Reminder: Delta/SPG Crossover Rewards End Today

Reminder: Delta/SPG Crossover Rewards End Today

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Since it began back in 2013, the Crossover Rewards partnership program between Delta and Starwood has provided benefits to Delta elites when staying at Starwood properties and Starwood Preferred Guest elites when flying with Delta. Unfortunately, that program ends today, as Starwood prepares to begin its unified loyalty program with Marriott next month.

Back in April when Marriott announced the details of the new combined program, they said that current benefits would extend through July 15, 2018 and also said:

“[We] are actively working on ways that we can create a benefit that in light of our size, is sustainable into the future. Therefore, we expect to have more to share on this program before July 15.”

Not much additional information has been shared other than that the program will not continue past today. According to Delta’s Crossover Rewards FAQ, flights that originate on or before July 15 and Starwood stays that are completed on or before July 15 are eligible for Crossover Rewards benefits. However, flights that originate or hotel stays that are completed after July 15 will not be eligible.

What Benefits Are We Losing?

Under the Crossover Rewards program, SPG Platinum elite members traveling on flights marketed and operated by Delta received several benefits similar to those enjoyed by Delta’s Silver Medallion members:

  • Zone 1 Priority Boarding
  • First Checked Bag Free
  • Priority Check-In in Silver Medallion Queues
  • Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades (Behind Silver Medallion Members)

Similarly, Delta’s Platinum and Diamond Medallion members staying at Starwood properties enjoyed several benefits similar to those of SPG’s Gold members:

  • 4:00pm Late Check-Out
  • Access to SPG Elite Member Check-In Lines
  • Complimentary Internet Access
  • Room Upgrades at Check-In

Additionally, all SPG elites earned one Starpoint per dollar spent on flights marketed and operated by Delta and all Delta Medallion elites earned one Delta SkyMile per dollar spent on eligible Starwood hotel stays. In both cases, these points were in addition to the normal points and miles that would be earned.

The end of this program also comes as a blow to frequent Delta fliers who use the Platinum Card from American Express, one of the best cards for Delta frequent fliers. Since the Platinum Card includes complimentary SPG Gold elite status, cardholders were eligible to earn Starpoints on Delta flights under the Crossover Rewards program, even without meeting the normal stay requirements to earn Starwood elite status.

Will These Benefits Be Replaced?

For high-tier SPG elites there is some solace… if you don’t mind switching to United. Under Marriott’s existing RewardsPlus partnership with United, Platinum Premier members under the new combined Marriott program will be granted automatic Premier Silver status with United. Additionally, all members under the new Marriott program will still receive transfer bonuses to United MileagePlus as well as on Hotel + Air packages. This may not be of much benefit to SPG elites who are loyal to Delta, however.

For Delta elites, there’s not much good news at present. As of publication, Delta’s Crossover Rewards FAQ has this to say:

“We remain committed to ensuring that SkyMiles Members enjoy a rewarding loyalty program. Stay tuned for details as we continue to work towards improving your SkyMiles experience and find new ways for you to earn miles and enjoy added value with our program and our partners.”

Hopefully Delta will find a way to replace the value their elites are losing with the end of Crossover Rewards, but no announcements have been made so far.

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July 16, 2018 at 12:06AM

World Cup 2018: France and the Triumph of Negative-Capability Football

World Cup 2018: France and the Triumph of Negative-Capability Football

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The first goal is the one I think I’ll remember. It wasn’t the pretty one—that would be Paul Pogba’s, which came in the fifty-ninth minute, after a long pass from Pogba to Kylian Mbappé, the visionary precision of which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And it wasn’t the jaw-dropping one—that would be Mbappé’s own, a few minutes later, when he blasted the ball almost casually into the net from twenty-five yards out. No, the goal that most neatly symbolized France’s World Cup-winning 4–2 victory over Croatia, on Sunday—and, for that matter, Les Bleus’ brilliant, contrary, insolent, dazzling World Cup campaign—was the one that shouldn’t have counted. It was the one they didn’t score.

This was a team, after all, that thrived by making beauty incidental. No team in the World Cup possessed more lethal attacking talent. No team scored more gasp-inducing goals. Benjamin Pavard’s screaming volley against Argentina might have been the goal of the tournament. The sight of Mbappé warping down the pitch on the counter, moving so fast that he looked like a trick of the light—like an artifact within the camera lens—might have been its most indelible image. But the impression France gave, in match after match, was that these were weapons it would rather not utilize. Sure, Didier Deschamps’s tactics seemed to say, we can unleash a thousand dragons; we can turn the world into fire. But why should we?

