Two arrested in Canada in alleged Al Qaeda plot

first_imgOTTAWA, Canada – Two suspects were arrested in connection with an alleged Al Qaeda plot to derail a passenger train in Canada, police said on Monday.Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were allegedly planning to carry out an attack on a Via Rail passenger train in the Toronto area, an official told reporters.The two men are expected to appear in court on Tuesday for a bail hearing. Charges include conspiring to carry out an attack and conspiring in association with a terrorist group to commit murder.An official from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a news conference that the suspects “were receiving support from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran,” but added that “there’s no indication these attacks were state-sponsored.”The duo received “direction and guidance” from Al Qaeda, officials said. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Regulatory agency approves decrease in fuel prices

first_imgCosta Rica’s Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) on Monday approved decreases in the prices of super and plus gasoline.The agency authorized a ₡31 reduction in the per-liter price of super gasoline and ₡27 for plus gasoline.But for diesel, ARESEP decreed a ₡15 price hike, increasing the per-liter price from ₡634 to ₡649 ($1.27-$1.30).New prices already have been submitted for publication in the official newspaper La Gaceta, and once approved, a liter of super gasoline will decrease from ₡752 to ₡721  ($1.50-$1.44), while plus gasoline will decrease from ₡729 to ₡702 ($1.46-$1.40).Decrees usually take up to three days to be published in La Gaceta, and the new prices are likely to apply starting this week.Price adjustments were calculated by a formula that takes into account oil prices in the international market and variations in the dollar exchange rate.Also, the price of liquefied gas will increase by ₡505 ($1), and a 25-pound tank will jump from ₡7,808 to ₡8,313 ($15.62-$16.63). Facebook Comments Related posts:Fuel prices could drop in August Regulatory authority admits error in fuel price calculation, costs go up again Fuel prices to drop at midnight on Saturday Regulatory Authority approves lower prices for most fuelslast_img read more

Police in Costa Ricas northwestern province losing battle against immigrant smuggling rings

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LIBERIA, Guanacaste – Illegal immigration in Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste occurs every day in both directions along the country’s border with Nicaragua, officials from the National Police and the local prosecutor’s office say.Although many Nicaraguan immigrants come legally to work higher-paying jobs in Costa Rica, some are smuggled, while immigrants from Asia and Africa travel in the opposite direction from Panama en route to the United States.According to the Liberia prosecutor’s office, human smuggling rings operate in the area, and along Costa Rica’s highways leading from Panama to Nicaragua.“We have identified organized crime networks that are working with immigrants traveling in both directions, including Nicaraguan immigrants and those who come from Africa, Asia and South America,” Liberia’s Assistant Prosecutor Liliana Zamora said.On Oct. 29, Costa Rican National Police in Liberia detained two African immigrants from Somalia and one from Eritrea. The three men were part of a group of 14 Africans – 13 men and one woman – who entered Costa Rica from the Panamanian border crossing at Paso Canoas earlier the same day.Immigration officials at the Panamanian border issued the group citation orders to appear in San José on Oct. 30 to discuss their immigration statuses, and to verify identification and other documents. Later that day, at least three of them turned up at the Nicaraguan border.According to Francisco Cordero, assistant director of the National Police in Guanacaste, authorities cannot hold immigrants who have citation orders until those dates expire, but many migrants often take advantage of the time to reach the northern border with Nicaragua.In Liberia, the three men told a local prosecutor they had traveled from Panama and had been hitchhiking on a journey to the United States.Guanacaste immigration officials said the men were ages 28, 35 and 36.Police suspect the men had hired members of a Costa Rican smuggling ring to transit them to the border. The three men denied the allegation, saying a Costa Rican man who had accompanied them “was only giving directions,” according to Zamora. The Costa Rican man was released due to a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.The three migrants were released and told to return to the capital for processing.In Paso Canoas, officials said an average of two people per month arrive from Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Ghana, and request citation orders – which essentially serve as temporary permits. In the past three years, police in Liberia also have detained several groups of immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal, Taiwan and Korea, among others.Almost 2,600 visitors from Africa arrived in Costa Rica, mostly by plane, in 2012. In the same period, immigration authorities registered 64 people from Tunisia, 46 from Ethiopia, 39 from Somalia, and 11 from Eritrea.Authorities face challenges in dismantling smuggling rings because victims are uncooperative, Zamora said, adding that immigrants are afraid of deportation or retaliation by smugglers.In 2012, the prosecutor’s office in Liberia processed 12 cases that resulted in 11 convictions involving violations of immigration laws, a caseload that is one of the highest in the country, Zamora said. Yet, according to the Immigration Administration, only one person has been charged with human trafficking in Costa Rica since a 2010 law criminalized the activity.“It is a transnational activity that is always changing; it is difficult to investigate and obtain admissible evidence,” said Public Security Vice Minister Freddy Montero.The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that globally, 20 unidentified victims of human trafficking exist for each victim who is identified.“They [immigrants] often pay for the entire trip in their country of origin,” Zamora added. Based on interviews by Zamora’s office with victims of human smuggling rings, migrants often pay up to $7,000 to reach their final destinations.According to immigration officials, travel patterns from Africa often involve Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. However, authorities have noted a decline in this route since Ecuador began a tourist visa requirement for citizens from nine African countries in 2010, Montero said.Zamora suspects that smugglers are part of organized criminal gangs because they own several vehicles of the same color and manufacturer, as well as telecommunications equipment. One gang stands out in Costa Rica’s northwestern province – Los Katanos, who Zamora said “has a monopoly on human smuggling operations in the area.”“Smugglers might have become more sophisticated in their methods, or they might have found ways to intercept police communications,” she noted.The National Police monitors regular checkpoints on the main roads in Guanacaste, but cops say smugglers often force their clients to walk around them and then board the same vehicles.There also have been several incidents involving police chases.“[Smugglers] fit up to 15 people in a vehicle and escape from police by driving at high speeds of more than 150 kilometers per hour [90 mph],” the National Police’s Cordero said. Officers have noted that smugglers reinforce those vehicles to support heavier weights and higher speeds.Said Cordero: “In the past, they have crashed police patrols and we cannot always chase them because they might be armed.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

