Tag: asks

Family asks airline to change credit polcy amid COVID

They had $1,600 in airline credits set to expire despite government warnings against holiday travel.

WASHINGTON — It was supposed to be a February getaway for Howard Van and his family to relax after the birth of his second son, Vincent. He bought airplane tickets for himself, his wife Yok, Vincent and his older son Jason, and his sisters in-laws Amy and Yann Ly.

The family was supposed to fly on Southwest Airlines from BWI Airport to Tampa, Florida. But days before they were supposed to leave, and just as coronavirus was hitting the United States, Howard and his wife got sick with a fever and chills.

Van worried the couple might have contracted coronavirus, but said there was no way to know at the time.

“We had all the classic symptoms,” Van said. “But we will never know we had it or not because we there was no testing available to the general public at that time.”

Van says he was just trying to do the safe and responsible thing by cancelling the trip.

“For us as a family and for other passengers on that flight,” he said.

Southwest issued the van family travel credits for cost of the plane tickets worth roughly $1,640. The travel credits were set to expire on December 20, 2020. But with COVID cases surging around the country, Howard said there was no way to use the travel credits, especially since his wife and sister in law Yann are both front line health care workers and asked by their employers not to travel.

So, Van called Southwest and asked for an extension to use the travel credits.

Because of their current policy they were unable to grant me that request, which was very disappointing for us,” Van said. “And it became almost like a financial ticking time bomb as the deadline was approaching.”

That Southwest policy says only travel credits issued on or after March 1 of this year can be extended. Van asked customer service to make an exception, posting his appeal to Southwest Airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly, on the company website.

Van wrote, “The current Southwest policy is hurting front line medical professionals during a time when they are sacrificing the most to keep everyone safe.”

But according to a screen shot of that conversation provided by Van, Southwest wouldn’t budge. A customer service rep wrote back: “We’re sorry for any disappointment surrounding the fare rules…ya’ll chose to purchase.”

Van said the best Southwest told him they could do was charge him $100 per ticket to extend the travel credit deadline, meaning he could sink another $500 into a trip he didn’t know when his family could safely take. Or lose the $1640 in airfare all together.

“And for our family, that’s a lot of money,” Van said. “That’s money we could use to buy groceries, invest in our college funds or buy Christmas presents for our kids.”

Howard wrote to WUSA9 and asked for help. So, Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Flack

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Amnesty asks govt to stop luxury hotel construction to protect indigenous Mro people

File photo shows indigenous women at the Chitagong Hill Tracts Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

“Members of the Mro and other Indigenous communities are also afraid that the construction of the hotel will damage sacred sites, forests, water resources and biodiversity in the region,” the letter said

Amnesty International has raised concerns over a possible forced eviction of the Mro indigenous people from their ancestral lands due to the construction of a five-star luxury hotel on the Chimbuk-Thanchi route in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

In a letter to CHT Affairs Minister Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing on Sunday, the international rights group also demanded immediate abandonment of the construction of the luxury hotel on the route to protect and develop the lives and livelihood of the Indigenous peoples in line with Bangladesh’s commitment in its Constitution and international human rights law.

In the letter, Amnesty raised concerns that the construction of the luxury hotel on the route between Chimbuk and Thanchi will eventually wipe out villages, forcibly evict a large number of the Mro people and destroy the social, economic, traditional and cultural fabric of the Mro Indigenous community.

“Members of the Mro and other indigenous communities are also afraid that the construction of the hotel will damage sacred sites, forests, water resources and biodiversity in the region,” the letter said.

Amnesty also said the action also contravenes Bangladesh’s commitment to protect the “institutions, persons, property and labour of these populations” under the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957.

“The construction of a five-star hotel under these circumstances would violate the Bangladeshi authorities’ responsibility and commitment to protect and promote the rights of the indigenous peoples, rather than providing the indigenous community with the necessary support to realize their own development plans, such as improving access to education and electricity,” it added.

At the same time, community members said that the hotel and associated projects may ultimately lead to the direct and indirect taking away of at least 800 acres of land of the Indigenous people in violation of the customary laws of the community. 

“Furthermore, the hotel’s construction, on the land belonging to Indigenous peoples, would violate Bangladesh’s constitutional obligation to “protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities,” Amnesty said in the letter.

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San Francisco asks residents to not use city testing for travel

LATEST Nov. 18, 12:13 p.m. San Francisco health officials are asking residents to not use the government-operated COVID-19 testing sites in preparation for Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. This includes the CityTest SF locations at Embarcadero and the Alemany Farmers’ Market that offer quick, easy appointments.

