Lengthy 16day strike hits BA starting July 1

first_img LONDON — British Airways’ cabin crew are set to go on strike July 1 – 16.The airline issued a statement in mid-June saying “the vast majority of flights to and from London Heathrow will operate as normal”.There’s been no further word from the airline about contingency plans. The strike was called by the union June 16.The airline says all British Airways customers will be able to fly to their destinations, “despite further proposed industrial action by Mixed Fleet Unite between Saturday 1 July and Sunday 16 July (inclusive).”British Airways representatives added “we recognize the uncertainty that Mixed Fleet Unite’s threat is causing and would like to reassure customers that the vast majority of our services will be unaffected.“All flights to and from London Gatwick, London City and Stansted will operate as normal as will our recently launched weekend only Mediterranean services to and from Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester.More news:  A new low for no-frills flying: easyJet assigns backless seat to passenger“The vast majority of flights to and from London Heathrow will operate as normal.“If you currently have a booking, please ensure that your email and phone details are up to date by using Manage My Booking on our website so that we can continue providing you with updates on your flight.” Share Travelweek Group Posted by Tags: British Airwayscenter_img Lengthy 16-day strike hits BA starting July 1 Thursday, June 29, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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Californias Hwy 1 stretch between Carmel heart of Big Sur open

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Wednesday, July 5, 2017 Posted by California’s Hwy. 1 stretch between Carmel, heart of Big Sur open Travelweek Group center_img Share Tags: America, California BIG SUR — Clients should know that a drive along California’s famously beautiful coastal route, the iconic Highway 1, is still possible despite damage wreaked by 2017’s winter storms.Earlier this year, eroded hillsides caused the 320-foot long Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge to buckle. Then a mudslide took out part of Highway 1 and the affected section will be closed for at least a year, according to state estimates.However construction crews have worked around the clock to restore access to parts of Highway 1, including the stretch between Carmel and the heart of Big Sur. And while Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge is still closed – and will remain closed until at least September 2017 – a quick detour offers up wineries, attractions and more.Visit SLO CAL, the state’s marketing organization responsible for promoting San Luis Obispo County, calls the inland route ‘The Best Detour You Will Ever Take’.Travellers can easily get from Highway 1 in SLO CAL to Monterey and back onto Highway 1 using the detour, says Visit SLO CAL.More news:  A new low for no-frills flying: easyJet assigns backless seat to passengerThe detour, from Ragged Point to Monterey, takes about 30 minutes longer than the original Highway 1 route.Highlights on the detour include lavish Hearst Castle, built by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane), and Elephant Seal Vista Point where hundreds of elephant seals mingle, molt and tend to their pups on the beach below. Paso Robles is also on the route, recently named ‘Best Wine Country Town’ for its wineries, vineyards and distilleries.last_img read more

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Barack Obama table in Vietnam encased in glass

first_imgBarack Obama table in Vietnam encased in glass Tags: Vietnam Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> HANOI — Remember the time U.S. President Barack Obama and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain kicked back with bottles of beer and bowls of noodles in Vietnam?As part of the season eight premiere of Bourdain’s hit show ‘Parts Unknown’, the two men shared a US$6 meal of grilled pork and noodles back in 2016 at a tiny eatery in the heart of Hanoi. It was a major pop culture moment for the city, and no doubt the biggest celebrity sighting for Bun Cha Huong Lien restaurant.Recognizing the value that this dynamic duo brings to its humble establishment, the owners of the restaurant have decided to preserve this moment in time by encasing the table in glass. Even the stools, plates, chopsticks and beer bottles that were used throughout the meal have been included, making for a makeshift museum in the middle of the restaurant. Wednesday, March 14, 2018 According to the owners, the idea to preserve the table for posterity came from their customers, who wanted to see where the former president had sat and what he had eaten.More news:  Hotel charges Bollywood star $8.50 for two bananas and the Internet has thoughtsIt’s become a big tourist draw and a social media sensation. But what does Bourdain, who’s known to always speak his mind, think of all this? He captioned a recent pic of the table on his Instagram with “Not sure how I feel about this”.We hope the oddity doesn’t stop Bourdain from returning to the family-run, working-class restaurant. But even if he doesn’t come back, we’re sure Bun Cha Huong Lien will have gained countless new patrons to make up for it.Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer. pic.twitter.com/KgC3VIEPQr— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) May 23, 2016 Travelweek Group Sharelast_img read more

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Bikers issue 24hour ultimatum threaten more protests

first_imgNo related posts. Motorcyclists and leaders from the National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP) gave the government a 24-hour deadline on Tuesday to negotiate a decrease in the cost of mandatory circulation permits – known asmarchamos – for 2013. If the administration does not answer by Wednesday, bikers have promised more protests to disrupt traffic throughout the capital.On Monday, a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. was suspended because officials from Casa Presidencial demanded a public apology for acts of violence committed by bikers last week, and a guarantee that they will not block the streets again.Later that day, members of the Civic Committee of Motorcyclists sent a written apology to President Laura Chinchilla, saying, “new demonstrations will be peaceful … but [we] cannot guarantee that all bikers will not resort to violence.”The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, has yet to decide whether to admit three complaints filed to block the new marchamo prices from taking effect.Two complaints were filed by Social Christian Unity Party lawmaker Luis Fishman, who has advised motorists not to pay the permits until the Sala IV’s ruling.Marchamo rates increased this year by up to 25 percent compared to 2011. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Have you tried a Costa Rican Churchill

first_imgRelated posts:Nativity scenes, funk music, and other happenings around Costa Rica ‘Festival Under the Stars’ to screen third edition in Puntarenas PHOTOS: Grinding out the blues over the weekend, Barrio Amón ‘felt like New Orleans’ Whale festival, rugby tournament, and other happenings around Costa Rica On a recent trip to the port city of Puntarenas, I noticed a bunch of signs advertising “Churchills.” All along the Paseo de Turistas, restaurants and stands announced that their Churchills were the best in town. Good for them, I thought. But what in Costa Rica was a Churchill?Drawings on a few of the signs gave clues. Churchill’s apparently came in cups, and appeared to contain something with ice. Also, chunks of some kind. Maybe fruit?I stopped at one food truck, mainly because it advertised that if a customer didn’t like the goods, they’d be free of charge. A no-risk Churchill. Perfect.The price here was about the same as the other stands, ₡2,500 ($5), and a small crowd of people waited in front of the truck. When it came my turn, I stepped up and watched as three young people worked an assembly line, which included plastic cups, shaved ice, fruit salad, a little of this and a little of that. After just a few short minutes, my Churchill was ready. I was given both a straw and a spoon, and left to figure out the rest.I went in first with the spoon, gathering fruit from the top layer of condensed milk. There were sliced apples, pineapples, strawberries and grapes, all plump and sugary. Digging deeper into the cup, I found powdered milk and then cola flavored syrup. At the very bottom, there were chunks of ice. It was sort of like a snowcone, but deluged with cream and fruit pieces. It was weird, but also unmistakably refreshing.Although the Churchill is the official snack for Puntarenas, each shop has its own way of making it. Some add ice cream, and the fruit topping may differ. Churchills may be served in an ice cream dish in restaurants. Whatever form yours comes in, know that the Churchill has been the standard cool treat of Puntarenas for more than 60 years.As the story goes, the refreshment was born in the 1940s when comerciante (storekeeper) Joaquín Aguilar Esquivel wanted something more than just a drink. At that time, ice cream was not available in the hot Puntarenas climate, and milk was not a keeper. So every day, Aguilar would go to a restaurant or food stand and ask for a concoction of condensed milk, syrup and other specific ingredients. Because his order never varied, in time the restaurant owners standardized this unique delight. Locals thought Aguilar resembled the British prime minister Winston Churchill, and often referred to him as Churchill. As a result, his snack of choice  received the name.Although the Churchill is a Puntarenas institution, other coastal areas have their own versions. In Puntarenas, there is even a “Churchill Coloso” or colossal Churchill with scoops of ice cream and the works.Both a treat and tradition, the Churchill is perfect for those who like fruit, milk and ice cream, particularly in hot weather. After trying one, you won’t even think about asking for your money back. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Humberto Pacheco An AMCHAM founder returns as president

