- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014
Winter-weary Americans plead: Get me out of here

CHICAGO (AP) - Shannon Frauenholtz has had it with winter. Barely able to stomach the television news with its images of snowbound cars, she heads to the tanning salon, closes her eyes and imagines she’s back in Mexico, where she’s already vacationed once this winter.

She’s toyed with the idea of joining her mother in Hawaii or just driving to an indoor water park, figuring that while the palm trees might be plastic and the “beach” smells of chlorine, at least it’s warm.

“I don’t need a vacation. I don’t need the relaxation,” she said. “I just need the heat.”


All over the Midwest and the East Coast, travel agents are being inundated with a simple request: Get me out of here. And travelers fortunate enough to have escaped are begging hotels to let them stay a little longer.

Because they know how miserable people are, warm-weather destinations in California, Arizona and Florida have stepped up their enticements. Trains and billboards in Chicago have been plastered with ads showing beaches and pool scenes. In Philadelphia, one promoter put fiberglass mannequins dressed in flip flops, tank tops and shorts atop taxis with their arms outstretched - a whimsical inducement to “fly” south.

Reminding Americans that there are places where nose hairs don’t freeze is an annual tradition. But those in the business of luring visitors to warmer climates say it’s rarely been easier than this season, when “polar vortex” has entered the everyday vocabulary and “Chi-beria” has become popular enough to emblazon on T-shirts.

“This year we wanted to have a little more fun with it,” said Susannah Costello, of Visit Florida, the state’s official marketing organization, which came up with the mannequin idea.

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New parasite kills Wisconsin zoo’s star orangutan

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A young orangutan who was a star attraction at the Milwaukee County Zoo was killed by an oddly behaving, previously unknown type of tapeworm, a team of Wisconsin scientists announced Thursday.

The 5-year-old orangutan named Mahal died mysteriously in December 2012. Zoo personnel speculated at the time that he may have had pneumonia.

But DNA tests done by a team of scientists at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory determined Mahal was struck by tapeworm larvae that spread throughout his body in an unusual fashion. By the time he showed symptoms, it was too late to save him, lead researcher Tony Goldberg said.

“Mahal’s death was a tragedy in the community of Milwaukee,” Goldberg said. “He was a symbol of hope.”

The orangutan was less than a year old when he was flown to Milwaukee to live with a surrogate mother because his biological mother at a zoo in Colorado had rejected him. He gained fame as the subject of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series, and zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Diliberti-Shea described him as a favorite among visitors. It is not unusual for zoo births and young animals to boost attendance.

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