PARIS – A bomb threat and the discovery of a suspicious package spurred French authorities to briefly evacuate nearly 4,000 tourists from the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday, tower officials and police said.
No explosives were found, and the site in the French capital was reopened to visitors more than two hours after the original warning, said a Paris police official.
Police officers cordoned off the sandy plaza beneath the tower and soldiers in camouflage gear patrolled the site after the evacuation. Onlooking crowds were kept at bay by red-and-white police tape which surrounded the Paris landmark.
While officers checked for explosives, schoolchildren and tourists brandishing tickets also gathered on the banks of the Seine River. The 324-meter (1,063-foot) tower is one of the world’s top tourist attractions, with millions of visitors a year.
The police official said nearly 4,000 people were evacuated from the monument after an anonymous caller said it would be blown up at 1700 GMT.
An official at SETE, the company that manages the tower, said a suspicious package was found on the plaza beneath the tower on Wednesday afternoon.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the situation is still being investigated.
The link between the package and the call was not immediately clear, nor was the reason for the threat. The tower is occasionally evacuated because of such warnings — twice last September after French officials said they were on alert for possible terror attacks by al-Qaida’s North African affiliate on crowded targets. No explosives were found.
France is currently at the forefront of an international military operation against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. It has received general, unspecified threats from extremists in the past related to its troops in Afghanistan and a law banning Islamic face veils in public.
France’s terror alert has been on level red, the second-highest level on its alert system, since 2005.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration has significantly improved its safety oversight of for-hire aircraft companies but hasn’t followed through on recommendations regarding air tours and illegal operators, a government watchdog said Wednesday.
The FAA is doing a better job of targeting inspections to more risky for-hire operations, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel said in a progress report. The agency has also given inspectors better procedures for evaluating safety concerns.
For-hire companies include a wide variety of aircraft and operations, including emergency medical helicopters, aerial sightseeing tours and air taxis. They often fly in more risky circumstances than scheduled airlines, but operate under less stringent safety regulations. Medical helicopters, for example, pick up patients at accident scenes and land at hospital helipads without the guidance of air traffic controllers. Some air tour helicopters land on glaciers or fly close to volcanoes.
The FAA also proposed new safety rules in October for medical helicopter operations, Scovel noted. Those rules, which are not yet final, would require operators to evaluate the risk of a flight before sending out a helicopter. Operators with 10 or more helicopters would have to establish a control center to communicate with pilots, advise them on weather conditions and monitor the progress of each flight. Operators would also have to equip their fleets with cockpit warning systems that alert pilots flying at night or in poor weather when a helicopter is in danger of colliding with a mountainside, the ground, a building or some other object.
The National Transportation Safety Board has long expressed concern about the high number of accidents involving medical flights.
FAA has also issued new pilot and flight attendant training rules for for-hire operators.
There were 47 for-hire accidents and 17 people killed in 2009, the latest year for which data was available from the National Transportation Safety Board. The number of fatalities involving for-hire operations has gone up and down over the last two decades. For example, there were 69 fatalities in 2008, but only 16 two years earlier.
Scovel also criticized FAA for not implementing NTSB recommendations for better identifying illegal for-hire operators.
“Finding and taking action against illegal operators is a significant challenge for FAA,” the report said. The agency generally finds out about an illegal operator when it investigates a fatal accident or through hotline complaints.
For example, FAA discovered an unlicensed air charter operator at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 2008 only after a chartered plane crashed, killing all five people on board. The cause of the accident — a collision with birds — was not related to the illegal charter. An NTSB investigation found that because the charter operator wasn’t licensed by FAA to carry passengers for hire, it wasn’t following safety rules that apply to for-hire operations. The board also found that the local FAA office was too short-staffed and didn’t have enough money to catch illegal for-hire operators.
FAA also hasn’t followed through on NTSB recommendations that air tours be required to follow the same safety rules as other for-hire operations, including implementing pilot training programs, more stringent maintenance policies, rest requirements for flight crews, and an annual FAA surveillance program, the report said.
The report was contained in a letter to Rep. Jerry Costello of Illinois, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee. FAA officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
DOT Inspector General http://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/5527
LONDON – Dirt has a bad image. Muck, we think: yuck.
But getting your hands dirty can also be irresistible, as every child knows.
A major new museum exhibition in London asks visitors to think again about the filthy and the fetid, exploring the role of dirt as humanity’s enemy and ally in history, art, science and medicine.
