NCL adds new tier levels to enhanced rewards program for its most

first_imgNCL adds new tier levels to enhanced rewards program for its most loyal guests Posted by Tags: Loyalty Programs, Norwegian Cruise Line Share Tuesday, January 31, 2017 center_img Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> MIAMI — Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it has enhanced its Latitudes Rewards loyalty program, featuring new benefits at all tier levels.Available for all cruises beginning Feb. 3, the new program includes the addition of two new elite tier levels for the most frequent cruisers: Platinum Plus, for guests who’ve earned 175 points and above, and Ambassador, for those earning a minimum of 700 points. These new elite tiers reward Norwegian’s most loyal cruisers with never-before-offered benefits, including dinner with the ship’s officers and a complimentary seven-day cruise (for Ambassador only).New complimentary benefits include a bottle of sparkling wine for all Latitudes Rewards guests, shore excursion discounts for Silver members and above, bottled water for Gold members and above, free Internet minutes and much more. All Latitudes Rewards guests receive priority check-in, key card recognition and enhanced onboard discounts.“At Norwegian Cruise Line, we value our loyal guests and want to provide an aspirational and meaningful rewards program,” said Meg Lee, Chief Marketing Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line. “We have listened to our guests’ feedback and have enriched our Latitudes Rewards program to better recognize our loyal guests with more valuable onboard amenities and additional tier levels that provide exclusive offers, including a complimentary cruise for our most frequent guests.”More news:  Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaTo make it easy for guests to receive special loyalty offers and onboard benefits, all guests 18 years of age or older are automatically enrolled in the Latitudes Rewards program after their first cruise. With the enhanced program, guests will continue to earn one point per cruise night and an additional point per night if they book in a Suite or in The Have, or with a Latitudes Insider offer.For more information go to read more

Security concerns still loom large for corporate travel says Amex GBT

first_imgSecurity concerns still loom large for corporate travel, says Amex GBT TORONTO — More than half (56%) of corporate travel managers have seen more business travellers report heightened personal security concerns in the past three months, according to a new survey from American Express Global Business Travel and ACTE.The survey also showed that 54% of corporate travel managers say travellers have expressed new or growing concern about travel to the U.S. as changes in visa requirements and immigration policies loom, and 31% report increased concern about data privacy.Some 239 travel buyers from around the world (North America 63%, Europe / Middle East / Africa 24%, Asia Pac 13%) were polled for the survey.Amex GBT conducted the March 2017 survey as a follow up to its September 2016 poll. Traveller concerns about security, very prominent in the September 2016 poll, “remain a live issue”, says the company. Travel to and from the U.S. – a new question that examined traveller anxieties about visa and immigration issues – generated increased enquiries in 54% of corporations.More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthThe 2016 survey revealed that more than half (54%) of buyers had already tightened policy in light of security concerns and 36% were considering changes to policy in response to these concerns. In the 2017 poll a majority of buyers have either introduced (33%), will introduce (14%) or are discussing bringing in more safety training for travellers.The 2017 stats also indicated that few buyers are using traveller safety as justification for clamping down on ‘bleisure’ trips in their policies, i.e. business trips with a vacation component, often with family members in tow. However the survey also showed that 23% of buyers indicated that their policies did not permit travellers to use shared economy accommodation options like Airbnb.Click for full view Travelweek Group Wednesday, April 26, 2017 Posted bycenter_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: American Express Global Business Travellast_img read more

How to make more commission with your Vegas bookings

first_imgHow to make more commission with your Vegas bookings << Previous PostNext Post >> Michael Smith Posted by Sharecenter_img Tags: Las Vegas, WestJet, WestJet Vacations TORONTO — Toronto agents got a taste of the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ last night when 25 hotel and attraction partners from Las Vegas arrived as part of a sales mission.What agents learned when they got there was that Vegas and Toronto are more alike than they previously thought, with hockey being the common denominator. Soon to make their debut at Las Vegas’ T Mobile arena at the start of the 2017-2018 NHL season are the Vegas Golden Knights, which Fernando Hurtado, International Market Manager for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority, said will give Canadians a new reason to come to the destination.“The most important thing at this moment is that we have our very own hockey team,” he said.Hurtado is also looking forward to 2020 when Vegas will become the new home of the American football team the Raiders. With that comes a large stadium that also allows for mega events such as concerts, shows and MMA and boxing fights.When asked about the effect of the loonie and the poor exchange rate, Hurtado admitted it has hurt, but he wanted travellers to remember that Vegas is a leader in average daily room rates, with almost US$100 less per night compared to New York City, San Francisco or Chicago.As for airlift, it’s never been easier for Canadians to get to Vegas. One of the destination’s biggest partners are WestJet and WestJet Vacations, who are currently running a booking contest with LVCVA at“Many people don’t know that WestJet is the largest International airline by passenger volume arriving in Vegas. We bring 1.5 million passengers into Vegas every year,” said Mike Miguel, Manager Business Development, WestJet.Miguel suggests upselling the premium economy option that is available on all WestJet’s 737s going into Vegas. He also wanted to let agents know that the airline is always negotiating and looking to bring new product into its portfolio, the most recent addition being W Hotel.More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin CruisesSo how else can agents look to make more commission on Vegas bookings? We posed that question to some of the operators in attendance:Machine Guns VegasMGV takes shooting to a whole new level, giving clients options that include indoor shooting ranges and the Zombie Survival package. They will soon offer a helicopter shooting package starting in July. They offer agents 20% commission; any agents looking to make a booking can contact Esther Cases Truzman at Position RacewayClients can ride the fastest go-karts in America just next to the Palms Casino. They book a lot of F.I.T. and can accommodate groups up to 300. They also have a VIP area for group bookings that recently saw the likes of Drake. They offer agents 20% commission. Agents can contact Brad Mark at for bookings.Las Vegas MonorailThe monorail gives clients a great transport option that beats the heat and is cheaper than taxis. They offer 20% commission. Agents can contact Jennifer Breed at or look out for their upcoming agent page coming soon.Sundance HelicoptersServing four million passengers since 1985, Sundance Helicopters offers premium options for clients such as complimentary limousine transfers and picnic meals. They can do groups from 10 people and recently did an event with 500 people in groups of 75 using their 13 helicopters. They offer 25% commission. Travel agents can contact Al Santos at EntertainmentThis live entertainment group offers four different shows including the new Magic Mike show. They can offer agents between 20-30% net rate and can cater to groups as little as 10 people to full buyouts of the theatre. Go to for more.Destination Las Vegas GroupIf you are looking to book clients a unique experience for a wedding, bachelor/bachelorette, or proposals/renewals, Destination Las Vegas Group has some unique options. They offer 20-30% commission through their agent portal; contact Sebastian Salas to get access at Cayon Scenic AirlinesCatering to 600,000 passengers a year, they are the only company that does a full span of the canyons. They offer 20-35% net rate and have dynamic pricing so clients can get a lower rate during low seasons. They have a booking portal; to get access email Sherwin Mercado at news:  Onex paying big to get WestJet and that will send airfares soaring, says CWTGray Line Las VegasGray Line offers tours of the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon by coach. They also recently added a luxury coach for 11 people. They offer commission or net rates. Agents can go their agent portal on their website at Venetian and The PalazzoThe Venetian completed renovations late last year, while The Palazzo is also getting a revamp. They are currently offering two commissionable promotions: 20% off stays of two or more nights or a US$150 hotel credit. Both promotions run until the end of September.Hard Rock Hotel Las VegasHard Rock recently renovated their rooms and added a new steakhouse, oyster bar and Goose Island Pub. They have also added two new shows and their big hook at the moment is pool season. Agents can get a travel agent rate of 20% off by booking directly with them and citing their IATA number.Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil currently has seven shows running in Vegas, with O and Michael Jackson ONE being the most popular. They can offer 10% net rate to agents, excluding group bookings and O bookings. To be eligible, agents need to sell 100 or more tickets a year across the seven shows. Contact Jacinta Jose at Rêve – The DreamVoted ‘Best Production Show’ in Las Vegas for seven consecutive years by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association, Le Rêve – The Dream is a popular choice for clients. They are currently crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s on a new arrangement that will allow agents to get 10% commission.MGM Resorts InternationalWith the opening of the T-Mobile arena, MGM has been busy with the new hockey team coming soon and residencies from Bruno Mars, Ricky Martin and Cher. Most tickets are sold through Ticketmaster, but agents have the ability to book Cher tickets through Air Canada Vacations. Wednesday, May 17, 2017 last_img read more

