WPA Murals of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York, New York

WPA Murals of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York, New York

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Bowling Green is one of downtown Manhattan’s busiest public thoroughfares. Whether making their way to embark for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, or to have their photograph taken by Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull, or Kristin Visbal’s new addition, the bronze Fearless Girl, the park throngs with tourists and Financial District workers. The small Green itself, the oldest public park in New York City, is dominated by one the city’s most beautiful examples of Beaux Arts architecture, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.

Currently home to the National Museum of the American Indian, a bankruptcy court, and the National Archives of New York, the opulent building receives little of the vast foot traffic passing through Bowling Green. Which is a pity, for inside is one of the most remarkable examples of the WPA murals born out of the Great Depression.

When Cass Gilbert completed the stunning U.S. Custom House in 1907,  a few years before embarking on the Woolworth Building, New York was still principally a port city, one of the greatest and busiest in the world. Lower Manhattan was dominated by slips, piers, and docks. According to the GSA, the Custom House, “was a bustling place of activity as brokers and custom agents worked together building the wealth of this nation.”

One of the first buildings visible to ships sailing into New York Harbor from the Atlantic, the Custom House, named after Alexander Hamilton, was designed to be monumentally awe-inspiring. The U.S. Customs Service itself dated back to 1789, and is the oldest American Federal Agency, responsible for levying and collecting duties on the endless goods flowing into one of the world’s principal ports.

The grand nature of the Custom House and the business conducted inside was displayed in the vast central rotunda, with help from a series of murals, painted by New York artist Reginald Marsh, depicting daily life in the harbor. The eight vast murals were commissioned by the Treasury Relief Art Project as part of the New Deal, funded by the Works Progress Administration program.

Magnificent in scale, detail and execution, Marsh’s murals show the golden age of New York’s harbor: enormous steamliners dwarfing tugboats, automobiles being lowered onto docks, waterfronts bustling with stevedores, longshoremen, unending lines of immigrants, overshadowed by the dominating and ever-growing Manhattan skyline.

New York’s time as one of the greatest port cities in the world has long since passed, and the U.S. Custom House vacated the beautiful building overlooking Bowling Green for 6 World Trade Centre in 1973, where it was destroyed during the September 11th attacks. But visitors venturing inside the free museum, craning their necks upwards, will see a remarkable painted reminder of a vanished past.

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May 2, 2017 at 12:00PM

Alitalia Files for Bankruptcy, but Italy Balks at a Third Bailout

Alitalia Files for Bankruptcy, but Italy Balks at a Third Bailout

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Like the Italian state, Alitalia has always been too big to fail. The carrier has already cost Italian taxpayers an estimated €7 billion over the decade.

This time, officials say there will be no new bailout of the airline, which has been a fixture of the economy and one of Italy’s largest employers since it was founded in 1947. No other carriers have come forward to express interest in taking it over, including Lufthansa, which had been cited as a possible white knight.

Alitalia will be put into the hands of special administrators charged with coming up with a last-ditch plan to turn around the carrier within 180 days or put it into liquidation.

Company officials had said that in order to keep the struggling carrier alive, adjustments were needed in the 12,400-strong work force, which operates around 120 planes and had 22.6 million passengers last year. By contrast, its low-cost rival Ryanair has around 11,000 employees for 300 planes and more than 100 million passengers.

But when unions and management negotiated a rescue plan involving 1,600 layoffs, an 8 percent pay cut and more working days a year in exchange for €2 billion in new financing, employees rejected it.

They seemed to be gambling that the state would come to the rescue, given the political and economic consequences of letting Alitalia collapse.

Mr. Renzi, who is trying to engineer a political comeback, has said he would come up with a plan for Alitalia if he is re-elected leader of the Democratic Party in an internal party election this weekend. (Neither he nor the party have offered details.)

The Five-Star Movement, a populist grouping that has increased power, has also not commented on whether it would support the use of more taxpayer money to save Alitalia.

In the meantime, the situation has outraged some Italians, who took to Facebook and Twitter to protest spending any more taxpayer money on top of the billions already doled out by the government.

“Alitalia bankruptcy is due to bad management and #ConsumerChoice. Italian state shouldn’t give any money to save it,” Luca Bertoletti, the European affairs manager at Consumer Choice, an Italian consumer rights organization, said in a message on Twitter.

And consumers lit up the airline’s Facebook page with angry complaints after it offered discounts for new bookings just days after rejecting the rescue offer, without mentioning that it was heading into bankruptcy.