“Dirt is something we make and encounter every day,” said James Peto, senior curator at the Wellcome Collection, where the exhibition opens Thursday.
Peto said the exhibition — “Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life” — explores both the good and bad sides of dirt.
“Some of it, in the right quantities and the right place, is good for us,” he said. “Soil in the sense of ‘soiled sheets’ is bad, but soil where vegetables grow feeds us.
“And it’s where we all end up in the end.”
Filth’s intimacy and omnipresence may explain some of the terror and fascination that dirt — defined by the exhibition as “dust, excrement, rubbish, bacteria and soil” — holds for us.
We abhor it, but it’s also a mark of progress — the more cities, industry and civilization there are, the more dirt, and finding ways to dispose of it has taxed societies for centuries.
Dirt has also created commercial opportunities.
The exhibition, which ranges from 17th-century Holland to 21st century New York, looks at those who have made money from dirt, from river-combing mudlarks and the “toshers” who hunted for treasures in 19th-century sewers, to the manual scavengers of India, who clean latrines by hand — a practice that persists despite official attempts to ban it.
“The relationship between dirt and commerce is a long-standing one,” said another curator, Kate Forde. “In medieval times, London’s waste was sold to farmers outside the city to fertilize crops.” Today, electricity is generated from incinerating some of the city’s waste.
Dirt is also strongly linked to disease, and the exhibition charts several historic triumphs for hygiene. They include Joseph Bazalgette’s network of sewers, which cured Victorian London of its “great stink” and are still in use today, and physician John Snow’s discovery that cholera was spread through contaminated water, not foul air. He closed a public water pump and an outbreak that had killed hundreds in the Soho area of the city was stopped in its tracks.
One room is devoted to a 19th-century Glasgow infirmary so filthy that patients arriving with a broken limb had a 90 percent chance of amputation. It was transformed when Joseph Lister discovered that washing with carbolic acid before surgery sharply reduced the infection rate.
Despite such advances, the exhibition notes that “we live in unmistakably filthy times,” and dealing with dust is still a huge undertaking.
The exhibition looks at plans to deal with the Fresh Kills dump on New York’s Staten Island — once the world’s largest municipal landfill, towering higher than the Statue of Liberty. It shut after becoming the main site for debris from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and is now scheduled to become part of a vast new green space , almost three times the size of Central Park.
The park project, due to last until 2030, is beset by challenges. Recently the site was discovered to be sinking.
Lest we think cleanliness is all good, the show includes a section devoted to the German Hygiene Museum, which in the 1930s embraced the Nazi ideology of “racial hygiene” and advocated the sterilization of Jews and others seen as posing a threat to “racial health.”
The exhibition contains several pleasingly icky exhibits, including “intestinal excreta” from a 19th-century cholera victim.
Scattered throughout are artworks, including sculptures made from human feces — thankfully, they’re odorless — and a pile of bricks containing dust donated by London households. One contains a pinch of carpet dust from Benjamin Franklin’s house, another a dash of dust from writer J.G. Ballard’s bookshelves.
London’s King’s Cross, now famous for its railway station, was previously home to the “Great Dustheap,” an ugly mountain of cinder dust, bones and garbage, surrounded by slums. It is long gone, but Londoners still live with it, and in it — dust from the mound was used in bricks that built the city’s Victorian houses.
The exhibition, which runs to Aug. 31, is curated by the Wellcome Collection, which seeks to bring together science, medicine and art.
“Dirt,” Forde said, “is a very important and profound element in the way we shape our cities.”
Welcome to Frugal Family. This column will be dedicated to giving you five great deals each week for Farmington and surrounding towns.
Our goal is to help your family’s bottom line, and because we do the scouting for you, you can save time as well as money. You are a big part of this column. Let us hear about the deals you’ve seen. Just add them to our comment box or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then come back each week and see what we’ve uncovered together.
BLUE MOON at Westfarms
Deal: 50 percent off the original price of any Vera Bradley item. Take an additional 25 percent off already reduced prices on retired patterns and styles.
Good: through March 31, 2011
MOHAWK MOUNTAIN, Cornwall
Deal: Free lift ticket for last day of the ski season
Good on: March 27, 2011, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
DELTA AIR LINES
Deal: Bradley International to Reagan National in Washington, $130 round trip, including all taxes and fees. Tickets must be purchased at least 21 days in advance.
