Thanks to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, which brought its youth group from California to join Salvando Corazones for a week of community service in Nuevo Arenal. The group painted the Salvando Corazones children’s home.The students also volunteered in schools, organized two soccer games in the plaza and held a fiesta for the community in the town gymnasium. Everyone enjoyed the food and music, and parents and children joined in various games, including relay races. G-PAW (Guanacaste Province Animal Welfare) foundation is sponsoring a spay/neuter clinic in Río Piedras and Tilarán at the Salón Comunal Aug. 18-19. Coordinator Judy Reisman requests that people contact her by email to make appointments (email@example.com). The cost is $10 per animal. Sponsorships are welcome. Remember, patients should not eat or drink for 12 hours before surgery. The Robson and Chambers Explorers Group selected Costa Rica as this year’s destination for their annual survey of places to visit. The group is based in St. Louis, Missouri, with associates in Colorado and North Carolina. Their Trans Balo bus included two professional Costa Rican tour guides, who are keeping the group’s itinerary full and moving at a rapid pace.At a stop for lunch in Nuevo Arenal, Cary Robson and Butch Chambers expressed favorable impressions of Costa Rica’s natural beauty, environmental diversity and friendly people. Next stop: Playa Conchal, on the northern Pacific coast.Welcome to first-timers Melinda, Wes, Tyra, Wade, Bobbie, Michael, Jon and Sarah, all of whom are eager to share Costa Rica’s “pura vida.” –William & Jean Priestjean_pri@msn.com Facebook Comments No related posts.
No related posts. From the print editionCosta Rica’s gross domestic product, at an estimated $55 billion for 2012, is only about 0.4 percent of the U.S.’ $14.5 trillion economy. Nevertheless, because of a big public sector and a 500-to-one exchange rate, when we examine this country’s national budget in colones, presented by President Laura Chinchilla’s administration this week to the Legislative Assembly, we can talk in trillions, just like the United States. It’s budget season in Costa Rica: The law requires that the national budget be approved by Nov. 30 every year. Finance Minister Edgar Ayales has been conscientious in delivering a draft 2013 budget for discussion on Monday, the opening day of the assembly’s ordinary session, when the agenda is set by assembly rules and not the executive branch. The draft budget will be evaluated and voted upon first in the assembly’s Finance Commission, then before full Congress.An important point to make is that Costa Rica’s national budget is allotted for three branches of government, plus the fourth branch, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and autonomous institutes such as the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, the huge power and telecom utility. But the national budget does not include the Costa Rican Social Security System, or Caja, the country’s flagship social security, health care and pensions system.For 2012, the national budget was ₡6 trillion, while the Caja’s budget was ₡2.3 trillion. The government claims that Costa Rica is an under-taxed country, with the national budget at about 22 percent of GDP. But if we add another 8 percent on top of that for the Caja, the total tax burden runs to 30 percent of GDP – well below European 40 percent levels, but higher than the U.S.’ historical 22-26 percent government spending to GDP ratio. While Costa Rica’s budget is very much in the public eye and the subject of much political discussion, the Caja budget, autonomously prepared by Caja financial staff, is quietly approved by the Comptroller’s Office, with little or no public attention.The 2013 Costa Rica national budget presented by Ayales is ₡6.4 trillion, a 7.5 percent increase over 2012. The budget is controversial right off the bat. First of all, it’s illegal. Article 6 of the Law for Financial Administration and Public Budgets states that “to maintain sound public finances, funding of current expenditures from long-term sources is forbidden.” But the 2013 national budget does just that: 40.8 percent of ₡1.9 trillion in public sector salaries and employee compensation are to be paid for by issuing medium- to long-term government debt. Overall, only 57 percent of proposed expenditures are covered by current revenues in the government’s 2013 budget, with 43 percent financed by debt – much of it medium- to long-term. This situation is generated by Costa Rica’s main budget bind: constitutionally mandated expenses such as salaries, pensions and debt service account for the great majority (85 percent) of government spending, leaving little room for investment. Infrastructure – the Public Works and Transport Ministry – is budgeted to take a 2.4 percent budget hit, so that roads, already falling apart, will get even less attention next year. Asked what the solution to Costa Rica’s budget bind is, Ayales gave the stock government answer: reduce the deficit, projected at 5.26 percent of GDP for the 2013 budget, with the implication that this must be by way of additional taxes, since the great majority of expenses are untouchable. Trouble is, the Chinchilla government’s biggest political defeat has been the failure of it’s proposed tax package in April of this year, with Ayales’ predecessor, Fernando Herrero, losing his job because of a tax scandal of his own. Since then, this government has lowered its sights on reform of public finances, concentrating its efforts on two tax housekeeping bills, and an authorization to issue Eurodollar debt to refinance public debt at low international rates.The three bills, passed last month, provide wiggle room for the government to muddle along without addressing the basic budget problem: an out-of-control public sector payroll. To its credit, the Chinchilla administration has proposed the start of a long-term process to achieve eventual payroll reform. Public sector unions have already come out against any attempt to tamper with their acquired benefits. But this fight will be for the long term. For the short term, the 2013 budget has the country persisting with its unsustainable deficits. The government, with 21 months to go in office, is basically playing it safe, riding along on good economic growth, exchange stability and low inflation, hoping economics won’t blow up in its face. Odds are that they’ll get through with this strategy. But in something as politically charged as administering budget austerity among government entities, each with patrons in the assembly, you never know. Facebook Comments
