Syrian rebel training has started in Jordan

first_imgWASHINGTON (AP) — After months of delays and vetting, the training of moderate Syrian rebels has started in Jordan as part of a broader effort to build a force capable of fighting Islamic State extremists, U.S. and Jordanian officials said Thursday.Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged, however, that the administration has yet to decide exactly how and when the U.S. would support or go to the rescue of Syrian rebel troops if they are attacked by forces under the control of President Bashar Assad. Carter said the U.S. is training the rebel troops to fight against Islamic State militants, and will support the rebels in that effort with surveillance or airstrikes. But he said that while the U.S. bears some general responsibility to protect the rebels, there have been no decisions yet on what the U.S. would be willing to do if the trained rebels return to Syria and get into a battle with regime troops.Calling the training program a critical and complex part of the campaign to defeat the Islamic extremists, Carter said that the initial segment of the training program will involve about 90 Syrian rebel fighters.Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the Assad regime’s momentum against the rebels has slowed, and any dramatic change of rule in the country could increase the humanitarian crisis there.Fighting has intensified in several parts of Syria in recent weeks, as rebel advances have pushed out government forces from contested areas in the country’s south and north. Government troops have been pushing back.Jordan is the first of four training sites to begin the instruction. The others are in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Turkish officials have said that the training would start there this weekend. The rebel fighters, who come from several moderate groups in Syria, will get training on basic military equipment and skills, including firearms, communications and command and control abilities. And they will receive some compensation, but Carter said Thursday he was not sure how much that would be.The U.S. military has been launching targeted airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq since August, and expanded the campaign into Syria in September. The group has declared a self-styled Islamic state ruled by its strict religious views in territory it seized across much of Iraq and Syria, marked by a brutal campaign of mass murders, beheadings, torture and slavery.Congress passed legislation authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 fighters over the next year.___Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Jordan contributed to this reportCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Men’s health affects baby’s health too Sponsored Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   More than 3,750 Syrian fighters have volunteered for the training, and about 400 have completed the prescreening. U.S. officials have previously said that each training class could have up to 300 participants.Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani told The Associated Press that the program to train the Syrians started “a few days ago.“Jordan confirms that the war against terrorism is our war, and it’s the war of the Muslims and Arabs, first and foremost, to protect our interests and the security of our countries, peoples and the future of our children, and to defend our tolerant religion,” he said.There are about 450 coalition forces involved in the training at the four sites, including about 350 Americans.The U.S. has spent months vetting the fighters to try to make sure that any enemy combatants or extremists are weeded out. Pentagon officials have said it would be a very deliberative process that initially identified specific rebel groups and then moved to a lengthy vetting program that checks each fighter individually.Asked about the danger to U.S. and coalition trainers, Carter told Pentagon reporters Thursday that, “First of all, these are highly vetted individuals. That’s an important part of the program. Second, the training takes place in a secure location. And third, of course, our people who are participating in the training are very experienced in this kind of training, including in security procedures.” Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitylast_img read more

APNewsBreak IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100000

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Until recently, tax refund fraud has been surprisingly simple, once thieves obtain a taxpayer’s Social Security number and date of birth. Typically, thieves would file fake tax returns with made-up information early in the filing season, before the legitimate taxpayers filed their returns — and before employers and financial institutions filed wage and tax documents with the IRS.The refunds would often be sent electronically to prepaid debit cards or bank accounts.IRS officials say new computer filters are helping to stop many crude attempts at identity theft. This year, the IRS stopped almost 3 million suspicious returns, Koskinen said.However, old tax returns can help thieves fill out credible-looking returns in the future, helping them get around the IRS filters.Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses. The IRS said the thieves appeared to already have a lot of personal information about the victims.The IRS said it is notifying taxpayers whose information was accessed.___Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap How men can have a healthy 2019 “We’re confident that these are not amateurs,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These actually are organized crime syndicates that not only we but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with.”Koskinen wouldn’t say whether investigators believe the criminals are based overseas — or where they obtained enough personal information about the taxpayers to access their returns. The IRS has launched a criminal investigation. The agency’s inspector general is also investigating.Identity thieves, both foreign and domestic, have stepped up their efforts in recent years to claim fraudulent tax refunds. The agency estimates it paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves in 2013.“Eighty percent of the of the identity theft we’re dealing with and refund fraud is related to organized crime here and around the world,” Koskinen said. “These are extremely sophisticated criminals with access to a tremendous amount of data.”Congress is already pressing the IRS for information about the breach.“That the IRS — home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home — was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “What’s more, this agency has been repeatedly warned by top government watchdogs that its data security systems are inadequate against the growing threat of international hackers and data thieves.” Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk 0 Comments   Share   Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober WASHINGTON (AP) — Sophisticated criminals used an online service run by the IRS to access personal tax information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, part of an elaborate scheme to steal identities and claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Tuesday.The thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript,” where taxpayers can get tax returns and other filings from previous years. In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address, the IRS said. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Koskinen said the agency was alerted to the thieves when technicians noticed an increase in the number of taxpayers seeking transcripts.The IRS said they targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.Taxpayers sometimes need copies of old tax returns to apply for mortgages or college aid. While the system is shut down, taxpayers can still apply for transcripts by mail.The IRS said its main computer system, which handles tax filing submissions, remains secure.“In all, about 200,000 attempts were made from questionable email domains, with more than 100,000 of those attempts successfully clearing authentication hurdles,” the agency said. “During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts.”The agency is still determining how many fraudulent tax refunds were claimed this year using information from the stolen transcripts. Koskinen provided a preliminary estimate, saying less than $50 million was successfully claimed.Thieves can also use the information to claim fraudulent tax refunds in the future. As identity theft has exploded, the agency has added filters to its computer system to identify suspicious returns. These filters look for anomalies in the information provided by the taxpayer.last_img read more