Good: on selected flights through Feb. 17, 2012. Sale may end at any time.
So far this year airlines have raised rates six times, compared with just three increases last year, partly to keep pace with rising oil prices, according to Farecompare.com, which tracks ticket prices. Overall, fares are up about 18 percent for travel in late May through early June, compared with the same period last year, according to Bing Travel, which offers predictions on whether fares will go up, down or hold steady on a given route.
On certain routes, prices are particularly volatile. From Seattle, a round-trip United Airlines flight to London in mid-March that cost $718 on Feb. 15 jumped 35 percent to $966, just four days later, according to Yapta.com. Later that month it dropped to $772, and by March 13 it was back up to $976.
“It’s always a quagmire,” said Joel Frey, a spokesman for Travelocity.com. “There will be fare sales, but it’s hard to predict those.”
So what’s a traveler to do? I put that question to some avid fare-watchers for their take on the best strategy for travelers looking to nab the best fare at the right time. Here is what they had to say:
Book now if traveling in the near future. The professional crystal-ball gazers all agree you should not wait to book your flight if traveling in April or May. Rick Seaney, chief executive of Farecompare.com, points out that despite recent fluctuations, rising oil prices have been on a trajectory very similar to that of 2008, when airlines raised rates five times by early March and tried to increase rates by about $10 each week in April. Four of those increases stuck.
But the advice is mixed for summer flights. “I would suggest buying your airfares for summer as soon as you can,” said Krista Pappas, global travel industry director for Bing, citing high fuel prices, tight seating capacity and strong consumer demand as a recipe for rising rates.
Mr. Seaney of Farecompare, however, recommends waiting just a bit. “Right now, airlines aren’t releasing the cheapest seats and I don’t expect them to start doing that until later on this month,” he said in mid-March. An attempt to raise prices earlier this month by American Airlines, which increased domestic round-trip fares by $10 on many routes, was not matched by competitors, he pointed out on his blog, RickSeaney.com, forcing the carrier to roll back the increase to remain competitive.
It’s also possible that if fares get too high, travelers will say enough is enough and pull back on travel spending as they did in late 2008, forcing airlines to cut prices as the holidays neared and many seats were unsold. “People who locked in fares during the summertime for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2008 were very unhappy,” Mr. Seaney said.
Book now for business class to Europe. Several airlines, including Aer Lingus, Continental and Delta, have introduced business class sales to Europe for spring and summer travel. One of the best deals: $1,198 (not including taxes or fees) to London on Delta from Boston, Miami or Tampa, if purchased by March 31. “I think they’ve overestimated the business traveler’s appetite for business class and have had to put more seats on sale than they would have thought,” said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the travel Web site JoeSentMe.com, who regularly alerts members to such sales. Business class fares to Scandinavia on SAS are particularly attractive, he said, with rates from Newark, Chicago and Washington to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo or Helsinki from $1,998 round trip — as much as 40 percent off. The airline has also cut rates on its Economy Extra class, which offers meal service and more legroom than coach, with rates from $1,398 round trip for the same routes.
Hedge your bets. Another option is to book early and watch for price drops in an attempt to get a refund. Most airlines have long offered to refund the difference in their fares (minus a rebooking fee) in the form of a voucher to customers who ask. Using your confirmation number, Yapta.com will track the price of your ticket, taking the airline’s rebooking fees into consideration, which generally range from $75 to $150. (Two airlines that don’t charge rebooking fees are Alaska and JetBlue.) If the difference in price exceeds the fee, Yapta will send you, without charge, an e-mail or Twitter alert notifying you of the lower fare. You can then claim the credit, as long as you booked directly with the carrier rather than through a travel agent or online agency.
While refund opportunities have declined as fares have risen, the savings remain considerable when refunds do apply. In the first quarter of last year, 14.7 percent of flights tracked by Yapta qualified for a refund, compared with 13.1 percent so far this year. The average refund during that time (after factoring in fees) was $179 last year versus $125 this year.
Orbitz.com also offers a refund service called Orbitz Price Assurance for airline tickets, with refunds of $5 to $250 a traveler, if another Orbitz customer books the same ticket on the site for less.
Still not ready to commit? At least one carrier — Continental — now offers travelers the ability to lock in a fare for 72 hours for a fee of $5 or for seven days from $9, depending on the itinerary, with no obligation to buy. Travelers can purchase the ticket at any time before the so-called FareLock expires.
