Entries in London (6)


London Prepares for Marathon with Bomb-Proof Recycling Pods

Photo Courtesy of Renew(LONDON) -- London, which is on alert as it prepares for Margaret Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday and the London Marathon on Sunday, long ago took steps that many U.S. cities and large corporations with huge campuses may be thinking about now.

Packages or bags placed on the ground or in trash bins are a major vulnerability.

London rid itself of trash bins decades ago as a security risk amid strife with Northern Ireland. The city is accustomed to extensive public safety planning and precautions surrounding major public events, such as the London Summer Olympics.

Boston police say there is no evidence the devices at the marathon blew up in trash cans, though they might have been placed in a nylon bag and set on the ground.

Kaveh Memari, CEO of Renew, said a "blast-mitigating" recycling "pod" his company developed can prevent some damage if a device was placed in one of these bins.

"It's exactly this kind of thing that this thing was designed to handle," Memari said of the unit, which is almost 5 feet tall.

"We don't use the word 'bin' at all as most times people would not envision a Renew Pod," Memari said. "It's like referring to an email as a message, an armoured transport a wagon, or a smartphone a telephone to someone who has never written an email, been in a tank nor used a mobile."

Renew is providing about 100 "bomb-proof" recycling pods in London that show advertisements and public service announcements.

"Renew is not just a hardened shell," said Memari. He said its built-in messaging system also fills the "informational black hole" that follows for people in the surrounding area, like that which followed the London bombings on July 7, 2005.

The company conducted blast testing at New Mexico Tech's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, which provides training approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

Stephen Vickers, account executive with Renew in London, explained that free newspapers and other material piled up in the streets after trash bins were eliminated.

As part of Renew's 21-year contract with the city, last year it began placing the pods in London's City Square Mile.

The company already placed one pod near the New York Stock Exchange in the spring of 2012 and hopes to have additional units in the city later this year. It also has four pods in Singapore.

For the upcoming London Marathon, the pods will provide information on road and subway closures, as well as advice on being safe and vigilant.

"Road closures will be in effect from 07:00 in the City on Wednesday as part of arrangements for Lady Thatcher's funeral," is one example of a message. London Underground subway status updates can also be shown on the bins.

The opening of the paper-only pod fits the size of a McDonald's disposable cup, said Vickers. There are also mixed recycling apertures which also allow for the collection of plastic and can beverage containers.

Ian Murison, director of engineering with Curventa, the industrial design firm that helped develop Renew's pods, adds that the openings to the bins can be locked remotely so people can't put anything inside in emergencies.

Murison said the internal area of the pod is designed to withstand the shock force of a bomb.

Previously, London had a number of cast iron bins that would cause additional damage if an explosive device broke away its pieces.

The city previously had over 1,300 waste bins before the IRA bombings but now has about 25 in some of the parks, Memari said.

Many cities are limiting garbage bins or only using clear plastic bags hung by simple wire or plastic stands, so the contents of the garbage are easily viewable.

Murison declined to reveal the bins' material for security purposes, but said they were made of a type of steel "joined together in the best way possible to withstand a substantial shock blast." The company also enlisted the help of a submarine engineer.

They are composed of a "Blast Module center," "which is four times stronger than steel and is designed to handle huge over pressures and blast waves emanating from an Improvised Explosive Device," Memari said.

"We learned that bombs placed inside of bins made better bombs," Murison said from Curventa's headquarters in London. "And when glass shatters, that's what causes the damage and a lot of lacerations."

The recycling bins are also designed so any potential explosion would blow the lid up in the air.

"The vast majority of the energy of an explosion is going into thin air. We do have to send the shockwaves somewhere and like a chimney it goes straight up but should protect people in the vicinity," he said.

While the technologies may assist in preventing some tragedies, Murison said public vigilance is a major factor.

"You can control something in an enclosed space like a stadium, but when it's outside like a marathon, it's extremely difficult," he said. "You hope the vast majority of the public is vigilant and report suspicious activity -- unless you lock down the whole city, which isn't going to happen."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


World’s Worst Cities for Hotels

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bad news for London travelers: Not only are London hotels expensive, they’re also reportedly among the world’s worst.

At least, that’s according to data from Trivago, a price-comparison hotel search site based in Germany and recently acquired by Expedia.

The “Online Hotel Reputation Index” is based on 34 million travel reviews from 140 different sites (including such names as Expedia, Priceline and  Only hotels with a minimum of 60 reviews were considered, and a city needed to have at least 135 hotels to be included.

London came in last among the 100 cities ranked, and Dresden, Germany, came in first.  In second, came Hanoi, Vietnam.  And in the third spot, an American city: Portland, Ore.

Other cities that didn’t fare well: Los Angeles, which came in at 91 of 100, and Paris, which came in at 97 out of 100.

