*** PLEASE VISIT OUR NEW AND IMPROVED NEWS WEBSITE. CLICK HERE

Thursday, June 30, 2011

UK Hotel Offers Fine Food for Pooches

The Riverside Hotel
Bloomberg: It’s not the most adventurous of menus, and wine isn’t served, yet the Riverside Hotel in Evesham, central England, says diners keep coming back for more.

Starters offer a choice of a soup, chicken-liver parfait, crepes or home-made fishcakes. For mains, it’s rib-eye steak, salmon wellington, pizza or pan-fried chicken supreme. Desserts include carrot cake, rice pudding and chocolate biscuits. The 9.95 pounds ($16) meal is served in china bowls on a silver platter and is available in the dining room or al fresco. There are broccoli-and-carrot biscuits for vegetarians.

“They really seem to enjoy it, although their taste is a bit bland and you really have to go easy on the sugar and salt,” chef Rico Pech, 29, says of his diners. He was born in the Philippines and has come to understand the English palate.

The main thing that distinguishes his customers from you and me is that they have four legs and occasionally bark. Well, some chefs bark but you get the point: This is a gourmet menu for dogs whose owners don’t want their pooches to miss out while they enjoy Pech’s human fare such as Deep Fried King Prawn Wrapped in Filo Pastry with a Sweet Chili Dressing.

“If you go into restaurants in France, they’re very pro-dog and they can eat together with their owners,” says hotel owner Deborah Sinclair. “In the U.K., it’s hard to feel welcome when you take along your pooch. I wanted to do something to change attitudes. Everywhere does children’s menus, so what’s the problem with doggy menus”

Singing Dog

She got the idea after a visit to the hotel from Pip and Buddy -- former model Pippa Langhorne and her pooch, who brought the audience to its feet on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent”when they performed “Pie Jesu” together.

“When I heard Buddy was coming along, I wanted to lay on a culinary delight because that famous little pooch can sing opera,” Sinclair says. “We get the occasional celebrity with a posh pooch and we try to pamper the pooches as well.

“A photographer came along to photograph Buddy and since then the telephone has been going a bit nutty. Now, we’ve got film companies calling and wanting to make a film about us. Everything is snowballing in bizarre ways because of the doggy fine-dining menu.” The Sunday Times is among newspapers that have reported on the pampering for pooches.

Chef Pech makes the doggy meals in his kitchen alongside human fare, preparing elements of dishes in advance -- such as the liver parfait he uses instead of a tomato sauce on his pooch pizzas -- and cooks to order. Who are the fussiest diners?

“The big dogs will eat anything but the smaller ones are very picky, especially when they’re old,” he says. “One owner brought her dogs in last week and I’ve never had such fussy diners.”

Riverside Hotel, The Parks, Offenham Road, Near Evesham, Worcestershire. Information: +44-1386-446200 or http://www.river-side-hotel.co.uk/index.asp

World's Longest Bridge Over Water Opens

The Jiaozhou Bay bridge is 26.4 miles long, according to Guinness World Records. It links China's eastern port city of Qingdao to Huangdao island.

State-run CCTV said the 110-foot-wide bridge cost more than 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). However, the Xinhua news agency put the cost at $2.3 billion and Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported its price tag totalled more than $8.8 billion.

CCTV said it passed construction appraisals on Monday. The bridge and an associated undersea tunnel opened to traffic on Thursday. The bridge, which is supported by more than 5,000 pillars, took more than four years to build.

According to the Guinness World Records, the previous longest bridge over water was the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. The Chinese bridge is more than 2.5 miles longer.

"The earthquake- and typhoon-proof bridge ... is designed to withstand the impact of a 300,000-ton vessel," Guinness said. Xinhua said the bridge would shorten the journey between Qingdao and Huangdao by about 18 miles, cutting travel time from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.

According to the Telegraph, the bridge was expected to carry more than 30,000 cars a day. It reported that at least 10,000 people worked in two teams around the clock on the span's construction.

Some 450,000 tons of steel was used — enough for almost 65 Eiffel Towers — along with 81 million cubic feet of concrete, the Telegraph reported.

"I'm so happy the bridge is finished," one commuter told sina.com, according to the Telegraph. "The old road between Qingdao and Huangdao is so crowded and now my journey will be much easier. We are a tourist city with beautiful beaches, so it is important we have good transport links."

However, this bridge is far short of the longest in the world. The Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge, which runs over land on the Beijing-Shanghai rail route, is 102 miles long, according to Guinness.

JetBlue Adds Fast-Track Security Fee

Australian Business Traveller: Airlines have found yet another 'optional extra' to charge passengers for, but this one actually sounds like a smart deal -- especially for business travelers.

Domestic US airline JetBlue's "Even More Speed" option lets you buy your way into the premium fast-track security lines at over a dozen US airports.

