Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Be sure to cancel your credit cards before you die.

This is so priceless, and so easy to see happening, customer service being what it is today.

A lady died this past January, and Citibank billed her for Feburary and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and added late fees and intrest on the monthly charge. The balance had been $0.00 when she died, but now it is somewhere around $60.00. A family member placed a call to Citibank.
Here is the exchange:

Family member: I am calling to tell you she died back in January.
Citibank: The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.
F.M.: Maybe you should turn it over to collections.
Citibank: Since it is two months past due, it already has been.
F.M.: So, what will they do when they find out that she is dead.
Citibank: Either report her account to frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!
F.M.: Do you think that God will be mad at her.
Citibank: Excuse me?
F.M.: Did you get what I was telling you, the part about her being dead.
Citibank: Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.
F.M.: I'm calling to tell you, that she died back in January with a $0.00 balance.
Citibank Supervisor:
: The account was never closed and late fees and charges still apply.
F.M.: You mean you want to collect from her estate?
Citibank: Are you her lawyer?
F.M.:No, I'm her great nephew.
Citibank: Could you fax us a certificate of death?
F.M.: Sure.
After they get the fax.
Citibank: Our system isn't set up for death. I don't know what more I can do to help.
F.M.: Well if you figure it out, great. If not, you could just keep billing her. She won't care.
Citibank: Well, the late fees and charges will still apply.
(whats wrong with these people?!?)
F.M.: Would you like her new billing address?
Citibank: That might help......
F.M.: Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Hiway 129, Plot Number 69.
Citibank: Sir, thats a cemetery!
F.M.: And what do you do with dead people on your planet???

(Priceless) You wondered why Citibank is going broke and needs the Feds to bail them out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flush with class: Tenn. bathroom voted best in US

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Hermitage Hotel has afternoon tea in the grand lobby. Down-filled duvets (that's a fancy word for comforters). A presidential suite with 2,000 square feet. And a really nice toilet.

So nice, in fact, that it's been voted (drum roll please) America's best restroom.

Flush in the middle of downtown Nashville, the luxury hotel and its ground-floor men's bathroom are definitely the head (so to speak) of the class.

The redoubtable restroom is art-deco style with gleaming lime-green-and-black leaded glass tiles, lime-green fixtures, terrazzo floor and a two-seat shoeshine station.

"You just can't find anything like it anywhere else," says Janet Kurtz, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.

The restroom won the honor in online voting sponsored by Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp., which supplies restroom hygiene products and services. The company says "tens of thousands" of people voted over two months last summer. Precise numbers are kept, well, private.

Criteria were hygiene, style and access to the public. The highfalutin honor has earned the restroom entry to "America's Best Restroom Hall of Fame."

"People see it and fall in love with it," Kurtz said.

It has four stools, three urinals, four sinks, spotless mirrors and a Sultan telephone that connects to the front desk.

And, (how do you put this delicately?) women seem attracted to it.

Lita Esquinance of Bradley County, Tenn., guides friends to the restroom for a discreet peek just about every time she visits Nashville. One of them, Sonja Luckie, jokingly summed up her visit with this discerning observation:

"For men, it's very stimulating."

The hotel, built in 1910 and renovated in 2003, has 122 guest rooms and suites. The restroom, down the hall from the hotel bar and restaurant, dates back to 1939.

Do they leave the light on for you? Not necessarily, but the famous restroom is cleaned hourly.

In her six years at the hotel Kurtz has never used the men's restroom. But just wait.

"I hope they have a ladies' night sometime."

On the Net:

The Hermitage Hotel:

America's Best Restroom:

Monday, April 27, 2009

PANDEMIC WARNING-Swine flu prompts EU warning on travel to US

The Begining Of The End....

MADRID – The top EU health official urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus, and Spanish health officials confirmed the first case outside North America.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.

World stock markets fell as investors worried that the deadly outbreak could go global and derail any global economic recovery. Airlines took the brunt of the selling.

The virus was suspected in up to 103 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected, while 40 cases — none fatal — were confirmed in the United States and six in Canada, the World Health Organization said.

"Today we've seen increased number of confirmed cases in several countries," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told The Associated Press. "WHO is very concerned about the number of cases that are appearing, and the fact that more and more cases are appearing in different countries."

