Archive for April, 2011

Wedding Bells In The Aftermath Of An Earthquake

April 28th, 2011 by Mariah

Tokyo (CNN) — In her cramped downtown office where wedding dress displays fight for space with file cabinets, Miyuki Uekusa has been busy answering the phone for the past month.

“Before the quake, many of our members were just thinking about marriage vaguely,” said the professional matchmaker, whose agency Marry Me has sent 30 couples to the altar since it launched two years ago.

“After experiencing the tremors and repeatedly seeing the tragic images on TV, they felt the fear of being alone and wanted to find a partner in life.”

As existing members turn more serious about going on dates, Uekusa says phone inquiries about joining her club have gone up 30% since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, killing more than 14,000 people.

On this Wednesday afternoon, a 49-year-old makeup artist — who wants to be known simply as Yoko — showed up at the Marry Me office to sign up as a new member.

Despite the hefty price tag of a $1,200 sign-up fee and a $120 monthly charge, Yoko says the natural disasters and the subsequent nuclear crisis have jolted her into adjusting priorities in life.

“I need to act now, before another massive disaster strikes,” she said.

Experts are not surprised by the seemingly sudden change of heart on marriage, especially among women.

“In Japan, women take the initiative to get married — and the trend for them had been to focus on their career and enjoy single life,” explained Ritsuko Matsui, a prominent psychiatrist who counseled survivors of Japan’s last devastating quake around Kobe in 1995, which left more than 6,000 people dead.

“Seeing heartwarming scenes of couples and families staying together in the face of recent tragedies has made many single women realize the importance of relationships.”

This new appreciation has turned the wedding industry into an unlikely bright spot in the gloomy Japanese economy, as other sectors ranging from manufacturing to tourism struggle to recover.

Jewelers — big and small — have reported strong sales of engagement and wedding rings, in sharp contrast to slumping demand for other luxury items.

Koji Fujimoto owns Concept Jewelry Works, a Tokyo boutique that specializes in custom jewelry. He has seen a 20% jump in ring buyers since the disasters.

“After the quake, couples want to create something that commemorates their relationship and that they can hold forever,” he said.

At the Aldobrandini bridal shop a few blocks away, Maki Maruta echoes such sentiment. Trying on her Italian-made silk wedding gown for the first time, the bride says she will walk down the aisle on May 28 with a new sense of purpose.

“The disasters reminded me the importance of family,” Maruta said. “It’s so important to have someone who is precious to you.”

Travel Advisory For Mexico

April 28th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — The U.S. State Department has broadened its travel warning for Mexico, advising citizens to avoid certain areas and steer clear of driving at night.

The new alert, issued late last week, urges Americans to defer nonessential travel in regions where drug-related violence has surged, including the border state of Tamaulipas and the central state of Michoacan.

It also warns against nonessential travel in parts of eight other states, significantly expanding the scope of an alert issued in September.

“There’s pretty much no state that hasn’t been touched by this. … We’ve seen some major, high-value cartel targets that have been taken down by the Mexican government, but that doesn’t appear to have quelled a lot of the violence,” said Fred Burton, vice president of the Stratfor global intelligence agency. “We see no short-term end in sight.”

The State Department notes that millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico every year. But it also says Mexico’s ongoing violence and security concerns pose “serious risks” for U.S. citizens, and urges travelers to take precautions.

“To reduce risk, you are strongly urged to travel only during daylight hours throughout Mexico, to avoid isolated roads and to use toll roads whenever possible,” the advisory says.

Americans with connections to Mexico had mixed reactions to the latest assessment of travel south of the border.

Friday’s warning was “a major red flag” and “quite a bit more expansive” than past alerts, said Kathleen Fairfax, vice president for global education at Arizona State University.

“We don’t have armored cars like the government does,” said Fairfax, who noted that school officials will meet this week to discuss how the new guidelines might affect study-abroad trips.

But reports of violence can be overblown, the leader of an expatriate group in Mexico said, describing his trip last month to a butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, a stronghold of Mexico’s La Familia cartel.

