Norway officially ranked as the happiest place in the world

Is It Fair for Airlines to Make Passengers Pay to Sit Together?

Those who consume about two drinks a day are less likely to develop dementia, according to a new study.

​We can’t help but feel happy every time a study comes out proving wine has health benefits. The latest happy gram: new research from the Scientific Reports journalfinds that low to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce inflammation and help the brain remove toxins, including those associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How’s that for the best reason ever to enjoy a glass of red after work?!

​The “moderate” part equals about two and a half drinks per day for a 154-pound person—so this is no excuse for polishing off a bottle of Pinot in one sitting (but, hey, we won’t judge). Researchers did find that drinking more on the regular actually increases inflammation, so it is a good idea to keep the refills in check.

As with most things, the lesson here is still moderation!

Double up on the health benefits with good-for-your-gut kombucha cocktails. If you’re sticking to wine, learn once and for all how to really order from a wine list.

​How to Order Wine From a Wine List

Getting dizzy just looking at the fatter-than-a-phone-book list? Use these tips from Dorothy J. Gaiter, a coauthor of four guides on selecting, tasting, and pairing, to choose a bottle worth toasting.

​Once you decide between red and white, what’s next?

Consider the regions. If the wine list has 20 wines from Italy, five from California, and one from Austria, it’s a safe bet that the sommelier’s or chef’s passion is Italian wines. So focus on that portion of the list. Chances are, he has sampled a lot of those wines and can spot a quality bottle. Based on how much you want to spend, you can get your list down to a few. Then ask the server, “What can you tell me about these?” Read his body language as he responds; go with the wine that makes him the most animated.

​Any tips on lower-priced wines?

Yes. Bypass the second-cheapest wine. People pick it because they don’t want to come off as a tightwad. But in my experience, you’re better off with the least costly option, which tends to be priced more appropriately and taste just as good, if not better. Avoid Chardonnay, too. It’s America’s favorite wine, and as a result, most places overcharge for it. As a rule, imported wines are a better value than those from California.

How do you know which winery or producer to pick?

It’s impossible to make judgments across the board, but skip main-stream names that you recognize from the liquor store. You can enjoy them at home for less money.

Any shortcuts?

Memorize these phrases: “Argentinian Malbec.” “Austrian Riesling.” “French Beaujolais.” These are always a good choice because they’re among the signature wines of those regions.

​Does the vintage matter?

While some wines are meant to age (like a fine Bordeaux), most are meant to be consumed as soon as they’re released. In other words, the more recent, the better. If the list features a 2011 wine and the waitperson presents a 2010 bottle, the restaurant is trying to unload its backlog. Politely ask the server to bring you the newer one.

Is it smarter to order by the bottle or by the glass?

By the bottle. At many restaurants, when a wine is served by the glass, the bottle is left open for hours, which turns the flavor stale. (Most wine bars are an exception: They use tools that pull the oxygen out of the bottle so the wine stays fresh between pourings.) A whole bottle is also a better deal, as restaurants tend to price glasses so that just one covers the entire cost of the bottle.

The wine has arrived. What now?

Look at the wine in your glass to check that there are no flecks of cork. Then sniff it. If the wine smells like wet newspaper or vinegar, that’s a problem. Ask for a new bottle.

Is it ok to ignore the list and go for the house wine?

Absolutely. It’s often delicious! Ask the waiter if he’s willing to show you the bottle. If he is, that’s a sign that he’s proud to reveal the brand and that it’s probably very palatable.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Facing investigations by gambling regulators and allegations of sexual misconduct, billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn has stepped down as chairman and CEO of the resort company bearing his name.

Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts in a statement said Wynn's resignation Tuesday was effective immediately. It came less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said Wynn harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.

"In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity," Wynn said in a written statement. "As I have reflected upon the environment this has created -- one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts -- I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles."

Wynn has vehemently denied the report's allegations, which he attributes to a campaign led by his ex-wife. An attorney for Elaine Wynn has denied that she instigated the news report.

​Wynn now faces investigations by gambling regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, where the company is building a roughly $2.4 billion casino just outside Boston. The company earlier said a committee of independent directors would investigate the allegations that surfaced Jan. 26.

