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. 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On the brink EU leaders clinched bailout deal with an SMS

first_img Sponsored Stories BRUSSELS (AP) — As dawn broke in Brussels on Monday, Europe’s frazzled leaders gazed into an abyss: the looming exit of Greece from a common currency that symbolized European unity.Hours past a midnight deadline to clinch a Greek bailout deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were about to walk away from the table — exhausted from all-night talks filled with threats, shouting and ultimatums. Comments   Share   “From an economic, financial and social point of view it was an absolute disaster,” said Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan.Within hours, lines had formed at ATM machines across Greece. The bank run continued throughout the weekend, and the government was left with little choice by Sunday night but to declare that banks would be shuttered the following week. It imposed capital controls, restricting cash withdrawals to 60 euros ($67) per day.The overwhelming “No” vote in the July 5 referendum was a triumph for Tsipras. Emboldened by what he saw as a strong mandate to bargain further with Greece’s creditors, he returned to the negotiating table — but not before asking for the resignation of Yanis Varoufakis, his brash finance minister.A motorcycle-driving professor with the looks of “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis — and talk and attitude to match — Varoufakis had long been a thorn in the side of the other negotiators. It was not only his hectoring attitude but also his negotiating tactics that riled EU counterparts.“He kept saying that he would bring something at the next meeting, but he never delivered,” said one EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “This created a great deal of angst and frustration among the other ministers.” Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall The Greek crisis, roiling Europe since the election in January of Tsipras — a radical leftist who vowed to free Greece from debilitating austerity — reached a terminal point at the end of June, when the bailout that was keeping Greece afloat was set to expire. Without a deal, Greece would effectively go bankrupt, likely forcing it out of the euro.Markets were sanguine in the run-up to that deadline, amid signs that the two sides were close to an agreement. But no leader could vouch for what would happen in case of failure.Deep into the night of June 26, after two promising days of summit talks, technical negotiators sat down at EU headquarters to fine-tune the details of what was expected to be the final breakthrough. So everyone was stunned when the Greek negotiators took cellphone calls, then simply got up and left.They had been instructed of a bomb-shell dropped from Athens.Tsipras returned to the Greek capital that night, and hastily convened his Cabinet. Hours later, he made a televised address that shocked Europe: He was calling a referendum for the following weekend on whether to accept the European bailout plan — and advocating a ‘No’ vote. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Then came the text message to Tusk, cobbled together by Rutte, a close ally of Merkel and a leader from a nation that also had gone through the pain of a bailout. It proposed a split of 12.5 billion euros for investments and 37.5 billion euros to pay off debt. Leaders agreed that was the only compromise that would allow Europe to stave off disaster.In the end, Tsipras was left with an agreement that was harsher than the one proposed before he called the referendum. It would keep his debt-ridden nation in the euro but leave his people laden with so many economic and financial impositions — and such a loss of sovereignty — that #ThisIsACoup soon began trending all over the Internet.Now comes Tsipras’s bitter task: persuading Greece to accept an agreement that promises years of hardship.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. A single text message rescued the talks — and possibly the euro. Dutch Premier Mark Rutte, a hard-liner on Greek reform waiting outside with other leaders, sent European Union President Donald Tusk an SMS proposing a compromise on the last sticking point keeping the two sides apart.For three hours, Merkel, Tsipras, Tusk and French President Francois Hollande had been stuck in dead-end closed-door talks, and the message suddenly made something click. Within an hour, the deal was clinched.This account of the dramatic events that led to a last-minute bailout agreement for Greece has been pieced together from interviews with a half-dozen officials from EU nations and institutions who attended the negotiations over the past months. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were not public.Announcing the deal later that morning, Tusk, the summit host — who had been instrumental in keeping the opposing sides together before the text message landed — tried to lighten the mood with corny humor. “We have an a-Greek-ment,” he declared.It was not enough to sweep away the months of bitterness leading to that moment. The negotiations, watched with trepidation around the world, swung from despair to hope and back again as leaders groped for a pact that would keep Greece in the euro and keep global markets steady. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Merkel — the uncontested leader of Europe’s tough stance on Greece — captured that sentiment when she arrived at last weekend’s decisive summit with just one statement: “The most important currency has been lost: That is trust.”On Saturday, the eve of the summit, a German-inspired discussion paper called for the toughest-ever reform conditions for Greece to get money to pay off its immediate debt. Even allies said they came out of the blue.The paper spoke of a euphemistic “time-out” from the eurozone for Greece. Although kept in brackets — diplomatic code for the fact that not everyone agreed on such a suspension — it set the tone for the high drama that was to come.A summit participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said that the extra demands were immediately seen as provocative. But this time, leaders needed to hammer out an agreement — or face a possible economic and political catastrophe. Tusk and 19 eurozone leaders were locked together for a marathon 17-hour summit that soon descended into cries of “humiliation” and betrayal.In the end, the acrimony centered on a relatively minor point: How to allocate funds in the 50 billion euro privatization fund that was one of the key platforms of the bailout agreement. At first Tsipras wanted 25 billion euros of the package to be available for investments, while Merkel insisted on only 10 billion euros for that purpose. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with the media after a meeting of eurozone heads of state at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, July 13, 2015. A summit of eurozone leaders reached a tentative agreement with Greece on Monday for a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat that Greece could collapse financially and leave the euro. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) Mesa family survives lightning strike to home New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Patients with chronic pain give advice Top Stories last_img read more

