AUSTELL, GA (CNN/WGCL) - Some very adventurous diners chowed down on cockroaches at Six Flags Over Georgia on Saturday.
Anyone who successfully ate a Madagascar hissing cockroach won a 2012 season pass to the amusement park.
A park spokesman said public health officials assured them the roaches were safe to eat.
The Madagascar hissing cockroach is among the largest species of cockroaches.
The insects are usually about 2 to 3 inches long.
Copyright 2011 CNN via WGCL. All rights reserved.
OMAHA, Neb. -- An Omaha Boy Scout created an obstacle course for animals at the Nebraska Humane Society as part of his Eagle Scout project.
Rob Comfort has been working on his obstacle course for six years.
?Im definitely going to remember this for a long time,? Comfort told KETV Newswatch 7?s Jeremy Maskel.
Comfort used a remodeled swing set to construct the obstacle course for dogs, which includes a tunnel.
The Westside High senior, 17, used materials he received from donors.
?It was a pretty good effort on his part,? said James Comfort, the scout?s father.
The elder Comfort said the project taught his son the value of service.
?What materials you need, who is your workforce, and also how to lead that workforce,? said James Comfort.
Rob Comfort said his father was a key part of the driving force behind the project, as a former scout himself.
?Theyre in about fifth grade when they go into scouts and you have 12 year old boys running around in circles,? said James Comfort. ?You see a maturity process and they get to a point where theyre young men, and theyre able to do a project like this on their own.?
Marketing spend has been revised up in the third quarter of 2011, ending a three-quarter period of decline, with marketing expenditure expected to promote new products while brands aim to maintain market share.
Despite a continued fall in business optimism, the lastest IPA Bellwether survey has predicted for the first time since Q2 2007, a rise in budgets for all sectors, with 21% of companies reporting an upward revision, while 17% reported a reduction.
The largest increase has been reported for online, with a net balance of 16.6%, while main media spend has recorded the slowest pace of budget growth, with only a marginal rise, says the survey.
Direct marketing budgets have also been revised up by the greatest degree in a year, with sales promotion and below-the-line activity also recording growth for the first time in 15 and 16 quarters respectively.
Business optimism among marketing executives has falling to a two-and-a-half year low, reaching its second lowest point since Q1 2009.
Nicola Mendelsohn, IPA President, executive chairman and partner, Karmarama, commented: That we are seeing a further decline in confidence overall continues to reflect the uncertain financial climate that businesses are operating in. Yet its important that the advertising industry and UK plc at large should do all it can to be as upbeat as possible to meet the challenge that we face. This rise in spend demonstrates that many companies are trying to buck the downward trend. It is a move in the right direction and shows that businesses understand that those that maintain the strongest marketing spend will come out on top.
Added Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit and author of the Bellwether: UK companies are tackling the adverse economic climate with increased marketing activity, in an attempt to boost sales in the face of weak demand. Extra money is being targeted at online advertising, direct marketing and sales promotions, but there remains a worrying reluctance to increase spend on traditional main media activities such as broadcast and print advertising.
The increase in marketing spend in the face of adversity helps to explain why companies became a little more optimistic about their own financial prospects but at the same time were the most pessimistic about prospects for their industries since the early months of 2009.
There are a host of local taxes on particular items and services. Trading them in cyberspace creates issues. Orange County in Florida is on the verge of a major settlement with Expedia on its hotel room tax. The settlement is being hung up on issues of transparency as this story in the Orlando Sentinel relates. Hotel rooms are not the only locally taxed service traded on the internet. There is an active market in event tickets. One of the major players in that industry is StubHub, which had a dispute with the City of Chicago.
When the state of Illinois repealed its 1923 Ticket Scalping Act to allow brokers who met certain requirements to sell tickets at above face value, the City of Chicago amended its amusement tax to also apply to the premium that intermediaries charged. It is essentially the same dispute that Orange County has with Expedia. Orange County wants its room tax based on what Expedia collects from the customer not what it sends to the operator. The case City of Chicago v Stubhub was recently decided by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Of course, it is even more complicated than that. Stubhub does not buy and sell tickets, it operates an on-line marketplace:
StubHub, Inc., registered as an internet auction listing service in compliance with the Act. StubHub describes itself as "the worlds largest online ticket marketplace" and operates a website or "platform" where users can buy and sell tickets to various events around the country. All users must register by providing personal information on the website. A user who wants to sell a ticket may list it on the website by submitting information about the event--the venue, date, time, and location of the ticket--as well as choosing a method and period for the sale, through a series of interactive prompts on the site. A user who wants to buy a ticket may then search for it on the site by the event, the date, or the venue. A prospective buyer and a prospective seller can communicate with each other only via the website. Once they have agreed upon a price, Stubhub processes the sale, charging the buyer a service fee of 10% of that price, and the seller a 15% fee. Pursuant to the Act, StubHub informs its sellers of their tax obligations.
