Australia Tourisms Canada numbers leaping forward like roo

first_imgTags: Australia << Previous PostNext Post >> Jean Sorensen Australia Tourism’s Canada numbers leaping forward like ‘roo Friday, June 9, 2017 center_img Share VANCOUVER — Australia has been a runaway destination for North Americans as it heads into 2017, coming off unprecedented visitor stats in 2016. Now Tourism Australia is attempting to trigger new incentives for travel agents that will keep the numbers moving forward like bounding kangaroo.“We had an extraordinary year. North America has seen unprecedented momentum,” said Tourism Australia’s Robert Keddy, Head of Commercial Partnerships for the Americas, who was in Vancouver to give an industry update to travel agents at the Blue Water Cafe.Canadian travel figures climbed in 2016 to 152,000 for an 8% increase over 2015. U.S. figures also ramped up to 720,000, a 21% increase. Keddy said the North America market is now Australia’s third largest in terms of global arrival numbers. And in 2017 Australia is projecting that Canada and the U.S. will send 1,000,000+ visitors to its shores.Goway’s Janette Purdham, a South Pacific specialist, and Vincent Tong, sales agent, sample Australian wines at a Tourism Australia industry update event held at the Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown area. Photo credit: Jean SorensenThere is every indication that North American will reach that goal. Stats for the 12 months leading up to March 2017 have seen 158,000 Canadian visitors for an 11% increase over the same period a year earlier. For the month of March there was a 22% rise in Canadian visitors. Australia is seeing the same kind of increase in arrivals from the U.S.Keddy said he is now trying to determine what factors influence Canadians and North Americas to pick Australia as a vacation spot. “It is important to determine what drives people,” he said.More news:  Le Boat has EBBs along with its new 2020 brochureResearch collected so far indicates that Canadians are motivated by the perception that Australia is a safe and secure county, provides good value for money, has vibrant cities and friendly individuals and good food and is culturally rich with interesting history.While U.S. travellers share the same concern for safety, their main drivers are the natural outdoors and wildlife as well as the cuisine. Value for the dollar was at the bottom of the main five motivators.Keddy said Tourism Australia is currently looking at how to use what it calls ‘User Generated Content’, or UGC, made up of thousands of photos and video clips generated by travellers every day and posted on Tourism Australia’s social media channels.  He showed the Vancouver agents gathered at the event a sampling of the brilliant photos and videos, all taken by visitors.Keddy said he is hoping to develop a program that will allow travel partners and/or travel agents to access some of these photos and video clips through Tourism Australia’s website, to encourage clients to travel to the country.On hand to promote Australia and its adventure travel product was Michael Mullin, Western Canadian sales executive for Tourism Australia.Tourism Australia revamped its Aussie Specialist Program a year ago with new training material and videos, with the goal of creating a more appealing learning experience. Some 11,117 Canadian travel agents have enrolled in the program and 655 have completed it. Those figures represent a 79% enrolment increase and a 54% completion increase versus a year ago. The program is also aimed at providing the information that travel agents need to sell.More news:  Kory Sterling is TL Network Canada’s new Sales Manager Canada“It is important that we are out there driving that demand,” Keddy said.In the U.S. Tourism Australia has launched a trial program which has it working more closely with individual commercial partners.  Keddy said he hopes the program will be replicated in Canada in the latter part of 2017 or early 2018.Keddy supplied 2016 Canadian air carrier statistics as well. They showed Air Canada leading with 32% of travellers, Qantas at 13%, Air New Zealand at 11%, United Airlines at 7%, Cathay Pacific at 6%, Jetstar at 4%, Virgin Australia at 4%. Other airlines accounted for the remaining 23%.One of Australia’s attractions for Canadians is the diversity of its cuisine and spirits. Seafood was paired with Australian wines and beer at Tourism Australia’s industry update session in Vancouver.Tourism Australia’s target market for travellers is the 45+ age group, said Keddy. “Our target group is the 45+ people who are adventurous.  They have travelled outside North America at least once and they are experience driven,” he said.This target market has chosen Australia become of its diversity of experiences, from the famous Sydney BridgeClimb to relaxing beach time.Among the new experiences attracting Canadians in growing numbers are indigenous tours and excursions. “Australia has one of the oldest indigenous cultures in the world,” said Keddy, adding that the culture dates back 40,000 years. Unique tours include mud crabbing in northern Queensland with an indigenous family on the mud flats.Equally interesting experiences can be found in urban areas where indigenous guides provide tours of botanical gardens, providing insight into how people used the plants in their daily lives. “They (travellers) want experiences that have brag-ability,” said Keddy. Posted bylast_img read more

Little boy loses his Slinky toy at Disney World and what happens

first_img ORLANDO — The magic of Disney strikes again, this time for a young boy who lost his beloved toy at Walt Disney World.Wes Ramsaran, who recently embarked on a Walt Disney World vacation with his parents, was devastated after leaving behind his new Slinky dog toy on a park bench. Slinky (of Toy Story fame) was given to Wes by his mother, Kelly Grzech Ramsaran, for being a good listener while on vacation, and was intended to be brought home to join Buzz and Woody in Wes’ toy collection.Facebook: Kelly Grzech RamsaranHowever, while Wes was busying himself with pirate toys inside the gift shop, his father absentmindedly left Slinky on a bench. The family only realized the toy dog was missing on the drive home.In an attempt to get Slinky back (and cheer up her son), Kelly made many phone calls to Disney, eventually connecting with an employee who heard all about the family’s woes. Later that day, another Disney cast member called Kelly to tell her that Slinky had been found and that he would be shipped back to Wes in about 10 days.Facebook: Kelly Grzech RamsaranTrue to their word, Slinky arrived back on their doorstep – with some company. Disney had mailed him back with a bucket of toy soldiers and an additional Woody doll for Wes. Not only that, the package also contained a note from Disney’s Boardwalk Resort Merchandise Team as well as a bunch of photos that highlighted Slinky’s epic adventures while out on his own.More news:  Windstar celebrates record-breaking bookings in JulySlinky was snapped playing video games at the resort, shopping for candy with Woody, driving in a car and visiting stuffed toys at a gift shop. Judging from the pics, it looks like Slinky had just as good a time at Disney World as Wes did!Kelly wrote about the package and posted the photos to Facebook to let others know the lengths Disney will go to bring movie magic to life and make its youngest fans happy. Well done, Disney!Facebook: Kelly Grzech Ramsaran Posted by Little boy loses his Slinky toy at Disney World and what happens next will give you all the feels Thursday, March 22, 2018 Tags: Disneycenter_img Travelweek Group Share << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Mexicos Peña Nieto plans end to 75year Pemex monopoly

