Category: New Posts

Most Expensive Hotel Room in America: $75,000 a Night!


Built in 1927, this iconic Upper East Side hotel underwent a major renovation from 2006 to 2009. While the historic exterior was untouched, the entire inner workings of the building were replaced, with interiors rethought by famed designer Jacques Grange. Popular with locals because of its Jean-Georges restaurant and Frédéric Fekkai salon, and with celebrities as the go-to gathering spot before the Met Ball, the penthouse brings a new allure to the building.

Located on the 16th and 17th floors, the 10,000-square-foot interior space, also designed by Grange, offers five bedrooms, four fireplaces, six bathrooms, and two wet bars. The living room, with 26-foot ceilings, is located in the corner tower of the building and is large enough to be converted into a full-sized grand ballroom. Outside, there’s a 2,500-square-foot rooftop terrace that overlooks Central Park.

While the penthouse is not new, this is the first time it is available to rent. “Before the paint was dry on the renovation, we had someone interested in renting it as an apartment, so it has never been publicized or even on the website,” Olivier Lordonnois, general manager for the Mark Hotel, tells Bloomberg. “We then had a family rent it for 16 months, and now it is finally ready for guests.” Lordonnis says the family got a reduced rate, due to the desired length of stay. 

When asked about the price, Lordonnois let us know that he was the one to come up with that figure. “If you look at our competitor, the Ty Warner penthouse at the Four Seasons is only 4,500 square feet, with just one bedroom and no balconies, and goes for around $64,000 a night. There is no way we would price our penthouse at the same level, as it is so much bigger. Plus, guests are getting all the amazing services of the Mark.”

In the same luxury stratosphere, the Plaza offers the 4,500-square-foot, three-bedroom Royal Suite for approximately $40,000 a night. It has 24-carat gold fixtures in the bathroom and offers a fully equipped fitness room and chef’s kitchen. The Mandarin Oriental books its two-bedroom, 3,300-square-foot Suite 5000, with a contemporary art collection curated by Whitewall magazine, for $36,000 a night. Interested guests must call to book, as it doesn’t appear on the website. 

While general hotel amenities at the Mark include round-the-clock room service by Jean-Georges, John Lobb shoeshines, a 70-foot sailboat available to charter, complimentary bicycles, and pedicabs for hire, Olivier offers something a little more personal for penthouse guests. “We have heads of state, very wealthy business people, and celebrities renting this space, and they could care less about a Bentley at their disposal 24/7, as they often have their security in tow, or their own motorcade,” he explains.

Instead, Lordonnois and his team work with the guest (or assistants) to understand what might really wow them. It could be a rare bottle of wine or sake that would impress the guest. If one happens to be interested in astronomy, a telescope will be erected on the terrace. “It is a lot more work on our side to find these special amenities, but they are certainly a little more genuine,” he says of the suite-specific wow factor. “Obviously, the accommodation is unbelievable, but after that, the little details have to be in line with the rest. That is our job: to find those little things.” 

Why build a suite this size in the first place? Buzz and bragging rights, of course, says Lordonnois, “but also, from a sales perspective, it decreases our inventory and improves overall occupancy rates,” which chopping it into separate rooms would not. Occupancy rates for the penthouse currently hover around 50 percent, he says.



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US Flexes: Military Live Fire Drills in S China Sea…



US Flexes: Military Live Fire Drills in S China Sea...

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Danger ahead of midterms…


NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. gasoline prices are sitting at four-year seasonal highs headed into the November midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump has called repeatedly for OPEC to push prices lower.

FILE PHOTO: The identification sign on a large gasoline tank is shown at a gasoline distribution terminal in San Diego, California January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

While gasoline prices typically drop following peak summer demand season, they have not fallen as fast as expected, said Jeanette Casselano, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association.

The national price average was at $2.867 a gallon as of Wednesday, its highest seasonally since 2014, according to AAA.

