Earn 5x Aeroplan Miles at Choice Hotels Through Year End

Earn 5x Aeroplan Miles at Choice Hotels Through Year End

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We recently wrote about how Best Western is offering 750 Aeroplan miles per stay this fall when you opt to earn Aeroplan miles instead of Best Western Rewards points. Now, Choice Hotels is topping this promotion by offering 1,250 Aeroplan miles per stay when you earn Aeroplan miles instead of Choice Privileges points. This is five times the Aeroplan miles you’d normally earn per stay; TPG’s latest valuations peg this haul of Aeroplan miles at $18.75.

This promotion is particularly valuable if you need to stay at any Choice properties this fall but don’t particularly care about earning Choice Privileges points. It’s also valuable for short stays or stays at cheap properties where you’d normally earn minimal Choice points. Mathematically, if you agree with TPG’s latest valuations of both Aeroplan miles and Choice hotels, the break-even point happens on a stay of exactly $312.50:

  • Selecting Aeroplan miles would get you 1,250 miles, worth $18.75
  • Earning Choice points would instead get you 3,125 points (since you earn 10 points per dollar), also worth $18.75.

As a result, if your stay is less than $312.50, selecting Aeroplan would be the more lucrative option. If it’s more than that, the Choice Privileges points you’ll earn are more valuable.

If you do elect to earn miles, you can provide your Aeroplan number at check-in for each stay, or you can change your earning preference to Aeroplan before your first stay. To change your earning preference, log-in to your account, click on your name in the upper right corner, select My Account and then select Update Profile. Select Edit next to Manage Loyalty Programs, add Aeroplan as a new loyalty program and then set Aeroplan as your primary earning preference.

If you want to take advantage of the 1,250 Aeroplan miles per stay promotion, be aware of the following restrictions:

  • Hotel stays booked under certain rates are not eligible. No details are provided, but the rates used by most travelers — Best Available Rate, Advance Purchase Rate, Corporate, Government/Military, AAA/CAA, Senior Rate, Sports Rate — are generally eligible to earn airline points.
  • Reservations made via third-party online retailers or wholesalers aren’t eligible.
  • Consecutive nights at one hotel, regardless of check-ins or check-outs, are considered to be one stay.
  • The hotel guest name must match the Aeroplan member’s name.
  • You must check-in between October 1 and December 31, 2018.
  • It may take 6-8 weeks for the Aeroplan miles to be credited to your Aeroplan account.
  • Stays in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden aren’t eligible.

For stays booked or stayed outside the promotion window, you’ll earn the normal rate of 250 Aeroplan miles per stay if you have your earning preference set to Aeroplan. TPG’s latest valuation values 250 Aeroplan miles at only $3.75 — and Choice Privileges points can provide excellent value — so you’ll definitely want to change your earning preference back to Choice points after the promotion ends on December 31.

H/T: Loyalty Lobby

Featured image courtesy of Bluegreen Vacations Solara Surfside, Ascend Resort Collection.

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October 18, 2018 at 11:12PM

Paul Allen, the Quiet Space Baron

Paul Allen, the Quiet Space Baron

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Twenty years ago, a large business jet touched down on a desolate airstrip in the California desert. Burt Rutan, the founder of Scaled Composites and arguably the most innovative aerospace engineer of his time, stepped outside to greet his guest, and potential investor, the billionaire Paul Allen. Rutan watched the plane park, and, as the author Julian Guthrie describes in her book “How to Make a Spaceship,” “Out flipped … an elegant air stair. Burt looked up at Paul Allen and thought, God is here.”

Allen, who died on Tuesday, at age sixty-five, was a man of tremendous wealth, accomplishment, and philanthropy. In 1975, he and Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, ushering in the personal-computing age and catalyzing perhaps the most technologically innovative period of human history. “He changed the world,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current C.E.O., said this week. Allen bought a pair of sports teams—the N.B.A.’s Portland Trail Blazers and the N.F.L.’s Seattle Seahawks—and held an ownership stake in Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC. He spent five hundred million dollars on brain research, built a museum honoring pop culture, and, according to the Times, “transform[ed] Seattle into a cultural destination.”