Why, when it’s easier and more confounding to pack the back of the pitch, frustrate you, confuse you, let you wear yourself out, and then tesseract past you when you’re too maddened and tired to expect it? The weird miracle of France’s run through the World Cup was that the team played what looked like negative football while visibly retaining the high-alert, supercharged-ions look of a group that’s on the attack. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was as if José Mourinho had devised a game plan for the Harlem Globetrotters. To appreciate what the French players were doing you had to hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time. It wasn’t negative football. It was negative-capability football. And it worked.

For that reason, though, it’s hard to imagine that this French victory will transform soccer tactics in the way that Spain’s victory in 2010 did, or Germany’s in 2014. Anyone can copy a style of passing, or a disposition toward pressing on defense. How do you copy a self-negating philosophical principle? France’s tactics looked less like a diagram of movement and more like the realization, on the pitch, of a book of paradoxical koans. You shall triumph when you overcome that which would allow you to triumph. Only by embracing limits will you ever truly be free!

But, then, this was a paradoxical World Cup. Politically, it was somehow both a massive authoritarian distraction—the cutaway shots of FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, grinning beside Vladimir Putin in the stands—and a sustained demonstration of human unity in joy. Aesthetically, it was both the most thrilling World Cup in recent memory and the one with the least straightforward drama; every French match, at least, felt like the comments section to an article that no one had time to read. Narratively, it was fascinatingly ambiguous. World Cups generally turn into coronations for a single dominant team, but France seemed to invert all the normal expectations for dominance. Belgium was a dominant team. Croatia was a dominant team. France just won the World Cup.

And so the goal that stood out, for me, was the first. In the eighteenth minute, Antoine Griezmann took a cheeky dive, after being lightly breathed upon by Marcelo Brozović. Free kick to France, thirty yards from the Croatian goal. Griezmann took it. The ball clanged off the head of Mario Mandžukić, who could not have seen it coming, and ricocheted past Danijel Subašic and into the netting. Croatia had been the better team. But now France led, 1–0.

And this, you felt, was what France had been playing for all along. Isn’t the ideal to win without having to take a shot? Wouldn’t that be, in a way, the most convincing victory? The French stars are faster than you, but before that they are smarter than you, and they are meaner, and they don’t care what you think the sport is supposed to look like. And, anyway, they’re the world champions. So, what’s it supposed to look like? This is 2018. Who said anything was going to make sense?

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July 15, 2018 at 10:21PM

World Cup 2018: The Moral Clarity of Pussy Riot‘s Protest

World Cup 2018: The Moral Clarity of Pussy Riot‘s Protest

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On Sunday, in the fifty-second minute of the final game of the World Cup, four women dressed in Russian police uniforms charged the field, briefly disrupting the match. They were members of the Russian protest-art group Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot is often misidentified as a punk group, which is, in fact, only one of its many guises. The group, which was founded in 2011, is an open-membership collective that stages actions, documents them on video, and provides textual statements intended as clear and accessible explanations of their intentions and demands. The group’s best-known action was what they called a “Punk Prayer,” in which a group of women attempted to sing a political prayer of their own making inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, in Moscow, in the lead-up to Russia’s 2012 Presidential election. The performance was meant to protest the country’s symbiosis of church and state. As a result, two of the group’s founding members served twenty-two months in prison.

Pussy Riot released a statement, on Twitter, that claimed responsibility for the World Cup action. It also cited the Russian poet, artist, and performer Dmitry Aleksandrovich Prigov. Tomorrow will mark eleven years since his death. One of Prigov’s iconic creations, present in his poetry and performance, was the image of an ideal policeman, a just and ultimate authority that Pussy Riot’s statement dubbed the Heavenly Policeman. In contrast to the Heavenly Policeman, the statement suggested, stands the earthly policeman. “The Heavenly Policeman will protect a baby in her sleep while the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners and jails people for sharing and liking posts on social media.” (I am providing my own translation from the Russian original.)

The message is not intended to be subtle. In Putin’s Russia, dozens of people are behind bars for political crimes—which do in fact include social-media behavior such as “liking” and “sharing.” Unlike the 2014 Olympics, in Sochi, where Pussy Riot also protested, the World Cup has occasioned little criticism or reflection from Western politicians or media. It has proceeded undisturbed, as though a Heavenly Policeman were guarding its dreamlike state. For Russians, whose cities have filled with crowds of foreign soccer fans over the last few weeks, it has also provided a vision of a different life, one of a country integrated into a big and friendly world. “The World Cup has reminded us of the possibility of a Heavenly Policeman in a wonderful Russia of the future,” the Pussy Riot statement said. “But the earthly policeman, who intervenes in the game every day and knows no rules, is destroying our world.”