“I felt totally safe there. We had no problem at all. You have to be mindful of what’s going on, but there aren’t people attacking anybody, especially expats,” Howard Feldstein said.

The 69-year-old retired small-business owner from Denver, Colorado, heads the Lake Chapala Society, an expatriate community center in the Mexican state of Jalisco with more than 3,000 members. The country remains a “great place to retire,” he said, despite security concerns.

“Life goes on. The people that live here do not live in fear of moving around freely. We’re just, perhaps, more cautious,” he said.

Mexico’s government has not issued an official response to the latest U.S. alert.

Tourism officials have repeatedly stressed that violence occurs mostly in areas along the border that are far from Mexico’s popular landmarks and beaches.

“We should not take the issue out of context,” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said in a recent interview. “The distances are very, very great. You wouldn’t stop going to New York because of a problem in Dallas.”

But Burton, of Stratfor, said the latest U.S. State Department alert shows “the unpredictability of where this violence could happen next.”

“The fear is that as you are traveling the highways inside Mexico, that you could be victimized in some sort of roving roadblock,” he said.

Blocking major thoroughfares to prevent police and military reinforcements from arriving has become an increasingly common tactic employed by drug gangs across Mexico.

The State Department advisory warns of carjacking and highway robberies and notes, “Violence along Mexican roads and highways is a particular concern in the northern border region.”

Drug cartel members blocked roads with hijacked vehicles in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas over two days in March. During clashes with federal police in December, suspected members of La Familia set trucks and buses ablaze on highways in Michoacan.

Mexican government figures indicate more than 34,600 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on cartels in December 2006.

The number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 111 in 2010, the State Department said.

More than a third of the 2010 reported slayings of U.S. citizens occurred in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, according to the State Department.

“There is no evidence that U.S. tourists have been targeted by criminal elements due to their citizenship. Nonetheless, while in Mexico you should be aware of your surroundings at all times and exercise particular caution in unfamiliar areas,” the alert says.

Friday’s warning also specifies dangers and advises against nonessential travel in parts of the states of Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas.

Travelers should exercise caution visiting parts of Baja California, Guerrero, Nayarit and Nuevo Leon, the advisory says.

Death Toll Rises From Southern Storms

April 28th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — The death toll from a wave of violent storms that swept across the South skyrocketed to 173 after county-by-county reviews by Alabama and Mississippi emergency management agencies Thursday turned up scores of additional fatalities that more than doubled the total, officials said.

The vast majority of fatalities occurred in Alabama, where at least 128 people perished, Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, told CNN Thursday. A breakdown provided by Ardis showed that violent weather claimed lives in 16 Alabama counties. The hardest hit was DeKalb County, Alabama, where 30 people perished in the storms.

Before dawn Thursday, Mississippi emergency management officials also added 14 previously unreported fatalities to the count, increasing the death toll in that state to 32, officials said.

The storms left fatalities in five southern states, including Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. They leveled neighborhoods and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power throughout the region.

“This could be one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in the nation’s history by the time it’s over,” CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris said.

President Barack Obama announced late Wednesday he had approved Bentley’s request for emergency federal assistance, including search and rescue support.

“While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms,” Obama said in a statement.

At least one strong tornado swept through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, leaving dozens of roads impassable and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

“It literally obliterated blocks and blocks of the city,” Mayor Walter Maddox said, describing Tuscaloosa’s infrastructure as “decimated.”

Witnesses also reported tornado touchdowns in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It looked like it was probably a mile wide,” Birmingham Mayor William Bell said.

The northwest corner of the city was particularly devastated, he said, with hundreds injured and many others missing.

Red Cross spokesman Chris Osborne said the number of ambulances on the street in Birmingham, “is just like taxicabs in New York.”

“It’s just back and forth to area hospitals,” Osborne said. “It’s really just an incredible sight to see.”

Osborne said Pratt City and Pleasant Grove were among the hardest hit areas.

“It’s just bare land, debris everywhere,” Cierra Brown, of Jefferson County, Alabama, told CNN affiliate WBMA about her devastated neighborhood. “There’s no house.”

