WestJet enlists Boys and Girls Club kids to help pull off Christmas

first_img Share Tags: Video, WestJet WestJet enlists Boys and Girls Club kids to help pull off Christmas miracles CALGARY — WestJet’s annual Christmas Miracle video is here, and this year the airline has teamed up with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada to make Christmas dreams come true.The video, a compilation of 12 flights broadcast to Facebook Live, features ‘Blue Santa’, Mrs. Claus and a host of celebrity guests participating in 12 consecutive days of ‘miracles’ at the end of November. The miracles, as it has now been revealed, were inspired by children’s ideas and brought to life at various airports across the country.From cuddling with 40 puppies (and one cat) at the Calgary International Airport, to a world made of gingerbread at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, to the Nutcracker performed at the arrivals area in the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, to a life-sized snow globe at Toronto Pearson International Airport, 12 events were held on 12 consecutive days in 10 cities and one in-air flight.More news:  AMResorts has a new Sr. Dir. of Cdn. Sales & Consortia Rel’ns“WestJet creates holiday magic for Canadians every year. This year, we asked for help from youth from St. Alban’sBoys and Girls Club,” said Richard Bartrem, WestJet Vice-President Marketing Communications. “Christmas, through the eyes of a child, is magical and the children gave us wonderful inspiration for surprising our guests. The best part was that the children got to be present to witness their own miracle come to life.”For their help with WestJet’s 12 Flights of Christmas, the airline donated $10,000 to the St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club in Toronto. The partnership between WestJet and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada recently celebrated a huge milestone – the 10th anniversary of WestJet Cares for Kids.“Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and WestJet Cares for Kids share the same goal: making the impossible possible,” said Mathieu Chantelois, VP of Marketing & Development, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. “For the last ten years, WestJetters have gone above and beyond to support our Clubs and our communities and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate. We are proud to be a part of their 12 Flights of Christmas video and we look forward to the future of our partnership.” Posted bycenter_img Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> Monday, December 11, 2017 last_img read more

Customs offices set special schedules for independence celebrations

first_imgNo related posts. The passing of the traditional independence torch will cause schedule changes at the customs office of Peñas Blancas, on the border with Nicaragua, Wednesday and Thursday.Costa Rica’s Finance Ministry reported that on Wednesday, Sept. 12, the hours for tourism and cargo transport units will be from 6 a.m.-midnight.The check points for cargo transport in Costa Rica will begin operating at 6 a.m. in the Guanacaste towns of Limonal, Cañas, Bagaces, Liberia and La Cruz.On Thursday, Sept. 13, Peñas Blancas facilities will handle only immigration services and vehicles transporting perishable goods.All transport and immigration services will be restored immediately after the celebrations, when the torch leaves the canton of La Cruz.On Sept. 15, 1821, Costa Rica and other Central American countries, except Belize, officially declared independence from Spain. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

