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Turnover up by 10 says GRUPO IBEROSTAR new hotels renos in store

first_img Monday, January 30, 2017 PALMA DE MALLORCA — It was a solid year of growth for GRUPO IBEROSTAR, which reported a turnover of 2.03 billion euros, a 10% increase from 2015.The company, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016, has an international presence that extends to 30 countries. Spain continued to lead the field in terms of Mediterranean destinations, closing the year with record figures both in occupancy rates and results. Mexico and the Dominican Republic also enjoyed steady growth in occupancy, rates and profitability, as did Cuba, one of the Group’s key strategic targets.Growth was fuelled by an ambitious investment program that saw the opening of hotels in new destinations, such as the United States (IBEROSTAR 70 Park Avenue in New York), and Ibiza (IBEROSTAR Santa Eulalia Ibiza).This year, IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts will open six new hotels: IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Portals Nous (Majorca, Spain); IBEROSTAR Berkely (South Beach, Miami); IBEROSTAR Bella Vista (Varadero, Cuba); IBEROSTAR Club Palmeraie Marrakesh (Morocco); IBEROSTAR Cancun (Mexico); and IBEROSTAR Playa Blanca (Cayo Largo, Cuba).More news:  Sunwing ready to launch Mazatlán-Quebec City direct this winterCuba will see a lot of activity this year. The company will increase its hotel portfolio on the island to 17 properties by the end of the year. Major projects include the IBEROSTAR Riviera and the IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Packard in Havana; the IBEROSTAR Casa Granda, IBEROSTAR Imperial and IBEROSTAR Gran Hotel in Santiago de Cuba; and the IBEROSTAR Colonial in Cayo Coco.Noting the importance of the urban segment, the company has plans to increase the number of hotels it operates in major tourist capitals around the world. Within the next three years, IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts will have a total of 15 urban hotels in top destinations like Budapest, New York, Madrid, Miami, Havana, Barcelona, Lisbon, Santo Domingo and Lima.Efforts will also be made this year in the modernization of its hotels, with 125 million euros being channelled into several renovation projects. These include IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bávaro (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic), IBEROSTAR Cancun (Mexico), IBEROSTAR Alcudia Park (Balearic Islands), IBEROSTAR Playa de Muro (Balearic Islands), IBEROSTAR Bahía de Palma (Balearic Islands), IBEROSTAR Santa Eulalia Ibiza (Ibiza, Balearic Islands), IBEROSTAR Málaga Playa (Andalusia), IBEROSTAR Lanzarote Park (Canary Islands), IBEROSTAR Anthelia (Canary Islands) and the IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Salomé (Canary Islands).More news:  War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upTo introduce ongoing improvements to the guest experience, IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts has set up an ambitious work program targeting several key areas, including gastronomy, décor and wellness. Last year, the company opened the Marea and Cataria restaurants at the IBEROSTAR Playa de Palma and IBEROSTAR Andalucía Playa, and also signed an agreement with El Capricho to serve what many consider to be “the finest meat in the world” at several of its Spanish hotels. The second edition of IberostarChef on Tour will continue over the next few months. Share Posted by Turnover up by 10%, says GRUPO IBEROSTAR, new hotels & renos in storecenter_img Tags: IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Port of Montréal to see 12 increase in visitation this year

first_imgPort of Montréal to see 12% increase in visitation this year Posted by Monday, May 7, 2018 Share Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> MONTREAL – Montreal is gearing up for an exceptionally busy cruise season, with an expected 27 ships, 19 cruise lines and 130,000 passengers and crew members making a total of 90 stops on its shores.As such, in 2018 Port of Montréal will see a 12% increase in visitation over last season, increasingly standing out as a starting or ending point for cruises. Four different companies are offering Montreal-to-Montreal itineraries via Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon or the Great Lakes. The city will also be the departure port for 20 cruises headed to Boston, 16 cruises to New York, 16 cruises to the Magdalen Islands and six cruises to Florida, as well as cruises to the Great Lakes, Europe (U.K. and Germany) and Cuba.“For several years, we have been actively working to develop the cruise sector, which is growing dramatically around the world. Quebeckers will increasingly find it easier to book cruises leaving from Montréal and enjoy the city’s various attractions, including its fine food establishments and hotels for every taste,” said Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal.More news:  Visit Orlando unveils new travel trade tools & agent perksThe season will continue right through to November 2, when Oceania Cruises’ Insignia departs. Between now and then, Montréal will welcome six new ships, including the M/S Jacques Cartier (Croisières Jacques-Cartier, a Québec firm), the Victory II (Victory Cruise Lines), the AIDAvita (AIDA Cruises), the Star Pride (Windstar Cruises), the Silver Spirit and the Silver Wind (Silversea Cruises).Last year, Port of Montréal inaugurated a new cruise terminal and this year will open three public areas on the port’s Grand Quai, which will shape the new identity for the Alexandra Pier.To see all scheduled arrivals and departures for 2018, go to http://cruises.alamontreal.com/cruises-in-montreal/.last_img read more

Checking in with Chelsea Hotel Toronto Summer savings and a QA

first_img TORONTO — Chelsea Hotel, Toronto wants to make it easier for clients to explore the city and soak up the sun in the summer months.The centrally-located hotel, just a five-minute walk from the CF Toronto Eaton Centre and close to scores of other downtown attraction, is offering 20% off the hotel’s Best Available Rate of the day when guests stay for two or more nights with the Hello, Summer! Sale. Terms and conditions apply.Plus, with the hotel’s popular Show Your Key and Save program, guests can get discounted tickets to some of Toronto’s top attractions, like the Toronto Zoo and Canada’s Wonderland.Chelsea Hotel, Toronto is also a family-friendly playground, with separate kid’s check-in, the only 130 ft. indoor waterslide in downtown Toronto, a lounge for teens and a dedicated space for its Kids Centre.There’s also an adults-only pool and fitness centre with panoramic views of the city’s skyline from Deck 27. And anyone looking for a new patio spot in Toronto should check out the Chelsea Patio, a hidden oasis in the heart of downtown with $6 drink features Mondays through Thursdays.The hotel also connects guests to Blue Jays games at Rogers Centre, with shuttle service from the hotel to the game, available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for a nominal fee.More news:  Virgin Voyages de-activates Quebec accounts at FirstMates agent portalAnd in partnership with the Downtown Yonge BIA’s free concert series, Play the Parks will include two free concerts on the Chelsea Patio: Lindsay Brohan (July 18 at 5 p.m.) and Stereoflavor (Aug. 15 at 5:00 p.m.).Chelsea Hotel, Toronto is Canada’s largest hotel with 1,590 guest rooms. The hotel offers a variety of services and facilities for travellers of all ages and with various travel needs, including accessible guest rooms and a guest accessibility package.Travelweek checked in with Chelsea Hotel, Toronto’s Tracy Ford about what makes the hotel a perennial top choice for both the leisure and corporate markets.Q. What makes Chelsea Hotel such an ideal option for families, for March Break, the summer months or any time of year?A. “During March Break and the summer months, we go the extra mile for our guests with complimentary evening activities. This also includes lobby engagement activities, like our robot ‘CT’, face painting and popcorn. Often one of our ‘Show Your Key and Save’ partners will join us and offer something interactive for our guests.”Q. In recent years the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto went through a major refresh. Can you tell us the highlights?More news:  Venice to ban cruise ships from city centre starting next monthA. “From 2013 to 2014 we renovated the lobby, two restaurants, meeting/function spaces, all balconies and the Club Lounge (27th floor). In 2015 and 2016 we refurbished all guestrooms in the south tower.”Q. The Chelsea Hotel, Toronto is a magnet not just for leisure travellers, but for business travellers and convention-goers too. What is the hotel’s leisure/corporate split?A. “Corporate travel/MICE is 20%. Leisure travel is 60%. Other (such as airlines) accounts for 20%. We offer an adult-only pool and fitness centre and that’s appealing to our corporate travellers. We also have a loyalty program, ‘1865’, which has its own check-in desk.”Q. Above all else, what do you want travel agents to know about the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto?A. “Great location, Family Fun Zone and adults-only pool/fitness centre, three arrival desks, security 24/7 and it’s the friendliest hotel in downtown Toronto! The hotel’s location is a significant asset. We are steps from public transit, shopping, amazing attractions and dining options.”More information is at chelseatoronto.com or call 1-800-CHELSEA (243-5732). Checking in with Chelsea Hotel, Toronto: Summer savings and a Q&A Travelweek Group Thursday, July 18, 2019 Sharecenter_img Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Chelsea Hotel, Torontolast_img read more

Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before says IATA

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Wednesday, July 31, 2019 Share Travelweek Group “Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before,” says IATAcenter_img MONTREAL — Global air connectivity is more accessible than ever, says IATA, which just released performance figures for 2018.According to its report, 4.4 billion passengers flew in 2018, an increase of 6.9% over 2017, and record efficiency was achieved with 81.9% of available seats being filled. Fuel efficiency, meanwhile, improved by more than 12% compared to 2010.The world continues to shrink thanks to increased connectivity. A total of 22,000 city pairs are now connected by direct flights, up 1,300 over 2017 and double the 10,250 city pairs connected in 1998. “Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever, and our world is a more prosperous place as a result,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. However, de Juniac notes that with any human activity, this comes with an environmental cost that airlines are committed to reducing.“We understand that sustainability is essential to our licence to spread aviation’s benefits. From 2020 we will cap net carbon emissions growth, and by 2050 we will cut our net carbon footprint to half 2005 levels,” he added. “This ambitious climate action goal needs government support. It is critical for sustainable aviation fuels, new technology and more efficient routes to deliver the greener future we are aiming for.”More news:  GLP Worldwide introduces first-ever Wellness programsHere are additional highlights of the 2018 airline industry performance:• The development of the low-cost carrier (LCC) segment continues to outpace that of network carriers. Measured in ASKs (available seat kilometres), LCC capacity grew by 13.4%, almost doubling the overall industry rate of 6.9%. LCCs accounted for 21% of global capacity in 2018, up from 11% in 2004.• Some 52 of IATA’s 290 current member airlines classify themselves as LCCs and other new model airlines.• Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region once again carried the largest number of passengers system-wide. North America airlines had 22.6% market share, or 989.4 million passengers, up 4.8% over 2017.• The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passenger kilometres flown were: American Airlines (330.6 billion); Delta Air Lines (330 billion); United Airlines (329.6 billion); Emirates (302.3 billion); and Southwest Airlines (214.6 billion).• The top five nationalities travelling (international routes) are: United Kingdom (126.2 million, or 8.6% of all passengers); United States (111.5 million, or 7.6% of all passengers); China (97 million, or 6.6% of all passengers); Germany (94.3 million, or 6.4% of all passengers); and France (59.8 million, or 4.1% of all passengers).More news:  Windstar celebrates record-breaking bookings in July• Star Alliance maintained its position as the largest airline alliance in 2018, with 21.9% of total scheduled traffic (in RPKs), followed by SkyTeam (18.8%) and oneworld (15.4%). Posted by Tags: IATAlast_img read more

Can Central America business sectors speak as one voice during Obama visit

first_imgNo related posts. Some 170 business leaders from Central American Integration System (SICA) member countries will meet Friday at the Antigua Aduana facilities in downtown San José for three panel discussions coordinated by the INCAE Business School and the Inter-American Development Bank.The meetings, taking place in the context of the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday and Saturday, will address development, energy, commerce logistics and regional trade integration.The event resumes Saturday with discussions about the role of young people in economic development. The panels’ conclusions will be delivered to Obama and his Central American colleagues.But what can the region’s business sector expect from Obama’s visit? The outlook is not that positive, as the answer mostly depends on the region’s capacity to establish a unified and solid investment option for U.S. firms. Some analysts believe that instead, the issues of security and immigration will dominate discussion during the two-day presidential summit.At an early stage in the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden indicated what the region could expect in terms of relations with the U.S.: During a visit to Costa Rica in 2009, Biden said the Obama administration would mark “an era of new relationships with Central America.” But in several speeches, Biden was clear in emphasizing that he “came to listen with a tightly closed wallet.”For the U.S. vice president, economic recovery in the United States “was the best way to collaborate with the region.”Obama is still fighting to bring the U.S. economy back from the crisis that struck in 2008. His administration has no specific regional initiatives, and Latin America was not the focus of either of his presidential campaigns, beyond TV spots in Spanish to secure the Latino vote.But Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González said in an interview with the daily La Nación that cooperation from the U.S. could increase “as long as the region can offer a solid business platform.”Obama’s brief appearance at Saturday’s meeting with regional business leaders can be considered mostly a goodwill gesture, and a way to denote that the U.S. is regaining interest in the region as a possible workforce provider for U.S. firms. Whether that happens under fair labor conditions, or in a sweatshop scheme – as some believe – remains to be seen.The U.S. is still the main export destination for all the countries in the region. Central American exports to the United States in 2011 totaled $8.9 billion, increasing to $9.8 billion last year, which represents 33.3 percent of the region’s total exports in 2012, according to the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat.Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said earlier this week that “what the United States is looking for, and what we, too, are looking for, is how to find spaces in Costa Rica and the region for U.S. companies to invest.” But he added that, “The government’s role is to facilitate opportunities, but private businesses are responsible for taking the next step and investing.”That means infrastructure, logistics and technology initiatives must be prioritized in order for regional firms to become an appealing option for U.S. companies.On Thursday, Castillo said that although “it is customary to sign agreements during summits or international meetings, in this case there will not be any signing of documents or declarations. It is, above all, an exploratory meeting.”The minister added that “it’s up to each country to comply with the recommendations and conclusions of the meetings.”Local interestsA unified agenda seems an unlikely scenario for Saturday’s meeting, as Central American countries seem more interested in pushing for mostly local-oriented goals – particularly security and immigration reform.The three countries comprising the “Northern Triangle” (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) will emphasize requests for direct aid from Washington to fight drug trafficking. They also are likely to push for approval of immigration reform in the U.S., a key political goal for the Obama administration.As El Salvador’s president, Mauricio Funes, said earlier this week, “We are going to see what the U.S. can do to reduce levels of crime and drug trafficking in Central America, and after that, we’ll see what else the U.S. can do to support our economies.”Meanwhile, the main goals for the southern part of the region, mostly Costa Rica and Panama, will be trade and investment, as well as development of clean energy.Costa Rican trade officials will focus on asking for U.S. support for the country’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).“We will ask President Obama and his officials to support the growing participation of Costa Rica in the global economic scenario,” Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González said at a press conference on Tuesday.González added that access to the OECD would help Costa Rica become an agent in the region to promote principles such as democracy, law, fair competition and economic opportunities.On the TPP agreement, González stressed that it is a commercial forum that Costa Rica is interested in joining to “connect to an axis of very strong economic growth in the world.”The TPP involves negotiations between the United States, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico, which comprise nearly one-third of the global gross domestic product.“This alliance seeks to establish a free trade area with modern rules for the promotion of competitiveness and global value chains, and this is very important for Costa Rica,” González said.Honduras’ goals for the meeting are mostly focused on the drug fight and immigration reform, as President Porfirio Lobo told local media. The Honduran entourage consists of a group of ministers and only three representatives from the business sector.Earlier this week, Lobo said he would “formally ask” Obama for true immigration reform that favors the more than 60,000 Hondurans living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina also said that immigration reform is the topic that most interests him during the meeting with Obama.Nicaraguan President of the Superior Council of Private Enterprises (COSEP) José Adán Aguerri told local media that the Nicaraguan delegation would propose the construction of a gas pipeline across the isthmus.Currently, generation of each kilowatt of electricity costs an average of 17-18 cents in Central America, COSEP said. A gas pipeline would drop that cost to 7-8 cents. That would make the region more competitive as electricity rates would decrease, which foreign firms often have requested from local governments across the region.Aguerri noted that Nicaragua’s initiative already has the support of the other countries in the region, which would likely mean approval of its inclusion in the proposal to be presented at the presidents’ meeting.Despite all this, regional business leaders on Saturday cannot expect an approach like Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress if they are not willing to offer in return a secure investment environment and serious improvement in infrastructure. One figure remains telling: This year, the Obama administration requested a cut in aid to Central America that if approved would drop regional aid from $100 million to $86 million. Not a good start for a new partnership. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

The 4 Oscarnominated films that are currently showing in Costa Rica

first_imgThe Academy Award nominations were released Friday morning, with somewhat-true crime caper “American Hustle” and visually stunning space flick “Gravity” leading the way, with 10 nods each. Of the nine best picture nominees only “Captain Phillips” is playing in Costa Rica. Alfonso Cuarón’s ” Gravity” received a wide release, but is no longer in cinemas. The other seven best picture nominees haven’t shown here yet.A few more of the alleged best films of the year probably will get here before the awards show on March 2. But right now only four films that received any nominations are playing in Costa Rica.Best animated picture nominee “Frozen” (which also received a nomination for best song) is playing in just about every cinema in the country. But like most animated releases in Costa Rica, theaters are only showing a Spanish-dubbed version of the film.That leaves English-speaking cinema-goers with a trio of options if they want an Oscar-nominated film:  the aforementioned “Captain Phillips”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”Unless you’re a Lord of the Rings zealot, the Tom Hanks survival film or the Coen Brothers latest picture seem like better choices to see here.“Captain Phillips” tells the true story of a U.S. man whose shipped was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Hanks missed out on an Oscar nomination, but supporting actor Barkhad Abdi and director Paul Greengrass each grabbed one. The film received six nominations overall, and is playing at Plaza Paraíso in Cartago.“Inside Llewyn Davis” follows a hard-luck folk singer who’s not quite good enough for a week in the 1960s. The movie was shut out of all the major categories despite universal praise from critics (including much love for the movie’s Guatelaman-born star Óscar Isaac). But the movie still managed nominations in the categories of best cinematography and best sound mixing.  The latest Hobbit film also landed nods in the thrilling technical category of best sound mixing category, along with best visual effects and best sound editing.You have a week to catch “Inside Llewyn Davis” at the historic Cine Magaly in downtown San José (the theater gloated on Facebook about the 5-star review the film received in La Nación. Here are the showtimes). “Inside Llewyn Davis” also is playing at Mall Multiplaza Escazú, according to the cinema’s website.If a gloomy folk film doesn’t interest you either, one other quality English-language film option in theaters is the Formula 1 flick “Rush.”  Actor Daniel Brühl’s lack of an Oscar nomination is considered one of this year’s biggest snubs. The film is playing in most of the Central Valley as is “The Hobbit” sequel.See a full list of the Oscar nominations here. We listed the major categories below:Best Picture• “American Hustle”• “Captain Phillips”• “Dallas Buyers Club”• “Gravity”• “Her”• “Nebraska”• “Philomena”• “12 Years a Slave”• “The Wolf of Wall Street”Best Actor in a Leading Role• Christian Bale, “American Hustle”• Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”• Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”• Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”• Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”Best Actress in a Leading Role• Amy Adams, “American Hustle”• Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”• Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”• Judi Dench, “Philomena”• Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”Best Supporting Actor• Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”• Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”• Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”• Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”• Jared Leto, “The Dallas Buyers Club”Best Supporting Actress• Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”• Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”• Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”• Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”• June Squibb, “Nebraska”Best Director• David O. Russell, “American Hustle”• Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”• Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”• Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”• Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”Best Original Screenplay• “American Hustle” – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell• “Blue Jasmine” – Written by Woody Allen• “Her” – Written by Spike Jonze• “Nebraska” – Written by Bob Nelson• “Dallas Buyers Club” – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa WallackBest Adapted Screenplay• “Before Midnight” – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke• “Captain Phillips” – Screenplay by Billy Ray• “Philomena” – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope• “12 Years a Slave” – Screenplay by John Ridley• “The Wolf of Wall Street” – Screenplay by Terence WinterBest Animated Film• “The Croods”• “Despicable Me 2”• “Ernest & Celestine”• “Frozen”• “The Wind Rises” Facebook Comments Related posts:Little Devils’ games and other happenings around Costa Rica Waste time today playing this awesome politically inspired ‘PACMAN’ game Latin America ‘presente’ at the Oscars VIDEO: President Solís invites Oscar nominee Emma Stone to celebrate in Costa Ricalast_img read more

