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Department of Justice Fights to Block American-US Airways Merger

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The Department of Justice, joined by six states and Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust suit this morning in efforts to halt the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The lawsuit comes as a shock to many in the industry, given that airline analysts had not foreseen major complications to the merger when it was announced in February. The T+L Trip Doctor team reported then that the formation of the world’s largest airline would inherently decrease competition and increase ticket prices, specifically to destinations such as Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia. Experts also predicted possible cuts in service to Phoenix, although aviation analysts did not foresee any major objections. This belief was cemented when the merger gained approval from European regulators just last week.

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"Hyperloop" Revealed: Creator Elon Musk Shares Details of His Ultra High-Speed Transportation

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The much-awaited news is in: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has unveiled details about his supersonic “Hyperloop,” which promises to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in thirty minutes flat.
 
For weeks, speculators have tried to crack the code on how Musk’s ultra-high speed network could work, and skeptics have been quick to point out that travelling at roughly 800 miles per hour would nothing short of stomach-churning, if it’s even safe at all. At long last, the answers have arrived:

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Sinkhole Near Disney World Swallows Section of Resort

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It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

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Gripe Much? New Website Reveals Just How Much People Hate U.S. Customs

You know you have a broken entry process when there’s an entire website devoted to complaining about the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) system—and that’s exactly what the U.S. Travel Association launched this month in an effort to voice the concerns of our unhappy visitors.

Included on the travelersvoice.org are spotlights from dozens of travelers—foreign and domestic—whose concerns range from long lines to missed connections. The most common gripes? Customs queues are understaffed, with too many checkout lanes closed during peak periods, and with no automated technology to ease the process, our methods appear utterly outdated.

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The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 9, 2013

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Don’t you hate it when this happens? An American man accidentally snapped a finger off a 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary at a museum in Florence. Oh yeah, and he’s a surgeon. [Daily Mail] (Amy Farley)

A new skyscraper in Spain's resort town Benidorm is almost finished, except they forgot to build an elevator…Jamie Condliffe from Gimodo shares the bizarre story. (Peter Schlesinger)

"Bucharest not Budapest" is the Romanian capital's new tourism campaign, highlighting that the city, dubbed the Paris of the East, should not be compared to similarly-named Hungarian capital. Feargus O'Sullivan from The Atlantic Cities reports. (P.S.)

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Cruise News: A Female Captain for Silversea!

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This week Silversea Cruises announced that for the first time in its 20-year history, one of their ships will have a female captain. Swiss-citizen Margrith Ettlin will be taking the helm of 132-guest Silver Explorer expedition ship.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of our planet, and its countless different cultures,” Ettlin says. “I thought that spending a life at sea would be the perfect way to explore the world.” Her first stops as captain? The worlds tough-to-navigate, ice floe-filled polar regions.

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Tech Thursday: The Future of Hotel Check-In

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How many people does it take to run a hotel’s front desk? Soon enough, the answer will be zero. Just last month, Marriott Hotels debuted a new app that lets guests check in from their smart phone starting at 4PM the day before their arrival. As it stands, these guests still need the help of a front desk clerk—if only to pick up their room key.

But Marriott isn’t alone. InterContinental Hotels Group (which owns the flagship InterContinental brand as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn) has recently debuted a similar technology, letting guests at select properties check in via a mobile app. With theirs, a machine in the lobby can dispense your room key upon arrival, so long as you can supply some basic identifying information. (Can you hear the collective weeping of receptionists around the globe?) We’re also hearing rumblings that some clever hoteliers are attempting to take mobile check-in to a whole new level—perhaps even eliminating the need for a room key overall.

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The Newest U.S. Thrill Sport? The Running of the Bulls Comes to America

Everyone's heard of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, (see video) a tradition made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises. I've run with the bulls too—not in Pamplona, but in Tecate, Mexico, in 1980, in a makeshift recreation of the Pamplona encierro. What a disaster. The bulls were small yearlings, far too young for such an event. It looked to me as if the tips of their horns had been purposely blunted. The runners were mainly drunk and rowdy college kids who yanked the animals' tails, knocked their legs out from under them, and piled on top of them as if it were a rugby scrum. And now, a group calling itself the Great Bull Run is bringing this extreme activity to a city near you. But hold the olés just yet.

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Grace Hotels Acquires Two Top New England Properties

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Grace Hotels has acquired the distinguished Mayflower Hotel & Spa in Washington, Connecticut and one of Maine’s premier properties, the White Barn Inn.

Their new names will be ‘The Mayflower Grace’ and ‘The White Barn Grace.’

The boutique hotel group makes no secret of its plans to expand, opening beach resorts, residences, and city center properties in such diverse locales as Beijing, Santorini, and Cafayete, Argentina. And now, it also has the corner on New England. The Mayflower and White Barn will join the Vanderbilt, in Newport, Rhode Island, giving the Grace family the reins of three of the region’s most prestigious hotels.

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What the Global Travel Alert Means for You

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The global travel alert that the U.S. Department of State issued at the end of last week has been met with a fair amount of criticism and head scratching. It’s vague. It’s frightening. And it’s not very clear what a traveler should do with this information.

The alert, which is valid through August 31, warns U.S. citizens about “the continued potential for terrorism attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” It was prompted, according to news reports, by intercepted communications between al Qaeda operatives—chatter that Senator Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” Though Yemen is obviously a major area of concern right now (the U.S. has not only evacuated the embassy there, but urged all Americans to leave the country), the State Department’s alert is not restricted to any particular region. It even goes so far as to remind travelers of the possibility of attacks on “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure,” including subway, rail, and aviation services. (A threat that is underscored by a recent ABC News story about terrorists working to develop an as-yet-undetectable explosive liquid.)

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