He never came home

first_imgAn undated Flesch family photo. Courtesy of the Flesch family UPDATE: According to Steve Flesch’s sister Nikki Lannert’s Facebook page, Steve died this morning.On April 2, a 31-year-old traveler from the U.S. was robbed and shot in the head in Desamparados, a suburb south of San José. He was taken to the public San Juan de Dios Hospital in the capital’s downtown, where doctors labeled him “XXX muchacho” – the equivalent of John Doe – and placed him in a medically induced coma in an effort to save his brain.For the rest of the day, XXX muchacho lay unconscious and unidentified. Then another day went by. And another. And another.On the fifth day, two worried men showed up at the hospital, and when they looked at XXX muchacho, they recognized him – barely. It was Steve Flesch of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Their old travel buddy. They had recently shared the adventure of a lifetime – a five-day kayaking trip. Now they could hardly look at him.On April 8, the day Steve was found, his parents Don and Sharon got the worst call of their lives. At 2:30 a.m. the day after, they flew to Costa Rica to be with their ailing son. And over the next month – as police worked to arrest five gang members in connection with the shooting – the Flesches stayed at Steve’s side. They watched as he breathed with a ventilator, developed pneumonia and battled bacterial infections. Through it all, doctors had kept Steve unconscious.“It’s been a nightmare,” Sharon Flesch said Monday afternoon. She had just come from a meeting with a hospital lawyer. Before Steve could be airlifted back to the United States, the family would have to pay his medical bills, which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.On Monday, Sharon and Don said they were aware their son’s health is fragile, possibly too fragile for transport. They were told his odds of recovering were long. But they hoped there was a chance.“We hope he gets rid of the pneumonia, but even if he does, he’ll have some serious issues with his brain,” Sharon said on Monday. She had been crying, but now she paused and seemed to brighten. “Unless he’s one of those miracle cases, which we hope he is,” she said. “If anyone can do it, it’ll be Steve.”On Tuesday morning, his older sister, Nikki Lannert posted on her Facebook page, “Some very sad news this morning, Steve Flesch passed away fighting the battle of his life. He fought to the very end and is in a happier place now. Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and kind words during the last month. Please continue to pray for my parents.”Steve grew up in Wisconsin attending a Lutheran church, and he developed passions for gardening, cooking, traveling and golf. He spent his summers working as a caddie, saving up money to purchase his own duplex and travel abroad.“Costa Rica was his 42nd country in four years,” said Lannert. “He was a very experienced traveler, which is why I’m surprised that he would wind up in the wrong place.” Steve Flesch, an experienced traveler, visited 42 countries before he was murdered in April in the San José suburb of Desamparados. Courtesy of the Flesch family Facebook Commentscenter_img Just how Steve wound up in Torremolinos, a slum of Desamparados known for its high crime rate and consequent lack of tourists, is still a mystery. His mother believes he may have been trying to find a dentist, which was his reason for returning by himself to San José a couple of days before his flight home.Whatever he was doing in that neighborhood, his mom would never expect her street-smart, 6-foot-3 son to end up in a bad situation. “But you don’t get away from a gun,” she said.Before the incident, Steve had stayed at Costa Rica Backpackers, a hostel in downtown San José, for three nights. On April 2, he left the hostel in the middle of the day with his laptop and passport, but the rest of his belongings remained in his room, where he had planned to stay another night. Three days later, he had not claimed his things or settled up his $22 room tab. His stuff had to be placed in storage, according to a hostel employee who asked to remain anonymous. It seemed as though the backpacker had simply disappeared.A handful of witnesses knew better. On April 2, at approximately 1:30 p.m. in Torremolinos, Flesch was assaulted by five men, according to a report by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). Witnesses reported that when the five men attempted to rob Flesch, he fought them. That’s when they took him to an alley, shot him in the back of the head and made off with all of his belongings, according to OIJ investigator Jorge Chávez. Someone called 911, and an ambulance arrived somewhere between a half-hour and an hour later, Chávez said. He wasn’t sure why it took so long.On April 30, the OIJ arrested five men – two 19-year-old adults and three minors (aged 15, 16 and 17) – in connection with the assault, which has now turned into a homicide charge. Chávez said that the men are part of a well-known gang in the area that is linked to numerous other crimes. The men have been charged, Chavéz said, and will make their initial appearance in court “soon.”The Flesches are relieved that Costa Rican police have made arrests and charges have been filed. They are less impressed with U.S. authorities.If the U.S. Embassy did anything to find or help Steve Flesch, his mother doesn’t know about it. Instead, she thanks two of his travel partners – Kyle and Ray – whom his sister Nikki found on Facebook. After she contacted them, the two men abandoned their travels and hopped a four-hour bus to San José to conduct the search.A trip to the embassy yielded no news, so the two friends started trying hospitals. It was Kyle and Ray who wound up at Flesch’s bedside at San Juan de Dios. When Sharon and Don flew to San José the next morning, it was Kyle and Ray who greeted them at the airport with a sign – not the embassy official the couple had been told to expect. “They were our angels,” said Sharon. “Why the embassy couldn’t have found him, I don’t know.”Once the Flesches found their son, they had decisions to make about his care. They sought advice from the embassy and say they were told that a public hospital like San Juan de Dios would cost them nothing. (U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Evelyn Ardón declined to comment on the case, citing a privacy law.) Based on the advice, the Flesches opted not to transfer their son to a private hospital. Now they wish they had known better.After a month of observing their son in the public hospital, the Flesches decided he would be best cared for back home. Sharon, a nurse, was particularly worried that her son was not being turned on his side frequently enough, and might be developing bedsores. When the Flesches asked about airlifting their son back to the U.S., they were told they’d first have to pay the hospital bill.To help pay the debt, Flesch’s cousin Becca Vance started a crowd-funding campaign Friday with gofundme.com. She set the funding goal to $75,000, hoping to cover the estimated $35,000-$50,000 airlift home with some extra to cover medical expenses upon her uninsured cousin’s return.By mid-afternoon on Monday, the campaign had a little more than $2,000, said Vance in an interview from Wisconsin. “Actually, it just got $20 more since we have been on the phone,” she said.Vance says the biggest reaction has come from backpacking and travel communities that have heard Flesch’s story. “They have met Steve or they just took a trip and they know that this could have been them,” she said. “There are just lots of people who it is striking a chord with, and they are spreading it through their various communities.”Upon hearing about U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Costa Rica, the Flesches started writing letters, hoping maybe the president could also help their son. The only response from the U.S. that the family has gotten is from Pennsylvania, where two congressmen began working with the State Department to secure Steve’s release.Although the family had agonized over the decision, they had hoped that in the next couple of days they would be able to pay the hospital bill and get Steve back to the U.S.“We want to get him back home, where there is consistent, high-quality nursing care,” his mother said. “If he dies on the flight, he dies on the flight. At least we can say we did something for him.”But that chance never came. Steve died at 31.This story was updated at 1:24 p.m. on Tuesday. Related posts:U.S. tourist bleeds to death from gunshot wounds while waiting for ambulance in Costa Rica Murdered Costa Rican conservationist had been chased by AK-47-wielding poachers Lawyer in Crucitas fight goes to court for defamation charges Government won’t commit to closing Crucitas gold minelast_img read more

Sonámbulo launches longawaited new album

first_imgRecommended: ‘Psychotropic’ Sonámbulo readies for U.S.The day is finally here: Popular Costa Rican band Sonámbulo has announced the launch of its hotly anticipated new album, “Psicosonorama,” now available on the group’s website and on iTunes. The video for the album’s first single, “La Maraca,” was released earlier this year. (Screenshot from www.sonambulocr.com)Sonámbulo, whose members hail from Cuba, El Salvador and Costa Rica, is widely recognized as the architect of the “psychotropical” genre. Its San José concerts are sellout, crazed-crowds-stretching-down-the-block affairs, and its success has taken it on a European tour and to Austin City Limits, among other international gigs.The band’s website describes the new album with language befitting Sonámbulo’s one-of-a-kind style:  “Psicosonorama is a unique being with a biomechanical body that feeds off the dark matter present in all space, transmutating that matter into liquid light.”The site also suggests that the album’s listeners might find themselves taking “a journey to the G-spot of their imaginations.” Oh, is that all? Let the trip begin.See also: Sonámbulo frontman suffers from rare, debilitating spine condition Facebook Comments Related posts:New Sonámbulo album expands style, stays funky Springsteen turns song into book with unflinching ‘Outlaw Pete’ Neil Young vows Starbucks boycott over GMOs Santana and Neil Young aren’t coming. Untangling the great, Deadhead acid test messlast_img read more

