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State Department warns of 'security threat' in Mexico's popular Playa del Carmen

The State Department on Wednesday issued a security alert for a popular Mexican resort city, warning Americans to exercise caution in Playa del Carmen and to buy travel insurance two weeks after an explosion on a tourist ferry injured more than two dozen people.

>> Read more trending news

Officials told The Associated Press on Thursday that the alert was not related to the explosion, which left 19 Mexicans and at least five Americans injured. Officials did not specify what kind of threat prompted the alert.

"Clearly, there is a threat," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday at a news briefing, according to CNN. "We're making Americans aware of that threat so that Americans can protect their own safety and the safety of their families."

In the alert issued Wednesday, officials said U.S. government employees were “prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen until further notice.” The U.S. consular agency in the city “will be closed until further notice.”

Playa Del Carmen is popular among tourists. Its beaches and resorts are often a draw for Americans visiting Mexico for spring break, The Washington Post reported.

Canadian officials issued their own travel advisory Thursday, warning Canadians to avoid tourist ferries traveling in the region in the wake of last month’s explosion and the discovery last week of an explosive device on another ferry out of Playa del Carmen.

Officials in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Playa del Carmen, said in a statement obtained by the AP that despite the warnings, the city is safe.

“We do not know why the U.S. government decided to emit this alert,” officials with the state government said, according to the AP. “All tourism and economic activity in Playa del Carmen continues in a normal manner.”

Need a vacation? Take a trip to Walt Disney World with Google Maps

Wish you could take a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Just hop on Google Maps, because the amusement parks are now available in street view

» RELATED: Google Maps launches feature that allows users to see moons and planets

The tech company announced the news this week, revealing that you can virtually visit the tourist spots right from your home

“We’re all about new fantastic points of view. Today Street View is going the distance, from California to Florida, to make Disney part of your world,” the search engine site wrote on its blog. “Be our guest at 11 Disney Parks, and with Street View, anything your heart desires will come to you—castles, rides, attractions to infinity and beyond.”

You can see 360-degree views of attractions, including Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and folks on social media are thrilled. A few took to Twitter to share their excitement. 

» RELATED: Why Google Maps cupcake calorie counter killed, weight loss backlash

In wake of NRA flap, Delta reviewing all group discounts of a ‘politically divisive nature’

In the wake of the controversy over Delta Air Lines’ end of an NRA discount for travel to the group’s convention, the Atlanta-based airline said it is reviewing all discounts “of a politically divisive nature.”

“While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a Friday memo to employees obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”

A Delta spokesman said only 13 tickets were sold under the group travel discount for the National Rifle Association.

>> Read more trending news 

“Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate,” Bastian wrote in the statement. He added that many employees have gotten questions from customers, and that he knows it is “not comfortable to be caught in a highly emotional debate.”

Read the full memo from Delta’s CEO here:

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi keeps you updated on the latest news about Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Delta Air Lines and the airline industry in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

Delta’s new emotional support animal policy takes effect

Delta Air Lines’ new tighter restrictions on emotional support animals and service animals took effect Thursday.

Atlanta-based Delta put in place the new policy effective March 1 after a passenger on one of its planes was attacked by a 70-pound emotional support dog last year. It also comes amid a rise in incidents involving animals in flights and a lack of certain regulations “creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” according to Delta.

Here’s how Delta describes its new policy:

Delta's updated policy

Any customer traveling with a service or support animal on or after March 1 will need to meet the new requirements as outlined below:

Traveling with a trained service animal

  • In some cases, customers with a trained service animal may be asked to show the animal's Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record or other proof that the animal's vaccinations are up to date. Customers are encouraged, but not required, to submit this form to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com before traveling.
  • These customers can check-in via Delta.com, the Fly Delta mobile app, airport kiosks or with an airport agent.

Traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal

  • Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date), an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form that requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form. These forms are required and must be submitted to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours before travel.
  • These customers must use the full-service check-in process with an airport agent. 

>> Read more trending news 

Delta said it carries about 700 service or support animals each day, but not all of them are the real thing, as people try to fly everything from pigs to turkeys.

Spring breakers, watch out: The Portuguese man o' war is back

Duuuhnuh. 

Duuuhnuh.

Dundundundundundundundunduuuuuunnnn.

No, we’re not talking about sharks, but there’s another sea creature that spring breakers might have to worry about.

>> Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards

Park rangers at Texas' Padre Island National Seashore this week posted a photo of some of the first Portuguese man o’ war to hit the shore this season.

>> See the post here

Similar sightings have been reported at Florida beaches in Palm Beach County and St. Augustine.

The Portuguese man o’ war, also known as “the floating terror,” looks pretty, but has enough venom in its tentacles to paralyze small fish and other prey. The venom is not deadly to humans (except in extremely, extremely rare cases), but it still hurts to get stung by a man o’ war.

If you do get stung, symptoms include severe pain, rashes, red welts on the skin, fever and other reactions that mimic an allergic reaction. Sometimes the tentacles can sting you and they won’t even be attached to the body of the man o’ war; they’re just out there, floating in the ocean. 

>> Read more trending news 

To treat a sting, rinse the sting site with vinegar to remove any leftover stingers, and then immerse the wound in hot water or cover it with a hot pack.

But as long as you keep an eye out, you should be fine. 