Tourism players fight for Oprah while China waits

first_imgTourism operators are jostling with elbows in a desperate bid to be featured on Oprah’s momentous trip Down Under. The ‘Queen of Daytime TV’ will be debuting in Australia in December, to film several episodes of her cult talk show, which boasts a viewership of 40 million Americans each week. It will be the first time the show has been filmed outside of the US, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said that the visit was a major coup that will give Australia the chance to boost its flagging tourism fortunes.”The tourism industry at the moment is very challenged by the strength of the Australian dollar,” Mr Ferguson told Parliament.”People must appreciate that tourism is a major employer of Australians; just under one million directly and indirectly.”In that context, the Oprah Winfrey Show is very important.” Over 3,000 tourism products and services have already applied to Tourism Australia for the opportunity to be featured on Oprah’s show. Two episodes are set to be filmed at Sydney’s redubbed “Oprah House”, though Ms Winfrey’s producers have yet to reveal the other locations to be visited by the juggernaut show.“Less Oprah, more China”Travel agents and advertising professionals have said that the money being spent on hosting Oprah Down Under would be better utilised attracting the Chinese, an NZHerald.co.nz report said Wednesday. Australia is spending more than AUD$3 million to host Forbes’ most powerful woman to its shores, Mr Ferguson said. Tourism Australia is spending AUD$1.5 million, New South Wales State is contributing AUD$2 million, and Qantas is flying Winfrey’s 300-strong party from the US. However, according to some industry figures, the concentration on Oprah has forced attention away from important tourism markets.”Getting Oprah here isn’t going to get anyone from China to come here,” said Peter Grasse, executive producer in Sydney at Curious Film, which worked on advertising campaigns that won the Grand Prix at a Cannes media festival in June.”They should be making multiple ads for multiple markets, like the Chinese market, instead of putting all this effort into something so one-dimensional.” Last year, China overtook Japan as the fourth largest supplier of tourists to Australia; behind NZ, the UK, and the US, Government statistics showed.”As the Chinese economy continues to grow, so does the number of Chinese people who can afford to travel,” managing director of Tourism and Transport Forum, Christopher Brown said. “It’s entirely possible China could get to number one.” For this to happen, support needs to be provided for tourists when they arrive, said managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Matt Hingerty, who recently announced his departure from the Council. Tourism Australia agreed, saying that failure to give tourists a memorable visit could do damage, as “word of mouth” can be the strongest influence on potential visitors.In June, the Australian Government announced plans to spend AUD$30 million marketing to Chinese tourists who live outside the nation’s three largest cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. “We’re going to Australia!” Oprah poses onstage with a Qantas aircraft nose during the Down Under episodecenter_img Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.Clast_img read more

HMAA accepts Tourism Australia challenge

first_imgThe challenge set by Tourism Australia Chief, Andrew McEvoy, to double the economic value of Australia’s tourism industry over the next 10 years has been accepted by Hotel Motel & Accommodation Association Chief Executive, Lorraine Duffy. In a speech given earlier this week at the National Press Club Canberra, Ms Duffy said Australia is in a good position to achieve the figures Mr McEvoy deemed as daring.“Andrew told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday that Australia needed to target $140 billion in overnight tourism spending by the year 2020 – a 20 percent stretch on the $115 billion presently forecast on existing trends,” she said.“We are better positioned than just about all our competitors to make decisions that will allow us to boost market share that will return us to the type of growth we enjoyed in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics.”Ms Duffy explained the need for policy planners and Ministers at State and Federal levels to make some bold decisions before HMAA members move forward with increasing the quality of bedding as required. She also noted integral changes policy planners would need to incorporate to assist accommodation groups to invest time and money. She insisted Ministers encourage financial institutions to stimulate lending on tourism product, provide tax breaks to enable operators to renovate existing properties, review wholesaler commissions, boost investment in city and regional conference facilities as well as increase awareness about the importance of tourism. “As Andrew McEvoy said, we achieved double digit growth in the 80s and 90s with hotel and aviation development at a pace never seen in the country before. “We can do it again. We’ve got a country of great natural beauty that millions of people want to see- just ask Oprah – and we’re on the edge of the world’s fastest growing aviation market, Asia, so to continue to sit on our hands is not an option.” Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

