Energy project puts national parks in danger parks founder says

first_imgRelated posts:Guanacaste Conservation Area favors environmentally sensitive geothermal project ICE chief promises compromise on geothermal energy in national parks Costa Rica opens the door to more renewable energy generation How one island powered itself with a volcano Costa Rican environmentalists are spoiling for a fight to stop the government from removing 1,000 hectares (about 3,000 acres) from Rincón de la Vieja National Park, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, for a geothermal electricity project.Leading the environmentalists is the renowned conservationist and co-founder of the Costa Rican National Park System, Álvaro Ugalde.Ugalde, 67, now retired from government service and using his time to help conservation efforts at the community level, said that so-called “segregation” at Rincón de la Vieja would be a disaster on many levels.The segregation would set a precedent likely to be repeated at other national parks, especially those that have geothermal potential.“There’s a park on top of every place where there’s geothermal,” Ugalde said.The segregation would smear Costa Rica’s reputation as a global conservation leader, despite government claims that it would demonstrate “development hand-in-hand with nature.”“The fact is they’d be segregating 1,000 hectares from a place that was declared a United Nations World Heritage site in 1999,” Ugalde said.UNESCO, a U.N. body that designated the entire Guanacaste Conservation Area – of which Rincón de la Vieja is a part – a World Heritage Site, has already expressed its concern over the geothermal project.“Geothermal is a great opportunity to promote the development of the country based on renewable sources of energy. We nonetheless consider it unnecessary to segregate a national park, a World Heritage Site, without first evaluating the alternatives for developing the project in areas with geothermal potential outside the park using technologies that generate the least negative impact; even if they imply a greater cost, they would generate the conservation of ecosystem services that the forest serves for current and future generations,” UNESCO said in a press release.From an environmental and tourism standpoint, the segregation would potentially destroy the last remaining “pre-coffee” ecosystem in the country in the most tourist-visited areas of the park – Las Pailas and Santa María – Ugalde said.Finally, the segregation would remove from National Park System land that was acquired with a donation from a private foundation, the Engelhard Foundation.“I never thought when I promised [foundation president] Sophie Engelhard in the 1980s that we would preserve the land in perpetuity that we’d be facing this situation,” Ugalde said.The segregation would permanently damage the country’s reputation of good faith in acquiring donations for conservation purposes, he added.Ugalde said he does not oppose geothermal generation inside the park, but it should be carried out in concert with the conservation aims of the park itself, in conjunction with the National Park Service.“We would be stupid to say that there should be nothing, but [it should be] something minimal inside the park and in control of the park system, in conjunction with ICE [the Costa Rican Electricity Institute],” he said.ICE said that segregation in parks would be offset by providing an equal amount of land at other sites.“The country must find a model that permits the tapping of geothermal energy from volcanic sources that are in national parks,” Environment Vice Minister Ana Lorena Guevara told the weekly Semanario Universidad.“This bill is clear in that the possibility of a disaffection or change in the limits of the park would not be carried out until there are technical studies that demonstrate the site can be compensated with other areas or in another manner,” she added, referring to an energy bill before the Legislative Assembly that would allow geothermal exploitation in parks.ICE also said that part of proceeds from geothermal energy production would go toward badly needed funds for the national parks. Ugalde characterized that as “crumbs.”“There would be as little as possible from their side [pro-energy officials] and as much as possible from our side,” he said.Ugalde said the model of seeking more and more energy for export to other countries, or even to feed growing energy needs in Costa Rica, is “humanity at its worst” – a model of development that puts conservation at the end of the line in national priorities and at odds with the country’s reputation as an environmental leader.Together with ongoing destruction at Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula by gold panners, the Rincón geothermal plan presents an existential threat to the parks system itself, Ugalde said.“If those two go, I wish I had died before,” he said. “The area will turn into catacombs. It would be the beginning of the end of the parks and the beginning of the end of tourism.”Since Ugalde and fellow conservationist Mario Boza founded Costa Rica’s park service more than 40 years ago, with the preservation of two national parks – Santa Rosa and Poás – no land in any of the 26 current parks has been segregated.The Legislative Assembly’s Energy and Environment Commission is expected to meet Thursday to vote on Bill 17,680, which mandates segregation and would go to the full Assembly for a vote at an undetermined date in the future.Costa Rica’s environmental movement is rallying around the cause of beating back the park segregation. Groups have been meeting to plan strategy and actions.Dozens of academics and environmental leaders along with dozens of environmental groups signed a petition protesting the law.If the bill passes the commission, groups could organize demonstrations, Ugalde said. If the bill makes it past the full Assembly, Ugalde said conservationists would challenge it in the country’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.Ugalde said that tourism, even though it is one of Costa Rica’s top earners of foreign exchange income, has taken a back seat to energy needs.“The Ministry of Tourism is very weak,” he said. “What really amazes me is the silence of the tourism industry.”An uphill climbFrom the beginning, Costa Rica’s national parks faced an uphill climb for survival.Parks were initially a novelty that had no institutional precedent in Costa Rica. While the law protected land in theory, many of the parks were “paper parks,” which existed on paper but suffered from lack of protection, and in some cases, large inholdings of private property.From gold panners in Corcovado to illegal loggers in other parks, authorities faced a raft of problems preserving the areas.Judges applying the law weren’t familiar with the new legislation and some parks were located in poor, rural, frontier areas where people were accustomed to squatting on undeveloped land.But most of all the very notion of preserving unused land was an unfamiliar one. Laws on the books at the time encouraged deforestation by giving settlers on the “agricultural frontier” title to land they were able to develop.Slowly but surely, the parks began to gain recognition and institutional strength, partly thanks to the boom in tourism that began in the late 1980s and eventually made the parks the backbone of Costa Rica’s No. 1 source of foreign income.More environmentally friendly laws were adopted, and Costa Rica’s fame as a conservation-minded “green” country became one of its principal calling cards around the world.And now?So what happened? Why has the government apparently turned its back on its famed environmental ethic to apparently open the door to chipping away at the hard-won environmental gains?Ugalde said that the current government, especially Environment Minister René Castro, appears tone deaf to the implications of ruining Costa Rica’s conservation bona fides.“We have a Minister of Energy, not a Minister of Environment,” Ugalde said.Castro has expressed surprise at the environmentalists’ complaints, saying the proposal to use geothermal energy from national parks is 12 years old.Ugalde acknowledged that a clash to accommodate conservation and energy interests was probably inevitable, but said that the proposal to actually segregate land from a park fell like a bombshell in December.Ugalde also noted that national parks have failed to gain the support of the Costa Rican people at a grassroots level.“They don’t feel they are part of the national parks,” he said. “They see them as a government thing.”If he had it to do over again, Ugalde said he would have created the National Park System “from the bottom up, not from the top down.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Flying over the Osa Peninsula

