Day: November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving travel: Many in the Washington DC area are staying home

Most seem to be heeding that advice.

“It’s been a long outbreak — almost 11 months now — and people are tired. We understand that,” said Erin Sauber-Schatz, head of the CDC’s Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force. “People want to see their relatives, their friends and [celebrate] the way they’ve always done it, but this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

About 83 percent of D.C. residents said they planned to stay home this Thanksgiving holiday. When asked why they had decided not to travel, 65 percent cited the coronavirus pandemic. A similar number of Virginia residents, 84 percent, said they would be staying put.

In Maryland, where Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday urged residents not to let their guard down and to remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing, 89 percent of those surveyed said they would not be traveling. The Maryland Department of Transportation on Monday asked residents to avoid nonessential travel.

It’s a significant shift from previous years, when the Thanksgiving exodus would begin a week earlier as people plotted how to avoid the inevitable crush of holiday traffic. Regular commuters were warned to leave their offices early on Wednesday to avoid getting caught in holiday getaway traffic. The Capital Beltway became a sea of brake lights.

This will be the first Thanksgiving in more than a decade that fewer people plan to travel for the holiday when compared to the previous year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

But not everyone is staying home. Roadways and airports might be more crowded than in previous months, but the volume will be a far cry from previous years, officials said.

The Transportation Security Administration reported it screened more than 1 million passengers Friday and again Sunday — something that has happened only three times since the pandemic began in March.

“We’re seeing more people on a daily basis than we have in the last few months,” said Christina Saull, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles International and Reagan National airports.

Even so, Saull said passenger volumes are down about 60 percent compared to 2019, when trade group Airlines for America projected 30.6 million people would travel over a 12-day period around Thanksgiving.

Saull said travelers are largely following requirements to wear masks and practice social distancing. She said free masks are available at airport information desks. Many airlines also are making masks available.

In a briefing with reporters last week, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the agency expected its busiest days around the holiday will be Wednesday and Sunday. He also encouraged those who are traveling to be patient with others since it will be the first time many are traveling since the pandemic began.

Pekoske emphasized changes TSA has made to screening procedures to protect travelers and its workers. Officers are required to wear masks and gloves. Gloves will be changed out following each pat-down and if a passenger requests they be

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The World’s First Energy-Positive Hotel Is Coming to Arctic Norway

a lake with a mountain in the background: The World’s First Energy-Positive Hotel Is Coming to Arctic Norway

© Courtesy of Snøhetta Plompmozes Miris
The World’s First Energy-Positive Hotel Is Coming to Arctic Norway

When it opens at the base of Norway’s pristine Svartisen glacier just below the Arctic Circle, the Svart hotel—slated for 2022—aims to be entirely energy-positive, meaning it will produce more energy than it uses. Currently being built in Norway’s northern Meløy municipality, the hotel offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Holandsfjorden fjord. Its sleek, circular structure also employs a solar panel–clad roof that uses the sun’s energy throughout the days and seasons to power the hotel’s operations.

a large ship in the water: The remote nature surrounding the Svart hotel can only be accessed by boat.

© Courtesy of Snøhetta Plompmozes Miris
The remote nature surrounding the Svart hotel can only be accessed by boat.

Designed by award-winning Norwegian architect firm Snøhetta (the team behind the world’s largest underwater restaurant in Norway), Svart is largely inspired by a Norwegian fiskehjell, a wooden structure used to dry fish, and a rorbue, a fisherman’s traditional seasonal home. The environmentally friendly hotel is elevated above water by criss-crossing poles made of natural wood, which are intended to blend into the environment and place a minimal footprint on the surroundings.

The 99-room hotel will include four restaurants with locally inspired tasting menus ranging from rustic to gourmet, with many dishes using produce grown at the sustainable farm on-site. Guests can also enjoy a variety of traditional Norwegian treatments, including massages and facials with sustainable, locally sourced products at Svart’s 3,300-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa.

a rainbow over a body of water: The name “Svart,” meaning “black” in Norwegian, is a direct tribute to the deep blue ice of Norway’s Svartisen glacier.

© Courtesy of Snøhetta Plompmozes Miris
The name “Svart,” meaning “black” in Norwegian, is a direct tribute to the deep blue ice of Norway’s Svartisen glacier.

Svart says the hotel will harvest enough solar energy to cover both the daily operations and the energy needed to construct the building. What’s more: The hotel says it will continue to work to achieve carbon-neutrality and zero-waste status, going completely off-grid within its first five years of operation. 

