Monday, October 23, 2017

Four Seasons To Open New Hotel In Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, the world’s leading luxury hospitality company, and Jabal Omar Development Company (JODC) announce plans for a new Four Seasons hotel in the Holy City of Makkah (also known as Mecca) as part of the Jabal Omar integrated real estate development.
Ideally located adjacent to Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (the Grand Mosque) and with direct access and unobstructed views of the Haram, Four Seasons Hotel Makkah will offer the most gracious accommodations in the city.
Four Seasons Hotel Makkah will be the company’s second location in Saudi Arabia, joining Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre in offering the most luxurious accommodations and personalized service in the region.
“As Four Seasons continues to expand its portfolio in the Middle East, we are pleased to partner with JODC to create a fully customized Four Seasons experience in Makkah,” says J. Allen Smith, President and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Each Four Seasons is reflective of its destination and the people who stay with us, and this project in particular is designed to accommodate the unique needs of those who visit Makkah. This magnificent new building will set the stage for tailored service in a luxurious environment, enhancing the connection to this important place for all who visit.”
“Four Seasons will be the jewel in the Jabal Omar master development plan,” says Yasser Faisal Al-Sharif, CEO of Jabal Omar Development Company. “With our design partners and Four Seasons, we will bring to life a vision for the ultimate hospitality experience to enhance Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.”
Award-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners was chosen following an international design competition for this prestigious project. Impressive in appearance and deeply thoughtful in its concept, the multi-towered building atop a retail podium cascades down toward the Grand Mosque, seamlessly integrating its public spaces into the Haram. An innovative design allows clear views of the Kaaba from every guest room and suite, each of which will feature one or more private prayer rooms. In total, there will be approximately 375 guest rooms and suites, plus approximately 90 Four Seasons Private Residences.
Additional features of the Hotel include three restaurants and lounges, a ballroom and meeting rooms, and a spa and fitness center. The Hotel will also offer special facilities and programs for families.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

U.S. Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Latest Travel Ban #TrumpTravelBan

Just hours before U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban was to take full effect, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the revised order, saying the policy has the same problems as a previous version.

The revised order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his ruling, which prevented the Trump administration from enforcing the travel ban set to go into effect early Wednesday.
It was the third set of travel restrictions issued by the president to be thwarted, in whole or in part, by the courts.
Watson’s Tuesday ruling said the new ban, like its predecessor, fails to show that nationality alone makes a person a greater security risk to the U.S.
“The categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of `public-safety and terrorism-related information’ that the president identifies,” Watson wrote.
He said the ban is inconsistent in the way some countries are included or left out. For example, Iraq failed to meet the security benchmark but was omitted from the ban. Somalia met the information-sharing benchmark but was included.
The ban, which was announced in September, applied to travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
The Trump administration said the ban was based on an assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the U.S.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the ruling “dangerously flawed” and said it “undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe.” The Justice Department said it will quickly appeal.
The judge’s ruling applies only to the six Muslim-majority countries on the list. It does not affect the restrictions against North Korea or Venezuela, because Hawaii did not ask for that.
The state of Hawaii challenged the ban on a set of mostly Muslim countries, arguing that the restrictions would separate families and undermine the recruiting of diverse college students.

Ban ‘plainly discriminates’

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said in a statement. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”
Watson, appointed to the bench by former president Barack Obama, said the new restrictions ignore a federal appeals court ruling against Trump’s previous ban.
The latest version “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the 9th Circuit has found antithetical to … the founding principles of this nation,” Watson wrote.
Hawaii also argued the updated ban was a continuation of Trump’s campaign call for a ban on Muslims, despite the addition of two countries without a Muslim majority.
Watson noted that Hawaii had argued Trump did not back down from that call, listing in the ruling a series of June tweets “in which (Trump) complained about how the Justice Department had submitted a “watered down, politically correct version’ to the Supreme Court.”
Other courts that weighed the travel ban have cited Trump’s comments about banning Muslims, including the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia and a federal judge in Maryland. Watson also referred to a Trump campaign statement in his previous ruling.
“Judge Watson’s ruling makes clear that we are a nation of laws, no matter what this administration may try to do,” Hawaii’s U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “There is a place here for peaceful immigrants from every corner of the world: Spain, Syria, Sudan, or Singapore. There is no place here for discrimination or xenophobia.”