Watch this reporter hilariously freak out on new Guardians of the Galaxy

first_img Wednesday, May 31, 2017 Share << Previous PostNext Post >> LOS ANGELES — The new ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission: BREAKOUT!’ ride at Disney California Adventure park should consider changing its name to ‘Mission: FREAK OUT’ after an ABC news reporter was filmed hilariously losing his cool while onboard.Having officially opened to the public on May 27, the new ride offered a sneak peek to members of the media over the weekend, including a very frightened – and animated – Cory James, a reporter for Fresno, California’s KFSN TV action news. His reaction throughout the two-minute ride looks almost as good as the ride itself! Watch this reporter hilariously freak out on new Guardians of the Galaxy ridecenter_img Travelweek Group Posted by Tags: Disney, LOL, Videolast_img read more

Viking Skys March 27 sailing cancelled in wake of highstakes rescue at

first_imgTags: Viking Cruises, Weather TORONTO — It was a cruise to remember but not in the way they expected, as dangerously stormy seas in Norway forced a helicopter evacuation of 479 Viking Sky passengers on Sunday, with hundreds more staying onboard to ride out the pitch and roll of the rough seas.Now Norwegian officials are investigating why Viking Sky set sail, despite storm warnings.Viking Sky left Tromsoe and was headed for Stavanger in southern Norway when it ran into trouble. The ship had engine problems off the Norwegian coast and issued a mayday on Saturday afternoon.Still waiting for evacuation. #VikingSky #Mayday— Alexus Sheppard (@alexus309) March 23, 2019The ship anchored to avoid being dashed on the rocks in an area known for shipwrecks. According to reports, waves topped six to eight metres (about 19 to 26 feet).Norwegian authorities launched a rescue operation despite the high winds and rough seas, eventually evacuating 479 passengers off the ship by helicopter in an operation that went on for hours Saturday night and into Sunday morning.More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin CruisesViking Sky’s captain made the decision Sunday to halt the evacuation. About 900 people were still on board when the ship came into the port city of Molde on its own engines.A statement from Viking reports that 20 passengers suffered injuries.“Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew,” says Viking. “We would like to thank the Norwegian Redningssentral and the Norwegian emergency services for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions. We would also like to thank the local residents who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable.”Viking says the next sailing, ‘Scandinavia & the Kiel Canal’ scheduled to embark on March 27, has been cancelled. “Guests and their travel agents have been contacted directly. We do not anticipate any additional cancellations at this time.”Dag S. Liseth of Norway’s Accident Investigations Board said “the high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident.”More news:  Air Canada’s global sales update includes Managing Director, Canada & USA SalesLiseth said investigators are in Molde today and declined to speculate as to why the Viking Sky captain had decided to sail to Stavanger in the first place despite the weather warning.Yngve Skovly, of the police force in Moere and Romsdal district, where Molde sits, said there is no suspicion of a criminal offence but police have opened an investigation to find out why the ship had engine problems. That probe would be part of the one by the Accident Investigations Board.All of the passengers were expected to be flown out of Norway by Monday evening, police said.Viking Sky is a relatively new ship, delivered in 2017.The high-profile Viking brand has seen phenomenal growth on its river cruise line sailings in recent years. The company introduced ocean cruises in 2015.With files from The Associated Press Travelweek Group Posted by Sharecenter_img Viking Sky’s March 27 sailing cancelled in wake of high-stakes rescue at sea << Previous PostNext Post >> Monday, March 25, 2019 last_img read more

Strike ends Caribbean docks back to normal

first_imgNo related posts. Government authorities and dock-workers unions reached an agreement early Tuesday to end a strike in the Caribbean province of Limón.Presidency Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides said an agreement had been reached with dock workers after hours of negotiations that ended around 2 a.m.“We reached an agreement to end the strike, and as of 8 a.m. this morning, operations are open in the ports of Moín and Limón,” Benavides said.The parties also agreed to carry out modernization of the docks via a $70 million loan request. The government promised to pay $40 million, while the Atlantic Port Authority (Japdeva) will cover the remaining $30 million, according to the minister.“This will involve an adjustment in rates so that we can adequately pay the debt,” he added.Japdeva workers walked off the job for a week protesting a government decision to grant a new dock concession to Dutch conglomerate APM Terminals. On Thursday, police occupied port facilities to allow Colombian and Panamanian workers to transport goods to and from waiting ships. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Rica pulls out of hosting U17 Womens Soccer World Cup

first_imgThe International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is looking for a new country to stage the Under-17 Women’s World Cup next year because the stadiums in Costa Rica would not be ready in time.FIFA on Thursday said the decision was agreed to by the Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUT) “due to a number of unforeseen circumstances leading to heavy stadium construction delays.”FEDEFUT President Eduardo Li blamed the government for the problems, citing delays in the delivery of funds that the government had offered to build the stadiums. But Sports Minister William Corrales rejected the accusations by saying the government could not allocate the funds because FEDEFUT has a ₡87 million ($174,000) tax debt.Costa Rica won hosting rights in March 2011 ahead of Ghana, Turkey and Uzbekistan.The Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels estimated that during the one-month competition 16 football teams would have spent some $10 million in lodging alone. That figure does not include expenses for food and for the people accompaning the players, plus all the losses from tourists who will no longer visit the areas where the matches will be hold (Liberia, Jacó, Alajuela and San José).The 16-nation tournament was set to be held in March 2014, and now is likely to be rescheduled for September.FIFA says it will evaluate potential hosts before reaching a final decision by its executive committee at a March 20-21 meeting in Zurich. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Not exactly a book review

