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When getting away means staying in touch (Reuters)

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – People used to go on holiday to unplug. Now they’re demanding to be plugged in.

That secluded, desert island-type getaway may soon be as dated as the post-vacation slide show as more travellers use e-mails, Facebook and Twitter to nurture the ties that bind even while they get away from it all.

“For many travellers figuring out how to stay connected is as integral to the travel process as packing sun lotion and swimwear,” said Amelie Hurst of travel website TripAdvisor.

“In times gone by this just wasn’t an option. Travelling went hand in hand with being disconnected,” she said.

Hurst said clients planning their trips routinely factor in the best means of staying in contact.

“Travellers ask the quality of cell phone service, international data plans. Staying connected can offer travellers a real comfort,” she explained.

A recent survey of 2000 travellers by American Express found that 77 per cent of Americans intend to stay connected while on vacation via Internet, phone, social media and other channels.

The motivation is social, not business. Only 14 per cent said they would stay connected for work.

“Eighty-nine percent of people want to talk to family and friends, to be very connected in real time,” said Audrey Hendley of American Express Travel. “Even five years ago that wasn’t the case.”

Connectivity means more than just checking e-mail.

“Sharing information, sharing photos, it’s a change in lifestyle, it’s ‘Now I want to tell you about me,’” she said.

The poll revealed that 20 percent updated their social media sites while on vacation.

“Today’s travellers want to check their e-mails, even on cruises,” she said, and no matter how far-flung their journeys.

Bhutan, landlocked between India and Tibet, is one of the most isolated nations in the world. Hendley said in the country’s Amankora lodges there are no TVs, no radios, but if a guest needs it you can get high-speed internet access.

Travellers view connectivity as a right, not an amenity.

“Sixty-five percent expect conductivity but weren’t willing to pay extra for it,” she said.

Travel agents are hopping on the connectivity bandwagon. John T. Peters, of travel referral service Tripology, said when informally polled over 85 percent of his agents said they were getting more involved in social media to stay in touch with clients during their trip.

“For me, being connected doesn’t mean I’m not relaxing,” Peters said. “Recently, on a family trip to the North Woods of Wisconsin, I found myself updating my Facebook status, loading pictures and conversing with friends about my vacation while I was on vacation.”

Some, however, remain unconvinced.

“My wife found the whole ‘being connected’ aspect of my posting ridiculous,” Peters confessed. “Vacation, to her, means unplugged — completely. Her exact quote was ‘You could just as easily post those pictures when we get home.’”

But if you intend to keep the home fires fanned during your holiday, Hurst suggested doing research.

“Before you take your trip, check your cell phone plan and the cost of internet connections at your hotel.

“When you return from your dream vacation you don’t want to be hit with the phone bill from hell,” she said.

(Reporting by Dorene Internicola; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

Cows given waterbeds to improve milk

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Cows, cattle in pasture, dairy cow The cattle can spend up to 18 hours a day on their specially-designed rubber beds and listen to classical music in the milking shed Photo: PHOTOLIBRARY

Cows at Brue Valley Farms, in Glastonbury, Somerset, are also treated to classical music in the milking shed.

The cattle can spend up to 18 hours a day lounging on their specially-designed rubber beds, which are cleaned and filled with 50 litres of fresh water every day.

Bosses at the farm, which has been producing Farmhouse Cheddar for half a century, say their unusual methods have helped to produce a better quality product.

Robert Clapp, Director of Herds, said: “In order to make the best possible cheese you need to be completely ‘cow centric.’

“It’s not about what is best for the farmer, but about what is best for the cow.

“Our herds enjoy top quality treatment and in return they create delicious, creamy milk that goes into producing the best quality Farmhouse Cheddar.”

The 35-year-old added: “We treat our cows as individuals and care for every aspect of their lives including socialising and comfort as well as obvious needs such as food and health care.”

To celebrate fifty years of cheesemaking, the team at Brue Valley Farms has developed an extra-mature Farmhouse Cheddar.

The new recipe will be sold exclusively in Marks and Spencer’s supermarkets.

Escaped Australian prisoner recaptured in pub ‘just wanted to see mum’

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Kayd Thorp, 24, took cover in bushland and swam across a Brisbane city creek to dodge search teams in a six-hour manhunt on Tuesday which ended when he was discovered having a pint in a local pub.