No related posts. WASHINGTON, D.C. — After being spotted by a sharp-eyed tourist in Nicaragua, fugitive Eric Justin Toth was back in the District of Columbia on Tuesday facing child pornography charges, including an accusation that he shot explicit video of a young boy inside Washington National Cathedral’s Beauvoir elementary school.Toth, 31, met the tourist at a “social engagement” on April 18 in Nicaragua, said Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.“She was on vacation or other travel, and she met him and realized who he was,” Parlave said, adding the woman recognized him from media reports.Toth, a former third-grade teacher at Beauvoir, was taken into custody by Nicaraguan authorities Saturday.His arrest brings to an end the five-year search for a man who last year replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. The former teacher, whom authorities called an “expert in social engineering,” has used two aliases and even faked his own suicide to elude police, authorities said.On Saturday in Nicaragua, Toth spoke briefly to a reporter as he was taken from his home by police, seeming confused when the reporter asked in Spanish why he was being arrested, according to a video on a Nicaraguan news website.“Crime?” Toth said in Spanish. “I haven’t committed a crime.”Nicaraguan police said he had been living in Esteli, Nicaragua, under the name of Robert Shaw Walker and had a forged U.S. passport with “Texas” on it, falsified driver’s license and credit cards. He had been in Nicaragua on and off since October 2012, allegedly at times working with youths, police said.Tall and lanky, Toth is recognizable by a mole under his left eye. Nicaraguan police said in a news release that he hid the mole by wearing an eye patch in public.In federal court in the District of Columbia, Toth was ordered held without bond. He is facing two charges: production of child pornography and possession of child pornography. If convicted of both counts, he could face 15 to 50 years in prison. At the hearing, Toth said little. Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson indicated that Toth was interested in working out a plea deal.Toth, whose image was plastered on billboards and at bus stops, became the 469th fugitive captured on the FBI’s top 10 list since its inception in 1950.After getting the tip last week, the FBI identified Toth’s travel documents and conducted a financial analysis to pinpoint where he was, Parlave said. Authorities did not say why Toth chose to go to the Central American country.Toth first came to police attention in 2008, when Beauvoir employees discovered a camera assigned to Toth with 68 pictures and videos, including pornographic images of one of his former students, authorities said.“They found a media card in his classroom,” said Ronald Machen, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “There were pictures of kids smiling and playing in the classroom. There were also pictures that would be any parent’s nightmare.”According to charging papers filed in U.S. District Court, Toth made a video in August 2007 of a man sexually touching a boy who was younger than 12. It was made at a home in Maryland, according to the documents. Police also found a video of Toth allegedly filming a naked boy in a classroom at Beauvoir, according to the documents.In addition to the charges he faces in Washington, Toth is charged in federal court in Maryland with one count of enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct in order to create child pornography. And in Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court, he faces one count of sex abuse of a minor and two counts of a third-degree sex offense.Machen said there may be other children who were exploited and asked that anyone with information about Toth call the FBI. “He is a known child predator,” Machen said. “We assume there are potential other victims.”During a news conference in Nicaragua on Monday, Aminta Granera, commissioner of the National Police, said there was no evidence that any Nicaraguan children had been victimized.Authorities said they were able to find Toth after an extensive investigation that involved hundreds of tips. “You can’t run far enough to get away from federal law enforcement,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.Michele Booth Cole, a parent of one of Toth’s former students, said she has talked to her daughter about Toth’s arrest, saying it is important to air such issues.“I feel relief whenever someone who has harmed kids is brought to justice. It doesn’t happen enough,” said Cole, who works at a center for abused children. “We continue to see kids brought in here every day that are being hurt.”Toth has been on the run since June 2008, when Beauvoir officials found the explicit photos, confronted him and then had him escorted to the end of the cathedral’s driveway, authorities have said. School officials called the FBI, but Toth had already fled.He went to his family’s home in Indiana, where he stayed for a day or two. Several days later, he left his car at a parking lot at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Inside, he left a suicide note indicating that police could find his body in a nearby lake.A year later, Toth turned up in Phoenix at a homeless shelter and rehabilitation facility. He used the name David Bussone, a man he met in Phoenix, and told people that he had taken a vow of poverty.In 2009, someone in Phoenix recognized him from the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” but Toth vanished before officers arrived.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Comments