In 2006, Chicago again amended its amusement tax to require that the tax not only be paid by resellers, but also by resellers agents. When the City contacted StubHub about its potential obligations under the ordinance, StubHub was not responsive. So the City went to court:
In 2007, the City sent a letter to StubHub stating that it might be deemed a resellers agent under the ordinance, and might be required to collect and remit the amusement tax on behalf of its users. The letter requested information and documents with respect to StubHubs "facilitation" of ticket resales to entertainment events located in Chicago since January 1, 2000. StubHub declined to provide any of the information, and in 2008, the City filed a four-count complaint against StubHub. The City alleged that StubHub was a resellers agent under the ordinance because it "resold and/or facilitated the resale" of tickets. Accordingly, the City claimed, StubHub had a joint and several duty to collect and remit the amusement tax on thousands of ticket resales from 2000 to the present. The City sought a declaration that StubHub was required to do so; a writ of mandamus ordering StubHub to produce records and submit to an audit; fines for StubHubs violation of the ordinance in refusing to comply with the Citys request to produce records; and a monetary judgment in the amount of the tax revenues plus interest and penalties.
There is some interesting lawyerly stuff. StubHub gets to move the case to federal court on diversity grounds, but the federal court would use Illinois law to determine it, but the Supreme Court of Illinois has not ruled on the issues involved. So the federal court sends the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. Im glad I didnt go to law school, until I start reading stuff like that. Then Im really glad I didnt go to law school.
StubHub contends that in order to comply with the Citys ordinance, it would have to alter its business model, fashioning features on its website through which it could verify at least the face value of the ticket. However, under its current user agreement, and consistent with the Auction License Act (see 225 ILCS 407/10-27 (a)(1) (West 2010)), StubHub does not examine the tickets that its users list for resale. StubHub also notes that if other municipalities followed the Citys lead and required internet auctioneers to collect and remit amusement taxes, there could potentially be a patchwork of local regulations. The legislature considered such burdens, and chose not to impose them, preferring instead a more comprehensive and uniform approach across the State. We conclude that the State has a greater interest than any municipality in regulating this emerging business model and protecting consumers.
The statutory scheme, and the debates which produced the Act, evince an intent by the legislature to allow internet auction listing services to opt out of any obligation regarding local tax collection. That is a policy decision this court is ill-advised to ignore. The Citys ordinance--specifically the imposition of a joint and several duty on internet auction listing services to collect and remit its amusement tax (Chicago Municipal Code § 4-156-020(A)) and the requirement that internet auction listing services are primarily responsible for collecting and remitting this tax (Chicago Municipal Code § 4-156-030(F))--does not pertain to its own government and affairs. The City has overstepped its home rule authority.
So Chicago can still charge the amusement tax on the premium that the seller gets over face value of the ticket, but they cannot make StubHub responsible for collecting it. Good luck collecting it some other way. This case does not prevent other cities, states and counties from taking this approach. It turns on the extent of home rule allowed in the Illinois Constitution. The answer might be different in another state.
Updated: October 7, 2011 2:17AM
SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Supreme Court dealt Chicago a financial blow Thursday, ruling that the city cannot compel StubHub or other Internet auction websites to collect the local amusement tax on the resale of concert and sporting event tickets.
"The city has overstepped its home rule authority," Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in the court's 7-0 opinion striking down Chicago's lawsuit against StubHub.
The city sued the online auction site in 2008, alleging that it had failed to collect a city amusement tax of up to 9 percent on resold tickets it had helped sell, as required under a 2006 ordinance.
In Thursday's ruling, the court held that only state lawmakers and not municipalities had the authority to impose such tax collections on online auctioneers.
"We conclude that the state has a greater interest than any municipality in regulating this emerging business model and protecting consumers," Theis wrote.
The San Francisco-based online retailer expressed satisfaction with its victory over Chicago.
"We are pleased with the court's ruling that Illinois municipalities cannot require online platforms like StubHub to collect and remit amusement taxes on resold tickets," said Lance Lanciault, StubHub's head of legal affairs, in a prepared statement.
"In reaching this decision, the court recognized that there still exists a viable mechanism for Illinois municipalities to collect taxes from ticket resellers," he said.
The city could not provide estimates of how much revenue the tax might have provided. A 2007 request to get financial data from the company to assess the value of the tax to the city was ignored by StubHub, prompting Chicago to sue in 2008.
The city's lawsuit moved its way to federal court, which dismissed it. The city appealed to the US Court of Appeals, which moved the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, setting the stage for Thursday's opinion.
"The city is disappointed in the court's opinion. We believe the court has failed to recognize the important interest local governments have in raising revenue to fund essential city services, including providing police, fire and traffic management services at the amusement venues for which tickets are sold and resold," Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city law department, said in a prepared statement.