UBS model shows Brazil beating Argentina in World Cup final

first_imgRelated posts:Most Brazilians don’t want to host the World Cup Transport chaos, World Cup security fears hit Brazil Brazil tops Croatia in World Cup opener behind Neymar and a suspect call Costa Rica fans drive to Brazil in … The Chunche ZURICH – Brazil will win the soccer World Cup that starts next week, according to model run by UBS in response to client demand.The bank looks at three factors, including past performance and whether teams are playing at home, Zurich-based financial services company UBS said. The third is the Elo rating, a measure of team strength, also used by the international chess federation to rate players.“Brazil scores high on all three counts,” Andreas Hoefert, chief investment officer in Europe for UBS, said in this week’s newsletter to clients. “It is the top Elo-rated team ever to play in a World Cup, it has won the Cup five times; and obviously it is the host.”Hoefert came up with the model in 2006 after a cafeteria debate with fellow UBS economists about the outcome of the event that year, he said in an interview from New York on Friday. He first considered a broader range of data for competing nations, before ruling out economic indicators such as gross domestic product and unemployment rates.“In 2006, I defied expert consensus and forecast correctly that Italy would win,” Hoefert said in a report. “This gave me a bizarre six minutes of fame discussing football as an economist on CNN.”The UBS model, which didn’t predict Spain’s 2010 triumph, gives Brazil a more than 30 percent chance of winning the tournament, twice that of second-ranked Argentina. The host’s South American rival will vie with Spain to play Brazil in the final, according to UBS, which said West Germany’s 1974 squad is the only top Elo-rated team to have won the cup.Brazil is placed third in Fifa’s rankings published Thursday, behind Spain and Germany. The home team is expected to meet Germany in the semifinals, after beating Italy in the quarterfinals and the Netherlands in the second round, according to UBS.The second round “won’t be a walk in the park,” said Hoefert, who crunched the numbers in response to “ample demand” from clients.U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes rates Brazil the 3-1 favorite. That means a successful $1 bet brings in $3 plus the original stake. Argentina is 4-1 with Germany at 5-1, according to its website.The outlook for Brazil would change if Uruguay finishes second in its group or France downs Germany in the quarterfinals, Hoefert said. In that scenario, “Brazil would face two of its historical nemeses before even reaching the final.”Uruguay beat Brazil on the latter’s home turf to win its second World Cup in 1950. France has defeated Brazil the last three times they met in the World Cup, including the final in 1998.“One might argue that such triviality shouldn’t concern us bank economists, at least not in our official function,” Hoefert said in the newsletter, which also deals with the U.S. ISM index, China’s manufacturing PMI, and euro-zone negative deposit rates.Not so. He referred to a recent conversation with Jorge Mariscal, chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management. Mariscal, he said, pointed out that the World Cup could affect the short-term economic prospects of host Brazil, which is going for a sixth championship. The bank published a report on Friday saying that organizational or athletic failures during the tournament could provoke a popular backlash that could hurt Brazil’s economy and disrupt politics.Hoefert, who is Swiss, said he’s rooting for his team even though his model shows it only has a 52 percent chance of qualifying for the second round.© 2014, Bloomberg News Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Little Theatre Group presents Englishlanguage premiere of Three

