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Are Hot Dogs as Dangerous as Cigarettes?

USA Today: Instead of grouping hot dogs with Mom and apple pie, a national medical group wants you to consider them as bad for your health as cigarettes.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes preventive medicine and a vegan diet, unveiled a billboard Monday near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the advisory: "Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health."

The billboard features a picture of hot dogs in a cigarette pack inscribed with skull and crossbones. It aims to increase awareness of a link between colorectal cancer and hot dogs.

Hot dogs, like cigarettes, should come with a "warning label that helps racing fans and other consumers understand the health risk," said Susan Levin, the committee's nutrition education director.

Other health experts disagree.

Although hot dogs are certainly not health food, neither are they toxic, if consumed in moderation, they say.

"It is not necessary to eliminate consumption of red or processed meat; rather the message is that these foods should not be the mainstay of your diet," American Cancer Society guidelines state.

About twice a month, Kimberly Hunt indulges. She harbors no illusions that hot dogs are good for her, but she's not worried about the risks. "Not any more than any other processed foods that we eat," said Hunt, as she finished off lunch in downtown Indianapolis. "There's a lot of things that are going to cause cancer. Are hot dogs on the top of my list? No."

Hot dogs are low in nutritional value, said Dr. Jesse Spear, an internal medicine physician with St. Vincent Medical Group in Fishers, Ind. They're high in salt, which can lead to hypertension and heart disease.

Should we avoid them at all costs? That's not what Spear tells patients. Instead, he advises them to eat a generally healthy diet -- more fruits and vegetables, less processed meats. "I don't personally tell people never to eat hot dogs, because I guess I'm just realistic enough to know that people will still consume them to some degree," he said.

But there's something about a car race that encourages hot dog consumption. Last year, more than 1.1 million hot dogs were sold during the Indianapolis 500. So this year, the Physicians Committee decided to target another Speedway event, Sunday's Brickyard 400, with its $2,750 billboard.

The strong warning is needed to make people think twice about eating hot dogs and all processed meats, Levin said. That includes deli meats, ham, sausage, bacon and pepperoni.

"A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave," said Levin, a registered dietitian. "People think feeding their kids these foods (is) safe, but (it's) not."

The research linking colorectal cancer and processed meat is convincing, says a 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research. Just one 50-gram serving of processed meat -- about the amount in one hot dog -- a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent, the study found.

George Hanlin has his consumption down to one or two a month, as part of a plan to eat healthier. Monday, he contemplated the data linking hot dogs to health risks. "Will it keep me from never eating hot dogs? No," Hanlin said. "But there's no question I will try to limit it a lot more."

No Fatalities as Caribbean Airlines Jet Crashes on Landing

A Caribbean Airlines jet crashed on landing in Guyana before dawn Saturday, but the 163 people on board escaped serious injury. Officials say the jet skidded past the end of the runway in the rain at Georgetown's Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The Boeing 737 aircraft broke in two came to rest in a field.

Investigators from the United States and Guyana will retrieve the flight data and voice recorders for analysis in determining what caused the crash. Flight 523 had left from New York and arrived in Guyana's capital after a brief stop in Trinidad.

Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo came to the airport and said he was very, very thankful and grateful that there were no deaths. Officials say rescue efforts were hampered by rain and darkness. Some passengers were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, but the most serious injury appears to have been a broken leg.

This Summer's Best Hotel Job

Daily Mail: It must rank as one of the best summer jobs in the world.

While his friends work the usual babysitting or retail circuit, Harrison Anastasio, 17, is a tan concierge at the James New York Hotel in SoHo.

His remit? Alongside supervising the four-foot deep pool, handing out towels to minimally-clad guests and shuffling sun loungers for optimum sun or shade exposure, the Brooklyn boy makes sure sunbathers tan evenly.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the teenager explained that, as tan concierge, he takes customers' mobile phone numbers when they arrive and sends them a text after 20 minutes to half an hour.

Saying simply 'Turn over,' the text is optional - some plump for just a tap on the shoulder. 'Most people like to be texted. It’s less invasive,' he told WSJ. Either way, with a bit of help from Anastasio, sunbathers develop an even tan and avoid sunburn.

The rooftop pool, on the 18th floor, is frequented by the rich and the famous - Jennifer Hudson, James Franco and Kristen Wiig have all been spotted lounging there.

The $15 an hour job was created in partnership with a sunscreen maker and this summer is the first time customers of the exclusive hotel have had the services of a dedicated tan timer.

Though Anastasio holds a list of mobile numbers that gives him access to some of the city's most enviable bikini bodies, he insists that he too professional to use it for anything other than work. 'I have the willpower not to text these girls after they leave the pool' he said.

His friends, who reportedly nag him to be allowed onto the hip rooftop, will, no doubt, be disappointed.

Starbucks Says 'Nyet' to Russian Smokers

UPI: U.S. coffee house chain Starbucks has said "nyet" to Russia when it comes to smoking in its shops, as it affects the taste of coffee.

