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The world’s 33 hottest new hotels are …

The latest hotel from luxury brand LVMH makes it onto the hot list by offering guests not only the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean, but also their own infinity pools. Pruned fingertips guaranteed.The latest hotel from luxury brand LVMH makes it onto the hot list by offering guests not only the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean, but also their own infinity pools. Pruned fingertips guaranteed.
Located next to the sands of Mokapu, the 297-room Andaz Maui is named as one of the best new beach hotels.Located next to the sands of Mokapu, the 297-room Andaz Maui is named as one of the best new beach hotels.
This restored palace in St. Petersburg's historic Admiralteysky district features 183 guest rooms, including 26 suites.This restored palace in St. Petersburg's historic Admiralteysky district features 183 guest rooms, including 26 suites.
Originally opened in 1927 as the United Artists building, this 182-room "design" hotel is a collaboration between local group Commune and Atelier Ace. It features an original 1,600-seat theater, which is slated for reopening.Originally opened in 1927 as the United Artists building, this 182-room "design" hotel is a collaboration between local group Commune and Atelier Ace. It features an original 1,600-seat theater, which is slated for reopening.
Located between cupcake shops and cafes, The Marlton Hotel fits into the Greenwich Village scene with ease. Starting from $275, it's listed as one of the "best bargain" hotels.Located between cupcake shops and cafes, The Marlton Hotel fits into the Greenwich Village scene with ease. Starting from $275, it's listed as one of the "best bargain" hotels.
This 12-room inn is a former medieval convent in the ancient, pedestrians-only Italian town of Pienza. La Bandita Townhouse wins praise for family friendly policies that include feeding and mopping up after kids at no extra charge.This 12-room inn is a former medieval convent in the ancient, pedestrians-only Italian town of Pienza. La Bandita Townhouse wins praise for family friendly policies that include feeding and mopping up after kids at no extra charge.
Conde Nast Traveler says Park Hyatt wins dining accolades for its restaurant's art deco ambiance and fusion food -- but not for the KFC poster that three of its rooms look out onto.Conde Nast Traveler says Park Hyatt wins dining accolades for its restaurant's art deco ambiance and fusion food -- but not for the KFC poster that three of its rooms look out onto.
The Fogo Island Inn is described as a destination in itself. It's remote -- on Canada's east coast -- but this homage to Newfoundland's fishing culture pairs guests with a "community host" to show them around.The Fogo Island Inn is described as a destination in itself. It's remote -- on Canada's east coast -- but this homage to Newfoundland's fishing culture pairs guests with a "community host" to show them around.
  • Condé Nast Traveler says this year's list of 33 new hotels is its most selective yet
  • Categories include beach, family, food, bargain, design and "way-out-there"
  • Editors tried out 510 hotels from 400 cities to narrow the list

(CNN) -- The gold -- no, scratch that -- platinum envelopes have been opened to reveal Condé Nast Traveler's 18th annual "hot list," highlighting what it says are the best hotels to debut in the past year.

Editors from the luxury vacation mag examined hundreds of swanky venues from Beijing to the Big Apple to pinpoint their favorites, a tough job after which they likely deserve a well-earned vacation.

This year's list of 33 finalists is described as the most selective ever.

It certainly seems that way -- in 2013 no fewer than 154 were chosen.

Some 510 hotels from 400 cities and 93 countries were scored for "sense of place," "personality" and "intuition" -- which apparently means meeting your needs before you know what your needs are.

The venues were split into seven categories, including the best beach hotels, family hotels, design hotels and "way-out-there" remote hotels.

The list also celebrates "over-the-top" establishments, such as Venice's Amal Canal Grande.

It also includes "bargain hotels" -- but this being Condé Nast Traveler, slumming it means you still won't get much change out of $300 a night.

Best beach hotels

Andaz Maui at Wailea (Hawaii)

Splurge worthy: St. Petersburg\'s Four Seasons Lion Palace.
Splurge worthy: St. Petersburg's Four Seasons Lion Palace.

Mukul Resort (Guacalito de la Isla, Nicaragua)

Nizuc Resport and Spa (Cancún, Mexico)

Point Yamu by COMO (Phuket, Thailand)

Salt House Inn (Provincetown, Massachusetts)

Best family hotels

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo (Costa Rica)

La Bandita Townhouse (Tuscany, Italy)

Palihouse Santa Monica (Los Angeles)

The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba (Aruba)

Best food hotel

Domaine de la Baume (Tourtour, France)

Park Hyatt Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Thompson Chicago (Chicago)

The Vines Resort & Spa (Tunuyán, Argentina)

The Wild Rabbit (Kingham, England)

Zero George Street (Charleston, South Carolina)

Best bargain hotels

American Trade Hotel (Panama City, Panama)

The Dean (Providence, Rhode Island)

The Line Hotel (Los Angeles)

The Marlton Hotel (New York)

The Temple Hotel (Beijing)

Best design hotels

The Fogo Island Inn is modeled on the homes of Newfoundland fishermen.
The Fogo Island Inn is modeled on the homes of Newfoundland fishermen.

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (Los Angeles)

Hotel B (Lima, Peru)

Hotel d'Angleterre (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai (Shanghai)

The London Edition (London)

Best over-the-top hotels

Aman Canal Grande Venice (Italy)

Cheval Blanc Randheli (Maldives)

Four Seasons Lion Palace St. Petersburg (Russia)

The Chedi Andermatt (Switzerland)

Rosewood London (London)

Best way-out-there hotels

Amanoi (Nui Chua National Park, Vietnam)

Fogo Island Inn (Newfoundland, Canada)

Segera Retreat (Laikipia Plateau, Kenya)