“My bathroom is across the street,” Talesha Oliver told WBMA.

Henry Nguyen told CNN early Thursday he was working at his father’s convenience store on the edge of Pratt City when he saw a twister angling for the front door. He ducked. When he stood up, Nguyen said he saw that the tornado had missed the storefront by 50 yards.

“Houses are gone. It’s pretty crazy,” Nguyen said. “A gas station up the street is gone. There is nothing else open here.”
Several meteorological conditions combined Wednesday to create a particularly dangerous mix, CNN’s Morris said.

“It is tornado season, but an intensive event like this only will occur maybe once or twice a year,” he said. “It’s very rare to have all these ingredients come together.”

Reports of people trapped in homes or overturned vehicles were coming in from every state in the region, according to emergency management officials.

At least 32 people were killed in storm-related incidents in Mississippi on Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to the state Emergency Management Agency. Among the fatalities was a 3-year-old girl in McComb, Mississippi, who died in her bed from a falling tree.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones or property in this devastating storm,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who declared a state of emergency in 39 counties. The declaration allows the state to offer aid to the counties during recovery efforts.

The state was also bracing for flooding along the Mississippi River.

The storms killed 11 people in Georgia. Seven were killed in Catoosa County and two in Dade County, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. The storms claimed two additional victims in Spalding County, according to the local sheriff’s office.

The town of Ringgold, Georgia, was hit particularly hard.

The storm also unleashed as many as 80,000 chickens in Pickens County, Georgia, after four of their houses were destroyed.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared disaster areas and states of emergency in four other northwestern counties — Catoosa, Floyd, Dade and Walker.

Arkansas and Tennessee reported that at least one person died in each of those states.

Girl Survives Plunge

April 21st, 2011 by Mariah

A 16-year-old girl survived a plunge from the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay on Sunday, according to local media reports.

The girl either jumped or fell from midspan of the bridge, about a 220-foot fall to the water below, CNN affiliate KGO reported, citing a fire department dispatcher. The girl was conscious when pulled from the water, the Coast Guard told KGO. She was taken to Marin General Hospital.

It was the second time in two months a teenager plunged from the span and survived.

On March 10, a 17-year-old boy jumped from the bridge during a school field trip, telling rescuers he did it for fun, according to CNN affiliate KTVU. The boy broke his tail bone and tore a lung, according to the report.

More than 1,300 people have been killed jumping off the Golden Gate since it opened in the 1930s. Last year, there were 31 suicides from the bridge, KTVU reported.

Disney Cruise Worker Missing

April 21st, 2011 by Mariah

Los Angeles (CNN) – The parents of a British woman who went missing while working on a Disney cruise last Tuesday were waiting at the dock Sunday morning when the ship returned to the Port of Los Angeles.

Rebecca Coriam, 24, disappeared Tuesday as the Disney Wonder sailed off Mexico’s Pacific coast on the third day of the weeklong cruise, a Disney spokeswoman said.

“We just don’t know what happened to her, do we?” her mother, Ann Coriam, told KABC-TV Sunday. “That’s the worst. Nobody seems to know. We’ve got to find out.”

Disney Cruise Line, in a written statement Sunday, said it was “doing everything possible” to find Coriam, who was worked in the ship’s youth program, “including conducting multiple shipboard searches, the latest one as recently as Saturday.”

Her parents, who are from Chester, England, traveled to Los Angeles to meet with investigators and to gather their daughter’s belongings when the ship arrived in port Sunday.

“It’s just very, very painful, and the thought of not seeing her again, I don’t know,” her father, Michael Coriam, said in the KABC-TV interview. “It’s frightening to think about it, really.”

The Bahamian Maritime Authority is leading the investigation, since the ship is registered in the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican navy were also involved in the search.

The ship’s voyage began March 20 at the Port of Los Angeles bound for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where it docked Wednesday.

Peanuts and Airplanes

April 21st, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — Packets of peanuts are in no danger of disappearing completely from airplanes. In a nutshell, there’s a law protecting them.