5 questions for a Costa Rican fashion designer

first_imgRelated posts:5 questions for Costa Rican actor Radek Lord 5 questions for Costa Rican street artist MUSH 5 questions for Costa Rican painter Man Yu Fung 5 questions for a Costa Rican designer When Andrea Baltodano sets out to capture the landscape of Costa Rica, she turns to lycra, macramé and crochet: she is a fashion designer who focuses on swimwear for women. Baltodano, 26,  studied fashion design at the Universidad Creativa, and two years ago launched her own swimwear line produced entirely in Costa Rica,Maracao.The Tico Times sat down with Baltodano to discuss her life and work at her store in Curridabat near Plaza del Sol. Excerpts follow.Why did you name the brand Maracao?Maracao is the name of an island in a short story I wrote. The island has a miracle-provoking aspect: the sea. When people who are from the city go there… and go into the sea, they come out with their spirits and physique renewed. They come out with that new energy of being able to restart everything. Humans are the only ones who are able to begin from scratch every day. A girl who [entered this magical place] began noticing all of nature’s textures, fractals and sacred geometry that was always in front of her, but she never noticed.Why did you decide to specialize in the area of swimwear design?I think it’s because of two things. My whole family is from Guanacaste. My father always worked in administration in hotels in there, so I’ve always had this love for the sea. I was always excited to have vacation in order to go to my dad’s hotel to visit the beach. The other thing about the bathing suits is that I’ve always been petite. I’ve always had trouble buying clothes. Everything is always too loose, so I would take the bathing suits and tailor them. So I combined my love for the beach with the fact that there was a high demand for petite swimwear that was impossible to find. Maracao’s swimwear features Costa Rica’s vibrant nature on one side and a simple vibrant color on the other. (Courtesy of Andrea Baltodano)How do you design and produce a piece?The design process is quite long. Each collection by itself has a theme: the most recent collection is called Island Maracao, and it’s inspired by the tropical prints. Once I have all the sketches and decide what patterns I want, I begin the patterning process, and then do a printing trial on the lycra. Once the pattern is approved, you scale it to each different swimwear size and begin to cut the lycra. The cut and confection of the swimsuit is then done.Since the lycra is sublimated, you’ve got to print to print the design before the sublimation. It’s always important to search for the right materials. Some materials shrink more than others; sometimes we like various fabrics, but due to the great difference between the textures and fibers we can’t use them together… The design is the aspect that takes me the most time because I do it all by myself. I’ve designed a pattern up to 25 times.Which is your inspiration for the prints?It depends on each collection. Shells inspired the first collection, which is called Child of Wild. The second collection was inspired by Costa Rica’s tropical rain forest. [For the photo shoot] we brought plants from Limón and converted the bar El Observatorio into a tropical, leafy setting. The third collection was inspired by Island Maracao and it’s also very tropical… I wanted it to look like as if it were brush strokes, like a painting. Bird of paradise plants are one of Baltodano’s inspirations. (Via Andrea Baltodano)How is your swimwear a representation of Costa Rica?Everything is made here. Costa Rica is a small country with a fashion industry that isn’t very developed yet, so that says a lot. In countries such as China, the United States and Colombia, a single company will do the patterning, confectioning, cutting, sublimation, packaging and delivery. In Costa Rica, creating one piece involves more than 10 people. One person does the printing on the lycra. Another one does the sublimation. Another one does the cut. Another one does the patterning. Another person provides me with the materials for the elastics and another one gives me the threads. Someone else sews them together. Every week I’ve got to travel throughout the whole country in order to get to the final result. Being able to get a product out in Costa Rica is a challenge, and I admire all of the designers who do so, because it’s not easy and it’s very expensive.The line is also a representation of Costa Rica because the prints are inspired by what Costa Rican nature and textures offer us… People normally relate swimwear with beaches, but you can also wear them in waterfalls, rivers and thermal waters. There are all these different things around the country, and that’s what I’ve tried show with my photo shoots.Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at kstanley@ticotimes.net. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Transport Ministry plans 40 bicycle parking facilities in San José

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Ricans pledge to go car free on Sept. 22 San José’s new bike path expected to be ready in July UPDATE: Green alert declared as Turrialba Volcano ashfall intensifies Environmental agency orders suspension of pineapple farming project The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) is working on a plan to build 40 bicycle racks in San José, and ministry officials want people to weigh in.The ministry already has preliminary designs for short- and long-term bike parking options including bike racks, lockers and parking lots at public buildings. Ministry officials selected the proposed 40 sites by taking into account their proximity to public services, train and bus stations, recreational sites, schools and universities.The ministry now wants public feedback on the proposed racks before moving forward with the project. MOPT is calling on the population, and particularly urban cyclists, to take an online survey that will be available on its website until December 23.The survey asks people to weigh in on the proposed sites and also asks them to rate each one on three basic aspects: safety, usability and location. The survey is only available in Spanish.User feedbackMOPT’s Traffic Engineering Director Junior Araya said in a news release that the ministry will use the information from the survey to make a final decision on the types and final locations of the proposed bike racks. The survey also grants people the opportunity to propose other locations that are not included in MOPT’s plan, Araya said.The online survey displays examples of each of the four designs proposed.Among the proposed sites MOPT selected are the Supreme Court, the Social Security System (Caja) headquarters, the Supreme Elections Tribunal, the Central Bank, the Plaza de la Cultura, the National Stadium, the Pacific and Atlantic train stations, the National Library, the Costa Rican Art Museum in La Sabana Park, the Costa Rica Institute of Technology in Barrio Amón, and various public banks. MOPT plan proposes parking options alongside and on the streets, racks at public buildings and even bike lockers. (Courtesy of MOPT)Urban mobilityThe proposed bike racks would be a new step toward boosting the use of bikes in the capital.The San José Municipality inaugurated a two-kilometer stretch of bike path in 2015. The route is part of a seven-km route to connect La Sabana, west of the capital, to the University of Costa Rica campus, east of the city.Since that inauguration, various additional efforts have sought to promote bicycle use. European Union Ambassadors in Costa Rica cycled on the bike path in June 2015, and environmental activists hosted a local version of World Car Free Day on Sept. 22.Recommended: A bike path blooms in San José Facebook Commentslast_img read more