Here are the 10 best cities (1 – 10) for hotels, according to Trivago:

  • Dresden, Germany
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Tokyo
  • Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • Gdansk, Poland
  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • Krakow, Poland
  • Budapest, Hungary

And the 10 worst cities (91 – 100) for hotels:

  • Los Angeles
  • Kyiv, Ukraine
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Panama City, Panama
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Amsterdam
  • Paris
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • London

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McDonald’s Announces Menu for Olympic Park

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Four McDonald’s restaurants will takeover Olympic Park at this year’s events in London.

Traditional McDonald’s items -- the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Filet-O-Fish and Chicken McNuggets -- comprise the menu.

A few items that you may not recognize are also available.  The Wispa Gold McFlurry is made with “soft dairy ice cream swirled with Cadbury Wispa pieces and a Cadbury Caramel sauce.”  The dessert has 400 calories and 14 grams of fat.

The Chicken Legend is a crispy chicken sandwich served with spicy tomato salsa that will be sold at the games.  Other items include a Sweet Chili Chicken Wrap, croissants and pain au chocolat. 

While you might not recognize these items, they are widely available at restaurants in the U.K.

The menu features a full McCafe menu along with breakfast. Carrots and salads are also available for those looking for healthier options.

The following locations will serve the Olympic menu: “one in the Athletes’ Village, one in the Main Media Centre (MMC), and two retail locations for spectators (World Square and Orbit Circus).” 

The World Square location is a whopping 9,843 square feet and the company has posted photos of it on their Flickr site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nearly One Million Olympic Tickets to Go on Sale

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nearly one million Olympic tickets will go on sale Friday, including tickets to the highly coveted opening and closing ceremonies.

The upcoming sale gives hope to the one million people who applied previously but didn’t get tickets.  First dibs will go to the 20,000 people who missed out on the initial ballot and again on a subsequent second sale. They will have 31 hours of exclusive access.

After that, those who applied in the initial ballot will have five days to purchase tickets.

There are a total of 8.8 million tickets to the Olympic Games.  The Telegraph reported that of those, about six-and-a-half million are for fans, another million for countries sending athletes to the games and the final million are split between sponsors, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), guests and hospitality partners.

Unauthorized websites claiming to sell Olympic tickets are plentiful.  LOCOG, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, has a “ticket checker” site with a list of known unauthorized sites.

For those who are able to score tickets in this latest sale, airfare and lodging to the Olympics is still available.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Occupy’ Protesters Force St. Paul’s Cathedral to Close

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- St. Paul’s Cathedral is losing a significant chunk of money each day after shutting down due to health and safety concerns posed by Occupy London protesters, who have set up a tent city on the lawn on the famous landmark.

An estimated 1.9 million people visit the cathedral each year, bringing in approximately $25,000 in revenue per day, according to The Guardian.

The cathedral receives very little funding from the state and relies heavily on ticket revenue.

Graeme Knowles, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, pleaded with protesters to leave the grounds of the landmark, which is a huge draw to tourists from around the world.

“I am asking the protestors to recognize the huge issues facing us at this time and asking them to leave the vicinity of the building so that the Cathedral can re-open as soon as possible,” he said in an open letter posted on the St. Paul’s website.

But demonstrators said Sunday that they’re in it for the long haul. Some said they expected to continue their demonstration through Christmas, while others said they hoped to stay outside the cathedral until the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“I’ll be here next summer if that’s what it takes to change the system,” protester David Harris, 36, told The Guardian.

This is the first time St. Paul’s Cathedral has been closed since World War II.’s calls to Occupy London were not immediately returned, but a statement on the group’s site said they were committed to working with St. Paul’s to rectify any concerns.

“Our intention was to highlight the iniquities of the global economic crisis, in a peaceful manner, especially as the Cathedral has been so hospitable,” the group wrote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Playboy Opens New Club in London

Denise Truscello/WireImage(CHICAGO) -- Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was in London Saturday night, as the Playboy Club London was officially opened.

The club, a gaming and entertainment venue, opened with a private function attended by Hefner, his fiancée Crystal Harris and his two sons Marston and Cooper.

Located in London’s Mayfair district, the club features two floors and is spread over 17,000 square feet, with its design incorporating influences from the original Playboy Club London that opened in 1966.

"I'm thrilled to be here for this very special occasion that celebrates the return of the Playboy Club and its iconic Bunnies to London," Hefner said upon arrival at the opening. "People still remember with great fondness the sophistication and romance that the original London Club offered when it opened in 1966. There is a retro-chic quality about Playboy Club London and its Bunnies that will give today's guests an experience they may have missed the first time around."

Patrons at the club can look forward to the hospitality of the world-renowned Playboy Bunnies who will serve as hostesses, croupiers and cocktail servers, according to a news release from Playboy.

Those in attendance at the opening event were treated to musical entertainment from DJ Vice and cocktails by renowned mixologist Salvatore Calabrese.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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