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How to Use Your Tax Return for Travel

Those looking to travel domestically could take a full two weeks to visit the Pacific Northwest (think: Seattle, Portland and the surrounding area.
Couples can spend a week in Sedona, Arizona hiking the red rocks, or lounge on the beach in Florida’s Key West, with airfares in the low $300s roundtrip from many East Coast airports, according to Jauntaroo.
International destinations are still a possibility for couples on a $2,400 budget, including getaways to Croatia, where roundtrip airfare can be found from $483 per person and hotels can be booked for less than $100 per night. (Sadly, outside the capital, there arent a ton of points hotel options.) Theres also Budapest, Hungary. Hunt for a roundtrip flight just over $400 and boutique apartment rentals for $60 per night on Airbnb.
$2,700 to $2,850For international vacations, Midwest residents can head to Spain from the Midwest for just $481 roundtrip per person, or take a quick flight to the island of Aruba for just $371, according to Skyscanner. Entire families can enjoy a trip here by using points to reserve a stay at one of the islands many great points properties.
Photo by Tashka / Getty Images.$3,000 to $3,150The average tax return has historically been about $3,000 per person, and most states land in this range, from Alaska to Georgia, Maryland and Nevada.It’s still a sizable return, and even travelers who don’t want to spend their entire tax return on a trip can find great options within this budget.For residents of Nevada, Alaska, or any of the other western states, the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington are a short flight and boat ride away.
The rural archipelago is filled with state parks and greenery, making it the perfect option for nature lovers who want to hike, kayak, swim or watch for orcas starting in May. Flights originating from the west can be as low as $103 per person, according to Skyscanner, and hotels on the islands usually run from $70 to $150 per night.For international locations, residents of the West Coast can fly to parts of South America in just a few hours. Flights from California to Sao Paolo, Brazil are usually less than $500 in May.
East Coast residents can turn to the British Isles for a great getaway, where flights to Scotland are $499 round trip and flights to London are just $341, according to Skyscanner. Travelers can splurge on the recently renovated Ritz-Carlton in London, or stay at the highly rated Hilton Metropole for less than $150 per night.(Cash in your points for an award night, and youll have plenty of your tax return left over for food, beverages and activities.)$3,700 to $3,850States in the Northeast see some of the highest average tax refunds, with Connecticut taking the number one spot of $3,844, according to Smart Asset.
Travelers in the highest tax return bracket could jet off to Bali for two weeks to visit ancient Hindu temples. Flights from New York City to Bali can get as low as $481 roundtrip in the month of May (though if you want to book something quick, its not difficult to find flights in the mid-$700s) and hotels run in the low hundreds per night.North African temperatures tend to be relatively mild in the spring, making it a great time to visit Morocco or Egypt (one of our top places to travel this April). Flights to Africa tend to run on the more expensive side, regardless of the time of year, but flights to Casablanca can be found in the low $600s roundtrip.Visitors can rent entire homes near Casablanca for roughly $50 per night — and some even include their own pools.For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please .

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These real estate heavyweights were invited to Cuomo’s secretive fundraiser

Developer Douglas Durst and billionaire John Castimatidis were among the bigwigs invited to Gov.Andrew Cuomo’s secretive fundraiser earlier this month.
Durst, chairman of the Durst Organization, donated but didn’t attend the event, which was held at the St. Regis Hotel, the New York Times reported.The minimum donation per couple was $25,000.Catsimatidis said he did not contribute or go to the event — and said he was invited because of his longtime friendship with the governor.“I go back with the governor 20 years,” he told the Times.“In 50 years in business, I have never gotten anything from the city or the state, the Red Apple Group head told the Times.“You know what I’ve gotten? Ungatz. That’s Italian, I think.””Other real estate figures who received invites included Island Capital Groups Andrew Farkas and Atlantic Development Groups Peter Fine, according to the Times.The dinner was kept under the radar and not listed on Cuomo’s calendar.The invitation, too, was vaguely worded, the report said.The pricey fundraiser was planned as the New York State budget comes due — and lobbyists advised clients that the event would be good for them to attend.
Guests included senior Cuomo administration officials, including the state budget director Robert Mujica.Cuomo gave a speech to a room of about 100 people, talking about Amazon, the tumult in Washington and the transition from campaigning to governing.Two months earlier, Cuomo promised to work on campaign finance reform. He signed new limitations on corporate donations and he has vowed to “combat big money in politics.” The governor has been a big fundraiser himself, with the vast portion of his political donations coming from big checks.Last year, he accumulated more than $30 million in his campaign war chest, before a pricey effort to fend off a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon.