first_imgMany years after they met in high school, three women get together to remember the old days. They have gone in separate directions, and their grudges have fermented with time. But there is one thing they all have in common that transcends their feuds and competition: None has a child, and all three want one.This is the premise of “Three,” a play by Spanish dramatist Juan Carlos Rubio, but it is how the women decide to solve this problem that makes the play so endearing. Seeking to conceive, the women use manipulation, bribery, and an old yearbook to secure the right father – but just when you think you know where the story is heading, a series of plot twists intervenes.This weekend, The Little Theatre Group (LTG) presents a newly translated English version of the play. But how did such an obscure play find its way here? And what compelled Costa Rica’s only English-language theater company to produce it?“It’s a funny story,” says Annette Hallett, LTG’s producer, with a chuckle.Originally from Great Britain, Hallett lived for years in Bermuda with her husband Bruce before the couple moved to Costa Rica. Earlier this year, Bermuda veteran Cleo Pettitt visited the Halletts for three weeks. Pettitt is a scene and costume designer, so the Halletts took her to a play in San José called “100 Square Meters.”“Although I couldn’t understand a word of it,” remembers Hallett, “I really enjoyed it.”The Spanish-language play took place at the Vargas Calvo Theater and was produced by TICTAK Theater Company. The play is an offbeat comedy, much like “Three,” about a couple trying to buy real estate, but they must wait for the current tenant to die.After the show, Pettitt mentioned that she knew the playwright and could contact him easily. The Halletts were delighted, and they began a correspondence with Rubio, using Google Translate to compose their emails and translate his replies. As it turned out, Rubio had a play called “Tres” that had never been performed in English. (You can find a NSFW poster of a past production on Rubio’s website.)“I told him, if we can do it professionally, we will,” said Hallett.Rubio is not a household name in Costa Rica, but he is an accomplished actor and has written extensively for Spanish television. For Spanish-speaking theatergoers, “100 Square Meters” was a hit, receiving a lot of good word from critics and patrons. Rubio’s work has been performed around the world, but to see two Costa Rican productions of his plays in one year is landmark.LTG tested the play at the International Book Fair in August. The production starred Silvia Baltodano, Antoinette Van Belle, Chusi Castillo Hidalgo, and Ricardo Jiménez and was directed by Noel Montagano. (Most of the cast remains intact for this production). The free show was performed twice during the fair.“Backstage, I was nervous,” remembers Hallett. “I started to wonder if we’d made the wrong decision.”Indeed, “Three” has some raunchy language and subject matter. The characters smoke pot, drink heavily, and talk frankly about sex and pregnancy. Hallett was concerned how a Costa Rican audience would respond to topics like extramarital trysts and artificial insemination – not to mention a colorful range of vituperate language. Meanwhile, there was some concern about whether a Spanish play, no matter how well translated, would make as much sense in English.But audiences responded well: The house was packed, the show earned a lot of laughs, and comments afterward were resoundingly positive. Hallett and her LTG colleagues felt vindicated, and they decided to produce a ticketed version in November.For Hallett, the decision to produce “Three” expands LTG’s possibilities.“We could just do the classics – Broadway, West End,” she says. “Or we have the opportunity to do new works that are directed to the culture in which we live. Our mission has always been to open up theater to Costa Rica. That’s what I want to do.”“Three” will be performed Nov. 21-23 at ADILA, La Asunción de Belén. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 2:30 p.m. 6,000 ($12). Info: LTG Facebook page. Facebook Comments Related posts:International Book Fair, theater galore, and other happening around Costa Rica Christmas-themed theater warms hearts this month Art fair, Renaissance artist, and other happenings around Costa Rica 12 days, 13 plays at National Theater Eventlast_img read more

Latin Americas unlikely honest voice for democracy

