Current Events and Blog

29Jul 2016

Airport plans frequent flyer parking perks – Standard Speaker


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PITTSTON TWP. — Customers who regularly fly out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport soon could find it easier getting in and out of its parking garage and outdoor lot.

Rather than stopping to pay for parking, they’ll be able to use an airport-issued electronic card in an automated system at the exit gates.

The card will link electronically to the parker’s pre-established account and charge it for the amount of time parked, airport assistant director Michael W. Conner said Thursday.

Airport users will be able to subscribe to the electronic system online. Though it’s meant for frequent airport parkers, anyone can sign up.

“The customer has less to do than they do now, they don’t have to wait in lines anymore,” Conner said.

The bi-county airport board approved Thursday a previously negotiated eight-year extension as part of the deal that includes the automated system. SP Plus now may run the parking lot and garage through July 31, 2021. As part of the deal, SP Plus will install the automated system, estimated to cost $113,000, at its own expense.

“The airport will not incur any costs for the system while it provides just another customer perk,” Conner said.

— Borys Krawczeniuk

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28Jul 2016

23 Companies That Will Help You Travel The World For Free (And Maybe Even Pay You To Do It) – Forbes


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Forbes

23 Companies That Will Help You Travel The World For Free (And Maybe Even Pay You To Do It)
Forbes
If you're willing to do a little work while you're on vacation, these companies will help you get most — if not all — of your travel costs covered. Some will even pay you a stipend or a salary. It's a trend that is taking off, especially among young



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28Jul 2016

​Heading abroad? Here's a good reason to pack your credit card – CBS News


If you’re a frequent traveler and credit card user, there’s some good news: Many popular cards are dropping those pesky foreign transaction fees, according to a new CreditCards.com report.

27Jul 2016

6 Great Rewards You Can Get For Giving Blood This Summer – Money Magazine


Free Amazon gift cards, theme park tickets, and more.

For the second time this month, the Red Cross has issued an emergency request for blood donations.

The Red Cross said this week it has fallen below a five-day supply of blood, the minimum it always wants on hand to cover the needs of everyday patients and emergency situations. So now’s the time to give blood, if you can. And if you need incentive to donate blood beyond simply doing what you can to help, the Red Cross is offering a few special summer promotions to provide a little more enticement. Here are some of the rewards available to blood donors:

$5 Amazon Gift Card

Between July 25 and August 31, the Red Cross will be thanking anyone who donates blood or platelets with a $5 Amazon gift card. Just head to your local Red Cross blood bank, donate, and you will get an Amazon voucher emailed to you 14 days later. (Don’t expect to pile up Amazon credits by donating multiple times; this is a one-time offer as you can only donate blood every 8 weeks.)

$10 Amazon Gift Card

Good news for the estimated 7% of the population with O Negative blood, which is considered the “universal” blood type as it can be safely transfused into almost any patient. “Your blood type is always in high demand,” the Red Cross says, because “when a patient shows up with minutes to live and there is no time to determine blood type, emergency personnel reach for your type O negative blood.” Because O Negative is so rare and in such high demand, the Red Cross is offering donors $10 Amazon gift cards from now until December 31, 2016 if you give blood three times. This offer applies to to any blood bank around the U.S.

Cedar Fair Park Tickets (Ohio only)

Calling all Ohio donors: For every blood donation made until the end of August 2016, you’ll get a free ticket to any U.S. Cedar Fair theme park. You can only donate at certain times and locations in Ohio, so make sure you check before you head out.

Donors can also enter their Grand Prize package to win a trip for four to Knott’s Berry Farm or Cedar Point, which includes hotel accommodation and two days worth of park tickets.

Baltimore Orioles Tickets (Maryland only)

For one day only, Baltimore-based donors will be treated to 2 ticket vouchers for select upcoming Orioles home games, plus a Red Cross T-shirt. To participate, make an appointment and show up at the correct time for the blood drive, which is taking place on Saturday, August 6, 2016, at the Marriott in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.

Free Haircuts (Men only)
Saving lives never looked so good, says the Red Cross. At select blood donation centers around the U.S., men will receive a free hair cut from Sports Clips for donating blood now throughout September. The voucher is only valid at certain locations, so make sure to check before you go.

Read Next: The Smarter Way to Give to Charity

…Good Karma

Finally, perhaps the best reward of all for donating blood is simply the feeling of chipping in and helping people in need. Maybe there’s a little good karma in it for you too. And what could be better than good karma? By donating blood you’ll be helping to close the gap on the 36,000 units of red blood cells that are needed in the U.S. every day. One person in America is in need every two seconds.

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).