Underdog Costa Rica will try to crush the Oranje in the Ticos

first_imgRelated posts:Stats Roundup: Costa Rica had the best defense at the World Cup and one of the worst attacks Costa Rica can go far, says coach Pinto With focus on next round, winning Group D less of a priority, says Wanchope Costa Rica maintains edge in World Cup Qualifying with tie against Jamaica We now have a Sloth Kong store. Check it out: shop.ticotimes.net. Shipping only available in Costa Rica.—For the Cinderella story to continue, Costa Rica must prevail in its toughest World Cup matchup yet.Costa Rica has regained heavy underdog status against the high-powered Dutch. La Sele and the Netherlands face off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Salvador de Bahía.ESPN’s data-journalism site, 538, gives the Ticos a 24 percent chance of victory. English soccer betting sites Paddy Power and Ladbrokes give La Sele longer odds at 13 percent and 14 percent chance of victory with both giving a 24 percent chance of going to penalties.Many consider the Netherlands the most talented football country to have never won a World Cup. The Netherlands were the runners-up at the 2010 World Cup, losing to Spain. ESPN’s Soccer Power Index ranks them as the sixth best team in the world. In the group stage, the Dutch looked impressive despite being drawn into a difficult group.  They avenged their championship loss by crushing Spain 5-1, and then won the group by beating Australia and Chile. The Dutch then rallied to beat Mexico, 2-1, in the last-16.The three-headed attack of forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie and midfielder Wesley Sneijder have made for one of the best offenses in the World Cup. The Netherlands have averaged 3 goals a game in their four World Cup matches, the most of any team. Out of the group stage, they were one of four teams to collect all nine points. The Orange tied with Colombia for the best goal differential (+7) of any of the 32 teams. Friday afternoon predictions from three oddsmakers. Sports books will not add up to 100 percent due to betting interests. 538 did not make a prediction for for the match going to penalties. Corey Kane/The Tico TimesThe Ticos will try to find advantage through their defense. Despite the loss of defenders Óscar Duarte to yellow cards and Roy Miller to injury, Costa Rica’s back line is still the team’s biggest strength. Backed by the impressive play of keeper Keylor Navas, La Sele’s defense has been one of the best in the tournament. The team has allowed only two goals in four games and none of them came during normal circumstances. They allowed a penalty to Uruguay in their first match, and surrendered a goal in injury time to Greece after being down a man. Costa Rica’s defense held on in added extra time to shut out Greece for 30 minutes and force PKs.While the Netherlands impressed in the group stage, they looked vulnerable in their match against Mexico. Under the scorching sun in Fortaleza, the Dutch trailed until the 88th minute when Sneijder equalized. A controversial penalty — after Robben “tripped” over the outstretched leg of a Mexican defender — then gave Netherlands the lead with little time remaining. The game perhaps provided Costa Rica a model for how to shut down the Oranje’s dangerous attack as the Ticos prepare for their biggest test so far. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Inframundo de Athan is an entertaining journey to the underworld