Facebook Comments Hundreds of Ticos welcomed Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador at the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José after his arrival to Costa Rica Friday afternoon. Amador finished fourth in the Giro d’Italia, the most important cycling race after the Tour de France, and is now the highest placing Central American cyclist in history. Related posts:Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador: ‘I don’t feel fear. Respect, yes, but not fear.’ Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador moves into third place in the Giro d’Italia Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador finishes fourth in Giro d’Italia Costa Rican cyclist Andrey Amador finishes third in opening stage of Giro d’Italia
Related posts:Ban on growing marijuana for personal use challenged in Costa Rica Supreme Court Costa Rica prosecutors charge 5 members of alleged organ trafficking ring Uber supporters say court case could legalize ride-hailing service in Costa Rica Costa Rica welcomes first IVF baby after 16-year ban Walk down the street in any Costa Rican city and there will be some, well, interesting fashion choices. But it’s not the Navajo print leggings, tube tops or flat-billed, gold-studded New York Yankees cap that’s at issue here: The Costa Rican Supreme Court upheld a public hospital’s right to refuse a man entry because of his beachy attire.The Costa Rican man, who was not named in the case summary, tried to enter San Rafael Hospital in Alajuela wearing a tank top and shorts. When a security guard turned him away at the door for violating the hospital’s dress code, he filed a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, saying that the guard abused his authority.The complainant argued that the hospital, as part of the Costa Rican Social Security System, was a public building and did not have the right to limit his access based on his dress, and should remove the sign outside saying so.The Sala IV was not impressed with the complainant’s “sun’s out, guns out” argument and upheld the hospital’s right to impose a public dress code so long as the rules are clearly posted and applied equally to all.The Sala’s judges ruled that the dress code was not arbitrary or harmful to the complainant’s or other hospital users’ fundamental rights. The hospital can limit any “inappropriate clothing” like tank tops and shorts that could “threaten the order, hygiene or respect of those visiting the facilities or harm the image of the institution,” the judges ruled. Facebook Comments
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – Tunisia’s government has reached an agreement with the country’s leading labor union to avoid a nationwide strike over economic woes and power disputes.Government spokesman Ridha Kazdaghli told The Associated Press that the agreement was reached Tuesday after daylong negotiations. He would not give details.The deputy head of the UGTT union, Belgacem Ayari, was quoted by the state news agency as saying the talks were “positive” and allowed both sides to defuse the crisis. 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Check your body, save your life Comments Share Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The UGTT had planned nationwide strikes Thursday.Disputes between the moderate Islamist-led government and the union have led to rioting. Many Tunisians accuse the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, of doing too little to reduce unemployment and curb police abuses.Similar complaints drove Tunisia’s revolution two years ago, which set off uprisings across the Arab world.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories
Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 4 must play golf courses in Arizona China has become Bordeaux’s largest export market, picking up the slack as sales to other countries slip.Buffo and the mayor of nearby town Libourne seemed to be seeking to convince doubters that outside purchases of French vineyards are good for Bordeaux business, and no threat to its prestige.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) PARIS (AP) – While on a helicopter tour of Bordeaux vineyards he had just purchased, a Chinese businessman, his 12-year-old son and two other people plunged into a wintry river and died, authorities said Monday.Hong Kong-based Lam Kok, who built a fortune in fine tea and luxury hotels before taking an interest in French winemaking, drew attention in the French media when he offered to buy the Chateau de la Riviere. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments Share New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Sponsored Stories Check your body, save your life Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober It was one of a string of Chinese purchases of French vineyards and wines in recent years, which has demonstrated China’s global economic strength, and raised concerns in economically-stagnant France and elsewhere that cultural heritage _ such as grapevines linked closely to the French identity _ are being sold off to richer foreigners.Hours after a news conference Friday announcing the vineyard purchase, the former owner of the chateau took Lam Kok, his son and an interpreter up in a helicopter to tour the estate, said Vincent Corbel of the regional gendarme service.The helicopter soon dived into the Dordogne River, for reasons that remain unclear. Emergency workers recovered the boy’s body and most of the helicopter, but are still searching for the other victims, Corbel said Monday.The former owner of the Chateau de la Riviere vineyards, James Gregoire, owned the helicopter and appeared to have been piloting it, Corbel said. He added that the helicopter, a Robinson R44, had undergone maintenance checks two days before the crash.Lam Kok headed Hong Kong-based high-end tea and hotel company Brilliant Group. The chateau’s director, Xavier Buffo, told reporters Friday the new owner wanted to “create an esteemed place for cultural exchange around tea and wine.”
