Hard Rock Hotel Maldives coming in October 2018

first_imgHard Rock Hotel Maldives coming in October 2018 Share Posted by Thursday, December 21, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img ORLANDO — Hard Rock International is forging ahead with its international expansion plans, announcing that it plans to open the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives in October 2018.The resort will be located within one of the Maldives’ largest lagoons, Emboodhoo Falhu, a 20-minute speedboat ride from the airport. The project will also include a Hard Rock Cafe Maldives.The Maldives are a convenient destination for flights from Asia, Europe and the Middle East and the integrated resort project will appeal to the rapidly growing niche of medium to upscale tourism, as well as the affluent travellers who typically frequent the nation, especially honeymooners, says the company.The first phase of development consists of a US$311.5 million investment that includes hotels, entertainment, retail and dining. Hard Rock Hotel Maldives will be one of three resorts included in the development, boasting 178 expansive guestrooms, family suites, beach villas and one and two-bedroom overwater villas.“Known for its vibrant culture, top-of-the-line luxury and some of the most breathtaking white-sand beaches in the world, Maldives is truly a slice of paradise and one of the world’s most desirable destinations,” says Todd Hricko, Senior VP, Head of Global Hotel Development for Hard Rock International.More news:  TRAVELSAVERS welcomes Julie Virgilio to the teamInspired by local Maldivian culture, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives will infuse contemporary design features with tropical architecture throughout the property, alongside music memorabilia. The hotel will provide guests with exclusive brand offerings and amenities, including The Sound of Your Stay music program, offering complimentary use of Fender guitars and Crosley record players for in-room jam sessions, as well as a renowned full-service Rock Spa, Roxity Kids Club and Teen Spirit Club. Dining and bar options range from a Pool Bar and all-day dining, to a Beach Grill restaurant and in-villa dine experience, to Hard Rock Cafe Maldives. Tags: Hard Rock Hotels, Maldives Travelweek Group last_img read more

WestJet reports 51st straight quarter of profitability

first_img CALGARY — WestJet is on a winning streak, which has lasted 51 consecutive quarters.In its fourth quarter and year-end results for 2017, the airline has announced its 51st consecutive quarter of profitability, with fourth quarter net earnings of $48.5 million, or $0.42 per diluted share compared to $55.2 million, or $0.47 per diluted share reported in the fourth quarter of 2016.Full-year net earnings totaled $283.6 million, or $2.42 per diluted share, compared with $295.5 million, or $2.45 per diluted share in the full-year 2016.Moreover, for the full-year and in each quarter of 2017, WestJet flew a record number of passengers. Based on the trailing 12 months, it recorded a return on invested capital of 10.0%, down 0.2 percentage points from the 10.2% reported in the previous quarter.“In 2017, we continued our evolution toward becoming a global airline while flying a record number of guests and achieving our highest annual load factor in our history. We announced an agreement to enter a joint venture with Delta Airlines, which will give Canadians more access to our low fares and growing network,” said WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky.More news:  Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agencySaretsky also highlighted the delivery of Canada’s first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft last fall, which went into service with “high reliability before the busy holiday season”. He also went on to praise the more than 13,000 WestJetters for their “work and dedication this quarter, especially in light of the severe cold and weather-related operational challenges.” Posted by Tuesday, February 6, 2018 << Previous PostNext Post >> Travelweek Group center_img Tags: Profit Report, WestJet Share WestJet reports 51st straight quarter of profitabilitylast_img read more

Sun fun increased airlift make Kissimmee a top holiday choice

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Kissimmee Thursday, September 27, 2018 TORONTO — A beautiful, white Christmas tree stood front and centre at Experience Kissimmee’s media preview in Toronto last night to remind travellers that when it comes to holiday spirit, Kissimmee has it in spades.The destination’s sunny weather, convenient flights and, of course, its close proximity to Orlando’s theme parks were all highlighted as top reasons for Canadians to visit this holiday season. Plus, with accommodations typically priced lower than those in downtown Orlando, and several attractions like Seaworld offering special holiday events and décor, there’s no better time than the holidays to book a family vacation to Kissimmee.“Typically most Canadians travel to Kissimmee between November to April to escape the winter, which is one of our peak times in terms of visitation,” said Denise Graham, Account Manager at VoX International, which represents Experience Kissimmee in Canada. “Canada is very important to us – it’s our #1 international market – and with the great lift coming out of Canada this winter, we’re anticipating continued strong numbers.”More news:  Sunwing ready to launch Mazatlán-Quebec City direct this winterFrom June 2017 and June 2018, Kissimmee welcomed one million visitors, a 16.77% increase overall, and of that total 16.9% were Canadian.Winter visitation will likely get a boost from Swoop’s new 3x weekly Hamilton-Orlando service, which starts Oct. 17, as well as Flair Airlines’ new flights out of Edmonton and Winnipeg starting this December. Graham also noted that Air Canada is increasing its Orlando service out of Toronto to 6x per day.Snowbirds, which continue to be a growing market for Kissimmee, are sure to take advantage of the increased airlift, not to mention the 22,000 vacation homes in the area. As the ‘Vacation Home Capital of the World’, Graham told Travelweek that over 50% of the destination’s monthly stats are booked at these rental homes, which are commissionable to agents and range from two-bedroom villas to 17-bedroom sprawling properties with bowling alleys and lazy rivers.“The weakness of the Canadian dollar is leading Canadians to look for ways to save money,” she said. “To stay in a rental home, which is a home away from home, is a great economical choice for families.”More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaKissimmee, Florida is located just a stone’s throw from Disney’s theme parks, and 35 minutes from Legoland. Among its many new attractions is a Margaritaville resort opening in 2019.For more information on travel to Kissimmee, go to ExperienceKissimmee.com. Posted bycenter_img Travelweek Group Share Sun, fun & increased airlift make Kissimmee a top holiday choicelast_img read more

Atmospheric instability could bring rains this weekend

first_imgAccording to the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), atmospheric instability affecting most of Costa Rica could cause intermittent showers and cloudy skies in the Central Valley and in the Caribbean region.IMN meteorologist Daniel Poleo said he expected an increase in cloudy conditions, primarily in San José and the northwestern province of Guanacaste between Thursday and Saturday.The Central and South Pacific will have clear skies while the Northern Zone will be partially cloudy.An increase in winds is expected on Saturday in most of the country, and IMN forecasts maximum temperatures in the Central Valley will reach highs of 30 degrees Celsius and lows of 10 degrees.February rain is not typical as Costa Rica’s dry season runs from December through May. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Government has no funds to build road to San Ramón

first_imgRelated posts:More protests planned for Thursday over San Ramón Highway In a victory for San Ramón residents, Chinchilla annuls highway contract ‘La Platina’ Bridge to close Wednesday night, Saturday for repairs Polls reveal Ticos thoughts on Chinchilla, crime and the environment The National Roadway Council (CONAVI) does not have funds available for immediate repairs to the highway connecting San José with the canton of San Ramón, in Alajuela.CONAVI Director José Luis Salas told local Radio ADN on Wednesday that the agency does not have a budget for the roadway renovation project “because it was decided that all work [on the highway] would be contracted to a private company selected in a public bid.”President Laura Chinchilla on Monday announced that her government had agreed to suspend a contract with the Brazilian company OAS, which had won the public bid, after several public protests in recent weeks.For new work to be performed on the highway, the government would have to look for new funds, as all money collected from taxes and those from foreign loans are already assigned to 22 other projects, Salas said.“The only funds we have are already allocated for repairs to the bridge over the Río Virilla [known as  “La Platina Bridge”], for placing asphalt layers on the General Cañas Highway [San José-Alajuela], and for demarcation of Route 32 [San José-Limón],” he added.Chinchilla announced her decision after groups of residents from San Ramón and outlying areas said they would be affected by contract agreements that allowed OAS to charge $8 in round-trip tolls on the 58-kilometer stretch of highway. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