Alitalia, which sustained losses for most of the last decade, had started to become profitable again in recent years after the government negotiated a 2014 rescue by Etihad, an Abu Dhabi-based carrier. Etihad took a 49 percent stake after Alitalia had stumbled following a rescue operation by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2008.

The Middle Eastern airline made new investments and financed a revision of Alitalia’s business plan to compete better with low-cost carriers. But losses started to mount again in 2015, to nearly €200 million, as Alitalia failed to ward off fierce competition from low-cost airlines, and terrorist attacks in Europe hurt travel.

Alitalia sought to recover this year with a plan to slash €1 billion in costs, cut 2,000 workers and reduce salaries by up to 30 percent. Unions negotiated all those demands down in a deal struck last month that would have released new financing.

Instead, pilots and cabin crew rebuffed the accord, throwing Alitalia yet again into an uncertain future.

“It seems that Alitalia workers have all gone nuts,” Simone Filippetti, a finance and economy reporter at the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, wrote in a column. “Why did they reject a plan that involved a hard sacrifice but a chance of recovering to instead face the risk of a total company disruption and liquidation, and ultimately all lose their jobs anyway?”

Continue reading the main story

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May 2, 2017 at 11:51AM

A Giant Permafrost Crater Grows in Siberia

A Giant Permafrost Crater Grows in Siberia

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Picture a crater, a deep pockmark on the surface of the Earth, and then imagine the process that created it. It is probably very high energy—explosive, catastrophic, destructive. Asteroid impact. Volcanic eruption. Nuclear detonation.

The Batagaika Crater in the distant reaches of eastern Siberia is a different species. Rather than sudden it is slow, and rather than static it is growing. But the process it represents is no less catastrophic than those of the others.

The crater first began to form, scientists believe, in the 1980s. The forest in the area had been cleared decades before, exposing the permafrost below to increasingly warm summers and short winters. As climate change has accelerated, the frozen soil has collapsed and eroded away. The growth of Batagaika Crater (technically more a “depression” or “megaslump”) over the last 20 years has been especially pronounced, and can be seen clearly in satellite images recently released by NASA’s Earth Observatory.

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Today the tadpole-shaped depression is about half a mile in diameter and up to 300 feet deep. It’s already the largest permafrost crater—they’re all over Siberia—and it’s only going to get bigger. “Every year as soon as temperatures go above freezing, it’s going to start happening again,” said Mary Edwards, a professor at the University of Southampton who has studied the crater. “Once you’ve exposed something like this, it’s very hard to stop it.”

If there’s a scientific silver lining here—in addition to the crater’s impact as a gaping visual representation of a global process—it’s the Pliestocene animal remains that are emerging from it, including those of extinct horses, steppe bison, cave lions, and wolves.

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May 2, 2017 at 11:45AM

Ski Touring News Roundup April 2017

Ski Touring News Roundup April 2017

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Post by WildSnow.com blogger

| May 2, 2017  
   

We’ve not seen much technical information on Ueli Steck’s fatal fall on Nuptse, but news articles have of course popped up here and there. This one at Rock and Ice is informative as to Ueli’s place in modern mountaineering.

A while back, we sent a nomination seconding letter to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, regarding Chris Davenport being inducted. “Dav” needs no introduction to readers here — he’s one of the best known and accomplished skiers around, and is already in the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. So getting him into the Colorado hall is a no brainer. Good to see he got voted in. Congratulations Chris!

After spending most of my life in a couple of mountain towns, one of my peeves has always been how housing gets to be such a problem for folks without vast financial resources. “Affordable” housing, if you will. Over a half century, I’ve witnessed both Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado transmogrify from funky mining towns with lots of hip options for rustic living, to gentrified enclaves with “normal” housing as rare as hen’s teeth.

To be fair, regional affordable housing programs probably saved Aspen from itself (by preserving a population of “normal” people). But the lack of housing continues to be a problem — this not only for our resort town cores, but for their greater regions.

The different approaches to “solving” the housing challenge get me chuckling. Here in the central Colorado resort region, more taxes seem to be the common proposal. I’m not comfortable with that. Our high prices for everything are one of the things that drive housing rental and purchase prices up in the first place. Yet more taxes?

I like California’s recent approach: strip away regulatory barriers and let the people step up. More about that here.

What is more, the “tiny house” movement is in full swing these days, but many county and city governments have strict minimum size regulations that block the use of “tiny” dwelling spaces (due to nimbyism, mobile home hate, concerns about reduced tax base, etc.). I was thus amazed when our own county government here in Colorado voted to strip their minimum size requirement. My prediction, allowing small dwelling spaces is in a word, huge. We be watching.

