Irene blows apart New England travel plans

Published: Friday, August 26, 2011 @ 5:23 PM
Updated: Friday, August 26, 2011 @ 5:23 PM

Days before its projected landfall in New England, Hurricane Irene was already delivering a blow to the region's tourism industry.

Brides rescheduled weddings, hotels struggled with cancellations and major tourist attractions like Connecticut's Mystic Seaport closed as the powerful storm churned north on a path projected to hit the Connecticut shoreline Sunday. The timing of the storm — on one of the last weekends of summer — could hardly have been worse for an industry already coping with high gas prices and a weak economy.

Doreen Pearson, who owns the 21-room Stanton House Inn in affluent Greenwich, said Friday she had five multi-night cancellations and many more indecisive guests. Some callers from low-lying areas wanted guarantees the storm wouldn't affect them if they booked a room, she said.

"We're here now in a total state of flux because people can't decide whether they want to honor their reservation, cancel their reservation or make a reservation," Pearson said. "It's impossible to operate a business this way."

Even before the storm, AAA was predicting a drop in travel over the Labor Day weekend compared with last year because of the economy.

"It will be significant and to some degree it will be a permanent loss to New England," said Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. "What they were going to do this weekend they won't choose to do three weeks later."

Tourism is a major component of the region's economy. In Connecticut, the industry is responsible for 12 to 14 percent of the work force, Carstensen said.

At Pearson's B&B, Susan Royal was helping her daughter call wedding guests to let them know the ceremony would be held Saturday instead of Sunday at the bride's father's estate in Ridgefield. And it would be indoors.

"This will be a wedding you won't forget," Royal said, figuring about 50 of the original 85 guests would attend. "Nature has its course. What you do is work with it, not against it."

At Water's Edge Resort in Westbrook, one bride postponed her weekend wedding and another was sticking with her plans. The hotel had received eight cancellations by Friday morning but expected the number to rise and its popular Sunday brunch to take a hit.

"We're going to lose all that," general manager Chris Barstein said. "From a business standpoint, we're not too happy to see this."

Hotels said they were taking a number of safety measures, including securing backup generators, extra bottled water and staff on duty, bringing in outdoor furniture and providing frequent weather updates.

The timing of the storm — the last weekend before Labor Day — almost couldn't be worse, said Kathy Szabo, executive director of the Block Island Chamber of Commerce in Rhode Island. She said ferries that bring visitors to the island from Montauk, N.Y., New London, Conn., and Point Judith, R.I., are grappling with how to adjust their schedules — and what to do with their boats — given the uncertainty over the storm's path.

"Obviously they don't want to lose business," she said. "Nor do they want to lose their ferries. Even though you have to do what you have to do, you're losing your revenue for the end of the season, which is too bad."

Suzie Kiendl, an owner of Barnacle Inn on Nantucket, was pulling a boat out of the water Friday morning before the storm hits the island popular among tourists, likely on Sunday. Kiendl said some guests are cutting their vacations short and a few have canceled, but others have extended their stay and plan to ride out the storm at the inn.

"We lost a few people and gained a few ... revenues are definitely lost, but what can you do? You just have to relax," Kiendl said.

For now, she plans to fasten the shutters, take in the lawn furniture and "maybe have some champagne ready."

Some hotels were gaining business, too. In Connecticut, about 100 rooms were booked at the Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa by utility crews and residents anticipating power losses.

"It's pretty substantial," said Peter Griffith, director of sales and marketing. "It's a huge pickup."

But a youth leadership conference at the hotel this weekend that would have been attended by about 100 high school students from several states was postponed.

"I think the students were pretty disappointed," said Elizabeth Ventura, one of the organizers. "They were all looking forward to it."

Up and down New England's coast, recreational boaters were rushing to get their boats out of the water and onto dry land. At Portland Yacht Services in Maine, service manager Rob Benson said about 1 in 10 boaters told him they're done for the season.

Across New England, an early end to the boating system carries a hefty impact.

"If your boat is sitting in the parking lot, you're not putting gas in the tank, you're not stopping at the local variety store to buy groceries and sandwiches, you're not coming into the marine store to buy a life jacket," said Rob Soucy, president of Port Harbor Marine in South Portland.

Even some gamblers weren't willing to risk Irene.

"Obviously the weekend will not be what we thought it would be," said Jeff Hartmann, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, one of two Indian-run casinos in Connecticut.

___

Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Erika Niedowski in Providence, R.I.; and Johanna Kaiser in Boston contributed to this report.

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Romney releases tax docs, pays $1.9m last year

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012 @ 2:17 PM
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 @ 2:17 PM

Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, paid $1.94 million in federal taxes on last year's income of $13.7 million, for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, his campaign said Friday.

That's slightly above the 13.9 percent rate the couple paid in 2010. Most of the 2011 income was from investments.

Campaign officials said the couple filed the return Friday with the Internal Revenue Service, after receiving an extension. They were to publicly release their full 2011 returns late Friday.

Romney's taxes have emerged as a key issue during the 2012 presidential race with President Barack Obama. Romney released his 2010 tax returns and a 2011 estimate in January, but he has declined to disclose his returns from earlier years.

His vast fortune and his long association with Bain Capital, the private equity firm he cofounded, have been much discussed this year.

His campaign earlier estimated that Romney would pay about $3.2 million in taxes for the year, an estimate well above the $1.9 million actually paid. He paid about $3 million in federal income taxes in 2010 — an effective rate of 13.9 percent.

