Virtuoso flash poll finds travel disruptions occurringA new survey by international travel agency network Virtuoso has found travellers are avoiding certain worldwide destinations as a result of the uncertainty tied to specific countries and global regions. Virtuoso was one of the first travel organisations to introduce the term VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, as a means of describing the potential travel disruptions caused by geopolitical situations.“The world is going through a transition where uncertainty is the new norm,” says Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso. “Whether it’s Brexit, the shifting political climate in the U.S., or the threat of terrorism or disease such as Zika, there seems to be only two certainties. First, we have no idea what we might wake up to find tomorrow because change happens fast. Two, and this is of utmost importance, travel is the best way to bring people together when isolation begins. At Virtuoso, we say borders divide, but travel unites. Never has it been more important to keep the ability to travel as a fundamental right.”Among the questions asked, Virtuoso surveyed its travel advisors globally to discover the impact of the Presidential Executive Order disallowing travelers from seven countries to enter the U.S. Although the order is not currently in effect, Virtuoso advisors report that it is still impacting clients’ travel decisions. Among U.S.-based advisors, 10 percent say clients are changing travel plans due to a concern over anti-American sentiment. However, a much higher 40 percent say their clients are now avoiding certain destinations due to concerns over terrorism, including the Middle East, Europe and Africa, with Turkey and Egypt topping the list of countries. Instead, Americans are choosing to travel within their own country, as well as visit those perceived as safer, including Japan, Canada and New Zealand.Forty-two percent of Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors outside of the U.S. say their clients are avoiding travel to the United States due to factors including opposition to the country’s foreign policy and concerns over obtaining visas. As an alternative, they are electing to travel to destinations such as Italy, Australia and the U.K. The majority of advisors anticipate the slowdown in travel to the U.S. will last three to six months.About VirtuosoVirtuoso® is the leading international travel agency network specialising in luxury and experiential travel. This by-invitation-only organisation comprises over 770 travel agency partners with more than 15,200 elite travel advisors in 44 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Drawing upon its preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s best hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and premier destinations, the network provides its upscale clientele with exclusive amenities, rare experiences and privileged access. More than (U.S.) $21.2 billion in annual travel sales makes Virtuoso a powerhouse in the luxury travel industry.Source = Virtuoso
MTA Advisors get the bluesMTA Advisors get the blues on US deep south programPictured visiting the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum in Memphis, the group of MTA – Mobile Travel Agents who recently had the opportunity to experience the US deep south as part of an exclusive ‘Blues Trail’ study tour visiting Tennessee and Mississippi.Hosted by Delta Airlines, Memphis Tourism, Visit Mississippi and New Orleans & Company, the group’s itinerary also included Gracelands, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, the Grammy Museum in Cleveland and the BB King Museum in Indianola, both in Mississippi and the French Quarter in New Orleans.From left to right: Memphis Tourism director NZ/AU, Chris Ingram; Memphis Tourism officer, Kevin Brewer; MTA’s Di Cox; Delta Airlines’ national account manager, Alba Aradillos; MTA’s Susan Barton, Tatiana Parry, Stacey Harding, Julie Hatz, Joe Pezzano and Fiona Snell.Source = MTA – Mobile Travel Agents
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Categories: Griffin News,News 13Feb Rep. Griffin bill clarifies lease-purchase agreement guidelines for schools Legislator: Informative measure can now lead to more savings for school districtsA bill proposed by state Rep. Beth Griffin of Mattawan which clears up language in existing law regarding lease-purchase agreements today was overwhelmingly advanced in a bipartisan vote by the Michigan House.Lease-purchase agreements provide school boards and intermediate school districts with flexibility when they are looking to lower operating costs through energy conservation or operational improvements. The agreement acts as a pay-as-you-go system, allowing districts to use money generated through energy savings to pay for an ongoing project or begin another.Griffin has expressed concern about interpretations of statute that are not consistent with the intent of the original bill – House Bill 4080, which became Public Act 23 of 2017 upon being signed by the governor.“There are school districts who have been told that these agreements only work if they are directly related to energy conservation,” Griffin said. “We needed this bill to clarify that this is an option that can be used for more broadly-defined operational improvements. The narrower the interpretation gets with the existing law, the less schools will actually be able to lower energy and operational costs and that means less money to go back into our classrooms.”Like its predecessor, HB 5238 does not mandate school districts to enter into lease-purchase agreements when considering improvements to facilities.