Armed with fresh documents that show online travel companies may have conspired to avoid paying more than $440 million in taxes in Florida, a state legislator is urging Attorney General Pam Bondi to force the travel giants to pay up.
The issue has been the focus of legal and political fights for years as counties and hotel companies have fought the online companies that sell unused hotel rooms to travelers looking for deals.
Counties argue that the companies should pay tourist development taxes on the total cost of the room charged to customers. The online travel companies say they should only pay taxes on the negotiated rate they pay the hotels — not on what they keep in profit.
Former Attorney General Bill McCollum sued Expedia and Orbitz in 2009 for unfair trade practices. But Bondi, who succeeded him in January, put the lawsuit on hold during the legislative session as lawmakers attempted to exempt the travel companies from paying the additional taxes, said Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis.
The bill died, but Bondi has neither revived the stalled lawsuit nor started her own investigation.
In a May 17 letter to Bondi, Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, urged her to prosecute the companies based on newly-discovered company documents. The documents show that lawyers for the companies advised their clients since 2003 to “make it as difficult as possible for any state to require us to collect occupancy tax” until they could change the laws to exempt them from paying it.
The documents, considered confidential by the companies, were released by a Georgia appeals court in January. They indicate that lawyers and accountants for Expedia and other travel companies believed they were at “high risk” of being required to pay hotel taxes in Florida. Although Expedia was not collecting the tax, the documents say the company was holding money in reserve “based on an estimate of uncollected taxes that we may ultimately owe.”
Kriseman said that the emergence of the documents is evidence enough that Bondi should pursue the case and collect what the Department of Revenue says is as much as $440 million in unpaid state sales taxes and fees since 1999.
“The attorney general ought to be demanding that all of the money go to the state of Florida,’’ he said. “If you or I failed to pay taxes, we’d be prosecuted for it. There seems to be a pattern here from both attorney general’s office — and the governor’s office — that they are willing to let big business off the hook.”
Kriseman said he quietly sent the letter to Bondi a month ago because he wanted to alert her to the documents and hoped she would prosecute. Instead, he has gotten no response. “Not even a courtesy phone call or form letter,’’ he said. “I’m stunned they wouldn’t respond whatsoever … If they don’t respond to a representative, what do they do to the general public?’’
Bondi’s office told the Herald/Times that “the lawsuit is pending” and would not acknowledge receipt of Kriseman’s letter.
The issue is a dicey one for Bondi. She inherited the lawsuit after McCollum left office and quickly faced the pressure from tax-averse lawmakers who filed a bill to clarify what they considered a vague law.
Current law requires Florida hotels to pay a “transient rentals tax” — similar to the state sales tax — on the rate they charge the consumer for the room. But the online travel companies say they are not obligated to pay taxes on the difference between their negotiated rate and the rate the customer pays.
Jennifer Green, a lobbyist for Expedia, said the documents “have been taken out of context to make it look like these companies are basically committing fraud,” she said. “No court has ever indicated that they have stolen tax dollars.”
Others states, including Texas, Georgia and Hawaii, have filed claims against the companies for withholding taxes and several cities in California, and Washington, D.C., also have pending lawsuits.
The online travel companies say the money they collect is a service fee, not a tax. “Every penny of tax owed on the room rate is remitted to the hotel along with the cost of the room,’’ said Andrew Weinstein, spokesperson for the Interactive Travel Services Association, a trade organization representing the online companies. “The service fees charged by the companies are not subject to tax under Florida law.”
But the documents from 2006 and 2007 also show that the companies have carefully crafted their language — at one point saying there would be “no use of the word ‘collect’ in any context’ when referring to taxes because “that is a slippery slope to being liable for taxes.”
The companies argued that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege, but a special master in the Georgia case ordered them released under the crime-fraud exemption.
Marion T. Pope, a former chief judge of the Georgia appeals court assigned to handle the document dispute, said that Orbitz and other companies may have used their lawyers to aid them in a committing a crime or a fraud because of their calculated effort “to circumvent state and local statutes and ordinances in an effort to evade the payment of hotel occupancy taxes.”
The online travel companies challenged Pope’s ruling and an appeals court upheld the judge’s decision in January.