first_imgRelated posts:Here’s why you shouldn’t miss Costa Rica’s International Book Fair Social travel show looks for San José’s hidden gems A tattoo convention, Russian ballet and other happenings around Costa Rica After three-year hiatus, Blues Festival plays in Guanacaste After 10 months in Costa Rica, I had somehow never heard of the amusement park on the edge of San José. Originally established as the Parque Nacional de Diversiones in 1981, the place was built to help fund the National Children’s Hospital. The idea is that the colones spent on roller coasters and Ferris-wheel rides end up helping sick kids. It’s like a healthcare system designed by Willy Wonka.“Would you like the regular pass or the special pass?” asked the woman in the ticket booth.“I’m mostly interested in seeing… um…” My Spanish interaction stalled, because I couldn’t remember the word “Inframundo.” It translates as “underworld,” so I kept thinking it was called “Debajotierra” or something. Finally I gave up and said, “One special pass, please.” A mural near the entrance sets the colorful tone of Parque Diversiones. Robert Isenberg/The Tico TimesAt first I didn’t mind that no friends had time to accompany me. That’s cool, I thought. I’ll just go alone. I hadn’t considered what that meant: I was a poorly shaven 34-year-old male Gringo wandering alone in an amusement park full of Tico kindergartners. With my red beard and bleached skin, I tend to stick out already in the streets of San José, but in Parque Diversiones I might as well have been a rhesus monkey. Costa Rica has enough creepy foreigners to worry about without a goofy journalist raising red flags.I weaved my way through the park, following the spidery paths past rides and kiosks. Parque Diversiones is a fairly standard theme park, with its looping coasters and carnival atmosphere. The park’s mascot is Tío Conejo, or Uncle Rabbit, a floppy-eared lagomorph so youthful-looking he should really be called Nephew Rabbit. In the center stands the Pueblo Antiguo, which mimics a traditional Costa Rican town.But Inframundo de Athan is something completely different. The structure is painted black and gray, and in order to reach the entrance, you have to pass an enormous sculpture of a horned demon with bulging eyes and outstretched claws. Performers roamed the walkway outside, but unlike the park’s usual bunch of magicians and clowns, these guys were imposing and satanic. One guy wore gothic eyeliner and a cape, and a makeup artist had drawn fake abdominal muscles on his naked torso. Just your friendly neighborhood demon surveying his domain. Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times“Are you alone?” asked one of the park employees.“Yes.”“Okay, just wait right here.”It took me a second to realize we were speaking in English. The young man in the polo shirt uniform stood near me, looking increasingly excited to use his English skills. He finally asked where I’m from, stressing each syllable like an ESL teacher. We chatted for a bit, and then he herded me into a group of seven strangers.“Have…” he exclaimed, almost bursting with enthusiasm. “Fun!”“Thanks, I will,” I called back, although I had no idea whether I could keep that promise.“Inframundo” takes groups of eight at a time. My group included two preteen boys, a preteen girl, three skinny little kids, and a stoic-looking father. We stood in a long line that snaked around metal barriers. Of the hundred or so people waiting, the mean age was probably 13. Above us, two TV screens played music videos, which made me feel even older, because the only pop star I recognized was Shakira.Every few minutes, the music stopped and a gravelly voice explained the concept of “Inframundo.” The story is remarkably complicated: Apparently there was once a warrior named Athan, and he journeyed into the Underworld of a distant planet to retrieve a relic called the Quartz Pyramid, but Athan failed in his mission. Somehow, this caused a mystical rift in the fabric of reality. Paranormal activity is spilling into our world, and we – daring middle-schoolers and 34-year-old Gringos – must journey into a labyrinth of terror.This answered my question: “Inframundo” is basically just a haunted house. Why a haunted house in July, when Halloween is still four months away? Because the attraction’s two weeks coincide with Costa Rica’s mid-year school vacation, when kids need to fill their afternoons by cavorting with demons from another dimension.“Excuse me,” said one of the 12-year-old boys. “Do you speak Spanish?”“A little,” I said, erring conservatively.“Okay. Um…” He looked at my iPhone, which I was using to take pictures. “You know that this is a water ride, right?”“A water ride?”“Yes. You’re going to get completely wet.”Just then I heard screaming. At the far end of the “Inframundo” building, there was a large glass box reinforced with iron bars. It looked like an ATM booth designed by Tim Burton. The box was filled with people, whose bodies were pressed against the glass. I watched in horror as torrents of water fell from the ceiling, drenching their clothes. T-shirts stuck to bodies. Jeans changed color from light blue to navy. Hair clung to faces like seaweed. Shrieking children are subsumed in water. Because nothing says fun like a freezing group shower inside a cage. Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times“So… it might be bad for your iPhone,” the kid said helpfully.I had missed this tidbit, among the warnings to pregnant women and people with heart conditions, that “Inframundo” involved water. Torrents of water. Monsoons of water. Water enough to wreck my phone and all the paper in my pockets.But I had already waited for 20 minutes, listening to One Direction videos and playing a crummy knockoff of Tetris, and I hadn’t come all this way for nothing. So I stuffed the phone deep into my pocket, hoping that bending over a little or covering the fabric with my hand would keep the downpour from my wrecking my poor 4S.At last a park employee ushered us toward the entrance. But before we could step inside, we were asked to enter information into a computer screen. One of the kids punched his name into a digital form and picked an “avatar.” I hoped that I wouldn’t be asked to do the same, because I had no idea what the point of this was. As it turned out, the kid’s data-entry sufficed, and we proceeded. The door opened, and we ventured inside.Even for a haunted house, “Inframundo” is incredibly dark. It’s so dimly lit that I found myself feeling around with outstretched arms to even find the walls. This felt cheap. Why wouldn’t eight strangers feel tense after they’ve been sealed inside a narrow, pitch-black corridor? We hobbled up some steps and slid through the maze, bumping into walls and each other. I kept hearing breathing and gargling, presumably from the Underworld demons, although the stoic Tico father may have had a cold.In one small chamber, one of the demons appeared and demanded that we line up against the wall. Then he leaned into me and growled something incomprehensible.“Él no habla español!” shrieked one of the 12-year-old boys.Great, I thought. Thanks, kid. Like this isn’t awkward enough.“Engleesh?” snarled the demon.“Sí,” I said. “I mean, yes.”“Seet down on the floor!”This can’t be good, I thought.But I sat down, then the others did as well.“On the count of three, run for the exeet!” commanded the demon, and then he repeated the instructions in Spanish.He counted, but the kids started running at “uno.” The demon sounded annoyed as he repeated the count in English, but I was already rounding the invisible black corner, trying to keep up with my group.The truth is, I love haunted houses, and as we acclimatized to the claustrophobic maze, I found myself enjoying it more and more. When we stumbled into another computer screen, one of the little kids took command: The screen asked a question and offered multiple-choice answers. Before I could translate it, the kid had already picked the right answer and we were again plunging through the dark. For a moment, we stepped into sunlight, passing a swampy little pool with monstrous heads poking out. The moment we passed them, the heads spat jets of real fire. I was delighted to feel infernal heat on my back. Nice touch, I thought.At one point, we found ourselves locked into a cage and spritzed with water. Our platform shifted over a primordial lagoon, and I thought nostalgically of “Johnny Quest” cartoons.When we finally reached the exit, I prepared myself for a thorough soak, but the glass box was empty. On the other side, the door hung ajar. The stoic Tico father and I made a beeline for the door and slipped into fresh air. It hadn’t occurred to me that the “Inframundo” designers would allow their visitors a chance to escape before raining cold water on their heads. We were free, only slightly moist, and my phone was safe. We had escaped the Underworld unscathed.I couldn’t help but smile as I walked away from “Inframundo.” Someone had put a lot of thought into this little attraction, and even if it wasn’t a spectacular haunted house, even if its plot was overzealous, and even if it was dark enough to get completely lost, it was still a good time. Granted, the commercials seemed completely off base. (Where was the scary undead girl?) But the spot had motivated me to go, and that’s what commercials are for. A busker dons 18th century fashion. Like the creepy girl in the ‘Inframundo’ commercials, his purpose is unclear. Robert Isenberg/The Tico TimesLater I discovered that “Inframundo” is also an online videogame, and if you rack up 5,000 points, you may win a Playstation PS4 or 10 annual passes to the park. So aside from the fate of the universe, there is a lot at stake here. And again, proceeds benefit sick kids.The only thing on my schedule that afternoon was to survive a trip to the underworld, and now I had plans to meet friends for dinner. But I couldn’t leave Parque Diversiones without riding El Búmeran. In the spirit of a boomerang, the rollercoaster twirls in one direction, stops, and then rides the same course backward. I hadn’t ridden a rollercoaster for half a decade, so when the park employees locked me into my seat and the cars started to back up the incline, I was thrilled.“Have you done this before?” I asked the crew-cut grade schooler next to me.“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Lots of times. After we stop, you count to five, and that’s when they let us go.”“Really?”“Yeah, watch.” The rollercoaster stopped moving. We were held fast, at a 45-degree angle, and we were high enough to see all the way to Escazú. As we stared down the curving track, the kid counted. “Uno… dos… tres… cuatro…” Then he shouted: “CINCO!At that moment, the locking mechanism released us, and we dropped perilously downward. And I remembered, in that moment, as my stomach surged toward my throat, exactly what it’s like to be 10 years old.“El Inframundo de Athan” continues through July 13 at Parque Diversiones, San José. Daily, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. ₡1,700-3,100 ($3.50 – $6). Info: Parque Diversiones website. Facebook Comments “For whom is the funhouse fun?”                                   – John Barth, “Lost in the Funhouse”When I first watched the commercial for “Inframundo de Athan,” I knew I had to see it for myself. In the TV spot, a little girl is crouched over a bed. At first she looks innocent and frightened, but the way the camera jiggles and zooms shows us that the girl is actually evil, and we should fear her. When I saw the ad, I stared at our TV set, astonished. I hadn’t seen a commercial that creepy for a long time. What was “Inframundo”? What was the Parque Diversiones, for that matter? I had to find out.last_img read more

PHOTOS Cuba US reopen embassies to end 54year estrangement

first_img Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Text by Nicole Gaouette and Ezra Fieser of Bloomberg News; photos by Larry Luxner of The Tico TimesWASHINGTON, D.C. – A diplomatic freeze that stretched back five decades, outlasting the Cold War and nine U.S. presidencies, officially ended Monday as Cuba and the United States reopened embassies.The Cuban flag was raised over the island nation’s diplomatic headquarters in Washington in a ceremony attended by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. He was to meet later in the day with Secretary of State John Kerry, who will travel to Havana for a flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy there on Aug. 14, according to a U.S. official who discussed the plans on condition of anonymity.Crowds thronged a block-length stretch of sidewalk outside the mansion in downtown Washington that had been serving as Cuba’s interests section. They waved signs, sang Cuba’s national anthem and chanted, in an atmosphere that combined political rally and street festival. One group held a canary yellow banner with the Cuban flag and the words “End the Embargo now.” Another read “Salsa sí, Embargo no!”See also: Sparks fly as Cuban flag flutters once again over Washington embassyWhile the move to restart diplomatic relations doesn’t end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba’s communist government, it brings the former adversaries the closest they have been since the waning days of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration.Restoring ties “begins a new stage, long and complex, on the way to the normalization of relations, which will require the willingness to find solutions to problems that have accumulated over five decades,” Cuban President Raúl Castro told lawmakers in Havana last week.Amid the block-long stretch of people celebrating the flag- raising outside the Cuban Embassy, a slight man in a crisp white shirt held a sign that said “Freedom for political prisoners.”Carlos Casanova, 81, said he had tried to overthrow former President Fidel Castro in 1959 and spent the next 20 years imprisoned in Cuba as a result. Bitter about Monday’s events, he said, “You give communists a finger, they’ll take your hand.”Inside the State Department’s headquarters, the Cuban flag was hung before dawn among the flags of nations that have diplomatic relations with the United States.Barriers between the U.S. and Cuba have tumbled rapidly since Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama announced their intentions to renew ties in simultaneous speeches in December. Yet while companies from JetBlue Airways Corp. to Airbnb Inc. have sought to capitalize on the improving relationship, differences remain over issues from human rights and democracy to the future of the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.“It’s hard, because there’s been so much mistrust between the two sides, maybe even dislike, and so many things that Cuba feels put upon: Guantanamo, the migration policy,” said Vicki Huddleston, former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which has provided consular services in the absence of an embassy. “Those things are still right up front in Cubans’ minds,” Huddleston said in a June 24 phone interview. Larry Luxner/The Tico TimesU.S. officials reject the notion that they plan to hand over the Guantanamo base to Cuba. Attempts to end the trade embargo, meanwhile, will struggle in a Republican-led Congress.Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, vying for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has said he will block any nominee Obama proposes for ambassador to Cuba. That means Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a civil servant who becomes interim charge d’affaires, will be the top U.S. diplomat on the island.“Cuba is not just some small island with old cars; it is a country controlled by a despotic regime that provides a safe haven and base of forward operations to Russia and China in our own hemisphere,” Rubio said in a statement Monday. “It harbors terrorists and fugitives from justice who have killed American citizens and brutalizes peaceful pro-democracy activists. I reiterate my promise to block the confirmation of any ambassador to this despicable regime.”Charles Barclay, who served as deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Interest Section in Havana from 2009 to 2012, said he expects U.S. diplomats to have more access to Cuban government officials and greater freedom to roam around the country, instead of being confined to Havana. The move has political benefits to both leaders, he added, as Castro seeks to improve the country’s image for investors and Obama ends what he has described as a “failed policy” for the U.S.“I don’t know how much momentum this creates for more progress, but I wouldn’t downplay the significance of the symbolism here,” Barclay said of the embassy openings.— Fieser reported from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Facebook Commentscenter_img Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Larry Luxner/The Tico Times Related posts:US officials in Cuba to discuss embassies No opening date for US, Cuba embassies; more talks set As talks with US begin, Cubans anticipate changes in their lives US says next round of Cuba talks to take place in Havana on Mondaylast_img read more

