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The national park system grew by one last month when a 73-acre parcel in south-central Idaho was officially transferred to the National Park Service to become Minidoka Internment National Monument. The park commemorates the relocation during World War II of Japanese American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who were ordered out of their homes as a security measure.

The park service will use the new monument, authorized early this year, to protect the internment center's historic structures and provide public education and interpretation of that chapter of American history.

The Minidoka Relocation Center was one of 10 sites set up in August 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority, which built the centers on federally owned lands. The Minidoka Center, also known as the Hunt Site, reached a peak population of 9,397 Japanese Americans from Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

According to the park service, the center included more than 33,000 acres of land, with administrative and residential facilities on about 950 acres. The living conditions at Minidoka were harsh, with internees housed in crude barracks and cramped quarters with shared facilities.

Following the warnings

The U.S. State Department's travel warnings and other advisories have come fast and furious lately, and locating them at the Department's Web site ( is easy. But they also can be obtained by those who do not have access to the Web. Travelers can hear recorded information by calling the Department of State in Washington at (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone, or receive information via an automated fax system by dialing (202) 647-3000 from their fax machine. American citizens overseas may contact the American Citizens Services unit of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on security conditions. The department says that American citizens in need of emergency assistance should telephone the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before visiting there.

Some great estates

New York's Hudson River Valley has a long history of magnificent estates and a tradition of holiday merriment, especially in Columbia and Dutchess Counties. This year, 10 of the best-known properties -- places such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home, Wilderstein, and Val-Kill -- are promoting their observances under the heading Great Estates Holiday Celebration. Each will be decorated to the extreme, reflecting past eras.

Each estate has its own festivities planned, including staff dressed in period costume, decorating workshops, children's events, and holiday lighting. The Great Estates program includes Clermont, in Clermont, the longtime home of the Livingston family; the Roosevelt Home and Library, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and Val-Kill, in Hyde Park; Locust Grove, the Samuel Morse Historic Site, in Poughkeepsie; Montgomery Place, in Annandale-on Hudson; Olana, in Hudson; Staatsburgh State Historic Site, in Staatsburgh, and Wilderstein in Rhinebeck.

Some of the properties are open daily; others concentrate their special events on weekends. The timing of special events and hours varies widely, but they are detailed in a flyer available by calling (800) 445-3131 or (845) 463-4000, or by visiting Web site Another free flier details more than 100 other events under the banner of the Dutchess County Holiday of Lights.

The capital of culture

Bruges, Belgium, is Europe's designated "culture capital" for next year, complete with an array of artistic highlights on the drawing board. Among them is an exhibit of medieval and early Renaissance painting called "Jan Van Eyck and the Mediterranean World," scheduled for March 15-June 30 at the Groeningen Museum; a wide range of theater, music and dance events in a new concert hall, the Concertgebouw-Bruges, and a collection of medieval manuscripts from the Ter Duinen/Ter Doest Abbey in Bruges. For a schedule, contact the Belgian Tourist Office, phone (212) 758-8130, or visit Web site

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