Several Florida counties have sued the companies for unpaid taxes, with some having reached settlements. Broward County, one of the most aggressive jurisdictions in the nation, has ordered the companies to pay $484,000 in tourist-development taxes, interest and penalties for taxes owed between July 2009 to June 30, 2010. Travelocity.com and Priceline.com counter-sued earlier this month, saying Broward acted unconstitutionally.
FRANCONIA, N.H. – Eight years after tumbling from his mountain perch, a grand plan to build a legacy to New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain is taking shape.
The first phase of a memorial to the jagged granite profile that graces state license plates and road signs has been completed. But timing of the future phases is uncertain because donations have fallen far short of what’s needed to finish the memorial.
For now, when viewed from the right angle, visitors to Franconia Notch State Park, located in the White Mountain National Forest, can “see” the Old Man’s profile, in a sense.
Seven steel rods driven into a granite base hang over Profile Lake and point toward the cliff. Each has a series of irregular shapes on the side. When visitors position themselves correctly with the shapes, they can view an outline of the profile of a face in the same place where the Old Man existed for thousands of years, more than 1,000 feet above the lake.
Below the Profilers, in a plaza, workers are installing granite paving stones with donors’ names and messages.
“Fallen Rock Star,” “Miss You, Old Man,” “Live, Love and Celebrate Life,” and “Be Easy, Be Cool,” are some of the notes to the Old Man, who fell 1,200 feet and crumbled to bits on May 3, 2003.
On Sunday, the plaza will be dedicated.
Eventually, five huge standing granite stones will be added to the park, that, when viewed in alignment, form the profile at about half the size of the naturally formed granite outcropping. But that will require much of the $3 million still needed to quarry, carve and transport 20-foot-high stones. A gateway honoring those who worked to preserve the Old Man also is to be built.
A March 2010 visitor analysis by the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University said the memorial could draw an estimated 20,000 more visitors annually, with additional spending by these travelers of $1.7 million. Tourism is one of the state’s biggest industries.
Dick Hamilton of Littleton, who has spent more than 50 years in the state’s travel and tourism industry, is chairman of the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund. His paver says “Good Night Boss,” which he used to say to the Old Man many nights driving home from work.
“It’s been a frustrating process,” Hamilton said of efforts to raise money and see the memorial progress. He blames the economy, which hasn’t been kind to nonprofits.
Despite the delays, people still hold a place in their heart for the Old Man, including those who never saw him in person. A group of fifth-graders in Rye raised money for him by selling pet rocks, complete with pipe cleaners and googly eyes. A Nashville musician originally from New Hampshire wrote a song to him. And a woman in Tulsa, Okla., who also grew up in the Granite State has transformed the oak tree in her front yard, felled by an ice storm, into a wooden sculpture of the Old Man, with “Live Free or Die,” the state motto.
“It’s a very warm, happy childhood memory,” Nanette Dye recalls of the Old Man. She and her seven siblings would stop and visit him on the way north to see family in Quebec. The first one who saw him “got to pick where we ate.”
Hamilton is hopeful, too. He pointed out that during Memorial Day weekend, about 200 people visited each day, including a class of middle-school students from Japan who were touring New England.
“They wanted to come see what Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about,” Hamilton said. Among his works was The Great Stone Face,” an essay published in 1850.
For Sunday’s plaza dedication, schoolchildren will sing a song to the Old Man first performed at the original dedication of the Franconia Notch State Park in 1928.
The ceremony will coincide with the “Watch Over Us” ride kicking off the 88th annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, one of several big motorcycle rallies across the country. Many law enforcement officers and veterans are expected to ride into the park, which was originally dedicated to volunteers.
WATERFORD, N.Y. – A Confederate flag with links to President Abraham Lincoln and the first Union officer killed in the Civil War will be the centerpiece of an exhibit featuring New York’s large collection of banners from the conflict, state officials said Thursday.
The 14-foot-by-24-foot flag Col. Elmer Ellsworth was carrying after removing it from the roof of the Marshall House in Alexandria, Va. on May 24, 1861, will be part of an eight-flag exhibit opening July 12 in the “War Room” on the second floor of the state Capitol. It’s believed to be the first time the banner will be on public display since the war, according to Christopher Morton, assistant curator at the New York State Military Museum.
