Helicopter Ride Over Niagara Falls (Video)

On my 26th birthday I got to make my helicopter flying dream come true! On August 6th, we took a trip to one of my bucket list locations, Niagara Falls, and we did an amazing 12-minute flight over one of the worlds most spectacular waterfalls!

On my 26th birthday I got to make my helicopter flying dream come true! On August 6th, we took a trip to one of my bucket list locations, Niagara Falls, and we did an amazing 12-minute flight over one of the worlds most spectacular waterfalls! I was nervous until the moment we took off. The noise and windiness felt from outside the helicopter were gone once we were inside, and we didn’t even need headphones for the smooth, exhilarating ride! Check out our experience in the video below:

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5-Day New York City Guide 2018 (Guest Post)

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff on Day 1. Day 2: West Side, Day 3: Central Park, Day 4: East Side and Day 5: Downtown.

Ok, here’s a suggestion of how I would do it, given 5 days. There is a lot of walking because New York is all about walking, by Jesse Richardsoriginally posted on Quora.

Day 1: Ugh, Midtown

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff. Go ahead, get it out of your system. We’ll wait. And I hear there’s a nice Applebee’s for lunch around there.

1. Times Square
2. Rockefeller Center
3. Bryant Park
4. NY Public Library 
5. Grand Central Station
6. Empire State Building
7. See a show (Broadway or Off)

Day 2: West Side

Now the good part starts. Let’s walk around some of my favorite neighborhoods. Start at the Flatiron building and walk south on Broadway to Union Square, and south some more to Washington Square Park. Then take Bleecker all the way through the West Village. Don’t be too prescriptive; you’ve got plenty of time to wander around. To finish off the day, walk the whole length of the High Line north. It will be crowded, but it’s worth it.

1. Flatiron bldg
2. Madison Sq Park
3. Eataly
4. Union Square
5. Greenmarket (certain days)
6. Forbidden Planet & Strand
7. NYU
8. Washington Sq Park
9. Bleecker Street
10. Get lost in the West Village
11. Meatpacking district
12. The High Line

Day 3: Central Park

And now, the most beautiful work of art ever created: Central Park. Afterward, there are a few million more pieces of art in The Met. Here’s a recommended path:

1. Columbus Circle
2. Chess & Checkers house
3. The Dairy
4. The Mall
5. Bethesda Fountain
6. Pass by the Bow Bridge
7. Strawberry Fields & Imagine mosaic
8. The Ramble
9. Belvedere Castle
10. Shakespeare Garden
11. Great Lawn
12. The Met

(If you are ever able to go to Central Park for a second day, check out the north half, including the Ravine and Conservatory Garden.)

Day 4: East Side

Back to another tour of incredible neighborhoods.

1. Chinatown
2. Canal St.
3. SoHo
4. Lower East Side
5. Katz’s Deli
6. Alphabet City
7. Thompkins Sq Park
8. St. Mark’s Place
9. East Village
10. Take the L one stop to Williamsburg
11. Wander around Williamsburg
12. Check out the Pier

Day 5: Downtown

Follow the beautiful series of interconnected parks around the tip of Manhattan, giving you spectacular views of the harbor and Statue of Liberty. Then, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and see even better views from the Brooklyn Promenade.

1. Rockefeller Park
2. Tom Otterness sculpture garden
3. South Cove harbor and Esplanade
4. Robert F. Wagner park
5. Battery Park
6. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
7. Elevated Acre
8. South Street Seaport (the museum is nice, too)
9. Brooklyn Bridge
10. Brooklyn Heights
11. Brooklyn Promenade
12. Skybridge down to:
13. Brooklyn Bridge Park
14. and DUMBO

Day 6: Soak feet.

Don’t do too many touristy things. Just wander in the world’s best neighborhoods.

(All photos by Jesse Richards.)

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The New York Explorer Pass Saved Me $100 – 2018

The New York Explorer Pass did, in fact, save me $100, this isn’t just click bait. But it could have saved me even more! Or nothing at all… The New York Explorer Pass is the way to go if you want to use it to do some expensive tours and sightseeing, however, it can also lose you money if you only use it for the cheaper options.

The New York Explorer Pass did, in fact, save me $100, this isn’t just click bait. But it could have saved me even more! Or nothing at all… The New York Explorer Pass is the way to go if you want to use it to do some expensive tours and sightseeing, however, it can also lose you money if you only use it for the cheaper options.