But perhaps the most underappreciated, yet consequential, of his endeavors were the contributions he made to the private space industry. Discussions about “new space” tend to focus on the billionaire trio: Elon Musk, of SpaceX; Jeff Bezos, of Blue Origin; and Richard Branson, of Virgin Galactic. (I wrote about Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space program for The New Yorker in August, and am now at work on a book about the subject.) Allen’s legacy, and his impact on the ventures of Musk, Bezos, and Branson, should not be lost.

It was on that initial trip to Mojave that Allen expressed his interest in sponsoring a spacecraft. He just wanted to make sure his money didn’t end up funding a suicide mission. “I wanted to do something in rocketry that no one had done before,” Allen wrote in his memoir, “Idea Man,” adding, “[And] I wanted to do it with Burt because none of his designs had crashed during testing.” A year later, Rutan went to see Allen in Seattle. He, too, had been worried about breaking up on reëntry, but, as he now explained to Allen, he had come up with an engineering solution that involved the vehicle, which he called SpaceShipOne, essentially folding upon itself in order to descend through the atmosphere, slow and controlled, like a shuttlecock. “I believe in this so strongly that I would fund it myself if I had the money,” Rutan said, according to Guthrie’s account. “Let’s do it,” Allen replied.

In June, 2004, Allen, who would, all told, invest about twenty-five million dollars into SpaceShipOne, travelled back to Mojave to witness Rutan’s team attempt their first spaceflight. On the eve of the flight, in a scene captured in the documentary “Black Sky: The Race for Space,” Rutan hollered across the hangar for someone to bring “Mr. Allen” a pen in order to sign his name on the rocket nozzle and inside the cockpit. Rutan said, confidently, “So that when it’s displayed in the Air and Space Museum, it’s still there and visible.”

Unlike Rutan, Musk, Branson, and, to a lesser extent, Bezos, Allen was not the swashbuckling type. He felt comfortable with the kind of failures a computer programmer might encounter— “Your worst outcome is an error message,” he wrote in “Idea Man”—but was far less at ease with manned spaceflight, where the most minor mistake could be fatal. “I found that hard to handle,” Allen said. And as Matthew Stinemetze, the project engineer on SpaceShipOne, told me yesterday, “It wasn’t a slam dunk. This was crazy, crackpot-idea stuff that he ponied up the money for.”

Still, Allen believed in Rutan and his team. He monitored the maiden flight over video and radio feeds, standing a few feet behind Rutan, his hands clasped behind his back—Allen characterized his management style as essentially hands-off, with “periodic high-intensity kibitzing.” When SpaceShipOne crested above the internationally recognized boundary for space, Rutan turned, with a giddy look in his eyes, and congratulated Allen, who, in a rare expression of emotion, patted Rutan on the back.

Later that year, as Allen and Rutan were preparing to fly to St. Louis to receive the X Prize, the ten-million-dollar award earmarked for the first privately funded venture to go to space twice in a span of two weeks, Allen insisted on bringing the entire team and their families. Once again, he parked his 757 on the desolate runway in Mojave, California. “And he did it without a bunch of fanfare,” Stinemetze said. “So many billionaires want to publicize all this stuff. Paul Allen’s contributions were”—Stinemetze hesitated on the phone—“genuine.” Stinemetze went on. “He was literally just trying to move technology forward while keeping himself on the sidelines. His contribution to the industry was massive. At the time, all this other stuff”—Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic—“either didn’t exist or was merely a pipe dream.”

Nor did Allen stop dreaming. Today, across the airport from where Rutan and Scaled Composites once built SpaceShipOne, another Allen-funded project, called Stratolaunch, will be the world’s largest airplane; it has a wingspan greater than the length of a football field, and is designed to “air launch” rockets into orbit. Last year, Allen told the Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, the author of “The Space Barons,” “Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential. Twenty years ago, the advent of the web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO”—low earth orbit—“holds similar revolutionary potential.”

In 2005, true to Rutan’s prophecy, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum invited Rutan and Allen to unveil their display of SpaceShipOne. Reflecting on that event later, Allen, who had by this time seen Microsoft products used by billions of people around the world and watched his football team win the Super Bowl, regarded the SpaceShipOne flights as perhaps his proudest moment.

A year after the Air and Space Museum ceremony, NASA sent a probe into deep space with a small piece of SpaceShipOne on board. Allen thought it was unlikely he would ever go to space himself. “I’m not an edge walker,” he wrote in his memoir. But whenever he looked up at the stars, full of wonder and humility, he knew, “A part of me is up there.”