Mexicos Tigres defeat Costa Ricas Herediano to advance in Champions League

first_imgRelated posts:Heredia ties Mexico’s Tigres in dramatic Champions match Maybe Costa Rica really IS an island Down and out New club, new Latin American talent hit the U.S. soccer scene Facebook Comments Heredia ties Mexico’s Tigres in dramatic Champions matchcenter_img Los Tigres, of Mexico, defeated Costa Rica’s Club Sport Herediano 3-1 Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinals of this year’s CONCACAF Champions League.Enner Valencia of Ecuador scored for Los Tigres in the 49th minute after controlling a long pass and firing off a powerful shot. Heredia’s Jairo Arrieta evened the score in the 78th, but Valencia scored again just a minute later to bring the score to 2-1.Argentinean player Ismael Sosa scored the final goal in the 90th minute, securing Los Tigres’ slot in the quarters, where the team will face off against Canada’s Toronto FC.Last night’s match at the Universitario Stadium in Monterrey, Mexico, followed a dramatic face-off in Costa Rica last week in which Heredia tied the game by scoring in the 90th and 92nd minute.Another Costa Rican club, Deportivo Saprissa, will play Club América tonight at 10 pm, but faces an uphill battle after losing the first of its two matches 1-5 last week.last_img read more

Israeli settler population surges under Netanyahu

first_img“That means ideological settlers, the more radical, religious ones, are growing in number,” she said, though she thinks construction this year might hew closer to the older pattern.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Sponsored Stories But even that would still leave about 85,000 settlers to remove, many of them hard-line ideologues in small, isolated settlements that are likely to oppose eviction. If Israel’s traumatic withdrawal from Gaza proved anything, it was that the removal of tens of thousands of settlers would be a colossal and possibly violent task.Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said he was “not surprised” by the higher settler growth rate because the population includes many religious families and young couples, groups that tend to have many children. He said this trend would have no bearing on peace prospects.“Most of the growth is in large settlement blocs, which in any case will be remaining part of Israel in any final status agreement,” he said.Regev claimed every peace plan floated over the past two decades left the blocs in Israeli hands. Khatib acknowledged territorial swaps have been discussed but said no formal agreement was ever reached.Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now says construction patterns have shifted in the Netanyahu years. If, in the past, 80 percent of new construction took place in the blocs, then during Netanyahu’s first 2 1/2 years in office, that number dropped to about 70 percent, she said. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home The rising settler numbers are “consistent with Netanyahu’s commitment to maintain the Israeli control over the Palestinian territories and consistent with his lack of commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution,” Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.Israel, which has a population of almost 8 million, has long sought to cement its hold on the West Bank, captured from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, by having masses of Jewish settlers live there. For years, the two sides had discussed the possibility that in a final peace deal, Israel would maintain some settlements while uprooting others. Israel has shown more than once _ especially when it removed all of its 8,500 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 _ that it can tear down settlements when it thinks the price is worth it.But the numbers in the West Bank are much higher, more than tripling since the first interim peace accord of 1993 to more than 342,000 at the end of 2011, according to Interior Ministry figures.That includes a rise of more than 50,000, or 18 percent, since Netanyahu was elected in early 2009, driven by a high settler birth rate and the migration of Israelis to the West Bank. Associated PressJERUSALEM (AP) – Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected more than three years ago, the Jewish population in the West Bank has ballooned by 18 percent, drawing tens of thousands of Israelis to the territory the Palestinians claim as the heartland of a future state, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press.The rate of growth _ nearly twice that of Israel proper_ has deep implications for an already moribund peace process. The issue is at the heart of a three-year-old impasse in Mideast peace efforts, and critics say each new settlement home makes it ever tougher for the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach the territorial compromise that would be needed for any agreement. Comments   Share   Commenting on the report, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said: “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”He added that Deputy Secretary of State William Burns would visit Israel and the West Bank this week.Israel began building its more than 120 West Bank settlements immediately after the 1967 Mideast war, drawing sharp criticism from the international community. Israel promised not to establish new settlements as part of its commitment to peacemaking in the mid-1990s. But earlier this year, it retroactively recognized three unsanctioned settler enclaves as bonafide settlements. It also has allowed existing settlements to continue to grow.The rise in the settler population can be attributed largely to a birth rate topping 4 percent, more than double the national Jewish average. But about one-third derives from Israelis who moved to the West Bank in recent years, according to the Israeli central statistics bureau. Many have come for cheaper housing. Others are ideologically drawn to land they believe was promised to Jews in the Bible.About three-quarters of the settlers live in three blocs Israel hopes to retain in any peace deal. Most of these settlements are located along the Israeli frontier, which would make it technically easy to redraw the border and compensate the Palestinians with alternative land swaps, should they agree to such an accommodation. The numbers do not include some 200,000 Jews living in areas of Jerusalem that Israel captured in the 1967 war and immediately annexed. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital, and along with the international community, consider these enclaves to be settlements. Israel says east Jerusalem is part of Israel because of the annexation.With nearly 10 percent of Israel’s 6 million Jews now living on occupied territory, the growing settler population has in effect erased the pre-1967 frontier, said pro-settler Jerusalem Post commentator Michael Freund.“Jewish life in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem is growing and flourishing, and there is no human power on earth that is going to uproot or move hundreds of thousands of Jews from places such as Ariel, Tekoa or Hebron,” he wrote in a recent column, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name and naming three settlements there.The Palestinian growth rate in the West Bank, in the meantime, was far lower: In 2011, the population grew 2.8 percent to 2.19 million, from 2.13 million a year earlier, according to the Palestinian bureau of statistics.Palestinians, who hope to create a state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, consider the huge growth in the settlement population a violation of peace accords that barred both sides from altering the status quo through unilateral actions. They have demanded Israel halt all settlement construction as the price for resuming talks. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day The settler growth rate is roughly in line with that of previous dovish Israeli governments. But the Palestinians express additional alarm over the leadership of Netanyahu, a longtime settler patron who repeatedly has ruled out the type of broad withdrawal the Palestinians demand.Netanyahu has rejected the Palestinian demand for a construction freeze, saying the fate of settlements should be decided in negotiations. In the meantime, his government has authorized the construction of thousands of settler apartments. Just last week, Netanyahu vowed to continue settling the West Bank, including areas deep inside the territory.A government-commissioned report released Monday could clear the way for further construction. It recommended that Israel legalize dozens of unsanctioned West Bank settlement outposts despite international opposition to the enclaves and proposed other measures to facilitate settlement construction. That could give Netanyahu ammunition to support new settlement activity and fend off pressure from a Supreme Court that has ordered the government to take action against the existing outposts.The report was not binding and it was not clear whether the prime minister planned to follow through on it. In a statement, he said he would study the document with top advisers.last_img read more

Iran plans army drill near Iraqi border

first_img 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Iran regularly holds military exercises in efforts to cast itself as a regional power.Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war in the 1980s that left about one million dead on the both sides.The latest drill comes amid mounting international criticism over Iran’s nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at developing nuclear weapons _ a charge Tehran denies.(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 Top Stories The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Comments   Share   center_img TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – An Iranian semiofficial news agency says the army is planning a “unique” military exercise along the country’s border with Iraq.The ISNA agency on Thursday quoted a senior army commander Gen. Saeed Arabloo as saying the three-day drill will begin on Monday and will include air and ground forces.He says the aim of the exercise is to upgrade the capabilities of the Iranian forces. He did not elaborate. The vital role family plays in society Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Daylast_img read more