first_imgRelated posts:Venezuela’s dynastic diplomacy puts a Chávez at the UN Absences, again, shine at Ibero-American summit Bolivia’s Evo Morales: Obama should lift the embargo and return Guantánamo Naval base to Cuba Venezuela’s Maduro calls Donald Trump a ‘thief’ For years Venezuela’s authoritarian populist government grossly manipulated elections and got away with it. So imagine the surprise in Caracas in November when, just a few weeks ahead of a vote for the National Assembly, an 18-page open letter arrived from one of the hemisphere’s senior diplomats that, in painstaking and scathing detail, denounced the regime’s attempt to maintain its legislative majority by crook.No, the author was not U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who has assiduously courted Cuba’s Castros while ignoring the regime founded by the late Hugo Chávez. It was Luis Almagro, a formerly little-known leftist foreign minister from the tiny South American country of Uruguay. Since May, Almagro has been secretary general of an institution generally regarded as moribund: the Organization of American States. Thanks to him, it is rapidly becoming relevant again.Almagro’s simple strategy has been to do what no other senior figure in the Western hemisphere – Americans included – has done in the past two decades: publicly call out and denounce violations of human rights and democratic practice whenever and wherever they occur in the hemisphere, in detail and without regard for diplomatic nicety. His ambition, he told me in an interview last week, is “to leave this position with a clean record – that any time there was a human rights violation or democracy was not working, I did not shut up.”It’s a shrewd approach for reviving the OAS, a 35-member group that was founded in 1948 for the purpose of defending democracy against communism. Half a century later, the alliance seemed poised to gain a second wind when, on Sept. 11, 2001, it adopted a treaty obligating its members to maintain democratic institutions and providing for collective action against violators. But as the United States, which had been a moving force behind the group, turned its attention to wars in the Middle East, Chávez and other autocratic populists blocked the OAS from acting while setting up new regional groupings that excluded Washington.Almagro’s arrival as secretary general coincides with a regional shift of direction. Venezuela is enduring an economic meltdown that threatens to turn a country of 30 million people into a failed state. Argentina just elected a center-right president over the populist Peronists. Nationalist demagogues are sinking in Latin America as fast as they are rising in the United States and Europe.In that context, Almagro’s crusade strikes a chord, as does his focus on Venezuela’s long-neglected abuses. His pre-election missive – spiced by quotes from Uruguayan statesmen and Bob Marley – detailed government monopolization of the media, unjust incarceration of opposition leaders and the violent suppression of free assembly as well as pre-election dirty tricks.The government of Nicolás Maduro ended up losing by a landslide. It responded by packing the supreme court and then using it to deprive the opposition of a potentially game-changing two-thirds legislative majority. That prompted another public letter from Almagro. “During these elections and at the beginning of the parliamentary session,” he wrote on Jan. 12, “we have seen the power of the State used to silence and harass the opposition, violations of the checks and balances designed to ensure the separation and independence of powers, the opportunistic appointment of judges, and interference in different branches of government, all amounting to … erosion of democracy.”Predictably, Almagro has been showered with abuse by the Chavistas. Yet his finger-pointing seems to be having an effect. Prodded by the military, the government recognized the results of the elections; in the past 10 days, setting aside threats to ignore or suppress the national assembly, it has begun quietly talking to its new leaders. “We helped create an ethical framework,” Almagro told me. “The [Chavistas] always had managed to get away with these moves they were making and no one was denouncing them. We made it clear that there were eyes on them and there was no possibility for them to take actions that would not be denounced.”The government has not retreated from its attempt to strip the opposition of its super majority, but Almagro said he was encouraged by the fragile new dialogue. “There was pragmatism that was very welcome,” he said. “They will have to go a long way, and that was one step. But there are solutions that Venezuela needs that can only be achieved through joint work of the government and opposition.”The Uruguayan hasn’t limited himself to prodding the Chavistas. He’s also intervened in Haiti’s election crisis, a corruption scandal in Guatemala and a border dispute between Colombia and Venezuela. In each case, he said, he was advised to keep a diplomatic silence – a counsel often pressed on the Obama administration by Latin American governments.Almagro rejects it. “When they ask you to be silent, you shouldn’t pay attention,” he said. “I won’t pay attention.”Jackson Diehl is deputy editorial page editor for The Washington Post.© 2016, The Washington Post Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Mel Gibson in real estate row over Guanacaste beach property