Since we’re on the subject of money, I was amused reading news from Austria about their ski passes getting so incredibly expensive. Average prices of around 50 euros a day are deemed to be perhaps egregious? That sounds pretty affordable to me — walkup window price at Aspen is well upwards of $100. Honestly, analyzing ski lift prices based on one-day tickets is rather pointless. Most resorts offer all sorts of discounted ticket packages that, while perhaps still expensive, do change the picture. In the end, we wonder why anyone would pay it all, when they can simply go ski touring?

Time to start looking back at the winter’s avalanche stats: Colorado is good, let’s keep it that way as we enjoy our extended winter. And everyone else playing in the springtime accumulations of this winter’s big snow, be safe. Watch your timing. Pay attention to warming trends. Be willing to get the heck out of a situation if things are going “loose” sooner than you expected.

A bit of levity to close it up. The Alps are about 700 miles long, with thousands of summits. That’s not enough. See below.

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May 2, 2017 at 11:30AM

Daily Cartoon: Tuesday, May 2nd

Daily Cartoon: Tuesday, May 2nd

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May 2, 2017 at 11:08AM

Bailey Island Bridge (Cribstone Bridge) in Bailey Island, Maine

Bailey Island Bridge (Cribstone Bridge) in Bailey Island, Maine

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Bailey Island Bridge.

The town of Harpswell encompasses two islands, Bailey Island and Orr’s Island. Until 1928, the only way to get from one island to the other was by boat. Locals asked for a bridge to be constructed, and they got one unlike any other in the world.

The bridge was built without any cement, only long, narrow slabs of granite. They were stacked atop each other in criss cross fashion, with spaces in between. This unusual design allowed tide to ebb and flow through the cribwork, while the granite was heavy enough to remain in place despite the force of wind and water even without any mortar holding it together.

Bailey Island Bridge, or Cribstone Bridge as it’s sometimes called, remains the only bridge connecting Bailey Island and Orr’s Island. In 2009 a reconstruction process shut down the bridge for some time, but it was reopened in 2010, repaired with granite from the very quarry it had been built from in the ’20s. Locals are intensely proud of their uncommonly constructed bridge. It has stood the test of time, and appears as a symbol for the island, appearing on signs and souvenirs.

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May 2, 2017 at 11:03AM

Bailey Island Bridge (Cribstone Bridge) in Bailey Island, Maine

Bailey Island Bridge (Cribstone Bridge) in Bailey Island, Maine

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Bailey Island Bridge.

The town of Harpswell encompasses two islands, Bailey Island and Orr’s Island. Until 1928, the only way to get from one island to the other was by boat. Locals asked for a bridge to be constructed, and they got one unlike any other in the world.

The bridge was built without any cement, only long, narrow slabs of granite. They were stacked atop each other in criss cross fashion, with spaces in between. This unusual design allowed tide to ebb and flow through the cribwork, while the granite was heavy enough to remain in place despite the force of wind and water even without any mortar holding it together.

Bailey Island Bridge, or Cribstone Bridge as it’s sometimes called, remains the only bridge connecting Bailey Island and Orr’s Island. In 2009 a reconstruction process shut down the bridge for some time, but it was reopened in 2010, repaired with granite from the very quarry it had been built from in the ’20s. Locals are intensely proud of their uncommonly constructed bridge. It has stood the test of time, and appears as a symbol for the island, appearing on signs and souvenirs.

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May 2, 2017 at 11:05AM

Sabre feels benefit of Asia-Pacific air booking growth

Sabre feels benefit of Asia-Pacific air booking growth

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Sabre almost hit the $1 billion in revenue milestone for the first quarter of 2017 in its earnings report released this week.

The tech giant scored $915.4 million for the first three months of the year, up by 6.5% on the same period in 2016.

Adjusted EBITDA increased by 3.5% year-on-year to $297.6 million.

The Travel Network (GDS) division took a 72% share of the revenue with $663.5 million (up 6.1% y/y).

The Airline and Hospitality business achieved a higher growth figure with 8.2% y/y to hit $258 million.

The wing’s operating income was down by 0.9%.

Within the GDS service, air bookings climbed by 6.3% at 127,400 in Q1. Non-air increased by 2.1% over the same reporting period to 15,300.

The company’s fastest growing region for bookings in Asia-Pacific with 9.6%, compared to 3.2% in North America.

Sabre president and CEO, Sean Menke, says:

“The macro global travel environment was supportive of growth in travel and helped drive strong bookings, passengers boarded and hotel transaction growth across our businesses in the quarter.”