Look for sales at the last minute. Airlines sometimes slash rates at the 11th hour, so it pays to keep checking. Look for sales at sites like Airfarewatchdog.com and Farecompare.com, which track fares, but be prepared to act fast. On March 15, for example, Farecompare posted that Southwest Airlines was offering “3 Days of Deals,” including $151 one-way fares from Chicago to West Palm Beach, Fla., and $168 from Los Angeles to New Orleans for travel through June 8. The catch: Travelers couldn’t fly on a Friday or Saturday and had to book by March 17. JetBlue offers “JetBlue Cheeps,” which go on sale on Tuesdays via Twitter. In recent weeks it offered $29 weekend fares between Long Beach, Calif., and Las Vegas, and $79 fares between Long Beach and Portland, Ore., but the deals usually sell out quickly.
Check package deals, which I wrote about last month. When travelers obsess over the right time to pull the trigger on air fares, they can miss out on other opportunities to save. For example, when booking airfare and hotel separately, the best price available for a seven-night trip to the Excellence Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic with flights on American Airlines from New York was $4,375 for two people. The same trip, booked as a package, was available for $3,208 on Travelocity.com, or $1,167 less.
Article source: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/travel/27prac-fares.html
•Diverse offering of exceptional bags and accessories
•Harmony™ collection designed by women, for women
•Harmony™ collection includes laptop totes, sleeves and iPad messenger bags
•See the entire collection at www.skoobadesign.com
$25 for $50 of travel goods at www.skoobadesign.com!
For more than 10 years, Skooba has been answering the call from business-tech travelers for functional, comfortable and stylish ways to carry on with their career. From full-featured, mega-pocketed laptop bags to lightweight backpacks, iPad skins, TSA checkpoint-friendly bags, messenger bags and totes, Skooba has created a wide array of exquisite cases and accessories for tech travel. This Metromix Deal offers $25 savings so you can find the carrying solution that’s right for you.
Skooba has been featured in national and international media including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, USA Today and even The Today Show and CNN. Winner of a Consumer’s Digest Best Buy Award. Skooba has been called “the Ultimate Choice,” “Hot Stuff” and simply “The Best”. These experts—and serious tech-travelers around the world—know that they can count on Skooba for innovation, obsessive attention to detail, quality, and style.
So quit obsessing over somebody else’s bag, take advantage of this special Metromix Deal and enjoy the great protection, unique features and stunning look of your new Skooba. Carry on, business travelers.
The Fine Print
Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:59 PM CDT
•Expires 6 months after purchase date
•Redemption Quantity: Limit 1 per transaction
•Must use in full, no cash back, no cash value and no refunds
•Shipping not included
•Not valid with other offers or specials
- Visit www.skoobadesign.com to order online
- To redeem, enter voucher code into the “Gift Certificate or Special Offer Code ” field during checkout.
Limit Per Person:
Article source: http://chicago.metromix.com/deals/837098
APPLE VALLEY, Minn. – A strange plant known as the voodoo lily is expected to bloom at the Minnesota Zoo in the next few days, filling the air with a rotting smell similar to the better known corpse flower.
The four-foot-tall lily was planted at the zoo on Tuesday morning on the Tropics Trail section of the zoo.
The plant is native to Japan, China and Indonesia. It’s also known as devil’s tongue and is a member of the same plant family as the native Minnesota species Jack-in-the-pulpit and the familiar Calla-lily.
The bad smell is said to attract bugs, mainly flies.
WASHINGTON – A United Airlines plane with 112 people aboard was allowed to take off last May without repairs despite indications during two previous flights that the cockpit window was overheating, a condition long known to cause fires, according to evidence gathered by federal investigators.
The Boeing 757 was about 30 minutes into a flight from New York to San Francisco, and had just leveled off at 36,000 feet, when pilots said they heard a hissing noise followed seconds later by 14- to 16-inch flames shooting from the cockpit window near the captain, documents recently released by the National Transportation Safety Board show.
Capt. Boyd Hammack, who had been flying the plane, told investigators he got out of his seat, grabbed a Halon fire extinguisher and put out the flames. But he said they quickly reignited. A flight attendant brought him a second fire extinguisher, which he emptied on the flames, putting them out again.
Shortly before making an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the inner pane of the window in front of Hammack shattered, the documents show. He turned over control of the plane to the first officer, who safely landed the aircraft.