Shares of Wynn Resorts' China arm, Wynn Macau Ltd., were suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday in Asia. Gambling regulators in Macau, the world's biggest casino market, said they were officially notified about the resignation.

Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau also said in a statement that its director, Paulo Martins Chan, and the city's financial and economic secretary, Lionel Leong, met last week with Wynn Macau executive director Linda Chen to request a detailed explanation of the allegations and demand Wynn notify it of any "result, progress or important information" from the investigation within an unspecified time frame.

The company, which said previously it would cooperate with the regulator's requests, operates two casino-resorts in the Chinese enclave that generate about two-thirds of its total revenue.

A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall in the aftermath of articles detailing movie producer Harvey Weinstein's decades of alleged rape and harassment. But Wynn is the first CEO and founder of a major publicly held company to come under scrutiny since the Weinstein allegations surfaced.

Wynn is a titan in Sin City and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. He built the Bellagio, Treasure Island and Mirage before he sold his Mirage Resorts company in 2000. Two years later, he founded Wynn Resorts, which now operates two luxurious casino-resorts in the city and is in the process of building a lake and hotel development called Paradise Park on the site of a former golf course.

Wynn's two Macau casinos include the older Wynn Macau near the former Portuguese colony's historic old town, and the Wynn Palace, which in 2016 became the latest opulent resort to open in the Cotai district, joining lavish developments by rivals including Las Vegas Sands.

In announcing Wynn's resignation, the company's board of directors made clear it had done so "reluctantly."

"It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts today accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn," said Boone Wayson, who was named non-executive chairman of the board.  Matt Maddox, the company's president since 2013, was named CEO effective immediately.

Details of Wynn's separation agreement were not immediately disclosed.

Wynn resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee a day after the allegations were published.

Since 2013, Wynn has contributed nearly $2.4 million to GOP candidates and party organizations around the country, including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and 2017 special election winners. Some Republicans in Congress, including Nevada's Dean Heller, have already announced they are donating contributions they received from Wynn to charity.

This report was updated Wednesday morning.

Associated Press business writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

How many travel agents in U.S.? Depends on whom you're asking

A single family has owned the island for more than 150 years and — even though it’s only 17 miles from resort-lined Kauai — Niihau remains surprisingly insulated from the outside world.

The island has no roads (dirt trails navigate its arid, bushy terrain), no cars, no stores, and no Internet. Its sandy beaches see more wildlife than human footprints. Sleepy Hawaiian monk seals dot the coast and schools of sharks have been known to swim remarkably close to empty shores.

But the island is populated with people.

When Niihau was purchased by the Sinclair family in the 1860s, the island’s inhabitants — known as Niihauans — were allowed to stay, but access to the island by outsiders (including anyone from another Hawaiian island) was restricted.

To this day, only Niihauans, the Robinsons (the descendants of the title-holding family), and the occasional invited guest are allowed there (or near the dozens of homes in the island’s only settlement, Puuwai).

A Promise To Preserve

In 1864, King Kamehameha V sold the island of Niihau to the Robinsons’ ancestors, the Sinclair family, for $10,000 worth of gold and, according to some accounts, a requirement that the family would promise to preserve the Native Hawaiian language and Niihau’s unique way of life.

‘’Niihau is yours,” Kamehameha IV said when he signed the contract, according to the New York Times. “But the day may come when Hawaiians are not as strong in Hawaii as they are now. When that day comes, please do what you can to help them.’’

(The Niihau Cultural Heritage Foundation reports that Kamehameha IV agreed to sell the land, but died in 1863. Records show that his brother, Kamehameha V, completed the transaction on January 23, 1864.)

Ownership of the island has stayed within the same bloodline ever since and access to the 70-square-mile island has remained extremely restricted.

“We’ve tried to maintain the request of the King when it was turned over,” Bruce Robinson, one of two brothers who owns the island, told ABC News in 2010. “We maintain the island for the people and continue to work it as he had.”

Those promises afforded Niihauans a luxury that most modern travelers search the world for: A truly secluded and untouched island.

​A Living Fossil

Niihau remains something of a living fossil — a glimpse into what life in the islands might look like if, over the centuries, the rest of Hawaii just stood still.

