Vaccination, not travel curbs, key to battling Omicron, WHO says


  • WHO says border controls only ‘buy time’
  • No reports yet of Omicron-related deaths, says WHO spokesman
  • Five U.S. states find cases of Omicron variant
  • BoE takes wait-and-see approach to raising rates

GENEVA, Dec 3 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to boost healthcare capacity and vaccinate their people to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, saying that travel curbs could buy time but alone were not the answer.

Despite shutting its borders to travel from high-risk southern African countries, Australia became the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, a day after it was found in five U.S. states.

Omicron has gained a foothold in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe and has reached seven of the nine provinces of South Africa, where it was first identified. read more Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the variant out.

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“Border controls can buy time but every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s western Pacific director, told a media briefing.

“People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don’t have to change our approach.”

Kasai urged countries to fully vaccinate vulnerable groups and stick to preventive measures such as mask wearing and social distancing.

Omicron has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO and scientists are still gathering data to establish how severe and contagious it is just as parts of Europe have been hit by surges of winter infections by the more familiar Delta variant.

“I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

But vaccine makers should prepare for the likelihood of adjusting their products to protect against Omicron, he said. read more

Ugur Sahin, CEO of Germany’s BioNTech (22UAy.DE), which makes a COVID vaccine with Pfizer (PFE.N), told the Reuters Next conference the company should be able to adapt the shots relatively quickly.

Sahin also said that current vaccines should continue to provide protection against severe disease, despite mutations.

Almost 264 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus since it was first detected in central China in late 2019 and 5.48 million people have died, according to a Reuters tally. read more

‘SCIENCE AND SPEED’

Vaccination rates vary from country to country but there are worrying gaps in poorer countries. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and once Asia’s COVID-19 epicentre, has fully inoculated only about 35% of its population.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said Omicron was likely to become the dominant variant globally within months, but at this stage there was no evidence it was any more dangerous than Delta.

In the United States, the Biden administration announced measures to guard against the virus spreading. From Monday, international air travellersarriving in the United States will have to have obtained a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel. read more

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” President Joe Biden said.

Fewer than 60% of the U.S. population have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates among wealthy nations.

Global travel curbs have accelerated with Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, among others, announcing new measures on Thursday.

Aside from wreaking havoc in the travel industry, the clampdown has pounded financial markets and undermined major economies just as they were beginning to recover from the lockdowns triggered by Delta.

Bank of England policymaker Michael Saunders, who voted for an interest rate hike last month, said on Friday he wanted more information about Omicron before deciding how to vote this month.

“At present, given the new Omicron COVID variant has only been detected quite recently, there could be particular advantages in waiting to see more evidence on its possible effects on public health outcomes and hence on the economy,” Saunders said in a speech.

Germany said it would bar the unvaccinated from all but essential businesses, and legislation to make vaccination mandatory would be drafted for early next year. read more

Several countries, including Britain and the United States, were bringing forward plans to offer booster shots, but, like travel bans, they are controversial.

Many scientists say the way to stop the virus spreading is to make sure poorer countries have access to vaccines, not to give blanket booster shots to people in richer countries.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Stephen Coates and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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ITV Racing tips: one key runner from each of the five races on ITV3 on Friday | Horse Racing News


1.15 Newbury
Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, 2m½f

Jonbon, an unbeaten brother to Douvan, makes his eagerly awaited debut over hurdles for trainer Nicky Henderson.

It will not be a one-horse race, however, as Good Risk At All, an impressive winner of a red-hot bumper at this track last season, bids to get off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: GOOD RISK AT ALL

Smart bumper winner; let down by jumping on hurdling debut; open to plenty of improvement

1.50 Newbury
Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Chase, 2m½f

Boothill has been tipped to be one of the stars of the season and makes his chasing debut straight into handicap company after a third-placed effort at Ascot behind Soaring Glory last time. Mister Coffey, Fifty Ball and Grade 2 winner Solo provide stern opposition.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: FIFTY BALL

Useful hurdler; promising third at Sandown on chasing debut; likely to go close


Friday’s free tipping:

Paul Kealy’s Friday banker at Newbury

The Punt Daily: Mark Boylan’s free horse racing tip at Dundalk on Friday

Friday’s free racing tips: six horses to consider putting in your multiple bets


2.25 Newbury
Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase, 2m4f

Fanion D’Estruval was a real eyecatcher when staying on from nowhere to finish fourth in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and drops back into open handicap company at the same track as his sole British win.

Phoenix Way is lightly raced but did finish fourth behind Protektorat in an Aintree Grade 1 on his latest start and has had wind surgery since.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: PHOENIX WAY

Lightly raced eight-year-old; unexposed and has won on last two reappearances; fascinating contender

3.00 Newbury
Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle, 3m, Grade 2

The 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle hero Paisley Park split opinion on his seasonal return when third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle and attempts to regain his crown, having won this in 2019 before losing out to Thyme Hill last year.

