Hotel CEO Views on Homesharing and 7 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Hotel CEO Views on Homesharing and 7 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

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Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Now that AccorHotels, Hyatt, and Marriott have started getting into homesharing, what does that mean for the hotel industry’s crusade against it? Can AH&LA continue to fight Airbnb when some of its members are now actively participating in the short-term rental space? Hotel CEOs’ Views on Homesharing Evolve Even as Industry Remains Critical

>>Hilton’s goals are both lofty and commendable, and it’s clear from the data that travelers do care about sustainability and having a positive social impact. But is caring enough to translate into real action? That’s the even bigger challenge: Hilton Sets Lofty, Sustainable Tourism Goals: Will It Matter?

>>My Place Hotels CEO Ryan Rivett’s views on hospitality are contrarian, but judging from the growth of his brand, he just might be onto something: My Place Hotels CEO: The Economy Hotel of Yesteryear Is Dying

>>While most American road trips are DIY, created piecemeal on a budget, the luxury set has options and smart travel brands know who to target: Tours and Hotels Look for Innovative Ways to Cater to Luxury and Budget Road Trippers

>>With Oceanwood (mostly) checking out and HNA looking to sell, it’s all change at NH Hotels. Maybe this will kick off the consolidation in the hotel market that so many have predicted: Minor International Pays $225 Million to Boost Stake in Spain’s NH Hotels

>>Hyatt seems to realize not only that small businesses are the most untapped portion of corporate travel, but that a solid business travel experience can lead to dividends on the leisure side as well. Whether this program catches on is another story, though: Hyatt’s New Corporate Travel Program Aims for Small Businesses

>>Hotel companies are reporting strong earnings from corporate business. This is as good a sign as any that the latest business travel boom has continued into 2018, and it will be interesting to see how this tees up corporate hotel rate increases that make business travel even more expensive for companies: Business Travel Booms as Hotel Chains Reap the Rewards

>>There’s a fine line between what some might deem edgy and what some might find insensitive: The Palms New Ad Campaign Aims for High Art, But Does It Miss the Mark?

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May 27, 2018 at 03:34PM

Showers for Days: American Airlines London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge

Showers for Days: American Airlines London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge

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After red-eye flights, there’s nothing like a proper shower to get refreshed for the day ahead. American Airlines knows that well and has an arrivals lounge in London Heathrow (LHR) that’s packed with 30 showers. But there’s more to love about this lounge than just the showers. Let’s take a look inside this small but very nice lounge.

In This Post

Access

In order to enter the lounge, you must be arriving on a long-haul flight into London Heathrow Terminal 3. So this effectively limits access to American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qantas flights.

All business- and first-class passengers on these long-haul flights are eligible to enter. Passengers with oneworld Emerald status can access the lounge when flying in economy.

Lounge

The lounge is designed primarily for passengers to get a quick bite to eat and a shower before heading into town. So the lounge itself is fairly small.

There are 12 two-top tables, 12 plush lounge chairs and eight stools. The stools and lounge chairs each have two US power outlets, two UK power outlets and two USB plugs. The two-top tables, however, don’t have an easy power source.

If you want to hold a meeting before or after your flight, there’s a private meeting room available for rent.

For those who need to catch up on emails and aren’t traveling with a laptop, there are three desktop computers and a printer/scanner/copier in a separate room.

The relatively small lounge has an even smaller bathroom. There’s just one urinal and one stall in the men’s restroom and presumably two stalls in the women’s restroom. But if you have an urgent need, you could always request one of the many shower rooms — they each contain a toilet.

Food and Drink

The food in the lounge consists of three options: hot buffet, cold buffet and a la carte.

The a la carte menu is going to get you the tastiest options, but it’ll take a few minutes for your dish to be prepared. I’ve tried the smashed avocado on toast (above) and smoked salmon tartine (below) on separate visits. Both were excellent, although the dishes aren’t necessarily going to fill you up.