The Niihauans who remain on the island today live mostly as their Native Hawaiian ancestors did, with hunting and fishing taking up the majority of their days. There are an estimated 70 permanent residents on the island, although that number fluctuates as Niihauans move away or return to the islands. The 2010 census listed its population at 170, but since the Robinsons are not required to submit population estimates, the current number of permanent residents are unknown.

​They speak mainly Native Hawaiian, but, because of efforts by the island’s only school and Niihauans access to other islands, some residents also know English. They don’t pay rent, they travel mostly by bike or on foot and most homes rely on rain catchments and generators for water and electricity.

They’re also expected to abide by rules set by both the Robinson’s and the village’s earlier generations. Alcohol and guns are not allowed on the island and, according to the New York Times, anyone caught breaking the rules can be evicted.

According to one former resident, Niihau men aren’t allowed to have long hair or wear earrings, and on Sundays, the entire village is expected to go to church.

In 1969, the Milwaukee Journal called Niihau a “Puritan paradise,” because of the religious culture impressed upon the Niihauans by the Robinsons — a family of “strict Scots Presbyterians,” according to the Journal — and the missionaries that came to Niihau decades before it was purchased.

“All those rules came from the old timers, so we just take care of that,” Wehi Kaaumoana, a 34-year-old Niihauan, told The Huffington Post.

The younger people in the village are also expected to take care of and provide for the elders.

“We live off the land. That’s all we have,” Kaaumoana said. Although Niihauans can hop on a barge owned by the Robinsons to go grocery shopping on the island of Kauai, they rely heavily on fishing and hunting to feed the village.

​But “the old folks over there, they can’t go beach ‘cause they growing old,” he added. “When we go out and fish and hunt and give them food like that, they happy. We take care of our elderlies. Elderlies are the main thing in life.”

To pass the time, Niihauans go to the beach or watch pre-downloaded movies on iPads, but, like any other small town, people get bored. Kaaumoana, for example, moved off the island in his mid-20s to find work on Kauai.

A Glimpse Inside Hawaii’s ‘Forbidden Island’

As most travelers know, more airlines are charging more fees for services — like seat assignments — that used to be included.

Now the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in the U.K., is investigating airlines that may deliberately split up passengers traveling in groups, forcing them to pay seating charges to sit together.

“We will be looking into how airlines decide where to seat passengers that have booked as part of a group and whether any airlines are pro-actively splitting up groups of passengers when, in fact, they could be sat together,” Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the CAA, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to take any necessary enforcement action should it be required at the end of the review.”

​The CAA estimates that passengers pay U.K. airlines more than £390 million (about $547 million) each year on seat-selection fees, according to the Telegraph. According to the CAA’s preliminary research, many customers are spending money to sit together when they may not need to.

“Our work will consider whether or not these charges are fair and transparent,” Haines said.

Airlines allocate “random” seats based on a computer algorithm — however each airline has its own unique algorithm which disperses passengers in unique seating patterns.

​Passengers flying the budget airline Ryanair were the most likely to be separated from their group, according to the CAA. (It happened to 35 percent of passengers.) Emirates passengers were the runners up, separated 22 percent of the time, followed by Virgin Atlantic at 18 percent. Across the 10 airlines surveyed, an average 18 percent of passengers were split from their group when they did not pay a seating fee.

Drinking Wine at Night Is Good for You, Says Science

Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigns amid sex misconduct claims

If you want to woo your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day with a perfect night out, don’t waste a minute second-guessing your restaurant reservation.

Yelp has put together a list of the 25 most romantic restaurants in the United States (based on volume of reviews mentioning the word ‘romantic,’ as well as rating), to insure your dinner is a home run.

​To give the list a bit of geographic diversity, only three restaurants per state were included on this list.

​There were many unsurprising mentions on the list, including New York City’s Gramercy Tavern (No. 24), Club A Steakhouse (No. 9), and Thomas Keller’s Per Se (No. 20), which serves a haute dessert tasting menu.

Chicago also had three restaurants appear on the list — Gilt Bar (No. 23), Penumbra (No. 4), and Baette’s Bar & Boeuf (No. 2) — while Philadelphia can take ownership of two (Bistrot La Minette at No. 21; Talula’s Garden at No. 11).

Not all of these charming restaurants are in major cities. The No. 5 most romantic restaurant, Gourmet Italia, is located in Temecula, California, while Mama’s Fish House (No. 8) can be found in Paia, Hawaii.