It's currently offered as part of JetBlue's "Even More Space" bundle, which includes extra legroom at the front of the plane and exit row seats, early boarding -- and, most importantly for the carry-on luggage obsessed USA, first shot at the overhead bins for your ridiculously large wheeled suitcase. (JetBlue is one of the few US airlines that still lets you check your first piece of hold baggage for free.)

The package costs $10 for a short flight to $100 for the longest JetBlue flight, but indications are that the airline will offer "Even More Speed" on its own -- for Even More Fees, no doubt.

There's no reason why Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar shouldn't offer a similar perk as a cost-extra.

Virgin Australia passengers already get fast-track security at the curbside Sydney lounge if they're very frequent flyers, members of the lounge access program, or willing to fork out $65 for a single pass access.

Berlin's Newest Tourist Attraction

AOL Travel News: First there was that crazy glass pyramid at the Louvre, and now Berlin is the latest European city to acquire its own geometric tourist attraction.

The Humboldt Box will sit for two years in a downtown square where a replica Prussian palace is also to be built. The futuristic-looking structure is almost hexagonal in shape, and stands 92 feet high above one end of the Berlin's Uter den Linden Boulevard, across from the neoclassical Museum Island complex.

The silver-and-blue building hosts exhibitions for the under-construction palace, to be completed in 2019, reports the Associated Press.

City officials told the agency that the box's modern appearance was a deliberate choice.

Visitors may be "surprised by the architecture...and want to see what's in there," Hermann Parzinger, who oversees Berlin's museums, said Tuesday.

We're as curious as they are.

NDRC Releases Annual Beach Quality Report

Reuters: Beaches in Delaware, Minnesota and New Hampshire were the cleanest in the U.S., according to a new report that also showed beach closing due to contamination in 2010 were the second highest in two decades.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC), in its annual beach water quality report, awarded superstar status to Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach in Delaware, Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach in Minnesota and Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire.

But the report, which analyzed data from government agencies on 2010 beach water testing results at more than 3,000 locations countrywide, revealed that bacterial contamination at many beaches across the nation still poses risks to swimmers' health.

"Going to the beach is a summer rite of passage but can also make you sick," NRDC Water Program Director David Beckman said. Beach water pollution can cause waterborne illnesses such as stomach flu, pink eye, dysentery and other serious health problems.

The non-profit, dedicated to protecting public health and the environment, estimates that beaches were closed or under advisory for more than 24,000 days, a 29 percent increase from last year. States regularly test the beach water for human and animal waste bacteria under the Beaches  Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH), which results in closures whenever water contamination exceeds standards.

"America's beaches have long suffered from pollution -- the difference is now we know what to do about it," NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine said. "By making our communities literally greener on land - we can make the water at the beach cleaner. In the years to come, there's no reason we can't reverse this dirty legacy."

NRDC cited heavy Hawaiian rainfall, unidentified contamination sources in California and oil wash-up in the Gulf of Mexico almost a year after British Petroleum's massive spill, as the main causes for the increase. The presence of human or animal waste made up 70 percent of the closing and advisory days usually caused from storm water run-off.

The report also listed the top 10 repeat offender beaches that have had persistent contamination problems since 2006. Three of them -- Illinois' North Point Marina North Beach and Wisconsin's Eichelman Beach and South Shore Beach -- are part of the Great Lakes region, an area with the most frequently contaminated beach water in 2010, with 15 percent of water samples exceeding public health standards.

Louisiana, hit hardest by the oil spill, is the state with the country's highest rate of contamination at 31 percent followed by Ohio and Indiana at 21 and 16 percent respectively. Louisiana claims just under a third of the 9,474 total national oil related advisories and closures. As of June, four beach segments in Louisiana that had closed due to oil have yet to open.

California had three beaches on the offenders list with Avalon Beach, Cabrillo Beach Station and Doheny State Beach, while Florida's Keaton Beach, New Jersey's Beachwood Beach West, Texas' Ropes Park and Ohio's Villa Angela State Park also the list.

The cleanest region for beaches was in the South East, followed by New York-New Jersey Coast and the Delmarva region of Virginia, Maryland Delaware.

New Hampshire was the state with the lowest percentage of contamination.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cleanup in Aisle 1!

New Zealand Herald: A drunk New Zealand passenger urinated in the aisle of a Jetstar aircraft - spraying one man and soaking a woman's scarf - but was allowed to leave the flight with only a warning. The man, travelling from Auckland to Singapore two days ago, emptied his bladder about six hours into the 11-hour flight.

Passenger Amos Chapple said: "I hear this sound of running water and then I hear a guy going 'No, no, no, what the hell is wrong with you?' And there's this guy pissing in the aisle, waving back and forth.’

The man urinated on to the aircraft carpet, a man's leg, and a woman's scarf. "Everyone was yelling at him and he slowly became aware that he was being uncouth. He pulled up ... and wobbled back to the other end of the plane."