CIA collecting records of money transfers

first_imgNo related posts. WASHINGTON, D.C. – The CIA is secretly amassing records of international money transfers into and out of the United States, including operations handled by firms like Western Union, the New York Times reported Friday.The Central Intelligence Agency is acting under the same law that the NSA uses to assemble a data base of U.S. citizens’ phone records, the paper said, quoting current and former U.S. officials.This financial transactions program is covered under the post 9/11 Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Times said.It existence suggests that U.S. citizens still do not know everything about the extent of government data collection programs.The data does not include purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions, several officials said.But the Times quoted another official, while not acknowledging the program, as suggesting the court imposed rules that protected the identities of any U.S. citizens from the data the CIA sees.Rather, a tie to a terrorist organization is required before a search can be conducted, it said. And the search has to be erased after a certain number of years.Similar rules imposed by the court apply to the NSA telephone records program.The government already collects data on large transactions under a law called the Bank Secrecy Act.The Times said several officials say other mass collection programs have yet to come to light.“The intelligence community collects bulk data in a number of different ways under multiple authorities,” one intelligence official said, according to the Times.A spokeswoman for Western Union did not directly address a question about whether it had been ordered to surrender records in bulk. But she said the company obeys legal requirements to provide information.“We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws,” said the spokeswoman, Luella Chavez D’Angelo. “In doing so, we also protect our consumers’ privacy,” the Times quoted her as saying. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Farmers invading Costa Rica indigenous reserve chase out families burn crops

first_imgWhile most of the nation wascelebrating Costa Rica’s long run in the World Cup Saturday, a large group of farmers in the country’s southeastern indigenous territory of Salitre were taking up arms.The non-indigenous farmers — who illegally occupy territory in the Bribrí indigenous reserve located outside Buenos Aires, Puntarenas — mounted the attack seven days after members of the Bribrí community reoccupied land where they had built farms. According to Bribrí residents in the area, approximately 80 farmers attacked the settlement with rocks and guns, forcing the indigenous residents to flee into the mountains. Police intervene in an indigenous conflict in Salitre, in July 2014. Courtesy of Public Security MinistryNon-indigenous people also have blocked roads, trapping the Bribrí in Salitre. According to indigenous people in the area, Bribrí residents have not been able to leave for work since Saturday.“So far they have burned down four of our houses,” said María Suárez, 30, a Bribrí resident in Salitre. “This is our land, they can’t be here legally.”Costa Rica’s Indigenous Law 6172 establishes the rights of indigenous people to reclaim land in traditionally indigenous areas, including the 12,700-hectare Salitre territory. According to the daily La Nación, Bribrí residents have reclaimed 75 percent of land in Salitre. In most cases, Bribrí residents enter land within their territory that is occupied by non-indigenous people and establish a settlement.Indigenous re-occupation in Salitre has spurred a number of violent squabbles in recent years. In January 2013, three Bribrí were sent to the hospital with gunshot and stab wounds following a similar conflict with farmers.According to a press release from the Public Security Ministry on Sunday, police have been in the area since the conflict began to control the situation. The release said that police are in control of the situation, but according to Suárez, only two policemen are present most nights, stationed with the Bribrí on the farm.Presidency Vice Minister Ana Gabriel Zúñiga has been leading mediation between the indigenous and non-indigenous groups for the last two weeks, and arrived in Salitre last night to meet with police and leaders of both factions.“We have been intervening for several days to maintain the fewest number of conflicts possible between indigenous and non-indigenous people,” said President Luis Guillermo Solís Monday.“We have signaled that the only way to resolve the problems in this area and other affected by agricultural conflicts is with negotiation. There is no other way,” he added.“This is an immediate priority for the government,” Ricardo Sánchez, a political adviser to the vice minister, told The Tico Times. “The president has instructed the vice ministry to dedicate its complete attention to the issue.”The United Nations office in San José released a statement Monday morning urging the government to resolve the issue quickly and peacefully. Last August, U.N. human rights observers issued a warning regarding the government’s “militarization” of indigenous relations, citing “persecution, threats and violent repression” against indigenous people. Related posts:UPDATE: Government negotiates peace agreement between farmers, indigenous group in Salitre conflict zone Tensions ease in Salitre indigenous crisis, but the dispute is far from resolved Costa Rica struggles with indigenous land rights Human rights commission ruling gives hope for Costa Rica indigenous autonomy Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Ricas lack of safety regulations comes into view after death of