About that ‘Game of Thrones’ scene

In HBO's "Game of Thrones," a robust cast of lords and ladies all plot to claim the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Between the beheadings and the house mottos, it can be easy to lose track of who does what. Here's a brief guide to who's who while they're still here:In HBO's "Game of Thrones," a robust cast of lords and ladies all plot to claim the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Between the beheadings and the house mottos, it can be easy to lose track of who does what. Here's a brief guide to who's who while they're still here:
<strong>Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage):</strong> With his sharp wit and swift thinking, Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister has managed to stay alive through all three seasons of "Game of Thrones," which hasn't been easy considering the scrapes he's been in. A Lannister and therefore the son of the wealthiest guy around, Tyrion is nonetheless despised by his family because of his size and their belief that he "killed" their mother during childbirth. At the start of season four, Tyrion -- turned down by his father to be the heir to the Lannister family compound -- has been married off to benefit the family. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage): With his sharp wit and swift thinking, Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister has managed to stay alive through all three seasons of "Game of Thrones," which hasn't been easy considering the scrapes he's been in. A Lannister and therefore the son of the wealthiest guy around, Tyrion is nonetheless despised by his family because of his size and their belief that he "killed" their mother during childbirth. At the start of season four, Tyrion -- turned down by his father to be the heir to the Lannister family compound -- has been married off to benefit the family.
<strong>Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke):</strong> As one of the few surviving descendants of the Targaryen family, Daenerys has a lot of expectations riding on her platinum-haired head. But, much to our enjoyment, she has risen to and surpassed all of them. Once nothing more than an offering for a king, Daenerys -- called Khaleesi, or queen, by the Dothraki people she once helped rule -- has morphed into a Mother of Dragons who insists on justice and is a formidable foe in the "Game of Thrones." In season four, she fights to free the slaves of Meereen and conquer the city while her dragons continue to grow into the beasts they're destined to be. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke): As one of the few surviving descendants of the Targaryen family, Daenerys has a lot of expectations riding on her platinum-haired head. But, much to our enjoyment, she has risen to and surpassed all of them. Once nothing more than an offering for a king, Daenerys -- called Khaleesi, or queen, by the Dothraki people she once helped rule -- has morphed into a Mother of Dragons who insists on justice and is a formidable foe in the "Game of Thrones." In season four, she fights to free the slaves of Meereen and conquer the city while her dragons continue to grow into the beasts they're destined to be.
<strong>Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson):</strong> In the pantheon of most-hated TV characters, "Game of Thrones'" boy king Joffrey has to be one of the top choices. He's petulant, cruel and too immature to rule, but don't tell him that or he'll have your tongue. The most delicious part for the viewers at home is that he's not the rightful heir to the Iron Throne that he thinks he is, although that didn't stop his reign of terror. In our personal opinions, we'd say the Purple Wedding was one of Joff's best scenes. Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson): In the pantheon of most-hated TV characters, "Game of Thrones'" boy king Joffrey has to be one of the top choices. He's petulant, cruel and too immature to rule, but don't tell him that or he'll have your tongue. The most delicious part for the viewers at home is that he's not the rightful heir to the Iron Throne that he thinks he is, although that didn't stop his reign of terror. In our personal opinions, we'd say the Purple Wedding was one of Joff's best scenes.
<strong>Arya Stark (Maisie Williams): </strong>Much of Arya's family has been sent to their graves by one wicked person or another, but the young swordswoman is still kicking. As season four begins, she's searching for her aunt with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane at her side, imparting lessons in mercilessness and self-preservation. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams): Much of Arya's family has been sent to their graves by one wicked person or another, but the young swordswoman is still kicking. As season four begins, she's searching for her aunt with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane at her side, imparting lessons in mercilessness and self-preservation.
<strong>Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey): </strong>Cersei has become more or less your stereotypical evil queen, albeit one who has zero issues with incest. After helping her son Joffrey take the throne, Cersei has tried to rule alongside her son only to see him overtake her will. With his impending wedding to a lady from the House of Tyrell, we'll be watching to see how Joffrey's nuptials impact Cersei's power in season four.Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey): Cersei has become more or less your stereotypical evil queen, albeit one who has zero issues with incest. After helping her son Joffrey take the throne, Cersei has tried to rule alongside her son only to see him overtake her will. With his impending wedding to a lady from the House of Tyrell, we'll be watching to see how Joffrey's nuptials impact Cersei's power in season four.
<strong>Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau): </strong>Jaime Lannister began the "Game of Thrones" as a pretty despicable character, one who had no compunction about throwing a 10-year-old from a window. But over the course of season three this lovesick nobleman was put through his paces, losing the very limb that helped him become so powerful. Now in season four, he's returning to the love of his life -- his sister, Cersei -- with a deformity she may not be able to overlook. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau): Jaime Lannister began the "Game of Thrones" as a pretty despicable character, one who had no compunction about throwing a 10-year-old from a window. But over the course of season three this lovesick nobleman was put through his paces, losing the very limb that helped him become so powerful. Now in season four, he's returning to the love of his life -- his sister, Cersei -- with a deformity she may not be able to overlook.
<strong>Jon Snow (Kit Harington)</strong>: From bastard son to wildling lover, Jon Snow and his immaculate Medieval tresses have had quite the journey. Jon vowed to be loyal to the Night's Watch -- the ragtag group who stand guard at the icy North wall on high alert for the fantastical (the zombie-like White Walkers) and the free (wildlings) -- and he's held true to that promise even after a detour in the arms of wildling Ygritte. But now, after spurning the affection of one such wildling, Jon Snow needs to be prepared to pay in season four as he takes on a bigger leadership role with the Night's Watch.Jon Snow (Kit Harington): From bastard son to wildling lover, Jon Snow and his immaculate Medieval tresses have had quite the journey. Jon vowed to be loyal to the Night's Watch -- the ragtag group who stand guard at the icy North wall on high alert for the fantastical (the zombie-like White Walkers) and the free (wildlings) -- and he's held true to that promise even after a detour in the arms of wildling Ygritte. But now, after spurning the affection of one such wildling, Jon Snow needs to be prepared to pay in season four as he takes on a bigger leadership role with the Night's Watch.
<strong>Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen): </strong>If you find yourself confused as to who exactly Theon Greyjoy is, don't feel bad: he is, too. Once the ward of the House of Stark, Theon betrayed those who were like family to him to claim a noble title that lasted for essentially a nanosecond. As season four begins, Theon is suffering as a prisoner and punching bag for Bastard of Bolton Ramsay Snow, who has the guy thinking his name is "Reek."Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen): If you find yourself confused as to who exactly Theon Greyjoy is, don't feel bad: he is, too. Once the ward of the House of Stark, Theon betrayed those who were like family to him to claim a noble title that lasted for essentially a nanosecond. As season four begins, Theon is suffering as a prisoner and punching bag for Bastard of Bolton Ramsay Snow, who has the guy thinking his name is "Reek."
<strong>Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann): </strong>A killer to the bone but not without a heart, Sandor, or "The Hound" as he's known, was once a bodyguard for King Joffrey but deserted his post. He then tried to take hostage Arya Stark in hopes he could exchange her for ransom, but as season four starts, their relationship has shifted from kidnapper/hostage to mentor/mentee. Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann): A killer to the bone but not without a heart, Sandor, or "The Hound" as he's known, was once a bodyguard for King Joffrey but deserted his post. He then tried to take hostage Arya Stark in hopes he could exchange her for ransom, but as season four starts, their relationship has shifted from kidnapper/hostage to mentor/mentee.
<strong>Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright):</strong> Bran Stark, the middle son of the House of Stark, was left crippled from the very first episode of "Game of Thrones" but has gained a gift for visions. With his faithful Hodor (Kristian Nairn) by his side for mobility, the now orphaned Bran begins season four beyond the Wall in search of the three-eyed Raven he frequently sees in visions. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright): Bran Stark, the middle son of the House of Stark, was left crippled from the very first episode of "Game of Thrones" but has gained a gift for visions. With his faithful Hodor (Kristian Nairn) by his side for mobility, the now orphaned Bran begins season four beyond the Wall in search of the three-eyed Raven he frequently sees in visions.
<strong>Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner):</strong> Sansa Stark (now Sansa Lannister) is a character many love to hate, because she started out as pretty insufferable. But after being ridiculed and tortured by Joffrey Lannister, her former fiance, and held captive by him and his family, we've come around. Thankfully, the Lannister she's been forced to marry is Tyrion, who at least has promised not to mistreat her as we proceed into season four. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner): Sansa Stark (now Sansa Lannister) is a character many love to hate, because she started out as pretty insufferable. But after being ridiculed and tortured by Joffrey Lannister, her former fiance, and held captive by him and his family, we've come around. Thankfully, the Lannister she's been forced to marry is Tyrion, who at least has promised not to mistreat her as we proceed into season four.
<strong>Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance): </strong>Joffrey may wear the crown but it's his grandfather, Tywin Lannister, who schemes to keep the Lannister family's legacy rich in money and power. The evil mastermind behind the hideous Red Wedding in the third season, we won't flinch if it's Tywin who meets a gruesome end as Hand of the King in season four. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance): Joffrey may wear the crown but it's his grandfather, Tywin Lannister, who schemes to keep the Lannister family's legacy rich in money and power. The evil mastermind behind the hideous Red Wedding in the third season, we won't flinch if it's Tywin who meets a gruesome end as Hand of the King in season four.
<strong>Ygritte (Rose Leslie)</strong>: Ygritte, one of the Free Folk who live beyond the Wall and are known derogatorily as wildlings by those in the Seven Kingdoms, is proud of her people and deathly with a bow and arrow. She spent most of season 3 as the love interest of Jon Snow, but after he deserted her for the Night's Watch she's ready to start season four making everyone feel as much pain as she does. Ygritte (Rose Leslie): Ygritte, one of the Free Folk who live beyond the Wall and are known derogatorily as wildlings by those in the Seven Kingdoms, is proud of her people and deathly with a bow and arrow. She spent most of season 3 as the love interest of Jon Snow, but after he deserted her for the Night's Watch she's ready to start season four making everyone feel as much pain as she does.
<strong>Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer):</strong> Margaery Tyrell, the lady now betrothed to King Joffrey, at first seems as sweet as she is beautiful. But don't be fooled: As she prepares to reign alongside Joffrey in season four, trust that any kindness you see is stealthily calculated.Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer): Margaery Tyrell, the lady now betrothed to King Joffrey, at first seems as sweet as she is beautiful. But don't be fooled: As she prepares to reign alongside Joffrey in season four, trust that any kindness you see is stealthily calculated.
<strong>Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane): </strong>As a brother to the late King Robert Baratheon -- who held the throne before his son-in-name-only Joffrey took over -- Stannis Baratheon knows he has a rightful claim the crown. He's gone into battle trying to seal his position, and now regularly turns to the magic of creepy "Red Priestess" Melisandre (Carice van Houten) for help.Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane): As a brother to the late King Robert Baratheon -- who held the throne before his son-in-name-only Joffrey took over -- Stannis Baratheon knows he has a rightful claim the crown. He's gone into battle trying to seal his position, and now regularly turns to the magic of creepy "Red Priestess" Melisandre (Carice van Houten) for help.
<strong>Melisandre (Carice van Houten):</strong> Known as the Red Priestess, Melisandre's magic is lethal, but Stannis Baratheon doesn't seem to mind when her power helps him move closer to the Iron Throne. Melisandre (Carice van Houten): Known as the Red Priestess, Melisandre's magic is lethal, but Stannis Baratheon doesn't seem to mind when her power helps him move closer to the Iron Throne.
<strong>Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal): </strong>Arriving at King's Landing for the first time, Martell is from Dorne, in the southern reaches of the Seven Kingdoms, where passions run hot and slights are not forgotten. Weigh that against the fact that his sister was killed by Lannister soldiers and you have a recipe for trouble.Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal): Arriving at King's Landing for the first time, Martell is from Dorne, in the southern reaches of the Seven Kingdoms, where passions run hot and slights are not forgotten. Weigh that against the fact that his sister was killed by Lannister soldiers and you have a recipe for trouble.
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  • Sunday's "Game of Thrones" featured a controversial scene
  • The author of the book series the show's based on has responded
  • George R.R. Martin: I intended for that scene to be disturbing

(CNN) -- "Game of Thrones" has never strictly followed the book series it's based on, but that fan frustration turned disturbing on Sunday's episode.

In the third installment of the fourth season, "Breaker of Chains," fans were flabbergasted by a scene in which Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) forces himself on his sister, Cersei (Lena Headey). It wasn't the incest viewers were taken back by -- Jamie and Cersei's relationship is a crucial thread in the books and on the HBO series -- but the rape.

It was a confusing and jarring plot twist, not only because Jaime and Cersei's trysts have been consensual, but because the scene doesn't play out that way in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series.

As excerpts show, Martin did envision Jaime being the more enthusiastic participant at this point in the story, and Cersei as more hesitant. But, as Martin makes clear on his blog, she wasn't raped.

"Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her," he says.

That said, "Game of Thrones" has made some chronological changes to the storyline, meaning "neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why (the scene) played ... differently," Martin went on. "But that's just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection."

It sounds like the director and the two actors starring in the scene didn't talk much about it either. As the episode's helmer Alex Graves told HitFix's Alan Sepinwall, "nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. ... By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That's one of my favorite scenes I've ever done."

Graves also appears to have a different understanding of what was portrayed on screen. "Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle," he said.

Although Martin didn't have a conversation about the controversial moment before it arrived on air, he did always intend for that moment "to be disturbing," the author says on his blog. "But I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons."