When it opens in 2022, overnight guests and day-trippers will be welcome to enjoy the property, and everyone will arrive the same way: Via an energy-neutral boat shuttle that will bring visitors to the remote hotel from the nearby city of Bodø

>> Next: Norway’s New Art Museum Doubles as a Twisting Bridge Above a River

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Jessie James Decker, 32, and her friend pose in bikinis during their vacation in Colombia

Country singer Jessie James Decker looks incredible in a bikini.

The 32-year-old performer proved that again on Monday when she shared an image where she modeled a black and white swimsuit that made the most of her curves.

The crooner has been on vacation in Colombia with several friends as well as her mother Karen Parker.

Just like pinup: Country singer Jessie James Decker looks incredible in a bikini. Here she is seen with pal Jessica Payne while on vacation in Colombia

Just like pinup: Country singer Jessie James Decker looks incredible in a bikini. Here she is seen with pal Jessica Payne while on vacation in Colombia

The looker shared on photo where she had her arm around blonde pal Jessica Payne who stood out in a red bikini. In another image Decker was at the spa with her mom. 

‘My girl and my mommy ✨,’ she told her 3.3M Instagram followers.

The comments ranged from ‘HOT HOT HOT’ to ‘Dear Santa – I want to look like this for Christmas.’

Jessie, who was born Jessica Rose James, is the daughter of Karen and Robert James. 

So many fans: 'My girl and my mommy ✨,' she told her 3.3M Instagram followers

So many fans: ‘My girl and my mommy ✨,’ she told her 3.3M Instagram followers

Her mother then married Steve Parker in the early 2000s and became Karen Parker; Karen is believed to be in her mid forties.

Jessie was in a black and white two piece that made the most of her petite 5ft1in frame.

And her friend was in a scarlet red two piece; the top had a keyhole in front and the briefs were low on her hips.

Her family: In another image Decker was at the spa with her mom Karen Parker

Her family: In another image Decker was at the spa with her mom Karen Parker

There was also an image of the Jessie with her mother Karen at the spa.

The two are very close. In May 2019 Jessie told that her mom helps with her kids. 

‘It’s really a special time and especially for me and my mom,’ said the country singer said about her mother, who she is on the South Beach Diet with.

‘It’s so important to me and it’s been so special for me in my life. So, Mother’s Day is a big deal in my house and in my Momma’s house.’ 

She loves the locals: The star has said she feels very at home in Colombia

She loves the locals: The star has said she feels very at home in Colombia

A moment to chill out: Here Jessie is seen taking a break on a bench while in slides

A moment to chill out: Here Jessie is seen taking a break on a bench while in slides

The help is welcomed. 

‘I don’t have any nannies or anything, but when I need help with my kids, my momma is right there, taking care of my babies for me, if Eric and I have something to do. So, I’ll be spoilin her, sending her to get a massage, ’cause it’s a lot with three under four.’ 

She wed Eric Decker in 2013 and in 2014 they welcomed their first child, Vivianne Rose. In 2015 she had her second Eric II and in 2018 her third, Forrest Bradley.   

So many new friends: Here the country songbird is seen with some pals like Payne and her mother

So many new friends: Here the country songbird is seen with some pals like Payne and her mother

Cafe society: In this post, Decker said she loves the coffee in Colombia and wants to bring some home

Cafe society: In this post, Decker said she loves the coffee

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Early-morning shooting on Indianapolis’ east side leaves 1 dead


Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana allows Indianapolis residents to share anonymous tips with law enforcement.


Indianapolis police are investigating after an early Sunday shooting at an east-side hotel left one man dead.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department responded to the incident shortly before 6 a.m. at the Budget 8 Inn in the 6800 block of East 21st Street.

Officers called to the scene on a report of shots fired were directed to a second-floor hotel room where they found one man suffering from a gunshot wound, police said.

The victim was taken to Eskenazi Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.

The name of the victim has not been released.

No other injuries were reported in connection to the shooting. Police said the details of the incident remain under investigation.

Anyone with information about the crashes should call the IMPD Homicide Office at 317-327-3475 or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477. Citizens can also download the mobile P3tips app for Apple or Android phones to submit a mobile tip, or go to to submit a web tip.

Information given via Crime Stoppers should be considered anonymous.

Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.