Other courts challenge ban

Watson found fault with what sorts of visitors are barred. For instance, all tourists and business travellers from Libya are excluded from the U.S., but student visitors were allowed.
The judge said he would set an expedited hearing to determine whether the temporary restraining order blocking the ban should be extended. It comes as other courts weigh challenges to the ban.
In Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are seeking to block the visa and entry restrictions. Washington state, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, New York and Maryland are challenging the order in front of the same federal judge in Seattle who struck down Trump’s initial ban in January.
That ban — aimed mostly at Muslim-majority countries — led to chaos and confusion at airports nationwide and triggered several lawsuits, including one from Hawaii.
When Trump revised the ban, Hawaii challenged that version, too, and Watson agreed it discriminated on the basis of nationality and religion. A subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed the administration to partially reinstate restrictions against Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and against all refugees.
Hawaii then successfully challenged the government’s definition of which relatives of people already living in the U.S. would be allowed into the country, and Watson ordered the list expanded.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

American Museum Of Natural History In New York – New Halls Of Gems and Minerals Announcement





 Amethyst geode_DF.jpg
The American Museum of Natural History announced today that it will undertake
 a complete redesign of its popular Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals to transform the 11,000-square-foot space into a gleaming showcase for a world-renowned collection. With new large-scale specimens, the
 redesigned exhibits will tell the fascinating story of how approximately 4,500 different
 types of minerals arose on our dynamic planet, how scientists classify them, and how
 humans have fashioned them into gems and used them throughout history for personal adornment, tools, and technology. The halls will be named for Roberto and Allison Mignone, long-standing Museum supporters and volunteers. Roberto Mignone is a Museum
 Trustee and Allison Mignone is Vice Chair of the Museum’s Campaign.

To celebrate this historic redesign, the Museum unveiled one of the new halls’ featured specimens: a sparkling 12-foot-tall amethyst geode, recently acquired from Uruguay,
 which will be on temporary view in the Museum’s Grand Gallery through the 2017 holiday season. The geode, which will be a centerpiece in the new halls, is among the largest amethyst geodes in the world.

The renovation of the Halls of Gems and Minerals, which are being designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, is part of a series of physical and programmatic enhancements to historic parts of the institution leading up to its 150th anniversary and the opening of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a major new facility that will house resources for education, exhibition, research, and reveal modern science to 
visitors of all ages. On September 25, the Museum announced a multi-year project to 
update, restore, and conserve the Northwest Coast Hall and to enrich the interpretation
 of that gallery’s exhibits.

“Whether you’re talking about the spectacular 563-carat Star of India sapphire or the
 unique almandine ‘subway garnet’ unearthed in New York City in 1885, the American
 Museum of Natural History is known for having one of the most spectacular and comprehensive collections of gems and minerals in the world,” said Ellen V. Futter, 
Museum President. “Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Allison and Roberto 
Mignone, we will now highlight these specimens in new exhibits illuminating the latest
 scientific thinking and revealing the spectacular beauty of objects from cultures across
 the globe.”

George E. Harlow, curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, is curating
 the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. “Forty-plus years ago, when the current
 galleries were designed, scientists had not yet begun to explore the concept of mineral evolution,” said Harlow. “Today, we work within a different framework, where much of the diversity of minerals on our dynamic planet is directly connected to the evolution of life. Our new exhibits will allow us to tell how the story of minerals is linked with their natural environment and biology on the one hand and with culture and technology on the other.”

“Our involvement in the Museum’s educational programs has had a transformative 
impact on our family, how we see the world, and how we understand our place in it,”
 said Allison Mignone. “We’re thrilled to support the next generation of visitors in their explorations of the natural world, understanding of cutting-edge science, and discovery
 of the stories behind the spectacular specimens of gems and minerals drawn from the Museum’s world-class collections and newly added exhibits for this gallery.”

While the Halls of Gems and Minerals previously formed a cul-de-sac, they will feature a dramatic link, via a stunning Crystalline Pass on the north side of the halls, to the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the new facility designed by
 Studio Gang Architects. Construction on the new Mignone Halls of Gems of Minerals will begin with the closure of the current halls on October 26.

Gems and Minerals at the Museum
The American Museum of Natural History is home to a collection of about 105,000 
minerals and 5,000 gems, which is acknowledged to be one of world’s greatest. Minerals
 and gems have been displayed in several different galleries over the years. Until 1974,
 the J. Pierpont Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems on the fourth floor was the primary display and storage area. In May 1976, the current Guggenheim Hall of Minerals 
and Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems opened on the Museum’s first floor.

Inside the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals
The Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals will feature new large-scale acquisitions,
 including two amethyst geodes, visitor favorites such as the Star of India sapphire and
 the Patricia Emerald, and treasures from the collection that have not been on view for decades. These exhibits will tell the stories of how minerals form, how scientists interpret
 them, and how they are used by humans for decoration and personal adornment as well
 as for science and for technology.