Air Astana takes delivery of first A320 Neo

first_imgAir Astana takes delivery of first A320 Neo Mr Peter Foster, President & CEO of Air Astana, Mr Chris Buckley Head of Europe/Africa /Asia-Pacific/Freight & Asset Airbus and Mr Alex Khatibi, ALC Executive Vice President Marketing and Commercial AffairsAir Astana takes delivery of first A320 NeoKazakhstan’s flag carrier, has taken delivery of its first A320 neo at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse in the presence of airline executives and government officials. The aircraft leased from Air Lease Corporation is part of a deal announced at Farnborough Airshow 2015 for 11 A320neo Family aircraft. The A320neo will join Air Astana’s Airbus fleet of 13 A320 Family aircraft, and will be operated on domestic and international network.Air Astana’s A320neo is powered by Pratt & Whitney engines and features a two class cabin layout, seating 16 passengers in business and 132 in economy.“The A320 Family has proven to be a success in service with Air Astana over the past ten years, for its passenger appeal, low operating costs and reliability” said Peter Foster, President and CEO, of Air Astana. “The A320neo Family offers significant improvements in all of these areas”.“We congratulate Air Astana on their first A320neo delivery. Becoming the first operator of the world’s most advanced single-aisle aircraft in the CIS. The airline will not only benefit from the commonality with their existing A320 Family fleet but also from its unprecedented passenger comfort and fuel efficiency “said John Leahy Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers. Air Astanabook flights hereSource = Air Astanalast_img read more

Conrad Hotels Resorts debuts in Hangzhou

first_imgConrad Hotels & Resorts debuts in HangzhouConrad Hotels & Resorts debuts in HangzhouHilton (NYSE: HLT) today announced the opening of Conrad Hangzhou, a 50-story, 324-room state-of-the-art hotel that provides easy access to the city’s downtown recreational and cultural attractions. With Li’Anrestaurant sitting on the 50th floor, Conrad Hangzhou features the tallest restaurant in Hangzhou and provides unparalleled views over the fast-developing high-tech city. As part of the Raffles City Hangzhou complex, the hotel is set to serve business and leisure travelers with a best-in-class experience in a world of style.“We are thrilled to present Conrad Hangzhou as the optimal choice for travelers as we support Hangzhou’s rapidly growing industries, and fulfill demand for business destinations,” said Qian Jin, area president for Greater China and Mongolia, Hilton. “The opening of this property demonstrates our commitment to growing our presence across China with a well-rounded luxury portfolio. Conrad Hangzhou will consistently deliver intuitive service and inspired experiences to elevate the journeys of discerning global travelers.”Conrad Hangzhou enjoys a unique location in the emerging Qianjiang New Town Central Business District. The hotel is within easy walking distance to government offices, major corporate offices and shopping malls. It is just 100 meters from Jiangjin station for a quick link to the Hangzhou East Railway Station, an important transportation hub in Hangzhou, and 20 kilometers from the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International airport.“Reflective of the brand’s modern, stylish and dynamic luxury ethos, Conrad Hangzhou is ideal for travelers that seek an unrivaled retreat underscored by superior service and hospitality,” said Martin Rinck, executive vice president and global head, Luxury and Lifestyle Group, Hilton. “The hotel’s proximity to the Central Business District as well as multiple dining, shopping and entertainment venues make Conrad Hangzhou a natural choice for business and leisure travelers alike.”Designed by renowned Dutch Architect UN Studio, the hotel features two distinct towers, each soaring 50 stories high – an iconic structure and landmark that has helped shape the landscape of the city. The stunning curvature of the exterior is inspired by Hangzhou’s tidal bore, a world-renown natural phenomenon of rapid rising tides that occurs once a year.Guests will find sleek interiors and unique artwork at every turn. The hotel design, inspired by “Lunar Corona,” was conceptualized drawing inspirations from the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site, West Lake, a historic, garden style park. The “Lunar Corona” theme is brought to life with warm and spacious décor featured throughout hotel’s lobbies, lounges and guestrooms. The banquet spaces are designed to reflect a shimmering sunset over the lake, while the meeting area reflects mountains on the water, all expressing a peaceful environment for both business and leisure.EXCEPTIONAL DININGConrad Hangzhou offers exceptional dining experiences through its three restaurants and  lobby lounge featuring inspired settings, diverse menus and panoramic views of the city. Traditional meets modern at Li’An restaurant, the tallest restaurant in Hangzhou that sits on 50th floor of the hotel, serving Chinese delicacies in a distinctive setting. Inspired by the weeping willows of the West Lake, Blue Willow is an upscale all-day brasserie with live stations, a selection of pastries and elegant buffets. Uka is the hotel’s destination restaurant, providing guests a sensory food journey with its bar, sushi bar and Teppanyaki station, while also inviting them  to a modern space to socialize, escape and celebrate. Luxurious tea lounge by day and elegant bar by night, JINoffers guests a place to relax and reenergize throughout the day.SOPHISTICATED AMENITIESConrad Hangzhou offers a sophisticated destination with 324 Digital Key-enabled guestrooms, including 25 suites, with panoramic views overlooking Qiantang River and the iconic West Lake.Guests have a variety of wellness options, including a 24-hour fitness center with Life Fitness®equipment and free weights, heated indoor pool and whirlpool, a spa featuring seven treatment rooms and two couples rooms and luxurious spa products including Valmont from Switzerland and American brand, June Jacobs.MODERN SPACES & SMART MEETINGSFeaturing a total of 1,604 square meters of meeting space, Conrad Hangzhou is an ideal venue for weddings, business meetings and other social gatherings. The stunning pillar-less Grand Ballroom, measuring 800 square meters, can accommodate up to 650 guests in a theatre setting. The eight flexible meeting rooms are equipped with advanced audio-visual and technical facilities, and beautiful views over the bustling city.Conrad Hangzhou is also part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 17 world-class brands. Members who book directly through the preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Hilton Honors Points and money to book a stay, free standard Wi-Fi and an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else.To celebrate the hotel’s opening, Hilton Honors members will earn an additional 1,000 Points per night – up to a maximum of 3,000 Hilton Honors Points – for bookings from February to June2019, when booking directly with Hilton.Conrad Hangzhou is located at 228 Xinye Road, Jianggan District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, just 20 kilometers from Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport.For more information, or to make a reservation, travelers may visit www.conradhangzhou.conradhotels.com or call +86 571 56966666. The property is owned by CapitaLand Group and managed by Hilton. Source = Hiltonlast_img read more

