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Auctioning a family heirloom for a cause: With this Ring Project

It's true that it takes very little to make a difference in people's lives. A few thousand dollars could either cover a fraction of an American wedding, or stretch pretty far in philanthropic work in places like Nepal, Mexico, or Ecuador.

Or in this case, both at once.

Starting January 1st, a serious blind-the-wedding-party diamond ring is going up for bid on With This Ring's website for five weeks. The project's founder, Chris Ammon, inherited it – but as beautiful as it is, it's not her style.

What's a philanthropic gal of the world to do? Chris is auctioning it off and donating the money to eight international grassroots projects that she's personally been touched by -- including quilt making in Nepal that helps send kids to school, veterinary assistance in Mexico, and schooling for low-income children in Ecuador.

If you're in the market for a ring, this is one for the record books – a platinum setting, with an emerald-cut 2.75 ct. main diamond and smaller diamonds on the side. Its estimated value is $22,000.

You can place your own bid for the ring on the website's blog until February 7th.

Ivana Trump forced off Palm Beach flight

What does Ivana Trump dislike about airplanes more than peanut packets or lines outside the lavatory?

Children running around, making noise in the aisles.

That's what threw her over the edge on her Delta flight departing Palm Beach Airport yesterday.

Originally what made he upset was something about her first-class seat in the LaGuardia-bound plane. Flight attendants tried to calm her by offering her another seat and headphones. Then, it was the children running up and down the aisles that really made her angry.

The way that sources tell it, she turned belligerent and swore up a storm at everybody around her -- the kids, the adult passengers, and even the sheriff's deputies who asked her to voluntarily get off the plane.

She put up a fuss, then finally gave in and deplaned -- only after the airline offered to let her fly on a later flight.

All told, the plane had to return to the gate and the scene caused a two-hour delay.

Groom arrives at Corpus Christi Airport to a surprise wedding -- his own

Cinnabon-tinged air. Mumbled overhead announcements. And a few hundred weary strangers by your side.

Now that's romantic.

But that's probably what Robyn Moore must've gotten when she arranged an impromptu wedding for her fiance, William Acosta, at the Corpus Christi International Airport.

He arrived on his flight from Toledo, Ohio, wearing jeans and a sweater, and clutching his carry-on bags. She greeted him, wearing a wedding gown and accessorized by a justice of the peace.

They said their "I do"s right there in the terminal, surrounded by some family and the travelers who were nearby. Official photos were taken near the Christmas tree at a security checkpoint.

The two had already picked up a marriage license last week, with the idea of getting married before the end of the year -- except they didn't know where or when.

Why an airport? They had been dating long distance between Texas and Ohio for a year and a half. Moore figured an airport wedding was appropriate, considering they had spent so much time during their relationship in airports.

Hyatt's 24-hour sale today: 40% off

A holiday gift is landing on your doorstep -- but you'll only get the chance to unwrap it today.

Until 11:59 p.m. tonight, you can get 40% off a stay at a Hyatt Hotel. It's only available for hotels in North America, but that includes Lake Tahoe, Maui, and Curacao (opening in March). You have a wide window of opportunity for your stay -- it can be between now and May 31, 2010.

Get an extra perk -- a wine/fruit welcome -- when you mention code 24TWT during your reservation.

Survey shows best airports for making your (love) connection

If you think about it, all of the stars are aligned at an airport.

Get a group of people together with a) a common interest in travel, b) extra time on their hands, and c) good ol' human chemistry, and you've got a petri dish with love connections in the making.

But a new survey argues that not every airport is equal in opportunity. Oh no.

The top three airports are Newark, JFK, and Philadelphia. Foreign rendezvous aren't excluded, mind you. The first three international listings are Paris' Charles de Gaulle, London's Heathrow, and Rome's Fiumicino.

The 33 largest international airports were rated on on-time statistics, historical weather conditions, and amenities (bars, restaurants, activities) per person per airport.

For example, a connection is more likely to happen if you have a long layover at a place with great restaurant options.

Along with the report on AXE's Facebook page are suggestions for making the most of your wait time, such as: "Spark conversation by casually pulling out your small wad of left-over foreign currency."

The survey was created by Sperling's BestPlaces, and commissioned by Axe (makers of grooming products for men).

World's Largest Floating Christmas Tree: No wimpy Charlie Brown tree for Brazil

The question is: who puts the star at the top?

It's an head-scratching combination. Sure, if you have the mountains that Rio de Janeiro has, placing a Christ the Redeemer statue on top is only natural. But placing a huge Christmas tree on the water?