"Coffee beans are very porous. They suck in the smoke, which affects the taste," marketing director for Starbucks Russia Lia Dovgun said, The Moscow Times reported Saturday.

The smoking ban, which is rare for a restaurant in Russia, has not stopped Starbucks from expanding in the country. Last month Starbucks opened its 50th restaurant in Russia.

The Times pointed out Starbucks has bent over backwards to fit into cultural niches. In China, it expanded its menu, because the Chinese prefer to eat while drinking coffee. In Greece, more cold drinks are offered, because of the hot weather.

In France, Belgian waffles are on the menu.

Carole Pucik, head of global communications for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, "We're definitely not trying to change people's behaviors. We're offering something that's a different level of service: friendly service, very high-quality product and a comfortable place to relax."

Build Your Own Theme Park

Tapscape: Happy Park (originally titled Happy Theme Park) is Infinidy Corp’s latest social game release. In this game, you begin with a Ferris Wheel and attempt to build up a profitable and exciting amusement park, complete with a mascot, decorations and shops.

Like most building games, the point is to raise currency from your attractions to be able build more attractions. In Happy Park, the rides generate coins, experience (for leveling and thereby unlocking new features) and customer population (needed to bring in more revenue).

Some of the park rides turn over profits at a set time, every two hours, for example. Others must be manually run, with a variety of lenghts ranging from ten minutes to 24 hours. The longer the ride runs, the more it generates. With this type of ride, though, the coins/exp/pop must be collected within a certain window of time or it “expires”. In this can, all revenue from it is lost, unless 1 “buck” (the currency bought with real money) is used to revive it.

Rides can be upgraded, to generate more revenue, but it takes some time to complete and only one can be upgraded at a time. A second super upgrade slot can be purchased, but it takes bucks to do so. Super upgrades are needed to unlock another feature of the game: research. In Happy Park, when certain rides are super upgraded, two can be “researched” together to produce a special ride.

The quests are a nice feature of Happy Park. They are mainly just “build this” or “upgrade that” type of quests, but they give you direction and purpose when planning out your park. There are so many rides, decorations and shops available, that it can be overwhelming at times. Having the quests gives some guidelines to follow, or not. Fulfilling quests results in coins or the occasional buck, experience and badges. Badges can be spent on fantastic attractions which will be the focal point of the park.

The social aspect of Happy Park is light, compared with similar games in the genre. You can search for and invite friends through Facebook, Twitter or your address book. You can visit the parks of your friends or a random neighbor. At this point, other than picking up some trash here and there, no benefits are to be had from visiting parks, but it is nice to see how other people have designed their park.

There are also some quests which give premium awards for inviting friends and adding friends, but these are not imperative to the game and Happy Park can be played flying solo. I experienced some difficulty connecting to Facebook after the most recent patch, which was the one that was supposed to fix the Facebook problems other people were having.

Happy Park uses a mix of animated and still graphics for the park rides, which keeps the park from looking too busy. The colors are loud and the overall look is “cutesy”, and teamed with the carnival-style it works to create an bright amusement park feel.

Two problems stood out for me. One is that Happy Park can not be played offline. Annoyingly, this has become almost standard for most social building games, but it is still frustrating to not be able to steal a few minutes to pick up revenue when you have 5 minutes to kill. The other was the overwhelming pop-up ads when logging on. You’re generally met with three ads, stacked on top of each other, all promising bucks if you follow through: invite friends, rate the game and download the day’s “App Surprise”.

Bottom line: Happy Park has a lot to offer with a variety of building and decorating, and a theme that is different from other building games. Losing revenue from the manual rides and the amount of ads will most likely drive away some players.

Big Theme Park Thrills on a Small Budget

Journal&Topics: Since The Cyclone first drew thrill-seekers to Coney Island in 1884, theme parks have become an ultimate family destination. Today, the U.S. boasts more than 400 amusement parks, and with summer's heat and crowds subsiding, now's the ideal time to plan a trip to the rides.

However, hauling the whole family somewhere, especially to a theme park, can turn into a big budget buster. These five tips can save you money so you can make your theme park vacation a reality. Your kids (and your bank account) will thank you.

1. Opt for a regional park
Fifty percent of Americans plan to visit an amusement park within the next 12 months, according to a survey by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. While national theme-park chains may have the most marketing dollars to spend on advertising, visitors can bag great savings and avoid major crowds by hitting up smaller regional theme parks. At Carowinds, a 337-acre park that straddles the North and South Carolina border, prices start at $42 for a single-day ticket when purchased online. Colorado's Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park costs about $38, also when purchased online. In comparison, a day at Disney World will set you back $85 for each person age 10 and older. Many regional parks offer discounted tickets, so check local businesses like banks and grocery stores for special offers.

