Giant rabbit found dead after United flight

United Airlines has taken another blow to its image after a giant, apparently healthy rabbit died following a transcontinental flight.

The bunny was found dead at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the same place passenger David Dao was dragged off a United flight earlier this month — dragging United’s reputation through the mud.

It happened when Simon, a 3-foot-long, 10-month-old Continental Giant rabbit, flew in from London’s Heathrow Airport to O’Hare on April 19.

“I haven’t got a clue who’s to blame, but it’s certainly very weird when Simon was so healthy,” said Annette Edwards, a breeder who sold the bunny.

The bunny was on his way to a new owner and died in the cargo hold area while waiting for a connecting flight, Edwards told CNN.

“A man in America wanted him brought over. He wanted to bring him over as a pet,” she said.

Simon is the progeny of Darius, which holds the Guinness world record for longest rabbit. He potentially could have surpassed his father’s size, Edwards said.

“I just feel that it’s such a sad thing that I didn’t really want to discuss it,” she said. “It’s never happened before, because if a rabbit has a full health check you don’t expect them to die.”

United ‘saddened’

In a statement sent to CNN, United said it was “saddened to hear this news.”

“The safety and well being of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team,” the statement said. “We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.”

The Department of Transportation reports on deaths on animals traveling by air every year and says the numbers are down.

According to its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), 26 animals died in 2016. Compare that to how many animals were transported: 523,743.

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Miami Passport Agency closed until further notice

The Miami Passport Agency was closed to the public Monday, leaving hopeful travelers unable to make appointments or get passports to leave the country.

A message on the U.S. Department of State’s website said the Miami Passport Agency is closed to the public until further notice.

The Omni Center, which houses the agency, “experienced significant water damage” and is closed until while the damage is being assessed and repairs can be made, a Department of State representative said in a statement to Local 10 News.

“Customers with existing appointments will be re-scheduled at a different passport agency,” the statement said. “We will work with customers who have applications pending at the Miami Passport Agency to ensure their applications are processed.  We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to our customers and will make an announcement as soon as the Miami Passport Agency can re-open to the public.”

Narezi Garcez, who needs a passport for her baby, said she went to the Miami Passport Agency only to find out that it was closed.

“We asked when it was going to be open. He said, ‘By the looks of it, not for a very long time,'” Garcez said. “So I asked, ‘OK, where can I get my passport?’ (He said,) ‘New Orleans, San Juan and all the other states.’ So I have to travel to another state to get her passport. It’s ridiculous.”

The San Francisco Passport Agency was also closed.

Anyone scheduled to pick up a passport or who is in need of expedited passport services is asked to call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 or 888-874-7793 for assistance.

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American Airlines investigates after video shows mom in tears

American Airlines is investigating after a video surfaced on social media showing a confrontation between a passenger and a flight attendant aboard one of its flights.

The video, filmed by another passenger Friday, appears to be the aftermath of an incident during boarding of a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. It does not show what happened beforehand.

The incident comes two weeks after a United Airlines passenger was dragged from his seat and off a plane by Chicago aviation police. United was widely criticized on social media and by industry professionals for the conflicting statements it put out afterward, initially siding with its employees and appearing to blame the passenger.

Flight attendant: ‘Hit me, hit me’

The video of the American Airlines encounter starts off with a woman sobbing as she holds a baby.

“Just give me back my stroller please,” she says tearfully.

A male passenger stands up and intervenes, apparently upset with how the woman’s situation was handled. He tells the flight attendant, “Hey bud, hey bud. You do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat.”

The flight attendant tells the male passenger to stay out of it, then later taunts him to “hit me, hit me … bring it on.”

From the video, it’s unclear why the woman is distraught. Surain Adyanthaya, who posted the video to Facebook on Friday, said that before the footage, the flight attendant had “violently” taken the stroller, hitting the woman in the process and narrowly missing her baby.

Adyanthaya later posted the airline had “escorted the mother and her kids off the flight” and let the flight attendant back on.

‘You almost hit that baby!’