Taiwan president candidate seeks stable relations with China

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Quick workouts for men FILE – In this Jan. 14, 2012 file photo, Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate of Taiwanese opposition Democratic Progressive Party speaks to reporters in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Taiwan’s opposition presidential candidate will look to reassure U.S. officials this week that victory in a January election for her party, which Beijing views with suspicion, won’t revive tensions across the Taiwan Strait. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Tsai reassured U.S. officials during a visit to Washington that victory for her Democratic Progressive Party won’t revive tensions across the Taiwan Strait. China regards Tsai’s party with suspicion because of its traditional pro-independence leanings.The United States, which has legal commitments to help Taiwan maintain the ability to defend itself, has welcomed improved relations in the democratic island’s relations with the communist-governed Chinese mainland. The current Taiwanese government has promoted economic cooperation with Beijing, reducing the potential for conflict in a regional hotspot.Tsai said she wanted to maintain the status quo in Taiwan-China relations, while intensifying Taiwan’s military relations with the United States and investing in “credible deterrence.” She said peace was in the interests of all parties, including Taiwan, China and the wider Asia region.“If elected, I will push for peaceful and stable development of cross-Strait relations in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people and the existing constitutional order,” she said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. In keeping with the view of many analysts, Tsai said her chances of winning election were better than in 2012, when she lost to the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes 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 Comments   Share   Tsai is on a 12-day, six-city visit to the United States and has been meeting with Obama administration officials and lawmakers. The State Department has not publicized whom she met from the administration, a sign of the diplomatic sensitivities of visits by Taiwanese officials and politicians to the U.S.Asked about her impressions of Xi, Tsai said he was a “very determined person.” She complimented his anti-corruption drive and said while many view Xi as tough and inflexible, he probably understands Taiwan better than most Chinese leaders because of his previous experience serving as governor of Fujian province, adjacent to the island.“I hope that with his understanding of the situation in Taiwan and also his understanding of Taiwan as a democracy he’s in a position to exercise more flexibility when we are facing differences between us,” Tsai said.China’s ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, was critical of Tsai in comments to reporters Tuesday.China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying that rather than conducting an “interview test” with the U.S., Tsai should pass the “test” of 1.3 billion Chinese on the mainland by accepting the one-China principle. He accused her of deception by making ambiguous statements on whether she will abandon the goal of independence. Top Stories WASHINGTON (AP) — Taiwan’s opposition presidential candidate said that if she comes to power in January elections, her government would have a responsibility to contribute to peace and stability in relations with mainland China.Tsai Ing-wen also had a few complimentary words on Wednesday for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, but she deflected knotty questions on whether she accepts the principle of there being only one China. Beijing has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daylast_img read more