2. Buy online
Consumers also can save a significant amount of money by purchasing tickets online before visiting rather than purchasing admission at the gate. Some regional parks offer more than $10 off, and even bigger parks, such as Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles, offer an online special for $25 off the general admission price. Search the Internet for the theme park name plus "discount" or "coupon," however make sure you are dealing with a reputable website before purchasing.

3. Go after 4 p.m.
Some parks offer deep discounts on "Twilight Tickets" that are valid during evening hours. If the park is open until 10 p.m., that means you can spend up to six hours in the park without the sun beating down on you (a double bonus of savings and comfort).

4. Watch extra costs
It's easy to plan for known costs like airfare, hotel and admission tickets. It's the little things that will get you: $15 a day parking, $6 bottles of water and $10 funnel cakes. Buying burgers and fries for a family of four might cost you the price of a nice steak dinner at home. Saving for the trip ahead of time and being conscious of prices while in the park can help alleviate the money headache once the gates shut behind you.

5. Travel during the off-season
Another easy way to save money is to travel when others aren't. Away.com's Theme Park Survival Guide defines off-season for theme parks as anytime that's not summer, weekends or holidays. Parks might not offer substantially lower priced tickets, but you will most certainly find cheaper airfare. If you are staying overnight, check out members-only flash sales like "Insider Steals" for hotel deals from companies like Orbitz.com. Such members-only programs typically require a customer to sign up for emails - but the steep discounts go with it. Also look for specials at local restaurants that can offer even bigger savings than discounted tickets. Plus, in many areas the weather is better in the spring, fall or even winter (i.e. Florida), and the parks are a lot less crowded, meaning you can go on Batman The Ride as many times as your heart desires.

Feds Charge Wild West Re-enactor

Rapid City Journal: The Summerset man who fired four live rounds into a crowd of tourists last month in Hill City while performing with a re-enactors group turned himself in Wednesday to answer a federal weapons charge, though he will not face local charges in the incident.

Paul Doering, 49, made an initial appearance in Fargo, N.D., on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony. He was released after the court appearance, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Salter.

Doering will not, however, face local charges for the Hill City incident, according to Lara Roetzel, the chief deputy state’s attorney for Pennington County. Roetzel said the most the state’s attorney’s office could have charged Doering with was a misdemeanor.

Live rounds that injured three people watching a benefit re-enactment by the Wild Bunch Reinactors group were traced back to a .45 caliber handgun Doering used during the performance. The performance took place June 17 in downtown Hill City. The Wild Bunch has not performed since the incident.

Jose Pruneda, 52, of Alliance, Neb., Carrol Knutson, 65, of Birchwood, Minn., and John Ellis, 48, of South Connellsville, Pa., were wounded by the live rounds. Doering is charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His arraignment is set for 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 in Rapid City when he is required to enter a plea.

If convicted, Doering faces a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison. There is a possibility that the penalty could be enhanced, which would elevate the sentence range from 15 years to life in prison, Salter said.

Doering has a criminal history dating back to the early 1980s.

According to Minnesota court records, Doering served time in prison for two aggravated burglary convictions in the early 1980s and second-degree burglary in 1990. He was also charged with escape.

Doering was back in custody in 2000 and 2001 after he was convicted of fleeing from law enforcement.

Is Everything Better With Cute Animals?

Jaunted: We've made the point once or twice before, but not only do we adore innovative travel search engine Hipmunk on its merits, but there's also something about their cute little mascot that seems custom-built for the Internet. We're not sure that the success can be reduced down to a simple formula, except inasmuch as the Internet loves cute animals that are kind of animated, and the Hipmunk mascot is a cute animal that's kind of animated, and so the Internet loves the Hipmunk mascot. 

Hmmm. Apparently it can be reduced to a simple formula after all.

So much can viral videos be reduced to formulas, apparently, that the Hipmunk people have gone ahead and done exactly that in their first stab at video advertising. Explaining on their blog that "everything's better with cute animals," the search engine brought together members of sketch comedy show SMBC theater and asked them to dress up like some of the Internet's most famous stars. Then they had the actors recreate those stars' most famous moments, the result being a series of homages to cute animals doing cute things (with some exceptions for annoying animals doing annoying things, because sometimes the Interwebs have a problem distinguishing cute from annoying).

The arguably questionable results were filmed, edited, and delivered to Google TV ads in the hopes of getting a legitimate viral campaign going. See how many Internet memes you can spot in the embedded commercial below. If you give up, the Hipmunk people have also written a kind of cheat sheet into the video. Every time a new reference appears you'll see a link to the original video appear in the top right corner, so you can just click through if you need to.

And if you don't need the cheat sheet because you recognize each and every reference to each and every animal video being recreated, maybe that's a sign that you need to get out a little more. Luckily this is a post about a travel search engine, so that might be a problem that kind of solves itself. Enjoy.

