Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Coney Island Owner Confirms Closure


Crowds pack into Astroland Park in Coney Island, New York, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008
Seth Wenig / AP

(NEW YORK) — When reports circulated over the weekend of a last-minute deal to keep Coney Island's historic Astroland amusement park open for another year, owner Carol Hill Albert was not amused.

Indeed, her tone was bitter as she described plans to close the park Sunday night in lieu of an agreement with the city or with private developer Thor Equities, which have competing plans for the 3-acre Brooklyn site.

"Despite rumors to the contrary, there are absolutely no negotiations going on, and there never were," said Albert, whose family has owned Astroland for more than four decades.

The park would close permanently, she said. Late Sunday night, visitors were herded out of the park and the lights were shut off for the last time.

The Cyclone, the famous Coney Island roller coaster, and the 150-foot-tall Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel, are separately owned and landmarked by the city so they are unaffected by the closing.

News that Sunday would be the last gasp for Dante's Inferno fun house, 22 other rides and three arcades drew hundreds of nostalgia-minded visitors, including elderly residents of the beach area and families with children who had never ridden on the Tilt-A-Whirl or the Water Flume.

Bobby Salony said bringing his wife and their daughters from Greenwich, Conn., was a kind of "unfinished business."

"We had to come in and have one more time (at Astroland)," Salony said. "Twenty years from now, they can say they were here on the last day."

On a nearby sidewalk, Amos Wengler strummed a guitar and sang a tune he wrote for the occasion: "Save Coney Island, don't let them take it away, and the whole world wants it to stay."

Wengler was one of a few who said they felt there was "still hope" that Astroland would not disappear. Even if a developer takes over, "you can always make it the same again," he said.

Last fall, Astroland and Thor Equities, which owns 11 acres of seaside property that includes the amusement park, agreed to a one-year lease extension that expires Jan. 31, 2009.

Albert said Sunday that she had sought since June to negotiate an extension with Thor through 2010 but was repeatedly told the company had "no answer." Her spokesman, Joe Carella, said Albert decided to close Astroland when it was clear that Thor had no intention of negotiating with her.

Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman said the firm was "extremely disappointed" that Albert had "decided to give up on the future of Coney Island" with several months remaining on her lease.

The Daily News reported that Astroland's rides were already being offered for sale on the Internet, with prices ranging from $95,000 for the merry-go-round to $199,000 for the bumper cars.

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Red Bull drink lifts stroke risk: Australian study

By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Just one can of the popular stimulant energy drink Red Bull can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, even in young people, Australian medical researchers said on Friday.

The caffeine-loaded beverage, popular with university students and adrenaline sport fans to give them "wings", caused the blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke.

"One hour after they drank Red Bull, (their blood systems) were no longer normal. They were abnormal like we would expect in a patient with cardiovascular disease," Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, told the Australian newspaper.

Red Bull Australia spokeswoman Linda Rychter said the report would be assessed by the company's head office in Austria.

"The study does not show effects which would go beyond that of drinking a cup of coffee. Therefore, the reported results were to be expected and lie within the normal physiological range," Rychter told Reuters.

Willoughby and his team tested the cardiovascular systems of 30 young adults one hour before and one hour after consuming one 250ml can of sugar-free Red Bull.

The results showed "normal people develop symptoms normally associated with cardiovascular disease" after consuming the drink, created in the 1980s by Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz based on a similar Thai energy drink.

Red Bull is banned in Norway, Uruguay and Denmark because of health risks listed on its cans, but the company last year sold 3.5 billion cans in 143 countries. One can contains 80 mg of caffeine, around the same as a normal cup of brewed coffee.

The Austria-based company, whose marketing says "Red Bull gives you wings", sponsors Formula 1 race cars and extreme sport events around the world, but warns consumers not to drink more than two cans a day.

Rychter said Red Bull could only have such global sales because health authorities across the world had concluded the drink was safe to consume.

But Willoughby said Red Bull could be deadly when combined with stress or high blood pressure, impairing proper blood vessel function and possibly lifting the risk of blood clotting.

"If you have any predisposition to cardiovascular disease, I'd think twice about drinking it," he said.

(Editing by David Fogarty)

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Wine causes sneezing fits in allergic student

Wine causes sneezing fits in allergic student
Leah Miller risks another sneezing fit as she holds a glass of wine Photo: M&Y

For Leah, Miller, 19, a student at Portsmouth University, the attacks are a constant blight on her social life.

Her long-suffering friends are growing tired of saying 'bless you' and potential boyfriends scared off by the volume of her sneezes.

Miss Miller, from Purbrook, Hants, said: 'It is a nightmare because when I was out with friends I could usually avoid it but now I have met a whole new group of people.

'Nobody knows the problems I have got and everyone finds it highly amusing when they set me off.

'It is incredibly embarrassing, especially when boys are around because it is a real conversation killer. It is not like the sneezes are small or discreet either - they are really loud and everybody can hear them.'

Miss Miller said she used to be able to drink wine and suffered no other side effect other than feeling slightly light-headed, but then she began to suffer shooting pains.

'I would get terrible back cramps but then one day the sneezing started and it just has not stopped,' she said.

'I only have to see a glass of wine and it sends me off which can be incredibly annoying for my friends but it happens so often they have almost got used to it."

People with wine allergies suffer a wide array of symptoms, including migraines and breathing difficulties, but the UK Allergy Foundation said Miss Miller's condition is one of the rarest.

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