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Vermont Arts Council announces Poetry Out Loud winner

The emcee for Vermont’s Poetry Out Loud Finals was award-winning poet and Vermont Arts Council trustee Major Jackson. Escaja-Heiss made good use of her multi-lingual skills, securing the championship through flawless recitation of three poems, including Harina de Castilla, by Sandra M.Castillo and El Olvido, by Judith Ortiz Cofer.Escaja-Heiss will now advance to the 2019 National Finals, to be held April 30 and May 1, 2019 at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She will receive $200 in addition to an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for herself and a chaperone.

South Burlington High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. Bulpin will receive $100, plus $200 toward poetry books for St.
Johnsbury Academy.Students from fifty-three high schoolschampions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islandswill compete for a total of $50,000 in scholarship awards and school stipends at the National Finals.

The national champion will receive a $20,000 college scholarship.This year, more than five thousand Vermont students participated in classroom contests, with winners proceeding to school competitions.Each of these students brought eloquence, courage, and vulnerability to the stage, said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. The process of sharing ourselves through the work of a great artistwhether it’s a play, a symphony, or a poemis a powerful way to create connection and community.

Poetry allows us to recognize ourselves in someone else’s words. That is just one of the many reasons we all need art in our lives.VTDigger is underwritten by:The Poetry Out Loud program was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and is administered statewide by the Vermont Arts Council. Now celebrating its fourteenth year in Vermont, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of American high school students to discover and know by heart classic and contemporary poetry.


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Culture: Qatar’s US$434m desert rose museum finally blooms

ALMOST a decade in the making, three years late and at an estimated cost of US$434 million (RM1.77 billion), Qatar’s vast national museum, built in the shape of a desert rose, opens this week.A glittering ceremony, expected to include Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim Hamad al-Thani, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, takes place tomorrow, with the doors opening to the public the next day.“Architecture to give a voice to heritage whilst celebrating (the) future,” tweeted the museum’s renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, also responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The pale, futuristic 52,000-sq m structure located on Doha’s waterfront corniche will be the first notable building visitors to Qatar see as they make their way from the airport to the city centre.Even in a country which is being built, rebuilt and utterly transformed for the 2022 football World Cup, the national museum could be the single most eye-catching design of all Qatar’s new buildings.

The entrance includes 114 fountain sculptures in a 900m-long lagoon and the museum’s multi-curved roof, which resembles a giant jigsaw puzzle, is made up of 76,000 panels in 3,600 different shapes and sizes.Inside, there is more than 1,500m of gallery space.Among the exhibits is a 19th century carpet embroidered with 1.5 million Gulf pearls and the oldest Quran yet discovered in Qatar, also dating back to the 1800s.

“This is a museum that narrates the story of the people of Qatar,” Sheikha Amna Abdulaziz Jassim al-Thani, the museum’s director, has stated.The National Museum of Qatar also stands on the site of the former palace of Sheikh Abdullah Jassim al-Thani — son of the founder of modern Qatar.
The palace has been restored as part of the massive project.The museum, which officials say celebrates Qatar’s Bedouin past and energy-rich present, also reflects the country’s massive wealth and ambition. ‘Post-blockade identity’And as well as an architectural and cultural statement, the new museum is also a political one by the Qataris.It is among a growing list of spectacular buildings in Qatar, including the recently opened national library and Museum of Islamic Art further along the corniche.
The national museum is also the latest in the cultural “arms race” and soft power course among Gulf nations, which includes Nouvel’s Louvre in Abu Dhabi opened to huge fanfare in 2017, designed to show-off the progressive aspects of the various competing emirate states.And for Qatar, the museum’s delayed opening — originally scheduled for 2016 — has given it a chance to reinforce its national identity from other Gulf states, say experts.Since June 2017, Qatar has been diplomatically and economically blockaded by neighbouring former allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accused among other things of supporting terrorism. Qatar rejects all charges and says the blockade is an attack on its sovereignty.The bitter dispute has fractured long-standing Gulf alliances and the new museum will allow Qatar to reinforce its separateness from its rivals, says Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst based in Washington.

