Club Meds Time to Shine sale offers bonus perks with packages

first_imgClub Med’s ‘Time to Shine’ sale offers bonus perks with packages << Previous PostNext Post >> Posted by Tags: Club Med Travelweek Group center_img TORONTO — Club Med’s ‘Time to Shine’ sale offers seven-night air-inclusive stays at prices starting at CAD$1,649 per adult, per week, with additional perks.Perks include free upgrades, free first checked luggage, no single supplement, and free stay for kids under four years old.Book before March 1 for travel between Jan. 13 and Aug. 26, 2017.Club Med is also reminding agents that its call center in Canada is now open on Sundays. Hours of operation are: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.For more details go to Monday, January 16, 2017 Sharelast_img read more

Canadian privacy to be compromised US plans to demand phone passwords

first_imgTags: America, Donald Trump, Security << Previous PostNext Post >> OTTAWA — Canadian privacy could be imperilled by apparent U.S. plans to demand cellphone and social media passwords from foreign visitors, a federal watchdog says.In a letter to the House of Commons public safety committee, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien warns the recent pronouncements from the Trump administration could mean intrusive searches – even at preclearance facilities in Canada.In February, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested at a hearing that American officials could ask people entering the U.S. about the Internet sites they visit as well as passwords to help assess their online activities.Kelly’s proposal prompted an American coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations and experts in security, technology and the law to express “deep concern.”The Wall Street Journal reported last month that visitors to the U.S. could be forced to provide cellphone contacts and social-media passwords.Currently, passengers flying to American cities through eight major Canadian airports can be precleared there by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.More news:  Can you guess the top Instagrammed wedding locations in the world?The Commons public safety committee is studying legislation that would expand preclearance operations.Under the bill, U.S. searches at preclearance facilities would be governed by Canadian law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.But Therrien says those protections appear to be hollow because they could not be enforced in court due to immunity provisions that significantly limit access to civil remedies for the actions of U.S. border officers carrying out preclearance duties.In many situations, Therrien says in the letter, “it would appear that Canadians who wish to enter the U.S. will, at preclearance locations in Canada as well as at border points in the U.S., have to face the difficult choice of either accepting a search without grounds or forgoing their wish to travel to the U.S.”Under long-standing plans, preclearance is being expanded to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport, as well as for rail service in Montreal and Vancouver.More news:  Canada raises travel warning amid escalating protests in Hong KongIn March, Canada and the U.S. agreed to bring preclearance to other, unspecified locations.The Liberal government says the preclearance arrangements would strengthen security and prosperity while ensuring respect for the sovereignty of both countries.Efforts to move people and goods across the 49th parallel more quickly and efficiently have unfolded against a backdrop of uncertainty following Donald Trump’s election in November.The Nexus trusted-traveller cards of about 200 Canadian permanent residents were suddenly cancelled after Trump issued an executive immigration order banning visitors from several largely Muslim countries.There have also been reports of minorities from Canada being turned away at the U.S. border. Canadian privacy to be compromised? U.S. plans to demand phone passwords By: Jim Bronskill Source: The Canadian Press Tuesday, May 30, 2017 Sharelast_img read more

Ocean cruising surpassed projections in 2017 says CLIA

first_imgTags: CLIA Posted by Share Travelweek Group WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was another positive year for the cruise industry, one that surpassed passenger projections with increased numbers across the board, says CLIA.According to updated global cruise industry numbers, 2017 saw significant ocean cruise passenger growth, reaching 26.7 million cruise passengers globally, up from a projection of 25.8 million. For 2018, based on the new vessel launch schedule and expected regional deployment, CLIA is projecting another positive year-over-year growth for the industry with a passenger forecast of 28 million.“Once again, the cruise industry has raised the bar and exceeded projections and expectations,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA. “I am proud to be a part of this dynamic industry that continues to grow and evolve bringing the cruise vacation experience to millions each year.”Domestically, the U.S. and Canada saw an impressive ocean passenger growth last year, with a 5% increase over the prior year. North America also represented the largest ocean passenger volume in 2017 (49%) with more than 13 million ocean cruise passengers, followed by Europe (26%) with nearly seven million ocean cruise passengers.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youthNew analytics also reveal the average age of global ocean passengers last year was 47 years old. These passengers also preferred cruising for an average of 7.2 days, 2% lower than the average cruise length in 2016.center_img Ocean cruising surpassed projections in 2017, says CLIA << Previous PostNext Post >> Thursday, May 24, 2018 last_img read more

Flair pulls out of Hamilton amid increased competition

first_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Flair Airlines, Toronto Pearson Airport, WestJet Swoop Tuesday, August 7, 2018 Posted bycenter_img Flair pulls out of Hamilton amid “increased competition” Travelweek Group TORONTO — Facing increased competition from Swoop, Flair Airlines has announced that it will stop serving Hamilton International Airport and add more flights to Toronto Pearson.The Kelowna-based discount carrier said Friday that it will end all service to Hamilton on Oct. 27 as it prepares to unveil its first flights to the U.S.Routes to Winnipeg and Edmonton will be transferred to Canada’s largest airport. Daily flights from Toronto to Winnipeg will launch as part of Flair’s October-April service, reports CBC. The airline will also add new daily flights between Calgary and Abbotsford, B.C., as well as resume seasonal service to Victoria and Halifax next spring.Flair is expected to announce its first service to the U.S. next week, with flights to six destinations starting in December.The decision to leave Hamilton after two years comes a couple of months after WestJet Airlines launched Swoop, its ultra low-cost subsidiary, that flies from Hamilton to Abbotsford, B.C., Edmonton, Alta and Halifax. It is also recently announced the launch of U.S. service as part of its 2018/2019 winter schedule to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa Bay.More news:  Flights cancelled as British Airways hit by computer problemFlair spokeswoman Julie Rempel says the privately-owned airline determined that the market size of the Hamilton area and increased competition from Swoop made Pearson a better option.With file from The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Costa Rica announces trade agreements with Colombia and European association

first_imgPresident Laura Chinchilla announced that Costa Rica and Colombia will begin negotiations on a free trade agreement expected to be signed later this year.On Tuesday morning, the president said in a press conference that negotiations will start June 15, when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visits Costa Rica.According to Chinchilla, the agreement is the only requirement Costa Rica lacks to become a full member of the Pacific Alliance, a group that promotes the growth, development and competitiveness of member countries.The president also said Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama and the countries of the European Free Trade Association on Wednesday will begin their second round of negotiations for signing a free trade agreement in Panama City. The first meeting with the association, formed by Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, was in March. The third round of negotiations will be held in Costa Rica at a date to be decided in coming days.Costa Rica seeks to complement the association agreement between Central America and the European Union, whose signature is scheduled for June 29 in Honduras. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Ticos increasingly worried about crime report says

first_imgNo related posts. Half of all Costa Ricans say they are worried about street crime, despite this country being one of the safest in Central America, according to a survey by the United Nations Development Program’s Latin American Opinion Project (UNDP-LAOP).Murder rates in Costa Rica have picked up in 2013 after showing a decline in 2012. The Judicial Investigation Police reported that one person dies every 24 hours in the country and that 300 homicides were committed between January and October of 2013. Most killings were related to robberies, but 60 were linked to organized crime.Costa Rica’s murder rate had decreased by 15 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, but new statistics show it is increasing this year.Costa Rica was one of the few countries in the region – along with Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador – where murder rates were decreasing.“Latin America is the most unequal and most insecure region in the world, despite showing economic growth and social improvements,” the U.N.’s report, “Citizen Security with a Human Face,” noted.Crime and violence cost Costa Rica about 2.5 percent, or $915 million, of the country’s gross domestic product in 2010, the report said. Honduras, the most violent country in the world outside of combat zones, incurs the highest cost of crime and violence as a percentage of its GDP, at 10.5 percent, or $1.7 billion.Crime contributes to public expenditures on health care and law enforcement, and affects private investment, the report noted. For example, Costa Rica has the sixth largest number of private security guards in the region, totaling 500 per 100,000 people. Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil have more than 800 private security guards per 100,000.Also, one-third of Costa Ricans reported to the LAOP survey that they have restricted their entertainment options due to a perceived lack of public security.One in five Costa Ricans said organized crime and drug trafficking are a major threat to public safety. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Get your tickets for the Costa Rica national teams final home game