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27Jul 2016

Air France Braced for Slump as Terror Spree Weighs on Travel – Bloomberg


Air France-KLM Group warned that political and economic uncertainties are weighing on travel demand, with the carrier especially worried about France’s standing as a tourist hotspot after a succession of terrorist attacks that have spanned Paris to the Riviera.

Europe’s largest airline said Wednesday there is “special concern about France as a destination” amid the Islamic State-inspired killings, with inbound flows on long-haul routes set to fall at least 10 percent this summer. Fuel savings that helped lift operating profit 77 percent in the second quarter are also about to be eaten up by a fare decline as passenger numbers slide.

“If the question is do we see a deteriorating environment, the answer is yes,” Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci said in a phone briefing. “As the months have gone by we’ve seen a significant drop in demand for inbound travel to Europe, especially France. This pressure is happening in the context of capacity growth that is very high for the summer season.”

Demand for travel from countries including Japan and China is ebbing away as attacks including those that claimed 130 lives in the French capital in November and 84 in Nice this month make global headlines, the company said. In the latest outrage Tuesday, a priest was murdered in a village church. Sluggish growth in markets such as Brazil is also hurting passenger numbers, while Britain’s vote to quit the European Union may prove a further drag.

Incoming Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Janaillac said that even with its troubles he views France as “reasonably safe” compared with other countries around the globe, while adding that it is “up to the authorities” to reassure the public. Group travel from China is already down 50 percent, based on forward bookings, with demand from the U.S. also weak.

Air France-KLM said the benefits of cheaper fuel for 2016 as a whole — which it estimates at $1.8 billion — will be “more than offset” by a fare drop in coming quarters prompted by overcapacity. The company had previously suggested fuel savings would only be “significantly offset.”

Targets Retained

Oliver Sleath, an analyst at Barclays in London, said in a note that the gloomier outlook, which didn’t include specific earnings guidance, was no surprise given recent events, with Air France-KLM joining a chorus of airlines warning about demand shocks during the key summer season.

The jump in second-quarter operating profit to 317 million euros ($348 million) was also bigger than expected even after a 30 percent decline in fuel costs, especially since fare erosion led sales to slip 5.2 percent to 6.22 billion euros, and reflected better-than-expected trading and cost performance, Sleath said.

The company, which posted a first annual profit for four years in 2015, also kept its 2016 goals of a free cash flow between 600 million euros and 1 billion euros, a 1 percent unit-cost reduction, and a “significant” drop in net debt.

Air France-KLM shares traded 2.5 percent higher at 5.34 euros as of noon in Paris, where the company is based, paring their decline this year to 24 percent. British Airways parent IAG SA, which competes in many of the same markets as Air France-KLM and benefits from a lower cost base, rose as much as 5 percent and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which last week predicted a decline in annual operating profit instead of a gain, rose as much as 2 percent.

Flybe Group Plc separately cautioned that “consumer uncertainty about Brexit, its economic impact and repeated terrorist incidents” is weighing on earnings, pushing the U.K. regional carrier’s stock down as much as 11.3 percent.

Strike Saga

In addition to contending with turbulent markets, Air France-KLM is immersed in a long-running fight with unions. Flight attendants at its French unit began a strike Wednesday in a dispute stemming from a wholesale restructuring of the airline to cut costs, while KLM ground crew plan unspecified labor actions Thursday. A four-day strike by Air France pilots, timed to disrupt the Euro 2016 soccer championships, wiped 40 million euros from second-quarter earnings.

The walkouts send a message to Janaillac, a former bus company head who took over this month pledging “openness and dialog.” The airline’s new boss doesn’t intend to make any strategic announcements until November.

Riolacci, who plans to leave the company later this year following the exit of his former CEO Alexandre de Juniac, said the strikes are probably contributing to passenger “wariness” about traveling with the Air France unit, though the effect is impossible to quantify.

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27Jul 2016

Some People Are Still Getting Money Back For A 90's Credit Card Scam – Forbes


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Forbes

Some People Are Still Getting Money Back For A 90's Credit Card Scam
Forbes
If you were a victim of credit card fraud in the 1990s, you've probably moved on. Not the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the FTC said it is mailing some 322,000 checks totaling nearly $9.7 million to people who were victims of an illegal credit



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27Jul 2016

Airport plans frequent flyer parking perk – News – The Times-Tribune – Scranton Times-Tribune


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PITTSTON TWP. — Customers who regularly fly out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport soon could find it easier getting in and out of its parking garage and outdoor lot.

Rather than stopping to pay for parking, they’ll be able to use an airport-issued electronic card in an automated system at the exit gates. The card will link electronically to the parker’s pre-established account and charge it for the amount of time parked, airport assistant director Michael W. Conner said Thursday. Parkers will be able to subscribe to the electronic system online. Though it’s meant for frequent airport parkers, anyone can sign up.