The four women, by taking the field, demonstrated exactly how that happens: the beautiful world of sport has its bubble punctured by people running and flailing haphazardly, intent on destruction. The group’s statement concluded with a list of demands:

1. Free all political prisoners.

2. Stop jailing people for social-media “likes.”

3. Stop illegal arrests at protests.

4. Allow political competition.

5. Stop fabricating criminal cases and putting people in jail for no reason.

6. Turn the earthly policeman into a Heavenly Policeman.

And so Pussy Riot became the only people to make a meaningful statement about Russian politics during the World Cup—and it came on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s triumphant meeting with Donald Trump. They also created, on one of the biggest stages in the world, an image of unjust and arbitrary authority, the sort with which a hundred and forty-five million Russians live day to day.

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July 15, 2018 at 09:53PM

Deal Alert: Nonstop Flights From New York to Europe for $340

Deal Alert: Nonstop Flights From New York to Europe for $340

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

We’re always looking for flight deals no matter the carrier or whether we can score premium economy and right now we’re seeing deals for nonstop flights from New York City to various European cities for less than $400 on the low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air.

These cheap tickets are available from November through January, although you’ll see the most discounted prices earlier in the year. Even though Norwegian is a budget airline that charges for things like seat selection, checked bags and meals, nonstop flights to major European cities for less than $400 are hard to pass up.

Use Google Flights to search for your preferred departure and destination and then book directly through Norwegian, so you can choose any add-ons.

Airline: Norwegian Air
Routes: EWR/JFK to LGW/NYO/MAD/CPH
Cost: $340+ round-trip
Dates: November 2018 – January 2019
Booking Link: OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline
Pay With: The American Express Platinum Card (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

New York (JFK) to London (LGW) nonstop for $385 round-trip on Norwegian: 

New York (JFK) to Stockholm (NYO) nonstop for $346 round-trip on Norwegian: 

New York (JFK) to Madrid (MAD) nonstop for $380 round-trip on Norwegian: 

New York (JFK) to Copenhagen (CPH) nonstop for $340 round-trip on Norwegian: 

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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July 15, 2018 at 09:31PM

U.S. and China Are in Tourism Standoff as Trade War Heats Up

U.S. and China Are in Tourism Standoff as Trade War Heats Up

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Maybe it was bound to happen, maybe it wasn’t—but things are starting to look like Chinese tourism to the United States is now in the crosshairs of China as the Sino-American trade war deepens. There have certainly been signs pointing in the direction of a potential escalation in terms of tourism, but now things are turning explicit, with Chinese state media openly calling for making tourism a “main battlefield” in the trade war. Needless to say, there’s plenty of reason for concern among U.S. tourism stakeholders with significant exposure to the Chinese market.

In fact, there’s might be reasons for concern for U.S. lawmakers as well. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the 2.97 million Chinese visits made to the United States in 2016 generated a staggering $33 billion in tourist spending. A close to a full ban on Chinese tourism to the United States would prove damaging to U.S. tourism stakeholders—and even a limited ban could prove a blow to tourism businesses and retailers (just ask South Korea and Taiwan).

So how did we get here?

While things have been heating up for some time—and generally in pace with U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports—the perhaps strongest indication of the trade war extending into tourism came at the beginning of July.

In a notice issued by the Chinese Embassy to the United States, Chinese tourists were warned about the allegedly vast number of dangers in the United States. In addition to warning about the “extremely expensive” health care in the United States, the note also took a swing at safety—a key concern for Chinese tourists. “American public security is not sufficient, shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent,” it read.

Just a week later, the United States was framed as “hyper-violent” in an extraordinarily aggressive piece even for traditionally more hardline state-owned Global Times. Referencing the Chinese Embassy’s travel warning, the piece went on to argue that “If you are Chinese, take your embassy’s travel warnings very seriously before planning your next holiday or deciding where to send your kids to college, because by coming to America you risk being shot, robbed, raped, or beaten.” Instead, the article argues, Chinese consumers should give up their “obsession” with the United States and explore education and tourism opportunities elsewhere.

And now, following the United States’ threat of imposing new tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, tourism looks even more in dire straits. As is rightly pointed out in a Global Times editorial, the United States runs a significant service sector trade surplus with China—although far from making up for the deficit in goods—and therefore, tourism (which counts as service exports) should be made a “main battlefield” as the trade war escalates. This both as a tit-for-tat strike in the trade war and as a means of reducing China’s service trade deficit.

If things couldn’t be more explicit, the editorial also suggests “tourism-related entities, Trump Hotels included, should stand on the front lines” together with soybean farmers if the trade rift deepens. Or in other words, tourism business interests (including Trump’s own) should rank among those pushing for an end of the Sino-U.S. trade conflict. Leveraging Trump business interests to further Chinese interests in U.S. policy isn’t a foreign concept in Beijing, which may have gone those exact lengths to provide relief for sanctioned ZTE.