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica to play Japan in World Cup warm-up in the United States Report: Costa Rica, Ghana to face off in international friendly in Los Angeles Joel Campbell among Costa Rican stars playing in World Cup warm-up against Paraguay next Wednesday 7 burning questions for Costa Rica before tonight’s key friendly against Paraguay Here’s your one chance to watch Costa Rica’s national team play a home game before the World Cup. La Sele takes on Paraguay in a friendly at the National Stadium in western San José on March 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets went on sale this week.Prices for the match range from ₡10,000 ($20) to ₡40,000 ($80). Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 2528-8778.Costa Rica has looked miserable in its World Cup warm-ups so far. The team has lost its three friendlies by a combined score of 0-6. But those matches have been played mainly by reserve players, and all took place on the road. Many of Costa Rica’s stars should be suiting up for the Paraguay match, including goalie Keylor Navas who’s breaking records over in Spain’s professional league.The Ticos still have one or two more friendlies to go, but the remaining matches will occur in the United States. Costa Rica has scheduled a showdown against Japan in a yet-to-be-named city in Florida on June 2 and a tentative match against Ghana in Los Angeles at a yet-to-be-determined date in late May. However, Ghana announced last week that it might cancel its match against Costa Rica in favor of more practice.Although Paraguay made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2010, the team failed to reach Brazil and finished last among South American teams during qualifying rounds. Therefore, Costa Rica’s top talent will have a strong opportunity to prove itself against a weak South American squad.Costa Rica and Paraguay last met in 2010 in a friendly in Asunción. Paraguay, fresh off its impressive World Cup showing, defeated Costa Rica, 2-0. Costa Rica did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Why Juan Carlos had to go

first_imgRelated posts:40 years after Franco’s death, Spanish families look for stolen babies Out with the old, say lots of Spanish voters Ukraine crisis escalates as US, Europe hit Russians with sanctions Costa Rica calls for 100 countries to ban cluster bombs WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though technically unrelated, an electoral landslide, a death and an abdication all in the past few months seem together to mark the final end of an era in Spanish politics that began with the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.This week’s news is that 76-year-old King Juan Carlos has abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe. It’s been a rough few years for the Spanish monarchy. In 2012, the king provoked the ire of the austerity-wracked Spanish public, rare criticism from the traditionally deferential Spanish media, and outrage from animal lovers with a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in the company of German aristocrat Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, his frequent traveling companion.His daughter Cristina has been the subject of a criminal investigation – the first time that’s ever happened to a member of the royal family – in connection with her husband’s business dealings. The popularity of the monarchy has fallen to an all-time low, making the abdication a smart political move: Crown Prince Felipe and his wive Letizia Ortiz have been relatively untouched by the scandals and are among the more popular royals.The ignoble end of Juan Carlos’ reign may detract from a fairly impressive legacy as the leader who confounded the expectations of critics by supporting the country’s peaceful transition to democracy.Juan Carlos took the throne in 1975 after the death of Franco, who had groomed him for the position. While he had made some perfunctory statements about democracy as king-in-waiting, he was expected by many to keep ruling in the Francoist mold.The first sign that he had something else in mind came in his coronation speech when he promised to be “king of all Spaniards, without exception” – seemingly an effort to paper over the divisions that had been present in society since the Civil War.In 1976, he surprised many by selecting a young relatively unknown bureaucrat named Adolfo Suárez as prime minister.A mild-mannered conservative Catholic from Franco’s party, Suárez seemed like any unlikely reformer, but in the 11 months that followed, he – with royal support – “abolished the National Movement, legalized political parties including the Communist Party, legalized trade unions, abolished the largely appointed parliament, allowed freedom of speech and assembly in an electoral campaign, and convoked partisan elections.” He became Spain’s first elected prime minister after Franco when elections were held in 1977.On March 23, he passed away, a little more than two months before the king who had appointed him left the throne.Spain is still a rare example of a country that transitioned from dictatorship to democracy without violence or revolt, but it was a fragile dangerous transition, threatened by both right-wing and left-wing terrorism as well as the remnants of Franco’s military leadership. In 1981, a coup by right-wing military officers threatened to overthrow Suarez’s government, and the king’s televised speech condemning “any actions or attitudes by persons who intend to interrupt the democratic process by force,” deflated the coup and was one probably the high-point of his reign.Spain’s transition to democracy left a lot of unfinished business. Most of the crimes of the Franco era went unpunished – and there are still consequences for those who look too closely into them – but it’s also not hard to imagine a scenario under which the country tipped back into dictatorship or Civil War.But as both these figures leave the stage, the political order they helped build also shows signs of unraveling. Since 1977, Spain has been, for the most part, a two-party state. The Socialist Party has represented the center left, while since the late 1980s the People’s Party, and before that the Democratic Center have represented the center right.Last week, both parties were punished at the polls in European elections, taking less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time since the return to democracy.It’s a mistake to read too much into European elections – populations tend to use them to register protest votes and then drift back to mainstream candidates for national elections – but the numbers here are particularly dramatic. It also seems significant that voters seem to have drifted more toward the anti-austerity leftist Podemos Party – an outgrowth of the indignados protests that pre-dated the rise of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, rather than the kind of right-wing anti-immigrant parties that made gains in many other European countries. The country’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 26 percent, 55 for youth.On top of that, Catalonia is experiencing a new wave of nationalism, with independence parties pushing for a referendum this fall.Thankfully, after 35 years, Spain’s democracy doesn’t seem to be under threat, and Juan Carlos clearly deserves some credit for the fact that we can take that for granted today.But even if for no other reason than symbolizing a new start, the king’s exit seems like a welcome move for Spain as well as the House of Bourbon. As for Juan Carlos’ own legacy, he probably should have done this five years ago. If anything, his decline from respected national institution to embarrassment is a pretty good argument for not having rulers-for-life.Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics. He was previously an editor at Foreign Policy magazine.© 2014, Slate Facebook Commentslast_img read more