Last year, the Department of Transportation asked the public about a possible peanut ban on planes and other measures it said it was considering to address severe allergies among fliers.


It presented three options for debate: a complete ban on serving peanuts on planes, a ban on serving them when a passenger requests a peanut-free flight in advance, or a requirement for peanut-free buffer zones around severely allergic passengers who make advance requests.


The agency also solicited public input on health risks and the idea of maintaining current practice.


But when the new rules concerning issues from airline fees and bumping to tarmac delays were announced Wednesday, the department said it won’t take on the peanut issue because of a 12-year-old law blocking the agency from tampering with peanut policy without more scientific study.


“The Department is prohibited by law from restricting the serving of peanuts aboard aircraft unless a peer-reviewed study determines that serving of peanuts causes severe reactions among airline passengers.


There has been no such peer-reviewed study, so we declined to take action at this time,” it said in a statement.


It seems the agency was hoping the climate was right for change. It cited the law in the original proposal in June when it asked the public to weigh in, adding, “this specific congressional ban on our involvement in this issue has not appeared recently in any legislation” before outlining possible alternate peanut policies for airlines.


The department said Wednesday that it wasn’t proposing regulations but wanted to give the public an opportunity to comment on whether a peer-reviewed study should be conducted.


Although the government can’t impose peanut restrictions for airlines, some carriers have developed their own policies for allergy sufferers.


Some no longer serve peanuts and may create peanut-free buffer zones. But Delta, American and other airlines note on their websites that they can’t guarantee peanut-free flights.


That lack of certainty had allergy sufferers and parents with children with peanut allergies weighing in enthusiastically in support of a national policy banning peanuts on planes.


“My 6 year old has severe peanut and tree nut allergies and I am very fearful to put him on a plane,” Donna Marie Noga wrote in a comment posted on, a site tracking federal rules, proposed rules and public comments.


More than 2,100 comments were logged in response to all of the passenger protections presented, “the vast majority of which were related to the proposal to address peanut allergies in air travel,” according to a Department of Transportation summary of comments.


Most of the comments on peanuts were from consumers who favored a total ban, according to agency documents. Peanut trade groups were against a ban, as were some airlines and airline industry groups.

But it seems the agency was out of bounds with its peanut planning.


Less than three weeks after the department posted its policy considerations in June, it issued a clarification citing the 1999 law with the conclusion, “we will comply with this requirement.”


The final rule issued Wednesday echoes that sentiment. So, no relief for peanut allergy sufferers in this round of passenger protections.


The final rule announced Wednesday is available at the website, docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.

Pueblo Bonito b&b Celebrates 25th Anniversary!

April 21st, 2011 by Mariah

Pueblo Bonito b&b Celebrates 25th Anniversary!


“Time flies when you’re having fun”! This age old adage has been proven true for Herb & Amy Behm and the staff of Pueblo Bonito bed & breakfast inn. On Feb 7, 1986, this young newly wed couple moved from Dallas, TX to Santa Fe, NM and embarked upon a 25 yr career evolving the Pueblo Bonito b&b property into charming, comfortable, historical New Mexico accommodations that exhibit the authentic flavor of Old Santa Fe. An anticipated treat by over 18,000 visitors who voted it “Outstanding Inn of the Southwest”-2005 Other accolades include: “Best Preservation Renovation for Historical Significance” – Santa Fe Historical Society 1989; “Best of Santa Fe” for Accommodation – Reporter 1990″; 2nd in “Best of Santa Fe” for Bed and Breakfast – Reporter 1991; Sunset Magazine Feature Article: “Snowy in Santa Fe” 2000; Santa Fean Magazine Feature Article: “10 Best Santa Fe Accommodation” 2003; “Top Lodging (7 best places to Stay in Santa Fe)- Sunset Magazine 2011. “Acknowledging past progress and success has been a journey” stated the Behms, “traveling arm in arm with our loyal customers turned friends- to whom we have had the privilege to serve.” Pueblo Bonito bed & breakfast inn proudly celebrates this milestone achievement and looks forward to many more successful years yet to come! Pack your bags & join us today!