N. Korea nuke threat aimed at U.S.?

A North Korean soldier uses binoculars on Thursday, February 6, to look at South Korea from the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War. A new <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/north-korea-un-report/index.html'>United Nations report</a> describes a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."A North Korean soldier uses binoculars on Thursday, February 6, to look at South Korea from the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War. A new United Nations report describes a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
A North Korean soldier kicks a pole along the banks of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, on Tuesday, February 4.A North Korean soldier kicks a pole along the banks of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, on Tuesday, February 4.
A photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, January 23, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a North Korean army unit during a winter drill.A photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, January 23, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a North Korean army unit during a winter drill.
Kim inspects the command of an army unit in this undated photo released Sunday, January 12, by the North Korean Central News Agency (KNCA).Kim inspects the command of an army unit in this undated photo released Sunday, January 12, by the North Korean Central News Agency (KNCA).
Kim visits an army unit in this undated photo. Kim visits an army unit in this undated photo.
A picture released by the KNCA on Wednesday, December 25, shows Kim visiting an army unit near the western port city of Nampo.A picture released by the KNCA on Wednesday, December 25, shows Kim visiting an army unit near the western port city of Nampo.
Kim inspects a military factory in this undated picture released by the KNCA on Friday, May 17.Kim inspects a military factory in this undated picture released by the KNCA on Friday, May 17.
Kim visits the Ministry of People's Security on Wednesday, May 1, as part of the country's May Day celebrations.Kim visits the Ministry of People's Security on Wednesday, May 1, as part of the country's May Day celebrations.
A North Korean soldier, near Sinuiju, gestures to stop photographers from taking photos on Saturday, April 6. A North Korean soldier, near Sinuiju, gestures to stop photographers from taking photos on Saturday, April 6.
North Korean soldiers gather by the docks in Sinuiju, near the Chinese border, on Thursday, April 4.North Korean soldiers gather by the docks in Sinuiju, near the Chinese border, on Thursday, April 4.
North Korean soldiers patrol near the Yalu River on April 4.North Korean soldiers patrol near the Yalu River on April 4.
Kim is briefed by his generals in this undated photo. On the wall is a map titled "Plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S." Kim is briefed by his generals in this undated photo. On the wall is a map titled "Plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S."
Kim works during a briefing in this undated photo.Kim works during a briefing in this undated photo.
In this KNCA photo, Kim inspects naval drills at an undisclosed location on North Korea's east coast on Monday, March 25.In this KNCA photo, Kim inspects naval drills at an undisclosed location on North Korea's east coast on Monday, March 25.
Kim, with North Korean soldiers, makes his way to an observation post on March 25.Kim, with North Korean soldiers, makes his way to an observation post on March 25.
Kim uses a pair of binoculars to look south from the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment, near South Korea's Taeyonphyong Island, on Thursday, March 7.Kim uses a pair of binoculars to look south from the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment, near South Korea's Taeyonphyong Island, on Thursday, March 7.
Kim is greeted by a soldier's family as he inspects the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment on March 7.Kim is greeted by a soldier's family as he inspects the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment on March 7.
Kim is surrounded by soldiers during a visit to the Mu Islet Hero Defense Detachment, also near Taeyonphyong Island, on March 7.Kim is surrounded by soldiers during a visit to the Mu Islet Hero Defense Detachment, also near Taeyonphyong Island, on March 7.
Kim arrives at Jangjae Islet by boat to meet with soldiers of the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment on March 7.Kim arrives at Jangjae Islet by boat to meet with soldiers of the Jangjae Islet Defense Detachment on March 7.
Soldiers in the North Korean army train at an undisclosed location on Wednesday, March 6. Soldiers in the North Korean army train at an undisclosed location on Wednesday, March 6.
In a photo released by the official North Korean news agency in December 2012, Kim celebrates a rocket's launch with staff from the satellite control center in Pyongyang, North Korea.In a photo released by the official North Korean news agency in December 2012, Kim celebrates a rocket's launch with staff from the satellite control center in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Kim, center, poses in this undated picture released by North Korea's official news agency in November 2012.Kim, center, poses in this undated picture released by North Korea's official news agency in November 2012.
Kim Jong Un visits the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, under construction in Pyongyang, in a photo released in July 2012 by the KNCA.Kim Jong Un visits the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, under construction in Pyongyang, in a photo released in July 2012 by the KNCA.
A crowd watches as statues of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il are unveiled during a ceremony in Pyongyang in April 2012.A crowd watches as statues of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il are unveiled during a ceremony in Pyongyang in April 2012.
A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of an UNHA III rocket at the Tangachai-ri Space Center in April 2012.A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of an UNHA III rocket at the Tangachai-ri Space Center in April 2012.
In April 2012, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket that broke apart and fell into the sea. Here, the UNHA III rocket is pictured on its launch pad in Tang Chung Ri, North Korea.In April 2012, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket that broke apart and fell into the sea. Here, the UNHA III rocket is pictured on its launch pad in Tang Chung Ri, North Korea.
A closer look at the UNHA III rocket on its launch pad in Tang Chung Ri, North Korea.A closer look at the UNHA III rocket on its launch pad in Tang Chung Ri, North Korea.
A military vehicle participates in a parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.A military vehicle participates in a parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Koreans wave flags in front of portraits of Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il during celebrations to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Koreans wave flags in front of portraits of Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il during celebrations to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean soldiers relax at the end of an official ceremony attended by leader Kim Jong Un at a stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean soldiers relax at the end of an official ceremony attended by leader Kim Jong Un at a stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.
Kim Jong Un applauds as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.Kim Jong Un applauds as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.
A North Korean soldier stands on a balcony in Pyongyang in April 2012.A North Korean soldier stands on a balcony in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean soldiers march during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean soldiers march during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.
Soldiers board a bus outside a theater in Pyongyang in April 2012.Soldiers board a bus outside a theater in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean performers sit below a screen showing images of leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean performers sit below a screen showing images of leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean soldiers salute during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean soldiers salute during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean soldiers listen to a speech during an official ceremony attended by leader Kim Jong Un at a stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean soldiers listen to a speech during an official ceremony attended by leader Kim Jong Un at a stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.
Members of a North Korean military band gather following an official ceremony at the Kim Il Sung stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.Members of a North Korean military band gather following an official ceremony at the Kim Il Sung stadium in Pyongyang in April 2012.
North Korean military personnel watch a performance in Pyongyang in April 2012.North Korean military personnel watch a performance in Pyongyang in April 2012.
A North Korean controller is seen along the railway line between the Pyongyang and North Pyongan provinces in April 2012.A North Korean controller is seen along the railway line between the Pyongyang and North Pyongan provinces in April 2012.
A North Korean military honor guard stands at attention at Pyongyang's airport in May 2001.A North Korean military honor guard stands at attention at Pyongyang's airport in May 2001.
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  • North Korea may launch nuclear test to coincide with Obama's visit to South Korea
  • Writers: If it's a more serious provocation, it could signal an uptick in nuclear capability
  • They say strong U.N. sanctions necessary to stop a possible march toward nukes
  • Writers: U.S. must strengthen ties with S. Korea and Japan and build up its deterrent system

Editor's note: Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an associate professor at Georgetown University. Zack Cooper is a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a doctoral candidate at Princeton University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) -- News reports indicate that North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear test, potentially scheduled to coincide with President Obama's visit to South Korea this week.

The North Korean foreign minister warned Tuesday that Obama's trip could "escalate confrontation and bring the dark clouds of a nuclear arms race," prompting speculation that the impulsive young leader of the North, Kim Jong Un, is again crying out for attention.

Typically, experts and government officials refer to these outbursts and nuclear or missile tests as "provocations," which are followed by sanctions, tensions and -- it is hoped -- a return to diplomacy. But by now, it should be obvious that while North Korean behavior appears cyclical ("there they go again"), Pyongyang is on a clear, linear path to developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them on target in Japan and eventually the United States.

Michael J. Green
Zack Cooper

North Korea's third and most recent nuclear test, in February 2013, used a relatively small 6- to 9-kiloton plutonium-based nuclear warhead, according to the South Korea Ministry of Defense, roughly half the yield of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If North Korea's new test is substantially larger, it will demonstrate that Pyongyang either has mastered the warhead design challenges of plutonium-based weapons or has covertly enriched uranium.

If it is the former case, North Korea will more easily be able to miniaturize its nuclear warhead technology for mating with ballistic missiles. If the latter case, North Korea will probably demonstrate the ability to covertly stockpile large amounts of fissile material, since highly enriched uranium facilities can be more easily hidden underground and North Korea has plenty of uranium mines to obtain the necessary fuel.

Either way, a "new form" of North Korean nuclear test would signal a substantial increase in the country's nuclear capabilities and not just another provocation requiring a short-term punishment from the international community.

North Korea nuclear test 'quite likely'
See baby photos of Kim Jong Un
South: N. Korea prepping for nuclear test

The United States and its allies and partners would no doubt seek to place additional sanctions on North Korea through the United Nations, if such a test were to occur. However, given current tensions with Russia, as well as Chinese concern about North Korean stability, it is unlikely that the U.N. Security Council would approve substantial new sanctions. Yet, deterring North Korea is critical. What more could be done?

First, if the United States cannot win substantial new sanctions at the U.N., it should take additional steps in concert with South Korea, Japan and other allies and partners to squeeze the North's ability to import or export dangerous materials related to their missile and nuclear programs.

Additional sanctions should target North Korean use of international banks to conduct illicit activities. Although some of these institutions have been targeted (most notably Banco Delta Asia in 2005), more can be done to cut North Korea off from its international financing. A coalition of like-minded states could also agree to inspect any and all ships or planes that have departed from North Korea in the previous six months. This same coalition would work together to pressure Beijing to increase inspections and cut off illicit banking activities with North Korea.