“Schools are looking to get as much out of every dollar they spend and energy efficiency helps make that possible,” Griffin said. “This is merely a cost-saving program available to districts looking to make improvements. Every dollar saved and every cost avoided means more money for teachers and students.”HB 5238 previously received unanimous, bipartisan approval from the House Local Government Committee on Jan. 31 and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Categories: Allor News A resolution introduced by state Rep. Sue Allor to express support for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and oppose any reduction of its boundaries has been approved by the Michigan House of Representatives.Recently, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce submitted a report reviewing all designations and expansions of national marine sanctuaries within the past 10 years. Under Executive Order 13795, implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, which would change the boundaries of certain marine sanctuaries for the purposes of oil drilling, the president has directed the review of the budgetary impacts of the costs of managing the sanctuaries.Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has the potential to be impacted by the federal review. Just 448 square miles when initially designated in 2000, the sanctuary was expanded in 2014 to cover 4,300 square miles of Lake Huron. The expansion increased the number of protected shipwrecks and opened new opportunities to study shipwreck sites and maritime history in America.The sanctuary has provided nearby communities with $97 million in annual sales, $35.8 million in personal income and 1,704 local jobs. Allor’s resolution is an effort to protect and preserve Northeast Michigan’s maritime heritage and would also secure the continuation of these economic benefits to the region.“This facility is an important asset to Northeast Michigan and the state as a whole,” said Allor, of Wolverine. “Restricting its boundaries will have negative consequences on our most precious natural resource and the people who call the Great Lakes basin home.”Allor stated Thunder Bay is the only fresh water national marine sanctuary in the U.S., and that even if the federal government were to change its boundaries, it would not be able to drill for oil, as it is illegal to do so in the Great Lakes.Allor’s measure was passed with overwhelming support.### 28Feb Allor to feds: say no to reducing Thunder Bay Sanctuary boundaries
Categories: Chatfield News 07May Rep. Chatfield announces local office hours in May and June State Rep. Lee Chatfield invites residents to join him during local office hours for the months of May and June. The schedule for office hours is as follows:Friday, May 111 to 2 p.m. at the Pure Country Family Restaurant, 11370 W. Main St. in Rudyard.Monday, June 2510 to 11 a.m. at the Harbor Springs Chamber of Commerce, 368 E. Main St. in Harbor Springs.“Being an effective leader for the people of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula starts by listening,” Chatfield said. “I welcome anyone who needs help or wants to share their opinion to join me.”No appointment is necessary and there is no cost to attend. Anyone unable to attend may contact Rep. Chatfield’s office by calling (517) 373-2629, via email at email@example.com or through his website at www.RepChatfield.com.
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares January 29, 2014;The Republican (Springfield, MA)NPQ has written quite a lot about social impact bonds in the past, so please place the following story in that context.Yesterday in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that a program designed to reduce recidivism in young men would be the recipient of a social impact bond. In what’s called a “pay for success” money model, eighteen million dollars has been invested up-front by private investors, including Goldman Sachs’ social impact fund, the Kresge Foundation, Living Cities, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, New Profit, and the Boston Foundation.Molly Baldwin, who founded and leads Roca, the organization that will be implementing the program, said, “Technically speaking, this project is about reducing incarceration rates and increasing employment among young men involved in the justice system…But at its heart, this project is about much more. It is about various leaders and institutions coming together to create real, sustainable and innovative solutions for problems that are often viewed as intractable realities of urban life: poverty, crime and violence.” The program will be implemented not only in Chelsea, where Roca is based, but also in Springfield, in the western part of Massachusetts.The men who will be recruited to participate “have joined gangs, been incarcerated, dropped out of school and refused other programs.” Roca provides education resources, job and life skills training, but the Roca program is perhaps best known for its relentless outreach. “The statistics say these young men have a higher chance of going to jail than getting a job,” Baldwin said. “This project is about changing those odds.”The work will be evaluated by an independent auditor using data on incarceration rates, employment, and other indicators. If Roca’s work is measurably successful, the state will pay back the money and interest to those private investors. The state of Massachusetts has committed up to $27 million to the project over seven years and the U.S. Department of Labor has set aside another $11.7 million that can be used to expand and extend the program.The funding will provide services to 929 men over seven years. The money invested by the state is supposed to come from reduced costs of incarceration. As the Republican explains, “If Roca reduces days of incarceration by 40 percent compared to men not in the program, the state would save $22 million in incarceration costs and pay $22 million to Roca and the investors.”Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe said, “They’ve taken this model and you might say they’re putting their name on the line, putting their philosophy on the line, really saying they don’t want to get paid unless it’s successful. They’re being held accountable.”