Texas abortion law teed up for Supreme Court review

first_imgSome abortion opponents also see the case as a strong candidate for Supreme Court review. “The likelihood of this case getting to the Supreme Court is very high and I think that’s a good thing,” said Mike Norton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian-oriented public interest law firm.The justices blocked the two provisions once before, in November 2014 while the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was weighing whether those parts of the law violate a woman’s right to an abortion. The appeals court upheld the provisions on June 9 and has since refused to put its ruling on hold while the clinics ready their appeal to the Supreme Court.In 2013, four justices — enough to hear an appeal — said the high court probably would want to weigh in. In an earlier phase of the same case, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the court probably would take up the controversial provisions.The constitutionality of the new law is a difficult question, Breyer wrote. “It is a question, I believe, that at least four members of this court will wish to consider irrespective of the 5th Circuit’s ultimate decision,” he said in an opinion that was joined by the other three liberal justices. Sponsored Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories The Texas law is among a wave of state measures in recent years that have placed restrictions on when in a pregnancy abortions may be performed, imposed limits on abortions using drugs instead of surgery and increased standards for clinics and the doctors who work in them.The Texas case involves the last of these categories. The provisions at issue require clinics to meet hospital-like surgical standards and also call on doctors who work in the clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry signed the law in 2013 when he was the state’s governor.Backers of the law say those are common-sense measures intended to protect women. Abortion rights groups say the regulations have only one aim: to make it harder, if not impossible, for women to get abortions in Texas.The case could be attractive to the justices because it might allow them to give more definition to the key phrase from their last big abortion ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992. States generally can regulate abortion unless doing so places “an undue burden” on a woman’s right to get an abortion.“Courts have been fumbling for years about what does it mean to be undue under Casey,” said Priscilla Smith, a Yale Law School professor and defender of abortion rights. Legal experts on both sides of the issue said there is no indication that Kennedy might abandon his support for abortion rights altogether. But they differ on how Kennedy will view the clinic restrictions.“I think he’s quite devoted to the Casey standard and to the sense of Casey as compromised,” said Smith, who argued the 2007 case at the Supreme Court.But Carter Snead, a Notre Dame University law professor and abortion opponent, said Kennedy generally has been willing to sustain legal restrictions on abortion.“In fact, during his tenure on the court, he has only struck down one abortion restriction, namely, the spousal notification provision at issue in Planned Parenthood v. Casey,” Snead said.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Since then, a different set of judges from the same appeals court has prevented Mississippi from enforcing its own admitting privileges requirement because doing so would close the last abortion clinic in the state. In that case, the court said that Mississippi could not force women to cross state lines to get an abortion.The state already was seeking Supreme Court review and the justices could say as early as Monday whether they will weigh in, although the Texas case could cause the justices to defer action in Mississippi.In Texas, women in the El Paso area in the western part of the state would have to cross into New Mexico to reach the nearest clinic. The appeals court said that wasn’t a problem because many Texas women in that part of the state already do so.Justice Anthony Kennedy’s views are likely to determine the outcome in this case, as in so many other divisive issues.Kennedy was one of the three authors of the Casey opinion that reaffirmed a woman’s right to an abortion and struck down a Pennsylvania requirement that women tell their husbands before getting an abortion. But he also wrote the 2007 opinion that upheld a federal ban on an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academiescenter_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help FILE – In a Tuesday July 2, 2013 file photo, pro-abortion rights supporter Yatzel Sabat, left, and anti-abortion protestor Amanda Reed demonstrate at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas. The Supreme Court is considering an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Texas, who want the justices to block two provisions of a state law that already has forced the closure of roughly half the licensed abortion clinics in the state. Ten of the remaining 19 clinics will have to shut their doors by July 1, 2015, without an order from the Supreme Court. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File) Men’s health affects baby’s health too Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion is back before the Supreme Court, and the justices could signal by the end of June whether they are likely to take up the biggest case on the hot-button subject in nearly a quarter-century.If the court steps in, the hearing and the eventual ruling would come amid the 2016 presidential campaign.The court is considering an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Texas, who want the justices to block two provisions of a state law that already has forced the closure of roughly half the licensed abortion clinics in the state. Ten of the remaining 19 clinics will have to shut their doors by July 1, without an order from the Supreme Court. 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

Chinese retail spreads in Uganda amid local jealousy

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The last time men posing as immigration officials showed up at Wei Kun’s shoe store in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the Chinese trader forked out $1,000 in bribes to prevent his business from being shuttered.“I have many, many problems. It’s very difficult to make money here,” Kun said as he waited for customers inside his shoe store.Yet Kun’s perseverance in the face of such obstacles, including the rising hostility toward local merchants, is a measure of how profitable it is for Chinese merchants to run small businesses in Uganda — and the rest of Africa. Over the past 10 years, Chinese industrial giants have invested billions across Africa, and there has been an accompanying explosion of petty retailers opening small shops from Senegal in the west to Algeria in the north, Zimbabwe in the south and Uganda in the east. Trader Leo Jian says he and his fellow merchants sell what the market wants.“China has the best shoes but it also has the fake ones. But Uganda needs cheap, cheap things, and cheap things can also be seen as fake.”The traders are increasingly everywhere, in supermarkets, furniture shops, photo studios, and massage parlors, but mostly in run-down shopping centers in which Ugandans and Chinese operate side by side. They are also starting to bring in their own people for the manual labor that used to employ Ugandans, Sekitto said.Ugandan trader Arafat Jalai buys much of the stock for his suitcase shop from the Chinese — even as he competes with a Chinese-owned store across from his own.“They should not be here trading. They should have factories. Otherwise they should be sent back home,” he said.Many other local merchants would like to see them deported or restricted to just large business ventures. In Zimbabwe, there was even a law in 2013 to reserve retail outlets for locals but it hasn’t stopped the spread of Chinese merchants there either.In 2011, riots broke out in Kampala that largely targeted the city’s foreign merchants — echoing the 1972 expulsion of the country’s Indian middle class by dictator Idi Amin. Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Frank Ssebowa of the Uganda Investment Authority maintains that there is room for both Chinese and Ugandan merchants. He dismisses complaints by some locals.“If they didn’t have what clients want, would the Chinese be in that business?” he said. “The Ugandans who are grumbling are lazy types. They don’t want competition … bitterness and envy will always be there.”Most of the Chinese merchants, like Kun and his shoe store, keep a low profile. They avoid involving police in any disputes with employees or rivals. Kun said that in the last four months since he set up his shoe store in one Kampala’s many noisy, poorly-ventilated shopping centers, he has paid some $8,000 in fees and bribes to keep his place open.Ugandan immigration officials routinely deport groups of Chinese citizens found operating without valid work permits — which are often difficult to obtain.Perspective traders must provide evidence of $100,000 in planned investment, language skills and obtain the necessary trade licenses — or pay off the right people.“To get anything done you need money,” said Maya Fang, a Chinese woman who sells furniture in Kampala. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall China’s direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa jumped from practically nothing in 2002 to $18.2 billion in 2012. According to the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Africa, there are about a million Chinese living in Africa, mostly engaged in commercial work.Inexpensive Chinese goods have long been popular in Africa, and in the last decade Chinese merchants have started eliminating the middle man and setting up retail outlets of their own — much to local merchants’ chagrin.“The price undercutting will chase us out of the market,” said Issa Sekitto, spokesman for the Kampala City Traders Association, which counts 400,000 formal members.“Because the Chinese are importing directly from home, they can also afford to bring in junk,” he said, accusing them of importing inferior goods — which the Chinese deny.Local officials estimate there are thousands of these so-called briefcase investors in Uganda — a pejorative term playing off the government’s desire to bring in major international money.The Chinese merchants’ inexpensive products — such as $1 plastic, slip-on shoes — are finding a ready market in a city where most put affordability first. Comments   Share   Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Sponsored Stories last_img read more