La Platina bridge will partially reopen next week

first_imgLong overdueThe administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís is the third, following those of former presidents Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla, to promise to fix and expand the narrow, bumpy bridge that handles some 90,000 cars daily.In 2011, Chinchilla admitted that “La Platina” had been her biggest frustration and recognized it as “a monument to the failure of public works projects.”The bridge is on the main route connecting the capital, San José, with the province of Alajuela — including the Juan Santamaría International Airport — and Costa Rica’s Northern and Pacific regions.Since 2009, it has caused headaches and cost various public officials their posts. Facebook Comments Vehicle passage on the bridge over the Virilla River on the General Cañas Highway — better known as La Platina — will partially open next week, the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) announced.Minister Carlos Villalta said during an inspection on Wednesday that the MOPT will open three of the planned six lanes of the Alfredo González Flores bridge, the official name of the infamous puente.Once the three lanes are fully operational, the project’s 170 workers will begin working on the other side of the bridge to build the remaining three lanes.Villalta said he expects the bridge “to be completed and with its six lanes fully operational by April 30.”In the meantime, MOPT will alternate the direction of one of the three lanes to facilitate traffic flow during peak hours. Between midnight and noon, motorists traveling between Alajuela and San José will be able to use two of the three lanes; during the afternoons and evenings, two lanes will be assigned to traffic going from San José to Alajuela.Watch a video of work on the bridge this week: Related posts:Finally! Public Works Ministry reopens La Platina bridge Construction to begin soon to curb heavy traffic on Circunvalación beltway Solís pledges to fix La Platina bridge – the third president to make the promise Public Works Minister pledges to open La Platina bridge next weeklast_img read more

PHOTOS Panama defeats Costa Rica to qualify for its first World Cup

first_imgSee also: Costa Rica clinches 2018 World Cup berth Facebook Comments With Costa Rica’s berth in the 2018 World Cup safe followingits 1-1 draw last week against Honduras, much of the drama for Ticos watching tonight’s match against Panama lay not on the field, but in the score alerts from other matches flashing across the bottom of the screen, doing the math as simultaneous games unfolded whose scores would determine three teams’ fates.The United States, expected to win against already-eliminated host Trinidad and Tobago and clinch its own World Cup spot, turned in a dismal performance. Still, because of the point distribution going into tonight’s final qualifying matches, the United States still had a strong chance to qualify outright if both Panama and Honduras lost their matches.As the games progressed and Panama trailed Costa Rica 0-1 following a goal in the 36th minute by Johan Venegas, while Honduras trailed Mexico, that seemed likely. Panama’s Román Torres (L) and Costa Rica’s Kenner Gutiérrez vie for the ball in the match that saw Panama qualify for the 2018 World Cup. AFP Photo / Rodrigo AranguaDrama increased all around when Panama’s Gabriel Torres scored a goal in the 52nd minute. At least, that’s what the refs proclaimed, but Costa Rican fans and commentators questioned the call, as replay videos showed that the ball never crossed the goal line. Panama’s Gabriel Gòmez (L) and Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz (R) vie for the ball during their 2018 World Cup qualifier football match in Panama City, AFP Photo / Bienvenido VelascoHowever, the goal went on the scoreboard, and Román Torres put Panama ahead with a goal in the 88th minute, sending the stadium in Panama City into a frenzy.Panamanian players collapsed in joy and tears at the final whistle as Panama qualified for its first-ever World Cup appearance. The crowd goes wild after Panama qualifies for its first-ever World Cup by defeating Costa Rica (who had already qualified) on Oct. 10, 2017. AFP Photo / Rodrigo AranguaHonduras ended the night with a 3-2 victory over Mexico, which was the first team in CONCACAF to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and ends the qualifying round in first place. Honduras will now play two games against Australia to determine which of the two teams will qualify for the tournament in Russia.The United States Men’s Team has qualified for every World Cup since 1986. Wire service AFP described their loss as “a result that will be viewed as a catastrophe for soccer in the United States.” A bitter pill to swallow: USA’s Kellyn Acosta during his team’s loss. AFP Photo / Luis AcostaU.S. player Omar González looped the ball over his keeper Tim Howard in a devastating own goal, followed by a dazzling goal by Trinidad’s Alvin Jones. The U.S. “Wonder Boy,” Christian Pulisic, scored in the second half, but his team was unable to equalize. Related posts:Catch me if you can PHOTOS: Spain wipes the grass with Costa Rica, 5-0 World Cup 2018: Who’s lurking behind the usual suspects? All eyes on Russia: Costa Rica awaits World Cup drawlast_img read more

