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Obama Administration Approves Cuba Flights


By Ann-Marie Adams | @annmarieadams

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. Department of Transportation  has approved six domestic airlines to begin scheduled flights from the US to Cuba.

The flights will originate from  Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St. Paul and Cuba as early as this fall, federal officials said today. The carriers are American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.

The latest move is a part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

“Last year, President Barack Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “Today, we are delivering on his promise by re-launching scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century.”

On February 16, 2016, Secretary Foxx and Department of State Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin signed a non-legally-binding arrangement to re-establish scheduled air service between the two countries.

At the time of the signing, the administration announced that scheduled service would begin later in 2016.

The five U.S. cities that will receive new scheduled service to Cuba are Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Philadelphia.  The nine Cuban cities are Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba.

 

Under the new arrangement, each country has the opportunity to operate up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine international airports, other than Havana, for a total of 90 daily roundtrips.

 

Interested parties may view the DOT’s decision, track the progress of the case, and view the publicly available documents online at regulations.gov, Docket DOT-OST-2016-0021.

 

 

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The Crane Hotel: The Jewel of Caribbean Luxury Hotels


By Ann-Marie Adams I The Hartford Guardian

St. Philip, BARBADOS — Perched on the seaside bluff on the southeast coast of Barbados is The Crane, one of the many jewels of the Caribbean.
Crane  ResortThis luxury hotel is the centerpiece of a 40-acre villa complex with historic buildings and landscape gardens overlooking the Atlantic Sea.

This ocean touches the marine-blue sea of the Crane Beach that is accessible by a glass-front elevator. Arguably, it is the island’s oldest hotel in operation and the number one resort hotel in the Caribbean.
From this simple but elegant setting, you can be quite content while taking in the view from the comfort of a private plunged pool below over-sized terraces or elegant gardens.
Some bedrooms boasts four-poster mahogany, king sized beds, bathrooms with multi-jet showers and a two-person Jacuzzis emoting English charm and luxury.

Through the wooden louvre doors that open inward is an over-sized terrace above the private plunged pool, which offers a different ambiance than the garden-view rooms with old Caribbean-styled resort living suites.

The hotel, built in 1887, boasts several restaurants, including the Italian Restaurant, Donofrio’s. It offers casual dining that with a wide variety of cuisine from Old World Italy.

The seafood restaurant, L’Azure, serves up fresh seafood with a gorgeous view of the blue and marine ocean with the trade winds swirling above the cliff.

The Zen Restaurant, surrounded by glass walls above the pink-hued Crane Beach, serves up authentic Asian inspired cuisines and offer patrons.

This is understated elegance and sophistication tucked away in the lesser Antilles. And it’s only a four-hour trip from the United States.
With an understated elegance and sophistication, this storied hotel on a dramatic Cliffside location is what some call a resolutely British resort on a resolutely British island.

The Crane
St. Philip, Barbados
246-423-6220
www.thecrane.com

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New Hampshire Unveils Pumpkin Festival Line Up


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

NEW HAMPSHIRE — New Hampshire is gearing up for its 25th  this fall.

As pumpkin plants around the northeast are just beginning to bloom, the organizers —  Let it Shine, Inc., and Sterling Design & Communications — will collaborate  with the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce to provide  programming for Pumpkin Festival 2015. The 2015 Pumpkin Festival runs from 10am-8:30pm on Saturday, Oct. 24 in the heart of NH, downtown Laconia.

Presented by ZIPPO, this is the first year it will take place in downtown Laconia. Following are the schedule for what officials say is a program that may vie for  Guinness World Record for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place–record recaptured from Boston by Keene in 2013. A total of 30,581 jack-o-lanterns were reported.

The Runaway Pumpkin 10k & 5k Run/Walk 9 a.m.
Location: Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, 827 North Main Street, Laconia
Before the festival, first thing in the morning, a choice of distances, welcoming walkers as well as serious runners to this scenic course which includes the WOW Trail WOW is an acronym for the three lakes along the rail trail, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Opechee.