Striking French ferry workers block Eurotunnel for 2nd time

first_img Top Stories Sponsored Stories Men’s health affects baby’s health too Comments   Share   The Eurostar train service carries about 10 million people a year across the English Channel, with summer marking the height of tourist season.An Associated Press photographer saw the striking workers swarm the tracks on Tuesday afternoon. It was the second time in a week port workers have paralyzed the train lines.On June 23, they blocked the highway exit leading to the tunnel, prompting migrants who are camped in Calais by the thousands to try and stowaway on the slow-moving freighters in hopes of reaching England. Then, later that day, they blocked the tracks themselves.Traffic resumed the following day.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall CALAIS, France (AP) — Striking ferry workers blocked the railroad tracks leading to the Eurotunnel linking France and England, and train service across the Channel was suspended until further notice on Tuesday.Torching tires and blocking traffic, the French workers were protesting expected job cuts in the French port city of Calais linked to Eurotunnel’s sale of its ferry service. Both freight and Eurostar passenger trains suspended service until further notice. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous oflast_img read more

In Bolivian prison visited by pope money buys survival

first_img Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Comments   Share   Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Sponsored Stories SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (AP) — Two years after 36 people died in a fierce battle between rival gangs, not much has changed inside Bolivia’s biggest prison: Inmates still run the place, it’s badly overcrowded, drugs are cheaper than on the street and money buys survival.In short, the penitentiary that Pope Francis visits Friday for an hour is much like many of Latin America’s penal institutions.Francis has shown a special affection for the imprisoned since being elected pope in 2013. He has frequently met with inmates and on two occasions has washed the feet of prisoners during the pre-Easter Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. At Palmasola prison, he planned to lead inmates in prayer and hear testimony. Four benefits of having a wireless security system ___Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.___This story has been corrected to reflect that the pope’s foot-washing ceremony was on Holy Thursday, not Christmas.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top Stories Inmates pay $1,000 for the right to a cell and $300 a month for individual cells, she said. Cellphones can be bought, and food and drugs are routinely smuggled in.Ostreicher said a small bag of cocaine is cheaper inside than an eight-ounce bottle of water.Bolivia’s prison regimen lets inmates roam outside their cells by day. Palmasola’s cellblocks are separated by walls and security fences.Module I, which has an open regimen, has streets full of men, women and children, domestic animals, stores, restaurants, a gym, a Catholic and evangelical church and workshops.Other prison sections are less hospitable, particularly Modules 3 and 4, which hold the most dangerous inmates. Module 5 houses the infirm, most with tuberculosis.A woman jailed on fraud charges agreed to speak to The Associated Press from inside the prison but she insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals“The police are corrupt. You have to pay for everything here inside, and there are fights every day. Some tried to kill me with a knife two weeks ago,” she said.There are no doctors inside.“I had to bring in a dentist who took care of my son in his cell,” said Vargas, the mother of an inmate.center_img Ostreicher said that he knew five people who died of cancer while he was in the prison and that they got no medical attention whatsoever.In August 2013, during a struggle for control of the cellblock holding Palmasola’s most violent inmates, one group attacked its rival with machetes and home-made flamethrowers. The 36 fatalities included a 1-year-old.It was modern Bolivia’s deadliest prison riot.The church’s national coordinator for Francis’ visit, the Rev. Aurelio Pesoa, said the pope would receive a wood carving made by inmates, hear a prisoner’s testimony and then a speech by its pastoral coordinator, the Rev. Leonardo Da Silva.Ostreicher said he doubted the pope would be shown the section of the prison where the penniless are “wasting away,” forced to sleep in the open and scrounge for food in garbage containers.Palmasola reflects an all-too-frequent reality in Latin American prisons.“What’s being punished isn’t the crime but rather poverty,” said Juan Carlos Nunez, an investigator at Jubileo, a Catholic think tank.Bolivia’s 32 prisons are built for 5,061 prisoners and hold nearly three times as many. Many are in for drug trafficking and 84 percent are awaiting trial. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Angela Coimbra, left, the mother an inmate of the Palmasola prison, waits outside the main gate with a friend, as she attempts to deliver washing supplies to her son, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. Pope Francis has shown a special affection for the imprisoned since being elected pope in 2013. He will visit the Prison on Friday. (AP Photo/Jacobo Garcia) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home A former inmate, U.S. businessman Jacob Ostreicher, doesn’t expect Francis to get much unvarnished truth about Palmasola, where he spent 18 months after being arrested for suspected money laundering.“The pope is not going to get to see what’s happening in the prison,” said Ostreicher, who was released from the prison in 2012 when it was revealed that he had been extorted by a ring of prosecutors, judges and government lawyers.Francis may get shown a Catholic church-run building where Ostreicher said destitute prisoners at least get a place to sleep. But the chickens that usually have the run of its alleys may be caged.Ostreicher, current inmates and their relatives say Palmasola, built to run 800 people but housing 5,000, is really run by its most hardened inmates — convicted rapists and murderers .“It’s the lifers who control the prison,” said Ostreicher. “The police officers who guard the outside of the prison push you inside the prison and you’re on your friggin’ own.”Inside, everything has its price.“Here corruption rules and he who has money can live well while the rest suffer jammed into huts with dirt floors,” said Sirley Maria Vargas, the mother of a 21-year-old inmate accused of homicide. “With money you can have your own room, cleaning service, cable TV, air conditioning and Internet.” Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more