“The customer has less to do than they do now, they don’t have to wait in lines any more,” Mr. Conner said.

The bi-county airport board approved Thursday a previously negotiated eight-year extension as part of the deal that includes the automated system. SP Plus now may run the parking lot and garage through July 31, 2021. As part of the deal, SP Plus will install the automated system, estimated to cost $113,000, at its own expense.

“The airport will not incur any costs for the system while it provides just another customer perk,” Mr. Conner said.

Contact the writer:

bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com

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27Jul 2016

Shooting spree: $10000 rewards renewed for information on death of three men – MyNewsLA.com



Photo via Pixabay

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday renewed $10,000 rewards in hopes of solving three unrelated shootings that took the lives of a young man in Lynwood, a 53-year-old lawyer in Rolling Hills Estates and a 26- year-old Long Beach man.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended extending the reward in the July 24, 2014, “senseless” shooting death of 18-year-old Alexis Alvarado- Garcia.

The reward, set to expire July 31, will now be available for at least another 90 days.

Alvarado-Garcia was shot at a Lynwood strip mall in the 10900 block of Long Beach Boulevard and was pronounced dead at St. Francis Medical Center. Witnesses told sheriff’s deputies that he had argued with the unidentified gunman.

A motorist who saw the shooting followed the gunman as he ran east on North Avenue and then jumped into a light-colored, four-door Toyota Camry with at least two other men inside. Someone inside fired at the witness and bullets struck his pickup truck.

Anyone with information about the killing was asked to call Detective Teri Bernstein of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.

Supervisor Don Knabe recommended renewing a $10,000 reward, that had been set to expire Aug. 2, for information on whoever killed attorney Jeffrey Tidus, who was shot in the head on Dec. 7, 2009, in the driveway of his home in the 4600 block of Sugarhill Drive.

He had gone outside to retrieve a laptop computer from his car, his wife told investigators, who said Tidus appeared to have been targeted.

Knabe said Tidus was active in various charities and was a valued member of the community.

The attorney’s family, friends and clients separately raised $90,000 in reward money, but to date no one has been arrested in connection with the shooting.

Anyone with information about Tidus’ killing was asked to call sheriff’s Detectives Joe Espino or Bob Kenney at (323) 890-5500.

Knabe also moved to extend a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot Long Beach resident Lashown Fils in 2012. That reward had been set to expire Wednesday.

“Detectives have canvassed the area in an attempt to find additional witnesses to the incident … no additional witnesses have come forward,” Knabe said, adding he hoped the reward would eventually prompt a call.

Fils was shot in the chest and left lying in the street about 4 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2012. He was pronounced dead at a hospital a few hours later. Investigators said Fils was not a gang member and the motive for the shooting near 14th Street and Cedar Avenue was unknown.

Anyone with information on who shot Fils was asked to call Long Beach homicide Detectives Terri Hubert or Mark Bigel at (562) 570-7244.

Tipsters who want to remain anonymous may also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) regarding any of these crimes.

–City News Service 

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26Jul 2016

Travel Secrets: Navigating Red Tape Around the World – Paste Magazine


Embarking on a gap year or sabbatical to explore the world is the ultimate dream of the travel-obsessed. It’s a fantasy filled with adventure and discovery. Yet anyone who has pursued the dream knows the reality isn’t all champagne and sunsets.

Once fears of employment gaps, disappearing savings, and separation from family and friends are under control, then the challenge of actual travel begins. Let’s call it “red tape reality.”

The physical act of moving around the world is far from easy. Navigating a global path involves monitoring a sea of ever-changing rules and visa requirements and staying up-to-date on travel conditions.

American passports, which we sometimes take for granted, are our tickets to roam more freely than most. That is, as long as we follow the rules. So what are the rules?

Red Tape Ins & Outs

Gaining Global Access
U.S. passport holders can currently travel to 174 countries and territories with ease, either visa-free or by obtaining a visa on arrival (usually in the airport.) This places the U.S. in fourth position on the Visa Restrictions Index ranking freedom of travel.

For many countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, including China, a visa must be applied for and obtained in advance. A spontaneity-killer, visa applications often restrict access to approved areas and require detailed information of travel plans. Once in the country, travelers are subject to that government’s rules, making travel outside approved areas a risky proposition.

Shifting Sands
For most long-term travelers, visiting newly assessable countries is a jewel in the crown. No destination sparkles more brilliantly today than Cuba. With a specific license no longer required and direct flights available. U.S. citizens can plan trips based on one of twelve categories, including educational, professional, and religious activities. Visiting for “touristic purposes,” is still prohibited and detailed records must be kept for five years post travel.

