Senate would criminalize laser targeting of planes (AP)

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

WASHINGTON – Pointing handheld lasers at aircraft — a growing problem that aviation officials warn could lead to a crash — would become a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison under an amendment approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the sponsor of the amendment, said he was responding to a surge in incidents in which people have pointed at aircraft powerful lasers capable of temporarily blinding pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the number of incidents in which people pointed lasers at planes and helicopters nearly doubled last year, from 1,527 in 2009 to 2,836 in 2010. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has said that in some instances pilots have had to relinquish control of their aircraft to another pilot because they couldn’t see.

“This is a national security threat,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said. “As the technology increases, it’s going to blind pilots permanently. Maybe if they’re accurate, they blind both the pilot and co-pilot. … There will be a future for terrorists in this business.”

The amendment was approved on a 96-1 vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the only senator to vote against the proposal.

“I think that it is a bad idea to point lasers at pilots and there are a lot of states that already have laws” against doing that, Paul said. “I think the states ought to take care of it.”

A similar proposal has been introduced in the House.

The rise in incidents has coincided with a growing hobbyist market for handheld lasers that are far more powerful — and potentially dangerous — than the typical laser pointer. At the same time prices have dropped. Lasers that once cost more than $1,000 can now be bought online for a few hundred dollars or less.

Dozens of people in the United States and around the world have been arrested for pointing lasers at aircraft cockpits, most often near airports during takeoffs and landings. Those are the most critical phases of flight, when pilots need to be their most alert.

In some cases authorities have described the laser pointings as malicious acts. But in others, laser enthusiasts have said they didn’t realize the lasers could cause harm at seemingly long distances. Hobbyists often use the lasers at night when they are most visible against the night sky.

Interference with commercial airlines is already a federal crime. But current law has a gap that weakens the FBI’s ability to investigate laser incidents involving helicopters, said Dave Joly, a spokesman for the FBI in Denver, where 38 laser incidents were reported last year. The law covers mass transportation, but helicopters aren’t considered mass-transit aircraft, Joly said.

There have been many instances of lasers pointed at helicopters, including police helicopters. Helicopters are especially vulnerable because they fly at lower altitudes than planes.

The vote makes the amendment part of a bill pending before the Senate to authorize FAA programs for the next two years. It also would speed up the FAA’s transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite-based technology.

The Senate also rejected an amendment by Paul that would have exempted FAA programs from a federal law that requires government contractors to pay construction workers the prevailing local wage.

___

Associated Press writers Dan Elliott in Denver and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

Article source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/aptrne/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20110204/ap_tr_ge/us_travel_brief_aviation_lasers

Lake Blackshear, GA, Joins GCH Network, New Travel Deals from Barton Creek, TX …

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

 

Lake Blackshear Plantation, Cordele, GA, joins the GCH Network today. Featuring a new owner-operator for its Ironwood golf  course, the community is now offering all homesites for less than $20,000. 

Quarter-acre homesites are $15,000 and half-acre lots are just $18,500. First-year Golf Membership  is included with purchase. See below for more details and today’s new deals and travel packages.

TODAY’S NEW DEALS SPECIALS  

Barton Creek Resort and Spa, Austin TX presents its Heaven On Earth Package for golfers. For  $142 per person, the package includes luxury resort accommodations, custom club fitting at the new Callaway Performance Center, daily breakfast and choice of either extra golf privileges or one spa treatment per person per night of stay (50-minute Purifying Facial or 50-minute therapeutic massage). Click here for more information about Barton Creek!

Sunset Dunes, PEI, Canada alerts buyers in this fast-selling community to the availability of guaranteed vendor financing for up to a 15-year term with as little as 10% down, 2 years interest free and an rate of 4% for the balance of term. Sunset Dunes is in the third and final phase of development, comprising the last 20 lots within the development. All oceanfront homesites in the first phase have sold—there are just five oceanfront lots still available. Click here for more information about Sunset Dunes!

