Month: August 2019

Jet Airways gears up for oneday seat sale May 5

first_img Posted by Tags: Jet Airways, Promotions MUMBAI — Jet Airways is marking its 24th anniversary with sale fares on both domestic and international sectors, for one day only, May 5.Economy and Premiere guests will get a flat discount of 24% off base fares (excluding fuel surcharge, statutory and applicable government taxes) applicable on all destinations on the airline’s international network.Passengers travelling on domestic routes in Economy also get 24% off.The sale fares will be valid only for individual bookings and are available on a first come, first served basis. Bookings can be made across all channels.“Our 24th anniversary special airfare promotion is our way of thanking the travelling public for their 24 years of patronage,” said Jet Airways’ CCO Jayaraj Shanmugam. “We are proud to celebrate over two decades of service excellence. This milestone would not have been possible without the support, trust and confidence of the millions of guests who have flown with us.”More news:  Venice to ban cruise ships from city centre starting next monthJet Airways recently announced the launch of two new flights directly connecting Chennai with Paris and Bengaluru with Amsterdam, enhancing connectivity from North America and Europe with codeshare partners Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Delta Air Lines.The new flights start Oct. 29. Jet Airways will operate daily service between Bengaluru-Amsterdam, while the flight between Chennai-Paris will operate five days a week. The new flights complement the airline’s existing direct operations from Delhi and Mumbai to Amsterdam and onwards to Toronto as well as direct flights from Mumbai to Paris. Thursday, May 4, 2017 Sharecenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Jet Airways gears up for one-day seat sale May 5 Travelweek Group last_img read more

Sandals Resorts hosts the Chairmans Caribbean Experience

first_imgTags: Sandals Resorts Travelweek Group Monday, January 22, 2018 Sandals Resorts hosts the Chairman’s Caribbean Experience TORONTO — Two Canadian travel agents were among a select international group at an exclusive event recently at the brand new Sandals Royal Barbados: the Chairman’s Caribbean Experience.Sandals Resorts hosted the group, which also included travel agents from the U.S. and the UK, during the Chairman’s Caribbean Experience event Jan. 11-14.The two Canadian agents, Lois Barbour, Travel Time TPI (Newfoundland) and Kathy Kennedy, One Love Honeymoons (Quebec), were among the first to experience the newly-opened Sandals Royal Barbados, which hosted the group for three nights.Chairman’s Caribbean ExperienceThe all-suite Sandals Royal Barbados opened on schedule on Dec. 20 next to sister property Sandals Barbados with 222 concierge and butler-level suites, including Sandals’ signature Rondoval, Millionaire Butler, Skypool and Crystal Lagoon Swim-Up suites.The all-new build also introduces three new restaurants, the brand’s first rooftop infinity pool, gentlemen’s barbershop and a four-lane bowling alley.Barbour and Kennedy got to check out the resort and were also treated to a day trip to the nearby Sandals LaSource Grenada, travelling on the jet of Sandals Resorts Chairman, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.More news:  CIE Tours launches first-ever River Cruise CollectionSeveral senior executives from Unique Vacations Inc. were also in attendance, including Tammy Gonzalez, CEO; Jeff Clarke, COO and Gary C. Sadler, Senior Vice President of Sales.center_img Share Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Amex GBT now exempt from Air France KLMs GDS surcharge

first_imgTags: Air France, Amex GBT, GDS, KLM << Previous PostNext Post >> Share LONDON — American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has reached an agreement with Air France KLM that will allow customers to bypass a surcharge on airfares through participating GDSs.In November 2017, Air France KLM announced that effective April 1, 2018, bookings made through indirect channels such as GDSs and online booking tools (OBTs) would be charged an €11 (Can$17.10) fee.Since then, and after recognizing the value of GBT and its customers, the airline group has agreed to exempt GBT from this surcharge and continue providing consolidated and transparent content access.The agreement is subject to the GDSs entering private channel arrangements with Air France KLM. Of the three main GDSs, two have reached agreements with Air France KLM while the other remains in active dialogue.“Our customers want simple, aggregated and transparent access to air content,” said Michael Qualantone, Executive Vice President, Global Supplier Relations for GBT. “We seek key strategic partners who recognize this and will work with us to give customers the booking access and experience they deserve.”More news:  GLP Worldwide introduces first-ever Wellness programsPieter Bootsma, EVP Commercial Strategy for Air France KLM, added: “We fully recognize the value that the business travel segment, including all servicing and distribution partners, brings to our business. This agreement will continue the strategic relationship we have with GBT as we look to jointly provide corporate customers with the highest levels of customer experience and cost efficiency.” Amex GBT now exempt from Air France KLM’s GDS surchargecenter_img Travelweek Group Posted by Wednesday, April 11, 2018 last_img read more

ACVs CareFlex and CareFree plans are free until Nov 18

first_img Posted by Share Tags: Air Canada Vacations, CareFlex, CareFree Monday, November 12, 2018 ACV’s CareFlex and CareFree plans are free until Nov. 18center_img Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> MONTREAL — Air Canada Vacations is offering worry-free travel this winter season for absolutely free.The tour operator is offering its travel protection CareFlex and CareFree plans for free with winter vacations booked to Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.The plans include free seat selection, year-round Price Drop Guarantee, StormGuard, and a $50 waiver on administration change fees.The offer is valid for travel departure dates from Jan. 6-31, 2019, for bookings until Nov. 18, 2018. Both CareFree and CareFlex must be added at $0 at time of booking. The promotion is not applicable to group packages.“We really like CareFree and CareFlex because together they offer so much peace of mind for the consumer,” said Dana Gain, Senior Director of Sales, Groups & Partnerships at Air Canada Vacations. “It allows them to change, transfer or even cancel their booking with refund before the departure date. It’s a wonderful closing tool for our agency community, and we’re offering it at no charge until Nov. 18, 2018.”More news:  Can you guess the top Instagrammed wedding locations in the world?ACV is also reminding agents that with the ACV&ME loyalty program, those who book hotels and groups will receive 600 points per room for packages of seven or more nights, 400 pointes per room for packages of 3-6 nights, and 300 points per passenger for Group bookings.last_img read more

Night hike in the cloud forest

first_imgNestled in the highlands, Monteverde is a magnet for travelers, who indulge every outdoor fantasy. One of the most understated – and provocative – tours is the night hike, based in Santa Elena.Guided by expert naturalists, groups venture into the rain forest at night, where they discover a cornucopia of creatures large, small and deadly. Not only can guides spot and identify these species in the darkness, they also relate volumes of knowledge in a simple, conversational style. Night hikes are inexpensive, easy to arrange and unforgettable.Robert Isenberg totes his camera into the night and sees the jungle in a whole new way. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