Ellsworth, the 24-year-old leader of a New York infantry regiment, was shot and killed by innkeeper James Jackson. Ellsworth had just descended from the roof of Jackson’s hotel where the staunch secessionist had been flying the flag since shortly after the war broke out in April 1861. A Union soldier fatally shot Jackson after the innkeeper fired a shotgun into Ellsworth’s chest.
With the war’s first major battles still weeks away, Ellsworth became the North’s “first martyr,” while Jackson received equal billing in the South.
Adding to the notoriety of Ellsworth’s death — and the Marshall House flag — was his status as a close friend of Lincoln and his family. The young officer had spent time playing with the president’s young sons at the White House, where Lincoln, using a spyglass, could see the large Confederate flag flying in neighboring Virginia, which had seceded from the Union on May 23. A day later, Lincoln ordered Union troops to cross the Potomac River and occupy Alexandria.
Ellsworth and a small detachment headed to the Marshall House, where he was shot on a stairway inside the inn while holding the bundled-up flag.
“It has an appeal to both the North and the South,” Morton said of the banner, which has large swaths missing thanks to souvenir hunters who cut out pieces in the aftermath of Ellsworth’s death. “I can’t say it’s the most important flag for the whole war, but it’s certainly up there.”
The Capitol exhibit, “1861: Banners for Glory,” features seven other flags unfurled that year. It runs through June 2012, the first of five such exhibits commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war.
State textile conservators have been working on the banners in the exhibit as part of New York’s decade-long effort to conserve its collection of 2,000 battle flags dating back to the War of 1812. About 900 are from the Civil War. Most are from New York units, although a handful of Confederate flags are among the collection.
Many of the flags are ripped and holed from bullets and shrapnel. A few still show blood stains, a vivid reminder of the terrible toll color bearers suffered on the 19th-century’s smoke-obscured battlefields, where flags were used to mark a regiment’s position and serve as a rallying point.
Sarah Stevens, one of the state experts who works on the flag collection, said she tries to push aside thoughts of the men who held the historic flags she’s conserving, but the condition of many of the 150-year-old relics doesn’t make it easy.
The Marshall House flag is “stained with blood” believed to be Ellsworth’s, Stevens said. The banner is an example of an early Confederate flag known as the “Stars and Bars,” a forerunner to the better-known rebel battle flag typically used by Southern armies later in the war.
Stevens, associate conservator at the state’s Peebles Island Resource Center in Waterford, works in the climate-controlled warren of spacious rooms in a converted textile mill on an island where the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers meet north of Albany. Owing to the fragile conditions of the Civil War banners, the painstaking preservation process and last year’s state budget cuts, they’ve conserved only about 500 flags.
The cost of the Capitol exhibit was covered by a $30,000 grant from the Coby Foundation, a New York City organization that funds projects in the textile and needle arts field. Another $13,000 in private donations from historic groups and individuals paid for the banners’ preservation, according to the state parks department, which operates the Peebles Island facility, the headquarters of the state Bureau of Historic Sites.
New York’s collection of Civil War battle flags is the largest in the nation, Morton said.
“It not just the quantity … it’s the quality, the historic significance, the relevance that makes the New York state collection the most grand in the nation,” he said.
New York began collecting flags from its state regiments while the war still raged. The first ones arrived in Albany in 1863, and an official flag presentation ceremony was held two years later on July 4, nearly three months after the conflict ended.
By then, the Marshall House flag was already in the hands of New York state, Morton said. Like hundreds of others, it remained furled around a staff and displayed in tall wood-and-glass cases in the Capitol, where more than a century’s exposure to humidity and light caused further deterioration of the banners.
Some of the flags remain in the Capitol displays, awaiting their turn at the conservators. Others are stored at Peebles Island or the military museum in Saratoga Springs, 30 miles north of Albany. Morton said the state hopes to someday have the entire collection under the same roof.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah – Zion National Park has launched a weekly, drop-in volunteer program to allow the public to help improve the park.
Officials say the new Friday-only program is open to both visitors and residents of park-area communities from June to November.
Volunteers should meet at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center shuttle stop at 9 a.m., and expect to work about three hours.