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica hopes Chinese tourists will think pura vida for their next vacation Costa Rica tourism sets new record with 2.6 million visitors in 2015 Construction of Discovery Costa Rica set to begin in 2018 Tourism entrepreneurs oppose license, royalty payments to canopy patent holder Amanda Hellman and her husband, Gus Lang, had been planning their honeymoon to Costa Rica for months, setting up a travel gift registry where friends and family could donate to the trip that was supposed to start off their married life together. One of the excursions funded for the Madison, Wisconsin couple was a whitewater rafting trip down the Sarapiquí River, 100 kilometers north of the Costa Rican capital.Rains had raised the level of the river at the end of January, when the couple was getting ready for their excursion. In general, the more water flowing through a river at a given time, the more dangerous it can be to raft. Some outfitters had canceled one or more trips that week down the Sarapiquí, which includes Class III rapids, citing risky conditions, according to interviews conducted by The Tico Times.On Jan. 29, the newlyweds were on the river when three people, including Hellman, were thrown from the raft. Two were pulled to safety, but Hellman was caught in an undercurrent and drowned. When the Red Cross arrived, they were unable to revive the 35-year-old.Hellman was one of six tourists who died in Costa Rica during the month of January, according to police reports. Three tourists, one each from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, died on Jan. 9 when the Pura Vida Princess catamaran capsized off the central Pacific coast, with more than 100 people on board. On Jan. 26, a 70-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl from Canada drowned at Playa Hermosa, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Survivors of the Pura Vida Princess catamaran accident cling to life preservers and floating coolers in the Gulf of Nicoya, on Jan. 8, 2015. (Courtesy Susan Shonk)Self-regulatingDespite Costa Rica’s international reputation as an adventure tourism destination for the last 25 years, the industry remains lightly regulated, and safety requirements are largely at the discretion of individual businesses, according to interviews The Tico Times conducted with business owners and industry and government representatives.Debates about adventure tourism safety have been going on for years. A non-lethal rafting accident in 2006 prompted renewed calls from the industry to better regulate safety on Costa Rica’s rivers, as The Tico Times previously reported. There has been little action since then, but that might soon change.Costa Rica’s image as a destination for wild nature and adventure chafes against the need to protect travelers – foreign and domestic alike – from the dangers inherent in many popular activities, from zip lining, to swimming in the ocean without lifeguards, to whitewater rafting.“These are accidents that involved adventure tourism where there is an implicit level of risk,” Alfredo López, manager at the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT), told The Tico Times in a telephone interview. “These are things that unfortunately happen,” he said.López said the deaths in January do not appear to be hampering reservations, but he stressed that “it is always a concern, regardless of the number [of accidents].”Whitewater rafting is among the more dangerous activities in which tourists can participate here but accidents are rare. Rapids are categorized by difficulty, obstacles and water volume into six categories, from floating down the river in a Class I to a dangerous vertical drop in a Class VI rapid, said Johana Argüello, a guide with 15 years experience on the Sarapiquí River and president of the Adventure Outfitters Association, an organization that represents 60 tourist operators across Costa Rica. Class III rapids, the kind that Hellman passed though when she fell overboard, is considered “intermediate” difficulty and still acceptable for first-time rafters, Argüello said. The guide said that any rapids over a Class IV requires participants to be in good physical conditions and with previous rafting experience.Argüello said the Sarapiquí has become mercurial in recent years and conditions can change suddenly. She said they had noted an “important” change in the river’s conditions the week that Hellman drowned. Her company, Aventuras de Sarapiquí, cancelled one rafting trip that week, citing the age of the passengers and their own concerns about the river’s safety.La Fortuna-based Wave Expeditions, which operated Hellman’s tour, would not comment on the accident, citing an ongoing investigation, according to an email addressed to The Tico Times.There are no official rules governing what water level is acceptable for a safe trip, Argüello said. “There is no established policy at this time. … It’s something that is at the discretion of the company, be it the manager or the head guide,” she said.Both Argüello and Michael Kaye, founder of Costa Rica Expeditions and a guide with more than 30 years experience in the adventure tourism industry, mentioned mutually agreed upon high-water marks that would plumb a dangerous depth for the river as a possible solution to reduce risk on the rapids. Kaye, whose company operates tours on the Pacuare River, said that all the companies operating there have agreed not to attempt any runs if the water exceeds a high-water marker.The Sarapiquí River has no such warning. Argüello said that a previous marker was washed away in high water in November 2014 and has not been replaced. The Sarapiquí guide added that the marker would have been downstream of where Hellman’s group put in.Head guides or tour operators ultimately have the final say when it comes to the conditions on the river and the abilities of the people on board the raft. Kaye said that guides have an incentive not to take unnecessary chances in bad conditions.“They’re on that boat too,” he said.Besides mutually agreed upon high-water markers, Kaye suggested that guides should have to renew their Red Cross cardiac and CPR certifications more frequently.Rough seasThe lack of safety regulations in force for maritime tourist activities came under fire after the Pura Vida Princess day cruise sank, drowning three tourists and attracting international attention. Authorities have pointed to high winds and rough seas in the Gulf of Nicoya as the likely cause. The Tico Times previously reported that the president’s office would seek legislation requiring the obligatory use of life jackets on all tourist vessels after floatation devices were distributed only after the Pura Vida Princess was in immediate danger of sinking.In 1997, another catamaran, the Pacific Princess, sank in the Gulf of Nicoya and two passengers drowned. More than 18 years later, promised safety regulations, including no-go weather conditions, had yet to be approved when the Pura Vida Princess went down.Luis Fernando Coronado, director of the Public Works and Transport Ministry’s (MOPT) Maritime-Port Administration, previously told The Tico Times that since the 1997 accident there have not been any updates to rules governing MOPT’s ability to punish private and passenger ships for violating maritime safety and administrative requirements or heeding Coast Guard recommendations.The Aquatic Navigation bill, which would give the Port Authority the powers to enforce stricter safety requirements for tourist vessels, has been languishing in the Legislative Assembly for more than two years. Coronado said that if the Aquatic Navigation bill were law, the Pura Vida Princess would have been banned from leaving port if the Coast Guard determined that conditions were too dangerous, and he noted that the bill includes a specific article on meteorological conditions.The Judicial Investigation Police are still investigating the shipwreck at this writing to determine if the Prosecutor’s Office will bring charges against the company or its crew. The U.S. Embassy in San José and Costa Rican authorities are in discussions regarding possible technical assistance for the investigation, according to statements requested by The Tico Times from the embassy and the Prosecutor’s Office. A sign warns of rip currents in a Costa Rica beach. Playa Cocles, in the Caribbean province of Limón, is one of the few beaches in Costa Rica that has a lifeguard tower. Meg Yamamoto/The Tico TimesLifeguardsRiptides are a danger at many of Costa Rica’s idyllic beaches. More frequently traveled beaches, including Jacó and Isla Tortuga, have organized lifeguard watches, National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) President Pablo Abarca told The Tico Times. While other beaches have warnings posted about riptides, these initiatives remain limited to local businesses or individual municipalities, Abarca said. Many of Costa Rica’s beaches offer no supervision or warnings about swimming conditions.More oversight a bad thing?The adventure tourism industry has been lightly regulated since its inception some 30 years ago, but the Health Ministry has been in talks with CANATUR and other tourism representatives to draft new, more rigorous safety requirements. The CANATUR president said that the standards under discussion were crafted with input from the industry. Abarca, who said that the new rules were already underway before the string of accidental deaths in January, said the regulations could be ready to present to the Legislative Assembly in the next few months.But not everyone is happy about the possibility of additional oversight.“If they regulated us like MOPT regulates driver’s licenses, we’d have 10 deaths a month,” Kaye said, adding that he was skeptical of governmental organizations with little knowledge of activities like rafting, for example, regulating the business.Argüello argued that the rafting industry in particular has developed its own rigorous standards without government oversight, including those of the International Rafting Federation.“We, the tour operators, have self-regulated and kept an eye on ourselves with very high standards, including some better than in places in the United States,” Argüello said.The AOA president said she supports stronger regulations as a means to crack down on informal tour operators, alleging that these outfits were less safe than their institutional peers.Wave Expeditions, however, is a formal business that received a Certificate of Excellence in 2014 from TripAdvisor.The ICT representative said that accidents like these are a learning experience and drive the industry to do a better job reducing risk and improving safety to keep Costa Rica well positioned on an international scale.Argüello told The Tico Times that it had been more than 10 years since someone died on the Sarapiquí River.“Think about how many people go rafting every year in Costa Rica and how many accidents there are – very, very few,” Argüello said. “We don’t want this to be something that keeps people from experiencing our country.”Of course, adrenaline aside, businesses need to minimize the risk that their passengers face, regardless if the activity is a catamaran day cruise or Class III rapids.“Unfortunately, it can happen to any of us,” Argüello said. 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Cartago hospital confirms death from AH1N1 virus

first_imgRelated posts:Get your flu vaccinations here! Costa Rican health officials alarmed at spike in respiratory illnesses Annual vaccination against influenza begins early Caja to distribute flu vaccines next week Max Peralta Hospital in Cartago province has confirmed that a patient died last week of complications caused byAH1N1, also known as swine flu.Hospital director Alexánder Sánchez Cabo said the man’s health conditions worsened because he suffered from obesity, a risk factor for influenza patients.Another five people between age 30 and 60 are currently hospitalized with respiratory problems in the country, and doctors are waiting for tests results to confirm whether they have the virus.As a preventive measure hospital officials at Max Peralta this week restricted visits to only two per patient.Xiomara Badilla, coordinator of epidemiological surveillance for the Social Security System, or Caja, said the agency does not consider the situation an outbreak, as the number of cases is still within the average for seasonal flu cases.Possible case in northern regionOfficials at the San Carlos Hospital, in northern Alajuela province, also reported the death of one man, age 48, from complications with a respiratory virus.However, they are still waiting for results of clinical tests to determine whether the man had the AH1N1 virus. If confirmed, he would be the fourth victim this month registered in the country’s northern region.Over the weekend, the hospital admitted 25 patients with respiratory problems. Officials were forced to increase sanitary measures in the emergency room, and to temporarily suspend all visits to patients, except for very special situations.Records from San Carlos Hospital indicate that a total of six people died of AH1N1 virus in 2014.The Caja’s Badilla asked the population to remain calm but maintain all preventive measures to avoid the spread of respiratory diseases.Doctors recommend frequent hand-washing and covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. They also recommend using only disposable tissues and remaining alert for symptoms such as high fever and breathing problems. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Ricas golden generation looks to be in good hands with Óscar

