COVID-19 testing site in St. George expands operation hours, adds travel lane


ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – The state’s only COVID-19 testing site in Southwestern Utah at Dixie Technical College is expanding its lanes and operation hours just in time for the holidays.

“We noticed we have a lot of people traveling, the holidays are coming up and we really wanted to make sure people are able to get that done as they are leaving the country, a lot of different countries have different requirements as you’re traveling and they need that negative test,” says Carolina Herrin, the Operations Director for Nomi Health.

Starting Monday, there’s a designated testing lane for those expecting to travel in the coming weeks the only other site like this is at the state’s health department in Salt Lake City.

“On average we do about 400-600 tests a day our travel lane in Salt Lake has done over 1,000 tests and we’ve barely been open for a month not even a full month, so we’re looking to have those numbers increase in St. George as well,” says Herrin.

The testing site is now open from 7 AM to 7 PM, seven days a week. Rapid molecular tests, PCR and rapid antigen tests are available.

“All Utah residents, you can get this service for free, we just need to know you have a boarding pass, or you’re traveling so any type of proof of that, proof of residency and it’s completely free,” says Herrin.

Anyone from out-of-state has to pay a $179 fee for the rapid PCR test, however standard PCR and rapid antigen tests are an option and free of charge.



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COLORADO TRAVEL: Updated site for Colorado road conditions, travel planning


DENVER (KDVR) — Winter weather is right around the corner and that means it will soon be time to start tracking winter weather road conditions.

The Colorado Department of Transportation just launched an new version of its travel website.

CDOT said the COtrip.org website has been around for nearly two decades but the new updated website will have features that will help travelers plan their route ahead of time, and be prepared for road or lane closures or adverse road conditions.

“This is an exciting time for our agency,” said Bob Fifer, CDOT’s branch manager of the Intelligent Transportation Systems & Network Services. “We are evolving legacy systems to better serve the traveling public. The new website brings more of our transportation technologies into one lens, improving the customer experience. We added several new features, while reducing system maintenance costs. Now, travelers can customize routes from point A to point B to see if their trip may be impacted by any road or lane closures. Motorists will have an easier time identifying road closures, road conditions and construction impacts, all while replacing outdated technologies.” 

The new site has bolder and brighter information. We pulled this snip from the site as an example:

Credit: CDOT

Here are the new features, according to CDOT:


Travel information with layers

Motorists can use the map as they would any Google map and click on the icons for more information. Icons are displayed on the map by checking or unchecking the boxes in the layers toolbar. Layers available and what data they provide are described here.


Trucker mode

The new Trucker Mode features resources specific to commercial motor vehicle operators, including the following layers defined here.


Travel alerts

Motorists can log-in in or sign up here for their own COtrip account to subscribe and manage their travel alerts. They can also save their favorite routes and cameras, and customize their travel preferences.


Social media

COtrip traveler information is automatically posted to the @ColoradoDOT Twitter feed. New roadway hashtags and Twitter threads were rolled out in Spring 2021, making it easier for users to track and stay updated on closures and incidents from CDOT. Follow @ColoradoDOT on Twitter for real-time travel information and road conditions. 


511 phone service

The 511 telephone service is an interactive, voice-activated traffic information system motorists can access by calling 511 (within Colorado) or 1-800-288-1047 (nationwide). This system has not changed, and will continue to provide a real-time option for travelers to get road conditions and traffic information. Learn more about 511 and how to use this service here.






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Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying said it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives haven’t responded to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists Focus on Tip Site in Protesting Texas Abortion Law | Health News


By JAMIE STENGLE and BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Political Cartoons

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying said it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives haven’t responded to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Fake post on travel site means trouble for Cleveland woman


CLEVELAND — A Cleveland woman is calling on a national travel website to take down a post that lists her address with fake photos from a fake host.

Linda Butts has been in her upstairs apartment of a house on E. 147th Street for five years.

She lives there with her daughter and grandkids.

“For me, home is — that’s your safe haven,” she said sitting on the front steps of the white house with green awnings Sunday night.

It was cooler outside the apartment than inside so on hot summer days, they aren’t home much but when they are “that’s what home is. It’s your space.”

But recently, after a man showed up at her door, her idea of home changed.

Two weeks ago, an innocuous-looking piece of mail arrived.

“It does not have a return address on it,” she said holding up the envelope. She thought it was junk mail but kept it around. She wasn’t sure why at the time, she said she’s glad she did.

The letter was from Booking.com, the travel and hotel website.

It said her house on E. 147th Street was about to be listed and ready for people to come to stay.

“I didn’t think anything of it until somebody showed up at my house,” she said.

A man arrived at her side door on Friday, Aug. 13, about 48 hours after the letter arrived. Butts told him he was mistaken, and he left without any issue.