No special skills or knowledge is required. Projects will include litter removal, trail maintenance, invasive weed management and other activities to enhance the park’s appearance, resource management and visitor experience.
Pre-registration is only required for groups of 10 or more. Those under 18 should be accompanied by an adult.
Park officials recommend participants bring water and sunscreen, wear sturdy shoes and hats. Gloves and tools will be supplied.
This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the airline industry.
- A passenger on a United overnighter from D.C. to Ghana slapped the head of the man in front of him for reclining his seat. This, in turn, led to some unpleasant words, intervention by another passenger and a cabin crew member, a decision by the pilot to turn the plane around, the scrambling of two Air Force jets in case this was a terrorist incident, no arrests, and tons of comments on websites over what is proper etiquette among the common folk in economy.
- Delta check-in personnel, following the rules straight down a path to an extraordinary public-relations disaster, charged 14 Army reservists returning from deployment in Afghanistan $200 each for having excess baggage. Once the media got ahold of the story, Delta backed up quicker than a United seat, and relaxed its rules for the military. Other airlines followed suit. Post continues after video.
- The Transportation Department reported that nearly 25% of domestic flights were late arriving at their destinations in April. Horrendous storms throughout the Midwest and South were blamed. However, 21% of flights were late in March, when the weather was less offensive.
That pretty well sums up U.S. air travel these days: cramped seating, onerous and often unexpected fees, shoddy service.
The passengers must be in open rebellion, right? Not quite. Customer satisfaction is actually on the rise, up 1 percentage point, to 68.3%, in the past year, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.
Satisfaction levels for the top “low-cost” airlines — JetBlue and Southwest — were well above that, at 77.3% and 76.9%, respectively. Alaska, at 68%, led what J.P. Power called the “traditional network” airlines.
How can that be? Just the fact that there has been no confirmed sighting of an airline attendant smiling since 2009 should drop the rating below 50%.
Sarcasm aside, air travel remains a pretty good product that is doing just as well as most industries in these troubled times (you must have noticed downsized packaging and cheaper ingredients in your grocery products).
Let’s stick with the basics. Airlines get you to your destination safely, quickly and cheaply.
- It has been nearly 10 years since a large U.S. carrier crashed with loss of life; an American Airlines flight bound for the Dominican Republic crashed shortly after takeoff from New York’s JFK Airport on Nov. 12, 2001, with all 260 aboard killed. Since then, commuter jets have crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., and Lexington, Ky., with 49 dying in each incident. Your odds of landing without dying: 9.2 million to 1. Your odds against dying in an auto accident in any year: 9,000 to 1.
- Flying not only is safe, it is fast. Let’s say you travel a lot between San Diego and Seattle (where, coincidentally, my grandchildren live). The flight takes two hours and 18 minutes. Driving the 1,250 miles takes 21 hours.
- And the financial numbers work out, too. You can book a one-way flight nonstop for two from San Diego to Seattle on Saturday, Aug. 20, for $300 on Alaska. Here’s what driving costs: 43 gallons of gas driving a Mazda 5 at 65 mph — $167. Motel for one night — $98. Two meals for two each day (one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner) — $119. Total — $384.
Even if you add in renting a car, the time spent in airports, putting up with uncomfortable seats, and the ever growing nickel-and-diming, air travel is a deal.
More on MSN Money:
- New rules to ban hidden airline fees
- Today’s best savings rates
- When will travelers stop flying?
- Quiz: Estimate your credit score
- 7 steps to cheaper airfares
- Calculator: How much will my savings be worth?