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October 18, 2018 at 11:03PM

The Women Who Won the Right to Vote

The Women Who Won the Right to Vote

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This fall, a new book, “Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote,” pairs vibrantly painted portraits of early women’s-rights activists by Maira Kalman with text by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, that outlines these women’s contributions to history. The book covers a wide range of women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a young mother who organized one of the first conventions for suffragists, in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848; Sojourner Truth was a former slave who advocated for women of color; Jovita Idár, a Texas-born journalist, became the first president of the League of Mexican Women. Kalman’s energetic hand brings to life stories of tenacity and resolve that span the seventy-year-long suffragette movement and beyond. Senator Gillibrand reminisces about her first female role models—her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—and challenges the new generation of young activists: “You are the suffragists of our time. What would you change if you could?”

See below for a few of Kalman’s paintings from the book:

All images from “Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote,” by Kirsten Gillibrand, with illustrations by Maira Kalman, published by Random House Children’s Books.

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October 18, 2018 at 10:42PM

Operators in Fatal Duck Boat Accident Say They Owe Families Nothing, Citing Obscure 1851 Law

Operators in Fatal Duck Boat Accident Say They Owe Families Nothing, Citing Obscure 1851 Law

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Two companies that operated the Missouri tourist boat that sank during a storm in July, killing 17 people, have invoked a 19th century federal maritime law to claim that they owe no money to the victims’ family members who have filed multiple lawsuits.

The operators, Ripley Entertainment and Branson Duck Vehicles, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday, seeking to take advantage of an 1851 law that could limit their financial liability to the duck boat’s value after the crash and any cargo that was on board. The vessel, which sank to the bottom of Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., is now worthless and had no freight, so the companies owe $0, their lawyers argued.

While shipowners routinely seek such protections in accidents and the families’ lawyers anticipated the legal maneuver, the filing by the companies angered survivors and the victims’ family members. Tia Coleman, who escaped the sinking boat but who lost nine relatives, including her husband and three children, said that she was insulted and called for a boycott of Ripley Entertainment, which operates numerous tourist attractions, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

“Ripley’s legal claim that my husband and children are worthless is incredibly hurtful and insensitive,” Ms. Coleman, who has filed lawsuits seeking $100 million in damages, said in a statement.

A lawyer representing her, Robert J. Mongeluzzi, said he would file a response in court arguing that the maritime law does not apply in this case. It has been cited after high-profile accidents throughout American history, including in lawsuits involving the sinking of the Titanic and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They are saying that the lives that they killed are worthless,” Mr. Mongeluzzi said in an interview on Thursday. “As you might imagine, it has been incredibly hurtful to the families who lost loved ones.”

The companies’ petition, filed in the United States District Court of Western Missouri, seeks to limit what they could owe and to combine all of the lawsuits in the accident into one federal court case.

A spokeswoman for Ripley called the legal request “common in claims related to maritime incidents.”

“While this filing may limit the company’s liability, we are filing this request at the same time we are actively pursuing mediation and settlement with those most affected, and have already scheduled, or are in the process of scheduling, mediations,” the spokeswoman, Suzanne Smagala-Potts, said in an email.

More than two dozen lawsuits, filed in both federal and state court, have been brought against Ripley, which owns the Ride the Ducks operation on Table Rock Lake, or Branson Duck Vehicles, which owned the boat that sank. The boat capsized on July 19 while it tried to navigate choppy water and rain as a thunderstorm moved through southwestern Missouri. Of the 31 people on board, 17 died.

The law at the center of the case, the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, has been criticized for years over claims that it has been misapplied and used in ways that Congress did not envision when it was passed. The law was enacted to protect American shipowners competing with foreign vessels at a time in the mid-19th century when modern insurance did not exist and other countries had similar laws and booming trade.

The law includes provisions that could undercut the duck boat operators’ claims that they are not financially liable, said Robert Force, a professor of maritime law at Tulane University.

Companies must prove they had no prior knowledge of negligence or unseaworthy conditions that could have contributed to the accident. Both companies made such a claim in court, but they may not hold up, Mr. Force said.

“Even though management may not have been involved in the individual decision, if management didn’t have rules and regulations for their employees with respect to not taking the boat out under certain conditions, that would be enough to rule it out,” Mr. Force said in an interview on Thursday.

