Epicurean treasures French Alps skiing selling travel to Lyon

first_imgTags: Air Canada, France Posted by Wednesday, September 14, 2016 The Gateway to the Alps just got easier to access with Air Canada’s new nonstop flights to Lyon, France.This new route provides the only year-round direct service between North America and Lyon. Prior to the launch of these new flights, travellers had to fly in to Paris and then take a train to Lyon. Flying directly into Lyon saves the 500 kilometre journey, making this destination more accessible than ever.Transfers between Lyon and the Alps resort towns are efficient and plentiful, and many visitors choose to rent a car and explore the Alps on scenic self-guided mountain adventures. Famous resort towns like Chamonix and St. Gervais boast world-class skiing with unforgettable views.The city of Lyon is bursting with cultural and gastronomic treasures, and its food and drink scene is a force to be reckoned with. Famous chocolate shop and cafes, atmospheric wine bars, gastronomic beer halls, traditional Lyonnaise bouchon and Michelin-starred restaurants line cobblestone lanes and seduce palates with distinctly Lyonnaise flavours.Lyon’s location in the Rhône-Alpes region makes it perfect for day trips to the Beaujolais region, where visitors can sip fine wines among enchanting French vineyards.To learn more or book seats on Air Canada’s new nonstop service please visit aircanada.com/agents. Emily Baillie Share Epicurean treasures & French Alps skiing: selling travel to Lyon << Previous PostNext Post >> About Latest Posts Follow EmilyEmily BailliePrincipal at Compass Content MarketingEmily Baillie is Principal at Compass Content Marketing, a Toronto-based firm specializing in social media and content marketing for travel brands. Drop her a line at emilybaillie@gmail.com or follower her on Twitter @EmilyBaillie. Follow EmilyLatest posts by Emily Baillie (see all) Selling Seoul: Travel Agent Tips for South Korea – November 1, 2016 Stylish Seoul: Why You Should Go – November 1, 2016 Epicurean treasures & French Alps skiing: selling travel to Lyon – September 14, 2016last_img read more

Terrorism insurance coverage has quadrupled in just three years

first_imgTags: Insurance, Trend Watch Posted by ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In what can be regarded as a sign of the times, a travel insurance comparison site has reported that the number of travel insurance policies purchased with Terrorism coverage has reached an all-time high, nearly quadrupling in the past three years.According to sales data from Squaremouth, more than 1 in 10 travellers search for Terrorism coverage on its website, with numbers increasing each year since 2012. In the past three years, the number of customers who specifically searched for and purchased a policy with Terrorism coverage has increased by 280%; in the past year alone, that number increased by 165%.The site also compiled a list of the three-year growth percentage of American travellers buying Terrorism coverage for top destinations. The most popular destination among travellers is the United States, with a growth percentage of 268%. Mexico (364%), Italy (242%), Canada (313%) and United Kingdom (344%) rounded out the top five destinations.More news:  Transat calls Groupe Mach’s latest offer “highly abusive, coercive and misleading”Over the past three years, the number of U.S. travellers searching for Terrorism coverage when buying insurance for trips to top European destinations increased by 332%. And with a 506% increase, American travellers heading to Germany were the most concerned.The Terrorism insurance benefit provides cancellation coverage if a traveller is unable to take their trip due to a terrorist attack at their destination. In order for a traveller to be covered to cancel a trip due to terrorism, the attack must meet the following requirements:It must be deemed an act of terrorism by the U.S. Department of StateIt must be within 7-30 days of the traveler’s departure date, depending on the policyIt must occur in or near a city listed on the traveller’s itineraryThe traveller must have purchased their policy prior to the attack Travelweek Group Tuesday, April 18, 2017 center_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Terrorism insurance coverage has quadrupled in just three yearslast_img read more

Bookings open May 26 for Holland Americas first Cuba cruises

first_img SEATTLE — Holland America Line has become the latest ocean liner to set its sights on Cuba, after announcing that sailings from Fort Lauderdale will commence Dec. 22.The cruise line, which has already received approval to sail to Cuba, will head to the island for the first time on Dec. 22 with a 12-day holiday cruise aboard ms Veendam. With this voyage, Holland America Line will become Carnival Corporation’s third cruise line to be approved to sail to Cuba following the company’s historic inaugural sailings to the island last year.Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos. The 12-day holiday cruise showcases both Cuban ports. Depending on the departure day, cruises will include the Cuba ports as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including: Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.More news:  Le Boat has EBBs along with its new 2020 brochureIn addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.Onboard, the Cuba experience will be enhanced through the line’s Explorations Central, or EXC, program, featuring EXC Guides who will bring the destination to life through presentations and EXC Talks. Also enriching the Cuba experience for guests are EXC Port Maps created for the Cuban calls, EXC Encounters that will showcase the culture and history of Cuba to guests before they visit the ports, and much more. In addition, educational and cultural EXC Tours are being developed in and near Havana and Cienfuegos with a highlight being Trinidad, one of the best-preserved historic towns in the Caribbean.Bookings for Holland America Line’s cruises to Cuba will open May 26, 2017. Guests booked on Veendam’s previous deployment will be given a full refund and opportunity to book on another Holland America Line voyage. Fares for Cuba cruises begin at $899 per person, double occupancy. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional. Travelweek Group Bookings open May 26 for Holland America’s first Cuba cruises Thursday, May 25, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Share Posted by Tags: Holland America Linelast_img read more

50 Visa gift cards with new Just You agent incentive

first_img$50 Visa gift cards with new Just You agent incentive TORONTO — Just You says it’s doubling down on its commitment to the travel trade with the launch of a new travel agent booking incentive.For every Just You booking made, agents will receive their own Just You Care Package, which includes branded merchandise and a $50 Visa gift card, says Nick Roberti, Just You’s National Account Manager.The agent booking incentive is valid for all confirmed bookings for 2018 and 2019 Just You departures booked between March 1 and April 30.Agents are asked to call 1-800-280-1795 to speak to a Just You advisors and quote ‘Care Package’.“Our latest incentive demonstrates how much we value the support of the travel trade. Solo travel is the fastest growing trend in the industry, and agents are eager and excited to offer a product that is exclusively dedicated to this market,” says Roberti.Just You’s range of escorted tours covers Europe, Asia and South America: “With Just You, every passenger is a like-minded solo traveller, everyone gets their own room, and nobody pays a single supplement. All breakfasts are included along with many other meals, local transfers and a wide range of excursions, where our expert Tour Managers take everyone to the heart of every destination.”More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthRoberti says Just You’s most popular itineraries include an eight-day Highlights of Tuscany tour, with a lead-in price of $1,599. Friday, March 9, 2018 Share << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Tags: Agent Incentives Travelweek Group Posted bylast_img read more