Here are some of the more interesting deals, websites and other travel tidbits that came across our desk recently:
Affinia Hotels’ Affinia Gardens, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, offers private garden terrace suites that include 600 square feet of private outdoor space along with indoor space of more than 1,000 square feet, starting at $309 a night. 866-246-2203;tinyurl.com/6dvhdvv
If you can wait till September to travel, Air France Holidays’ Presenting London package will give you round-trip air and six nights’ lodging starting at $999 per person, double occupancy, from New York or $1,140 from Chicago. Taxes and fees of about $275 per person are extra, but that’s still a good price. tinyurl.com/3sa5b4h
Gap Adventures is knocking off 15 percent from selected departures for its Borneo trips, which brings an eight-day adventure down to as little as $1,105 per person. 888-800-4100; tinyurl.com/62x7z94
Cicerone offers walking tours of Old Quebec City led by historic re-enactors. 418-977-8977; cicerone.ca/indexEng.html
If you book by June 30, you can save up to $1,000 per couple on holiday river cruises in Europe from Uniworld, including some featuring Christmas markets. tinyurl.com/3e47qtr
The Turkey Hill Experience is a new attraction in the popular Pennsylvania Dutch area of Lancaster County, Pa., that includes interactive exhibits highlighting the ice-cream-making process. turkeyhillexperience.com
The Montana Folk Festival will be held July 8-10 in Butte. 406-497-6464; montanafolkfestival.com
Doo Dah Days, the Stephen Foster Music and River Heritage Festival, will be July 9 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. 412-235-1950; doodahdays.com
Find listings of interesting tours in Los Angeles at 7DaysinLA.com.
Deals and websites listed here have been checked for availability as of press time, but the listings are not an endorsement.
Sail along the fjords of Musandam in a traditional dhow, go dolphin spotting and birdwatching, explore pristine beaches, go swimming and meet the locals on a full-day cruise to Oman. Activities include fishing and snorkelling. The offer is valid until July 15 and costs from Dh250 per person, inclusive of all transport from Abu Dhabi or Dubai, lunch, beverages and snacks, snorkelling equipment and fishing gear. Remember to carry your passport. Visit www.x-ventures.ae for more information or call 055 540 4500.
Spend a weekend shopping in Kuala Lumpur with Cox Kings’s four-day shopping-cum-explorer holiday. The trip includes a tour of KL – Petronas towers, the king’s palace, the National Museum and National Mosque – and includes a free day for shopping and trying out the local cuisine. From Dh638 per person, land-only, including accommodation, breakfast, airport transfers, all sightseeing mentioned in the itinerary and the services of an English-speaking tour leader. Visit www.coxandkings.ae or call 04 357 2628 to book.
An old, remodelled farmhouse, complete with an organic vegetable and fruit garden, is the base for this cooking and Pilates holiday in southern Piedmonte, Italy. The flexible itinerary allows guests to choose to take one or both activities on a daily basis or even skip a session: choose classical or mat-based Pilates or take a cooking class, limited to eight students, under an experienced chef and the owner. Visitors who book the holiday and travel before September 1 get a discount of 30 per cent and pay only €700 (Dh3,760) for a four-day trip, land-only, based on two sharing, including accommodation in luxurious rooms, most meals and beverages, two cooking sessions, up to five Pilates sessions and visits to local markets and a cantina in Alba, transfer, a box of recipes to take home and an embroidered apron. Add truffle hunting to your itinerary for an additional €35 (Dh188). Book through www.responsibletravel.com.
Enjoy a short break in Sainte Foy in the Tarentaise valley with Première Neige’s “summer alpine reviver” package: hike in the hills, enjoy early-morning Pilates sessions, go cycling along wooded mountain trails, shop in the local markets and enjoy a picnic lunch beside a lake on the outskirts of the pretty village of Le Monal. The three-day weekend offer costs £399 (Dh2,143) per person, full board, and includes three nights’ luxury accommodation at the Peak, a boutique chalet, one 30-minute massage, airport transfers and local mini-bus transport. International airfare is not included. Departure on June 23. Visit www.premiere-neige.com for more information.
Book a two-night stay in a garden pool villa at Banyan Tree Mayakoba on Mexico’s Riviera Maya and enjoy breakfast and a 35 per cent discount. Guests staying three nights or more receive one 90-minute spa session (60 minutes body massage and 30 minutes calm time) at Banyan Tree Spa. Prices start from US$505 (Dh1,855) per night, including taxes. The offer is valid until July 31. Call 00 52 984 877 3688 or visit www.banyantree.com.
Explore the cities, temples and palaces of Rajasthan in northern India before going off the beaten track to experience rural life in the villages beyond. Village India: Land of the Maharajas is a 15-day tour that takes in all the major destinations around Rajasthan. The tour begins in New Delhi and goes on to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, with visits to the historic cities of Ramathra and Jaipur, Bundi and Jhalawar. The trip ends in Udaipur. From £1,490 (Dh8,953) per person, including all accommodation, most meals, government passes and permits, entrance fees and all transport and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary. The trip departs August 7. For more details, visit www.wildfrontiers.co.uk.