—Ruth McCambridgeDisclosure: Molly Baldwin is a decades-long friend and colleague of this author.ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesFebruary 27, 2014; TIME MagazineYou can just feel the ripples of deep breathing from Arizonans now that Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the state-sanctioned discrimination bill that would have made Arizona a radioactive state for economic development—and potentially the first from which the National Football League might have removed its scheduled Super Bowl.But as Arizona goes, will other states follow? Several states have pending legislation that would do much the same as Arizona’s vetoed bill to allow for discrimination against gays, lesbians, and others based on sincere religious belief. Although a bill that would do this in Kansas was nixed in the legislature, one in neighboring Missouri is still waiting a vote from legislators. Note that the bill in Kansas would have even allowed state workers to cite their religious beliefs for choosing not to deliver state government programs.A bill in Tennessee tracks the Arizona and Missouri bills, but without the Kansas addition of allowing government employees to cite religious belief in the denial of services. The pending bill in the Illinois legislature is narrower than Arizona’s vetoed law and the Missouri bill, basically introduced as a countermeasure to a law passed last year that gives the same rights, benefits, and protections to same-sex and opposite-sex parents and their children. The Illinois bill would exempt religious institutions, including religious schools, from providing their facilities for “marriage solemnization ceremonies” if they violate their religious beliefs. In South Dakota, a pending bill looks like the one in Illinois regarding marriage, though its sponsor had introduced and then withdrawn a bill that resembled Arizona’s state-sanctioned discrimination.Typically, the Arizona-type laws don’t specify LGBT issues as the reason for allowing and sanctioning discrimination based on “sincere religious belief,” but a pending Oregon bill, meant to counter that state’s existing law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, would protect people who discriminate when their actions are “based on religious beliefs against same-sex marriage/civil union/domestic partnership ceremonies.” Hawaii’s too has LGBT code words, promising to protect nonprofits and religious organizations when they deny service “related to any refusal to provide goods, services, or facilities for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the organization’s religious beliefs or faith.” The Arizona legislator who held up a big, visible anti-LGBT sign on the floor of the House to remind people who the bill was really targeting wouldn’t have needed to do so in Oregon or Hawaii, given the legislative language.These aren’t the only ones. Despite the scotched Kansas bill, other “religious freedom” bills have popped up in Ohio, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Idaho, just to name a few. Reportedly, a bill is being prepared for introduction in Georgia.Even if other legislatures do follow Arizona’s lead to pass this kind of silly legislation, our guess is that governors will follow Brewer’s path of laying down a veto so that their states don’t turn into laughingstocks. Nonetheless, these bills aren’t appearing sui generis; someone—or some institution—is doing some of the conceptualizing and even drafting. In Arizona, it was the Center for Arizona Policy. The array of supporters of these bills in other states is difficult to track down, but there are organizations from the religious right that have long been opposing equal rights for same-sex marriages. The Kansas bill was apparently drafted by the Washington-based American Religious Freedom Program, which admits to also drafting the Tennessee bill. Mother Jones also reports that the Idaho bill had the drafting input of the Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, which is a member of Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link, which also includes the Center for Arizona Policy as a member.We received suggestions that these religious discrimination bills might have emanated from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or might have been connected to groups with the State Policy Network, and perhaps there are some overlaps, but these bills really are “religious right” bills. After ALEC’s disastrous foray into stand-your-ground and voter ID laws, one has to suspect that these free-market think tank networks are going to steer clear of religious issues in order to avoid upsetting their business partners and backers, especially with the opposition of American Airlines and the NFL to the Arizona law and the track record of Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola being visibly connected to gay pride events in Georgia.Congratulate Governor Brewer for standing up against the political pressure of the religious right wing, but there are more of these laws percolating in other states in need of attention from civil rights activists.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Chello Central Europe has appointed Dominik Tzimas regional sales director and country manager for Poland.Tzimas, who started in the new role this month, will work across Chello Central Europe brands in Poland and expand sales activity in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. He joins from the publishing sector where he worked for companies including Axel Springer and Bauer and at Chello will report to vice-president, affiliate sales, Alena Blahovcova.
Russian pay TV operator Tricolor TV has added HD Life and Fox Life HD to its channel line-up, taking the total number of HD channels on the low-cost platform to 10.HD Life offers a range of science, nature and travel programmes, while Fox Life HD offers a range of US shows including Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and Cougar Town.