first_imgWhen Óscar Ramírez took over the Costa Rica men’s national team last August, he did so without much fanfare.Instead of being a “splash hire,” Ramírez’s introduction was more like a pebble dropping into a raging river. Amid the chaos of Paolo Wanchope’s embarrassing exit from La Sele’s bench after he tried to knock out a security guard, the short and stout 51-year-old assistant coach Ramírez was basically a foregone conclusion to take over.After the Wanchope incident and the arrest — as part of the largest scandal in the history of football — of former Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUTBOL) president Eduardo Li, it’s like the sport’s leaders just shrugged their shoulders and gave the car keys to Ramírez, hoping he wouldn’t crash and burn.If La Sele’s impressive 3-0 beatdown of CONCACAF rival Jamaica Tuesday shows anything, it’s that the man they call “Macho” isn’t some last-minute proxy. He’s a detailed strategist who is more than worthy of being in charge of Costa Rica’s most talented roster in history.FEDEFUT president Rodolfo Villalobos said at a press conference earlier this month that the amount of talent playing overseas, combined with his trust in Ramirez’s vision for the team, gives him confidence that the next few years could be special for La Sele.“This is our golden generation,” Villalobos said. “There’s a really strong union between the coaching staff and the players. We’re happy because we know going forward we can build on that unity and reach our highest goals.” Costa Rican national football team coach Oscar Ramirez and goalkeeper Keylor Navas have La Sele one point away from moving on to the hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying. Ezequiel Becerra/AFPThe Xs and OsStrategically speaking, the quick turnaround from Friday’s 1-1 tie to the domination shown Tuesday night back home goes to show how creative Ramírez can get with his lineup variations and his changes in defensive rotation. After La Sele’s backline was uncharacteristically beaten in the first half in Jamaica, Ramírez switched things around and stalled Jamaica’s deep volley efforts that tried to isolate its speedy forwards in one-on-one matches on the edges. The backline was not only quick to shut down any threat from the Reggae Boyz forwards, but they moved the ball to the mid- and front-levels with fluidity, showing immediate improvement on one specific area Ramírez harped on going into the second leg of the World Cup qualifying series with Jamaica.On the road to Russia, Ramírez will continue playing around with his defense to see what works best. Italian-league defender Giancarlo González, who shined in the 2014 World Cup, has been a shell of himself recently and it may have been that “Macho” was trying to send a message by benching him after a poor showing in Friday’s tie game.With Oscar Duarte, another European club player, in place of González, the middle of Costa Rica’s defense looked spectacular on Tuesday. Herein lies the great luxury that Ramírez has: He can interchange very good talent with talent of equal quality. Ramírez has been given free reign of exchanging lineups and playing mad scientist with the deep talent pool he can choose from.When Ramírez said at a press conference before the two-game series against Jamaica that he wanted to take advantage of the Reggae Boyz’ speed, it looked like a failed plan in the first 45 minutes of the first leg. But once his players got accustomed to the Jamaicans’ quickness, which is nearly impossible to simulate in practice, Ramírez was able to put them into position to attack.Sure La Sele has more talent than Jamaica and there’s a clear advantage in playing at home in front of a sold out crowd of football-crazed Ticos, but maybe the most apparent takeaway from Tuesday is just how good Ramírez is at adapting to opponents and turning disadvantages into strengths. Going into a high stakes tournament, like, say, the Copa America three months from now, that ability to adapt and manipulate game plans will prove necessary. Costa Rica’s backline was clearly overwhelmed by Jamaica’s speed in Kingston as González and Ronald Matarrita struggled to hold down the right flank and got beat three or four times Friday. Four days later, thanks to a small tweak in the lineup, La Sele’s defense actually used Jamaica’s speed against it. The addition of Johnny Acosta to the defense, which so many fans and analysts were bemoaning before the two games, proved to be a key tool that Ramírez used to clog up Jamaica’s offense.“To have the discipline that Johnny has isn’t something that’s easy to find,” Ramírez said. “I think it’s important for the press and public to realize how important he is for us. I’m in charge of choosing the best and he’s among that top level talent we have.” Though Óscar Ramírez’s scheme gets criticized for not allowing enough offensive opportunities, difference-makers like Joel Campbell are proving they have plenty of room to make plays. Ezequiel Becerra/AFPOffensive fireworksOn offense, Costa Rica proved it can exert its will over a good defense like Jamaica, which has multiple defenders playing at the highest ranks in Europe. When they’re at their best, as they were Tuesday, it’s with the ball at the feet of their playmakers, like Joel Campbell, as well as midfielders Bryan Ruíz and Celso Borges.Ramírez said after the win that he’s heard the criticisms that his five-man backline leaves the team lacking in offensive firepower. Instead of being concerned with flashy, forward-focused play, he said, he wants to see how players gravitate to certain areas of the pitch.“It’s talked about a lot here in Costa Rica that we can’t be that offensive with just two forwards,” he said. “But with Bryan and Celso behind that line, they have this discipline where they know how to get to their spaces, which gives us something really important. Sometimes the challenge isn’t how you position these players but how they each arrive to their collective spaces.”Ramírez’s strategy, though defense-first, actually allows his top players a lot of room to operate and make plays of their own accord. Multiple times Tuesday night, it was Ruíz and Campbell who were shredding through wide gaps in the Jamaican backline and facilitating others. He talked to reporters after the game about how important it is to not just have star players who can score at any moment, but a host of key players around them who are also capable of beating a defense.“When there’s dependence on just one player to score, it makes things complicated,” he said. “But this team has multiple players who can make a difference and that’s very important.” Young defenseman Ronald Matarrita, who has started in every meaningful game under Óscar Ramírez, could be the X-factor going forward in World Cup qualifying. Ezequiel Becerra/AFPThe curious case of MatarritaOne of the biggest juxtapositions going forward is the case of Matarrita. He is an impeccable facilitator, giving Ramírez exactly the kind of sudden transition from backline to front that he is looking for. Still, the skinny 21-year-old left back has to play with more strength on defense. He gets beat too easily, which is something Jamaica took advantage of in the first game, because he’s not yet used to having to fight for space against better athletes. That’s an understandable predicament for a young player who just left the Costa Rican leagues within the past few months.He’s on his way to being a worthy successor of the current stars of this team when fixtures like Ruíz, Borges and Cristian Gamboa retire. Currently, the only medicine for him is experience and it’s hard not to think Ramírez knows that considering he’s started him in every significant game they’ve played on his watch. Matarrita is young and not as physically imposing a defender as a player like Kendall Waston. When he learns to use his speed and tenacity in a measured way, not a reactive way, then he’ll excel. Hopefully for Ramírez and Costa Rica, that evolution will happen by the summer of 2018.La Sele will be on a huge stage when the team travels to the United States in June to take part in the Copa America, one of international football’s most competitive tournaments. It will only be Costa Rica’s fifth appearance in the competition among South America’s top teams. In this year’s bracket, the special Centenario edition, they’ve drawn into the “Group of Death” again with Colombia, Paraguay, and host U.S.For La Sele’s generational squad and its unheralded coach, the tournament becomes just one more opportunity to prove how truly special they can be together. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica returns with full-strength lineup in last step toward World Cup qualifying Costa Rica seeking revenge against the United States Costa Rica humiliates the United States 4-0 in World Cup qualifier Costa Rican Men’s National Team hopes to make history again in Mexicolast_img read more