No worries, though, as you can always supplement the dish with items from the buffets. In the mornings, the hot buffet contains bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, garlic mushrooms and baked beans.

The hot buffet switches to a brunch menu at 10:30am. During my visit, the following items were available for brunch: chicken tagine, vegetable tagine, couscous, pasta carbonara, scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes and garlic mushrooms.

There’s also a cold buffet serving fresh fruit, yogurt, cold cuts and pastries.

At 10:30am, the selection switches to the brunch menu, with a selection of sandwiches; assorted dips with marinated olives and crudites; a salad of marinated feta cheese, tomatoes and shallots; make-your-own Caesar salad; and a selection of meats and cheeses.

A coffee machine provides espresso drinks and hot chocolate.

There’s a cooler with canned sodas and bottled waters, and nearby are carafes of chilled juices.

Amenities

The highlight of this lounge is undoubtedly the showers. While there are just 44 seats in the lounge, there are 30 showers.

The overhead shower heads are tall enough for bigger travelers — even all 6 feet, 7 inches of The Points Guy himself.

Each shower has a collapsible luggage rack for keeping bags off of the floor.

Next to the sink, the lounge provides cotton swabs, cotton balls, shower caps and a bottle of dental rinse. Each shower room has a hair dryer built into the wall.

This lounge offers a feature I haven’t seen in any other lounge: a valet pressing service. A guest needing to look fresh for a meeting — whether in the lounge or in the city — can place his or her shirt and pants in the double-door compartment built into each shower-room door. With a press of a button on the wall, a lounge worker comes to collect the clothes to be pressed while the guest showers.

On one of my visits, I was shown around by an American Airlines media representative, so I got a chance to see where the clothes go from there. On the wall behind the pants press, you can see the board that lights up to indicate to staff when there’s new clothes to pick up.

Overall Impression

This lounge is perfect for what it seeks to accomplish: welcoming premium passengers to London with a refreshing shower and a delicious bite to eat. For those who just need a conference room at the airport to handle important face-to-face business, the lounge’s meeting room makes this arrivals lounge the only place you’ll need to go.

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May 27, 2018 at 03:00PM

London Stansted Airport Subject to Flight Disruptions After UK Lightning Strikes

London Stansted Airport Subject to Flight Disruptions After UK Lightning Strikes

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British meteorologists say up to 20,000 lightning strikes hit the U.K. during a powerful overnight thunderstorm, and a London-area airport is reporting flight disruptions after an aircraft refueling system was damaged.

London Stansted Airport said Sunday that a lightning strike had rendered the fueling system “unavailable for a period this morning. Engineers have been on site and have now restored the system, however flights may still be subject to diversion, delay or cancellation.”

Britain is in the middle of a long holiday weekend, and budget airline Ryanair couldn’t say how many of its flights had been affected at the airport, but was offering full refunds to some.

Meteorologist Charlie Powell said information suggested there were “somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 strikes across the U.K. during the overnight period.”

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: An aircraft refueling facility at London Stagnated Airport was damaged by lightning May 27, 2018, leading to flight disruptions. Associated Press

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May 27, 2018 at 01:06PM

Smuggling Ivory Into the US Got This Couple a $500 Slap on the Wrist

Smuggling Ivory Into the US Got This Couple a $500 Slap on the Wrist

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Earlier this month, US Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) intercepted a couple arriving from the Philippines who “claimed to be carrying pickled mango,” a US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told The Points Guy.

According to a statement from the department, “inconsistencies” were identified in the travelers’ luggage when an agriculture specialist screened the bags. Upon opening the suitcase, 34 pieces of carved elephant ivory were discovered, along with carved warthog and hippopotamus tusks.

Inspectors from the US Fish and Wildlife service were alerted, and the entire collection — approximately 16 pounds of ivory — was seized.

(Photo: U.S. Customs & Border Patrol)
(Photo by US Customs & Border Protection)

For transporting items in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement, the couple was fined $500.