However, the fact remains that there are many good reasons for China to avoid bringing tourism into the trade war fold. For starters, such sanctions would predominantly affect Democrat-dominant states like California and New York—perhaps not the best way to avoid bipartisan support of the trade war. Moreover, Chinese companies rank among some of the biggest stakeholders in Chinese travel in the United States, including state-owned airlines. Chinese business interests would most certainly be collateral as Beijing tries to go after U.S. tourism stakeholders.

More importantly, there’s only so much Beijing can do about Chinese tourism in the United States. A blanket ban on travel to the United States would be devastating for everything from China’s state-owned airlines to Chinese business travelers and even students that unavoidably need to travel to the United States. And if Beijing were to impose a South Korea-style ban on tour groups alone, then the most significant part of the economic damage would be on Chinese tour operators in the United States, travel agents, and airlines.

It goes without saying that the lion’s share of the $33 billion in Chinese tourist spending can’t be attributed to travelers on cut-cost Chinese tours in the United States. Indeed, the flow of the significantly more profitable independent travelers, business travelers, and even VFR (visiting friends and relatives) travelers would largely remain unaffected.

To that end, another inconvenient truth about Chinese tourist spending in the United States is that the $33 billion spent in 2016 is likely to a large part masked investments and pure capital flight—things that Xi Jinping has been a champion of combatting. The $33 billion figure doesn’t even pass the laugh test: it comes out at over $11,000 spent by the average Chinese visitor to the United States per visit. Either the United States is exceptionally expensive—and much more so than notoriously expensive countries like Switzerland—or Chinese “tourist spending” is more “spending” than it is “tourist.”

So, while there’s certainly good reason for Beijing to try to reign in some of that “tourist spending” in the United States, whether for trade war or restricting capital outflow reasons, this isn’t something new and has been the ambition all along. Again, it’s also highly unlikely that these extreme spenders count to the tour group visitors to the United States that could realistically be limited in the first place.

And while Chinese state media argues that “the US is not the only destination for Chinese tourists”—the same goes both ways. China isn’t the only source market for the U.S. tourism industry. In fact, U.S. tourism source markets are much more diversified than that of, for example, South Korea—and so is the economy as a whole. Restricted tourism flows to the United States would do far less harm than such measures have done to destinations like South Korea and Taiwan, and even in those places, the damage has been limited.

In other words, it’s clear that Chinese tourism in the United States risks being on the trade war chopping block in Beijing—but the actual damage it can do is far exaggerated. It’s definitely not good news for U.S. tourism stakeholders, but it’s also nowhere near the doom and gloom that Chinese media frames it as.

This story originally appeared on Jing Travel, a Skift content partner.

Additional links from Jing Travel:

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July 15, 2018 at 09:04PM

Travel’s Greatest Acquisition and 8 Other Digital Trends This Week

Travel’s Greatest Acquisition and 8 Other Digital 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 digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>This is the oral history of Priceline’s two deals, the acquisitions of Active Hotels and Bookings B.V., that created Booking.com, and continue to shape the course of online travel and the competitive landscape today. The twin transactions were among the greatest Internet deals of all time, and their lessons are relevant to startups and dealmakers in any industry: Launching The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com

>>The stars were seemingly aligned when Booking.com made its move. The big U.S. players were too comfortable with their huge margins from the merchant model; Booking.com focused on independent hotels; and search engine marketing was on the rise. Still, it was the entrepreneurs and dealmakers who made it all happen: 6 Takeaways From The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com

>>Booking.com is Booking Holdings’ favored child, but with the addition of HotelsCombined, it is apparent that the parent company still sees plenty of opportunity for its Kayak unit in metasearch worldwide. This deal will help Kayak expand in Asia Pacific, and will give HotelsCombined additional resources as well: Booking Holdings Buys HotelsCombined as Kayak Expands Into Asia Pacific

>>The deal surprised analysts, some of whom didn’t see an obvious logic for it. Yet one thing is sure: Online hotel sales are a bit like an old-fashioned butter market. A big chunk of butter changes hands multiple times and everyone gets their hands greasy: Analysts Are Puzzled Why Booking Holdings Acquired HotelsCombined

>>The big global travel management companies have pivoted to become more like technology companies in recent years. Despite the usual bromides about innovation and user experience, they’re unlikely to invest in voice-powered automation right now. Personalization needs to come first: Amazon’s Alexa for Business Travel Doesn’t Compute Right Now