New opposition head gives renewed hope to Syrians

first_imgHe studied applied geophysics and worked as an engineer for nearly six years at the state-run Al-Furat Petroleum Co. before becoming the imam of the Ummayad Mosque. In the 1990s, he was banned by Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez, for sermons that were perceived to be against the regime.Unlike many of Syria’s exiled opposition leaders who have been seen as out-of-touch, jet-setting academics, al-Khatib is an activist who often criticized the regime even before the uprising began. Once it started, he was arrested and jailed four times on charges of supporting anti-government groups, before he finally fled the country in the summer of 2011.“He is a man of the people, a very popular figure who is close to the young and knows how to talk to them,” said Maath al-Shami, a Damascus-based activist who said he spent a lot of time talking to al-Khatib before and after the uprising began.“Al-Khatib has an open mind and he comes from a respected family. He is not a politician, but I think he is someone that all Syrians can rally around and trust,” he added.At first glance, the soft-spoken, somewhat professorial al-Khatib may not come across as a commanding figure. In interviews and speeches, he uses language full of metaphors and flowery images. Unlike many clerics who wear flowing robes, he wears a suit and sports a short, graying beard. Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Associated PressBEIRUT (AP) – Syria’s political opposition has struggled to prove its relevance amid the civil war under a leadership largely made up of academics and exiled politicians. With its relaunch as a new organization, it has taken a different tack: choosing as its head a popular Muslim cleric who preaches sectarian unity and can fire up a crowd.The selection of a moderate religious figure, Mouaz al-Khatib, to head the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces is also an attempt to counter the growing influence of Islamic extremists in the rebellion against President Bashar Assad. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectcenter_img 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement But some opposition figures believe Washington could give its tacit support to others funneling weapons if the new broad-based rebel coalition holds together and gains international legitimacy, winning recognition from the Arab League and other groups.In an interview with broadcaster Al-Jazeera aired Tuesday, al-Khatib said the international community has a “moral and legal” obligation to side with the united opposition leadership.He declined to say whether Qatar or Gulf allies would begin shipping heavy weapons to the rebels, but made clear that efforts to increase the rebel arsenal is a top priority. He suggested that rebel forces could impose their own no-fly zone if given heavy weapons.“Give them the means to defend themselves, and they will create their own no-fly zone,” he said in fluent English.Al-Khatib also said he supports a tolerant, Islamic state that respects everyone including secular Syrians.“Any garden is so nice if full of flowers of all kinds,” he added.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day But at anti-government rallies, al-Khatib has proved to be a fiery orator.At a protest in the Damascus suburb of Douma in April 2011, he climbed a podium, grabbed a microphone and urged demonstrators to repeat after him: “Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful!”The protest was organized by a crowd mourning Sunni demonstrators who were said to have been killed by pro-Assad militiamen from the president’s Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Al-Khatib stressed unity among Syrians and preached against hatred and sectarianism. Standing next to him were two prominent Alawite and Christian regime opponents.“I say to you that Alawites are closer to me than many other people I know,” he said. “When we talk about freedom, we mean freedom for every single person in this country.”Omar al-Rami, a student and rights activist who left Syria earlier this year, fearing arrest, said al-Khatib’s election gave him renewed hope after months of frustration at the ineffectiveness of the opposition.“He is also someone who can influence and help rein in extremist groups who have hijacked our revolution,” al-Rami said.Foreign fighters and Islamic extremists, including the al-Qaida inspired Jabhat al-Nusra group, are gaining influence in Syria, which has discouraged the West from giving military aid to rebels, fearing the weapons will end up in the wrong hands. The coalition includes representatives from the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which was harshly criticized by many, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for being cut off from rebels fighting the war on the ground and for failing to forge a cohesive and more representative leadership.The SNC itself elected a new head on Saturday _ George Sabra, a Christian dissident who was repeatedly imprisoned by the Assad regime. His group holds 22 of the 60 seats in the coalition.The opposition has been deeply divided for months despite the relentless bloodshed and repeated calls from Western and Arab supporters to create a cohesive and representative leadership that could present a single conduit for foreign aid. The agreement, reached after more than a week of meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha, could boost efforts to secure international backing _ and possibly weapons _ that will be needed to oust Assad.Al-Khatib has appealed to foreign countries to supply military aid to the rebels, but unlike other opposition leader, he opposes foreign military intervention, saying Syrians should topple Assad on their own.Born in Damascus in 1960 to a well-known Sunni family, al-Khatib took the same road as his father, Sheikh Mohammed Abu al-Faraj al-Khatib, a former preacher and prominent Islamic affairs scholar. While lacking in political experience, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people _ a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels.A Sunni Muslim former preacher at Damascus’ historic Ummayad Mosque, al-Khatib warned against the militarization of the Syrian uprising and the pitfalls of sectarianism very early in the conflict.“My brothers, we lived all our lives, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites and Druse as a one- hearted community, and with us lived our dear brothers who follow Jesus peace be upon him,” he told a crowd of supporters in a Damascus suburb in April 2011, only one month into the uprising.“We should adhere to this bond between us and protect it at all times,” he added, drawing in excited cries of “One, one, one! The Syrian people are one!”Twenty months into the conflict _ as Syria sinks deeper in a civil war with increasingly deadly sectarian overtones _ it is this message of unity and moderation that many inside and outside the country are hoping the new leaders can help convey.Under intense international pressure to form an opposition that includes representatives from the country’s disparate factions fighting to topple Assad, the anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday to form the coalition headed by al-Khatib.last_img read more

From tycoons to state bosses key people in Chinese business

first_imgFILE – In this file photo taken Sept. 19, 2014, Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, smiles during the company’s IPO at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. One of China’s best-known entrepreneurs, this former English teacher from the eastern city of Hangzhou is credited with laying the foundation for e-commerce in China by founding Alibaba in 1999 to link Chinese suppliers with retailers abroad. The company has become the world’s biggest online bazaar, with total sales exceeding those of Amazon.com Inc. and eBay combined. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) Top holiday drink recipes BEIJING (AP) — The most successful of China’s entrepreneurs have created some of the world’s biggest companies and amassed stunning fortunes. Often they are little known outside of China, but that is changing as they expand abroad and sell shares on Wall Street. Some of their counterparts in China’s massive government-owned companies are making a mark as they try to instil innovation and efficiency in lumbering state giants. A look at key figures in Chinese business. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes ___E-commerce leader: Jack Ma, co-founder and chairman of Alibaba Group.One of China’s best-known entrepreneurs, this former English teacher from the eastern city of Hangzhou is credited with laying the foundation for e-commerce in China by founding Alibaba in 1999 to link Chinese suppliers with retailers abroad. The company expanded into consumer e-commerce with its Taobao and Tmall platforms. In response to China’s lack of infrastructure such as credit cards to support e-commerce, Alibaba created online payments service Alipay. The company has become the world’s biggest online bazaar, with total sales exceeding those of Amazon.com Inc. and eBay combined. Last year, Alibaba also set another record, raising $25 billion on Wall Street in the biggest U.S. initial public stock offering to date. Ma’s net worth soared to $25 billion, making him China’s richest businessman. Ma is known for colorful behavior that includes dressing in a leather jacket and platinum wig to sing rock songs at the company’s annual Alifest employee gathering, a raucous event in a soccer stadium before an audience of thousands. Ma, who turned 50 in September, stepped down in 2013 as chief executive, saying he was too old for the Internet, but stayed on as executive chairman. ___China’s landlord: Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group.Wang became CEO of Wanda in 1993 following 16 years as a soldier and a stint as a city government employee. The company has grown to become one of China’s biggest real estate developers, with dozens of hotels, shopping malls and cinemas, and has undertaken hotel development projects in New York City and London. In 2012, Wanda became one the world’s biggest cinema operators with its $2.6 billion purchase of AMC Theaters in the United States. In 2013, the company announced plans to build an $8 billion film studio complex in the coastal city of Qingdao and flew in celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio and John Travolta for the launch. A Communist Party member since 1976, Wang ranked No. 1 in 2013 on the Hurun Rich List of the wealthiest Chinese with a fortune estimated at $22 billion. This year, he was No. 2 behind Alibaba’s Jack Ma, but his net worth rose to $23 billion.___SUV queen: Wang Fengying, general manager of Great Wall Motors Ltd.Appointed in 2003, Wang became the first woman to lead an automaker a decade before Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors Co. Wang joined Great Wall, in Baoding, southwest of Beijing, as a saleswoman in 1991 and later got a master’s degree in economics. With 60,000 employees, Great Wall motored to success on an SUV boom in China and the popularity of its H5 model. It is now China’s biggest manufacturer of SUVs and pickup trucks. In 2013, according to Bernstein Research, its profit margins were the global auto industry’s fattest. Wang was named last year to Forbes magazine’s list of “Asian Power Women.” Under her, Great Wall has become one of China’s biggest auto exporters, selling to more than 100 countries including Russia and Italy. The company stumbled in 2013 with the release of a new flagship model was delayed but has rebounded on the strength of high demand for its SUVs. Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories Founded in 2010, Xiaomi has soared past domestic rivals Lenovo and Huawei to become the world’s No. 3 smartphone brand by number of handsets sold. Now, the company is expanding into India. Trained as an engineer, Lei has said he was inspired by the example of Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs. Lei rose to become CEO and vice chairman of Kingsoft, one of China’s biggest software companies, and played a role in the launch of Joyo.com, later acquired by Amazon as its Chinese arm. Lei spent the past decade as a venture capital investor before launching Xiaomi with former Google executive Lin Bin. Since then, he has taken on a second job as chairman of Kingsoft. After he was awarded a bonus of stock worth 93 million Hong Kong dollars ($11.9 million) by Kingsoft’s board in July, Lei announced he would give it away to the company’s employees in thanks for their work. Lei ranked No. 10 on this year’s Hurun China Rich list with a net worth of $7.2 billion.___Beer boss: Chen Lang, chairman and CEO of state-owned China Resources Enterprise.With an MBA from the University of San Francisco, Chen represents a generation of technocratic managers the Communist Party hopes can transform subsidy-guzzling state companies into money-making competitors. Chen oversees China’s biggest supermarket operator and beer producer, a sprawling business empire with 152,000 employees, 2,800 grocery stores, 70 breweries and lines of business from fishing to pharmaceuticals. Unlike state companies in power, banking and other industries that are shielded by regulators from private and foreign competitors, Chen has to fight ambitious private sector rivals for market share. Chen began his career in 1986 at China Resources National Corp., which owns 51 percent of CRE and is one of 117 companies controlled directly by China’s Cabinet. “There is no such a thing as sitting back and relaxing,” said Chen in a 2011 interview with the newsletter of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. “We need to attack all the time.” Sponsored Stories center_img 0 Comments   Share   ___Online innovator: Ma Huateng, co-founder and chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd.Ma, who is no relation to Jack Ma, is the quiet counterpart to his flamboyant rival at Alibaba. The company co-founded by Ma Huateng in 1998 has gone from success to success, first in online games, then with its QQ instant message service and now as operator of the hugely popular WeChat social media platform, which it says has 550 million active users. Its strategy is built on offering entry-level services for free, then charging for added features on games and linking social media to e-commerce and other money-making ventures. That has helped to make Tencent, with 25,000 employees, one of the most valuable tech companies, with a market cap of $150 billion. Ma is worth $18 billion. Along with Alibaba and search engine Baidu Inc., the third member of China’s trio of leading Internet companies, Tencent is rushing to build a presence in mobile Internet as Chinese Web surfers switch to going online via smartphones and tablets. Since the start of 2013, Tencent has spent about $1 billion, according to Chinese news reports, to buy a 15 percent stake in China’s No. 2 e-commerce company, JD.com, and to acquire or create services in online video and taxi-hailing. ____Reformer in Chief: Xi Jinping, general secretary of China’s Communist Party.In a state-dominated economy, Xi has more influence over business than any entrepreneur or state company boss. The son of a guerrilla commander in the 1949 revolution, Xi has amassed more personal power than any leader since the late Deng Xiaoping, who launched economic reform in 1979. Under Xi, the ruling communists have promised to make the slowing economy more productive by giving entrepreneurs a bigger role. That will require Beijing to trim the subsidies and privileges of state companies and make government-owned banks more market-oriented. At the same time, the party is building state-owned “national champions” to control industries from oil and gas to telecoms to banking and has tightened censorship of the press and the Internet. Unlike predecessors who entrusted economic management to the country’s premier, Xi named himself to head a ruling party committee in charge of reform. That puts his personal authority behind quelling opposition from state companies and their supporters in the ruling party. Xi has presided over an anti-corruption campaign that led to the arrest of a former member of the party Standing Committee, China’s inner circle of power, and a retired army general. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 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 ___China’s Warren Buffett: Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International Ltd.Dubbed “China’s Warren Buffett” by the Financial Times, Guo is, along with Wanda’s Wang, one of China’s biggest private investors abroad. He has described his business strategy as linking global technology and resources with China’s rapid market growth. In China, Fosun pursues an approach similar to Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, combining an insurance business with ownership stakes in businesses including pharmaceuticals, construction, mining and steel production. It bought Portuguese insurance company Caixa Seguros e Saude for $1.4 billion and agreed to invest in U.S. film producer Studio 8. In February, Fosun won a two-year bidding war against an Italian tycoon for France’s Club Med.____Green champion: Li Hejun, chairman of Hanergy Holding Group Ltd.Li is among a generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who have made fortunes from the growing global market for renewable power. He ranked No. 3 on this year’s Hurun Rich List of China’s wealthiest tycoons with a fortune estimated at $20 billion. Li set up Hanergy in 1994 to build hydropower projects. It became the first private company to be awarded a contract to build a dam in China when it was picked in 2002 to construct the 2,400-megawatt Jin’anqiao dam, completed in 2012. The company, headquartered in Beijing, also invested in wind farms but shifted its emphasis in 2009 to solar power. In 2012, it acquired Germany’s Solibro and California’s MiaSole and says it hopes to become a world leader in “thin-film” solar panels that can be used as tinted windows on buildings or integrated into building materials for use on rooftops. Last year, Hanergy was ranked No. 23 on the MIT Technology Review’s list of the world’s 50 “smartest companies.” Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement ___Net nuts and bolts: Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei Technologies Ltd.A former military engineer, Ren founded Huawei in 1988 to sell imported equipment to Chinese phone carriers, then moved into technology development when its foreign supplier was bought by a competitor. It has grown to become, along with Sweden’s LM Ericsson and the proposed tie-up between Nokia and France’s Alcatel Lucent, one of the biggest suppliers of switching gear used by phone and Internet companies. Shut out of Chinese cities that were dominated by state-owned and foreign suppliers, Ren pursued a guerrilla strategy of selling to developing countries in Asia and Africa and to Chinese small towns before making inroads into major urban markets. Today, Huawei is expanding into consumer products with its own line of smartphones. With 150,000 employees, the company reported 288.2 billion yuan ($46.5 billion) in sales last year but has struggled to mollify concerns in the United States, Australia and elsewhere that it is a security risk. Ren, who turned 70 in October, has created a system of three co-chief executives who take turns to lead the company.___Smartphone challenger: Jun Lei, co-founder and chairman of Xiaomi.last_img read more