The Decline of Las Vegas Quickie Weddings

MSNBC/Bloomberg: The quickie wedding, long a Las Vegas tradition for romance-besotted tourists, may be the latest casualty of rough economic times. Fewer couples have been pledging their love in Sin City as the number of visitors has fallen and some couples postpone marriage or shun it entirely. “If you don’t have a stable job, it’s hard to say, ‘Let’s get married and start a family,’ ” says Diana Alba, clerk of Nevada’s Clark County, whose office issued 91,890 marriage licenses last year, down 16 percent from 2007.

Dianne Schiller, owner of Renta-Dress & Tux Shop, a wedding and formal wear store in Las Vegas, says her business has dropped 15 percent from two years ago, forcing her to stock more inexpensive gowns. “People are spending way less,” Schiller says. Adds Cliff Evarts, founder of chapel operator Vegas Weddings: “Gas prices, airplane ticket prices, all those things impact people’s ability or desire to come to Vegas.” Some 37.3 million people visited the city last year, down from 39.2 million in 2007, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The slump is prompting the 90-plus wedding chapels in the county — where there are no requirements for blood tests or a waiting period — to shift their focus to husbands and wives seeking to renew their vows and “commitment ceremonies” for same-sex couples who can’t legally wed in Nevada. “Just because there is a decline in marriage certificates, there isn’t a decline in love,” says Charolette Richards, owner of the Little White Wedding Chapel, which offers drive-through service in its “Tunnel of Love.” Richards, who in 1987 married Bruce Willis and Demi Moore and has hosted weddings for Britney Spears and Joan Collins, says recommitment ceremonies now make up about a third of her business, a big increase over prior years. “People today are renewing their vows more than ever,” she says.

At $60 for a marriage license, Clark County has lost some $2 million in annual fees from weddings since the peak in 2004. Now the county is considering official certificates for couples renewing their matrimonial commitments, which could help make up some of the difference, Alba says. “If we did 1,000 annually and we charge, say, $45, that would still be some revenue that we didn’t have before,” she says. The certificates under consideration would be optional and would display the couple’s original wedding date. “We want it to be something fun,” Alba says. “There is a market among tourists, particularly from foreign countries, who want … a certificate that contains an official seal that says Las Vegas.”

Chapel operator Evarts is lobbying local officials to issue the certificates. Since 78 percent of visitors are married, he says, it’s smart to shift the focus away from weddings. That would allow companies such as his to market to some 30 million potential customers a year, as opposed to the far smaller number of single visitors. “There’s a real opportunity,” Evarts says, “for Vegas to reinvent itself as the vow renewal capital of the world.”

The bottom line: As the economy suffers, Las Vegas is seeing fewer quickie weddings, but at one chapel vow renewals now make up a third of business.

Hotel Chain Trains Staff to Fight Child Prostitution

CNN: Hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide will improve its staff training and procedures after authorities cracked down on gang-led child prostitution rings in California hotels, a probe that drew media and activist attention to the chain, a hotel spokesman said Friday.

Wyndham is expanding its years-long efforts to fight child sex trafficking by reviewing its operating practices in partnership with the nonprofit ECPAT-USA (Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking), said Michael Valentino, director of communications for Wyndham Worldwide.

Southern California authorities recently completed an 18-month investigation into allegations that three rival Crips gangs collaborated to prostitute girls and women out of California hotels through Internet-arranged meetings.

The investigation resulted in an April federal indictment of 38 people, including suspected gang members and the owners of a Wyndham-franchised Travelodge in Oceanside, authorities said. A CNN story in June prompted one activist to lead a 14,000-signature online petition drive on Change.org, an activist platform, demanding that Wyndham reform its business policies.

"As long as human trafficking and exploitation continue to be supported by those profiting from this tragic practice, we believe no member of the travel and tourism industry can ever guarantee these events will not occur in the future," Valentino told CNN in an e-mail Friday.

"However, our shared commitment and partnership with organizations like the Polaris Project and ECPAT help play a critical role in increasing awareness and prevention," he said.

The Polaris Project is a non-profit, non-governmental group combating human trafficking, and Wyndham has given hotel accommodations through the group to victims of human trafficking, Valentino said.

One of the world's largest hospitality firms, with 7,380 franchised hotels and vacation ownership resorts, Parsippany, New Jersey-based Wyndham has also become a member of the Code for the Protection of Children in Travel and Tourism, an industry initiative combating child sex abuse that's funded by UNICEF, Valentino said.

"We have also had human rights policies and training at our company for several years, and have been actively collaborating with ECPAT in reviewing and enhancing our training, policies, and procedures to best adhere to the intention and spirit of the code," Valentino said.

On Thursday, Change.org posted on its website the headline "Victory! Wyndham Signs Code of Conduct to Prevent Child Sex Trafficking" and recounted the online petition drive San Diego native Tim Rosner launched after reading the CNN article, which dealt with a child sex trafficking ring at a Wyndham property in his hometown.

"I'm thrilled to see Wyndham take this proactive step to fight child sex trafficking," Rosner told Change.org.

