Can Johnny Cash amp up Nashville? City gets museum to music icon

Johnny CashHe was rediscovered by alternative rockers in the last years of his life, became the subject of a blockbuster biopic, and now the late country music icon Johnny Cash will have his own museum in downtown Nashville.

The plans for the 18,000-square-foot, private museum were unveiled Tuesday by members of the Cash family and Bill Miller, a longtime friend, fan and champion of the Man in Black, according to a report in the Nashville Tennessean.

"My father and mother [the late singer June Carter Cash] had a way through honesty and truth of spirit," said son John Carter Cash. "It's not about the glamour or about making it for Nashville. This is about spreading their spirit."

That spirit will certainly be welcome among Nashville's civic leaders, who have been working diligently in recent years to revitalize a once-moribund downtown, in great part by focusing on Nashville's historic role as America's country music capital. The Ryman Auditorium, once used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, was renovated in 1994. Seven years later saw the opening of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Like many a downtown revitalization tale, this one involves a group of more or less marginalized artists who blazed a trail and helped the business community recognize its rich trove of homegrown cultural capital. You can find a version of that argument at the website Savingcountrymusic.com, which credits punk-influenced, non-mainstream country musicians such as Joe Buck -- who typically looked backward to more rough-hewn country styles for inspiration -- for breathing life into the old haunts.

"The turnaround story for downtown Nashville doesn't involve acts of government," one of the blog's writers posted in September 2010. "Lower Broadway was revitalized by music, and specifically, the music that was the precursor to the music we listen to, and talk about on this site. Mainstream fans will sometimes put down this music as 'obscure' or irrelevant. Toby Keith and Tim McGraw didn't revitalize the most historic part of Nashville. It was a bunch of punk kids from all around the country, who moved to lower Broadway to walk the same streets Hank Williams walked."

Of course, if there is one country legend to bridge the gap between the wild-man-country-grungy and the conservative-country-slick, it is Cash, who continues to be revered by, and influential to, both camps.

His museum is set to open this summer, according to the Tennessean. Whether the punk kids will fork over the $13 admission remains to be seen.

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Credit: Late country music legend Johnny Cash is at his Hendersonville, Tenn., home in 1999. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press


An offer you can't refuse: Las Vegas opens new Mob Museum

Mob museum vegas

In this casino town partly built on gangster money, it's a sentiment you hear with some frequency: Things were better when the mob ran Vegas.

It conveys a certain wistfulness for the smaller, ostensibly friendlier city where, decades ago, locals shrugged at mobsters' running casinos and reinventing themselves as civic leaders. Sports handicapper Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal hosted a television show. Bootlegger Moe Dalitz helped build a hospital.

The city began formally cashing in on its mafia legacy Tuesday with the opening of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as the Mob Museum.

The publicly funded museum opened in a former federal courthouse where a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime was held in the 1950s. Its exhibits were shaped by historians and former FBI agents, and include crime scene photos, tommy guns and a brick wall shot up during the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago.

The $42-million project has raised some hackles among fiscal conservatives, who consider it a waste of taxpayer money, the Associated Press reported. But the museum's cheerleaders -- including mob attorney turned mayor Oscar Goodman -- are betting it will draw tourists from the Las Vegas Strip to a slowly gentrifying section of downtown.

Other recent efforts to capitalize on Sin City’s mobster past have had mixed success. The Vegas Mob Tour, a 2½-hour jaunt that includes a stop at Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's Flamingo hotel, has managed to rumble along for several years.

“I try to do it tactfully and with taste, as much as you can with a mob tour,” founder Robert Allen told The Times in 2008. “You can say someone cut off someone's head with a machete, but we prefer to say ‘decapitated.’ ”

The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino had a tougher time, despite its Strip location and an extensive collection of gangster artifacts. For example, it displayed one of Meyer Lansky's love letters to his wife: "Keep your legs crossed and go to sleep."

The attraction closed last year amid a bevy of problems, including the bankruptcy of its owner, Murder Inc LLC. It's slated to reopen under a different name.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: A tommy gun exhibit at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Credit: Isaac Brekken / Associated Press


Stormy Pacific rescue: 3 saved after sailing accident off Hawaii

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The ocean voyage was fit only for the hardy: no on-deck swimming pools; no movies at night; no meals fit for the delicate epicure.

It was just two Canadian men and a 9-year-old boy on a 39-foot sailboat, traveling from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, across the Pacific Ocean through what turned out to be stormy weather -- and an agonizing, but ultimately successful, rescue from a capsized and disabled vessel.