first_imgNo related posts. MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Monday he’s negotiating support to break the state monopoly over oil and gas exploration and production this year to accelerate economic growth.In the model envisioned by Peña Nieto, state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos would develop certain fields, with others being tapped by foreign and private companies. He declined to discuss details of the proposal, or whether it would require a change in the constitution.Seven decades after his party seized fields from the predecessors to Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, Peña Nieto is preparing for the return of international oil companies to arrest eight years of decline in crude output. An opening would probably be broad, from offshore drilling to shale fields similar to those that have revived the U.S. petroleum industry, Pena Nieto said.“It’s obvious that Pemex doesn’t have the financial capacity to be in every single front of energy generation,” the 46-year-old president said in an interview in London Monday, before traveling to Northern Ireland for meetings with Group of Eight leaders. “Shale is one of the areas where there’s room for private companies, but not the only one.”Peña Nieto said his administration will send the energy bill to congress by September, when regular sessions resume, along with a tax proposal. He said he’s confident the so-called Pact for Mexico of the country’s top three political parties will ensure the bill is approved by Congress before year end.Mexico is seeking to attract capital for deep-water and shale deposits found in the past decade as reserves dwindle in Cantarell, the 1976 oil discovery that ranked among the world’s largest.Still, investors became more skeptical about the depth of the energy reform after it wasn’t included in the schedule for special congressional sessions in July and August, saving it for the final four months of the year along with a crowded agenda that includes the tax overhaul and next year’s budget.Peña Nieto’s comments boosted confidence he’ll make good on his pledge to open the state-controlled energy industry, said Ramon Cordova, a currency trader at Banco Base.“What the market wants is the reforms to pass,” Cordova said by phone from San Pedro Garza García, Mexico. The comments “discuss that the energy reform is on a good path and it gives some more information, because up until now it’s been very opaque as to what are the actual points that the reform will encompass.”Opening oil and gas exploration for private investment will help Mexico revive oil production that is heading for its ninth year of decline. Crude output averaged 2.52 million barrels a day this month through June 9, compared with 3.38 million barrels a day in 2004.“We’re approaching key deadlines,” Pena Nieto said. “I’m optimistic that this political climate of understanding and agreement will be maintained.”Pena Nieto said there’s political momentum to pass more reforms after the approval of sweeping education and telecommunications laws and the creation of the Pact for Mexico. His Institutional Revolutionary Party dropped opposition to an oil-law overhaul in March.Opening Pemex to more private investment would be the “signature issue” for judging his presidency, Peña Nieto said during the campaign.Pemex bondholders are losing confidence in his ability to achieve the needed changes after the Pact for Mexico alliance he engineered between his own Institutional Revolutionary Party, the National Action Party of predecessor Felipe Calderón and the Democratic Revolution Party showed signs of fraying.“If the Pacto por Mexico dies, then what’s the plan?” Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said in an interview on June 13. “We don’t know what the plan is after that.”There’s concern that delays in introducing an energy bill could threaten its depth and support, said Jeremy Martin, an oil specialist at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, Calif.“The longer things go, people start taking different directions, and then politicians, his team, start finding reasons why they shouldn’t do something big,” Martin said in a telephone interview on June 14.Peña Nieto’s energy and tax pledges, and his early legislative success, helped attract overseas asset managers including Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond fund, and lift foreign holdings of peso bonds to record levels. Yields on government peso debt due in 2024 dropped to a record low and the currency climbed to the strongest level in almost two years against the dollar last month. Yields have since climbed and the currency weakened on the prospect that the Federal Reserve will scale back unprecedented stimulus.“Overall he’s done an excellent job in his first six months in office,” James R. Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, said in a telephone interview from Washington on June 14. “He has the best political sensitivity and touch I’ve seen since President Salinas was able to marshal various factions of Mexico to pass Nafta.”Helder Marinho reported from São Paulo.© 2013, Bloomberg News Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Mexicos squishy crunchy ancestral eats