The man and a friend were seen drinking whisky before take-off. "Him and the mate were sitting there and mixing it in Burger King cups. Six hours later they were catatonic," Mr Chapple said.

The man left the plane with only a warning and Singapore police were not called to deal with the matter on landing, he said. Jetstar crew gave wipes to the man who was sprayed and moved him to another seat, but Mr Chapple was left sitting next to a large reminder for the rest of the flight.

"We were sitting next to a pool of urine for a good five and a half hours. You couldn't see a puddle but you could tell it was there. It was pretty outrageous."

The female passenger whose scarf was sprayed had to repeatedly ask for a plastic bag for the soaked item, said Mr Chapple.

Mr Chapple criticized the way the Jetstar crew handled the incident, saying they were "slack". He said he confronted the man in Singapore and asked him "what was that all about" but the man did not know what he was talking about. "I told him that he had pissed everywhere and he looked quite shocked," Mr Chapple said.

JetStar said the urinator was issued an official warning from the plane's captain, had his alcohol confiscated, and returned to his seat to sleep off the public incident. Jetstar last night confirmed that "there was an inebriated passenger who engaged in inappropriate and disruptive behavior", but maintained police did not need to get involved.

"We issued our final warning ... if you don't behave after the warning, then it becomes a matter for federal police," said airline spokeswoman Jennifer Timm.

Jetstar was contacting the customers affected by the incident to arrange compensation. They would probably get a $200 voucher and an apology letter.

INFLIGHT HORRORS

August 27, 1989: Izzy Stradlin of Guns N' Roses arrested at the Phoenix airport after urinating on the floor of the plane, apparently upset at having to wait for the bathroom.

April 21, 2001: REM lead guitarist Peter Buck cleared in court after a drunken rampage aboard a British Airways plane, where, among other things, he allegedly sprayed flight attendants with a pot of yogurt.

December 3, 2003: A Canadian man, 39, became drunk on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne. "He then punched a flight attendant in the stomach, threw his shirt at a flight attendant's face and urinated in the aisle and against the toilet door," said a state prosecutor.

June 2, 2011: Rats were found aboard a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane shortly before takeoff. A spokesman for Qantas said it was "a very irregular occurrence".

Cleanup on Runway 4L!

NBC New York: Travelers were delayed at John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday morning after about 100 turtles ambled onto a runway and blocked air traffic from moving.

JetBlue first tweeted news of the slowdown, with the hashtag #cantmakethisup.

The Port Authority later confirmed that workers had to clear the notoriously slow reptiles out of the area. The turtles were mostly gathered on runway 4L, the Port Authority said.

There was no immediate word on what type of turtles they were, but if they were snapping turtles, perhaps they felt they had official clearance -- the snapping turtle was named the New York state reptile in 2006.

The runway turtles aren't the first animals to complicate air traffic at New York City airports.

The city has sought to reduce the local geese population in recent years, following the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which sucked geese into its engines and had to land in the Hudson River.

For Sale: Atlantic City's Steel Pier

Wall Street Journal: Just a few months after selling the Trump Marina casino, Trump Entertainment Resorts is putting Atlantic City's storied Steel Pier amusement park on the block. The New Jersey beachfront landmark, which dates back to 1898 and is often compared to New York's Coney Island, has been known for showcasing attractions like the Diving Horse and the Human Cannonball, along with thrill rides and other entertainment.

But in the latest move by Trump Entertainment to sell assets, the company has hired CB Richard Ellis, a real-estate services firm, to auction the 9.7-acre home to 24 rides, games and prize wheels. The minimum bid for the historic pier will be $2.5 million, according to CB Richard Ellis.

"We believe selling the Pier through auction is the best course of action for the company to increase the equity value for our shareholders," said Brian Cahill, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment. "We are a gaming company, and Steel Pier is not part of the casino." Steel Pier is operated by Atlantic Pier Amusements Inc., whose lease will expire in 2016.

At one point, Trump Entertainment was planning to transform the pier, possibly by adding a hotel, casino, spa and luxury condominiums. The development permits that the company has obtained wouldn't be transferable to the winning bidder, according to Douglas Johnson, a managing director of CBRE Auction Services.

The potential sale comes as Atlantic City is struggling with a poor economy and increased competition from new casinos that have cropped up in surrounding states. As a result, property values have been falling.

Donald Trump's name used to be synonymous with Atlantic City, but over recent years he has faded from the scene. In the late 1980s, he developed three casinos there. But as the fortunes of Atlantic City declined, they went in and out of bankruptcy three times, and Mr. Trump's stake diminished.

Today, Mr. Trump owns a 5% to 10% stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Steel Pier as well as the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza. The rest of the company is owned by former creditors. In February, the company sold Trump Marina for $38 million to Landry's Inc., the company that operates Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

Trump Entertainment has no direct ties with Trump Organization, Mr. Trump's company that is involved in a wide range of real-estate developments throughout the world.