President Barack Obama said the threat of spreading infections is cause for concern but "not a cause for alarm."

The WHO set its pandemic alert level at level 3, which means there is an animal virus that occasionally causes human cases but that doesn't spread well between people. If the WHO raises it to 4 or 5, that signals that the swine flu virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading between humans. That move could lead governments to set trade, travel and other restrictions aimed at limiting the disease's spread.

In Luxembourg, European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou urged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico affected by swine flu, toning down earlier comments referring to all of North America.

"I meant a travel advisory, not a travel ban, for travel to Mexico City and those states in the United States where we have outbreaks" of swine flu, he said.

The EU health commissioner only makes recommendations to the 27 member countries; they must make a final decision to set travel advisories through their foreign ministries.

Dr. Richard Besser, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the EU recommendation was not warranted. "At this point I would not put a travel restriction or recommendation against coming to the United States."

A top German holiday tour operator said it was suspending charter flights to Mexico City.

"These are early days. It's quite clear that there is a potential for this virus to become a pandemic and threaten globally," WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley told AP Television News.

Spain's first swine flu case — confirmed by the WHO — was a young man in the town of Almansa who recently returned from Mexico for university studies and is responding well to treatment, said Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez. Neither the young man nor any of the 20 other people under observation for the virus were in serious condition.

Cordingley singled out air travel as an easy way the virus could spread, noting that the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any time.

New Zealand was testing 13 students, their parents and teachers who were showing flu-like symptoms after returning from Mexico, said Health Minister Tony Ryall. Britain, Israel, France, Brazil, Switzerland and Sweden were also conducting tests.

At Germany's bustling Frankfurt Airport, people suspected of having the disease are being examined before getting off planes, said the health minister for Hesse state, Juergen Banzer. This policy has been in effect since Saturday at continental Europe's second-busiest airport, after Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Governments in Asia — with potent memories of SARS and avian flu outbreaks — heeded the warning amid global fears of a pandemic.

Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines dusted off thermal scanners used during the 2003 SARS crisis and were checking for signs of fever among passengers arriving from North America. South Korea and Indonesia introduced similar screening.

In Malaysia, health workers in face masks took the temperatures of passengers as they arrived on a flight from Los Angeles.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said visitors returning from flu-affected areas with fevers would be quarantined.

Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon said pilots on international flights would be required to file a report noting any flu-like symptoms among passengers before being allowed to land in Australia.

China said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms within two weeks of arrival had to report to authorities.

India will start screening people arriving from Mexico, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Britain and France for flu-like symptoms, said Vineet Chawdhry, a top Health Ministry official. It also will contact people who have arrived from Mexico and other affected countries in the past 10 days to check for the symptoms, he said.

Some officials cautioned that the checks might not be enough.

The virus could move between people before any symptoms show up, said John Simon, a scientific adviser to Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection.

Thomas Tsang, controller for Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection, said the government and universities aim to develop a test for the new flu strain in a week or two that will return results in four to six hours, compared with existing tests that can take 2-3 days.

China and Russia banned imports of pork and pork products from Mexico and three U.S. states that have reported cases of swine flu, and other governments were increasing their screening of pork imports.

Indonesia, which was hit hardest by bird flu, said it was banning all pork imports.

Lebanon's agriculture ministry also banned all imports of pork and pork products, excluding some canned products. It also says it will destroy any pork shipments to have entered Lebanon from a country declared infected with the swine flu virus by the WHO or countries with suspected cases.

The CDC says people cannot get the flu by eating pork or pork products.

Germany's largest tour operator, the Hannover-based TUI, suspended all charter flights to Mexico City through May 4. The suspension includes flights operated by TUI itself and also through companies 1-2 Fly, Airtours, Berge & Meer, Grebeco and L'tur.

TUI said other holiday trips to Mexico would continue to operate but would not make stops in Mexico City "for the next few weeks." Japan's largest tour agency, JTB Corp., suspended tours to Mexico at least through June 30.

Russian travel agencies said 30 percent of those planning to travel to Mexico in early May had already canceled.

At Madrid's Barajas International Airport, passengers arriving from Mexico were asked to declare where they had been and whether they had felt any cold symptoms. They were told to leave a contact address and phone number.