But the single most-romantic restaurant, according to Yelp reviews, is Café Monarch— a lovely family-owned restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

​Café Monarch is well known for their special occasion, prix-fixe dinners — and this year, patrons can celebrate Valentine’s Day by ordering the $150, four-course menu. Dishes will feature swoon-worthy ingredients like prime filet mignon, Maine lobster tail and diver scallops, and Chilean sea bass.

Yelp reviewers raved about the attentive service (but not overbearing), the ambiance (bistro lighting, candles, a cozy fire), and incredible food (almost as much as the specialty cocktails).

Really impress your date by reserving a table on the ivy-covered, palm-fringed courtyard, and check out the full list of romantic restaurants below.

The Most Romantic Restaurants the United States, According to Yelp

25. Tidepools in Poipu, Hawaii

24. Gramercy Tavern in New York City, New York

23. Gilt Bar in Chicago, Illinois

22. La Mer in Honolulu, Hawaii

21. Bistrot La Minette in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

20. Per Se in New York City, New York

19. St. Martin's Wine Bistro in Dallas, Texas

18. Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada

17. The Black Pearl in Dunedin, Florida

16. Bella on the River in San Antonio, Texas

15. The Olde Pink House in Savannah, Georgia

14. Bern's Steak House in Tampa, Florida

​13. Chef Adrianne's in Miami, Florida

12. Café Amelie in New Orleans, Louisiana

11. Talula's Garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

10. Cibo in Phoenix, Arizona

9. Club A Steakhouse in New York City, New York

8. Mama's Fish House in Paia, Hawaii

7. Island Prime in San Diego, California

6. L'ardoise Bistro in San Francisco, California

5. Gourmet Italia in Temecula, California

​4. Penumbra in Chicago, Illinois

3. Canoe in Atlanta, Georgia

2. Bavette's Bar & Boeuf in Chicago, Illinois

1. Café Monarch in Scottsdale, Arizona

This Is the Most Romantic Restaurant in the U.S., According to Yelp


How One Man Made $15 Million As an Airbnb Host Last Year

When you think of a typical Airbnb host, someone with a spare room in their house may come to mind — someone who's perhaps just looking to make some extra cash. And about 80 percent of Airbnb owners fit that bill. But some have taken Airbnb ownership to the extreme, raking in millions of dollars each year from their multiple listings.

The king of them all is a man in London who has 881 properties across the city. In the past year, he made $15.6 million from all of his properties, according to data from AirDNA.

​In London, there are currently 57,475 Airbnb listings available — meaning this man owns 1.5 percent of the city’s Airbnb market. AirDNA estimates that 24 percent of Airbnb hosts in London have multiple listings across the city.

​Another extreme example is a man who made $15.4 million through his 504 properties in Bali. Last year, a report from Forbes said that 75 people in the U.S. made more than a million dollars from their Airbnb listings. That's about one out of every 3,850 people.

AirDNA says this trend is growing — but people aren’t becoming overnight millionaires from the scheme.

“We’re seeing traditional property management companies operating as many as 1,000 listings,” AirDNA CEO Scott Shatford told The Telegraph. “These numbers don’t show a multimillionaire sitting on a gold mine. These are businesses that have emerged in this new economy, with hundreds of employees, managing other people’s second homes.”

Because it’s impossible for one man to operate almost 900 properties on his own, multiple owners are setting up their own businesses. There are even services to help people set up their own Airbnb management companies.

For those who choose Airbnb as a way to meet locals, this is a disconcerting trend. Travelers who want a one-on-one connection with their host should scour Airbnb before booking and ensure that their host only has one or a few listings. Otherwise the stay could quickly start to resemble something like a hotel.


The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) continues to predict a decline in the number of travel agents in the U.S. over the next 10 years, despite strong evidence from the industry suggesting the opposite is true.

Even Labor's own statistics paint a picture that is out of sync with its predictions.

The latest numbers from Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, updated in the fall, tallied 81,700 agents in the U.S. in 2016 but predicted a 12% decline over the decade from 2016 to 2026.

The bureau's previous count of agents also predicted a 12% decline in the number of agents between 2014 and 2024. However, it stated that in 2014, there were 74,100 travel agents in the U.S.