In past years, Steel Pier showcased some of the biggest names in show business, including Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Frank Sinatra. But it also has had its share of trouble. In 1904, a storm washed away part of it and fires in 1969 and 1982 destroyed what was left of the original structure. The current structure was built in 1993 by Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, a predecessor to Trump Entertainment.

Family Vacations at Same Resort for 60 Years

Members of the Hopkins Family
The 'feel good' story of the week is about John and Sonia Hopkins of the UK who, along with their extended family, have been vacationing at the same seaside resort for 6 decades. And not just the same resort - they've spent all those summer holidays in the same guest room.

John first took his wife Sonia to ­Folkestone in Kent in 1951 after falling in love with the place on a 1949 cricket trip. They've been back for their annual holiday every year since. Their extended clan of 20 adults and four children just completed their 2011 visit.

It's not just the destination that has remained the same -- the family follows the same holiday itinerary each year, including a visit to a golf course and a darts tournament in the same pub.

John says, "There's ­nowhere quite like it anywhere in the world. We always have the same room ­overlooking the Channel, and on a clear day you can look across the water to France. In the morning we all meet up at quarter past nine on the pitch and putt golf course. Around noon we all head off to the same local pub The Lifeboat Inn where we have been going every year and have lunch. Then in the afternoon we play darts."

And so it's became an annual event. Even after the cricket matches stopped in the 1970s, the family decided to keep the holiday tradition going. "My family loved the trips so much we have carried on going down to Folkestone every year," says John. In the early days the family all stayed at the same hotel, but now the extended family likes to look for luxury homes to rent.

Why do they keep coming back to Folkestone? "I call it God's country. When you stand on the pitch and putt course looking out over the whole of Folkestone and across the Channel, it is just wonderful," John says. "The air is so fresh and clean and there is nothing like it, so beautiful and tranquil."

"It is such a unique thing and we think it is wonderful there is another generation to carry on the tradition."

The family is already planning next year's trip but had to postpone it for a week -- because of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Loud and Proud: Hawaiian (Aloha) Shirt Day is July 1

The West Australian: Kitsch or couture?

On July 1, Hawai'i will celebrate the birthday of the iconic Aloha shirt, an iconic symbol of the relaxed, laidback lifestyle of the famous islands.

Some say the origins can be traced back to the Kapa cloth used throughout the Pacific, made from pounding and dyeing tree bark. Others say it originated from the tail-out shirts of the Filipino immigrants. Some trace it back to the Kimono cloth in Japan or the floral prints of Tahiti.

Whatever the origin, the 1920s and 1930s saw the move of the aloha shirt, from the Asian dry goods merchants and home sewers in Honolulu, to tailors and professional dressmakers

In 1946, the open neck sports shirts were approved as official business attire during the hottest months in Hawai'i, from June to October, but the Aloha shirt was not yet allowed because of the loud patterns.

Aloha Week celebrations in the following year allowed the use of the Aloha shirt as business attire for the week of the festivities.

Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming champion and founder of surfing in Australia, was one of the earliest promoters of the Aloha shirt and had his own line that are now collectables. Also sporting the iconic shirts, in the past, were Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I.

In 1962, a resolution was passed encouraging the regular use of the colourful shirts from Lei Day, May 1, through the summer months. Common use of Aloha attire soon became a precursor to the casual Friday trend and by the end of the 60s Hawaiian businessmen were granted the use of Aloha shirts on any day of the week.

The Aloha shirt has become an iconic symbol for the casual and carefree Hawaiian lifestyle and now can be seen all over the world.

Love it or hate it, this image has become synonymous with every tropical destination.

Tourist Left Behind on Great Barrier Reef

ABC News: An American tourist who was left behind while snorkeling on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef says he wants assurances safety procedures will be improved.

Ian Cole was on a day trip with tour company Passions of Paradise on Saturday when the tour boat left Michelmas Cay, off Cairns, without him. He was rescued after swimming to another boat in the area.

Mr. Cole says an inexperienced backpacker was responsible for ensuring all passengers were on board. He has called for safety procedures to be improved.

"I mean, the guy lost his job as a result of it, and obviously he takes the brunt of the blame, but he was put in a system that allowed him to make that mistake," he said. "So obviously the system needs to be changed that could prevent an oversight such as that."

Col McKenzie from the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, says the tourist was not in danger. "There were three other boats in the region," he said. "He [swam] across to another boat and that boat then called the first boat and they came back and picked him up," he said.

"It's a really unfortunate event, but the thing that we can pick up from it is: first, the person was in no danger; and, [the] second point is the boat has excellent procedures in place.

"The tourist, without even asking, was refunded the money from the trip. He's also been given a letter of apology. He's also been given a voucher to use at one of our better restaurants to say 'Look, sorry for that'.

"But, remember too that this tourist was never in any danger. He was left beside a beach."