“On the basic level the museum represents Qatari identity which has really accelerated in the post-blockade environment,” he said.At the same time as the reputation of Doha’s rivals appear “inward-looking and regressive”, because of incidents like the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Qatar’s standing is the “opposite”, adds Neubauer.“It’s really not about the building, Qatar is trying to create an environment and national identity that provides a space towards independent thinking.“It is doubling down on its own progressive reforms.”

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UH Hawaiʻi Island campuses explore indigenous arts program

“Evergreen has always inspired us and we’re here to celebrate this inspiration as we prepare to deliver our Hawaiian indigenous arts program. University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College delegation visited The Evergreen State College in Washington state to explore a model of an indigenous arts program at Evergreen’s Indigenous Arts Campus and Native Programs curriculum.UH Hilo and HawaiiCC delegation in the Fiber Arts Studio wearing Evergreen Indian throw.

We’re here at Evergreen on a mission, said Taupuri Tangar, professor of Hawaii life styles at HawaiiCC.Evergreen has always inspired us and we’re here to celebrate this inspiration as we prepare to deliver our Hawaiian indigenous arts program for the advancement of indigenous well-being.HawaiiCC will host a 2019 indigenous arts summer symposium as the first step in gauging community interest and support in the proposed program.

The proposed program will pilot a focus on indigenous arts in anticipation that it will grow into a two-year community college program with pathways to a four-year degree, says Gail Makuakne-Lundin, director of the UH System Hawaii Papa O Ke Ao and interim executive assistant to the UH Hilo chancellor. Hawaii Papa O Ke Ao is a UH work committee with representatives from each campus, that is tasked with helping to make UH a leader in indigenous education.The University of Hawaii welcomes ways to study indigenous cultures as contributors to society instead of simple observations of their art, added Makuakne-Lundin.Go to UH Hilo Stories for the full article.

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U.Va. considers plan to create a new performing arts center

Several University faculty members and recent studies conducted at the University have called for the building of a performing arts center.
Report of last month outlining plans for dividing the Ivy Corridor into three nexuses — including the “Creativity and Experimental Arts Nexus,” which allocates the east end of the Emmet/Ivy property to the building of a center for the arts.
It also includes a Discovery Nexus which calls for a center for transdisciplinary research and a Democracy Nexus that intends to strengthen democratic institutions through physical and virtual gathering spaces.According to the report, the center “should provide flexible, configurable spaces hosting a continuum of innovative arts activities, from concerts and exhibitions, to workshops and classes, to research and the creation of new works.” The Board of Visitors discussed the performing arts center at a Buildings and Grounds committee meeting Feb. 28 but has not approved it.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily earlier this month, Ryan said the report is part of a six year plan and that the performing arts center is currently in the pre-planning phase. Another study — led by the the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts and the Office of the Architect — also examined the need for a performing arts center.
According to University Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, the approximately 90-page study also proposed combining the Fralin Museum of Art and the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection into one facility. “Those are all possibilities that I guess are under consideration — and again — nothing is finalized,” Kielbasa said.
The need for larger facilities is the primary reason for a performing arts center, Kielbasa said. “Performances of size need to be accommodated,” Kielbasa said.
“We’re limited because we don’t have facilities to do large dance performances, to bring in touring productions, visiting artists or troupes. The performing arts center study indicated that with current U.Va. programming, we could fill that center at least 240 evenings a year.
”Over the past two years, several studies — including one by the College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — have outlined the need for a performing arts center at the University. Old Cabell Hall, which frequently hosts University arts programs, lacks the resources of a performing arts center, Kielbasa said.
“There are a number of things that cannot be accommodated in Old Cabell Hall, including theatrical shows,” Kielbasa said. “By and large, it’s a musical recital hall.
I believe we’re the only major college in the Commonwealth of Virginia that does not have a performing arts center.”James Madison University, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Washington and Lee University and Virginia Commonwealth University have on-campus performing arts centers.The Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech opened in 2013. Benjamin Rous, music director of the Charlottesville Symphony, conducted the Charlottesville Symphony at the Moss Center’s opening gala.“It galls me that Virginia Tech has the Moss Center and we have nothing,” Rous said. “Tech is beating us.And I think a lot of people around town recognize that, not just me, and there’s a lot of energy right now about fixing that situation.”

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