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Refugees Detained in Melbourne’s Mantra Hotel Speak Out: “Our Lockdown Is Indefinite”

Interview by
Chris Breen

Since 2012, Australia has sent 4,183 refugees to be detained in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, in breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Australia remains a signatory. As of October 2020, 290 refugees are in offshore detention while 870 have been resettled in the United States. One thousand two hundred twenty-six refugees have been sent to Australia and are living in the community on final departure bridging visas. This includes children and their families from Nauru brought to Australia as a result of pressure from the refugee movement.

However, there is another group of refugees who have reached Australian soil and are being detained in a continuous, indefinite lockdown. They were transported here under the short-lived Medevac Bill passed in early 2019, when the Liberal–National Coalition briefly lost its parliamentary majority. Although the law was repealed after ten months, while it was operative it forced the authorities to transport 192 refugees to Australia for medical treatment.

Liberal PM Scott Morrison always hated Medevac. In order to undermine the legislation and depict refugees as a threat, his Coalition government has made sure that most refugees brought here for medical treatment are being held in conditions that are, by many accounts, worse than offshore detention. The Department of Immigration sequestered hotels for just this purpose. The main two are the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne and the Kangaroo Point Hotel in Brisbane.

Refugee advocate Chris Breen spoke with two refugees, Mostafa Azimitabar (Moz) and Ramsiyar Sabanayagam (Ramsi), who are indefinitely detained in the Mantra Hotel “alternative place of detention” (APOD) in Preston, Melbourne. In total, they have spent six years detained on Manus Island in PNG, and now over one year detained in Melbourne. Protests inside and outside detention are ongoing, as are other efforts to free them.

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Firm buys River Walk hotel and plans to renovate restaurant, bar

An East Coast firm has snapped up its first hotel in San Antonio: the luxury Hotel Contessa on the River Walk downtown.

A partnership of executives from Silver Ventures and Hixon Properties, local development firms, sold the 265-room hotel last week to Wheelock Street Capital, according to local property and state corporate records.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but the 12-story hotel at 306 W. Market St. was valued at $52.4 million this year by the Bexar Appraisal District.

Wheelock, which has offices in Greenwich, Conn., and Boston, plans to “complete a full renovation of the ground floor restaurant and bar in the coming months,” it said in a news release. The acquisition is the firm’s first hotel purchase since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tango, ‘micro weddings,’ officing at a resort — how San Antonio’s major hotels are staying afloat

“The property’s historically strong performance, superb location and superior quality in a top leisure-driven market was a perfect match with our current acquisition criteria and provided us the conviction to execute during an uncertain time in the capital markets,” said Tim Hodes, principal and director of hotel investments at Wheelock.

HEI Hotels & Resorts will manage the hotel, which was built in 2005 and includes a rooftop pool and spa.

The pandemic is battering San Antonio’s hospitality industry, and COVID-19 cases in the area are rising. Over 63 percent of downtown hotel rooms, on average, were vacant in October, according to data firm STR, which tracks the sector.

With many conventions, concerts and other events canceled, high-end hotels have been hit particularly hard, said Paul Vaughn, senior vice president at San Antonio-based hotel consulting firm Source Strategies.

In the third quarter, revenue at Hotel Contessa was down about 68 percent from the same period in 2019, he said.

“It’s a tough time to be a luxury hotel,” Vaughn said. “A lot of the higher-end hotels — their revenue is very far down.”

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Hotel lending: Banks in ‘race against time’

A surge in coronavirus cases on the cusp of winter has hotel operators and their lenders on high alert.

Banks that lend to hotels — as well as motels, resorts and other lodging establishments — had hoped that six months of loan forbearance would be enough to usher the hospitality sector from crisis to recovery and ward off defaults and lofty charge-offs.

But most initial deferral periods ended in October, and others will expire in a matter of weeks, leaving hotels to resume payments just as the pandemic enters a new phase.

STR, a hotel industry data firm, said average U.S. national occupancy was 43% for the week ended Nov. 13, down more than 32% from a year earlier and, notably, off from 48% during the third quarter, when travel and hotel bookings had started to rebound.

“I don’t think we, as an industry, are out of the woods,” Kessel Stelling, chairman and CEO of Synovus Financial in Columbus, Ga., said at recent conference hosted by Bank of America. “I think we’ve got a tough couple of months” ahead.