Air Canada says its new loyalty program will help to increase share

first_imgAir Canada says its new loyalty program will help to increase share price further Tags: Air Canada The Canadian Press MONTREAL — Air Canada’s move to launch its own loyalty program in 2020 will help to attract more foreign investors and narrow a gap in the value of its stock compared with its American rivals, CEO Calin Rovinescu said Monday.Air Canada is negotiating with potential credit card partners and expects to announce a decision by the end of the year, the company said. The airline served notice last year that it does not plan to renew its more than 30-year-long partnership with Aimia Inc.-operated Aeroplan when the current contract ends in 2020.Rovinescu said the company’s decision not to renew its Aeroplan partnership will deliver up to about $2.5 billion of value for investors, which could go a long way to eliminate some of the difference in how investors value the Canadian airline compared with its U.S. peers.Part of the differential is due to the higher cost of doing business in Canada because of the fee and charges that U.S. airlines don’t face operating out of its airports, he said.Chief financial officer Michael Rousseau added that the share price gap could also be narrowed as it attracts more investors from the U.S., Europe and Asia. Currently, 42% of its shareholders are from outside of Canada.Closer to home, Air Canada said it is preparing to deploy its Rouge low-cost airplanes this summer on transcontinental routes to Western Canada in order to compete with ultra-low-cost rivals, including WestJet Airlines, which is preparing to launch its Swoop ultra-low-cost airline in June.More news:  Hotel charges Bollywood star $8.50 for two bananas and the Internet has thoughtsThe routes will be between Montreal and Victoria, along with Toronto to Nanaimo and Kamloops, B.C., starting in June.Air Canada is also looking to capitalize on labour woes at its rival WestJet and preparing to increase capacity if required in response to a potential strike by WestJet pilots.“We certainly don’t take any pleasure from seeing WestJet’s current challenges and woes but certainly it’s our objective that if there was a business opportunity there we’ll seize upon it as they sought to do,” Rovinescu told shareholders.Air Canada reported a smaller-than-expected loss in its first quarter as its revenue grew compared with a year ago, boosted by increased capacity and passenger traffic.The Montreal-based airline said it lost $170 million, or 62 cents per diluted share, in its slowest quarter of the year, compared with a loss of $13 million or five cents per share in the same quarter last year.Operating revenue for the quarter totalled a record $4.07 billion, up from $3.64 billion, helped by the business cabin where revenues were up nearly 14% on higher traffic and prices.More news:  Windstar celebrates record-breaking bookings in JulyNon-fare ancillary revenues grew 17%, mainly from seat selection and preferred seats, which were up 56%, and upgrades that were 37% higher.The strong results were achieved despite higher costs resulting from winter service disruptions, Rovinescu told analysts.“Despite these challenges, our first quarter performance demonstrates our ability to perform against headwinds and our progress towards consistent earnings and long-term sustained profitability,” he said.On an adjusted basis, Air Canada said it lost $52 million or 19 cents per diluted share compared with an adjusted loss of $63 million or 23 cents per diluted share a year ago. The improvement came despite higher fuel prices.Analysts on average had expected an adjusted loss of 44 cents per share for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.Air Canada will consider instituting a dividend as it gets closer to achieving an investment grade credit rating by the end of 2020, said Rousseau.However, based on other airlines, he wasn’t sure there is any real reward from having a dividend program. He added that most shareholders he hears from prefer the company to reduce its debt and buy back some shares. Sharecenter_img Posted by Tuesday, May 1, 2018 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Eminence Canada to ramp up sales efforts in Western Canada with new

first_imgEminence Canada to ramp up sales efforts in Western Canada with new partnership VANCOUVER — Eminence Canada has appointed Samantha Jervis’ Luxury Travel Consultancy to represent its portfolio of international travel partners in Western Canada.Eminence provides sales representation, promotional and marketing services to an exclusive group of travel brands, including Australis, Cape Horn & Southern Patagonia Cruise, explora Lodges in Chile & Peru, Jungle Sutra & Creative Travel India, and more.According to Eminence’s Dallyce Macas, the new partnership will help the company initiate targeted sales calls, roadshows, events and other sales opportunities across the western provinces.“We are absolutely delighted to be launching our relationship with Samantha in Western Canada. This strategic partnership brings our collection of authentic travel experiences a superb opportunity to extend their sales efforts deep into the Western Canadian market.”Jervis added: “This partnership brings together two companies with many similarities: years of experiences in the luxury travel industry with proven success of selling extraordinary travel experiences, and a team of highly experience, passionate and results-oriented professionals dedicated to making the Canadian travel professional successful.”More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthFor more information go to eminencecanada.com. Posted by Travelweek Group Sharecenter_img Friday, August 2, 2019 Tags: Eminence Canada, Luxury Travel Consultancy << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Jacó Happenings