"As a result of this ruling, patrons buying tickets from online resellers such as StubHub, unlike patrons who purchase their tickets directly from the venue, will not pay the amusement tax on the full value of their ticket," Drew said. "Regrettably, this will deprive the city of Chicago, and municipalities across the state, of an important revenue source, and it is unfair besides."
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The Merlin Entertainments Group is one of the world’s largest operators of amusement parks and tourist attractions, entertaining more than 40 million visitors annually. But the company operates almost entirely overseas, and it has no presence in central Florida, the sweaty epicenter of the theme park universe.
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Though Legoland Florida is 50 minutes from Orlando, Fla., backers hope its emphasis on younger children will draw crowds.
With the opening of a new Lego-themed park here last Saturday — built on the roller-coaster-strewn carcass of the late and not-so-great Cypress Gardens — Merlin has a message for North America: We are coming after you. “Our ambitions for this marketplace are tremendous,” said Nick Varney, Merlin’s chief.
Legoland Florida, which hopes to attract about 1.5 million visitors annually, is one of six new or coming United States attractions from Merlin, which is based in Poole, England. A $15 million Sea Life aquarium at the Mall of America in Minnesota opened in March. Legoland Discovery Centers — indoor “fun zones” built at about $12 million apiece — are coming to Atlanta and Kansas City; one opened in Dallas earlier this year.
And Merlin — which also owns the Madame Tussauds chain of wax museums, including a location in Manhattan — is a major part of a $100 million tourist complex planned for Orlando in 2013. Merlin’s contributions will include a Madame Tussauds, an aquarium and a 425-foot-high Ferris wheel similar to the popular London Eye, which the company also owns.
Merlin’s push comes amid increased jockeying by the media giants that dominate this corner of the entertainment industry. NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast, spent $1 billion in June to buy full control of Universal Orlando. Disney has been pouring money into its parks, recently announcing an “Avatar”-themed area at Walt Disney World that will cost an estimated $400 million.
Theme parks require steep, continual investments in new rides and upgrades, and their exposure to outside factors like weather and the economy makes investors nervous. But most parks are also reliably profitable and have continued to grow even during the recession, as people seek escape.
“We would much rather see increased investment in parks than in other media areas, like film — the returns are simply better,” said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst for Nomura.
Indeed, other entertainment businesses like movies and television, always high-risk endeavors, look even more so than usual at the moment. The Web is starting to make good on its promise of changing how people watch television, and movie studios are coping with the collapse of DVD sales and declining attendance in theaters.
For the year, attendance in North America is down by about 5 percent compared with the same period last year, which ended about 6 percent down from the year before.
Mr. Varney says he is not trying to compete with Disney World, which by some estimates attracts 30 million visitors a year, as much as shave off some of its overflow and expand into cities where families face a shortage of entertainment options. His company’s sudden addition of new parks was meant to lead up to an initial public offering. Citing the sputtering economy, however, Merlin abandoned that plan last year.
Merlin reported a pretax profit of $40.4 million last year compared with a loss of about $21 million a year earlier. Revenue was $1.3 billion in 2010. Merlin employs about 17,000 people globally; major holdings include Alton Towers in Britain and a fast-growing Legoland park in California.
The company is 36 percent owned by Kirkbi, the Danish investment company that is itself owned by the family behind the Lego brand; the private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and the Blackstone Group essentially split most of the rest.
Here in Florida, Merlin spent about $25 million to acquire Cypress Gardens, a historic 150-acre property that was a symbol of the carefree, water-skiing Sunshine State of the 1950s.
The park closed in 2009 after a series of owners failed to compete with Disney and Universal, and for good reason: getting to Winter Haven from Orlando requires a 50-minute trek on more roads than your average corn maze.
“Oh dear, I’ve got a problem here,” Adrian Jones, Legoland Florida’s general manager, recalled thinking after getting lost on his inaugural visit to the property. He added, “It’s true, the biggest challenge is to cement in people’s minds that this isn’t the other side of the world.”
Merlin is largely counting on the strength of the Lego brand and the refurbishment of the park itself. Although the company refuses to say what it has spent on new rides, restaurants and landscaping, the cost appears to be considerable. An estimated 50 million Lego bricks now adorn the park, where “pink-knuckle” roller coasters (in keeping with the focus on young children) have been re-themed to fit Lego toy lines like castles and jungle adventuring.
“The condition of the park was worse than we thought — mold, dry rot, termites — but we completely Lego-ized it,” said Bill Vollbrecht, the park’s creative director.
Merlin is also working with local government officials to improve the roads and add better signage along the route. Mr. Jones takes comfort in internal research that shows 80 percent of theme park visitors in Orlando rent cars, but Legoland Florida will also offer $5 roundtrip shuttle service from the city.