first_imgThe Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) has a new president; although as one of the original founders of the business chamber, Humberto Pacheco isn’t really new. In fact, he’s been around for quite a while, and many feel he’s well qualified to lead the chamber in the 21st century.Pacheco, 74, whose father, Humberto Pacheco Coto, founded the oldest operating law firm in the country, was a young guy when the big businessmen of Costa Rica used to meet for lunch as the American Business Council, at the Van Gogh Restaurant. Pacheco, a senior partner at the firm, says he “grew up” with the ABC and stayed on board when it converted to AMCHAM.He made it all the way to vice president, but back then, rules didn’t allow a non-U.S. citizen to become chamber president. That has since changed.Pacheco likes to tell the story of the charismatic former president of AMCHAM, Ian Boyle.“Ian Boyle had served only one of his [two] years as president. And on occasion when the chamber was a little bit under, the nominating committee, which we simpáticamente called the ayatollahs of AMCHAM, decided to bring him back,” Pacheco recalls. “By that time, they had amended the rules and anybody could be president. Ian organized a heck of a party at his home, served tons of Irish whiskey – very good Irish whiskey – and when everybody was very sentimental, to put it one way, he told us he had been called back to the chamber, but with the condition that his board would come back with him.“And of course, it was a very emotional moment and we were talking history and everybody was pro-going back. Needless to say, the next day I had a double hangover from the Irish whiskey and from having accepted to go back to the board of AMCHAM,” he says.For many years, the chamber grew, but maintained a low profile. When Pacheco was appointed president in 1995, one of the conditions he set was that he wanted AMCHAM to become a prominent, aggressive chamber. Members traveled to the United States to lobby for a free trade agreement, which in 1995 was “not in the plans of the U.S. because of our size.”But with the aid of “a lot of very good friends in Congress,” the U.S. decided to enhance Costa Rica’s Caribbean Basin Initiative benefits. At the end, the two-year battle was not completely won, Pacheco says, but it had “pretty good results.”Later, Pacheco became a member of AMCHAM’s nominating committee, where he served until being tapped again for president this year. One of Pacheco’s selling points, he says, is that AMCHAM members were looking for someone who is not involved with the politicians of this country. But don’t let Pacheco’s claim that he’s “not a politician” fool you: He’s no political outsider, to say the least.“This time the nomination process was not surrounded by Irish whiskey, it was surrounded by a lot of very serious considerations about the country,” Pacheco says. “So I decided to accept.”Pacheco served his two-year term in 1995-96 and has since been an advocate of the two-year maxim. Thus, he had serious misgivings about serving a third term and only accepted after the nominating committee convinced him of the need. In September 2013, Chambers and Partners of London, the No. 1 lawyer-law firm qualifiers in the world, granted Humberto Pacheco their top recognition, the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Alberto Font/The Tico TimesGetting back on trackIn September 2013, Chambers and Partners of London, the No. 1 lawyer-law firm qualifiers in the world, granted Pacheco their top recognition, the “Lifetime Achievement Award.”So why would someone who says he’s working more at the firm than he did 20 years ago, take on more responsibility when most people his age are playing golf?“Every night I have cold shivers in my spine. … I’m chewing a little more than I should. But I think it’s a responsibility that is necessary at this moment in this country, because we have really been going through a very sad process in these last few years, and we have wasted a lot of time,” he says. “We have done a lot of foolish things as a country, and we need to get back on track.”Among his first tasks: appointing three task forces under the leadership of board members to work on, among other things, politics vis a vis the U.S. and Costa Rica. In his last stint as president, the U.S. and Costa Rica had very good relations, and Washington and San José had a lot of synergy, he says. Over the years, with the U.S. distracted in other regions of the world, and China’s increasing encroachment in Latin America, this has changed.“It is my intention to go back and try to reconstitute some of that to have support in the U.S., because that’s the only way we’re going to retain some degree of importance as a country and as a chamber,” he says.With Costa Rica just weeks away from what likely will turn out to be an historic presidential election, politics are going to play an important role in Pacheco’s vision for AMCHAM.“We are in the process of talking to the two candidates left in this race,” Pacheco says. (The interview with Pacheco took place before ruling party candidate Johnny Araya announced he would no longer continue campaigning, leaving Citizen Action Party candidate Luis Guillermo Solís as Costa Rica’s likely next president.)“We feel that neither one is going to be anti-foreign investment – that would be a very foolish thing. I can’t see either one doing that, particularly Luis Guillermo Solís, who seems to be the probable option. He’s a very intelligent man, and I think he will have a good presidency if he gets enough support to neutralize the extreme left within the PAC,” he says.Dealing with political polarizationIf the first-round presidential vote in February showed anything, it’s that Costa Rica is increasingly polarized between political actors who lie further to the left than the traditional ruling party and those who have ruled the country for decades.“There were a lot of young people who were very excited with [the Broad Front Party’s] José María Villalta, because he represented change. He’s a new face, a charismatic, handsome guy giving fresh air to politics. But when [lawmaker-elect] Patricia Mora comes out opening her mouth? She should have taken a long vacation in China or something, because now the young people start saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not the Costa Rica I was thinking of. That’s not change. …’“I’m no political expert, but even the experts were confused. And the polls were a disaster. First there were last-minute changes that the polls could not anticipate, and second, a lot of young people who want change and don’t want anything to do with Liberation had gone with this guy and risen him to the clouds, and all of the sudden they were not with him anymore, because they realized this guy was not everything he promised to be, and he was not very well surrounded. It’s been a crazy run,” he says.The recent campaign reminds Pacheco of another charismatic figure, Gerardo Wenceslao “G.W.” Villalobos, one of Costa Rica’s historical political characters. (Strangely, G.W. doesn’t yet have a Wikipedia page.)“G.W. Villalobos was a very picturesque, folkloric character campaigning around the country on horseback, and he got a lot of votes. This reflects the protest votes of Costa Rica, which are not necessarily – by any means – communist,” Pacheco says.Problems and solutionsRecently, front-running presidential candidate Solís declared he would avoid raising taxes for the first two years of his administration, if elected. He would spend those years cleaning house, removing corrupt bureaucrats and ending wasteful spending that bogs down the economy. But considering Costa Rica’s burgeoning deficit, is this a good idea?“Totally,” says Pacheco. “I think if this guy [Solís] takes that issue and he really manages to clean house, he’ll go down in history. I’ve heard from an economist in the Finance Ministry who gave us a three-hour lecture on the country’s fiscal problems that left me with the most incredible sensation of impotence, that the privileged groups in the autonomous government agencies have reached levels of privileges that are growing geometrically, whilst even a medium-sized tax raise is a mathematical growth.“So, how can we catch up? We can’t. Solís has a big task ahead of him. But if he’s serious about it and does something, it would be fantastic,” he says.There are difficult questions to answer, he adds, among them: “Do you keep paying astronomical severance payments to the Social Security System? Do you keep paying National Oil Refinery employees bonuses for going to work on time? It’s a perspective that is very challenging and not easy for a new president, whomever that is.”Is four years enough to deal with these issues? “No. I don’t expect any president to resolve all of them in one shot. But if he can resolve the issue of how we are wasting the amount of taxes we are generating – which is very big; in fact this year it is the highest at 21 percent of GDP. Why does a country without an army need any more than that?“Essentially, this country cannot take more taxes,” Pacheco says. “In times of difficulty, you want private enterprise, the productive sector, as it should be called, to produce more, because that is what is going to generate more taxes. In the good years, we produce a lot of taxes because the production of the entrepreneurial sector is bigger. And this is lacking here very badly. The mentality is to squeeze more taxes out of the paying guys. That is not going to create more jobs. It’s going to create less.”For Pacheco, the country’s current woes are easy to diagnose: “It’s a combination of incompetence and corruption. Which is worse? I’m not sure.” At 74, Humberto Pacheco says he works more now than 20 years ago, when most Costa Ricans are reaching retirement age. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesClear rules and foreign investment“This is one of the things my term at AMCHAM is going to address very strongly,” Pacheco says, referring to foreign investment, the need for clear rules and better infrastructure. “It is very worrying to see lack of direction, yet it’s so simple you could almost sit down and cry. All we need is to improve the law. The current law says I grant you a concession and then it ties you up like a bundle. You have to have a simple operational law, and these things go fantastically.“But we cannot have a law that to get things granted depends on the will of the president, and to get the country messed up depends on the will of the next president not to do it. We’re facing two huge international indemnifications because that’s what happened in two areas,” he says.And this is where Pacheco’s ideas might seem controversial to some Costa Ricans. The areas the country desperately needs to develop? Gold, oil, gas and other natural resources.“I am very strongly an environmentalist, but with common sense. I cannot believe that one single thing in life should take precedence over everything else. And those who are doing that may very well be part of a plot to destroy the economy so the communists can come in. This is always my fear, because this is the policy that communist governments have used everywhere. Damage the country, then it’s so messed up that it’s easy for them to come into power. That is tradition; I’m not inventing that. It’s not a political axiom that came to my mind out of nowhere. It’s a fact,” he says.He then uses a Costa Rican term to describe those he considers extremists: semáforos, or stoplights. “You know what a semáforo is? The guys who were communists and then turned environmentalists when communism faded away in the Soviet Union.”For Pacheco, the solutions to Costa Rica’s problems depend on logic. He cites Norway, an oil-producing nation, as “one of the most ecologically minded countries in the world” that can afford “environmental luxuries” because they have oil revenue. “Keeping oil in the ground is only making us poorer,” he argues.The same can be said for gold. Peru earns millions of dollars from the gold market, and Costa Rica, meanwhile, is facing a multimillion-dollar dispute over the scrapped Crucitas gold mine near the Nicaraguan border.“I have been claiming, and this is not my idea either, that the secret is not in inventing things, it’s in taking good examples and adapting them here,” he says.The PLN and Costa Rican nationalization“My dad was a founding member [of Liberation],” Pacheco recalls, “and I will never forget that he always said the nationalization process was a process of 20 years, to rescue the country at a time when it needed to be rescued, because private enterprise in the country did nothing. He said 20 years. That was 1968.”Forty years later, “we still have the same system with a few steps forward, all of which have proven absolutely right. When the insurance opened the first year, I got a fire insurance bill for my house that was literally half of what I was paying. I called my insurance agent saying, ‘I think there’s a mistake, you must’ve given me somebody else’s bill,’ and he said, ‘No, now that there’s competition the INS [National Insurance Institute] has decided to lower the policy.’ That means clearly that they were overcharging me for the last umpteenth years.”The same goes with telecom: “Now I can use my ICE phone in Europe. Before I couldn’t. The thing didn’t work, even if you pulled out the battery and spit on it three times. Nowadays it works. Why? Because now there is Claro and Movistar, and if ICE doesn’t move, they lose their clients. ICE had 100 years to get ready, with their monopoly, and they are not ready. They still aren’t ready.”The other problem, Pacheco says, is corruption. “The San Ramón highway – when the scandal came and they stopped it, I wrote a column saying that if 40 percent of the [graft] is reduced from the price, it becomes a viable project. … It’s an old game. These guys don’t even do it right.“Look at the trocha,” the vastly corrupt “emergency” border road parallel to the San Juan River. “The trocha to me is the most shameful thing ever, because on top of desecrating a national hero [Juan Rafael Mora] and a national occasion by naming it, they didn’t put anything into it. I mean zero. They passed the tractor from one end to another, put in a few old furgones as bridges that have now collapsed, and that’s it. And they collected ₡46 billion [$84 million; the actual amount was $44 million], or whatever it was. Staggering.“And you see some people behind there who you never expected would play the game,” he says. “I can understand some of the ones who are being signaled, but others? I guess they say everybody has a price, and I guess those guys reached it. Some of them don’t even need it, they’re millionaires on their own. Why then?” Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce elects new leaders Talent and good policy are key targets for improving Costa Rica’s competitiveness, forum experts say Recent exchange rate stability offers relief to businesses New AMCHAM president says Costa Rica is ‘well-rooted’ in tourismlast_img read more

