Apparently China's 10-day, 62-mile-long traffic jam between Beijing and Inner Mongolia is over. The heavily trafficked highway grew even more crowded than normal starting on August 14 because of several major road construction projects. Then, at a certain point, everything came to a complete halt. Drivers?including hundreds of coal-carrying commercial truckers—lounged around the side of the road, killing time and looking for bathrooms. Locals seized upon the opportunity to sell food and water to the stranded travelers at 10 times the normal price. (Who says capitalism can't succeed in China!) Raw video from the Associated Press (above) shows the scene just before the jam freed up today.
Take note, travelers: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to cheap out and take the free road. By all accounts the toll road that parallels the stalled highway was moving along rather nicely all week. This can be helpful advice to remember whether you're driving near Beijing during the Mongolian coal harvest or tooling through France at the end of August when everyone returns to work from vacation.
Sounds like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken a big step to keep us safer from terrorists in the sky. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that 100 percent of passengers on domestic and international flights by U.S. airlines are now being matched against government watchlists through the Secure Flight program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Previously, individual airlines were responsible for matching passenger names against terrorist watchlists.
That’s all well and good. But here’s a remaining security gap:
CNN News | The majestic views overlooking the Grand Canyon make it one of America's favorite destinations, but a new report finds several man-made threats are contributing to the deterioration of Grand Canyon National Park.
Scientists and park staff working on the "State of the Parks" Grand Canyon report highlight areas and resources in the park that are threatened, the history of those threats and what can be done to correct them.
What they found is a national park that continues to decline from factors ranging from climate change to mining to aircraft flyovers as well as management of the Colorado River upstream from the canyon.
Wall Street Journal | Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.
California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.
About 35 deals now are in the pipeline in the U.S., according to research by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Global Banking & Markets. Those assets have a market value of about $45 billion—more than ten times the $4 billion or so two years ago, estimates Dana Levenson, head of infrastructure banking at RBS. Hundreds more deals are being considered, analysts say.
USA Today | You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.
Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.
Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.
USA Today | Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.
Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them—Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska—reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.
That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.
eTurbo News | Perpignan, near the Spanish border, has become the latest city to issue fines to people who refuse to cover up after being approached by the police. The move comes after Cavaillon in Provence brought in a similar law this year, the Independent reports.
The fines, which have been in place in Cannes and St. Tropez for many years, can reach up to £31 ($39 USD).
The laws were brought in by councils in inland cities after locals complained over the rising number of visitors parading around the streets in little more than shorts or skimpy swimwear.
Delta aims to reach travelers with Facebook-happy trigger fingers when it comes to travel booking. The application was built to keep the user on Delta’s Facebook Page for the duration of the booking process, as well as give them the opportunity to share their booked flight with friends.
How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.
The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai (previously the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower) is reopening on August 15, in celebration of India’s Independence Day, after extensive restorations on the waterfront 1903 flagship property’s Palace Wing.
The 107-year-old heritage wing of the hotel was badly damaged when terrorists stormed the hotel, taking hostages, and burning rooms in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which also affected the Oberoi hotel (the hotel reopened in April). Mumbai, it appears, is starting a new chapter.