first_imgLast month, the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce held its 6th annual meeting and announced its new board of directors. Pat Hundley will be passing the presidency to Luis Garro, but Pat will remain chairman and founding father. Luis is joined by Vice President Alfredo Mora, Secretary Christina Truitt, Treasurer Brad Sanson, Vocal Nancy Leiton and Vocal Gabriela Arias.The new office administrator is Carmen Juliana Mesén. The chamber continues to focus on having a safe, clean beach, networking and promoting business and tourism. Lisle Head is spearheading the marketing committee and spoke about new plans for the chamber website, as well as added benefits for chamber members. Currently, the chamber’s office is located in the Pacific Center in front of Cable Tica. Check out the new site at www.jacochamber.com and sign up to become a member or call 2643-2853 for info. At the meeting, Vice Mayor Karla Gutiérrez also spoke about the municipality’s plans for a new civic center. Jacó has been nominated as one of seven provinces to be included in the central government’s plans to implement civic centers to train and invest in youth. The municipality hopes to begin construction in 2013. For more information, contact the municipality of Garabito at 2643-3038.The Garabito 10K Punta Leona 2012 Race will be held Saturday, Aug. 4. The cost is ₡8,000 ($16). Sign up before July 28 at the Macrobiótica Store in Jacó. For more, check with the Sports Committee of Garabito Municipality at 8848-3233 or email garabito10kpuntaleona@hotmail.com. This weekend Teatro Jacó is featuring its first production of the July Comedy Series: Faye Laye’s Beauty Shop. It will be held through July 9. For tickets, call 2630-9812. Last month’s Cabinas Las Olas Summer Soulstice was a success. Master surfer Craig “Tequila” Scheiber won his first “soul surfer” title. Felix Murillo from Galería Murillo did an amazing job painting a short board for the main prize and raffle. Local prize winners included Soledad Giacobbe, Christian Arcaz and Little Princess Sofi. The results of the solstice were as follows: Best Men’s Wave: Anthony Segura. Best Women’s Wave: Evie Johnston, Best Grom Wave: Manuel Mesén, Best Master Wave: Rafael Deturris, Best Air: Derek Dygert, Best Barrel: Anthony Flores, Best Wipeout: Glender Goodness. –Christina Truittchristina_truitt@yahoo.com Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Public sector unions plan street demonstrations

first_imgUnions leaders representing 18 public sector worker organizations are planning protests on Feb. 21 against proposed government measures to modify public salaries.Public officials have a meeting set at the Labor Ministry that day to discuss changes to wage incentives and bonuses for public workers. Union leaders, however, insist there be no negotiations on the issue.Union representatives said they also will file complaints before international organizations “to enforce freedom of association.” They called on administration officials to recognize their right to strike.Starting this week, unions will hold meetings to organize the protests, which would include employees of the Social Security System, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, teachers, dock workers and judicial employees.Times and routes for the protests have not yet been defined. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Explosive found at Brazil shrine before pope trip

first_imgNo related posts. Pope Francis smiles while greeting journalists of the papal flight upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Monday. Luca Zennaro/AFP/Pool RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A homemade explosive device was discovered in the bathroom of the parking garage of the Brazilian shrine where Pope Francis will visit this week, the Brazilian military said on Monday.The military said the device was destroyed after its discovery at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida between Rio and São Paulo, which the pope is due to visit on Wednesday.Meanwhile, legions of pilgrims welcomed Pope Francis to Rio de Janeiro on Monday, lining the streets of the tropical city and stopping his car to touch Latin America’s first pontiff.Crowds cheered as the 76-year-old Argentine stepped on the tarmac of Rio’s airport to be met by President Dilma Rousseff before heading downtown and hopping on an open-top jeep to meet the crowds.Pope Francis has come to Brazil, an emerging power with a shrinking Catholic flock, to promote his vision of a more humble church and to attend World Youth Day, a week-long event drawing more than one million young Catholics.Excitement about his first overseas visit brought thousands of people into the streets, chanting “long live the pope,” singing and waving the flags of Argentina and other countries.The pope, whose decision to get as close as possible to the people made authorities nervous, crossed the metropolis in a small four-door car with his window rolled down.Pilgrims stopped his convoy several times to shake his hand. Bodyguards struggled to control the crowd at times and the pope allowed a woman to bring her child, whom he kissed.The pope then climbed on his open-top jeep and waved at the faithful as he continued his journey among the crowds before talks with Rousseff at the Rio state governor’s palace.“We hope the pope will bring us the renewal of faith and enthusiasm,” said Renzo Cicroni, a 23-year-old Argentine. “To see all these young people together, it re-energizes us.”Anaia Betarte, a 17-year-old from Uruguay, said she came to “see change, something new, something refreshing.”The pope’s decision to leave behind his bulletproof “Popemobile” raised local concerns and Rio authorities have deployed 30,000 troops and police in the wake of massive protests.In recent weeks, more than a million Brazilians have taken part in the demonstrations against the cost of public transport, corruption and the billions spent on hosting the 2014 World Cup.The pope’s message of a “poor Church for the poor,” may play well in Brazil, which is now an economic powerhouse but still has millions living in shantytowns like the favelas rising on Rio’s hillsides.Speaking to reporters on the papal plane, Pope Francis warned against marginalizing the young and the elderly.center_img “The global crisis has brought nothing good to young people. I saw the data on youth unemployed last week. We run the risk of having a generation without work,” said Francis, who carried his own luggage onto the plane, in keeping with his trademark simplicity.He said his trip aimed in part “to encourage young people to integrate into society” and convince the world not to abandon them.Francis also lamented “the culture of rejection” of the elderly “despite the life wisdom they give us.”But even the pope’s visit faces protests. Atheists and the Anonymous protest group planned to demonstrate outside the governor’s palace against the $53 million from public coffers spent on the pope’s visit.He is scheduled to rest on Tuesday and then visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida between Rio and São Paulo on Wednesday.A large stage with a huge cross was being built on the famed Copacabana beach, where Francis will address throngs of young Catholics on Thursday after visiting a favela.Brazil is the world’s biggest Catholic country, but its flock is shrinking as more people turn to Evangelical churches or drop out of organized religion.More than 90 percent of Brazilians identified as Catholic in 1970, according to the census.But a poll by Datafolha Institute showed Sunday 57 percent now call themselves Catholic, while 28 percent say they are Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal Evangelicals.In Rio, only 40 percent are Catholic while almost a quarter are “without religion,” according to a separate poll in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