first_imgThe view from an airplane flying over Drake Bay in the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific region. The Osa Peninsula has more species of animals and plants than almost anywhere else on earth. National Geographic has called the peninsula the “most biologically intense place on earth.” Facebook Comments Related posts:Flying over the Osa Peninsula Remote-controlled ‘Spy Tuna’ records rarely seen massive dolphin orgies off Osa Peninsula To conserve the Amazon, the forest must become an economic ‘asset’ A rocket landing in Tortuguero?last_img read more

Costa Rica announces its own international aid policy

first_imgRelated posts:CELAC should become an extreme poverty-free zone, says Ecuador’s foreign minister Costa Rica celebrates 66th anniversary of the abolition of its army Costa Rica to ‘take a hard look’ at its diplomatic missions, foreign minister says after meeting with US Secretary of State Kerry Exiles in Costa Rica denounce alleged Venezuelan kidnapping plot Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González and Planning Minister Olga Sánchez presented an updated international cooperation policy during the president’s weekly press conference at Casa Presidencial on Tuesday.The ministers said the new policy would better focus Costa Rica’s resources toward “south-south” cooperation between developing nations, with a focus on environment, social development, transparency and other priorities laid out in the National Development Plan and foreign policy.González said that Costa Rica has grown into an “important partner” in international cooperation and assistance, and no longer eligible for much foreign aid since it’s designation as an “upper middle income” nation.“Costa Rica has become an important partner for other countries, especially in technical cooperation,” González said during the press conference.Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís and Bolivian President Evo Morales came to an agreement for Costa Rica to share technical experience with the South American country in the area of geothermic, wind and other forms of renewable energy sources during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States meeting in San José on Jan. 29.The new policy announcement comes a month before President Solís is set to travel to Paris to meet with members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an elite club of developed nations to which Costa Rica has been pursuing membership.“This will strengthen Costa Rica’s bilateral, multilateral and regional relationships to position us in a place of equal footing, recognition and mutual respect between participants,” Sánchez said. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Rica draws with Jamaica in Gold Cup opener

first_imgA fingertip was enough to measure the length between bearable disappointment and outright disaster for the Costa Rican men’s football team on Wednesday.La Sele‘s 2-2 draw with Jamaica in its Gold Cup opener in Los Angeles, California was nearly a loss, but goalie Esteban Alvarado dove for a game-saving stop in the 88th minute to allow his side to escape with one point in group play.A team that previously built its success around the pillars of a lockdown defense is now searching for some identity in its fragile back line. Defender Júnior Díaz had an especially rough game on Wednesday, allowing Jamaica’s first goal and getting faked out on what would have been the game-clinching goal if not for the incredible, diving save by Alvarado.While starting in goal for injured star Keylor Navas, Alvarado did an admirable job in his first tournament action for Costa Rica. Jamaica’s forwards were able to find consistent holes in a Costa Rican backline that has yet to find the form that made it so impenetrable a year ago.“Jamaica played well, it’s not like we were playing against little boys out there,” Alvarado told a television reporter after the game. “They made a lot of stuff complicated for us.”The latest stagnant performance puts La Sele under some immediate pressure to find its first win since last October if it is to escape from Group B and advance to the tournament’s knockout rounds. Under head coach Paulo Cesar Wanchope, Costa Rica is 0-3-3 in international play.In a group that includes El Salvador and Canada, the Ticos remain favored to win Group B. But a defense that can’t seem to gel under Wanchope leaves them vulnerable going forward.Jamaica struck first on Wednesday when Garath McCleary netted a goal in the 12th minute from a gorgeous inbound pass near the corner. Costa Rica’s Roy Miller struck back with a goal in the 32nd minute to tie the match. The New York Red Bulls defender was set up after David Ramírez lofted up a nice pass off a free kick.Five minutes later, Ramírez ran down a ball from Celso Borges near the sideline just in time to flick it over the Jamaican goalie’s outstretched arms for Costa Rica’s second goal.https://vine.co/v/enxvaZI5uLK/embedRamírez, who was one of four players making their competitive debut with the men’s national team on Wednesday, showed the potential to be a fixture on this team for years to come. As lifeless as Costa Rica’s defense seemed to be at times, it was the offense that kept sparking the Ticos, namely the young star from Saprissa.Veteran Álvaro Saborío, who replaced Johan Venegas in the second half, nearly put home two headers that could have swung the match but Jamaican goalie Dwayne Miller rejected both, including a diving save of his own.Costa Rica, which is slated to drop from 14th to 41st in Thursday’s newest batch of FIFA rankings, could use a win in its next game against El Salvador to jump atop the Group B rankings. La Sele kicks off against the team’s Central American rival at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Facebook Comments Related posts:Colombia defeats Costa Rica in Copa América preparation match Injury may keep Costa Rica’s star goalkeeper Keylor Navas out of the Gold Cup Costa Rica heads into must-win game against United States Going for Gold: ‘La Sele’ unveils special Gold Cup uniformslast_img read more