Moving China to action has usually been a challenge, but additional North Korean provocations and Kim Jong Un's execution of his uncle and China's contact in Pyongyang, Jang Song Thaek, could motivate China to take steps, particularly once it is clear that the U.S. is no longer willing to rely on the Security Council for another round of weak sanctions.

Second, the U.S. should respond to any North Korean test by increasing cooperation trilaterally with Japan and South Korea. Although South Korea-Japan relations have been at a low point, the United States has spearheaded efforts to make progress in the bilateral relationship in recent months. Obama's visit to both countries will surely touch on this issue, but a North Korean provocation could help him drive Japan and South Korea toward closer cooperation, particularly on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; missile defense; and logistics.

This would not only improve U.S.-Japan-South Korea cooperation but could also deter additional provocative actions and put pressure on Chinese leaders to restrain their North Korean ally. In December 2010, the U.S., Japan and South Korea came very close to issuing a joint collective security statement, declaring that an attack by the North on any of us would be an attack on all of us, after the North sank a South Korean vessel and shelled civilians on a South Korean-held island. That high bar could become achievable again.

Third, the United States should bolster its extended deterrent framework -- or nuclear umbrella -- in East Asia. Today, some question U.S. willpower in the face of threats in the Asia Pacific region, particularly after the uncertain U.S. responses to aggression in Syria and Ukraine. A North Korean nuclear test would require the U.S. to make unambiguous statements about the defense of our allies and follow through with demonstrations of American capability, including deployments of assets like the B-2 bomber to Guam and increased exercises with Japan and Korea.

North Korea is estimated to have enough fissile material now for between six and 12 nuclear weapons and is working hard on miniaturization and longer-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting not only Japan but someday, potentially, the United States. At this rate, it will not be long before an American president is going to ask his staff who let North Korea develop the ability to threaten the United States with impunity and why more wasn't done to stop the North.

We know that diplomacy has failed to knock the North off its goal and that a military strike would risk dangerous retaliation against Japan and Korea. But in between war and diplomacy, we have a range of options that could constrict the North's program and buy us time until the threat can be removed peacefully through diplomacy or collapse of the onerous regime in Pyongyang.

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Oldest living things on Earth threatened

Pafuri baobab tree. Up to 2,000 years old. Kruger Game Preserve, South Africa.Pafuri baobab tree. Up to 2,000 years old. Kruger Game Preserve, South Africa.
Antarctic moss. 5,500 years old. Elephant Island, Antarctica. Antarctic moss. 5,500 years old. Elephant Island, Antarctica.
Welwitschia mirabilis plant. 2,000 years old. Namib Naukluft Desert, Namibia.Welwitschia mirabilis plant. 2,000 years old. Namib Naukluft Desert, Namibia.
Llareta plant. Up to 3,000 years old. Atacama Desert, Chile.Llareta plant. Up to 3,000 years old. Atacama Desert, Chile.
Mojave yucca. 12,000 years old. Mojave Desert, California. Mojave yucca. 12,000 years old. Mojave Desert, California.
Stromatolites. 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Carbla Station, Western Australia. Stromatolites. 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Carbla Station, Western Australia.
Huon pine. 10,500 years old. Mount Read, Tasmania, Australia.Huon pine. 10,500 years old. Mount Read, Tasmania, Australia.
Posidonia oceanica sea grass. 100,000 years old. Balearic Islands, Spain. Posidonia oceanica sea grass. 100,000 years old. Balearic Islands, Spain.
Bristlecone pine. Uo to 5,000 years old. White Mountains, California.Bristlecone pine. Uo to 5,000 years old. White Mountains, California.
Rare eucalyptus. 13,000 years old. New South Wales, Australia. Rare eucalyptus. 13,000 years old. New South Wales, Australia.

(CNN) -- Artist Rachel Sussman spent the past decade documenting the world's oldest living things. Working with biologists, she has traveled to deserts and islands, from the Australian Outback to Antarctica, to photograph organisms that are 2,000 years old or older. She has given a TED talk about her project. Her new book of photographs and essays, "The Oldest Living Things in the World," came out on Earth Day, April 22. Follow her on Twitter: @OLTW

CNN asked Sussman about her work in an e-mail interview.

How did you get involved with this project?

Rachel Sussman

Before I got the idea for "The Oldest Living Things," I was searching for something I could really sink my teeth into. That search was both an intellectual one -- pondering ideas about combining art with science and philosophical concepts like deep time -- as well as a literal one. A visit to Japan in 2004 resulted in a surprising and eye-opening adventure to a supposedly 7,000-year-old tree, which ended up being the ultimate catalyst that brought all these different threads together.

Environmentalism also plays a vital role in my work. The ancient survivors I've photographed have weathered thousands of years in some of the harshest environments on Earth, but are now threatened by the climate crisis.

Of all the oldest living things that you came across, what moved you the most?

Rachel Sussman\'s new book, \
Rachel Sussman's new book, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."

It's hard for me to choose, but I was particularly moved by some of the most diminutive organisms. We expect to be awed by the grandeur of Giant Sequoias, and they are indeed moving. But it was the little beings -- the ones that you'd have no idea are old at all -- that I found to be the most compelling. Examples of this include the map lichens in Greenland that grow only 1 centimeter every 100 years, and the spruce tree on the cover of the book, which, despite its spindly appearance, has been growing clonally for 9,950 years.

If there's one place in the world that one must see before one dies, where would it be?

This is a tough question, as I think we should weigh the environmental impact of our travels against the potential for cultural and personal enrichment. Developing clean energy sources to get us to places should be a global priority.

What that in mind, some of my travel experiences -- like visiting South Georgia Island in the Antarctic Convergence -- felt more like traveling back in time than visiting a remote location. It is stunning, and I'd love everyone to be able to see through that window back into deep time.

However, some of the last pristine locations on Earth have only remained so because of lack of human contact. I urge everyone to travel responsibly, and remember the Girl Scout motto to always leave a place in better shape than when you found it!

What are a few things that one can start doing today to become more environmentally conscious?

My suggestion is to get involved with Al Gore's fantastic organization, the Climate Reality Project. Whether you spread some truth to the naysayers about climate change, reflect on the things you love that are made possible by a healthy climate, or choose to apply to become a member of the Climate Realty Leadership Corps, Climate Reality is building community and momentum around the global fight against the climate crisis.

Who inspires you?

In no particular order some of my favorite people are: David Foster Wallace, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Ernest Shackleton, the women of art and science that history overlooked or forgot, risk-takers, climate crusaders, makers of eye-opening art, boundary breakers, fighters of injustices, and anyone forging a connection where one didn't previously exist.

I believe everyone should follow and cultivate their curiosity -- because you never know where it will lead you. There is so much to see, know and do in the world, and I hope that we can all get out there -- in our own ways -- and do some good.

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Why Common Core tests fail kids

A teacher assists third-grade students in a Chicago classroom. Illinois is one of 45 states that have adopted Common Core.
A teacher assists third-grade students in a Chicago classroom. Illinois is one of 45 states that have adopted Common Core.
  • In New York, as in other states, some parents oppose the Common Core exams
  • Nicholas Tampio: Common Core seems to focus too much on testing
  • He says teachers should not have to teach to the test and drain school budgets
  • Tampio: Children should receive a well-rounded curriculum and education

Editor's note: Nicholas Tampio is assistant professor of political science at Fordham University. He is the author of "Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- In a few weeks, the New York State Education Department will begin the second round of Common Core tests. Earlier this spring, thousands of students refused to take the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) exams. In New York, as in states across the country, parents are telling administrators that their children will not sit for exams that pressure teachers to teach to the test and drain school budgets.

Ignore the baseless charge that families don't want high academic standards for their kids or are afraid their kids won't live up to higher standards. Parents and students want schools that offer a well-rounded curriculum and a sensible amount and way of testing. But the Common Core seems to focus too much on testing.

According to the 2014 New York Testing Program School Administrator's Manual, parents may eventually review students' responses to open-ended questions, but they are not allowed to look at the test itself. Although educators are under a gag order from New York State and Pearson that prohibits them from discussing specifics of the tests, Principal Elizabeth Phillips of PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and other educators across the state have decried the ELA exams as confusing and developmentally inappropriate.

Nicholas Tampio

The situation may be the same in mathematics. Stanford professor James Milgram argues that the Common Core math standards do not command international respect and will not prepare students for STEM careers. If the state keeps hiding the exams from public scrutiny, then parents and educators have a right to doubt their pedagogical value.

There are other issues. The Race to the Top program awarded New York $700 million on the condition that the state adopts a value added modeling teacher evaluation system, in this case, APPR. Put plainly -- the state may now fire teachers if test scores are low. That creates incredible pressure to teach to the test.

Additionally, English language learners must also take the tests, regardless of how well they can understand them, and teachers in impoverished school districts are more likely to be punished, despite taking on harder assignments. In the words of noted education scholar Diane Ravitch: VAM is a sham.

I recently attended an iRefuse rally held on Long Island. The poster for the event juxtaposes two silhouettes of a child's head: one, under the title "Learning," is filled with images of Shakespeare, a guitar, a flower, math equations and plants. The other, under the title "Testing," is filled with a multiple-choice exam. That is why parents are refusing -- they want school to be a place where children's talents are cultivated and not harmed by tests whose main use is to fire teachers.

In 1849, the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote a classic essay on civil disobedience that has inspired countless activists around the world, including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. According to Thoreau, "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."