Share this article:
Back to the top
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The plane that made a miraculous landing on the Hudson River two years ago is finally due to arrive Friday at its intended destination of Charlotte, where it will be displayed in a museum. Public interest in the jet’s journey this week on a flatbed truck has surprised and touched the hero US Airways pilot who guided it to a safe splashdown.
“When I see images of people in their lawns chair waiting for their airplane to roll by on the freeway overpass with a camera to get a glimpse of it is surprising and wonderful,” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III said in an interview.
Thousands of people in several states have lined up along the road to glimpse the 120-foot-long fuselage on its 600-mile drive from Newark, N.J., where it spent the last two years in a hangar. The wings from the damaged Airbus A320 were removed and shipped earlier to the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
US Airways Flight 1549 was bound for Charlotte when a flock of geese disabled the engines on Jan. 15, 2009. Sullenberger safely glided into a water landing on the Hudson in New York City. All 155 passengers and crew members were rescued.
Sullenberger said the landing still resonates with people.
“It gives them hope. It came at a time during the financial worldwide meltdown and people were quite frankly beginning to question basic goodness of human nature and this kind of reaffirmed our belief in the potential of good that exists in all of us,” he said.
A day after the plane’s scheduled arrival at the museum, Sullenberger will speak at a fundraiser for the exhibit. It will be the first time the passengers and crew will be together with the plane since the accident.
“It will feel like a wonderful reunion,” he said. “I think we’ll feel that connection again.”
His speech will include a discussion of the bond that the passengers and crew share.
“We’ll always be joined because of the special bond, and I’m glad the airplane is in Charlotte because that was the destination of the flight,” he said. “We made it to Charlotte and the airplane has now also.”
The museum is raising money toward an exhibit that could cost $2.4 million, said director Shawn Dorsch. Officials say they had collected enough to transport the plane to Charlotte, where Arizona-based US Airways also has a hub.
Sullenberger said the splashdown inspired those involved to make changes. He has fought for better flight safety and improved working conditions for pilots.
“For many it’s become an impetus for change, a catalyst for living a more authentic fuller life. For me, it’s given me the ability to be an advocate of important things,” he said.
Sullenberger was recently named an aviation and safety expert for CBS News.
“This is a completely different life,” he said. “I was completely anonymous. I had never done any public speaking before in my entire life. Now it’s my main job.”
RININAHUE, Chile – Steaming rivers filled with hot ash, rocks, and rain threatened to overflow their banks in southern Chile on Friday and ash clouds from a volcano that began erupting nearly a week ago kept major airports closed across much of the southern part of the continent.
In towns bordering the Cordon Caulle volcano, authorities warned that rivers were about to flood due to the large amounts of ash and volcanic rock that have fallen in them and heavy rains that have doused the area of southern Chile.
About 3,500 residents had been evacuated, and 500 of them were still in shelters Friday. Authorities were seeking legal permission Friday to evacuate a dozen more who refused to leave their property and animals behind.
The flow of the Nilahue and GolGol rivers near the volcano had increased from 1,000 cubic feet (30 cubic meters) per second to 5,600 cubic feet (160 cubic meters) per second, Chilean Public Works Minister Hernan de Solminihac said on state television Friday.
“It’s important that people leave their homes for their own security, because the volcano has not ceased to erupt,” he said.
Tons of hot volcanic material had raised the temperature of the River Nilahue to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), killing off large numbers of salmon, Solminihac said. The average air temperature this time of year in the region is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
Residents of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, and the neighboring Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, awakened Friday to ash-covered streets, sidewalks and automobiles.
And those who tried to leave, found airports remained closed because of the clouds of fine grit that can damage airplane engines.
An emergency committee from several Argentine government agencies announced Friday that air traffic should be resumed in Buenos Aires by Friday evening if the cloud moves away as expected.
Airports in Brazil and Chile also canceled numerous flights as a precaution.
The volcano, which began erupting last Saturday, has also affected a dozen nearby Chilean farming towns, as well as winter resorts in southern Argentina’s Patagonia region, including San Carlos Bariloche, Villa La Angostura, San Martin de los Andes and Esquel.