first_imgRelated posts:The Tico Times announces 1st English-language media alliance with Costa Rican Chamber of Realtors Costa Rica’s high-rise boom Chanel’s new anti-aging serum contains Costa Rican green coffee Shrimping boat sinks in Guanacaste, spilling diesel on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast Costa Rica loves to brag about celebrities who vacation here, but the honeymoon appears to be over for one Pacific municipality and Hollywood actor Mel Gibson.The “Mad Max” star bought a sprawling 500-hectare estate in Playa Barrigona between the beach destinations of Nosara and Sámara back in 2007. The actor has hosted Britney Spears and other celebrities in the luxe “Apocalypto” property. But it’s been nearly a year since Gibson last visited Costa Rica and the star might not be back if a spat with the Municipality of Nicoya continues.Channel 7 TV News ran a series of reports this week alleging that Barrigona administrators blocked public access to the property’s beach and violated maritime zone construction laws. A representative for the property told The Tico Times, meanwhile, that the story is “inaccurate” and “sensationalist.”Read the full story in The Tico Times Real Estate. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Former Israeli commandos dominate politics

first_img Sponsored Stories It’s Israel’s most famous and secretive military unit. Among its known exploits are the 1976 rescue of hostages from an Air France plane in Uganda, a mission commanded by Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed there.In building his team at a time of tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu appears to be relying heavily _ too heavily, some say _ on veterans of Sayeret Matkal. Supporters say the unit’s prominent role reflects the intelligence, boldness and creativity of its soldiers.Critics counter that skills honed in the military do not necessarily translate to the civilian arena and that key voices, particularly those of women, are being left out of critical decisions.“It’s a certain fraternity that for many years has managed to place security as the central issue in the country,” said Yael Dayan, a former lawmaker and daughter of the late Moshe Dayan, the famous Israeli general and statesman. “They need a war to justify their own existence.”In a country that worships its war heroes, the military has long been a breeding ground for Israeli leaders. The exclusive, tight-knit Sayeret Matkal unit stands out. Lawmaker Yohanan Plesner, a graduate of the unit who still does reserve duty, said the transition was seamless.“When you are given an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age, it gives you the confidence to take on that responsibility at the national level,” said Plesner, 40, a rising star in the opposition Kadima Party. “There is no doubt that Israeli society appreciates those people who have risked their lives for the state.”On Tuesday, Netanyahu attended a gathering of his former army mates in memory of a late Druse Arab commander of the unit who oversaw Netanyahu during a secret mission. “You are my brother,” Netanyahu said of the late commander, in a statement released by his office.Israel’s daily Yediot Ahronot said the commander saved Netanyahu’s life during a clandestine operation in Syria at the end of the 1960s. A spokesman for Netanyahu did not immediately comment on the claim.Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment about the unit.The military’s website identifies Sayeret Matkal unit “the best combat unit” in the Israeli military and “one of the best special forces units in the world.” Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Four benefits of having a wireless security system “We have this yearning for these people to lead us like they lead us in the army,” he said. “It is important for us to hold on to this so that we can feel that no matter what happens, there will be someone to protect us.”____Follow Aron Heller at twitter.com/aronhellerap(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 0 Comments   Share   “It performs a variety of reconnaissance and commando missions, relying on extensive training as well as the most technologically advanced equipment available,” said Capt. Eytan Buchman, a military spokesman. He refused to elaborate.Sayeret Matkal is primarily responsible for intelligence-gathering missions behind enemy lines, so most of its operations are classified. But the unit has also been tasked with counterterrorism and hostage rescue operations, earning it a mythical status with the public.The 1976 operation in Uganda is among few that have been made public.In 1972, the commandos, disguised as airline technicians, raided a hijacked Sabena airliner on the ground in Israel. Netanyahu took part in the operation. A photograph of Ehud Barak, now Israel’s defense minister, standing on the wing in white overalls as the hostages were disembarking has become part of Israeli lore.The following year, commandos rowed boats to the Beirut beach and proceeded to kill top leaders of Black September, the Palestinian group that carried out the massacre of 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics. The soldiers were dressed as civilians. Shorter soldiers, like Barak, were disguised as women. 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Being a member of this prestigious club grants access to high society and an old-boys club that can open doors in the military, the business world and politics. “Israeli politics is based on loyalties, friends promoting friends,” Shelah said.Unit fighters have gone on to become prime ministers, security service bosses, military chiefs, generals, lawmakers and wealthy businessmen.At a ceremony last week marking Dichter’s appointment the minister who would oversee civil defense if there is war with Iran, Barak spoke about their 40-year history together and how they’ve crossed paths in secret missions.“I’m convinced you will bring to the job all the experience you have amassed over the years,” Barak said.Shelah countered that career soldiers were often “the least qualified to lead political systems.”“Their military jobs are not built on agreements, on open dialogue, on accepting the opinions of others or considering public opinion. Politics is all about that,” he said.Social psychologist Eyal Efrati, a retired colonel who once headed the military’s behavioral science department, said the unit’s prominence has more to do with Israeli society than the characteristics of the soldiers. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Associated PressJERUSALEM (AP) – When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to fill a sensitive Cabinet post recently, he turned to an old army buddy from his days in an elite commando unit.His choice for minister of civil defense, Avi Dichter, replaced another graduate of the legendary Sayeret Matkal unit. Netanyahu’s defense minister and vice premier, as well as Israel’s opposition leader, also served there. The unit is believed to have later carried out similar assassinations and kidnappings of other wanted men, including the 1988 killing of Abu Jihad, a senior figure in the Palestine Liberation Organization, in a naval commando operation on the shores of Tunisia.Sayeret Matkal has also had its fiascos, notably a 1992 training accident in which five soldiers were killed during a drill reportedly preparing for a possible assassination attempt on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.Candidates go through a rigorous selection process that includes psychological profiling and intense physical challenges. Only a few dozen are chosen each year and their basic training lasts 20 months. They earn their red beret after a grueling 120-kilometer (75-mile) march and then embark on specialized training that includes advanced navigation, weapons training, a sniper’s course and camouflage, according to the army website.Known in Israel simply as “the unit,” only a few hundred serve in it at any given time. The prime minister sometimes stops by headquarters for a visit to hear about their exploits.“A huge part of the brand is its secrecy. No one really knows exactly what they do there,” said Ofer Shelah, a military analyst. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectlast_img read more

Observers blast restrictions on citizens in eastern Ukraine

first_imgThe OSCE, which said in the report that some civilians have to wait up to 50 days to receive their permit, urged the Ukrainian government to adjust the permit system in order to ensure that all civilians have a chance to travel safely and freely.Ukrainian officials insist the permits are a necessary safety precaution for areas bordering rebel territory.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. How men can have a healthy 2019 The Kiev government in January introduced travel permits for people entering government-held territory to cross back into the rebel-held east in what they describe as a bid to prevent the spread of separatism to other regions in Ukraine. Many local residents who stayed in rebel-controlled areas view the system as punishing and say it isolates them even further from the rest of Ukraine.The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in a report published on Wednesday lambasted the system for making it hard for residents to leave the war-torn areas or get access to humanitarian aid.“Many features” of the system, according to the OSCE, “have significantly impaired the ability of civilians to leave the Donbass” region. The observers also voiced concern about how local residents often have to travel through areas susceptible to crossfire and shelling to obtain such a permit.Associated Press reporters have observed an inconsistent application of the permit system, affecting local residents. Many have complained of getting stuck on the other side of the front-line waiting for their permits and not being allowed back once they have crossed into a government-controlled area. Others said checks at the crossings are arbitrary, often leading to residents with valid documents being turned down. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Observers from a European security organization on Wednesday criticized the Ukrainian government for restricting freedom of movement for residents in the war-torn east and urged it to reconsider the permit system it has introduced for crossing the front line.More than 6,100 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced by the ongoing conflict between Russia-backed separatists and government troops. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 treatments for adult scoliosislast_img read more