“In this particular case,” the Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told TPG, “the couple did not initially declare the ivory. If an individual [purchased] ivory products at a time when it was legal, they can legally bring [them] into the US — if they have the proper documentation. This particular couple did not have documentation, therefore, the ivory was seized.”

(Photo: U.S. Customs & Border Patrol)
(Photo by US Customs & Border Protection)

If it strikes you as odd that a couple attempting to smuggle nearly 40 pieces of ivory across the US border was fined the same amount as a woman who left an apple from Delta in her bag, well, you’re not alone.

“Fines are based on a variety of factors,” the spokesperson explained. A separate spokesperson from the US Fish and Wildlife Service told The Points Guy that “a range of fines” can be issued for illegally importing (or attempting to import) items of this nature. It’s a “question for a judge to determine,” she added.

Though a $500 fine for trying to casually cross the border with undocumented and almost certainly illegal ivory may feel like an inadequate slap on the wrist, it’s worth noting that, as an additional penalty, the ivory — which was valued at $25,000 — was confiscated. The commandeered ivory pieces will be sent to the National Wildlife Property Repository, the “Seattle Times” reported, where they will either be displayed for educational purposes or destroyed.

Featured image courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection. 

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May 27, 2018 at 01:01PM

From the High-School Diaries of Johnny Appleseed

From the High-School Diaries of Johnny Appleseed

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How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Jim Gaffigan Edition

The actor and comedian Jim Gaffigan, who stars in the movie “You Can Choose Your Family,” tries his hand at The New Yorker’s cartoon-caption contest.

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May 27, 2018 at 12:17PM

Starbucks and the Issue of White Space

Starbucks and the Issue of White Space

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Elijah Anderson, a professor of sociology and African-American studies at Yale, has spent much of his career exploring the dynamics of African-American life in mostly black urban environments. Three years ago, however, he published a paper, titled “The White Space,” which looked at the racial complexities of mostly white urban environments. “The city’s public spaces, workplaces and neighborhoods may now be conceptualized as a mosaic of white spaces, black spaces and cosmopolitan spaces,” Anderson wrote. The white spaces are an environment in which blacks are “typically absent, not expected, or marginalized.”

Academics are commonly dogged by questions of how their research applies to the real world. Anderson has faced the opposite: a scroll of headlines and social-media posts that, like a mad data set liberated from its spreadsheet, seem intent on confirming the validity of his argument. The most notable recent case in point occurred on April 12th, when a white employee of a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police on two young black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who asked to use the rest room before they had ordered anything. They were arrested on suspicion of trespassing; it turned out that they had been waiting for a business associate to join them.

The incident was both disturbing and disturbingly common. A few days later, an employee at a New Jersey gym called the police, on the suspicion that two black men using the facility had not paid; they had. A couple of weeks after that, a woman in California called the police on three black women whom she thought were behaving suspiciously. They were actually carrying bags out of a house they had rented on Airbnb. Earlier this month, a white student at Yale called the police on a black graduate student for exhibiting behavior that struck her as suspicious: napping in a common area. Thousands of social-media users have since shared their experiences as persons of color in a “white space.”

Starbucks didn’t press charges against the men, but protests followed, along with the requisite hashtag directive, in this case, #boycottStarbucks. The men, though, settled with the city for a dollar apiece and a promise to invest in a program to assist young entrepreneurs. They also negotiated a settlement with Starbucks that included an offer of a free college education. (And the company announced that anyone can now use the rest rooms without buying anything.) In the tempest of race in America, the resolution was marked by an impressive degree of good faith. Yet Starbucks’ attempt to address the larger issue—the racial assumptions that lead to such incidents—has met with skepticism.

The company’s C.E.O., Kevin Johnson, announced that, on the afternoon of May 29th, Starbucks will close its eight thousand coffee shops across the country, in order to conduct “racial-bias training” for its employees. This isn’t its first foray into race concerns. In 2015, after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the company encouraged its employees to write the phrase “Race Together” on takeout cups. The idea was widely ridiculed, but asking customers to contemplate the most consistently radioactive topic in American society while savoring their preferred combinations of soy, mocha, and caramel was certainly noteworthy.