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is investigating the incident.

Ordering Coffee: Complicated and Nerve Wracking


Macchiato?

Hartford Courant: I'm in line at Dunkin Donuts waiting to order a large coffee, cream one sugar, and an iced coffee with milk, a shot of hazelnut, and two Splenda.

Although I have wanted to try iced coffee for a while now, I have been reluctant to do so because I fear the ordering may be beyond my abilities.

Buying a coffee used to be easy: you got it black, light, dark, regular. There was no drama, no performance anxiety, no pressure. Now, there are so many options and combinations that I had seriously weighed writing my order down on the palm of my hand to avoid messing up.

Mind you, I have no idea if I will even like an iced coffee with milk, a shot of hazelnut and two Splenda. But then my aim this morning is not to sample iced coffee, it is to simply practice ordering an iced coffee.

The truth is, I want to be one of them, you know, the cool people who nonchalantly order complex coffee with a smoothness and verve that attests to their superior cultural hipness.

The line slowly edges forward.

I am nervous.

What if the person behind the counter questions me about my order? What if I don't know the answer? What if I am exposed as an iced-coffee wannabe-poser-loser?

I can trace the exact moment in which I became intimidated by the coffee ordering process. It was the day I walked into a Starbucks and was greeted by a perky barista speaking a language that included such words as venti, macchiato and frappuccino.

I have no idea what I ended up with, but it had the texture of hot mud and was foaming. I remain intimidated by Starbucks.

Back at Dunkin Donuts, I mentally work on my presentation. The key will be in the delivery. I don't want my order to come across as rehearsed, but at the same time I don't want to be so casual as to create the impression that I am not deeply invested in my choices.

The moment arrives and I breathlessly blurt out my order.

"So you want two large iced coffees with cream, milk, hazelnut, sugar and two Splenda," she repeats back.

"Yes," I say.

I leave with my first iced coffees, but I'm sure the admiration lingers.

Read Jim Shea's blog at http://www.courant.com/tooshea

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Malaysia Airlines Bans Infants in First Class

USA Today: Malaysia Airlines has banned babies in the first-class sections of its Boeing 747-400 jets. It also plans to do the same in its yet-to-be-delivered Airbus A380 superjumbo jets, according to the Australian Business Traveller.

The publication reports Malaysia Airlines CEO Tengku Azmil says the carrier is responding to complaints from first-class passengers about crying infants.

Azmil, who conducted a back-and-forth with an Australian Business Traveller reporter via Twitter, says the first-class passenger complaints center on the fact that they "spend money on 1st class and can't sleep due to crying infants."

Australian Business Traveller notes Malaysia Airlines' 747-400s fly long-haul routes between Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, London and Amsterdam. The carrier will deploy its A380s on those routes next year as it takes delivery of those aircraft, according to the publication.

As for Malaysia Airlines' A380s, the carrier expects to take delivery of its first one next June, according to the Malaysian news agency Bernama.

CEO Azmil tells Bernama the A380 will be the "best MAS (Malaysia Airlines) would have on its fleet."

Australian Business Traveller says Malaysian Airlines will configure its A380s "with 508 seats -- 50 more than Qantas and second only to Lufthansa and Air France in maxing out the super-jumbo's capacity."

Spirit Airlines Capitalizes on Blago Conviction


They’re at it again! Less than 24 hours after former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 felony corruption charges, Spirit Airlines has sent an e-mail ad that features a Blago doppelganger behind bars with the tag line, "We got these fares and they're f-ing golden."

The ad goes on to say the fares are “from only $17 each way, based on roundtrip purchase.”

Only members of the Spirit Airlines Fare Club are eligible for the reduced fares on select travel dates. Time is short -- the offer ends Wednesday at noon central time.

The ad on Spirit's web site also says, "We are guilty of selling seats but don't expect this sale to serve much time... Get booked now!"

Tourism Bureau Says Chicago is "Second to None"

Chicago Sun Times: Chicago’s tourism boosters Tuesday will introduce a $6 million campaign, one that has some swagger in it, to draw more visitors to the city.

The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau will begin marketing the city with a new slogan, “Chicago: Second to None,” reopen sales offices overseas that state government used to operate and establish a commission to attract professional and amateur sports events.

Money for the campaign comes from a legislative gift the bureau received last year, a doubling of the tax rate on taxi and bus operators that serve the Chicago airports. Most of the money was earmarked for the bureau’s use in promoting McCormick Place and local attractions.

The tax hike was part of a bill that upended longstanding labor practices at McCormick Place. But a federal judge has ruled the bill’s labor provisions illegal, setting back efforts to attract conventions based on lower costs at McCormick Place.

Bruce Rauner, chairman of the convention bureau, said the agency isn’t letting the decision hinder efforts to promote Chicago. “We’ll make sure that the image of McCormick Place is restored and enhanced,” he said, calling the convention hall both a “low-cost, high-quality destination” for meeting planners.