Elements currently planned for the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals include:
  • “Crystal Garden” main exhibition area with signature large-scale specimens collected from around the world, including two towering amethyst geodes from Uruguay, a 12-foot-tall geode and a 9-foot-tall geode. Mineral formation zones highlighting a variety of processes and environments that shape mineral formation
  •  will frame these iconic specimens

  • gem gallery with a case containing the Museum’s most precious gems, including
  •  the Star of India (the world’s largest and most famous blue star sapphire) and 
  • the 632-carat Patricia Emerald (a rare example of a large, gem-quality emerald 
  • to be preserved uncut)
  • systematics display wall showing the classification of minerals and highlighting
  •  the breadth of the Museum’s collection

  • A case dedicated to the minerals of New York City, including the “subway
  •  garnet”—a 9-pound almandine garnet unearthed during a sewer dig on 35th
  • Street in 1885
  • Large-scale media projections and interactive displays with time-lapse imagery, colorful animations, and dramatic shifts in scale to introduce key ideas about
  •  mineral and gem properties

  • A dedicated space for temporary exhibitions with the potential to highlight  
  • humanity’s fascination with particular minerals and gems as well as the fact 
  • that the same atmospheric conditions made possible both the diversity of minerals
  •  and the diversity of life

  • fluorescence and phosphorescence gallery featuring a massive panel offluorescent rock from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, New
  •  Jersey, that glows in shades of orange and green under ultraviolet light

            The exhibits also will explore the conditions on our planet, throughout time, 
that have made possible the extraordinary variety of mineral forms found on Earth. 
In addition to the role of plate tectonics and fluids responsible for the formation of 
crystals, the exhibits will reveal how the introduction of free oxygen into the Earth’s
atmosphere more than 2 billion years ago triggered an explosion not only in biological 
life but also in mineral diversity. The oxygenated atmosphere—produced by 
cyanobacteria, a group of photosynthetic organisms—made it possible for the few 
 elements formed after the Big Bang to be transformed into the approximately 4,500
 minerals we know today.

The Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals are expected to be a striking counterpart to
 the David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth and the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites. The Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, which opened in 1999, illustrates the 
evolution and inner workings of our dynamic planet with outstanding geological specimens, while the Ross Hall of Meteorites, which features holdings from the Museum's meteorites collection, depicts the dynamic formation and evolution of our solar system. With exhibitry
 that supports New York State and national science education standards, these halls 
serve as a vital resource for school and camp groups, educators, and graduate students
 in the Museum's Master for Arts in Teaching program, which provides a specialization in
 Earth science for teachers of grades 7 through 12.

The Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals are expected to open in 2019, as part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.
The Museum gratefully acknowledges Allison and Roberto Mignone for their leadership support of the redesigned Halls of Gems and Minerals.
Generous support has been provided by the Arthur Ross Foundation.

American Museum of Natural History (
The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s 
preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses
 45 permanent exhibition halls, including those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space 
and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to 
the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd
 governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy
 of conservation. The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class
 permanent collection of more than 34 million specimens and artifacts, as well as
 specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and 
one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder
 Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree. Beginning in 2015, the Richard Gilder Graduate School also began granting the Master
 of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such freestanding museum program. Annual visitation has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows are seen by millions more in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website,
 mobile apps, and MOOCs (massive open online courses) extend its scientific research
 and collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to additional audiences around the globe.

 Visit for more information.
Become a fan of the Museum on Facebook at, follow us on Twitter at @AMNH, on Instagram at @AMNH, and on Tumblr at amnhnyc. 

REI Adventures Launches New Destinations, Expands Its Easy Active And Signature Camping Offerings