Another United captain who had flown the same plane earlier that day told investigators he reported fumes and an overheated electrical connection when he landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, according a summary of his interview with investigators.
Capt. Robert Caponetti told investigators he showed a mechanic an electrical connection at the window on the captain’s side of the cockpit that appeared blackened or charred and was hot. He also said the plane had made an unscheduled landing in Las Vegas the previous day because of smoke and fumes in the cockpit.
The mechanic, also interviewed by investigators, said he OK’d the plane to fly without repairs because United’s maintenance manual says planes can be flown another 50 hours after a blackened or burned window heater electrical connector had been found. A blackened, burned or hot electrical connection is a sign of uncontained electricity, which can cause fires.
“We did a full inspection and believed the plane was flight worthy,” United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said.
Federal aviation officials have known for years that cockpit window heaters in some Boeing planes catch fire. But prior to the United incident they hadn’t required airlines to fix the problem, even after dozens of incidents that unnerved pilots and, in many cases, forced emergency landings.
Accident investigators had traced the problem to a simple loose screw. NTSB has urged the Federal Aviation Administration since 2004 to require airlines to replace the windows with a new design.
Nearly two months after the United incident, FAA ordered airlines to inspect the cockpit window heaters on 1,212 Boeing airliners. But the order doesn’t require airlines to replace the windows unless evidence of damage is found.
The order also gives airlines a choice of installing windows of the same design or the new design. Carriers that choose old design replacements must continue to inspect windows at regular intervals.
McCarthy said United has complied with FAA’s order for inspections and is replacing windows with the new design “when they are up for replacement.” She said she didn’t know what would trigger a replacement.
United has also made “enhancements to our maintenance program,” she said.
PHOENIX – As things heat up in the Valley, you may consider ways to escape the warm temperatures.
Every Wednesday, ABC15.com features travel deals for Arizonans.
This week, we’re heading outdoors in these great adventure deals through AAA Arizona:
Colorado from $139* per night
Right near the popular ski destination of Vail sits this Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, a AAA four-diamond property!
It’s right at the base of the 11,000-foot peaks of the Gore Range Mountains. Talk about extravagant views.
In the spring months, it will be ideal to escape to the mountains and not break a sweat doing it.
If you spend three nights at this resort, the fourth night is FREE. Pretty nice deal!
Montana from $109* per night
Right by the Whitefish Lake, the AAA four-diamond property known as the Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers breathtaking mountain views and plenty of ways to relax in northwest Montana.
From spa treatments to fine dining, this place can really make a lasting impression.
Natural materials were used throughout the property to really bring out the beauty of nature.
All guest suits come with fireplaces and balconies to admire everything stunning nature has to offer.
Whistler, BC from $197* per night
This was the home of many events of the 2010 Olympic Games.
But top-notch golf courses, mountain views worth noting, and high class living make this destination something to look forward to year-round.
The AAA four-diamond property known as The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is located at the bottom of Blackcomb Mountain.
Here’s your chance to truly take in the smell of the evergreen trees and fresh air as you get a lot of exercise in walking from one sightseeing activity to the next.
For more information or to book, visit AAA.com/Travel .
*Room rates are per night and allow one or two people per room. Hotel taxes and fees are additional. For three or more people, extra person charges may apply. Offers vary by hotel, are for select arrival dates, subject to availability, and may be discontinued without notice. Additional restrictions and blackout dates may apply.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Here’s an idea for a cheap point-to-point road trip: Rent a car in Arizona, go exploring and drop it off in one of nine other states –including California — for just $5 a day. That’s the offer Hertz is making for one-way trips out of the Grand Canyon State.
The deal: The Arizona Drive for $5 offer applies for rentals that begin in Arizona and then are dropped off at selected locations in California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. The $5 daily rate is good for up to 14 days for economy and compact cars. Rentals come with unlimited mileage and no drop-off fees. Use the rate code “DRV5″ when making a reservation.
When: The offer is good for rentals March 27 through May 31, with some blackout dates.
Tested: I found availability for this deal even for the Memorial Day holiday period. I selected a rental starting May 24 that would be picked up at Tucson International Airport (TUS) and dropped off May 31 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Total cost: $48, which includes surcharges and fees (but not an optional loss-damage waiver). The car offered was described as a Chevy Aveo or equivalent economy car.
Note too: Hertz also has a Florida Drive for $5 from April 24 through June 12.
Contact: Hertz, (800) 654-3131