The campaign will be launched Tuesday at the convention bureau’s annual membership meeting. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), an architect of the labor reform package, are due to speak on the tourism industry’s importance.

Warren Wilkinson, senior vice president at the bureau, called the campaign “purposeful, strategic marketing” designed to tout Chicago’s virtues with confidence and attitude. The new slogan tweaks Chicago’s image as the Second City and replaces “Make no little plans,” a saying attributed to architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham.

One ad calls Chicago “the city that ranks No. 1 in No. 1 rankings,” and another says it lacks only “a museum of museums.”

The bureau is a nonprofit organization that draws its budget from tourism taxes and membership dues. Wilkinson said its overall budget is increasing to $18 million for its coming fiscal year, up from about $15 million.

Bureau spokeswoman Meghan Risch said it will open tourism offices in the United Kingdom, Germany and Ireland, replacing state offices closed because of budget cuts. Others are under consideration, she said.

The agency is looking for an executive director to run the new sports commission, which will look for indoor and outdoor events. Chicago hoteliers especially want bookings for the bleak midwinter. A Super Bowl may be out of reach because Chicago has no domed football stadium.

The campaign includes improvements to the ChooseChicago.com web site starting in November, Risch said.

A Theme Park for Boys & Their Toys

Daily Mail: At first glance it looks like a sprawling building site. But this is actually the world's biggest digger playground - allowing grown-ups to take the controls of giant trucks in gambling capital Las Vegas.

Ed Mumm dreamed up the idea while he was using one of the enormous machines in 2004 to renovate his house in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The developer became so distracted by playing with the digger that after several days he realised that he had not done any work on the building.

But although the property took longer to finish than expected, last month Mr Mumm opened the world's largest and the U.S's first digger theme park called 'Dig This' in the glamorous city.

The attraction, around five miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard, includes among others a pair of Caterpillar D5 track-type bulldozers and three Caterpillar 315CL hydraulic excavators. Visitors can buy three-hour packages that consist of a 30-minute safety and operation orientation followed by two hours of maneuvering either a bulldozer or excavator.

Guests can either dig a trench up to 10ft deep or build an earthen mound; there are also skill tests like picking and moving 2,000-lb tires or scooping basketballs from atop safety cones.

Mr. Mumm said: 'I wasn't making much progress on the house, but I was having great time. I felt that it was something everyone could enjoy, and there was nothing like it out there.' Mr Mumm opened a pilot version of Dig This in 2007 near his home in northwest Colorado. It was built on 10 acres and ran for three years before he decided to move to Las Vegas.

The $1-million theme park is on more than five acres of land with 10 employees, a 2,850-sq-ft office, gift shop and training facility. It costs $400 to play in the dirt with the diggers. Guests must be at least 14 years old and can use headsets to communicate with each other and an instructor.

A small number of digger parks have opened in the UK in recent years but their equipment is not at large as that which is used in Las Vegas. 'The previous park was limited by weather and its remote location, but it gave us a chance to perfect our business model. From the start I always wanted to be in Vegas,' Mr Mumm told the Engineering News-Record.

'Las Vegas is one of the most visited destinations in the U.S., with up to 40-million visitors and 5,000 conventions a year.'

Company spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer added: 'Half of our customers are females, including housewives and grandmothers. Throttling up a powerful engine and moving mounds of earth is very empowering.'

Ms Wiedemer said they were hoping to open digger parks in Atlanta and New York as well as Tokyo and Australia.'

Elderly Airline Passenger Speaks Out

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

An Electric-Powered Passenger Jet

UberGizmo: Planes and carbon offsets have been going hand in hand for the past couple of years already, but it does not look like a long term solution, because ultimately, at the end of the day, planes still require jet fuel. Electric planes are not exactly new technology but their use has been limited mainly to small planes that carry only a handful of passengers, but remain largely as experimental demonstrators, which makes EADS’ VoltAir a pretty interesting concept.

While still a concept, EADS thinks that at the rate technology is progressing, the VoltAir could become a reality in 25 years, and hopefully be one of the first electric motor powered, full-fledged, passenger airliner. The VoltAir would be using two next-generation lithium-air batteries, which in turn would power two highly efficient superconducting electric motors, which would drive two co-axial, counter-rotating shrouded propellers at the rear of the aircraft.

Thanks to the advanced carbon fibre composite airframe design, amazing aerodynamics and its low weight (due to the carbon fibre material used), the motors would make the airline easy to push through the air. As is the case with most electric vehicles, not only will it be environmentally friendly, it would also be very quiet. Home owners staying near the airport will not to worry about sound pollution any more.

Smartfish Offers "Mouse Pouch"


CNET: Not everybody has fingers glued to a touch screen these days. Some folks still like to travel with a portable mouse for a satisfyingly retro computing experience. Mouse lovers are often faced with the challenge of finding an appropriate mousing surface when on the go. Knees and gunky coffeehouse tables don't offer an optimum experience, and it's times like those when you want your own mouse pad with you.