first_imgFrozen gusanos de maguey, or agave worms, are shown at the San Juan market in Mexico City on July 8. Washington Post photo by Nick Miroff More live snails for sale at the San Juan market in Mexico City. Washington Post photo by Nick Miroff No related posts. MEXICO CITY — The San Juan market is Mexico City’s most famous deli of exotic meats, where an adventurous shopper can hunt down hard-to-find critters like ostrich, wild boar and crocodile. Only the city zoo offers greater species diversity.But the priciest items in the market aren’t the armadillo steaks or even the bluefin tuna.That would be the frozen chicatanas — giant winged ants — at around $225 a pound.Apparently, they’re delicious in salsa.“Much better than the junk food they sell in supermarkets,” said vendor Benjamín Rodríguez, showing off his ant stash beside trays of crispy fried crickets and live snails.“All natural,” he said with a wry grin.Rodríguez and the other bug mongers of San Juan offer their wares as “pre-Hispanic” foods, a nod to the Aztecs, Mixtecs and other civilizations that flourished for millennia here on diets rich in grubs, grasshoppers and other edible invertebrates.Insect-eating was long regarded with shame and disgust by elite Mexicans who viewed the practice as a vestige of rural backwardness. But bugs have crawled onto the menus of some of the country’s most celebrated eateries in recent years, as top chefs seek out esoteric regional ingredients for cuisine known as “alta mexicana” (high-end Mexican).center_img “These are foods that were eaten in pre-Hispanic times because there wasn’t meat, but now they’re seen as luxurious,” said Lesley Tellez, a food writer who leads tours of Mexico’s markets and kitchens.“It’s part of a larger trend of bringing traditional Mexican elements back to the table and giving them [the] value they deserve,” she said.Mexico has some 300 to 550 species of edible insects, more than any country in the world, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which issued a 200-page report this year in praise of entomophagy — insect-eating — as a promising source of sustainable protein.“The case needs to be made to consumers that eating insects is not only good for their health, it is good for the planet,” the FAO report read.The tiny comestibles are very high in protein, it noted, especially compared to meats like beef and pork.In the poor, rural communities of Mexico’s central highlands and southern states, families have been eating insects for generations as tradition, but also out of necessity.“We ate them because we were hungry,” said Mario Rendón, a bug supplier at the San Juan market. He said he grew up in the southern state of Guerrero learning to catch and consume them seasonally.When the rains came in late spring, he and his brothers would accompany their father on cricket-capturing expeditions, trapping them in nets. They also learned to pull meaty grubs — gusanos de maguey — from flowering agave plants.“Fry them up with a little salt and lime,” Rendón said. “Delicious.”Most of Mexico’s edible insects are caught wild, not farmed, then sold at regional markets or trucked into the cities.Among the most treasured delicacies are escamoles (ant larvae), cumiles (stink bugs) and ahuatle (water bug eggs), dubbed “Mexican caviar.”The stink bugs are typically eaten live and are prized for their powerful anise-like flavor and cinnamon finish. Put on a plate or inside a tortilla, they don’t exactly sit still.“Eating them in a taco can be a little weird,” said Mexico City restaurant manager Eduardo Lucero. “They sorta escape into your mouth when you bite down.”Lucero’s restaurant, Corazon de Maguey, offers a seasonal menu in the spring with seven types of insects and has organized mezcal-and-bug festivals to wash the critters down with doses of the strong, agave-derived liquor.“All the insects sell really well,” he said.But since supplies are irregular, and prices high, they remain mostly a delicacy item in Mexico City restaurants. One exception: the ubiquitous and widely affordable chapulines — grasshoppers or crickets — that are typically sautéed in salt and garlic and rolled in tacos or gobbled by the handful.“Kids love them,” said Ricardo Castañeda, a vendor at the San Juan market who sells three types of the insects: adults, juveniles and a version fried in garlic and olive oil.“They walk by my stall and tell their parents: ‘I want some!’”Castañeda offered a sample. It was crunchy and a bit hollow, almost like eating a bland wafer. With legs.Though crickets remain abundant in Mexico, other wild-caught insect species have grown more scarce with their growing popularity, and their escalating prices have further accelerated their decline.In Mexico’s Hidalgo state, cradle of the highly prized escamol (ant larvae), nests are routinely destroyed by collectors who leave the colonies exposed to the elements after harvesting the larvae, said escamol entrepreneur Armando Soria.Soria launched an experiment two years ago, attempting to farm the larvae by transplanting nests and providing abundant food sources for the ants. His harvests have been modest so far, but he says he plans to expand.“People have a reticence to eating insects,” he said. “It’s like a mental allergy.”“But they offer delicious flavors,” Soria insisted. “They’re a solution to so many problems. They don’t need tractors or irrigation. Just people willing to give them a try.”Washington Post special corespondent Gabriela Martínez contributed to this report.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Commentslast_img read more

11 lawmakers return to Costa Ricas Legislative Assembly for second term

first_imgOf the 57 lawmakers who take office today for the 2014-2018 period, 11 have previous experience in the Legislative Assembly. Costa Rica’s Constitution does not allow consecutive re-election of lawmakers.Five of the returning legislators belong to the National Liberation Party (PLN). Antonio Álvarez Desanti, Sandra Piszk, Juan Luis Jiménez and Rolando González were in office from 1994-1998, and Olivier Jiménez served from 2002-2006.Two returning lawmakers belong to the Citizen Action Party (PAC) , including the party’s founder and former presidential candidate Ottón Solís, who was in office from 1994-1998. However, at the time Solís was a member of the National Liberation Party. Epsy Campbell served from 2002-2006.Mario Redondo, from the Christian Democratic Alliance, was elected by the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) from 2002-2006, and was president of the Assembly’s directorate. He left PUSC after the end of his term.The list includes the founder of the Libertarian Movement Party, Otto Guevara, who unsuccessfully ran for president in several national elections, as well as Accessibility Without Exclusion’s Oscar López and PUSC’s Jorge Rodríguez. Guevara was a legislator from 1998-2002, López served from 2002-2006 and Rodríguez from 1990-1994. Facebook Comments Related posts:Economist and Citizen Action Party legislator Henry Mora wins Assembly’s presidency Legislative Assembly reverses order restricting access to information Less-than-impressive: It’s been a year of few achievements by Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly Crash victims’ relatives ask lawmakers to table bill to eliminate prison sentences for blocking roads during protestslast_img read more

Its frog orgy season

first_imgRelated posts:It’s frog orgy season Looking back: A microscopic wasp and other amazing Costa Rica wildlife stories 6 Costa Rican animal names decoded The secret lives of leaf-cutting ants The rainy season is upon us. For many of us that means hiding indoors for the next few months, but for Costa Rica’s frog and toad populations this means it’s time to party.Most species of amphibians use an explosive breeding strategy, which is a polite way of saying that they engage in massive orgies over short spans of time. In Costa Rica, frog orgy season falls during the rainy season, when storms create temporary pools of water that serve as amphibian breeding grounds.During this time, a hiker in a wet patch of forest can come across dozens, sometimes hundreds of frogs and toads all in one spot. To a casual observer, these frog congregations look relatively tame, but for many species these breeding hooplas can get violent.Compelled by various biological triggers and a heavy rainstorm, nearby male frogs will all gather near a pool suitable for breeding and wait for a mate to pass by. The first female to come along is mobbed by hordes of overeager males looking to get lucky. Female frogs are often killed during explosive breeding events, and a recent study showed that in at least one species of frog, the males are able to harvest the eggs from the female after her death.The competition for females is so fierce that some studies estimate that as few as 5 percent of male frogs breed successfully. To make the cut, males will attempt to pull other mating males off of female frogs, and in some cases two males will even mate with the same female at the same time.A number of Costa Rica’s well-known frogs are explosive breeders. The red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis saltator) and the gliding leaf frog (Agalychnis spurrelli) have both been studied for their explosive breeding habits in the wild. But as more and more frog and toad species are decimated due to climate change and the spread of a deadly fungus, witnessing an explosive breeding event is becoming increasingly rare. The golden toad was one of Costa Rica’s famous explosive breeders. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)The Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki), which used to turn out by the hundreds during breeding season is now critically endangered. Another explosive breeder, Holdridge’s toad (Incilius holdridgei), was believed extinct due to its failure to turn out for its characteristic breeding sessions, but the toad was re-discovered in 2009.The country’s most famous explosive breeder is now extinct. Characterized by its shiny, orange skin, the golden toad (Bufo periglenes) breeding season drew a crowd every year in Monteverde. Despite its conspicuous color, the beautiful toad stayed underground for most of the year only appearing after the first big rain of the season for a fornication fiesta.The toad has not been seen since 1989 after a deadly fungus wiped out the entire known population in a matter of years.See also: The search for Costa Rica’s extinct golden toad  Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Puerto Viejo native Gilbert Brown wins Latin Pro surf competition in ALAS