The petition asked Wyndham to join the child-protection code initiative and to commit to its six criteria for preventing child sex trafficking and child sex tourism at their hotels.

Valentino added that "it's important to note that in recent years, Wyndham Worldwide has worked with ECPAT, Polaris Project, and other organizations in our shared commitment to the safety of all children."

Ground Zero's 'Ring of Steel' Security System

Daily Mail: Details emerged today of the extraordinary lengths the NYPD is going to as they attempt to make lower Manhattan the safest business district in the world and protect it from a dirty bomb threat.

New York City police are stepping up protection against the threat of a radioactive attack on the area as part of a $200 million security upgrade. A command centre will monitor 2,000 mobile radiation detectors carried by officers each day around the city, which will send a wireless, real-time alert if there's a reading signaling a dirty bomb threat. The system already is being tested under the watch of federal authorities in hopes it can be perfected and used elsewhere.

‘This is the first and only place you'll see it,’ an NYPD counterterrorism official said. ‘It's been tested in the field. It works, and we're hoping to get (the wireless detectors) deployed in a few months.’

A dirty bomb has never been discovered in a U.S. terror plot, but they are a serious threat because they are easy to build and foreign terrorists are known to want to use them against U.S. cities. The radiation detection system is part of a $200million security initiative in lower Manhattan. It has been inspired by the so-called ‘ring of steel’ encircling the London business district in Britain.

But this is certainly broader in scope and sophistication

It will rely largely on 3,000 closed-circuit security cameras carpeting the roughly 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street, the subway system and parts of midtown Manhattan. So far, about 1,800 cameras are up and running, with the rest expected to come on line by the end of the year. Only 500 cameras were online at this time last year, reported the New York Post.

Police began monitoring live feeds in 2008 from the cameras at a high-tech command centre in lower Manhattan - home to Wall Street, the new development at Ground Zero and other important sites.

‘We're talking about some of the most significant targets anywhere in the world,’ Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The NYPD is using a single, high-bandwidth fibre-optic network to connect all its cameras to a central computer system. It's also pioneering ‘video analytic’ computer software designed to detect threats, like unattended bags, and retrieve stored images based on descriptions of terror or other criminal suspects.

No Extra Charge...

The Smoking Gun: About a week before Dunkin’ Donuts made it’s initial public offering, a New Hampshire employee of the donut and coffee chain made a very different--very foul--offering of another sort to two cops.

According to a Jaffrey Police Department affidavit, when Detective Joseph Hileman and Lieutenant Terry Choate stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee on June 19, server Christopher Hildreth grabbed cups and headed to the back of the store to fill their order. This the cops found “odd as they had never seen him go to the back of the store to make coffee in the past.”

Watching Hildreth, 20, on a monitor in the front of the restaurant that allows a view to the back of the store, they observed him make their beverage and then allegedly “put nasal mucus into their coffees.”

Believing there was snot in their drink, they contacted the manager who joined them in a viewing of the store’s surveillance tape which made it "even more obvious that he placed nasal mucous into their coffees.”

Hildreth was fired and then hit with two misdemeanor counts of attempted assault. He will be arraigned in district court on September 15 for his repulsive act.

UK Airline Announces Twitter Concierge

Travolution: CityJet claims it is the first UK airline to offer a Twitter concierge service to its customers.

The new service, delivered through the main @CityJet Twitter feed, will be available for customers to use from August 1. It will initially operate on a trial basis, running for two hours a day from Monday to Friday.

CityJet said the Twitter service will offer its passengers help with “their travel related queries” as well as enable hotel, taxi and restaurant bookings. The service aims to deal with all requests within 15 minutes.

Also available through the service will be destination information for all the destinations the carrier serves on its 17 routes including Paris, Florence, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Dublin.

The Concierge will not deal with any requests which require a financial commitment upfront such as ordering flowers or booking theatre tickets.

Christine Ourmieres, chief executive of CityJet, said: “Twitter has become the ‘go to’ tool for customer service within the travel industry but we wanted to add value to the experience and offer a personal service where possible.

“The majority of our passengers are business travellers and the Twitter Concierge taps into their need for a swift, efficient and seamless travel service.

"It sits comfortably alongside our 15 minute check-ins and convenient flight schedules. If the trial proves successful, we will extend and build on the Concierge service.”

Universal Launching “Hostel” Maze at Hollywood Theme Park

Total Film: Hostel director Eli Roth has confirmed he will design a maze based on his movie franchise for the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.

The Hostel: Hunting Season maze will feature as part of the Halloween Horror Nights experience and will recreate the Slovakian locations from the films.

"Creating a maze for Halloween Horror Nights is a horror fan's dream come true," Roth told Variety. "I've been visiting Halloween Horror Nights for years, and still remember the heart-pounding terror of going through the mazes for the first time.

Roth said fans will have a chance to experience their favourite Hostel scenes, along with “some new surprises”.