“City resources cannot support testing for behaviors, such as travel and visits with extended family, that are currently not recommended during this surge,” a statement from the city read. “San Francisco CityTestSF and other testing sites are intended to provide quick, low barrier testing for essential workers or residents who have been exposed or are exhibiting symptoms. The site offers testing access to prevent the spread of the infection due to exposure or the display of symptoms.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, discouraged against testing for travel at a Monday press conference and pointed out that it’s not foolproof.

“Please do not use testing to determine whether you can travel or not,” said Dr. Grant Colfax at a Monday press conference. “We have seen the repeated failure of this type of testing strategy across the country, including in Washington, D.C. A negative test can not be an excuse to put yourself or others at risk. Remember people who test negative can still harbor the virus if they are early in their infection.”

San Francisco implements nearly 6,000 tests per day, the highest number of any other jurisdiction in the country, according to the Public Health Department. Turn around times for results are 24-48 hours.

The city asks insured residents to go to their healthcare providers for testing, but many opt for the free city service because it’s convenient.

San Francisco is “experiencing high demand for testing” and the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Embarcadero testing site has been overwhelmed by people seeking testing ahead of Thanksgiving travel.

Caroline Savello, a spokesperson for Color that helps run the S.F. testing sites, said there’s no evidence that Thanksgiving travelers are flooding local sites, but she emphasized the resource is geared to essential workers.

“Most of our testing in the city, more than half of it, is essential workers,” Savello said. “We continue to see that across the board.”

Nov. 18, 11 a.m. San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery is now taking November reservations for those who want to shop in a less crowded environment.

The half-hour time slots are available after-hours (9:15 p.m. and later) and limited to 35 customers.

Find more information here.

Nov. 18, 7:45 a.m. San Francisco opened a new city-run, free testing operation Tuesday at the site of the Alemany Farmers’ Market, replacing the former SoMa location.

Like the SoMa location at 600 Seventh St., the new site at 100 Alemany Boulevard is run by CityTest SF and Color, a health technology company partnering with several Bay Area cities to expand COVID-19 testing across the region.

The Alemany site is implementing about 500 tests a day and is open Monday 12:30-4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 8:30 a.m.-4:30

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Boutique hotel on Detroit riverfront asks $26 million

A 108-room boutique hotel on Detroit’s east riverfront is now up for grabs.

a view of a city: An aerial view of the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel

© Newmark
An aerial view of the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel

Real estate firm Newmark Group announced Wednesday that the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel, 1000 River Place Drive, is officially on the market.


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Owner Michael V. Roberts is seeking either a buyer for the 112,000-square-foot hotel and banquet center or to partner with someone for a potential joint redevelopment venture at the 3.75-acre site, such as a project involving residences.

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“Right now the asking price is $26 million,” said Roberts, a high-profile Black businessman and hotel owner from St. Louis.

More: UAW-GM training center in Detroit sells for secret price

More: Detroit hotels suffer, some suburban hotels doing OK amid COVID-19

Like many downtown-area hotels, Roberts Riverwalk experienced a significant drop in business because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now only open at reduced capacity Thursdays-Sundays through booking.com. 

“With COVID out here, there’s really no business during the middle of the week,” Roberts said.

Michael V. Roberts standing in front of a store: Michael V. Roberts, shown here in a 2014 photo, is now looking for someone to buy his Roberts Riverwalk Hotel.

© Jessica J. Trevino Detroit Free Press
Michael V. Roberts, shown here in a 2014 photo, is now looking for someone to buy his Roberts Riverwalk Hotel.

Constructed in 1902, the hotel building is part of a complex that served until 1981 as offices and laboratories for pharmaceutical maker Parke-Davis Co. After Parke-Davis left, the complex became Stroh River Place and the building was turned into the River Place Inn in the late 1980s.

The Stroh family sold the hotel in 1993, and five years later, it was bought by Omni Hotels and underwent a name change to Omni Detroit Hotel at River Place.

In 2010, the Omni hotel closed. Shortly thereafter, Roberts bought the hotel and undertook $5 million in renovations to reopen it, including the installation of a swimming pool and a new 5,500-square-foot conference center.

“The prospect to acquire an established landmark along with coveted waterfront land is rare,” Larry Emmons, a senior managing director at Newmark, said in a statement announcing the property’s listing.

The recent buyers of the nearby UAW-GM Center for Human Resources complex said they once considered buying the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel as well in a separate deal, but changed their plans.

Roberts said that selling the hotel was a tough decision for him to make.

 “A smart entrepreneur has to be prepared to pivot when situations require a different mindset,” he said.

Contact JC Reindl at 313-222-6631 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jcreindl. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Boutique hotel on Detroit riverfront asks $26 million

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Fed And Treasury Asks Public For Comment On New Travel Rule For Crypto

The Federal Reserve, along with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Agency (FinCEN), an agency of the U.S. Treasury, have invited comment on a proposed rule that lowers the threshold on reporting under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) from $3,000 to $250 for transactions outside of the United States in what is widely known as the ‘Travel Rule.’ Additionally, cryptocurrency transactions would also be required for both domestic and international reporting as the rule broadens the definition of money.