>>While Europe’s new data regulations may only apply to one continent, they’re expected to form the blueprint for similar legislation in other countries. Travel managers everywhere should get used to them: Travel Managers Should Get Used to Data Privacy Restrictions

>>Journera aims to act like a magnet attracting relevant information across company databases about a traveler’s complete trip. It would help, say, a hotel learn when a high-status customer’s flight has been delayed. While the idea is great in theory, it may prove elusive in practice: Airline, Hotel, and Silicon Valley Heavyweights Back Startup Aiming to Fix Travel Data Hurdle

>>As Amazon pushes into hospitality, a battle will take place over who owns the business traveler’s wallet. Travel managers will have to deal with Amazon and hotel loyalty programs pushing travelers to spend more on their platforms. Ubiquitous voice-powered travel booking, though, remains a distant reality: Amazon and the Future of Business Travel

>>Investors have bet big on luxury experiences, with investments in Headout, which offers last-minute activities; Key Concierge, which does something similar for luxury rental properties; My Daydream, which offers customized upscale tours; and Seatfrog, which offers last-minute upgrades: Headout Raises $10 Million for Activities Tech: Travel Startup Funding This Week

Photo Credit: Priceline’s two deals, the acquisitions of Active Hotels and Bookings B.V., created Booking.com and continue to shape the course of online travel. Booking.com

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July 15, 2018 at 08:01PM

Disney World Introduces Boozy Beignets

Disney World Introduces Boozy Beignets

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Disney World is known for its lavish food inspired by different cultures all around the world. With everything from a Toy Story-inspired pizza place to the seafood at the Coral Reef Restaurant to a Mexican restaurant overlooking a replica Mayan pyramid, you can find just about any type of cuisine you could imagine.

But if you needed another reason to visit this magical amusement park, we’ve got good news: you can now get beignets filled with alcohol at the Scat Cat’s Club, a Southern jazz lounge, at the Port Orleans Resort. Beignets, a deep-fried, fluffy pastry, are a French Quarter staple. In the Disney version, guests can infuse these sweets with the alcohol of their choosing using a pipette. For $8 each, guests are allowed one boozy pipette per pastry of Baileys, Kahlua or Rumchata.

This isn’t the first time Disney has made things a little boozier: this year became the first time all restaurants in the parks will offer alcohol. So grab a beer and a beignet and get your park on.

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July 15, 2018 at 08:00PM

Every Tourist in New Orleans Makes These 11 Mistakes

Every Tourist in New Orleans Makes These 11 Mistakes

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: New Orleans is unlike anywhere else on this planet. The city essentially forces you — in the best way possible — to enjoy yourself, not take yourself too seriously, and to celebrate life. With such incredible food, music and people everywhere you turn, it’s hard not to fall in love with the city. There are, though, some cardinal mistakes many tourists make the second they step off the plane at MSY; here’s how to make sure you’re not one of them.

1) Buying beads and/or picking them up off the ground

We get it — you’re excited to be here. And you should be! But every New Orleanian worth their salt hot sauce knows NEVER to buy beads anywhere in the city. No matter how much you pay for them, you’re inevitably getting ripped off. Why? Because they’re handed out for free on pretty much every street corner in the city. And whatever you do, don’t pick them up off the ground: 1) that’s disgusting, and 2) legend has it that’s bad luck. Plus, no one wears them around unless it’s Carnival Season.

2) Going for Mardi Gras and thinking that’s what the city is like year-round

Yes, Mardi Gras is all it’s cracked up to be, and yes, the entire city shuts down to celebrate. But the thing is that’s five out of 365 days of the year — and NOLA has so many more amazing experiences to offer. Whenever someone says they’re going to NOLA for the first time for Mardi Gras, a little Hand Grenade fairy dies. Go experience the restaurants, museums, shops, tours and culture that you’ll find during the other 360 days first.

3) Never leaving the French Quarter

The French Quarter is one of the most historic, not to mention beautiful, parts of the city; you should 100% do a tour of it while you’re there. But be sure to venture past Canal Street and explore other areas like the Garden District, Bywater and Mid-City, just to name a few — that’s where you’ll find the history and hidden gems that will make your eyes light up when you talk to your friends at home about it.

4) Only going out on Bourbon Street

Don’t get me wrong, I love Pat O’s as much as the next Tulane grad, but posting up all night at Bourbon Heat is definitely not the move. Instead, head to Frenchmen Street, Tipitina’s or Maple Leaf Bar to see the best New Orleans music this side of the Mississippi. Your ears, not to mention your wallet, will thank you. Oh, and for the love of all that is holy, please forgo the Lucky Dog no matter how hungry you may be.