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Study shows that Auto Mercado is the most expensive grocery chain in

first_imgRelated posts:Coming Holy Week brings huge price spikes in seafood 40 Costa Rican businesses called out for violating consumer law on exchange-rate use New banking consumer watchdog agency to open in November Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber to hold hearing on proposed mobile Internet rate changes A comparative study of prices conducted by Costa Rica’s Economy Ministry (MEIC) in 48 supermarkets across the country found huge differences in prices of basic foodstuffs.MEIC officials Monday presented a summary of the results conducted from February 3-17. According to the study the total cost of the “basic food basket” ranged from ₡94,401 ($178.10) to ₡121,487 ($229) — a difference of 29 percent.The basic food basket price is calculated from the average per capita consumption of 53 goods including prepackaged food, fresh products and personal care and hygiene products.Auto Mercado is the most expensive retail chain to buy the basic basket, the study demonstrated. The Auto Mercado location in Alajuela tallied the highest price at ₡121,487 ($229), followed by the one in Tres Ríos, where it the goods cost ₡121,316 ($228.90). Auto Mercado caters to a wealthier clientele, and imports a large variety of products.The basket with the lowest price was found at the Maxi Palí supermarket in Limón at a cost of ₡94,401, or $178.10, followed by the Palí in San Rafael of Heredia at ₡95,041 ($178.30).The study found variations of up to 225 percent in prices for the same product bought at different retail stores.As an example a bag of Knorr Chicken Noodle Soup cost ₡100 ($0.19) at Palí supermarkets in Puntarenas and Liberia, but the soup cost ₡325 ($0.61) at MaxiConsumo, a supermarket in the south San José neighborhood of Barrio Cuba.The study also found that prices at the cash register were higher than those displayed on the shelves in seven of the 48 visited supermarkets.MEIC inspectors discovered this practice at San Luis in Pérez Zeledón (43 products), Megasuper Parque de La Paz (3), Megasuper Puntarenas (4), Megasuper Limón (2), MaxiConsumo Barrio Cuba (2), Maxi Palí Alajuelita (1) and Perimercados Montelimar (1).“All these supermarkets corrected their prices almost immediately after being warned by our inspectors,” said MEIC’s Director of the Consumer’s Rights Office Cynthia Zapata. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Costa Rican officials We still have little information about Nicaraguas Grand Canal

