Kelly Ripa Praises Flight Attendants While Sharing the Struggles of Traveling With Small Kids

Kelly Ripa Praises Flight Attendants While Sharing the Struggles of Traveling With Small Kids | Travel + Leisure

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ASTA Praises Bipartisan Effort to Update Rules on International COVID Testing

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is praising the work of a bipartisan Congressional group that is working to exempt vaccinated travelers from the required inbound COVID-19 testing. The inbound testing requirement is one of the biggest hindrances to the full recovery of international travel in the United States.

“While we understand the rationale behind the inbound testing order when it was put in place in January 2021, it continues to present a number of challenges to our constituents…whose livelihoods depend on a fully functioning international travel system,” the members wrote in an April 11 letter to President Biden.


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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“As we enter the third year of the pandemic and reflect on how far the science related to COVID-19 mitigation has advanced since the order was first put in place, we respectfully request that fully vaccinated travelers be exempted from the order…Exempting fully vaccinated travelers, including almost 215 million Americans, from the order would be consistent with the scientific consensus that widespread vaccinations are the single most important element of the fight against COVID-19 while allowing the travel industry’s recovery to begin in earnest. It would also incentivize those who aren’t vaccinated to consider becoming so.”

The bipartisan group is made up of 16 Members of Congress led by Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) and includes Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Ken Buck (R-CO), Jim Costa (D-CA), Harold Rogers (R-KY), Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Co-Chair Dina Titus (D-NV), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Caucus Co-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), John Katko (R-NY), Mark Amodei (R-NV), David Valadao (R-CA) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN).

ASTA worked with Rep. Correa’s office to gather signatures for the letter to President Biden over the past few weeks.

“We commend Congressman Correa and all of his colleagues who signed onto this important letter for recognizing that the CDC’s pre-departure testing rule is the single biggest barrier to the full recovery of the international travel system on which so many of their constituents in the travel industry rely,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s executive vice president for advocacy.

“Making the commonsense change these legislators are calling for is widely supported by stakeholders throughout the industry and would match changes our main outbound markets have recently made, including the U.K., EU, Canada and Australia. It would also supercharge the recovery of the travel agency business, as some of the more than 215 million Americans who have been putting off international travel because of this rule call their travel advisor and get ready to go.”

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Ben Howland praises Davion Mintz, expects lots of blue at Bridgestone Arena

Kentucky started conference play vs. Mississippi State back in January, and they’ll face the Bulldogs again to tip off a do-or-die SEC Tournament. The Cats needed seven threes from Dontaie Allen and two overtimes to defeat the Bulldogs in Starkville, but head coach Ben Howland believes this Kentucky team is much different than that group, thanks in large part to Davion Mintz. As Kentucky’s point guard in the last two games, Mintz totaled 30 points, 15 assists, and only 3 turnovers. Over the last five games, he’s averaging 16.8 points with a combined 20 three-pointers.

“They’re starting Mintz at the point now and he’s really been the stabilizing guy the entire year for them,” Howland told reporters today. “He’s playing really good basketball. Tough, makes a lot of plays for his teammates. Really like him as a player and as a leader and as a competitor.”

“They’re playing faster,” Howland continued. “They’re really pushing the ball in transition. They’re really trying to get easy shots and they played their best basketball here late in the season. The win at Tennessee was incredibly impressive. They crushed South Carolina in their last win the other day. [BJ] Boston had a really good game in that game.”

Mississippi State comes into the SEC Tournament in the same situation as Kentucky, needing to win it all to make the Big Dance. The Bulldogs won three of their last five games, losing to No. 6 Alabama and at Auburn, although both games were close. The Bulldogs rank No. 2 in the league in field goal percentage defense and No. 1 in rebounding margin, but Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first meeting 48-46.

“We were No. 1 in rebound margin, which you have to be able to do, rebound the ball, to stand up vs. Kentucky because they’re so long and they’re so good on the glass and they really hurt us the first time we played them on the offensive glass. We’ve got to do a better job keeping them off the glass in this go-around.”

Given the pandemic restrictions and the Cats’ struggles this season, Nashville won’t be a sea of blue as in years past; however, Howland expects plenty of Kentucky fans in the stands on Thursday.