US man accused of soliciting a minor for sex in Costa Rica

first_imgRelated posts:Former U.S. convict Dan Fowlie speaks out against being barred entry to Costa Rica again US real estate developer accused of $7 million fraud Police raid offices, home of US real estate mogul accused of fraud US man with post-polio syndrome protests ‘inhumane conditions’ in Costa Rica prison The 57-year-old U.S. man who was arrested Nov. 21 onaccusations of paying an underage girl for sex says that he is a victim of extortion.Prosecutors claim that the man, Reza Ray Ehsan, brought a 16-year-old girl and two other underage women to his Santa Ana home where he paid two of them, including the accuser, to have sex with him.Ehsan works as a family physician in Los Angeles, California and has a lavish vacation home in the town west of San José that he said he bought for $2 million a few years ago.Though he is out of preventive prison, a judge ruled that Ehsan cannot leave the country and must sign in with authorities every 15 days. Initial charges of sexual assault and seduction of a minor through electronic devices have been dropped, according to prosecutors.A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said that on Aug. 15, authorities received a complaint from the 16-year-old who claimed that she and her cousin were invited to Ehsan’s house by a third underage girl. There, prosecutors say that Ehsan had intercourse with the accuser’s cousin for cash before they both indicated to the accuser that it was her turn to have sex with Ehsan.Though they say the girl declined at first, she reluctantly accepted to have sex with Ehsan in exchange for money.Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, as is consenting sex with anyone 15 years or older, according to Ehsan’s lawyer Francis Tejada, but it is illegal to solicit a prostitute who is under 18 years of age.“This is happening in a country where the oldest profession in the world is legal,” Tejada said. “They know that he’s worth millions of dollars and they are probably trying to extort him of his wealth.” Ehsan said he bought his $2 million home in Santa Ana in order to eventually retire in Costa Rica. (Courtesy of OIJ)Ehsan told The Tico Times via a telephone call Monday that he met the first girl, known as “La Negra,” at the Hotel Del Rey in downtown San José and had invited her over one day in July. According to prosecutors, Ehsan and the girl picked up her friends, the pair of cousins, to take back to his home as well. Ehsan said that he did not have sex with any of the girls and claimed that they jumped on him while he was laying down. He added that they were free to leave his home and were never persuaded into having sex with him.“It was stupid on my part to bring them to my house,” he said. “But they say they were forced to stay and that’s just not true.”Ehsan was held in preventive prison for a night before authorities raided the large, three-story home in the Pozos neighborhood of Santa Ana, where they took his security camera system for evidence.Tejada told The Tico Times that with this particular charge, prosecutors and judges often allow defendants the option to reimburse the plaintiffs. He added that there have been no talks yet of such a settlement. He also pointed out that investigators have not proven through DNA testing that Ehsan ever had sex with the minors.“I’m not the kind of person who violates people,” Ehsan said. “It’s not in my nature.”Ehsan said he has two daughters in Los Angeles, Calif. His wife, Lucia Caridad Lorenzo, who was also a doctor, was murdered at her L.A. office in 2002 when an employee shot and killed her and two other colleagues. According to his practice’s website, Ehsan is the director of the Superior Multi-Specialty West LA Urgent Care and has more than two decades of experience treating children as a family physician.“It’s not fair,” he said of the charge. “I have a practice and a family. I have to protect my name.”According to immigration records, Ehsan had entered the country 15 different times in the past year. He first came to the country in 2004.A court date has not yet been set, a spokeswoman from the San José courts said. Ehsan will have to present himself to prosecutor’s next week, however, to prove he has not fled the country. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Chinese shoppers power global luxury sales