“It was scary. I thought we were going to die,” the boy, West James, told the Associated Press on Thursday in Hawaii. West, his father Bradley, 32, and uncle, Mitchell James, 29, were rescued this week from their drifting boat about 340 miles from Oahu. The sailboat had been disabled by storms.

“There were waves crashing all over the place. We had no engine. We had no sail,” Bradley James, of Edmonton, Canada, told the news agency. He said the boat had a leaky exhaust, a broken water pipe, an overheating engine and a snapped mast, which made sailing to land impossible.

The trio sought help by satellite phone, and the Coast Guard redirected a commercial ship, the Horizon Reliance, from about 150 miles away. The 900-foot ship maneuvered into position, but two waves -- 25 to 30 feet, Bradley James estimated -- forced the big ship's bow onto the sailboat.

“It just crushed it,” he said. The sailboat sank, leaving the Canadian trio in the water, wearing life jackets and headlamps. The ship rescued Mitch James within half an hour, but Brad and his son had drifted away.

Horizon Reliance Capt. James Kelleher eventually solved the difficult nautical problem of steering his ship through the steep waves and fierce winds of 50 knots toward the father and son. They were rescued about an hour later; all arrived in Honolulu by Thursday morning.

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Photo: Horizon Reliance crew member Ahmed Baabbad, left, pats West James on the head in Honolulu. The boy was part of a Canadian family rescued from a capsized boat in the Pacific Ocean. Credit: Marco Garcia / Associated Press

 


2 Florida cruise ships riddled with norovirus. Anyone surprised?

Norwalk virus
Noroviruses like cruise ships. Current and recent passengers on two Princess Cruise Lines ships can now attest to this personally.

More than 200 people on the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess, both bound for South Florida, were reporting gastrointestinal illnesses, company officials told Associated Press on Saturday. Those officials blamed a norovirus.

Noroviruses are no cause for hysteria, but they’re far from pleasant, causing vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. They can also cause a low fever, headaches and muscle aches, but for folks cooped up in tiny cabins, aches are the least of their troubles.

The outbreaks are hardly the first for the cruise ship industry. And the passengers can’t say the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t try to warn them. 

“Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships” lays it out: “Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area, such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships.”

But cruise ships. Why is it always cruise ships that make the news? The CDC explains that, for starters,  illnesses on cruise ships are actually tracked, allowing outbreaks to be identified and reported more quickly than they might be on land. As for the risk of illness, all that coming and going of passengers can increase exposure to others. And then, yes, there's the whole close-quarters factor.

The CDC even offers a “vessel sanitation program” to help the cruise ship industry prevent and control such illnesses.

Meanwhile, passengers waiting to embark on their own journey on the two ships were delayed by a few hours. Company officials apparently had some disinfecting to do.

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Photo: An electron micrograph of a norovirus, previously known as Norwalk-like virus. Credit: Public Health Image Library


Super Bowl 2012: Tour the stadium this way -- it's cheaper

For those who don't have several thousand dollars to drop on a pair of Super Bowl XLVI tickets, there's this: Google Earth has posted a nifty video on the path -- literally -- to Game Day.

The New England Patriots will soon take on the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. So the folks at 3D Google Earth have created a video that visually flies you up, over and around each team's home base, then takes you through to the Game Day stadium. It might be a little weird seeing all those empty seats, but it's still pretty darn cool.

And way cheaper.

Of course, Super Bowl XLVI is more than just a Super Bowl. In the football world, this is a Clash of the Titans. Must read: This story by our colleague Lance Pugmire about the bitter rivalry being stoked anew by this New York vs. Boston showdown.

Die-hard football fans probably have this info etched into their DNA, but for everyone else, here's some info to keep handy: The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and there's at 6:30 p.m. Eastern start.

And by "start," we mean that's when all the official pre-game hoopla begins. Highlights: "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem. (Note to Steven Tyler: You might want to tune in to see how it's done.)

The half-time show will belong to a relative newcomer, as well as an old-timer with biceps chiseled in stone: Nicki Minaj and Madonna will have those honors. 

And in case you were wondering, just how much are Super Bowl XLVI tickets? At last check, TicketCity.com was offering them for about $2,400.

Each.

Makes you want to go back and watch that Google Earth 3D video all over again, huh?

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-- Rene Lynch
twitter/renelynch


Costa Concordia search for missing Minnesota couple halted

Costa_Concordia_wreckage
The search for missing passengers aboard the Costa Concordia -- the cruise ship that capsized more than two weeks ago near the western coast of Italy -- has been suspended. Among the passengers yet to be found: a retired Minnesota couple, Gerald and Barbara Heil.