first_imgROCA LOCA, Puntarenas — With an unusually light schedule for this year’s Latin Pro, the Association of Latin American Professional Surfers (ALAS) was fortunate that Diego Naranjo stepped in to secure two Costa Rica stops on the association’s competitive circuit.ALAS, founded in 1998 by the El Salvador Surfing Association in order to promote surfing among young people in Latin America, has found difficult financial footing this year. As a result, it has only put up three events so far this season when typically six or seven would have taken place. Naranjo and the Jacó Surf Association were able to find the sponsors for contests here, the first of which took place this past weekend.On Sunday, at the completion of the Claro Latin Pro Costa Rica event in Roca Loca – located between Jacó and Hermosa in the Central Pacific – the Ticos got a chance to show their superior surfing talents to participants who came from all over Latin America to add valuable points to the ALAS leaderboard.Roca Loca also cooperated by offering spectacular, big waves coming off a weekend swell. The Ticos, many of whom already knew the break, stole the show at what Naranjo described as a “natural amphitheater.” Judges, tents and parking were on the cliff, while the surfers had to walk down the hill to reach the water.From excellent sight lines along the cliff, attendees watched Gilbert Brown, a Puerto Viejo native who’s made Jacó his home for the past few years, win the Open competition in his ALAS debut performance. Well-suited for these particular waves, Brown knocked out the ALAS ranking leader Sebastián Alarcón of Peru who came in second place. Esterillos dynamo Carlos Muñoz was third, followed by Argentina’s Martin Passari in fourth.“Here at Roca Loca, everyone had to go back to basics,” Naranjo said, “to power surfing: good bottom turns, lots of spray and good maneuvers. Gilbert helped define this style of surfing.” Gilbert Brown competes at Roca Loca. (Courtesy ALAS)The champion said he felt comfortable surfing waves with force, and his strategy was smart all weekend. “Roca Loca is a wave that has a lot of mass, and my strategy was to use a surfboard that was two inches longer and half an inch thicker than I normally use, which gave me the advantage in paddling and when the waves got fatter at high tide,” Brown said. “I saw a very tough opponent in Cali [Muñoz]. He fought me in the semifinals and the finals. But I thank God for giving me the waves so I could win.”On the women’s side, Leilani McGonagle of Pavones added another accolade to her packed résumé, taking the Women’s Open trophy on Sunday. Costa Rica had a full house in this category, even acing out of the finals Peru’s Carolina Thun, who currently holds the ALAS Women’s top ranking. Following McGonagle’s lead was Jacó’s Emily Gussoni and Lisbeth Vindes, who placed second and third, respectively, with Tamarindo’s Zulay Martínez taking fourth. Both Gussoni and Martínez are new to ALAS competition as well as to Roca Loca.“It was a real challenge for the girls, because a lot of them hadn’t surfed Roca Loca before,” Naranjo said. “However, the levels of the girls in the finals were high, and the waves were good. Leilani was ripping. What can I say? She was amazing.” Leilani McGonagle of Pavones takes the Women’s Open trophy on Sunday. (Courtesy ALAS)Many Costa Rican surfers participate in the ALAS dates precisely to raise their level of competitiveness. They are able to push up their skills against athletes from other parts of Latin America, including some who already have demonstrated talent at breaks in El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador, among other spots.Recommended: New generation of Costa Rican surfers puts sport in the spotlightCosta Rica’s Joseph Méndez of Jacó, who yesterday won the Juniors category, was a perfect example. This was his third ALAS event; previously he had only made it as far as the semifinals in various Open and Junior results. But in Roca Loca, he was finally able to mount the finals podium with a top win, defeating James Hogan from the United States, José López of Venezuela and another Tico debuting in the ALAS, Malakai Martínez, from Tamarindo. Costa Rica’s Joseph Méndez of Jacó won the Juniors category. (Courtesy ALAS)Rounding out the victors list yesterday at Roca Loca were Passeri in the Masters category in first, Alejandro Monge of Jacó in second, Karin Sierralta of Peru in third, and Enrique Pacheco from Jacó in fourth. Longboard winners were Brazilian Caio Texeira in first, Jacó’s’ Andrés Rojas in second, Uruguay’s Julian Schweizer in third, and Pacheco in fourth.The Claro Latin Pro Costa Rica this past weekend was the first of two Costa Rican dates on the ALAS Latin Pro – the next one is in Jacó in October. It was also the kickoff for the new Costa Rica Pro Surfing Tour 2015, another project from the Jacó Surf Association. That tournament is designed to allow competitors to compete for cash awards. All other dates will be announced shortly. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica finishes eighth in World Junior Surfing Championship Jason Torres takes Billabong Fest surf title Costa Rica’s Eduardo Li pleads not guilty in FIFA corruption scandal With Obama visit, Cubans hope for home run in baseball diplomacylast_img read more