5) Getting a little too rowdy on Bourbon Street

(Photo by peeterv / Getty Images)
(Photo by peeterv / Getty Images)

You know what I’m talking about. It’s such a cliché, and you don’t want to end up going viral on social media for it.

6) Thinking the St. Charles streetcar is a reliable form of public transportation

First things first: It’s a streetcar, not a trolley. And second, there are few things better in this world than hopping on the streetcar and taking it down St. Charles on a beautiful, sunny day. But if you need to be in a certain place at a certain time? Yeah, you’re going to want to take an Uber.

7) Waiting in line to be seated at Café du Monde

(Photo by @sophpos via Twenty20)
(Photo by @sophpos via Twenty20)

Pro tip: Either get it to go, or go inside to the left where the bathrooms are. There is indoor seating there where you can seat yourself and it’s usually pretty empty. Also, don’t forget your napkins. Thank us later.

8) Leaving your unfinished drinks at the bar

Take those babies to go. There’s no open container laws here, ya’ll. Just be responsible, OK?

9) Not knowing the lingo

Lagniappe. Fully dressed po’ boy. Tchoupitoulas. In English: A little something extra. Po’ boy with all the traditional condiments (think lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickles). The name of a street that’s pronounced “chop-ah-TOO-liss.” Just a little sprinkle of some of the things you’ll hear. Like we said, New Orleans is a special place, and it has its own special lingo.

10) Thinking that New Orleans looks like it did right after Katrina

It’s no secret that Hurricane Katrina absolutely devastated the city and the lives of so many New Orleanians — and to be honest, its effects will still be felt for years to come. 13 years later, it’s not 100% perfect (many areas are definitely still struggling), but so much of it is more vibrant than ever before. Don’t let any preconceived notions prevent you from going to visit in the first place, or thinking that the city as a whole is still in shambles. Since it was such a traumatic event, don’t bring it up unless the local you’re with does first.

11) Eating at restaurants like Bubba Gump or the Hard Rock

We don’t mean to yuck someone else’s yum… OK, that’s a lie. We do. You’re in arguably one of the greatest food cities in the world, and you’re doing yourself a disservice by eating at any chain restaurants that aren’t Cane’s. We could write a 500-page novel about all of the restaurants you could visit while there, and it still wouldn’t be long enough. Do your research and make sure you’re doing it right.

The biggest mistake tourists make, though? Leaving. Because once you’re here, you’ll understand — and you know sooner or later, you’ll be back.

Feature image by benedek / Getty Images.

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July 15, 2018 at 07:00PM

What Will Be the Outcome of the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin Helsinki Summit?

What Will Be the Outcome of the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin Helsinki Summit?

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On Monday, President Trump will become the fourth consecutive American President to hold a summit meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Trump’s three predecessors each found Putin a challenge, starting out with high hopes only to have their dealings end in frustration and mutual recriminations. Will Trump fare differently?

This President is betting on it. He personally insisted on the risky summit, despite advisers’ cautions and the long shadow of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election on his behalf. Beyond meeting Putin, it’s unclear what Trump hopes to establish in Helsinki, and the two sides have not agreed on any of the “deliverables” that are traditionally negotiated in advance of such a session. “The President has determined that now is the time for direct communication between himself and President Putin,” Trump’s Ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, told reporters before the trip. “And that’s the way he’s proceeding.”

From the start of Trump’s Presidency, the prospect of such a meeting has alarmed and worried many of America’s top Russia-watchers, especially given Putin’s long record, over nearly two decades, of first raising, then dashing, the hopes of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—hopes that personal encounters might produce a stable and new long-term foundation for the two former Cold War adversaries. In the end, they all ended up in what a longtime senior U.S. official, who advised all three Presidents, told me were “honorable failures.” In fact, it was in an angry, private conversation on the sidelines of a world-leader summit in September, 2016, in China, that Obama warned Putin to knock off the election hacking.

So what will be the outcome of this summit that has no agenda and is of Trump’s making, amid a renewed hue and cry over Moscow’s 2016 U.S. election interference? I asked an array of Washington’s top Russia hands, who have advised every American President since Ronald Reagan on superpower summitry, what to expect. Many of the sixteen former senior U.S. officials I consulted—who included a former national-security adviser, four former U.S. Ambassadors to Russia, and two former Deputy Secretaries of State—have sat in the room with Putin and his American interlocutors during the past eighteen years, and they are well aware of the formidable combination of extensive preparation and historical grievance that Putin brings to the bargaining table.

Trump, of course, is famous for not caring much about the expertise of the government he now heads. Had he consulted with those who have made it their job to understand Russia during the past several decades, here’s some of what he would have heard.