Iceland Travel appoints Blue Square Consultants as its representative

first_imgIceland Travel, a leading DMC in Iceland has appointed Blue Square Consultants as its Sales and Marketing representative in India.Since its operations in 1937, Iceland Travel as a DMC has offered diverse product categories that will suit Indian agents, such as escorted tours, day tours and self-drive tours in Iceland. Iceland as a destination is gaining popularity in India because of its vast and varied landscape filled with volcanoes, glaciers, black sand beaches, lava fields and remote fjords.Jakobina Gudmundsdottir, Director of Sales & Marketing, Iceland Travel, said, “Recently, we have witnessed an increase in Indian enquiries to travel to Iceland. To foster this growth, we needed to have a strong representation in India. We felt that Blue Square Consultants is the apt partner to have in India because of their excellent track record; highly professional team and undisputed knowledge of Indian travel trade and travelers.”“At Blue Square Consultants, our emphasis has always been to associate with reputed and quality clients and we have achieved this once again with our recent alliance with Iceland Travel. We are confident that our association with Iceland Travel will not only be beneficial for them but also for Iceland as a destination as it has something new to offer to Indian travellers,” said Lubaina Sheerazi, COO, Blue Square Consultants.last_img read more

Government of Rwanda and Alibaba Group enter into agreements to promote tourism

first_imgRwandan President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma witnessed the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the Rwandan Government and Alibaba establishing an eWTP (electronic world trade platform) hub in Rwanda.The agreements are intended to strengthen cooperation in support of Rwanda’s economic development by promoting policy innovation, enabling cross-border trade of Rwandan products to Chinese consumers, facilitating tourism to Rwanda, and providing capacity building to empower the growth of Rwanda’s digital economy.As a regional pioneer with a vision to create world class digital infrastructure, Rwanda becomes the first country in Africa to establish an eWTP hub. The eWTP is a multi-stakeholder global initiative promoting public-private dialogue to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in cross-border electronic trade.“The Electronic World Trade Platform opens up new frontiers in e-commerce and tourism for Rwanda, and will also boost the capacity and competitiveness of our entrepreneurs and businesspeople,” said President Paul Kagame. “Rwandan producers will be able to sell directly to a much larger set of customers than before, while bypassing costly intermediaries. This improves productivity and profitability. There really are no downsides to doing business on a global scale.”“I am delighted that Rwanda is the first eWTP partner in Africa, and I look forward to the development of an innovative digital economy here,” said Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group. “Entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and elsewhere in Africa, are ready to seize the opportunities offered by the digital economy. It is up to all of us to help them succeed.”Alibaba’s travel services platform, Fliggy, and the RDB will also work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences and a Destination Pavilion where Chinese consumers can learn about visiting the country, including its beautiful natural parks, through engaging video content. Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial will share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy.last_img read more