Count me in the natural hair revolution among AfroTicas

first_imgRelated posts:Claiming my Afro-Latinidad A graceful life: Jeannette Boyd Rodríguez and San José’s Afro-Costa Rican history A look back at 1930s Limón and the real legacy of Afro-Caribbean immigrants Count me in, part II: Natural Hair Sistahs 506 It was difficult to find any self-beauty, as she did not look like her mother, who was her primary caretaker. She knew she was different. By the time she was 7 and in third grade, she began to use an aliset, a chemical crème that straightened curly hair. Though there were burns on her scalp because of the chemicals, it was a “relief” to finally “feel beautiful,” and it was affirmed when her classmates stopped making fun of her hair and she became part of the group. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)Shanil was born in San José to Afro-Tico parents and as a child, her mother took excellent care of her hair, using Vaseline to promote natural, long healthy hair.  For special occasions, her grandmother would put braids in her hair, adorned with colorful barrettes.She started wearing braids with extensions at 10. She went to a private school in Tibás, just north of San José, and though she was the only black girl in her year, the kids all knew each other and never made her feel different. She did not grow up with many other black kids, outside of her mother’s best friend and their family. Shanil did not begin using an aliset for straightened hair until she was 15.Ichael was born to Afro-Tico parents who were both from Limón.  Her dad decided to move to San José because of his work playing soccer. As a child, her mother took care of her hair with weekly rituals of Saturday washing, oiling and braiding. On special occasions, barrettes were put in with braids, though from young she knew that she wanted “long and flowing hair” like the mestizo kids around her. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)After wearing braids with extensions for some years, at the age of 12, Ichi had her first aliset. She remembers that in school she always felt bad amongst her peers and by the age of seven she was being teased badly, being called “monkey” and “shit.”One day, she went to her teacher and told her how the kids made her feel bad. The teacher’s response was to ask all of the students to draw a picture for Ichi, and there was one little boy who drew Ichi as a beautiful brown princess.It was at that moment, she says, that she changed her own perspective and started feeling beautiful with her brown skin.  For the first time among her classmates, she felt appreciated.Xio was born in Guanacaste to a black, non-Tico father and a mother whose history included the first wave of African peoples in colonial Cartago, though unrecognized. She knew as a child that she was visually different with her curly hair and brown skin. Her mother had no idea how to handle her hair, so she would use oil to make finger curls, two long braids or ponytails as a way to make Xio’s hair presentable. Xio. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)Xio always had a clear message from her mestizo mother that she should not leave the house without having her hair done, “controlled” so that she was presentable in public. By the time she was 10, she became miserable in school as her peers pointed out her afro hair and her African features. Other kids always would constantly touch her hair, making her feel like a petted dog, and it would make her really angry. Frustrated by wanting to fit in and have the long, straight hair of her peers, Xio had her first aliset at the age of 12 because, she says, she could not take it anymore.  Her hair also reminded her of her father’s heritage, which she did not know much about.Shannon, who was raised in Limón to an Afro-Tica mother and a mestizo father, grew up knowing that her curly hair made her stand out from the other kids around her who had straight hair. It was her black aunt who would come over and take special care of her hair as a child, mostly braiding her hair to look presentable.Shannon did not notice her hair was really different until fourth grade, when her mother decided to put in an aliset so that she could have straight hair and fit in amongst her Tico peers. Shannnon. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere) Ilinka. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)Ilinka was born in San José but raised in Limón, where her parents worked as educators. As a child, her hair was very thick and curly, and her busy parents hired a woman to come to the house to take care of her hair as a child which included braids and cornrow hair styles, using “Dax” and “Blue Magic” as staple hair products for shine and growth. With three sisters, all with varying grades of thick afro-hair, Ilinka used to dread the detangling process of her hair. It hurt to get her hair done.Ilinka had her first aliset in the sixth grade to celebrate her graduation. As a student amongst many Afro-Ticos in Limón, she was following the trend of other black girls who had chemically straightened hair. The message was loud and clear: in order to look beautiful and fit in among blacks, you needed to have straight hair or braids with extensions.***Not only find did I find global commonalities around societal expectations, hair care rituals and the politics of being “presentable” in these interviews, but I found a sisterhood of women in Costa Rica who are conscientiously re-figuring how they want to present their hair and identity to the society at large.All these women attended Costa Rican private schools – with the exception of Aimee – in a familial culture that prioritized education and the need to speak English. Each journey was unique, yet so familiar. I could have been talking to a black woman in Brooklyn, Jamaica or South Africa.Next month, we’ll explore how the experiences of these women came full circle as they each made the transition back to natural hair as a form of self-love and Afro-pride.Read more from Natasha Gordon-Chipembere here.Natasha Gordon-Chipembere holds a PhD in English. She is a writer, professor and founder of the Tengo Sed Writers Retreats. In June 2014, she moved to Heredia, Costa Rica with her family from New York. She may be reached at Her column “Musings from an Afro-Costa Rican” is published monthly. Facebook Comments Count Me In is a multi-part series that focuses on making visible the thriving natural hair movement among Afro-descended Costa Ricans within the context of the larger natural hair revolution occurring throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.It’s more than hair for many Afro-Latinas. The decision to wear their hair natural is a reclaiming of culture and fighting back against centuries of erasure of Black identity. That erasure has led to the creation of terms like “pajon” and “pelo malo” (bad hair) in reference to tightly coiled/Afro-textured hair versus “pelo bueno,” silky, straight hair. –Janela Martinez, Vivala Magazine, 2016Several weeks ago, my young Afro-Tica cousin came to my house to borrow a book from my personal library. My mouth hung open when she exited her car and embraced me.For the first time ever, Trisha – pictured above – was wearing the most beautiful, vibrant afro, and I have never seen her so self-confident. I was curious about what prompted such a radical transition after years of using braids with extensions and aliset (chemicals for straightening hair).  