For the May 29th training, Starbucks has gone deeper, consulting with, among others, former Attorney General Eric Holder; Sherrilyn Ifill, of the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund; Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative; Heather McGee, of the Demos Center; and Jonathan Greenblatt, of the Anti-Defamation League. A video preview of the curriculum released last week featured messages from the company’s executive chairman, Howard Schultz, and from Common, and a film by the veteran documentary-maker Stanley Nelson.

The concept of “implicit bias”—the subtle, unconscious responses that we’re conditioned to display—has lately become familiar, for reasons relating both to its valence among academics and to its ability to bridge a particular chasm in the dialogue about race. The popular perception of racism as mostly the product of the kind of monstrous people who, say, would drive into a crowd of pedestrians in Charlottesville, Virginia, makes it difficult to address the more pervasive daily practices of it. In fact, the bar for perceived bigotry has been set so high that, last week, an attorney caught on video railing against Spanish-speaking employees at a restaurant in New York, and threatening to have them deported, could release a statement earnestly declaring himself not to be a racist.

Implicit bias disassociates racism from overt villainy and, as a consequence, engenders less defensiveness in the dialogue. A series of events in recent years sparked conversations about implicit bias among the police, but, as the Starbucks situation and others like it have demonstrated, there is a companion issue: the ways in which the police can serve as a vector of the biases of individual citizens. The question isn’t simply whether an officer displays bias in carrying out his official duty but whether the call that led to his presence in a given situation is itself the result of bias. The crucial aspect of the Starbucks story isn’t whether a company can, in a single training session, diminish bias among its employees. It’s the implied acknowledgment that such attitudes are so pervasive in America that a company has to shoulder the responsibility of mitigating them in its workforce.

It would be possible to see the recent incidents as a survivable pestering—racism as nuisance—were it not for the fact that the denial of the unimpeded use of public space has been central to the battles over civil rights since Emancipation. In 1883, the Supreme Court heard five cases, collectively known as the Civil Rights Cases, involving the harassment of African-Americans in theatres and hotels and on trains. The Court ruled against the plaintiffs, finding that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was an unconstitutional violation of the rights of private businesses. In a famous dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan noted that “today it is the colored race which is denied, by corporations and individuals wielding public authority, rights fundamental in their freedom and citizenship.” He added, “At some future time, it may be that some other race will fall under the ban of race discrimination.”

Not only was Justice Harlan prescient about the current treatment of other races; he also foresaw a Presidency that strives to make the United States itself feel like a white space. Implicit biases often have a way of becoming explicit ones. ♦

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May 27, 2018 at 10:10AM

Sunday Reading: Artistic Personalities

Sunday Reading: Artistic Personalities

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In 1957, Janet Flanner published a Profile called “The Surprise of the Century.” The “surprise” was Pablo Picasso, a genius who struck his friends as unprecedented, as both an artist and a person—a “complete phenomenon.” (“The excesses of his artistic endowment, of his will, of his life appetites, and of his character,” Flanner writes, “appear to have been idiosyncratic from earliest childhood.”) This week, we’re bringing you close encounters with great artists in their prime. Ellen Willis reports on the turbulent vision of Janis Joplin and her band, and Whitney Balliett chronicles the musical innovations of the jazz legend Charlie Parker in “Bird.” Janet Malcolm explores the complexity of Sylvia Plath’s work and life in “The Silent Woman,” and Jervis Anderson accompanies the novelist Ralph Ellison on a trip to his home town and recounts the author’s thoughts on race in America. In a 1974 Profile, Calvin Tomkins traces Georgia O’Keeffe’s path from the Art Students League, in New York, to her legendary ranch in New Mexico, and, in “The Duke in His Domain,” Truman Capote visits Marlon Brando on the set of “Sayonara.” Finally, S. N. Behrman writes about Joseph Duveen, who—as the art dealer to William Randolph Hearst, Henry Clay Frick, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and other major collectors—shaped the art world as we know it today. We hope that you find these glimpses of artistic minds as fascinating as we do.