President Laura Chinchilla approaches the end of her term as the least

first_imgRelated posts:Diplomats in Washington tout the emerging ‘Pumas of the Pacific’ Puerto Rican independence front and center at CELAC Crisis at the border: Costa Rica weighs its options after Nicaragua violently turns back Cuban migrants ‘Trees of Life’: Nicaragua capital transformed into first lady’s new-age vision President Laura Chinchilla has just over a month left in her troubled presidency and looks ready to leave office with theworst approval rating in the hemisphere and beyond.Costa Rica’s first woman to reach the office of president garnered only a 16 percent approval rating as of January, according to Consulta Mitofsky, a Mexican consulting firm, which released its roundup of world leaders’ approval ratings on Tuesday. Chinchilla’s rating is the lowest of all 30 leaders from the Americas, Europe and Asia. The poll took place between January and March.The Mexican company noted that the approval rating is not necessary a reflection of her actual governance but rather the public’s perception of it. Figures from Costa Rica were collected by CID Gallup, according to the report.“I’ve won many battles but we lost the public relations battle miserably,” Chinchilla told the local newspaper La República in March during an interview looking back on her term in office.Following the January poll that left her at the nadir of Latin American leaders, Chinchilla told Amelia Rueda that she regretted not being more effective at communicating “what her administration was about” to the public.  The president added that her government let others set the terms of the national conversation and that “any errors committed during our administration were the same that affect any other.”Chinchilla’s term in office was plagued by allegations of corruption, graft and a scandal over accepting a flight on a private jet to Peru for her vice president’s son’s wedding. The State of the Nation report noted that 2013 saw higher-than-normal levels of social unrest as evidenced by increased public demonstrations. Besides scandals, her administration failed to pass a fiscal reform package that was a cornerstone of her presidential campaign.Voter dissatisfaction with her administration weakened the National Liberation Party’s candidate for president, Johnny Araya, who suspended his campaign on March 5, citing a lack of campaign finances and a dismal showing in national polls.Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina topped the list with a nosebleed-high 90 percent approval rating. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa claimed 75 percent support, closely followed by Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes with 74 percent.Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos saw the greatest improvement, soaring 25 percentage points since September 2013 to reach 50 percent approval.Central Americans happier overall with their leadersSeveral other Central American governments fared well in the list. The average approval rating on the isthmus was 54 percent, higher than any other region in the Western Hemisphere and just slightly lower than the 55 percent recorded in September 2013.El Salvador’s outgoing President Mauricio Funes reported 67 percent support followed by Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli (65 percent) and Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina (56 percent).Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 49 percent support and former-Honduran President Porfirio Lobo had 38 percent. Argentine President Cristina Fernández had just 25 percent and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala 24 percent.U.S. President Barack Obama had a 43 percent approval rating as of March.Only France’s President Francois Hollande (19 percent) and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (18 percent) fell close to Chinchilla’s rating. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Whale festival rugby tournament and other happenings around Costa Rica

first_imgWhale and Dolphin FestivalOne of the most magical events in Costa Rica is the arrival of humpback whales off the coast of Puntarenas – an advent so beloved that the area is called “Costa Ballena,” or “Whale Coast.” This mammalian migration is the perfect excuse to take a road trip along the Pacific coast, sign up for a whale watching tour, and join thousands of visitors as they celebrate all things cetacean. Encounter dolphins, whales, and gorgeous weather during this remarkable two-week fiesta.The festival continues through Sept. 14 on the Costa Bellena, Puntarenas Province. Tours take place between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and cost ₡10,000-20,000 ($20-40). Info: Festival website.Rugby TournamentThe Rugby Federation of Costa Rica holds the final matches of this year’s National Championship, including 120 young players ages two to 18.Tournament takes place Sept. 7 at the French-Costa Rican School, Concepción de Tres Ríos. Free. Info: Rugby Federation website.Exhibit: “Toys, Memories, and Friends”Feel the rush of nostalgia as you peruse vintage toys at the National Gallery.“Juguetes, Recuerdos, y Amigos” continues through Sept. 30 at The National Gallery, downtown San José. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free. Info: National Gallery website. Related posts:Final World Cup showdown, viral theater, and other happenings around Costa Rica Comedy homage, massive DJ party and other happenings around Costa Rica Caribbean parade, hot rod workshop, and other happenings around Costa Rica Guitar Festival, French cinema, and other happenings around Costa Rica Music: Stranger Than FictionCosta Rican blues-rock band plays Jazz Café.Concert takes place Sept. 5 at Jazz Café, Escazú. 9 p.m. ₡3,000 ($6). Info: Jazz Café website. Theater: “Shark Smile”Theater company ExÁnimo and The Shark Project join forces to create this kid-friendly show about marine biodiversity.“Sonrisa de Tiburón” performs Sept. 10 at the Melico Salazar Theater, downtown San José. 10 a.m. & 3 p.m. ₡2,000 ($4). Info: Theater website.Theater: “Sushi’s Journey”In this case, “Sushi” is a cat – whose life is full of adventure. This children’s show by Pedro José Sánchez is an enlivening afternoon excursion.“El Viaje de Sushi” continues through Sept. 14 at the Juan Enrique Acuña Theater, Barrio Escalante. Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. ₡3,000 ($6). Info: RedCultura. Music: Sight of EmptinessCosta Rican hard rock band plays from their albums “Trust is a Disease” and “Absolution of Humanity.”Concert takes place Sept. 7 at Mundoloco El Chante, San Pedro. 4 p.m. ₡3,500 ($7). Info: Mundoloco Facebook page.Theater: “The Collection”Did Stella and Bill hook up on their business trip? The National Company presents this classic 1961 play by Harold Pinter, here in Spanish translation.“The Collection” will be performed Aug. 28 – Sept. 21 at Teatro 1887, CENAC building, San José. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m. ₡4,000 ($8). Info: RedCultura.“House and Street” FestivalFourteen artists present multimedia works at this creative cooperative in Barrio Escalante.“Casa y Calle” continues through Sept. 20 at Casa Batsú, Barrio Escalante. Free. Info: Batsú website.Art: “Dirty Game”Costa Rican artist José Miguel Rojas González explores the nature of winning and losing in this subversive series. Read our review here.“Juego Sucio” continues through Oct. 11 at the Central Bank Museum, Plaza de la Cultura, San José. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. ₡5,500 ($11). Info: Museos Banco Central website.Theater: “Amadeus”Peter Schaffer’s masterpiece about the life of Mozart (and his bitter rival, Salieri) receives an epic production at Teatro Espressivo.“Amadeus” plays Aug. 7 – Oct. 12 at Teatro Espressivo, Curridabat. Info: Teatro Espressivo website.Art: “The Day We Became Contemporary”The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design celebrates 20 years of cutting-edge arts with a comprehensive, retrospective showcase.“El Día Que Nos Hicimos Contemporáneos” continues through Sept. 5 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Downtown San José. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Residents ₡1,000 ($2), foreigners ₡1,500 ($3), students ₡500 ($1). Info: MADC website.Enamoráte de tu ciudadYes, you can go gaga for San José – especially when the Culture Ministry is sponsoring Enamorate de tu ciudad, or Fall in Love With Your City, a year-round celebration of art, culture and urban parks. Check out the event site for news on games, workshops, presentations and surprise performances.Fall in Love with Your City takes place on Saturdays in various parks in downtown San José. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Info: Enamorate de tu Ciudad website and Facebook page. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Peru warns against ritual New Year effigyburning