Another lawyer for Ms. Coleman, Jeffrey P. Goodman, said he would focus his legal response on another requirement of the 1851 law: It applies only in accidents on “navigable waters.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in 1983 that Table Rock Lake was “not navigable” because it was “used exclusively for recreational activities.”

That case was brought by a man injured in a boating accident on the lake. The Eighth Circuit’s characterization of the lake has been criticized in recent years as outdated because of the commercial activity that takes place on it, which includes tourist boat rides.

Nonetheless, Mr. Goodman said the court’s ruling hurts the companies’ ability to invoke the 1851 law.

“Table Rock Lake is not navigable,” Mr. Goodman said. “They are going to have to overcome that.”

In spite of the court filing, Ms. Smagala-Potts said, Ripley has offered to mediate the victims’ claims in an effort to avoid lengthy litigation.

Mr. Mongeluzzi said that Ripley had offered to enter mediation but had not detailed any potential settlements. “Our plaintiffs are analyzing how we will respond to that,” he said.

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October 18, 2018 at 10:06PM

‘Lucky for You, There’s Nothing to Do Here’ Says Nebraska’s New Tourism Campaign

‘Lucky for You, There’s Nothing to Do Here’ Says Nebraska’s New Tourism Campaign

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There’s self-deprecating, and then there’s Nebraska’s new tourism campaign.

For four consecutive years, the state has come in dead last out of states people want to visit, according to MMGY Global, a travel marketing research firm. Instead of trying to flaunt the state’s music and art scene in Omaha or wildlife, officials are moving into the camp of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” — namely in the form of their latest campaign.


Image courtesy of Nebraska Tourism Commission.

The Commission’s new slogan is “Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and we gotta give it to them: It’s pretty brilliant. They’re not trying to pretend to be something they’re not, and are well-aware that the state “may not be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit.” They’re trying to appeal more to city-goers who want to escape “the big city life for moments of solitude in the open plains” than chic world travelers without being — dare we say — corny. This is a little something we like to call knowing your audience.

You’ll be able to find this campaign in ads next spring, which will feature everything from hikers on a rock formation, complimented with the phrase “famous for our flat, boring landscape” to viewers.

Locals, though, are still a little *plain* skeptical. Micah Yost, a Nebraska native told The Washington Post, “I just don’t think the best way to pitch ourselves is calling out stereotypes about ourselves. There’s no reason why that would draw people to the state.”

He also brought up the fact that if people just “view us as cornfields and dirt roads,” they’ll miss out on other things happening in the state — like “innovation happening at the universities, the great sports, the great restaurants.”

The real kicker, though? They paid a Colorado marketing firm to come up with it. So they really weren’t kidding when they said it’s not for everyone.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

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October 18, 2018 at 09:36PM

A Florida College Administrator Talks About Putting Her School Back Together After Hurricane Michael

A Florida College Administrator Talks About Putting Her School Back Together After Hurricane Michael

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Chipola College is a small public college located in Marianna, Florida, some sixty miles north of Panama City and and seventy miles north of Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael made landfall last week. Marianna and the area around it—Jackson County—didn’t have to deal with the storm surge from the ocean, but the storm was devastating all the same. Downed trees, downed power lines, stripped-off roofs, blocked roads, debris everywhere.

A week after the storm hit, a curfew was still in place, schools were still closed, and dozens of people were still availing themselves of a shelter set up at Marianna High School. On Thursday, Pam Rentz, Chipola’s vice-president of academics and instruction, spoke by phone about the school’s efforts to reopen. This interview has been edited and condensed.

“The week has been a challenge, for everybody. The biggest hurdle all the way around has been lack of communication. The cell towers were down, we have no Internet, we have no electricity. We are in the midst of all of this destruction, and we have no information. Really, the strongest avenue of communication for us has been iHeartRadio. We can get information through the car radio, or if you have a radio at home with batteries.

“Chipola is in a rural area. We have about twenty-five hundred to three thousand students. It’s a beautiful campus with lots of trees, which normally serves us well, but in this particular instance it’s been a real challenge. We are largely a commuter college. Very limited dorm space—and those students all evacuated, except for about ten.