Police forcibly remove migrants from FrenchItalian border

first_imgCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top Stories A migrant is removed by Italian police at the Franco-Italian border near Menton, southeastern France, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Some 150 migrants, principally from Eritrea and Sudan, have been trying since last Friday to cross the border from Italy but have been blocked by French and Italian police. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau) VENTIMIGLIA, Italy (AP) — Police at Italy’s Mediterranean border with France forcibly removed a few dozen African migrants who have been camping out for days in hopes of continuing their journeys farther north, a violent scene Italy is using to show that Europe needs to do something about the migrant crisis.Some migrants held onto signposts and others tried to resist being loaded onto a Red Cross bus brought in to clear them from the Ventimiglia border crossing. Migrants on the rocks jutting out into the sea were left alone, with police apparently unwilling to move into a more treacherous location. 0 Comments   Share   The migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have been camped out for five days after French border police refused to let them cross. They have refused to leave, saying they want to continue to find family members further north.Italian Interior Minster Angelino Alfano, arriving Tuesday at an EU interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, said the scenes from Ventimiglia were a “slap in the face to Europe” and proof that migrants don’t want to stay in Italy.Italy, which has borne the brunt of rescuing migrants at sea and providing initial assistance, is demanding that other European countries take in the migrants and let them apply for asylum elsewhere.Under EU rules, would-be refugees arriving in Italy from Libya are supposed to be fingerprinted and apply for asylum here since it’s the first EU country where they land. Many new migrants, however, prefer to slip through Italy without being officially registered so they can head to destinations further north where they might find better job opportunities while their asylum claims are processed.The French Interior Ministry has reinforced border controls over the past few weeks due to an influx of migrants. Austria also increased its border surveillance, though those measures ended Monday. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sobercenter_img Four benefits of having a wireless security system Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories Quick workouts for men Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academieslast_img read more

China gay couple holds informal marriage to push for union

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories Top holiday drink recipes China does not legally permit same-sex marriage, and there is no broad social effort to push for its legalization.“I do,” Li said in English, as friends cheered. “So do I,” replied Xu, also in English.They exchanged vows and put on silver rings serving as wedding bands in front of about 20 friends and an equal number of journalists gathered at a restaurant in a suburb of Beijing decorated with balloons, rainbow flags and their photos.“We want to take some action to advocate for same-sex marriage,” Li said earlier in a salon, while Xu was having her hair styled. “It’s doing the impossible when you know it’s impossible, but it takes those constant efforts to make changes in history.”Li was detained in early March with four others amid China’s crackdown on social activism. They were taken into police custody in a criminal investigation over their plans to hand out stickers and flyers denouncing sexual harassment. Foreign governments, rights groups and Hillary Clinton, who is running for U.S. President, criticized their detention. The five were released 37 days later, although they remain criminal suspects.The experience prompted Xu to consider a stronger bond with Li. “I love her, and after her detention I wanted to be closer to her but not merely as her girlfriend,” Xu said. “I love her courage and her sense of justice.” 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall How do cataracts affect your vision? New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies BEIJING (AP) — A prominent Chinese lesbian couple held a simple ceremony Thursday to announce their informal marriage, in their latest effort to push for the legalization of same-sex unions in China.The union of Li Tingting and Teresa Xu came six days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to validate same-sex marriages in the United States, and four months after Li was detained in China for her women’s rights activism. Sponsored Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home The U.S. Supreme Court decision inspired them to seek their own version of a same-sex marriage, Li said.“That’s a U.S. law. What use does it have in China?” Li said. “We think we should do something ourselves.”Within days, the couple picked up wedding gowns, scheduled salon sessions for their hair and makeup and reserved the banquet room.The couple had initially considered showing up at the local civil affairs office to apply for a marriage license but stopped the plan so as not to upset the authorities.“They could detain me on the charge of assembling illegally or provoking trouble to disrupt social order,” Li said.Li said state security officials had contacted her to inquire about the ceremony, and that she was worried about the possibility of being detained again.“We are a bit nervous and excited that our wedding should get this much attention,” she said at the ceremony.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   last_img read more