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Random shelling of residential areas in the restive eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has killed eight people from one family, including seven children, officials said.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack late Thursday. It came days after an operative from Libya’s Islamic State affiliate was killed in fighting in this city, where clashes have been raging for nearly a year. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Libya is split between an elected parliament and weak government, which were forced to relocate from the capital, Tripoli, to the far eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda, and the rival government and parliament set up by Islamist-linked militias in Tripoli.The U.N. envoy to Libya has been hosting a series of national unity talks aimed at ending the fighting and forming a new government.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Top Stories Ashraf al-Saiti, a senior medical official at Benghazi’s al-Jala hospital, said the family’s home in al-Salam district came under intense shelling from the nearby al-Sabri neighborhood, a stronghold of Islamic extremists. The children killed were between five and 10 years old, he said.Earlier this week, three children were killed and several civilians were wounded when a dozen mortar shells struck the neighborhood of Baloun in central Benghazi, officials said.The shelling appear to be linked to Monday’s killing of 19-year-old Islamic State operative Ali al-Barghathi, also known as Farouk al-Barkawi, who returned from Syria where he had joined IS in 2013, said intelligence official Jibril Mustafa.Pictures and statements eulogizing al-Barkawi have been posted on social networking sites by IS supporters.The fighting in Benghazi has pitted army units and fighters loyal to the internationally-recognized government on one side, against Islamic extremists, including militants from an Islamic State affiliate, on the other. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced.Nearly four years after the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, chaos in Libya has given the Islamic State opportunity to gain a foothold in Libya. The IS affiliate now controls at least two cities along Libya’s coastline. Comments Share Parents, stop beating yourself up New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories
Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Men’s health affects baby’s health too Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — An armed militia stormed into the Tunisian general consulate in Libya’s capital on Friday, taking 10 employees hostage, officials said.Mokhtar Chaouachi, a spokesman for the Tunisian Foreign Ministry, said it was not clear whether the attackers were holding the hostages on site or had taken them elsewhere. He also said he did not know whether the attackers had opened fire or had made any demands in exchange for the captives. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Khalifa Ghwell, who holds the post of prime minister for the Islamist-led, militias-backed government in Tripoli, said that authorities were working to win the release of the employees. He declined to comment on circumstances of their abduction, saying: “Everything will be fine, God willing.”The Tunisian Foreign Ministry called the attack “a vile aggression” against Tunisian sovereignty and a violation of international conventions protecting diplomatic personnel. The government is monitoring the situation and working to secure the release of the employees, a ministry statement said.Libya has been divided between rival governments and hundreds of militias in the aftermath of its 2011 civil war that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi. An Islamist-led government backed by militias seized Tripoli last August and Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament — which was forced out — now convenes in the eastern city of Tobruk.After Friday’s abductions, the Foreign Ministry repeated a warning to Tunisians urging them not to travel to the neighboring country under the current instability unless absolutely essential. Despite the dangers, many Tunisians work in Libya: Official figures put the number at some 60,000. Comments Share Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Last month, 172 Tunisians were detained by authorities in Tripoli. The Foreign Ministry has said they were picked up in an immigration sweep. They have since been freed in a series of releases under pressure from Tunisia’s government upon several Libyan groups.Tunisia’s consul to Tripoli, Brahim Rezgui, said then that those arrests were in retaliation for the detention days earlier of Walid Klib, a leader of the Libyan Dawn militia, at the airport in Tunisia’s capital Tunis. A judicial official said he was charged under Tunisia’s anti-terrorist law.A Tunisian court on Thursday rejected an appeal for Klib’s release.___Maggie Michael contributed from Cairo.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
“This is a war crime in all levels, a crime against childhood, a crime against humanity,” he said. “I call for bringing the responsible to punishment.”The commission’s report also included tough criticism of Hamas — the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, is considered a terrorist group by the West.The report said that Hamas fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars toward Israel, killing six civilians, including Daniel Tregerman, a 4-year-old boy struck by a mortar while playing at home.It said the indiscriminate nature of these unguided projectiles and the deliberate targeting of civilians “may amount to a war crime.” It said evidence showed that “the primary purpose of the rocket attacks was to spread terror among the civilian population.”It also criticized Hamas’ use of tunnels as creating “palpable” fear in Israeli border towns and noted that Gaza militants’ extrajudicial killings of alleged collaborators amount to a war crime.Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, rejected the report’s findings, saying it created a false balance “between the victims and the killers.” While Israel has long complained of bias, the stakes are higher now that the Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court.The court has opened a preliminary examination — the precursor of a full-fledged investigation — into Israeli conduct in last year’s war and its policy of building settlements in the occupied West Bank. In a statement, its prosecutor’s office said it would review Monday’s report “in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination.”The court can intervene in cases where a country is deemed incapable of conducting a proper investigation. The Israeli military has launched more than 100 investigations into troop conduct last year, but only has issued three indictments for looting.The report said it is concerned that “impunity prevails across the board” and criticized Israel’s “recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.” It urged both sides “to take immediate steps to ensure accountability.”Gaza resident Hatem Qdeih, whose 6-year-old son died after being hit by Israeli fire, said he would like the boy’s case to be taken to the court. According to the report, the boy died after waiting hours at an Israeli checkpoint for medical care to arrive. Under the rules of war, homes are protected civilian sites unless used for military purposes. Israel has said it attacked only