“It’s my job to get us up and running, as far as getting the courses and the classes up and going once again. We’re trying to bring the students back Monday. We have a meeting with faculty and staff tomorrow. We’re hoping—we’ve been promised there’s a ninety-nine-per-cent chance we’ll have power to the college by Monday. We’re still trying to get water to the college. We won’t have a cafeteria—students will be brown-bagging it, and we’re going to be handing out peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with chips and water for students who come and need that, for lunch. Because there’s no place for them to go get anything in town. Everything is down.

“We have a national-disaster relief team on campus. They have been removing the trees, trying to get the water out of the buildings. This is what they do. They come in with all this heavy equipment, and they just start working. The campus is pretty much clean, and the trees should be pretty much all removed by Monday. By Monday, things should be looking relatively normal, except for all the wood and debris and trees that are lined up on the side of the road. The overwhelming response from across the state and across the nation has just been magnificent—there are crews here from every state, working to restore power, working to remove trees. For those of us who are in the midst of this, and have no access to communication, it has been wonderful to just stop and visit with these people on the roads. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Oh, I’m from Michigan.’ And you say, ‘Thank you so much for being here.’

“Trying to get the college up and running on Monday seems overwhelming, but we’re trying to maintain the integrity of the academic program. Our students have paid for instruction, they’ve received financial aid, they’ve received scholarships, and we want to honor that as best we can.

We’ve had our executive council here, I met with the deans this morning, and every person around the table is dealing with personal catastrophic loss. Homes, vehicles. My home is livable—we had a tree put a hole in the roof, we had part of the ceiling cave in, but just a small part. We’ve got a generator, so we were running fans all week to try to stay cool in the heat. It’s my husband and I, but I had a sister who stayed with us through the storm, who lives in Panama City. My mother also lives in Panama City, she is with us right now. We are looking to remove everything from her home so that they can bulldoze it—it’s not going to be livable.

“I have about a thirty-minute drive to work. That first drive in to campus was a little bit tearful, just looking at—it’s, like, you could drive a hundred miles and things don’t ever get better. Seeing the campus that we always thought was so beautiful and shady and welcoming, and there’s barely a tree standing—the whole skyline of this area is different. Driving through Marianna, I haven’t seen two houses in all of Marianna that did not have either a tree on it, or in it, or a tarp on it where the tree had been removed.

“We know, starting back Monday, that we will have many students who won’t be able to get here. We may have faculty that won’t be able to get here. We want to open, we want to maintain the integrity of our institution, at the same time being as compassionate at the student level as we possibly can. We will have to work with students one on one to know what their needs are, and how we can help them move forward and not get mired down in the personal situations that might make them withdraw. We don’t want them to withdraw, we want them to stay and let us help them as best we can.”

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October 18, 2018 at 09:24PM

Qatar Airways May Leave Oneworld Soon, and Will Be Privatized Within Next Decade

Qatar Airways May Leave Oneworld Soon, and Will Be Privatized Within Next Decade

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Qatar Airways, one of the largest members of the Oneworld alliance headed by American Airlines and British Airways, may leave the group soon over its mistreatment of the Qatari airline, CEO Akbar al Baker said.

Speaking Thursday at a meeting with US media in New York, al Baker also announced that the government-owned airline will be privatized “within the next decade.”

Al Baker was especially trenchant about American, which he accused of being unsupportive of its alliance partner. He said Qatar Airways has given the alliance an ultimatum to enforce fair play within its members, although he did not elaborate on when that ultimatum might expire.

“We are waiting to see what will be the outcome of the ultimatum we have given to the Oneworld administration. We have told them that we are consrtantly being targeted by a Oneworld partner,” he said. “Alliance means interlining with each other, letting passengers use each other’s lounges, to be able to earn and burn miles on each other, to support each other. This is not happening from the American Airlines side. On the contrary, rumors have been constantly spread. The US government is being approached with lame excuses to restrict our investments, our growth. So what is the point?”

“American Airlines is a founding member of Oneworld, and we hope the alliance’s membersip remains intact,” Matt Miller, a spokesperson for American, said in response to a request for comment from TPG.

There is still “a lot of bad feeling both within my government and especially with me” about the longstanding spat between the three biggest airlines in the Middle East — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar — and the three biggest US airlines, American, Delta and United. That dispute was formally resolved between Qatar and the US earlier this year, and the other two airlines, based in the Emirates, followed shortly afterward.

Al Baker, though, is still unsatisfied with his nominal US partner.