The director will also help judge the event's annual short film competition, with the winner being announced on the opening night.

The first maze to be announced for 2011 was The Thing: Assimilation, tying in with Universal Pictures' release of The Thing prequel movie in October. Previous events have seen Friday The 13th's Jason Voorhees wandering the bloody hallways and have included an attraction based the Saw franchise.

Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights event runs from 23 September to 31 October.

Canadian Border Guards Mistake Oil for Heroin

Daily Mail: This senior-citizen's trip across the border lasted far longer than expected when authorities couldn't tell the difference between oil and heroin.

Janet Goodin of Minnesota was crossing the border to play bingo and visit family when border patrol guards mistook a container of motor oil for heroin.

'They handed me the jar and said. 'What's this?' I said 'Well, I don't know. I suppose it's oil or something left over," really not thinking too much about it,' she said.

Bound for Sprague, Manitoba, the 66-year-old couldn't believe it when the jar of brownish liquid in her car tested positive for drugs. 'They came over and said that the substance in the jar tested positive for -- well, she said some chemical term and I didn't understand. So I asked her to repeat it and she said it tested positive for traces of heroin,' she said.

She told the authorities that it was actually oil that her son-in-law had used when he had recently done some work on her vehicle. Nevertheless, she was handcuffed, interrogated and strip searched twice. After that, she was placed in a remand centre in Winnipeg. Police charged her with trafficking heroin, possession for the purpose of trafficking and importation of heroin. 'It was totally surreal,' said the former administrative assistant for the Girl Scouts.

She was not allowed to call family to let them know where she was, and could only call a legal aid lawyer twice. Because it occurred the week before the Easter long weekend, her bail hearing was delayed several days. 'They were absolutely horrified,' she told Canadian TV. 'They were just beside themselves. They were so upset.'

'My one son called the border people and said if there were any drugs in the van, they were his -- you know just trying to help me out,' she says.

But police instead took this as an admission of fact which would still make Ms Goodin an accessory to the crime. Bail was set at $5,000 and because given she was not Canadian had to also provide a surety of $15,000. After 12 days in custody, further tests by the RCMP lab found the oil was not heroin. The charges were dropped and she was released May 3.

Now the Canadadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants answers and report from the head of the Canada Border Services Agency. Ms Goodin herself wants answers and remunification. She said: 'Well, I would like to have some sort of compensation. At my age, two weeks out of the rest of my life is quite a long time for me. And of course, the children borrowed money to try to get me out of trouble and now we owe that.'

She also wants the system changed: 'At the very least, they really need to fix whatever's wrong at the border so it doesn't happen to somebody else.'

Winnipeg-based lawyer Scott Newman, who represented Goodin during the saga said she is 'contemplating' suing the Canadian Border Services Agency. 'Certainly, a civil lawsuit is one of the options that are available to her. I can't advise at this point if she's going to be taking this step,' he said.

The Canada Border Services Agency have said that its on-site testing equipment might be to blame, but that false positives occur in less than one per cent of cases.

'Whenever the CBSA becomes aware of erroneous field tests, we will review that case and determine appropriate next steps and where appropriate, take corrective action,' spokeswoman Lisa White said.

Google Experiments with Hotel Finder Search Tool

CNET: Google has been ramping up its transportation search features for desktop and mobile, but now it is shifting into full on travel mode with its Hotel Finder experiment.

The Next Web reports that the utility is "designed to help users find the perfect hotel." Easier said than done, of course, but maybe something that Google creates is just crazy enough to work.

Google's Hotel Finder (not to be confused with HotelFinder.com) can find the ideal accommodation for a particular user based on a few different priorities, such as location and budget. For example, when searching for where to stay, the user can draw shapes around neighborhoods using a mouse rather than searching by individual addresses.

Other helpful tools include being able to compare hotels easily within the same browser tab featuring photos and reviews of different hotels, along with the option to keep a "shortlist" for ones that might catch a traveler's eye.

Again, Google's Hotel Finder is still in experimental mode (and it might have that similar name to worry about), thus don't expect it to work so perfectly just yet. Additionally, it's only available for finding hotels in the United States at this time.

In related Google travel/transit news, Google has officially added the London Underground to its repertoire of information for public transit agencies. Info on transport for London includes over 18,000 bus stops and over 250 Underground stations. Note that this data refers to planning trips, getting directions, and general location information--not real-time alerts and schedules.

Nevertheless, it's a good start--especially if you're planning to attend the Summer Olympics in London next summer, which starts one year from yesterday.

Google today also announced the the Page Speed Service project for improving load times by up to 60 percent.

The First Twitter Olympics

ExpoWeb: Major sporting events provide a great opportunity to study social sharing at scale. Consider that Twitter users set a new record of 7,196 tweets per second for this month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final game.