“I know there will be a lot of blue in the gymnasium. How many people are allowed to go to this game? I don’t even know the percentages. [Jerry Tipton: 20%] I imagine there will be some people in blue shirts at that game [Thursday] so we’re going to be playing at 20%, you’re talking 4,000 people or close to it. This will be like our first true road game of the conference because there will be a lot of Kentucky folks there and that will be our mindset, we’re playing a road game, not a game in the SEC Tournament because those people travel and they show up.”

Here’s hoping.

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Buffett praises East Tennessee entrepreneurs behind two of his businesses

In his annual letter to shareholders released over the weekend, one of the world’s richest men praised the East Tennessee entrepreneurs behind two of his major business acquisitions.

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, said Clayton Homes which Berkshire acquired for $1.7 billion in 2003 and Pilot Travel Center which Buffett’s investment group plans to buy an 80% share of by 2023, are both generating annual pre-tax earnings of more than $1 billion.

“Each company was started by a young man who had graduated from the University of Tennessee and stayed put in Knoxville,” Buffett said in saluting the entrepreneurs behind the multi-billion-dollar Knoxville companies. “Neither had a meaningful amount of capital nor wealthy parents. Jim Clayton, after several other business ventures, founded Clayton Homes on a shoestring in 1956, and “Big Jim” Haslam started what became Pilot Travel Centers in 1958 by purchasing a service station for $6,000.”

In 2020, Clayton Homes revenues jumped 17.1% to $8.6 billion and pre-tax earnings rose 13.9% to $1.25 billion “driven by increases in units sold and revenue per home sold,” Berkshire Hathaway said in its annual report.

In 2018, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway paid $2.76 billion for an initial 38.6% stake in Pilot Travel Centers, according to insurance filings. The Haslam family plans to maintain a 10% ownership share in Pilot, the nation’s biggest chain of truck stops in the country. Berkshire Hathaway did not break down results for Pilot in its financial filings released Saturday.

The Knoxville businesses are among the diverse businesses in Berkshire’s portfolio and each is now headed by the son of the company founders — Jimmy Haslam at Pilot Travel Center and Kevin Clayton at Clayton Homes.

“Each of the men later brought into the business a son with the same passion, values and brains as his father,” Buffett said. “Sometimes there is a magic to genes.”

Jim Haslam, now 90, has recently authored an inspirational book about his career in which he relates how Jim Clayton’s son, Kevin, encouraged the Haslams to sell a large portion of Pilot to Berkshire.

Big Jim Haslam is the father of former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who is now a visiting professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. A 2015 Forbes article estimated Bill Haslam’s net worth at $2 billion, making him the nation’s wealthiest elected official at that time.

“When you next fly over Knoxville.. tip your hat to the Claytons and Haslams as well as to the army of successful entrepreneurs who populate every part of our country,” Buffett said.

Berkshire Hathaway also owns Shaw Industries, the Dalton, Georgia-based carpet giant which has 20,806 employees who produce carpets, tiles and other floorcoverings around the globe. Berkshire acquired Shaw Industries in 2000 for $2.1 billion.

Shaw is part of Berkshire’s building products division, which recorded a 4.5% increase in revenues to $21.2 billion last year and had an 8.4% gain in pretax earnings to nearly $1.4 billion.

Overall, Berkshire reported Saturday that its earnings in 2020 dropped by 48% to $45.2 billion. While the pandemic hurt many of its business lines — and forced Berkshire to again stage its forthcoming annual meeting as an online-only event, this time in Los Angeles — its profits rose 23% in the fourth quarter, as its stock investments were bolstered by soaring markets.

Among the biggest winners in Berkshire’s vast investment portfolio was its 5.4% stake in Apple, whose shares have been among the top market winners over the past year. In his annual letter to investors that accompanied the company’s financial results, Buffett noted that the iPhone maker was now one of his company’s three biggest assets, with its stake worth $120 billion as of Dec. 31. (Berkshire calculates that it paid $31 billion for its holdings.)

— Compiled by Dave Flessner who may be reached at or at 757-6340

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