It’s basic math. The New York Explorer Pass lets you visit 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions for a set price. There is a custom option if you already know which specific places you want to visit, but I really enjoyed the flexibility of choosing from the 82 different activities on offer!

If you want to calculate whether or not the Pass will save you any money, you just need to do some basic math and you don’t need to do any research outside of this website. As you scroll through all of the offered attractions, you will see their regular admission prices that range from $18.5 for the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum – Ferry Ticket to a whopping $69 for the Luna Park at Coney Island: 24 Ride Pass.

During my visit to New York last Christmas, I chose the 5 attraction Pass since I only had a week to explore the city! It cost me $134 (it would have been $99 for a child) and I was planning on only using it for the most expensive attractions and visiting the cheaper places without using the pass to save the most money. Souvenir shopping excluded, I actually only spent $300 on my entire week in NYC, Airbnb included!

Of course, a week passed with the blink of an eye and I ended up running out of time and using it for whatever attraction I happened to stumble upon – and I still saved lots of money! I’m already planning my next trip to New York in August and this time I will be getting the 10 attraction Pass for $219 ($169 for children). To make this one worth it, you simply need to make sure that each of your 10 attractions costs more than $21.9.

For the 5 attraction Pass, each activity had to be over $26.8 to get your money’s worth. I originally planned to do:

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus New York: Classic 1-Day Tour – $60
  • Night Tour by Big Bus New York – $45
  • National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey – $43.01
  • Gossip Girl Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tours – $49
  • Catacombs by Candlelight Tour – $35

This would have had me paying just $134 for 5 attractions worth $232! If need up trading in the Night Tour and Gossip Girl Tour for the Top of the Rock and Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Ferry which were both much cheaper options, I still ended up saving $70.

So basically, as long as you’re not just riding the $18 Ferry every day for a week or only visiting two places instead of five, you’re not losing money on the Pass!

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Before Abortion: 24 Hours of Choice

With abortion clinics in Ohio shutting down, there is concern. Once no abortion clinics exist in a state, women are forced to get abortions in other states. If they cannot afford to do this, they are more likely to turn to illegal, dangerous and potentially fatal procedures. The government is now requiring hospitals to perform vaginal ultrasounds on all women who want to terminate their pregnancies, whether they need one or not. Vaginal ultrasounds are an intrusive and emotional procedure for the patient, involving a hand-held probe penetrating the vagina. “Having no control over such a procedure is almost like…” said Mary, waiting for somebody else to finish her sentence with the word ‘rape’.

Before Abortion 24 Hours of Choice won Prague Freedom Foundation‘s Excellence Award. It was written during the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Gynecologists know perfectly well when an abdominal ultrasound is not enough and a vaginal ultrasound is necessary. With the new regulations in Ohio, however, that control goes to the politicians, explains Mary, a nurse at the Akron Women’s Medical Group. She asked to keep her surname private in fear of the protestors who attempt to gather contact information of the staff in order to harass them. She is upset that the government is now requiring hospitals to perform vaginal ultrasounds on all women who want to terminate their pregnancies, whether they need one or not. Vaginal ultrasounds are an intrusive and emotional procedure for the patient, involving a hand-held probe penetrating the vagina.

“Having no control over such a procedure is almost like…” said Mary, waiting for somebody else to finish her sentence with the word ‘rape’.

“Women come here at their most vulnerable,” she said.

Mandatory vaginal ultrasounds are one of the new additions to the controversial “24-hour law” first introduced in 2006. Although abortion is legal in the state of Ohio, the government keeps adding new laws, making it harder for women to terminate their pregnancies. During a 24-hour period, the patient is presented with all her options and – according to some – pressured into keeping the baby.

“Women come in here knowing less than they did 15 years ago,” said Mary whose clinic performs up to 45 abortions during their busiest weeks. The state now requires that hospitals perform vaginal ultrasounds as part of the routine examination that an abortion-seeking woman must undergo. Through this procedure, a nurse is required to take a picture of the fetus and show it to the woman. The patient is also forced to see her fetus’ heartbeat, provided it is detectable at that stage.

Kathleen Clyde, member of the Ohio House of Representatives opposes these new restrictions. “The legislature should not be asserting itself into the doctor’s office…,” she said. “Forcing women to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound is outrageous.”