River Dunes, Oriental, NC is staging an introductory weekend to sporting clays coastal cuisine. The price is $65 per person and includes safety instruction, transportation, lunch, use of range and shells (guns available). Lodging value is a 30% discount in the Guest Cottages for participants. This a beginner-friendly and fun sporting experience. On Saturday evening, enjoy oysters on the lawn, followed by a Fins Feather Dinner including grilled seafood and roast duck.   Click here for more information about River Dunes!

Tesoro, Port St. Lucie, FL Homes at Tesoro are now available at a 50-75 percent discount from their past values and the result has been a healthy sales pace–30 homes were sold in 2010. A current Best Buy at the private community is a 4-BD/4-BA home with 5,409 sf. under air, 3-car garage, pool/spa with big water to golf views. Asking price is $750,000. Click here for more information about Tesoro!

 

SPECIAL COMMUNITY EVENTS

The Landings, Skidaway Island, GA The Landings and Wilmington Cabinet Company recently presented a $2,500 check and numerous toys to The Children’s Hospital at a special ceremony at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. The donation was raised from contributions collected at the 2010 Landings Designer Holiday Showhouse in December. Click here for more information about The Landings!

COMMUNITY NEWS UPDATES

The Communities at Branson Creek, Hollister MO, a member of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, joined with these groups inannouncing that Thousand Hills Golf Resort and Pointe Royale Resort Golf Course are now part of the area’s new golf-destination cooperative, formed to provide travelers with new values and options. These two courses join four others in comprising a rising-star golf destination, including the No. 1-rated course in Missouri, Branson Creek Golf Club. Click here for more information about Branson Creek!

The Cliffs Communities, Travelers Rest SC and Urbana Companies, LLC, a
Dallas-based developer, recently announced the creation of a joint venture. Urbana’s initial investment in the venture allows The Cliffs to significantly reduce its outstanding debt, increase cash flow and provide capital for The Cliffs ongoing operations.  The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.  Click here for more information about The Cliffs!

NEW TODAY ON GOLFCOURSEHOME.NET!

GEORGIA
Lake Blackshear Plantation, Cordele
Lake Blackshear Plantation is one of South Georgia’s newest planned communities. Offering a relaxed lifestyle setting in a golf and lake community, residents enjoyits small town charm and diverse variety of activities, from golf, fishing and boat rides to taking a stroll or horseback riding.

The community’s Ironwood Golf Course is a fun yet challenging 18-hole course that features open fairways and undulating greens. This 6,900-yard layout uses natural streams, bunkers, ponds and rolling terrain to test the golfer while creating clear views from the homesites.
Just across the street is 8,700-acre Lake Blackshear. Boating, skiing, and fishing are popular activities enjoyed year round. Lake Blackshear has also been included in the “Go Fish Georgia” program which promotes easy access to the lake.
Perfect for Visiting: Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club is located less than 10 minutes from Lake Blackshear Plantation in Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park which offers hotel and conference center, marina, two restaurants, dinner cruise boat and golf course.

Real Estate: Lake Blackshear Plantation

 

Article source: http://www.bunkershot.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=lake-blackshear-ga-joins-gch-network-new-travel-deals-from-barton-creek-tx-river-dunes-nc-more.html&Itemid=161

Las Vegas: Mandarin Oriental’s third-night free deal comes with a bling-worthy …

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The lofty Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas offers a February deal that might make your heart beat faster: Stay two nights and get a third night free at this AAA Five Diamond hotel in the swank CityCenter complex. It works for Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day or anything else you want to celebrate this month.

The deal: The Lucky in Love in Zen City offer includes a third night free, with rates starting at $305 a night, excluding tax. The deal also comes with a $250 gift certificate at the nearby Mikimoto jewelers, known for pearls, in the Crystals shopping and entertainment district.