Admirable mares Indefatigable – Paisley Park’s conqueror at Wetherby – and Pertemps winner Mrs Milner also have solid claims in a top-notch contest.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: MRS MILNER

Pertemps Final heroine in March and won Listed race seven weeks ago; fascinating contender

3.35 Newbury
Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Handicap Hurdle, 3m

Several progressive sorts meet in this and Fergal O’Brien is doubly represented with Eyeofthescorpion and Polish, a course-and-distance winner at the Betfair Hurdle meeting last February.

Philip Hobbs saddles three, with One For You looking his main threat, while Certainly Red attempts to make it three wins on the bounce.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: ONE FOR YOU

Low-mileage six-year-old; third over course and distance on reappearance; still unexposed; high on the list


ITV Racing free bets

Racing Post exclusive offer. New customers can get £30 in free bets. First single & e/w bet only. Odds of 1/1 or greater. 6 x £5 bet token. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets redeemable on horseracing only. Free bets are non-withdrawable. No free bet expiry. Eligibility restrictions. Further T&Cs apply. 18+. begambleaware.org.


ITV7 tips and predictions

The ITV7 competition is back and free to play, with a potential £50,000 on offer. Users will need a Sky Bet account to enter, so if you don’t already have an account sign up using this link and take advantage of the free bet offer.

Race 1, 1.15 Newbury: GOOD RISK AT ALL
Race 2, 2.05 Lingfield: MARKS BEAR
Race 3, 2.15 Doncaster: OSCAR CLOUDS
Race 4, 2.25 Newbury: PHOENIX WAY
Race 5, 2.50 Doncaster: WHITE WALKER
Race 6, 3.00 Newbury: MRS MILNER
Race 7, 3.35 Newbury: ONE FOR YOU


Friday’s race previews:

12.40 Newbury: Who can follow Denman and Bobs Worth’s lead by landing Grade 2 novice chase?

1.15 Newbury: ‘You can argue Jonbon should not even be favourite’ – get Paul Kealy’s view

1.50 Newbury: ‘We’ve always seen him as a chaser’ – smart Boothill starts out over fences

2.25 Newbury: Grade 1 fourth Fanion D’Estruval out to bag competitive handicap off top weight

3.00 Newbury: ‘This is an important race’ – Paisley Park plan to be determined by Newbury run

3.35 Newbury: Why in-form Fergal O’Brien ‘holds the key’ to competitive handicap hurdle


Win the ultimate Cheltenham Festival experience in the Racing Post Christmas Countdown. You and three friends could travel to the festival in style with helicopter transfers from your hotel. Simply place a bet on the Racing Post app this Friday to be entered into the prize draw, plus there are weekly prizes to be won. Find out the full details here.




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Christmas Fan Swears By £1 Dental Floss As The Key To Decorating And Others Can’t Wait To Try Her Tip – – Todayuknews



Christmas Fan Swears By £1 Dental Floss As The Key To Decorating And Others Can’t Wait To Try Her Tip –  Todayuknews



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ITV Racing tips: one key runner from each of the four races on ITV4 on Friday | Horse Racing News


1.45 Cheltenham
Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase, 2m

Last year’s winner Magic Saint returns to defend his title at top weight and shoulders 7lb more than Stolen Silver [taking his rider’s allowance into account], who opened the season in impressive fashion at Market Rasen last month. Editeur Du Gite should be prominent for trainer Gary Moore, while Kap Auteuil seeks a fifth successive win. 

SPOTLIGHT TIP: STOLEN SILVER

Made all at Market Rasen last month; open to further improvement over fences; big player

2.20 Cheltenham
SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Chase, 2m4f 

Only two line up for this novice contest, won last year in style by Protektorat en route to Grade 1 success in April. Dan Skelton fields yet another Grade 1 star this time in My Drogo, who makes his chasing debut after a dazzling hurdling campaign last season. Gin On Lime, winner of four of her last five races for trainer Henry de Bromhead, is the only challenger. 

SPOTLIGHT TIP: MY DROGO

Very smart novice hurdler last term; G1 winner at Aintree; exciting prospect for chasing


Friday’s free tipping:

Paul Kealy’s Friday banker at Cheltenham

Friday’s free racing tips: six horses to consider putting in your multiples


2.55 Cheltenham
Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase, 3m6f 

The first race of the season over the cross-country fences features Grand National runner-up Balko Des Flos, who steps up a mile after an opening run at Galway last month. Potter’s Corner, third in this race last year, is set to oppose while Talkischeap and Diesel D’Allier both start for new yards. 

SPOTLIGHT TIP: VOLCANO

Four wins last year at up to 3m5f; could be well suited by demands of today’s assignment

3.30 Cheltenham
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 2, 2m5f

The Irish launch another challenge at Cheltenham with the Gordon Elliott-trained Off Your Rocco, a comfortable winner in Listed company last time and Davy Russell’s only ride of the day. Gelino Bello heads the British fancies for Paul Nicholls in a fascinating novice race featuring six last-time-out winners in a field of seven.