With what I knew of the “respectability politics” within the Afro-Tico community and in the larger mestizo (white-presenting) Costa Rican society, a tall black girl wearing her natural hair was a radical statement about self-representation.I was intrigued: I have lived a fairly insulated life here where I do not engage with many Afro-Ticos beyond my own family on a daily basis.Our discussion that evening about beauty, acceptance, the global natural hair movement, family pressure, religion and notions of “professionalism” is the impetus for this multi-part AfroCosta Rican Natural Hair Series, Count Me In.  The political and historical context of Black hair within the West is too long and complex for this column, but what is clear is that there is a long standing legacy, dating back from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, that stigmatizes the ways in which black men and women wear their natural hair.Taken from the examples of white womanhood on slave plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas, the ideals around “good hair” (“pelo bueno”) were conflated with “straight hair,” as many enslaved black women were fully responsible for the grooming of their white mistresses and owners, while they did not have the resources – combs, oils – to sustain their own hair. (Many enslaved Africans used elaborate cornrows as hairstyles to demarcate the path for the Underground Railroad in the southern parts of the U.S. during slavery.)Afro, tightly curled hair, symbolic of all things African, became the signifier of all things dirty, uncontrollable, unpresentable, savage. Essentially, your hair became a constant reminder of your status as slave or having a slave past.In order to combat centuries of negative stereotypes about afro hair, many people of African decent have waged personal wars with trying to “control the kink.” This means using Madame C. J. Walker´s hot combs, using wigs, chemical perms, blow dryers, braid extensions, sewn-in weaves and a myriad of other forms of false hair that served a singular purpose: to control the curl!This was done as a response to the message that in order to be presentable and “non-threatening” in the larger non-Black society, one had to diminish the presence of “Africa” as much as possible in order to assimilate.The non-subtle public standards of beauty which bombard TV and social and print media do not use an Afro-centric phenotype as the epitome of beauty ideals. Rather, the tall, thin, straight-haired European woman – and man – maintains the center of desire, and the drive to attain these ideals has created incredible havoc within Afro-descended communities, especially for women.If one’s job access relies on presentability and your afro is not considered suitable, then the messages are clear about what one has to do to attain access to resources, have the ability to feed your family, and generally progress within society.However, as the growing consciousness around self-identity and representation continues within Afro-descended populations, radical methods of claiming one’s natural hair have appeared throughout social media, from YouTube tutorials to Facebook group pages. All of these resources promote emotional solidarity, hair care tips and political support for resisting age-old stereotypes of what natural African hair should look like. From the Dominican Republic´s Miss Rizos to the natural hair festivals in Brooklyn, New York, to the Natural hair pageants in Cuba and Brazil, Afro-descended populations are making a loud cultural, political and economic statement about how their personhood will be situated on the global stage.After talking to Trisha, I was very interested in finding out how Afro-Ticas in particular were managing their hair in the daily society among a majority mestizo Tico population with straight hair. Trisha recommended that I join a closed Facebook group called Natural Hair Sistahs 506, founded by Ichael, an Afro-Tica.Upon acceptance into the group, I amazingly lifted a lid to reveal a vibrant natural hair movement in Costa Rica of over 500 Afro-Tica women (and women in the Diaspora who had Afro-Tico parentage. Who would have known? I posted a request to interview women on their natural hair practices for this series. Within 10 days, I spoke to 10 women around three specifically framed questions. The first two questions will be the focus of this piece.I have included pictures of the women who granted me permission to show them as they happily wear their natural, afro hair.  All of them went through an extensive hair journey that involved natural hair styles as a child to the pressure to fit in amongst peers by turning to chemically straightened hair. Finally, each of them returning to natural hair styles as a form of liberation and self-love.This series intends to make visible the hair movement in Costa Rica in order to join the current conversations about the Afro-Latina natural hair movement which spans the Americans and Caribbean.Chapter 1: Growing up with Afro hair as a child in Costa Rica and impressions from peersAimee, an Afro-Tica living in California, was raised by her Afro-Tica mom who was born in Limón. As a child in Los Angeles, Aimee wore a small afro, braids with beads and cornrows all decorated with colorful hair clips.  Her hair was blow dried straight for special occasions though she always wanted to fit in with her classmates who had straight hair.By the fourth grade, her grandmother was straightening her hair with a hot comb and finally a relaxer. Aimee continues to straighten her hair today but is interested in learning how to take care of natural hair if she one days decides to make the big “chop.” Pamela. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)Pamela and her sister Stephannie were born and raised in San José and are mixed, with an Afro-Tico father and a mestiza (white-presenting) mother from San José. The girls had different textures of curly hair, and most of their hair care as children was taken over by their father´s black side of the family.The message was clear: curly hair had to be maintained and presentable at all times. As children, the girls had their natural hair braided, twisted and maintained a weekly washing/oiling/braiding ritual every Saturday.Pamela said that by fifth grade, she was wearing box braids and though she enjoyed the freedom of its easy styling, sometimes she was called “dirty” by her peers. By high school, she began with an aliset to get straight hair. Stephannie said she never had an issue with her natural hair as a child though all her hair decisions were made by the adults around her. She began using an aliset when she was 15 which included blowing drying and rollers once a week. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere) Scarlett. (Courtesy of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere)Scarlett grew up in San Isidro with her mestiza mom and without her Jamaican father. As a child, there were no other Afro-Tico children in her environment.  Her curly hair and brown skin color made her stand out.Every two months she would go to San José as a child to get her hair braided by a black woman there. Scarlett was teased terribly as a child, being called “ugly,” “nappy-headed,” “La Negrita” and “dishwasher sponge head” by her classmates. She hated the braids that her mother did for her, and by the age of six, she would cry nightly, begging to wake up white like the children around her.last_img read more