Italian emergency officials announced the development Tuesday, saying they were halting the search because it had become too dangerous for rescue workers. The search of late had been taking workers into the deeper, submerged recesses of the ship.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Protection agency, Francesca Maffini, said a search for the missing would continue wherever possible, including on the part of the ship above water, in the waters surrounding the ship and along the nearby coastline, according to the Associated Press.

Photos: Costa Concordia wreck

The agency said in a statement that relatives of the missing, along with diplomatic officials representing their respective countries, have been informed of the decision, AP reported.

All but 32 of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew have been accounted for in the wake of the accident, which occurred Jan. 13 when the cruise ship strayed into shallow water. Rocks tore a gash as wide as a football field into the side of the ship. It began taking on water and quickly capsized. Seventeen bodies have been recovered, but other people remain missing, including the Heils.

Gerald Heil, 69, and Barbara, 70, were devoted parishioners at the Church of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, Minn. Congregants there, as well as the Heils' four children, had been holding out hope for days that rescuers would help provide answers, and some measure of closure.

There was no immediate reaction from either the church or the Heil children, who have created a family blog to keep everyone posted on developments.

Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise and Costa Concordia management have infuriated survivors by offering them the equivalent of about $14,460 each as compensation. Six passengers have filed lawsuits in U.S. federal court in Miami seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, according to AP. A crew member has also filed a lawsuit in Chicago federal court seeking class-action status and at least $100 million in damages, it reported.

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Photo: The Costa Concordia cruise ship is seen off the coast of Isola del Giglio. Credit: Luca Zennaro / EPA


Costa Concordia wreck: Hopes fading for Minnesota couple onboard

Costa_Concordia_Gerald_and_Barbara_Heil
Costa Concordia -- that once-majestic cruise ship -- capsized two weeks ago after sailing into shallow waters near the western coast of Italy. All but 32 of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew were saved.

Sixteen bodies have been recovered. Among those still missing: retirees Gerald and Barbara Heil of Minnesota.

Photos: Dramatic images of Costa Concordia wreck

Gerald Heil, 69, and Barbara, 70, always dreamed of traveling but put it off while raising four kids and sending them to college, and then delighting in their 15 grandchildren, according to a friend at their church in White Bear Lake, Minn.

The couple selflessly and tirelessly served the congregation of about 1,500 families, including teaching faith classes to the church's younger parishioners. Barbara Heil could always be counted on for cooking and delivering food to the needy, Dr. Larry Erickson, director of operations at the Church of St. Pius X, told ABC News.

They were looking forward to a magical time during the 16-day European cruise. But on Jan. 13, the ship ran aground, ripping open the hull. The ship began taking on water, and later fell on its side.

In the days and hours after the capsizing, the Heil family and congregants at the Church of St. Pius X refused to give up hope, and have held close to their faith during this entire ordeal. There have been candlight vigils, services and endless prayers.

The family created a blog to keep friends, relatives, congregants and the media apprised of developments. And there has been a subtle shift in the language of the blog postings as the days have turned into weeks. An early posting talks about hopes for successful "search and rescue operations," but a more recent post suggests a heartbroken air of acceptance about the Heils' fate.

"As the days come and go we find this to be such an extreme test of our patience," says the most recent post headlined "The search continues..." "We so badly want Mom and Dad to be found so we can bring them home."

The posts were intended as news updates, but they also tell the world something critical about Gerald and Barbara Heil, and how they raised their children, and their deep, abiding faith.

Many of the passengers who survived are filing lawsuits, the captain of the ship is under investigation, and there are accusations of negligence. But for now there is no  anger or rancour visible on the Heil family blog.

Instead, nearly every post expresses heart-felt gratitude, awe and admiration for the rescue workers, hailing their heroic and tireless work to find the last remaining victims and asking for prayers to keep them safe. One example is this line in the most recent post:

"We continue to pray for the safety of those searching and express our sincere gratitude for all of their efforts."

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--Rene Lynch
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Photo: Church of St. Pius X directory photo. (Associated Press / Olan Mills Studios)


New York elbows past Los Angeles as America's rudest city

Manhattan

New Yorkers are the rudest people in America, but they glower with glamour, according to the latest survey of Travel & Leisure magazine readers, who ranked New York more boorish than Los Angeles -- last year's champ -- but who also praised New Yorkers as the country's most stylish jerks.

All that rude behavior clearly hasn't discouraged tourists from flocking to Gotham. The results of the annual survey coincided with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that the city ended 2011 having hosted a record 50.5 million visitors, an increase of 3.5% over the previous year.