“Changes”

“After all, Janis Joplin was a star, well out of everyone else’s class—writers had even stopped comparing her to Grace Slick. And, even for a star, her ego was sizable.” Read more.


“The Surprise of the Century—I”

“Pablo Ruiz Picasso began being an artist at the age of prodigy—at about seven—and at seventy-five he remains the complete phenomenon he has been throughout the intervening years.” Read more.


“Bird”

“Charlie Parker turned the world of jazz around, and the effects are still felt. One hears him in almost every guitarist, pianist, trumpeter, bassist, drummer, and trombonist over forty, and he is still audible in the instrumentalists of the present generation, although most of them may not know it.” Read more.


“Going to the Territory”

“Hardly anyone who has listened to Ralph Ellison speaking about the Oklahoma of his boyhood can have failed to come away with the impression that it retains an exceptional influence upon his outlook.” Read more.


“The Rose in the Eye Looked Pretty Fine”

“Although Georgia O’Keeffe’s work has been extravagantly praised from the very outset of her career, she has not been overly impressed by what critics have found to say about it. Attempts to uncover the sources of her imagery fill her with amazement.” Read more.


“The Days of Duveen”

“In his five decades of selling in this country, Joseph Duveen, by amazing energy and audacity, transformed the American taste in art. He not only educated the small group of collectors who were his clients but created a public for the finest works of the masters of painting.” Read more.


“The Silent Woman”

“Sylvia Plath embodies in a vivid, almost emblematic way the schizoid character of the period. She is the divided self par excellence.” Read more.


“The Duke in His Domain”

“The voice went on, as though speaking to hear itself, an effect Marlon Brando’s speech often has, for, like many persons who are intensely self-absorbed, he is something of a monologuist—a fact that he recognizes and for which he offers his own explanation.” Read more.

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May 27, 2018 at 10:10AM

Tane Kayaking in Doubtful Sound

Tane Kayaking in Doubtful Sound

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Visiting New Zealand?

My best advice is to come for at least 10 days and spend the entire time on the south island. Rent a camper van and just roll around all over the place. Some people try to squeeze in the North Island and the South Island into one trip. Just do the south. The north is fine, but it’s too much to squeeze into one trip.

Daily Photo – Tane Kayaking in Doubtful Sound

It was a very moody evening in Doubtful Sound, and it wasn’t just moody because of Tane. The afternoon had seen 70 knot winds, which translates to about 130 kilometers per hour or 80 mph. Crazy, eh? We couldn’t even go outside on the deck. The crew really seemed to enjoy all the wind; for what reason, I cannot discern. It also made me wonder more about why the measurement of knots came about rather than kph or mph. Even as I write this, I’m going to go look this up.

Okay I just looked it up, and it is only vaguely interesting. Here you go:

A knot is one nautical mile per hour (1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour). The term knot dates from the 17th century, when sailors measured the speed of their ship by using a device called a “common log.” This device was a coil of rope with uniformly spaced knots, attached to a piece of wood shaped like a slice of pie. The piece of wood was lowered from the back of the ship and allowed to float behind it. The line was allowed to pay out freely from the coil as the piece of wood fell behind the ship for a specific amount of time. When the specified time had passed, the line was pulled in and the number of knots on the rope between the ship and the wood were counted. The speed of the ship was said to be the number of knots counted (Bowditch, 1984).

