Exclusive: Details of 10.6 million MGM hotel guests posted on a hacking forum (ZDNet)

ZDNet: Exclusive: Details of 10.6 million MGM hotel guests posted on a hacking forum. “The personal details of more than 10.6 million users who stayed at MGM Resorts hotels have been published on a hacking forum this week. Besides details for regular tourists and travelers, included in the leaked files are also personal and contact details for celebrities, tech CEOs, reporters, government officials, and employees at some of the world’s largest tech companies.”

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To save these threatened seahorses, we built them 5-star underwater hotels

Two adult seahorses living on the seahorse hotels four months after the hotels were deployed.
Author provided

David Harasti, Southern Cross University; Michael Simpson, University of Sydney; Rebecca L. Morris, University of Melbourne, and Ross Coleman, University of Sydney

Venture beneath the ocean and you’ll see schools of fish and other alien-like species that may take your breath away. But one species in particular is an enigma in the marine world: the shy, elusive seahorse.

Approximately 50 species of seahorse are found worldwide, and Australia’s waters are home to at least 17 of them.

However, seahorses are considered threatened around the world, largely from over-harvesting for traditional Chinese medicines, unintended capture in fish trawl nets, and the loss of natural habitats such as seagrasses and mangroves.




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To help seahorse populations bounce back while their natural habitats recover, we created new artificial habitats, called “seahorse hotels”. Our recent research showed how these hotels gave the Australian endangered White’s seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) – also known as the Sydney seahorse – a safe place to come together and call home.

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Seahorse hotels are magnets for marine growth.

Species under threat

Hippocampus, the entire genus (category) for the species, is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. This means nations that have signed up to the convention must ensure harvesting seahorses – such as for traditional medicines – is done in a sustainable way.

Unfortunately, the CITES listing hasn’t been enough, and several seahorse species are still experiencing population declines.

Fourteen seahorse species are officially listed as endangered or vulnerable, and these species are considered at risk of becoming extinct in the wild. White’s seahorse is among them. It is one of the two seahorse species listed as globally endangered.

White’s seahorse hiding among sponges.
Author provided

The first Australian seahorse under threat

First discovered in Sydney Harbour, White’s seahorse is native to the east coast of Australia and has been spotted from Hervey Bay in Queensland to the New South Wales south coast.

It grows up to 16 centimetres long and is found in shallow water bays and estuaries, where it lives among its natural habitats of sponges, soft corals and seagrasses. Marine biologists have also shown the species “falls in love” – pairings of males and females mate for life.




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Lionfish: the Mediterranean invasion of an untouchable and enigmatic predator


But over the past decade, White’s seahorse populations declined by up to 97% at some sites in Port Stephens. It’s now considered “endangered” under the NSW Fisheries Management Act.

White’s seahorse hiding in their natural soft coral cauliflower habitat.
Author provided

The primary cause is the loss of natural habitats across their range in eastern Australia. In fact, within Port Stephens, more than 90% of soft coral and sponge habitats declined over 10 years at sites where the seahorse was once abundant.

These habitats were destroyed through the installation of boat moorings, anchoring of boats, and the inundation of habitats by sand moving into the Port Stephens estuary.


A home away from home

We devised seahorse hotels to help reverse the decline in White’s seahorse populations. And we named them so because we considered them to be a temporary residence while their natural habitats recovered.




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The idea was born after we saw discarded or lost commercial fisher traps that, when rediscovered, had become heavily covered in marine growth such as sponges and corals.

These lost traps over time become magnets for marine growth which naturally starts to occur within days. As the growth increases over time, fish and invertebrates would move onto these new artificial homes. A few seahorses were even spotted living on them.

An old discarded fish trap that gave David Harasti the idea to develop seahorse hotels.
Author provided

We built on past research, which had also shown White’s seahorse will use artificial habitats if they were available, such as using protective swimming nets found around Sydney.

After we first deployed our 18 hotels, we found it only took within two months for seahorses to start using them. Over time, the numbers of seahorses using the hotels gradually increased: we recorded at least 64 different individuals over the next 12 months of 2018.

Seahorses hold onto the hotels by curling their long tail around the frame, the algae and the sponges, which holds them in place and stops them from being swept away by the waves and currents. By marking each seahorse with small fluorescent tags inserted just beneath the skin (called elastomer), giving each a unique ID, we’re able to track each seahorse.

A baby seahorse clinging to the hotel after months of marine growth.
Author provided

Seahorse babies

We found some seahorses maintained a strong attachment to the hotels – they were spotted regularly on the monthly surveys. One seahorse was even sighted using the hotels in 12 different surveys.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Is it true that male seahorses give birth?