first_imgMILAN (AP) – Chinese shoppers at home and abroad are pushing global sales of luxury items to new heights, helping the sector post its third straight year of strong growth since the global recession.A new study by Bain & Company released Monday forecasts the global luxury goods market for clothing, accessories, jewelry, cosmetics and art will grow 10 percent this year to (EURO)212 billion ($274 billion) from (EURO)192 billion in 2011. That would be the third straight year of double-digit growth following two years of contraction in 2008 and 2009 when many countries around the world slid into a deep recession following a banking crisis. Claudia D’Arpizio, a Bain partner and lead author of the study for Italy’s luxury trade association Fondazione Altagamma, called concerns about market weakness `’overblown.”While the global economic crisis that began in 2008 has shown few signs of abating in pockets, particularly in Europe, the luxury sector overall has been in recovery since 2010, when high-end consumers resumed their easy spending habits.Bain expects spending for the fourth quarter to increase by 7 percent in 2012 over last year, a period boosted by the Christmas gift-giving season.The increase is being shored up by Chinese consumers, who this year became the top luxury buyers responsible for 25 percent of global purchases. By nationality, Europeans contributed 24 percent to global sales, Americans 20 percent and Japanese 14 percent.Tourists are expected to make 40 percent of all luxury purchases this year, with the Chinese leading the way thanks to easier visa policies, Bain said. Chinese tourists are making one-third of purchases in Europe, helping to shield the luxury sector from the ongoing financial crisis. Growth in Europe is projected at 5 percent, half of last year, for total estimated sales of (EURO)75 billion. Comments   Share   Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Chinese shoppers aren’t just spending their new-found wealth abroad though.Bain found that the market comprising China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, is forecast to surpass Japan to become the sector’s second-largest market worth (EURO)27.3 billion, behind the United States with sales of (EURO)65 billion forecast.Bain forecasts annual global growth in the personal luxury goods market of 4 percent to 6 percent through 2015 when it is expected to be worth a quarter of a trillion euros.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Sponsored Stories center_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement ErrorOK ErrorOK Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixlast_img

Kazakhstan media hit by raid court order

first_img Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Comments   Share   Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Sponsored Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security system Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Yergaliyeva was last year ordered to pay almost $34,300 in damages to the wife of high-ranking anti-corruption official that Guljan website alleged had transferred millions of dollars onto a bank account in Dubai.Respublika, a weekly newspaper that prints its editions outside Kazakhstan and has them flown to the Central Asian nation for distribution, said a court in Almaty has ordered the confiscation upon arrival of the next issue.Most media outlets in the ex-Soviet republic are either state-owned or pro-government.Prosecutors said Wednesday they want Respublika banned for extremism and incitement to overthrowing the government. The seizure of the publication appears to have come in response to that request.Efforts by the General Prosecutor’s office in Kazakhstan to ban Respublika and Vzglyad newspapers , and satellite telelvision station K+, have been criticized by French-based Reporters Without Borders.“The government is using the pretext of combatting extremism to launch an unprecedented offensive against its critics,” it said.The push against media follows the sentencing to 7 1/2 years in jailed in October of opposition Alga party leader Vladimir Kozlov for allegedly fomenting a riot last year in a western oil town. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Associated PressALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) – Kazakhstan’s police on Thursday have raided the offices of a news website and taken steps to halt the publication of a newspaper critical of the government, in what a media watchdog group says was an “unprecedented offensive” against government critics.Guljan Yergaliyeva, an outspoken opposition figure and owner of the Guljan website, said police officers came to her office Thursday to take her to court over nonpayment of libel damages. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more

US official 1 of several Americans held in Yemen released

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Sponsored Stories Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies On Saturday, the State Department said it was working to win the release of several Americans detained in Yemen. The Washington Post reported on Friday that the Houthis had cleared one of four American prisoners for release. It said three of the four held private sector jobs, and the fourth holds dual U.S.-Yemeni citizenship.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official says that at least one of several Americans being held by Shiite Houthi (HOO’-thee) rebels in Yemen has been released following mediation by Omani authorities.The official said the American man had been injured in uncertain circumstances and was on his way to Oman. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter because of privacy rules and spoke on condition of anonymity. No details of the man’s identity were immediately available. Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Comments   Share   last_img read more