In fact, Labor's own numbers show that from 2014 to 2016, the number of agents actually increased 10.3%, yet the bureau continues to predict a decline.

Its reasoning, as stated in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, is as follows:

"The ability of travelers to use the internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. Job prospects should be best for travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers."

ASTA strongly disputes Labor's notion that agents are on the decline in the U.S.

"We really question the pessimism that BLS continues to publish," said Mark

Meader, senior vice president of industry affairs. "We don't think it's accurate, we don't think it's correct, and it's an old assumption, long-standing, that needs to change. It's outdated."

Meader also said the Society believes Labor's number of agents in the U.S. -- 81,700 as of 2016 -- is on the low end. ASTA subscribes to a count by the Census Bureau, which found 105,085 agency employees in the United States as of 2015.

The research firm IBISWorld also conducted a study that showed a much higher number of U.S. agents: 232,848. The numbers vary so much for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they are arrived at by using different methodologies. For example, the Census Bureau's number takes into account agency employees who might not be agents. The Census Bureau's tally has also fluctuated over the years. In order, from 2010 to 2015, its count of agents was 105,458; 97,149; 100,295; 99,888; 118,974; and 105,085.

Stephanie Lee, founder of the website, said getting an accurate count of agents has become increasingly difficult in recent years because of the changing industry.

"If we compare it to 15 years ago, the agency distribution channel is entirely different. It's fragmented, which poses all sorts of problems for vendors and apparently for government agencies," she said.

Competing methodologies

Kevin Wang, ASTA's director of research, also said that accurately counting the number of agents in the U.S. is difficult. It is also likely that the industry's independent contractors (ICs), who are steadily rising in numbers, are not being accurately counted.

"The self-employed travel agent and probably many, if not most, ICs -- the hobbyist agent, etc.-- they're either not tracked or very hard to track," Meader said.

Despite the difficulties in counting agents, ASTA uses the Census Bureau's latest number, around 105,000, but also recognizes that IBISWorld's number likely captures ICs and could potentially represent the high end of agent tallies.

"We've chosen to use that number," Meader said. "It's the closest to what we think represents the most likely picture, recognizing the constraints or the weaknesses that surround it. It's not necessarily a true picture, but close -- the closest, anyway."

Eben Peck, ASTA's executive vice president for advocacy, pointed out that in the most recent five years for which data is available, 2011 through 2015, the Census Bureau's number of agency employees has grown by about 8%.

"There are no hard and fast answers in terms of how to explain the [in our eyes] welcome development of these baseline increases," Peck said in a statement. "But I would note that our members have been reporting improved business conditions post-recession."

Peck also asserted that U.S. outbound travel spending is increasing.

Meader said that ASTA has met with the BLS in the past to explain that the assumption that there will be a decrease in agent numbers is outdated, as is Labor's statement that online booking will result in consumers moving away from agents.

"I frankly think it's easier for them to leave it status quo and not make any changes, leave their assumption the way it is," he said.

Labor's prediction of decline flies in the face of reports from around the industry of growth in agent networks and agencies.

Valerie Wilson Travel is one of those growth agencies. Co-owners and co-presidents Kimberly Wilson Wetty and Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg said their business continues to grow year over year.

Over the past few years, they said, they have seen an increase in the interest in becoming a travel adviser, either as an employee or an independent contractor. Much of that interest, they said, is coming from "career changers and the millennial market," though it is somewhat tempered by some retiring agents. Still, they said, "We remain optimistic."

Virtuoso is also reporting growth. As of this January, the network has 17,500 travel advisers, up 15% year over year. While some of that growth comes from new agencies joining the network, Virtuoso reported that 64% of it comes from new advisers joining existing member agencies. David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships, said Virtuoso is not anticipating any decline in membership, either.

Phocuswright analyst Mary Pat Sullivan said, "I agree that the idea of the industry shrinking is incorrect. I think the rise of the IC certainly has a great deal to do with this. Maybe some of the brick-and-mortar numbers are shrinking, but overall the population is absolutely growing. The ranks of ICs at Virtuoso, Travel Leaders, Signature agencies, etc., are exploding. The franchise numbers for companies like Cruise Planners and CruiseOne/Dream Vacations are soaring."

"Travel isn't a hobby, it's a way of life."

- Christina Columbo