first_imgRelated posts:Guatemala’s treasured Lake Atitlán is dying In Bolivia, silver mountain at risk of collapse Ayahuasca, the sacred jungle vine that lures Westerners to the Amazon World Bank: Zika will cost Latin America $3.5 billion in 2016 Each New Year’s Eve, Peruvians take delight in ritually torching dolls of their politicians, sportsmen or celebrities — but the celebrations also extend to burning tires and plastics.A senior environmental official at the health ministry, Elmer Quichiz, issued a warning of the risk of lung damage from the toxic smoke the fires give off.“A person who is exposed to them and inhales them ends up with cancer in the medium or long term,” he was quoted as saying by the Andina news agency.The environmental campaign group PVF has called on authorities in the capital Lima to fine people who burn effigies.“The result of this pollution is damage to health and to our planet, which in recent years has become more evident with climate change,” said its spokesman Rodolfo Rojas.Shops in central Lima were selling New Year dolls as usual, however.Among the most popular figures for burning this year are President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia.Others include Peruvian footballer Jefferson Farfan and his girlfriend Yahaira Plasencia, a salsa singer.You can see a slideshow of New Year dolls here.  LIMA — Peru warned the public this week against its popular New Year tradition of burning national hate figures in effigy, saying the smoke poses a cancer risk.center_img Facebook Commentslast_img read more

UN prods Latin America on abortion as Zika spreads

first_imgRelated posts:Zika alert: WHO declares global health emergency over spread of virus WHO advises against blood donations from people returning from Zika areas World Bank: Zika will cost Latin America $3.5 billion in 2016 Zika: Tragedy or Opportunity? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — The United Nations on Friday urged countries hit by the Zika virus to give women access to contraception and abortion, as health officials warned that sex or even kissing could potentially spread the disease.Women’s reproductive rights are a touchy subject in largely Catholic Latin America, where an outbreak of the virus is blamed for causing brain damage in babies and a potentially paralyzing nerve disorder.The U.N. human rights office said the countries now urging women to hold off getting pregnant over Zika fears — a list that comprises Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica — had to offer them the possibility of controlling their fertility.“How can they ask these women not to become pregnant, but not offer … the possibility to stop their pregnancies?” spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told reporters.Many Latin American countries outlaw abortion or allow it only if the mother’s life is in danger. In El Salvador, one of those warning against pregnancy, abortion is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.Brazil’s top research institute meanwhile said Zika, which is typically transmitted by mosquitoes, had been detected in urine and saliva, and warned that even kissing could pose a risk.The scientists were careful to clarify that there is no proof the virus can be transmitted through those fluids, but said people should take precautions, especially expecting mothers.“The measures are the classic ones used … for various other diseases that can be transmitted by saliva. Avoid sharing glasses, silverware, contact with someone who has symptoms of a possible infection. Don’t kiss, obviously,” said Paulo Gadelha, head of the Fiocruz institute in Rio de Janeiro.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for their part urged people to use condoms or abstain from having sex if they live in or have traveled to Zika-infected areas — currently 26 countries and territories in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organization.Earlier this week, U.S. health officials confirmed the first case of sexually transmitted Zika — a person who had traveled to Venezuela and infected a sexual partner in Texas upon return.In the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, officials declared a health emergency over Zika and confirmed a pregnant woman had been infected, bringing the number of cases on the island to 22.That followed a similar emergency declaration in the state of Florida.‘The science isn’t clear’The World Health Organization, which has declared the rise in Zika-linked birth defects an international emergency, warns that Zika could infect up to four million people in the Americas and spread worldwide.The WHO has advised countries against accepting blood donations from people who have traveled to affected regions.The new warnings on intimate contact highlight how little is known about Zika, a virus that was first identified in Africa in 1947 but had been considered relatively mild until the current eruption of apparent complications.“The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided,” the CDC admitted in its warning on sexual activity. “Research is now under way to answer this question as soon as possible.”The Brazilian scientists were likewise candid about the unknowns, saying more research was needed to determine whether saliva and urine were possible vectors.Brazil has been the country hardest hit by the outbreak, with 1.5 million cases.Zika often goes unnoticed, and causes a relatively mild fever and rash in those who do develop symptoms.But Brazil sounded the alarm after recording a surge in babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads and brains. It has registered 404 cases since October and 3,670 suspected cases, up from 147 in all of 2014.The timing, and the fact that many of the mothers were diagnosed with Zika or reported symptoms, have caused alarm over an apparent link with the virus.Zika is also blamed for an increase in cases of a potentially deadly neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.Read more:Costa Rica’s inclusion in Zika travel warning has tourism leaders worriedThe hidden environmental factors behind the spread of Zika and other devastating diseasesBrazil may have fewer Zika-related microcephaly cases than previously reported Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Preventive detention extended for suspect in killing of Florida aid worker in