first_imgFrom the moment I opened this book, I knew it would be impossible for me to write a standard review of it. I couldn’t read about Joe Frazier’s memories without bumping into my own.Joe, a correspondent for the Associated Press for 37 years who covered Central America from 1979 to 1986, and his wife Linda were dear friends of ours. Linda was a staffer on The Tico Times when she was killed in a terrorist bombing at La Penca, Nicaragua on May 30, 1984.“Death was a part of daily life in Central America in the 1980s, and it hit us all in different ways,” Joe writes in his memoir. “Most of us lost friends and colleagues. Many of us were just numbed by the quantity of it, some of us had our lives immeasurably scarred and changed by it. Both were true of myself.”Both were true of us, too. Life at The Tico Times would be divided forever after between Before La Penca and After La Penca.When the war in Nicaragua began to heat up in the late ’70s, correspondents from all over began converging regularly on Costa Rica, and The Tico Times office was an obligatory stop. At any given time there were more visiting newspeople than our own staffers gathered in our small newsroom, comparing notes, catching up, checking out each other’s information. Photos from The Tico Times archives: No related posts. Frazier pursued the story wherever he could: in the small towns where ordinary Salvadorans were being battered by both the guerrillas and the government; at the scenes of savage massacres; in remote rebel camps where Liberation Theology-minded priests were supporting the guerrillas; at the headquarters of Pro-Búsqueda, an agency working to reunite stolen children with their parents. He interviewed presidents, rebel leaders, U.S. officials, campesinos, archbishops. He witnessed incredible horrors. Embattled El Salvador comes vividly alive in every chapter, revealing a hellish, deeply tragic place where Realpolitik had become more important than human lives.“Most of us spent our first year or so there writing stories that tried to make sense of it,” he recalls. “Gradually we realized it didn’t make any sense and began writing about that. When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.”On every page, Joe Frazier displays the essential qualities that make a great journalist: curiosity, humility and honesty. We’d witnessed the antics of a few of his more arrogant brethren, who showed up in Central America armed with political agendas, at both extremes of the spectrum, that they were determined to “prove” (pathetically, some are still at it). But the true pros, such as Joe, never claimed to know it all. They were there to find out.Anybody who wants to be a journalist – or a better journalist – will benefit from Frazier’s shining example in this book.Frazier revisited El Salvador in 2009 and 2012. He found a country that was no longer “at war with itself” but still very much divided – between those who want to forget the horrific past and those who believe it is vital to remember it.He reviews the 1992 peace pact and the findings of its Truth Commission, plus the controversial amnesty that sought to undermine it. El Salvador today is still torn by gang violence, but the country’s war wounds are healing – and, many fear, are fading from public awareness.“Now the country is deciding how much to tell the next generation, and how much to forget,” he writes.“Today, young eyes widen at stories of what happened just down the street or one village over, and not so long ago,” he adds, noting that many survivors of the atrocities say they feel “a national amnesia is moving in.”This worries Frazier, who clearly favors remembering: “Given the country’s past, the future is hard to predict and while the country is stable today, it isn’t known for that.”In the last chapter, he re-lives his terrible loss of Linda and the aftermath of La Penca. By concluding his powerful, insightful memoir with the personal pain that all of us who were there would give anything to forget, Joe Frazier exhibits one more trait of a great journalist: courage.“El Salvador Could Be Like That” is available for $17.96 in paperback and $9.99 in Kindle version at  Tico Timescenter_img Many of us also worked as stringers for foreign news organizations. We got to know everybody who was covering the region.In the early ’80s, a number of the correspondents assigned to Central America decided to move to Costa Rica and use it as a base. Joe, Linda and their son Chris came here from Mexico. Joe commuted back and forth between San José and the war zones in the region.His book focuses on El Salvador, at the time the center of desperate U.S. efforts to prevent another Nicaragua. With a masterful mix of straight reporting, colorful anecdotes and thoughtful reflection, Frazier seamlessly weaves the life (and too often, the deaths) of the correspondents chasing the story into the story itself – the unspeakable violence tearing the country and its people apart, its roots in El Salvador’s history, and the geopolitics that fueled it.“The United States spent billions of dollars backing a string of governments trying to fend off a coalition of five ragtag rebel armies in the tiny country,” he writes. “At the peak of the fight only Israel and Egypt were getting more American military help. The Soviet bloc used the neighboring and newly leftist country of Nicaragua as a weapons conduit.“More lives were lost in El Salvador during the conflict than were lost by the United States in Vietnam, and the U.S. population is 60 times greater than El Salvador’s.”Frazier cites examples of the country’s infamously grotesque inequality, which spawned and perpetuated the insurgency, which in turn sparked the interest of the Eastern Bloc, escalated U.S. paranoia and brought in the Big Guns of the Cold War.“When nearly all of a massively impoverished class has no way out of poverty, there is a class problem that will not fix itself peacefully,” he notes.“It was the oldest joke in El Salvador, and perhaps the most repeated: the military and government were making guerrillas faster than they could kill them. The military and oligarchy somehow never quite figured it out.”For its part, the United States, driven by dread that another country in its backyard would slip into communism, never quite figured out how to stop supporting a status quo ever more notorious for its human-rights atrocities.“In El Salvador in the 1980s it wasn’t hard to wake up dead, or disappeared, as the saying went,” Frazier writes. “People who knew the wrong people or had the wrong enemies or were heard saying the wrong thing or were reported by a rival in love or business to have said the wrong thing or had the wrong job or stumped for a union could be dragged from bed in the small hours by death squads and shot. Often the family was awakened and forced to watch. Nobody was immune, not even priests.”Nor journalists. Frazier’s name was on a “Death List” circulated by a rightist paramilitary group accusing most of the foreign correspondents in El Salvador of being “the main accomplices of Soviet, Cuban and Sandinista communism trying to take over the country” and sentencing them to death.Covering El Salvador was particularly difficult because “All sides had one thing in common: they lied a great deal.”“We gnawed through mountains of spin and did the best we could,” Frazier recalls. “There remained for a short time a 1950s-style naïveté that told us if the U.S. government was telling us something, it must be true.“The facts on the ground quickly educated us otherwise.”(At The Tico Times, we underwent a similar awakening in the ugly ’80s.) Facebook Comments Joe Frazier, a correspondent for the Associated Press for 37 years who covered Central America from 1979 to 1986, and his wife Linda were dear friends of The Tico Times. last_img read more

Nicaraguan migrants dont follow other Central Americans to US choosing Costa Rica