Tane Kayaking in Doubtful Sound

Photo Information


  • Date Taken2018-05-08 17:02:36
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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May 27, 2018 at 09:15AM

John McCain, Honor, and Self-Reflection

John McCain, Honor, and Self-Reflection

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John McCain is going to die soon. For almost a year, the senator from Arizona has been living with Stage IV brain cancer. As a valedictory act of patriotism, morality, and public service, he has gathered his energies to clarify his principles, to review his mistakes, and to call out the low character and corruptions of the leader of his party, the President of the United States. Memorial Day weekend is a particularly apt time to spend some hours with McCain and his testaments––the myriad clippings, his new memoir “The Restless Wave,” and a moving documentary, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

“Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this,” McCain says in the audio version of “The Restless Wave.” His voice is clear, wry, determined. “My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency or, at least, I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first––some work that needs finishing and some people I need to see. And I’d like to talk to my fellow Americans a little more, if I may.”

Similarly, the documentary, which airs this weekend on HBO, begins with characteristic pride and self-recrimination: “I have lived an honorable life, and I am proud of my life,” he says. “I have been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing.”

Imagine any of these sentiments coming out of the mouth of Donald Trump. A sense of honor. Self-reflection. Apology. It is impossible to conceive. Initially, McCain endorsed Trump, largely as a matter of party loyalty and political survival. Endorsing Hillary Clinton would not have gone down well with his voters in Arizona. McCain had long considered Trump grotesque, though the one outrage he more or less let pass was the one directed at him. Campaigning in Iowa, in 2015, Trump had mocked McCain, saying, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” McCain directed his criticism more at Trump’s remarks about the parents of a Muslim soldier who died in Iraq and a Mexican-American judge. McCain finally rescinded his endorsement in October, 2016, when the “Access Hollywood” grab-’em-by-the-pussy tape was released.

“I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated. He was not my choice, but as a past nominee, I thought it important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates by the rules our party set. I thought I owed his supporters that deference,” McCain said after the tape emerged. “But Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.” McCain said that he would not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton but would rather “write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President.”

McCain grew up in a distinguished military family, though he did not much distinguish himself at Annapolis. He partied like a demon and graduated near the bottom of the Class of ’58. What tested him was Vietnam. The story has been told countless times. In 2000, on assignment for Rolling Stone, David Foster Wallace sought to tell the McCain story as the Arizona Republican adopted a full-transparency press strategy in his battle for the nomination against George W. Bush. Wallace aimed his story at the Young Voter who, he figured, didn’t know the McCain story and didn’t care at all for politics. The way he tells it is worth quoting at some length:

There’s something underneath politics in the way you have to hear
McCain, something riveting and unspinnable and true. It has to do with
McCain’s military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus
years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison, mostly in solitary, in a
box, getting tortured and starved. And the unbelievable honor and
balls he showed there. It’s very easy to gloss over the POW thing,
partly because we’ve all heard so much about it and partly because
it’s so off-the-charts dramatic, like something in a movie instead of
a man’s life. But it’s worth considering for a minute, because it’s
what makes McCain’s “causes greater than self-interest” line easier to
hear.