Iran holds third closed session in trial of Post reporter

first_imgTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The closed-door trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been detained in an Iranian prison for nearly a year, resumed for a third session Monday. No decision in the case was announced.The timing of the hearing was noteworthy, coinciding with a push between Iran and world powers to complete a historic deal in Vienna that could impose curbs on Iran’s contested nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Rezaian, 39, is being tried in Revolutionary Court on charges that include espionage and distributing propaganda against the Islamic Republic. U.S. officials, the Post and rights groups have criticized his trial and pressed for his release.Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the hearing occurred but it did not provide details. The first two sessions in the case were held in May and June.Mary Rezaian, the journalist’s mother, appeared at the courthouse with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi. As in past hearings, they were not allowed inside the courtroom.Neither Rezaian nor his lawyer was visible to journalists who were gathered outside the courthouse. Authorities usually bring those charged in sensitive cases through a gate that is closed to the public.The mother said she had no idea whether the timing of the latest hearing had anything to do with the nuclear talks in Vienna, nor did she have specific information that the U.S. government was making a fresh push for Rezaian’s release as part of a broader deal.“I do know that there has been effort made on all levels throughout the United States and other countries,” she said.She expressed hope her son would be released on bail in the coming days, but said his defense lawyer, Leila Ahsan, has not been able to tell the family what happened in the hearing. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Salehi, who is a journalist for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, and two photographers were detained along with Rezaian on July 22, 2014 in Tehran. All except Rezaian were later released.Ahsan has previously said Salehi and one of the two unidentified photojournalists also would stand trial. Salehi is barred from traveling abroad.The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said no date has been set for the trial proceedings to resume.“We call again on Iran to deliver a speedy, fair and impartial judgment in Jason’s case, one that could only result in his acquittal, immediate release, and a long-overdue reunion with his family,” he said in a statement. “It is long past time to bring an end to the nightmare.”___Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.___Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreckCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who was born and spent most of his life in the United States. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he is following the case, telling reporters last month he is committed to pursuing the legal rights of all Iranians, including Rezaian.Rezaian’s brother, Ali, said in an email that Ahsan only recently informed the family that the trial would resume Monday.Ali Rezaian, who is in Vienna to press his brother’s case on the sidelines of the nuclear talks, said the documents in his brother’s case file do not contain valid evidence that he was working against Iran, or that he created or spread propaganda against the country.He also denied that his brother was in touch with senior Iranian officials responsible for security documents, or that he had access to military or nuclear sites.“We regret that Jason’s trial has been closed and his lawyer is barred from discussing the court proceedings,” Ali Rezaian said. “Jason’s continued detention is as baseless as it is cruel and unjust. We ask the Iranian judiciary to put an end to the delays in his trial, release Jason and allow him to reunite with his family.” New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Mesa family survives lightning strike to homecenter_img Comments   Share   5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Sponsored Stories 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitylast_img read more

Hip Hip … Hubei

first_imgAustralia has become one of the most important inbound markets for Hubei, China as the number of Aussies visiting the province continues to rise. In 2009, the number of Australians visiting Hubei rose by a whopping 29.7 per cent to 61,057, a figure which is expected to have risen to 70,000 in 2010. On the back of this growth, and as part of the 2011 Chinese New Year festivities, Hubei Tourism yesterday launched its ‘Hubei, Home of Wonders’ tourism campaign. Dignitaries of the event were treated to a luncheon at the Waterfront Restaurant before moving on to the official opening of the special exhibition at Sydney’s Customs House. “In recent years, Hubei Province has been intensifying its efforts in upgrading tourism infrastructures and improving reception capabilities,” Hubei Provincial Tourism Administration deputy director Pan Xi Han said. “The improved facilities and considerate service today meet and satisfy the demands of visitors.” UNESCO-listed Mt Shennongjia and Mingxian Mausoleum are big drawcards to the province, as well as Wudang Mountain, a sacred place to practise Taoism and kung fu. “Hubei is home to a special brand of martial arts, made famous by the movie ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’,” China National Tourism Office Australia director Kuang Lin said. Among Hubei’s most popular tourist attractions is the area of the Three Gorges, positioned on the fabled Yangtze River and home to the world’s largest hydroelectric project, The Three Gorges Dam. “An old saying in China goes like this: to see is to believe,” Pan Xi Han said. “It is our sincere hope that all the distinguished guests here can have a tour across Hubei and bring more tourists to enjoy the beauty in Hubei and to cast your eyes on Hubei.” Mr Pan Xi Han from Hubei Tourism Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.Hcenter_img Delegates officially open Hubei, Home Of Wonders last_img read more