The Smartfish Mouse Pad Travel Pouch is an overachiever. It pulls double duty as a mouse pad and a zip-up storage compartment. The 9-inch padded neoprene surface is easy on your mouse while it's in use and protects small gadgets and accessories in its spare time. It looks a lot like a taco when it's closed, except that this taco can be packed with a scrumptious filling of electronics.

A small snap handle opens up to attach it to your briefcase, or you can just shove it in with the rest of the gear in your laptop bag. 

The Mouse Pad Travel Pouch will cost you $14.95 and comes in either black or blue.

Officials Set Twitter Rules for 2012 Olympics

BBC: Athletes at the London Olympics will be allowed to blog and post on Twitter but could be thrown out if their musings breach guidelines. Competitors may write only "first-person, diary-type" entries but should not act as reporters, International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines say.

All social media activity must respect the Olympic Charter, which bans political demonstrations. Postings deemed to be for commercial purposes will not be permitted. The guidelines, which were highlighted by the Australian Olympic Committee on Monday after initially being published on the IOC website, explain that the IOC "actively encourages and supports athletes... to take part in 'social media' and to post, blog and tweet their experiences".

But the IOC cautioned that the accreditations of "any organisation or person... may be withdrawn without notice" if its guidelines are breached. Athletes will be able to upload still photographs taken at venues - a practice which was mostly banned in Beijing in 2008 - but will not be allowed to sell or distribute them for other purposes.

The broadcast of video and audio taken inside Olympic venues will be banned but athletes may post videos taken elsewhere. Athletes will not be able to use the official Olympics symbol, and any reference to the word "Olympic" must be factual and "not associated with any third party or any third party's products or services".

Internet domain names and URLs including the word "Olympic" or "Olympics" will not be allowed either, unless approved by the IOC.

The perils of Twitter postings made headlines in June when there was a very public disagreement between triple-jump world champion Phillips Idowu and the head of UK Athletics, Charles van Commenee.

Idowu angered Van Commenee by using the micro-blogging site to reveal he was pulling out of the European Team Championships. Van Commenee responded by saying that "these things are done personally, there are certain channels you have to follow".

W Hotel to Replace All Glass Panels After Second Incident

KVUE: Management from Austin's W Hotel says it will replace every balcony glass panel on the building after three more panels fell onto the street Monday. No one was hurt from the falling balcony glass Monday. However, since this is the second such episode this month, hotel management had to respond.

For a few seconds Monday, office workers across from the W Austin Hotel thought they were experiencing a severe weather event.

"It was really scary, because we were just sitting in our office working," said Liz Deanda, who works across the street from the W Austin Hotel. "All of a sudden you just heard this loud noise, and you saw something hitting the glass that sounded like hail."

But it wasn't hail. It was glass hitting the glass. A panel from a balcony on the 31st floor broke. As it fell, it broke two other balcony panels, causing glass to cascade down onto the section of Third street between Guadalupe and Lavaca.

"I do know that there were some from the W who were smoking outside," said Travis Donald, who works across the street from the W. Austin Hotel. "When it started to fall they all leaned up against the wall as it was raining down on them."

Five vehicles below were hit by the falling glass. In a statement the W Austin Hotel referred to the damage as minimal. But try telling that to patsy Arebalo. Her Nissan Altima had the windshield and windows broken, plus damage to the roof and hood of her car. "I said, 'Oh my God. What is going to happen,'" said Arebalo. "Here is my car, and its like, I just can't believe it. Not only that but three weeks ago the glass fell off from the hotel, and now this has happened again."

These are the photos taken by a hotel guest on June 10th, the first time balcony glass fell from the W Austin Hotel. Some people received minor cuts and stitches but there were no life threatening injuries.

After two similar incidents in a three week span, the general manager of the W Austin issued a statement that reads in part, "… given that two other glass balcony panels shattered on June 10, the owners of the project have made the decision to replace every balcony glass panel on the building."

"You would have thought that by now they were going have it repaired," said Arebalo. "In the future what is going to happen if something was to happen? Someone could get hurt with all the falling glass."

In its statement, the W Austin says it's still investigating why the glass balcony panels broke. As a precaution, W residents got notices requesting they do not use their balconies until further notice.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oyster Adds Hotel Search by Image

AllThingsD: Oyster.com, the travel site partially owned by the Travel Channel, has launched a new search engine that lets people visually sift through thousands of hotels around the world.

Instead of searching for hotels based on a destination or maybe a few keywords, users can see photos first, after entering search terms such as “best pools,” “Miami infinity pools,” “kid-friendly,” “Hawaii cabana beach hotels” or something as simple as “workout rooms.”