Spring Savings From LAuberge Provencale

April 19th, 2011 by Mariah

L’Auberge Provençale
Spring into Saving Specials
Lord Fairfax Highway
Boyce, VA 22620

800 .638 .1375
Easter Dinner
Sunday, April 24th

Each Couple will receive an “Easter Basket” with Housemade Chocolates

12:00pm – 6:00pm

Three Course Dinner:
$62 per person
Five Course Dinner:
$88 per person
Tasting Menu:
$115 per person

Japan’s nuclear contamination spreads to more U.S. states

April 12th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — Minuscule levels of radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant incident have been detected in a widening number of U.S. states, but the Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed this week that the levels represent no threat to public health.

“To date, data from EPA’s real-time radiation air monitoring networks continue to show typical fluctuations in background radiation levels,” Jonathan Edwards, director of the EPA’s Radiation Protection Division, said in a statement Monday. “The levels we are seeing are far below any levels of concern.”

At least 15 states reported detecting radioisotopes in air or water or both. No states have recommended that residents take potassium iodide, a salt that protects the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.

Progress Energy reported over the weekend that iodine-131 was detected in the air near its nuclear power plants near Hartsville, South Carolina, and Crystal River, Florida.

“We know that it’s not coming from our plant,” said Progress spokesman Drew Elliot. Had the U.S. nuclear plants been responsible for the radioactive iodine, other isotopes would also have been found, he said. The levels detected were so low that authorities do not require they be reported, he said.

Sensors in Maryland have also reported elevated levels of I-131 in air samples. “None of these levels pose a risk to health,” the state’s Department of Health said. The Maryland secretary of health said Monday that microscopic amounts were also discovered Friday in rainwater. He said the levels found posed no risk to public health.

The Massachusetts Department of Health said Sunday that a monitoring station in Boston detected I-131 in rainwater on March 22, but had not detected any in air. In a question-and-answer page on its website, it says the amount detected should not concern residents.

On Monday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said rainwater collected Friday from his state’s nuclear power plant facilities contained low levels of iodine-131 “likely originating from the events at Japan’s damaged nuclear plants. But weekend tests of drinking water found no elevated levels of radioactivity.”

The levels reported “are still about 25 times below the level that would be of concern,” Corbett’s office said in a statement.

Similar testing in other states, including California and Washington, has shown comparable levels of iodine-131 in rainwater samples.

Trace detections were found in the air in Oregon, Colorado and California.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Rita Sipe said Duke Energy had detected trace radioactive elements, likely to have originated from Japan’s Fukushima plant, in North Carolina and South Carolina — but at a level “far below” reporting requirements.

EPA is using the nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, to monitor the nation’s air and drinking water, milk and precipitation. An analysis from 12 monitors nationwide found “slightly higher” levels of radioactive isotopes in Alaska, Alabama, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Washington state over the past week, the agency said.

“Some of the filter results show levels slightly higher than those found by EPA monitors last week and a Department of Energy monitor the week before,” the agency said. “These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are still far below levels of public health concern.”

A spokeswoman for the EPA said Monday that 90 percent of the 124 RadNet monitors were working.

More quakes rattle northern Japan

April 12th, 2011 by Mariah

Tokyo (CNN) — A fresh round of tremors, including one with a magnitude of 6.3, shook northern Japan on Tuesday afternoon, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.

The quake was centered in Fukushima Prefecture, near Japan’s Pacific coast and about 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Workers retreated to earthquake-resistant shelters during the event, but there was no loss of power at the plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company told CNN.

It followed a magnitude-6.4 quake Tuesday morning that killed at least six people when it triggered a landslide in Iwaki, north of Tokyo.

The earlier quake buried three homes, the Iwaki fire department said. Three people were rescued and hospitalized, and fire officials were working to rescue an unknown number of others believed to be trapped, the department said.

The quake struck at about 8:08 a.m. Tuesday (7:08 p.m. Monday ET), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It had a depth of about 13 kilometers (8 miles) and was centered about 77 miles east-southeast of Tokyo.