Iraq still in disarray 1 year after Islamic State took Mosul

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments   Share   “We thought it wouldn’t take longer than one week or one month,” said Ayad Mohammed, 35, who fled Mosul last year. “But the military leaders with their big salaries and bank accounts abroad and their nice cars and who took their families outside, they never cared about us. And the politicians we voted for, I wish I chopped of my finger and not voted for them because they are responsible for me and my children being here, along with all these people.”___Associated Press writers Bram Janssen in Irbil, Iraq and Nedra Pickler and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Men’s health affects baby’s health too 5 ways to recognize low testosterone “We have no choice,” Ahmad Chalabi, a former deputy prime minister and chairman of parliament’s finance committee, told the AP in February. “What will this say about the loyalty of the Iraqi government if we stop paying our citizens, regardless of where they live?”Pressure is mounting on the Iraqi government to stabilize the country and preventing further discontent, particularly among Sunnis living in militant-held areas and Kurds living in semi-autonomous northern Iraq. Some fear the country could be split into three parts otherwise, including a Shiite-dominated south.Meanwhile, nearly 3 million Iraqis like Hussein now live in refugee camps or squat in unofficial shelters. According to the United Nations, 8.2 million Iraqis — about a quarter of the country’s population — will need humanitarian assistance this year.And as the war grinds on, authorities acknowledge many refugees may never return — with towns destroyed in the fighting and infrastructure severely damaged.“We will be lucky if we get half of them back to their original homes,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security adviser.All the while, anger simmers. “We have made significant progress in pushing back ISIL … but we’ve also seen areas like in Ramadi where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in in another,” Obama said Monday, referring to the Islamic State group by an alternate acronym. “And they’re nimble, and they’re aggressive, and they’re opportunistic.”Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told The Associated Press that any real solution in Iraq will require greater involvement from neighboring countries.“Without the involvement of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, working together, it will be difficult — if not impossible — to achieve any realistic solutions,” Khalilzad said.Economically, Iraq also finds itself unable to pay for the war it needs to fight. Plummeting oil prices — down 43 percent from a year ago — have dealt a major shock to Iraq, which relies on oil for 90 percent of its revenues. Unemployment stands at 25 percent.At least 40 percent of the country’s workforce — about 5 million people — is employed by the government, which is struggling to pay salaries. That includes civil servants in Islamic State-held areas, who still receive salaries which are then taxed by the militants, according to residents in Mosul and Fallujah who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Top Stories While Shiite militias advised by Iran and Iraqi forces have recaptured Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, the battle on the ground appears at the least locked in stalemate — or at the worst, not in Iraq’s favor. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who stepped down in August amid calls for his resignation, is widely blamed for the corruption and incompetence in Iraq’s armed forces after he replaced top Sunni commanders with his own loyalists. The Islamic State group’s advance merely exposed the rot, as entire units collapsed and soldiers stripped off their uniforms as they fled, leaving behind large caches of U.S.-supplied weapons.Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to empower Sunni tribesmen through the formation of a national guard, which would oversee security in the Sunni heartland — areas predominantly under Islamic State control today. But the force has failed to get off the ground and many remain suspicious of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.Meanwhile, the U.S. remains hesitant to become too involved in the war after U.S. President Barack Obama withdrew all American ground forces at the end of 2011. There now are slightly fewer than 3,100 U.S. troops in Iraq training and advising local forces, but they are not fighting on the front line. The White House said Wednesday the U.S. will send up to 450 more troops to Iraq to boost the training of local forces. Sponsored Stories FILE – In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq. A year after the Islamic State group seized the city of Mosul and spread south, effectively dividing the country and plunging it into chaos, Iraq is struggling with a staggering political, economic and humanitarian crisis it may take generations to recover from. (AP Photo, File) BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State group gave only three options for the soldiers and police officers guarding Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, when they neared it a year ago: Repent, run or die.Many ran. Those who resisted died, often gruesomely in mass killings filmed and uploaded to the Internet, only fueling fear of the extremists.The collapse of Iraqi security forces, which received billions of dollars in aid and training from the U.S. during its occupation, haunts this divided country today, a year after the Islamic State group seized Mosul and a third of the country. Its sectarian divides grow deeper as millions remain displaced, military gains have seen militant counterattacks and a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes appears not to have changed the stalemate. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies What can change the situation is unclear, as lower oil prices sap the Iraqi economy, the U.S. limits its involvement on the ground and the Iraqi people as a whole continue to suffer.“There’s no salary, no job, no life,” said a 31-year-old former soldier named after the country’s former dictator Saddam Hussein, who saw his young son killed as his family fled Mosul for Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdish region. “And if you have a child and he gets sick, you can’t treat him.”On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State group took full control of Mosul, part of its lightning sweep from its territory in war-ravaged Syria and Iraq’s Anbar province. Videos quickly emerged of the extremists waving their trademark black flags in parades down Mosul’s streets or driving Iraqi forces’ U.S.-made Humvees, as darker films of their massing killings followed.Weeks later, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly spoke at Mosul’s main mosque and the group declared a “caliphate” over territory it controlled, demanding the loyalty of the world’s Muslims. A U.S.-led air campaign began in August targeting the group, the number of strikes now numbering around 1,900. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 4 sleep positions for men and what they meanlast_img read more

Stephen Hawking fields questions on artificial intelligence

first_img Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Men’s health affects baby’s health too Check your body, save your life Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Sponsored Stories 5 ways to recognize low testosteronecenter_img Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies LONDON (AP) — Have a question about artificial intelligence and think theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is the man to ask?Hawking is giving the Internet-going public a rare chance to pose direct questions to him on Reddit, the user-powered news and discussion forum.The celebrity scientist is speaking on the perils and promises of artificial intelligence, a topic of lively interest as self-driving cars take to the streets. Comments   Share   The 73-year-old Hawking frequently makes public appearances, but he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or motor neuron disease, which makes giving spontaneous answers to questions difficult. Most Reddit question-and-answer sessions wrap up quickly, but this one is being extended over several weeks to give Hawking time to respond.There were already thousands of comments on Monday, a few hours after the forum was opened for discussion.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.last_img read more

Starwood launch online lifestyle portal for guests

first_img<a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/29e57/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&amp;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched this week a new online portal dedicated to food, beverage, spa, weddings and events.The portal, www.starwoodhotels.com/eatdrinkandmore, gives guests access to a range of lifestyle concepts across the Asia Pacific, some of which can be experienced at a Starwood hotel brand.Guests will be able to experience branded food and beverage concepts at a range of Starwood hotel brands including Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, St Regis, W hotels and Aloft.“Working with various experts in the food and beverage industry including designers, chefs, food journalists and consultants has provided us with great insights into the creation of an outstanding food and beverage experience” said Chairman and President of Starwood Asia Pacific, Miguel Ko.Other lifestyle options include spas, fitness, weddings and events with more to be added gradually in the coming months. For more information visit www.eatdrinkandmore.com last_img read more