first_imgRelated: Journalists harassed, detained in latest chapter of Nicaragua canal sagaSince the idea to build a massive interoceanic canal in Nicaragua first gained traction a few years ago, Costa Rica has expressed its concern over potential environmental damage the canal could cause in both countries.Costa Rica has been seeking information – including specific environmental assessment details and routes – from its northern neighbor for four years. But even today, as the $50 billion project moves forward, Costa Rican officials say they have received little information to assuage concerns.Costa Rican officials say that letters they have sent to their Nicaraguan counterparts requesting information have largely been unanswered. The few replies Costa Rica has received have failed to shed new light on the bold and largely secretive initiative.The announcementAn announcement in February 2012 by Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega about the decision to build the canal via that country’s Río San Juan – which flows between the two countries and serves as part of the 309-kilometer border – set off alarms in Costa Rica about potential environmental consequences.Immediate concerns focused on the possibility that dredging the river could pollute its Costa Rican tributaries, mainly Río Colorado, and the historically recurrent tension in both neighbors’ complex relations soared again.The river runs for some 120 kilometers between the Nicaraguan towns of San Carlos, on the southwestern shore of Lake Cocibolca – also known as Lake Nicaragua – and San Juan del Norte, on the southern end of that country’s Atlantic Coast.Ortega’s announcement that year also caused concern in Costa Rica that the eventual waterway would alter the San Juan basin’s ecosystem in both countries.The following day, then-Foreign Vice Minister Carlos Roverssi told Radio ADN that Costa Rica would request an explanation from Nicaragua.Since the canal would use the San Juan, over which Costa Rica has navigation rights, Nicaragua must comply with international obligations, he warned.“We’ll send Nicaragua a note asking them to inform us of their intentions, whether in effect they’re doing real studies for an interoceanic canal, … or if it is simply another ‘fachentada’ [bluff] by Mr. Ortega to distract attention from internal problems he may be facing,” Roverssi said in 2012.See also: Ramsar delegation arrives in Nicaragua to survey wetlands along proposed canal routeOrtega’s and Roverssi’s statements came while the International Court of Justice had begun studying both Central American nations’ most recent territorial dispute, dating back to October 2010.Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of having invaded its territory at Isla Portillos, known by Nicaraguans as Harbor Head, and having caused environmental damage on the eastern end of the 309-kilometer border the two countries share.Nicaragua states that Harbor Head, which spans three square kilometers, is part of its territory, and accuses Costa Rica of having violated that country’s sovereignty.“Daniel Ortega must have some internal problem, and he’s trying to again cause or deepen the crisis already existing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua,” Roverssi told the radio station in 2012. Costa Rica’s former President Laura Chinchilla, left, greets a crowd at a ceremony held after a “March for the Motherland” in Nicoya, Guanacaste, on Aug. 22, 2013. The gathering was organized by the municipal government of Nicoya as a protest against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who threatened to claim the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, which he considers as Nicaraguan territory, before the International Court of Justice. AFP/PresidenciaOn June 6 of that year, the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry reported that it had requested technical information from its Nicaraguan counterpart about the canal project, stating that despite the fact that Nicaragua is a sovereign country and can build infrastructure in its territory, in this case, it must hear Costa Rica’s opinion. This, the ministry said, is in accordance with an 1858 treaty that set the border between the two countries, as well as follow-up arbitration in 1888 by U.S. President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889).On Aug. 17, 2012, the daily La República reported that Costa Rica had decided to launch an international offensive to prevent Nicaragua from using the San Juan as part of the projected canal’s route.The administration of then-President Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014) planned to contact governments invited by Nicaragua to build the canal – Brazil, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea – to discredit the project, according to La República.On May 14, 2013, Roverssi announced that, “Last night, we received an official communiqué from the government of Nicaragua in which they told us that due to technical reasons, … the official decision has been made not to build the canal on the San Juan River.”“We were going to prevent, by all means, the canal be built [using the river] because of the devastating consequences it would have,” Roverssi said at a press conference.“We’ve been informed that there’s a series of investors who said they didn’t want to participate in investing in the canal unless Costa Rica were to agree to that participation,” he said.“No entrepreneur, if he is moderately intelligent, was going to participate in a $30 billion, or $40 billion dollar investment … at the risk of an international scandal from Costa Rica, which is what we were going to cause,” he stated. Chinese businessman Wang Jing of HKND Group and members of the Nicaraguan government celebrate the “inauguration” of construction on an interoceanic Nicaragua Canal in Tola, 3 km from Rivas, on Dec. 22, 2014. AFPIn July of last year, Ortega and Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing, president and CEO of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Group (HKND) – the company in charge of building the waterway – announced the canal’s official route.The waterway, to be built in southern Nicaragua, is to extend 259.4 kilometers, starting at the western Pacific coast and crossing Lake Nicaragua to the Atlantic coast.The dredging of some 1.7 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean and 14.4 kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean to achieve the required shipping depth gives the canal a total length of 275.5 kilometers.Last month, Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Manuel González told a press conference that Costa Rican authorities still don’t have much information about the canal.If the canal complies with environmental protection parameters, and if it implies improving the socio-economic situation for Nicaraguans, it is welcome, he said.“We sent two letters [to Nicaragua] on the environmental issue,” González told the online Costa Rican daily crhoy.com this week.“They answered one, saying basically nothing, and that we needn’t worry because they were going to take all the appropriate measures, which is unacceptable,” he said. “They never answered the second letter, but we’re going to keep insisting, because it’s a delicate issue, and we have the legitimacy to ask for explanations.”Construction officially began on Dec. 22, 2014 and is scheduled to finish by 2020, although initial work appears to only focus on access roads near the Pacific coast. The estimated cost is approximately $50 billion.The Master Concession Agreement between the Nicaraguan government and HKND grants the company “the sole rights … to plan, design construct and thereafter operate and manage the Nicaragua Grand Canal and other related projects.”Those “other related projects” include “ports, a free trade zone, an international airport and other infrastructure development projects,” according to the text.The 50-year concession is renewable for another 50 years, and HKND will pay the government $10 million annually.The idea to build through Central American territory a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific dates back five centuries.The idea is believed to have been first discussed in the 16th century, but it didn’t materialize until three centuries later, when France took up the project.French diplomat and construction entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894) had successfully directed the construction in Egypt of the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869 and connected the Mediterranean and Red seas.The French government then tasked de Lesseps with building a canal in Panama, which was then a province of northern Colombia.The government founded the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Inteerocéanique de Panama (Universal Company of the Interoceanic Panama Canal), which mustered the funds, began work in 1881, and went bankrupt in 1889.De Lesseps’ engineer, Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, took over the project and sought funding in the United States, offering the U.S. in exchange the right to operate the future canal.But the U.S. government was waiting for congressional approval to build a canal in Nicaragua, a plan that was foiled by Bunau-Varilla, who provided congressmen copies of a stamp showing an active Momotombo Volcano, near Lake Xolotlán – better known as Lake Managua.The engineer thus convinced U.S. congressmen that Nicaragua’s territory was unsafe for building a canal.Once Panama split from Colombia and became independent, the U.S. built the canal there, and it was opened in 1914 to be operated by the United States until 1999.More than a century after the stamp scared U.S. congressmen, Nicaragua’s National Assembly passed a bill for the canal to be built.Recommended: Will the Nicaragua Canal ruin the ‘Galapagos of Central America’? Facebook Comments Related posts:US concerns grow over possible Nicaragua Canal land expropriation, ambassador says Secrecy still prevails as Nicaragua gets set to break ground on $50 billion interoceanic canal Activists visiting Washington blast Nicaragua’s $50 billion canal project as ‘illegitimate’ Financial, environmental questions plague Nicaragua canal projectlast_img read more