Iran says will hold highlevel talks with EU

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday that “high-level” talks will soon be launched with the European Union following a nuclear agreement reached with world powers earlier this month.Mohammad Javad Zarif said the talks “in the near future” would focus on energy, the environment and human rights, as well as “extremism, terrorism and sectarianism” in the Middle East. He spoke after meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Tehran. Zarif said the talks would begin at the deputy minister level and later be upgraded to foreign ministers.“Various issues are matters of interest for both sides, such as energy, transportation, trade, environment, human rights and drug (trafficking),” he said.He called on the United States to implement the nuclear deal in order to “remove the mistrust of the Iranian people,” and said Tehran would follow through on its commitments.The landmark agreement calls for Iran to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions.President Hassan Rouhani met with Mogherini as well, and also suggested Iran and the EU pursue closer relations.“Scientific, cultural and political relations with the EU should be developed,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency. “However, promoting economic and trade relations is more accessible and easier.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Top Stories center_img 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Sponsored Stories Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t likelast_img read more

ShangriLa Hotels Resorts launch Australian sales mission

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: R.M Last night was Sydney’s turn to receive a taste of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts warm hospitality at the launch of their 2010 Australian Sales Mission. Nineteen of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts key Sales & Marketing representatives were on hand, from various regions including Malaysia, Singapore, China, Philippines, Thailand, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, providing guests with first hand news from each hotel and region.The purpose of the Sales Mission is to further strengthen and develop customer relationships and drive outbound sales for the Leisure, MICE & Corporate markets into the Shangri-La and Traders brands. Headed by Nick Berry, Director of Sales & Marketing said “the Sales Mission, which was officially launched in Brisbane on Tuesday, will cover key cities in Australia visiting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and a post sales trip to Auckland”Peggy Angeles, Vice President of Sales & Marketing – Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts visiting from the Philippines, announced that the group will launch their 69th Shangri-La Hotel opening in Paris this December. “By 2014 we will have 100 hotels, with our first European locations, including Austria, London, Istanbul plus further expansion in China, India, Canada and Macau” said Ms AngelesCoinciding with the event Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts launched their new advertising campaign titled “There is no greater act of hospitality than to embrace strangers as one’s own”. This new age campaign, a departure from traditional hotel advertising themes, was inspired by past guests, industry partners and employees, showcasing the one common denominator, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts hospitality. Nick Berry said “the campaign highlights our core values to make our customers and guests feel special and show that our employees are more like family”During their stay the nineteen sales teams will conduct client visits with product updates & presentations, and a VIP client appreciation event in every city, showcasing Shangri-La’s warm hospitality. Check out pictures from the night here.last_img read more

Millions of Aussies still holidaying overseas

first_imgThe number of Australians holidaying overseas is continuing to rise, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) yesterday.During the month of August, there were 602,900 departures from Australia, a 13.4 per cent increase over August 2009 and a 0.7 per cent increase over July 2010.Visitor arrivals to Australia in August also grew, but at a slower rate, the ABS reporting a 5.4 per cent increase over August 2010.The 115,000 gap between departures and arrivals signals a continued tourism trade deficit hitting Australia. With a strong Australian dollar, increases in capacity and a drop in overseas travel and accommodation costs, the stars have aligned for good travel overseas, but at the cost of arrivals into Australia, industry experts have noted.According to the Sydney Morning Herald, arrivals into Australia had always outstripped departures but trend has reversed in recent years.The ABS noted a 30 per cent increase in Australian travel to Indonesia in August 2010 compared to the same month in 2009 as well as 25 per cent jump in travel to the United States.Meanwhile, the number of Chinese travelling to Australia in August of this year jumped a massive 48 per cent. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.Alast_img read more

Were just weeks away EK to Denmark

first_imgSignalling its launch into Scandinavia, Emirates yesterday introduced the Danish travel industry to the full-service airline at a high profile event at the Royal Danish Playhouse.Set to start on 1 August, the new non-stop service between Dubai and Copenhagen was met with enthusiasm from the Copenhagen travel community, Wonderful Copenhagen chief executive Lars Bernhard Jorgensen saying the move will “be of great value” to the city and Denmark at large.Mr Jorgensen, who is also the chief executive of Copenhagen Connected, a route development programme said: “The importance of better accessibility from Copenhagen to South Asia, South East Asia and Australia cannot be exaggerated.” “Connections via Emirates’ mega hub in Dubai can help us here.”Guests at the event were introduced to the newly appointed Emirates country manager Teddy Zebitz and Emirates commercial divisional senior vice president Richard Vaughan, who said, “We are now five weeks from the launch and into the final stages of preparations”. An Airbus A330-200 in a three-class configuration will be used on the daily flight with EK 151 to leave Dubai at 8.30am and arrive in Copenhagen at 1.10pm. EK 152 departs Copenhagen at 2.55pm, arriving in Dubai at 11.15pm.Copenhagen marks Emirates 27th European destination and 114th globally. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.Alast_img read more