first_imgIt’s just after 9 a.m. in La Merced park at the mouth of Second Avenue in downtown San José and the sun is out. The church steeple doesn’t offer any shade to those in the park below, but Alberto Cabrera found a seat under the shade of a tree.Cabrera, a Nicaraguan immigrant with residency, has lived in Costa Rica for 19 years working mostly as a welder.“I was 27 when I came. I found a job in three days so I stayed. I liked it; I made money – not a lot, but it was worth it,” he said.Compared to the harrowing tales of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and gang-ravaged communities to the United States, including an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied child migrants by the end of the year, Cabrera’s straightforward story sounds idyllic.Despite being the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti, Nicaragua is not counted among other Central American countries sending thousands of immigrants to the U.S. According to 2012 figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 55,307 Guatemalans were caught crossing the southwest U.S. border, along with 48,984 Hondurans and 37,197 Salvadorans. The U.S. Border Patrol caught a scant 2,413 Nicaraguans that same year, a figure than has remained largely unchanged during the last decade.But just because Nicaraguans are not traveling to the U.S. in huge numbers does not mean they are not migrating elsewhere. Instead of traveling north, Nicaraguans have been going south to Costa Rica in search of economic opportunity. Distinct immigration trends, policing strategies and a neighboring country looking for cheap labor have set Nicaragua on a different path from the rest of a troubled region. immigration has deep roots in Costa Rica that go back to the 19th century, Carlos Sandoval, a professor at the University of Costa Rica who studies Nicaraguan migration, told The Tico Times in a telephone interview. The professor said that many Nicaraguans trying to get to Panama to work on the canal ended up staying in Costa Rica, helping to build the railroad between San José and Limón, or working in the booming banana industry.Sandoval noted that the most recent wave of Nicaraguan migration coincided with the civil war and, later, the implementation of neoliberal reforms during the 1980s and 1990s.“While the region entered into a period of greatest electoral stability after the signing of the peace accords in Central America, social exclusion increased,” Sandoval observed.Quxabel Cárdenas, coordinator for the immigrant rights group Enlaces Nicaragüenses, told The Tico Times in a telephone interview that there are many advantages for Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica they couldn’t find in the United States. Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans share the same language, Catholic religion, and a porous border that allows migrants to travel easily back and forth for work or to visit family.Several Nicaraguans in Costa Rica with whom The Tico Times spoke said they regularly travel back to Nicaragua. Figures from the Immigration Administration support the image of a fluid border. In 2013, over 480,000 Nicaraguans crossed the Costa Rican border.In 2013, 287,766 Nicaraguans lived in Costa Rica, according to the Immigration Administration, but the actual number of Nicaraguans working and traveling to Costa Rica through informal means is likely much greater. Several sources consulted for this article estimated that there could be many more Nicaraguans living and working in Costa Rica without residency or work permits, bringing the actual population to between 350,000 and 400,000.Cárdenas said that many Nicaraguans find informal employment in Costa Rica working the fields of cash crops like coffee, pineapple and bananas, in the construction industry or as domestic workers in people’s homes.“Nicaragua has seen mostly a labor-driven migration, not for reasons of violence,” Cárdenas said.Nicaraguans might be leaving their homeland looking for work, but many of their Central American neighbors are fleeing some of the worst violence in the world. According to a 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, Latin America had the highest homicide rates in the world. The corrosive effects of the international drug trade and organized crime are widely blamed for the violence.A recent report on Central American immigration from the Inter-American Dialogue identified violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as the greatest driver of immigration during the last four years. In 2012, Nicaragua and Costa Rica had the lowest homicide rates in the region at 11.3 and 8.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively, according to UNODC. Both countries have been spared the destabilizing effects of transnational gangs, known as maras. (Read an excellent essay in Spanish on the evolution of the word “maras” at El Salvador’s El Faro here.)Nicaraguans feel safer than any other Latin Americans, according to an August 2014 poll from Gallup. The poor Central American country rated higher than Costa Rica, Uruguay and Panama, among others. Nicaraguans’ sense of safety also saw the greatest improvement between 2009 and 2013, the two dates Gallup collected responses.Some of the roots of this transnational organized crime lie in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California.José Luis Rocha, writing in the Nicaraguan journal Envío, noted that differing Nicaraguan migration patterns both to the United States and Costa Rica have played an important role in how Nicaragua has so far avoided home grown maras.Many Nicaraguan migrants during the country’s civil war decided to migrate to Florida instead of Southern California, where other Central Americans congregated. A 2012 report from UNODC noted that two of the isthmus’ most infamous gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, originated in East Los Angeles. But the report goes on to suggest that their presence in Central America was “almost certainly a result of the wave of criminal deportations” from the United States that started in the late 1990s.Dennis Rodgers, a professor at the University of Glasgow who studies youth gangs in Nicaragua, pointed out in an email to The Tico Times that thanks to the 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, some 180,000 Nicaraguan migrants were able to legalize their status in the U.S.NACARA also covered Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants, but under the act, Nicaraguan and Cuban applications were expedited thanks to fewer administrative barriers. This allowed Nicaraguan families, especially in the middle class, to legally emigrate to the United States and bring their families. Meanwhile, many other Central American families were broken up by U.S. immigration restrictions, something that has contributed to the recent influx of child migrants along the U.S. border.According to the 2011 U.S. Census, there are some 395,000 people of Nicaraguan origin living in the U.S. The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project reported that four in 10 Nicaraguans arrived in the U.S. since 1990 and that 53 percent of Nicaraguans in the U.S. are citizens, a much higher percentage than other Central Americans. Only 22 percent of Hondurans in the U.S. are citizens compared to 23 percent of Guatemalans and 29 percent of Salvadorans.Along with sidestepping the epicenter of some of the most notorious gangs in Central America, Nicaragua has taken a distinct approach to law enforcement. Experts have pointed to Nicaragua’s community policing strategy as an effective alternative to the “iron fist” approaches that many Northern Triangle countries have taken to deal with gangs. Instead of arrests and repression, police re-direct youth to community work and other positive activities.“This is one of the most important factors that they have done, in my opinion, despite the level of poverty, it’s a country where maras and gangs practically don’t exist,” Fernando Protti-Alvarado, Central American regional representative for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, told The Tico Times.But that community policing strategy also has a downside, including repercussions on neighbors who don’t overtly support the Sandinista government, and arbitrary detentions based on gossip and rumor. Police also are commonly criticized for their less-than-professional investigative behavior and, of course, corruption.But back in La Mercedes park, Francisco Molina, a Nicaraguan who has lived in Costa Rica for 23 years, boasted that the Nicaraguan police are the “best” in Central America.“The police are respected [in Nicaragua],” Molina said as he sold ice cream out of a small cart. “If there’s some drunk in the street the police will take him and put him to work.”But statements like that should be taken with a grain of salt.Nevertheless, Nicaraguans can rely on the relative safety and job prospects in Costa Rica, but a rising cost of living and the lingering effects of the global financial crisis are creating disincentives for Nicaraguans to migrate to Costa Rica.“When I came here everything was cheap. It was easy to buy food, clothes, ride the bus. Everything’s gone up, it’s changed a lot,” Cabrera said.A Nicaraguan woman who gave her name as Rosario because she did not have a work permit said she had been traveling to Costa Rica for seven years to work short-term jobs.“Life is really hard here now. They’re asking for a lot of papers these days, [asking] if I have a work permit, residency. I don’t have any of this, just my passport,” she said.“God willing, I’ll go back to my country next week. To be here without a job, eating, paying rent, no way. Better to go back to my country. It’s hard there too, right now, but at least I’m just paying for the water and lights there,” she added.Rosario is representative of the changing face of Nicaraguan migration. Sandoval noted that historically Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica was mostly made up of men traveling to the countryside to cut sugar cane or work in other cash crops. Today, many more women are making the trip south to Costa Rica and working in urban areas, especially in the domestic service sector.Despite the lack of prospects back in Nicaragua, many of the migrants with whom The Tico Times spoke said that they would return if President Daniel Ortega’s government were able to break ground on the Chinese-backed transoceanic canal, reversing the flow of immigrants that brought so many to Costa Rica a century ago.“There’s going to be a lot of work in Nicaragua when the canal starts. I’ll go back. A lot of people will,” Molina said. “This place will be empty.” Facebook Comments Related posts:Migration is one of the most challenging issues of the 21st century, says UN official White House seeks emergency funds to handle rush of young immigrants As budget battles loom, Biden asks US Congress to approve aid for Central America US to spend $750 million to attack Central America poverty woeslast_img read more

Drunk driver kills Venezuelan athlete during halfmarathon in Costa Rica

first_imgNo related posts. This is the second time this year that a drunk driver has killed athletes in the early morning hours. On Jan. 29, a drunk driver killed four cyclists on the road to Tres Ríos, east of the capital, who were on their way to Volcán Irazú.La Prensa Libre reported last week that the legal case against the suspect in the Tres Ríos crime is still in the preparatory stages. Facebook Comments A drunk driver in San José killed a Venezuelan runner who was participating in the San José Half Marathon early Sunday morning, authorities reported.Race organizers said the accident took place in Zapote, east of San José, and that the victim, David Yáñez Pacheco had reached the 15-kilometer market of the 21-kilometer race, which crosses the capital city. The driver ignored the race security measures and went around the security barrier before hitting the runner, Traffic Police officers confirmed.The driver tried to flee the scene, but police officers caught up with him less than a kilometer away.Columbia Deportiva shared a Facebook post Monday morning indicating that the suspect has been released while the case against him is processed.The daily La Nación reported that Yáñez had been living in Costa Rica for five months and is one of several Venezuelan runners who have moved here recently in search of better economic conditions. He was aiming for at least a second-place finish in Sunday’s half-marathon so that he could send the $500 prize to his 13-year-old daughter in Venezuela, the daily reported.“We had all our usual security measures in place, including a protocol we follow rigorously,” the race organizing commission said in a statement.The runner died at Calderón Guardia Hospital in east-central San José shortly after arrival.Yáñez was running alongside Costa Rican Paralympic athlete Laurens Molina, who contacted the victim’s family in Venezuela to inform them about his death. Molina said the victim’s sister will arrive in Costa Rica on Monday to coordinate the transfer of his body, and that the Venezuelan Consulate is supporting this process.See Laurens Molina talk about Yáñez on Columbia Deportiva:last_img read more