Hotel occupancy by-the-numbers

The $53 billion-asset Synovus was an active hotel lender before the pandemic. Hotel loans accounted for 70% of the $865 million increase in criticized and classified loans during the third quarter, executives said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

Nearly 9% of Synovus’ hotel portfolio, or $125 million in loans, had principal and interest deferrals on Sept. 30. Those credits accounted for three-fourths of commercial loans on deferral, demonstrating the outsize pain that hotels had endured.

The latest health data bodes poorly for the hospitality sector. The pandemic has intensified, topping 100,000 daily cases since Nov. 3 and putting the month on track to be the worst yet, according to Johns Hopkins University’s running tally. The U.S. reported more than 170,000 cases on multiple days in November, a level that had not been reached in prior months.

States such as New York, Illinois and California have imposed new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against Thanksgiving travel. And hotel bookings are falling again.

Amid all that, bankers will have to start making hard decisions on loans coming out of deferment. Regulators let banks offer deferrals and modifications without labeling them as troubled debt restructurings, which would normally signal charge-offs ahead. Most of the deferrals started in April and May.

Barring new government intervention — either from regulators or Congress — hoteliers face the possiblity of default. And banks may have to start charging off substantial amounts of loans during the fourth quarter, said Matthew Anderson, a managing director at Trepp.

Trepp, a commercial real estate data firm, said the total delinquency rate on commercial mortgage-backed securities made post-2009 — where payments are more than a month past due — was 7.43% in October. CMBS delinquencies are much higher for lodging loans: 19.2%.

Delinquency rates on hotel loans held on bank balance sheets have hovered near zero, Anderson said, but

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October Tourism Authority Report: Maui County Vacation Rentals at 21% and Hotels at 14.2% Occupancy | Maui Now


Maui vacation rental

File photo.

The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) released its Hawaiʻi Vacation Rental Performance Report for October. It shows Maui County had the largest vacation rental supply of all four counties with 138,500 available unit nights, which was a decrease of 53.5 percent compared to a year ago.

Unit demand was 29,051 unit nights (-87.6%), resulting in 21 percent occupancy (-57.6 percentage points) with an average daily rate (ADR) of $227 (-36.2%). Maui County hotels were 14.2 percent occupied with an ADR of $226.

For the entire state, the total monthly supply of statewide vacation rentals was 373,600 unit nights (-57.0%) and monthly demand was 85,000 unit nights (-86.4%), resulting in an average monthly unit occupancy of 22.7 percent (-49.1 percentage points). Hawaiʻi’s hotels had an average occupancy rate of 19.7 percent.

It is important to note that unlike hotels, condominium hotels, timeshare resorts and vacation rental units are not necessarily available year-round or each day of the month and often accommodate a larger number of guests than traditional hotel rooms. The unit average daily rate (ADR) for vacation rental units statewide in October was $208, which was higher than the ADR for hotels ($174), according to the report.

The state’s pre-travel testing program started on Oct. 15, allowing passengers arriving from out-of-state and traveling inter-county to bypass the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a valid negative COVID-19 test result from a trusted partner. All other transpacific travelers continued to be subject to the 14-day self-quarantine. The counties of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi, Maui and Kalawao (Molokai) also had a partial quarantine in place in October.

For Maui County, travelers awaiting their pre-travel test results were allowed to stay at a vacation rental as their place of quarantine. On Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi, legal short-term rentals were allowed to operate as long as they were not being used as a quarantine location.

On Oahu, short-term rentals (rented for less than 30 days) were not allowed to operate at the beginning of October. However, when Oahu moved to Tier 2 of its Reopening Plan on Oct. 22, legal short-term rentals were allowed to reopen.

Other Island Highlights:

Oahu vacation rental supply was 96,500 available unit nights (-59.4%) in October. Unit demand was 26,300 unit nights (-84.6%), resulting in 27.2 percent occupancy (-44.3 percentage points) and an ADR of $173 (-32.7%). Oahu hotels were 22 percent occupied with an ADR of $158.

The Big Island vacation rental supply was 80,000 available unit nights (-61.7%) in October. Unit demand was 17,416 unit nights (-86.7%), resulting in 21.8 percent occupancy (-40.8 percentage points) with an ADR of $192 (-26.3%). Big Island hotels were 19.8 percent occupied with an ADR of $140.

Kauaʻi had the fewest number of available unit nights in October at 58,500 (-52.5%). Unit demand was 12,300 unit nights (-86.1%), resulting in 21.0 percent occupancy (-50.6 percentage points) with an ADR of $261 (-34.2%). Kauaʻi hotels were 21.3 percent occupied with an ADR of $212.