Teen launches bidding site One Cent Flights

first_imgWhy pay hundreds for a flight?: One Cent Flights A 19 year-old Australian has set-up the travel equivalent of online auction site QuiBids, allowing travellers to bid on return flights from one cent.One Cent Flights works off the penny auctions model, with bids purchased up-front and continuing “until all is said and done”.The site has already auctioned 30 return flights since its launch in August this year, with the cheapest flight selling for 49 cents. “Consumers might be familiar with bidding on goods such as clothing, furniture or electronics, but until now, no one has given them the chance to bid on flights,” One Cent Flights founder Elliott Donazzan said.Having already sold its first flight to New Zealand, the company revealed plans to extend its auctions to include international flights over time.  Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

China inflation causes price hike

first_imgVisitors affected as tour costs rise. Inflation in China continues to rise and affect visitors, while the central government attempts to curb demand and stabilise prices.China’s emergence into the western trading world, the strain on developing infrastructure and the increased cost of living has driven inflation, according to Wendy Wu Tours managing director Alan Alcock said.Throughout China there have been increases to operational costs, primarily in major economic hubs such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an and Chongqing.“Whilst, China will continue to be a great value destination, what we are experiencing is that all operational tour costs are being subject to greater than inflation rises,” Mr Alcock said.“This will definitely have an effect on future tour prices.”Costs to tour operators has already risen as much as 15 percent over the last three to four years.China’s central government revealed policies to help curb demand in an effort to reduce price rises.Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T.last_img read more

ETB News MostRead 2013

first_imgIn January 2013, the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) issued a statement which revealed Emirates was on track to become the world’s second largest airline behind US heavyweight, United Airlines. Just last month, Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the east coast of the Philippines, killing thousands, destroying whole townships and laying to waste the country’s budding tourism industry. Source = ETB News: P.T. Jetset Travelworld Group (JTG) launched its new brand, helloworld, consolidating its other retail businesses to form an innovative concept brand, signing deals with Orbitz and American Express. After consuming five glasses of wine on a Delta Air Lines flight in August, a female passenger became so disruptive that the aircraft was forced to divert to Alaska, due to safety concerns. These are just a few of the most-popular stories produced by eTravel Business News in 2013. Follow the links, visit our website and stay tuned next year for all the latest travel news!center_img While there were plenty of positives to draw from in 2013, the unfortunate deaths of popular film actor Paul Walker, travel pioneer Bill Peach and iconic world leader Nelson Mandela hit hard. Australia’s national carrier, Qantas Airways, had a wildly turbulent year, beginning with news that its major alliance partnership with Emirates was subject to various safety concerns for Australian passengers transiting through Dubai, while also removing pork from its in-flight menus. Almost 10,000 people signed a change.org petition in March, rallying against Jetstar Airways’ service fees, following changes to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s ‘reasonable cost of acceptance’ rules. It’s that time again! As 2013 draws to a close, ETB News reveals the hardest hitting headlines, illuminating stories that captured our reader’s attention… it’s our most-read news of the year!last_img read more

Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket renovated suites now available to guests

first_imgSource = ETB News: Tom Neale The Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket’s renovation is now complete, after three years of change.Following the opening of its new ocean themed lobby last year, Panwa is offering new Junior and Family Suites, Pool Villas, Panwa Lodges and the most prestigious rooms at the hotel, Absolute Suites.The new Junior Suites are 53 square metres with all other rooms coming to 70 square metres.The Family Suites have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the Pool Villas have their own lap pools and the Panwa Lodges are distinctive for their Sino-Portuguese architecture.The Absolute Suites give you a 360 degree view over Phuket’s Andaman Sea and each Suite has a private spa and steam room, private lift, enormous living and bedrooms with sunrise and sunset ocean views as well as 24/7 services of a private butler and personal chef.All guests who stay in an Absolute Suite a minimum of three nights can use a complimentary Mercedes Benz and guests staying five nights get complimentary use of the Panwa Princess Yacht.last_img read more

