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"One hell of a show": Beijing opens 2008 Olympic Games with best show on earth

fireworks over National Stadium (known as Bird’s Nest) at opening ceremony rehearsal of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

(quote)

The only people who didn't enjoy the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony of the XXIX Olympic Summer Games had to be the folks with the London Olympic organizing committee. They host the 2012 Summer Games, meaning they have to follow the greatest show on Earth -- and, for my yuan, the greatest show in Opening Ceremony history.

Beijing

If I were the Brits, I'd punt and go with Monty Python reruns. Unless they can top a gold medalist elevating and running on air around the entire circumference of National Stadium to light the torch. "I was very excited," torchbearer Li Ning said. "I could feel the strength rising from the depth of my heart. This was the result of one month's training. That moment means China is standing side by side with the rest of the world."

Olympic opening ceremonies, Beijing, 2008

Seminal as it was, that moment was merely the last gasp-inducing scene in a show full of fireworks, flying and gravity-defying. For four sweaty hours, the Olympics literally levitated in the thick Beijing air. The 14,000 performers staged a tour de force of choreography, technology and can-do-ology for a country intent on using the Games as a springboard to new world prominence.  read more »

Laptops detained? Electronic devices can now be "arrested" at US borders, no suspicion required

laptops entering the country can be ‘detained’ just like people can

(quote)

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

laptops and iPods can be indefinitely confiscated without provocation or justification  read more »

United Airlines opens Red Carpet Club, airport lounges with food, beverages and business-facilities: T-Mobile Wi-Fi HotSpot

complimentary Wi-Fi service to Red Carpet Club members and international United First, international United Business and One-Time Pass customers

(quote)

CHICAGO, June 25 /PR Newswire-First Call/ -- United customers traveling through Chicago O'Hare may receive red carpet treatment this summer with United's first new Red Carpet Club® to open since 2000. The enhanced club that has more than doubled in size and has new furniture and a modern design now offers travelers a more pleasant environment to work or relax.

"Our guests tell us they want to be comfortable and productive when traveling, and United's new Red Carpet Club at O'Hare offers both -- more personal space and additional work areas with complimentary Wi-Fi service," says Graham Atkinson, United Airlines - executive vice president and Chief Customer Officer. "Whether our guests want to relax or finish a presentation, the Red Carpet Club will now give them more ways to get the most out of their travel experience."

Coming soon: A New Red Carpet Club at O'Hare

The new club includes power outlets accessible from nearly every seat and creatively designed work stations, enabling business travelers to be productive in a more casual environment and reflecting the current trend blending leisure and work. Enhanced food and beverage options in the club will include two serving areas, a bar, and two self-service juice and soda stations.

The club is adjacent to gate B18 in O'Hare's Terminal 1, and customers will be conveniently located near many of the international flights operated by United and Star Alliance® partner Lufthansa. The club is available to Red Carpet Club members and customers traveling internationally in United First® and United Business®, and any United customer may purchase a one-time pass for $50. enabling business travelers to be productive in a more casual environment and reflecting the current trend blending leisure and work These customers and members also receive complimentary Wi-Fi service powered by T-Mobile® HotSpot. Press Release Source: United Airlines

(unquote)

Images courtesy of United Airlines

Original Source: Yahoo Finance and United Airlines

With bare essentials, just crumbs to eat, young hikers lost for 6 days in 9,400-square-mile Denali National Park, Alaska, found

Abby Flantz talks to reporters about being lost for six days in Denali National Park and Preserve in Healy, Alaska

(quote)

DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska (AP) — Two young backpackers rationed peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars, growing hungrier as they wandered for six days in the dense vegetation of Denali National Park. Erica Nelson and Abby Flantz were down to their last granola bar Wednesday, the day they were rescued. Trekking through the remote park, they regularly clicked on their cell phone until they finally found reception that led to their rescue. "We got a signal and I said, 'Wow, I have to call my mom,'" Nelson told reporters before heading with her family to Houston, where she plans to serve as maid of honor Saturday in her sister's wedding.

What started as an overnight hike June 12 turned into an intensive search that cost more than $118,000 and sometimes involved 100 people from volunteer groups and state and federal agencies, according to park spokeswoman Kris Fister. Rangers estimate the women logged at least 20 miles before they were picked up by a helicopter crew outside the northeastern side of the 9,400-square-mile park, Fister said.

Abby Flantz, of Gaylord, Minnesota, and Erica Nelson, of Las Vegas, Nevada, headed into the park back country on Thursday

Nelson, 23, of Las Vegas and Flantz, 25, of Gaylord, Minn., had no idea they had trigged a search of that magnitude. They were reported overdue when they failed to show up at work Saturday at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, a hotel outside the park. But after a few days of being lost, they did figure that people might be concerned. "We were gone long enough, we knew there might be searches for us, but we didn't know it would be this big," Flantz said.

The women said they each packed only bare essentials, such as two sandwiches and granola bars, thinking that would be enough for their short trek. They brought a compass and a map but still lost their bearing, mistaking one river for another. They tried to follow the river, but that proved impossible many times, Flantz said. "There were steep hills, so we had to get away from them and there was this high brush we had to push through," she said. "I cried a little bit, but not much."