When she remembered the letter, she started a Google search and found the fraudulent listing on Booking.com.

News 5 reached out to the company about the listing but as of 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22, no one has responded.

In the listing, Butts found her address with photos from an apartment that were not hers. Calling itself “Ohio City Modern Loft Apartment,” the listing boasts amenities Butts does not have like a pool or “garden views”. At the bottom of the description, the page shows the listing has been “welcoming Booking.com guests since July 28, 2021.”

“People need to use Google,” Butts said. She thinks, if people did their research, they would see the images on the listing don’t match up with her house.

But people have been booking and showing up. Three times Butts or her downstairs neighbor answered the door to find people who showed up after booking a room.

“People spend money and they want what they spend their money on,” she said.

Sometime on Aug. 22, the website put a red disclaimer at the top of the misleading listing which read “We’re sorry, but this property isn’t taking reservations on our site right now.”

Booking with Disclaimer

News 5 Cleveland

For Butts, it isn’t enough.

“They need to say this is not one of our listings,” she said. She hopes it means no one else shows up at her door because the house on E. 147th Street, the one with her family inside, feels different now.

“It’s making me uneasy because I don’t know if I need to be on guard to protect myself,” she said.





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Travel site Trivago pivots in pandemic to cut costs, grow product line


Axel Hefer, CEO of Trivago

Trivago

It’s been said there’s no gain without pain and that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Online travel search firm Trivago seems to have taken the sentiment to heart amid an ongoing pandemic that’s put its industry through the wringer for some 14 months.

First-quarter revenue at the Dusseldorf, Germany-based company — which Expedia Group holds a majority stake in — was down 73% compared to the same period in 2020 and qualified referrals plunged 55%.

Despite that, CEO Axel Hefer is upbeat about Trivago’s prospects.

His team made strategic cuts, while mapping out ways to expand in an altered travel marketplace.

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“We realized very early that this wouldn’t be just a few months, but something that would last longer,” said Hefer, adding that firm restructured in April 2020 and reduced its cost base, which he said stabilized the firm and and improved cash flow.

Indeed, Trivago shrank its first-quarter operating loss to 8.9 million euro (about $10.76 million) from 215.3 million a year before — a 96% improvement.

“On the cash side, we are in a very good position,” Hefer said. Because of that, he said Trivago doesn’t need to generate a lot of profit immediately and can instead concentrate on the strategic projects it wants to push.

Trivago has functioned primarily as an online hotel booking search tool that compiles rate and other accommodations information from sites like Hotels.com and Priceline, as well as hotels chains and online travel agencies, for comparison shopping by users.

Trivago launched Trivago Weekend in the U.S. and U.K. in April.

Trivago

But the company announced in April a partnership with TUI Group’s Musement division to power a new activities booking feature on its site. The arrangement offers access to 55,000 excursions, activities and attractions to users in the U.S., U.K., Russia and 11 European countries.

The company then followed up with Trivago Weekend in the U.S. and U.K. The new product offers accommodations and experience content close to users’ homes, “in direct response to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic,” according to the company.

As an example, Hefer said customers in England might be shown travel product in places like Oxford and Bath, rather than much-visited London or farther-flung destinations in Europe, Asia or America. The launch follows Trivago’s acquisition of Weekend.com in January.

“This local travel trend will linger,” he said. “In the long term, over five to 10 years, these things tend to even out and go back to normal, but it will take quite some time.”

The one key strategic opportunity for travel companies is to stay relevant at the time when customers are not traveling.

Trivago is anticipating a strong summer, but that international travel will trail a quicker recovery in the rest of the industry, according to Hefer.

Meanwhile, there’s a chance the firm can help build a new market — and profit from it — as less-visited destinations adapt to meet new demand.

“It’s a big opportunity because, once you actually improve that new offering with additional volume, you might even be able to permanently capture more demand,” Hefer said, pointing to the classic chicken-or-the-egg dilemma facing smaller destinations.

“If you don’t have great hotels to stay in, and great attractions, you don’t get the visitors, but now at least you are getting a tailwind of some volume,” he said. “The destinations that use that opportunity well can improve their competitiveness.”

Trivago has more innovations in the pipeline. Hefer said he wants to increase the number of “touch points” with users, engage them more through additional site features and try out new marketing ideas.

“The basic direction we are taking is that the one key strategic opportunity for travel companies is to stay relevant at the time when customers are not traveling,” he said. “We want to be relevant 12 months a year and, for that, you need more features and a broader set of communication channels.

“The key focus in the pandemic, for us, has been to prepare for a push in that direction.”



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Covid: cheapest test kits for travellers on UK government site unavailable | Travel & leisure


Most of the cheapest Covid tests for travellers listed on the government website are not available to holidaymakers who plan to go away this summer, with critics saying consumers are at the mercy of a “wild west” marketplace.

