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Denver Debuts Nation's First City Bike-Share Program

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The last time I visited Denver I fell in love with Little Man Ice Cream (or, rather, its banana chocolate chip frozen custard, with a dollop of hot fudge). Now that the city is offering up 500 red Trek cycles in its bike-sharing program, I’ll pedal there myself, and order up a double scoop to celebrate the calories I’ve burned.

Riding on the heels (or wheels?) of similar initiatives in Montreal and Mexico City, Denver B-Cycle is the nation’s first citywide bike-share, and incredibly cheap (it was sponsored by various big-money partners, including Kaiser Permanente). Purchase a 24-hour membership for $5 with your credit card at any of 40 ubiquitous B-cycle stations (above, see map here), and soon enough you’ll be free-wheelin’ it throughout the Mile High City. Legs getting sore? Just return your bike to its hub (stations are everywhere from the Denver Art Museum to the Highlands, the nabe Little Man Ice Cream calls home).

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Spirit Air Announces "No Recline" Seats

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I just flew in from Ft. Lauderdale to New York, and, boy, am I tired! No, seriously though, I am. Because Spirit Airways has decided to change out their old seats for a new “lightweight, leather” model that doesn’t recline at all, I didn’t doze one bit on my 7 a.m. jaunt up the coast.

Just last week, Spirit released an absurd statement (one rivaled in ridiculous spin only by the airline’s own proud announcement in March that it would begin charging for carry-ons) that touted its new paralyzed seatbacks as a positive development for passengers. The claim:

1. The seats offer comfort throughout the entire flight, since you don’t need to put them in their full upright position during take-off and landing (right, because the lean-forward, lean-back thing is such an exhausting part of travel).

2. Customers appreciate that “there is no longer interference from the seat in front of you moving up and down throughout the flight.”

Yes, the inconsiderate gent in 14B sprawling back just as you dig into your chicken-flavored Cup-O’-Noodles is annoying. But not being able to recline at all? That’s plain infuriating. And, on any flight over two hours, as I can attest, terribly uncomfortable.

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FAA Opening Commercial Spaceflight Center

Network World |  The Federal Aviation Administration this week took a step closer to setting up a central hub for the development of key commercial space transportation technologies such as space launch and traffic management applications and setting orbital safety standards.

The hub, known as the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation would have a $1 million yearly budget and tie together universities, industry players and the government for cost-sharing research and development. The FAA expects the center to be up and running this year.

The new center would be an offshoot of other FAA Centers for Excellence that through myriad partnerships develop and set all manner of aviation standards from aircraft noise and emissions to airport systems. According to the FAA the center's purpose is to create a world-class consortium that will identify solutions for existing and anticipated commercial space transportation problems.

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La Dolce Vita: Gelato Tours in Rome

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Come June, author, blogger, and all-around sweet tooth David Lebovitz is heading to Rome to hunt down the best gelato in town—if not the world. For anyone interested in joining him, the author of the ice cream bible The Perfect Scoop will lead an Out of Context three-hour guided tour to the eternal city’s best gelato and granita ($86/person).

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Is the Best Restaurant in the World Closing?

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Yes, it’s true. For those of you who haven’t heard, El Bulli—chef and molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria’s inimitable restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava, considered by many to be the finest in the world—is closing. This summer season, which begins on June 15th, will be its second-to-last.

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As a restaurante, that is. Despite rumors that the place was gone for good, a press release has confirmed that El Bulli will indeed close in 2012—but reopen in 2014 as a culinary foundation. The not-for-profit institute will serve as a “think tank for creativity in gastronomy,” offering 20 to 25 yearlong fellowships for chefs to experiment in Adria’s famous taller, and compiling an exhaustive encyclopedia on contemporary cooking.

Adria, meanwhile, will try out his talents on a different dining public: the students Harvard University. He has signed on to teach a fall 2010 undergraduate course in culinary physics.

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Amtrak Redefines the Cattle Car

okdot.jpgOn its daily four-hour trip across a swath of southwest oil country Tuesday, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer was blazing a new trail of sorts: one fueled by biodiesel.  The run marks the Earth Week inauguration of a 12-month test of alternative fuels along the 206-mile route.  