With 15,000 athletes from more than 200 countries competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games for 4,400 medals, over 3.5 million tickets already sold and 20,000 accredited media onsite, the London 2012 Olympic Games will certainly drive plenty of tweets, likes, posts, comments, photo/video shares, etc. across a wide range of social media platforms.

In this week’s post, I share with you a new social sharing initiative London 2012 announced in a press release yesterday to mark the one year out milestone: a Twitter competition to find out which country has the most online fans.

According to the press release, “London 2012 will also enable fans from all over the world to celebrate one year to go by creating an interactive Twitter stadium and world map. By visiting www.london2012.com/1yeartogo people will be able see what athletes are saying about London 2012 and will be able to tweet their support for their team using the #1yeartogo 'hashtag'. People will also be able to upload videos and photos, which will appear on the world map alongside video messages from the world’s athletes.”

As of this post, there were already more than 85,000 tweets.

This social marketing program is certainly worth a look for event marketers as there are valuable takeaways here, especially in the area of social engagement. A key one is that London 2012 is not just promoting the global mega event on Twitter by tweeting news updates and other information, they have created a new target-relevant piece of content, i.e., the contest to engage their audience. More specifically, they have designed something simple, fun and interactive—and integrated competition between countries into it which syncs well with the Olympics.

London 2012 has several social media initiatives and has already generated over 153,000 fans on their Facebook Page. Visit the London 2012 Web site to see firsthand what they are doing.

The 1,500 Calorie Big Kahuna Donut Burger

Syracuse.com: Forget Deep-Fried Twinkies and the Mashed Potato Sundae. Heartburn has a new name at this year’s New York State Fair: The Big Kahuna Donut Burger.

Billed as “two meals for the price of one,” the BKDB is this year’s gastronomic innovation, according to the Fair.

It’s a quarter-pound burger placed between a grilled, sliced glazed donut with your choice of cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion -- all for about 1,500 calories. The beast will be sold by the Big Kahuna concession stand located in Times Square next to the Poultry Building. The sandwich will cost between $5 and $6, depending on toppings, according to the AP.

The glazed donuts will come from Harrison Bakery in Syracuse.

The Fair runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5.

Alert your cardiologist in advance.

Pilot attacked on American Airlines Plane in Miami

Two brothers on an American Airlines plane in Miami were arrested after they attacked the pilot last night. Passengers said the men were acting erratically and some believed they were drunk or on drugs. One of the men was sleeping and would not wakeup to buckle his seatbelt. The flight attendants notified the pilot who decided to pull back to the gate. The pilot asked one of the men to get off the plane, the man's brother decided to get off too. Witnesses said one of the men punched the pilot in his eye and then exited the plane.

The pilot followed the two men down the jet bridge to make sure they exited. The two then jumped the pilot and beat him. According to police, one of the men said to the pilot 'If you ever fly to San Juan, I will have you killed.'

Other passengers then intervened and held the men down for about 10 minutes until police came.

The two rowdy passengers have been identified as Jonathan Baez and Luis Baez. They are being held on aggravated battery and simple battery. American Airlines said the pilot is okay, but did sit the flight out. He may have permanent damage to his eye. The plane landed in San Francisco around 2 a.m. local time.

New Mobile App Trover Launched

MocoNews: It has been a lucrative couple of years for companies seeking funding armed with a powerfully simple idea: sharing exactly where you are and what you’re doing with friends or colleagues using a mobile phone and a data connection. A company called Trover hopes to join that group by catering to explorers at heart, but will face a tough time elbowing into an already crowded space.

Trover is both a Seattle startup and an iPhone application, one that lets users take pictures of interesting places they find during their travels and share them with fellow users. It’s led by Chairman Rich Barton (who counts founding stints at Expedia and Zillow on his resume) along with CEO Jason Karas and Andrew Coldham, vice president of technology, and is sort of a side project that has emerged from Travelpost.com, a travel reviews site that counts all three as team members.

The concept is pretty familiar: take a picture of that cool new restaurant around the corner from your apartment or the trailhead that leads to that awesome waterfall with your mobile phone and upload it using Trover’s app. It then goes into a geolocation database that can be shown to other Trover users as a “discovery” when they ask the application what kinds of interesting things are near their current location or when they “follow” another Trover user’s updates.

So it’s sort of like Foursquare meets Instagram with a dash of Yelp and Foodspotting built in. Karas seems to have heard this criticism before, pointing out the unique points of Trover’s approach: it’s for places only (pictures of people get deleted by community moderators), it’s not about real-time “check-ins” but rather a record of significant discoveries in your area, and it’s not just about restaurants, although people do share restaurant tips through the app. And it’s not Color, Karas assured me, although it’s not clear whether Color is Color anymore.

But only 70,000 people are currently using the service, based on a deliberate decision to limit logins to those with Facebook accounts. Starting Thursday, anyone with a Twitter account or e-mail address will also be allowed to sign up for the service, which will likely draw more users but could chip away at the community aspect of the service, which Karas said has been key to the experience so far. And Karas said the company is looking into ways to get merchants to participate, but it hasn’t figured out exactly how some sort of sponsored “discovery” would work in Trover’s stream of updates.