You can be a hedge fund investor But why would you

first_imgNo related posts. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs Asset Management announced that it would launch a new mutual fund that — apparently — will bring the joy of hedge fund investing to the masses. For as little as $1,000, the Multi-Manager Alternatives Fund (GMAMX) allows mom-and-pop investors to put their life savings into some of Wall Street’s riskiest and most expensive products. This “fund of funds” will, according to its prospectus, let investors gain exposure to the trading strategies of hedge funds.The obvious question is: “Why would investors want that?”Despite all the media coverage, glitz and glam of hedge funds, they have not done well for their investors. They have high — some say excessively high — fees; their short- and long-term performance has been poor.Before delving into the details, let’s define exactly what we are discussing: Hedge funds are private investment partnerships. The general partner is typically the fund manager (on occasion it includes his financial backers). The investors in the fund are the limited partners, normally institutions and accredited investors. This partnership structure typically has a max of 99 limited partners. Unlike mutual funds or brokerages, hedge funds are mostly unregulated.The global hedge fund industry manages $2.13 trillion, or about 1.1 percent of all assets held by financial institutions, according to the Coalition of Private Investment Companies. Given what a relatively small asset class this is, hedge funds certainly receive an excess of media attention. Many hedge fund managers have become billionaires; perhaps this — plus their reputations as the smartest guys in the room — is why they have captured the investing public’s imagination.Most hedge funds are “go anywhere” funds — they can own derivatives, mortgage-backed securities, credit-default swaps, structured products and illiquid assets. They also can use nearly unlimited leverage.Gee, that sounds kinda hazardous. Why would anyone want to assume all of that risk? Originally, hedge funds earned their outsize compensation by, well, hedging their investments. This is a risk-mitigation strategy that can reduce the gains investors reap when markets are up but avoids much of the losses when markets are down.That no longer seems to be the case with modern hedge funds. They have morphed into “absolute return” funds — more aggressive, greater leverage, more speculative, all in an attempt to generate returns that outperform their benchmarks. Not surprisingly, they have become riskier than the overall market.Given these increased risks (and higher fees), how have hedge funds performed?By most measures, not well. They have failed to keep up with major averages when markets were up — and they got mangled (like nearly everyone else) during the 2008-09 downturn. It turns out, most hedge funds are not very hedged.The latest performance data (via the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index) reveal that hedge funds haven’t fared well at all: They returned a mere 3.5 percent in 2012, while the S&P 500-stock index gained 16 percent. Over the past five years, and the hedge fund index lost 13.6 percent, while the indices added 8.6 percent. That’s as of the end of 2012; it has only gotten worse in 2013. Most hedge funds have fallen even further behind their benchmarks this year, gaining 5.4 percent vs. the market’s rally of 15.4 percent. As a source of comparison, the average mutual fund is up 14.8 percent.Which brings us to fees. Most hedge funds charge an industry standard “2 and 20.” This is a 2 percent annual management fee against the original investment, plus 20 percent of the investment profits. Compare this with annual mutual fund fees, which average about 1.44 percent. Fees for an index ETF are typically under 0.25 percent.Those outsize hedge fund fees are an enormous drag on performance. But they do create wealth — for the managers. “Two and twenty” as the industry calls it, is why even middling hedge fund managers can become billionaires. According to Simon Lack, author of “The Hedge Fund Mirage,” this fee arrangement is effectively a wealth transference mechanism, moving dollars from investors to managers. As he puts it: “While the hedge fund industry has generated fabulous wealth and created many fortunes, it has largely done so for itself.”Lack is no ordinary critic — he spent his career at JPMorgan Chase, where he allocated more than $1 billion to emerging hedge fund managers. Some of the statistics he amassed in the process are nothing short of astonishing:— From 1998 to 2010, hedge fund managers earned $379 billion in fees. The investors of their funds earned only $70 billion in investing gains.— Managers kept 84 percent of investment profits, while investors netted only 16 percent.— As many as one-third of hedge funds are funded through feeder funds and/or fund of funds, which tack on yet another layer of fees. This brings the industry fee total to $440 billion — that’s 98 percent of all the investing gains, leaving the people whose capital is at risk with only 2 percent, or $9 billion.What other concerns should investors have? Hedge funds are not especially liquid. Many are “gated” — meaning there are only small windows when you can withdraw your money. They typically have a high minimum investment and often require investors keep their money in the fund for at least one year.Why would anyone in their right mind invest in these funds?So many kids dream of becoming LeBron James, but most will never play in the NBA (to say nothing of amassing championship rings). So it also goes with hedge fund investors. Most of the more than 10,000 hedge funds out in the wild are not big moneymakers for their investors. Investors tend to discover “hot” mutual fund managers just after a successful run and just before the inescapable force of mean reversion is about to kick in. Similarly, hedge fund darlings are born at exactly the same moment in their trajectory.John Paulson is a classic example. The bet against subprime mortgages that he and Paolo Pellegrini created in 2005-06 put them on the map and turned Paulson into a billionaire. He became widely known, and the money flowed in. Within a few years, Paulson was managing a slew of hedge funds, and his assets under management had swelled to $36 billion. Soon after, he hit the skids, with losses of 52 percent in one fund and 35 percent in another.But the lure of the superstar manager — the guy who can make you fabulously wealthy – continues to attract capital. In 1997, $118 billion was managed by hedgies; as of the first quarter of 2012, that had grown to $2.04 trillion.Investors have also embraced other non-financial remunerations: Client-only market commentary, access to star managers, attendance at exclusive conferences. These perks generate cocktail party bragging rights, despite the poor performance.But what about the top-performing funds, such as Jim Simon’s Renaissance Technologies or Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater? Sure, give them a call.The Lebron James of hedge fund managers are few and far between. This is the crux of the issue with hedge funds. A small percentage have significantly outperformed the markets; an even smaller percentage have done so after fees are taken into account. While we all know which ones have outperformed over the past few decades, no one has even the slightest clue which ones will outperform over the next one. It is akin to picking out from the ranks of high school sophomores who will be the next NBA superstar. Best of luck with that.Every fund in the world warns that past performance is no guarantee of future results. It is too bad that investors refuse to believe it.Barry Ritholtz is CEO of FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He is the author of “Bailout Nation” and runs a finance blog, the Big Picture.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Commentslast_img read more

What to plant in November

first_imgMost northern gardeners are now finishing up their gardening year, but tropical gardeners can plant a second garden before the year ends. The last quarter of the year in Costa Rica provides an excellent opportunity for planting another corn patch, as well as green beans and dry beans, sweet potatoes, peanuts and squash. Hardy greens, such as cabbage, collards, mustard, Chinese cabbage, radishes and green bunching onions grow well in this season.Tomatoes, on the contrary, suffer from the heavy rains and high humidity when planted outside. You can solve this problem by planting them indoors on sunny porches and walkways in 5-gallon pots or old recycled plastic buckets.  Cucumbers, peppers, garlic, lettuce and eggplant also grow much better indoors, but be sure to place them in a dry and sunny part of the home. You can also enrich your potting soil with aged compost and sand for better results. Although the harvest of mangos and avocados has finished, other fruits like oranges, carambola, banana, mammon chino, and jocote are in season.  There’s still time to transplant seedling fruit trees and ornamental plants to more permanent sites before the dry season comes. Composting is another activity that can continue during the rainy season. The lush biomass from grass clipping, pruning and garden cleanups can be composted into rich fertilizer for the end of the year. Heavy tropical rains, however, can turn compost into a soupy mess, unless you cover your piles with a makeshift roof or plastic cover. Also keep in mind that moisture-laden soil packs or clumps very easily, causing plant roots to grow poorly. There’s a gardener’s rule of the green thumb that goes like this: If the soil sticks to your hoe or shovel, it’s too wet to work. For gardeners who keep their feet on the ground and their heads in the stars, here’s the lunar planting dates for November. The 1st to the 3rd (new moon) is a good time for planting, particularly for the crops mentioned above.The 9th to the 17th (full moon) is a good time to transplant and harvest, and to plant slow germinating seeds, such as those of many fruit trees (papaya in particular) and herbs. With a little effort now in the garden, you’ll be dining on the fruits of your labor in the new year!For more information on tropical gardening naturally, contact us at or Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Does anyone smell a rat On Dead Mice and Men and Women