Olivia Morgan was waiting to board when the incident happened, according to a report by CNN affiliate KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

“The flight attendant wrestled the stroller away from the woman, who was sobbing, holding one baby with the second baby in a car seat on the ground next to her,” Morgan told the TV station.

“He stormed by me with the stroller and I said something like, ‘What are you doing? You almost hit that baby!’ And he yelled at me to ‘stay out of it!’ just like he does in the video.”

American says on its website that a customer can carry a small collapsible stroller, but it must be checked at the gate. Bigger strollers must be checked in at the ticket counter, the site says.

Airline quickly responds

The airline quickly responded to the incident, which occurred when the flight was about to take off.

“We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts. What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers,” it said in a statement.

“We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident.”

American said it upgraded the woman to first class for the rest of her trip and the attendant has been “removed from duty” as it investigates.

“The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care. In short, we are disappointed by these actions,” the airline said.

In the United incident, passenger David Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two teeth, and plans to sue, according to his attorney.

The airline later apologized for the forcible removal of Dao, a 69-year-old physician, and offered compensation to those on the flight.

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How to see Minneapolis through Prince’s eyes

Prince was more than a pop star. He was the living embodiment of the music itself; a genre-defying, gender-bending master who could play guitar like Hendrix, out dress Madonna and get down with the spirit of James Brown.

But now he’s gone. One year ago, on April 21, 2016, Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead in his Minneapolis mansion.

A local boy, he grew up, lived and died in his hometown and the echo of his presence remains.

Unsurprisingly given his fame and impact on his hometown, there’s now a guided bus tour of the Purple One’s key locations in the city. (More information: Explore Minnesota / Minneapolis, City by Nature)

Here’s how to see Minneapolis through Prince’s eyes.

The Capri Theatre

It may be in a rundown part of town today, but it was here in the Capri Theater, just a few blocks from where he grew up, that Prince’s legend began.

It was January 1979, he was 18 years old and he’d just recorded his first album “For You,” in which he played every single instrument — 27 of them in total. But this was the first time it all came together live.

There were pyrotechnics, there were sound problems, but all anyone seems to remember was a flamboyant, diminutive figure somehow filling the entire room with energy.

Local music critic Jon Bream, who saw the show, wrote: “He was cool, he was cocky, and he was sexy.” A purple future lay ahead.

The Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway Avenue, Minneapolis; +1 612 643 2024

First Avenue

The outside walls of this legendary Minneapolis venue, where Prince performed many times — sometimes announced, mostly by surprise — are covered in silver stars with the names of past performers.

Now one is gold, filled in the night of his death by an anonymous fan. It’s a fitting tribute.

Prince shot much of his Oscar-winning movie “Purple Rain” inside.

Walk through the doors and you can almost sense his presence, backlit, in white leather, smoke all around, cloud guitar in hand, ready to play. Just like the movie.

First Avenue, corner of First Avenue & 7th Street, Minneapolis; +1 612 332 1775

Purple Rain House

A year before his death, Prince bought the house featured in the movie “Purple Rain” — a three-bed, barn-style residential in southwest Minneapolis.

“The Kid” may have grown up here in the film, but don’t expect to see where he made out with Apollonia.

The house, not to be confused with Prince’s real-life Purple House in Chanhassen, where he lived in the early 80s but had bulldozed after moving, was only used for exterior shots.

Today it has an eerie presence, dilapidated and empty, in an otherwise normal residential street, with flowers and purple candles left like an altar at its steps.

Purple Rain House, 3420 Snelling Avenue, Minneapolis.

Dakota Jazz Club

This iconic live music and dinner club, in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, was one of Prince’s favorite hangouts.

He had his own table on the second floor, where he could sneak in unobserved to watch shows and even played here too: using the tiny stage to warm up for a 2013 tour in front of just 350 lucky locals.

The Raspberry Beret Bellini is fresh, delicious and made in his honor.

Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; +1 612 332 5299 (Box Office) / +1 612 332 1010 (Dinner Reservations)

Electric Fetus

A Minneapolis bastion of counter-culture spirit since 1968, the Electric Fetus, an Aladdin’s cave of independent music, rare vinyl and quirky left-of-center gifts, is where Prince went to buy his music.