And Merlin executives note that they have overcome the hurdle of location at their Lego park in California, which is about 40 minutes north of San Diego. That park has become a success by cultivating a reputation among parents for extreme cleanliness and its intense focus on younger children.
“Let’s put it this way,” said Duncan Dickson, a professor of theme park management at the University of Central Florida. “If anybody has a chance of making it in Winter Haven, they do.”
COMMERCE CITY A second drunk-driving related offense in three years for a former Commerce City police sergeant and state criminal investigator has apparently not stopped his bid for a seat on the city council.
Joe Sandoval, 40, was pulled over at 11:42 pm Saturday, near near 84th Avenue and Conifer Road, and issued a summons for driving under the influence, according to the Adams County Sheriffs Department. Sandoval was taken to a detox facility, which is standard procedure.
Sandoval was also issued a summons in 2009 for DUI after he was involved in a rollover crash in December 2008. Six months later, he pleaded guilty to the less-serious charge of driving while ability impaired.
Sandoval is currently running for an at-large seat on the Commerce City city council. At least two media outlets reported Monday he was dropping out of the race.
Sandoval couldnt be reached for comment Monday. However, city and Adams County officials said theyve received no notification that he was quitting.
Adams County Clerk and Recorder Karen Long said her office has already printed ballots with Sandovals name and those cannot be changed. If he does drop out of the race, any votes for him would not be reported, Long said.
Sandoval is a Commerce City native and a graduate of Adams City High School. On his campaign website, Sandoval says the only place he wanted to work as a police officer was Commerce City.
After he was hired in 1993, he got heavily involved in the community. During his tenure in Commerce City, Sandoval worked as a school resource officer and police department spokesman.
He currently works for the state Department of Revenue, Division of Gaming, as criminal investigator, his website said. He also said he assists the medical marijuana enforcement division as a criminal investigator.
Sandoval said his long-time links to the community make him a good candidate for city council.
The fact that I grew up in Commerce City in the south and currently live in the north, makes me understand the needs of the entire community, he said on his website. With my experience as a police officer and sergeant with the police department and my education, I believe I am a viable candidate that will serve the community with their interests at the forefront.
Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SYLVAN BEACH, NY -- A Central New York amusement park is being brought back from the dead to provide a truly haunting experience this Halloween season.
Sylvan Beach Amusement Park introduces Halloweekends at the Beach. The month-long scare-fest features a new haunted house called Blood Bath and one of the parks oldest rides-- Laff Land-- has been transformed into Scream Land,a frightening twist on the original favorite.
Halloweekends at the Beach opens this Friday and Saturday and runs through October 29th and also on October 9th from 7 pm to midnight.
For more information on all the park has to offer, visit sylvanbeachhalloweekends.homestead.com/index.html.
Whitefish attorney Phyllis Quatman has been suspended from
practicing law in Montana for three months in connection with
similar disciplinary action taken against her in the state of
The suspension in Montana will run from Oct. 15 through Jan. 12,
2012, according to state Supreme Court records. Quatman said the
suspension is based on a "fluke" situation related to a California
death penalty case she was handling and has no basis on her
previous work in Montana.
Mozillas new game engine is part of Paladin, a project by the Mozilla Labs community established to create the best gaming technology available for the open web.
Mozilla is reportedly working on a 3D gaming engine called Gladius as part of its new Paladin project to push 3D gaming into the browser. The team is currently building a game based on the new engine called RescueFox which supposedly works in recent releases of Firefox -- it wouldnt work in version 8 as of this writing. Cursory testing also suggests that it works in Chrome for the Mac, although performance is slower and there is no sound, Mozilla said.
According to Mozilla, RescueFox was developed to make sure that the Gladius gaming engine was really going to be suitable for third-party development. Initially CJ Cliffe started by doing a ton of work directly against CubicVR.js, a 3D engine used to build the No Comply and Flight of the Navigator demos. Alan Kligman and Bobby Richter started porting chunks of it to the higher-level Gladius APIs. Dan Mosedale started working with some of the input APIs, the timer, and finding visual assets to use.
Eventually they discovered that the higher-level Gladius APIs were actually making the game more complex to build rather than easier, so the team temporarily went with lower-level APIs and did just enough work to make it basically playable. The higher-level Gladius APIs needed some refactoring, the team concluded.
We think we've learned most of what we can from RescueFox and don't intend to drive it forward any further at this point (though that shouldn't stop anyone who feels inclined to fork it), Mosedale said. But we'll be prototyping another microgame soon once the Gladius refactoring is a bit further along, and we'll be very interested in having folks help out there.
To read more about the Gladius engine and the RescueFox prototype, head here. More about the entire Paladin project can be accessed here.