first_imgSince May 5, 75,000 public teachers have been on strike because some 3,300 of their number had not received any salary since they returned to class in February 2014. Thestrike began days prior to the inauguration of the current president amid assurances from then-President Laura Chinchilla that the issue would soon be resolved.In the first week of the huelga it was easy to empathize with the striking educators. How could anyone be expected to work for months without being paid? Teachers are far too often underpaid and underappreciated, and the profession attracts people who are generally willing to do whatever they can to help their students advance. This includes buying supplies – even books for classes – with their own money, something we the public take for granted.In an era when unions have been ever more maligned and disfavored, an overwhelming percentage of Costa Ricans have supported the educators’ actions to strike, not for higher wages, nor for more benefits, but simply to receive what they were already owed. Nothing could be simpler. Nothing except trying to unravel the politics that led to this strike and that keep it from being resolved.The blame for this dilemma rests squarely with former President Chinchilla, former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier, and the former administration of the National Liberation Party. Their new $3.8 million payroll system, Integra2 has taken years to implement and was known by Education Ministry officials to have the very problems that provoked the subsequent strike – problems the previous administration proved unable to solve.In the first days of the strike, Chinchilla promised that all problems with payment would be resolved in the first weeks of the new administration. Obviously, things were more complicated than the former president imagined. One might cynically speculate that she knew this all along. Ex-minister Garnier, the man who had eight years to implement a new payroll system – something many corporations and educational institutions do with nary a hitch in a fraction of the time, recently claimed the problem is not with the new system, but with the old one. In his attempt to deflect criticism from himself, has Garnier failed to understand that as education minister for eight years, he would be equally responsible for problems with the old system? Former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier kept silent for three weeks before responding to critics who hold him responsible for a backlog in public teachers’ salary payments. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesOne might also question the timing of this “migration” of data from one computer system to another. Like the insulting salary increase for public employees announced by the Chinchilla administration in February – after the first round of the elections had passed and the PLN had secured a plurality of legislators in the Legislative Assembly – the timing of this decision seems suspiciously advantageous to PLN.Likewise, according to a Semanario Universidad story published on April 23, 2014, Karla Blanco, Intel’s director of corporate relations, claimed the Chinchilla administration had known months before the election that Intel was planning to leave Costa Rica, but when rumors about the plan began to emerge prior to the April 6 runoff, the Chinchilla administration remained quiet. One wonders if in both cases election-year politics trumped government transparency and the free flow of information to the citizenry?Is the current teachers strike a result of the same cynical political manipulation? Until more information emerges, one must judge for oneself, but if the new computer system had been brought online in October or November, and educators had been forced to wait through the holidays for their earned salary, imagine how that might have further affected an already historically bad electoral outcome for the PLN.On the other hand, had PLN managed to win the presidency and Congress, the teacher’s strike would be just another in a long line of strikes and protests against PLN administrations, and they would have had four more years to try to make voters forget. In either scenario, it seems impossible to imagine that the looming election played no part in the decision to implement a new payroll computer system only after the 2014 elections were concluded.Further, according to a second Semanario Universidad story published on Wednesday, MEP officials apparently knew in March of this year that the new system would leave many teachers without pay. Their decision to implement it in their final days seems perfectly planned to leave the blowback to the next administration. Worries about further potential problems with Integra2 is what motivated Citizen Action party lawmaker Marco Vinicio Redondo to compare the new computer system to a Trojan Horse, with more intentionally hidden problems lurking within, during his questioning of current Education Minister Sonia Marta Mora during a May 19 visit to the legislature.The High School Teachers Association (APSE), the Costa Rican Educators Union (SEC) and the National Association of Educators (ANDE), the unions representing the teachers, could hardly have had a more sympathetic reception from President Luis Guillermo Solís, a former educator and the son of a schoolteacher. Since entering office on May 8, he has been dedicated to finding a solution and has made many proposals to expedite payment for the affected teachers, most recently working with the Costa Rican Banking Association to arrive at a solution for the remaining teachers awaiting their salaries.Meanwhile, the unions have remained stubbornly unmoved by the new president’s efforts, demonstrating little trust that Solís has their backs and ignoring his repeated calls for them to return to work. As this strike threatens to enter a fourth week, it looks more like the unions are playing a dangerous game of “chicken” as they wait for every affected professor to receive 100 percent of what they are owed before they will return to school. Rather than demonstrate a good faith trust that Solís is in fact resolving the mess that he has inherited, the unions have refused to accept victory and will remain on strike until every cent is paid.Given that the issue they wished resolved has in fact been resolved, the unions risk losing the support of the public every day the strike continues. On Friday, Citizen Action Party lawmaker Ottón Solis suggested that the governments decision to move forward the teachers payments by two days will cost ₡33.3 million ($43,300), a sum that one might think would buy the Solis adminsitration a bit of good faith from the unions. As the public comes to realize that President Solís has done more to resolve this issue than could ever have been expected from previous administrations, and as this same public is forced to bear some of the burden of the teachers’ strike as families scramble to make childcare arrangements for their out-of-school children, the current support for striking workers may well turn into accusations about lazy teachers and manipulative and abusive unions. If this occurs, the teacher unions will have turned an example of the power, necessity, and justice of unions into yet another public relations “black eye” for unions everywhere.One solution might well be for those teachers affected to remain on strike until their payments have been received, while the more than 95 percent of unaffected teachers return to work. When those remaining teachers receive their pay, they too can return to work without penalty for missed days. Clearly unions want to promote worker solidarity, but if the problem is not resolved exactly as the Solís government has suggested, nothing is stopping the unions from calling another strike. In the meantime, the teachers’ unions might better serve their own interests, the interests of their members, and the all but forgotten interests of Costa Rica’s children by accepting victory and returning to the classrooms.It is hard to find fault with Solís’ handling of this strike. He has not declared the strike illegal. He has been respectful, patient and sympathetic with the striking teachers, and he has proposed several solutions, the latest of which would provide a guarantee that affected teachers get exactly what they have demanded and deserve. It was not a strike Solís provoked, rather another annoying hangover of the inefficiencies of the former administration. But if no solution is soon forthcoming, it will become his strike, something one might imagine was the intention by those who created the mess in the first place.A president generally has a honeymoon period in which to begin to make changes and set his government’s agenda. Presidential scholars often suggest 100 days or three months as the time in which a president can do what he wants without too much interference from critics and opposition forces. As each valuable day passes, Costa Ricans are losing a chance for President Solís to implement the change he was overwhelmingly elected to bring.During the first months of the administration of U.S. President James Earl Carter (1977-1981), a mouse died in the walls of the White House and made the Oval Office unbearably smelly. Carter complained to the General Services Administration (GSA), who were responsible for cleaning the White House, but they claimed to have removed all the mice from within the White House, and that it was an issue for the Department of the Interior. Likewise, the Department of the Interior, responsible for any mice outside the White House but still on federal property, argued that as the mouse had died inside the walls of the White House this was a GSA problem. At his wit’s end, Carter called officials from both government agencies to his office and screamed, “Apparently I am not even able to get a miserable mouse out of my office.”The story of an entrenched set of bureaucratic actors unwilling to do their job, but quick to point the finger of blame at others, also sadly became one half of the bookends of apparent impotence associated with Carter’s presidency. The other bookend was Carter’s inability to negotiate the freedom of U.S. hostages from Iranian religious extremists who had stormed the U.S. Embassy. The danger as this strike continues is that despite the real causes behind it, the unknown agenda of the striking union leaders, the suspicious timing of MEP’s implementation of a faulty system, the possible element of electioneering to secure PLN legislative victories, and the rampant finger pointing of an entrenched bureaucracy, this will become the Solís administration’s strike. If it continues much longer, or escalates to a general strike, it will become associated with his presidency like a dead, smelly mouse in the wall.Gary L. Lehring is a professor of government at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. He is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. Facebook Comments Related posts:Somber mood as Solís delivers 1st televised address on teachers’ strike Former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier blames old system for backlog in teachers’ salaries Teachers reject pay deal; education minister says get back to work Teachers divided over resuming strike negotiationslast_img read more