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Lessthanimpressive Its been a year of few achievements by Costa Ricas Legislative

first_imgIn its first year of work, themost fragmented Legislative Assembly in the past two decades – not surprisingly – performed worse than even lawmakers had expected. And infrastructure problems this week at the legislature’s facilities on the Cuesta de Moras didn’t do much to help ease its image of colossal underachievement.With lawmakers from nine parties – and no ruling party majority rule – the current Assembly’s efforts have been marked by stalled attempts to pass new and substantive legislation.A report obtained by The Tico Times from the Assembly’s Parliamentary Services office shows that as of April 27, lawmakers in the past year approved a total of 47 bills. Of those, only 10 correspond to new legislation, while 14 were authorizations to use public land, 13 were amendments to existing legislation, seven were international agreements, and three were decrees approving national budget issues.This week, a lack of productiveness was further exacerbated by party negotiations to secure seats on the Assembly’s directorate – determined each year on May 1 for a one-year period – and problems with the Assembly’s facilities. Electrical failures caused most of this week’s sessions to be suspended, internal data systems were disrupted, and the Assembly’s website and email accounts were offline most of the week.The blame game Lawmaker Emilia Molina, a leader of the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC), attributed the poor performance in the past year to opposition parties’ diverging agendas.“They [opposition party lawmakers] do not necessarily concur with the goals of this administration,” she said earlier this week.Molina believes the low number of approved bills also is a result of the Assembly’s large number of political parties, which she said hampers dialogue and mutual understanding.Opposition parties – predictably – blamed the poor performance on the current administration’s political inexperience. They were quick to point out that President Luis Guillermo Solís’ electoral victory last year was the party’s first win in a presidential election.Juan Luis Jiménez Succar, a leader of the National Liberation Party (PLN) — the largest opposition block — criticized PAC officials’ “inexperience” and PAC lawmakers’ alleged “lack of interest” in dialogue and negotiation with opposition parties.Broad Front Party lawmaker Gerardo Vargas and the Libertarian Movement Party’s Otto Guevara both accused the executive branch of failed leadership and an inability to reach agreement on a legislative agenda.The task of establishing dialogue between the legislative and executive branches formerly belonged to ex-Presidency Minister Melvin Jiménez, one of several Solís officials who left office before completing the first year. Lawmakers criticized Jiménez’s performance in that role. Solís asked for Jiménez’s resignation on April 15 after accusations surfaced that he was involved in offering diplomatic posts in exchange for the resignation of other top officials. Melvin Jiménez Marín, a former campaign manager for the Citizen Action Party and ex-presidency minister. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesNumbersThe Assembly report shows that only 15 percent of approved legislation was initiated by lawmakers during the current legislative period from 2014 to 2018. Seventy-six percent of passed bills were drafted by members of the 2010-2014 legislature, and 9 percent were drafted from by legislator from the 2006-2010 period.The number of passed bills differs substantially from the number of submitted proposals, which could be an indicator that the problem is not in the drafting of new proposals but in the ability to pass them, some analysts say. During the reported period, lawmakers submitted a total of 441 bills – 77 by the PLN, 58 by the Social Christian Unity Party, and 29 by PAC.Of the 47 adopted laws and procedures, 19 corresponded to the PLN, 15 were submitted by the executive branch, and two by PAC legislators.Quality vs. quantity?  A law reforming the country’s Development Banking System is one of the few high-profile achievements of the current legislature. The initiative creates new mechanisms to finance and facilitate access to bank loans by individuals and small- and-medium-sized businesses.Among other legislation, most of the approved bills involved public infrastructure projects, including a $470 million trust fund to expand a highway between San José and the Alajuela canton of San Ramón.Last month lawmakers also passed an amendment to the nation’s budget that included a $450 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank for new highways in Cartago and Puntarenas, and to finance expansion of port infrastructure on the Pacific coast.Another highlight includes a new Expropriations Law, which reduces from three years to eight months the period for the government to expropriate privately owned land in order to develop public infrastructure.One of the most controversial decisions was the passage of a $395 million loan from the government of China to expand Route 32, the main route connecting San José and the Caribbean province of Limón. Critics claimed the deal would end up costing taxpayers more because of several errors and omissions in the project’s plans. This week, Teresa Wu, a representative of China Harbour Engineering Company — which will manage the project – said in a statement that the loan’s original conditions likely would be renegotiated because Costa Rica’s Public Works and Transport Ministry had requested changes to the original design and added elements not included in the project’s original plan.The sound of stagnation: Still pendingThe list of bills pending approval or awaiting inclusion in the Assembly’s agenda includes those that aim to bring Costa Rica in compliance with international court orders or demands from interest groups, such as animal rights advocates. Following are some of the most noteworthy:1. Tax reform: The executive branch broke a promise to submit by last December a bill to convert the country’s sales tax into a value-added tax. Lawmakers have dragged their feet on bills to fight tax fraud and illegal smuggling, and others that seek compliance with international financial organizations that have repeatedly called for reforms to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit.2. Electricity rates: Casa Presidencial dismissed several proposals by lawmakers to lower electricity rates. So far, the executive branch has not submitted any other proposals on the issue, despite promises by the president to do so last year.3. In vitro fertilization: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in December 2012 ordered Costa Rica to legalize IVF, which was banned in March 2000 by Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Nearly three years later, the country’s lawmakers continue to stall on the issue. In its ruling, the San José-based court had set a one-year deadline, but the bill isn’t even on the Assembly’s agenda.4. Same-sex couples’ rights: Despite President Solis’ promise to prioritize this issue, a bill to recognize the rights of same-sex couples still has a long way to go before moving to discussion before the full Assembly. The proposed legislation faces staunch opposition from opposing lawmakers, who – as of mid-April – have filed 1,076 motions against it. It also awaits review from two special legislative commissions and discussion during several upcoming public hearings, as requested by rights groups.5. Labor laws: Earlier in his administration, President Solís said he would prioritize the passage of a bill to reform labor procedures, but it was not included in the executive branch’s agenda for the Assembly.6. DIS: Lawmakers also have failed to prioritize discussion of a bill that calls for the transition of the government’s controversial intelligence agency, known as DIS, into the National Strategic Intelligence Agency, or DIEN. That bill’s main goal is to modify the structure of the presidential security and intelligence agency, which critics accuse of being used as a political agency.7. Animal abuse: Hundreds of animal rights advocates demonstrated in the streets and rallied at Casa Presidencial in December to demand passage of a law for stricter sanctions – including prison – for those found guilty of animal cruelty. At the time, Solís promised to prioritize discussion of the bill, but it was shelved in favor of infrastructure bills. It currently is under discussion in a legislative commission and faces heavy opposition.In case you were wondering, Costa Rica’s 57 lawmakers earn a monthly salary of about $7,200 each, plus 500 liters of free gasoline per month and $300 for office expenses. Facebook Comments Related posts:Lawmakers mostly unsatisfied with work in their second year in office Lawmakers approve 2016 national budget at ₡8 trillion Opposition parties maintain control over Legislative Assembly Setback for Solís: Opposition parties gain control of Costa Rica’s legislative directoratelast_img read more