“We were invited by American to join Oneworld,” he said Thursday, “so it is very hurting to see that very airline creating this bad feeling [saying] that we are government-subsidized, that we are not operating on a level playing field. Frankly I don’t understand.”

Qatar Airways is in fact owned by the Qatari government, a fact that al Baker obviously doesn’t dispute, but which he says is immaterial. “We are not government-subsidized, we are government-owned, and the government has absolute right to inject capital and equity into its business,” he said.

But Qatar Airways won’t be owned by the state for long, al Baker revealed. “British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, all of these airlines were government-owned once upon a time. They were government-owned for more than five or six decades before they were privatized. We are new, so we have the right also to be government-owned for that period before we would also be privatized, and actually we will not wait for five decades to be privatized. We will do it earlier.”

As for the exact date, it will be “within the next decade,” al Baker said.

TPG has reached out for comment to Oneworld as well, but has not heard back by the time of publication.

Featured image of Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker speaking at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, October 18, 2018, by Alberto Riva/TPG)

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October 18, 2018 at 09:23PM

“Wanderlust,” Reviewed: Toni Collette in a Self-Help Soap Opera

“Wanderlust,” Reviewed: Toni Collette in a Self-Help Soap Opera

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The title card for the new Toni Collette show not only identifies it as “Wanderlust” (Netflix) but also supplies a dictionary definition of the term. This signals the program’s efforts to elevate bluntness to a type of style. The six-hour series, created by the British dramatist Nick Payne, who overhauled his 2010 stage play of the same name, follows the extramarital longings and excavated traumas of a psychotherapist, played by Collette. She and her schoolteacher husband (Steven Mackintosh) bemoan their “flat-lining sex life” and decide to apply the old external defibrillators: they open their marriage to “sanctioned infidelities,” with complicated consequences.

In some ways, “Wanderlust” is a self-analytic over-forty fantasy. It’s also a self-help soap opera espousing a practical philosophy of sex, love, and self-knowledge. Always, it’s conscious of its heavy hand. Collette happens to be excellent, but to enjoy her performance in full, you must accept without judgment that her character, whose true struggle is to confront grief, is named Joy.

The actual writing is rarely so unsubtle, except when Payne yields the floor to earnest speechifying about carnal needs and emotional desires. The dialogue is quite good, with a texture combining dry wit and chewy passion, and the moments of quietness within the exchanges are fantastic: awkward pauses, anxious lulls, mute grasping to gather thoughts and courage. Motorists idle with their ideas as their wipers thump away the rain. The visual scheme of the show heightens the tension of the silences. The compositions of “Wanderlust” favor stark symmetry, severe mirrorings, and characters facing one another with six or eight feet of charged air between them as they undress for sex or bare their souls. An awful lot of conversations transpire across interior archways and precious thresholds. The distancing effect of this seems intentional. The show asks to be read like a novelistic character study. Its literary genre might be softcore Updike.

The first face-to-face confrontation across the center of the frame finds Joy and her husband, named Alan, in their bourgeois-intellectual bedroom, and the strenuous parallelism of the visuals begins to find its equivalent in the plotting. The couple try to renew their sex life after her hip bone, broken in a bicycle accident, has finally healed, but the thrill is gone, and each looks elsewhere with lusty eyes. After a colleague’s car breaks down, Alan offers her a ride and strays into her bed. After her bicycle gets a flat, Joy accepts a lift from a physical-therapy classmate, and the two hook up in her office. The schematic pattern of all this grows ponderous. Joy and Alan each confess their betrayals immediately, and agree to indulge in casual sex outside of the marriage. “It’s excitement and adrenaline instead of worry and fear,” Joy says, in an early intimation that she’s indulging in escapism and avoidance.

Meanwhile, the couple’s three children, who range in type and age from gawky teen to mildly depressive yuppie fledgling, bolster the main themes by jaunting and plodding throughout their own romantic lives. In the least persuasive vignette, the middle child strikes up a companionship with a pastry-baking neighbor lady who has recently awakened to her homosexuality. In the most compelling one, their teen-age son galumphs toward losing his virginity, torn between affection for a close female chum and his infatuation with a glamorous new classmate who shares his interest in Jonathan Franzen and Zadie Smith—names dropped, one senses, so that viewers may congratulate themselves on their own literacy.