Otto becomes a Category 2 hurricane approaches Caribbean coast

first_imgRelated posts:More than 3,000 evacuees remain at shelters as rains continue over Costa Rica UPDATE: Hurricane Otto makes landfall in Costa Rica Deaths, disappearances in northern Costa Rica in aftermath of Hurricane Otto A small town unites to help Hurricane Otto victims – the Costa Rican way Facebook Comments For complete coverage, follow us on Facebook or refresh this link throughout the day on Thursday.San José awoke to light gray skies, perfectly normal for a November morning, but also the news that Hurricane Otto has become a Category 2 storm and is approaching the Caribbean coast.The National Emergency Commission (CNE) announced in a statement at 9 a.m. that the storm remains strong and is approaching Costa Rica’s coast with winds of up to 175 km (approximately 108 miles) per hour. At the time of the statement Otto was located roughly 120 km north-northeast of Limón, moving west at a speed of 15 km her hour.The CNE reported that rains are increasing gradually in the Northern Caribbean and Northern Zone, less so in the Southern Caribbean. Lighter rains are reported in the Central Valley, mountainous Pacific Regions and the Nicoya Peninsula.The center of the hurricane is expected to make landfall between 9 and 11 a.m. Heavy rainfall and moderate to strong winds are expected throughout Costa Rica, according to the CNE.The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) recommends that all residents keep in touch with their National Emergency Committees and keep up with weather reports. Boaters and swimmers in the Limón area, all those near rivers and other bodies of water, the aeronautical sector and drivers are asked to be extremely cautious.Authorities from the Juan Santamaría International Airport reported that the airport is open today, but that travelers contact their airlines directly because delays are possible.Read also: What to do as Costa Rican braces for Hurricane Otto – including how to donateNational emergency declared; public agencies to closePHOTOS: Hurricane Otto begins path of destruction through Central AmericaIf you have information, community news or photos on this developing story that you can share with us in the coming hours and days, please contact The Tico Times via Facebook or by email at kstanley@ticotimes.net.Track Hurricane Otto’s path in real time:See what people in Costa Rica are posting on social media about Otto:[View the story “#OttoCR” on Storify]last_img read more

Costa Ricas first satellite scheduled for deployment in one year

first_img Facebook Comments Recommended: From Desamparados to the stars – Costa Rican brothers shine at NASAThe quest to send Costa Rica’s first satellite into orbit entered assembly and testing stages this week.The 10-centimeter (4-inch) device, called picosatellite, is a key part of Irazú Project, a research program to conduct real-time measurements of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide fixation for climate change analysis.The Costa Rica-based Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space (ACAE) officially delivered the satellite components on Wednesday to experts of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) who will be in charge of assembling and testing the device.ACAE Vice President Carolina Fernández García told The Tico Times that the deployment is scheduled for next year.The assembly and testing stage will take six months. Then the picosatellite will be sent to Japan, where experts from the Kyushu Institute of Technology will conduct final tests for six more months before the launch takes place at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.A Japanese spacecraft will take the satellite to the International Space Station for its deployment into space, “likely at the end of the first quarter of next year,” Fernández said.Made in Costa RicaLocal engineers and technicians designed and manufactured most of the satellite’s components; some others were imported. The team in charge included 15 professors and students from TEC and from the National Training Institute (INA).ACAE officials delivered the spacecraft frame of the picosatellite on Wednesday in a special ceremony to mark the start of the assembly stage of the project.The metal frame will support the satellite’s other components: an on-board computer, communication system, power system, solar panels, a secondary computer, the payload and the antennae.Professor Adolfo Chávez Jiménez of TEC’s School of Electronic Engineering told The Tico Times that in the coming months, these components will undergo more than 30 different tests and evaluation processeses to ensure that each one complies with its assigned functions.The assembled device will also be subjected to “resistance and operation tests on environments that simulate the conditions it will face in space,” he said.The project’s total cost is of $500,000. After six years of negotiations and research, ACAE and TEC needed to obtain the final $75,000 to finance the last stages of construction, testing and deployment into space.The agencies obtained those funds through a crowdfunding campaign that surpassed the goal two days before its deadline. Just over 800 sponsors from Costa Rica and other countries donated to the campaign. A group of 15 professors and students from TEC and the National Training Institute designed and built the spacecraft frame of the picosatellite. L. Arias/The Tico TimesClimate change researchThe Irazú Project takes its name from Costa Rica’s highest volcano, located in the province of Cartago.Once in space, the small satellite will orbit Earth at a height of about 400 kilometers (249 miles) for six months. Data will be collected in Los Chiles, a mountainous area near Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua, and will be used to evaluate climate change effects on forests.TEC researchers will attach devices known as dendrometers to trees in Los Chiles in order to measure the effects of climate variations on their growth.The picosatellite will collect all data and broadcast it in real time to databases at labs at the TEC’s Cartago campus, where experts will analyse the information. Scientists aim at establishing a possible relation between the amount of CO2 from climate change and tree growth.TEC professors will also use the data in projects ranging from climate effects to numerical weather prediction. Information will be shared on a website as open data so that it can be used by researchers and students all over the world.Space industryACAE President Carlos Alvarado said in a written statement that Irazú Project represents an opportunity for the Costa Rican small and medium-sized enterprises that took part in the manufacture of the satellite’s components.Alvardo said the project demonstrates that Costa Rican talent “has the technical and professional level required at the top of the global aerospace industry.”The project also seeks to develop skills in Tico professionals and students for participation in space-related missions, he said.Watch a video explainer of the Irazú Project from the crowdfunding campaign. Related posts:Crowdfunding campaign to orbit Costa Rica’s first satellite surpasses goal Costa Rica’s first satellite project enters decisive stage Costa Rica makes nuclear fusion history with plasma discharge Franklin Chang’s VASIMR plasma engine readies for key testlast_img read more

Glance of delayed international war crimes cases

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements _Thomas Lubanga: The Congolese warlord was the first suspect to go on trial at the International Criminal Court. His case on charges of recruiting and using child soldiers was twice halted due to prosecutors not disclosing parts of their evidence against him. He was convicted in March, some six years after he was sent to the court and will be sentenced later this year.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Sponsored Stories The vital role family plays in society Comments   Share   New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family (AP) – Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s genocide trial at the U.N. Yugoslav war crimes tribunal was suspended Thursday after prosecutors mistakenly failed to turn over evidence to his defense lawyers. It was far from the first time an international trial has faced delays. Here are some other examples._Slobodan Milosevic: The trial of the former Yugoslav President on charges of masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the wars that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s dragged on for four years and was eventually aborted without verdicts when he died of a heart attack in his jail cell in 2006. The trial was repeatedly delayed by Milosevic’s ill health and propensity for grandstanding in court. Parents, stop beating yourself up _Charles Taylor: The former Liberian President fired his legal team and boycotted the start of a trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in June 2007, claiming he did not have the resources to properly defend himself. The trial got under way again in January 2008 when the first witness testified. Taylor was convicted last month of aiding and abetting murderous rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war. He will be sentenced May 30._Radovan Karadzic: The former Bosnian Serb leader also boycotted the opening of his war crimes trial in October 2009 claiming he did not have enough time to prepare his defense. Judges later ruled that Karadzic had “substantially and persistently obstructed the proper and expeditious conduct of his trial.” The first witness finally testified on April 13, 2010. Prosecutors recently finished calling witnesses and Karadzic will begin presenting his defense in October._Vojislav Seselj: The Serb ultranationalist has repeatedly delayed his case. His trial began in November 2006 in his absence because he was on hunger strike. The court then called for a fresh start after allowing Seselj to represent himself. The trial started again in November 2007 but was halted again in February 2009 amid allegations of witness intimidation by Seselj. The trial finally resumed in January 2010 and judges are still considering their verdicts _ more than nine years after Seselj surrendered to the court. New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t likelast_img read more

EU investigating alleged Kosovo mass grave fire

first_img Top Stories More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Comments   Share   PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) – The European Union mission in Kosovo says a fire severely damaged an alleged mass grave believed to contain the bodies of Serb civilians killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.An EU forensics official, Alan Robinson, said Tuesday that the fire is “a significant setback” in efforts to assess if the mining complex site contains bodies of Serb victims and that excavations have been put on hold. The mission is investigating the cause. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Robinson says in a statement that authorities fought a 12-meter (40-foot) wall of flames for over 7 hours Monday before subduing the fire. High temperatures have fanned several fires in Kosovo since last week.About 1,800 people went missing during the war that left some 10,000 dead.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Four benefits of having a wireless security system Sponsored Stories 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Centerlast_img read more

