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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump unveiled his plan to fix the nation's infrastructure Monday, outlining a strategy he says will spark "new investment" to solve the problem, but Democrats call the proposal insufficient.“Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will be your partner,” the president told local and state officials invited to the White House.The president's proposal calls for $200 billion in new federal funds that the administration anticipates will “stimulate $1.5 trillion in new investment in infrastructure,” with states, local governments and private partnerships expected to bear the brunt of the financial burden for achieving one of the president’s key campaign promises.The president welcomed some governors and mayors to the White House for a discussion of infrastructure, in which he sought to parallel what he is trying to do at the federal level with his experience in business. He specifically touted the story of the ice skating rink project in New York City he said he took over after it had been mismanaged, citing it as an example of how he wants to streamline what he said would be an “unprecedented” investment in the nation’s infrastructure.“When I did the Wollman Rink, it was seven years they couldn't get it built. It would have been forever, they couldn’t get it built, and I did it in a few months at a much smaller price,” Trump said. “I said, you know, I like to able to have my daughter Ivanka, who is will - I would like her to be able to going ice skating before she doesn’t want to ice skate.”“We did it for a tiny fraction of the cost. And it is really no different with a roadway. No different with a bridge or a tunnel or any of the things we'll be fixing,” the president continued.The White House infrastructure outline features four overarching goals: stimulate $1.5 trillion in new investment and infrastructure; shorten the permitting process to two years; invest in rural infrastructure; and make improvements in training the workforce that would be generated as a part of the plan.HOW WILL THE MONEY BE ALLOCATED? Describing how $1.5 trillion in new investment would be generated out of just $200 billion in federal funds, an administration official said that $100 billion of the money will go towards incentives for state and local governments to use in starting up infrastructure projects. Twenty billion will go towards expanding loan programs and private activity bonds. Fifty billion will be directed towards improvements solely in rural infrastructure in the form of block grants to state governors, allowing them to select what projects to direct the funding towards. Another $20 billion will go to “transformative programs,” or infrastructure projects rooted in promoting new or innovative ideas. The final $10 billion will go towards a “capital financing fund” that will fund office-building infrastructure the federal government is already building.Altogether, the official said the $1.5 trillion prediction is based on “state and local governments - how will they likely respond to this program.” Democrats have criticized the $200 billion in federal spending in the past as insufficient compared to the needs facing the nation's roads, bridges and waterways.WHAT ELSE IS IN THE PLAN? The administration official said the plan also seeks to expand eligibility for Pell Grants and adding more flexibility to license requirements for people looking to enter some type of trade rather than a four-year college.“So if you're licensed to perform a trade in one part of the country, you can move to another part of the country and transfer that license,” the official said. “And then expand out the use of apprenticeships to help those that are interested in going to trades, develop thei
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  • Evan Sung/Stick With Me Sweets(NEW YORK) -- Chocolate is the top gift for Valentine's Day with Americans spending $1.8 billion on candy for the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation.But there's way more out there to delight your sweetie than the cliché box of dark or milk chocolates these days.There's a booming group of small-batch makers and chocolatiers from around the country who are doubling down on craftsmanship and high-quality ingredients."This craft culture is promoting the idea that chocolate is very complex food and not candy that we mindlessly munch on throughout the day. People want to know more where their food comes from and where it's made," said Michael Laiskonis, the Institute of Culinary Education's creative director, who helms the New York City school's bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab.Chocolatiers are making chocolates that are both beautiful and arguably more flavor-forward than ever before and while using their creations as canvas for storytelling."As complex and as interesting as chocolate on its own is, it's also a great platform for other flavors," Laiskonis said. "We are seeing this in food in general, [chocolatiers] are drawing influences from all over the world, building new flavor profiles that might be unfamiliar to many people -- whether its Asian flavors or flavors from the Indian subcontinent."Stick with Me SweetsAt Stick With Me Sweets, a boutique chocolate shop in New York City, their signature chocolate bonbons are edible pieces of art.“Everyone is now eating with their eyes and not just on their mouths anymore, it becomes a whole other level of experience,” Stick With Me Sweets founder and head chef Susanna Yoon said. “You’re not just looking at square, dark chocolate. You’re looking at different colors, different art, different types of chocolate that didn’t exist, like our dessert in a bonbon, which is very different to people.”Yoon, a Per Se alum, handcrafts their signature bonbons until they shine like exquisite jewels.The entire production process takes two to three full days, she says. No detail is too small, starting with the finest of raw ingredients in the creative concoctions: 18 different kinds of chocolate, 10 different kinds of nuts, 22 different fruits and citrus like yuzu, kalamansi and passionfruit, etc., and 60 different colors.“When creating our designs, we [conceive] the flavor first. Once we create the recipe, we find colors and designs to bring life to the ingredients inside or the story behind its creation,” Yoon said. “No two pieces are alike. Each stroke is created similarly but different at the same time. Some are pressed harder or lighter, longer or shorter, more or less color, and so on. Each bonbon is genuinely unique.”The gourmet bonbons have scored Oprah Winfrey’s nod of approval on her annual Favorite Things list."Her style is colorful ... and the exterior decoration calls out what's in it. She's been doing a lot of interesting things with different textures -- not often you find a piece of a cookie inside of a chocolate bonbon -- or she'll do a riff on a lemon meringue pie, some of the more nostalgic things but done in very refined way," Laiskonis said.Laiskonis lauds Yoo for her texture combinations and incorporating nostalgia at a highly-refined level."She's been doing a lot of interesting things with different textures -- not often you find a piece of a cookie inside of a chocolate bonbon," he said, "Or she'll do a riff on a lemon meringue pie, some of the more nostalgic things but done in very refined way."For Valentine’s Day, Yoon has a special collection of limited-edition flavors inspired for the holiday.Read on for some more chocolatiers that you can't go wrong with this Valentine's Day -- though you may end up needing to get a box for yourself too.Compartes ChocolatierCompartes chocolate bars are anything but basic. The Los Angeles-based company handcrafts th
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  • @Ellie.Deshaies (CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Large crowds gathered and big cheers erupted as the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX's most powerful rocket yet, blasted off Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A, where Apollo 11 launched for the moon nearly 50 years ago.Named after Star Wars' "Millennium Falcon," Falcon Heavy is currently hurtling through space towards Mars, with CEO Elon Musk's cherry-red Tesla Roadster on board, along with a spacesuit-clad dummy in tow.