“He had a golden aura,” one sales assistant says, describing those visits. “He floated, he didn’t walk.”

And he was loyal, too. His last album “Hit n Run Phase Two” was released worldwide exclusively through this tiny store, and he would often allow them to stock his music weeks before its official release.

Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Avenue South, Minneapolis; + 1 612 870 9300

Paisley Park

Prince may have left his mark throughout the city, but it’s at his former home, Paisley Park, in the suburbs of Chanhassen, where his presence is most keenly felt. The estate has been offering tours since last November — the first time fans have been able to see inside his inner sanctum.

For a man known to wear bottomless yellow onesies, first impressions are surprising: a windowless white-panel box on the edge of a busy motorway, more like a secret government research facility than a pop star’s crib.

But walk through the doors of the 65,000-square-foot wildly eccentric and predominantly purple mansion — which includes a full Hollywood-style soundstage, four recording studios and a nightclub — and it all makes sense.

Paisley Park, 7801 Audubon Road, Chanhassen, Minnesota.

The Atrium

The tour begins at the end, in the atrium, where his ashes are kept in a miniaturized version of his home.

Blue-sky walls with airbrush-painted clouds, a giant mural of his eyes with a burst of godlike light beaming down and real life doves that coo, but don’t cry, in a cage above.

His star is everywhere: see-through pearl-string stage costumes with chain-mail veils, his legendary Hohner “MadCat” Telecaster guitar, lyrics penned in neat cursive in a faded notebook.

But it’s the homely touches, which surround the room, that are most interesting: his golden office, where he would mentor younger acts; the diner-style kitchen, where he would eat pancakes and watch basketball; an entire room decked out in UV stars like a purple nebula, where he would write songs and meditate.

He lived as he played: flamboyant, eccentric and self-assured.

Studio A & B

Prince’s vision for Paisley Park was to unite his life and his music, he could literally plug in and record just about anywhere he pleased. But it was in the famous Studio B where the magic happened.

Through the recording-booth glass, there’s a gold-framed photograph of his father, John Nelson, next to the mixing desk where “Sign O’ The Times” was put to record.

Outside, the ping pong table where he would relax between takes (he was a master and once destroyed his pop rival Michael Jackson in a game).

Studio A, nearby, is the home of his last recorded work. Stand in the middle of the room and the sound washes over in perfect clarity, trademark Prince funk with a touch of jazz, but no vocals, he never got that far.

A microphone stand bent down towards his empty chair, unfinished lyrics on the music stand by its side.

Sound Stage & NPG Music Club

The enormous 12,400-square-foot sound stage, where “Graffiti Bridge” and “Sign O’ The Times” were filmed, now houses displays of every Prince era: from “Purple Rain” and the New Power Generation to 3RDEYEGIRL and his last incarnation, the stripped back “Piano and a Microphone” shows.

Annexed next door is his private NPG Music Club, with purple nook sofas, psychedelic projections and an enormous heart-shaped mirror on the floor.

Prince was famous for throwing impromptu late-night parties here, inviting local fans on a first-come, first-served basis, and now the tradition is continuing with a newly announced series of “After Dark” celebrations and late-night concert screenings.

“Life is just a party,” Prince sang. “And parties weren’t meant to last.” This one, it seems, isn’t quite over yet.

Purple Rain Room

Once used for dance rehearsals, the Purple Rain room, as it’s now called, features a display of his most treasured memorabilia from the film: the purple motorbike, the cloud guitar, the little purple piano that he danced on top of.

But to truly appreciate the greatness of that song, pause at the end of the tour to watch a loop of his 2007 Super Bowl performance of it, widely considered the greatest half-time show in history.

Just before he was due on stage a torrential rainstorm broke outside, but when asked if he wanted to delay the show he replied: “Can you make it rain harder?” The result is one of the hottest, most soaking-wet guitar solos ever played.

Graffiti Bridge Room

Treasures from his less successful second foray into film with “Graffiti Bridge,” as well as the movie “Under a Cherry Moon,” in which he played a gigolo swindling rich French women, are on display here.