1. What are the best and worst potential outcomes of the Helsinki summit?

Best Outcome

“We need to think in terms of best possible outcome, because the best outcome is not available—meaning Trump will not press him on meddling in ours and other elections. Having Putin understand that we can use cyber to expose things he does not want exposed if Russia persists is not in the cards. Neither is the grand bargain on Crimea and Ukraine for Russia containing Iran in Syria. Leaving aside the morality of such a bargain, it is also not in the cards. Putin has his own version of the Brezhnev Doctrine: what is his or can be used to lever others (e.g., frozen conflicts) is irreversible and he is not going to trade what he already has.”—Dennis Ross, a top State Department official for George H. W. Bush during the collapse of the Soviet Union

“Trump’s closest advisers (especially national-security adviser John Bolton) can rein him in from trying to buddy-buddy stuff with Putin. Also, keep him from even hinting that Crimea annexation is O.K. and/or we’ll let bygones be bygones. And finally undo some of the damage he’s done at the G7 and NATO summits. That’s for what Trump must not do. What he might do is scope out whether Putin might go for extension of New Start before it expires in 2021 (but remember: all Trump knows about New Start is that it’s an Obama thing and therefore poison). The treaty is heading for the ash heap of history—which could mean that arms control is kaput.”—Strobe Talbott, the Deputy Secretary of State for Bill Clinton

“The two leaders establish a working relationship, there is no blow-up or love-fest, there are no major concessions, and the two leaders agree on a few very modest steps to begin to restore relations between the two countries (e.g. military-related confidence-building measures, commitment not to interfere in each other’s elections, a commitment from Putin to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Baltic States within their current borders).”—Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser for George W. Bush

“Best outcome is Hippocratic—do no more practical harm in indulging Putin and his aggressiveness. The danger is that Trump will fall prey to one of two illusions. First is that personal rapport can transform relationship. Second is that grand bargains are within reach. Putin, a trained professional, will play to his ego and his illusions.”—William Burns, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under George W. Bush and the Deputy Secretary of State for Barack Obama

“Nothing of significance is said or done.”—Sarah Mendelson, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council under Obama, and a longtime Russia expert

Worst Outcome

“Either a blow-up between the two leaders that further poisons the relationship between the two countries or major U.S. concessions on key substantive issues (e.g. Crimea, Syria, European security). I do not expect either.”—Stephen Hadley

2. Is there any historical parallel to this summit?

“Like the Reykjavik summit in 1986 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, this will be a come-as-you-are, rather free-wheeling session. Then, it was due to the short, ten-day interval between the summit’s announcement and happening. Now it’ll be due to the unwillingness, or inability, of the President to focus on anything for more than ten minutes.”—Kenneth Adelman, the chief arms-control negotiator for Ronald Reagan

“Nope. It would be an insult to JFK to say that the Vienna summit with Nikita Khrushchev was anything like this. JFK committed a rookie error. Trump has a plan—if you can call it that—to reorient the U.S. to leaders that he has an affinity for and countries that he’d like ours to become.”—Strobe Talbott

“Not that I can think of. Perhaps the Trump-Kim meeting, but even that one had more time for planning.”—Thomas Graham, a senior National Security Council official for Russia during the George W. Bush Administration

“I’ve been involved with most US-Russian high-level encounters since VP Bush’s first meeting with Gorbachev in 1985. There is no historical precedent that I know of for such a potentially high-stakes US-Russia meeting to take place with so little advance preparation, and with such a dark cloud of suspicion and uncertainty hanging over it. We are really in uncharted waters here.”—John Beyrle, a career diplomat who served as a U.S. Ambassador to Russia for George W. Bush and Barack Obama

“No. I cannot remember a US-Russian or US-Soviet summit at which the president of the United States was so eager to befriend a Kremlin ruler.”—Michael McFaul, a U.S. Ambassador to Russia for Barack Obama, and the author of the book “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia

3. What words or phrase would you use to describe the current U.S. policy toward Russia?

“Contradictory and incoherent.”—Kenneth Adelman

“Confused and contradictory.”—Dennis Ross

“Off track.”—Stephen Hadley

“Untethered. Trump’s approach toward dealing with Russia and Putin, judging from his many public statements on the subject, is nothing short of daydreamish. And this puts him in stark opposition to a bipartisan majority in Congress, and at odds with members of his own cabinet and most knowledgeable advisers on Russia.”—John Beyrle

“Schizophrenic.”—William Burns

“ ‘Hot Peace!’ ”—Michael McFaul

4. Given the 2016 election interference, is there any innocent explanation for Trump’s predisposition toward Putin, unrelated to the election?