Monday night, one person was killed in Iwaki and several others were trapped when a powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake triggered landslides there, the fire department said. It happened exactly one month after the country’s devastating 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami.

Since the March 11 disaster, there have been more than 400 aftershocks of magnitude 6.0 or greater, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, and more than 27,700 people are dead or missing, national police said Tuesday.

The earlier quake was centered about 100 miles (164 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of the nuclear facility, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The landslides in Iwaki buried three houses. Police in Fukushima Prefecture initially reported that four people were trapped. The Iwaki Fire Department later said more than four people were trapped, but the exact number was unclear.

In Flight Entertainment May Change

April 11th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — When you think of excellent in-flight entertainment, you probably think of a personal screen with hundreds of movies, TV shows, games and more, right? Don’t get too used to it.

Not so many years from now, those might just be a distant memory, replaced by your own technology.


Why would airlines get rid of something that’s so popular today? Because there will be a better way. Two words: “internet” and “power.”


The need to entertain passengers isn’t going to go away. People will still be flying insanely long distances for hours and hours on end. But the availability of internet onboard is changing how that might look.


Those personal in-flight video screens may look cool, but they’re also pretty expensive to install when you consider the cost of the system and the time to pull the airplane out of service to do the work. On top of that, some of these systems can be a pain to maintain. On a Boeing 747, that’s more than 300 individual screens that can break, along with the infrastructure.



The introduction of internet on airplanes has changed the game.

In its current form, travelers with a smartphone or other internet-enabled device can log on at 30,000 feet and provide their own in-flight entertainment. As we all know, the internet can provide weeks, if not years, of material to help pass the time. But the internet itself isn’t even necessary to provide entertainment.


Airlines could put a server on each airplane and then allow wireless access to all the content on it from the cabin. Gogo, the internet provider for most U.S. airlines, is working on this and should be testing it soon.


It could look exactly like the system you see in the back of the seat, but you provide the device. And it wouldn’t require internet access, just a closed network on the airplane. All that’s really needed is for the customer to have a device to access the network. For the airlines, this is a low-cost way to provide the same content to travelers that is provided today. And just as we see now, some would provide it for free while others might charge.


However, what we’re seeing now is just the beginning of where this will go.


At US Airways Media Day last week, President Scott Kirby noted that internet use on its airplanes is low right now, but he believes it will effectively become a required amenity. Systems for faster transmission of information at a more cost-effective price are expected to come online in the next couple years on a global scale that will make onboard internet as primary entertainment a real solution.


But there is a big problem. These devices, particularly smartphones, suck up a lot of power, especially if you’re streaming video on them.


Laptops and tablets are better, but the batteries still won’t last long enough. So for this plan to truly work, the airlines need power ports at every seat. So far, this is common in premium cabins on long-haul flights, but most coach seats are lacking.


Virgin America is the only domestic airline with power ports throughout its fleet. Some, such as Delta and American, have it only in some rows while others like JetBlue have none at all.


What about those people who don’t have their own device? Eventually, that probably won’t be an issue.


We’ll all have a chip embedded in our arms or something similarly insane. But in the short run, the airlines could always look at renting out media players for those who want them. Or if the airlines don’t want to get into the game, someone could open up their own business on the ground renting these things.


So in the future, if you don’t see a video screen, don’t worry. Just break out that phone, and you’ll still have plenty to keep you busy for the whole flight … and for weeks beyond that.

AirTran Top Airline

April 5th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) – Discount airline AirTran Airways ranked first overall among 16 large U.S. carriers in 2010, according to an airline quality report released Monday.

AirTran improved in three of the four categories used to determine rankings in the Airline Quality Rating, an annual study based on analysis of Department of Transportation figures.

The airline improved in on-time performance, rate of consumer complaints and mishandled bags. AirTran’s denied boarding performance was the only area where performance in 2010 was worse than 2009 (0.24 per 10,000 passengers in 2009 compared to 0.39 in 2010).

The report, co-authored by Brent Bowen of Purdue University and Wichita State’s Dean Headley, shows overall airline improvement in 2010 over 2009. On-time arrival, the rate of mishandled baggage and involuntary denied boardings improved.