The Guinness Book of Records officially proclaims the tree of lights that floats in Rio's Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon as the "Largest Floating Christmas Tree in the World."

It's as tall as a 28-story building (85 meters high). If you're imagining your tree at home (with maybe a string out lights out), you'd best add a few million more lights to your imagination. This tree uses 2.9 million miniature bulbs spread over 52 kilometers of strands to produce its colorful twinkles, available in 11 sequential patterns. And what's Christmas without Christmas music? Yes, it does have a sound system that plays carols that were recorded in Italy.

Designed by Brazilian artist Abel Gomes, the tree and its lighting have been a tradition since 1996. It's no small event either -- the Christmas tree lighting is actually the third biggest event in Rio after the Carnival and New Year's Eve.

And before you get turned off by the thought of all of the energy expended, consider that the lights are powered by biodiesel generators. Plus, we're told that any carbon dioxide emissions produced by the set-up, display, and tear-down of the tree will be offset by the planting of trees.

You still have time to see the lights, before they go out on January 6, 2010.

Seniors to lose camping discounts with US Forest Service proposal

Wasn't this supposed to be one of life's fair trades? After you spend decades working hard, the US government treats you to a senior's half-off discount at US Forest Service parks during your retirement.

Well, now the Forest Service is rethinking that.

Last week, it proposed cutting back the discounts for Senior, Access (permanent disability), Golden Age, and Golden Access to 10%, instead of the current 50% -- a discount that has been in place since the mid-60s.

These changes would go into effect at the campgrounds operated by private concessioners, which make up 50% of National Forest camping capacity and 82% of reservable campsites.

Among the reasons for the change are (to quote the Forest Service) "application of the 50 percent discount to holders of Senior and Access Passes is unreasonable in view of the growing number of senior citizens in the United States." Also, "the 50 percent discount requires concessioners to raise camping fees to compensate for the loss in revenue, thus increasing prices for non-seniors and discouraging a future generation of campers."

Thankfully, the new policy is not set in stone quite yet. The public has until February 1, 2010 to dispute the proposal.

Those who wish to can submit comments via the website www.regulations.gov, or via mail to U.S. Forest Service, Attn: Carolyn Holbrook, Recreation and Heritage Resources Staff, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1125, Washington, DC 20250–1125.

Sale on German train tickets starts Dec. 7

Starting on Monday, December 7, German Railway train tickets will go on sale -- and it's quite the guter Kauf (bargain). They're only 66 Euros for two one-way tickets, on local or regional trains anywhere in Germany and Austria.

The tickets will be sold at the German discount supermarket Lidl. The tickets must be for travel on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, between January 4 and March 31, 2010. Children under 14 years-old can travel free.

A standard one-way train from Berlin to Munich costs 113 Euros, and Cologne to Vienna is 146 Euros, so this is a sale with big savings.


[Thanks, GoGermany.about.com]

Stevie Wonder named UN Messenger of Peace

Stevie Wonder is singing a new tune. Okay, not literally, but he has just taken on a new role: UN Messenger of Peace.

Blind since birth, Wonder will support the United Nations' work, specifically to advocate for people with disabilities, through planned public appearances, interaction with international media, and humanitarian work.

The winner of 25 Grammy awards, Wonder may be best known for his singer-songwriter career. But he has long been an activist -- spearheading the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in the U.S., advocating for ending apartheid in South Africa, as well as writing and performing songs to benefit humanitarian issues.

Wonder is the latest of the celebrity UN Messengers of Peace -- there are 11 in total -- including George Clooney (peacekeeping), Michael Douglas (disarmament), and Charlize Theron (ending violence against women).

"I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights and to improve the lives of those less fortunate," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Louvre, Versailles, Mont Saint-Michel on strike alert tomorrow

Workers at Paris' modern art center Pompidou are already on strike over planned job cuts, but those at other French museums and landmarks could join in their fight tomorrow.

Seven unions are threatening to walk off the job on December 2nd if their demands aren't met by the MInistry of Culture. They're boycotting the government's plan to cut cultural positions, which would replace only one out of every two civil servants who retire.

The Pompidou Center is Paris' second most popular museum. If the cuts move forward, 400 of the museum's 1,100 jobs could be cut over the next 10 years. More than 40 percent of workers there are 50 years or older.

Other tourist sites potentially shutting down during the strike are Notre Dame, the Musée d'Orsay, and the Pantheon. However, the Eiffel Tower would not be affected.

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