first_imgRelated posts:Suspect in US aid worker’s killing in Costa Rica: ‘I have no fear’ Accused serial killer ‘Wild Bill’ Holbert asks forgiveness for murders of U.S. expats Foreigner caught stealing hours after being detained for threatening neighbors with machete On eve of historic sex tourism trial, Cuba Dave is optimistic he’ll be acquitted The body of U.S. aid worker Sondra Elizondo was found in a hotel room in San José’s Barrio La California on Dec. 9, 2015. Alejandro Obando was arrested two days later in connection with the killing and has been held in preventive detention since. (Via Vida Volunteer website)Costa Rican authorities have extended preventive detention of the main suspect in the slaying of U.S. aid worker Sondra Elizondo last December.A Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman told The Tico Times in an email exchange Monday that 24-year-old Alejandro Obando Vega will remain in preventive prison through at least June 11 while the investigation continues into Elizondo’s stabbing death at Casa 69, a hotel in San José’s popular Barrio La California.Elizondo, a 45-year-old mother of two, was found in the bed of her hotel room on Dec. 9 with multiple stab wounds over her face and body. The next day police arrested Obando in the Walmart parking lot in Guadalupe, northeast of the Costa Rican capital. During a subsequent raid at his apartment, police found several credit cards with Elizondo’s name on them.In an exclusive interview with The Tico Times last December at San Sebastián prison, Obando said he and Elizondo had been involved in a romantic relationship for three years before her death. Throughout the conversation, Obando claimed he is innocent and that he loved Elizondo. Alejandro Obando Vega, left, and Sondra Elizondo dated for three years, Obando said. (Via Facebook)“They accused me of it, of course, because I’m the only guy who was with her,” he said. “But I have no fear of anything. They can go through all the evidence they need to. I have no fear.”Obando admitted that he was in the room with Elizondo on Tuesday, December 8, the night of her killing, but he said he left at 7 p.m. He said the two were texting that night and that he didn’t learn of her death until police arrested him on Dec. 10.Authorities would not confirm if texts were sent from Elizondo’s phone that night, due to the ongoing investigation. But they are confident they have the right suspect in custody.Elizondo would often travel to Costa Rica from her home in Merritt Island, Florida, to help oversee the Vida Volunteer nonprofit that she helped found and direct. The organization helps install medical clinics in impoverished communities across Costa Rica and other Central American countries.Obando told The Tico Times the couple was slated to travel to Nicaragua the week Elizondo was killed. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Taxi drivers to stage nationwide protest against Uber on Tuesday

first_imgTaxi drivers across the country will stage a national protest next Tuesday, Aug. 9 against what they said is a lack of action from the government to stop the ride-hailing serviceUber, which they say is illegal.Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story listed specific points where taxis are planning to gather to protest. However, we have since learned that the list is unofficial and could change. Since last year, taxi drivers have staged public demonstrations claiming that neither the Traffic Police nor any other government agency is doing anything to stop the operation of Uber and unlicensed taxi drivers, or piratas, as they are known in Costa Rica, as well as private chauffeurs, or porteadores.Gilberth Ureña, leader of the National Taxi Drivers Forum, said next week’s protest aims at pressuring government officials to enforce laws banning unlicensed transport services.“We will demand that the government stop these crooks from stealing our jobs,” he said in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page.Taxi unions have also filed complaints against Uber before an Administrative Court in San José and before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.Taxis plan to gather at strategic sites to block major highways and routes across the country. However, President Luis Guillermo Solís said Friday that blocking traffic will not be tolerated. “If there are people who try to block [roads] we will use whatever means necessary within the law to remove them and assure that they don’t impact traffic flow,” he said.Uber gaining preferenceUber officially launched operations in Costa Rica on Aug. 21, 2015. Almost a year later, some 7,000 drivers currently are using the mobile app to provide transportation — equivalent to just over half of all taxis registered in the country.The company also reported having 225,000 registered users, with most of them requesting transportation between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.Consulting firm CID Gallup last week disclosed the results of a survey conducted in May showing that 52 percent of people here still prefer taxis. The survey found that after nine months of operations, just over one-third of the population prefers Uber over a taxi.Uber beats taxis on a ratio of three to one among people who claimed to have used the service at least once, the study noted.Another 9 percent prefer piratas or porteadores while 5 percent said none of the above.Those who prefer Uber, among other reasons, cited the service’s ease of use, cheaper rates and better quality of Uber’s vehicles. They also said Uber drivers are more trustworthy.On the flip side, those who prefer taxis said Uber drivers are not always available and said they don’t like the company having their credit card info.The competition for taxi drivers could keep growing as Cabify, a Spanish ride-hailing company, confirmed in May that it will soon start offering service in Costa Rica. Facebook Comments Related posts:Uber Costa Rica pulls out of job fair over security concerns  Taxi drivers to stage another demonstration against Uber Taxi protest against Uber snarls traffic across Costa Rica Taxi drivers to demonstrate against Uber in downtown San Josélast_img read more

UNESCO places Nativity Church on endangered site

first_img Check your body, save your life Top Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths The application cited lack of regular restoration of the church due to the political situation since 1967 when Israel occupied the territories, and difficulties procuring equipment because of lack of free movement imposed by Israeli forces.The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to admit Palestine as a full member in October. The emergency candidacy for the church clearly showed the Palestinians’ intention of making the most of their position, after a failure to join the main U.N. body because Palestine is not a recognized state.The Palestinian application to place the Church on the list showed that they plan to put forward other sites for prestigious World Heritage recognition, eventually linking various landmarks to the life of Jesus.“The message to Israel today is that unilateral actions will not work and that Israel cannot continue challenging the world despite its powerful allies,” Ashrawi said.Killion, the U.S. ambassador, said “this body should not be politicized.” His statement noted the candidacy was opposed by a UNESCO experts committee, whose conclusions are almost always heeded.The three churches acting as custodians of the site had also been opposed. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches keep the site under a so-called Status Quo agreement dating to the Ottoman empire, and fear the Palestinian action will upset that delicate balance. 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories center_img Associated PressPARIS (AP) – UNESCO’s World Heritage committee on Friday approved a Palestinian bid to place the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on its list of sites of World Heritage in Danger _ a move seen by some nations as dangerously mixing politics and culture.Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi said the vote was an affirmation of Palestinian sovereignty over the site that marks the place where Christians believe Jesus was born. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family “The site clearly has tremendous religious and historical significance,” Killion’s statement said. “However, the emergency procedure used in this instance is reserved only for extreme cases.”Stein, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said those who voted in favor of the Nativity candidacy “have given themselves up as pawns in the service of the Palestinians at the expense of UNESCO’s professionalism and good name.”While the church needs restoration, including repair of a leaky roof, it was not seen by the experts committee as being in imminent threat of destruction _ the criteria usually reserved for the emergency procedure.A site nominated by Israel depicting human evolution at Mount Carmel, the Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves, also was inscribed on the World Heritage list. That nomination, like all others under consideration in St. Petersburg, went through regular channels _ not the emergency route.___Karin Laub reported from Ramallah.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Israel angrily denounced the vote, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein saying the decision “has turned UNESCO into a theater of the absurd.”“This is a sad day for the World Heritage Committee,” she said.The 21-member committee, meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, voted 13-6 to include the church and pilgrimage route, located in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, on its list of sites. There were two abstentions.The drive to get the Nativity church quickly recognized as a World Heritage site was part of the Palestinians’ bid to win international recognition since attempts to establish a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel are frozen.The United States was among nations opposed to the Palestinian proposal of an emergency candidacy for the iconic Christian site, shortcutting what is usually an 18-month-long process to apply for World Heritage recognition. Neither the United States nor Israel was on the committee. The U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said the United States is “profoundly disappointed.”The church _ which drew some 2 million visitors last year and parts of which are 1,500 years old _ stands above the grotto that Christians believe was the birthplace of Jesus. The Palestinian application asks for recognition as a site of “outstanding universal value” urgently in need of attention. Comments   Share   Top holiday drink recipeslast_img read more