McCain US must reassess Afghanistan troop withdrawal

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Authorities have regained control of the checkpoints, which had been overrun by Taliban fighters. Forty insurgents were killed and 18 wounded, the statement said.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. “With the rise of ISIS and the distinct fighting season that is marked this year, the threat environment continues to evolve in ways that clearly, in my view, demands a reassessment of the administration’s current calendar-driven drawdown of U.S. forces with a plan that must be based on conditions on the ground,” McCain said.Afghan forces have struggled to fight off the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO combat mission officially concluded at the end of last year. More than 2,300 Afghan soldiers, police and pro-government fighters have been killed since the start of the year — more than the total number of U.S. troops killed since the 2001 invasion that ended Taliban rule.Meanwhile, Afghan lawmakers rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s nominee for defense minister, a position that has remained empty for more than nine months amid some of the toughest fighting since the Taliban insurgency began 14 years ago. Masoom Stanekzai received 84 out of the 107 votes needed for parliamentary approval.Stanekzai’s rejection reflects in part a power struggle between Ghani and Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Stanekzai, the second nominee put forth by Ghani to be rejected, is also seen by some to be ineffective, based on the chaotic security situation around the country. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Stanekzai previously led the High Peace Council negotiating body charged with ending the conflict with the Taliban. He has been serving as the country’s top defense official in an acting capacity.In January, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi also failed to get enough votes in parliament. It could be months before a new nominee for the position is put forth.Also Saturday, men on a motorcycle attacked a pair of schoolgirls in the western city of Herat, throwing an unknown chemical substance in their faces, authorities said. The victims, aged 16 and 17, were hospitalized in stable condition, said Mohammad Rafiq Sherzai, spokesman for the Herat hospital.It was not clear what sort of substance was used in the attack but it was not acid, he added.Police were searching for the two men, who attacked the students as they were on their way to school, and no arrests had been made, said Rauf Ahmadi, spokesman for the Herat police.Authorities on Saturday also raised the death toll from a Taliban attack on several police checkpoints in Wardak province. The Wednesday night attack left 24 police dead, up from the previously reported total of seven, and two wounded, according to a statement from the provincial governor’s office. Men’s health affects baby’s health toocenter_img Mesa family survives lightning strike to home The vital role family plays in society Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The ongoing Taliban offensive in Afghanistan demands a reassessment of the Obama administration’s current plan to drawdown U.S. forces, U.S. Sen. John McCain said Saturday during a visit to the country’s capital.The Republican told reporters that Afghan national forces are fighting bravely, but suffering heavy losses in the field.American and international troops have already stopped playing a combat role, remaining as trainers for local forces. The international numbers will be reduced further at the end of 2016. But McCain said reductions should be based on conditions on the ground. Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories last_img read more

Exposed to Greek banks Balkans brace for trouble

first_img Top Stories BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — There is a saying in the Balkans: “Indebted like Greece.”The expression is believed to have originated in the 19th century, when the southeast of Europe was engulfed in wars and poverty. It has taken on new significance since Greece’s financial crisis worsened this year.Millions of people in Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania have their deposits in Greek bank subsidiaries in their own countries, putting the Balkans on the front line in the Greek crisis. Though Greece’s limits on cash withdrawals have not extended to subsidiaries in the Balkans, the deposits could be at risk if the parent banks collapse. To be safe, many Balkan states are preventing the local bank subsidiaries from sending money back to the Greek parent companies.On top of that, several countries in the region have substantial business and trade relations with Greece that would be endangered if the country suffered more economic turmoil.Here is a look at the Balkan countries that have most at risk in Greece’s crisis.___BULGARIA — It is the most exposed to the Greek crisis, with Greek lenders accounting for about 23 percent of its banking system. Should Greek banks collapse, they could take the deposits and savings of its customers with them. The Bulgarian government might also have to intervene to rescue them. Some seven percent of its exports go to Greece. On the good side, Bulgaria, an EU member, has low sovereign debt and its banking sector is otherwise in good shape financially.___MACEDONIA — It has introduced capital controls to stem outflows of money to Greece from subsidiaries in Macedonia. Two Greek banks in Macedonia represent 22 percent of total bank assets in the country. The central bank has ordered Macedonian banks to withdraw all loans and deposits from banks based in Greece. The regulator also temporarily banned the country’s residents from investing in Greek securities. Macedonia is also in the midst of a political crisis which could hamper its ability to act quickly in case the Greek crisis gets any worse. A woman uses an ATM of a bank after the government’s decision last week to limit daily cash withdrawals to 60 euro ($66) in Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 4 must play golf courses in Arizona New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall The vital role family plays in society Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility ___SLOVENIA — Although there are no Greek banks operating in Slovenia, the eurozone member is exposed to the Greek crisis through its funding of aid to Greece. It has 661 million euros ties up in loan guarantees and 264 million euros in direct aid. Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec recently said it is hard to believe Slovenia will ever get back the direct aid loans. The sums are big for Slovenia — its exposure to Greek debt amounts to 3.2 percent of national gross domestic product, the highest besides Greece among the 19 nations that use the shared euro currency.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ___SERBIA — It has also limited the amount of money Greek banks can send back to their parent companies in Greece. Serbian central bank said the Greek banks have adequate liquidity and reserves, which “can be used in situations where bad news can cause unnecessary negative consequences and psychological stress.” Serbia, however, has relatively high public debt and fiscal deficit, meaning it could run into financial trouble if it had to bail out the Greek-owned banks in Serbia.“If this crisis persists in Greece, I may consider changing the bank,” said Slavica Martinovic, who keeps an account in one of the Greek banks in Belgrade.___ALBANIA — Three out of 16 commercial banks operating in Albania are Greek. Albanian authorities have assured depositors they should fear nothing from the Greek crisis. But it would also struggle to rescue any Greek bank subsidiaries and could suffer from weaker trade ties. Sherefedin Shehu, an opposition lawmaker and former deputy finance minister, warned more trouble in Greece would cause Albania’s economic growth to fall.___ROMANIA — There are four Greek-owned banks in Romania and they own 12 percent of the overall market. Two of them are among the top ten banks in terms of size. Romanian National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu said the banks could weather unfavorable developments and had a high level of solvability. They are bound by Romanian legislation and supervised by the central bank, he said. While its trade links with Greece are not significant, the government’s finances are weaker since it slashed the sales tax on goods.last_img read more

Annual checkup of Earths climate says were in hotter water

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories ___Online:NOAA’s State of the Climate: http://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/2014-state-climate-highlights___Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbearsCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. FILE – In this Sept. 12, 2014 file photo, a fishing boat heads out to the Atlantic Ocean near Miami as dark clouds loom in the distance. In the annual detailed physical for Earth’s climate, scientists noted the world is in increasingly hot and rising water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society’s annual state of the climate delved into the hot details of already reported record-smashing warmth globally in 2014, giving special attention to the world’s oceans. (AP Photo /Wilfredo Lee) Four benefits of having a wireless security system More than 400 scientists wrote the peer-reviewed 292-page study, the 25th year that the climate checkup was conducted. Its highlights include:–Four different measuring systems concluded that 2014 was hottest year on record on Earth’s surface. However, because of margins of error, there’s a chance it could only be second hottest.–Many places, such as Europe, not only had record heat on average, but record patches of extreme heat.–There were 91 tropical cyclones worldwide in 2014, slightly more than the 30-year average of 82.–Permafrost in Alaska measuring sites thawed, as temperatures at 65 feet underground set record highs for the second year in a row.–Glaciers worldwide continued to shrink, but not at a record pace.–Arctic sea ice, while not at a record setting low last year, is still declining over the long-term.–However, Antarctic sea ice hit record high levels for the third straight year; different factors aside from temperature have been a cause, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden.Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who wasn’t part of the report, said if this is Earth’s annual checkup, “the doctor is saying ‘you are gravely ill.’” How men can have a healthy 2019 Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies WASHINGTON (AP) — In their annual, detailed physical of Earth’s climate, scientists say the world is in increasingly hot and rising water.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society’s annual state of the climate report, released Thursday, delves into the details of already reported record-smashing warmth globally in 2014, giving special attention to the world’s oceans. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Comments   Share   NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said the seas last year “were just ridiculous.”The report said ocean surface temperatures were the warmest in 135 years of records, with the seas holding record levels of heat energy down to 2,300 feet below the surface. Sea level also hit modern highs, partly because warmer water expands.About 93 percent of the man-made heat energy from the burning of fossil fuels went into the world’s oceans, said NOAA oceanographer Greg Johnson. And that heat energy trapped in the ocean affects all sorts of weather, including providing more fuel for tropical cyclones, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.All sorts of warming events shifted into overdrive, especially in the Pacific. In addition to a brewing El Nino — where weather worldwide is changed by warm water in parts of the central Pacific — there was a warming of the northeast Pacific nicknamed “The Blob” and a larger scale warming called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which often coincides with faster warming of the planet, Johnson said.Johnson said subtropical fish not normally seen that far north were appearing off the coast of an unusually warm Alaska. Sponsored Stories Top holiday drink recipeslast_img read more

Anantara Kihavah Villas Wins Prestigious HIDEAWAYS Awards

first_imgSource = Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas Anantara Kihavah Villas has been named ‘Newcomer of the Year’ by the prestigious travel magazine HIDEAWAYS at an event that recently took place in Berlin.The award honors just three new, extraordinary and fascinating hotels and resorts around the world.The winners are chosen by the HIDEAWAYS editorial team who evaluate new properties in the following categories: service, location, architecture, design, comfort, cuisine, reception.Anantara Kihavah Villas Maldives opened its exclusive doors to welcome discerning guests on March 1st with its 78 stunning Pool Villas, the Anantara Spa, an underwater wine cellar with dining, and an enormous pool which is the largest in the archipelago.The resort is setting new standards for luxury holidays in the Maldives. Pictured L-R: Hideaways Publisher Thomas Kloche,Anantara Vice President of Sales, Tabatha Ramsey,and fellow winner, St Regis General Manager AndreasOberoi, along with Mrs. Martina Klocke. last_img read more