LEAF WATCH

The New Fall Colors

Although the remnants of recent hurricanes gave trees in the Northeast a good shake and more water than was necessary, the fall color show should be just about average.

"It's not one of the most brilliant seasons, but there are still going to be plenty of nice fall colors," said Jeffrey Schultz, chief meteorologist of Weather 2000, a New York consulting firm.

Leaves are already beginning to peak in higher elevations, but the pace of change varies with short distances, so you need to get localized reports. Get details anywhere in the United States at www.foliagenetwork.com, or at these area-specific sites:

* New England: Find leaf reports, Webcam visuals, accommodations and arty projects involving leaves at www.yankeefoliage.com.

* Pennsylvania: Webcams display up-to-the-minute photos at www.visitpa.com, or call 800-847-4872.

* West Virginia: Suggested driving tours, foliage reports and special deals are listed at www.callwva.com, or call 800-CALL-WVA.

* Virginia: The varied options of leaf-viewing in the mountains and near the shore are at www.virginia.org or 800-847-4882.

* Maryland: The official state Web site hadn't gotten around to featuring foliage as of press time, but everything else you'd need to plan a trip is at www.mdisfun.org or 800-LEAVES-1.

* North Carolina: The coolest color forecaster around is at www.visitnc.com: Drag a little leaf over a dateline and a map of the state lights up, showing you where leaves have begun to change, where they're at their peak and where they've already died. Also check the site for hurricane-damaged roads, or call 800-VISIT-NC.

call security

Pedophiles Targeted

Those who travel overseas to participate in the booming child sex trade will face a greater risk of being caught and spending up to 30 years in jail.

Under a new plan to be announced Tuesday, World Vision, a Christian-based humanitarian group, will pass on information about the child victims and their abusers to U.S. Immigration and Customs agents investigating the trade in Thailand, Cambodia and Costa Rica. "We have over 20,000 aid workers on the ground in 100 countries, and can be the eyes and ears of law enforcement," said World Vision's Joe Mettimano. Next year the program will be expanded to Mexico and Brazil, he said.

Prosecution also will be helped by a new law that lightens the burden of proof: Instead of proving that an American went abroad with the intent to have sex with a child, U.S. prosecutors now must prove only that the act occurred.

World Vision has produced billboards and in-flight videos that will warn tourists of the heightened risks of detection and prosecution.

TRAVEL TICKER

Mount St. Helens remains opens to visitors flocking to see seismic activity, except for a five-mile radius around the volcanic dome. Visitors outside that designated danger zone in Washington state are urged to bring a mask and goggles in case of sudden ashfall. Details: www.fs.fed.us . . . Amtrak has terminated its agreement with its exclusive tour operator, Private Label Travel, but will honor all vacation packages purchased through the ailing firm. Details: 800-805-9114 . . . Get to Vienna, Austria, from the airport on a new high-speed train for a fraction of the taxi fare, and in half the time. Details: www.cityairporttrain.com . . . American Airlines customers will now pay a $250 fee each way to use frequent-flier points to upgrade from deeply discounted coach seats to business or first class on international flights. Full-fare coach seats are exempt.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Bahama Breeze

Fly to Nassau in the Bahamas for $249 round trip, including taxes. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

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