SPOTLIGHT TIP: CURRENT MOOD

2-2 as hurdler and did it very readily at Ludlow; could have lots more left in the locker


ITV Racing free bets

New Sky Bet customers can get £50 in free horseracing bets when they place a £10 bet. First single & e/w bet only. Odds of 1/1 or greater. 5 x £10 bet token. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets for horseracing only. Free bets are non-withdrawable. No free bet expiry. Eligibility restrictions and further T&Cs apply. 18+. begambleaware.org. To claim the offer click here.


ITV7 tips and predictions

The ITV7 competition is back and is completely free to play, with a potential £50,000 up for grabs. Users will need a Sky Bet account to enter, so if you don’t already have an account sign up using this link and take advantage of the free bet offer.

Race 1, 1.45 Cheltenham: STOLEN SILVER
Race 2, 2.10 Worcester: BLACK POPPY
Race 3, 2.20 Cheltenham: MY DROGO
Race 4, 2.45 Worcester: SOME SPIN
Race 5, 2.55 Cheltenham: VOLCANO
Race 6, 3.20 Worcester: FLOY JOY
Race 7, 3.30 Cheltenham: CURRENT MOOD


Friday’s race previews:

De Bromhead leads the invasion again as Irish head to Cheltenham en masse (Members’ Club)

1.45 Cheltenham: He’ll be back in the mix again’ – Paul Nicholls on last season’s winner

2.20 Cheltenham: ‘I’m really looking forward to it’ – Skelton excited as he unleashes My Drogo

2.55 Cheltenham: Can Balko Des Flos emulate cross-country stalwart Balthazar King?

3.30 Cheltenham: How good is Off Your Rocco? Hyde test next for exciting novice hurdler


Win the ultimate Cheltenham Festival experience in the Racing Post Christmas Countdown. You and three friends could travel to the festival in style with helicopter transfers from your hotel. Simply place a bet on the Racing Post app this Friday to be entered into the prize draw, plus there are weekly prizes to be won. Find out the full details here.




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Lawrence Vs. Manhattan, Kansas: 8 Key Differences


Traveling west from Kansas City, the bustling urban area that straddles the states of Missouri and Kansas quickly morphs into rolling prairie accented with picturesque barns, herds of cows, and (depending on when you visit) colorful wildflowers. Headed in this direction, you’ll find yourself first in Lawrence and then in Manhattan. 

Home to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, respectively, both are great college towns that aren’t too small or too big, and they’re full of friendly Midwesterners. Here’s how Lawrence and Manhattan compare. 

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting Lawrence and Manhattan on an I-70 road trip from Kansas City to Hays, be sure to add these tasty stops to your itinerary.

1. Getting There

Traveling west on I-70, Lawrence is about 45 minutes from downtown Kansas City. Note that a good portion of this drive is on the Kansas Turnpike, a toll road, so if you want to take the scenic route, you can pick up KS 32 in Bonner Springs. It only takes about 10 minutes longer, and it is often more scenic.

Manhattan is another 90 minutes west of Lawrence. While most of the journey is a straight shot on I-70, Manhattan isn’t right off the Interstate like Lawrence. Visiting this college town is a bit more of a commitment because you’ll have to travel about nine miles north of I-70 on KS 177 (also named the Bill Snyder Highway after K-State’s legendary football coach) to reach Manhattan. If you’re visiting Manhattan from Kansas City, the Kansas Turnpike mentioned above stretches from Bonner Springs to Topeka, but you can avoid it by taking U.S. 40 and U.S. 24 between those two cities before picking up I-70 in Topeka.

2. What’s In A Name?

With a name like New York City’s most densely populated borough, you may be wondering if there’s a link between the Kansas college town of Manhattan and the Big Apple. There is! The settlers who established the town in 1850 were sponsored by the New England Emigrant Aid Company and named it after the larger, better-known city back east.

Lawrence also has a link to the Northeast. The son of Revolutionary War soldier Samuel Lawrence helped fund the New England Emigrant Aid Company. So another group of pioneers traveling westward in the 1850s to what is now Kansas named this college town after him.

Fun Fact: In a nod to its much more famous namesake, Manhattan’s nickname is The Little Apple. Meanwhile, folks affectionately call Lawrence “LFK” (and yes, the “F” stands for what you think it does).

3. Population 

With about 100,000 residents, Lawrence is the sixth-largest city in Kansas. Manhattan’s population is around 55,000, putting it three spots below Lawrence on the biggest cities in Kansas list. As college towns, both Lawrence and Manhattan see a spike in August as students arrive at their respective universities. And in mid-May when the strains of Pomp and Circumstance fill the air and cars are loaded to the brim, both towns suddenly feel much quieter and less crowded as students head home for the summer months.