"Where we were, there was no real alarm but we followed what was happening on the news and we're a little bit worried," said Spaniard Filomeno Ruiz, back from vacation in Cancun.

Passengers were also urged to contact health authorities if they notice any symptoms in the 10 days following arrival.

In the airport's baggage claim area, ground crews and police wore surgical face masks. Some travelers took precautions even though they had not been in Mexico.

"Nobody has recommended it, but I've put the mask on out of precaution," said Roger Holmes of Britain, who was traveling to Tunisia from Madrid. "I'm not afraid, but it costs nothing to be careful."

On the Net:

WHO swine flu page:


Friday, April 17, 2009

Box of "scorpions" failed to shield smuggler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Border Patrol agent who tried to import rare tortoises in a box labeled "scorpions" pleaded guilty on Tuesday to animal-trafficking charges, the Justice Department said.

It turns out that scorpions also draw an extra look from federal agents.

Rene Soliz faces a maximum one-year sentence and will resign from the Border Patrol after entering his guilty plea in Texas on charges that he illegally attempted to receive 15 Tanzanian leopard tortoises, the department said.

Under an international treaty on trade in endangered species, the tortoises are considered potentially threatened and cannot be traded without an export permit.

But they are often sold as pets and carry a market value of about $50 each, Justice Department spokesman Andrew Ames said.

Soliz in 2006 contacted a leopard tortoise dealer in Tanzania and asked to buy eight of the animals as the first deal in a long-term relationship.

In April of that year, however, a U.S. Customs inspector at New York's Kennedy Airport intercepted a package bound for Soliz, the department said, citing court statements.

"The package was labeled as containing 50 live scorpions. When a U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspector opened the package, he found 14 live leopard tortoises and one dead leopard tortoise."

The shipment lacked the required export permit, and Ames said it was clearly meant for resale: "One tortoise is a pet, 15 are not."

There are three species of scorpions also subject to trade restrictions, Ames said, meaning imported scorpions often bear scrutiny from customs agents.

(Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Man jailed for urinating on woman during flight

HONOLULU – A 28-year-old man has been sentenced to three weeks in jail for urinating on a 66-year-old woman during a Continental Airlines flight last month from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Jerome Kenneth Kingzio, a resident of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was sentenced after pleading guilty Tuesday to assault charges in federal court in Honolulu.

The victim was headed to Hawaii on March 21 for a scuba diving vacation and was watching an in-flight movie when Kingzio stood up and began urinating on her. He had been drinking on the flight.

U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo Jr. said the woman reported that not only was her entire vacation ruined, but she continues to suffer emotionally from the incident.

The case was investigated by the FBI.

Burger King to scrap ad after complaint

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Fast food giant Burger King apologized Tuesday for an advertisement featuring a squat Mexican draped in his country's flag next to a tall American cowboy and said it would change the campaign.

Mexico's ambassador to Spain said posters released in Europe for Burger King's new Tex-Mex style "Texican whopper," a cheeseburger with chile and spicy mayonnaise, inappropriately displayed the Mexican flag, whose image is protected under national law.

The ambassador wrote a letter complaining to Burger King and requested the ad campaign be discontinued.

Burger King said the ads were meant to show a mixture of influences from the southwestern United States and Mexico, not to poke fun at Mexican culture, but said it would replace them "as soon as commercially possible."

"Burger King Corporation has made the decision to revise the Texican Whopper advertising creative out of respect for the Mexican culture and its people," it said in a statement.

"The existing campaign falls fully within the legal parameters of the United Kingdom and Spain where the commercials are being aired and were not intended to offend anyone," the company added.

A TV version of the ad shows the strapping cowboy and the pint-sized Mexican wrestler -- nicknamed "Just a Little Bit" -- living together as roommates. At one point, the American lifts up the Mexican to help him put a trophy on a high shelf.

Mexico was involved in another controversial ad campaign last year when Absolut vodka posted billboard ads in Mexico with an early 19th century map showing chunks of the United States as part of Mexico.

The campaign angered many U.S. citizens and was later dropped.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Police nab Norwegian pair during high-speed sex

OSLO (AFP) – A Norwegian man faces a heavy fine and a driving ban after police caught him having sex with his girlfriend while speeding on the motorway, police said Monday.

The unnamed couple, a 28-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, were caught in the act late on Easter Sunday by traffic police on the E18 highway, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Oslo.