You probably already know what happened. In October of ’67 McCain was
himself still a Young Voter and flying his 23rd Vietnam combat mission
and his A-4 Skyhawk plane got shot down over Hanoi and he had to
eject, which basically means setting off an explosive charge that
blows your seat out of the plane, which ejection broke both McCain’s
arms and one leg and gave him a concussion and he started falling out
of the skies right over Hanoi. Try to imagine for a second how much
this would hurt and how scared you’d be, three limbs broken and
falling toward the enemy capital you just tried to bomb. His chute
opened late and he landed hard in a little lake in a park right in the
middle of downtown Hanoi. Imagine treading water with broken arms and
trying to pull the life vest’s toggle with your teeth as a crowd of
Vietnamese men swim out toward you. (There’s film of this, somebody
had a home—movie camera, and the N.V. government released it, though
it’s grainy and McCain’s face is hard to see.) The crowd pulled him
out and then just about killed him. U.S. bomber pilots were especially
hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a
soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time
his right knee was bent 90-degrees to the side with the bone sticking
out. Try to imagine this. He finally got tossed on a jeep and taken
five blocks to the infamous Hoa Lo prison – a.k.a. the “Hanoi Hilton,”
of much movie fame—where they made him beg a week for a doctor and
finally set a couple of the fractures without anesthetic and let two
other fractures and the groin wound (imagine: groin wound) stay like
they were. Then they threw him in a cell. Try for a moment to feel
this. All the media profiles talk about how McCain still can’t lift
his arms over his head to comb his hair, which is true. But try to
imagine it at the time, yourself in his place, because it’s important.
Think about how diametrically opposed to your own self-interest
getting knifed in the balls and having fractures set without
painkiller would be, and then about getting thrown in a cell to just
lie there and hurt, which is what happened. He was delirious with pain
for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs
were sure he would die; and then after a few months like that after
his bones mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up they brought
him in to the prison commandant’s office and offered to let him go.
This is true. They said he could just leave. They had found out that
McCain’s father was one of the top-ranking naval officers in the U.S.
Armed Forces (which is true—both his father and grandfather were
admirals), and the North Vietnamese wanted the PR coup of mercifully
releasing his son, the baby-killer. McCain, 100 pounds and barely able
to stand, refused. The U.S. military’s Code of Conduct for Prisoners
of War apparently said that POWs had to be released in the order they
were captured, and there were others who’d been in Hoa Lo a long time,
and McCain refused to violate the Code. The commandant, not pleased,
right there in the office had guards break his ribs, rebreak his arm,
knock his teeth out. McCain still refused to leave without the other
POWs. And so then he spent four more years in Hoa Lo like this, much
of the time in solitary, in the dark, in a closet-sized box called a
‘punishment cell.’ Maybe you’ve heard all this before; it’s been in
umpteen different media profiles of McCain. But try to imagine that
moment between getting offered early release and turning it down. Try
to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal
self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the
ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? If
so, would you have refused to go? You simply can’t know for sure. None
of us can. It’s hard even to imagine the pain and fear in that moment,
much less know how you’d react.

But, see, we do know how this man reacted. That he chose to spend four
more years there, in a dark box, alone, tapping code on the walls to
the others, rather than violate a Code. Maybe he was nuts. But the
point is that with McCain it feels like we know, for a proven fact,
that he’s capable of devotion to something other, more, than his own
self-interest. So that when he says the line in speeches in early
February you can feel like maybe it isn’t just more candidate
bullshit, that with this guy it’s maybe the truth. Or maybe both the
truth and bullshit: the guy does—did—want your vote, after all.

You read that story and then recall Trump’s smug and snide remark—“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Watch that video of Trump and then tell yourself that this is the Commander-in-Chief who will be reciting Memorial Day bromides on Monday.

As one of the highest-ranking officers in the Navy, McCain’s father met frequently with President Richard Nixon––but never took the opportunity to appeal for his son’s life. That was against the Code. Meanwhile, in Hanoi, McCain, after countless rounds of torture, became convinced he would finally die of his injuries. He finally broke and signed a letter of “confession.” Though the letter was rendered meaningless by his obvious courage, McCain says, “I will be ashamed of it for the rest of my life.”

Released in March, 1973, McCain came home to his wife and three children. The marriage collapsed. The documentary is clear that McCain behaved heedlessly. His first wife, Carol, with both pain and sympathy, says, “He was looking for a way to be young again and that was that.” When he ran for Congress in Arizona, he was criticized initially as a carpetbagger. “The longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life was Hanoi,” he said, and that ended that issue. He served two terms in the House and more than thirty years in the Senate.

Much has been made of McCain as a “maverick.” The film makes clear that he was at his best when he was true to himself, his instincts, his convictions. He failed himself when he gave in to expediency. He failed when he sucked up to Charles Keating, a sleazy Arizona builder and financier who contributed to his campaign. (“That will always be a bad mark on my record . . . it was wrong.”) He failed himself during the 2000 South Carolina primary when he fudged on the question of whether the state capitol should be able to fly the Confederate battle flag. And he failed himself when he gave in to an increasingly nativist, anti-intellectual Republican Party base and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. That latter sin cut the deepest. It is not hard to draw a line between Sarah Palin and the rise of Trump.