I wrote about a similar deal at the Mandarin Oriental last year, though it didn’t include the gift certificate. I mention this hotel again because room rates are usually expensive, and the deal is a good one for those who crave a bit of non-casino luxury on the Strip.

When: Good through Feb. 28, subject to availability.

Tested: I checked online and found availability for a Strip-view room with a king-sized bed from Feb. 13 to 16. The price breakdown for a Valentine’s Day-centric stay that I found is $285 per night plus tax — a rate slightly lower than the advertised starting price for this deal. Total with taxes for three-night stay: $638.

Contact: Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, (702) 590-8888

Article source: http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/la-trb-mandarin-oriental-20110203,1,2326020.story

Travel company TUI: Unrest could cost up to $48.5M (AP)

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel News

LONDON – European tour operator TUI says unrest in Tunisia and Egypt could cost the company up to 30 million pounds (about $48.5 million.)

TUI Travel PLC said in a statement Thursday that the cost of canceling vacations and repatriating tourists from Tunisia following the overthrow of the government there was estimated at 5 million pounds.

The company says it has already scrapped trips to Egypt from Europe amid continuing violence in Cairo and other cities and that it stands to lose a further 20 million pounds if it’s unable to operate tours there through the rest of the winter.

It says it could take another 5 million-pound hit if Britain advises its citizens to avoid Egypt’s Red Sea resorts.

TUI Travel is a unit of Germany’s TUI AG.

Article source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/aptrne/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20110203/ap_tr_ge/eu_travel_brief_britain_tui_travel

US Is Said to Investigate Effect of Google-ITA Deal on Travel Searches

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The webpages of Google, Bing, Kayak and Orbitz are displayed on a computer screen in New York. Source: Bloomberg

The U.S. Justice Department is
examining whether Google Inc.’s planned $700 million purchase of
ITA Software Inc. would lead to skewed search results for
travelers seeking flight and ticket information online,
according to two people familiar with the matter.

U.S. officials are concerned Google’s ownership of ITA,
whose software aggregates airline information, may cause its own
travel services to rank higher than rivals such as Kayak.com and
Expedia Inc., reducing competition and hurting consumers,
according to the people, who declined to be identified because
the talks are ongoing.

“The companies that use ITA want to be assured there would
be no preference by Google for its own results,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco,
who isn’t privy to the talks. “At the same time, Google’s
innovation and creativity shouldn’t be held against it.”

The probe of the Google-ITA deal represents a new facet of
government scrutiny for the world’s largest search engine as it
expands into new services. Google had 66.6 percent of the search
market as of December, according to ComScore Inc.

Google is buying companies to boost its online services,
spending about $1.6 billion on more than 20 companies in the
first nine months of last year, according to regulatory filings.
The ITA deal would follow other large acquisitions, including
mobile ad service AdMob Inc. last year for about $700 million
and online advertising provider DoubleClick Inc. in 2008 for
$3.2 billion. Both were cleared without restrictions by the
Federal Trade Commission.

Preparing a Lawsuit

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has pressed the
Justice Department to decide whether it will challenge the ITA
deal, prompting government lawyers to prepare a lawsuit to block
it. Completion of the Justice Department’s review may come
within a few weeks, one of the people familiar with it said.

Regulators aren’t planning a broad monopoly investigation
of Google right now, the people said, and any conditions placed
on the ITA deal would be specific to travel-related searches.
For now, talks between the Justice Department and Google are
focused on how to make ITA’s software available to online travel
competitors through licensing agreements, the people said.

FairSearch.org, a group that includes Microsoft Corp. and
Kayak.com, a travel information site, has opposed the ITA deal,
saying Google would have too big an incentive to steer consumers
to its own services rather than to competitors, even if their
sites might answer the query better.

Beyond Access

“The proposed acquisition raises issues above and beyond
the access to ITA technology,” said attorney Tom Barnett,
outside counsel to Expedia Inc., a FairSearch member. “A key
threat from the proposed transaction is the combination of ITA’s
flight search dominance with Google’s search dominance.”