Abby Flantz reunited with her parents Kathy and Jim Flantz Wednesday afternoon

The days wore on and they rationed their food, but ran out of water and drank river water or melted snow. They ripped up a shirt to bandage scratches and blisters. Hiking exhausted them, but they trudged on when the weather was good, hoping their destination was over the next bend. At night they slept in a tent. Along the way, they saw plenty of bear tracks, steering far from the fresh prints. The only wildlife they saw, however, was a porcupine. The last couple of days it rained, so they mostly stayed in the tent, conserving their waning energy.

Johnny Nelson of Las Vegas hugs his daughters Erica and Alecia Wednesday afternoon at the Denali Park airstrip in Alaska

By Wednesday, the cell phone's battery was weak, but Nelson finally got through to her mother, Ellane, who was listening to park officials give a morning briefing on the search. That was the day Nelson's sister, Alecia, and her future brother-in-law were to decide whether to postpone their wedding. Nelson told her mother she and Flantz were alive and well but gave the wrong location of their whereabouts, so searchers couldn't find them. She called her mother again about 3:30 p.m., and officials told her to hang up and text message instead to save the dying battery. Then they were able to locate the signal several miles north of the 100-square-mile area they had been searching.

The search area, about 180 miles north of Anchorage, is a mix of national park and state-owned lands. It includes dense alder and willow, some black spruce forest, but also miles of tundra. Flantz, who plans to return to work on Saturday, said she's not giving up on outdoor adventures — but next time she'll be better prepared.

missing young women hikers found in Denali National Park

Officials said it was unlikely the women merely decided to extend their camping trip. Nelson was scheduled to fly Sunday night to Houston so she could be maid of honor in her sister's wedding. Nelson said she thought a lot about her sister when she was lost. "The whole time I was just, we got to keep going. I got to make it to her wedding," Nelson told KTUU.

Fister said she believed the wedding was still on.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of AP Photo/Matt Hage and Laurent Dick

Original Source: Associated Press and KATU

Airline industry in crisis - impact of Iraq War: oil prices skyrocket non-stop, surge to record $139/barrel and soon to hit $150

oil prices surge to record level of more than $139 a barrel on Friday

(quote)

Oil prices surged to a record level of more than $139 a barrel last Friday, following analysts’ predictions that the price will soon hit $150 and could go as high as $200.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said he expected several European airlines to go out of business thanks to high oil prices.The industry would restructure into a handful of strong players, he said. O’Leary predicts that just three European “network” airlines - British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM - will survive, and one low-cost airline, Ryanair. Budget rival Easyjet would be bought by one of the big three, he said.

United Airlines to reduce fleet by 100 planes and workforce by 1,600 workers

United Airlines, a unit of UAL symbol, said Wednesday it will close Ted, a low-fare airline within an airline, in 2009 and reconfigure its 56 A320 aircraft with first-class seats. Ted serves leisure destinations from Denver and other United hubs.

 read more »

50 ideas to save energy, save money, and get healthier and fit – all while on vacation

50 ideas to save energy, save money, and get healthier and fit – all while on vacation: from Inn-to-Inn Horseback Riding in Ireland, to New Zealand Multisport Adventure, to Everglades Multiday Kayaking Tour -

(quote)

All told, active travel accounted for an estimated $60 billion in vacation spending in 2007. "It used to be that adventure travel was very physical and risky, like climbing Mount McKinley," says Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and coauthor of Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean, a guide for adventure-hungry boomers.

The choices vary widely in terms of physical demands and comfort. At travel site iExplore.com, for example, trips considered "easy" involve nothing more than normal walking while sightseeing. A "moderate" rating might require three to five hours of physical activity daily. To go on a challenging trip, you must be fit enough to hike or bike for up to seven hours over steep or rugged terrain at elevations that sometimes exceed 10,000 feet. Typically, tour operators tailor activities to suit the group, offering more than one route to a destination, for example, and support vans to transport anybody who needs to take a break. Some offer deluxe lodging and meals to delight foodies; others put up tents at remote campsites and cook over the fire.

You won't fully enjoy even the easiest trips without some physical exertion, so if you haven't already, develop a workout routine well before your departure date. "Otherwise, better to hang out on the beach," warns Stowell.

Here's a sampling of options:  read more »

Travel - "Discovering Old in New Ireland": cottages, sheep, Irish woman suddenly breaking into song

Original Source: New York Times

"Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the western counties of Galway and Clare, and if nothing else, this is what I have gleaned: Ireland can be that place you missed as you traveled around Ireland, looking for Ireland.

Yes, you can find a thatched cottage here and there, if you try. Yes, you may even encounter a white clot of sheep blocking your rented car’s path, raising from musty memory some postcard caption about Irish Rush Hour. But to wander about, looking to bag with a digital camera some approximation of a time-faded Irish postcard, is to miss the complexities of a country that is thoroughly enjoying its wealth and adapting to its European Union membership while at the same time trying to preserve its dreamlike landscape and proud cultural heritage.

You may indeed hear a young Irish woman suddenly break into song in Kinvara. But you may also walk around the corner and be served dinner by a young man with an Eastern European accent instead of a brogue. Travel 10 miles up the road to Gort and you might wade into a celebration of Brazilian culture, staged by a transplanted community that is now an integral part of that old market town.

There you have it: delightful, post-millennial Ireland."

Images courtesy of New York Times

Street signs in Ballyvaughan in the west of Ireland

traditional village of Cong in County Mayo  read more »

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