Despite indications of improvement overall, the rate of consumer complaints rose from .97 per 100,000 passengers in 2009 to 1.22 complaints per 100,000 passengers in 2010. The number of complaints rose from 7,120 in 2009 to 9,119 in 2010. Southwest Airlines maintained its standing as the airline with the lowest complaint rate with 0.27 per 100,000 passengers in 2010.

“With a mixed bag of gains and losses across the 16 carriers rated, the slight gain in AQR score for the industry is a positive sign. The improvement trend in AQR scores since 2007 speaks well of the industry efforts in difficult times,” the report said.

The top scorer, AirTran, bumped 2009’s No. 1 ranked Hawaiian out of the top spot. Hawaiian ranks second in 2010, followed by JetBlue, Alaska and Southwest.

Regional airline American Eagle ranked last among the 16 airlines. Also in the bottom five were Atlantic Southeast (ranked 15th), Comair (14th), Mesa (13th) and United (12th).

Air France Wreckage Found

April 5th, 2011 by Mariah

Paris (CNN) — A leader of a group for families of those lost in the crash of an Air France jet said Tuesday that despite the discovery of their remains on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, he wants the bodies of his loved ones left where they are.


“For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed,” said Robert Soulas, vice president of a support group for the families of the 228 people on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that crashed in stormy weather on June 1, 2009.


French officials announced Monday that the bulk of the wreckage was found with bodies still aboard. Only 50 bodies and scattered debris had been recovered on the surface after the crash.


The human remains will be brought to the surface and identified, French Ecology and Transportation Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.


Soulas said his children “died there, so I think it will be much more difficult for us to reopen a new trauma, to reopen a hardship and to plan for a grave and so on, and I think it will be a new trauma for us. So I would prefer to leave the bodies under the water.”


Submarines searching for the wreck spotted two engines, the fuselage and landing gear over the weekend. But the flight data recorders have not been recovered, leaving investigators as puzzled as ever about why the crash happened.


“It’s still a jigsaw puzzle,” said Alain Bouillard, who will be in charge of the recovery operation. “We do not know where the recorders might be.”


It is impossible to tell how many bodies remain in the wreck, he added.

Bouillard would not comment on the condition of the bodies, calling it “inappropriate” to discuss.


The debris is dispersed over “quite a compact area” of about 600 meters by 200 meters (1,960 feet by about 650 feet), he said.


All the wreckage will be brought to the surface and sent to France for study, said Jean-Paul Troadec, head of the French air accident investigation agency, the Bureau d’EnquĂȘtes et d’Analyses, or BEA.


“We want to know what happened in this accident, most particularly so it never happens again,” he said.


Three companies bidding to raise the wreck have until Thursday afternoon to submit proposals, he said.


The operation should take three weeks to a month, and will be paid for by the French government at an estimated cost of 5 million euros ($7.1 million), he said.


Authorities are not revealing the exact location of the wreck to protect the site, officials said.


The head of Air France said the discovery was “good news indeed since it gives hope that information on the causes of the accident, so far unresolved, will be found.”


CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon added his thanks to the French authorities “who employed hitherto unheard of means to pursue searches.”


The discovery of the Airbus A330-200 that was Air France Flight 447 followed three unsuccessful searches. For the latest effort, “a different calculation based on currents of the sea and what might have happened” was used, said Troadec, the BEA chief, said.


The BEA said Sunday that a team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had discovered the wreckage during an underwater search operation conducted within the previous 24 hours.


Studies of the debris and bodies found after the crash led the BEA to conclude the plane hit the water belly first, essentially intact. Oxygen masks were not deployed, indicating that the cabin did not depressurize, the agency said in a 2009 report.


Automated messages sent from the plane in the minutes before the crash showed there were problems measuring air speed, investigators have said, though they said that alone was not enough to cause the disaster.


The area where the plane went down is far out in the Atlantic — two to four days for ships to reach from the nearest ports in Brazil or Senegal in West Africa. The underwater terrain is rough, with underwater mountains and valleys, the BEA has said.