3 detainees freed in French terror probe

first_imgPARIS (AP) – French prosecutors have announced the release of three people detained earlier this week as part of an investigation into the deadly terror attacks in Toulouse that targeted Jews and paratroopers.A spokeswoman for the prosecutors, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, says the three, including a soldier, were freed Friday. None was charged in the case.Investigators in the terror case are trying to understand whether Mohamed Merah _ the man police say killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers last March _had any help. Comments   Share   Patients with chronic pain give advice Sponsored Stories Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixcenter_img New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Merah was killed in a shootout with police after his deadly spree.Five people had been detained earlier, but all were freed after questioning. Only Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with complicity in the case and is being held.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Daylast_img read more

Obama US Latin America must strengthen economies

first_img The vital role family plays in society Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement After Obama met one-on-one Chinchilla, the first woman to head the Central American nation, the two leaders were serenaded by local schoolchildren waving U.S. and Costa Rican flags.Later Friday, Obama met with leaders of the regional Central American Integration system, chaired by Chinchilla. The network also includes Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. He’ll speak to business leaders in Costa Rica on Saturday before returning to Washington in the evening.Obama has also been pressed throughout his trip about the immigration debate raging on Capitol Hill. The president is largely supportive of the bipartisan bill, which would strengthen borders and provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.However, the draft legislation leaves out measures Obama has promoted on his own, including the recognition of gay and lesbian couples. Many Republicans are unlikely to support a bill that includes recognition of same-sex couples, raising the question of whether the president would fight for the provision if it meant losing out on a comprehensive bill.Obama tried to sidestep the issue Friday, saying that while he believes the provision is “the right thing to do,” it was premature for him to talk about what he’ll do before he sees a bill on his desk. “There’s a cost obviously in the United States as well,” Obama said during a joint news conference with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. “It’s not as if we don’t have tragic drug problems in the United States.”The president singled out the violence that has raged in his hometown of Chicago, where the murder rate has soared, saying there are young people killed there “every day as part of the drug trade.”Obama’s visit is his first to Latin America since winning a second term, in part due to the overwhelming support he received from Hispanic American voters. His trip is being followed with great interest by Hispanics in the U.S. as well as in Mexico, Central America and further to the south.In both Mexico and Costa Rica, Obama cast economic growth as the best way to combat violence and keep drugs and organized crime from taking hold of another generation.“We have to make sure that everybody feels opportunity,” the president declared in Costa Rica. “Even in countries that are doing well, the scourge of drugs and drug trafficking will still be there. And there still needs to be a strong law enforcement component. But we can do better than we are currently doing. “ (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The president has a domestic political incentive for trying to change America’s perception of Mexico. As Washington debates the immigration overhaul, Obama is seeking to convince the public and lawmakers that Mexico no longer poses the illegal immigration threat it once did.___Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Alberto Arce in San Jose, Costa Rica, and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.___Follow Julie Pace at However, Obama said earlier Friday in an interview with Spanish-language television network Univision that he would not sign a bill that does not include the pathway to citizenship.Before traveling to Costa Rica, Obama wrapped up his two-day trip to Mexico, his fourth visit to the country since becoming president. He eagerly promoted Mexico’s improving economy and its democracy, saying “a new Mexico is emerging.”“Mexico is also taking its rightful place in the world, on the world stage. Mexico is standing up for democracy not just here in Mexico but throughout the hemisphere,” Obama told a crowd of young people during a speech at Mexico City’s grand National Museum of Anthropology. “Mexico’s sharing expertise with neighbors across the Americas. When they face earthquakes or threats to their citizens or go to the polls to cast their votes, Mexico is there helping its neighbors.”Despite Obama’s rosy portrayal, Mexico’s high poverty rates have barely budged in recent years. Its economy grew by only about a 1 percent rate in the first three months of 2013 and is not creating anywhere near the 1 million jobs annually it needs to employ young Mexicans entering the workforce. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Top Stories Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice The president had sounded a similar message earlier Friday in Mexico, which he touted as a nation ready to take “its rightful place in the world.” During a speech to students, he urged Mexico’s young people to help the region move beyond “old stereotypes” and highlighted developments in technology and manufacturing.While many people in Central America are also weary of the focus on the drug-fueled violence, it remains an undeniable part of daily life in many parts of the region. Costa Rica has fared better than many of its neighbors, but it worries about spillover from nearby countries. Honduras, for example, now has the highest homicide rate in the world, with about 7,200 people murdered last year in the tiny nation of 8 million people, most in drug-related crime.Obama acknowledged the role of U.S. demand for drugs and said his administration has spent $30 billion to reduce demand in recent years. But he acknowledged that the U.S. is a “big market” and that “progress is sometimes slower than we’d like it to be.”The president arrived in the capital of San Jose on a rainy afternoon but received a warm welcome from thousands of Costa Ricans who lined the road near the airport. Some waved American flags. Others held homemade signs, including one that said “Fired Up!” _ a reference to his campaign slogan _ in a much more demonstrative welcome than he had received in Mexico. SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) – President Barack Obama came to Latin America eager to move the region’s relationship with the U.S. beyond fighting drugs and organized crime, yet the pervasive problems still trailed him throughout his three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.In the Costa Rican capital Friday, Obama defended his administration’s efforts to stem U.S. demand for drugs that many regional leaders see as a driving factor in their security issues. He said the U.S. and Latin America share “common effects and common responsibilities” for the troubles and argued that his country has suffered from the drug epidemic as well.last_img read more

Sri Lankas warhit Tamils vote for wider autonomy

first_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 0 Comments   Share   The win provides a platform for the TNA to campaign for an autonomous federal state, although the provincial council is largely a toothless body.The Tamils have fought unsuccessfully for self-rule for six decades, at first through a peaceful struggle and then the bloody civil war.The elections were seen by the international community as a test of reconciliation between the Tamils and the majority ethnic Sinhalese, who control Sri Lanka’s government and military.“We asked the people (for votes), and the people have given. Now it’s our turn to reciprocate,” said the chief minister-elect of Northern Province, retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran.“The government has to learn from our victory,” he said. “The people have spoken democratically … the people have shown in no uncertain terms what their aspirations are. So I am sure the government will take stock of the matter and help us to make democracy work in the Northern Provincial Council.”The campaigning period and election day were marked by sporadic attacks and threats against TNA supporters, including some allegedly by uniformed army soldiers.The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the involvement of uniformed individuals in election violence was “particularly alarming,” adding that a process free of violence and intimidation is needed to further post-war reconciliation. Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the two victories were an endorsement of the government, adding that the TNA victory was a reflection of democracy in the Indian Ocean island nation.On calls for wider autonomy, Rambukwella said only changes within the existing constitution would be allowed.Tamils have been demanding regional autonomy in the country’s north and east since Sri Lanka became independent from Britain in 1948. After years of nonviolent protests, a civil war broke out in 1983 calling for full independence.The provincial council was created in 1987 as an alternative to separation, but the Tigers _ the strongest of the rebel groups _ rejected it as inadequate. The fighting that followed prevented the council from functioning.The military’s defeat of the Tigers meant Tamils were back to where they had started 60 years earlier, with no tangible achievement, tens of thousands of deaths and losing another million people who fled the country as refugees.___Associated Press writer Jayampathi Palipane contributed to this report.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Top Stories The central government retains control over finances in the province, so it could withhold money to frustrate any council plans.Wigneswaran said before the vote that winning would give his administration the public backing to lobby for wider powers based on federalism.But he will face a two-pronged challenge _ from a central government unwilling to part with any power, and an influential expatriate Tamil lobby insisting that the party work for total independence.The central government is against devolving any substantial power and says even existing powers in provincial hands, such as those over land and policing, are a threat to the country.The country’s ethnic divisions widened with the quarter-century civil war that ended in 2009 when government troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting to create an independent state.While the TNA, a former political proxy to the Tamil Tigers, won the north, Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition convincingly won two ethnic Sinhalese-dominated provincial councils _ Central and North West _ in a sign of the existing ethnic polarization. Much of the Sinhalese-dominated south strongly backs Rajapaksa for winning the war and his hard-line stand on devolution. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Rajapaksa called the elections after much international criticism that he delayed fulfilling wartime promises to share power with the minority Tamils. The largely successful conduct of the election could deflect some pressure off the government ahead of a Commonwealth country leaders’ meeting in November in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.The government has rejected international calls that it has not thoroughly investigated alleged war crimes committed by its troops at the end of the war, when, according to a U.N. report, they may have killed 40,000 Tamil civilians. The Tamil Tiger rebels have also been accused of widespread war crimes, including the forced recruiting of child soldiers.The election results also suggest that a vast majority of voters prefer self-rule over Rajapaksa’s effort to win them over through infrastructure development.The provincial council, however, is mostly powerless and will have to contend with a governor appointed by the central government who will control most of the council’s affairs, which could cause rifts.But the two-thirds majority on the provincial council means Wigneswaran can follow through with his threat to call for a no-confidence vote against the governor. JAFFNA, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lanka’s main ethnic Tamil party earned a convincing victory in the country’s northern provincial elections, according to results released Sunday, in what is seen as a resounding call for wider regional autonomy in areas ravaged by a quarter century of civil war.The Tamil National Alliance will form the first functioning provincial government in the northern Tamil heartland after securing 30 out of 38 seats in Saturday’s polls, Sri Lanka’s elections commission said. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coalition won the rest of the seats. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologistlast_img read more