REI Adventures, the active travel company part of national outdoor co-op REI, is launching 20 trips, bringing the total for the year to more than 40 new itineraries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. The industry leader is also formally introducing a collection of lower intensity trips to meet the diverse interests and abilities of its broadening traveler base.
"Throughout our 30-year history of offering active vacations to classic and emerging destinations, we've proudly stayed true to our heritage by designing unique itineraries with physical activity at the center of the experience," says Cynthia Dunbar, general manager of REI Adventures. "Our new collection quickly struck a chord – we've heard from some of our most seasoned travelers who've accomplished our most intense itineraries and those new to active travel and trust REI to provide a transformational experience."
REI Adventures' new lower intensity collection is designated as level two on the company's activity scale. Consistent with all REI trips, travelers will be active daily but at a more relaxed pace and with less intensity. A sample day includes hiking two to six miles with minimal elevation gain and/or loss. Physical activities will be interspersed with local experiences to highlight a region's cultural and natural history, and unique interactions with communities made possible by local expert guides. During REI Adventures' most strenuous trips (level five), guests can hike more than 10 miles a day and carry backpacks weighing up to 45 pounds with constant and dramatic elevation gain and/or loss.
Nine level two trips are now available in Italy, Japan, Myanmar, Peru, Thailand and the United States. For example, Japan Hiking – Kumano Kodo & Nakasendo is an 11-day trek across ancient trade and pilgrimage routes from the country's imperial capital to modern Tokyo. Adventurers traverse through awe-inspiring bamboo groves and temples, visit the Hongu Grand Shrine UNESCO World Heritage site, and dine on local cuisines. So many highlights are woven into the journey, including the hospitality of local communities and learning about the art of sake and miso production. Accommodations include hotels and traditional guesthouses tucked into quaint communities. The unique combination of these classic routes is a first for the active travel industry.
Other new REI Adventures trips that range in activity level include:
Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb – Rongai Route: REI has helped adventure seekers summit Africa's highest mountain since the travel company's founding. Complementing the popularity of its other two itineraries, Rongai is the less-traveled path on Kilimanjaro's northern side. Members hike through wide climate zones as elevation increases – from lush forests with sightings of colobus monkeys to sparsely vegetated alpine desert to the volcanic landscape. The itinerary features REI Signature Camping with deluxe accommodations such as spacious tents, elevated cots, thick sleeping pads, and touches of home for a restful sleep. At the heart of the trip is the expertise of a local guide and porter team who encourage and support each traveler to achieve their personal accomplishment.
Other new Africa itineraries include a nine-day Tanzania Family Adventure and Safari and a 13-day Tanzania Ultimate Adventure and Safari.
France Hiking – Provence: Over nine days, explore picturesque landscapes of vineyards and olive groves, oak forests, mountain passes and hilltop towns that were celebrated by Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse. The journey begins with Avignon's Papal Palace, a jewel of medieval architecture, and includes visits to the still-working 12th-century Senanque Abbey in Gordes, the Luberon region that has grown lavender for 2,000 years, Aix-en-Provence's tree-lined and lively promenade, and more. Throughout the trip, travelers dine on Provencal farm-to-table cuisine.
REI Adventures also increased its Italian collection to 14 trips. New itineraries include Italy and France – Piedmont to the French Riviera where hikers traverse vineyards and country trails, forage for truffles, learn about prehistoric carvings in Mercantour National Park and reward themselves with a soak in cool waters. On REI's Italy Hiking – Amalfi Coast & Capri trip, explore the country's southern Mediterranean by hiking the Path of the Gods, visiting a medieval castle on the Isle of Ischia, kayaking the dramatic coastline, and learning the art of Neapolitan cuisine.
As the largest operator in the U.S. National Parks, REI Adventures launched hiking and backpacking trips in the country's national treasures, including Texas Hiking – Big Bend National Park and Beyond where members hike seven days from the Chisos Mountains to the Chihuahuan Desert and through the region's culturally significant border towns of Marathon, Alpine and Terlingua. On REI's Yosemite Winter Adventure, travelers have a magical experience as they snowshoe and hike during the park's lightest visitation period.
Through the end of the year, REI Adventures will continue its robust expansion with a Botswana Adventure Safari, multisport exploration through Croatia's islands and more than 10 itineraries in the United States. For example, hiking and multisport adventures will launch in Alaska, while backpacking, hiking and family trips will soon be available in epic Pacific Northwest destinations. For those wishing to travel in warmer climates, backpack Arizona's Aravaipa Canyon or explore the Sonoran Desert by bike.
About REI Adventures 
Award-winning REI Adventures has been a global leader in worldwide guided active adventure trips since 1987. As the travel business for national specialty outdoor retailer REI, the company offers unique itineraries focused on sustainable, human-powered outdoor adventure, including hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing and more. Guests experience iconic destinations as guides take them off the "beaten path," and provide opportunities to explore a destination, get to know the local people, their culture, the flora and fauna and discover things they would not be able to duplicate on their own or with another travel company. REI members receive a special discount price on most trips. For more information, full itineraries and trip reviews provided by guests, visit

Sunday, October 15, 2017

At Disney World, 4 Hotels In Pilot Program To Accept Dogs

Image result for At Disney World, 4 Hotels In Pilot Program To Accept Dogs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Four hotels at will now allow guests to bring dogs.

The hotels near Orlando, Florida, are Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney Port Orleans Resort-Riverside, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The Yacht Club adds $75 to daily room rates for canine guests, the other three, $50.

The pilot program is accepting reservations through October 2018. Two dogs are permitted per guest room.

A Pluto’s Welcome Kit includes a mat, bowls, pet ID tag, plastic bags, puppy pads, and dog walking maps. Doggy day care and other pet services are offered nearby at Best Friends, an on-property pet care facility.

Disney says dogs staying in its hotels “must be well behaved, leashed in resort public areas and properly vaccinated.”