Iran clings to Asian oil market as sanctions bite

first_img Four benefits of having a wireless security system The difference between men and women when it comes to pain For Iran, however, there’s a parallel fight: Trying to keep the oil flowing to its key Asian customers, possibly through deals to sell at below-market prices.“China and India are not doing this as a favor to Iran. Quite the contrary,” said Pennsylvania-based oil trader Stephen Schork. “I am sure they are extracting a very good deal out of the Iranians. … I don’t think it’s fair to say Iran is unscathed. Certainly, they are under duress.”At the same time, the U.S. is applying relentless pressure on Iran’s big oil markets to cut back on Iranian imports. Published and anecdotal data suggest some headway by Washington, which sweetened the offer by granting the big-four Asian buyers exemptions from possible penalties in return for curbing Iranian imports.On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the exemptions would be reviewed at the end of their six-month term. “What’s important to us is … that the net flow is continuing to decrease,” she told reporters in Washington.Still, it’s clear the U.S. is unwilling to risk trade wars with key Asian trading partners, even over the showdown with Iran. Any potential economic lifelines for Iran are likely to feed into calls by Israelis favoring a military strike on Iran. At the same time, opponents of military action have become increasingly outspoken as signs point to a war footing, such as the opening of new gas mask distribution centers in the Jewish state.“Iran tries to present an image of having some kind of network of relationships with outside countries, and say they are not as vulnerable,” said Eldad Pardo, an Iranian affairs expert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But the facts on the ground show they are under a lot of pressure.”___Associated Press writers Pamela Sampson and Vijay Joshi in Bangkok, Erika Kinetz in New Delhi, Blake Sobczak in Jerusalem and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) “The U.S. needs Asia. It needs to maintain good relations. It also needs Asia as a critical partner in its efforts to pressure Iran through sanctions,” said Sami al-Faraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. “It’s a delicate process of diplomacy, incentives and alternatives.”Even fast-growing China _ which counts on Iran for about 10 percent of its energy needs _ has slightly scaled back on imports from Iran: 510,000 barrels a day in the second quarter this year, compared with 560,000 in the same period last year. But some analysts say this was more over a pricing dispute than U.S. pressure.On Tuesday, South Korea said it would resume buying Iranian oil in September after a two-month break, but at reduced levels that comply with U.S. sanctions guidelines.Cutting Iranian crude was just too big a price for South Korea, which has nearly 3,000 companies that sold $6 billion worth of goods to Iran in 2011. Iran was also the only country that supplied oil to South Korea during the 1973 oil crisis and, in return, a major downtown street in Seoul was named after the Iranian capital, Tehran.“South Korea does not want its ties with Tehran to irk the U.S., so it made great efforts to persuade the Obama administration to give it an exemption. Iran is probably the most important Middle Eastern country for South Korea, and it is very difficult for South Korea to sever its ties with Iran because it offers cheaper oil,” said Chang Byung-ock, an Iran expert at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Comments   Share   Top Stories Oil purchases by India, China and South Korea _ which decided this week to resume Iranian imports _ have not covered Tehran’s losses after it was tossed out of the European market in July. But they have given Iran a critical cushion that brings in tens of millions of dollars in revenue a day and means that Iran has dropped only one ranking, to stand as OPEC’s third-largest producer.The U.S. has pressed hard for Iran’s top customers _ China, India, Japan and South Korea _ to scale back on crude imports, with some success, offering in return exemptions from possible American penalties. But Washington cannot push its key Asian trading partners too fast or too aggressively and risk economic rifts.“Despite Western sanctions … China and Japan will remain major importers of Iranian crude oil and so will India,” said Siddak Bakir, a Middle East and South Asian analyst for IHS Energy in London.The ability of sanctions to wring concessions over Iran’s nuclear program remains a key divide between Israel and the U.S. and its European partners.Washington urges allowing more time for sanctions to eat into Iran’s economy, which depends on oil exports for 80 percent of its foreign revenue. Some Israeli leaders have indicated a military attack is a possibility if they conclude the international community has failed to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment. Iran insists it’s not seeking atomic weapons and its reactors are for energy and medical use.center_img Sponsored Stories The 27-nation EU accounted for 18 percent of Iran’s exports, or about 450,000 barrels a day. Add that to the reductions in Asia _ more than half of Iran’s oil exports before the EU sanctions _ and Iran has lost a significant, but not yet crippling, portion of its oil revenue.According to the International Energy Agency, a 28-nation group that monitors global energy trends, Iran’s crude oil production has fallen steadily since May to 2.9 million barrels a day in July, dropping Iran to the No. 3 spot behind resurgent Iraq.Meanwhile, imports of Iranian oil by major consumers plunged to 1 million barrels a day in July from 1.74 million barrels a day in June, according to an Aug. 10 report from the agency, which did not give a country-by-country breakdown.In late July _ about a month after the EU halted Iranian oil purchases _ Iran’s central bank chief, Mahmoud Bahmani, called Western sanctions akin to a “military war” that requires new economic countermeasures in return. These likely will include boosting sales of petrochemical products, such as motor oil, that are not covered by sanctions, as well as expansive diplomatic efforts to secure oil markets in China and India. The latter is set to take center stage with the Indian prime minister’s appearance at the Aug. 30-31 meeting in Tehran of the Non-Aligned Movement, a Cold War relic that Iran seeks to rebuild as a counterpoint to Western influence.India has faced a full-scale press from both sides.In May, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped in India and made repeated appeals for Iran’s No. 2 oil customer to scale back on its purchases. India has curbed some of its Iranian imports _ agreeing after Clinton’s visit to an 11 percent drop in the coming year. But there are limits to how far India can go as it struggles with a widening deficit and weak rupee, which drives up the costs of oil imports.India has joined Japan in offering government-backed insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude, to bypass European sanctions that prohibit EU companies from offering coverage. The move seeks to avoid interruptions in the Iranian oil supply, with the first shipment by a government-insured tanker scheduled to arrive in India this week.Japan was the first country to devise a workaround to the EU sanctions, passing the emergency measure in late June to avoid a disruption in critical oil supplies due to actions against Iran. Associated PressDUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – When Iran welcomes leaders to a world gathering next week, few will get a grander reception than India’s prime minister. As Tehran tries to offset the squeeze from Western oil sanctions, there is no greater priority than courting energy-hungry Asian markets.The planned visit by Manmohan Singh, the first by an Indian prime minister in more than a decade, puts into sharp relief the sanctions-easing strategies by Iran _ and the political complexities for Washington that limit its pressure on Asian powers needing Tehran’s oil. 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectlast_img read more