Centaras Away Koh Kood resort named Outstanding Secluded Boutiq

first_imgAway Koh Kood, Centara Boutique Collection has been named as Outstanding Secluded Boutique Hotel in the Hotel Club Hotel of the Year 2010 Awards.The resort, built on an intimate scale with only 20 bungalows and 13 tented accommodations, is located on the west coast of Koh Kood, 82 kilometres off the coast of Trat province, and is the epitome of an island hideaway.The annual Hotel Club Awards have been running since 2006, recognising the most outstanding properties in a range of categories around the world. Hotel Club is a leading global accommodation website offering hotel and accommodation bookings, providing travellers with over 69,000 accommodation choices in over 7,300 cities worldwide throughout 138 countries.Centara Boutique Collection is a brand within Centara Hotels & Resorts, Thailand’s largest hotel management company.Properties within the Boutique Collection are designed to a small scale and are for the independent minded traveller who requires five-star accommodation but who does not wish to stay in a large resort.There are currently eight Boutique Collection properties in Thailand and one in the Indian Himalayas, and Centara has a strategy of expanding this brand rapidly within the next few years. Source = Away Koh Kood, Centara Boutiquelast_img read more

Royal Caribbeans newest ship unveiled

first_imgSource = ETB Travel News: Brittney Levinson Royal Caribbean has announced details of their newest ship, Harmony of the Seas, which is set to launch in April 2016.The ship will be the third in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class, the largest cruise ships in the world.Royal Caribbean International president and chief executive officer Michael Bayley explains the company’s philosophy behind the new ship.“We are orchestrating a medley of new exciting concepts with the best Royal Caribbean innovations to strike the perfect chord for adventurous holidaymakers,” Mr Bayley said.Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited chairman and chief executive officer Richard D. Fain says the Oasis class ships continually impress their guests, both new and existing.“They shatter preconceived notions of what cruising can be and continue to stand in a category by themselves,” said Mr Fain.“With Harmony of the Seas, we are making the most exciting experience at sea even better.”The Harmony of the Seas will feature the Oasis class’ signature design of seven distinct neighbourhoods and span 16 decks. The ship will carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,747 staterooms.The new ship offers guests a range of experiences and amenities including three multi-storey waterslides, classic games arcade, a climbing play area for children and a Starbucks café.The Harmony of the Seas will also feature new technology such as the use of Royal WOWBands, which allows guest to make purchases and access their rooms via an armband. Also onboard is a new Bionic Bar, where guests are served cocktails by robot bartenders.Guests are offered a range of dining options including new restaurants Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, Sabor Modern Mexican and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine.The Harmony of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean’s third new ship to launch over the next 18 months alongside Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.Itineraries for Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas will be released next month.last_img read more

Travelling to the US from 20 January 2017 onwards

first_imgTravelling to The US From 20 January 2017 onwards?Travelling to The US From 20 January 2017 onwards? Elect for a holiday in Asia insteadLeading low-cost airline AirAsia X is offering Aussie holiday makers who have a trip booked to the USA the opportunity to elect to switch their destination to Asia, for only the cost of airport taxes and surcharges*.Holiday makers who are booked to travel to the USA from 20 January 2017 (Donald Trump’s Inauguration day) until 31 May 2017 can apply to Make Their Holiday Great Again through a special email address and can fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the same dates*, instead of taking their planned US trip.A collegial 270 seats are available to the willing and successful travelling parties.Interested holiday makers are encouraged to apply or seek more information by emailing aus_nz@airasia.com. Travellers will need to supply a copy of their confirmed return itinerary from Australia to the United States and matching passports. AirAsia X will book them a flight to Kuala Lumpur from Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast or Perth on those same dates*.AirAsia X Head of Commercial Arik De said, “US citizens have spoken and whilst there is some uncertainty in the markets there should be none when it comes to your holiday plans.“If you’re considering putting your US travel plans on hold why not consider an Asian holiday instead?’This special offer is only available for those who apply until midnight Sunday 13th November. All travellers will have to pay is the applicable airport taxes and surcharges. Luggage, meals, or other in-flight services are additional.*Terms and conditions apply. Seats are limited and not available on all flights/days or at peak periods. Offer is applicable for existing travel between 20/1/17 to 31/5/17. Airport taxes and surcharges, baggage, meals and other inflight services are extra. Visit AirAsia.com for applicable charges. AirAsiaAbout AirAsia X AirAsia X is the long-haul, low-cost affiliate carrier of the AirAsia Group that currently flies to destinations in the Asia Pacific region. The airline currently serves 19 destinations across Asia (Haneda, Osaka, Sapporo, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Xian, Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai, New Delhi and Kathmandu), Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast), New Zealand (Auckland) and the Middle East (Jeddah). AirAsia X operates a core fleet of 30 A330-300s, each with a seat configuration of 12 Premium Flatbeds and 365 Economy seats. The airline has carried over 19 million guests since it commenced long-haul service in 2007. AirAsia X was awarded the “World’s Best Low Cost Airline Premium Cabin” and “Best Low Cost Airline Premium Seat” at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards for three consecutive years from 2013 – 2015.  AirAsia group is the first airline globally to collaborate with INTERPOL to implement the I-Checkit system to screen the passports of all its prospective passengers against information contained in the world police body’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database.Source = AirAsia Xlast_img read more