The fuel, a blend of 80% diesel and 20% beef by–product (if the train industry is shunning Texas oilmen, at least they’re tossing a shank bone to region’s cattle industry), performed well in lab test.  Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by 10%, particulates by 15%, and sulfates by 20%, so hopes are high for the track test. 

And, no, the fuel does not smell like burgers.

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Argentina's "Abuelas" Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

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Argentina’s Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, the civil rights group that fights to track down and identify children who were “disappeared” during the country’s military dictatorships, have been nominated for a 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Abuelas (Grandmothers) originally formed as an offshoot of the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo—mothers who, dressed in matching white kerchiefs and toting posters of missing people, staged sobering daily protest marches in Buenos Aires’ main square for over three decades. But whereas the latter group seeks justice for the sons and daughters kidnapped during the military dictatorships, the Abuelas focus on what happened to the offspring—born and unborn—of those desaparecidos. From the mid-1970s and through the early ‘80s, approximately 500 Argentine children were abducted (along with their parents) and raised by military families or by other government sympathizers. In their 30-year history, the Abuelas have managed to recover 47 of these niños robados.

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Europe Flights Take Off, But What About the Backlog?

The first flights to take off in a week may have left London's Heathrow Airport yesterday and many of Europe's airports may once again be open, but there are still thousands of people stranded around the world, unable to fly due to ash from Iceland's recent volcanic explosion.

If you're not one of the lucky fliers who happened to be flying Emirates Air (the airline went above and beyond and is paying for hotel stays and three meals a day for some 6,000 passengers stuck in Dubai!), chances are you're ready for this ordeal to be O-V-E-R. Now, the question us who gets dibs on some of the first flights out?  For details on who goes to the front of the check-in line, check out CNN's excellent Q&A today:


How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific says it is giving priority to unaccompanied minors and students heading back to the UK to sit exams. Singapore Airlines is fast tracking those with "special needs," the elderly and those with infants or young children. Rochelle Turner, head of vacation research for consumer watchdog Which?, says any prioritizing is at the discretion of individual flight operators. "The elderly, the sick, frequent flyers—it's entirely up to the airline who goes first."

Do I need to do anything if I have a ticket on a scheduled flight?
All airlines are advising customers to double check whether flights are going ahead before heading to airports. British Airways is even urging customers with tickets on scheduled departures to consider delaying their travel plans to free up space on planes to allow delayed passengers to travel. In most cases, passengers who hold tickets for a flight due to take off as scheduled should be fine. Says Turner, it is still advisable to call the airline to confirm or check-in online.

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Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.

New Disney Ship’s (Michelin) Star Power

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Disney and Michelin-starred French restaurants may seem like an odd pairing, but when the new cruise ship Disney Dream debuts early next year, one onboard restaurant will have an impressive French accent. So much so that Disney Cruise Line decided to announce the restaurant, Remy, in New York, at a press dinner at Michelin three-star Le Bernardin.

The restaurant’s name is of course a nod to the diminutive star of Disney Pixar’s animated film Rataouille. But kids are not the focus here. Rather, Remy is adults-only with a cover charge (likely to top $75 per person).

Based on a sample menu served to journalists at Le Bernardin, it will be well worth the price—impressive dishes liked smoked bison with fennel salad and Honeywell oranges and market fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. Remy may just become the ship’s must-do attraction (well, along with the 4,000-passenger Dream’s AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea).

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Clear Skies Over Europe? Not Yet

It’s no secret ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that 10 times fast) has choked the skies over Europe since erputing on Apr. 14, grounding hundreds of thousands of flights; stranding passengers on both sides of the Atlantic; ruining (and extending) vacations; and serving as a healthy reminder of the indomitable power of Mother Nature. Here’s where things stand today:

- Iceland’s volcano spewed more ash into the sky Tuesday, continuing restrictions over UK air space and concerns that the cloud could choke jet engines.

- There is still no confirmed safe limit of ash through which an airplane can fly.

- Flights are restricted to those flying above 20,000 feet—above the ash belt.

- Half of the scheduled air traffic in Europe, or 14,000 flights, are said to be operational today.

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