Another new destination, Myanmar, (formerly known as Burma,) is open to visitors after sixty years. Travelers began to trickle in with the unveiling of a limited Visa application in 2011. Today visitors can receive an eVisa mere minutes after application. Entry and departure points are still strictly controlled while sections of the country remain off limits to tourists. Travelers should always carry a printed copy of the approved visa, especially outside the major tourist centers.

Although a rare occurrence, a country can temporarily waive visa requirements for specific high-profile events, as is the case in Brazil this summer. Americans visiting for the Olympics and Paralympics can enter visa-free until September 18.

Know Your Expiration
Many countries prohibit entry if your passport expires less than 90 days from arrival. Simple, right? Not so fast. Some countries assume you will stay through the full allotment of days allowed by the visa and tack on that time. While often subjective, airline and border agents have the right to deny you entry.

The U.S. State Department warns while passport expiration policies have long been in place for many countries, today rules are being more strictly enforced and recommends passports validity for at least six months beyond your return date.

When planning a long trip, there is no reason to wait. U.S. passports can be renewed at any time and take six to eight weeks to process. If you can prove urgent need, expedited service is available for an additional $60 in approximately half the time.

While in renewal-mode, here’s a secret: you can request a larger passport book—52 pages—for free simply by checking the “52 page” box at the top of the application.

You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here
“Do you have proof of onward travel?” With that question many traveler dreams have been squashed. Most countries are happy to welcome you, and your wallet, as long as you do not intend to stay and risk becoming a drain on their economy.

Airlines are subject to hefty fines for allowing travelers to fly into a destination without proof of onward travel, prompting check-in agents to turn away passengers without necessary paperwork.

This presents a dilemma for travelers hoping to circumnavigate the globe. There are a few choices. A straight-forward option is to book “Around the World” flight segments. Industry leader AirTreks gives instant quotes using a clickable world map and issues all the needed paperwork to keep you moving forward.

If a pre-programmed route dulls the adventure, then consider purchasing tickets one leg in advance. As long as tickets can be issued electronically, tapping into discount airlines or international train, bus and ferry services should provide the needed proof. In most cases, the person at the gate is happy to pass you along to the next country or agent as long as you have some semblance of a ticket.

Navigating the Schengen Zone
What or where is Schengen The massive European zone created by the 1985 Schengen agreement aims to allow free movement of citizens as well as valid visitors within member states. Currently, 26 countries participate but rapid change is underway.

Recent terrorist attacks and record numbers of immigrant arrivals have resulted in several countries within the zone—including Austria, France, Germany and Sweden—temporarily re-introducing border controls in specific areas or for specified high-profile events. And, although the recent Brexit vote makes it seem otherwise, the UK is not part of Schengen.

What does this mean for U.S. travelers? Primarily that time spent within the zone is limited to 90 days within a 180-day period. You can hike the Camino in Spain, taste every wine of Bordeaux, then recuperate on a Greek isle, but you must do so within a three-month period.

Savvy travelers hoping to invest more time in the 26 country block learn to dance with the Schengen by hopping a cheap flight, train, or ferry to nearby lands not included in the zone—for instance, the Balkans or UK—for 90 days before jumping back in and resetting the clock.

Always on Alert
The desire to unplug from current events is often intertwined with the joy of traveling. However long-term travelers know it is vital to be aware of changing conditions around the world.

Keep track of significant developments by signing up for U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP. You will be notified when a travel alert is issued. Alerts are intended to make travelers aware of elevated terror threats, health epidemics, and potentially violent demonstrations.

When a travel “warning,” is issued, it means you should strongly consider not visiting a specific country or region because of civil war or increased terror attacks. Currently, 43 warnings or alerts are in effect.

Being enrolled in the program will also help facilitate communication with family and embassy assistance should the need arise. After all, sometimes the red tape is what holds us together.

Photo: hjl, CC-BY

Jess Simpson is a writer chasing a dream of slow travel in a fast world. She is currently discovering the beauty of Italy, one glass of wine at a time. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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26Jul 2016

Many Retailers Still Without Chip Credit Card Readers – CBS Local


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – By now, most credit card holders probably have at least one of the new chip credit cards.

But, not all stores are using the new technology.

The chip credit cards were introduced to help make shopping more secure. Each transaction creates a unique code, making them almost impossible to hack.

Despite plenty of notice, lots of merchants waited until an industry deadline of October 2015 to install the terminals. Now, there’s a bottleneck as banks sign-off on each one.

New rules, announced last month, should start bringing terminals online faster.

However, even when the chip cards are working, many customers complain about the extra time it takes at checkout.

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