The entire report is available by clicking here.

Tables of vacation

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Police: New Kensington woman charged after firing gun into occupied hotel room in Harmar

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Police arrested a New Kensington woman at a Harmar hotel last week after,she fired a gun inside her hotel room during an argument and a bullet went into another occupied hotel room, according to a criminal complaint.

Angelia Anderina Waszkiewicz, 30, remained in the Allegheny County Jail on Monday afternoon after failing to post $20,000 bond, according to online court records.

She has been charged with one felony count of discharging a firearm into an occupied structure and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment, according to court records. She had no attorney listed.

Also charged in connection to the incident is Leo Vance Phillipps, 37, who faces firearms violations.

Harmar police said they were called to TownePlace Suites by Marriott Pittsburgh Harmarville about 9:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 for a report of shots fired.

When they arrived, a hotel employee informed them that multiple people heard a gunshot come from a hotel room. The officers went to the hotel room and saw a bullet exit hole coming from the room, the complaint said.

Police spoke with a woman who had been staying in the room. The woman told police four people had been staying in the room, including Waszkiewicz and Phillipps.

The woman told police that she wasn’t in the room at the time of the shooting, but Waszkiewicz and Phillipps had been in the room. Phillipps is Waszkiewicz’s boyfriend.

Police made contact with both Phillipps and Waszkiewicz, who agreed to talk with them.

Police said Phillipps at first denied being in the room when the gun went off, but later admitted he and Waszkiewicz had been in the room, according to the complaint.

Phillipps told police he and Waszkiewicz had gotten into an argument, and Waszkiewicz picked up his gun that had been laying on a table and put it to her head.

Phillipps said he took the gun from Waszkiewicz and put it back on the table, but Waszkiewicz picked it up again and discharged a round through the hotel room’s front entry door.

Phillipps told police he recently bought the gun off the streets in New Kensington and brought it to the hotel room. Police said Phillipps is a convicted felon who is not allowed to possess a gun.

Phillipps told police he hid the gun behind a tree at a KFC. Police took Phillipps there to retrieve the gun: a silver Taurus Firearm 9mm. Police said the gun had one live round in the chamber and five live rounds in the magazine.

Waszkiewicz also spoke with police and admitted she fired the gun.

Police said the bullet went through the hotel room’s front entry door and into another hotel room, coming to rest in the door frame. A woman had been staying in the room where the bullet entered at the time of the incident, police said.

Both Waszkiewicz and Phillipps were placed into

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“Direction of travel is set” in climate fight, says Paris accord architect

LONDON/MADRID (Reuters) – A slew of international commitments to cut carbon emissions including from U.S. President-elect Joe Biden point to a bright future for the fight to save the environment, former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said.

FILE PHOTO: Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres speaks during a debate in the United Nations General Assembly between candidates vying to be the next U.N. Secretary General at U.N. headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

One of the architects of the 2015 Paris agreement under which nearly 200 countries pledged to curbing emissions, Figueres said she had witnessed “a remarkable geopolitical shift” this year.

She listed a European Union decision to tie environmental criteria to recovery funds for economies ravaged by the coronavirus, China’s pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and similar pledges by Korea, Japan and South Africa.

“How could I not be optimistic, the direction of travel is set,” she told the Reuters Events Energy Transition Europe summit.

Current U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter out of the Paris deal, but Biden has promised to rejoin. On Monday, he named former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as special presidential envoy for the climate.

Figueres praised Biden’s plans to use investments in clean technologies to create jobs.

“The point is there has to be an immediate benefit for those families that are truly hurting under the COVID economic downturn,” she said.

Corporations are also engaging in the race to reach “net zero” – whereby emissions are offset through methods like carbon capture or planting trees – even ahead of the 2050 horizon seen as necessary to meet the Paris targets, Figueres said.

She said a sticking point remained in Brazil, where environmentalists and scientists blame President Jair Bolsonaro for soaring deforestation.

It will be “rather difficult to lift that anchor while Bolsonaro is still there”, Figueres said, although she acknowledged that each country’s progress would be measured by different metrics.

“We have to be able to open … for very different approaches, as long as everyone is working in the same direction toward decarbonisation.”

Bolsonaro said last week his government would name countries that are importing wood illegally extracted from the Amazon, having developed a way of tracking the timber using isotopes.

Reporting by Axel Threlfall and Isla Binnie; Editing by Alison Williams

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