MSC Cruises elevates dining at sea to a new high

first_imgMSC Cruises elevates dining at sea to a new highMSC Cruises elevates dining at sea to a new highMSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, revealed their new innovative dining concepts – available on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside.Designed to meet the needs of today’s cruise guests, the MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will introduce flexible dining options and packages. These can be booked at any time prior to embarkation and whilst on board, with the ability to change it at any time during their cruise. For Fantastica booked clients the flexi dining options gives them the chance to choose their  dining time in the main restaurant and the opportunity throughout the cruise, to change this timing to suit their needs. Clients will be able to allocate a dining time to their Fantastica booking from 60 days prior to sailing through their Manage your Booking on the website or throughout their cruise onboard. For Bella cruisers the Classic cruise dining experience is still available, with a choice of two sittings each evening. This is popular with guests who prefer a dedicated table each night – with personalised service from the same waiter.MSC Aurea clients continue to enjoy “My Choice Dining” in the main restaurant for complete freedom, whilst MSC Yacht Club guests enjoy their dedicated MSC Yacht Club restaurant with free-time dining, with the option of reserving a table in advance for ease.Casual dining venues are available for all guests 20 hours-a-day. The MSC Cruises buffet has been enhanced with a range of international food experiences. MSC Seaside will feature two casual dining venues, one of which will feature family-friendly options and child-friendly seating.Speciality restaurants gives guests opportunities to experience cuisines from around the world. MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will feature restaurants with innovative ‘open kitchens’ to experience chefs at work. Selected restaurants on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will also feature a Chef’s Table deal. MSC Cruises will introduce a new Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant on board MSC Meraviglia to complement the ship’s Kaito Sushi Bar. With a modern twist on Asian cuisine, guests can sit at cooking stations and watch chefs cooking at an open grill.The Butcher’s Cut, a new American Steakhouse restaurant concept, will celebrate the craft heritage of America. Guests can select steak from glass-fronted meat ageing fridges before chefs prepare fresh dishes in the open kitchen. The bold wine list features an appealing selection to complement the dishes. Cocktails are also inspired by American heritage, while guests can savour a wide range of craft beers.MSC Seaside will also feature Ocean Cay a signature seafood restaurant. This will serve American-style fish dishes with a Mediterranean twist. Dishes will include Stone Crabs (a delicacy in the homeport of Miami), beautiful fresh Sea Bass (flown in from the Mediterranean) and homemade spaghetti alle vongole (with clams).Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi will be a highlight on MSC Seaside. Three restaurants, created by the Japanese-American chef, will consist of: an à la carte restaurant serving gourmet Asian creations, a Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki Grill (each offering an authentic pan-Asian dining experience).MSC Cruises is partnering with experts for dining experiences on new and existing ships. Roy Yamaguchi, world-renowned chef, is collaborating for the MSC Seaside. Chef Yamaguchi is involved in conceptualising and designing the new pan-Asian restaurant.A long-standing partnership with Michelin chef Carlo Cracco will now encompass signature dishes for the main restaurant menus on MSC Meraviglia, including the Christmas and New Year menus.Jean-Philippe Maury, French chocolatier and pastry chef, will bring sweet creations to the MSC Meraviglia. Jean-Philippe Chocolat & Café will feature an open chocolate atelier. Jean-Philippe Crêpes & Gelato will serve tasty treats at the ship’s Mediterranean-style promenade.MSC Cruises is introducing dining packages that can be booked prior to the cruise. Guests on-board the MSC Meraviglia can book a Dinner & Show Package for an exclusive table d’hôte menu and then experience a Cirque du Soleil at Sea performance in the purpose-built Carousel Lounge.A special dining package Eataly Chef’s Table will be available on the MSC Meraviglia, offering seven gourmet dishes cooked to perfection and all perfectly matched with seven wines. A package can be booked in advance to explore each of the speciality restaurants.About MSC CruisesMSC Cruises is part of the Swiss-based MSC Group, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line sailing year-round in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Seasonal itineraries cover northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, Cuba and the French Antilles, South America, southern Africa, China and Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman. The MSC Cruise experience embodies the elegant side of the Mediterranean to create unique and unforgettable emotions for guests, through discovery of the world’s cultures, beauties and tastes. Its fleet comprises 12 of the most modern ships at sea: MSC Preziosa; MSC Divina; MSC Splendida; MSC Fantasia; MSC Magnifica; MSC Poesia; MSC Orchestra; MSC Musica; MSC Sinfonia; MSC Armonia; MSC Opera and MSC Lirica. In 2014, MSC Cruises launched an investment plan to support the second phase of its growth through the order of two ships of the Meraviglia generation and two others of the Seaside generation (plus an option for a third) and in February 2016, confirmed the existing options to build a further two now Meraviglia Plus ships with an even greater capacity. In April 2016 this rose to €9 billion with the announcement of signing of the letter of intent to build a further four ships, each with next-generation LNG propulsion technology. Consequently, between 2017 and 2026 a total of up to 11 new, next-generation MSC Cruises ships will come into service. MSC Cruises is the first global cruise line brand to develop an investment plan of this length and magnitude, spanning an horizon of over ten years, from 2014 through 2026. MSC Cruises feels a deep responsibility for the environments in which it operates, and was the first company ever to earn the Bureau Veritas “7 Golden Pearls” for superior management and environmental stewardship. In 2009, MSC Cruises began an enduring partnership with UNICEF to support various programmes assisting children worldwide. So far, more than €5m has been collected in voluntary guest donations.Source = MSC Cruiseslast_img read more