Jay and Baby Jay, the KU Mascots.
Jay and Baby Jay, the KU Mascots (Photo Credit: eXplore Lawrence)

4. Jayhawks Vs. Wildcats

Like in many regions from coast to coast, University of Kansas and Kansas State University are rival schools. And, in full disclosure, I’m the daughter of a K-State graduate, the mother of a K-State graduate, and an alumna who will forever have fond memories of the years I spent in “Manhappiness.” However, I did live in Lawrence for several years after graduate school (even though you’ll never catch me in KU gear).

Sage with the Willie the Wildcat statue in the K-State Union, Manhattan, Kansas.
Sage with the Willie the Wildcat statue in the K-State Union (Photo Credit: Sage Scott)

Enrollment at KU is about 28,000 students, which doesn’t include its medical school and research hospital in Kansas City. The school mascot is a Jayhawk, a fictional bird based on Kansans who would cross the state line into Missouri, steal enslaved people, and bring them back to Kansas, the Free State. 

When you visit Lawrence, Kansas, you’re sure to see a lot of royal blue and crimson shirts, especially packed into Allen Fieldhouse “waving the wheat” during basketball season. KU students and alums are tremendously proud of the team’s national titles and strong program. If you’re visiting outside of basketball season, or the team has an away game, you can still tour the DeBruce Center, which includes a glimpse of Dr. James Naismith’s original rules for the sport.

In Manhattan, K-State students number about 22,000, and when you visit, expect to see a sea of royal purple. As the Sunflower State’s land-grant college, it’s well-known for its agriculture, horticulture, and veterinary programs. The school’s mascot is Willie the Wildcat, who can be seen doing push-ups when K-State scores during football season.

Both schools tout famous alumni. KU alums you might recognize include actors Don Johnson and Paul Rudd, politician Bob Dole, and fashion designer Kate Spade. Well-known K-State alums include actor Eric Stonestreet, environmental activist Erin Brockovich, presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, and Earl Woods, father of golf legend Tiger Woods.

Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, Kansas.
Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics (Photo Credit: eXplore Lawrence)

Pro Tip: You can visit the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics and so much more when you spend the weekend in Lawrence, Kansas. And here are the best things to do in Manhattan, Kansas.

5. Mass Street Vs. Aggieville

The best college towns often include an area near campus with quiet bookstores, local coffee shops, cozy cafes, and lively bars — and both Lawrence and Manhattan deliver.

Although it is a few blocks away from campus, Massachusetts Street (known locally as Mass Street) serves this role in Lawrence. The epicenter of Mass Street activity begins just north of the park around 11th St. and stretches to 6th St., where the road prepares to cross the Kansas River. 

Kick off your time in Lawrence with breakfast or brunch at The Roost, and re-caffeinate as needed at Alchemy Coffee & Bake House. If you’re craving pizza, be sure to stop by Limestone, where everything is made from scratch. Dig into a filling sandwich at Quinton’s, or put delicious craft beer ahead of food at Free State Brewing Co. Whatever you choose, be sure to top things off with a scoop of ice cream (or two) from Sylas & Maddy’s.

In Manhattan, a six-block area adjacent to K-State known as Aggieville is the heart of off-campus activity. Anchored by Varsity Theater (which has housed non-cinema businesses since the 1980s and is currently a two-story Rally House filled with Wildcat merchandise and more), the main drag through Aggieville is Moro St.

Donut from Varsity Donuts in Manhattan, Kansas.
Varsity Donuts (Photo Credit: Sage Scott)

Enjoy coffee and breakfast at Public Hall, browse the unique items for sale at ACME gift, pair a pour with some sunshine at Johnny Kaw’s Yard Bar, enjoy an away game with the crowd at Tanner’s, or dig into barbecue pulled pork mac ‘n cheese at Kite’s Bar & Grill. Whether you start your day with fresh donuts or wrap up a night of partying in the ’Ville with a stop at the food truck out back, no trip to Manhattan is complete without visiting Varsity Donuts.

Pro Tip: Although it’s not in Aggieville, the Call Hall Dairy Bar serves the best ice cream in Manhattan. Made with farm-fresh ingredients at the ag school, K-State students whip up and serve more than 20,000 gallons of ice cream each year. Be sure to try K-State’s signature flavor, Purple Pride, with fresh blueberries providing the perfect purple color.

6. The Kaw And Johnny Kaw

When you visit Kansas, you may hear people talking about the “Kaw.” It took me quite some time after moving to Northeast Kansas to realize that’s a nickname for the Kansas River and not an additional river in the region.

While in Manhattan, you may hear a lot about Johnny Kaw. He’s a fictional character created by K-State horticultural professor Dr. George Filinger in 1955. While this burly, larger-than-life character was busy creating the Kansas prairie and forging trails for pioneers traveling westward to the Sunflower State, his pets — a jayhawk and a wildcat — fought like cats and dogs. Their brawls were so intense that they started the Dust Bowl in one of Dr. Filinger’s tall tales.

Downtown Lawrence, Kansas.
Downtown Lawrence, Kansas (Photo Credit: eXplore Lawrence)

7. Vibe

While both Lawrence and Manhattan possess the energy you’d expect from a Midwestern college town, Lawrence has long been considered “a blue dot in a red state.” Overall, Kansas has roughly two times more registered Republicans than Democrats, but Lawrence’s Douglas County is the only one in the state with more registered Democrats.