Clinton warns that Syrian state risks collapse

first_img Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Clinton says Assad’s regime must acknowledge that its days are numbered.She says there’s “still a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria, but to the region.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Quick workouts for men Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Associated PressTOKYO (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says time’s running out on Syrian peace hopes and warns that the Syrian state could collapse.Speaking in Japan, Clinton said Sunday that U.N. mediator Kofi Annan’s acknowledgement that his peace plan is failing “should be a wake-up call for everyone.”She says last month was the deadliest for the Syrian people in the 16-month revolt against President Bashar Assad (bah-SHAR’ AH’-sahd). Clinton adds that the opposition “is getting more effective in defense of themselves and going on the offensive against the Syrian military.” Sponsored Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Comments   Share   ErrorOKFree Rate QuoteCall now 623-875-9940 ErrorOKlast_img read more

Israels richest rabbis become savvy businessmen

first_imgCozying up at Ifargan’s long table were lawmakers, one of Israel’s top lawyers, and two of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen: Menahem Gurevitch, chairman of a leading Israeli insurance company, and billionaire Nochi Dankner, head of Israel’s largest holding company and a close confidant of Ifargan for the last 14 years. The Israeli army’s chief rabbi and a top police commander were there, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his blessings in a recorded video message.Rabbis who make fortunes for themselves and encourage others to make money with their blessings draw the wrath of some fellow Jewish clerics.“It’s disappointing when religion descends to this,” said Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman institute, a modern Orthodox Jewish learning center in Jerusalem. “It’s not some channel of divine power for personal wealth accumulation. That’s small religion.”Most rabbis in Israel are not raking in millions. They are instead salaried government employees, assigned by Israel’s official rabbinate to perform religious rites for the Jewish public such as marriages and burials, or to enforce Jewish dietary laws in restaurants and hotels. Sponsored Stories More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements They are nowhere near the level of the high-flying spiritual gurus like the X-ray.Such gurus set up public office hours in their homes to receive Israelis on all rungs of the social ladder, as long as they come with cash. In exchange, adherents receive amulets and little pieces of paper containing the rabbi’s personalized blessing. The most successful rabbis have founded charitable institutions and small religious seminaries, which act as conduits for the incoming cash flow.Menachem Friedman, an expert on Orthodox Judaism and professor emeritus at Bar Ilan University, says religious Jewish businessmen since the 19th century have solicited rabbis’ blessings for cash to ensure their success _ though today the sums have reached unprecedented amounts.“If the market is dangerous and shaky, the millionaires who benefit from that market have less confidence. They need these rabbis to give them that security,” Friedman said.The country’s richest rabbinic dynasty is the Abuhatzeira family, scions of the revered Baba Sali who left Morocco for Israel in 1963, gaining a following among Israel’s large Moroccan and Middle Eastern Jewish immigrant population. The Baba Sali died in 1984, but his portrait _ a shriveled face wrapped in a white shawl _ still graces the walls of Israeli homes, businesses and falafel stands. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family An Israeli tax official, speaking anonymously because of the issue’s sensitivity, said in the past two years tax authorities have approached some 20 religious figures, requesting earnings reports. Some rabbis have been investigated for tax fraud. No convictions are known, but some have reportedly reached settlements with Israeli tax authorities.Reached for comment, advisers of some of the rabbis profiled by Forbes either would not comment on the income estimates, or said they were wrong but would not provide other figures. A spokesman for Rabbi Ifargan said his charitable institutions and received donations are above board.At the end of the feast, adherents followed Rabbi Ifargan up a hill to pray at the hulking stone pyramid that houses his father’s grave. Ifargan emerged from the tomb surrounded by paparazzi, bodyguards and a host of followers shouting out requests for the rabbi to pray for their health and for their children to find a good match.When an Associated Press reporter asked the rabbi the secret to his success, Ifargan stopped. The 46-year-old rabbi with a pointed jet-black beard and brimmed hat fixed his gaze for a few moments, cocked his head up toward the heavens and shrugged. His grandson, Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, became the richest of them all, building himself a three-story villa said to include an events hall, deluxe guest rooms for important donors and an underground tunnel allowing him safe passage to his synagogue and office across the street, according to journalist Yossi Bar-Moha, who says he obtained the house plans from the Beersheba municipality.Bar-Moha published a series of exposes in Israeli dailies accusing the rabbi of cheating his followers into believing he had no money in the bank, and violently threatening some to pay up.The Israeli police’s national fraud squad opened an investigation in the late 1990s, discovering $125 million in his personal account. He reportedly reached a settlement with Israel’s tax authorities to pay a fraction of what he owed them.Last year, a desperate adherent whose donations to the rabbi hadn’t improved his lot stabbed Rabbi Abuhatzeira to death. His son, Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira, inherited his wealth and his spot at the top of Israel’s affluent rabbinic aristocracy.“These rabbis are charlatans, swindlers and cheaters. They have no real knowledge. And people eat it up,” said reporter Bar-Moha, who heads Tel Aviv’s journalists’ association. Then his bodyguards whisked him into a black Mercedes-Benz, and they sped off.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Associated PressNETIVOT, Israel (AP) – One summer night, on the outskirts of a sleepy desert town, a who’s who of Israel’s elite gathered for an annual feast to honor a rabbi whose gaze is said to pierce the soul.He’s Rabbi Yaacov Israel Ifargan. But he is better known as, simply, the X-ray.Over the past few decades, he and dozens of other rabbis have carefully positioned themselves at the fulcrum of Israeli power and influence. They have attracted throngs of adherents _ most notably some of the country’s top business moguls, who pay top shekel for an audience with their rabbi to solicit blessings and discuss business matters. These magnates have helped fuel the rise of a rabbinic aristocracy whose members have channeled the donations they receive into multi-million-dollar empires. After gaining experience dishing out advice to Israeli tycoons, the rabbis have become shrewd businessmen themselves, managing hefty investments in stocks and real estate at home and abroad _ with much of their earnings allegedly kept far from the watchful eyes of Israeli tax collectors.Their chief critic calls them swindlers and frauds, and some fellow rabbis are critical of their practices.The Israeli edition of Forbes magazine published a first-of-its-kind ranking last month of Israel’s 13 richest rabbis. In the number one spot was 36-year-old Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira from Beersheba, a blue-collar southern desert city, whose wealth is estimated at $335 million. The X-ray rabbi placed sixth, with an estimated net worth of $23 million.“Every single shekel brings about true peace,” announced the X-ray rabbi’s half brother, Rabbi Hayim Amram Ifargan, from the dais at the recent gathering, in a gentle nudge to the crowd of VIPs to continue their support.He, too, is a part of the Ifargan family franchise. His spiritual adherents call him “The MRI.” In the women’s section behind a laced divider sat “The Arbitrator” or “The CT,” Ifargan’s millionaire sister Bruria Zvuluni, a go-to spiritual counselor who claims to have mediated feuds between Israeli crime kingpins. Though she is not a rabbi, she made it to the bottom of Forbes’ list. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Comments   Share   New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Patients with chronic pain give advice Top Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security system New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathslast_img read more