Clyde fears that if the situation deteriorates, low-income women could see some “very scary things.” Before abortion was first legalized in 1973, women risked many health dangers when they had illegal abortions. Both sides agree that the design of the law succeeds in revealing whether the woman is being coerced into having an abortion against her will – but the effectiveness and purpose of the law add even more debate to an already controversial topic.

Part of the problem is the sensitive terminology of what it means to be “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” In general, those who oppose abortion and support the new provisions call themselves pro-life. Those who instead fight for a woman’s right to decide whether an abortion is a right choice for her are pro-choice. This, however, is often misleading. The way some see it, some people on the pro-choice side push for abortion more than they do for all the other choices that women have.

“To me, this is pro-abortion and not pro-choice because one choice is considered less than the other,” said Kelly Shinners, a nurse at Bulter Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. “Abortion is just one of those choices.”

Shinners’ goal is to make women of all backgrounds, financial situations and education levels understand all their choices. She doesn’t want them to believe abortion is their only choice because that is not what being pro-choice means.

Jaime Miracle, the policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, refers to the other side as ‘anti-choicers.’ Miracle thinks the 24-hour law is ineffective and believes that once a woman is already in the clinic, her mind is made up.

“This is another example of the anti-choice [movement:] not understanding these women’s decision-making process,” said Miracle. According to her, the values of ‘pro-choice’ mean more than just the abortion issue of pregnancy. From her point of view, it’s about having quality medical care (including contraception) and about having one’s family the way they want it to look.

Extremists exist on both sides of the debate. The most passionate ones take their views to the sidewalks outside abortion clinics. The protesters aren’t usually hostile, although security guards are preventatively summoned as a safety measure and to comfort the women. By law, people have the right to protest peacefully on the sidewalk. Recently, on Jan. 29th, two peaceful protesters stood with their signs, sniveling while bundled up against the sub-zero temperature. They were fighting for their opinion to be heard in front of the Akron Women’s Medical Clinic, and simply handed out pamphlets with information about different kinds of abortion and contraception which outlined all of the options available to women. The pamphlet cites several post-abortion symptoms, including ‘using drugs or alcohol more than before.’ The protestors pleaded: “Contact a pregnancy center. God bless you.”

These pregnancy centers – found in most cities, especially near universities – aren’t always praised for their work, however. Their fliers advertise their services as having ‘no judgment, no pressure and no politics.’ They can be found in abundance at police stations, schools, hotels and various waiting rooms. But not everyone believes that the message they are spreading among young women is accurate.

In order to investigate this suspicion, NARAL Pro-Choice League decided to investigate the truth of their advertisements in a two-year undercover study. As their policy director, Miracle explained that their goal was “to experience what the women would experience.”

The results were shocking. Half of the undercover patients were not pregnant and went in to get tested – when their tests came back negative, most centers did not endorse birth control but instead told them about abstinence. Those who were pregnant and asked for advice were often given false information that linked abortion to breast cancer and dementia – some were even told the story of a woman who claimed that ‘abortion turned her into a crack-head whore.’ Upon receiving these results, NARAL began fighting for pregnancy centers to advertise their services correctly.

Other centers of seemingly objective information, such as Planned Parenthood branches, are also facing intense criticism. Kayla Smith, legislative director at Ohio Right to Life, accuses Planned Parenthood of being a “business making hundreds of thousands of dollars out of these women’s abortions.”

Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of information about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and abortion, is often accused of only offering two options: becoming a parent or having an abortion. According to Smith, it often pressures women to have abortions. They often come to high schools to present information to students. For many, they are considered the neutral source of information. But not for Smith. She believes that the 24-hour law is a better source of information. “Even if it saves one life it is effective,” she said.

Misha Barnes, the managing director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood, believes the organization to be a quality healthcare provider. She joined the organization after being a patient there herself.

“I don’t consider myself pro-choice or pro-life,” she said. She supports policies that allow people to make their own decisions about their lives and get educated about all their options, including parenting, adoption and abortion.

“We support them in whichever decision they make,” said Barnes. According to her, Planned Parenthood also gives their patients time to think it through. Even if a woman comes in wanting an abortion straight away, she is told all of her options and is scheduled for a consulting appointment where she receives more information and signs a consent form. Only after that does the 24-hour period take place. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio is a non-profit health care provider that receives government funding. The funding is for family planning services, STD testing and sexuality education – not for abortions.