We’re nearing a point in the evolution of location-aware mobile services where you have to start to wonder just how many photo-sharing travel/nightlife applications the mobile market can take, especially when application discovery and post-download engagement are two of the biggest problems that mobile application developers face. Still, with the barriers to entry so low, launching a new company with nothing but a mobile app and some experienced entrepreneurs is a relatively easy way to see what types of services will gain traction with consumers.

New Orleans Trump Tower Project Officially Dead

NOLA.com: The Trump International Hotel & Tower, the excessively hyped 70-story, $400-million condominium project announced the day before Hurricane Katrina turned toward New Orleans, is officially dead.

The Poydras Street parcel where the Trump Tower was to be located was sold at a sheriff's foreclosure auction last Thursday to the operator of the surface parking lot at the site.

While there have been no signs of motion for several years on the project that would have created the tallest building in the city, and a mural of the project painted on a brick building abutting the site (above) has long since been removed, the Florida developers who worked with New York real estate magnate Donald Trump on the project remained silent about its fate, even as other swanky high-rise condo projects fell apart.

Stephen Dwyer, the local attorney for developer Poydras LLC, said that twin hurdles of the storm and the financial crisis were just too great to overcome. "The economy just did not justify going forward," Dwyer said. "The developer still hopes to bring the project online at some point. He has not given up on building a project in New Orleans."

Mega Theme Park Planned Near Moscow

The Independent: Russia is to build a huge "destination resort" theme park just outside Moscow, the first such attraction in its history.

The enormous Magic World Russia theme park will stretch across 600 acres (242 hectares), the consortium behind the plans announced last week, and will sit around 50 kilometers outside the capital Moscow.

Designed by the same team behind the Galaxy Macau Casino Resort which opened in May, the mega park will in fact be comprised of smaller amusement parks and hotels, designed to lure travelers into staying for several nights.

Among the parks will be a Hollywood studio 'branded' park, likely to involve a well-established US theme park brand such as Disney or Universal Studios, a family park dedicated to young children, two waterparks with adjoining beach resorts and the Nanopolis Children's Park, an "edutainment" attraction.

The designers, who were also involved in Abu Dhabi's new Ferrari World project, also promise an extreme sports park and Park Russia, an attraction themed around Russian folklore and history. A world-first addition will be "World Without Boundaries," a park designed solely for special needs children.

Hotel options will include properties from internationally-recognized brands, the consortium said, with Hotels Magazine reporting that a 1,700-room five-star property and 1,750-room mid-range hotel will be among the options.

Although 80 percent of the park will be covered to ensure it is available for visitors all year round, additional activities are set to include shopping malls and a 15,000-seat live-performance theater.

Construction on the park is expected to begin next year, with 10-12 million visitors every year predicted to pile through the gates when it finally opens in 2016.

Cornell Software Can Spot Fake Hotel Reviews

GeekOSystem: If you’ve ever looked for hotel reviews online, you’ve probably come across what is called opinion spam, otherwise known as fake reviews. The problem is, you probably don’t know it, or at least can’t single out the bogus ones. That’s why researchers at Cornell have developed a computer program that can call out fake reviews with 89.8% accuracy. You might be thinking, “so what? I can totally do that.” Well, the numbers beg to differ. When Cornell pitted three human judges against a slew of hotel reviews, half of which were truthful and verified, half of which were complete fiction, and asked them to single out the phonies, the puny humans fared no better than chance.

It all comes down to this concept called “truth bias.” Basically, when you read something, you generally take it as truth until you find evidence to the contrary (makes my job easier). On the flip side, if you’re told to be on the lookout for deception, you start shadowboxing like a schizophrenic and won’t believe your own mother’s story about how fluffy the pillows were. Enter the zen quietude of the robot brain.

The program that sorts through these reviews has none of the psychological problems we have, of course, and instead focuses on some really odd, but interesting facts about real reviews and fake ones. For instance, real reviews tend to use more concrete nouns, while fake ones lean heavily on verbs. The liars will also do more scene-setting and talk about “vacation” or “my business trip” while the truthful among us refer to boring real things like “the bathroom” and “lobby.” Basically, liars tend to write in a more flowery, scenic way and the truthful fellows write like Hemingway. These differences are subtle, however, and given the whole truth bias thing and how closely you have to look to get this stuff right, the computers are better at it than you ever will be.

The kicker? These algorithms, while awesome, are only validated for reviews, and to narrow the scope even further, only validated for hotel reviews. Still, there are applications to be had in first string, online review screening and a new word bank and some fine tuning could, presumably, open the program up for applications in spotting fake online reviews for other things. Just beware, when they finally rise up, the robots will be able to know if you are lying, so stop pitting your roombas against each other, because I highly doubt our robot overlords will approve.