FairSearch.org argued that, once Google controls ITA’s
unique software and the privileged business information on its
servers, it might hold back software updates and other
innovations. The group also includes Travelocity.com Inc.,
Hotwire Inc. and TripAdvisor LLC.

“We haven’t received assurances from ITA or Google on any
of our concerns in terms of continued access to this product
going forward,” Robert Birge, chief marketing officer of
Norwalk, Connecticut-based Kayak.com, said in a telephone
interview. Birge declined to discuss the company’s conversations
with Justice Department officials.

‘Increase Competition’

Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google, said the company
is cooperating with the U.S. review of the deal, and added that
the “acquisition will increase competition.” Cara Kretz, a
spokeswoman for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ITA, and Justice
Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona declined to comment.

Google rose $2.47 to $613.51 at 2:47 p.m. New York time in
Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Expedia climbed 1 cent to $25.33.

Google’s deals are receiving careful antitrust scrutiny
because of its size and due to the connection between Internet
search and online advertising, according to Andy Gavil, an
antitrust professor at Howard University Law School in Washington. Gavil said he has received funding from Google for
research unrelated to the ITA acquisition.

In November 2008, the Justice Department threatened to sue
over its planned alliance with Yahoo! Inc., leading Google to
scrap a planned agreement to place ads with the Sunnyvale,
California-based web portal.

Several Google acquisitions have gotten a green light from
regulators, including the FTC’s unanimous approval of the AdMob
deal in May over protests from consumer groups including the
Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog.

‘Unlikely to Harm’

The FTC said that deal was “unlikely to harm competition
in the emerging market for mobile advertising networks.”

The regulator also approved Google’s acquisition of
DoubleClick, saying the transaction was unlikely to
“substantially lessen” competition in Internet advertising.

Setting conditions for fair search results is an
“essentially impossible” task, Assen Vassilev, co-founder and
vice president of strategy and development of London-based
Everbread, said in an interview. His London-based Haystack
airfare search engine supports the Google-ITA deal.

As many as 6 million flight choices are available at any
given time depending on whether a traveler wants to stay
overnight, is willing to change planes or wants to go to a
specific terminal, Vassilev said.

Policing search results under a Justice Department
agreement would be challenging, said Robert Lande, a law
professor at the University of Baltimore.

The mathematical formulas and programming language behind search engines may be too complex for a third party to decide if
there’s a Google bias in the results, he said in an interview.

Comcast-NBC Model

A model for any agreement between the government and Google
over the ITA purchase may be the Justice Department’s consent
decree for Comcast Corp.’s acquisition of NBC Universal, said Rebecca Arbogast, a technology analyst for Stifel Nicolaus in
Washington. It may provide a framework for policing the search
industry and licensing the software, she said.

The Comcast agreement, announced on Jan. 18, included
safeguards so the largest U.S. cable company couldn’t restrict
online video content.

As in the NBC-Comcast deal, antitrust authorities are
likely to consider whether Google’s control of key assets
through ITA could slow competition or innovation, Arbogast said.

Just as Philadelphia-based Comcast had to make its
programming available to internet video distributors, Google may
have to make the ITA data accessible to others, she said.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net and;
Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.
Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net and;

Article source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-02/u-s-is-said-to-probe-google-ita-deal-s-impact-on-internet-travel-searches.html

Ocean City offers winter deals to cure cabin fever

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Got cabin fever? If you do, Ocean City has got a deal for you.

More than a dozen surfside hotels are offering winter getaway specials to get you out of the house and onto the shore.

It’s the off-season at the popular beach resort town, so hotels are really looking to entice visitors who may be reluctant to visit summer’s playground in winter. But here are a few deals that just may be worth taking a quick trip across the Chesapeake Bay:

Quality Inn Boardwalk. Stay two consecutive nights and save 50 percent on Sundays. For example, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. Through May 19. Call 800-837-3584.

