Smithsonian unveils largest aquamarine gem
The world's largest cut aquamarine gem has gone on display in its new home at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The obelisk-shaped Dom Pedro gem, a blue-green crystal, was mined in Brazil in the late 1980s and is named for Brazil's first two emperors.
The gem was designed and cut by gem artist Bernd Munsteiner. It stands 14 inches tall and weighs 10,363 carats -- or nearly 5 pounds. Cuts in the reverse faces serve to reflect light within the gem.
National Gem Collection Curator Jeffrey Post said visitors to the Washington, D.C., will be drawn to it because of its color and large size as it joins the Hope Diamond and Marie Antoinette earrings on display. It was donated to the Smithsonian by a Palm Beach, Fla., couple.
Maid of Mist to continue tours at Niagara Falls
A deal has been struck to keep the Maid of the Mist scenic tour boats running from the New York side at Niagara Falls.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the deal, under which the boat company will pay the state $105 million over 30 years. The agreement also will lead to improvements for the tourist attraction, potentially including rock climbing and rappelling.
Valet parking offered at Houston's airports
Valet parking has begun at William P. Hobby Airport, with USA Parking System providing the Valet Premier Parking service.
The company in July began offering valet parking at George Bush Intercontinental Airport at a regular daily cost of $25. Both airports until early January are offering special rates of $20.
Houston's airports served more than 50 million passengers last year.
Pompeii wall collapse renews concerns
The collapse of a wall at the Pompeii archeological site has raised concerns about the state of the cultural treasure, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
A six-foot section of wall crumbled after recent heavy rains. In 2010, a 2,000-year-old house collapsed in the ancient Roman city that was destroyed in A.D. 79 by a volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius.
The Italian government and the European Commission this past spring announced a project to spend $136 million to secure the site, visited by about 3 million people each year.
Hanukkah lightings on tap in many cities
Menorah lightings to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah are planned Sunday and Monday near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, London's Trafalgar Square, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Ellipse in Washington D.C. and in many other cities.
Numerous other events, all sponsored by the Chabad Lubavitch outreach organization, are scheduled at locations around the world, from U.S. college campuses to city centers large and small in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The events are free and family oriented, and all are welcome. For a searchable directory of events, go to www.hanukkah.org.
-- Compiled from Associated Press reports