Ariel Charytan, Oyster’s co-founder and chief creative officer, and Eytan Seidman, co-founder and VP of product, said it reverses the traditional travel site, which buries the photos within the editorial content. What’s even better is that photos are taken by photographers hired by Oyster, so none of them will be deceiving or doctored to make a small pool look bigger or a sandy beach more pristine.

The co-founders argue that the authenticity of the photos is critical in order for travelers to make informed decisions. If the main purpose of your trip is to sit by the pool or hit the gym between business meetings, you don’t want an out-of-commission pool or a treadmill in the janitor’s closet.

In addition to seeing photos first, Oyster will return pricing information right on the photograph. The new search engine officially launches today.

Right now, the three-year-old company is mainly focused on building the site and will evolve how it makes money over time.

There’s no advertising on Oyster.com now. Today, it primarily makes money when visitors book a hotel reservation on its site. Ironically, the photos sometimes talk people out of booking a place.

“That’s our value prop. You can always come to us to get the truth,” Seidman said.

In the future, they also anticipate working closely with the Travel Channel, which will send viewers to Oyster if they are inspired to travel after watching a show. The channel, which invested $7.5 million in the site back in April and is owned by Scripps Networks, will not be able to start integrating Oyster into its programming until next season, when new content starts to air.

Pilot Questioned for Throwing Mobile Phone From Cockpit

Daily Mail: A British Airways captain has been questioned by police after allegedly throwing a mobile phone from his cockpit window just moments before take-off. The incident on Friday evening led to the jet being grounded as the pilot and his crew were removed.

Airline sources say the pilot became annoyed after being told he had to return to the airport gate to hand in the mobile. And in an attempt to take off as quickly as possible, he simply chucked the phone out of the cockpit window. But airport officials refused to let the aircraft leave Edinburgh Airport for Gatwick and his actions had the opposite effect – delaying the flight by three hours.

The pilot is now facing an investigation by the airline and possible disciplinary action.

Flight BA2945 had already been delayed slightly because of a Red Arrows display for Armed Forces Day in Edinburgh and was taxiing for take-off. One of the crew aboard the Boeing 737-400 discovered the phone and handed it to the captain after none of the 149 passengers claimed it. Anxious not to delay the flight further by returning to the stand and unloading the mobile, the pilot radioed air traffic control for permission to drop the phone out of the cockpit window.

When controllers refused permission, it is understood he simply defied them, opened the window and dumped the phone out on to the tarmac anyway.

Last night one source claimed the captain was already late and in no mood to delay even longer. He ignored the advice, put the phone in a bag, opened the side window of the cockpit and threw it to the ground. Moments earlier he'd asked air traffic control to get a member of the ground crew to come to the end of the runway and get the phone from him. They refused and told him to return to the gate, but he ignored that and just threw it out. The police then got involved and he was ordered back.

After the pilot was questioned by police, the airline was forced to find a replacement captain and crew. The pilot was questioned by Lothian and Borders police but not arrested. However, inquiries were still going on last night as officers investigated whether the pilot broke air-safety regulations.

It is not known whether the phone smashed on impact with the tarmac. Airport operators have to keep runways and aprons free from debris in case it impacts on aircraft safety. A BA spokeswoman said last night: 'We are investigating the matter and speaking to the pilots to understand the exact circumstances around the whole incident.'

She added that there was no requirement on safety grounds to get unclaimed phones off aircraft.

Olympic Hopeful Selling Ad Space on Body

Herald Sun: Want to buy a piece of Claire Kelly? Want your business brand inked - forever - on her arm, potentially on show to the millions around the world who'll watch the London Olympics next year?

Top Aussie beach volleyballer Kelly is so committed to getting her and partner Carla Kleverlaan to the Olympics that she's selling tattoo space on her body for sponsors.

For $10,000 you can have a 2cm x 2cm piece of Kelly's toned and tanned left limb, while $50,000 buys 5cm x 5cm on her right arm or shoulder. There are other ... um, packages, for between $10,000 and $50,000 and an eBay auction.

The money will pay for the Gold Coast athlete and Melbourne-based Kleverlaan to join the internationally televised world pro tour, on which the pair must play at least 12 events to qualify for London

"It's taken me months to get the courage to do this and now I'm going through with it," Kelly said. "I was thinking, 'Tattoo my body with a business logo just so I can have a chance to play for my country at the Olympics? I'm crazy'!

"This is my dream and it seems crazy not to try to do something to realise the dream. We need to head off on the world tour before the end of July, we need financial backing, so I can't let fear stop me."

Kelly said she was not concerned about the criticism she'll cop for her "London Olymp-ink" campaign. "The tattoos mean much more than just the money or the business," said Kelly, who'll go through with the tattooing in early July. "The tattoos signify having the courage to have a crack at something bigger, having the guts to at least try."

Follow her on twitter: @DreamCntrlMedia or dreamcentralmedia.com.au