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5 questions for a Costa Rican musician

first_imgLove of art and music has been a constant in the life of Costa Rican musician Randall Nájera, who began studying at the Castella Conservatory in Heredia at a young age.“No one at home was a musician,” he recalls. “It was a working home. [At the time] my mother worked as a tailor and my father as an orthopedic shoemaker. For me it was fascinating to go the Castella, because you had the chance to spend time with people practicing different artistic disciplines along with amazing professors.”He went on to study at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), where he studied the double bass at the music department (he can also play the violin, guitar, and electric bass). Today, Nájera, 44, plays with the Costa Rican band Peregrino Gris, which performs original compositions of Celtic music. He has performed with the band for fifteen years.In addition to his work as a performer, Nájera is a teacher at the Bansbach Academy and gives private lessons.On a muggy heat-wave evening at the San Pedro restaurant El Cocorrico Verde, The Tico Times asked Nájera about his life and work. Excerpts follow.What about music caught your attention?When you’re playing an instrument and communicating with other friends on a musical level, you experiment a lot of sensations and beauty. When you play classical music, every person is different on a psychological level and in maturity at an orchestra, but in the moment in which [we play], there’s a special mental and social harmonization. It doesn’t matter if we’re all different. For an instant, we’re united and we’re creating something beautiful. It just feels awesome. It’s like magic. You’re being part of something that’s very big.When you have to interpret other types of music and there’s more improvisation involved, it’s more fascinating because things are not pre-planned. You’ve got to dialogue musically with your friends when they are playing. You listen to a musical idea played by a pianist or saxophonist and you get caught in it. You want to respond to that commentary in a way in which you’re supporting what he’s saying. You just keep playing and create a climax. In jazz, for example, the soloist tells the story, you support it, end it and begin telling your own story. It’s just beautiful.Even though it only lasts a moment, that doesn’t matter. The feeling and sensations are not permanent. It’s just like life; things come and go. The more that you have these types of moments, the more interesting life gets.How do you prepare, and what type of music do you like to interpret?I love music in general. Every type of music makes me feel something different and I appreciate each one of those [feelings]. Regarding the preparation process, there’s music you can prepare and other music you can’t. For classical music you have the opportunity to study it and learn it as best you can. With Peregrino Gris we like to play our own compositions, so we’ve got to compose them and assemble them together as group to then record them as an album. For Nájera, self-expression is the key element of a good performance. (Courtesy of Randall Nájera)What’s your composition process?The idea can come up when I’m meditating or while I’m walking down the street. I’ve got to wait for that specific moment, and months go by in that process. If you compose from theory, you can create many compositions in a week, but that’s no fun for me. I think I’m a person searching for fun.Many of the compositions come out that way, so I love it when I can listen to something that’s a mental result of what I was creating. It’s very enjoyable for me, but it’s very strange that one appreciates something that in theory doesn’t come from oneself. It doesn’t come from an intellectual construction, but more from luck, a melody or an idea.What’s the story of Peregrino Gris?In 2001 there was a party for Saint Patrick’s Day and a couple of friends from Ireland invited [two of my future bandmates] to the party. They were invited to play, so they prepared four Celtic songs and that’s where Peregrino Gris was born. We’re going to turn sixteen years old this year.At the time, a man who had a radio program listened to the music and he began taking Peregrino Gris to perform at a restaurant called La Cajeta in Orosi, Cartago. After that, the space at Jazz Café San Pedro was available, and Peregrino Gris began growing.What do you enjoy most about performing?The thing that I most enjoy is what my friends are doing. For me it’s a privilege to play in Peregrino Gris because I’m next to people who play very strange music with very strange instruments and I’m the first spectator… Each musical note I play [helps] Peregrino Gris when performing, but what I most enjoy is listening to the concert. Even though it’s been a lot of years playing with this group, I never get tired of it.It’s always nice to play the compositions and I love it because each time they come out differently. Something always happens. I also like it when there’s an error because we’re able to overcome it and continue playing. Oftentimes there are things we know about, but the audience doesn’t notice. You can flirt with the error and continue. Read more Weekend Arts Spotlight interviews here.Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at kstanley@ticotimes.net. Facebook Comments Related posts:5 questions for a Costa Rican musician: blind artist Gerardo Mora 5 questions for a Costa Rican rapper – and an exclusive recording 5 questions for blues musician Steve Arvey The Black side of the story: Afro-Costa Rican MC Huba Watsonlast_img read more

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Heavy rains One death in Costa Rica at least 13 dead in

first_imgTragic remindersThe State Permanent Contingency Commission (COPESCO) of Honduras declared a red alert in the departments of Francisco Morazán, which includes Tegucigalpa, Choluteca and Valle, where about 3,000 victims had to be housed.In Tegucigalpa, Francisca Salgado, 45. fled in terror with her husband and three small children when the current of the Choluteca River washed over her house and dragged her downstream. The same thing happened to her 20 years ago.“The same thing happened with Hurricane Mitch,” Francisca said to AFP at a shelter at the Betania Colony school, south of the capital.Hurricane Mitch was the worst natural disaster in Honduran history. It hit in the last week of October 1998 and caused 6,000 deaths, 8,000 disappearances, and losses estimated at a $5 billion.Francisca rebuilt her home in the sandy riverbed of the Choluteca River, which divides Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela, the twin cities that make up the Honduran capital, with more than a million inhabitants.Francisca said that, as was the case 20 years ago, she had to flee her home, built with scraps of boards and sheets of zinc.Her neighbors helped her out with her three children, 3, 7 and 8 years old, and her husband, José Rolando Triminio, 63 years old. The current took the house with the little they had.Along with 213 other families, they were housed in four classrooms of the Juan Guifarro López de la Betania School and an adjoining kindergarten, all arranged on mattresses on the floor. Some had the kitchen utensils they managed to rescue.The head of Copeco, Lisandro Rosales, said that 7,013 people were affected by the rains, of which 3,069 had to be evacuated and 2,746 sheltered. Facebook Comments At least 13 people died and thousands were affected by heavy rains throughout Central America over the past few days, according to emergency organizations.There were six reported deaths in Honduras, four in Nicaragua, two in El Salvador and one in Costa Rica. Guatemala reported one missing.In Honduras, a mother and her two daughters were buried in a landslide on Saturday night in a landslide. Another three men died between Thursday and Saturday died due to river floods.National System of Disaster Prevention and Attention (SINAPRED) in Nicaragua said four people died. They reported the death of a woman in Jinotega, a man in Boaco, and a fisherman in Puerto Morazán.A fourth person was killed by a river flood in Siuna, according to inhabitants.About 13,000 people were heavily affected by the storm, mainly due to the flooding of homes in Nicaragua.In Honduras, approximately 7,000 people suffered damages to their homes because of the rains.In El Salvador, one person was killed in the rural town of Joateca, 164 kilometers northeast of San Salvador, where a landslide destroyed several houses, according to the director of the Civil Protection, Jorge Meléndez.Meanwhile, a woman died inside her car, crushed by a tree knocked down by strong winds on the road in the municipality of Jujutla, southwest of the Salvadoran capital.In Costa Rica, one man was killed by a tree falling onto his house in the Nicoya Peninsula.An 11-year-old boy was reported missing in Guatemala. The boy was dragged along the Petacalapa River on Friday, in an area bordering Mexico. Heavy rains lead to mass floods in the Pacificcenter_img Related posts:Costa Rica’s southern Pacific hit by heavy rains, flooding Thursday rains cause flooding, emergencies in 23 cantons National Emergency Commission issues preventive alert for heavy rains Heavy rains lead to mass floods in the Pacificlast_img read more