In the Swinging Sixties, in large part due to the student population at KU, Lawrence was the focal point for social change in Kansas. When you visit today, expect a more socially conscious, environmentally observant, and liberal-minded experience than elsewhere in the state.

Manhattan is just a short drive from Fort Riley, a 150-year-old military post that is home to the “Big Red One” 1st Infantry Division and one of the largest infantry training facilities in the United States. Although Manhattan’s Riley County is close to a 50/50 split between registered Republicans and Democrats, expect a slightly more conservative vibe than in Lawrence, especially away from the K-State campus.

Pro Tip: If you love Lawrence and Manhattan, don’t miss these small towns in Kansas.

Chimpanzee at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas.
Chimpanzee at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan (Photo Credit: Sage Scott)

8. Things To Do And See

Round out your time in Lawrence by exploring a few of its most popular attractions. In addition to the Dole Institute of Politics and Booth Family Hall of Athletics, I suggest visiting the Spencer Museum of Art and Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum. Both are small but impressive museums on the University of Kansas campus. 

In Manhattan, the Flint Hills Discovery Center teaches visitors about the region’s flinty limestone, smooth shale, and last unplowed tallgrass prairie in North America. Or, you can experience the beauty of the Flint Hills firsthand by hiking the 2.6-mile Konza Prairie Nature Trail. Less strenuous outdoor activities include strolling through the Gardens at Kansas State University or visiting the Sunset Zoo.

Whether you “rock chalk” or bleed purple, you’re sure to enjoy both of these great Midwestern college towns!

For more on the great state of Kansas, check out:



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Tips on how to tour colleges from home | The Learning Key


STATEPOINT

Many schools are offering virtual tours, chats with admissions officers and current students, and other online options to help students get familiar with their school.

Be sure to check the websites of schools that you’re interested in to take advantage of any opportunities they’re providing to prospective students!

Take a virtual tour

• Check the school’s website to see if they offer virtual tours.

• Some colleges also offer virtual chat rooms to connect prospective students with current students and tour guides.

• If you’re able to join one of the chats, consider asking the following questions:

Why did you choose this college?

How was your transition from high school to college?

What do you do in your free time?

What is it like to live at this college?

What does the college do to promote student involvement in campus groups, extracurricular activities, or volunteering?

What are the housing options?

What is the graduation rate?

Are there work-study programs and part-time jobs available?

Learn about everyday life• Follow the school’s social media accounts.

• If you’re interested in joining a specific major, sports team or club, try finding their specific social media accounts as well.

• Explore the school’s student-run newsletters, magazines, online publications, or blogs

• Learn about the campus services that are available for students including: residential services, counseling, health and religious centers, financial aid office, information technology support, career centers and commuter services.

Browse course catalogs• Read the short descriptions for the courses that may be required for your major

• Learn about some frequently offered elective classes.

• Find out if there are internship opportunities that you can also take for college credit.

Look into housing options

• Find out what sort of housing options are available for incoming freshmen.

• Depending on the school, certain dorm types may only be available as special living options, honors colleges, or upperclassmen, so make sure you become familiar with the type of dorm that you may be living in.

• Double-check the living requirements as well, because some schools make it mandatory for freshmen to live on campus.

• Colleges offer all sorts of dining choices, such as restaurants, cafes, and dining halls, so check out your dining options and what sort of foods are available on campus and off campus.



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Early planning key for holiday shopping, travel in 2021 | News


While kids are likely asking friends what they are going to dress up as this weekend for Halloween, families, shoppers and retailers are asking other questions.

Have you started your planning and shopping for Thanksgiving and Christmas?

It is not uncommon for retailers to get a jump on the next big holiday early, this year consumers also might want to start thinking about starting their holiday shopping early too.

Consumers plan to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to the annual survey released last week by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics. Despite the continued supply chain disruption, this is on par with consumer spending last year.

The survey asked 7,921 consumers about winter holiday shopping plans. It was conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

This year, 90% of US adults plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, up from 87% last year, according to the NRF.

Similar to last year, the NRF reported consumers are prioritizing gifts for family and friends and purchases related to holiday celebrations such as food or décor. Overall plans for holiday spending remain slightly below the pre-pandemic high of $1,047.83 in 2019, as fewer consumers plan to spend on non-gift purchases for themselves and their families.

While nearly half (47%) of holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of sales or price discounts during the holiday season to make non-gift purchases, they plan to spend an average of $118.41 on these items, according to the NRF.

In contrast, in 2019, 60% planned to make these types of purchases and expected to spend $162.02. As many continue to work from home, the NRF reported shoppers are also less inclined to purchase gifts for co-workers.

However, consumers are motivated to check items off their lists earlier than ever. Half (49%) of holiday shoppers will start browsing and buying before November, up from 42% in 2020 and the highest in the survey’s history, the NRF reported. Among those shopping in October or earlier, 47% say they want to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and another 36% do not want to miss out on key holiday items.