US Bank Sues BofA Over 175B in MBS

first_img Share U.S. Bank Sues BofA Over $1.75B in MBS “”US Bancorp””:http://www.usbank.com/index.html joined a field of investors taking issue with the $8.5-billion deal proposed by “”Bank of America””:https://www.bankofamerica.com/, filing suit to recover losses over alleged falsifications, according to multiple news outlets. Following a filing in New York by the FDIC Monday, the suit emerges as the newest in a barrage of legal maneuvers to hit the bank over bad mortgage-backed securities.[IMAGE]The litigation, which Bank of America continues to fend off as it seeks to finalize a mega settlement, concerns loans allegedly misrepresented by Countrywide Financial Corp., which the mortgage giant acquired in a major purchase during the financial crisis.Lodging the complaint in a Manhattan-based state court, U.S. Bank pursued compensation from the new owner of the assets under Countrywide by alleging a series of misrepresentations in the underwriting quality and borrower details for 4,884 loans in a $1.75-billion mortgage pool, according to “”_Reuters_””:http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/30/us-bankofamerica-usbancorp-lawsuit-idUSTRE77T36F20110830.The news service quoted the complaint by U.S. Bank as saying the bad loans “”began to become delinquent and default at a startling rate,”” with 66 percent, or some 520, of a sample of 786 loans failing to accurately represent borrower eligibility and other information.The suit asks Bank of America to sign off on a repurchase agreement for all the busted loans as offered up by U.S. Bank, which _Reuters_ reporting the bank as saying that the former has refused to acquiesce or make the needed changes.[COLUMN_BREAK]Spokespeople for neither Bank of America nor U.S. Bank could be immediately reached for comment.It is unclear how Bank of America will respond to the continuing suits. According to _Reuters_, CEO Brian Moynihan made remarks in 2010 that signaled his intentions to fend off suits aiming for Bank of America to buy back bad loans in “”hand-to-hand combat.””Nevertheless, Bank of America gave the go-ahead this year for massive settlements with other companies and bond insurers, including GSEs “”Fannie Mae””:http://www.fanniemae.com/kb/index?page=home and “”Freddie Mac””:http://www.freddiemac.com/ and “”Assured Guaranty Ltd””:http://www.assuredguaranty.com/, the news service reports.If a judge signs off on the current $8.5-billion settlement, Bank of America could wipe its hands clean of the bad mortgage-backed securities that continue to rile the mortgage giant years after it acquired Countrywide.The move by U.S. Bank is the latest in a series of legal challenges to the mega settlement. On Monday the “”FDIC””:http://www.fdic.gov/, an erstwhile regulatory authority, filed concerns in a New York federal court that it still needed to see the figures and other information before the settlement moves forward.Lawrence Grayson, a spokesperson for Bank of America, told _MReport_ in an e-mail that the mortgage giant believes “”that the trustee [the FDIC] acted reasonably in entering into the settlement, and that there are compelling reasons why the agreement should receive judicial approval.””Late Tuesday, a “”_Bloomberg News_””:http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-30/homeowners-sue-to-block-8-5-billion-bofa-mortgage-settlement.html story added to the settlement brouhaha by reporting that four homebuyers had also filed suit to halt the $8.5-billion deal.””The settlement agreement will speed up foreclosures, perpetuate existing servicing abuses in the system, and undermine federal programs designed to stabilize the housing market,”” _Bloomberg_ quoted their filing as saying. August 30, 2011 469 Views center_img Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Bank of America Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Investment Investors Lenders & Servicers Processing Service Providers Top Corporate Headlines 2011 2011-08-30 Ryan Schuette in Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicinglast_img read more

The Week Ahead The Certain Future of Existing Sales

first_imgThe Week Ahead: The Certain Future of Existing Sales Share May 14, 2016 539 Views Although the market may be facing challenges such constrained inventory and home price appreciation outpacing wage growth, existing-home sales have a bright future ahead, according to industry economists.The National Association of Realtors (NAR) believes that 2016 will be the best year for existing-home sales since the pre-crisis year of 2006.The NAR reported last month that existing-home sales rose 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in March from a downwardly revised 5.07 million in February and 1.5 percent year-over-year.NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, in presenting his midyear economic and housing forecast at the 2016 Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo on Thursday, said that even though existing-home sales were uneven in the first quarter, they are still ahead of last year’s overall annual pace (5.29 million compared to 5.26 million).All this points to a forecast of an annual pace of 5.40 million for existing-home sales in 2016, which would be the best year since 2006 (6.48 million). Yun expects home price appreciation to moderate to between 4 and 5 percent after rising to 6.8 percent last year.“The housing market continues to expand at a moderate pace in spite of the fact that home prices are rising too fast in some areas because of insufficient supply fueled by the grossly inadequate number of new single-family homes being constructed,” Yun said. “The good news is that pending sales in recent months have remained stable and should support a modest gain in home sales heading into the summer.”Ten-X’s Residential Real Estate Nowcast expects existing-home sales to outperform the previous month in April with a 3.6 percent increase from March and a 7.4 percent year-over-year increase. The company projects that sales will fall between seasonally adjusted annual rates of 5.3 and 5.7 million, with a targeted number of 5.52 million.Ten-X Chief Economist Peter Muoio explained, “U.S. home sales have recently been subject to volatility on a monthly basis, mostly due to external factors. However, beneath that volatility are clear signs that sales activity is floating at a relatively high level overall. And, while concerns remain over broader trends such as global economic volatility, weak first quarter U.S. GDP growth, and persistently lower oil prices affecting energy-based companies, the U.S. housing market stands firmly on solid ground supported by a solid labor market.”The NAR is set to release April’s existing-home sales data on Friday, May 20, 2016.House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee hearing, “Examining the CFPB’s Proposed Rulemaking on Arbitration: Is it in the Public Interest and for the Protection of Consumers?”, Wednesday, May 18Now that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced its proposed rule to prohibit financial firms from using mandatory arbitration clauses in business contracts with consumers, Congress wants to see if this rule will actually help the public.On Wednesday, May 18, at 2 p.m .EST, the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “Examining the CFPB’s Proposed Rulemaking on Arbitration: Is it in the Public Interest and for the Protection of Consumers?” The CFPB proposed a rule on May 5 to ban the use or arbitration clauses by businesses after months of discussion about the proposal. The Bureau is trying to keep businesses from requiring consumers to agree to arbitration clauses in financial contracts because the clauses deny consumers the opportunity to sue the businesses at a future date.Eric Goldberg, Senior Counsel at CFPB, said that these clauses typically state that either the company or the consumer can require that disputes be resolved by privately appointed arbitrators, except for cases brought in small claims court.“Where these clauses exist, either side can generally block lawsuits from proceeding in court,” Goldberg stated. “These clauses also typically bar consumers from bringing group claims through the arbitration process. As a result, no matter how many consumers are injured by the same conduct, consumers must proceed to resolve their claims individually against the company.”Under Dodd-Frank, the CFBP is required to conduct a study of arbitration clauses and their use in conjunction with financial products, and then to regulate the use of arbitration clauses in a consistent manner with the report to Congress; the Subcommittee members will examine both the CFPB’s report and the proposed rule.Here is the lineup for the week:Monday, May 16, 2016 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI) 10:00 A.M. ESTTuesday, May 17, 2016U.S. Census Bureau and HUD Residential Data 8:30 A.M. ESTWednesday, May 18, 2016Federal Open Market Committee Minutes 2:00 P.M. ESTHouse Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee hearing, “Examining the CFPB’s Proposed Rulemaking on Arbitration: Is it in the Public Interest and for the Protection of Consumers?”, 2:00 P.M. ESTFriday, May 20, 2016National Association of Realtors (NAR) Existing-Home Sales 10:00 A.M. ESTcenter_img Existing-Home Sales NAR Ten-X 2016-05-14 Staff Writer in Daily Dose, Data, News, Originationlast_img read more