Pumpkin-festival-2015-thehartfordguardianPronounced “Pumpkin Alley,” it’s Pump-Canal(y) Street for Kids
If renowned area artist Larry Frates achieves his vision, Laconia’s Canal Street will be orange from one end to the other with activities for kids and creative types of all ages. Shops on the street have their own special pumpkin plans, so do not miss this street in your explorations of Pumpkin Festival 2015.

Haunted Attractions for that Special Thrill
The Belknap Mill, the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, has plenty of history to draw from for its planned haunted mill attraction. Stay tuned for details! And across town, the UCC/Congregational Church plans to send chills up many a visitor’s spine too.

ZIPPO, Official Lighter of Pumpkin Festival
In addition to hosting the Welcome Center near the Railroad Station, ZIPPO will be offering their official candle lighters for sale at their booth and at the Pumpkin Shop/s where festival logo souvenir t-shirts and other experience extenders can also be purchased.

The Pump(kin) Dump Derby 8:30pm
A race to clean up Pumpkin Festival involving competing teams, lottery-assigned territories and a grand prize $1000 to the team’s charity of choice. All teams who complete their territory win $100 for the charity of their choice. Sponsored by Shipyard Brewing.

Spectacular Pumpkin Tower Plus Thousands of Jack-o’-Lanterns on Street-level Displays
10am-8:30pm

The signature tower is the centerpiece of Pumpkin Festival 2015. Streets will be lined with pumpkins and pumpkin spectators, for smooth strolling and the best viewing, unfettered by vendor booths and queues. Families and seniors will feel very welcome and handicap parking in excellent locations makes access easy. Live musical entertainment will add to the atmosphere on the bandstand and at other selected locations but the sights will carry the day!

More information will be posted as available online at pumpkinfestival.org

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French Tall Ship Hermione To Dock in Newport, Rhode Island


By Liz Kelly, Contributor

NEWPORT, R.I. — The largest and most authentically built Tall Ship in 150 years, Hermione, an exact replica of General Lafayette’s Frigate of Freedom, is due to arrive at Fort Adams in Newport.

The ship, docking on July 8 for a two-day stay, is reenacting the return of 22 year-old General Lafayette to the shores of Colonial America 235 years ago, heralding France’s critical support of the Colonies’ War of Independence.

In celebration of this beautifully reconstructed Tall Ship’s arrival and the important journey it commemorates, numerous events are planned throughout Newport July 8-9, including tours of the Hermione, dedications, lectures, Colonial military drills and Colonial theme dinners, demonstrations, and even lunch with Lafayette’s friend and commander, General George Washington.

The voyage of the Hermione is in part to symbolize and rekindle through the Hermione the intimate ties between France and the United States, and the spirit of liberty that sustains them, and to demonstrate the inestimable value of history and show that it can be a living force in increasing our understanding of the world.

Able to hold a crew of 242, 72 volunteers, one-third women, are on this journey, most of whom gave up their ‘real life’ to become steeped in the history of the vessel that changed the course of America’s War of Independence.

Events begin July 8 at 9:30 a.m. with a dedication ceremony and end July 9 at 10:00 p.m. with a Farewell Ceremony as Hermione departs.

The public is welcome to join French and American dignitaries for the festivities honoring this historic occasion as Tall Ship Hermione docks at Fort Adams in full splendor

For more information, visit: http://www.hermione2015.com and  www.mysticseaport.org.

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State Officials: Hurricane Season Begins June 1


Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  June 1 will mark the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season.

As a result, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a press release reminds residents to be prepared for severe weather that may impact the state.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 with most of the threat period for the state occurring between mid-August and mid-October.