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  • Amazon(NEW YORK) -- It's a question not even Amazon's Alexa has the answer to: Just where does the online retailer plan to build its second headquarters?But the company's Super Bowl commercial Sunday had some viewers' tongues wagging -- and not because of the featured celebrities.In the Amazon ad, the device apparently loses its voice as it is giving a woman the temperature in Austin, Texas. Thankfully, the company has a backup plan and several stars -- from rapper Cardi B to actor Anthony Hopkins -- rush to the rescue, lending their distinct voices as "replacements" till the problem is fixed.Viewers, however, found themselves scratching their heads after the first few seconds of the commercial. Of all the cities in these United States, why would Amazon pick Austin, Texas?Amazon has already acknowledged Austin is one of 20 cities on the short list being considered for its second headquarters.In September 2017, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos laid out the terms of the project called HQ2. In the plan, Amazon said it wanted a metropolitan location that had at least 1 million residents.Bezos also promised that the company would invest $5 billion in the new location and that 50,000 people would be hired to work at the new site. The location of HQ2 is expected to be announced this year.As for the rumors, Amazon told ABC News on Tuesday: "The Alexa Super Bowl commercial and HQ2 are completely unrelated."
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  • Courtesy Williamsburg Inn (NEW YORK) -- Eight new hotels have received an AAA Five Diamond ranking in the last 12 months, putting them in a very exclusive class of inspected hotels.There are a total of 121 hotels on the list. Honorees range from historic inns to brand-new city properties to coastal resorts.According to AAA, the hotels receiving a Five Diamond Rating "undergo a number of checks and balances including in-person inspections, anonymous overnight stays and, finally, review by a panel of experts to ensure credibility." More than 27,000 hotels are inspected.“Attaining a Five Diamond Rating is an exceptional accomplishment that signifies meticulous attention to detail, creativity in enhancing comfort, outstanding service and memorable guest experiences,” said Michael Petrone, director of AAA Inspections & Diamond Ratings. “And as more mid-scale and even budget properties are adding amenities for comfort and convenience, hotels that aim for a Five Diamond Rating must stay far ahead of the curve to differentiate themselves through advanced design concepts, highest quality furnishings and scrupulous attention to guests’ expectations.”Here are the eight hotels.Esperanza An Auberge Resort – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "Guests can enjoy the water many ways at this intimate seaside resort: They can soak in hot tubs in terraces overlooking the ocean, swim in one of several pools or lounge on a private beach," said AAA.Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown – New York, N.Y. "High-tech meets classic comforts with features including an indoor 75-foot lap pool bathed in natural light and surrounded by comfortable chaise lounges."Grand Luxxe Riviera Maya – Playa del Carmen, Mexico. According to AAA, "A multi-tiered pool and a theater built for world-class Cirque du Soleil shows are among the unique offerings at this resort."Grand Velas Los Cabos – San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. "This new resort offers oversize, elegant suites with dramatic ocean views. All guest units include terraces, some of which have plunge pools."Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa – Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands. "This stylish oceanfront resort, named after the jaw-dropping bursts of color guests can view at sunset, includes fully furnished balconies with sofa seating and an 8,500-square-foot spa with a Turkish hammam."The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue – New York, N.Y. "Close-up views of the Empire State Building are among the stunning hallmarks of this property, where rooms have fine wood finishes, high-tech accessories and marble bathrooms," said AAA.The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas – Dallas, Texas. "Museum-quality artwork, a luxurious club-level lounge and a nationally acclaimed restaurant set this hotel apart."Williamsburg Inn – Williamsburg, Virginia. "Just a few minutes’ walk from the historic area, this opulent inn takes guests back in time, with richly canopied beds, silk drapes and bedding, antiques and fine artwork."To see the complete lists of 2018 AAA Four and Five Diamond Hotels, visit http://AAA.com/DiamondAwards.
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