legitimate targets, alleging militants used the houses to hide weapons, fighters and command centers.However, the U.N. Human Rights Council report questioned the timing and intensity of the Israeli attacks.The commission said it investigated 15 strikes on houses in which a total of 215 people were killed, including 115 children and 50 women. It said many of the strikes took place in the evening or at dawn, when families were gathered for meals of the holy month of Ramadan or were asleep.The investigators said there were strong indications that the attacks on homes “could be disproportionate and therefore amount to a war crime.”The investigators noted that targeted attacks on homes continued throughout the war, even after the scope of civilian casualties became apparent. This, they said, raises “concern that the strikes may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels” of government.Although Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation, the report noted Israeli claims that it took unprecedented measures to avoid civilian casualties. Israel ordered residents to evacuate through leaflets, phone calls, radio broadcasts and warning strikes with unarmed shells ahead of live airstrikes. It has also noted that Hamas repeatedly rejected cease-fire offers, prolonging the fighting and raising the death toll. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility But the U.N. commission said that in many incidents, Israel “may not have done everything feasible to avoid or limit civilian casualties.”The report also investigated three Israeli ground operations, and found that Israel used heavy weapons like artillery and tank shells in densely populated areas, tactics that “may not be in conformity with international humanitarian law.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily rejected the report.“Israel does not commit war crimes. Israel defends itself against a terrorist organization that calls for its destruction and carries out many war crimes,” Netanyahu said. He said the commission is “notoriously biased” against Israel.Israeli pressure forced the commission’s first chairman, Canadian law professor William Schabas, to resign after it was discovered he had done legal work for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Last week, Netanyahu accused the U.N. of “hypocrisy” after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel for the death and suffering of Palestinian children during last year’s fighting.Neither Israel nor Hamas cooperated in the probe, and Israel did not grant the commission access to Gaza. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall JERUSALEM (AP) — A U.N. investigation on Monday accused both Israel and Hamas militants of committing possible war crimes in last summer’s Gaza war, finding that Israeli airstrikes on residential buildings caused many civilian deaths and suggesting Israeli leaders knowingly endangered them.The report, which Israel rejected as biased, further strained its already troubled relations with the world body and could provide new ammunition in a preliminary investigation of Israel at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Hamas, condemned for indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and its use of tunnels to infiltrate border towns, also rejected the report. “We must remember that victims are not just numbers or collateral damage — that unfortunate word. They are individual people with human rights,” Mary McGowan Davis, the American judge who led the investigation, told journalists in Geneva.The war started July 8, 2014, after a chain of events stemming from the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank by Hamas militants and the kidnapping of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death by Jewish extremists in a revenge attack. Israel arrested hundreds of Hamas members in raids in the West Bank, prompting militant groups in Gaza to step up their rocket attacks.More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed during the fighting, according to the U.N. Seventy-three people, including six civilians, among them a 4-year-old boy, died on the Israeli side. Israel has blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the group used schools, mosques and residential areas for cover and noting that Hamas repeatedly fired rockets from populated areas.The Israeli military carried out more than 6,000 air strikes in Gaza during the war, including many that struck residential buildings. Top Stories Comments Share Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober A report by the U.N. council into the 2008-2009 Gaza war, conducted by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, found evidence that Israel and Hamas both committed war crimes. Although Goldstone later backed off some of his key allegations against Israel, the report’s harsh accusations remain a sore point in Israel.Many Israeli commentators said the report was less harsh than expected since it included the Israel’s key arguments.___Laub reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Fares Akram in Gaza City, Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and Michael Corder at The Hague contributed reporting.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Sponsored Stories 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Quick workouts for men Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: K.W Younger Australians are not fazed with seeing Qantas “sink or swim”, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Australian International Pilots’ Association (AIPA).Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed aged 18 to 24 admitted to no emotional attachment to the flag carrier, compared to just 21 percent of voters aged 55 to 64 years.AIPA president and airline captain Barry Jackson told news.com.au that it was a problem that one of the best travelled generations, Generation Y, was aloof when it came to the national carrier.”That’s probably because they haven’t grown up with Qantas (in public ownership),” captain Jackson continued, questioning who (if Virgin?) would be our national carrier in the future.Captain Jackson said as the younger generation grows older they may recognise and appreciate a carrier that is flown by Australians for Australians.Maybe the launched of the new advertising campaign; employing a modernised, digitally enhanced and Australian-focused approach titled ‘You’re The Reason We Fly’ which targets Australian consumers through encouraging interactive, online involvement and digital advocacy will appeal to Generation Y.