Conditions are Dampening Homebuyer Confidence

first_imgConditions are Dampening Homebuyer Confidence Fewer homebuyers in September felt good about buying, for the second straight month. In August, buyer confidence took a drop from its peak (which was in July), and last month it fell again, according to the September Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index report, or HPSI.The index found that buyer confidence dropped 2.2 points to 82.8 in September. July’s peak was 86.5. This slip, said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, has dampened what had been a moderately optimistic outlook on the housing market.“Downside changes came in particular from the HPSI components mortgage rate direction and good time to buy a house,” Duncan said. “In addition, the starter home tight supply and rising home prices as well as the unsettled political environment are likely giving many consumers a reason to pause or question their home purchase sentiment.”The largest factor to decrease in buyer sentiment was the net share of consumers who expect mortgage interest rates to go down over the next 12 months, which fell 6 percent, Fannie reported. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has fallen by approximately 35 basis points in the last year. This week’s average 30-year FRM was at 3.42 percent, only 11 basis points higher than the all-time low, according to Freddie Mac.This decline in consumers who expect mortgage rates to go down was followed by a 5 percent drop in the net share of consumers who say now is a good time to buy a home. This brings the overall percentage down to 29, which is where it was in May and matches the lowest point on the survey timeline. There also was a 3 percent drop in the net share of consumers reporting confidence about not losing their job over the next year.Household Income was the only component to increase in September. About 2 percent of survey responders said their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago. Similarly, the number of Americans who say they are not concerned with losing their job fell 3 percentage points to 70 percent.Even those who want to buy houses are having trouble buying, according to a report from Trulia. According to Trulia, 10.4 percent of would-be buyers who searched at a certain price point failed to match the available inventory to that price point. A year ago, only 8.3 percent of would-be buyers encountered a similar mismatch.“These sorts of mismatches in the market can drive up prices in certain popular price ranges or cause properties to sit on the market longer than they otherwise would,” said Felipe Chacón, housing data analyst for Trulia’s Housing Economics Research Team. “[M]any metros are tight on starter homes at the moment and heavy on higher-end homes. This puts upward pressure on starter home prices, especially in metros where people seem most interested in lower price ranges.” October 7, 2016 728 Views Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index Homebuyers Housing Market 2016-10-07 ScottMorgan1center_img in Daily Dose, Data, Headlines, News Sharelast_img read more