“I think his beer was still being poured when they swooped,” an officer told Australia’s Courier Mail newspaper. “He didn’t even get to blow the froth off.”

Thorp was preparing to board a flight to the southern state of Victoria to face charges over the fatal beating of a man in February when he managed to escape his police escorts.

Officers told Brisbane Magistrates Court that Thorp was not handcuffed and fled while officers were checking in their bags.

When he was caught, Thorp said he had only wanted to see his mother one last time before going to Victoria. It was unclear whether he had visited her during his six hours on the run, they said.

Thorp received a six-month term on Wednesday after pleading guilty to escaping lawful custody.

Fire services ‘wasted millions on new look control centres’

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The nine control centres have left taxpayers footing a rent bill of more than ?1 million a month: Photo: ALAMY

Nine regional “super control centres” built to replace smaller units have been empty for up to three years partly because of problems with IT systems. Taxpayers have been left footing a rent bill of more than a £1 million a month.

The nine control centres were constructed as part of a government project, known as FiReControl, to revamp and regionalise the fire service and reduce the number of centres that handled emergency calls.

Scheduled to cost around £340?million, costs have since swollen to £423? million.

The centres were established after concerns were raised about the lack of capabilities for authorities to react to major disasters.

However, some problems with computer systems, installed by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) mean certain new centres may not be in operation until 2013.

It is believed the delays have been caused by a combination of factors including government negotiations and problems with the IT systems.

It is understood the number of centres were built due to “political reasons”.

One source said: “You can save money by having less centres.”

A spokesman for EADS said: “The control centres are now being properly populated with kit and IT.

“The centres are not empty simply because of problems with the IT systems. It goes beyond that.

“Between now and 2013 they will be up and running.”

It is understood that at least three centres will be ready for testing by the end of the year.

Ice age flint tools found during road repairs

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A46 Highways Agency project manager Geoff Bethel said: ”As the A46 follows the route of the old Roman road, we expected to uncover a number of artefacts from Roman Britain and we were not disappointed.

”But to uncover such rare flint tools dating back to the end of the Ice Age was very exciting.”

Evidence of such early people had been found in caves, but the pieces of flint found at Farndon appeared to show these people were making things out in the open, possibly in a temporary campsite, the Highways Agency said.

The excavations also provided insight into the Iron Age and Roman communities that used to live in the area.

Evidence of an Iron Age settlement at Owthorpe Junction, just east of Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, was uncovered, and a 4,000 year old Neolithic circular monument with eight Bronze Age burials was found further north at Stragglethorpe junction.

The archaeological team uncovered part of the settlement that lined the road leading into the town, including Roman timber buildings, rubbish pits, wells and track ways, as well as a number of burials, all dating back around 2,000 years.

Phil Harding, Stone Age expert and presenter of Channel 4′s Time Team, worked on the excavations as a field archaeologist for Cotswold Wessex Archaeology.

He said: ”Among the findings was a piece from a Neolithic axe made of greenstone, a type of stone from the Lake District.

”It was very distinctive, only a chip the size of a stamp, but exciting nonetheless.

”The stone was very good quality and very distinctive – you could tell a person’s wealth or status by the number of axes he owned, or the flint it was made from.

”Overall, there were enough bits and pieces to suggest we have evidence of hunting people, gathering, camping, and visiting the confluence of two rivers right through to the time of the first farmers.”

The project to widen a 17-mile (28km) stretch of the A46 in Nottinghamshire is hoped to be finished in summer 2012.

The design for the route made sure the majority of the site of Margidunum Roman town, near Bingham, was avoided, the Highways Agency said.

Jon Humble, English Heritage’s regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments, added: ”The line of the A46 coincides with part of one of the most important roads from Roman Britain – the Fosse Way that linked Exeter with Lincoln.

”So when the dualling of the A46 was being planned, we knew that the Highways Agency would have to consider the potential for important archaeological discoveries over the full length of the road scheme.

”More than a hundred archaeologists have worked very closely with the road designers, highway engineers and earth-moving contractors to ensure that important archaeological remains have been properly recorded and recovered.

”The Romans understood the value of first-rate team-work – I like to think they would have been impressed.”