The military powers behind Guatemalas comedian presidential frontrunner

first_imgGUATEMALA CITY – Later this month, a comedian with curious allies could become president of Guatemala. On Oct. 25, Jimmy Morales, a widely popular entertainer, will face off in a runoff election for the Central American country’s presidency against populist former first lady Sandra Torres.The Guatemalan electorate surprised political observers on Sept. 6 by voting in large numbers for Morales, an unlikely presidential candidate who had trailed in the polls throughout the campaign. While he was unable to obtain a majority vote needed to win the election outright, Morales won nearly 25 percent of the votes, more than any other candidate.Morales rapidly gained popularity in the weeks before the election as the country reeled from a corruption scandal that implicated top-ranking government officials, including former President Otto Pérez Molina, who is now in jail awaiting trial. Voters see Morales as a candidate who might be a change from Guatemala’s status quo corruption.While the popular comedian might be a new face in national politics, his principal backers have had a long and, at times, bloody presence in Guatemala’s political history. Morales’ party, the National Convergence Front (FCN-Nación), was founded by former members of the Guatemalan armed forces. As the country still struggles to distance itself from its militarized past, some say a Morales presidency would be more of the same.Rosita Ceseña from Guatemala City told The Tico Times that she voted for Morales because he was the least-bad choice among the candidates. “None of the candidates are the best option,” she said. “[Morales’s] party, FCN, was founded by military men and that is something that Guatemala doesn’t want,” she conceded.Still, she said, “I believe that Guatemala has its back against the wall. We are in a very complicated situation.”See also: In Guatemala, anti-establishment presidential candidate benefits from corruption scandals Supporters of Guatemalan presidential candidate for the National Front of Convergence party (FCN), Jimmy Morales, attend a campaign rally, at Mataquescuintla municipality, Jalapa department, 110 km southwest of Guatemala City on Aug. 28, 2015. Orlando Estrada/AFPNot quite a noviceMorales is beloved across Guatemala as a funny guy. He starred along with his brother, Sammy, in “Moralejas,” a long-running comedy show that branched into a locally-successful film franchise and live act. In one of the Moralejas shows featuring the characters “Nito y Neto,” the presidential hopeful played “Neto,” a campesino who winds up becoming president.During his campaign Morales promoted himself as a political outsider, playing off the Guatemalan electorate’s deep suspicion of the entire electoral structure. Yet, his claim to political innocence has a few caveats.According to a spokesman for Morales’ political party, FCN-Nación, the comedian had been considering a presidential run since 2004.In 2011, Morales ran for mayor of Mixco, a suburb of Guatemala City, as the candidate for the National Development Action (ADN) party. But he lost to the son of ex-President Otto Pérez Molina. Morales was then elected general secretary of FCN-Nación in 2013, and soon after he was declared the party’s presidential candidate.Orlando J. Pérez, a professor at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, called Morales’ involvement with the party “a marriage of opportunity.” Pérez, who is assistant dean of the university’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, has spent his career studying Central American militaries.“Morales saw the party as a vehicle for his own ambition, and the party saw Morales as a new fresh face that they could use as a means to power,” he told The Tico Times.Since the country signed Peace Accords in 1996, ending a 36-year, bloody civil war, Guatemala’s entrenched military powers have maintained a strong yet, arguably, waning role in government.Former general and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1981-1982), who’s accused of committing genocide during his rule, served as a member of congress for 16 years, from 1996 to 2012 — four of them as president. The recently-resigned President Pérez Molina was a military subordinate of Ríos Montt, and has also been accused of war crimes during his time in the military and as an intelligence officer in the 1980s.Pérez Molina was elected largely for his tough-on-crime platform, bolstered by his military background. Guatemala suffers some of the highest crime rates in the world. Now the former general faces prison for alleged corruption.Though Morales is better known as a comedian than a military strategist, he has a master’s degree in security and defense from the private Mariano Gálvez University in Guatemala and a doctorate in strategic security from the public University of Guatemala San Carlos (USAC), according to his official bio.Publicly, the Morales campaign promises to review Guatemala’s institutions and reform the ones that are not functioning correctly. The campaign specifically mentions security as one of the areas needing the greatest reform.What role Morales will play in the security realm remains a question.“The question is which Morales will emerge?” professor Pérez said. “Will it be the military side or the new face of politics?” Mayan Ixil people attend the burial of victims of Guatemala’s 1982 civil war massacre, in Nebaj, Quiché. According to a report backed by the United Nations, the civil war in Guatemala (1960-96) left 200,000 dead and disappeared, and 669 massacres were carried out, most of which – 626 – were the state’s security forces responsibility. Johan Ordóñez/AFPA new face for the old guard?Morales’ party, FCN-Nación, was founded in 2007 by members of the Association of Military Veterans of Guatemala (AVEMILGUA), according to a 2012 report by Guatemala’s Association of Investigation and Social Studies (ASIES). (At the time the party was known only as FCN. Later, when Morales and his cohorts joined the campaign, the name was changed to FCN-Nación.)AVEMILGUA is made up of former military generals, many of whom served during the country’s internal armed conflict. The army is accused — and some former officers have been tried and convicted — of brutal repression against leftist rebels and the general populace during the conflict, particularly indigenous people.AVEMILGUA still has significant influence in national politics, most recently through FCN-Nación.“The AVEMILGUA is a very powerful organization within the military and within the military circles,” Pérez told The Tico Times.Some political observers and human rights groups fear that a win for Morales could lead to setbacks in democratic reforms and in efforts to serve justice for crimes committed during the civil war.More than 200,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared during the conflict. According to a United Nations-backed truth commission, 93 percent of all human rights violations during the war were carried out by the military and paramilitary groups. The U.N. commission found the guerrillas responsible for 3 percent of wartime violations.Ex-dictator Ríos Montt and his former intelligence chief José Rodríguez are currently facing trial for genocide in the wartime killing of 1,771 Ixil Maya indigenous people in the country’s north. Ríos Montt was already convicted once, in 2013, but the trial was annulled on a technicality and a new trial was ordered. (Rodríguez was acquitted but he also faces a retrial.)AVEMILGUA maintains that Ríos Montt won a legitimate war against leftist guerrillas in the Ixil region and that no genocide took place. The group has actively protested the trial against Ríos Montt.“Most of them [the high ranking military veterans] are not ashamed of what they did,” professor Pérez told The Tico Times. “They believe deeply that they were fighting for the country, and fighting against communism.”It’s not entirely clear to what degree Morales shares AVEMILGUA’s view of the country’s tumultuous recent past. He told Guatemala’s Canal Antigua on June 1 that he didn’t think genocide had been committed during the war, but he did think crimes against humanity had been committed. A campaign spokesman said the party had no official position on the matter. Mayan Ixil people hold a portrait of Miguel Marcos, one of the victims of Guatemala’s 1982 civil war massacre, in Nebaj, Quiché. Johan Ordóñez/AFPMorales’ FCN colleaguesSome members of AVEMILGUA, and subsequently several of FCN-Nacíon’s founders, have been linked to alleged war crimes.Retired Col. Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, a founding member of AVEMILGUA, was elected to the Guatemalan Congress for the FCN-Nación party in September. In the wake of his political success, Ovalle’s wartime history has resurfaced.Ovalle was stationed in some of the bloodiest regions of the country during some of the bloodiest years of the war. He was head of operations for the Ixil Task Force between 1981 and 1982, a time of mass murders — mostly carried out by the army — of Maya Ixil indigenous people. This period, in this region, is the focus of the genocide charges against Ríos Montt.Ovalle then served as Operations Officer at the military base in Cobán, east of the Ixil area, for three months in 1983, according to an investigation published by Guatemalan daily elPeriódico in June 2012. The report detailed the discovery of the remains of hundreds of people in mass graves in Chicoyou, within the Cobán Military Zone. The bodies, assumed to be of suspected guerrilla forces from the 1980s, showed signs of torture.In an interview with elPeriódico, Ovalle said the situation was “very delicate” and that he knew nothing about the bodies that were discovered.Other FCN-Nación founders, Luis Felipe Miranda Trejo and José Luis Quilo Ayuso, both served in some of the more notorious military departments in the 1980s. Each also served in areas where mass graves were later discovered.Still, the Morales campaign denies significant involvement with the military, and claims that only Ovalle remains of the original military founders.“They [Quilo and Miranda] are no longer in the party, nor have they been during this whole process we [the Jimmy Morales group] have been working on,” the campaign spokesman told The Tico Times.Luis Solano, investigative journalist with a specialty in Guatemalan history, was more skeptical about the resignation of the two founding members.“Given the recent past of FCN, and those who are the principal public figures of this party, one can conclude that a relationship continues to exist between the military founders and other members high in the army or retired,” Solano told The Tico Times. “The military character of FCN has not disappeared.”Morales has acknowledged Ovalle’s ties to the military but said that all parties in Guatemala have military connections.“I believe that there is not a single party that can say that it does not have military among its affiliates or within its organization,” Morales told Guatemalan online news site Diario Digital. A woman holds a poster of Guatemalan presidential candidate for the National Front of Convergence party (FCN), Jimmy Morales, during a campaign rally, at Mataquescuintla municipality. Orlando Estrada/AFPWill corruption continue?It’s hard to overemphasize just how weary Guatemalans are of corrupt politicians. With the country’s last elected president and vice president in jail, Morales’ blank political history is a strong asset. During the primaries, the Morales campaign assured voters on nearly every poster that its candidate is “not corrupt, or a thief,” in contrast to other candidates. The campaign has promised zero tolerance for corruption.If he wins, keeping that promise may depend on his willingness to work with the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The crime-fighting commission was established in 2007, by agreement between the U.N. and the Guatemalan government, in order to bolster the justice system and help weed out organized crime from government institutions.Given its recent success, the CICIG is likely to be a powerful check on whatever government comes into power next, professor Pérez said.“CICIG is now more powerful and untouchable than ever,” Pérez told The Tico Times. “Initially everyone will keep their hands in their pockets.”But Morales told reporters at a recent news conference that he would dismantle CICIG after six years.“Why six years? If we are going to govern, and after two years say that the mandate be over, the lack of confidence of the Guatemalan population would arise again, and we do not want that to follow us,” Morales explained. After six years, with reforms in several key areas, Morales believes the country will not need CICIG anymore.“With morale and the trust in the institutions of government, I think that Guatemala should walk alone as is the ideal for any country, with the least amount of international intervention possible,” Morales said.In recent months, Guatemalans have taken the future into their own hands. Following CICIG’s exposure of the customs racket, the country saw major mobilizations of people from all walks of life taking to the streets to demand a change to the corrupt power structures that rule Guatemalan politics.“The elections are not the end, but rather the beginning of the process,” Pérez told the Tico Times. “Right now is when you have to mobilize, especially when the new candidates will be open to reforms.”Jesse Chapman contributed to this report. Related posts:Guatemala presidential candidate quits race alleging fraud Corruption-weary Guatemala to choose next president Sunday Guatemala elections update: Comedian Jimmy Morales declares victory in runoff vote US VP Biden to attend swearing-in of new Guatemala leader Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Villagers recall fear as troops fired in El Chapo raid

