Archive for January 8th, 2011

America’s Most Infested Places

We’ve put together a list of some of the most infested places in the United States. Although most places are not eager to advertise a pesky epidemic, this list of America’s most infested places is based on hard data and/or an unshakeable reputation.

Rats: New York, New York

These rodents are resourceful creatures, thriving in cities the world over. They can carry pathogens and transfer them to other species — remember that whole Black Death thing?


While no rat census has ever been conducted, New York did head a list of American cities most at risk for an infestation of these critters according to the Rodent Risk Assessment report conducted by pest management experts Dale E. Kaukeinen and Bruce A. Colvin in 2007. The report takes a number of criteria into consideration, including population density and climate. Actual estimates on the amount of rats in the city vary widely, from the optimistic 256,000 range to the more troubling figure of almost 100 million. Houston was ranked second and Boston came in third.

Killer Bees: Hidalgo, Texas

An Africanized honey bee (a.k.a. killer bee) is on the left, with its friendlier counterpart, the European honey bee on the right. Killer bees are aggressive and like to sting in swarms, often leading to painful and sometimes fatal results.


Characterized by their aggressiveness and tendency to sting in numbers, Africanized Honey Bees are more commonly known by their sinister nickname, “killer bees.” They made their U.S. debut in Hidalgo, Texas in 1990 amidst the buzz of paranoid news coverage. The city of Hidalgo decided to embrace the publicity, adopting the nickname of “Killer Bee Capital of the World.” Whether Hidalgo does in fact have the highest population of killer bees in the U.S. is unknown, but we’ll give them props for taking credit for it.


Allergens: Dayton, Ohio

Seasonal allergies are the bane of allergy-sufferers all over the globe. And when they visit cities with high pollen counts, life becomes terribly uncomfortable.


For allergy-sufferers, walking around a place with a high pollen count can be more than a little uncomfortable. Every year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranks the toughest places to live in the country for people with seasonal allergies. Their rankings are based on a number of factors, including pollen scores and the number of allergy medications used per patient. This year, Dayton, Ohio earns the distinction as America’s Allergy Capital. Wichita, Kansas placed second while Louisville, Kentucky came in third.


Sharks: New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

While many people fear sharks, the actual instances of shark attacks are relatively very rare. In fact, in most places, you are far more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark. However, if you want to improve your chances, you could always take a trip to New Smyrna Beach.


An entire generation of Americans was semi-traumatized by watching Jaws at a young age, resulting in a deep-seated fear of sharks. In reality, shark attacks are extremely rare when compared to the number of people that venture into the waters. But incidents do occur from time to time, and according to the International Shark Attack File, New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida is our shark attack capital, with 219 documented attacks since 1882.

Bedbugs: New York, NY

Bedbug infestations have been known to produce psychological effects for those that have the misfortune of dealing with them. Anxiety, embarrassment and jumpiness are some common symptoms.


Insect parasites that like to feed on human blood hiding in your home? Sounds like a bad sci-fi movie, but bedbugs are all too real. And they like hanging out in the Big Apple. According to a recent report from Terminix, New York is the most bedbug-infested city in the country, with Philadelphia as the runner-up. Honorable mention goes to Ohio for receiving the title of most bedbug-infested state.


Mostly active at night, bedbugs often feed on you while you’re asleep, leaving you to wake up with rashes or other symptoms. Getting rid of them is no easy task — consult a pest control professional.


Nutria: Louisiana

These rodents are big, like to hang out in water and have a tendency to wreak some havoc in their surrounding environment. They wolf down river plants and do some serious burrowing, speeding up coastal erosion in the process.


These large, semi-aquatic rodents know how to wreak some havoc. Nutria (Myocastor coypus) do a lot of damage with their burrowing and feeding habits, devouring copious amounts of river plants and contributing to coastal erosion in the process. In particular, they have been a destructive force in places like the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, even doing considerable damage to levees that are meant to help keep the encroaching Gulf of Mexico from swallowing Louisiana’s coast. The problem has gotten so bad that the State of Louisiana has instituted the Nutria Control Program, encouraging trapping and hunting of these pests. For those looking for an alternative career path, the Nutria Control Program will pay $5 per nutria tail…


Bugs: Florida

Having bugs in your home should be cause for concern, beyond the usual hygienic and health reasons. Cockroaches can lead to allergic reactions in humans, while termites alone cause $5 billion in property damage every year.


In a recent national survey among homeowners conducted by Infogroup, Florida received the unwelcome distinction of being the state with the worst bug problems. Cockroaches, ants, termites — they’re all very comfortable residents of the Sunshine State. Louisiana placed second on the survey, while Texas came in third. When faced with a potential bug infestation problem at your home, it is recommended that you call a pest control professional for assistance rather than going for the do-it-yourself approach.