Travel experts say there are several factors that make New York the country's biggest tourist destination: the weak dollar; an increase in budget hotels; its unrivaled energy. The not-so-sweet disposition of its residents apparently is not one of the city's draws. The roughly 40,000 people who responded to the Travel & Leisure online survey rated New York dead last of 35 metropolitan areas in friendliness.

As one might expect, New Yorkers asked about the survey by the local all-news channel, NY1, argued against the findings -- if they bothered to respond at all. "I think it's wrong," said one man, adding that he always helps people who need directions. "That's all I do is give directions," he griped. Others said visitors mistook New Yorkers' typically frenzied pace for unfriendliness.

The city also ranked last for affordability, cleanliness and noise levels, but the fashion center of the country was tops in style and diversity.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, which was rated the rudest last year, moved into a warmer spot at No. 32 in that category, proving itself also nicer than Miami and Washington, D.C. But its improved behavior apparently didn't do much for the city's fashion sense: It was ranked fifth in the style category.

And for travelers looking for a friendly place to visit, the survey ranked New Orleans at the top of that list, followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Nashville.

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Photo: It's not as mean as it looks. New York was ranked the rudest city in America in an online survey. Credit: Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency

 


Van der Sloot pleads guilty: Closure for Natalee Holloway's family?

 

It's a moment that Natalee Holloway's family has wanted for years: Joran van der Sloot on Wednesday admitted in a court of law that he is a killer.

His guilty plea came in connection with the May 30, 2010, death of a 21-year-old Peruvian woman, Stephany Flores, who was killed in Van der Sloot's hotel room in Lima.

The killing took place precisely five years to the day that Holloway disappeared during a trip to Aruba to celebrate her graduation from high school in Alabama. On the night she vanished, Holloway was seen leaving a nightclub with Van der Sloot. She was never heard from again.

"Yes, I want to plead guilty. I wanted from the first moment to confess sincerely," Van der Sloot told the court Wednesday. "I truly am sorry for this act. I feel very bad," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Van der Sloot is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, and faces up to 30 years in prison. However, he could get a lesser sentence given his guilty plea.

Holloway's disappearance became an issue in the Flores murder case -- and was even used as a gambit to gain leniency for the suspect.

Van der Sloot's lawyer at one point tried to argue that Van der Sloot, 24, a Dutch citizen, was driven to kill Flores as a result of "extreme psychological trauma" he endured after he became a prime suspect in Holloway's disappearance.

Said one Twitter user Wednesday morning: "Van Der Sloot pleads guilty! YES! He may not have been pinned for Natalee's death, but there will be justice for Stephany!"

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch 


$399 for Super Bowl parking? And still a 20-minute walk?

Football

Never underestimate the ability of anyone remotely associated with football’s Super Bowl to separate fans from their money.

To extravagantly priced game tickets and jacked-up concession prices, you can add overpriced parking -- up to $399 for a single spot in Indianapolis, site of the Feb. 5 Super Bowl XLVI game. And those pricey spots are a good 20-minute walk in winter weather to the actual game, according to a survey by TV station WTHR.

But the $399 spots can accommodate big RVs and tailgate parties, with fans able to reserve the spots online ahead of time. And toilet facilities are available.

"They can tailgate, feel like they are not going to get harmed. We are watching while they are at the game," Peter Hanson, owner of TWAY Company Parking, which owns the lot, told the station. "They know they are being taken care of."

That’s one way to put it.

Belaboring the obvious, Scott Gould, of Denison Parking, told WTHR: "It is probably going to be the best day in the parking business." With 10,000 parking spots, Denison stands to rake in up to $1 million from Super Bowl week activities, Gould said.

Other parking companies are cashing in, too. A parking space across from the City Market downtown that normally goes for $6 will cost $99 on game day. Other lots or garages surveyed by the TV station ranged from $59 to $129 per parking space.

Prices vary based on distance from the stadium, the type and size of vehicles they can accommodate, and whether they allow tailgating or provide security.

Comments on the TV station’s website ranged as widely as parking prices.

"IT’S GOUGING! . . GOUGING . . . GOUGING!!!" one fan wrote. Another countered: "Let me introduce you all to a simple concept known as supply and demand."

Fans can, of course, watch the game for free on network TV. But if they absolutely have to attend the game in person, the Indianapolis Star reports that the city’s transportation system, IndyGo, will offer free rides on certain routes during Super Bowl weekend.

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Photo illustration: What would you pay to watch this being tossed in the Super Bowl? If you have to factor in parking, get out a calcuator. Credit: Greg Hister / Los Angeles Times 


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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