first_imgCOSALA, Mexico — Ayon Mendoza was making tortillas when a burst of bullets hit her home in Mexico. She ran to get her toddler when two helicopters, apparently military, struck her village even harder. Facebook Comments At the time, she did not understand what happened in her northwestern Durango state hamlet on Oct. 6. But she later learned the shooting coincided with operations to capture fugitive drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in the mountain region.The 24-year-old housewife said her home in Comedero Colorado had dozens of bullet holes and her car burned, so she and hundreds of terrified people from other villages fled to Cosala, Sinaloa state.Mendoza and her husband, Gonzalo Elias Peña, walked for four days along cliffs and through brush with their two-year-old daughter on the Sierra Madre mountain range, the bastion of the Sinaloa drug cartel chief.Lacking food and water, they finally arrived in the picturesque town of Cosala, where more than 600 other people from villages from neighboring Durango state have taken refuge, recounting similar stories.“We were walking in the dark because where there was light, they would start shooting. It was firing from all sides,” Mendoza said as she and other displaced families waited for clothes and food handouts from the authorities in Cosala.Her husband, Gonzalo, said: “The newspaper reported they were looking for him (Guzmán), but he wasn’t there and they almost killed us.”Federal officials say marine special forces closed in on Guzmán in the Durango-Sinaloa mountain region last week but that he slipped away, injuring himself in the leg and face because he fell while fleeing.A federal government official denied that the marines fired on civilian homes.But, the official told AFP, “obviously when they face people who fire at them, they will repel the aggression.”U.S. law enforcement officials, who are helping Mexican authorities hunt for Guzmán, believe the 58-year-old fugitive fled to his Sierra Madre mountain stronghold after escaping prison in central Mexico on July 11, just 17 months after his capture.Guzmán’s jailbreak — his second since 2001 — caused deep embarrassment to President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose government detained a dozen prison officials and vowed to recapture him.‘Rain of bullets’People who live near the Durango state municipality of Tamazula, like Mendoza and her family, say the manhunt led marines to their communities, where they came under fire.Marta Marbella, who lives in El Verano village, showed pictures she took with her cellphone of the bullet marks that were left on her house on Oct. 6.The images show a dozen holes on the roof and more on the walls, door and outdoor bathroom, where Marbella had hidden with her baby. Her husband was working in the fields.“I could see the helicopter stop and shoot directly at the house. I was scared, screamed and cried, although I knew it was useless,” the 32-year-old housewife said.Francisca Quintero Sánchez, 40, rushed to hide with her three children under the bed when the “rain of bullets” came down for around one hour.“It was a time of terror, fear that they would kill us,” the farmer said. “Their uniforms said ‘Marina’ (Navy). Some think we’re stupid because we are ranchers, but we know how to read and write.”Missing people?The next day, Marbella, Quintero and other residents of El Verano decided to speak with marines, who told them they were looking for “a person accompanied by many people,” she said.The marines told them that they fired because they were under attack, but the women deny it.No casualties have been reported so far, but local legislator Lucero Sánchez López said at least eight people are missing.Oscar Loza, representative of the Sinaloa Human Rights Defense Commission, said he had no reports of missing people, but he voiced concerns over allegations that the authorities tried to hide evidence.The government, meanwhile, says the hunt for Mexico’s most wanted man continues.center_img Related posts:‘El Chapo’ is Mexico’s hit Halloween costume Undermining Mexico: How ‘El Chapo’ built a criminal empire, and escaped prison, by digging deep ‘Guzmán?’ Video casts new light on Mexico kingpin escape Mexico mayor’s killing a threat to others: governorlast_img read more

The hardest mountain bike race in the world kicks off threeday trek

first_imgHundreds of mountain bikers will retrace the steps of 16th century Spanish explorers in Costa Rica in a race that begins Thursday. The Ruta de los Conquistadores traverses Costa Rica from the Pacific to the Caribbean through some of the country’s most grueling terrain.Each of the three stages is named after one of the three conquistadors who arrived in Costa Rica five centuries ago, beginning with the Juan de Cavalón stage Thursday. The race begins at 6 a.m. in Playa Herradura, Puntarenas and ends in Atenas in the Central Valley, covering more than 100 kilometers with a cumulative elevation gain of approximately 3,400 meters (12,000 feet). Throughout the three days, riders will travel more than 255 kilometers (160 miles) and climb more than 7,725 meters (25,344 feet).As far as international cycling events go, the Ruta de los Conquistadores is consistently named among the most difficult in the world, especially for mountain biking events.Outside Magazine calls it one of the 13 toughest races — of any sport — in the world. The magazine notes that riders have three days to finish the route while the Spanish conquistadors took 20 years. Racers cross a bridge during the last stage of the Ruta de los Conquistadores in this file photo from 2007, in Bananito, Costa Rica. Yuri Cortéz/AFPNearly 400 riders will participate in the 23rd edition of the race, including international riders from countries like the United States, Spain, and Colombia.Chris Case, the managing editor of U.S.-based cycling website Velo News, is a longtime cyclist who competed in the race in 2013. On the last day of the race, just an hour before he finished, Case fell through a hole in a train bridge over a river. He struggled to keep himself from falling 50 feet into rapids while holding his bike over his head. A military policeman rushed over to lift him up and Case continued on to the finish line.But he said the harrowing experience, which he later chronicled on his website, didn’t muddy his memories of Costa Rica and the arduous race.“I would do it again,” he said in a telephone call from Colorado. “I remember just loving it.”The route, which changes slightly every year, takes riders through jungle paths, around volcanoes, and over raging rivers, like the one Case almost fell into. This year’s edition of the race also offers an optional rafting detour on the Pacuare River.“It’s just such a crazy adventure, it’s far more than a bike race,” Case said.The winner of last year’s race was Portugal’s Luis Leao Pinto. The favorites heading into this year’s race are Colombia’s Luis Mejía and Costa Rican Olympian Paolo Montoya, who has won the race four times, more than any other rider in race history. Facebook Comments Related posts:Colombia’s Luis Mejía claims second straight Ruta de los Conquistadores title PHOTOS: Ruta de los Conquistadores bike race heads into final leg Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador moves into third place in the Giro d’Italia VIDEO: Traffic cop stops Costa Rican bicyclist Andrey Amador in bizarre highway altercationlast_img read more