208 Sunset Beach. Stay three nights for $425 in a condo that sleeps 10. Throough May 16. Details here.

Hilton Suites Oceanfront. Winter Getaway includes one night in an oceanfront suite and $50 voucher for dinner at 32 Palm and a drink coupon. Package starts at $188 through Feb. 18; $210, Feb. 25-March 18; and $243, April 1-15. Excludes holidays.

Holiday Inn Hotel Suites. Package includes one night in an oceanfront suite and a $50 voucher for dinner at Coral Reef. Starts at $170 through Feb. 18. Go to ococean.com.

Francis Scott Key Family Resort. Package for couples is $220 and includes two-night stay, $25 gift card for shopping at OC Factory Outlets, $50 gift card for Sunset Grille and more. Through March 30. Details here.

Sea Bay Hotel. Stay the weekend for $149, including two night’s accommodations, $25 breakfast voucher and more. Through Feb. 28. Details here.

Carousel Resort Hotel. A Presidents Day weekend special is $79 per night for direct ocean rooms; $69 for ocean patio rooms and $59 for non-oceanfront rooms. Valid Feb. 18-20 only.

A few hotels are offering wintertime discounts on summertime bookings. The Comfort Inn Gold Coast will give a 20 percent discount on reservations for June or July that are booked by March 17. Howard Johnson Oceanfront Plaza offers a 25 percent discount if you book by March 15.

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  • Article source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/travel/beaches/bs-tr-deal-0213-20110203,0,4691944.story

    Auschwitz decays, prompting preservation effort (AP)

    February 4, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel News

    OSWIECIM, Poland – The red brick barracks that housed starving inmates are sinking into ruin. Time has warped victims’ leather shoes into strange shapes. Hair sheared to make cloth is slowly turning to dust.

    Auschwitz is crumbling — the world’s most powerful and important testament to Nazi Germany’s crimes falling victim to age and mass tourism. Now guardians of the memorial site are waging an urgent effort to save what they can before it is too late.

    Officials last week launched a global campaign to raise ?120 ($165 million) to create a “perpetual fund” whose interest can be drawn on indefinitely to repair barracks, watchtowers, crematoria and other structures at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum and memorial in southern Poland.

    The Nazis opened Auschwitz soon after invading Poland in 1939, the act that triggered World War II, using it first as a concentration camp for Poles and political prisoners. As they implemented a plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews, Gypsies and others, they built the neighboring death camp of Birkenau.

    The Germans ended up transporting people in cattle cars from across the continent to the death camp in the heart of Europe, and murdered at least 1.1 million in gas chambers or through other acts of barbarity.

    Museum director Piotr Cywinski made an emotional appeal for help during ceremonies last week marking the 66th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops, as he launched the fundraising campaign. Called “Intervene Now,” the campaign’s message has been spread on Facebook, in newspapers and elsewhere.

    “There are no more remains of Treblinka, Kulmhof, Sobibor and Belzec,” Cywinski said, referring to extermination camps that the Nazis destroyed in an effort to hide their crimes. “Let us not allow the biggest of these death camps — and the only one that is still recognizable — to fall into decay due to the ravages of time and our indifference.”

    The efforts got a big boost with a donation of ?60 million ($82 million) from a still repentant Germany. Together with pledges from the United States (?12 million), Austria (?6 million) and smaller amounts from other countries, the fund has now raised ?80 million — about two-thirds of what is needed.

    The museum plans to start putting the money to use with a massive effort in 2012 to save 45 brick barracks at Birkenau where freezing, starving women once piled together onto hard wooden bunks before being worked or gassed to death.

    Just a few years ago, visitors could enter all of the barracks. Today only four can be viewed in the best weather conditions, as marshy ground and tourism take their toll. Even those in the best shape have badly buckled floors strewn with loose bricks, walls that are cracked and roofs held up by damp wooden beams.