“As we have experienced, it only takes one hurricane or tropical storm to make landfall to have a devastating impact on our state,” Malloy said.  “Now is the time to prepare.  I urge residents to take three simple preparedness steps: Get a kit, make a plan, and stay informed. These three steps will allow you to become more resilient to any storm or emergency you may face.”
State officials said the potential risks to the community includes storm surge, flooding, road or bridge closures.
 “If a storm is approaching your area, carefully monitor weather reports and follow all of the instructions provided by public safety officials,”Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora B. Schriro said.
Connecticut residents can subscribe to get alert messages by going to www.ct.gov/ctalert to register.

 

 

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Cayucos Sea Glass Festival Offers Flavor and Ocean View


Cayucos, California –  You can now set your calendar for the 5th annual Cayucos Sea Glass Festival at the Cayuncos Vet’s Hall, which overlooks one of the best beaches on the Central Coast.

Festival officials have slated this eclectic event for March 14 and 15, a popular hobby along coastal regions worldwide. This year, festival goers will enjoy live music from local bands such as Thunder Canyon String Band, Back Bay Betty and the Mystery Brothers.

The festival has gained international attention from world renowned sea glass aficionados since it first began five years ago with sea glass enthusiasts and craftspeople from around the world. They will all converge again on this quaint beach to sell and showcase their sea glass creations, jewelry, keepsakes and treasures.

Sea glass pieces are affectionately known as “Mermaid Tears” and mermaids have become an integral addition to the festival. New this year is “Mermaid March” and through the month of March, Cayucos businesses will be displaying their own individual artistic creations of mermaids.

Visitors are invited to stroll through town to admire the creative art forms ranging from stained glass and paper Mache mermaids to metal and wooden mermaid sculptures. Festival officials said the Mermaid March is sure to delight all who find joy in these maidens (and mermen) from the sea.

Tickets for the event are available for $5 per day at the door. Preview tickets are available for $15 at the door and allow early entrance (one hour) into the event on Saturday.

Event runs Saturday, March 14 from 10:00 am to  5:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 15 from 11:00 am to 4:00 p.m. Preview tickets are available at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 14.

–Ann-Marie Mesquita

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State Police: Cruiser Hit by Another Vehicle on I-91


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — While parked in the breakdown lane on I-91 on Friday, a state police cruiser was struck by another vehicle, police said.

According to reports,  a Nissan Altima was traveling in the left lane until it reached slowing traffic at about 5 p.m.. It then swerved right near at Exit 33.

The driver, Elmarie Aviles, hit the driver’s side door of a car on her right, police said.

Aviles struck another vehicle in the right center lane and then slid across three lanes into the breakdown lane, where it struck the police cruiser, police said.

The state trooper, who was sitting in his cruiser at the time, was not seriously injured. However,  other people suffered minor injuries, police said.

Aviles was issued an infraction for traveling too fast for conditions and failure to move over when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle.

She then over-corrected, causing her car to veer and strike another vehicle in the right center lane. Aviles’ car then slid across three lanes into the

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Amtrak Goes to Knowledge Corridor


WASHINGTON — The Amtrak Vermonter service to the Knowledge Corridor will begin after Christmas day.

Beginning Dec. 29, Amtrak will also make stops in Greenfield and Northampton, Mass.  Tickets are now available for purchase.

The Vermonter operates daily between Washington and St. Albans, Vt., with service to Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Conn., Springfield, Mass. and Essex Junction, Vt., and other intermediate stops.  In Fiscal Year 2014.

Officials said that ridership on this route increased 6.6 percent, providing service to more than 89,000 passengers.

The Vermonter will also add a stop in Holyoke, Mass. later in 2015 when station work is complete. The added stops due to the reroute will replace service provided to the Amherst station, which will end on Dec. 28.

The restoration of train service to the Knowledge Corridor has been a goal of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Governor Patrick’s Administration, who have been leading the effort to improve the Pan Am Southern tracks and shorten trip times within the Commonwealth., officials said.

Funding for the project was provided through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Passengers may book travel via Amtrak.com, mobile apps, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL for any station along the route between Washington and St. Albans, Vt.

–Ann-Marie Adams

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President Obama Lifts Bans on Cuba


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In a move that has been hailed as historic, President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed an executive order to “re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba.”