According to Thoreau, people are too inclined to respect the government rather than question whether the people who lead it are acting justly. Today, a parent inspired by Thoreau would point out that the New York Education Department is led by fallible human beings such as John King, Ken Slentz and Ken Wagner, and the tests are created by Pearson, a corporation that has been found to use its nonprofit foundation to produce curriculum materials and software for its for-profit business.

Such a parent would also object to the School Administrators Manual's policy that "schools do not have any obligation to provide an alternative location or activities for individual students while the tests are being administered." This sentence justifies the sit-and-stare policy whereby refusing children are not allowed to read or talk, but are forced to remain at their desks while their peers take the tests. In other words, this manual encourages administrators to employ the "silent treatment" on kids who don't want their education to become endless test prep. This is bullying pure and simple.

As a parent, what would you do if you wanted to refuse the upcoming math test for your child? Write a letter or e-mail to the board of education, superintendent, principals and teachers in your school district to formally notify them of your decision to refuse to allow your child to participate in any local assessments tied to APPR for the 2013-2014 school year.

Tell them that you want your child to be scored as a "refusal" with a final score of "999" and a standard achieved code of 96, on all state testing. This ensures that schools and teachers are not impacted by the refusals.

There is a chance that administrators will try to dissuade you. Tell them that you are advocating for your children to receive a well-rounded, personalized education. Tell everyone in your district that you are not fighting him or her, but rather political and corporate forces that are trying to centralize and standardize public education.

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Shipping company under scrutiny

  • Investigators search ferry owner's offices, other sites
  • Ship inspection agency also being probed, news agency reports
  • Hopes are fading for survivors with news that divers haven't found any air pockets
  • Devastated high school set to resume classes Thursday

Jindo, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korean authorities searched the offices of the company that owns the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, prosecutors confirmed to CNN, broadening a criminal investigation that has already ensnared 11 members of the ill-fated ship's crew.

Investigators also searched offices of 20 organizations affiliated with Cheonghaejin Marine Co. as well as the home of Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire whose family appears to control the company, according to the semiofficial Yonhap News Agency.

Prosecutors in the South Korean city of Busan are also investigating the private organization responsible for inspecting and certifying ships for the South Korean government, Yonhap reported.

Investigators are looking for any evidence of possible wrongdoing in relation to the Korean Register of Shipping's safety inspection of the Sewol, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed prosecutor.

The Sewol sank April 16 during a routine transit from Incheon to the resort island of Jeju. Among its 476 passengers and crew were more than 300 high school students on a field trip.

Memorial stirs raw emotions for families
Search personnel dive into the waters of the Yellow Sea off the coast of South Korea near the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, April 23. More than 100 people have died and many are missing after the ferry sank on Wednesday, April 16, as it was headed to the resort island of Jeju from the port of Incheon.Search personnel dive into the waters of the Yellow Sea off the coast of South Korea near the sunken ferry Sewol on Wednesday, April 23. More than 100 people have died and many are missing after the ferry sank on Wednesday, April 16, as it was headed to the resort island of Jeju from the port of Incheon.
Flares light up the search area on Tuesday, April 22.Flares light up the search area on Tuesday, April 22.
The sun sets over the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 22.The sun sets over the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 22.
A relative of a passenger aboard the ferry prays as she waits for news in Jindo on April 22.A relative of a passenger aboard the ferry prays as she waits for news in Jindo on April 22.
The search for victims continues in the waters of the Yellow Sea on April 22.The search for victims continues in the waters of the Yellow Sea on April 22.
Rescue workers carry the body of a passenger on Monday, April 21, in Jindo.Rescue workers carry the body of a passenger on Monday, April 21, in Jindo.
Divers jump into the water on April 21 to search for passengers near the buoys which mark the site of the sunken ferry.Divers jump into the water on April 21 to search for passengers near the buoys which mark the site of the sunken ferry.
A relative of a passenger looks at the lists of the dead in Jindo on April 21.A relative of a passenger looks at the lists of the dead in Jindo on April 21.
Search operations continue as flares illuminate the scene near Jindo on Sunday, April 20.Search operations continue as flares illuminate the scene near Jindo on Sunday, April 20.
Relatives of missing passengers from the Sewol ferry grieve on April 20 in Jindo.Relatives of missing passengers from the Sewol ferry grieve on April 20 in Jindo.
Relatives of passengers look out at the sea from Jindo on April 20.Relatives of passengers look out at the sea from Jindo on April 20.
A relative of a missing passenger struggles with a policeman as he tries to march toward the presidential house in Jindo on April 20 to protest the government's rescue operation.A relative of a missing passenger struggles with a policeman as he tries to march toward the presidential house in Jindo on April 20 to protest the government's rescue operation.
Police officers stand guard Saturday, April 19, at the port in Jindo to prevent relatives of the ferry's missing passengers from jumping in the water. Some relatives have said they will swim to the shipwreck site and find their missing family members by themselves.Police officers stand guard Saturday, April 19, at the port in Jindo to prevent relatives of the ferry's missing passengers from jumping in the water. Some relatives have said they will swim to the shipwreck site and find their missing family members by themselves.
Family members of missing passengers hug as they await news of their missing relatives at Jindo Gymnasium in the southwestern province of South Jeolla, South Korea, on April 19. Family members of missing passengers hug as they await news of their missing relatives at Jindo Gymnasium in the southwestern province of South Jeolla, South Korea, on April 19.
South Korean Navy Ship Salvage Unit members prepare to salvage the sunken ferry and search for missing people on April 19.South Korean Navy Ship Salvage Unit members prepare to salvage the sunken ferry and search for missing people on April 19.
Oil from the sunken ferry appears near the wreckage site on April 19.Oil from the sunken ferry appears near the wreckage site on April 19.
Lee Joon Suk, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol, is escorted to the court that issued his arrest warrant Friday, April 18, in Mokpo, South Korea. It is not yet known what caused Wednesday's deadly accident.Lee Joon Suk, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol, is escorted to the court that issued his arrest warrant Friday, April 18, in Mokpo, South Korea. It is not yet known what caused Wednesday's deadly accident.
Offshore cranes wait near buoys that mark the location of the sunken ferry near Jindo, South Korea, on April 18.Offshore cranes wait near buoys that mark the location of the sunken ferry near Jindo, South Korea, on April 18.
A U.S. helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard during search-and-rescue operations on April 18.A U.S. helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard during search-and-rescue operations on April 18.
A woman cries as she waits for news on missing passengers April 18 in Jindo.A woman cries as she waits for news on missing passengers April 18 in Jindo.
A searchlight illuminates the capsized ferry on Thursday, April 17.A searchlight illuminates the capsized ferry on Thursday, April 17.
The ship's captain, Lee Joon Suk, arrives at the Mokpo Police Station in Mokpo on April 17. His head and face covered, he broke down in tears when reporters asked whether he had anything to say.The ship's captain, Lee Joon Suk, arrives at the Mokpo Police Station in Mokpo on April 17. His head and face covered, he broke down in tears when reporters asked whether he had anything to say.
A woman cries during a candlelight vigil at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, on April 17. Most of the people on board the ferry were high school students on their way to the resort island of Jeju.A woman cries during a candlelight vigil at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, on April 17. Most of the people on board the ferry were high school students on their way to the resort island of Jeju.
Rescue personnel dive April 17 during search operations.Rescue personnel dive April 17 during search operations.
Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry gather at a gymnasium in Jindo on April 17.Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry gather at a gymnasium in Jindo on April 17.
The body of a victim is moved at a hospital in Mokpo on April 17.The body of a victim is moved at a hospital in Mokpo on April 17.
Relatives of a passenger cry at a port in Jindo on April 17 as they wait for news on the rescue operation.Relatives of a passenger cry at a port in Jindo on April 17 as they wait for news on the rescue operation.
South Korean coast guard members and rescue teams search for passengers at the site of the sunken ferry on April 17.South Korean coast guard members and rescue teams search for passengers at the site of the sunken ferry on April 17.
A relative of a passenger cries as she waits for news on Wednesday, April 16.A relative of a passenger cries as she waits for news on Wednesday, April 16.
Rescue teams and fishing boats try to rescue passengers on April 16.Rescue teams and fishing boats try to rescue passengers on April 16.
Relatives check a list of survivors April 16 in Jindo.Relatives check a list of survivors April 16 in Jindo.
Relatives of missing ferry passengers wait for news at a gym in Jindo.Relatives of missing ferry passengers wait for news at a gym in Jindo.
Rescue crews attempt to save passengers from the ferry on April 16.Rescue crews attempt to save passengers from the ferry on April 16.
A South Korean coast guard helicopter lifts passengers off the vessel on April 16.A South Korean coast guard helicopter lifts passengers off the vessel on April 16.
Police and rescue teams carry a passenger at the port in Jindo on April 16. Police and rescue teams carry a passenger at the port in Jindo on April 16.
A relative waits for a missing loved one at the port in Jindo.A relative waits for a missing loved one at the port in Jindo.
Parents at Danwon High School search for names of their children among the list of survivors. Ansan is a suburb of Seoul, the South Korean capital.Parents at Danwon High School search for names of their children among the list of survivors. Ansan is a suburb of Seoul, the South Korean capital.
Helicopters hover over the ferry as rescue operations continue April 16.Helicopters hover over the ferry as rescue operations continue April 16.
A man in Seoul watches a news broadcast about the sinking vessel.A man in Seoul watches a news broadcast about the sinking vessel.
Officials escort rescued passengers April 16 in Jindo.Officials escort rescued passengers April 16 in Jindo.
A passenger is helped onto a rescue boat on April 16.A passenger is helped onto a rescue boat on April 16.
A passenger is rescued from the sinking ship on April 16.A passenger is rescued from the sinking ship on April 16.
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Photos: South Korean ship sinksPhotos: South Korean ship sinks
Officials: Dead still wearing life vests
South Korean ferry rescue operation South Korean ferry rescue operation
South Korean ferry rescue operationSouth Korean ferry rescue operation

As of early Thursday, authorities had retrieved 159 bodies, leaving 143 passengers missing.

