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March 22, 2009|Jane Engle; Christopher Reynolds; Mary Forgione; Susan Spano; Hugo Martin

Hawaii ferry grounded

The troubled Hawaii Superferry, which shuttled passengers and their cars between Oahu and Maui for more than a year, was offering refunds to customers after ending service last week. The company acted after Hawaii's Supreme Court said a law that allowed the vessel to operate pending an environmental review was unconstitutional. The ruling was a victory for activists who said the high-speed catamaran would injure whales and damage the islands' ecology; the company said it had taken steps to mitigate such harm. For information, call (877) 443-3779 or visit www.hawaiisuperferry.com.

-- Jane Engle

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SOS on the SS

In those last days before commercial jets transformed the world of travel, the SS United States was a key player in stylishly carrying travelers between North America and Europe. Now, idled from commercial service since 1969 and sitting at a pier in south Philadelphia, the ship is up for sale and the cost of renovation has been estimated at $100 million or more. Preservationists don't have the money to buy it but say they have received assurances that the ship won't be sold for scrap. To read more about the fate of the ship, go to www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/SSUS/blog.

-- Christopher Reynolds

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Hawk watch

Get a glimpse of Swainson's hawks as they wing their way on a 7,000-mile journey from Mexico and points south to nesting areas in the north. The birds are the stars of the Festival of Hawks in Borrego Valley, about 100 miles northeast of San Diego. Visitors can help count hawks at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily from now through March 29 and take in a special Hawk-Watch Lecture from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday that explains why the raptors linger in the desert area. Info: Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute, (760) 767-4063, www.theabf.org.

-- Mary Forgione

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Church mosaic

The Anglican-Episcopalian church St. Paul's Within the Walls may not be the most famous worship place in Rome, but it's well worth a visit -- especially on a Sunday morning when the 23-bell carillon signals the start of the 10:30 service. St. Paul's, built in the late 19th century, was the first Protestant church in the historic center of the Eternal City. The church's chief treasure is a mosaic cycle in the apse and choir by the English pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones that tells biblical stories and intertwines the faces of saints with the faces of famous men, including Abraham Lincoln. Info: www.stpaulsrome.it.

-- Susan Spano

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GPS and more

The Triton 2000 is the newest hand-held GPS device from San Diego-based Magellan. This electronic tool not only directs you in and out of the wild, but it also comes with a built-in 2-megapixel camera and audio recorder. This allows you to add a color photo and comment to mark that beautiful waterfall you find on the electronic map. A barometer also gives you weather forecasts and elevation readings. We tested the device during a bird-watching trip in Texas and found that the Triton quickly showed our location, including nearby roads, on the 2.7-inch touch screen. One drawback: You navigate the touch screen with a tiny stylus, which is nearly impossible to use with gloves. Cost: about $499; available at Best Buy, Staples and other retailers. Info: www.magellangps.com.

-- Hugo Martin

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