With all this plentiful – if often conflicting – information being thrown at female patients facing a difficult decision, the 24-hour law has the potential to be a great source of facts, especially for younger women. But abortion clinics might soon see another hurdle. A new “transfer-agreement” requires abortion clinics to have a formal agreement with a hospital to take on patients in case of abortion complications, even though it is agreed that abortion complications are very rare. The new provision excludes public hospitals from being able to participate in the agreement and as many as three abortion clinics have been shut down because of it. There are three potential concerns with the transfer agreement. First, those hospitals that are formally against abortions will refuse any agreement requests, hence lowering the number of clinics for women to turn to. Second, some people fear this agreement is going to become a platform for influential individuals within the hospital who hold pro-life ideals. And third, hospitals might fear negative publicity. Especially with economic problems looming over the country, it is easier and safer for them to stay out of the abortion debate.

With abortion clinics in Ohio shutting down, there is concern that Ohio is going in the direction that Mississippi found itself at this time last year. The government began threatening to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state last January. Once no abortion clinics exist in a state, women are forced to get abortions in other states. If they cannot afford to do this, they are more likely to turn to illegal, dangerous and potentially fatal procedures.

Bridget Harrison, policy adviser for Speaker William Batchelder at the Ohio House of Representatives, emphasized that she could not speak for the legislators who are promoting anti-abortion laws’ long-term goal. But she did say, “I think that the ultimate goal of people who are pro-life is to completely eliminate abortions.”

Maisie Crow, photographer and multimedia producer, made a movie about the clinic in Mississippi called The Last Clinic. It demonstrates the struggles that the clinic faces as well as people arguing for and against its closing. She worries that we are going back to the times when women were dying because of illegal abortions. “It’s shocking to me that we might return to that,” she said. “I’ve met women who have aborted no matter what the law is.” Crow considers herself pro-choice and believes that women need to have access to health care and have the option to consider what is best for them.

Although religion is at the center of the abortion debate, even the church does not deliver a consistent message. Churches like the Unitarian Universalist Church consider themselves pro-choice.

Reverend Richard Pentello from St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kent, Ohio, a priest for 35 years, refers to abortion as ‘unfortunately an option’ in today’s society. The Catholic Church sees a fetus as a life, not just as a cluster of cells, and they believe that all life is valuable “from the moment of conception until natural death.” Although he respects the rights of women, he does not believe that “those rights supersede the right to life.” He and the church understand that there are various circumstances but believe it important for the option of adoption to be considered. Despite the church’s strong pro-life opinion, Pentello said that women who opted to get abortions for whatever reason can still go to heaven as long as they are truly sorry and seek forgiveness.

”Those who violate the dignity of life, like abusers and terrorists, are left in the hands of God,” he said.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway…

How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Freedom is a huge theme in America and everyone always talks about what their rights are, and they are quick to speak up when their human rights are being abused.

Maybe I should learn to speak up, too. Let me try.

Spending ten days in Ohio, I’m here to report that I’ve seen many public signs that violate basic human rights found in the U.S. Constitution. Some of them are hilarious, if you ask me. The very first Amendment, for example, is breached in most libraries across the country. How can one exercise their right to free speech when they read signs that demand ‘Library Silence’. I was shushed at in a university library the other day when trying to express a scholarly thought – not only was my right of free speech violated but in the shock of the experience robbed me of my intellectual property – that’s a double right violation right there. See what I mean? And that’s not all.

Another set of signs that violates our basic human rights begins with signs prohibiting people from littering. Every time we are not allowed to throw our burger wrapper or coffee cup on the ground because there’s a sign saying ‘Do not litter. Use the bins provided.’ we are forced to go out of our way to dispose of our trash which takes away from our precious free time and wastes our energy that could be used for more productive activities like watching TV – this sounds very much like involuntary servitude, to which the only exception is as punishment for a crime. So if you’re not a criminal, you are being cheated out of yet another human right. I protest!

Finally, it is frustrating to see signs demanding that people wash their hands along with a description of how to do it – these signs that are seen most commonly in restaurants, schools and hospital bathrooms. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway. As if a bathroom door or mirror has any right to dictate any man, woman or child’s level of cleanliness. I protest again!

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t protest too much. After all, the second Amendment allows citizens to keep and bear arms…

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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