Eleven members of the Sewol's crew, including its captain, have been arrested in connection with the disaster.

Capt. Lee Joon-seok and some other crew members have been criticized for failing to evacuate the sinking ship quickly and for giving orders for passengers to remain where they were. Lee has said he was worried about the cold water, strong currents and lack of rescue vessels.

Lee and others have also drawn public anger for leaving the ship while many passengers remained on board.

Authorities still do not know precisely what caused the incident. It did not appear that the ship was overloaded, according to figures provided by the company and the South Korean coast guard. But coast guard officials said investigators won't know for sure how much cargo the ship was carrying until it is salvaged.

Young crew member hailed as heroine

Hopes fading

South Korean officials continue to call their operation a search and rescue mission, but hopes are fading that survivors may yet be found.

Rescue officials said Wednesday that divers have yet to find an air pocket on the third or fourth decks, where most of the passenger bedrooms and the ship's cafeteria are located.

Rescuers haven't found a single survivor since 174 people were rescued the day the ship sank one week ago.

Many of the bodies pulled from the ferry have come from bedrooms on the capsized ship's fourth deck, according to Ko Myung-suk, a spokesman for the joint task force coordinating the search.

Divers had expected to find passengers inside the third-floor cafeteria but failed to find any, the South Korean coast guard said.

Student made first ferry distress call
Ferry captain: From poster boy to pariah
New ferry recordings reveal chaos, panic
Volunteer divers keep hope alive

While divers still have many rooms to search, no air pockets have been found on either deck, authorities said.

Students remembered

Grief over the sinking has spread across the Korean Peninsula. Even South Korea's nemesis, North Korea, sent condolences Wednesday.

More than two-thirds of those on board the ferry were students from Danwon High School in Ansan, an hour's drive south of Seoul.

On Wednesday, some of their faces stared out from photos amid a huge bank of white flowers at a basketball area in Ansan that has been converted into a temporary memorial.

A permanent memorial is being planned for a park in Ansan.

Hundreds of people filed through the memorial Wednesday, passing about 50 large wreaths on their way to the wall of flowers and pictures.

Somber music played as visitors, including friends and relatives, passed quietly among the tributes. Some wept.

One man, from Seoul, has no ties to the school but came to grieve for the young lives lost.

"I have a daughter," the man told CNN's Nic Robertson. "I think of her alone in black waters. It's just so terrible. I'm angry that I couldn't do anything. So helpless."

The disaster has taken a devastating toll on the high school, where classes are due to resume Thursday.

The school is missing most of its sophomores and a vice principal who was rescued from the ferry but found dead two days after the sinking. He'd apparently hanged himself from a tree.

Lee Seung-min, 17, said one of her closest girlfriends is among the missing. She said she still holds out hope that her friend will return despite the increasingly slim chances of finding survivors.

Before the field trip, the two girls had talked about what universities they might attend, she said.

In recent maritime disasters, captains didn't hang around

Students remember vice principal who took own life

Murky waters cloud the horror facing rescue divers

CNN's Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Steven Jiang reported from Jindo, and Andrew Stevens reported from Ansan. CNN's Jethro Mullen, K.J. Kwon, Kyung Lah, Tim Schwarz, Larry Register and Judy Kwon also contributed to this report.

But ‘more we look, less excited we get’

  • "The more we look at it, the less excited we get," official says
  • Source says it's torn and misshapen
  • Information from the flight data recorders will be key
  • Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing 47 days ago

(CNN) -- An "object of interest" in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines plane has been recovered on the coast of Western Australia, several hours drive south of Perth, officials said.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan described the object as appearing to be sheet metal with rivets.

"It's sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs," he said. "We take all leads seriously."

But Dolan also added strong words of caution: "The more we look at it, the less excited we get."

Bajc: There's no evidence MH370 crashed

The object was picked up near Augusta, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Perth, a source with the Australian Defence Force told CNN.

The source also described the object as having rivets on one side with what appears to be a fiberglass coating.

When asked about the shape and scale of the object, the source described it as "kind of rectangular," but torn and misshapen.

The source said it was too difficult to estimate the size because they had only seen one photo with no clear scale.

The object of interest is in the custody of a police agency in Western Australia. Authorities there wouldn't comment further because it's a federal investigation.

The photos have been passed along to Malaysian investigators, and the Australian safety bureau was examining them to assess how to proceed.

A determined effort

The hunt for the Flight 370 is a determined effort, but there have been few headlines so far.

A high-tech underwater drone was completing its 10th mission on Wednesday, without finding any sign of the Boeing 777 jetliner.

The Bluefin-21 has scanned about 80% of the intended territory.

Stormy weather postponed the air search for a second day on Wednesday. The ships plying the waters off the coast of Australia kept their vigil.

And despite the search efforts for MH370 repeatedly coming up empty during these 47 days, there's no suggestion the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean is anywhere close to ending.

Quite to the contrary, according to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"We are not going to abandon ... the families of the 239 people who were on that plane by lightly surrendering while there is reasonable hope of finding something," he said on Wednesday. "We may well re-think the search, but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery."

Long-term strategy

Malaysian and Australian authorities are already mapping out a long-term strategy for the search, which could conceivably go on for months or years, if the two-year search for Air France Flight 447 is any guide.

Guidelines drafted by Malaysia raise the possibility of a significantly wider search area should the current underwater search fail to turn up evidence of the plane. The document discusses how best to deploy resources, including new underwater search assets.

Investigators would love to find the flight data recorders from Flight 370, a potential treasure trove of information into what happened to the jetliner and the 239 passengers and crew on board.

If found, the black boxes would likely go to the Australian Transport Safety Board's accident investigation lab.

But it's up to the Malaysians where they want the boxes to go, because this is officially their investigation.

Australia is just one of a handful of countries that have the capability and technical know-how to decipher what's inside a black box.

Getting the data

Sometimes getting the data is simple.

"A lot of our work is with undamaged recorders, and it's very easy to download them much as you would a USB memory stick," said Neil Campbell, an Australian transport safety investigator with more than two decades of experience.

But the process becomes much more technical if the recorders are damaged.

In the case of water damage, possible after weeks at the bottom of the ocean, Campbell will rinse the board very carefully, then use a water displacement liquid, before drying out the circuit board in an oven. That process can take a couple of days.

After that it's a question of downloading the raw data and decoding the information, or in the case of the voice recorder, listening to what was said.

It may be the only way the families of those on board the March 8 flight -- that set off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur destined for Beijing -- may get answers to the questions they've been asking.

"There's a satisfaction in working out what happened with the accident and the conclusions, and the closure that that brings," Campbell said.

CNN's David Molko contributed to this report.

The antibiotics that can kill you

  • Martin Blaser: Overprescription of antibiotics put Americans at risk for disease
  • He says we wipe out good, protective germs, bringing danger of "antibiotic winter"
  • With lower resistance, plague inevitable in interconnected world, he says
  • Blaser: Targeted antibiotics, less interference in natural process are key to cutting vulnerability

Editor's note: Dr. Martin J. Blaser is the Singer Professor of Medicine and director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University. He was previously the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and is the author of a new book, "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues" (Henry Holt). The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- In 2010, Americans were prescribed 258 million courses of antibiotics, a rate of 833 per thousand people. Such massive usage, billions of doses, has been going on year after year.

We have few clues about the consequences of our cumulative exposures. We do know that widespread antibiotic treatments make us more susceptible to invaders by selecting for resistant bacteria.

These risks are now well-known, but I want to lay out a new concern: that antibiotic use over the years has been depleting the pool of our friendly bacteria -- in each of us -- and this is lowering our resistance to infections. In today's hyperconnected globe, that means that we are at high risk of future plagues that could spread without natural boundaries from person to person and that we could not stop. I call this "antibiotic winter."

Martin Blaser

To explain: In the early 1950's, scientists conducted experiments to determine whether our resident microbes -- the huge number of bacteria that live in and on our bodies, now called our "microbiome" -- help in fending off invading bacteria. They fed mice a species of a typical invader, disease-causing salmonella. It took about 100,000 organisms to infect half of the normal mice. But when they first gave mice an antibiotic, which kills both good and bad bacteria, and then several days later gave them salmonella, it took only three organisms to infect them. This isn't a 10 or 20% difference; it's a 30,000-fold difference.

That was in mice, but what about humans? In 1985, Chicago faced a massive outbreak of salmonella. At least 160,000 people became ill and several died from drinking contaminated milk. The health department asked victims of the outbreak and unaffected persons, "Have you received antibiotics in the month prior to becoming ill?" People who said yes were five times more likely to become ill than those who drank the milk but hadn't recently received antibiotics.

People carry a small number of highly abundant bacterial species and a large number of much less common ones. For example, you may carry trillions of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in your colon and only a thousand cells, or fewer, belonging to many other species. We are not sure how many rare species any of us has. If you had only 50 cells of a particular type, it would be difficult to detect them against the background of trillions of others.

When you take a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which is the kind most commonly prescribed, it may be that rare microbes occasionally get wiped out entirely. And once the population hits zero, there is no bouncing back. For your body, that species is now extinct. My worry is that some of these critical residential organisms -- what I consider "contingency" species -- may disappear altogether.