Bitcoin transactions have risen to $366 billion dollars in 2019 and $312 billion through in 2020 through August, according to the new rule. The Fed and FinCEN explains virtual assets will be defined as ‘money’ under the new proposed rule to include ‘convertible virtual currencies’ (CVC) and digital assets that are legal tender. FinCEN first addressed CVC with guidance issued in 2013 – notable in that it was the first U.S. agency to publicly address how crypto was to be regulated.

Jamison Sites, a Blockchain and Digital Asset Tax Lead at RSM, the world’s fifth-largest tax, auditing, and consulting firm in the U.S., stated, “The proposed rules give greater clarity and regulatory certainty to those operating with CVCs. This will be a positive for the industry.” According to Sites, the unintended consequence of the initial guidance that addressed cryptocurrency users was not simultaneously updating the travel rule, which the proposed rule would cure.

In 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a powerful international body focused on preventing money laundering and terrorist activities, offered recommendations for countries to adopt a ‘travel rule’ as it is known in the U.S. to be applied to digital currencies with this release of new guidance. Specifically, information that is required to be recorded and transmitted with these transactions should include a customer’s name and address, the amount of the transaction, the execution date, and also the data of the recipient of the transaction as well.

Earlier this year, Michael Ou, CEO of CoolBitX, said, “The blockchain and cryptocurrency industry is at a major crossroad. As the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) continues to push its cryptocurrency guidance across the globe, compliance and preventing criminal activity can feel extremely daunting…The truth is, ‘Travel Rule’ compliance and blockchain analytics to track criminal activity are two sides of the same coin.” Ou spoke in reference to a partnership between the securities firm and Elliptic, a global leader in crypto asset risk management solutions.

The proposed rule from the Fed and FinCEN notes that, “Consistent with the FATF guidance, in May 2019, FinCEN issued guidance advising that CVC-based transfers effectuated by a nonbank financial institution may fall within the Recordkeeping and Travel Rules, on the grounds that such transfers involve the making of a ‘transmittal order’ by the sender” – i.e., an instruction to pay “a determinable amount of money to a recipient – a criterion for

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Labor asks why Tony Abbott granted second travel ban exemption while 30,000 Australians stranded overseas

Labor is demanding answers on why former prime minister Tony Abbott appears to have been granted a second travel ban exemption to leave Australia just weeks after completing hotel quarantine in Sydney, while close to 30,000 Australians wait in the queue to return home.

Tony Abbott wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Local news agencies in Rome reported on the weekend that Abbott was one of 45 in attendance at a mass conducted by Cardinal George Pell at the chapel of Domus Australia to mark the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of Mother Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint.

It was Pell’s first mass since 2017, and the first since he returned to Rome after the Australian high court overturned his conviction for child sexual abuse.

Related: Cost of scrapping Tony Abbott’s knights and dames totals $135K

According to America Magazine, Abbott was already in Rome “on other business”, but Abbott’s reported trip overseas is only a month after he returned to Sydney and spent two weeks in hotel quarantine, after a short trip to the United Kingdom.

Since a ban was put in place preventing Australians leaving the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Australians seeking to go overseas need to apply for an exception on “compelling and compassionate” grounds.

At least 20% of applications have been rejected, and it can take at least two weeks for applications to be approved.

Abbott was granted an exemption to visit the UK in August, when he was appointed a trade envoy to the Boris Johnson government.

The Australian reported on 14 September Abbott had paid for his own $3,000 stay in hotel quarantine on his return to Australia.

The former prime minister’s first exemption sparked anger because exemptions have been limited, including for those attempting to go overseas for family funerals or to see dying relatives.

Those who go overseas for a short time add to the queue of close to 30,000 Australians currently waiting to return from overseas, who have been unable to get back due to the caps on the number of returned travellers in hotel quarantine in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, indicated Labor would raise the questions on Tuesday afternoon with Department of Home Affairs officials in Senate estimates around Abbott’s second trip, and whether the former prime minister would get a second spot in hotel quarantine.

Tony Abbott wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Labor is angry that former prime minister Tony Abbott appears to have been granted two travel ban exemptions. His latest overseas trip in Rome is only a month after he returned to Sydney and spent two weeks in hotel quarantine, after a short trip to the United Kingdom.

© Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP
Labor is angry that former prime minister Tony Abbott appears to have been granted two travel ban exemptions. His latest overseas trip in Rome is only a month after he returned to Sydney and spent two weeks in hotel quarantine, after a short trip to the United Kingdom.

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