Nicaraguan government blames opposition for 197 protest deaths

first_imgMANAGUA, Nicaragua – The Nicaraguan government on Tuesday accused the opposition of “coup-driven terrorism” and blamed it for 197 deaths that have occurred in nearly four months of protests against President Daniel Ortega.Rosario Murillo, who is Ortega’s wife, vice president and chief government spokeswoman, made the allegation to state media.She vowed that protesters and opposition sympathizers who have been convicted over the unrest, would “pay for their crimes.”The death toll of 197 presented by Ortega’s government is far lower than the toll given by human rights organizations in the country.One such prominent organization, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, says 317 people have been killed and at least 2,000 wounded in brutal repression by Ortega’s security forces against the protests.“Those figures are being manipulated” to damage the image of Nicaragua’s government, Murillo asserted.She counted 22 police officers killed, but just five university student protesters.More than 130 opposition figures have been arrested and charged with terrorism offenses under a new law that carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison.Protesters determinedOrtega, in a flurry of interviews with foreign media late last month, asserted that the unrest was over and the country was “normalizing.” He said the turmoil was fomented by the United States.However, opposition figures have said they will keep up the protests to demand Ortega and Murillo step down.They are determined to see “a free Nicaragua,” a student opposition leader, Lesther Alemán, 20, told AFP in an interview this week.Another university student in Managua who would not be identified for fear of official reprisal, said: “Many of our comrades have been arrested. We know they are being tortured, that they are being held without eating.”Every day, dozens of Nicaraguans flee over the southern border to Costa Rica to escape what they say is persecution by Ortega’s government and by loyalist paramilitaries.Murillo labeled the protesters “coup-mongers, terrorists, right-wingers, satanists, vandals, criminals.”The United States has repeatedly warned Nicaragua over the violence and repression.On Tuesday, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Francisco Palmieri, tweeted: “We denounce continued arbitrary detentions and call for the release of all individuals arrested for peacefully expressing opposition to the Ortega government.” Facebook Comments Related posts:U.S. government restricts visas for Nicaragua officials over unrest Nicaragua’s Ortega defends parapolice violence as US steps up warning PHOTOS: Nicaraguans in Costa Rica gather to support their country during hard times Nicaraguan students vow to keep up fight until Ortega resignslast_img read more

Report Arab Spring increases migration to EU

first_img How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths 0 Comments   Share   BRUSSELS (AP) – A new report says applications for asylum in the European Union increased 16.2 in 2011 over the previous year, in part because of turmoil surrounding the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.The report, issued Friday by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, says just over 302,000 people applied for asylum in 2011. That is still far fewer than the peak of 425,000 applications received in 2001. The difference between men and women when it comes to paincenter_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates The commission also says that 80 percent of EU citizens surveyed agree that EU countries should offer protection and asylum to those in need. The same proportion believes asylum rules should be the same among all EU countries.Cecelia Malmstrom, EU commissioner for Home Affairs, says the findings show the EU “needs a strong and coherent migration policy.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Sponsored Stories 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologistlast_img read more

Palestinian prisoners hunger strike goes 100 days

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates The Israel’s prison service was not immediately available for comment. It has repeatedly said Rikhawi is receiving proper care in prison.Rikhawi started fasting on April 12, just before a mass strike of 1,200 other prisoners, who refused food to demand better conditions. They ended their protests after winning some concessions.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Sponsored Stories JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian officials say that a prisoner in an Israeli jail who has refused food for more 100 days is now on the longest Palestinian hunger strike ever.Akram Rikhawi is serving a nine-year sentence for transporting suicide bombers. He seeks early release for his medical ailments, which are said to include diabetes and asthma.Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said Sunday that Rikhawi, 39, needs to be urgently checked by a lung specialist and a neurologist. Comments   Share   The vital role family plays in societylast_img read more

Vietnam airline fined for inflight bikini show

first_imgA YouTube video shows young women in open vests and red bikini tops dancing down the aisle and handing out teddy bears as gleeful male passengers smile and snap photographs on the flight.In a letter to Vietnamese authorities Tuesday, the company said the event inaugurated its first flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang on the southern coast. It said all safety regulations were followed. A company spokeswoman refused to comment on the fine Friday, but confirmed the local beauty queens were paid for their performance. She would not give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the media.Privately owned Vietjet Air was founded in 2007 and operated its first flight in December.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Associated PressDANANG, Vietnam (AP) – Bored by in-flight safety demos? A group of bikini-clad beauty queens in Vietnam recently strutted through a packed airplane as dance music blasted a song with the lyric “I’m crazy for banana.”State-run media reported Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Administration fined Vietjet Air 20 million dong ($960) for staging the three-minute show on Aug. 3 without receiving official approval. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories 0 Comments   Share   center_img New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Sponsored Stories Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home The vital role family plays in society Patients with chronic pain give advicelast_img read more

Vatican drops lawsuit against German magazine

first_imgA hearing on Titanic’s appeal was due Friday. But on Thursday, a statement issued through the bishops said “after detailed deliberations” the Vatican had decided to withdraw its application for an injunction.The statement said “further legal measures are being examined to effectively counter attacks on the dignity of the pope and the Catholic Church.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 4 sleep positions for men and what they meancenter_img Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement BERLIN (AP) – The German Bishops’ Conference says the Vatican has dropped its lawsuit against a satirical German magazine over a cover that depicted Pope Benedict XVI with a yellow stain on his robe.A Hamburg court had granted an injunction barring the magazine, Titanic, from distributing the image that fronted its July edition, headlined “Hallelujah at the Vatican _ the leak has been found!” That was a reference to a scandal over leaked Vatican documents. Four benefits of having a wireless security system Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Daylast_img read more