Why might it matter? Those puny species may not be so inconsequential. Microbes multiply. Any small population of, say, 50 cells can explode into a billion or more in one week. The trigger for their massive bloom could be a food you've eaten for the first time, which only they have the enzymes to digest. In the presence of this food, the rare microbe goes into overdrive, doubling every 12 or 20 minutes, multiplying by a million percent or more.

Consumers demanding drug-free meat
Study: Sinus infection? Skip antibiotics
Is it safe to eat chicken?

This could be good for you because some of the energy captured by these digesting microbes might end up in your bloodstream. When food is in short supply, as has been the case for most of human existence, and people need to eat unfamiliar plants or animals, it is useful to have a repertoire of enzymes that help us process a wide variety of nutrients. The genes of our flexible partners, our resident microbes, provide those enzymes.

Now consider the consequences if one of your rare microbes -- an ancient one that has been dwelling in Homo sapiens for 200,000 years -- went extinct. One possibility is that it doesn't matter. Perhaps that microbe was a marginal player -- good riddance. Another possibility: It's a "contingency" organism, useful -- crucial -- when we need it for protection.

When a new influenza epidemic arose in Mexico in 2009, people in California and Texas soon fell ill, and then flu appeared in New York a few days later. After a few weeks, this flu spread throughout the world. Considering the numbers of people infected, we were lucky that it was not a highly lethal strain. Yet thousands of people all over the world did die. Even when a strain is not that virulent, when hundreds of millions of people are infected, deaths add up. And when the strain is worse, the deaths climb into the millions.

Our world has gotten smaller. We have much greater global access to one another -- at the very moment in our history when our ancient microbial defenses are degrading. This makes us vulnerable to microbial invaders and provides fuel for disease conflagrations, with consequences scarcely imaginable.

Plagues are inevitable wherever people congregate. With a global population of 7 billion, rising by 80 million annually, the question is not whether another big plague will come, but when it will happen, what will cause it, and who will be affected. In 1918-19, influenza killed tens of millions, in an era without airplanes and with much less mass transit to spread it. With a huge world population that is essentially contiguous, and with so many people with weakened defenses, we are vulnerable as never before.

I see many parallels between our changing climate and our changing microbiome. The modern epidemics -- asthma and allergic disorders, obesity, and metabolic disorders -- are not only diseases, they are external signs of change within. But they also indicate a deeper imbalance, the loss of our reserves.

Our diverse microbes, with their millions of genes helping us resist disease, are the guerrilla warriors defending the home domain -- as long as we protect them. But recent studies suggest that otherwise normal people already have lost 15% to 40% of their microbial diversity and the genes that accompany it.

This is the greatest danger before us -- invaders causing an epidemic against which we are helpless. Unless we change our ways, we do indeed face an "antibiotic winter."

We must end the assault on our microbes, by cutting antibiotic use and also such elective practices as unnecessary cesarean sections that bypass the natural order of mothers passing on their bacteria to their babies. There are times when both of these are needed urgently, but we already know that we are overusing them.

Technology already provides important tools to improve doctors' judgments about when antibiotics are needed, but we must get them into the clinic. We also must develop new tools, like "narrow-spectrum" antibiotics that target only the invader and minimize collateral effects.

We must understand that every antibiotic course has a biological cost, and more precisely align possible benefit with the full costs. I predict that in the future we will routinely be giving children back their lost microbes, in early life to restore their patrimony and after the antibiotic courses that are truly necessary.

Just as we have abused marvelous inventions like freon and the internal combustion engine, so too we have abused our "wonder drugs." But the possible costs of these practices are our worst nightmare; we need to prepare, starting now.

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Pilot: Stowaway teen got ride of his life

  • Pilot Les Abend was incredulous that a teen could access and survive flight in wheel well
  • He says when pilot completes preflight walk-around, he checks fuel lines, not for stowaways
  • He asks: He was not crushed when wheels retracted. How? After that, he got ride of life
  • Abend: Plane climbs 2,000 feet per minute. With cold, low oxygen, teen survived on luck

Editor's note: Les Abend is a Boeing 777 captain for a major airline with 29 years of flying experience. He is a senior contributor to Flying magazine, a worldwide publication in print for more than 75 years. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Like the rest of the world, when I learned about the teenage stowaway who climbed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines 767 in San Jose bound for Maui, I shook my head. Really? What kind of hoax is this? And then security cameras captured him at both airports. You've got to be kidding. From an airline pilot's perspective, this leaves me incredulous.

First of all, how did the kid get in? According to news reports, he would have had to get over a 6- to 8-foot fence with three strands of barbed wire to reach the plane at Mineta San Jose International Airport. Granted, it was dark, but he went undetected as he walked right to the airplane.

Les Abend

Apparently nobody was monitoring CCTV when he clambered up the cumbersome apparatus of the landing gear. Ground personnel saw nothing unusual nor did the pilot who completed the walk-around inspection just before departure.

Before taking off, we pilots look in the wheel well area to check for fluid leaks, or lines and hoses that seem out of place. Our detailed glances are not searching for stowaways. It's just not in our psyche to consider such things in a wheel well. It might be now. Of course, this kind of stowaway has happened before, with very limited success. But in 30 years with my airline, it's not something I have experienced.

Let's just assume that this young man was not exactly showing keen intelligence to have even conceived this run-away-from-home plot. Still, how did he find just the right spot to hide where 3,000 PSI of hydraulic pressure wouldn't crush him like a bug against a windshield? Luck is my only answer.

How stowaway could hide in wheel well
Can anyone survive in a plane's wheel well?
How a stowaway survived a 5-hour flight

And once the airplane becomes airborne, this 16-year-old was in for the ride of his life, literally. The 767 can climb at 2,000 feet per minute for most of its ascent, about 20 minutes until reaching cruise altitude. In this case, my understanding is that cruise altitude was 38,000 feet. Perhaps some of the oxygen pressure in his hiding place was maintained by the seal of the gear doors, but it wouldn't have lasted long at an adequate level, certainly not 5½ hours.

And how about the temperature? My guess is that the outside air would have been in the range of -60F to -40F, not exactly a comfortable environment, let alone survivable. Perhaps the heat of the landing gear brakes kept the wheel well area warm for a time.

It helped that the teen apparently lost consciousness. But with the landing gear being activated during the approach into Maui, how did he not fall to his death if he wasn't holding on to some part of the airplane structure?

Bottom line? This is an amazing story of survival. But I wouldn't give this kid an award. I'd send him to bed without supper.

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15 quirky hotels around the world

Located within the Arctic Circle, deep in the snowbound Saariselka area of northern Finland, the cabins are built from ice or glass; both are surprisingly warm, but somewhat lacking in privacy.Located within the Arctic Circle, deep in the snowbound Saariselka area of northern Finland, the cabins are built from ice or glass; both are surprisingly warm, but somewhat lacking in privacy.
Shoo, Snoopy. There's a new beagle in town. Shoo, Snoopy. There's a new beagle in town.
The former real dovecote, which fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, has been restored and converted into a cozy self-catering place that can sleep up to four people.
The former real dovecote, which fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, has been restored and converted into a cozy self-catering place that can sleep up to four people.
This extraordinary eco-lodge, built from salt rock and mud, sits in the middle of the Saharan oasis at Siwa, eight long, dusty hours' drive from Cairo.This extraordinary eco-lodge, built from salt rock and mud, sits in the middle of the Saharan oasis at Siwa, eight long, dusty hours' drive from Cairo.
At the Palacio de Sal, the walls, floors, beds and chairs are made entirely of white rock salt. An excellent stay if you're afraid of slugs.At the Palacio de Sal, the walls, floors, beds and chairs are made entirely of white rock salt. An excellent stay if you're afraid of slugs.
One of the last allied planes out of Vietnam has been converted into two self-contained motel rooms.One of the last allied planes out of Vietnam has been converted into two self-contained motel rooms.
These simple wooden bungalows set amid the branches have long been popular with backpackers who like to party hard. These simple wooden bungalows set amid the branches have long been popular with backpackers who like to party hard.
Guests here are invited to interact with the surroundings -- at the push of a button the fish are fed, and the flip of a switch turns on sparkling underwater lights. Guests here are invited to interact with the surroundings -- at the push of a button the fish are fed, and the flip of a switch turns on sparkling underwater lights.
Guests here stay in a carpeted, fully furnished room 21 meters below the surface, dug into a cliff face of 65 million-year-old sandstone.Guests here stay in a carpeted, fully furnished room 21 meters below the surface, dug into a cliff face of 65 million-year-old sandstone.
This precariously perched hotel was built by Living Architecture, the brainchild of Swiss philosophical writer Alain de Botton, who wrote "The Architecture of Happiness." This precariously perched hotel was built by Living Architecture, the brainchild of Swiss philosophical writer Alain de Botton, who wrote "The Architecture of Happiness."
The rooftop pool has some of the best views in town and goes some way to offsetting the traffic noise and hustle of the Paseo del Prado below.The rooftop pool has some of the best views in town and goes some way to offsetting the traffic noise and hustle of the Paseo del Prado below.
This old lighthouse has a 180-degree view over the cliffs of north Wales and the Irish Sea.This old lighthouse has a 180-degree view over the cliffs of north Wales and the Irish Sea.
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  • The most memorable hotels don't always come with five stars
  • Idaho's Dog Bark Park Inn is shaped like a nine-meter-high beagle
  • Desert palace meets bedrock at Egypt's magical Adrere Amellal
  • Near a nature reserve, the Balancing Barn in Suffolk, UK, sleeps eight

(CNN) -- Why stay in a humdrum hotel when you can sleep in a sewer pipe in Austria?

Or a salt palace in Bolivia?