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Denmark approves gay weddings in church

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Comments   Share   Quick workouts for men COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Denmark’s Parliament has approved a law allowing same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state’s Lutheran Church currently offers.Lawmakers voted 85-24 on Thursday to change Denmark’s marriage laws.The law takes effect June 15 and will put Denmark on par with countries such as Iceland and Sweden that allow full wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories Top Stories Men’s health affects baby’s health too In 1989, Denmark became the first country to allow the registration of gay partnerships. Since 1997 gay couples in Denmark can be wed in special blessing ceremonies at the end of regular church service.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

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Indian court tells laughter group to zip it

first_imgAssociated PressMUMBAI, India (AP) – For the last week, the laughter around Sheetal Talao pond in suburban Mumbai has taken on a muzzled quality.On June 18, Mumbai’s high court told police to do something about the laughter that erupted beneath Vinayak Shirsat’s windows each morning, causing his family “mental agony, pain and public nuisance,” according to the Press Trust of India.Since then, members of the Sheetal Jogging Association _ who have been coming to the pond for three years for laughter yoga, devotional singing and light exercise _ have been trying to contain their mirth. Comments   Share   Kamal Ahmad Khan, 60, a doctor with a square, bushy beard, said laughing brings peace and good health.“If you are laughing, the mind becomes cool,” he said.Physician Madan Kataria claims to have founded the first laughter yoga club in Mumbai in the mid-1990s, based on the notion that laughter _ whether real or fake _ confers physiological and psychological benefits. His website says there are now more than 6,000 laughter clubs in 60 countries.On Tuesday morning, it seemed as if the members of the Sheetal Jogging Association were trying to whisper as they laughed, opening their mouths to gasp, “ha ha ha … ha ha ha.” They kept a pillow of air in their palms as they clapped and sang out timorously to their gods.Some days, in fact, they don’t laugh at all anymore.“People are afraid. He’s from a family of lawyers,” Naidu said, referring to Shirsat. “We tried to mediate with him, but he’s not interested. He said, `We’ll see you in court.’”Shirsat declined to comment for this story. “We are not interested because the matter is sub judice,” he said in a soft voice from behind his big gate. “Please excuse us.” Patients with chronic pain give advice Men’s health affects baby’s health too Senior police inspector Neelkanth Shivali said he asked the group “not to make much noise,” declining further comment because of the ongoing court case.The next hearing is Thursday. Some members want to fight for their right to laugh, others don’t.“We come here for health and mental peace,” said Ranjana Agarwal, 70, a cancer patient. “If we get into fights, the whole purpose of coming is defeated.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 treatments for adult scoliosis More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Top Stories Sponsored Stories Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates “Nobody’s laughing now,” said member Badruddin Khan.Sheetal Talao is, in truth, not a nice pond. The water is low and scuzzy with trash. But it’s the only open space in a neighborhood of winding lanes in the northern suburbs of India’s densely packed financial capital.The single spot of constant shade _ a small gazebo _ is right in front of Shirsat’s apartment, a three-story pink building with black bars on all the windows. Nearby are two curved benches, rising from a small plot of red mud and weeds, that the club uses for meditation and laughter.“Only this much space we’ve got. Where can we go?” said Prabhakar Naidu, 45, who said that since he started laughing he’s been able to walk up stairs without getting winded.Before the police and courts got involved, a dozen club members would gather around 7 a.m. to sing bhajans _ devotional songs _ and clap for seven minutes. Then they laughed out loud for two minutes.They would hold their ear lobes, tilt their heads back, and stretch their faces wide into smiles. “Ooh ooh, ha ha,” went the chant. Then they would sweep their arms to their toes and reach for the sky, opening their mouths wide to say, “Ha ha ha!” Other neighbors are more tolerant.“It was not bothering me or my family,” said Flory Rufus Leitao, 50, who lives just down from the gazebo in a small pink house. “They weren’t shouting or screaming.”After a five-minute rest Tuesday, the laughers lined up for exercise, with a larger group of around 30 people. Standing in motley rows, barefoot, in flip flops or sneakers, wearing shorts and saris, they rolled their heads, swung their arms, circled their hips, stomped their feet, and ended with vigorous kicks.Manjula Raut, 68, said she joined the group after having heart bypass surgery. “I could not walk properly when I started,” she said. “Now I’m feeling very nice. I come every day.”“I had a spinal cord operation,” said F.B. Chavariya, 58. “Five, six years I’m doing this practice and now I’m OK.”Sadanand Ghate, 43, Sheetal Jogging Association’s president, said he and a dozen other members went to the police station and tried to explain that they are seeking peace, not disturbing it.“We are not making sounds that are harmful,” he said. “We are doing a good thing.”last_img
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Spain bans shortselling of market shares

first_img New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Sponsored Stories MADRID (AP) – Spain’s market regulator says it has temporarily banned short-selling of shares on its stock indexes owing to volatility in Spanish and European markets.The country’s CNMV stock market watchdog said the measure would be kept in place for three months. It noted that Italy took similar steps Monday.In a short sale, investors sell stock that they do not own, betting that they can buy it back at a lower price. The investor seeks a profit by betting that the price of certain shares will fall. Short-selling of shares has been blamed for driving down markets during the financial crisis.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvementscenter_img Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates How men can have a healthy 2019 Comments   Share   last_img read more

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EU probes a possible cartel of 13 CD drive makers

first_img Top holiday drink recipes Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements BRUSSELS (AP) – The EU says it has informed 13 makers of CD and DVD drives for computers of its “preliminary view” that they may have broken antitrust rules by participating in a worldwide cartel and engaging in price-fixing.The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, says it is concerned that those companies may have colluded on bids organized by two major companies for supplying optical drives for both personal and desktop computers. Top Stories Sponsored Stories Quick workouts for men New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths The Commission said in a statement Tuesday that it “takes the preliminary view that the companies concerned engaged for at least five years in bid-rigging, which is one of the most serious breaches of EU antitrust rules.”EU officials would not name the 13 companies under investigation, or the two companies who may have been subjected to bid-rigging.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Comments   Share   last_img read more