The supply chain challenges that have been exacerbated since the beginning of the pandemic are top of mind for consumers, according to the NRF. Nearly half (47%) of holiday shoppers are concerned they will have difficulty finding items this year. The top items they are worried about finding are electronics (44%), clothes (40%) and toys (28%).

Local retailers in downtown Cadillac are not seeing that trend, yet.

Serendipity owner Michele Bosscher and Blossom Boutique owner Jamie Prince there hasn’t been a huge increase of early holiday shoppers. They also said they are not experiencing big supply chain issues.

“I can’t say I have seen people doing a bunch of early Christmas shopping, but they are starting,” Bosscher said.

Bosscher also said so far this year has been a good one and there haven’t been any issues with the supply chain. She attributes that to her store ordering from a vast array of different companies she orders from. As a result, they might have smaller orders than normal, but they have the product in.

“We have found our work-a-around (supply chain issues). Because we work with so many vendors, someone always has something,” she said. “We might have to use more suppliers to keep the same amount of inventory, but we are able to get our hands on it. I don’t think it will dry up and I don’t envision it being an issue.”

It’s a similar story for Prince.

While she admitted it has been somewhat trickier, Prince said supply chain issues haven’t had much of an impact before now. For that reason, Prince said she is not seeing a big increase in early holiday shoppers, but they are starting. With things more opened up this year compared to last, Prince also believes the holiday shopping season will be closer to normal, including Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Prince said, however, moving forward there could be supply chain issues but that remains to be seen.

“It might be easier to get more product in during the holidays but at the beginning of the New Year there could be an impact,” Prince said.

Retailers aren’t the only ones stressing early planning this holiday season. A AAA survey is showing almost half of Michigan residents who plan to travel during the holidays are already scheduling their trips.

The AAA Consumer Pulse Survey was conducted online among residents living in Michigan from Sept. 15 to Sept. 22. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results asked of all respondents have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Michigan.

Michigan residents have begun making their travel plans for the holiday season. According to a new AAA Travel survey, nearly half (46%) of residents book their holiday trips by the end of October.

“Time is of the essence for people who plan to take a flight this holiday season,” Debbie Haas, AAA vice president of travel. “As we get closer to the holidays, airfares often rise as availability shrinks. We recommend you book by Halloween, for the best chance of finding the flight you want at a favorable rate.”

Haas also said recently there have been numerous flight delays and cancellations and more are possible during the upcoming holidays. If a person is planning a flight, Haas said they may want to consider travel insurance.

The recent survey also showed two-in-five (41%) Michigan residents plan to take a vacation of three days or more during the 2021 holiday season. Meanwhile, 10% have not yet decided. About a third (36%) of Michigan residents without holiday travel plans are staying home for fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

Compared to last year, when a vaccine wasn’t available, 38% of Michiganders are more comfortable traveling this holiday season. Meanwhile, two-in-five (41%) feel the same as last year.

Traveler confidence took a step back this quarter, following a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, brought on by the Delta variant. This year, the percentage of Michigan residents who are comfortable traveling rebounded from 45% in Q2 to 72% in Q3, yet slipped back to 63% in our Q4 survey — fielded in September.

Although traveler confidence hit a snag, enthusiasm could rebound through the end of the year. COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are trending lower again, which is what 41% of Michigan residents said would need to happen to feel more comfortable traveling.



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Early prep, correct gear and staying informed are key for smooth travel this winter


 OLYMPIA – With winter just around the corner, now is the best time to make plans and prepare for winter driving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to get themselves and their vehicles ready for winter weather well before they head out. Drivers can visit WSDOT’s winter driving web page for tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always “know before you go” and get the most up-to-date transportation information both while planning trips and during travel.

“Our crews work hard to keep roads clear, but we also need the public’s help to keep traffic moving during winter weather,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes with vehicles going too fast or not having proper winter equipment.

“This winter, being prepared and staying informed will be even more important because staffing shortages will affect our ability to clear roadways and passes as quickly as in years past,” Morin added.

WSDOT crews are already planning for winter storms, but ongoing staffing challenges mean that some areas may not see the traditional 24-hour service, some roadways will not be plowed as often, and compact snow and ice will remain on roadways longer than a typical winter. This will be especially true during large or long-lasting storms. WSDOT determines its storm response based on safety, available resources and pre-set priority plow maps for highest volume and/or critical roadways. Travelers should be sure to check conditions before and during travel and always have proper winter weather supplies before heading out.

To check conditions and prepare for winter weather:

Alternatives to chains
Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, the state’s traction device laws still apply to all vehicles. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions.

The Washington State Patrol provides an online list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires.” These approved alternatives meet state traction tire requirements and can be used instead of chains when chains are required. Not every alternative on the market has been approved by WSP, so please check the website before making purchases. All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols will be keeping an eye on mountain passes this winter.