Haiti park standoff highlights conflict over land

first_imgThe government has won small victories: It’s allowed people to resume using the few playgrounds and parks in the capital, giving the city back some of its pre-quake normalcy. But a staggering amount of work remains to be done.“It’s going to be very hard for the government to strike a balance,” said Yves Colon, a Haiti-born journalism professor at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. “President Martelly is trying to make these changes but of course they aren’t enough, because there’s so much misery out there, and not everyone will be happy.”The wear-and-tear from squatters is evident in La Visite, where the cutting of pine trees is plainly visible. It’s considered a critical wildlife habitat and water source for the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) to the northwest. It’s also home to threatened bird species such as the Hispaniolan trogon and golden swallow.The park dwellers survive by growing their own fruits and vegetables and raising livestock, all activities that require clearing trees.Philippe Leon, an architect and board member of the Seguin Foundation environmental group, likens the park to a man who’s quickly going bald. “It’s a national and international treasure that’s being destroyed,” he said. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Environment Minister Jean-Vilmond Hilaire conceded in an interview that the raid had failed and that the government should have worked with the 1,500 people in the park to come up with a relocation plan.“The state should take its social responsibility toward these people but it also needs to take responsibility for the environment,” Hilaire said.The squatters said the officers ordered them to leave and immediately used sledgehammers to smash the stone walls of their houses. The officers also fired rounds of tear gas, witnesses said, prompting squatters to lob the heavy stones that mark trails through the tall pines. Police responded with bullets, the witnesses said.“Look,” squatter Jean Daus said as he unzipped a grimy backpack and poured the contents onto his front porch. “Here are the bullets and tear gas canisters.”While Alfred and other witnesses say the police were the aggressors, no one has been arrested and officials say the incident is still under investigation. Antoine Jean Frehard, a magistrate in the nearest city of Jacmel, said it remained unclear who fired the shots that killed the four men.Following the shootings, the police left, and the squatters stayed. But Hilaire, who took office after the raid, said the government remains committed to clearing the forest and needs to set a timeline for when it will happen. Top Stories Comments   Share   Associated PressLA VISITE NATIONAL PARK, Haiti (AP) – The police officers and other officials showed up in the mountain clearing on a cool morning armed with shotguns, pistols, sledgehammers and orders for hundreds of squatters to vacate the homes and farms they had carved out of one of Haiti’s few national parks.The people living there had known they could be removed at any time because they were on a rare piece of protected woodland in one of the most deforested countries on earth. But they were resolved to put up a fight. In a violent clash that lasted several hours, four squatters were shot to death. The need to save Haiti’s forests is obvious to anyone who flies over the country and sees the almost completely denuded landscape. In 1925, Haiti had 60 percent of its original forest cover. Today, it has about 2 percent, most of it lost because people cut down trees to make charcoal, the principal source of cooking fuel.Without trees to stabilize the soil, even modest storms trigger deadly floods and mudslides. Tropical Storm Isaac killed at least 24 people in Haiti when they were swept away by floodwaters, electrocuted or crushed by falling trees or walls.The forest that makes up La Visite once sprawled over nearly 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares) but is now only about one-third of that size because of deforestation and erosion. It was among three sites designated for protection under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in 1983. Sawmill workers who had worked in the park never left despite the designation, and their descendants have been there ever since.Nonetheless, the Seguin Foundation, and other groups eager to protect the park, don’t defend the raid, even though they think the squatters should leave.“It was an ill-conceived, ill-prepared … mission,” said Leon, whose group has long urged the government to move the squatters out of the park. “They went in like amateurs and they got met by a population that was angry.”center_img Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project “It’s not just giving people money and telling them to move,” he said. “I don’t see it like that. The state needs to identify where it’s going to put these people before it asks them to leave.”Leon said he hopes the government won’t give up trying to protect the park, calling it a matter of national security for about 4 million people who depend on its water and trees for flood protection.“The government will have to try to find a solution,” he said, “and it shouldn’t cost any lives.”The farmers themselves don’t know where or when they’ll be forced out, but many say they’re open to moving if the government provides housing and negotiates more openly.“The authorities have to sit down with us,” said 31-year-old Wilson Pierre, a third-generation farmer in the park. “And it must be better than what they offered us earlier.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Parents, stop beating yourself up Exactly what happened on July 23 is still in dispute, but the episode points to the difficulties facing President Michel Martelly as he tries to bring law and order to a chaotic country still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake and successive hurricanes and storms.Martelly, who took office in May 2011, has made protecting the country’s long-neglected natural environment one of his top four priorities, along with strengthening education, reforming the justice system and improving energy infrastructure.His government has banned plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, which litter the landscape and clog storm channels. It has backed projects improving sanitation and water quality and has called for a restored military that would patrol forests and help outnumbered rangers prevent further deforestation.But the administration has quickly learned that applying such high-minded goals to Haiti’s sprawling problems looks easier on paper.His government cleared thousands of people from squalid displaced-person camps set up in public parks and plazas, in some cases through evictions, sparking widespread criticism of his supposedly heavy-handed tactics. Adding to the discontent was the lack of any government plan for housing the hundreds of thousands of people still left homeless from the quake. In the case of La Visite National Park, officials had nowhere to settle the squatters they were trying to evict. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more