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May 2, 2017 at 10:42AM

Glenrio Ghost Town in Glenrio, New Mexico

Glenrio Ghost Town in Glenrio, New Mexico

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An abandoned café in Glenrio.

Glenrio, a Route 66 town straddling the state boarders of Texas and New Mexico, was founded in 1901 by the various railroads that crossed through it. Despite the fact that its name drew from the English word "glen" and the Spanish word "rio," Glenrio is nowhere near a valley or a river. Wheat and cattle farmers settled on expansive plots, and a little community grew up. 

Being divided between two states made for some unusual customs in Glenrio. The mail would arrive at a train depot on the Texas side, but would have to be transported to the post office on the New Mexico side. The Texas side was part of a dry county so all the bars were on the New Mexico side. Because the gasoline tax was higher in New Mexico, all the service stations were on the Texas side.

When Route 66 paved its way across the Southwest, Glenrio provided a popular stopping point between Amarillo and Tucumcari. Though Glenrio’s actual population never exceeded a few dozen, motels, diners, and cafes could stay afloat thanks to the steady influx of Route 66 tourists. The Grapes of Wrath even shot a scene on Glenrio’s single dusty road.

When the Rock Island Railroad depot closed in 1955 Glenrio was struck hard, but not as hard as when it was replaced by Interstate 40. Unlike the slower-paced, scenic Route 66, this new highway was meant to get you from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Traffic through Glenrio dried up. By the 1980s only two residents remained. Not long after, they were gone too, and Glenrio has been a ghost town ever since.

Today, all that remains of the town are a few derelict structures. The Little Juarez Diner still stands, as does the the State Line Motel. Its sign reads, "First in Texas" or "Last in Texas," depending on which direction you’re driving. A streamline-moderne Texaco service station once had cars lined up for hours. Now it sits deteriorating on the side of Route 66, a reminder of Glenrio’s prosperous past. 

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May 2, 2017 at 10:14AM

Alitalia on the Brink as It Enters Bankruptcy Proceedings

Alitalia on the Brink as It Enters Bankruptcy Proceedings

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Leandro Ciuffo  / Flickr

An Alitalia aircraft tail. The carrier is hoping to avoid liquidation. Leandro Ciuffo / Flickr

Skift Take: Alitalia has been drinking at the last chance saloon for the past couple of years and it finally looks like the bartender is about to call time.

— Patrick Whyte

Alitalia SpA started bankruptcy proceedings for the second time in a decade after workers rejected job cuts and concessions linked to a 2 billion-euro ($2.2 billion) recapitalization plan aimed at salvaging the cash-strapped Italian airline.

Shareholders voted unanimously to file for special administration, the carrier said in a statement following a meeting on Tuesday. Under Italian law, the government will have to provide stop-gap funds to maintain operations and will appoint supervisors to turn around the carrier or order its liquidation.

With the move, the board of directors have “acknowledged the serious economic and financial situation of the company,” the company said in the statement.

The administrators will take over the business and present a new strategy that may entail asset sales, reduced operations and job cuts aimed at making the airline viable within two years. If a turnaround isn’t possible the administrators may order the carrier to be liquidated.

Alitalia, whose major shareholders are Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways PJSC and Italian banks, last week said it had exhausted all options to stay solvent after workers nixed a recapitalization plan involving 1,600 job cuts. Alitalia, which has 12,500 employees, has been stumbling in the wake of a previous bankruptcy in 2008.

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan said last week that the government will not pump more cash into boosting the airline’s capital. Alitalia is “a private company” and its fate is “in the hands of shareholders and management,” Padoan told lawmakers in Rome on Thursday. Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda on Apr. 30 said he hopes the carrier can be sold as “a whole, not in pieces.”

Shrinking Share

Alitalia’s years of underperformance have diminished its standing within the Italian economy and the aviation industry. The carrier’s share of the Italian market slumped to 18 percent as of 2015 from 23 percent in 2007, according to an analysis by Ugo Arrigo and Andrea Giuricin of Milan Bicocca University. Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, now ranks No. 1 with a 23 percent share, up from 12 percent a decade earlier.

The Italian airline had a net loss of 199 million euros in 2015, the last year for which it has published figures. The carrier had lost almost 3 billion euros since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the study shows. The special administrators will have 180 days to come up with a new plan, with a possible extension of 90 days. The process, available for large insolvent companies, is aimed at protecting a company’s assets and workers through reorganization.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Chiara Albanese and Tommaso Ebhardt from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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May 2, 2017 at 10:07AM