Studded tires
By law, studded tires are only legal for use in Washington state from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist to allow for earlier use of studded tires.

WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned roadways (asphalt and concrete roadway damage combined) each year. WSDOT encourages motorists to visit a tire dealer to learn more about their winter tire options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This type of tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. More information about studded-tire restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.



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Standardization of Travel Rules Key for Latin America Airlines’ Recovery | Investing News


By Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Getting standardized rules for international travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest hurdle for Latin American airlines, with their recovery threatened by a lack of consensus among health authorities, industry leaders said on Sunday.

Passengers suffer constant delays and restrictions as they travel between countries due to differing entry requirements established to curb the spread of different strains of the coronavirus, aviation industry directors said at a conference in Bogota, Colombia.

“Standardization is vitally necessary to build confidence so people return to flying,” said the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association’s (ALTA) chief executive, Jose Ricardo Botelho.

The lack of accord between different countries, with frequent changes to air travel rules, leads to uncertainty for passengers, airlines, and airline staff, said Copa Airlines Chief Executive Officer Pedro Heilbron.

“When you carry passengers and there are thousands of requirements, it’s almost impossible that at least some passengers don’t have the right paperwork,” he told journalists in opening remarks at the ALTA annual conference.

Some countries even fine airlines for passengers’ non-compliance with the rules, Heilbron added, though did not say which ones.

Almost a year and a half of restricted travel has put airlines and airports across the globe under severe financial strain, necessitating a more complete re-opening of travel so that the industry can recover, saving millions of jobs.

“Generally speaking there are quite a few agreements and there is relative standardization, but the big differences come from health authorities,” said Lucas Rodriguez, the head Colombia’s civil aviation authority’s air transport office.

The need to meet new travel requirements has dented airlines’ balance sheets.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry’s main trade body, this month revised its estimate for airlines’ net losses this year to $51.8 billion, from a previous forecast of $47.7 billion.

IATA expects airlines to lose $11.6 billion in 2022 in revenue.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas; Writing by Oliver Griffin; editing by Diane Craft)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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San Francisco Vs. Oakland: 9 Key Differences


Separated by a bay, San Francisco and Oakland (along with San Jose) are home to 7.1 million people living across nine counties in the Bay Area. While mentioning San Francisco is likely to immediately fill your mind with images of crimson-and-gold cable cars and one of the world’s most famous suspension bridges, you may draw a blank when it comes to Oakland.

As a teenager living in the Bay Area, my parents wouldn’t think twice about my friends and I heading into San Francisco for the day, staying long past sundown. But my mom would’ve been concerned if I’d told her I was going to Oakland. Back then, Oakland was plagued by economic hardships, caught in the crosshairs of violent gangs, and dealing with a crack epidemic.

But many years have passed and times have changed (although apparently these 1980s fashion trends are back). Today Oakland is a bustling, culturally diverse city offering plenty of interaction with the locals. Here’s how it compares with San Francisco, one of the Golden State’s top travel destinations.

BART in Downtown Oakland
Photo Credit: D. Ross Cameron / Visit Oakland

1. Getting There

The Bay Area is located near the midpoint of California’s coastline, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and the Oregon border. Both San Francisco and Oakland have large international airports serviced by carriers like Delta, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines.

Because I’m a loyal Southwest Airlines customer, I prefer to fly in and out of Oakland, even if San Francisco is my final destination. It’s not the most luxurious airport you’ll ever visit, but it gets the job done. You can zip across the Bay on BART and arrive in the heart of San Francisco in about 40 minutes. While the ride is about 10 minutes longer than the route from SFO, I find that the Oakland Airport’s smaller size is easier to navigate and that I typically make up those 10 minutes. However, if you prefer to fly American or United Airlines, those carriers recently dropped service in Oakland (in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic), so you’ll want to opt for SFO instead.

While you should always be aware of your surroundings in large metropolitan areas, you’ll want to be especially vigilant against car break-ins near the Oakland airport. Our family is always drawn to the big yellow arrow and cherry red palm trees of In-n-Out Burger the moment we land, and there is one just minutes from Oakland Airport. However, signs posted in the strip mall where it is located warn visitors about break-ins. It is only thanks to the security guard posted outside the burger joint, who shooed off two guys about to break out our back window, that our car wasn’t vandalized in broad daylight on our last visit. And, we’ll probably visit a different location next time.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Ca, during foggy day.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott

2. Golden Gate Vs. Oakland Bay Bridge

With its fire engine red towers piercing through the fog as it connects San Francisco to Marin County, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. Meanwhile, connecting Oakland and the rest of the East Bay to San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge carries more than a third of the traffic of all state-owned bridges combined. I often joke that the Golden Gate is the beauty and the Bay Bridge is the workhorse.

It will cost you about $8 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge by car, but the Oakland Bay Bridge toll currently caps out at $7 with lower prices extended on weekends, off-peak hours, and to commuters who carpool.