Rebels claim to have killed Algerian diplomat

first_imgAssociated PressBAMAKO, Mali (AP) – Members of a radical Islamic group in northern Mali are claiming to have executed one of the Algerian diplomats they kidnapped five months ago, when their fighters raided the Algerian consulate in the city of Gao.The information could not be independently verified, and the Algerian Foreign Affairs Ministry said they are investigating the rebels’ claim.Islamist leader Oumar Ould Hamaha told The Associated Press by telephone late Saturday that that the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (known by the French acronym MUJAO), had executed the diplomat in order to teach Algeria a lesson. The group had demanded that Algeria, Mali’s northern neighbor, release the members of their group who had recently been arrested. Since April, however, the unofficial line of control between the government-controlled south and the rebel-held north had not shifted. Saturday’s development indicates the Islamists may have ambitions beyond the north, which unlike the more developed south, is sparsely populated and largely comprised of desert.Asked if they planned to hold Douentza, Hamaha said: “We never retreat. Even if we don’t advance any further, we will not go backward.”However, when asked specifically if they planned to try to take Bamako, he said that they would only advance on the capital if the Malian military provokes them.“If ever the Malian military attempts to take back the north, then in less than 24 hours, we will take the quasi-totality of Bamako and the black flag of the Islamists will fly over Koulouba,” he said, mentioning the name of the presidential palace in Mali’s capital.___Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal and Aomar Ouali in Algiers contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   “We did this so that Algeria learns a lesson and understands that when we give an ultimatum, they need to take us seriously,” said Hamaha. “And so that other countries know that when give an ultimatum in regards to their hostages, they need to act.”In Algeria, the ministry said Sunday that a press release written by the MUJAO announcing the execution “is currently the subject of testing needed to ensure its authenticity.”In a statement released through the official Algerian news agency APS, the ministry was quoted as saying that the families of the hostages in northern Mali had met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ secretary general on Saturday morning “who reminded them specifically that contact with the kidnappers was not broken. “The ministry added that the crisis “is being dealt with openly and (we) will not fail to inform the families and the public of any new national development.”MUJAO is a relatively new group active in the deserts of northern Mali, but they are known to be allied with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, the local al-Qaida franchise which has kidnapped over 50 foreigners since 2003, most of whom were released in exchange for hefty ransoms. AQIM has, however, executed a few of the hostages, including a British man, as well as an elderly French national. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Saturday MUJAO seized control of the strategic town of Douentza, significantly increasing the territory held by Islamist extremists and moving much closer to government-held territory in central Mali.Early Saturday morning, a convoy of pickup trucks carrying bearded men entered Douentza, located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast of the capital, Bamako. While far from the capital, Douentza is only 120 miles (190 kilometers) from Mopti, which marks the line-of-control held by the Malian military.The Malian military lost control of the northern half of the country in April, including Douentza. But until now, the Islamists didn’t control the town either, relying instead on an agreement with the local militia, which patrolled the area.Until March, Mali was considered one of the most stable countries in the region, with a 20-year history of holding democratic elections. That changed in a matter of hours on March 21, when renegade soldiers overthrew the elected government, installing themselves as the new leaders by the next morning. The coup plunged the nation into disarray, providing an opening for the Islamists in Mali’s far north.The extremists have since made huge gains, taking the entire northern half of Mali, including Timbuktu, and causing some 440,000 people to flee, according to the United Nations. How do cataracts affect your vision? Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizonacenter_img Top Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milklast_img read more

US military behind Africa news websites

first_img“The fact that we have seen an increase in website traffic is good news alone. The website’s readers provide a significant number of comments on a regular basis, which often reflect their growing frustration and anger with extremist organizations in the region. Those comments are one indicator of a positive effect,” Africom said.Seth Jones, the associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation think tank in Washington, said a significant part of the struggle with extremist groups like al-Shabab is ideological and is a battle for the hearts and minds of local populations.“Based on this reality, the U.S. and other governments should be involved in countering extremist messages on websites and other forms of social media. After all, every Arab government provides substantial money to television, radio, print media, and Internet sites,” Jones said.“They key question for the United States is gauging whether locals view these kinds of news sites as legitimate sources of information and read them. If not, it’s worth asking: Is the United States getting a bang for its buck?”___On the Internet: Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Recent headlines on sabahionline.com show a breadth of seemingly even-handed news. “Death toll in ambush on Kenyan police rises to 31,” one headline said. “Ugandan commander visits troops in Somalia,” another reads.Web ads for the site appear on occasion on mainstream websites such as YouTube, and they show a clear anti-terror slant. Ads showing men on the ground blindfolded or Somalia’s best known American jihadi, Omar Hammami, entice web users to click. They then access a headline like: “Somalis reject al-Zawahiri’s call for violence,” referring to the leader of al-Qaida.The site, which launched in February, is slowly attracting readers. The military said that Sabahi averages about 4,000 unique visitors and up to 10,000 articles read per day. The site clearly says under the “About” section that it is run by the U.S. military, but many readers may not go to that link.Abdirashid Hashi, a Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group, said he has read articles on Sabahi, mostly because of advertisements on other Somali websites, but he also didn’t realize it was funded by the U.S. He said he has no issues with the U.S. government running a news site. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Associated PressNAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The website’s headlines trumpet al-Shabab’s imminent demise and describe an American jihadist fretting over insurgent infighting. At first glance it appears to be a sleek, Horn of Africa news site. But the site _ sabahionline.com _ is run by the U.S. military.The site, and another one like it that centers on northwest Africa, is part of a propaganda effort by the U.S. military’s Africa Command aimed at countering extremists in two of Africa’s most dangerous regions _ Somalia and the Maghreb. Comments   Share   Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, said Sabahi is the first website he’s seen devoted to countering the militants’ message.“We have seen portal services by al-Shabab for hate and for propaganda, for spreading violence. We are used to seeing that. In contrast we have not seen such news sites before. So it is something completely unique,” Osman said.But although he had noticed prominent articles on the site, which is advertising heavily on other websites, he had not realized it was bankrolled by U.S. military.The U.S. military and State Department, a partner on the project, say the goal of the sites is to counter propaganda from extremists “by offering accurate, balanced and forward-looking coverage of developments in the region.”“The Internet is a big place, and we are one of many websites out there. Our site aims to provide a moderate voice in contrast to the numerous violent extremist websites,” Africom, as the Stuttgart, Germany-based Africa Command is known, said in a written statement.Al-Shabab and other militants have for years used websites to trade bomb-making skills, to show off gruesome attack videos and to recruit fighters. The U.S. funded websites _ which are available in languages like Swahili, Arabic and Somali _ rely on freelance writers in the region. Somalia news site: http://sabahionline.com/en_GBMaghreb news site: http://magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/homepage Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home “I don’t think they hide it. That’s up there. There’s an information war going on, so I don’t have any problem with that,” Hashi said.Osman said the articles on Sabahi are accurate and professional. But he said he feared that militants could attack writers who work for the site. Eighteen Somalis who work with media outlets have been killed this year, often in targeted killings.Somali writers “can lose their life for working for this kind of a news outlet because of the extremists who target any critical voice or news service,” Osman said. “The other issue is professionalism, because if someone is intimidated and is threatened all the time then he or she is reduced to self-censorship. He or she would be afraid if he files some important news that he would be targeted.”The military said there are nine writers who work for Sabahi from Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Somalia. The other site _ magharebia.com _ concentrates on Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania.Africom says the websites are part of a larger project that costs $3 million to pay for reporting, editing, translating, publishing, IT costs and overhead. It believes the project is paying dividends. (Copyright 2012 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 helplast_img read more