He was always a conservative. He was a fiscal conservative. And he was a radical interventionist, doubling down on his support of the Iraq War long after it was judged by all as a catastrophe. For Iraq, he used what he always thought was the proper way of seeing Vietnam; in both cases he believed that if the United States had only fought to the end, using every resource, paying any sacrifice, victory would come. It is only now that he has come to see his mistake. The Iraq War, he writes, “can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”

But even if you never would have voted for him—and I didn’t and wouldn’t—McCain cannot fail to leave a deep impression. His efforts, with John Kerry, to revive diplomatic relations with Vietnam; his leadership on campaign-finance reform; his moral opposition to torture; his vote against the first real effort to repeal Obamacare—these were stands that were, in large measure, reviled in his party and among many of his constituents in Arizona.

Trump’s poll ratings are in the low forties. This is, for McCain, an affront. How could they be so high after all that has happened, all that has been proved, all that has been said and tweeted? It’s not that Trump avoided military services because of bone spurs in his feet (though he somehow managed at the same time to be something of an athlete); McCain has not focussed on that easy contrast. Instead, he has attacked the President for his “appalling” rhetoric on immigration; his assault on free expression; his incitements of the “old ties of blood and race.” McCain seems almost bewildered writing about his President and his “convictions.” Trump, he writes quite accurately, “threatened to deliberately kill the spouses and children of terrorists.”

After McCain got his cancer diagnosis last October and started levelling more of these critiques of the President, Trump could not contain himself. The bully raised his head. “People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” he said. “You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

Trump had the good sense to stay clear of Barbara Bush’s funeral, in Houston. Now McCain has made matters easy for him. He has made his intentions clear: the leader of his party, the President of the United States, is not invited to the funeral of John McCain.

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May 26, 2018 at 10:49PM

Florida, Mississippi Declare a State of Emergency as Alberto Churns in the Gulf

Florida, Mississippi Declare a State of Emergency as Alberto Churns in the Gulf

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The Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t begin until June 1, but it seems one storm missed that memo. Subtropical Storm Alberto, first named tropical system of the year, formed Friday afternoon — becoming only the fourth storm to develop in the Gulf of Mexico during May in NOAA records. As this storm meanders northward, it threatens to wreck Memorial Day plans in Florida and across the Gulf Coast.

With 40-mph top sustained winds and a minimum pressure of just 999mb, Subtropical Storm Alberto doesn’t currently pose much of a wind threat. But, these type of tropical systems can produce incredible amounts of rain. Flood watches have already been issued for much of the Florida Peninsula, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Image courtesy of Weather Underground.
Image courtesy of Weather Underground.

Cuba is currently being drenched by the storm, with forecasts of 10-15 inches of rain likely to cause flooding and mudslides in parts of the island nation. Forecasts for the Gulf Coast are looking a bit better with only isolated areas expected to get 8-12 inches of rain.

Image courtesy of Weather Underground.
Image courtesy of Weather Underground.

Although the storm isn’t very powerful, coastal flooding is still a threat due to the storm’s circulation combined with its northward movement and the shape of the Gulf’s coast. Due to this risk, both Florida and Mississippi have declared a states of emergency ahead of the storm.

So far, airlines have been slow to issue waivers. As of 3:45pm on Saturday, only Southwest has issued a travel waiver — allowing passengers to rebook their flights on a different day.

Southwest

  • Travel date: May 26
  • Airports covered: Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Fort Myers (RSW); Orlando (MCO); Tampa (TPA) West Palm Beach (PBI); Grand Cayman (GCM); Havana (HAV)
  • Travel dates: May 27-28
  • Airports covered: New Orleans (MSY); Panama City (ECP); Pensacola (PNS)
  • Customers who are holding reservations to/from/through these cities on the corresponding dates may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

No waivers yet from: Alaska, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Spirit and United.

Featured image by Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images

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May 26, 2018 at 10:30PM