(For monthly U.S. retail gasoline prices, see: tmsnrt.rs/2zszA2U)

Fuel prices have risen due to a surge in crude oil prices. U.S. crude futures have gained in part because of U.S. sanctions affecting Iran’s petroleum sector, which have already cut into that nation’s exports, according to market participants. That has forced others, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, to make up the difference. The price of global benchmark Brent hit a four-year high of $82.55 a barrel this week, while U.S. crude hit $72.78, the highest since July 11.

The sanctions are expected to take supply off the market when they go into effect in November. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries ended a meeting on Sunday with no formal recommendation to boost output.

Increased pressure on global supply could cause gasoline prices to remain at current levels or even rise this fall, which would be unusual, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at tracking firm GasBuddy. That could have an effect on voter psyche with the midterm congressional elections approaching.

“The absence of a decline at the pump in the fall could be notable as voters head to the polls,” DeHaan said.

Yet, prices might not be high enough to sway voter sentiment. Consumers do not usually make “lifestyle changes” until prices rise to $3.25 a gallon or more, Casselano said.

Wholesale prices have risen in the Midwest as the region’s refineries undergo maintenance, DeHaan said.

In the physical market, gasoline cash differentials in Group Three RUV-DIFF-G3, a region that encompasses several Midwestern states, rose to a near three-year high last week, traders said.

(For Group Three cash differentials, see: tmsnrt.rs/2zugRUH)

U.S. gasoline inventories are at seasonal record highs, which could help temper price increases, said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.

(For U.S. gasoline inventories, see: tmsnrt.rs/2ztmrXh)

The wide discount of U.S. crude to Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 has incentivized refiners to make gasoline with cheaper U.S. crude and put it into storage for later sale, Yawger said.

(For the Brent-WTI spread, see: tmsnrt.rs/2N1suG4)

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Jerry Brown Vetoes 'Fake News Advisory Group'…


SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California will not create a “fake news” advisory group in order to monitor information posted and spread on social media.

Senate Bill 1424 was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. He wrote:

“This bill directs the Attorney General to establish an advisory group to study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media platforms. As evidenced by the numerous studies by academic and policy groups on the spread of false information, the creation of a statutory advisory group to examine this issue is not necessary.”

The bill would have required the California Attorney General to create the advisory committee by April 1, 2019. It would have had to consist of at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars.

The Assembly and Senate-passed bill required the advisory group to study how false information is spread online, come up with a plan for social media platforms to fix the problem, and develop criteria establishing what is “fake news” versus what is inflammatory or one-sided.

READ ALSO: Young Adults Still Can’t Identify Fake News

The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposed the bill, calling it “flawed” and “misguided.” The group argued the measure would make the government and advisory group responsible for deciding what is true or false. It also pointed out the First Amendment prevents content-based restrictions, even if the statements of “admittedly false.”

A recent study by Massachusetts-based MindEdge Learning was conducted with 1,000 young adults, ages 18 to 31-years-old. According to MindEdge’s nine-question survey, 52 percent of the respondents incorrectly answered at least four questions and received a failing grade. The number of young adults who could detect false information on the internet went down by all of the group’s measures. Only 19 percent of the college students and grads scored an “A” by getting eight or nine questions correct. That number is down from 24 percent in last year’s survey.

SEE: 150 Immigrants Arrested In Southern California ICE Raids

Facebook recently did away with its “Trending News” section – calling it outdated and unpopular. That section was criticized in the past after reports came out claiming the human editors were biased against conservatives. After Facebook fired those editors, the algorithms it replaced them with couldn’t always distinguish real news from fake.

After the 2016 election, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denied that fake news spread on the social site he oversees influenced the outcome- calling the idea “crazy.”

A previous bill, AB 155, would have required schools to teach students the difference between “fake news” and “real news.” It died in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

Senate Bill 1424 was authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan. It passed the Assembly and Senate in late August.



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Ex-employee warns of 'disturbing' plans…


Google event in ShanghaiImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Google’s own workers have raised concerns after reports it is developing a censored search engine for China

A former Google employee has warned of the firm’s “disturbing” plans in China, in a letter to US lawmakers.

Jack Poulson, who had been a senior researcher at the company until resigning in August, wrote that he was fearful of Google’s ambitions.