35 years after Somozas overthrow not much for Nicaragua to celebrate

first_img Supporters greet Sandinista fighters during a march in Managua, date unknown. LaVerne Coleman/The Tico Times‘Cristiano, socialista, solidario’Night and day Nicaraguans are bombarded with the most recent Sandinista slogan, “¡Cristiano, socialista y solidario!” (“Christian, socialist and in solidarity”). Ortega and Murillo seem to have taken lessons from TV evangelists with the way they speak to the Nicaraguan people about politics, pettiness and poverty.Have a listen to some of Ortega’s Saturday night speech/sermon (in Spanish): Civilian guards salute during a military parade in Nicaragua on July 19, 1980. Katherine Lambert/The Tico Times The new millionairesLast year, Nicaraguan opposition lawmaker and former Sandinista militant Enrique Sáenz stumbled upon a global report on new multimillionaires. The report defined a multimillionaire as someone who earns more than $30 million per year. According to that definition, Sáenz found that Nicaragua has 190 multimillionaires, up from 180 – an increase of 10 during the Ortega administration. By comparison, Costa Rica has 85, Panama 105 and El Salvador 145. Sáenz noted that El Salvador’s economy is three times the size of Nicaragua’s, while Panama’s economy is four times its size, and Costa Rica’s economy is five times its size. Sáenz also drew attention to Ortega’s “eccentric” travel habits, which often include trips with members of his family who hold no discernible government posts.“Ortega is one of the wealthiest people in Central America,” Sáenz told Diario Las Américas. “He can’t avoid the temptation to travel in luxury.”One trip that stands out, Sáenz said, was in May 2013 to neighboring Costa Rica for a Central America presidential summit with U.S. President Barack Obama. Ortega, the only leader not in a suit and tie, arrived on the second largest plane of the presidential delegations, surpassed only by Obama’s Air Force One. The estimated cost of the flight: upwards of $42,000.Two days later, Ortega and his family traveled to Venezuela for a Petrocaribe summit, a trip some estimate could have cost six times as much as the Costa Rica flight. (Former Nicaraguan Presidents Violeta Barrios and Enrique Bolaños always traveled on commercial airliners, Diario Las Américas pointed out.) Carlos Tünnermann, former education minister during the Sandinista Revolution, noted that with the money spent on the Costa Rica trip alone, Ortega could have built two rural schools and four homes for poor families.A 2011 story by Mexico’s El Universal highlighted that since 2007, the Ortega-Murillo family has widely expanded their personal business empire, acquiring interests in petroleum, energy, TV and radio, agriculture and livestock and tourism. But the separation between political and personal wealth has long since disappeared, as there is no real accounting as to what money belongs to the state, and what belongs to the Ortega-Murillo family.Marcos Carmona, executive director of the Permanent Human Rights Commission, told El Universal:In 45 years, the Somoza family dictatorship [which governed from 1934 to 1979] didn’t make as much money as President Daniel Ortega has in less than five years at the helm of the government. Somoza had nothing for [Ortega] to envy. … The presidential family has been amassing wealth, they live wastefully and with great opulence, with no state control over the wealth and resources they receive.It’s a contradiction to see a president who says his government is for the poor but who drives a vehicle that costs dozens of thousands of dollars, while the people have extreme needs: There are more than 500,000 children living in misery in the streets, more than 40 percent of Nicaraguans survive on $2 a day, and 30 percent live on $1 a day.Most of that money initially came from Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, who died last year of cancer. Some of it came from the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who died in a revolution in 2011. According to El Universal, of the 10 million barrels of crude oil Nicaragua began purchasing from Venezuela each year starting in 2007, at a cost of up to $900 million, half was paid within 30 days. The rest could be paid off in 25 years. The operation was completely privatized and run by Alba de Nicaragua SA (Albanisa), a company supervised by the Ortega-Murillo family. Albanisa generated up to half a billion dollars per year, while maintaining  a monopoly on the importation of oil. A 2010 report by the Venezuelan NGO Economic Research Center of Venezuela noted that Chávez had promised Nicaragua some $7 billion in direct aid. In 2011, Nicaraguan media, citing the Central Bank, reported that $1.6 billion of that already had been dispersed. Some of that money went into state coffers. The rest of it went to Albanisa and Grupo Alba, two organizations controlled in Nicaragua by Daniel Ortega. Facebook Comments Last Saturday, July 19, marked the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, which ousted Nicaraguan dictatorAnastasio “Tachito” Somoza and his family in 1979 after a bloody and belligerent 43 years in power. But unlike the euphoria that seemingly enveloped the world back then, it doesn’t seem right to celebrate these days. Memorialize might be a more appropriate word for how to observe the anniversary.What has happened in the past 35 years to convert a post-revolution Nicaragua marked by endless opportunity into a country of growing political hopelessness? Our roots are Christianity. That’s from where our values come. … To reach Sandino, first I arrived at Christ. To reach the Cuban revolution, first I arrived at Christ. To reach Marx, Lenin and Engels, first I arrived at Christ.Since he mentioned Karl Marx, we’ll go ahead and make the point: Speaking of Christianity in the name of the guy who called religion “the opium of the people” likely would’ve left Marx aghast.It isn’t just Ortega and Murillo doing this. Venezuela’s Maduro, a Roman Catholic who recently began following the teachings of the late Indian spiritual guru Sai Baba, often fills his political speeches with religious rhetoric to mythify his former mentor, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Maduro considers himself Chávez’s “apostle.”“Every day we believe more and more in the values of Christ, in his legacy,” Maduro said early last year during a stump speech ahead of the April elections, AFP reported.  Nicaraguan kids show off a Somoza doll they intend to burn later in the evening on July 19, 1980. Katherine Lambert/The Tico TimesAdd political manipulation into the mix, and you’ve hit the caudillo jackpot. A report last week in Nicaragua’s Confidencial highlighted some troubling developments determined by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project.Among the findings, the number of Nicaraguans who are willing to tolerate political opinions different than their own is steadily dropping, from 60 percent in 2010 to 47 percent this year. Only 4 percent of the 1,547 Nicaraguans surveyed said they are “very satisfied” with a democratic system of governance. Yet while their faith in democracy and their political tolerance of others is declining, the number of Nicaraguans who support their current political system is increasing, from 51 percent in 2008 to 68 percent this year. Sociologist Manuel Ortega Hegg told Confidencial that he is concerned by the survey:In a system where there is an increase in intolerance towards the rights of others, combined with enormous support for the political system – which permits or foments these types of attitudes – you have a group of respondents who create the conditions for an authoritative government to find support.” According to LAPOP, 55 percent of respondents fear talking about politics among friends, while only 36 percent thought it is normal to do so.Two other aspects of the LAPOP survey are insightful: questions about constitutional reforms passed earlier this year that could allow Ortega to become president for life (Ortega already has served three presidential terms, not including his post-revolutionary role as leader; he has run in every single election since: 1990, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011) and the plans for an interoceanic canal to rival Panama’s — which Ortega says will lift Nicaraguans out of poverty without providing a shred of evidence of exactly how such a massive project will be accomplished.A staggering 70 percent of Nicaraguans surveyed by LAPOP after the reforms were passed said they were unfamiliar with the details. Most Nicaraguans didn’t even know what Ortega and his political followers in the legislature had done. Yet 75 percent said they knew about the canal plans, and of those, 54 percent said they supported it, saying it would “help the economy, promote tourism, generate jobs and improve the country’s image,” according to Confidencial. Only 10 percent of those who knew about it said they had negative opinions.This seems to be the Ortega administration’s magic formula: The inhabitants of the region’s second-poorest country turn to their leader, out of fear or blind admiration, to pull them out of their financial woes. In early 1978, Nicaraguan National Guardsmen and paramilitary fighters attack political dissidents. An agent directs fire at protesters in Monimbo, Nicaragua. Death toll: 22. (Courtesy of Amnesty International)The problem with politicsOvershadowing the rest of this year’s anniversary events were a series of attacks by unknown gunmen late Saturday night that resulted in five deaths and at least 19 wounded. The victims were Sandinista sympathizers returning from events marking the revolution’s anniversary in Managua.One group allegedly armed with AK-47s attacked a caravan of buses on the highway from Managua to Matagalpa, La Prensa reported. A second group also attacked in Matagalpa. While four suspects were immediately arrested, one, a 16-year-old, was soon released. All four, according to family members, are Sandinista-affiliated, and all four – they say – are innocent. Opposition groups immediately released statements condemning the attacks. Ortega called it a “massacre.” Fusion’s Tim Rogers noted that one previously unknown group calling itself the “Armed Forces of National Salvation (FASN-EP)” took credit on Facebook for the violence. Former Contra leader Roberto Ferrey told Fusion the attacks, “the most brazen act of political violence to rock Nicaragua in nearly two decades, could reignite a tinderbox in a dangerously polarized country.” ¡Viva Nicaragua Libre! Ticos took to the streets when Somoza fell in July 1979. (Courtesy of Richard Cross/AP)center_img Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, on April 27, 1990. The Tico Times As Rogers noted, those who usually suffer in such matters are the almost half of Nicaragua’s 5.9 million people – 43 percent – who live in poverty. According to the World Bank, Nicaragua is perhaps the only country in the Western Hemisphere where per-student spending on secondary school students (junior high and high school) is less than half of spending on primary school students, which is about $197 per student. Of approximately 400,000 children currently between the ages of 3 and 5, an estimated 179,000 will receive no formal education.Then there are the low salaries versus cost of living. In 2012, the prices of 23 items in the basic food basket increased by 2.9 percent, yet the lowest salaries cover only 25 percent of this basic food basket. The average minimum wage can afford to buy only half of these items.Despite this, Nicaragua’s gross domestic product growth last year was an impressive 4.6 percent with 7.1 percent inflation, according to the World Bank. Foreign direct investment topped $1.5 billion last year, and that figure is growing. So what gives? FervorOn July 20, 1979, The Tico Times led with a cover that proclaimed a “New Era in Nicaragua,” also noting in a separate headline that “Ticos Join Celebration.” Journalist Stephen Schmidt described the unfolding events:It starts softly at 2 a.m. The rhythmic honking of a couple of lonesome taxis echo through the empty streets of downtown San José, accompanied by the loud carryings-on of a handful of drunks.Then the sirens go off. In Costa Rica, the sirens of Radio Monumental and Radio Reloj mean news… big news. Slowly, like a collective awakening from some bad dream, it begins to hit the josefinos: the news they’d been waiting three decades to hear is finally knocking them out of a sound sleep.For most, it isn’t even necessary to turn on the radio.Nicaraguan strongman Gen. Anastasio Somoza has resigned.Even the old soldier José “Pepe” Figueres, then 73, was impressed by the young ragtag Sandinista soldiers. Figueres, who visited the guerrillas just days before Somoza abandoned Managua, told The Tico Times, “for me to be impressed by communists is really something.” He then predicted Somoza would fall “within the next two days.” “Thank God, Somoza fell,” says the notice on Radio Monumental’s bulletin board in Costa Rica in July 1979. (Courtesy of Richard Cross/AP)As predicted, “with mountains of suitcases and the remains of the fugitive leader’s late father and brother in tow, they were quickly esconced in Somoza’s Sunset Island mansion facing Miami Beach,” The Tico Times reported.“It’s not just that they don’t want another Cuba, it’s that they know they can’t have another Cuba,” Figueres told Tico Times photographer LaVerne Coleman at the time.Would Don Pepe say the same thing today? Probably not. In fact, it seemed the only Costa Ricans making a big deal of last Saturday’s ceremony in Managua’s Plaza La Fé were a handful of lawmakers and party leaders from the leftist Broad Front Party. On the Nicaraguan people’s dime, Broad Front Party Secretary General Rodolfo Ulloa traveled to Managua with party president Patricia Mora and three other lawmakers. After the ceremony, according to the daily La Nación, Ulloa touted Nicaragua’s plans for a $40 billion interoceanic canal as an opportunity for Tico workers to find jobs. It also might have been an occasion for the Broad Front Party lawmakers to float their idea of joining the Venezuelan oil alliance Petrocaribe as a remedy to surging gas prices in Costa Rica.Also in attendance last Saturday, according to the Nicaraguan weekly Confidencial, were Guatemala’s former Vice President Vinicio Cerezo, Panama’s former President Martín Torrijos, the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Guatemala’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and indigenous rights advocate Rigoberta Menchú, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and El Salvador’s President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.Ulloa responded to criticisms back home, according to La Nación, by saying that he and other Costa Ricans in attendance felt it was “important to celebrate the fall of the Somoza dictatorship. Costa Rica’s contribution enabled that to happen in 1979. Here in Nicaragua, many Costa Ricans fought and died.”Broad Front Party lawmaker Jorge Arguedas, who fought for the Sandinistas as a youth, noted that he carries the revolution “in his soul,” according to the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa.Those statements in response to the criticism shouldn’t be downplayed. In all, some 30,000 people died in the Nicaraguan civil war to overthrow the Somozas and 300,000 were left homeless. (Some estimates say as many as 50,000 died.) Reconstruction of the devastated country was estimated at a whopping $4 billion – and that was before the Contra War, which began almost immediately after Somoza’s fall and lasted into the early 1990s. Costa Rica pledged its unwavering support for that reconstruction effort. One of many neighborhood groups painting the curbs in preparation for the first July 19 celebrations in 1980. Katherine Lambert/The Tico TimesStuck in San José at the time were three of the five members of the Junta of National Reconstruction: Violeta Chamorro, Sergio Ramírez and Alfonso Robelo. (Ortega also was a member of the Junta, eventually forcing the others out). To see them off triumphantly to Nicaragua, Costa Rica readied its traditional schoolchildren sendoff, accompanied by vice presidents José Miguel Alfaro and Rodrigo Altmann, President Rodrigo Carazo, Foreign Minister Rafael Calderón, Public Security Chief Juan José Echeverría and the five foreign ministers of the Andean Pact countries.When Nicaragua’s interim President Francisco Urcuyo refused to relinquish power, calling on Sandinista rebels to lay down their arms in a bid to buy more time so his cronies could flee the country, Costa Rica’s Culture Minister Marina Volio told the Junta members, “I’ll go with you. I’m a woman and I’m not afraid.”Much has happened since then, and it’s no secret the United States shares much of the blame for Nicaragua’s current economic and political conditions, particularly given the atrocious, misguided and illegal covert operations during the Contra War. But today, many of those same Sandinista fighters and leaders have become disillusioned with the Ortega administration and the direction of the Sandinista party, accusing Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, of becoming yet another Somoza dictatorship.For former guerrilla comandante Dora María Téllez, the war against Somoza was necessary. But the same conditions exist today as back in 1979, according to a report in La Prensa titled “Will history repeat itself?” Nicaraguans, Téllez argued, have been unable to defeat a caudillo culture. In the same article, former Sandinista fighter Moisés Hassan notes that with the fall of Somoza, “the seeds of a new dictator” were sown. “For me, [Ortega] is a continuance of Somoza. Somoza didn’t die, his germs developed in Ortega,” Hassan told La Prensa.  Related posts:Nicaraguan opposition has little chance of defeating Ortega Poet Ernesto Cardenal on Gran Canal project: ‘We should denounce to the world what is happening in Nicaragua’ Thousands protest Nicaraguan canal Lawmakers dismiss attempt to block Nicaragua Canallast_img read more