ExSalvadoran colonel gets US prison sentence

first_img Check your body, save your life U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock meted out the penalty after a three-day sentencing hearing that included testimony implicating Montano in human rights abuses in El Salvador.The 70-year-old Montano, who denies such abuses, was once his country’s vice minister of public security. He had been living in a Boston suburb for about a decade before his 2011 arrest, making $14 an hour in a candy factory.Montano admitted to lying on immigration forms, pleading guilty to three counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury. He also agreed not to contest deportation proceedings to return him to El Salvador after his prison term.In 1993, a United Nations commission named Montano as a member of El Salvador’s military high command who took part in a meeting to plot the slaying of a priest suspected of supporting rebels during the country’s civil war.That meeting allegedly led to the 1989 slayings of six priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter at a Jesuit university in El Salvador’s capital city.Montano previously has denied involvement in the priest killings. He was among 20 people Spanish authorities indicted in 2011 in connection with the massacre. New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like A report by Karl alleged troops under Montano’s command carried out dozens of killings and tortured hundreds, accusations that retired El Salvador military general Mauricio Ernesto Vargas denied in testimony for the defense.The judge ordered Montano to report to prison on Oct. 11.“If under these circumstances, you disappear, you’ll be found,” Woodlock told him.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories BOSTON (AP) – Human rights advocates called it a step toward justice Tuesday when a federal judge in Boston sentenced a Salvadoran ex-colonel to prison on separate charges as Spain attempts to prosecute him for war crimes during his country’s civil conflict.Inocente Orlando Montano will serve 21 months in a federal prison for immigration crimes, followed by a year of supervised release if U.S. government officials don’t extradite him to Spain before then to stand trial for his alleged role in priest slayings known as the Jesuit massacre. Top Stories center_img On Tuesday, he called it “a very, very terrible case,” and said he was sorry about the death of the priests, while addressing the judge with the help of a Spanish language interpreter.“Those individuals, in spite of their liberal mentality, were helping a lot in the peace process,” Montano said.He also said that the U.N. commission charged him and others with crimes based on complaints that were invented by people who were against the government.The defendant said he had commanded very prestigious units, helping build playgrounds and roads as he kept up with not only military obligations, but “human obligations.” He also spoke of his service as a military attache to Mexico, saying Mexican officials wouldn’t have wanted him there if he was a criminal.While leaving court, Montano said through a translator that he was satisfied with the sentence and hadn’t decided if he would appeal.Attorney Carolyn Patty Blum from the Center for Justice and Accountability, which is involved in seeking Montano’s prosecution in Spain, said after the sentencing that it was “a huge step forward to be incarcerating him for anything.”U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a prepared statement that Montano’s sentence “sends a strong message that those alleged to have engaged in human rights abuses overseas should not expect to hide in the United States.” Comments   Share   Men’s health affects baby’s health too Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of more than four years, saying Montano immigrated to the U.S. in part to avoid potential prosecution for the Jesuit massacre.Defense attorney Oscar Cruz Jr. had asked for probation, saying Montano had no fear of prosecution in El Salvador because of an amnesty law. Cruz said after court that he was pleased by Tuesday’s outcome.The judge said before announcing Montano’s penalty that the immigration case wasn’t a “springboard” for deciding if the defendant was guilty of human rights violations, even if evidence was significant.“This much seems clear, that there were human rights violations by troops under Mr. Montano’s command and he took no action,” Woodlock said.The judge had asked assistant U.S. attorney John Capin on Monday about the status of Spain’s request to extradite Montano. Woodlock spoke privately with Capin on Tuesday, then returned to the bench and said the U.S. government hadn’t taken formal action on the request.Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl, an expert in Latin American politics who testified for the government, said she was pleased with Montano’s sentence because it would give the U.S. time to extradite him to Spain.last_img read more

Mexico polls ruling party ahead despite dissatisfaction

first_imgFILE – In this July 7, 2012 file photo, a woman waves a national flag as Mexicans march along Avenida Reforma on their way to Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zocalo. The results of the last polls to be released before the Sunday, June 7, 2015 midterm elections show Mexico’s ruling party appears poised to retain its leading position in congress, but may lose the ability to cobble together a majority with smaller parties. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File) How do cataracts affect your vision? Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   He was referring to widespread distrust of political parties. Only about 9 percent of people in the GEA-ISA poll expressed confidence in them.All parties have been affected by that distrust. In the northern state of Sonora, National Action currently holds the governorship. But repeated scandals have put the party’s candidate Javier Gandara in a statistical tie with Claudia Pavlovich, according to an El Universal poll that had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.What also remains in doubt is whether the PRI will get enough congressional seats through a complex formula of proportional representation to be able to cobble together a majority with smaller parties.The PRI’s main ally, the Green Party, has been polling between 5 and 9 percent, which isn’t enough to give the PRI a functioning majority.Former presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said the PRI appears stuck at a certain level.“The PRI has a hardcore support of 30 percent,” Aguilar said, “which it hasn’t managed to expand, and it isn’t looking farther afield.”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 Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party appears poised to retain its leading position in Congress, but may lose some governor seats in Sunday’s elections.The last polls to be released before Sunday’s midterm elections show surprisingly resilient support for the ruling party known as the PRI, despite Mexicans’ general dissatisfaction with politics and a lackluster economy. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes A poll by the GEA-ISA companies suggests the PRI would get about 27 percent of votes for the lower house of Congress, well ahead of its closest competitor, the conservative National Action Party, at 21 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.Findings in the same poll nevertheless showed that 67 percent of the 1,100 people interviewed were dissatisfied with the way Mexico’s democracy is working, and a general lack of trust in political parties.The PRI may be benefiting from a slight uptick in perceptions of the economy’s performance. GDP grew by 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2015, above the 2014 annual growth rate of 2.1 percent, but still well below the government’s original predictions of at least 3.2 percent for 2015.A survey by the polling firm BGC also showed the PRI in first place in the congressional races, about 6 percentage points ahead of National Action, while a poll by the Buendia & Laredo company placed the PRI’s lead at about 4 percent. The margins of error were plus or minus 2.9 percentage points and plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, respectively.“In the federal elections, the PRI is going to win,” said Luis Carlos Ugalde, the country’s former top electoral watchdog official. “It means that the economic situation has many people in a good mood, it means that a portion of the population is doing more or less okay.” But, paradoxically, most of the races for governorships in nine of Mexico’s 31 states are extremely close, in many cases too close to call. The PRI had long dominated most statehouses, and some states have always had PRI governors.“There is an enormous level of competition, and that is very good news,” said Ugalde.In the most closely-watched governorship race, in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon, some polls showed a surprising surge for Jaime Rodriguez, an independent who is running under his nickname, “El Bronco,” to challenge the PRI.A poll by the newspaper El Universal showed Rodriguez neck-and- neck with PRI candidate Ivonne Alvarez, at 30.1 and 29.1 percent, respectively. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.Other surveys showed one or the other of the Nuevo Leon candidates with a wider lead. But the surprising thing was that Rodriguez, with no support from any political party, was in the running at all.“Almost nobody thought an independent candidate could win a governorship,” said Jose Antonio Crespo, a professor at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Teaching. “So this is a surprise, it does set a precedent, and it will be a warning sign for the political parties.” Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milklast_img read more