Arianespace launches rocket from French Guiana

first_imgKOUROU, French Guiana (AP) – Arianespace has launched Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite ever as well as a meteorological spacecraft for India from the South American country of French Guiana.The European space consortium says the Alphasat satellite will provide voice and data transmission services for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Arianespace says Alphasat was one of its heaviest loads at 6,650 kilograms. (14,660 pounds). Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Top Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security system Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 ways to recognize low testosterone It says the Indian spacecraft will provide improved meteorological observation and monitoring of land and ocean surfaces. The spacecraft also carries a data-relay transponder for search and rescue operations.The rocket was launched late Thursday.Arianespace has 21 shareholders from 10 European countries, including the CNES space agency in France.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

US to fine tune Iraq strategy in light of Ramadi debacle

first_img“I can’t describe to you what the possibilities are because folks are looking at them right now,” Carter said.The scramble for answers comes after Islamic State forces, though outnumbered, captured the Anbar province capital of Ramadi as Iraqi forces fled on May 16. Although the White House says those Iraqi forces were not U.S.-trained, the defeat prompted Carter to make the startlingly frank public assessment last weekend that the Iraqis lacked “the will to fight.”President Barack Obama on Tuesday said it was time for the U.S. to consider whether it was delivering military aid to Iraq efficiently.A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said later that the focus is on fine-tuning the strategy, not rewriting it.The U.S. military strategy in Iraq is built on airstrikes to degrade the Islamic State forces while rebuilding Iraqi security forces to eventually regain the vast swaths of territory in the north and west that were lost over the past 18 months. The current focus is on retaking Ramadi and other parts of predominantly Sunni Anbar province.The Obama administration insists it will assist the Sunnis only through the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad because it wants to foster a multi-sectarian government, rather than directly arm and organize the ethnic tribes for combat. It was unclear whether Carter might recommend scrapping the indirect approach or adjust it in some way in the days ahead, but the tenor of his remarks and comments by other officials suggested that dramatic changes were unlikely. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Comments   Share   Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff who was a top commander in Iraq during the 2003-11 war, said there may be merit in enlarging the U.S. military role by embedding U.S. advisers with Iraqi forces in the field. But he made clear that this also has drawbacks, and that it would be a judgment call if recommended by the Pentagon.Odierno, who served in command three times in Iraq, said the failure of Iraqi security forces to hold their ground was “incredibly disappointing to me personally.” But he also said he sees no wisdom in sending substantial U.S. ground combat forces to do the fighting.“I’m adamant about that,” he said. Expending American lives to defeat the extremists without fixing Iraq’s internal political divisions would be a waste and an unsustainable solution.“It always comes back to the government of Iraq,” Odierno said, referring to its inability to unify its Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish populations in a way that would give the country’s security forces confidence and motivation to fight.Washington already has pledged to accelerate the shipment of certain weapons to Baghdad, including AT-4 weapons that could be used to stop armored vehicles that Islamic State fighters have used effectively as suicide bombs. The U.S. also has said it will try to speed up the delivery of airstrikes requested by the Iraqi government. WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon leaders are trying to “fine tune” U.S. strategy for ousting the Islamic State group from Iraq, focusing on faster and better training and arming of Sunni tribes whose combat role is central to reversing the extremists’ advances, senior U.S. officials said Thursday.Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking to reporters while traveling to Asia, said he told senior military officers at the Pentagon this week to come up with ideas to improve training and equipping, particularly of the Sunni tribes who complain that the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad is dragging its heels on helping them. Top Stories center_img Sponsored Stories Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Carter focused on arming and equipping Sunni tribes.“One particular way that’s extremely important is to involve the Sunni tribes in the fight — that means training and equipping them,” Carter said. “Those are the kinds of things the team back home is looking at.”But a senior defense official said Carter still wants to work through the Iraqi government, an approach that has been ineffective so far. The official was not authorized to describe the defense secretary’s thinking publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.Carter said the events in Ramadi “highlighted the central importance of having a capable ground partner” in Iraq.Part of Iraq’s plan to bolster its effectiveness against IS fighters includes training, equipping and paying Sunni tribesmen to join in the fight. It is reminiscent of the Sunni Sahwa, or Awakening movement, which confronted al-Qaida in Iraq starting in 2006, although that program was begun by U.S. forces working directly with the tribes. Al-Qaida in Iraq is the Islamic State’s predecessor.In January, the Iraqi government held an inauguration ceremony for a few hundred Sunni fighters in Anbar province with the hope that it would plant the seed for an expanded national guard in which Sunnis would take on responsibility for security in Iraq’s Sunni areas. Those are predominantly under Islamic State control today. But the force has failed to progress at the rate the Iraqi government had hoped.___Baldor reported from Singapore. Associated Press writer Vivian Salama in Baghdad contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technologylast_img read more