The Southern Hemisphere’s winter begins on June 21, and resort operators are concerned that a prolonged eruption could keep away tourists.
In San Carlos de Bariloche, more than 65 percent of the nearly 4.5 billion pesos ($1 billion) collected by businesses in the town last year came in the three winter months, according to government statistics. About 250,000 tourists arrive each year in the city, which is more than 1,000 miles (1,650 kilometers) southwest of Buenos Aires.
Workers in the resort city filled 600 dump trucks Thursday with the ash that had fallen on the airport’s main runway. Officials have said that the airport would be closed at least until June 21.
Associated Press writers Federico Quilodran in Santiago, Chile; Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil; and Raul Garces in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report.
BEAUFORT, N.C. – The largest exhibit ever of artifacts from what’s believed to be the remains of Blackbeard’s flagship is opening at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, with bells, cannon, lead shot and part of the hull among the items on display.
There won’t, however, be any pirate treasure, says David Moore, the museum’s nautical archaeologist. That’s because the Queen Anne’s Revenge didn’t wreck, but ran aground, giving the crew time to remove most of the valuables.
“We weren’t expecting to find a chest filled with silver, gold and jewelry,” Moore said in a phone interview with The Associated Press as he readied for the exhibit, which opens Saturday at the museum in Beaufort. Instead, the treasures are weaponry and whatever high-dollar equipment the pirates couldn’t take with them.
About 300 items from shipwreck in about 20 feet of water off North Carolina’s coast will be displayed at the U-shaped exhibit, which begins with an introduction to the QAR project and to Blackbeard himself. Most of the artifacts have never been displayed for the public, Moore said.
The first large anchor recovered a couple of weeks ago from the shipwreck won’t be displayed either. It will spend about five years in conservation before it’s on public view.
“His history is better than fiction,” says pirate enthusiast Pat Croce, who once owned part of the Philadelphia 76ers. The exhibit will be popular because Blackbeard “is the most outlandish pirate on the planet” even though he probably only ruled the seas for a few years.
He wore guns across his chest, a cutlass in his belt and a dagger in his boot. And then there was that beard, which covered much of his face. He would tie slow-burning matches or hemp to the ends and under his hat, making smoke billow around his face.
“He used psychological warfare,” says Croce, who owns the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum in Florida and who wrote an illustrated children’s book about Blackbeard. “He was learned, he read. He understood how people feared pirates.”
Pirates from the Queen Anne’s Revenge who were tried later in South Carolina testified that they believed Blackbeard ran the ship aground on purpose because he had too many crew members — a piracy form of forced layoffs, Moore said. At that point, he had 300 to 400 pirates on the four ships under his command and realized the Queen Anne’s Revenge wouldn’t work in and around North Carolina waters where he planned to base his operations near Ocracoke because the waters were too shallow for such a big ship.
“He took off with the smallest sloop and, along with 40 handpicked crew members, took everything of value with him,” Moore said.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge began its life as a French slave ship that Blackbeard captured renamed. Blackbeard, whose real name was widely believed to be Edward Teach or Thatch, received a governor’s pardon. Although some reports say he settled in Bath, Moore believes Blackbeard built or bought a house, but stayed mostly in the Ocracoke area.
Despite his pardon from Gov. Charles Eden, Blackbeard ended up being killed and beheaded after Virginia Gov. Spotswood sent volunteers with the Royal Navy after him in November 1718. As a trophy, they took Blackbeard’s head, which hung on a pole at the entrance to Hampton Harbor.
The exhibit has been in the works for more than a year, well before the state planned in mid-April to recover the first large anchor from the shipwreck and before Disney released the fourth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which includes turns by both Blackbeard and his flagship, Moore said.
There’s no admission for the exhibit, and no date for it to close because the museum plans to keep it on permanent display. The museum averages about 200,000 visitors a year, and Moore expects the exhibit to increase those numbers.
“This is a living, breathing entity,” he said. “This is basically what you could call a baseline of material and artifacts that will continue to develop and grow as more and more material comes out of the conservation lab. … It’s not like people will come back in six months and see exactly the same thing. There will always be material added to this.”