Easing the Down Payment Burden for Military and Veterans

first_imgEasing the Down Payment Burden for Military and Veterans in Daily Dose, Headlines, News, Origination There are a little less down payment assistance programs out there, according to Down Payment Resource. On Monday, Down Payment Resource released its Q1 2017 Homeownership Program Index (HPI). According to the HPI, the number of down payment assistance programs fell by nine to 2,454 from the previous quarter. Around 87 percent of these programs have funds available for eligible homebuyers, unchanged from the previous quarter.According to the Zillow Housing Aspiration Report, saving for a down payment was the biggest barrier to homeownership, as 70 percent of renters cite not affording a down payment as the top hurdle.“There are many mortgage-ready renters today, but they don’t know it. Often, homebuyers remain sidelined for years due to the down payment,” said Rob Chrane, CEO of Down Payment Resource. “Plus, veterans and members of the military may not know about additional homeownership benefits they can pair with their VA loan. After serving our country, it’s important we in turn support our veterans in achieving their dream of homeownership.”A particular focus of Down Payment Resource’s HPI is programs aimed at military and veteran homebuyers. Down Payment Resource notes that there are 135 programs across the country with special benefits for veterans or members of the military, and military and veterans often have the option to pair these programs with their Veterans Association housing benefit.Some of these programs include the PenFed Foundation Dream Makers program.“Since the Dream Makers inception, the PenFed Foundation has provided over $5 million in down payment assistance grants, supporting the purchase of a home by veterans and military personnel,” said Mark Smith, Director of Programs at the PenFed Foundation.Other programs across the U.S. include the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership Veterans Program, the Florida First & Military Heroes Program, the Home in 5 Advantage Program in Phoenix, and the Home for Texas Heroes program. Down Payments Down-Payment Assistance Military 2017-05-22 Seth Welborncenter_img Share May 22, 2017 734 Views last_img read more

Eye on the Industry Updates on Black Knight Churchill and More

first_img March 28, 2019 831 Views in Daily Dose, Featured, News From announcements of key hires to joint ventures and platform integration, catch the latest from the mortgage industry in this update.Florida-based Black Knight Inc. has announced that U.S. Bank has chosen its Servicing Digital Solution to supplement its internal capabilities and offer its customers ongoing, detailed information about their loans, and tools to manage their housing wealth.The web solution delivers detailed, timely, and highly personalized loan information to U.S. Bank mortgage customers about their loans, and provides “what-if” simulators and tools to show how wealth can be built from these real estate assets.Black Knight said that Servicing Digital is a consumer-centric, responsive web and mobile solution that gives customers of financial institutions fast, around-the-clock access to home and loan information that is relevant and easy to understand. The solution was built with the consumer’s needs in mind and provides servicers with a platform for continual engagement with their customers to build stronger relationships.“At U.S. Bank, we work hard to provide simple and useful customer experiences by offering tools such as the new Servicing Digital solution,” said David Little, EVP of Servicing and Default at U.S. Bank. “This update allows us to give customers valuable details about their most important asset, their home.”____________________________________________________Tennessee-based Churchill Mortgage, a provider of conventional, FHA, VA, and USDA residential mortgages across 46 states, announced a joint venture with American Home Title to found Churchill Title Solutions, a title company intended to streamline the origination process and create a secure mortgage experience for borrowers, real estate agents, and lenders.Available to all lenders in every U.S. state, Churchill Title Solutions will provide borrowers the option of pursuing a digital mortgage, streamlining (or entirely eliminating) some tedious processes associated with traditional title management, while expediting lenders’ time to close. In addition, the joint venture will close potential security gaps within the mortgage process and help lenders and real estate agents provide borrowers with peace of mind that their information is safe and secure.“With the engagement and commitment of both companies’ staff and leadership, we’ve established a synergistic joint venture that will allow Churchill Title Solutions to become an integrated part of Churchill’s streamlined origination process,” said Jack Goisse, President of American Home Title. “This joint venture will employ solutions to ensure efficiency, security and transparency to all stakeholders providing a consistent and stress free experience.”____________________________________________________California-based Cloudvirga, a provider of digital mortgage point-of-sale (POS) software, and Ellie Mae, a cloud-based platform provider for the mortgage finance industry have announced an official partnership that integrates Cloudvirga’s POS software with Ellie Mae’s Encompass digital mortgage solution.The joint solution is a fully bi-directional integration that seamlessly maps all data fields, from disclosure tracking to itemization of fees, creating a more robust dataset than a FNMA 3.2 file. Additionally, both systems are fully synchronized whether the origination teams are in the Cloudvirga POS or Encompass.”Cloudvirga’s integration with Ellie Mae is the result of years of development and tens of thousands of closed loans on Cloud Virga’s POS,” said Tim Von Kaenel, Chief Product Officer at Cloudvirga. “Together, Cloudvirga and Ellie Mae bring exceptional user experience to both borrowers and loan originators while dramatically driving down the cost of lending.”____________________________________________________LoanCare, a ServiceLink Company, has named Sudhir Nair as its new EVP and CIO. Nair, who has nearly two decades of experience in the mortgage and consumer lending sector, will be responsible for planning, organizing, optimizing, and managing the overall operation of LoanCare’s IT department. He will also provide strategic leadership to ensure operational services are supported in a timely and cost-effective manner.”We are excited to have Sudhir join our executive team. Given his expertise, we’re confident that he will help take our business to the next level,” said Dave Worrall, President of LoanCare. “We are committed to innovation and providing the best digital mortgage experience for our customers and clients and we look forward to seeing how Sudhir can position us for the future.” Black Knight Churchill Cloudvirga Eye on the Industry loanCare 2019-03-28 Seth Welborncenter_img Eye on the Industry: Updates on Black Knight, Churchill, and More Sharelast_img read more