Personalisation social media key for 2012 travel

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Personalisation and technology will play a large role in influencing travel this year, according to industry leaders.In an EyeforTravel Industry Leaders Predict Top Trends for 2012 report, Google Southeast Asia head of travel Ali Yilmaz explained personalised search results will help travellers find holiday requirements specific to their needs.He said that this year the global search engine will look at organising searches so that results come back with colleague’s reviews, peer photos, family videos of the destination or a business page of a local agency.“So search results will become more personal, more social and most importantly more relevant,” he said. Technology, particular mobiles and social network sites are also expected to become invaluable resources for travel this year.According to Abacus International chief executive Robert Bailey, companies will aim to enhance their mobile handset offerings, even attempting to “push the envelope even further”.“Instead of treating the mobile platform as a down-sized version of the web, to look at building travel application that can only be used with today’s smartphones,” he explained. “These apps would be able to integrate great content with the traveller’s social graph as well as location-awareness.”The same unique application stance will also be taken on the tablets, while social media will continue to be examined for the right way to utilise the product.Worldhotels global senior director of social media Edward Perry said he expects to see hotels in particular take social media beyond the experimental phase and merge it with everyday business.“I predict that in 2012, hotels/hotel groups will seek to integrate social outreach into all aspects of a hotels business: sales, front desk, housekeeping, customer service, operations, food and beverage,” he said.“Social networkers will play an instrumental role in assisting team members to understand the role they play on the social graph.”Mr Perry, Mr Yilmaz and Mr Bailey will join Priceline group management board member Adrian Currie at this year’s EyeforTravel TDS Asia to present industry insights.last_img read more

Travelport Finnair sign distribution deal

first_imgFinnair continue expansion in Asia and Europe. Source = ETB News: P.T. Travelport has announced a new, multi-year global distribution deal with Finnair. “Finnair has, in the last few years, been actively growing its network value towards strategically important premium traffic between Asia and Europe,” Finnair head of global corporate sales and GDS sales distribution Jani Peuhkurinen said.center_img Finnair will gain full content access to Travelport solutions, aiding the expansion of the airline’s global business strategy. “Travelport sees Finnair as an important, high quality airline partner and we look forward to working closely with them over the coming years,” Travelport Nordics country manager Mathias Andersson said.last_img read more

Garuda Indonesia to service Perth with A330

first_imgGaruda Indonesia will service its Bali-Denpasar to Perth route with a new Airbus A330.The move makes the airline the first to operate a wide-bodied aircraft on this route and ensures 257 passengers will be able to fly, compared to 162 when the airline used a Boeing 737-800.Garuda Indonesia Australia vice president Pak Uun Setiawan said that the move continues to build on the airline’s Quantum Leap strategy.“The move to the Airbus A330 is another milestone for Garuda Indonesia as we continue to expand and enhance our fleet across the region in line with our ongoing ‘Quantum Leap’ strategy,” Mr Setiawan said.“Introducing this spacious fleet will allow us to better serve both the growing corporate and leisure markets out of Western Australia and provide our passengers a new level of comfort in the air.”Source = ETB News: Tom Nealelast_img read more

IUCN World Parks Congress wins at Australian Event Awards

first_imgThe once-in-a-decade International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress has been named the 2015 CIM Magazine Best Meeting or Conference at the Australian Event Awards Industry Night of Nights (17 November).The 6th IUCN World Parks Congress, held in Sydney in November 2014, is an international forum that gathers to develop the global strategy for the conservation of parks and protected area.In Sydney, the Congress doubled forecast numbers, attracting 6,000 delegates, 30 Heads of State and government ministers from 170 countries at Sydney Olympic Park, and culminated with the ‘Promise of Sydney’ – a 10-year global conservation agenda for the planet’s 200,000 plus protected areas that includes individual country and organisational pledges and solutions to enhance implementation of conservation and development goals for ‘Parks, People and the Planet’.Secured by Business Events Sydney (BESydney) and co-hosted by Parks Australia and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, the 2014 Congress provided an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate international leadership and cooperation in protected area policy and practice.Representatives of co-hosts Parks Australia, Agnese Hubbard and Leanne McLaughlin, and the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service jointly accepted the award on behalf of the organisers, recognising the amazing achievement of delivering an award winning event.“As co-hosts we would like to say thank you to the Australian Event Awards, the industry judging panel and Business Events Sydney for their support with our submission and all the people of Sydney for working with us to deliver such a major event,” Ms Hubbard said.“We were proud to have this opportunity to showcase our country and demonstrate the benefits of protected areas globally. The IUCN World Parks Congress established a groundswell of international cooperation that we hope will carry us through the next 10 years.”“The legacies from this global congress will be felt for decades to come,” said Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO of BESydney.“It is so important to gather the world’s thought leaders in one place to help solve global problems. I congratulate the team on such an amazing achievement.” Full list of winners here Source = Australian Government – Director of National Parkslast_img read more