Turmoil strikes Egypt bookings

first_imgPolitical turmoil in Egypt has taken its toll on the industry, with travel agents, tour operators and wholesalers experiencing a reduction in bookings to the country. With public strikes against current leader President Hosni Mubarak continuing into its third week, operators back home said the situation in Egypt has slowed down tourism into the country. Jetaround Holidays managing director Zaia Andrew Bazi told e-Travel Blackboard the number of inquiries into Egypt have dropped to practically nothing over the past few weeks as violence and looting runs the country’s streets. “Why would you go to Egypt right now when you can’t go to and from the airport in Cairo,” Mr Bazi told e-Travel Blackboard. “All my bookings have been postponed… and [future] bookings don’t exist at the moment it has definitely quieted down.” While agents deal with the fall out in flights and accommodation, tour operators Sun Island Tours general manager John Polyviou told e-Travel Blackboard the company has experienced a reduced number of bookings as well as an influx of postponements. “Rather than cancelling, most [people] want to amend their bookings to later on in the year,” Mr Polyviou told e-Travel Blackboard. “For those who want to cancel bookings for trips in February we are offering a 100 percent refund but come March we will take it as it comes. “There are some people who are still booking Egypt even for the recent future, like within one or two months, but our bookings have dropped considerable.” Having recently evacuated the last of their customers on special chartered flights from Cairo Airport, wholesalers Peregrine and Gecko said in a statement that they have cancelled tours to Egypt for departures up to the end of March. The company said customers will be able to arrange alternative bookings or receive a full refund if they choose to cancel. Despite the public uproar, Egypt’s neighbouring country Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) has taken the opportunity to reassure travellers the dispute has not affected the rest of the region, which is still open to visitors. The JTB said that it was making an effort to clarify that Jordan remains a safe destination. “Tourists from all over the world continue to enjoy Jordan’s countless and priceless treasures, as well as its unique and internationally renowned hospitality,” JTB managing director Nayef Al-Fayez said. Jordan is home to one of the 7 Wonders of the World, archaeological city Petra. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

THAIs Wins PATA Gold Award 2011 for 50th Anniversary Projects

first_imgMr. Pandit Chanapai (middle), THAI ExecutiveVice President, Commercial Department,Mr. Bill Calderwood (right), Interim CEO, PATAand Mr. Joao Manuel Costa Antunes (left),Director, Macau Government Tourist Office Source = Thai Airways International Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) won the PATA Gold Award in the category: Marketing Campaign/Marketing – Carrier, for THAI’s 50th Anniversary Projects.THAI was awarded the PATA Gold Award for its 50th Anniversary campaign that focused on ‘Nostalgic Marketing,’ through a number of activities and events such as the Nostalgic Flight on 2 May 2010 from Bangkok to Hong Kong, the Journey of Silk Exhibition – displaying THAI’s history of products, services, aircraft, and innovations for the future, the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Postage Stamps, the Story of THAI book – that captured the airlines innovative history, and the Little Captain mobile game.The Award was announced at the 60th Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Annual Conference held in Beijing, China. THAI was the only PATA airline member and organization in Thailand to be honored this prestigious travel award. According to THAI Executive Vice President for Commercial, Mr. Pandit Chanapai, “THAI’s celebration of our 50th anniversary was a powerful expression of the strength of the THAI brand in giving service from the heart.  Our nostalgic campaign brought good memories to customers with our ‘Smooth as Silk’ brand message.”  last_img read more

Sydney hotels undergo luxury renovations

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Four of Sydney’s luxury hotels will undergo renovations over the coming months, with redesign plans for more than 1000 rooms in harbourside. According to Tourism New South Wales, the Park Hyatt, Four Seasons, the Marriott and Shangri-La are among the hotel’s “investing in Sydney’s future as Australia’s premier city for luxury accommodation”.The Park Hyatt is said to be spending up to AU$50 million completing renovations for a new restaurant, new roof suites and a new spa as well as updates to its presidential suite.  While the Barangaroo and Star City are expected to stream two new luxury hotels.Renovations will come in time to assist Sydney deal with the 87 percent occupancy levels this year, up from 82 percent last year. last_img read more

Germany scoring goals with Australia the world

first_imgCarmen (Lufthansa), Traute (Magic Cities Germany), Virginia (GNTB), Jasmin (Frankfurt Tourist Board), Maike (GNTB), Ralf (visitBerlin), DJ Chris Bekker Berlin: always redeveloping Aussie travellers continued their love affair with Germany in 2010 as 613,212 Australians visited the country, reflecting an increase of 27 per cent on 2009 and the second highest internationally after China. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be hosted in Germany this year, as well as ongoing celebrations surrounding the 125th anniversary of the motor car, this trend is expected to continue in 2011 with first quarter figures showing an increase of 18 per cent on last year. German National Tourist Office’s (GNTO) sales and marketing representative in Australia, Virginia Haddon, said the figures would be “even higher” if the large number of river cruising guests were included in the statistics, which only take into account land-based accommodation. “Local tour operators advise us that Australians booking river cruises account for approximately 20 per cent of their European departures,” Ms Haddon said. Ms Haddon also pointed to the strong Australian dollar as making Germany “extremely affordable” and attractive to Australians at present, as well as the Australian Matildas contesting this year’s World Cup. Speaking to e-Travel Blackboard at this week’s GNTO event in Sydney, Frankfurt Tourist Board’s international marketing manager Jasmin Bischoff said the city was already in “party mode” ahead of the World Cup. Ms Bischoff also spoke at length about Frankfurt’s thriving music scene, referencing the CocoonClub – founded by the “father of techno” Sven Vath – and the city’s famous jazz scene. visitBerlin director of sales Ralf Ostendorf told e-Travel Blackboard his city was “the way New York used to be”, although according to the German, Berlin now had more hotel rooms than the Big Apple. “The old airstrip has been taken over by artists and skateboarders – it’s an organic city that’s always redeveloping,” Mr Ostendorf said. Meanwhile, overall international visitor arrivals into the country are also burgeoning, with the total number of overnight stays in 2010 passing the 60 million mark for the first time. “Provided the market continues to perform well and with our targeted, customer-focused marketing to build upon, it is realistic to predict that overnight stays by visitors from abroad will pass the 80 million mark in the next ten years,” GNTB chief executive Petra Hedorfer commented from Germany. In 2012, the German National Tourist Office will be focusing on the local wine industry and business travel.center_img Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.Hlast_img read more