What's the No. 1 state in the nation? U.S. News releases 2018 Best States list

Iowans earned major bragging rights this week after their state was recognized as the best in the nation.

>> Read more trending news 

That’s according to U.S. News & World Report’s official 2018 Best States ranking, for which analysts compared the 50 states across seven categories: health care; education; economy; opportunity; infrastructure; crime and corrections; fiscal stability; and quality of life.

>> On AJC.com: Georgia health care ranks among worst in nation, study says

Health care and education carried the most weight at 16 percent each.

Data used for the analysis were drawn from reliable governmental and private resources, as well as a national survey of what matters most to citizens around the U.S.

>> Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards

Iowa ranked in the top five in four different categories, including health care (3), education (5), opportunity (4) and infrastructure (1).

For the second straight year, Louisiana was ranked last.

Here are the top 10 best states in America, according to U.S. News:

1. Iowa

2. Minnesota

3. Utah

4. North Dakota

5. New Hampshire

6. Washington

7. Nebraska

8. Massachusetts

9. Vermont

10. Colorado

Other notable rankings:

15. Florida

23. North Carolina

25. New York

26. Tennessee

31. Georgia

36. Texas

38. Pennsylvania

40. Ohio

42. South Carolina

More about the study and its methodology at USNews.com. 

Parkland school shooting survivor asks tourists to boycott Florida until gun reform passes

David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, is now calling for tourists to boycott Florida during spring break to raise awareness for gun control.

>> Florida school shooting survivor's mother says her family has received death threats

“Let’s make a deal DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed,” Hogg tweeted to more than 280,000 followers. “These politions [sic] won’t listen to us so maybe the’ll listen to the billion dollar tourism industry in FL.”

>> On Rare.us: Florida high school shooting survivor doesn’t think the NRA cares about its members

According to WTVJ, Hogg said in a video that tourists shouldn’t come to Florida for spring break or summer vacations, saying, “How can you expect people from across the nation and the world to come to South Florida if we can’t guarantee their safety because of the inaction of these politicians? I understand there will be economic ramifications from this, but that is only if these politicians refuse to take quick and swift action to resolve these gun issues.”

>> Florida school shooting survivors return to campus, try to resume normalcy

Tourists spend more than $100 billion each year while visiting Florida, according to Oxford Economics.

>> Read more trending news 

Hogg also suggested that tourists instead go to Puerto Rico, tweeting, “It’s a beautiful place with amazing people. They could really use the economic support that the government has failed to provide.”

>> See the tweet here

Hogg has been vocal since the Valentine’s Day shooting at his high school. He has criticized the actions of the NRA and spokeswoman Dana Loesch, claiming they “don’t serve [the members of the NRA],” and he had to prove he wasn’t a “crisis actor” after he and his family received death threats.

All aboard: Disney Cruise Line looks for workers to man its ship kid clubs

If you’ve dreamed of working on the high seas, then Disney is looking for you.

The cruise line that Mickey built is hiring youth activities counselors to live and work on its fleet of cruise ships, Metro reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The hours are long, according to Metro, at 80 hours a week, but the job offers fun and amazing ports of call in Mexico, Barcelona and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.

The job posting opened in December, but it appears that the cruise line is still recruiting.

But not anyone can apply or be hired. You have to have two years’ recent experience working with children in a “high-volume, fast-paced recreational/camp environment.”

Among the other qualifications:

  • Must be able to command the attention of large groups of children
  • At least 20 years old
  • Work a seven-day 70-84 hour work week with limited time off
  • Adhere to Disney Cruise Line appearance guidelines

It would also help to be bilingual in Spanish or Portuguese and have experience working with children with special needs.

If chosen, cruise line cast members live with a roommate on board the ship and also must be willing and able to follow and lead the shipboard emergency procedures.

The positions are for any of the four Disney ships: the Wonder, Magic, Fantasy or Dream, and Disney’s private Bahamian island, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Click here to apply.

Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards

A Florida beach has been named the nation's best in TripAdvisor's annual Travelers' Choice awards.

>> See the full rankings here

The travel website announced Tuesday that Clearwater Beach was the best in the U.S. in 2018, climbing from No. 4 in 2017. The beach also topped the national list in 2016. 

>> Read more trending news 

Meanwhile, Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, took the award for the best beach worldwide.

>> Click here or scroll down to see which other beaches made the lists

Disney announces when Toy Story Land will open

Fans of the “Toy Story” film franchise now know when they’ll be able to “shrink down” to the size of Andy’s toys and experience the immersive world Walt Disney Imagineers have been building.

Guests to Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios will officially be able to visit’s Andy’s backyard playsets starting June 30. 

>> Read more trending news 

Imagineers have been busy designing and creating rides like Alien Swirling Saucers, where riders climb into flying saucers, accompanied by the little green men and they spin across the floor.

A third track will be available on the popular Toy Story Mania shooting game/ride that has been a park staple since 2008, park officials said.

Finally, the centerpiece of the new land riders can climb into Slinky Dog and race through the park on Slinky Dog Dash coaster.

Food won’t be an issue in the new themed land either with Woody’s Lunch Box, according to Walt Disney World officials, which looks just like a classic metal lunch box that will be a quick service location that creates “tasty meals and old-fashioned soda floats.”

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