish capital, Helsinki. But the old chimney-sneak is not as retiring as he used to be: long besieged by begging letters at Christmas, he now opens his home to the public year round. The all-underground Santapark offers a puppet theater, a carousel, sleigh rides, a multimedia Santa biopic, and regular appearances by Santa and his elves and reindeer. For details, tel. +358 16 333 0000 or see .

For the first time in its 800-year history, Beijing's popular Beihai Park is showcasing Western art alongside traditional Chinese sculptures. Twelve monumental bronzes by the renowned British sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986) have been positioned to come gradually into view as visitors walk through the 68-hectare former Imperial Gardens. The capital's outdoor display (which runs until April 22) is complemented by another Chinese exhibition of Moore's work, featuring 106 sculptures spanning his 60-year career. They can be seen at Guangzhou's Guangdong Museum of Arts (Dec. 19-Feb. 11); then at the Shanghai Art Museum (March 3-April 15).


Compared with the lawyers' arguments about itty-bitty paper dots and the pleadings of grandmothers in tracksuits for a revote, the news coming out of tiny Seminole County has seemed like a strange little sideshow, barely worth noticing. But now both candidates are realizing that the sideshow could potentially decide the election. A lawsuit--filed not by Al Gore but by an Altamonte Springs personal-injury lawyer--demands that the county throw out some 15,000 absentee ballots because of alleged fraud. That would give Gore a net gain of about 5,000 votes, more than enough to win the White House. The plaintiff, a Democrat named Harry Jacobs, charges that because G.O.P. workers were allowed to fill in blanks on thousands of absentee-ballot applications last October, none of the ballots should count. A similar suit was filed Friday against Martin County, another wealthy, predominantly Republican county. G.O.P. officials have belittled the charges as baseless attempts to throw out perfectly good votes, anathema to the "count every vote" mantra of the Gore camp. But the Bush team has sent two powerhouse attorneys to attack the sleeper case before it gobbles up the election.

The Seminole case is scheduled to be heard by Judge Nikki Clark on Wednesday in Tallahassee. But it was in the making well before Election Day, when Republican operatives realized that the firm they hired to print ballot applications had accidentally left off the voter ID numbers required by state law. (Both parties in Florida mailed out thousands of partly completed applications for members to sign and return--a little end run around voter apathy.) In Seminole, when elections supervisor Sandra Goard noticed the omission, she put the forms in a pile to be tossed. But in mid-October, a G.O.P. worker called her office and asked if party staff members could come fill in the missing numbers.

Goard, a Republican described as a stickler for the rules, said she didn't have enough workers to fill in missing ID numbers, as election officials in other counties were doing. But in a questionable display of judgment, she let two G.O.P. workers spend 10 days in her office writing in the numbers on some 2,000 forms. "All I did was provide these people with a chair in my outer office," Goard has said. "I would have allowed the Democrats to do the same thing." But the Democratic form didn't have the same flaw. And once the applications entered Goard's office, Democrats argue, they became official records and should not have been touched.

Given Florida's tough laws governing absentee ballots (instituted in 1998, after fraud led to the removal of a Miami mayor), it seems dubious to let party operatives tinker with signed ballot applications. But the proposed remedy--throwing out all 15,000 ballots--seems extreme. The Democrats "have a strong case if we insist on following technicalities," says University of Miami law professor Mary Coombs. "But ultimately the application went out to the right person, who ended up being able to vote for whom he wanted. Tossing out the ballots seems to be a very peculiar remedy for the harm that happened."

If Judge Clark finds for the Democrats, her decision could be appealed to the state supreme court, which hinted Friday about how it might respond. In an opinion denying a Palm Beach revote request, the court said a ballot must be "in substantial noncompliance" to justify an extreme remedy.