Using Data for Disaster Preparedness

first_img AI Appraisal DS News Fannie Mae Property Preservation repairs Safeguard Properties Servicing technology 2019-04-11 Radhika Ojha in Daily Dose, Featured, News, Technology How can data and analytics be utilized to manage risks to properties such as crime, vandalism, and emergency preparedness? This and many related questions were answered by experts during a DS News webinar titled “Risky Business: Using Data and Analytics to Protect Properties,” presented by Safeguard Properties.The webinar was moderated by Tim Rath, AVP, Business Development for Safeguard Properties, and featured insights from Jason Heckman, AVP, Mobile and Analytics for Safeguard Properties and John Thibaudeau, Director, Single-Family Real Estate for Fannie Mae into how technology is helping property preservation companies to identify cost-effective and timely solutions to protect and preserve homes.During the webinar, Thibaudeau said that technology had made great strides to assist with property preservation, repairs, and marketing. He spoke about the tools and apps that are helping Fannie Mae get real-time information for properties that need inspection. They are also used to guide inspectors and users on what to look for once they reach the property and help Fannie Mae to absorb all the appraisal data to prioritize their work.Discussing how data and technology go hand-in-hand for home repairs, Thibaudeau said that one of the key challenges companies face is ensuring consistency.Speaking about the evolution of technology in property preservation, Heckman said that the data being used in property preservation at present helped companies understand the story that each house had to tell. He said that the evolution of data was also helping to “proactively manage anything that can go wrong.”While buying and implementing such technology can be a costly affair, Heckman pointed out that the benefits of these systems far outweighed the cost in terms of better targeting of potential issues and managing risks that include the prevention of services to the wrong property.Answering a question on how servicing technology had changed today compared with what it used to be, Thibadeau said, “It is exciting to see how fast things continue to change. Today, speed is of the essence when you’re moving to new technology to keep an advantage.” Additionally, he said that technology continued to move on mobile solutions. “At the end of the day, we would love to provide technology to our customers where they can do business with us from anywhere.””The introduction of iPhone really changed what we could do in terms of collecting data and getting things in real time. The improvement from where it was when we started in the mid-2000s to where we are now, has greatly changed the capabilities of what’s available and what we can actually do,” Heckman said.Speaking about the type of technology that is being developed to address exceptions to vendor feedback, Heckman explained that it really went back to mobile technology and the aggregation of data. “We have capabilities to not only use scripts and text but also video capabilities which allow us to tell that story in real time,” he said.Looking at future technologies that were likely to advance property preservation procedures, both Thibadeau and Heckman concluded that artificial intelligence (AI) was the way forward. “The more interesting thing we’re seeing today is around AI and using machine learning to automate processes,” Thibadeau said. “It’s going to continue to evolve over the coming years.”Heckman added, “With the advent of AI, and the Big Data movement the way data is being stored is changing and will continue to evolve as AI models improve.”Click here to view a recording of the webinar.The topic of how the industry should prepare for and respond to disasters will be explored thoroughly at the upcoming Five Star Disaster Preparedness Symposium, to be hosted June 5-6, 2019, at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. The Symposium is designed to provide an opportunity for mortgage industry leaders and executives to engage in critical conversations on diligence and preparedness, so the next time natural disaster strikes, the industry will be ready to lend the proper support. You can register for the Disaster Preparedness Symposium here. Using Data for Disaster Preparednesscenter_img April 11, 2019 896 Views Sharelast_img read more

Executive Changes Announced at Mortgage Marketing Company

first_imgExecutive Changes Announced at Mortgage Marketing Company July 3, 2019 390 Views in Headlines, News Theresa SloanVolly, a provider of SaaS-based marketing automation, CRM, and POS solutions for banks and mortgage companies, announced the appointment of Theresa Sloan as SVP of Client Services.  As a member of Volly’s executive leadership team, Sloan will manage Volly’s enterprise-wide client services teams and client relationships. Sloan brings over 25 years of experience in the mortgage banking and financial services industries to Volly. Previously, Theresa served as Director of Engagement Services and Professional Services at Ellie Mae, a cloud-based platform provider for the mortgage industry.  As SVP and Client Delivery Director at Black Knight, Sloan was responsible for executive relationship management and services delivery. She also held various leadership roles at loan origination system providers, banks, and loan servicing firms.“Our innovation and aggressive roadmap go hand-in-hand with recruiting top talent to deliver the world-class technology and marketing services the mortgage lenders need,” said Jerry Halbrook, Volly’s CEO.  “Theresa’s track record, experience, and passion for client services and technology leadership make her an outstanding addition to the Volly team and corporate culture.” “Volly is steadily striving for and reaching monumental milestones in our technology development and growth initiatives,” Halbrook said.  “Our industry, clients, partners, and employees can look forward to exceptional advancements as we introduce and deliver swift technology and services in the coming months.”center_img Share new hires 2019-07-03 Mike Albaneselast_img read more