    “We really can’t wait any longer,” Cywinski said in an interview with The Associated Press. “In 10 years, these will be ruins.”

    Part of the challenge comes from the fact that the barracks and other structures at Auschwitz were built in a rush during the war to serve a murderous purpose and were never made to last. Add to that the pressure of modern tourism: the site drew nearly 1.4 million visitors last year — triple the number in 2001.

    Tourism has increased as Poland, formerly a communist nation behind the Iron Curtain, has been transformed into an economically vibrant member of the European Union. Budget flights now bring in tourists to nearby Krakow from all over Europe.

    But the growing interest also stems from the iconic role that Auschwitz holds in Holocaust memory — a fact underlined by the many people visiting not just from Europe, Israel and the U.S., but also from as far away as South Korea and Japan.

    “A visit to Auschwitz is more than just a visit to a memorial,” said Paul Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

    The Germans blew up gas chambers and burnt warehouses at Auschwitz as the Red Army moved in, but their retreat was made in chaos and they did not manage to destroy everything. Today many original structures still stand, making the site a powerful visual testament to the crimes committed there.

    It also helps people today understand what happened at places like Treblinka and Belzec, extermination sites that the Germans completely destroyed. Today those are marked only by memorials.

    “You can actually picture the full horror of what happened there,” Shapiro said. “You can picture what took place in the death camps that were built by the Third Reich.”

    With time against them, conservation experts in white lab coats and gloves work in modern laboratories at Auschwitz to save what they can. Recently, brown leather shoes were laid out on a table as experts worked with great care to undo some of the deformity wrought by time.

    In one room, a woman used a state-of-the-art machine to scan a massive trove of SS papers. In another, a worker photographed pieces of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign — the notorious and ironic slogan meaning “Work Sets You Free” which spanned the entrance gate at Auschwitz. It was stolen in December 2009 and cut into pieces before police tracked it down and arrested the thieves. So vandalism, too, is taking its toll.

    The preservation department is staffed by many young, highly trained people, many of whom began their studies thinking they would one day restore art masterpieces. Instead, they find themselves grappling with questions like how to preserve toothbrushes and other everyday objects from the early 20th century that are almost never the object of meticulous preservation work.

    The driving philosophy of the work is, above all, to protect authenticity and do no harm. In practice, this means preserving Auschwitz as it was at war’s end, when the Germans had just bombed the crematoria and gas chambers before the Red Army moved in.

    It also means accepting that not everything can be saved.

    The human hair, shaved from victims’ heads and recycled into cloth, will be allowed to decay completely. Today one of the most moving exhibits at Auschwitz is an enormous mound of hair shaved from the victims. Once, the hair was of various colors, but it has since turned into a mostly mangled mass of gray, with only an odd blond strand or braid standing out.

    Cywinski said that to intervene and try to save the hair would amount to a “brutal and morally unjustified disturbance” of these human remains, and all that can be done is to keep them in conditions will help them last as long as possible.

    ___

    Online:

    Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum: http://www.en.auschwitz.org.pl/m/

    Article source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/aptrne/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20110203/ap_tr_ge/eu_travel_brief_crumbling_auschwitz

    Plan outlines management of Grand Canyon flights (AP)

    February 4, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel News

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A National Park Service proposal would increase the number of air tour flights over the Grand Canyon while making the environment quieter at the same time.

    The agency released a range of options Wednesday for reducing noise from low-flying aircraft at the iconic park, moving officials closer to fulfilling requirements under a 1987 law.

    The Park Service’s preferred alternative would allow 8,000 more flights per year over the Grand Canyon for a total of 65,000, and the limit on the number of daily air tours would be set at 364, an increase of 50. Transport flights and those not carrying tourists would be rerouted so they don’t fly directly over the canyon, and all aircraft would have to convert to quiet technology over the next 10 years.

    Acting park Superintendent Palma Wilson said rearranging air traffic and patterns to areas where there are fewer visitors will help restore the natural soundscape of the canyon that includes the wind rustling through pine trees and the roar of the Colorado River.