His letter alleges Google’s work on a Chinese product – codenamed Dragonfly – would aid Beijing’s efforts to censor and monitor its citizens online.

Google has said its work in China to date has been “exploratory”.

Ben Gomes, Google’s head of search, told the BBC earlier this week: “Right now all we’ve done is some exploration, but since we don’t have any plans to launch something there’s nothing much I can say about it.”

A report by news site The Intercept last week alleged Google had demanded employees delete an internal memo that discussed the plans.

Google has not commented on the staff row, but said: “We’ve been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools.”

It added: “We are not close to launching a search product in China.”

‘Censorship blacklist’

Mr Poulson’s letter details several aspects of Google’s work that had been reported in the press but never officially confirmed by the company. It was submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee, which held a hearing on Wednesday in Washington DC.

The topic of the hearing was “examining safeguards for consumer data privacy”.

Google’s chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, faced questions from Senator Ted Cruz about the company’s intentions to launch a new search engine in China.

Mr Enright confirmed to the Republican lawmaker that Project Dragonfly existed but added that a product was not close to launch.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWATCH: Google’s privacy chief is quizzed by Senator Ted Cruz about its Chinese search engine project

Representatives from AT&T, Apple, Twitter and Amazon also took part in the hearing, most of which centred on whether there was a need for a new federal data privacy law.

‘Catastrophic failure’

The letter alleges Google is working on:

  • A prototype interface designed to allow a Chinese joint venture company to search for a given user’s search queries based on their phone number
  • An extensive censorship blacklist developed in accordance with Chinese government demands. Among others, it contained the English term “human rights”, the Mandarin terms for ‘student protest’ and ‘Nobel prize’, and very large numbers of phrases involving ‘Xi Jinping’ and other members of the CCP
  • Explicit code to ensure only Chinese government-approved air quality data would be returned in response to Chinese users’ search

Mr Poulson said the sum of these efforts amounted to a “catastrophic failure” of Google’s internal policies on privacy – as well as going against assurances made to the US trade regulator regarding data protection measures in its products.

“Dragonfly is part of a broad pattern of unaccountable decision making across the tech industry,” Mr Poulson wrote.

Mr Poulson’s letter follows a joint statement signed by hundreds of current Google employees against Dragonfly sent last month.



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650 Bangladeshi Nationals Arrested in TX …



650 Bangladeshi Nationals Arrested in TX ...

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Trash piles from Haiti, Dominican strewn across beaches…


Hurricane Florence is being blamed for piles of trash from Haiti and the Dominican Republic found strewn across miles of North Carolina beaches.

That’s an 1,100 mile trip across the Atlantic.

Residents of North Topsail Beach began posting photos of the mysterious trash on Facebook over the weekend, noting brightly colored products labeled in Spanish and French were now lodged in the sand.

North Topsail Beach firefighter Bradley Thomas Dixon told McClatchy he expected the record-setting storm to spread trash across Topsail Island’s beaches, but was “shocked to find the majority came from another country.“

“I started realizing that I did not recognize 60 percent of the bottles that I was picking up!” said Dixon, who was among those who volunteered to clean beaches over the weekend.

“That was when I found a plastic bottle cap that said ‘Haiti.’ I guess Hurricane Florence scooped up a big pile of trash out in the Atlantic and scattered it on North Carolina beaches…Topsail is littered with it.”

North Topsail homeowners Margot Clark and Jennifer Cusimano Miller say they also found some of the Haitian trash, which was made up of plastic bottles for things such as shampoo, vinegar, deodorant and ketchup.

“I have to imagine Florence brought them in,” Miller told McClatchy. “I’ve never seen plastic trash to this magnitude on our beach…I definitely think this is storm related.”

How trash may have been pulled from Hispaniola (home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to Topsail Island is something of a mystery since NOAA tracking shows the storm kept north of the island when it passed Sept. 11.

However, Hurricane Florence had a big reach, expanding to 300 miles wide as it neared the U.S coast, says NOAA. As the storm grew, it passed over what NOAA calls “garbage patches”: Large concentrations of litter in the ocean made up mainly of bits of plastic, both large and small. NOAA maps show several such spots were along the path of Hurricane Florence.