This room was always envisioned by Prince as part of a museum of his work and art, but it’s what’s nearby that is perhaps more revealing.

In a backroom corridor, there is a mural showing Prince emerging godlike from a lotus flower, arms outstretched either side.

To the right are his influences; to the left, the people he has in turn influenced. It’s a good metaphor for who he was. Lenny Kravitz said it best: “He was a vessel — an instrument himself.”

Memorial Fence

After his death, tributes from around the world were pinned to the fence that surrounds Paisley Park. The tour ends with a revolving display of some of the best.

There are hand- painted canvases, poems and little porcelain doves, but most of all just simple thanks. “Your music is the soundtrack of my best memories,” reads one. Perhaps those memories aren’t quite finished yet.

Underneath Paisley Park is a vault containing hundreds of hours of unreleased music. Almost no one has seen inside. But when asked in an interview what it might contain, his answer was cocky, tantalizing and pure Prince: the future.

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Court temporarily blocks Miami’s ban on app-based short-term rentals

In an after-hours ruling Wednesday, a Miami-Dade County circuit judge paved the way for Airbnb and similar home-sharing companies to operate in the city of Miami, with a temporary injunction blocking the city’s ban.

“I think we are all just confused about what is right, what is legal, what is OK for our community,” said Miami resident Marcie Mascaro, considered an Airbnb super host.

The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed last week by five Miami hosts and Airbnb alleging that the city of Miami was ignoring Florida law by reinterpreting local zoning codes as a ban on short-term rentals.

The city said its ban on vacation rentals in residential areas is a response to residents who fear home renters will ruin the quality of life.

The lawsuit also takes issue with the city’s action against the hosts who came forward publicly to defend their businesses at a recent city commission meeting.

“They were putting themselves in harms way by officially, publicly, on the record saying that they are violating the code of the city of Miami,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said in an April 11 interview with Local 10 News.

The lawsuit quotes a Local 10 News report to support its allegations.

With the temporary injunction in place, the plaintiffs are also asking the court to clarify Miami rules on home-sharing.

In an emailed statement, An Airbnb spokesman wrote, “…We are hopeful that it will result in relief and fair treatment for the 3,000 Miamians who responsibly share their homes on Airbnb.”

Mascaro, who is not one of the five plaintiff hosts, said she has dealt with Miami’s zoning process, and to comply with what she understands is law, limits her rentals to 30 days and longer. 

She calls the temporary injunction a first step.

“How can we take the laws that we have and create new ones that better benefit hosts and the community?” she asked.

City officials have not responded publicly to the temporary injunction ruling.

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Airbnb sues Miami after city targets speakers at recent meeting

In a 44-page lawsuit filed Friday afternoon, Airbnb and five of its hosts asked a Miami-Dade County circuit court to stop the city of Miami from enforcing a ban on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. 

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in Miami-Dade County by Airbnb and five individual hosts, the city violated the First Amendment rights of hosts who spoke up at a March 23 city commission meeting.

Mayor Tomas Regalado used a list of speakers at a recent city commission meeting where the city’s rules on short term rentals were under debate.  Some listed themselves as Airbnb hosts, along with their addresses and phone numbers, as is standard procedure to speak on the record at city meetings. 

In a news report broadcast Tuesday on Local10 News, Regalado said hosts “were putting themselves in harm’s way by officially, publicly, on the record saying that they are violating the code at the city of Miami.”

That quote from the report is cited in the lawsuit. 

“The city is now acting to make good on those threats,” the lawsuit said. “Airbnb stands together with its Miami hosts in opposing the city’s unlawful efforts, and in particular stands with the brave individuals who have come forward and seek to protect their rights as individual plaintiffs in this action.”

Three of the hosts listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit attended the March 23 meeting. Airbnb officials have said the company has 2,300 active hosts in Miami.

Airbnb and the five hosts allege that Miami is flouting Florida state law with a reinterpretation of local zoning codes. 

The lawsuit also alleges the code enforcement action against the hosts has had a chilling effect on free speech and that citizens had the right to speak publicly without fear of retribution.

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