What’s more, the seahorse hotels help White’s seahorses breed. We saw this when breeding season began in October, finding that 13 males living in the hotels had become pregnant. This gives us hope for the local population size to increase.

Excitingly, our seahorse hotel study has had international interest too, with more hotels trialling in places like Gibraltar, Greece, the United States, Philippines and Indonesia.

A pregnant male seahorse found living on the seahorse hotels for a few months. Look closely and you can spot the fluorescent orange tag just beneath its skin.
Author provided

While we must do what we can to help conserve the natural habitats of seahorses, we at least know we can use the seahorse hotels to recover these elusive populations. Their success in attracting seahorses and helping them come together to mate seems to follow the simple concept of: “If you build it, they will come!”.The Conversation

David Harasti, Adjunct assistant professor, Southern Cross University; Michael Simpson, PhD candidate, University of Sydney; Rebecca L. Morris, Research Fellow In Ecological Engineering, University of Melbourne, and Ross Coleman, Professor, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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‘Island Of Bryan’ Season 2: Bryan Baeumler Says ‘Perspective Of Life Really Changed’

“Island of Bryan” is back for Season 2 on the island of South Andros in the Bahamas.

Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off — a rollercoaster year of construction ahead of the resort’s grand opening date.

Bryan and Sarah Baeumler have committed to six more months until the grand opening. With the budget maxed out and more at stake than ever, they need to focus on finishing their dream project.

This season will bring an end to the epic family adventure, giving viewers a look at the finished build of the Caerula Mar Club.

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Global News sat down with Bryan and Sarah at the Caerula Mar Club, which officially opened as of February 2020 in Andros, to discuss Season 2, the difference between building in Canada versus the Bahamas and much more.

Global News: What can viewers expect to see in Season 2 of “Island of Bryan”?
Bryan: Well, hopefully they can watch us complete the resort … or do we? (laughing)
Sarah: I think Season 2, as we got further along in the project, I think it was honestly a little bit of the tipping point for us. The first season we were definitely in the tear-down stage. We were really assessing the project and heavily into the demolition. We were trying to assess, as Bryan said, everything from the status of the state of the electrical and plumbing. Season 2 is almost a shift once we actually start to feel we are over that hurdle, I think it changed our overall focus. We could start to see a little bit of the light at the end of the tunnel and the whole other side of operations really had come into play in terms of staffing, of what it actually looked like to operate this place. This isn’t a project like a normal home where you turn it over to the homeowners. On this case, we really had to say, ‘what does the longevity look like? What does scheduling and staffing look like? Where are staff living?’ and that was a whole new element for Bryan and I. What really came into effect was understanding how to operate Caerula Mar once the spaces were finished.

How was building down here compared to building in Canada because in Canada you’re building to prepare for the cold and in South Andros you’re building for hurricane resistance. 
Bryan: Well, not only building for hurricanes but everything here is opposite of Canada. We build with the intent of keeping ourselves warm in Canada and here we have to build thinking inside out. The wall structure itself has to change, the vapor barrier you always want it on the warm side of the building, which is the outside. But again, in an environment like this where it’s so humid and hot all the time, that poses its own problems. It was certainly a challenge because we’re dealing with a 50-year-old hotel that is built the way it’s built. There’s a finite budget, there’s a finite amount of time.

It’s very different than building a custom home for yourself. You have to make the call between how far do we go here until it doesn’t make any sense financially anymore. We ran into issues underground with plumbing, replacing everything electrical, above-ground plumbing and all the HVAC units. We have 60-65 air conditioners running at any given point on the property to maintain the humidity levels inside. The construction itself is easy, pounding nails in, cutting the wood is what we’re used to. Doing that when it’s 110 degrees and 90 per cent humidity in the sun is a little more challenging and we also have to deal with the hurricane codes. It sounds really simple but it’s been a learning curve.

What have you learned about yourselves throughout this whole experience of working and living on the island for extended periods of time?
Bryan: I think we learned a lot about ourselves. I think we learned that we push ourselves a little too hard and sometimes we focus on small things that really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. I think our perspective really changed on what’s important in life and the fact that it’s all finite. Loading your family up and risking your nest egg and moving to an island to get into a business you’ve never been in before in a country you’ve never done business in before, with people you’ve never met before is kind of crazy. At the end of the day, I think my perspective would be that you have a limited time left to do whatever it is you want to do. No matter what you do between now and then, the end result is the same.

If there’s something you really want to try and tackle, go for it. You can’t sweat the small stuff. If there’s no milk on the island, you’re not getting milk until the boat comes in so you better be willing to just have something else. Here in Andros, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

How has your experience been being here as a family?
Sarah: I think the family element of it is probably what enabled us to deal with the extenuating circumstances better than we could have anywhere else. I think the stress of this project alone, we really did rely on our children to give us a little bit of that reminder that everyone needs so often about why we’re here and what we’re doing everything for. The children have an innocence about them and I think watching them here interact with other kids on the island, it just put everything at a very different level playing field. We really saw things through their eyes.