For LGBT travellers, Tel Aviv has come a long way in a short period of time. Image: 123RF.com/Kobby Dagan Think gay travel hotspots, and you’re likely to think Amsterdam, Berlin or New York. But there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s equally sophisticated, possibly better looking, and probably much warmer: Tel Aviv.The second largest city in Israel behind Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has quickly grown to become one of the world’s leading gay travel hotspots. According to the Times of Israel, the city estimates over 50,000 LGBT travellers will land on its shores this year, a figure forecast to double in 2014. And with its blend of beautiful beaches and thriving nightlife, it isn’t hard to see why the city has fallen under the spotlight of gay tourism.But despite its obvious attractions, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Tel Aviv; the city had to take on stereotypes that had associated the country with religion and war, as well as towns already established as gay travel meccas, like San Francisco and Sydney.It wasn’t until the city undertook a focused marketing campaign to lure the LGBT traveller some four years ago, that the city became a real magnet for the gay traveller, the Times reported.Key to its plan, which was spearheaded by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, was an idea to brand Tel Aviv as its own entity, and separately to the rest of the country. “We knew that people who had been to Tel Aviv loved it,” said Yaniv Waizman, the mayor’s adviser on gay community affairs. “So we made a switch. We no longer talked about Israel, but Tel Aviv.”With an original outlay of around $100,000 (a third of the mayor’s tourism budget), gay tourism marketing now commands a budget of a quarter of a million dollars a year, “a fortune by Israeli standards,” says Mr Waizman.But it is money well spent: in 2011, just three years into the campaign, Tel Aviv was named the gayest city in the world by a survey conducted by American Airlines and Gaycities.com. “Hotels in Tel Aviv are now asking for more rainbow flags because they are filled with gay tourists.” Mr Huldai said.Israel Rodrigue, manager at Ofakim, Israel’s biggest travel agency, confirmed to the Times of Israel that it too was feeling the increase in gay tourism.“Last year we sold about 300 gay tours,” Mr Rodrigue said. “This year we’re up to 500. We’re hoping to double that next year.” Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H
NSW is continuing to bring in the greatest numbers of visitors from around Australia, according to the latest National Visitor Survey.Destination NSW chief executive officer Sandra Chipchase said that Sydney was still the most popular destination.“Sydney and NSW remains the most popular place, with more visitor nights and expenditure than any other state,” Ms Chipchase said.For the year end to March 2014, NSW was visited by 26.3 million people in Australia who stayed more than 85 million nights.In addition total expenditure by domestic overnight visitors grew by 10 per cent to AUD 15.35 billion during the same period.This growth was driven by the Holiday and Visiting Friends and Relative markets.Source = ETB News: Tom Neale
Marriott and The NBA Announce New PartnershipMarriott International, Inc. and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today a partnership that makes the global lodging company the Official Hotel of several marquee NBA events around the world, including NBA Global Games 2015-16, NBA Africa Game 2015, and NBA Canada Series 2015. Marriott is the first company to partner with the NBA across international games on five different continents.The partnership tips off in Johannesburg, South Africa during NBA Africa Game 2015, the first NBA game in Africa, and includes NBA events in 11 other cities across Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the UK. Together, Marriott International and the NBA will give Marriott Rewards members exclusive access to NBA games and events in these markets. The partnership will showcase Marriott’s award-winning Marriott Rewards program by bringing the excitement of the NBA directly to its 50 million strong member community.Spanning Marriott’s global portfolio of 19 brands, including The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Protea Hotels and AC Hotels, Marriott Rewards will host a series of private meet-and-greets with NBA legends and players for its Elite members and invite fans to take a virtual trip in the #AroundTheWorld photo and social sharing experience. The first Marriott Rewards NBA legends meet-and-greet will be co-hosted by The Protea African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg.Additionally, Marriott Rewards members in the U.S. can look for the opportunity to enter in an upcoming sweepstakes for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a trip and tickets to an upcoming NBA global event.“Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and our partnership with the NBA gives us an opportunity to tap into a passionate fan base and communicate the breadth and depth of our portfolio,” said Karin Timpone, Global Marketing Officer, Marriott International. “Similar to what we are doing with music and entertainment, our NBA partnership helps us create memorable experiences for our Rewards members and amplify the benefits of the program for both new and loyal guests.”“For our fans around the world, there is no opportunity more exciting than when live NBA games are played in their home countries,” said Emilio Collins, NBA Executive Vice President, Global Marketing Partnerships. “Marriott International is a renowned brand with extensive global operations, and is the ideal partner to help broaden the reach of our games and engage more fans.”NBA Global Games 2015-16, a series of preseason and regular-season NBA games around the world, includes a total of six NBA teams playing seven games in seven international cities. Additionally, NBA Africa Game 2015 will take place Aug. 1 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the NBA Canada Series 2015 will feature a record five teams playing an all-time-high four preseason games in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.Source = Marriott International
The Expedia.com.au brand’s annual ‘State of the Nation’ report, released today, reveals how passionate Australians get out there and explore the world as well as what they look for when planning their next holiday, which goes far beyond good shopping opportunities and having a pool or beach close by.Expedia’s report found Australia is a nation of travel aficionados who use Bucket Lists to keep their travel dreams on track:More than eight in ten (84%) Australians, over 18, have been overseasAlmost three quarters (71%) have explored a different country in the past two yearsThe average Australian international traveller has visited eight countriesAlmost one in ten Australian international travellers (8%) have visited more than 20 countriesIt also appears a weaker Australian dollar and resurgence in domestic travel are not deterring Australian travellers from travelling overseas or aspiring to travel overseas. In fact, three quarters (73%) of Aussies who have ever been overseas intend to travel again in the next 12 months.Of the travellers who have not travelled overseas in the last two years, 44% are planning a trip in the next two years. This trend is reflected in Expedia data, where demand for both domestic and international is growing year-on-year.From the USA to Uluru – Aussies’ travel starts with a Bucket ListWhether it’s written on a piece of paper, saved in their phone or etched firmly in their imagination, almost every Australian (97%) says they have a Travel Bucket List, listing the destinations they want to visit in the next five years.And, Aussies clearly don’t have a list just to dream about travel – 92% have crossed at least one travel experience off their bucket list, up on the 2014 result of 87%, suggesting this trend is acceleratingWhen looking at the top factors considered in selecting what they tick off their bucket list, nine in ten Aussies (93%) see a unique cultural experience as the most important aspect. Potentially challenging the status quo somewhat, unique cultural experiences are particularly important for the younger generation aged between 18-24 (98%).Next in order of importance is being able to disconnect from everyday life (92%), with 94% of capital-city dwellers citing this as important versus 89% of Aussies based in regional areas. This was followed closely by seeking pristine natural environments (91%).