The Advertising Standards Authority told the Guardian it was now investigating, after receiving complaints from consumers about what it described as “inconsistent pricing”.

Private companies offering tests to travellers are listed on a government website for consumers to search and results appear in order of price, with the cheapest options at the top.

At first glance, packages seem to be available for as little as £23. However, analysis of the deals advertised by the first 50 companies on the list shows that of the 36 offering on-site tests or click and collect packages, the cheapest options for travellers, two-thirds could not be bought or had no appointments until September.

Analysts at the consultancy Fideres who conducted the research said companies appeared to be offering a “smattering” of low cost on-site tests in order to jump to the top of the list of 400-plus providers.

The cheapest two-swab postal kit, which would be required by travellers returning from an amber list country, cost £78, it found.

“The government is reporting prices that are a small fraction of what most consumers pay, without actually checking if these low prices are available,” said Fideres associate Paul Vella. “Not only does this mislead consumers, it can actually steer them into using more expensive providers.”

Unvaccinated holidaymakers returning to England from an amber list country must take a test before travel and book PCR tests for days two and eight of a 10-day quarantine when they return. If they are fully vaccinated, they only have to do one post-return test. English holidaymakers can shop around for the best deal but the rules governing tests in the other home nations are different.

In Wales, for example, travellers pay a set price and the test is provided by the NHS.

Fideres found that names at the top of the government list had the biggest gap between their advertised and actual prices within the Top 50.

The government’s decision to list companies based on price, regardless of its accessibility, meant companies were encouraged to offer at least one extremely low cost service, Vella said.

It is not just the price of tests giving consumers a headache but the sheer difficulty of getting hold of them. Providers include the labs themselves, established resellers as well as recently formed companies that industry insiders say are little more than a website and phone number.

On Tuesday Fideres tried to book the cheap on-site or click and collect test packages advertised by the 36 firms in the Top 50. For August it was only possible to do this at a dozen of the companies, with attempts to book on some websites simply reaching a dead end. Where there was availability, it was usually in just one location.

On Friday morning CK Doctors Covid Travel Clinics was second on the list with a £23.50 supervised test.

However, the option was only available on Mondays and there were no slots available at its Bradford site until September.

Anglia DNA, listed third, advertised a travel package for £24 but the test site is in Norwich and the booking system did not work for dates in August.

CK Doctors Covid Travel Clinics said it had no plans to stop advertising the deal and the availability of tests was a capacity issue. “We will be trying to increase the availability of this offer and extend it in the future based on capacity,” it said.

Anglia DNA said there were a number of products at the low price points that were available on its website however availability was “highly dynamic”.

“We are effectively sold out in some product categories for the next three weeks, as we have utilised full capacity for that period,” an Anglia DNA spokesperson said. “Bookings are taken up extremely quickly and early in the day. We are working hard to meet unprecedented demand as we build the platform for all product areas.”

The government list is regularly updated, and 19 of the Top 50 cheapest test providers of two-swab test packages on Thursday no longer made the cut on Friday. Analysts said consumers should realistically expect to pay about £114 for a two-swab home test kit.

While there are 421 companies listed on the government portal, the supply of tests and processing is done by only a handful of labs, with seven handling about 75% of the market. The rock bottom prices being advertised are often below cost, as the amount charged by labs to process tests, excluding the kit, is about £38.

“This is only sustainable if providers restrict supply to the below-cost service, using it to steer customers into buying their more expensive tests,” said Vella. The government should verify that the prices listed are “truly available to a meaningful number of consumers”.

Testing firms are worried that the system is damaging the industry. Avi Lasarow, at testing firm Project Screen by Prenetics, called for the government to police it more closely.

“The government’s list of holiday Covid test providers is like the wild west with cowboys not playing fair with holidaymakers,” he said. “It is clearly trying to monitor and measure providers to enforce higher standards. But this needs to now include a review of pricing and service policies as a way to further ensure consumers are getting a reliable end-to-end service.”

The government website states that the prices are a “guide” and the “final price you pay could be different to the displayed price”. Consumers have been advised to use comparison sites such as covid19-testing.org or look at reviews on sites like Trustpilot before deciding which firm to use.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We do not endorse or recommend any private Covid-19 test provider. All private providers must meet the minimum required standards and each of them are reviewed by the independent United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

“The government carefully monitors issues raised by the public and takes rapid action with companies where necessary, giving providers a five-day warning if their service is inadequate and if they do not rectify it, removing them from the appropriate travel test list.”

A spokesperson the Advertising Standards Authority said: “We have received complaints about this, regarding inconsistent pricing, which we are currently reviewing.”



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UNESCO Announces 9 New Additions to World Heritage Site List




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