On days when things just looked like we couldn’t handle anymore and we were questioning why we were doing this, we would do things just as simple as going out with the family on a boat or jumping in a blue hole to just try to take our mind off of it. In the end, you had to force Bryan and I to do that because when you really know the financial burden and the strains, it’s so easy to just pour everything into your work, 24 hours a day. When you’re living on-site, that often happens day-after-day.

In Season 2, Bryan, you speak about building garbage and how hard it is to dispose of it here. Do you think this experience will change the way you dispose of the packing garbage when you build in Canada again?
Bryan: One hundred per cent. At home, you have a bin in the driveway when you’re doing construction. When it’s full, they take it away and put a new one there. I think what really stood out for us here, we live in a bubble in Canada and the U.S. where the stuff just disappears and we don’t know what happens to it. Here, whatever comes to this island stays here. You really notice the amount of packaging material and where things go because you see them. We’re looking at recycling programs for plastic waste and we’ll recycle that into pellets and packages that we can then resell to pay for the cost of the equipment to companies that will re-use that as a secondary source.

When we did demolition on the hotel and we started taking things apart, every piece of material, furniture and hardware that could be reused was donated to different families in different settlements of the island. We’ve literally seen houses finished with the material and furniture that came from the hotel which is incredible. The people here are very resourceful at limiting the amount of garbage because they’ll reuse it.

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Review: Grand Tirolia Hotel Kitzbuhel, Curio Collection by Hilton

Review – Grand Tirolia

I’ve just returned from a three night stay at Grand Tirolia, Kitzbuhel, as part of a ski trip and thought I’d run a quick review. This was my first visit to Kitzbuhel and it was an impressive stay. Regular readers will know that one of my favourite Hilton brand hotels in Europe is the Conrad Algarve in Portugal (see my review here) – elements of Grand Tirolia definitely come close to that level of quality.

For the most part; in winter this hotel serves visits to the fantastic Kitzbuhel ski resorts, in summer it provides access to golfing resorts. If neither of those things interest you, it has a beautiful spa and spectacular views! There are also local hiking trails. We accessed it by flying into Innsbruck, where we stayed one night we then took the efficient, scenic, and very affordable, direct train to Kitzbuhel.

Points Cost

I booked three nights for myself and my two sons using Hilton Honors points. I booked almost a year ahead, not long after this hotel joined the Hilton brand and somehow managed to get 3 nights for just 144,000 points. Points prices initially seemed very good value,before later increasing. I originally booked a standard double and was advised I could pay cash to upgrade to a bigger room. After some technical issues with upgrading, I was given a complimentary upgrade to a Premium Alpine View room.

For comparison the Premium room appears to be at least 107,000 points or €305 per night for the remaining ski season bookings in February and March 2020, whilst a standard room is 75,000 or €215. The lowest price throughout the year for a standard double room seems to be about 36,000 or €131 – there are limited April dates available at this rate, although many are 43,000+. Clearly room prices will be quite seasonal here. I felt 48,000 points per night for a Premium Room in February half term was a very good deal.

Service

The level of service during our stay was very good. This is clearly a hotel which is used to dealing with demanding clients and lives by Hilton’s ‘Make it Right’ promise. The team couldn’t do enough to ensure we enjoyed our stay. This included sending a complimentary shuttle to collect us from the station, providing a welcome gift for the children and delivering luggage to our rooms.

The Room

The standard of the Premium Alpine View room was again very good. A very large hotel room finished to a very high standards. These rooms include a balcony with views of the surrounding mountains and the outdoor pool.

They are decorated in a tasteful alpine style, with pine cladding and red plaid fabric. For three guests the rooms are set up with a King sized bed plus a sofa bed. Even with the sofa bed out there was still plenty of space in the room.

Premium Rooms include a sofa/sofabed, chair and desk, coffee machine (a kettle was provided on request) and large wardrobe space. The bathrooms are enormous, with a shower room, two sinks and large bath.

The one area where the rooms could be improved is lighting. There are multiple stylish low lighting options in the room, but no brighter main lighting. This meant that there were times where I had to use my phone torch to find items in cupboards after dark!

Hotel Facilities

Firstly, the hotel was great for a ski trip. It has an on site ski rental shop, which includes a ski storage room, and provides a complimentary shuttle bus to Hahnenkamm ski lifts every 30 minutes 8.30-11 a.m., returning every 30 minutes 2.30-5 p.m. When we stayed the hotel was at 100% occupancy, at times the shuttle was busy, but we never waited longer than 30 minutes.