The US is one of the worlds biggest tax havens

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica is Central America’s most honest country, says latest TI corruption index Lula’s bridge to nowhere hints at global reach of Brazil graft FIFA corruption probe: Swiss to extradite ex-VP Figueredo to US Argentina opposition attacks Macri over Panama Papers Facebook Comments The single-story brick building at 1209 North Orange St. in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, looks bland and innocuous. But the building, home to the Corporation Trust Company, has an intriguing claim to fame. In the last few years, it has served as the registered address for more than 250,000 businesses, giving companies around the world access to Delaware’s business-friendly laws.During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized Caribbean tax havens. He mentioned one building in the Cayman Islands that is the registered home of more than 12,000 U.S.-based corporations, saying, “That’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam on record.” But as the example of 1209 North Orange St. demonstrates, the same activity is going on in President Obama’s backyard.A massive leak of confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama that helped wealthy clients set up anonymous companies in tax havens, is highlighting how the global offshore industry secretly invests massive amounts of wealth around the globe. The 11 million leaked documents cover 40 years of the law firm’s operations and allegedly touch on the financial dealings of 12 current or former heads of state, as well as 60 more people linked to world leaders.The documents, which have not been reviewed by The Washington Post, allege connections among offshore accounts set up by Mossack Fonseca and money laundering, bribery and tax evasion, among other charges, according to The Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and other publications that accessed the documents.See: Costa Rica in the Panama Papers leakMossack Fonseca largely helped its clients set up offshore accounts in the kind of tropical locations that people typically think of as tax havens – the British Virgin Islands, Panama, the Bahamas and the Seychelles – countries that do play a big role in shuttling the wealth of the world’s richest people around the globe.But one of the least recognized facts about the global offshore industry is that much of it, in fact, is not offshore. Indeed, some critics of the offshore industry say the U.S. is now becoming one of the world’s largest “offshore” financial destinations.“We often say that the U.S. is one of the easiest places to set up so-called anonymous shell companies,” says Mark Hays, a senior adviser with Global Witness, an NGO that advocates for financial transparency.Offshore isn’t so much a destination anymore as “a set of capabilities,” which include ensuring secrecy, minimizing taxes, managing assets, and providing clients security and access to their wealth from anywhere in the world, James Henry, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and former chief economist of McKinsey & Co, wrote in a 2012 report. The Tax Justice Network ranks the U.S. third in terms of the secrecy and scale of its offshore industry, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong but ahead of the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.A 2012 study in which researchers sent more than 7,400 email solicitations to more than 3,700 corporate service providers — the kind of companies that typically register shell companies, such as the Corporation Trust Company at 1209 North Orange St. — found that the U.S. had the laxest regulations for setting up a shell company anywhere in the world outside of Kenya. The researchers impersonated both low- and high-risk customers, including potential money launderers, terrorist financiers and corrupt officials.Contrary to popular belief, notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Bahamas were far less permissive in offering the researchers shell companies than states such as Nevada, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and New York, the researchers found.Part of the reason that the U.S. looks so attractive as a tax and secrecy haven is that the country has not signed on to new global disclosure standards that are forcing anonymous companies to reveal their real owners around the world. Compared with other developed countries, and even traditional offshore destinations such as Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. now appears to be among the most lenient and secure destinations for the fortunes of the global rich.Since the late 1990s, the “onshore-offshore” market in the U.S. has blossomed, as states have competed with each other to provide inexpensive limited liability corporations and asset protection trusts with levels of secrecy and tax advantages similar to those of traditional offshore havens, writes Henry of the Tax Justice Network.In many U.S. states, people registering shell companies do not need to show a form of identification, like a driver’s license or passport, and corporate service providers aren’t required to verify the identity of the person who owns the company, called “the beneficial owner,” or know what the company is for. The beneficial owner may be asked to give their name, address and phone number, but for an additional fee, the corporate service provider can provide a “nominee” to take their place as the public face of the company — a person who controls the company in name but not in reality, disguising the beneficial owner’s identity.“In some places [in the U.S.], it’s easier to incorporate a company than it is to get a library card,” Joseph Spanjers of Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy organization that wants to curtail illicit financial flows, said in an interview earlier this year.There’s nothing inherently wrong with shell companies, which are inactive companies without assets or operations. Sometimes shell companies are used for legitimate purposes, such as when companies use them to temporarily conceal the development of a new product until its release, or make an investment in a new technology without alerting competitors. Anonymous companies also help protect the privacy of wealthy individuals, including hiding personal wealth to diminish the risk of kidnapping.Too often, however, shell companies are used as a vehicle for criminal activity — disguising wealth from tax authorities, financing terrorism, concealing fraudulent schemes, or laundering funds from corruption or the trafficking in drugs, people and arms. A report published by Global Witness in 2014 detailed some of the nefarious purposes shell companies have been used for in the U.S., including setting up sham companies that tricked elderly people into investing in worthless business schemes, laundering millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels, accepting political bribes, and circumventing U.S. sanctions against Iran.Critics of the industry say that those worried about these practices must be concerned about anonymous companies, which are instrumental in funding and concealing them from law enforcement investigations.In the secretive offshore industry, estimates for how much money is invested through shell companies registered in the U.S. are hard to come by. But anecdotes suggest that this laxity of regulation has led to the creation of many anonymous companies in the U.S. that could be used for nefarious purposes. U.S. firms are legally prohibited from knowingly helping customers to avoid taxes, but they can offer them privacy and secrecy, and ask very few questions.Reporting by Bloomberg detailed how lawyers, trust companies and financial firms including Rothschild are moving offshore accounts from locations such as Switzerland and Grand Cayman Islands into the U.S. to take advantage of the country’s relative lax regulations. Nearly half of residential properties purchases of over $5 million made in the U.S. in the last few years were carried out by anonymous shell companies, data analyzed by the New York Times has shown.These trends are in part the result of changing global regulations since the financial crisis, which are making the U.S. look even more appealing as a financial destination.Since the financial crisis, developed countries have led a crackdown on global tax havens, as a way to recover revenue and mitigate skyrocketing inequality. In 2010, the United States implemented legislation called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, in hopes of catching U.S. tax cheats. The law required financial firms around the world to report accounts held by U.S. citizens to the Internal Revenue Service – or else face being frozen out of the U.S. financial system.Related: Have you received a FATCA letter?In response, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 34 advanced countries, drew up its own tough tax disclosure requirements, called Common Reporting Standards, and asked roughly 100 countries and jurisdictions around the world to approve them. Only a handful of countries have refused, including Bahrain, Vanuatu and the United States.The United States argues that since its program is similar to Europe’s, it doesn’t need to join it – instead, the United States plans to sign bilateral agreements with other countries. But in the interim, the United States is not providing European countries with the kind of data it is requesting from them — creating an incentive for financial firms to move their business to the United States. The result is, basically, a “disaster,” says the Tax Justice Network, a research and advocacy group. “Washington’s independent-minded approach risks tearing a giant hole in international efforts to crack down on tax evasion, money laundering and financial crime,” the group says in a report on the U.S.European countries are passing other regulations to lift the veil on the kind of secrecy shell companies create. The U.K. has created a public registry for companies, which allows anyone to freely look up the beneficial owners of all British companies. Meanwhile, the EU has passed a sweeping anti-monetary directive, under which countries are setting up company registries that will be available to law enforcement, as well as the public and the media by special request.In the U.S., Global Witness and other groups are pushing for similar legislation. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Peter King, R-N.Y., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have introducing a bill calling for all shell companies registered in the U.S. to report their real owner, called a “beneficial owner.”But the bill has faced resistance from Delaware, Nevada, Wyoming and other states through an organization called the National Association of Secretaries of State, who worry about the loss of tax revenues and the burden of regulation.So far, the documents from Mossack Fonseca have not implicated U.S. politicians or other wealthy people, according to Fusion, which reviewed the leaked material. Those names may yet emerge, though, in an interview with Fusion, Henry of the Tax Justice Network suggests that there is a reason for their absence.The U.S. has an onshore haven industry that is as secretive as anywhere, Henry said. “[Americans] discovered that they really don’t need to go to Panama.”Ana Swanson is a reporter for Wonkblog specializing in business, economics, data visualization and China.© 2016, The Washington Post last_img read more