3. Size And Location

In terms of population, San Francisco is more densely populated with 875,000 people packed into just under 50 square miles. With half as many residents and about 10 more square miles of land, Oakland can feel a little less crowded.

Both San Francisco and Oakland are about an hour’s drive north of the Bay Area’s largest city, San Jose, making them excellent day trips when visiting Silicon Valley. San Francisco is a straight shot from San Jose along US-101, and Oakland is due north of San Jose via I-880.

Bay Bridge Trail, Oakland, Ca.
Bay Bridge Trail (Photo Credit: Visit Oakland)

4. Weather

While San Francisco is famous for its fog and year-round 60-something temperatures, across the Bay Bridge, the weather in Oakland is nearly always warmer (and sunnier), especially from May through September. So if your Bay Area itinerary is packed full, but you are sick and tired of being cold (especially in July) then take a day trip across the bay to Oakland and warm up! 

Alcatraz Island prison, San Francisco, Ca.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott

5. Things To Do And See

With a National Historic Landmark you can ride, an infamous prison, a pier packed with sea lions, and so much more, San Francisco has a long list of well-known attractions. Other favorite things to see and do include wandering through Golden Gate Park, grabbing a bite at the Ferry Building, ascending the Coit Tower, and driving down Lombard Street (called the most crooked street in the world, even though it’s really not).

While it’s hard to compete with one of America’s most visited cities, from across the San Francisco Bay, Oakland offers some of the best views of San Francisco. In Oakland, you can also explore Jack London Square and hike the Bay Bridge Trail. And because Oakland flows smoothly into surrounding areas like Berkeley and Richmond, I recommend spending a day in eclectic Berkeley and touring the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park during your visit.

Rise and Grind Mural, Oakland, Ca.
Photo Credit: Visit Oakland

6. Cheer For The Home Team

The Bay Area is a great destination for sports fans with six major league teams. In San Francisco, the locals cheer for the Giants while across the bay they support the Athletics (known affectionately as the A’s). But now that the Oakland Raiders have relocated to Las Vegas, American football fans will want to leave their silver and black at home and don red and gold to cheer on the 49ers. Basketball fans won’t want to miss a Golden State Warriors game at Chase Center, but soccer and hockey fans will have to travel about an hour south of both San Francisco and Oakland to cheer on the Earthquakes and Sharks.

Pagoda in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Ca.
Golden Gate State Park (Photo Credit: Sage Scott)

7. Cost

California is one of America’s most expensive states, so neither San Francisco nor Oakland is exactly a budget destination. However, everything from accommodations to after-dinner drinks tends to be more affordable in Oakland as opposed to San Francisco. 

For example, if you spend your first night in a Bay Area king room with a balcony overlooking the courtyard at the Courtyard Marriott near the Oakland Airport, you can expect to spend about $180 on a weeknight. Across the Bay, a similar room (without a view) at the Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Airport is about $475. 

And the next morning, whether you grab coffee and breakfast at a local restaurant or a chain, you’ll typically find slightly lower prices in Oakland versus San Francisco. But believe it or not, the sales tax is higher in Oakland (10.25 percent) than in San Francisco (8.625 percent).

8. Fantastic Food

When it comes to delicious places to dine, both San Francisco and Oakland are filled with tasty options. Because both cities are located on the coast, seafood is a popular choice. In San Francisco, try the Pacific Cafe at the corner of 34th and Geary, where you can enjoy complimentary wine while you wait. Or dine at Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building just south of Pier 1. On the other side of the bay, Scott’s Seafood, overlooking the colorful Oakland Harbor at Jack London Waterfront, is a great option.

And if you appreciate fine dining, the Bay Area is the place to be. San Francisco boasts 117 restaurants in the Michelin Guide while Oakland is home to 22 Michelin star eateries

Pro Tip: Here are several other delicious places to eat in San Francisco.

Transamerica Pyramid as the fog rolls in.
Transamerica Pyramid (Photo Credit: Sage Scott)

9. Amazing Architecture

Even if you haven’t visited San Francisco, chances are you can immediately recognize its skyline due to the unique shape of one of its tallest buildings, the Transamerica Pyramid. You’re also likely to recognize the city’s Painted Ladies lining the east side of Alamo Square from the opening credits of Full House, and you may be able to identify the firehose shaped structure perched on Telegraph Hill as the Coit Tower, or the city’s newest landmark.

But you may have a tough time naming even one notable landmark across the bay in Oakland. From my point of view, this means it’s a wonderful place to explore if you’ve already crossed all of the San Francisco landmarks off your bucket list or you enjoy taking the road less traveled. Check out the 16th Street Station, a century-old railroad station that’s been given new life as a private events venue. Or visit the 100-year-old Cathedral Building, the first Gothic Revival-style skyscraper west of the Mississippi that’s since been transformed from office space to apartments.

One of the best things about visiting the Bay Area is that you don’t have to choose between San Francisco and Oakland. Rather, you can pick and choose the airport, accommodations, eating establishments, and sights that work best for you.



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