    “There’s something in this plan for everybody, but there’s not everything for anybody,” Wilson said. “Our mandate by law is to protect this resource.”

    Nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, and tour agencies do a brisk business in offering helicopter and airplane flights over the park.

    But hikers and tourists on the ground have complained that the aircraft noise interferes with the feeling of solitude and overall natural appreciation of the canyon.

    The Park Service’s goal is to restore natural quiet to 67 percent of the Grand Canyon for three-fourths of the day or longer, up from 53 percent. That’s less than pleasing to the air tour industry.

    Steve Bassett, president of the United States Air Tour Association, said setting the goal at more than 50 percent is “unconscionable” and would drive the industry out of business.

    “We’re the only segment of the air tour industry this severely regulated, and it happens at the Grand Canyon,” he said. “Now they’re trying to severely regulate us some more.”

    Prohibiting flights in the hour after sunrise and hour before sunset, expanding flight-free zones and implementing seasonal rotations of certain routes would further harm the industry, he said.

    Environmentalists applauded the release of the long-awaited document and said they would lobby the Park Service not to bow to the air tour industry. Progress on the plan had been delayed for years because of lawsuits, wrangling among interest groups and other challenges.

    Rob Smith of the Sierra Club called the plan a “mixed bag” that would make some parts of the canyon sacrifice areas but would address the concern of Congress that nothing was being done to reduce the noise.

    “We’ll have to see what the details are,” he said. “It clearly is a step in the right direction to restore natural quiet in the park. We’re not convinced it’s a big enough step.”

    The Park Service is planning five public meetings to discuss the alternatives. The public comment period runs through June 6.

    “They’ll be plenty of time for everyone to be heard, and after so many years, it’s important people have that chance,” Smith said.

    Article source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/aptrne/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20110203/ap_tr_ge/us_travel_brief_grand_canyon_flights

    ‘Sesame Street’ to help create new museum near DC (AP)

    February 4, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel News

    WASHINGTON – “Sesame Street” will have an address near the nation’s capital.

    The group behind the popular TV show is teaming up with the National Children’s Museum to create exhibits and bring Big Bird and Elmo to the museum’s future home outside Washington at the National Harbor in Maryland.

    Sesame Workshop, the New York-based nonprofit group behind the show, has created traveling exhibits before. But the partnership to be announced Thursday will be its first home at a museum.

    Museum President and CEO Kathy Dwyer Southern says the “Sesame Street” characters will serve as virtual guides to the museum for children who visit. They’ll also be included in a new Early Learners gallery and a planned international gallery.

    The $182.6 million museum is slated to open in 2013.

    Article source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/aptrne/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20110203/ap_tr_ge/us_travel_brief_sesame_street_children_s_museum

    Groundhogs, ‘thunder snow’ and canceled flights

    February 4, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    With much of the nation paralyzed by a snowstorm of historic proportions, ask yourself: Do we really need Punxsutawney Phil to predict when spring will come? Or Connecticut Chuckles? Or Buckeye Chuck? Or Gen. Beauregard Lee?

    Weather-predicting groundhogs were out in force Wednesday, Groundhog Day, from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The human handlers say none saw its shadow, which is said to predict an early spring. But then,who could see anything amid all the snow and ice?

    Groundhogs aside, freaky weather appears to be gripping the nation, making travel for some difficult and even dangerous.

    The ice and snow hammering a 2,000-mile swath of the U.S. caused the cancellation of thousands of flights Wednesday. A glance at the Airport Delays Map at Flightstats.com on Wednesday afternoon showed “excessive delays,” appearing as red dots, throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

    But my favorite visual of the day has got to be Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel screaming like a tackled quarterback amid “thunder snow” — aka thunder and lightning — on the streets of Chicago. Get a grip, Jim.

    Article source: http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/la-trb-weather-groundhog-20110202,1,6113325.story

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