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Pink Releases Her “Greatest Hits”

Pink has spent years in the music business as a skilled, outspoken female who is remarkably successful. Now her compilation, “Greatest Hits” has released.

Read more at Suite101: Pink Releases Her “Greatest Hits” http://www.suite101.com/content/pinks-greatest-hitsso-far—-album-review-a329872#ixzz1AUjYaLvP

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To add to Jack Cashill’s post on More Tea Party Violence: The New York Times inserted this paragraph in the middle of a story about the mass murderer who killed 6 people and wounded 18, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:

During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election; those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.
They make a vile insinuation that Sarah Palin incited murder, but they don’t have the courage to back up their charges with any explicit analysis.

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I really HATE this woman.  IDIOT!

Sarah Palin is targeting — yes, with gun sights — House Democrats facing tough reelection fights who voted for health care reform.

Palin’s Facebook page now carries a map featuring 20 gun sights, one for each of the Democrats targeted this year by her political action committee SarahPAC. Three of the gun sights, those where incumbent Democrats have already announced their retirement, are colored red.

Likewise, Palin’s rhetoric is decidedly militant. “We’ll aim for these races and many others,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to sarahpac.com and join me in the fight.”


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Well, that was weird. During the first week of 2011, birds fell from the sky, a shark attacked a boat, and the bees continued their odd disappearance. Just when we think we have the animal kingdom figured out… Check out those stories and more with the Buzz Week in Review.

“The Birds” in reverse

In the Hitchcock classic, “The Birds,” flocks of feathered creatures swoop down from the sky to attack helpless humans. This past week felt a bit like that movie, only the birds were dead, and the humans weren’t so much terrified as they were confused. For a few days, it seemed like nobody knew what the heck was going on. Some thought the fireworks on New Year’s Eve were to blame. It was later explained that, though disturbing, birds tumbling from the sky isn’t all that unusual. Mass die-offs, as scientists call them, occur regularly, and while this recent rash of dead fish, crabs, and birds may seem unprecedented, the AP writes that “federal records show they happen on average every other day somewhere in North America.”

Shark! Get your camera!

Three men off the coast of Western Australia got more than they bargained for on a fishing trip. While relaxing on the modestly sized boat, a great white shark appeared. At first it seemed like the shark was just checking out the boat. Doing a few circles, you know, nothing special. But then things got interesting when the shark attacked the boat’s motor. Not wanting to press their luck, the fishermen returned to shore, but not beforecapturing their encounter on video. Web searches on “great white shark attacks boat” roared to a 882% gain.

Bees continue to disappear

Bees are a nuisance, that’s true. But they are also necessary for pollinating crops. So, naturally, their plummeting population has many people concerned. A popular article from Yahoo! News explained that bumblebees have died off “at an astonishing rate over the past 20 years.” Experts blame inbreeding and disease. According to the article, the honey bee has also seen its numbers fall since 2006. The findings were part of a three-year study.






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Double Feature: Dinner and a Movie

To Upgrade From Dirty Carpets and Tubs of Popcorn, Theater Chains Try Full Menus, Seat-Side Service


The AMC Menlo Park 12 Cineplex in Edison, N.J., is trying to woo viewers with meals and more spacious seating. (Bryan Derballa)


As Hollywood churns out ever more attractive big-budget films, laden with 3D and other special effects, little has changed at theaters, where audiences can find worn seats, stale popcorn, and overpriced candy.

Under pressure from viewers as well as movie-industry executives, the country’s theater chains are trying to win back moviegoers—with food. Audiences at a growing number of theaters can order such dishes as chinois chicken salad rolls or limoncello-tossed shrimp. More middle-of-the-road fare is also available, like cheeseburgers and chicken caesar salads. Seats in these so-called “in-theater dining” cinemas are big and plush. Lobbies are luxurious, with art on the walls and mood lighting. Popcorn is often complimentary and a full bar is de rigueur.

[See 10 Things Movie Theaters Won’t Tell You]

Theater chains hope the new style of film-watching—which has previously been the realm chiefly of small independent theaters—will help boost the number of moviegoers after years of flat attendance. Other recent efforts to get more people in the doors include offering reserve seating online and more movies in 3D. But in-theater dining represents one of the movie-theater industry’s biggest bets to expand its static audience size.

“I am one hundred percent sure that these theaters are the future of movie-going,” says Jeffrey Katzenberg, an industry veteran who once served as studio chairman at Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS – News) and is now chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (NasdaqGS: DWA – News) “These new theaters really up the quality of experience because they require a high degree of service that movie theaters have lost.”

A few years ago, a handful of such theaters existed in the country. Now, the National Association of Theatre Owners estimates that the U.S. plays home to roughly 300 to 400 cinemas with restaurant service out of roughly 5,750 total theaters. Industry analysts predict that number could double over the next few years.

Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC – News), the largest U.S. theater chain, has opened five premium locations as part of its new Cinebarre line, a combined movie theater and restaurant concept the company began in 2007. IPic Entertainment, which acquired Gold Class Cinemas last year, recently opened its eighth dine-in cinema in Scottsdale, Ariz., and plans to open another five to six theaters a year. Gerry Lopez, AMC Entertainment Inc.’s chief executive, says he can envision converting 10% of the company’s total theaters, which now number about 375, into ones that offer in-theater dining.

Horror movies don’t play quite as well in the format because consumers apparently don’t enjoy eating while watching blood and gore, theater executives say. Listening to others chewing, and smelling their food, might also be a turn-off for some moviegoers, although the wide seat spacing may help to minimize any annoyance. And the premium prices may seem high, but movie-chain executives say in-theater dining is a more time-efficient way for some people to spend an evening out.

Keeping the multiplex clean is harder than it looks, theater executives say. Tight time slots between showings, and large auditoriums, sometimes confound efforts to keep floors and seats clean.

[See the Sexiest Movies of 2010]

At dine-in cinemas, seats typically come in pairs of two, with wide aisles between couples to allow waiters to navigate in and out the theater during screenings without blocking views of the movie. Many guests order during the film by pressing a small button near their chairs. Some theaters have small tables in front of the seats; others feature folding trays that extend across the seat for easy eating. Many dine-in theaters have some age restrictions; some don’t allow anyone under 21 years old.

Ticket prices vary. Some chains, such as AMC, charge a flat fee of $10 or $15 above the usual price of a ticket but include that amount as a credit toward food purchases. Others, like Gold Class Cinemas, price tickets between $17 and $29 just for a ticket and then charge for food separately.

Some theaters offer alcohol, luxury seats with armrests and footrests, blankets, pillows, or moist towels before the film begins—as well as chocolate mints afterward. The actual auditoriums are often significantly smaller than those of the vast multiplexes, featuring fewer than 30 chairs, along with assigned seating, digital sound and super-wide screens.

Casey Mead, a 21-year-old student at University of California, Los Angeles, drove with his girlfriend last month to Gold Class’s location in Pasadena—a small theater with six screens and a dimly lit lounge decorated with modern art—to view the latest installment of the “Harry Potter” series. Mr. Mead says they were willing to pay extra for the higher-end experience. “We never go to the movies normally because for the same price you could buy a DVD and not have to sit in a dirty theater to watch it,” he says.

AMC’s Mr. Lopez says the company’s research shows that most customers don’t mind the higher cost of dine-in theaters. And he says it’s not simple or cheap to turn theaters into full-service restaurants. It requires kitchens, on-site food preparation, chefs and trained waiters who can navigate in the dark during a screening.

“We had to play with the menu to figure out what worked best for eating in the dark—you can’t have a dollop of ketchup fall on your skirt. And china plates are too noisy, although composite works great,” he says.

Arlene Evangelista, 69, was upset when she visited AMC’s renovated dine-in theater in nearby Edison, N.J. The retired legal secretary wanted to catch “The Fighter”—the new Mark Wahlberg movie about boxing—during the Christmas holidays but was surprised to find a $10 surcharge for the dine-in experience. Instead, she turned around and went home.

“I think it stinks!” she said while walking out of the Menlo Park Mall that houses the theater. “This place used to be a date place. It was so nice. I think it’s terrible to charge 20 dollars for a movie, especially in this kind of economic climate. What about families?”

Movie attendance has remained sluggish over the last decade. Last year, North American movie theaters sold 1.35 billion tickets, down about 5% from a year earlier and down about 6% from 1.44 billion in 2000, according to the box-office division of Hollywood.com. But higher ticket prices helped boost box-office sales to $10.57 billion last year, down slightly from a year earlier but up about 36% from 2000.

It’s too soon to know whether dine-in theaters will be profitable. Theater chains note that profit margins on concessions, such as popcorn and candy, are far higher than on ticket sales. Half of a ticket sale represents profit for a theater, compared with 85% from the sale of concessions. Executives hope the dine-in theaters will also benefit from higher food margins, although not as high as for snacks.

Movie-industry executives say theaters have done little to innovate even as studios continue to spend lavishly on movie budgets. To make matters worse, consumer spending on DVDs, which for years propped up the studios’ bottom lines, has plummeted more than 40% since its peak in 2006, according to media-tracking firm IHS Screen Digest, making the studios more reliant on profits from the theatrical window.

Hamid Hashemi, iPic Entertainment’s chief executive and founder, says dine-in theaters, although still a niche market now, could become mainstream especially as audiences clamor for a higher-end experience. “The movie-going business has always been one size fits all, but now we are realizing that if you give people amenities, they are more than willing to pay for them,” he says.



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