Qantas pilots threaten action

first_imgAmid calls for increased job security, 94 per cent of Qantas pilots yesterday voted in favour of taking industrial action against the carrier in the first such ballot since 1966. Qantas says it is “disappointed” with the threat made by its long-haul pilots, saying any stoppages would cause disruptions to Australian travellers as well as “drive up ticket prices” if successful.According to the carrier, the demands being made by the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) are “unsustainable” and in excess of the “sensible and reasonable increases in pay and conditions” the airline is willing to negotiate.   As well as demanding a 2.5 per cent pay increase each year for the next three years and asking for two extra upgradeable tickets per year, pilots are calling on the airline to fund two full time union officials at a cost of up to AU$1 million per year.The biggest issue however is said to be equal pay for all Jetstar pilots.  “Paying Qantas pilot rates to pilots for our low cost carrier Jetstar would drive up ticket prices, make Jetstar unprofitable and set precedents for other staff salaries,” the airline said in a statement.Despite an overwhelming majority of pilots electing to take protected industrial action, AIPA president Barry Jackson said its members would be doing “everything possible to minimise disruption to travellers and focus the pressure on management”.“Qantas pilots want to continue operating Qantas flights, but they know management has plans to shift Qantas operations to Asia and start mass outsourcing,” Captain Jackson said. “As a result, AIPA is insisting on a Qantas flight/Qantas pilot clause in the new enterprise agreement.”The news comes a fortnight after the airline was given notification by the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) that its members were planning industrial action against the airline. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H 94 per cent of Qantas pilots are unhappy with the airline last_img read more

Boost or bust Travelscene urges support for preferreds

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: D.M Travelscene American Express members have again been strongly advised to continue supporting preferred partners if they are expected to reap rewards from the associations and choosing not to do so could potentially threaten future business.Travelscene Head of Product, Damien Borg, told consultants at the NCC last weekend, that to sell a non-preferred product could damage future business giving competitors the ability to steal potential business.“For every non-preferred product, we have a preferred product to sell, but it’s up to you to educate yourself on that,” Mr Borg said.“Every dollar you sell, they use against you to steal customers in future.”Mr Borg said the group was committed to growing sales in their channel as a priority, adding preferred partners were considered to be a “lifeline to our business”.“We are ready and prepared to help combat non-preferred activity,” he said.According to General Manager, Jacqui Timmins, some 55 per cent of current member sales are through preferred partners, an improvement but hard to quantify as a large proportion is toward hotel bookings, which are differentiated from wholesale and air transactions.“There’s a leakage but there’s an improvement.  We’ve got so many preferred suppliers getting behind them (members), we’re a lot smarter now with the tools we give them to show what impact they are having on their business with what they are losing out on when they don’t support them (preferred partners),” Ms Timmins said. Ms Timmins revealed agents’ feedback toward preferred products was constantly provided to suppliers to encourage more point of sale material, marketing and advertising. “Our focus is on increasing our cruise partners and cruise in general.  The Travelscene wholesale product is getting great support,” Ms Timmins said.Consultants were also advised to join the newly re-launched Quantum Consultant Programme (QC) to reap benefits which has already provided $160,000 or 30 million points for members. “We have suppliers knocking on the door trying to get into the programme, they see value in it,” Ms Timmins said.last_img read more

Emirates expands wings to Adelaide

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T The UAE carrier has announced a network expansion that will include a new four times weekly service to Adelaide.Unveiled this week, Emirates said it had added a further 15 routes to its current itinerary – one of which is its fifth Australian city following already established links to Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.The carrier’s chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the airline “is currently in a concentrated and sustained period of global expansion”, that will also see its Perth service become a triple-daily operation by March 2013. “The addition of Adelaide to our network and the boost to our Perth operations demonstrates our commitment to investment and growth in our Australian operations and highlights the economic strength and global demand for the two cities as business, leisure and investment destinations,” the Sheikh said. “We will also grow capacity to Melbourne with the introduction of daily A380 services in October, in addition to our existing double-decker flight into Sydney.”The Middle-Eastern carrier said it is also looking to add the French city of Lyon to its expanding operations, along with a daily service to the Polish capital of Warsaw.“Our increased operations into France, linking with Lyon, comes on the heels of our announcing a second A380 service into Paris from 1st January – all of which is a response to acute demand for our services to and from this market. Poland continues our exciting push into this region of Europe,” Sheikh Ahmed said.last_img read more

Visa application fees on the rise

first_imgAustralian Government announces increase to majority of visa application charges. The majority of visa application charges will increase by 15 percent from 1 September 2013, according to changes announced in the recent Federal Budget. The only visas exempt from the fee rise are student visas and visitor visas. The increases are set to raise AU$542 million over the next 4 years, according to research by Acacia Immigration Australia.center_img The Australian Government has announced further increases to visa application fees. The price hike comes on top of considerable fee increases introduced on 1 July 2013, which in some cases doubled or even tripled the cost of visa applications.last_img read more