The hotel spa is a fantastic space. The highlight being a large pool which connects inside and outside. Heated to 32 degrees Celsius outside it was very comfortable – and quite an experience to swim outdoors in heavy snow! The spa also included a steam room, lounge space and treatment spaces. Again, despite the hotel being full, it rarely felt too busy – even at the peak period where people were returning from a days skiing and heading for the spa.

The hotel has 2 on site restaurants and a bar. These looked great, however, for us, the menus weren’t the most child friendly, so we generally opted for other local options. There is also a fitness room which overlooks the pool, and a golf course.

Note that the hotel is just outside of the main Kitzbuhel area. The route into Kitzbuhel isn’t easily walkable due to a lack of pavements in places, therefore a taxi or car may be required.

Breakfast

Breakfast was complimentary with Hilton Gold status. There was a wide selection of good quality options. Eggs were cooked to order and service provided for drinks. Service was attentive and friendly – the children were particularly impressed with the offer of hot chocolate.

The breakfast room is a large and attractive space, which again rarely felt too busy. On day one we arrived at 7.30 to have breakfast before catching the first ski shuttle at 8.30 – there were only a handful of other people around. On day 3, we arrived a little later and the room was a bit busier, but still ample space and provision.

Summary

This is a fantastic option for a luxury ski (or golf) break using points. By booking early we were able to secure British Airways flights to Innsbruck with Avios and get a good Hilton Honors points rate, despite it being the February half term holidays. This meant that what should have been a £3000+ ski break, was relatively affordable.

A well presented, high end hotel with very good service. Definitely one I’d recommend visiting – especially if you can find a decent rate. I’d consider returning for a summer weekend or another ski trip, without hesitation!

Link: Grand Tirolia Kitzbuhel Website

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Trip.com: Flights, Hotels, Train & Travel Deals 7.5.4

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from Trip.com: Flights, Hotels, Train & Travel Deals 7.5.4

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Picking the right Hotel for a Big Family

We love to travel and explore. We go on 1 big trip every year. We are not globe trotters but we do know how to travel for 20+ hours by car with Children. When ever we travel long distances and are planning on staying for a week or more the most biggest concern is “How are we going to feed everybody”? We have a lot of mouths to feed so taking everyone out to eat 3 meals a day can get really pricey. So the first 3 things I look for in a hotel are:

  • A functional Full Kitchen in our room. It has to have a Fridge, at least a stove top, dinner ware, silver ware, cook ware and cups, not having a full kitchen is definitely a deal breaker.
  • Free Parking, this is also a deal breaker for me.
  • Free Breakfast is always Great, not a deal breaker but the convenience of something else better be worth it (like a cheaper price for a whole house or the distance for travel is next to nothing).

Following those 3 things next I look at sleeping and living space. There has to be a place for everyone to sleep, especially the teenagers, and there has to be enough room to move about and live for about a week or more.

The next thing I look for is the distance to everything. After we just drove all the way from Maine to Virginia (or where ever else) the last thing we want to do is more driving, as well as we don’t want to have to navigate to much in an unfamiliar State.

I search to where the closet Grocery Store and Pharmacy is (you never know what you will be missing in that first-aid-kit of yours) I prefer these stores to be with in 5-15 minutes to where we are staying No Exceptions. We try to find a Walmart because they typically have both store and pharmacy. Then I find coupons and the sales to prepare the grocery list which is a different post for a later time.

Then I see how far away the hotel is to the Main attraction that we are there for. So if we are staying in Virginia then chances are we are revisiting Bush Gardens and Water Country so the furthest I would want to be from these Maine attractions is 15-20 minutes. Sometimes we might make an exception to this and go out to 30-40 minutes but that is usually because we chose to stay in between several Main attractions or we found a great deal on accommodations.

Last but not least is the Pool. 99% of the time we only end up using the pool once during our trip and that is always on our planned R&R day where we are just chilling. So the pool doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it does have to be Clean and well kept, warm and kid friendly.

I usually always start my Hotel Search with either a Hampton Inn or a Home Wood Suites. When you are traveling, weather it be by plane, train or automobile, it takes a lot out of you and your family. Nothing feels better then showing up at your finale destination and walking into your accommodations and seeing the looks on your families faces. That is when you know you really did good. So do the research. If you don’t have a clue where to start and planning like this isn’t your thing then go to a travel agent because If your home away from home falls short, trust me it can effect your perfect vacation plans.

I will be adding reviews on places that my family and I have stayed at so make sure you subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss it.

**Images are of a Hampton Inn that we stayed at while visiting Pigeon Forge Tennessee.

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