Officers who clocked the couple's silver Mazda 323 racing at 133 kilometres per hour in a 100 zone realised they were doing more than just breaking the speed limit, police told AFP.

"It was veering from one side to the other because the woman was sitting on the man's lap while he was driving and doing the act, shall we say," said Tor Stein Hagen, a superintendent with Soendre Buskerund district police.

"He couldn't see much because her back was in the way," he added.

"Why they did it on a highway with such a high risk we don't know."

After following the couple for nearly a kilometre, officers pulled the car over at a service station.

"We have taken away his driving licence because of the danger that he caused," Hagen said.

Prosecutors will decide within the next week what his punishment will be, with police having filmed the incident to use as evidence against the driver.

Hagen said he expected the man to face a fine of "several thousand Norwegian crowns" and a lengthy driving ban.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Volunteers help salamanders avoid roadway massacre

NEW HAVEN, Vt. – The black salamander with yellow spots sat on the roadside in the dark, ready to make a go of it.

But it was not on its own. It got help from an escort — one of 45 people who volunteered on a recent night to carry salamanders, frogs and newts across the road during their annual migration to mate.

On rainy nights in early spring, roads between forests and vernal pools are hopping and crawling with activity. On some nights, hundreds of amphibians cross small stretches of asphalt to mate. But many don't make it.

From rural Vermont to urban centers like Philadelphia, human escorts, called bucket brigades in some places, help amphibians make it to their mating areas without getting squashed by cars. It's part education, part conservation, and part science.

"It's an extraordinary thing and people deserve to know about it," said Warren King, a member of the Otter Creek Audubon Society, who organizes a crossing in Salisbury. "And it needs to be protected. There are sites where many of the critters that are crossing never make it."

On a recent night, University of Vermont student Kaitlin Friedman walked with other volunteers along the asphalt with flashlights and clipboards, moving wood frogs, peepers, blue-spotted, red-backed and four-toed salamanders across the road, while jotting down how many they saw. They also kept count of vehicles, and the amphibians that didn't make it, trying to identify the flattened carcasses.

"It's pretty much the one time of year where you get to see a lot of salamanders in abundance and it's just really cool," said Friedman, 20, of Long Island, New York. "Plus, you know you help them across the road, you feel like maybe you're making a small reduction in their mortality rates, maybe, just for that hour or so."

John Kart, of Richmond, and his family have been helping salamanders cross the road for five years. On a recent evening, he said his 5-year-old daughter and two friends were as excited as the salamanders as they peered into a watery ditch.

"We're a little early this year but often you come and it is just loud as all get out from all the peepers and wood frogs screaming down in the pond below," he said.

The half dozen cars that passed in an hour slowed down through the stretch of road dotted with flashlights, some stopping to ask what was going on. After two hours, the group had spotted 589 amphibians, and 97 dead ones.

But a few miles ahead, on a busier road in Monkton, the scene wasn't pretty. It was more of a slaughter. The escorts were finding more dead amphibians than live ones.

Within the first half hour they counted 20 dead spotted salamanders and 18 live ones, eight dead and four live wood frogs, seven dead peepers and one live one, four dead and one live eft or immature newt and 23 cars, said Steve Parren, a member of the Monkton Planning Commissioner, who works for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Two and half hours later, the tide turned — they had counted 205 live and 98 dead amphibians — but the numbers still troubled Parren.

"I don't think the area can persist with the level of mortality that we're seeing," Parren said.

The state is considering installing tunnels under the road for amphibians and other animals to use. The town has received a $25,000 grant to pay for the engineering. The full project could cost up to $350,000, said Parren.

Similar tunnels were installed in Amherst, Mass., in 1987, and have proved 70 to 80 percent effective, said Scott Jackson, a wildlife biologist at the University of Massachusetts.

But some wonder why anyone would go to such lengths to help salamanders.

The red-backed salamanders are the most abundant backboned animal in the forest, said Jackson.

"Even if don't know what would happen if they all died out at once, we could imagine some kind of ripple effect on the rest of the ecosystem because they serve as both predator and prey and are probably very important in terms of nutrient cycling in the forest floor," he said.

For Parren it's about preserving what is there.

"For me it's more we're losing the national heritage that belongs there," he said.