Dixon says he tried to pick up as much of it as possible along four miles of beach Sunday, and still had to leave some behind. His goal, he says, was to keep it from going back into the ocean.

“I can’t fathom the volume of trash that must be floating in the ocean from that one small island. It is a serious problem when a shoreline over 1,100 miles away is tainted,” he said.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs



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Bromance cools for once-chummy Trump and Macron…


NEW YORK (AP) — Gone is the shoulder squeezing, the affectionate dandruff-brushing — and French President Emmanuel Macron’s hope that he could use his unlikely friendship with Donald Trump to rein in the American president’s more incendiary instincts.

When the two men met Monday in New York, they shook hands lightly and got down to the tasks at hand. They agreed to disagree on the Iranian nuclear accord and Trump’s protectionist policies and one-sided support for Israel, according to two French presidential advisers.

The businesslike mood contrasted with Trump’s fawning over Macron at a state dinner in April, and Macron’s lavish Eiffel Tower welcome for the Trumps last year.

Hours after their meeting, the two men laid out starkly different worldviews in speeches at the U.N. General Assembly.

“Nationalism always leads to defeat,” said the progressive, multilateralist Macron.

“We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” said Trump, trumpeting his America-first, zero-sum vision.

Macron later ticked off ways Trump has disappointed him — from his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and Iranian nuclear deal to unilateral tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Still, Macron said he’ll keep working with Trump on a “case by case” basis, and insisted that they’re not rivals but pragmatic allies.

At their meeting, “Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to closely coordinate to address global challenges,” the White House said. Macron specified that meant working together on Syria and a new U.S. trade deal with Europe — as long as it doesn’t involve such things as American GMO products that make European consumers wary.

Macron appeared to convince Trump to follow through on promises to visit Paris in November to mark 100 years since the armistice ending World War I, and added a possible battlefield tour to Trump’s program.

And Trump offered Macron an unexpected compliment, praising him as the new “hardliner” of Europe for his tough stance on Brexit negotiations, according to the French officials. The officials took part in Monday’s meeting but were not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy.

Given Trump’s combative, mercurial presidency, the French aides made a point to stress one positive thing about Trump and Macron’s latest sit-down session: no new conflicts emerged.



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WIRE: Tech Giants Spend $80 Billion to Make Sure No One Else Can Compete…


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Without star QB, 49ERS primetime network nightmare…


Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a knee injury yesterday, and we await the final verdict on just how serious it is. The fear is that he is done for the year with at least one ligament tear. The San Francisco 49ers’ hopes for the 2018 season hang in the balance, but there’s another group that is also very invested in the news: the television networks.

The networks went all-in on the Garoppolo hype after the 49ers’ finish last year, and here’s how a five-week stretch from mid-October to mid-November looks for San Francisco’s schedule.

Week 6, at Green Bay, MNF
Week 7, vs. LA Rams, SNF
Week 8, at Arizona, FOX, 4:25 ET start
Week 9, vs. Oakland, TNF
Week 10, vs. NY Giants, MNF

That’s four primetime matchups scheduled over a five-week stretch, plus San Francisco playing in the late afternoon doubleheader window (though that week also has the Packers and Rams game). The only one of those primetime games that can be flexed out is the Sunday Night game against the Rams. While the Rams are an entertaining team and perhaps the best in the league, NBC has a dilemma of keeping a 49ers team that will be coming off a primetime showcase the previous week. The Chiefs and Patriots play the previous week on Sunday Night Football, so going to Kansas City vs. Cincinnati or New England vs. Chicago may not be in the cards. But the other possible options are either the Panthers vs. Eagles, or taking a chance on the electricity of Baker Mayfield and the Browns versus the current surprise team, the Buccaneers.


Jimmy Garoppolo Ex-Girlfriend Alexandra King Calls Injury ‘Karma’

The 49ers are also scheduled for a Week 13 Sunday Night game against Seattle in December, which you can almost certainly expect to be flexed out for a different game. But even with that, the fall is going to feature a heavy dose of San Francisco in primetime. That might be a disaster if they play like they did before Garoppolo arrived last season.



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