The move to thaw the relationship with this communist country comes after months of secret talks between the Obama administration and Cuban officials in Canada and the Vatican. Talks culminated with a 45-minute conversation on Tuesday between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, which detailed ways the United States would end 53 years of enmity that has caused disagreement in Latin America and the Caribbean. Fidel Castro was not involved in these discussions, officials said.

Obama had to forgo Congress. Only Congress, which imposed sanctions on Cuba in 1961, can dismantle them completely. So the president’s move was mostly a symbolic but powerful one, according to a White House official on background call before Obama’s live speech. This move represents the most significant changes to America’s Cuba policy in more than 50 years, including the  Helms-Burton Act enacted in 1996. The Act strengthened the America’s embargo against Cuba.

White House officials believe this is a “step in the right direction.”

“These are the steps that I can take to change these policies,” Obama said in his televised speech from the East Room, emphasizing the limits of his unilateral move to help the U.S. “normalize relations” with Cuba.

Unresolved disputes remain, however. Cubans urged for an end of the U.S. pro-democracy programs in Cuba, which they see as a subversive attempt to overthrow Castro. The White House stood firm on those demands, refusing to disrupt that policy.

Obama’s executive order bodes well for Cuba’s economy because Cuba agreed to release political prisoners, including “a very frail” Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who U.S. officials said was wrongfully imprisoned. The order now allows travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.

Former Florida Governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, challenged Obama’s move toward Cuba, saying to USA Today: “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship.”

Bush has  favorable ratings in  large Cuban-American constituencies in Florida.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban American, said he would do all he can as the incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to block Obama’s plan. More specifically, Rubio said he would block anyone Obama nominates to serve as ambassador to Cuba.

While politicos plan to make moves in Congress, most Americans will now be able to travel to Cuba. Previously, there was a ban on all travel to Cuba. Now, government officials and academicians can travel there for research purposes.

“With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island,”  Obama said.

Other benefits to Americans in this move also allow Cuban Americans to send remittances to their family, U.S. embassies can now be in Cuba, and more businesses can have easier trade relations.

Travel for tourist activities are still banned.

According to Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) on a West Virginia radio station the embargo on Cuba just hasn’t worked.

“If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working,” Paul said.

Photo Credit: President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Cuba and the release of American Alan Gross, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Vermont Spot Offers Affordable Skiing Packages


BOLTON VALLEY — While seemingly easy to accomplish, a simple crimson hat won’t suffice. So just go all out and wear the full Santa Claus outfit–and win a free ski resort lift for a day.

Skiers and riders who arrive at Bolton Valley dressed head-to-toe as Santa Claus will receive the lift ticket for the day as part of the annual Santa Sunday event on Dec 21.

Guests must don a full Kris Kringle suit and bring their most jolly of spirits to Guest Services to claim their prize.

Anyone participating in the event is asked to arrive at Guest Services before 10 a.m. to pick up their lift ticket. Then, promptly at 10 a.m. all Santas will gather in the main base area next to the Vista Quad for a group photo. Once everyone is loaded on the lift, Bolton officials will lead the group down the mountain for some action photos.

After two feet of snow last week and 61 total inches so far this season, Bolton Valley is enjoying some of its best early season conditions in recent memory.

Bolton Valley is Vermont’s most convenient and affordable big mountain skiing. Less than 10 minutes from I-89 and less than 30 minutes from Burlington, the family-friendly mountain offers skiers and riders of all abilities three mountain peaks with 71 trails and 6 lifts, plus 3 terrain parks.

Bolton Valley was the first in Vermont and the second in the U.S. to implement wind power as an energy source and is the recipient of the National Ski Areas Association’s 2010 Silver Eagle Award for environmental initiatives. A

All-inclusive, true ski-to-your-door lodging packages are from $59 personnight.

For more information visit www.boltonvalley.com or call 877-9BOLTON.

–Josh Arenson

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