Strike on UN Gaza school kills 10 as Israel starts troop pullout

first_imgU.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the shelling, calling it “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”“This madness must stop,” he said.“The bloodshed needs to stop,” said a statement signed by the European Union and the European Commission presidents on behalf of the bloc’s 28 member states.“We deplore the terrible loss of lives, including innocent women and children,” it said, condemning the “intolerable violence” being suffered by Gaza residents.Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond demanded an unconditional ceasefire to resolve the “intolerable” situation for civilians. And in Cairo, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi demanded both sides “immediately” halt their fire.But there was little respite on the ground, where more than 71 people were killed in Rafah alone in a fresh wave of bloodshed which sent the death toll soaring over 1,800 in the confrontation, now in its 27th day.A Palestinian delegation was to hold truce talks Sunday in Cairo with senior U.S. and Egyptian officials, but Israel has said it sees no point in sending its negotiators to the meeting, citing what it says are Hamas breaches of previous agreed truces.Islamic Jihad was also expected to join along with U.S. Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein.Several Israeli newspapers reported that Cabinet ministers have taken a decision not to seek a further negotiated ceasefire agreement with Hamas and were considering ending the military operation unilaterally.Israel’s army announced on Sunday it had begun withdrawing some troops from Gaza with a military spokesman saying the ground operation was “changing gear.”“We are removing some [forces],” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told AFP, saying troops were “extremely close” to completing a mission to destroy a network of attack tunnels.“We are redeploying within the Gaza Strip, taking out other positions, and relieving other forces from within, so it won’t be the same type of ground operation,” he said.“But indeed we will continue to operate … [and] have a rapid reaction force on the ground that can engage Hamas if required.“It’s changing gear but it’s still ongoing.”Soldier declared deadIsrael’s assault on the southern city of Rafah began early on Friday in the opening hours of a 72-hour humanitarian truce, which was quickly shattered when militants ambushed a group of soldiers, killing two of them.A third was reported missing, believed snatched in a development which drew sharp condemnation from top U.S. and U.N. officials.But early on Sunday, the Israeli army formally announced the death of the soldier, 23-year-old Hadar Goldin, saying he had been “killed in battle in the Gaza Strip on Friday.”Army radio said no body had been recovered, rendering the decision to announce his death “very delicate.” There was no word on the whereabouts of his remains.Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades acknowledged its militants had staged an ambush in which two other Israeli soldiers were killed, but denied holding Goldin.His death raised to 64 the total number of soldiers killed since the start of the operation to July 8, its heaviest toll since the Lebanon war of 2006.Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press on with the operation, promising that Hamas would pay “an insufferable price” for continued cross-border rocket fire.Leaving Beit Lahiya“We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed,” he said late on Saturday, saying troops would complete their mission to destroy the tunnels after which the next security objectives would be decided.His remarks came after the army gave a first indication it was ending operations in parts of Gaza, informing residents of Beit Lahiya and Al-Atatra in the north that it was “safe” to return home.Witnesses in the north confirmed seeing troops leaving the area as others were seen pulling out of villages east of Khan Yunis in the south as commentators suggested it was the start of a unilateral withdrawal. Facebook Comments ‘Multiple deaths and injuries’“Shelling incident in vicinity of UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering almost 3,000 IDP. Initial reports say multiple deaths and injury,” he wrote on his Twitter feed. Shelling incident in vicinity of UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering almost 3,000 IDP. Initial reports say multimple deaths and injury— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) August 3, 2014 Related posts:Costa Rica’s Solís joins UN secretary-general in call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza conflict Costa Rica expresses outrage to Israeli ambassador over Gaza violence Israel, Hamas agree to 72-hour truce Israel, Palestinians accept midnight truce in Gaza GAZA CITY – At least 10 people died in a fresh strike on a U.N. school in Gaza Sunday shortly after Israel confirmed it had begun withdrawing some troops from the war-torn enclave.The strike on the school sheltering displaced Palestinians in the southern city of Rafah came as Israel pounded the region following the suspected capture of a soldier by militants, who was later declared dead.It was the third time in 10 days that a U.N. school had been hit and came four days after Israeli tank shells slammed into a school in the northern town of Jabaliya, killing 16 in an attack furiously denounced by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon as “reprehensible.”An AFP correspondent said there were scenes of chaos at the site, with rescuers trying to evacuate the wounded any way they could, while adults were seen sprinting frantically away through pools of blood, young children clutched in their arms.Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said the school had been housing thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) who had been forced to flee their homes by the ongoing violence in Gaza.Overcome with grief, former BBC reporter and current spokesman for UNRWA Chris Gunness loses it during a recent interview with Al-Jazeera:last_img read more

With heavy rains forecast Costa Rican officials close Route 32 to the

first_imgAs heavy rains continue to fall in Costa Rica, highway officials have ordered Route 32 to be closed as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The main highway through the Braulio Carrillo National Park and connecting San José with the Caribbean coast will remain closed for at least a day, officials said.Officials from the Public Works and Transport Ministry also are evaluating the closure of Route 27, the main highway from Costa Rica’s capital to the Pacific port city of Puntarenas. Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini said a decision on Route 27 would be made in the next few hours.The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) said a low-pressure system likely would cause severe storms beginning Wednesday in both the Pacific and Caribbean regions. The ground in several areas of Costa Rica already is saturated from heavy rainfall over the past few days.The decision to close Route 32 follows a dramatic emergency on the highway that began last Thursday and continued over the weekend. For eight hours, at least 40 landslides on the highway trapped thousands of motorists. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. Officials closed the highway for two days while crews removed debris and engineers evaluated further threats.Route 27 to the Pacific coast also has been the scene of flash floods and landslides, creating dangerous situations for drivers. A week ago, a motorcycle driver averted tragedy by a mere few seconds. The dramatic event was captured on video by a parked motorist filming on his cellphone: Related posts:Route 32 to the Caribbean reopens under watchful eye of highway officials Route 32 to Caribbean coast reopened to traffic, but officials urge caution Flooding in Costa Rica prompts evacuation of more than 450 people Residents OK to return home after flooding, officials say Facebook Commentscenter_img Officials are advising drivers traveling to coastal areas to use alternate roads. For those heading to Puntarenas, officials recommend Route 1; travelers to Limón should use Route 10, officials said.last_img read more