A guide to watching the World Cup in Costa Rica

first_img Facebook Comments Costa Rican Friday Happy Hour #3: ‘El Otro Gol’ PHOTOS: Costa Ricans go wild celebrating World Cup upset over Uruguay Step 4. Bring on the cheersNow that you’ve prepared your breakfast while singing, you’re ready to sit down in front of the TV and, well, shout. First, you must cheer La Sele by simply singing: “oe, oe, oe, oe, oe, ticos, ticos!”If things go down the drain, you’ll probably find yourself shouting at the screen about an incompetent ref or an opposing team not allowing La Sele to find its glory. But if the country’s soccer dreams come true, you’ll have a chance to say “¡Llore conmigo Papi!” (“Cry with me, daddy”), which sounds quite odd in English, but commemorates La Sele’s incredible performance at the 2014 World Cup when Michael Umaña scored the last penalty against Greece and Costa Rica headed to the quarterfinals. Soccer player Waylon Francis famously said these words to teammate José Miguel Cubero in celebration of La Sele’s victory, and it became a national catchphrase of sorts.If you’d also like to pray, that’s another option, given that goalie Keylor Navas’s outstanding performance in the World Cup and now with Real Madrid have basically transformed him into a holy figure for ticos. You can pray to “San Keylor” to guide La Sele (not that the famously devout Navas would endorse such a thing).Last but not least, don’t forget to call La Sele grande or big. Grande La Sele. Even if we’re a small country, we’ve got no limitations into dreaming to make things happen in a big way under the world’s reflectors.Step 5. Take to the streets (we hope!) If La Sele wins, the point of gathering will always be the Fuente de la Hispanidad in San Pedro, just east of downtown San José – so if you’re anywhere near that area and Costa Rica claims victory, don’t miss out on going to the fountain, in the roundabout in front of the Mall San Pedro. It’s an ongoing party down there: a mass of red, white and blue, people shouting with glee, people hugging each other even if they’ve never met before. If you like to join the sweaty, joyful masses, this is just the right place for you. Otherwise, just throw open your windows and follow the sounds of honking horns and gleeful shouts to find the impromptu gathering nearest you.center_img What a time to celebrate: Costa Rica is preparing for its fifth World Cup. On this occasion, scheduling may damper the celebrations somewhat – two of the first-round matches (Serbia, June 17, and Brazil, June 22) are at 6 am Costa Rica time – but passionate fans will make the best of it, and will surely enjoy the one midday match in the first round, 12 pm against Switzerland on June 27.Since you’ll have to get up early in order to watch La Sele’s matches and wait to see if the dream team from 2014 recaptures its glory, preparation will be key. Here’s our guide to watching the 2018 World Cup in Costa Rica.Step 1. Line up your propsFirst and foremost: don’t forget to wear La Sele’s jersey. If you don’t own one, you can simply wear a red shirt.If you’re one of those people who likes face painting, go on and paint little Costa Rican flags on your cheeks. Fortunately, the tricolor is fairly simple and easy to recreate.Finally, don’t forget your Costa Rican flag, now on sale in all sizes on street corners around the country. You might want a big one made out of cloth to wear as a cape, if you see yourself as a hero, or you might just simply want a small one to place on your car window to celebrate with La Sele.Step 2. Prepare some gallo pintoFor those early-morning games, some gallo pinto will be must. There’s nothing more tico than a serving of the simple rice-and-beans combo accompanied by eggs (scrambled, fried, or even in an omelet), toast, sour cream, sausage, plátanos maduros (plaintains) and a good cup of coffee.Everyone’s gallo pinto recipe is a little different, but if you’re a newbie, here’s a simple recipe for you to try. First, heat a little oil in a frying pan. Chop one-fourth cup each of onions, green pepper and cilantro, and place in the pan. Add two cups of cooked rice and one cup of cooked red or black beans; add Salsa Lizano, salt and pepper to your taste. Combine well, heat through, add your desired sides, and devour.Step 3. Crank some Costa Rican tunes to awaken your love for La SeleWhile you cook your gallo pinto, listen to various songs dedicated to La Sele, including Gandhi’s “El otro gol” (The other goal), La Nota’s “Agárrense de las manos” (Hold hands; probably the most famous soccer song in Costa Rica),  Alonso Solís and Gonín’s “Playa, Montaña y gol” (Beach, Mountain and goal), and off course, La Banda and Italy 90’s La Sele team singing “Lo daremos todo” (We’ll give it all [on the field]). Feel free to make these songs your alarm clock for the month of June, your ringtone, your mantra… you get the picture. Related posts:Serbia defeats Costa Rica 1-0 at the 2018 World Cup Costa Rica fans descend on Saint Petersburg Costa Rica hopes to clinch World Cup berth against a carefree Mexico PHOTOS: Costa Rica ties Mexico 1-1last_img read more

3 aid workers abducted in central Somalia

first_img The vital role family plays in society New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Comments   Share   Top Stories International Aid Services is a Sweden-based aid group that carries out water, food, education and sanitation projects.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Sponsored Stories center_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – An aid group says three of its workers have been kidnapped by armed men in central Somalia.The group International Aid Services said one Somalia staffer was shot and critically injured during the Wednesday attack. The group said three Kenyan workers were taken.However, a resident, Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, said Thursday that the gunmen kidnapped two Kenyans and a Somali translator.A government official who said he was not allowed to be quoted by name said the three were being taken to Garaad, a town used by Somali pirates. Somali pirates have increased kidnappings in recent years as a way to win ransom payments. How men can have a healthy 2019 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debateslast_img read more

Poland hopes to identify remains of Auschwitz hero

first_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Sponsored Stories Associated PressWARSAW, Poland (AP) – It could hardly have been a riskier mission: infiltrate Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, managing to smuggle out word of executions before making a daring escape. But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime _ tried on trumped-up charges and executed.Six decades on, Poland hopes Pilecki’s remains will be identified among the entangled skeletons and shattered skulls of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw’s Powazki Military Cemetery. The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic nation to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies. “He was unique in the world,” said Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, paying tribute to her father’s 1940 decision to walk straight into a Nazi street roundup with the aim of getting inside the extermination camp. “I would like to have a place where I can light a candle for him.”More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have been dug up this summer. On one recent day, forensic workers and archaeologists wearing blue plastic gloves and masks were carefully scraping away at the soil and piecing together bones as if working on a jigsaw puzzle. The front of one skull had been blown away by bullets; another had apparently been bludgeoned; a skeleton showed evidence of multiple gunshot wounds.Near the pit where the bodies were dumped under cover of night stand the well-tended tombstones of the very judges and prosecutors who sent these World War II heroes to their deaths under orders from Moscow, which was fearful that the Polish patriots might use their seasoned underground skills to turn the nation against its new pro-Soviet rulers.“The perpetrators have not been punished and the bodies of the victims have not been found,” said Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, a historian in charge of the dig. “Those times will be coming back to us until we find the bodies and bury them with due honors. One describes how his transport was met by yelling SS men and attacking dogs: “They told one of us to run to a post away from the road, and immediately sent a machine gun round after him. Killed him. Ten random colleagues were taken out of the group and shot, as they were walking, as `collective responsibility’ for the `escape’ that the SS-men arranged themselves.”Pilecki’s heroics were for the most part in vain. Even though his accounts of gas chambers made it all the way to Poland’s government-in-exile in London and to other Western capitals, few believed what they were reading.After escaping, Pilecki rejoined Poland’s Home Army resistance force and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the city’s ill-fated revolt against the Nazis. In 1947, he was arrested by the secret security of the communist regime, imposed on Poland after the war, and falsely accused of planning to assassinate dignitaries.The Soviet plan after World War II was to subdue the Poles by crushing resistance and erasing any sense of Polish identity or history. Today, more than two decades into Poland’s democracy, however, enough documentation and funds have been gathered to restore the banned past and try to find and identify the heroes’ bodies. In addition to Pilecki, the search is on for the remains of other wartime resistance heroes, including Brig. Gen. August Emil Fieldorf, a top clandestine Home Army commander who once served as emissary to Poland of the country’s government-in-exile. He was accused of ordering killings of Soviet soldiers _ charges that Poland’s communist authorities later admitted were fabricated _ and hanged in 1953.Szwagrzyk is not sure if Pilecki will be found at Powazki cemetery because it is not the only such clandestine site in Warsaw or the rest of Poland.But his place in history is gradually being restored. A street in Warsaw is now named after him, as are some schools across the country.He found communist prison harder to endure than Auschwitz. A fellow inmate described seeing him in prison slumped, unable to raise his head because his collar bones had been broken. At his show trial, he was hiding his hands because his fingernails had been ripped out during torture.At one court session, he told his wife Maria that the secret security torture had sapped his will to go on.“I can live no longer,” he said.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) He was “exceptionally courageous,” said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian with Warsaw’s Institute of National Remembrance.Pilecki is the only person known to have volunteered for Auschwitz. His terse dispatches to the outside world were slips of thin paper stitched inside clothes of inmates leaving the camp or left in nearby fields for others to collect. They included only code names for inmates who were beaten to death, executed by gunfire or gassed. As sketchy as they were, they were the first eyewitness account of the Nazi death machine at Auschwitz.Pilecki survived hard labor, beatings, cold and typhoid fever thanks to support from a clandestine resistance network that he managed to organize inside the camp. Some of its members had access to food, others to clothes or medicines.He plotted a revolt that was to release inmates with the help of an outside attack by resistance fighters; it was never attempted because considered too risky, Pawlowicz said.Pilecki escaped in April 1943 when he realized that the SS might uncover his work. With two other men he ran from a night shift at a bakery that was outside the death camp’s barbed wire fence.After his escape, Pilecki wrote three detailed reports on the extermination camp. Comments   Share   center_img “We are doing them justice.”Pilecki’s son Andrzej and dozens of other relatives of victims have been swabbed in the hope their DNA will be a match for the skeletons. Initial work is being carried out to determine age, sex, height and injuries of the victims. It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them. Thousands of resistance fighters were killed across Poland; the remains of up to 400 are believed to have been dumped in the Powazki mass grave.Pilecki was 38 when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, triggering the start of World War II. He helped organize a resistance campaign during which many fellow fighters were caught and sent to Auschwitz, which in the early war years served more as a camp for Polish resistance fighters than Jews. That inspired him to hatch an audacious plan: He told other resistance commanders that he wanted to become an Auschwitz inmate to check on rumors of atrocities.Carrying documents bearing the alias Tomasz Serafinski, the Catholic cavalry officer walked into the German SS street roundup in Warsaw in September 1940, and was put on a train transport to Auschwitz, where he was given prisoner number 4859. Top Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Men’s health affects baby’s health too Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img