Sales of broadcast equipment is set to reach US$30 billion (€23 billion) by 2015, according to the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers (IABM).Using data from several new surveys, the IABM predicts that sales will increase from around US$24 billion in 2011, with plenty of growth to come from multiplatform video delivery equipment. When asked to rank their ‘top broadcast technology purchasing strategy’, 50% of respondents named multiplatform content delivery, followed by file-based workflows at 42%, media asset management at 42%, upgrading operations to HD at 37%, HD transmission at 24% and news operations at 22%.By 2015, the IABM expects 29% of the global broadcast equipment sales market to occur in North America, followed by 29% in western Europe and 11% in eastern Europe. Emerging markets as India and China will still represent a relatively small portion of the business, at 2% respectively.
German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are planning to launch an advertising-supported online video-on-demand service that will make archive content available to viewers. However, the service is unlikely to launch before the end of the year, according to the broadcasters.The pair have yet to decide on a final name for the service, currently dubbed Germany’s Gold, which will require regulatory approval. Germany’s Gold is also backed by Studio Hamburg, whose executive Antoine Schmidt-Roy is taking a leading role, and media entrepreneur Jochen Kroehne. Other partners involved in the project include Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, ZDF Enterprises, Beta Film, Ziegler Film, MME, Brainpool, Telepool and WDR Mediagroup.A similar project developed by commercial broadcasters ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL was rejected by the regulatory authorities on the grounds that the pair already controlled a large part of the German advertising market. The commercial broadcasters have already criticised the public broadcasters’ plans for the new service.
Kabel Deutschland is using technology from customer service specialist Jacada to provide the operator with a single view of its customers.“Customers demand a positive and productive experience every time they engage with a company. We are committed to delivering customer service technology that enables a company to achieve an effective and consistent customer experience,” said Gideon Hollander, CEO of Jacada. “Kabel Deutschland sought out leading technology solutions to help deliver a better customer experience and as a result they’ve shown their customers they value their business and will continue to make their needs a priority.”Jacada said the operator had been able to reduce average handling time by almost 30% as a result of the implementation of its technology.
Belgian cable operator Telenet is taking on an additional €700 million of debt and has initiated an additional share buy-back through a self-tender offer.The company will increase its debt to the higher end of its target range of 3.5-4.5 times annualised EBITDA and said that future shareholder remuneration will mostly comprise share repurchases.Telenet said it believed the changes would contribute to a more efficient balance sheet. The company aims to implement its new capital structure by the end of this year.
Cisco has used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to unveil Videoscape Unity, its expanded Videoscape video services delivery platform.The new and expanded platform includes the elements of what will become three pre-integrated offerings: multiscreen cloud DVR, video everywhere, connected video to any device in the home and IP video over cable.Nick Thexton, chief technology officer at NDS, acquired by Cisco last year, said that the new platform brought a complete set of Cisco and NDS components together. He said the platform was designed to provide a degree of pre-integration that would enable service providers to get services off the ground more quickly.“There will be bespoke customisation added onto these [four elements], but there is a much higher level of pre-integration and because integration costs are the biggest cost element we hope this will give a benefit,” he said. He described the approach as a “middle ground” between offering complete packaged solutions from a single vendor and a looser system integrator-led model that involved coordinating the work of numerous third-party suppliers. Thexton said the four off-the-shelf offerings would be made available in the latter half of 2013 but elements from all four offerings were available as of today.Thexton said “one major MSO” would implement cloud DVR in the first half of this year. “Network DVR has become important because delivering video to all devices is important. People don’t want to invest in a system just for one device. You can also do personalisation much more easily, importing that knowledge across to any platform. It is one of the highest priority projects,” said Thexton.Thexton said the video everywhere solution had been targeted for delivery to one major European operator in the latter half of this year.IP video over cable was also attracting a lot of interest from MSOs, said Thexton. This could enable the delivery of video to low-cost IP devices in the home from the network rather than from a gateway device that would convert the QAM signal to IP.“What we are seeing is that customers still want to do mix and match, taking an IP overlay but adapting it to a gateway,” said Thexton. “All of Videoscape Unity is being assessed for portability and there are different ways we could move a lot to the cloud. We think some functionalities will be moved to the cloud and other things will be managed within operator’s own infrastructure.”