“His adoration of ‘strong’ leaders, meaning brutal dictators or whatever stripe: right, left, or center.”—Kenneth Adelman

“The innocent explanation to Trump’s approach to Putin is that he thinks that the deteriorated state of U.S./Russian relations is dangerous and that it would be in the interest of both countries to find areas of cooperation. He is not wrong on this.”—Stephen Hadley

“The only innocent explanation is that he has wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow since 1987 and sees business opportunities there and that he admires strongmen who don’t have to endure pesky journalists challenging them.”—Angela Stent, a national-intelligence officer for Russia during the George W. Bush Administration

“Naivete.”—John Beyrle

“The political equivalent of penis envy. Autocrat’s affection.”—Sarah Mendelson

5. What is the biggest thing Americans are getting wrong about Russia right now?

“That it is a lower-middle class power, with an economy smaller than Italy’s and even less efficient, a rusted military with second-rate weaponry and probably lousy leadership, and an ideology of Russian nationalism which appeals solely to Russians who are nationalists. Russia is not a superpower, not even close, and should never be regarded in, or even near, our league.”—Kenneth Adelman

“Too many people—including many who have no excuse—are not paying attention [to] the damage Trump is doing to the U.S., the West, and the liberal (there! I said it) rule-based order . . . . or, if they are, they don’t care enough to do something [about it].”—Strobe Talbott

“That it’s all about money and personal survival. The charge that Russia is a kleptocracy, or a mafia gang, discounts the role national interest plays in the formulation and execution of foreign policy. It leads to the view that if we just hit them hard enough in their pocketbooks they will cave, a view that overlooks the deprivation a country is prepared to endure to defend vital national interests. Finally, it is a view that lacks historical context—Putin’s Russia is far from an anomaly in Russian history in its internal workings and foreign ambitions. Our challenge is not dealing simply with Putin; it is dealing with Russia in all its complexity.”—Thomas Graham

“The Russians may have wanted Trump to win, but they have so far been disappointed that he has not delivered and they remain wary of him.”—Angela Stent

“To assume that Putinism will last forever. After Stalin came deStalinization. After Brezhnev came perestroika. Why does everyone assume that after Putin comes more Putinism?”—Michael McFaul

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July 15, 2018 at 06:55PM

Uber Competitor Gett Is Reportedly Considering a Departure from U.S. Market

Uber Competitor Gett Is Reportedly Considering a Departure from U.S. Market

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Gett Inc., the ride-hailing app that competes with Uber Technologies Inc., is weighing an exit from the U.S., just over a year after spending $200 million to enter the market.

The Israeli tech company may sell Juno, the New York-based startup it bought in April 2017, people familiar with the deliberations said, who asked not to be named discussing private information. Juno represents the bulk of Gett’s U.S. operations.

There is no guarantee Gett will sell Juno, the people said, adding that alternative options are still being considered. “As a policy, we do not comment on M&A rumors,” a Gett spokeswoman said.

The reason for the withdrawal stems from a struggle to contain rising costs at Juno, the people said. However, a person with direct knowledge of the company said Juno made a profit in the first quarter of 2018, and that Gett aims to be profitable in the first quarter of 2019.

The retreat from the U.S. would be an about-face in Gett’s attempt to bolster its chances against the world’s largest ride-sharing platform. Juno only operates in New York, competing with Uber, Lyft Inc. and Via Transportation Inc., and previously had plans to expand into other U.S. cities.

Gett, whose investors include Volkswagen AG, started to consider plans to exit the U.S. after muted interest during a recent funding round, the people said. Gett raised $80 million last month, well below the $500 million the company was seeking just a few months before.

Outside the U.S., Gett is focused on Russia, where it competes with the combined operations of Uber and local provider Yandex NV. It’s also available in the U.K. and in its home market of Israel. Its investors include billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries Inc. and Swedish fund manager Vostok Nafta Investment Ltd.

Once seen as a viable challenger to Uber and Lyft in New York, Gett attracted more than $300 million from Volkswagen in 2016. Since then, the German carmaker has changed focus to funnel resources into its homegrown mobility unit called Moia and other operations.

Gett, which currently operates in more 100 cities, wouldn’t be the first to scale back plans for global expansion. DiDi Chuxing Inc. muscled Uber out of China, as Grab Holdings Inc. did the same for Southeast Asia. Rival carmakers are also consolidating in app-based services. In March, Daimler AG and BMW AG revealed plans to merge their car-sharing operations.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

 

This article was written by Christoph Rauwald, Giles Turner and Yaacov Benmeleh from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: The Juno app is pictured. Gett, which bought the ridesharing startup last year, is reportedly considering a sale of the company. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

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July 15, 2018 at 06:36PM