But back to that bike crash, which is not only a pungent metaphor—doctor, heal thyself!—but also a decoy. It emerges that Joy’s accident is connected, coincidentally but directly, to a recent instance of agony, which in turn resonates against a life-defining experience of loss. “Wanderlust” keeps these cards tucked up its sleeve until the fifth episode, the entirety of which is devoted to a therapy session in which Joy’s own shrink (Sophie Okonedo) leads an expedition into suppressed memories and delivers an essayistic oration on emotional blockage. It’s a fine monologue, well delivered, and contributes to the show’s salience as a character study. But to withhold this information, from the development of a drama about “sanctioned infidelities,” isn’t simply to devise a clever structure. It’s just cheating.

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October 18, 2018 at 08:55PM

British Airways Is Launching Dreamliner Service to Charleston, SC (Yes, Really)

British Airways Is Launching Dreamliner Service to Charleston, SC (Yes, Really)

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Charleston (CHS) is home to Boeing’s South Carolina Dreamliner facility, some killer southern food, and, come April 4, 2019, a twice-weekly 787 flight to London (LHR), courtesy of British Airways.

Now I do love Charleston, don’t get me wrong, but if you had asked me an hour ago if I ever saw British Airways choosing CHS for a nonstop flight across the Atlantic, I would have been more than willing to bet all of my chips on “no.” As my buddy Ben writes, though, BA is indeed planning to launch service — in fact, it’s such a sure thing that the airline’s already begun selling seats.

The new flight will operate from April 4 through Oct. 24, 2019, flying on Thursdays and Sundays with the following schedule:

  • BA221 Charleston (CHS) 10:50pm Departure  London (LHR) 11:50am (+1) Arrival
  • BA220 London (LHR) 5:20pm Departure  Charleston (CHS) 9:20pm Arrival

This new nonstop will be operated by BA’s smallest Dreamliner, the 787-8, with 35 flat-bed seats in Club World (business class), 25 recliners in World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and 154 in World Traveller (coach).


A business-class seat on BA’s 787-8. Photo by Mike Lowe.

Paid fares are quite steep at the moment, starting at about $1,400 round-trip in economy, $2,000 in premium economy or about $4,000 in business class, but awards are already available to book, with two seats in business class and four in coach on most dates. Premium-economy award seats don’t appear to have been loaded yet.

You can book the above with American AAdvantage miles, for 30,000 each way in economy or 57,500 in biz, or with Avios, with pricing as follows:

  • Club World: 62,500 (off-peak); 75,000 (peak)
  • World Traveller: 16,250 (off-peak); 25,000 (peak)

You can easily boost your Avios balance by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, earned with cards like The Platinum Card from American Express, or Chase Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Surcharges are ridiculously high, however. Including tax, you’re looking at $213 (economy) or $581 (business) on flights from Charleston, or $331 (economy) or $551 (business) on flights from London — on a round-trip business-class award ticket, you could end up paying an absolutely absurd $1,132 in taxes and fees.

In addition to this being the only transatlantic flight from CHS, it’ll also be the only scheduled 787 flight to the southern home of Boeing’s Dreamliner operations. Many 787-9s and all 787-10s begin their adventures in Charleston — while the plane is no stranger to CHS spotters, this new seasonal flight is sure to be the talk of the town.

Featured image of Charleston by SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images.

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October 18, 2018 at 08:48PM

Khashoggi’s Final Message—For Other Journalists Like Him

Khashoggi’s Final Message—For Other Journalists Like Him

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On October 3rd, the day after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, the Washington Post received a final column left behind with his assistant when he went off to Turkey to get married. It was, in seven hundred words, poignant and personal and epically appropriate, considering his fate. “The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries,” he opined. “They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information.” Instead, rulers grew ever more repressive after the short-lived Arab Spring.

Today, hundreds of millions of people across the Middle East “are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives,” Khashoggi wrote. They are either “uninformed or misinformed” by draconian censorship and fake state narratives. As the headline of his last published words asserted, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”

In his death, Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a former government supporter who became a vocal and fearless critic of the current Saudi crown prince, has galvanized global attention far more than he was able to do during his life. The horrific details of his murder and dismemberment have had an effect he would never have imagined—putting into serious question the fate of a Saudi leader, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, American foreign-policy goals in the world’s most volatile region, and even policies that have kept dictators in power. The repercussions are only beginning.