Best Western Australasias longest serving CEO retires

first_imgBest Western Australasia’s longest serving chief executive and industry veteran, Rob Anderson has announced his retirement this week.Anderson served under the Motel Federation of Australia and Best Western banners for nearly 30 years as a hotel member, director, chairman/president and was elected to the chief executive role in 2005.“I have had the pleasure of working with Rob Anderson for almost 15 years,” said David Kong, President and Chief Executive Officer of Best Western Hotels & Resorts.“Aside from his passion, which is immediately obvious and contagious, I have been impressed with the team he has built. They are talented, dedicated and care deeply about supporting our members to the best of their capabilities.“Rob is known for his intellect and progressive thinking. He was a highly respected leader of our company and I wish him all the best in his well-deserved and rewarding retirement.”Anderson received the company’s inaugural Global Leadership Award and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Management. He has a Bachelor of Business (UTS) and Masters in Commerce (UNSW).“Best Western and the global hotel industry is going through an exciting period of rapid change and we are responding with a decisiveness and at a pace that is driven by our expanding global pipeline and new hotel brands,” Anderson said.“May I express my gratitude to the members, the staff and my friends in the industry for your support over the last thirty years. To be of service to such a great group of people has been a wonderful privilege.“This year in particular entailed a concentrated focus on quality improvement and how Best Western can continue to improve the guest experience. We introduced the Design Excellence Program and have almost completed new global web platform which will drive further strong improvements in guest satisfaction and business delivery to our members.“To ensure we do not lose any momentum and continue to drive our strong global reputation, Steve Richards and Spencer Watson will jointly fill the role of leading Best Western Australasia effective immediately,” Anderson said.Succeeding Anderson, Steve Richards (former GM Sales & Marketing) has been appointed to the role of Head of Commercial and Spencer Watson (former GM Regional Services and Quality Assurance Program) has been appointed to Head of Operations following approval from Best Western Australasia’s Board of Directors.“Rob had a vision to improve the quality of the brand, and he did this. His leadership has been instrumental to the growth and success of the company and we wish him all the very best in his retirement,” said Ian Sandilands, Chairman and President of Best Western Australasia.During his leadership, Anderson led some of the biggest changes in Best Western’s history.In 2006, the company embarked on a transformative refocus, improving the quality and standard of the Best Western brand through adding a rigorous Quality Assurance Program, member education training and new digital platforms.As a result, guest satisfaction scores tripled and overall business to members increased 250 per cent in the past five years. Best WesternSource = Best Western Australasialast_img read more

Cebu Pacific invests in facilities for Persons with Reduced Mobility

first_imgCebu Pacific invests in facilities for Persons with Reduced MobilityCebu Pacific invests in facilities for Persons with Reduced MobilityThe Philippines’ largest carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB), is set to roll-out Disabled Passenger Lifts (DPLs) in key airports in the Philippines. The DPLs which would allow Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRMs) an easier and more comfortable boarding experience on Cebu Pacific flights.CEB is the first airline to invest in its own DPLs, in line with its thrust to improve passenger experience. The use of the DPL is free of charge for Cebu Pacific passengers with reduced mobility. Aside from Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), these include pregnant and elderly passengers who may have difficulty climbing stairs to board their flights.CEB has invested over PHP100 Million for the procurement and installation of 35 brand-new DPLs. The first DPL was installed in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in March 2017 for testing and evaluation. Since July 2017, the DPL has been used to lift PWDs, pregnant and elderly passengers on a limited number of CEB flights.Michael Ivan Shau, Vice President for Airport Services of Cebu Pacific said that the rest of the DPL units would be installed starting 2018. Six more units would be placed at the NAIA Terminal 3, with the rest deployed to other CEB hubs across the country, namely, Clark, Kalibo, Iloilo, Cebu and Davao; as well as high-traffic airports across the country with CEB operates flight using Airbus aircraft. Target completion is by June 2018.“We are looking at initiatives to improve the passenger experience for everyJuan. For our PWD passengers and those with reduced mobility, we recognize that the experience of being lifted manually can be uncomfortable. Investing in the DPLs will allow us to board and deplane passengers with reduced mobility safely, with minimal discomfort,” said Shau.In 2016 alone, over 43,000 passengers availed of wheelchair assistance from the check-in counter. Of this number, more than 14,000 were wheeled from the check-in counter and carried to their seats in the aircraft.The DPL was introduced in 1998 by international aircraft service provider Airport Maintenance Services– Ground Service Equipment to give airports a safe, comfortable and dignified way to get PRMs on and off aircraft. The DPL allows PRMs, as well as their companions or service agents to board the aircraft or deplane via the aircraft door designated by the airlines. To date, there have been at least 500 DPLs used worldwide.For PWDs and other PRMs who need wheelchair assistance, they simply need to tick the box indicating this requirement upon booking their flights.Cebu Pacific has also recently implemented the 20 percent discount on base fares and 12 percent value-added tax (VAT) exemption for all domestic flights for PWDs and senior citizens across all its booking channels. CEB has also integrated the domestic terminal fees into CEB ticket costs—all aimed to provide guests with a more convenient and hassle-free flight experience.Source = Cebu Pacificlast_img read more

