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    A meerkat inspected an abacus as a zookeeper counted the animals during a stocktaking Thursday at the London Zoo. Home to more than 850 different species, zookeepers welcomed in the new year armed with clipboards as they made a note of every single animal. The compulsory annual count is required as part of the Zoological Society of London’s zoo licensing process. Every creature, from the tiny leaf cutter ants to the huge silverback gorilla, is duly noted.

Few favor minibars, survey finds

LOS ANGELES » Is it time to say goodbye to the hotel minibar?

A recent survey by travel website found that the hotel minibar was the least important amenity for U.S. travelers. Only 21 percent of travelers ranked the minibar as an important amenity, compared with 89 percent who called free in-room wireless Internet the most important.

There is little financial reason to keep minibars. Hotel consulting firms estimate that minibars generate no more than 0.24 percent of total hotel revenue, with much of that eaten up by the cost to check and restock the bars.

Many hotels don’t offer them because of the hassle of restocking and the disputes with guests over minibar fees, said Lynn Mohrfeld, president of the California Hotel and Lodging Association.

"They are a very difficult amenity to manage," he said.

But the future of minibars is bleak mostly because of social trends that have pushed travelers into the lobbies to socialize and surf the Web, instead of sitting alone in their rooms eating minibar food, said David Corsun, director and associate professor at the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver.

St. Louis set to mark 250 years

ST. LOUIS » St. Louis is about to turn 250, and events are planned throughout 2014.

Many of the anniversary events are around the actual anniversary date of the city’s founding by Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau on Feb. 15, 1764.

Highlights will include a re-enactment of the founding on Feb. 15 at the Laclede’s Landing area downtown. Public "Birthday Bash" celebrations are Feb. 14, 15 and 17 at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.

Other events will include a "Burnin’ Love Festival" featuring live musical performances, fireworks and a 250-couple engagement ceremony on Feb. 14 on Art Hill in Forest Park; a cocktail party at the Missouri History Museum on Feb. 16; an effort to match 250,000 volunteers to projects and agencies through the United Way of Greater St. Louis throughout 2014; and a collection of online stories gathered through a social media application.

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