New South Wales makes history for Australian tourism

first_imgNew South Wales makes history for Australian tourismNSW has made Australian tourism history, setting several new national records and a series of NSW all-time records for overseas visitation, Minister for Tourism and Major Events announced today.Mr Marshall said no other State had ever achieved such strong results in an International Visitor Survey, with NSW welcoming just over four million overseas visitors who spent $10.1 billion in the State in the year ending June 2017.“This is a tourism result of epic proportions thanks to the hard work the NSW Government has put in since 2011,” Mr Marshall said.“This momentous achievement is a credit to the strength of our tourism strategies, the quality of our tourism industry and our ability to attract and secure major events.”Mr Marshall said that rural and regional NSW was also setting visitation records.“Rural and regional NSW posted its highest volumes of international visitors, nights and expenditure on record, welcoming 813,000 international visitors who stayed 14.8 million nights and spent $1.1 billion, up more than 22 per cent,” Mr Marshall said.“We will continue to focus on driving international visitation into Sydney and out to rural and regional NSW communities, putting tourism dollars into local economies, generating jobs and driving investment in the regions.”NSW exceeded Victoria by over 1.2 million visitors and $2.6 billion in spend and Queensland by 1.4 million visitors and $4.9 billion in spend.Sydney received 3.75 million international visitors who stayed 77.7 million nights and spent $9.03 billion.Chinese visitor expenditure to NSW has exceeded the $3 billion milestone for the first time ($3.01 billion).China continues to drive our tourism growth, with visitors up by 11.7 per cent, nights up by 20.4 per cent and expenditure up by 17.1 per cent. There was also significant growth in visitors from the USA (up by 13 per cent), Korea (up by 16 per cent), Japan (up by 18 per cent), Germany (up by 11 per cent), India (up by 12 per cent) and Indonesia (up by 27 per cent).Source = Destination NSWlast_img read more

Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay

first_imgWyndham Grand Phuket Kalim BayWyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay seals a spot in the Michelin GuideWyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay has earned a prestigious spot in the Michelin Guide for Phuket and Phang-Nga, an extended guidebook edition that highlights two regions outside of Thailand’s capital city.The five-star Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay is one of the 34 resorts and hotels that were carefully selected to grace the pages of the Michelin Guide under the accommodation category, which can be viewed at guide.michelin.com.“Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay prides itself on delivering luxurious comfort by providing only the highest possible service and amenities expected at an international resort brand,” said General Manager Dominic Egger.The reputable Michelin Guide is an annual guidebook that publishes only the finest restaurants and rates them with one, two or three stars, with three stars as the highest. These ratings are internationally recognised as a hallmark of high quality food and service being offered.The guidebook also features hotels and resorts handpicked by Michelin inspectors after conducting a series of anonymous visits. Rather than stars, hotels and resorts are rated with house icons.Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay has earned two houses, a rating that reflects how the resort provides comfort and quality, for its guests.“We are honoured to be listed as one of the recommended resorts across Phuket and Phang-Nga by a globally renowned guide. This is an amazing accolade for the team as it reflects the exceptional customer service we offer – from the moment guests step foot at the resort to the day they depart, we make sure to create personalised and memorable experiences at every touchpoint.”The guide compliments the resort’s pool suites and villas that offer breathtaking ocean views, floor-to-ceiling windows and sleek modern bathrooms. It also recommends Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay’s grand floating breakfast served in a private pool villa.Positioned clifftop with commanding views of the Andaman Sea, the 194-room Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay offers upscale amenities and elegant accommodation for hotel guests. The resort also has exclusive accommodation for members of Club Wyndham Asia, a vacation club brand of Wyndham Destinations, the world’s largest vacation ownership and exchange company.It features a full-service spa offering traditional Thai therapies, Vichy showers, and a sauna and steam room, two unique outdoor swimming pools, fitness centre, kids’ club and a grand ballroom. It also offers a romantic floating tray with chocolate-dipped strawberries and sparkling wine perfect for special occasions, an all-day dining restaurant, two bars and a café, and a shuttle service to Patong.A key feature of the resort’s design is the 152 pool villas – the most in the Kalim-Patong area – each include either a six or nine-metre private infinity pool.For more information about Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay, visit wyndhamgrandphuket.com Source = Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Baylast_img read more

Bhutan Airlines begins its new flight service to Bodh Gaya

first_imgBhutan Airlines has begun flying to Bodh Gaya, catering to the Buddhist pilgrimage market.The airline, effective from December 4, 2016, would fly from Bangkok and Paro to the UNESCO-listed heritage site in the Indian state of Bihar, which is said to be where the Lord Buddha gained enlightenment.Flights would operate twice a week (every Wednesday and Sunday) on a seasonal basis, ending on February 26, 2017. A 122-seat Airbus A319 aircraft would be deployed on the route.The airline already flies between Bangkok and Kolkata and would compete with THAI Smile on the Bangkok-Bodh Gaya route.last_img read more