Israeli police say vandals deface monastery

first_img Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Top Stories How do cataracts affect your vision? Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the vandalism at the Trappist monastery in Latrun took place overnight. Some of the graffiti referred to unauthorized settler outposts and one read, “Jesus is a monkey.”The vandals also set an exterior monastery door on fire.The monastery, clearly visible from the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway at the foot of the Jerusalem hills, is a large compound with orchards and vineyards, encircled by a stone wall.Israel’s prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister denounced the attack. In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his minister of public security briefed him on police efforts to apprehend the perpetrators.“Those responsible for this reprehensible act need to be punished severely,” Netanyahu said. “Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are among the most basic foundations of the state of Israel.”U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also condemned the monastery vandalism.“Such hateful, dangerous and provocative actions are never justified,” he told reporters.The monastery, built by French Trappist monks in the early 20th century, is under France’s protection according to a decades-old accord signed with Israel about French religious sites in the Holy Land. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home France is calling on Israel to bring the vandals to justice, said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) JERUSALEM (AP) – Vandals spray-painted anti-Christian and pro-settler graffiti on a monastery on a hilltop overlooking the highway linking Tel Aviv with Jerusalem, Israeli police said Tuesday.Suspicion fell on Jewish settlers and their supporters who retaliate against anti-settlement measures, generally by attacking Palestinian property, but also by vandalizing Christian sites and Israeli military facilities.This week, Israel’s government ordered settlers out of two unauthorized enclaves in the West Bank.last_img read more

Iran claims dozens of its drones reached Israel

first_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix The Iranian assertions appear to be part of the Islamic Republic’s widening strategy to boast about military advances _ including warships and longer-range drones _ that Tehran says could reorder the balance of power in the region as the West and its allies boost pressure over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran’s leaders also seek to portray Israel as vulnerable to Tehran and its proxies.But an Israeli security official rejected the Iranian claims, saying last week’s interception of a drone was the first time such an infiltration had occurred. He said Israel spotted the unmanned aircraft well before it entered Israeli airspace, determined it was not “dangerous” and then shot it down over uninhabited desert according to plan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because an Israeli military investigation is still under way.The Iranian official claimed drones made by the Islamic Republic have made “dozens of flights over Israel” since the summer 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. He said Israeli defenses had been unable to detect the surveillance craft.“The one that was shot down last week was not the first and will not be the last to fly into Israeli airspace,” the official said. Patients with chronic pain give advice Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Associated PressTEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A senior Iranian military official claimed Tuesday that Iranian-made surveillance drones have made dozens of apparently undetected flights into Israeli airspace from Lebanon in recent years to probe air defenses and collect reconnaissance data. An Israeli official rejected the account.The Iranian official declined to give further details on the purported missions or the capabilities of the drones, including whether they were similar to the unmanned aircraft launched last week by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and downed by Israeli warplanes. It also was impossible to independently verify the claims from the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Iran frequently makes announcements about its strides in military technology, but it is virtually impossible to independently determine the actual capabilities or combat worthiness of the weapons Iran is producing.___Associated Press writer Josef Federman contributed to this report from Jerusalem.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) A member of the Iranian parliament, Abbas Ali Mansouri, said the drone’s flight also showed Hezbollah’s growing battlefield capabilities as Tehran’s main client militia. Hezbollah could take an even higher profile for Iran if Syrian rebels oust Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus, another critical ally for the Islamic Republic.“It’s crucial that Hezbollah is able to gather remarkable intelligence from inside Israel,” he said.At the United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosnor called Assad, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “trio of terror.”The Hezbollah drone flight took place a month after Iran unveiled a new long-range unmanned aircraft, which has been described by military officials as a key strategic addition to Iran’s military capabilities with the ability to carry out reconnaissance missions or be armed with “bombs and missiles.”The Shahed-129, or Witness-129, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can stay aloft for 24 hours, Iranian officials say.But it’s unclear whether the new drone contains any elements of an U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone that went down in eastern Iran in December. Iran said it has recovered data from the American unmanned aircraft and claimed it was building its own replica. Sponsored Stories Top Stories Iran has often used its military moves to send messages to Israel and the U.S., which has key bases in Gulf Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Tehran last year sent warships into the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Last month, Iranian military leaders gave details of a new long-range drone and tested fired four anti-ship missiles just before U.S.-led naval drills in the Gulf.At the time, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, also warned that U.S. bases in the Gulf could face retaliatory strikes if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear sites.On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast described Iran’s military developments, including drones and missiles capable of reaching Israel, as a safeguard against a possible Israeli attack on nuclear sites.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu last month urged the international community to set a “red line” on Iran’s uranium enrichment, which the West and its allies fear could lead to the development of atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear efforts are only for energy and research.“Basically, the possibility of a war breaking out increases when countries don’t have the might to defend themselves. But when countries are powerful … the possibility of aggression decreases,” Mehmanparast told reporters. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Comments   Share   last_img read more