“Travel is a key part of the Australian way of life and it’s not surprising Australians are inspired to keep a bucket list when they’re surrounded by inspiring travel stories on social media, TV and in magazines,” Expedia Australia and New Zealand managing director Georg Ruebensal said.“Aussies love getting out there and exploring this amazing world we live in and this is evident as international and domestic travel increases. What’s exciting is that Australians are thinking beyond traditionally popular destinations and are seeking unique travel experiences.”Top international Bucket List destinations:USAEnglandCanadaNew ZealandItalyFranceJapanGermanyHong KongGreeceTop domestic Bucket List destinations:MelbourneSydneyHobartGold CoastPerthGreat Barrier ReefDarwinCentral Australia (Uluru and Alice Springs)Cradle MountainBroomeGreat Ocean RoadCairnsBrisbaneBucket lists are not just for destinations. More than eight in ten (86%) Australian travellers also have a number of special experiences on their bucket list.Nearly a third of Aussies would like to visit one or more of the Seven Wonders of the World (30%); followed closely by seeing the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis (29%); holidaying like a VIP in luxury (28%); visiting the Artic or Antarctic (26%); and taking a luxury cruise (26%).Deeply patriotic, visiting a site of historical significance, such as Gallipoli, is another key experience at the top of Australians’ bucket lists. Two in five (39%) of Australians say they have ticked this experience off their bucket list, up 5% on the 2014 results, perhaps as a result of the ANZAC Centenary in April this year.Instagram AppealThe rise of visual social media platforms like Instagram, as well as the enhanced photo capabilities of smartphones, has led to 85% of respondents stating the opportunity for great photo opportunities was a key driver when choosing a destination. This trend is further mirrored by over half (56%) choosing digital cameras as a travel essential, compared to other travelling features such as WiFi (47% felt it was essential), travel apps (25%) and tablets (23%). ExpediaSource = Expedia
Majestic Princess arrives as newest jewel in the crown for PrincessMajestic Princess arrives as newest jewel in the crown for PrincessCarnival Corporation & plc, the world’s leading cruise vacation company, has taken delivery of Majestic Princess from shipbuilder Fincantieri at an official handover ceremony at the shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.Princess Cruises’ first international luxury ship tailored for the China market, Majestic Princess will start her inaugural season in Europe before embarking on a repositioning cruise, themed the Silk Road Sea Route journey, to Shanghai where she will begin her first homeport season in July.The handover ceremony was attended by the Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni; executives from Carnival Corporation & plc including Micky Arison, Chairman; Arnold Donald, Chief Executive Officer; Stein Kruse, Chief Executive Officer of Holland America Group; Jan Swartz, Group President of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia; Anthony Kaufman, Executive Vice President International Operations of Princess Cruises, and Cherry Wang, Vice President and General Manager of the Princess Cruises’ brand offices in China. Fincantieri was represented by Giuseppe Bono, Chief Executive Officer, and Giampiero Massolo, Chairman.“Majestic Princess has arrived and we are thrilled to add this new jewel to our crown representing the newest, most stylish and most luxurious flagship in fleet, which will deliver an exceptional international cruise holiday experience to our guests,” Princess Cruises Vice President Australia & New Zealand Stuart Allison said.After the successful handover from Fincantieri, the 143,000-tonne Majestic Princess will sail on a preview cruise (March 31 to April 4) before departing on her inaugural voyage on April 4, 2017, exploring the Adriatic Sea on a five-day cruise from Rome.Following her maiden cruise, Majestic Princess will tour Europe, offering her 3560 guests a chance to experience the ship on 7-, 14-, 21- and 28-day cruises departing from Rome, Barcelona or Athens.On May 21, Majestic Princess will embark on the “Silk Road Sea Route”, a 49-day journey from Rome to Shanghai. During the voyage she will visit a total of 22 ports including Athens, Dubai, Cochin, Singapore, Port Klang and Xiamen before arriving in Shanghai, her new homeport in China.For more information visit www.princess.comSource = Princess Cruises
Tourism provides $25 billion boost to Queensland’s economyTourism is now worth $25b to the Queensland economy and supports more than 225,000 direct and indirect jobs, new figures released today reveal.Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones said the State Tourism Satellite Accounts data for 2015-16, released today, shows that tourism continues to play a vital role in the state’s economy.“Tourism is a key contributor to our economy and it is pleasing to see that the state’s Gross State Product from tourism is growing at a faster rate than the national average – 8.7 per cent versus 6.9 per cent,” Ms Jones said.“This incorporates not only direct contributions from the tourism industry but also flow-on effects from money being spent elsewhere in the economy.”“For every dollar spent in the tourism industry, an additional 85 cents was spent elsewhere in the state, which is great news for our economy.”“Tourism also supports 225,000 jobs right across the state, with one in ten Queensland workers now either directly or indirectly employed in the tourism industry, a greater level of tourism employment than New South Wales and Victoria, both around 1 in 14.”“Tourism now employs more people than the mining and agriculture, forestry and fishing industries combined in Queensland.”“During 2015-2016, Queensland had the largest growth in total tourism jobs – 12,000 – than any other state or territory.”“These statistics reaffirm Queensland’s reputation as a leading destination, with unique experiences, natural wonders, world-class events and unbeatable hospitality. Queensland has something for everyone.”“We know that attracting both international and domestic visitors to our State plays a vital role in building a strong economy and via Tourism and Events Queensland, the Queensland Government is committed to continue building a strong and prosperous tourism sector via a range of different initiatives.” Tourism and Events QueenslandLearn more hereSource = Tourism and Events Queensland
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has approved the adoption of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The resolution, adopted on December 4, recognises “the importance of international tourism, and particularly of the designation of an international year of sustainable tourism for development, in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilisations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”.“The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “As the lead UN agency for this initiative, UNWTO is very much looking forward to proceeding with the organisation and implementation of the International Year, in collaboration with Governments, relevant organisations of the UN system, other international and regional organisations and all other relevant stakeholders,” he added.
