Hotels for heroes

Three hotel chains have agreed to join a program that provides free rooms to wounded U.S. troops and their families.

National hotel chains Marriott and Wyndham and a smaller chain called AmericInn have agreed to participate in the "Hotels for Heroes" program. The program will allow Americans to donate their hotel reward points to wounded veterans and their relatives.

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Pay to taste

After three years of financial losses, the showcase summer festival Taste of Chicago will start charging music fans if they want concert seats. Concert-goers will also have to shell out more for Lollapalooza as that festival raises its ticket prices.

Taste of Chicago performances at the 3,000-seat Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park had been free, but the city wants to charge $25 a ticket this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday. He explained that that $375,000 raised would help chip away at $2.7 million in losses at the festival over the last three years. He said taxpayers shouldn't be "on the hook" for the losses. Lawn seating for 30,000 other music fans will still be free.

Clear for takeoff

Mild winter weather helped the nation's airlines post their best January on-time performance on record. The government said Thursday that 83.7 percent of flights on the biggest airlines arrived on time in January.

That's up from 76.3 percent in January 2011, and the best January since 1995, when the government changed the way that delays are reported. But it was a dip from December's 84.4 percent rating.

Chili in W.Va.

The planet's top chili makers will be returning to Charleston, West Virginia this fall. And for the first time, the International Chili Society's annual world championship cookoff will have a "homestyle" category without restrictions on ingredients.

More than 400 cooks are expected to compete

Oct. 5 to 7 on Magic Island, a park on Charleston's west side along the Kanawha River. Charleston hosted the competition in 2009, the first time the ICS held its championship east of the Mississippi River - traditionally it's been held in California or Nevada. It was contested in Manchester, N.H., the past two years.

Missing bell

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the disappearance of the bell from the capsized cruise ship Costa Concordia.

Franco Gabrielli, Italy's national official for search and salvage efforts, told reporters when he visited Giglio island the bell disappeared several days ago. He said a search was on to find the bell, which hung off one end of the ship and was inscribed with the vessel's name. The bell hung off the half of the wreck under the sea.

Bye bye Playboy

Officials say the Playboy Club at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas will close in June.

No reason was given, and no specific date was set. A statement released by casino and N9NE Group spokesman Larry Fink said the parting was amicable so each could "pursue new brand opportunities in Las Vegas nightlife." Fink said he couldn't immediately provide details about other plans for the space at the high-rise casino.

The club at the Palms opened in October 2006, with women dressed in bunnies dealing cards. It represented the first Playboy Club to open since patriarch Hugh Hefner closed the last one in 1988 in Lansing, Mich.

Others are in Macau, Cancun and London.

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