But Khashoggi was hardly a lone voice decrying political repression in the Middle East, as he acknowledged in his final Post column. Saudi Arabia may be the most cruel and ruthless government in the region, but it uses tactics embraced by dictators, sheikhs, and Presidents across twenty-two countries.

In 2014, Egypt’s military-dominated government seized all print copies of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, whose name means “The Egyptian Today.” Al-Masry Al-Youm is that rare private newspaper in the Arab world where young reporters once dared to question government policies in hard-hitting editorials and groundbreaking journalism. “The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community,” Khashoggi wrote. “Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”

The world, particularly the West, is partly culpable for looking the other way, he wrote. It is a tragic irony that the world is paying attention to Khashoggi’s death, yet still not making an issue of a sweeping problem that could determine the future of a region of twenty-two countries and four hundred million people. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, announced that he would not attend the Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert,” which is pivotal to the crown prince’s plans to modernize the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. The British trade minister, the French and Dutch finance ministers, and the president of the International Monetary Fund also backed out after Khashoggi’s disappearance. But no foreign government is addressing the broader political practices in any other country, or any other case, in the region.

In his column, Khashoggi drew attention to imprisoned colleagues who receive no coverage. “My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press,” Khashoggi noted. “He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment.” Shehi, who had more than a million followers on Twitter, was charged with “insulting the royal court” for his statements about widespread government corruption in his columns for the newspaper Al Watan and on a local television program.

Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House and a former national editor at the Washington Post, told me that Khashoggi rightly identified the broader stakes. “Khashoggi’s final column accurately pinpointed the appalling lack of political rights and civil liberties in much of the Arab world, especially the right to freely express oneself,” he said. Khashoggi began his last piece by citing Freedom House’s 2018 report—and the fact that only one Arab country, Tunisia, is ranked as “free.” Abramowitz told me, “What is especially sad is that, while we are properly focussed on the outrageous actions by the Saudi government to silence one critic, we must also remember that countless other bloggers, journalists, and writers have been jailed, censored, physically threatened, and even murdered—with little notice from the rest of the world. And, in some cases, notably Egypt, conditions have deteriorated.”

In the Gulf states, Human Rights Watch chronicled a hundred and forty cases—a number chosen based on the original character limit on Twitter, though there are actually many, many more—where governments have silenced peaceful critics simply for their online activism. Among the most famous is Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who ran a Web site called the Saudi Liberal Network that dared to discuss the country’s rigid Islamic restrictions on culture. One post mocked the prohibition against observing Valentine’s Day, which, like all non-Muslim holidays, is banned in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he was sentenced to ten years in prison, a thousand lashes, and a fine that exceeded a quarter million dollars. (I wrote about his case in 2015.)

Badawi’s sister Samar—who received the 2012 International Women of Courage Award at a White House ceremony hosted by Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—was arrested in July. When the Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted her concern about the Badawi siblings, in August, the kingdom responded by expelling the Canadian ambassador, recalling its envoy, freezing all new trade and investment, suspending flights by the state airline to Toronto, and ordering thousands of Saudi students to leave Canada. (I wrote about the episode that month.)

In Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, one of the Arab world’s most prominent human-rights advocates, is languishing in jail after being sentenced to five years for tweeting about torture in the tiny sheikhdom and criticizing Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor, who ran a Web site focussed on reforms, was sentenced to ten years for social-media comments calling for reform.

“The Arab people are desperate for real news and information, and Arab governments are desperately trying to make sure they never get that,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told me. “Uncensored communication on social media promised journalists and writers in the Middle East the greatest hope to freely exchange ideas and information, but it’s also why Arab governments, so terrified of the voices of their own citizens, rushed to pass laws criminalizing online communications and jailing writers and activists for mere tweets.”

The wider world bought into the Saudi narrative that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince and de-facto ruler, was intent on opening up the kingdom. Perhaps tellingly, it is the free press elsewhere in the world that first asked questions about Khashoggi’s disappearance, on October 2nd, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to get papers so he could marry.  “The world should take note that it is the free press, not the Saudi government or the White House, that has doggedly searched for the truth about what happened to Mr. Khashoggi,” the Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, said in a statement. “It reminds us, once again, that a free press is an essential check against tyranny, dishonesty, and impunity.”

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October 18, 2018 at 08:41PM