North Korea TV shows Mickey Mouse Winnie the Pooh

first_img 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Top Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Comments   Share   ErrorOKFree Rate QuoteCall now 623-889-0130 ErrorOK Patients with chronic pain give advice New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Sponsored Stories PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) – Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh have taken the stage in North Korea during a concert for leader Kim Jong Un in an unusual performance featuring a cast of Disney characters.Still photos aired on state TV Saturday show performers dressed as some of America’s most memorable cartoon characters dancing and prancing as video of “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” played on a massive screen behind the stage. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family The state-run Korean Central News Agency says Kim and other top officials saw the performance by the new Moranbong band Friday. KCNA says Kim assembled the band a few months ago as part of a plan to “bring about a dramatic turn” in the arts under his new leadership.Kim took power after father Kim Jong Il died in December.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

Joy in Croatia as UN overturns 2 key convictions

first_img New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Sponsored Stories Gotovina’s and Markac’s convictions were one of the few at the tribunal to punish perpetrators of atrocities against Serb civilians. The majority of criminals convicted have been Serbs. The Bosnian Serb wartime leader and military chief, Radovan Karadzic, and Gen. Ratko Mladic are currently on trial for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities.Gotovina, 55, is especially popular among Croatian nationalists. The charismatic former soldier fought in the French Foreign Legion in the 1980s and spent four years on the run from justice before being captured in the Canary Islands in December 2005.The earlier verdicts against the two generals had triggered anti-Western sentiment among nationalist Croatians even as the country itself looked forward to joining the European Union in 2013.European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said the EU hoped that “Croatia will continue to look to the future in the spirit of tolerance and reconciliation which brought this country where it stands today, on the threshold of EU membership.”The original convictions were based on a finding that Croat forces deliberately used illegal artillery attacks on four towns to drive Serb civilians from their homes. But appeals judges overturned that key finding and said therefore no criminal conspiracy could be proven. The fighting in Croatia was part of the wars that erupted across the Balkans with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The most deadly was in Bosnia, where Serbs battled Muslims and Croats in a four-year struggle that claimed some 100,000 lives.Serbia claims that over 1,000 Serbs were killed and more than 200,000 driven from their homes during the Croatian operation. Tribunal prosecutors put the death toll lower, at 324, but told the court the victims included elderly and disabled villagers _ many of whom had been shot in the head.But the appeals judges said prosecutors failed to prove the existence of such a conspiracy, effectively clearing Croatia’s entire wartime leadership of war crimes in the operation. It occurred at the end of Croatia’s battle to secede from the crumbling Yugoslavia and involved grabbing back land along its border with Bosnia that had earlier been occupied by rebel Serbs.Serbs who fled “Operation Storm” were furious.“As far as I understand this ruling, it is perfectly normal and legal to kill Serbs since nobody is being held responsible for it,” said Stana Pajic, who fled the offensive in 1995. “I’m terribly shaken by this unjust verdict.” Associated PressZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – Chanting “Victory! Victory!,” waving red-and-white checkered flags and dancing in the streets, tens of thousands of jubilant supporters gave two Croatian generals a hero’s welcome Friday after a U.N. war crimes tribunal overturned their convictions for murdering and expelling Serb civilians during a 1995 military blitz.Croatians viewed the decision to release Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac as vindication that they were the victims in the Balkan wars in the 1990s, but neighboring Serbia denounced the ruling as a scandalous injustice toward tens of thousands of its compatriots who were expelled from Croatia after an offensive led by the two. Serbia’s nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic declared that the “scandalous” decision by the Hague court was clearly “political and not legal” and “will not contribute to stabilization of the situation in the region but will reopen all wounds.”Tens of thousands of people, including Croatian war veterans, celebrated in Zagreb’s main square. Some sobbed with joy while others ignited flares, sipping beer and drinking wine from bottles.“Finally, we can say to our children that we are not war criminals,” said veteran Djuro Vec. “We fought for justice, and that our fight was righteous and just.”In The Hague, neither Gotovina nor Markac showed any emotion as Presiding Judge Theodor Meron told them they were free, but their supporters in the court’s public gallery cheered and clapped.Gotovina and Markac had been sentenced to 24 and 18 years respectively in 2011 for crimes, including the murder and the deportation of Serbs, during the 1995 Croatian offensive dubbed “Operation Storm.” Judges ruled that both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs. The majority said there was insufficient evidence to prove a campaign of illegal shelling, rejecting the trial judges’ view that any shell which hit further than 200 meters (yards) from a legitimate military target was evidence of indiscriminate shelling. Judge Carmel Agius, in a written dissenting opinion Friday, called the appeals court’s reasoning “confusing and extremely problematic.”There are no other Croat suspects on trial at the tribunal whose cases could be affected by the ruling.Gotovina’s American lawyer, Greg Kehoe, said the appeals judgment didn’t undermine the tribunal’s credibility, it proved its impartiality.“Is it a vindication for the rule of law and justice? Yes it is,” he said.____Corder reported from The Hague. Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, Raf Casert in Brussels and Aida Cerkaz in Sarajevo, Bosnia, also contributed.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The deep division over the generals could set back efforts to reconcile the two wartime enemies _ the most bitter rivals in the Balkans.A red carpet was laid out as a Croatian government plane carrying Gotovina and Markac from the Hague, Netherlands, touched down in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, and the two were welcomed by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and other top officials.“This is our joint victory,” Gotovina told a cheering crowd singing patriotic songs at Zagreb’s main Bana Jelacica square. “We have won, the war is over and let’s turn to the future.”The generals later attended a packed Mass held in Zagreb’s large gothic cathedral “to thank God” for their release.The 3-2 majority decision in the U.N. court’s five-judge appeals chamber is one of the most significant reversals in the court’s 18-year history. It overturns a verdict that dealt a blow to Croatia’s self-image as a victim of atrocities, rather than a perpetrator, during the war.Yet the ruling produced fury in Serbia, where it was seen as further evidence of anti-Serb bias at the U.N. tribunal. Even liberal Serbs warned the ruling created a sense of injustice and could stir nationalist sentiments. She used to live in the western Croatian town of Knin but had to flee the 1995 offensive in a truck carrying her family’s few belongings.Croatia’s liberal president, Ivo Josipovic, said Friday’s ruling was “proof that the Croatian army did not take part in a criminal enterprise” and “a symbolic satisfaction for all victims of the war.”Vesna Skare Ozbolt, former legal adviser for the late President Tudjman, said the verdict “corrects all wrongs about our just war,” and “proves that there was no ethnic cleansing in Croatia and that it was all lies.”Tudjman died in 1999 while under investigation by the tribunal.Across the border, the acquittals enraged hardline opponents of the U.N. court.Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, branded the ruling “scandalous,” saying it endangered the general principle that war crimes must be punished.“This was one of the biggest war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, murder, expulsion and endangering of several hundred thousand people, and no one was held responsible,” Vukcevic told The Associated Press.Serbian government officials said later Friday they would be scaling down cooperation with the tribunal to “only technical levels” because of the ruling. They did not elaborate. The tribunal announced late Friday that a conference scheduled for next Thursday in Belgrade to discuss the tribunal’s legacy when it finally closes its doors had been postponed. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Comments   Share   Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixlast_img read more

WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK Fiscal cliff follows Obama

first_imgAssociated PressBANGKOK (AP) – Even in the temples of Asia, President Barack Obama cannot escape thoughts of that fiscal cliff back home.Touring the Wat Pho Royal Monastery in Bangkok, a sprawling compound of temples, gardens and man-made waterfalls, Obama was overheard chatting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and with their monk guide.Clinton made a reference to budget negotiations back in Washington, where a damaging series of tax increases and spending cuts loom. “Yes,” Obama replied. “We’re working on this budget. We’re going to need a lot of prayer for that.”At a news conference later, Obama said he was not joking about the need for prayer.“I always believe in prayers,” he said. “I believe in prayer when I go to church back home, and If a Buddhist monk is wishing me well, I’ll take whatever good vibes he can give me to try to deal with some challenges back home.”___Obama and Clinton were led by a monk in saffron robes as they walked around a golden statue of a sitting Buddha.Clinton later remarked about how peaceful it was in the temple, an iconic cultural landmark popular with tourists. The tour’s high point is a giant statue of a reclining Buddha that extends for 46 meters (150 feet).Obama observed that when there are 80,000 people visiting the temple, “it’s probably not as peaceful.”Both visitors noted how lucky they were to get a private tour.___Obama and Clinton met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 85 in December and has been staying at a hospital since 2009 because he is ill.Obama entered a hospital meeting room with Clinton behind him. The king remained seated as Obama greeted him and grasped his hand. “It’s a great honor,” Obama said. Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk ___Later, Obama was asked during a news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra what his favorite Thai food is. He replied that he likes it all and was pleased when he saw the menu for the state dinner.“It looks very good,” said Obama, who had traveled about 19 hours from Washington, where it was early Sunday morning as the news conference took place. “I’m also very hungry. I saved my appetite and I am looking forward to some authentic Thai food.”___The dinner took place in a large dining hall in the same government house complex, where a dozen circular tables were set up under a glittery chandelier.The prime minister gave the first toast, congratulating Obama on his election victory. She said the dinner was “a celebration for your second term in office. I believe your presidency will be a successful one and fruitful” for fostering Thai-U.S. relations.Obama said his visit to Thailand was far too brief, but said he has already felt the warmth of the Thai people and their dignity and strength. “This is the `Land of Smiles,’ and I’ve felt it everywhere I’ve gone,” Obama said, calling Thailand the United States’ “oldest friend” in Asia. Obama said he told King Bhumibol, who was born in Massachusetts, that his friend Tammy Duckworth of Illinois was the first Thai-American elected to Congress. Duckworth won election on Nov. 6.___In a hand-written message in the guest book at the Thailand Government House, Obama said it was “an honor to visit Thailand _ America’s oldest treaty ally in Asia. The bonds between our peoples have endured for nearly 180 years. Grounded in mutual respect and guided by our common aspirations for peace and prosperity, may the bonds and friendship between us endure for many years to come.”___Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Bangkok and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Obama said he brought greetings from the American people “who are so grateful for the friendship of our two countries and are great admirers of yours _ your wisdom and your leadership.”The king responded in a soft tone.Obama smiled and said, “Elections in the United States are very long, but it’s very gratifying to know people still have confidence in me. I thought it was very important that my first trip after the elections was to Thailand, which is such a great ally.”___During his visit, the king gave Obama a few gifts, including one for first lady Michelle Obama.“She’ll look very good in that color, Mr. President,” Clinton said. Reporters could not see the gift.Obama then picked up a photo album, which he said contained photos of all the U.S. presidents and first ladies the king has met, starting with Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through George W Bush.“We left the last page blank” so a photo of Obama’s visit could be added to the book, Obama said.A framed lithograph was on an easel nearby depicting the Thai and U.S. flags. Obama said it was specially commissioned for the king, who is an art lover, “to symbolize friendship” between the two countries. Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories last_img

Egypt summons Iran diplomat over protest comments

first_img Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments   Share   Patients with chronic pain give advice Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Iran’s top diplomat in the country to express its “total condemnation” of comments he and other Iranian officials made recently about the surge of violence here.The ministry said in a statement Monday the recent Iranian statements are “rejected” and reflect a “lack of knowledge or intentional overlooking” of facts. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman had expressed her country’s concern Saturday about the rise in violence in Egypt during protests, urging the government and supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to maintain peace and seek dialogue. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Egypt also has summoned Qatar’s top diplomat in Cairo for similar statements.Egypt and Iran severed ties after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran operates an interest section in Cairo under a charge d’affaires without an ambassador.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

China concerned about possible US patrols around islands

first_imgSix governments in all claim all or part of the region, which is home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, along with rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea resources.Chinese officials defend the reclamation, saying it is Beijing’s territory and that the buildings and infrastructure are for public service use and to support fishermen, as well as to assert Chinese sovereignty.It accuses the Philippines, Vietnam and others of carrying out their own building work on other islands.The U.S. says it takes no position on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, but has an interest in peace and stability in its busy shipping lanes.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Men’s health affects baby’s health too Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The Wall Street Journal first reported the remarks out of Washington, citing an anonymous official as saying Defense Secretary Ash Carter had asked for ideas about how to address China’s moves to reinforce islands it occupies in the strategically vital area. Plans under consideration included sending ships and aircraft to within 12 nautical miles of the built-up sites, the report said.While the U.S. military already operates in the South China Sea, crossing the 12 nautical mile (22.2 kilometer) territorial limit around the islands could raise tensions if China chose to respond.“We express serious concern about the U.S. remarks,” Hua told reporters at a daily news briefing.While China’s upholds freedom of navigation in the area, that “doesn’t mean foreign military ships and aircrafts can freely enter into another country’s territorial airspace and seas. China will firmly maintain its territorial sovereignty,” Hua said.China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its island groups, and has alarmed Washington and its neighbors by embarking on an ambitious island-building program to expand its claims — potentially for military use or airstrips — that has added about 2,000 acres of dry land. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday expressed “serious concern” about reports that the U.S. is considering sending military ships and planes to challenge Chinese claims to islands it is building in the South China Sea, and said it would resolutely defend what it considered its sovereign territory.Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the U.S. needs to clarify its stance on the matter and that countries should avoid “risky and provocative approaches to maintain the regional peace and stability.” New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

Lawmakers press admin over response to China island building

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   “If the Chinese strategy was to freeze us out, it has backfired,” Russel said.But the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, complained that sometimes it appears that the only U.S. response to provocative actions by China is a “press release.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Top Stories Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helpcenter_img “I see no price whatsoever that China is playing for their activities in the South and East China Seas. None. In fact, I see us paying a price,” Corker said. “We see our friends coming in constantly worried about where we are, what our commitment levels are.”Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling this weekend to Beijing, where he is to meet with President Xi Jinping. U.S. officials say he’ll be carrying a message that China’s large-scale land reclamation and general behavior in the South China Sea will hurt China’s image and its relations with its neighbors and, potentially, with the United States itself.China has rattled the region with its assertive claims both over islands held by Japan in the East China Sea, and in the South China Sea, where islands and reefs are contested by China and five other Asian claimants. China has reclaimed about 2,000 acres of dry land since 2014 that could be used as airstrips or for military purposes, according to U.S. officials.China claims the islands are its territory. Its Foreign Ministry on Wednesday voiced serious concern about a Wall Street Journal report, which cited anonymous U.S. officials, that the U.S. is considering sending military ships and planes to challenge Chinese claims to islands it is building. WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators pressured the Obama administration on Wednesday for a more robust response to China’s provocative actions in East Asian seas, as concern grows in Washington that Beijing is building artificial islands to assert military control over disputed territory.Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, complained that the administration lacked a “coherent policy,” and disputed the administration’s view that China is losing international stature because of its provocative moves. Sponsored Stories The assistant secretary of defense for the Asia-Pacific, David Shear, declined to comment on the report at the committee hearing Wednesday, and on whether the U.S. was considering a demonstration of freedom of navigation within 12 nautical miles of the islands’ notional territorial zone. But Shear said many of the features claimed by China in the disputed Spratly island chain are submerged and do not carry territorial rights.“We claim the right of innocent passage in such areas and we exercise that right regularly both in the South China Sea and globally, and we are going to continue exercising that right both under the surface of the water and in the air,” he said.Top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, said that no matter how sand China piles up on reefs, it can’t “manufacture sovereignty.” He said the U.S. is calling for restraint on territorial disputes, and “diplomacy will continue to be our instrument of first resort.”Russel maintained that China’s provocative actions had hurt its standing. He cited recent, thinly veiled criticism of China by the Southeast Asian bloc and a legal challenge brought by the Philippines. The United States is “increasingly in demand” as a guarantor of security in the region, he said. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