MBA Nominates E.J. Burke as 2012 Vice-Chair June 14, 2011 486 Views in Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing On Monday the “”Mortgage Bankers Association””:http://www.mortgagebankers.org (MBA) released a statement announcing the nomination of E.J. Burke, a senior executive and director at “”KeyBank Real Estate Capital and Corporate Banking Services””:https://www.key.com/html/real-estate-investment-banking.html, as its vice-chair.[IMAGE]””With more than three decades of experience in the mortgage banking business, E.J. is one of our industry’s most thoughtful leaders,”” Michael D. Berman, MBA’s chairman, said. “”His energy and experience will be of tremendous value to MBA and the industry as we rebuild the single family, multifamily, and commercial real estate markets.””[COLUMN_BREAK]Burke arrives at his new position with several years of relevant business experience. At KeyBank, he also served as head of real estate capital markets, presiding over its commercial mortgage division as managing director. He also co-founded National Realty Funding in 1997, headed up the commercial funding division for Midland Loan Services, LP, and served as SVP at the Merchants Bank. He holds degrees from Harvard Business School, Oklahoma City University, and Boston College.””It is an honor to be nominated to this prestigious position,”” Burke said. “”I look forward to working with MBA members and staff to continue our work navigating today’s challenges and moving the industry into a position of growth and strength.””No outsider to the MBA, Burke previously served the association as chair of its Investors Council, Risk-Retention Task Force, and Commercial Real Estate and Multifamily Finance Board of Governors. He will receive election to his new position by attendees who vote at the association’s annual convention in October.MBA is a national association that represents the real estate finance industry. Share KeyBank Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Bankers Association Movers & Shakers Processing Service Providers 2011-06-14 Ryan Schuette
Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Dodd-Frank FHFA GAO GDP Housing Affordability Inflation Jobs Lenders & Servicers Processing Senate Banking Committee Service Providers Subprime Loans Unemployment 2011-11-10 Ryan Schuette Lawmaker Wants Dodd-Frank Financial, Regulatory Analyses November 10, 2011 418 Views As pressure builds to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, one lawmaker pushed back by formally requesting an analysis of the rulemaking effort and financial consequences under the financial legislative overhaul. [IMAGE]””Sen. Tim Johnson””:http://johnson.senate.gov/public/ (D-South Dakota) wrote “”two letters””:http://banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Newsroom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=8a132c27-0eb1-c338-2d46-4626a5743305&Region_id=&Issue_id= to public officials Thursday to make the request, with clear intentions to secure a formal, objective analysis that lends credibility to the financial law and overall rulemaking process.One letter obliged the “”Government Accountability Office””:http://www.gao.gov/ (GAO) to perform an impact analysis of the U.S. economy in the wake of the financial crisis, attending to factors like long-term unemployment, capital losses, and other setbacks for state, local, and national governments.The other asked the “”Federal Housing Finance Agency””:http://www.fhfa.gov/ and “”Consumer Financial Protection Bureau””:http://www.consumerfinance.gov/ (CFPB) to deliver reports about their rulemaking processes under Dodd-Frank.[COLUMN_BREAK]””Repealing or undermining these Wall Street reforms, as some have proposed, would take us back to the same weak financial system that led to the worst economic crisis in generations and whose painful costs continue to devastate many Americans,”” he said in a statement.He tallied up a list of predicted outcomes from any potential repeal, saying, “”Systemic risks would remain unsupervised. Consumers would have no focused watchdog looking out for them. Investors would be exposed to more Ponzi schemes. Reckless financial firms would undermine those who played by the rules. Taxpayers would be on the hook for more bailouts.””One of the requests in particular will pledge the CFPB to undertake an analysis and explanation of such long-term programs as “”Know Before You Owe.””The lawmaker specifically petitioned both the bureau and independent federal agency to present reports about any improvements in rulemaking processes under the “”Financial Stability Oversight Council””:http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/FSOC/Pages/default.aspx, and whether interagency coordination has undergone any facelift in the process.””Efforts to repeal or undermine these new Wall Street reforms threaten the stability of our financial system at a time when we can least afford it,”” he added. “”These efforts to slow down Wall Street reform prevent responsible businesses, including community banks and credit unions, from having the certainty they deserve with finalized rules that fully honor Congressional intent behind the new law,”” Johnson said. in Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing Share