Illicit consumption of content in France has increased slightly since October last year but remains relatively stable, with just under a quarter of consumers engaging in the practice, according to the latest study by anti-piracy authority the Hadopi. However the illicit consumption of TV series has seen a significant rise. The study comes as the French government moved to abolish the ‘three strikes’ anti-piracy regime created by the previous government.According to the Hadopi study, illicit consumption of TV series grew from 9% to 13% between October and May. About 24% of users have engaged in illicit consumption of content overall, with the remainder consuming content exclusively from legal sources. A slightly lower proportion of consumers of series and movies – 71% and 68% respectively – accessed content exclusively from legal sources than was the case with music (76%), video games (82%) and books (87%).The publication of the study followed the French government’s annulment of the part of the Hadopi law that provided for cutting the internet connection of persistent offenders. Aurélie Filippetti, the minister of culture and communication, said that the sanction was “disproportionate” and should be abolished. In practice, the measure has never been implemented, with only one recorded case of someone having their internet connection cut off by a judge.It is expected that the government will legislate to merge the functions of the Hadopi with media regulator the CSA by the end of this year.
Latvian telecom operator Lattelecom has claimed a strong audience response for its music festival pop-up channel, Positivus TV.According to Lattelecom, over 14,000 households out of its total base of 130,000 homes tuned in to the channel, which ran for the month and a half of the Positivus Festival. Lattelecom said that viewers watched a total of 1,265 hours of Festival coverage. The company said that the channel scored a third more viewers than other music channels, including MTV.
EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot, Director General Ingrid Deltenre & ABU Secretary General Javad MottaghiThe European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) have called for global action to protect TV spectrum space and guarantee “the future of broadcasting.”Speaking at the 50th Anniversary Annual Assembly of the ABU this week, EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre said that DTT remained the “backbone to public TV access” for 250 million Europeans.“We cannot allow the mobile industry’s insatiable appetite for spectrum resources to highjack this precious resource,” she said.ABU secretary general, Javad Mottaghi said that terrestrial TV also plays an essential service in regional areas of Asia Pacific.“Terrestrial broadcasting remains a crucial tool in emergency situations. It is often the only technology which continues to function and can reach a mass audience despite difficult external conditions,” he said.“Terrestrial television is the cornerstone of the broadcast industry and its survival is essential to the region’s people.”Both the EBU and ABU have been working to try and illustrate the efficiency of modern DTT networks and the strong demand for DTT services, and argue that spectrum assignments currently reserved for DTT should not change.
Bob StanzioneArris has agreed a 4K video gateway deal with cable giant Liberty Global, according to company CEO Bob Stanzione.Speaking on Arris’ quarterly earnings call, Stanzione said that Arris will provide Liberty with a gateway platform that supports 4K Ultra High Definition video, and that the deal will help Arris to further its “international market and portfolio expansion.”Asked to give further detail on the 4K Liberty deal, Arris’ president of customer premises equipment, Larry Robinson, said that the next generation platform programme that Arris is working on “should be applicable throughout a number of other properties and deployments.”Announcing its unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2014, Arris said that it introduced several key products last year and “achieved important design wins” that are scheduled for launch later in 2015, without giving further details.IP, video and broadband technology company Arris reported a US$631.0 million (€554 million) order backlog at the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.The firm, which makes a wide range of network, access and home products – including set-top boxes and cable modems – said that the figure compares to an order backlog of US$538.6 million in the same quarter a year earlier and of US$594.1 million at the end of Q3 2014.Fourth quarter revenues were US$1.263 billion, compared to US$1.199 billion in the same quarter last year. GAAP net was US$1.29 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of US$0.02 per diluted share last year. However Arris said that comparisons to prior periods “may not be meaningful” as a result of its acquisition of Motorola Home, which closed on April 17, 2013.
Shenzhen-based smart home solutions provider, Skyworth Digital, will showcase its vision for the connected home at IBC.The company will showcase the “digital home of the future” at the show, highlighting how tomorrow’s trends can be integrated and packaged for end-users in the future.Skyworth’s vision will illustrate the company’s answer to the “Internet of Everything” that will incorporate new technologies and concepts like Ultra-High Definition, integrated social media, multi-screen/TV anywhere solutions, home automation and mobile integration.Skyworth said that it will demonstrate the integration of mobile applications and home network control, such as security, heating and lighting – showing how everyday tasks can be enhanced via a single remote control and the TV as a central hub.Skyworth’s vision will explore new ways of managing traditional services such as PVR, catch-up/start-over TV and streamed content, according the firm.Skyworth Digital will exhibit at IBC on stand 5.A31