Stop eating Nutella urges French environment minister

first_imgRelated posts:Obama to pledge $3 billion for new UN climate change fund After 11 days of talks, a climate agreement VW says 11 million cars affected globally as scandal widens Police seize 20,000 contraband avocados at Panama border PARIS – France’s environment minister, Segolene Royal, has rankled the company that makes Nutella by urging the public to stop eating its irresistible chocolate hazelnut spread, saying it contributes to deforestation.“We have to replant a lot of trees because there is massive deforestation that also leads to global warming. We should stop eating Nutella, for example, because it’s made with palm oil,” Royal said in an interview late Monday on the French television network Canal+.“Oil palms have replaced trees, and therefore caused considerable damage to the environment,” she explained.Nutella, she said, should be made from “other ingredients.”The comments needled Ferrero, the giant Italian chocolate group that makes Nutella.Without referring to Royal directly, the company issued a statement Tuesday saying it was aware of the environmental stakes and had made commitments to source palm oil in a responsible manner.Ferrero gets nearly 80 percent of its palm oil from Malaysia. The rest of its supply comes from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Brazil.Two and a half years ago, French senators tried to impose a 300 percent tax on palm oil, saying it was dangerously fattening and its cultivation was bad for the environment. The measure was defeated. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Singapore megachurch founder charged with fraud

first_img New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements 0 Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Top Stories Associated PressSINGAPORE (AP) – The founder of one of Singapore’s largest evangelical churches was charged with fraud Wednesday for allegedly funneling millions of dollars to his wife’s singing career.City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, 47, was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust in connection with a scheme to syphon at least 23 million Singapore dollars (US$18 million) of church funds from 2007 to 2010 to finance the singing career of his wife, Ho Yeow Sun. Known professionally as Sun Ho, the 40-year-old has put out several Mandarin and English pop albums and songs, including a 2007 collaboration with pop star Wyclef Jean called “China Wine.” She was not charged Wednesday.Kong did not enter a plea and was freed on SG$500,000 (US$390,000) bail after his passport was seized. He would face up to 20 years in prison or a fine for each charge if found guilty.He did not comment on the accusations in court but earlier had tweeted that he trusted Jesus and referred to Tuesday, when he was arrested, as a “tough day.”Prosecutors also charged four other church leaders with breach of trust and conspiracy to commit falsification of accounts.The charges follow a two-year police investigation sparked by local media reports that depicted Ho’s lavish lifestyle, including a $20,000-a-month Los Angeles mansion. A church member had alleged in 2003 that City Harvest funds were paying for Ho’s singing career, but he later retracted the statement and publically apologized to Kong and Ho.Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a statement that the church is free to hold regular services. City Harvest, which has a congregation of more than 30,000 people, said in a statement that church operations would continue as usual and declined to comment on the case. The Charities Commissioner on Tuesday suspended the five charged church leaders along with Ho and two others from their positions as trustees, board members and employees at City Harvest.Kong gained notice for his charismatic preaching style in front of tens of thousands of worshippers during services at the Suntec Convention Center. He said on his Twitter account Tuesday, “Tough day. I trust in You, Lord Jesus. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daylast_img read more

Delta flight makes emergency landing in Toronto

first_img Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help TORONTO (AP) – Authorities say a Delta Air Lines plane has made an emergency landing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.A spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, which operates the airport, says a mechanical issue forced the plane to land just after 8 a.m.It wasn’t immediately known where the aircraft was travelling or where it came from.No damage or injuries have been reported. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectcenter_img Top Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Parents, stop beating yourself up (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 treatments for adult scoliosislast_img read more

Uruguay president says Fidel Castro mentally sharp

first_img Comments   Share   Check your body, save your life Top Stories The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories Mujica also met with Castro’s younger brother Raul, Cuba’s current president.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean HAVANA (AP) – Uruguay’s president has met with Fidel Castro and says the retired Cuban leader is mentally sharp as he nears his 87th birthday.Jose Mujica says he found “an elderly man who continues to be brilliant, always a promoter of ideas.”Mujica told reporters on Thursday that they had a wide-ranging conversation about “everything” in their meeting late Wednesday.The Uruguayan president is in Cuba to attend celebrations of the 60th anniversary of a failed attack on a military barracks that is considered the start of Castro’s revolution.last_img read more

Irans top diplomat reaches out to Gulf states

first_imgSince the start of the week, the diplomat has visited four of the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, who have long been wary of Shiite powerhouse Iran.Only Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been left out of his Gulf tour so far, but they are significant omissions _ Saudi Arabia is the region’s powerhouse, while Sunni-ruled Bahrain faces a three-year-old uprising by majority Shiites.The interim deal reached in Geneva last month over its nuclear ambitions gives the Islamic Republic’s new government, led by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, an opening to reset its relationship with at least most of the Gulf states.Under the pact, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear program for six months in exchange for some relief from Western sanctions that are hobbling its economy.“Iran is taking advantage of the interim agreement to make inroads into the GCC to resolve outstanding issues and each GCC state, excluding Saudi Arabia,” said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.Iran has expressed an interest in working more closely with Saudi Arabia too, but there are few signs that the kingdom’s rulers are in a mood to talk for now. It, like Israel, remains deeply suspicious of Iran’s intentions. DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – With the ink barely dry on a nuclear deal that paves the way for warmer relations with the West, Iran’s new leadership is making a push to patch up tensions with U.S. allies closer to home too.Tehran’s top diplomat arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday for talks with the nation’s leader that touched on last month’s nuclear pact, as well as regional security and bilateral relations. It was the sort of courtesy call Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is growing accustomed to making. Sponsored Stories Top Stories Comments   Share   (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of The two OPEC nations have longstanding trade ties but differ over several issues, including Tehran’s control over three Gulf islands claimed by both countries.The UAE nonetheless has shown a willingness to engage with the new Iranian leadership. It was one of the first countries in the region to welcome last month’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and dispatched its foreign minister to Tehran last week.The West and its allies fear that Iran’s program could be used to build an atomic bomb. Iran says it is only for peaceful purposes, such as producing electricity, and for scientific and medical research.The Gulf states have welcomed the Iranian nuclear deal. Even Saudi Arabia, which traditionally sets the political tone for the rest of the Gulf, was cautiously in favor of the pact.The UAE has embarked on its own nuclear program, last year becoming the first country in more than two and a half decades to begin building its maiden atomic power plant. It, however, has agreed with the U.S. not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel for plutonium, which can be used in nuclear bombs.Earlier this week, Zarif traveled to Kuwait and Qatar, and met with the countries’ ruling emirs. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches The kingdom sees a stronger Iran as a threat to its own influence in the region, and it and other Sunni-ruled Gulf nations are important backers of the Syrian rebels fighting to topple the Iran-allied government of Bashar Assad in Syria. Riyadh also has accused Iran of backing Shiite uprisings in neighboring Yemen and Bahrain.That has not stopped Tehran from trying to make inroads with Saudi Arabia’s smaller Gulf neighbors.Zarif’s meeting with the Emirati president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, took place in a palace in the low-key desert oasis city of Al Ain, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) inland from the rapidly developing federal capital, Abu Dhabi. He was also expected to visit the bustling commercial hub of Dubai before departing.The Emirati leader reiterated his country’s support for the nuclear deal and said his nation looks forward to enhancing regional stability and security, according to an account of their meeting carried by the official WAM news agency. He also said he hoped for more cooperation between the two OPEC member states.Zarif extended an invitation for Khalifa to visit Iran, which the state news agency said “His Highness thankfully accepted,” and expressed Iran’s desire to strengthen its ties with the Gulf countries. He also stopped in Oman, which shares control of the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf with Iran. It has long maintained friendly ties with both Tehran and the West, and was the site of some of the secret talks between Iranian and American representatives that preceded last month’s nuclear deal in Geneva.___Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technologylast_img read more