Straitlaced Singapore hit by teacher scandals

first_imgIn a country known for its orderliness and strict laws where even jay-walking and public spitting are punishable offenses, the scandals are raising questions about whether the government _ in its hugely successful efforts to control political dissidence and crime _ has ignored declining moral and social standards.More surprising is that such egregious cases have been recorded in Singapore’s highly regarded educational system, where both teachers and students are conditioned from first grade to be disciplined, rule-fearing and committed to academic excellence. A student’s academic future is determined at age 10 through a streaming system, which pushes over-achievers into a fast-track schooling. At age 12 they take a national test to get into top schools.“This over emphasis on results does not directly contribute to falling standards of probity in schools. Rather, what it did was to reduce the importance placed on values, character and integrity,” said Eugene Tan, an assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University.“In a sense we took our eyes off the ball when we shouldn’t have. I think the matter is a lot more complex with multi-causal factors, including a general societal decline in moral standards,” he said. Some Singaporeans worry such cases are tainting the reputation of Singapore’s education system, rated as one of the best in the world. Students in Singapore, where the literacy rate is 96 percent, consistently outperform counterparts in the U.S., especially in math and science, a fact noted by President Barack Obama in a 2009 speech.The Education Ministry said it takes a “very serious view of misconduct by teachers,” and violators are subject to disciplinary action.“Teachers who have misconducted themselves are a small minority of the 33,000 strong teaching force, and are not representative of the Education Service at large,” it said in a statement to The Associated Press.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Gabriel Tan, an associate professor of psychology at the National University of Singapore, said there is a general sense of frustration among Singaporeans at the “very tight control” on society by the government. This control has long ensured that people conform to the government’s vision of a good society — law-abiding, hard-working, health-conscious staid nationalists.“Recently, in the last elections, there seemed to be a sort of murmur among people saying they wanted a more open government so this (spate of scandals) actually may reflect Singapore moving in the direction where you are questioning and abusing authority,” said Tan.By far, 2012 was the worst year for schools, colleges and teachers in attracting unsavory attention.The teacher-student affair was the most shocking. The mother of two cannot be identified to protect the privacy of her sex partner, who is underage. Facing up to 20 years in jail, she was sentenced on Oct. 29 to one year in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual offenses with a person under 16 years of age.“As a parent, you don’t see how classroom lessons and extracurricular activities are conducted,” said Elaine Khoo, a 43-year old banker and mother of two. “Naturally that means you have to place your trust in the school to do what’s best for your child, but what if it’s at the hands of morally-questionable people masquerading as teachers?” Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Associated PressSINGAPORE (AP) – Their affair started with her giving him a copy of the mushy memoir “Eat, Pray, Love.” It ended with the 32-year-old female teacher in Singapore getting a jail sentence for illicit sex with her 15-year-old male student.The case, which shocked Singapore, was the latest in a string of scandals involving the city-state’s educators, who in the past year have been caught embezzling college money, committing lewd behavior, peddling drugs and a couple of times having sex with students. At least 10 such cases have reached the courts this year. Top Stories Another case involved a 39-year male teacher who filmed a total of 94 upskirt videos of female students in uniform at various locations around Singapore, including at the secondary school where he taught. He was sentenced to nine months in jail last month after pleading in his defense that he suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Another teacher allegedly installed three pinhole cameras in a female toilet in a school where he was teaching.Other cases involving wayward educators include: a former school principal caught seeking sexual services with an underage prostitute, a law professor at the prestigious National University of Singapore being accused of accepting sex in exchange for good grades, a 51-year old male private tuition teacher caught sexually abusing seven of his male students and a 55-year old former childcare teacher who helped her boyfriend sell drugs.Earlier this year, a teacher was caught sending lewd text messages to his 13 year old female student and was sentenced to 10 months in jail, while a former Chinese-language teacher was sentenced to 10 years jail and six strokes of the cane for molesting two boys and performing oral sex on a 8-year-old student.center_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Comments   Share   Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Parents, stop beating yourself up In passing the sentence, District Judge Eugene Teo noted that the teacher had “no predatory pedophilic tendencies.”“There are no shades of anything in a saga such as this, no justifications; only a clear line not to be crossed,” Teo said.The court heard that the student was traumatized following a boating accident during an overseas school trip in 2011. He started confiding in the teacher, who had chaperoned the excursion. She then began wooing him with gifts, including a copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert that was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.That, according to prosecutors, led to the beginning of an affair during which she took the boy to her home in December 2011 where she performed oral sex on him with his consent. She took him home again in January 2012 where they had consensual sex several times, according to prosecutors.The affair came to light after the boy’s parents became suspicious and lodged a complaint.A day after the sentencing, a court started the trial of a former school principal accused of using 150,000 Singapore dollars ($120,000) from school funds to build a house for his religious order and pay for his tennis coach. Anthony Tan Kim Hock, 65, who retired in 2009 after 25 years at the school, is facing 21 criminal charges. If convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison. Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more

Myanmar govt agency drops suit against magazine

first_img(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Comments   Share   Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement All three of the country’s daily newspapers are state-owned, though it has been announced recently that applications will be accepted to set up new privately owned newspapers.The court’s action came the same day that two of the state-run dailies published an apology for running a photo that purportedly showed the result of an attack by ethnic Kachin rebels in the country’s north. The photo _ pirated from the private Myanmar Times weekly _ actually showed a motorcycle that was damaged in an airplane accident in Shan state on Dec. 25.Government forces are battling Kachin rebels in northern Myanmar. The apology in the two Myanmar-language dailies said mistakes such as the misidentified photo could weaken public trust. The third state-owned daily, the English-language New Light of Myanmar, also carried the falsely identified photo but did not apologize Thursday.The same issue of the papers carrying the mislabeled photo also published a statement from the Defense Ministry accusing some media of distorting the facts about the fighting and failing to report atrocities committed by the rebels.The state-run newspapers are filled with mundane government news, and have long had little popular appeal. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Associated PressYANGON, Myanmar (AP) – A court in Myanmar on Thursday formally closed a defamation lawsuit that a government agency filed against a magazine after the two sides reached a settlement.The Dagon Township Court in Yangon announced that the Mining Ministry had agreed to withdraw its lawsuit against the Voice weekly magazine. The suit was filed last May after the magazine published a story about misappropriation and irregularities in four ministries’ financial accounts. The article cited a report from the auditor general’s office to the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix The case was one of the first of its kind under elected President Thein Sein’s government, which has eased restrictions on the media as part of its reforms after almost five decades of repressive military rule. Under previous military regimes, strict media censorship determined what could be printed and violators faced arbitrary punishment and severe penalties.The Voice on Jan. 14 published an announcement expressing regret that its story could have affected the ministry’s dignity and thanking it for dropping its lawsuit. The magazine did not retract the story.The magazine’s editor, Kyaw Min Swe, said the settlement was reached with the help of the Press Council.Myanmar announced the end of censorship in August.An interim Press Council was set up last September to help resolve media disputes and to draw up a new media law, with Kyaw Min Swe as its general secretary.Asked about the settlement, he said: “The result is satisfactory, as I believe that it’s win-win situation. We didn’t publish false news _ we reported official information. So, there’s no reason for us to step back. When the country is on the track to becoming a democratic country, it’s not good that the government and media have conflicts. If the Press Council had not gotten involved, one side would win and one side will lose. Then the conflicts between the media and government would get bigger.” The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