Critics, including Obama, have urged Romney to release more than just the two years of returns and follow his father's model. When George Romney ran for president, he released 12 years of tax returns.

Mitt Romney's campaign did put out a summary Friday by Brad Malt, the trustee of the couple's blind trust, saying that over the 20-year 1990-2009 period, the Romneys owed both state and federal income taxes and paid federal taxes at an effective annual rate of 20.2 percent

Obama's own tax return for last year showed that he and his wife, Michelle, paid $162,074 in federal taxes on $789,674 in adjusted gross income, an effective tax rate of 20.5 percent. Their income plunged from $1.7 million in 2010, with declining sales of the president's books. In 2009, the Obamas reported income of $5.5 million, fueled by the best-selling books.

The Romneys' exact totals for 2011 were federal taxes of $1,935,708 and on income of $13,696.951.

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Aggressive driver caught with ghoulish carpool ‘passenger’

Published: Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 3:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 3:14 PM


            A driver who was stopped on I-5 in Kent in January 2012, had a skeleton strapped into the passenger's seat.
            Washington State Patrol
A driver who was stopped on I-5 in Kent in January 2012, had a skeleton strapped into the passenger's seat.(Washington State Patrol)

A man police say was speeding and driving aggressively was also discovered to be using a plastic skeleton as a passenger while he drove in the carpool lane.

 

 The Washington State Patrol said that on Dec. 20, a trooper pulled over a silver Mazda for driving at 82 mph and making several unsafe lane changes on northbound Interstate 5 near 272nd Street. 

 

When stopped, the trooper said he noticed that what he originally believed was a passenger was actually a seat belted plastic skeleton wearing a sweatshirt.

 

The WSP said one of the lanes that the driver had used as he aggressively worked through traffic was the high occupancy vehicle lane.

 

Police said the driver did not have any comment concerning his “passenger” and received a ticket for speed, unsafe lane change and the HOV violation.

 

The WSP uses marked patrol cars and unmarked or unconventional police vehicles equipped with mobile video cameras to detect and apprehend aggressive drivers.

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MythBusters stunt sends cannonball flying through Bay Area home

Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 @ 8:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 @ 8:15 PM

A reality television stunt that went awry sent a cannonball careening into a residential Dublin, Calif., neighborhood late Tuesday afternoon, punching holes through the front door and a wall of a home and smashing a minivan's window, but luckily leaving area residents unharmed.

The cannonball was fired as part of an experiement for the Discovery Channel show MythBusters.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department confirmed that at around 4 p.m. a cannonball was "misfired" from the Alameda County bomb range at Camp Parks and struck a home blocks away on Cassata Place.

"This cannonball was supposed to pass through several barrels of water and a cinder block wall to slow its inertia," said J.D. Nelson of Alameda County Sheriff's Department. "When the shot was fired, it misfired. The cannon lifted."

The cannonball apparently hit something that caused it to shoot over the hillside that protects the neighborhood below.

The projectile bounced in front of the house on Cassata Place, through the front door and up through the second floor before it finally exited through the back wall.

Then it flew over Tassajara Road and ricocheted off the roof of another house before smashing through the window of a minivan where it came to rest.

"I kind of looked inside and seen a big old cannonball. And I had just got out of the van five minutes earlier," said Jasbar Gill, the owner of damaged van. "I'm glad my kids weren't inside the van. So lucky."

The sheriff's office spoke with the Discovery Channel which airs MythBusters.

"They're very sorry that this happened. And they have safety measures that are in place," said Nelson, who works as a consultant for the show, managing the tests run at the county bomb range. "They did have a misfire. And they have insurance for these kinds of things."

Remarkably, no one was hurt in the incident.

In fact, the family whose home sustained the most damage was asleep at the time and didn't realize anything had happened until the dust started to settle.

Nelson said the TV crew responded by sending a senior producer to the home and to the home of the car owner. The producer arranged to meet with their insurance carriers, Nelson said.

Nelson said the television show has used the county's bomb range more than 50 times for experiments and filming.

"We never even had any kind of an incident let alone anything this terrible," Nelson said.

Pratima Dsouza, who lives next door to the house that was hit, said she heard a loud noise and later saw police responding to her neighbor's home but thought there had been some sort of accident inside the house.   

It wasn't until she saw it on the news that she learned what had  happened.   

"Nobody came to our door and told us there was a cannonball that went through our neighbor's house," Dsouza said.

She said the bomb range where the cannonball came from is some distance from her neighborhood.   

"We can hear the sounds but we've never had an experience like that before," she said.

She said a family lives in the home that was struck.   

Another resident, Mark Hawthorne, said the cannonball bounced off of Cassata Place, leaving a dent in the concrete before crashing into his neighbor's house.   

He said neighborhood kids -- including his own -- often play outside in the cul-de-sac around where the cannonball landed.   

"It's a little scary," said Hawthorne, who has watched MythBusters on occasion. "It's easy to laugh at after it's done and no one's hurt."

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A look at Joe Paterno's legacy

Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 @ 11:19 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 @ 11:19 AM


            Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greet each other after the game.
            Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greet each other after the game.(Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

Joe Paterno's contract was set to expire at the end of the season.   He is a legend in happy valley and the world of college football. 
  •  889 coaches have been hired in division one football since Paterno was hired in 1966.
  • He has 408 wins throughout his tenure, which is the most victories in division one history.  
  • He has two national championships under his belt.  
  • He has more bowl appearances than any other coach, more bowl victories than any other coach. 
  • Paterno has 5 undefeated seasons. 

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