Japan aquariums say theyll stop getting Taijihunt dolphins

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The vital role family plays in society Comments   Share   Top Stories “The Cove,” which won an Academy Award in 2009, focuses on veteran dolphin activist Ric O’Barry, who trained dolphins for the 1960s “Flipper” TV series before deciding to devote his life to protecting the mammals and keeping them in nature.Groups such as Australia for Dolphins argue that dolphin meat does not provide enough monetary incentive to keep the hunts going, but dolphins are sold to aquariums and marine shows for thousands of dollars.WAZA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.___Follow Yuri Kageyama: © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s aquariums promised Wednesday to stop acquiring dolphins captured in a bloody hunt that was depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” and has caused global outrage.The move by the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums follows a decision last month by the Swiss-based umbrella group World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or WAZA, to suspend the Japanese organization’s membership. Men’s health affects baby’s health too Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories WAZA characterized the Taiji hunt as “cruel,” and decided that none of its members should acquire dolphins in such a way.In that hunt, dolphins are scared with banging, herded into a cove and speared by fishermen for their meat. The best-looking ones are sold to aquariums.In a letter to WAZA, the Japanese group, which comprises 89 zoos and 63 aquariums, said it would abide by WAZA’s decision.“It is our wish at JAZA to remain as a member of WAZA,” chair Kazutoshi Arai said in a letter addressed to WAZA President Lee Ehmke.The campaign against the Taiji hunt has drawn Hollywood stars as well as the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.The latest move was welcomed by animal welfare groups.“This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan,” said Sarah Lucas, the CEO of Australia for Dolphins.Officials in Taiji, a small fishing village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as tradition, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different from eating beef or chicken.Eating dolphins is a delicacy most Japanese never experience. Many Japanese are horrified by the dolphin killing, and have joined the campaign against the Taiji hunt. Four benefits of having a wireless security systemlast_img read more

Balkan foes find common ground in bid to join 28nation EU

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Four benefits of having a wireless security system Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The talks are part of gatherings organized for Albania’s presidency of the South-East European Cooperation Process, a regional grouping of 13 Balkan nations set up to promote cooperation. The group’s presidents and prime ministers are to meet in Tirana next week.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, left, and Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council of the Southeast European Cooperation Process, head the meeting of Southeast European countries in Tirana, Friday May 22, 2015. Western Balkan countries are urged from the European Union to strengthen their regional cooperation along their steps to join the bloc. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)n Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   center_img TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Foreign ministers and senior diplomats from several Balkan countries — many with troubled relations stemming from wars in the 1990s — met Friday in the Albanian capital of Tirana to try and advance each others’ bids to join the European Union.The meeting took place ahead of a landmark visit to Tirana next week of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the first to Albania by a Serbian prime minister. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that visit would boost regional stability. Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober “Last year’s visit from (Albanian) Prime Minister Edi Rama to Belgrade was very fruitful. The visit of Prime Minister Vucic will be of importance for both countries and for Balkan stability,” he said.Friday’s meeting brought together representatives of countries that have long had troubled relations in the volatile region: Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said the political crisis and ethnic tensions in neighboring Macedonia could undermine other Balkan nations’ bids for accession to the 28-nation EU, the world’s largest trading bloc.“One country’s security is inseparable from our joint security … It’s a threat to the region’s EU integration,” Bushati said.Macedonia is engulfed in one of its deepest political crises since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Adding to the tensions, a shootout in the northern city of Kumanovo this month between police and suspected ethnic Albanian militants left 18 dead.Rama, the Albanian prime minister, warned earlier this week that his country could block Macedonia’s bid to join NATO unless it improves its record on respecting the rights of the country’s sizeable ethnic Albanian minority. Sponsored Stories How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

A New Mantra Gold Coast set to receive fivestars

first_imgMantra Group today announced plans to open a new five-star hotel on the Gold Coast. In an agreement with Niecon Developments to manage the venture, Mantra Group will provide the first five-star hotel to the Gold Coast since the opening of the Palazzo Versace a decade ago in 2000.The Broadbeach development includes $850 million twin residential towers comprised of 505 residences. Mantra group CEO Bob East said the towers will be branded as Peppers Broadbeach and become the cornerstone of the Group’s five-star offering. “The new Peppers Broadbeach will be the Largest Broadbeach Property within the Peppers portfolio and represents the brand’s first foray into the metropolitan hotel market,” Mr. East said.Earlier this month, the Mantra Group was voted by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents as Australia’s Best Hotel/Resort Group in 2010. With 130 hotels, apartments and resorts comprising 15,000 rooms under management, the Group is the second largest accommodation operator in Australia.For Niecon Developments, the hotel represents another signature project in its Gold Coast Portfolio. The Development will feature 11,000 square metres of retails and commercial space, housing more than 45 retails shops along a boulevard.The twin tower development also seeks to become one of the most technologically-advanced hotels in Australia. Mr. East noted the “extensive use of life space including Zen gardens, tai chi lawns, private cinemas, guest’s lounges, teppanyaki barbeques, steam rooms, saunas and lap, plunge and resort pools.”Peppers Braodbeach is set to be launched in three phases, with a soft opening from October 2010. The hotel is set to officially open with the full suite of Peppers services in March 2011. <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Source = e-Travel Blackboard: A.Vlast_img read more

Wolverine preferred sky high companion

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J If given the chance to fly with a celebrity, Aussie travellers said they prefer to share a few tales and an aircraft seat with Wolverine aka Hugh Jackman over the likes of Kyle Sandilands and Julia Gillard.According to a Travelzoo Australia Flight Etiquette survey, the radio personality topped the list of people travellers would least like to sit next to on a long-haul international flight with 55.4 percent of votes followed by Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard with 21.8 percent.Tony Abbott was also turned down by travellers with 17.9 percent not wanting to travel with the former politician while Max Markson also made the list with 13.4 percent.Of the 2,500 Australians surveyed, 62.9 percent said they would love to share a journey with Hugh Jackman followed by 22.9 percent voting for Miranda Kerr and nine percent hoping to travel with Liz Hurley.  The survey measuring the dos and don’ts on board flights found that while 67.7 percent of people were happy to have fellow passengers remove their footwear during the flight, 56.7 percent said a singlet was not an appropriate form on air travel  clothing.Travelzoo Australia general manager Brad Gurrie said the survey found that for the most part passengers were relatively “tolerant” towards the behaviours of others.“For example when asked what people would do if they were stuck next to a fellow passenger that wouldn’t stop talking, over 40 per cent of respondents said they would smile and be polite rather than cut them off,” Mr Gurrie explained. However, all patience is off when a screaming baby is around, with 97.7 percent of respondents saying a loud child is the worst part of air travel. Personally I’d love to sit next to Kyle Sandilands on board a flight, which celebrity would you want as a sky high companion?  last_img read more