Iran official says oil contracts to be revised

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Quick workouts for men Mills added that the way buybacks were typically structured also gave companies little protection against cost overruns, meaning that any unexpected snags came out of their pockets. “It’s all downside and no upside,” he said.Hosseini said parliament has already approved the use of what are known as production sharing agreements, or PSAs, for deep-water projects and oil and gas fields shared with neighboring countries.Under PSAs, foreign investors are allowed to use money from oil produced from the projects to recover their costs, and then share the rest of the income from the field with the government.Western sanctions put in place in 2012 over Iran’s disputed nuclear program have choked oil exports to around 1 million barrels per day. Iran has vowed to raise production to 4 million barrels per day within six months of sanctions being lifted, up from about 2.7 million barrels now.The country relies on oil exports for roughly 80 percent of its foreign revenue and some 50 percent of its annual budget.The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities have peaceful purposes like power generation and medical treatment. Top Stories TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran said Sunday it plans to introduce a new generation of oil contracts by June that promise to be more attractive to foreign investors as it seeks to significantly boost production should international sanctions hobbling its vital energy industry be lifted.The new terms being developed signal the OPEC member’s eagerness to attract outside expertise and capital, and are a response to oil and gas companies’ frustration with earlier terms that they felt offered little upside reward. 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   Mahdi Hosseini, head of the contract revision committee in the Petroleum Ministry, told reporters that the new terms are being designed for a post-sanction era and aimed to better align Tehran’s needs with the interests of international investors. He said officials were seeking a “win-win” setup that would better balance companies’ risks with rewards.Iran currently allows foreign oil companies to operate under what are known as “buybacks,” which Hosseini acknowledged have drawn complaints about cost from oil companies.Under that system, the contractor pays to develop a given oil field in exchange for a pre-agreed rate of return over a certain period of time. The contractor transfers operation of the field to Iran once work is done and typically does not have a long-term stake in the fields.Iran began revising the contract terms in October. Hosseini said the new model being developed aims to ensure long-term cooperation with outside investors and that the committee has consulted international companies on the new version of the contract.Iran needs some $150 billion in investment for its energy sector over the next five years, he said.Tehran has not provided details on the exact shape of the new contracts that could be offered, but they stop short of transferring ownership of the fields themselves, Hosseini said. The government is banned from giving such concessions under Iran’s constitution. Sponsored Stories Further details will be presented at a conference later this month, though the proposed changes must still be approved by the Cabinet and other decision-making bodies.Oil companies aren’t enthusiastic about buybacks because they offer no upside if prices rise or if the companies exceed their production targets, according to analysts Cliff Kupchan and Greg Priddy at the U.S.-based consulting firm Eurasia Group.“Even if sanctions were lifted, buybacks would remain a significant deterrent to development of the energy sector,” they wrote recently.Buybacks are also unattractive to oil majors that prefer to lock in long-term agreements where they can book the reserves in the fields they develop or at least operate them for terms stretching for a decade or more.“The oil companies feel they add most value in the operating phase” rather than in the drilling and set-up of wells, said Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy Consulting & Project Management in Dubai. They prefer contracts that reward them with incentives for hitting certain targets, he said.“Under the Iranian system, you have no incentive to go even one barrel over what you’ve promised. Which means you’re trying to follow a very conservative develop plan,” he said. Iran in November signed a deal with world powers agreed to stop some controversial nuclear activities in exchange for limited relief from sanctions targeting sectors including its oil exports. Negotiations on a final deal are to begin this month.___Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Centerlast_img read more

Pension pinch Elderly Greeks stand on line to get cash

first_imgThe manager of National Bank of Greece branch asks from the pensioners to stay calm at they wait to enter the building in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Pensioners are the forgotten victims of the Greek crisis. Their monthly payments have been cut in recent years, and since many lack bank cards they were totally cut off from their funds until Wednesday’s special bank sessions allowed them partial access. (AP Photo/Spyros Tsakiris) New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. “I’m furious,” the retired builder said. “Before these new controls, my wife and I could live easily. Now I’m anxious about money. And Europe wants to cut my pension still more. I am sure that we are dead as a country.”He started off angry, but soon began to cry — not because of financial woes, but because his treasured Sunday family lunches, a hallowed Greek tradition, have turned into shouting matches between him and his children over the left-wing Syriza government’s policy.Greece’s 5-year crisis has deepened this week after it failed to repay 1.6 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund. It has called a referendum Sunday on whether to accept the austerity package demanded by its creditors in exchange for more aid.The nation’s 2.6 million pensioners have been hit particularly hard. Since many retirees like Kotaras lack bank cards, the capital controls — which included the closure of all banks — cut them off entirely from their funds until special bank sessions beginning Wednesday gave them partial access.Even then, they had to stand in line to get numbers that allowed them to stand in line a second time to be admitted to the bank lobbies. Police stood guard, and bank officials sometimes helped those using walkers or wheelchairs to get in and out more quickly. Many pensioners can pay just enough of their electric bills to avoid having their service cut, said Eleni Loukissa, 64, who retired from a dental office. She has a bank card, allowing her more access to money than some others, but is still very worried.She goes to the cash machine every morning as soon as she wakes up to withdraw 60 euros, the maximum allowed. She is stockpiling the cash in her apartment in the northern suburb Agia Paraskevi.“I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so instead of having coffee with my friends I go to the ATM,” she said. “Everyone waiting in line is angry.”Her cash machine has run out of 20-euro bills, so instead of getting three 20s each morning, she gets a single 50.Loukissa said she had expected her retirement to be “calm and beautiful,” but instead she and her friends are consumed by fear.“I’m very depressed,” she said. “Normally I’m a very positive person and I don’t want fear to get the better of me. I’m trying not to deal with people who are more depressed than me. I try not to watch TV news because their mood is that the catastrophe is already here and that we are done.” Sponsored Stories ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Don’t mention the golden years to Michaelis Kotaras. Not after the 78-year-old got up early Wednesday to stand in line, twice, outside the National Bank of Greece for the privilege of going inside to withdraw 120 euros ($134,) less than a quarter of his monthly pension.He emerged with the cash, but without any certainty about when (or whether) he will be able to access the rest of his payment, which has been repeatedly slashed as Greece imposed austerity upon austerity. Since he doesn’t have a bank card, he can’t use the ATMs that are the only source of limited cash for most Greeks this week after the country imposed capital controls to prevent a run on banks. Comments   Share   Quick workouts for mencenter_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security system Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Top holiday drink recipes Then came yet another hurdle: Banks announced hours before they reopened that customers would be served alphabetically. That led to confusion at the roughly 1,000 branches that opened, with many retirees waiting for hours only to be told they would have to come back Thursday or Friday.Others were told their pensions had not yet been deposited and they would have to return once they have been.Many who made it through said they were getting money “just in case,” — a catchall phrase reflecting a strong shared sense that the Greek financial roller coaster has not yet come to a halt.“The way they treat us is very bad,” said 71-year-old Georgios Petropoulos. “I’m a citizen. I worked for 48 years. I want to take my pension whenever I want. Instead I got 120 euros and they said I might get another 120 euros next week — perhaps.”It is the uncertainty that is galling many retired Greeks who had counted on secure pensions to keep them in rent, groceries and a few of life’s pleasures in their retirement years.Creditors are demanding a toughening up of Greece’s formerly generous pension system, which remains a major financial burden for the government even after earlier Greek administrations agreed to substantial reductions in payments.last_img read more

Seabourn Wins Worlds Best Award

first_imgThe Yachts of Seabourn has been awarded top honours by the readers of America’s prestigious Travel + Leisure magazine, who have voted it the World’s Best Small-Ship Cruise Line. The 2010 accolade, awarded as part of Travel + Leisure’s annual ‘World’s Best’ readers poll, saw Seabourn’s luxury fleet of five intimate all-suite vessels successfully outscore all ocean-going cruise lines regardless of size. Seabourn also won the award in 2006, 2007 and 2009.“We are always gratified when our guests make the effort to award this honor to the staff on board our yachts,” said The Yachts of Seabourn President and CEO Pamela Conover. “I always tell them they are the best, but I know it means so much more coming from the guests themselves,” Ms Conover added.Travel + Leisure readers voted on various aspects of each cruise line, with the total scores of votes then tabulated to reveal a winner. Since 2009 The Yachts of Seabourn has debuted two of three ultra-luxurious vessels to be introduced by the cruise line in a three-year period, including the 450-guest Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn, which will visit Australia in early February 2011 as part of her 111-day World Cruise. The third sister, Seabourn Quest, will join the fleet in June 2011.  Source = The Yachts of Seabourn <a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/29399/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&amp;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a>last_img read more