US expected to slash aid to Egyptian government

first_img Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Assistance that is used to pay American companies that sell Egypt military equipment would be suspended if Obama accepts the recommendation, but those firms would be compensated with so-called “wind-up” payments that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the officials.On Tuesday, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden denied reports that the U.S. was halting all military assistance to Egypt. “We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the President made clear at (the United Nations General Assembly), that assistance relationship will continue,” Hayden said.In his speech at the U.N. last month, Obama said the U.S. will continue to offer to support to Egypt in areas such as education. But he said the U.S. has held up the delivery of certain military aid, and said future support “will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a democratic path.”In Cairo, Egypt’s military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi described Egypt’s relations with the United States as “strategic” and founded on mutual interests, but cautioned that his country would not tolerate pressure, “whether through actions or hints.” Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories The move follows a particularly violent weekend in Egypt, as dozens of people were killed in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters.The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly before the administration’s official announcement.President Barack Obama’s top national security aides recommended the aid cutoff in late August, and Obama had been expected to announce it last month. But the announcement got sidetracked by the debate over whether to launch military strikes against Syria.The U.S. provides Egypt with $1.5 billion a year in aid, $1.3 billion of which is military assistance. The rest is economic assistance. Some of it goes to the government and some to other groups. Only the money that goes to the government would be suspended.Officials told The Associated Press in September that the recommendation calls for a significant amount to be withheld. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations. The money could be restored once a democratically elected government is returned.While the exact amount to be suspended was up to the president, the principals recommended it include all foreign military financing to Egypt’s army except for money that supports security in the increasingly volatile Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip, U.S. officials said. Counterterrorism funding may also continue. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help In excerpts from an interview published Wednesday by the Cairo daily Al-Masry al-Youm, el-Sissi _ who led the coup that ousted Morsi _ offered his own interpretation of where the Obama administration stands.“We need to be clear here and say they (the U.S.) are keen on continuing the aid and that it is not cut off,” he said. “They are trying to take measures that conform with the spirit of the law and deal with what happened in Egypt as the outcome of popular will.”Also on Wednesday, an Egyptian court set Nov. 4 as the start date for the trial of Morsi on charges of incitement to murder for the killings of opponents who were rallying outside his palace while he was in office.Any suspension of U.S. assistance to Egypt would follow months of internal deliberation over how to respond to Morsi’s ouster, during which the administration has struggled to enunciate a coherent policy.The administration determined it was not in the U.S. national interest to determine whether a coup had taken place, as such a designation would have required it to suspend all but humanitarian assistance to Egypt. It did delay the delivery of some fighter planes, but as Egypt’s military began a heavy-handed crackdown on Morsi supporters _ despite U.S. appeals for restraint _ the president’s advisers started to consider more muscular action. Obama then cancelled a joint military exercise and announced a new review of assistance. Comments   Share   BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) – U.S. officials said Wednesday that the Obama administration is poised to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt. The announcement is expected this week, once official notifications have been made to all interested parties.The U.S. has been considering such a move since the Egyptian military ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader in June. It would be a dramatic shift for the Obama administration, which has declined to label President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster a coup and has argued that it is in U.S. national security interests to keep aid flowing. It would also likely have profound implications for decades of close U.S.-Egyptian ties that have served as a bulwark of security and stability in the Middle East. ___Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Men’s health affects baby’s health toolast_img read more

Applications for US jobless aid up but from very low level

first_img 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies FILE – In this April 22, 2015 file photo, a job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File) Comments   Share   Still, employers are hiring at a steady pace. They added 223,000 jobs in April, lowering the unemployment rate to a seven-year low of 5.4 percent, from 5.5 percent.That suggests employers think the current sluggish pace of growth will be temporary.There have been some signs the economy is picking up. Builders broke ground on new homes in April at the fastest pace in seven years. That’s boosting sales at home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement With fewer people seeking benefits, the number receiving them has also declined. Total recipients fell 12,000 to 2.2 million, the lowest since November 2000.The fact that employers are not cutting staff is a reassuring sign, since economic growth has faltered this year.“Despite a string of disappointing (economic) data, we continue to get signs that the labor market remains resilient,” Derek Lindsey, an economist at BNP Paribas, said in a note to clients.The economy likely shrank in the first quarter and may barely grow in the first six months of 2015. Some temporary factors, including harsh winter weather and a labor dispute at West Coast ports, dragged down the economy in the first three months of the year. The impact of those trends has largely faded.Other trends, however, may continue to weigh on the economy. The dollar rose about 12 percent in value last year, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas. That has reduced U.S. export sales. And the sharp drop in the price of oil has caused energy companies to cut back on their investment in drilling equipment and machinery. Both factors may restrain growth at least until the second half of the year.So far, growth is looking sluggish in the second quarter. Consumers spent cautiously in April, according to a report on retail and restaurant sales released last week. Americans have not ramped up their spending so far this year, as economists had predicted they would, despite strong job gains and gas prices that are $1 a gallon cheaper than a year ago.center_img Sponsored Stories 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Patients with chronic pain give advice Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, though the number of applications remains at a historically low level that is consistent with a healthy job market.Weekly applications increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell to a fresh 15-year low of 266,250.Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low readings indicate that most employees have solid job security. Businesses also appear to be confident enough in the economy to keep their workers.last_img read more

Fed expected to open door to rate hike if economy improves

first_imgFILE – In this March 18, 2015 file photo, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen participates in a news conference at the end of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington. With evidence that the U.S. economy is rebounding from a winter slump, the Federal Reserve will likely signal Wednesday, June 17, 2015, that an interest rate increase is coming _ just not quite yet. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File) The Fed has held its key short-term rate at a record low near zero since late 2008, and it hasn’t increased rates since 2006.The Fed’s timetable has far-reaching impact: Once it begins raising short-term rates, other rates — for mortgages, auto loans, corporate borrowing — could head higher. Stock and bond prices could be squeezed.In recent weeks, key sectors of the economy — the job market, retail spending, home sales — have improved. The gains mark a reversal from the January-March quarter, when the economy is estimated to have shrunk, in part because of a harsh winter.On Wednesday, the Fed is expected to sketch a slightly brighter picture of the economy in a statement after its latest policy meeting ends and in a news conference by Chair Janet Yellen to follow. The central bank will also update its economic forecasts.Among economists, the Fed is seen as wanting to prepare investors for a coming rate hike — if the economy continues to improve — while stressing the reassuring message that it will raise rates very gradually.The idea is to avoid spooking investors, who are already on edge over the likelihood of a rate hike and the threat of a default by Greece’s government. The Fed wants to convince the markets that the economy will be sturdy enough to withstand slightly higher rates. Sponsored Stories Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is expected to signal Wednesday that it’s getting closer to raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade while leaving the timing of that increase uncertain.Many economists foresee the first rate increase in September if the economy keeps improving between now and then.“All the pieces are falling in place for a September rate hike,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economics. “It is just a question of getting markets prepared.” When the Fed last met in April, the economy had just emerged from a stall-out. Growth in the January-March quarter had been depressed by weather that kept consumers home, a labor dispute that disrupted West Coast ports, a stronger dollar that slowed exports and cheaper oil that triggered cutbacks by drilling companies. After its meeting, the Fed downgraded its assessment of the economy and gave no indication it was any closer to raising rates.Recent economic reports have turned more buoyant, with a rebound in home construction and retail sales and near-record auto sales.Perhaps most important, the job market has revived, having added an average of 217,000 jobs a month this year. The unemployment rate, at 5.5 percent, is down from 6.3 percent a year ago and 7.5 percent two years ago. Even pay growth, which has languished during the economic recovery, has begun to pick up.All that points to solid economic growth of around 2.5 percent in the current April-June quarter.Yet there are still lingering problems that Yellen and other Fed officials are likely to cite as reasons for delaying a first rate hike a while longer. Though average hourly earnings rose 2.3 percent in May from a year ago, wage increases remain generally sluggish. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 0 Comments   Share   Other labor market indicators — from the number of people jobless for more than six months to the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs — remain at levels the Fed views as subpar.Beyond employment, the central bank has yet to achieve its other mandate — promoting stable prices. Inflation has remained persistently below the Fed’s 2 percent annual target. Too-low inflation tends to hold back economic growth.Some economists also note that if a Greek default and an exit from the euro currency alliance were to ignite turmoil in global markets, or if investors dumped bonds and sent long-term rates soaring, the Fed might decide to put off a rate increase until next year.The International Monetary Fund this month downgraded its forecast for the U.S. economy and urged the Fed to consider delaying a rate hike until 2016. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the risks of raising rates too soon — and slowing and perhaps wounding the economy before it’s reached full strength — outweighed the risks of waiting a bit too long and allowing inflation to creep up.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top Stories The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more