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Amnesty urges Balkans to probe war disappearances

first_img“We do not see an end to our agony,” she said._____Amer Cohadzic in Bosnia contributed to this report. (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The vital role family plays in society Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Another regional organization dealing with the missing _ REKOM _ called for “the end on the silence about the mass graves” and demanded that finding the missing be set as a priority for the regional governments.Amnesty said in its report that reluctance to prosecute war crimes “occurs especially where members of the government, ruling political parties and their allies, and members of the military and police forces are suspects.”Faced with massive atrocities in the Balkans, the U.N. Security Council set up a tribunal in 1993 to prosecute those responsible for the crimes. The tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, has jailed dozens of senior civilian and military leaders from the Balkans _ including former Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic _ but local governments are expected to prosecute many more.Saida Karabasic, whose father was killed by Bosnian Serb troops in the western town of Prijedor, said that those who have the power to resolve the fate of the missing and are not doing it “are accomplices in the crime.”Karabasic and other relatives of the missing who were on rival sides during the war but have joined forces to put pressure on the authorities are planning to urge all governments in the region to speed up the process. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Top Stories Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix ErrorOK ErrorOKAlvir, a Croat from Vukovar _ who lost both her fiancé and brother during the Serb conquest of the city in 1991 _ is one of the many people across the Balkans that Amnesty International says are still searching for news on the whereabouts of the some 14,000 people missing since the end of the Balkan conflicts in 1990s.Amnesty says most of the more than 10,000 missing are linked to the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia, about 2,400 disappeared during the 1991-95 war in Croatia, and 1,800 during the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo. The wars erupted when the former Yugoslavia broke up and its former republics and ethnic groups turned against each other.Croatia’s decision in 1991 to declare independence triggered a war with the Serb-led Yugoslav army which overran the eastern parts of the country, including Vukovar. The town fell in November 1991 after months of siege and heavy battle reduced it to rubble. Hundreds of people were killed by Serb troops when they took control and thousands more disappeared, including Alvir’s brother.More bloodshed followed with the war in Bosnia that pitted Serbs, Muslims and Croats against each other, and which was marked by torture, expulsions and massacres. In Kosovo, a million people were displaced before NATO intervened to stop the war in 1999 by bombing Serbia for 78 days. Associated PressBELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Ljiljana Alvir is convinced Serbian authorities know how her brother died during the war in Croatia, and where his remains are. She just doubts they want to tell her.“Serbian institutions have the information where he was killed, and where his bones lie,” but they are hiding the truth, she alleged during a news conference Wednesday ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared. “Everyone deserves to find where the bones of their loved ones lie.” Amnesty and regional human rights organizations on Wednesday urged the governments that emerged after the breakup _ in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo _ to investigate the fate of the disappeared. The states have all repeatedly pledged to resolve the matter, and thousands of people have since been unearthed from mass graves and identified.Amnesty also called for those responsible to be punished and charged that Balkan governments lack the political will to prosecute them more than two decades after the wars started. The group said the states “have failed to abide by their obligations as set out in international law.”Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia deputy program director, said Wednesday the lack of an investigation and prosecutions remains a serious concern. “The major obstacle is … a persistent lack of political will in the countries in the region,” he said.Tigani also urged the governments to ensure the victims and their families receive “reparation for the harm they have suffered.”Critics insist the governments have been deliberately concealing full truth to avoid responsibility. The families of the missing on Wednesday urged the European Union to condition any progress in the accession process of the Balkan states with the question of the missing. Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Four benefits of having a wireless security systemlast_img read more

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15 people killed in northern Vietnam landslide

first_imgThe officer says at least four other people were missing, adding that the victims were from the country’s mostly poor Hmong ethnic minority group.Landslides and floods are common in Vietnam, especially during the rainy season.(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 Comments   Share   Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day 5 ways to recognize low testosterone New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixcenter_img Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Associated PressHANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Police say 15 villagers who were illegally taking tin ore from a mine in northern Vietnam have died in a landslide.A police officer says the disaster occurred early Friday in Yen Bai province following hours of torrential rain as the villagers were collecting tin ore from a mine operated by a private company. The officer declined to give his name, citing the policy of his department. Top Stories Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more

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Russia Pakistan stress ties despite scrapped trip

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Comments   Share   ISLAMABAD (AP) – The foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan insisted on Thursday that the ties between their countries are strengthening, despite grousing in the Pakistani media about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to cancel a visit to Islamabad.Putin was supposed to be in Pakistan this week as part of a summit involving Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which also ended up being postponed. Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Sponsored Stories Syria has promised to investigate the matter and “assured us such incidents will not happen in the future,” he said.Lavrov was also to meet with the Pakistani president and prime minister during his visit.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Men’s health affects baby’s health too Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived Wednesday on a seemingly hastily scheduled visit, assured Pakistanis that Putin merely had scheduling issues and that he hoped to visit at a future date.During a press conference Thursday, Lavrov and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the two countries were working on forging stronger bonds in areas such as the steel and energy sectors, as well as combatting drug smuggling. Also this week, Pakistan’s army chief is visiting Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, suggesting a desire for more military cooperation.Lavrov and Khar also discussed the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, as well as other crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Neither offered details about what they discussed, but Lavrov said “there is a convergence of views on all these issues.”The Russian foreign minister also expressed dismay over the violence at the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey fired on Syrian targets for a second day Thursday after deadly shelling from Syria killed five civilians in a Turkish border town the previous day.Russia, which has steadfastly supported the Syrian regime as it battles an armed uprising trying to topple President Bashar Assad, has been in touch with the Syrians about the shelling, Lavrov said.last_img read more

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Canadian exGitmo detainee to appeal convictions

first_img Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Sponsored Stories ErrorOK ErrorOKEdney said that the defense team will first file an appeal with a U.S. military commission and if that’s unsuccessful, turn to a U.S. civilian court.A U.S. civilian appeals court recently reversed the verdicts of the only two Guantanamo Bay prisoners convicted in trials by military tribunal.In January, a federal appeals court threw out the military commission conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who was charged with providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy for making propaganda videos for al-Qaida. That followed the dismissal in October of the conviction of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden.In both cases, the reasoning was that before enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which authorized the tribunals for the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, only violations of the international law of war and pre-existing federal offenses were subject to trial by military commission, a special court for wartime offenses. The court said the charges of material support for terrorism and conspiracy did not meet that standard.Khadr’s case is different because his conviction came through a plea bargain, but Edney said he’s optimistic.“The optics look very good for Omar Khadr. All we’re doing is following the groundwork followed by other detainees,” Edney said. Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Comments   Share   TORONTO (AP) – A Canadian man who spent 10 years at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay plans to appeal his U.S. terrorism convictions, his lawyer said Sunday.Omar Khadr, 26, has decided to go ahead with the appeal, which will be filed “not too long from now,” attorney Dennis Edney said.Khadr, the last Western detainee at Guantanamo, was transferred last September to a maximum security facility in Ontario to serve out the remaining six years of his eight-year sentence for war crimes. The Toronto-born son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to several charges, including killing a U.S. solider in Afghanistan when he was 15. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like The conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had long refused to request the return of Khadr, who had been the youngest detainee held at Guantanamo. Canadian officials have expressed concern that Omar “idealizes” his father and could struggle to reintegrate into Canadian society once released from prison.Khadr was convicted of throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 4 must play golf courses in Arizonalast_img read more

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