Rights groups says Syrian refugees stranded at Jordan border

first_img Sponsored Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments   Share   Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordanian border restrictions have left hundreds of Syrians refugees stranded in a remote desert area, a leading international rights group said Wednesday, urging Jordan to let them enter the country.About 2,500 Syrians were stuck there just inside Jordan in mid-April, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report based on satellite images, aid agency reports and refugee testimony. The number of stranded Syrians dropped to 1,000 in late May after Jordan allowed some to move out, the report said. 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 treatments for adult scoliosis The group’s regional director, Nadim Houry, said that Jordan has gone to great lengths to help refugees, but that this is “no excuse to abandon newer arrivals in remote areas for weeks without effective protection and regular aid access.”Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Jordan “continues to adopt an open border policy” in line with procedures worked out with the relevant international organizations.Jordan hosts about 630,000 Syrian war refugees, out of almost 4 million who have fled their country since 2011. The Jordanian government says a total of 1.4 million Syrians live in Jordan, including those who came before 2011, and make up 20 percent of Jordan’s population.Human Rights Watch said Jordan gradually tightened entry restrictions over the past two years. Currently, two informal crossings into sparsely populated eastern Jordan — the area where the Syrians are stranded — are the only entry points for most Syrians, the group said.The rights group said Jordan’s policy has fluctuated in recent months. In October, about 4,000 Syrians were stuck in the desert area, but between December and March, Jordan allowed refugees to enter for screening and eventual transport to a closed refugee camp, the group said. It said that by March, Jordan again prevented many Syrians from entering the country. The group also urged the international community to assume greater responsibility for the refugees. Countries outside the region, including the United States and the European Union, should absorb more Syrian refugees, it said. Currently, most Syrian refugees live in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daylast_img read more

Retired CIA operative becomes breakout spy novelist

first_img“Some of the things that we’ve accomplished are absolutely magnificent, and have kept the bad guys at bay,” he said. “You never actually win 100 percent, but we’ve pushed (weapons) programs back, and we’ve embarrassed bad people and eliminated other people.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Men’s health affects baby’s health too New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The hero in his new book is clever, competent Nathanial Nash, everything one would want in a CIA case officer except perhaps for the forbidden love affair he carries on with his asset, Dominika Egorova, a former ballerina and trained seductress who dispatches attackers with a lipstick gun and her bare hands.Matthews, who could pass for an insurance salesman but for the thick-framed, fashion-forward glasses, spares few details in his steamy sex scenes.“I’ve read a lot of thrillers, and some of the sex is almost offhand and embarrassingly vague,” he says. “So I wanted to go to the other end of the spectrum and be embarrassingly graphic.”The Americans are the good guys in these books, while the Russians are mostly corrupt torturers and thugs. Putin, a central character in “Palace of Treason,” is portrayed as amoral, venal and paranoid.Agency reviewers have focused more on scenes that depicted the main characters using disguises and carefully reading faces during hours-long surveillance detection routes to get “black” before a secret meeting. These “are accurate, richly detailed renderings of anxiety-filled tasks conducted daily by intelligence operatives around the world,” former CIA officer Jim Burridge and an unnamed employee wrote in a review of “Red Sparrow” on the CIA’s Web site. He says his books amount to “a love letter” to the Central Intelligence Agency of his memory, one that he fears is slipping away. His specialty was classic espionage — sneaking around foreign capitals persuading sources to betray their country.It’s a different discipline than that employed by the many CIA case officers who spent the last decade doing tours in Baghdad and Kabul, often conducting source meetings in an armored vehicle with a military escort. Nor does it bear much resemblance to the man-hunting involved in tracking terrorists to target in lethal drone strikes.Human intelligence, or HUMINT, is the “the patrimony of CIA,” Matthews says. “The irony is that the global war on terror has actually taken away resources and institutional focus from classic HUMINT.”Matthews’ novels are a celebration of HUMINT — the art and science of gathering it, the consequences when it goes wrong. He found an amenable setting in modern Russia, which is proving an increasingly nettlesome U.S. adversary. Unlike parts of Syria and Iraq, the CIA can still send Americans to spy in Russia, where the biggest risk to an operative with diplomatic immunity is being sent home. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Sponsored Stories In this June 4, 2015, photo, CIA operative turned best-selling author, Jason Matthews, a 30-year CIA veteran and author of the new novel, “Palace of Treason,” poses for a portrait in Washington. When Matthews retired after more than three decades as a CIA operative, writing fiction proved a form of therapy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Top Stories That book won Matthews the Edgar Award for best first novel by an American and a reputation among his former colleagues. The agency reviewers marveled at how Matthews got all the tradecraft, as spies call it, past the CIA’s Publications Review Board, which reserves the right to black out secrets in anything written by a former employee.Matthews said he hit a snag, however, with his follow-up novel and was forced to fly to Washington and change part of his ending to get final sign off.Still, the narrative bristles with reality.When a Russian military officer wonders why his CIA handler isn’t offering him frequency-hopping mobile phones like the Russians use, the CIA man marvels to himself: “If they (only) knew how the FBI and the NSA were crawling up their frequency-hopping” posteriors.Matthews depicts plenty of buffoonery by senior CIA officials, too, including a blustering, dangerously unqualified Moscow station chief whose inability to spot surveillance puts operations at risk. At headquarters, the chief of operations is caught in flagrante delicto with his female assistant.Matthews’ institutional criticism doesn’t extend to the agency’s harsh treatment of al-Qaida detainees, excoriated in a recent Senate report. Although he played no role, he defends his friends who did. The sum total of the CIA’s work has been a force for good, he said. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Five years on from his retirement, Matthews is back this week with a sequel, “Palace of Treason,” set in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.And the most interesting accolades are coming from CIA insiders, who marvel at how he manages to slip so much past the agency’s censors, portraying the heart-pounding rhythms of on-the-street espionage better that any novelist in recent memory.They are not alone: The New York Times dubbed Matthews’ new book “enthralling” in a recent review.Matthews, 63, spent most of his career overseas specializing in “denied areas,” places where Americans were closely watched and their movements restricted. He is part of a long line of former spies who turned to fiction but the first to have spent a full career at the CIA, rising to management, and then emerge to write with such commercial and critical success.Matthews speaks six languages and helped manage seven CIA stations, sometimes working in tandem with his wife, Suzanne, also a retired CIA officer. They raised two daughters in countries they aren’t allowed to name. At one point he was operations chief in the counter-proliferation division, tasked with slowing Iran’s nuclear program, among other things. WASHINGTON (AP) — When Jason Matthews retired after more than three decades as a CIA operative, writing fiction proved a form of therapy.Living in Los Angeles, cut off from the agency and its secrets, Matthews channeled his energy into the 2013 novel “Red Sparrow.” It became a best-seller and critical success, resulting in a reported seven-figure movie deal.“I started thinking about war stories,” he said in an interview. “Pretty soon I blinked and I had like 300, 400 pages.” Comments   Share   4 must play golf courses in Arizonalast_img read more