Here are 15 of the world's most memorable accommodations

1. Jules' Undersea Lodge (Florida)

Originally a research laboratory, this fully underwater hotel sits at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Florida's Key Largo, and can only be reached by scuba diving down six meters.

The lodge can accommodate two couples and has showers, a microwave and a fridge.

The real attraction are the fish; the lodge is like a goldfish bowl in reverse, where you sit and watch angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda and snappers peering in at you through the window.

Jules Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Undersea Park, 51 Shoreland Dr., Key Largo, Florida; +1 305 451 2353; rates depend on packages; single person overnight stay $675

MORE: 5 hotels for chocoholics

2. Das Park Hotel (Austria)

At Das Park Hotel in Austria can stay overnight in a concrete sewer pipe on the banks of the River Danube.

The drainpipes are two meters in diameter and two and a half meters long, with a porthole, a front door to close and a cozy nest to snuggle into, which includes a low-slung futon, bedside lamp, woolly blanket and light sleeping bag.

It's novel, it's bold, and the best part is that you pay as much, or as little, as you want.

Das Park Hotel, Donaulände 21, 4100 Ottensheim, Österreich, Ottensheim, Austria; +43 650 841 5850; rates chosen by guests

There's a second location near Essen, Germany at BernePark, Ebelstraße 25a, 46242 Bottrop, Germany

3. Hotel Kakslauttanen (Finland)

Being suffused by the northern lights from the inside of a glass igloo is one of the more novel ways of admiring one of nature's most stunning phenomena.

Located within the Arctic Circle, deep in the snowbound Saariselka area of northern Finland, the cabins are built from ice or glass; both are surprisingly warm, but somewhat lacking in privacy.

Hotel Kakslauttanen, Saariselka, Finland; +358 1666 7100; from €300 ($444)

Ironically, pets require prior approval.
Ironically, pets require prior approval.

4. Dog Bark Park Inn (Idaho)

For a prairie getaway with flair, visitors need not look further than the "largest beagle in the world."

"This is the only place one can sleep with 26 dogs and still get a good night's rest," says Dog Bark Park Inn owner Frances Conklin.

Many people have been in the doghouse, but few can say that they've actually slept in one.

Then again, the Dog Bark Park Inn, while shaped like a dog -- albeit a dog nine meters high -- is no kennel.

Endearing dog-themed designs indoors -- 26 carved dogs, dog-shaped cookies -- create a comfortable atmosphere, belying the staggeringly large (for a beagle, that is) and vaguely Trojan exterior.

The entire B&B consists of a single room with a queen bed and adjacent loft with two twin mattresses.

Dog Bark Park Inn, 2421 U.S. 95 Business, Cottonwood, Idaho; +1 208 962 3647; $98 per night double occupancy, $10 per additional person, single occupancy $92

MORE: Africa's most luxurious safari camps

5. Sant'Angelo Luxury Resort (Italy)

"Four-star boutique cave-hotel" is the proud boast of the Sant'Angelo in the city of Matera, which is famous for its sassi -- houses dug into the rock.

Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses as their ancestors did 9,000 years ago. The rooms have been fashioned from old sassi stables and workshops.

There are two restaurants, a bar and an art gallery.

Sant'Angelo Luxury Resort, Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, Matera, Italia; +39 0835 314 010; three-night package from $560 per person (two sharing) including some meals, a walking tour and car hire

6. The Dovecote (England)

Regarded as one of the most romantic hideaways in Britain, the Dovecote certainly fits the bill for most lovebirds.

The former dovecote, which fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, has been restored and converted into a cozy self-catering place that can sleep up to four people, though it's ideal for two.

Within the one-meter-thick walls are a glass-fronted balcony bedroom, glorious wooden lantern roof and a sauna.

The Dovecote, Norman & Ali Armitage, 9 Blacknest Gate Road, Sunninghill, Ascot, BERKS, UK; +44 (0)1344 622 596; from £300-600 ($500-1,000) per week, shorter stays available

Who knew mud could look so pretty?
Who knew mud could look so pretty?

7. Adrere Amellal (Egypt)

Desert palace meets bedrock at Adrere Amellal.

This extraordinary eco-lodge sits in the middle of the Saharan oasis at Siwa, eight long, dusty hours' drive from Cairo.

Surrounded by endlessly shifting sand dunes 18 meters below sea level, and overlooking a shimmering salt lake, the lodge is built from salt rock and mud.

Candles light up the rooms (there's no electricity) and staff float around in flowing hooded robes, completing the feel that you've just stepped into a biblical scene.

Adrere Amellal, 18 Mansour Mohamed St., Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt; +20 (2) 2736 7879; $460 for standard single room

8. Palacio de Sal (Bolivia)

At the Palacio de Sal, the walls, floors, beds and chairs are made entirely of white rock salt.

Set on the eastern shore of the Great Salar de Uyuni, a vast expanse of white salt 3,650 meters above sea level, it's great for stargazing and watching sunset colors reflect off the salt lake.

The hotel has a spa and salty golf course.

Not recommended for slugs.

Palacio de Sal, Salar de Uyuni, Uyuni, Potosí, Bolivia; +591 6842 0888; rates from $100 for a single

MORE: Richard Branson's treasure island where world's richest celebrities holiday

9. 1950s Bristol freighter plane (New Zealand)

One of the last allied planes out of Vietnam has been converted into two self-contained motel rooms.

Up to four people can sleep in the cockpit unit and another four in the tail unit.

The plane is located within Woodlyn Park, where you can learn all about New Zealand culture.

Woodlyn Park, 1177 Waitomo Valley Road, Otorohanga, New Zealand; +64 7 878 6666; NZ$180 ($140) for the cockpit, and NZ$170 ($133) for the tail

Welcome to the jungle.

10. Kadir's Tree Houses (Turkey)

On Turkey's idyllic Turquoise Coast at the end of a pine-tree clad valley lies the village of Olimpos, where the hoteliers specialize in a different type of accommodation -- tree houses.

These simple wooden bungalows set amid the branches have long been popular with backpackers in the region and are growing in popularity.

Kadir's, one of the original lodges, now operates more than 100 bungalows, plus a few larger cabins and dormitories.

Kadir's is unashamedly hedonistic -- people come to party, hard, with the potential for disaster offered by a potent combination of mass drinking and accommodation several feet off the ground just adding to the fun.

Kadir's Yörük Top Tree House, Olimpos, Antalya, Turkey; +90 (0)242 892 12 50; from 35TL ($20)

11. Poseidon Undersea Resort (Fiji)

Dropped 40 feet below the surface of the clear blue Fijian Lagoon, these 24 underwater suites are reached by an elevator.

With all the comforts of a five-star hotel, most are surrounded by transparent acrylic walls that allow for spectacular views of the ocean and its fishy inhabitants.

Guests are invited to interact with the surroundings -- at the push of a button the fish are fed, and the flip of a switch turns on sparkling underwater lights.

Poseidon Undersea Resort; $15,000 per person for one-week package, including transportation, two nights in an underwater suite, scuba diving and wine tasting

12. Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast (New Mexico)

While a cave sounds like a questionable place to stay the night, much less pay to stay the night, Kokopelli's Cave Bed and Breakfast in New Mexico isn't about masochism or asceticism, or even being cheap.

With prices starting at $260 a night, Kokopelli's Cave is no mere hole.

Guests stay in a carpeted, fully furnished room 21 meters below the surface, dug into a cliff face of 65-million-year-old sandstone.

There's a TV, DVD player and selection of movies, but guests might find themselves more fascinated with the walls, a "geologist's dream" with a "360-degree view of cross-bedding, petrified and carbonized wood and plant fragments," according to the hotel.

While reaching the cave (there's only one, with bedding for four) requires a short hike, these "difficulties" also mean maximum privacy ... unless you count the ring-tailed cats that are said to occasionally visit.

Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast, 5001 Antelope Junction, Farmington, New Mexico; +1 505 860 3812; from $280 per night

MORE: 15 of the world's weirdest museums

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13. The Balancing Barn (England)

This precariously perched hotel was built by Living Architecture, the brainchild of Swiss philosophical writer Alain de Botton, who wrote "The Architecture of Happiness."

The group created a series of homes in the United Kingdom based on high-quality, modern architecture and de Botton's work on the connection between environment, architecture and happiness.

On the edge of a nature reserve, the Balancing Barn in Suffolk sleeps eight people.

Clad in silver tiles and with large windows giving great views, it's also won a series of travel and design awards.

Living Architecture also runs a boat-shaped room where you can spend the night, perched on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's South Bank.

The Balancing Barn is sited three miles from the ancient village of Walberswick on the Suffolk Heritage Coast; nearest railway stations are Darsham and Halesworth (approximately 10-minute drive away); rates from £830 ($1,393) for four nights

14. Hotel Saratoga (Cuba)

In Havana there's no cooler place to stay than the Hotel Saratoga.

Its rooftop pool has some of the best views in town and goes some way to offsetting the traffic noise and hustle of the Paseo del Prado below.

It's one of the better hotels in town, though the food is mediocre.

Hotel Saratoga, Paseo del Prado 603, esquina a Dragones, Havana, Cuba; +53 7 868 1000; deluxe patio rooms from $238

15. Great Orme Lighthouse, Wales

Built in 1862 and in full use as a warning to ships until 1985, this old lighthouse certainly has a room with a view -- a 180-degree view over the cliffs of north Wales and the Irish Sea.

This isn't a place for luxury, but you'll get a warm welcome from the hostess and insight into the history of this living monument.

Great Orme Lighthouse, Marine Dr., Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, United Kingdom; +44 1492 876 819; $129 per person per night

MORE: The oddest-looking hotel you'll see this year