Thailand aims at becoming Asias ultimate destination for sports tourism

first_imgThailand is positioning itself as a dream destination for sports tourism by promoting the kingdom’s world-class sporting facilities, wide-ranging expertise, and reputation for hosting successful regional and international sporting events and tournaments.H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, unveiled the plan to turn Thailand into a sporting hub to delegates attending the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-Region 2016 (TTM+ 2016). This event opened on June 8, 2016, at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre and was attended by tourism professionals from all over the world.Her Excellency said, “Thailand is entering the sports and tourism era, and I would like to invite the world to enjoy some of the many opportunities the kingdom can offer sport-loving tourists – whether you are enthusiastic amateurs, professionals or somewhere in between. Sports can give people a new way to enjoy and experience Thailand – playing games of golf or football with friends, taking in the scenery while cycling or running or meeting, and competing with Thai people at any of our gyms and sports centres.”Sports; such as golf, are already popular among tourists coming to Thailand and the kingdom boasts over 300 world-class courses. But now, the Royal Thai Government, with the support of the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, wants to help visitors discover other facilities where tourists can enjoy sporting activities. These include 5,000 boxing rings, many with Muay Thai training centres, over 50 diving clubs, and an increasing network of urban and rural cycling lanes which are spreading across the country and are being promoted at a government level.These world-class facilities mean that Thailand has already played host to many international sports events including the 1997 and 2007 World Weightlifting Championships, the 2014 Asian Beach Games, the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, and the World Touring Car Championships 2015 (WTCC) held at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram province. There are also popular boating events; such as, the annual King’s Regatta which takes place every year off Phuket. Thailand has also hosted the Asian Games four times and the South East Asian (SEA) Games three times.In addition, Thailand itself has a proud sporting history and many of the kingdom’s sportsmen and women have earned renown at an international level. These include Badminton player Ratchanon Inthanon who was the first Thai to become Number One in the Women’s Singles and who became World Champion in 2014, and rising golfer Ariya Jutanugarn, who is the first player in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour history to get her first three wins consecutively and is now number 10 in the world rankings. Team sports are popular in Thailand too, and the National Volleyball Team recently ranked 13th in the world.In terms of training and facilities, there are four national training centres in Saraburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Songkhla and Chiang Mai. There are also private facilities up and down the country that can be used by sports lovers including Thanyapura Phuket, which has some of the best sports facilities in Asia including two 50-metre Olympic class swimming pools, and is the first Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) training centre in Southeast Asia. Many international sports people and teams come to Thanyapura to train including the British and Australian national swimming teams.In addition, Stamford International University in Bangkok recently partnered with Real Madrid to offer the first MBA in Sports Management in Thailand to train a new generation of sports trainers.H.E. Kobkarn concluded, “Thai people have always been crazy about sports, but now we want Thailand to be seen as a centre of sports excellence too, and for people to come here to develop their skills and enjoy their favourite sports, on land and in the water. With our outdoor lifestyles and range of destinations, we have the potential to be a magnet for sportsmen and women.”last_img read more

Kerala Tourism Minister greets visitors at virtual reality kiosk in Delhi Airport

first_imgTourism Minister of Kerala Kadakampally Surendran recently took on the role of a host and guide at a unique virtual reality platform set up by his department at the international airport in New Delhi, which offered air passengers a taste of cruising through the famed backwaters of Kerala.The Minister spent the entire day at the kiosk set up by Kerala Tourism at the Indira Gandhi International Airport greeting passengers drawn to the novelty of a life-size ‘kettuvallam’ (houseboat) placed in the airport departure area and explaining how the technology works.The backwaters have been brought to life through a two-minute film specially shot using 360-degree technology using six cameras simultaneously.The VR ‘experience site’, which is the latest promotional and marketing initiative of Kerala Tourism, has attracted a lot of attention since it went operational and has signaled that Kerala remains at the forefront of using technology for tourism promotion.“It was an amazing experience, even for someone like me who has actually been on a real houseboat cruise. For a person who has never visited Kerala, I cannot imagine a more fantastic introduction. We definitely hope to see more people wanting to experience the real thing after what they have seen here,” said Surendran of the virtual reality tour.MPs from Kerala, including P Karunakaran, Vayalar Ravi, K Somaprasad, C P Narayanan, P K Sreemathi, M B Rajesh, P K Biju, Jose K Mani, K K Ragesh, K C Venugopal and Joy Abraham and Kerala’s Resident Commissioner in Delhi Dr Vishwas Mehta were among nearly 200 passengers who visited the kiosk and enjoyed the experience.U V Jose, Director, Kerala Tourism, stated that technology would be an integral part of tourism promotion and marketing now and in the future.The VR zone at the IGI Airport is part of the department’s ‘Out of Home’ marketing campaign to promote ‘Brand Kerala’ and is targeted at high net worth individuals in the domestic market.Besides Mumbai, Kerala Tourism is planning to take the ‘experience site’ to other airports, including Bengaluru.last_img read more

VisitBritain celebrates growth in Chinese tourist arrivals

first_imgVisitBritain recently celebrated its milestone partnerships with Hainan Airlines (HNA Group) and Alitrip, Alibaba Group’s tourism arm, in China. Hainan Airlines is the only Chinese airline with which VisitBritain has a long-term strategic partnership in China.Both partnerships have been established to attract more Chinese visitors to Britain and the UK remains one of China’s favourite tourist destinations.Latest flight booking data from ForwardKeys shows that flight bookings from China to the UK for November 2016 to January 2017 are up by 17% when compared to the same period in 2015. Looking at the Christmas period from  December 18 to  December 31, 2016 – flight bookings from China to the UK are up 37% compared to the same period in 2015.VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said that China, the world’s most valuable outbound market, was a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. “Britain is packed full of amazing moments and experiences and offering great value for Chinese visitors right now. We want to deliver a world-class visitor experience for Chinese customers,” she added.President of Hainan Airlines, Jianfeng Sun said, “Hainan Airlines will make full use of the opportunities created by the Air Service Agreement to further explore and develop the British market together with VisitBritain. ”Alitrip Senior Vice President, Jerry Hu said, “Chinese tourists are showing more interest than ever before in visiting the UK and are looking for new ways to experience popular and undiscovered British destinations. This trend also means that as more Chinese tourists visit the UK, they will interact with British brands and discover new shopping experiences in the region.”last_img read more