Chiles Bachelet asks ministers to resign

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that she has asked all her Cabinet ministers to submit their resignations and she will decide who stays and who leaves in the next 72 hours.Bachelet is faced with the lowest approval ratings of her political career, and recently acknowledged that corruption scandals have rocked her administration.“Some hours ago I asked all of my ministers to submit their resignation,” Bachelet said in a local Chanel 13 interview with Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, the popular host of “Sabado Gigante.” FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, file photo, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet listens to Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina during their joint press conference at the National Palace in Guatemala City. President Bachelet has asked on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, for all her Cabinet ministers to submit their resignations. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File) New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories center_img “This is the time for a Cabinet change.”Chile’s corruption is among the lowest in South America. But trust in politicians and the business elite has been eroded amid a recent bank loan scandal involving Bachelet’s son, as well as a campaign financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company.The recent controversy involving her family has taken a big toll on Bachelet’s image, as she won the presidency last year promising to fight against Chile’s inequalities.“I think the corruption scandals are part of it, but everything points to this as being a reaction to her low popularity ratings,” said Guillermo Holzman, a political science professor at the University of Valparaiso.“The announcement, the way she does it and the surprise it caused lead us to think that this could part of a profound change.”A poll released on Wednesday shows Bachelet’s approval rating at 31 percent in April, unchanged from March. That’s the lowest for her current administration and her 2006-2010 presidency.The survey was carried out by Gfk Adimark, which surveyed 1,049 people between April 7- 29. It has an error margin of 3 percentage points. ___Associated Press writer Eva Vergara contributed to this report.___Follow Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   The vital role family plays in society New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

Why many experts missed this Cheap oil can hurt US economy

first_imgFILE – In this May 8, 2015 file photo, gas station attendant Carlos Macar pumps gas in Andover, Mass. The economy is thought to have shrunk in the January-March quarter and may barely grow for the first half of 2015 _ thanks in part to sharp cuts in energy drilling. And despite their savings at the gas pump, consumers have slowed rather than increased their spending. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) “The extra money that I have, I save,” Cimilluca says.For the economy, the technological breakthroughs that allowed the energy industry to power growth now help explain the slowdown. As the 2008-09 recession ended, companies used hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to unlock underground reserves. Oil, at $100 a barrel or more, made such efforts profitable.Jim Burkhard of IHS Energy estimates that U.S. and Canadian energy companies increased investment in production from $98 billion in 2005 to $363 billion last year. U.S. oil and gas jobs nearly doubled to 537,000. In addition, jobs were added at steel mills, at sand pits to process sand for fracking and at restaurants and service companies in areas with new-found oil and gas fields, like North Dakota and Pennsylvania.But the industry’s breakneck growth was thrown into reverse by a 50 percent drop in oil prices from June through January. CEO Doug Suttles of Encana Corp., a Canadian-based driller that operates in the United States, says the pullback in drilling “happened more rapidly than I’ve seen in 32 years.”As recently as December, Suttles says, experts had forecast that the number of rigs would drop by a third in the spring from a year earlier. Instead, it’s plunged by more than half, according to Baker Hughes, an oilfield services firm. At $2.71 a gallon, the average price of gas nationwide is nearly $1 lower than it was a year ago. In January, the average briefly reached $2.03, the lowest in five years.Cheaper oil and gas had been expected to turbocharge spending and drive growth, more than making up for any economic damage caused by cutbacks in the U.S. oil patch.Consider what Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in December: Lower gas prices, Yellen declared, are “certainly good for families. … It’s like a tax cut that boosts their spending power.”Other experts were more direct: “Lower oil prices are an unambiguous plus for the U.S. economy,” Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, wrote in January.So what did they get wrong?It turns out that the economic effects of lower energy prices have evolved since the Great Recession. Corporate spending on drill rigs, steel piping for wells and railcars to transport oil has become an increasingly vital driver of economic growth. So when oil prices fall and energy companies retrench, the economy suffers.The drilling boom that erupted in 2008 has boosted U.S. oil production nearly 75 percent and natural gas 30 percent and made the United States the world’s largest combined producer of oil and natural gas. Energy production contributes about 2 percent to economic output, up from less than 1 percent in 2000. Yet in recent months, industry activity has dropped more sharply than predicted.“So far, it is fair to say that we have been hurt more than helped,” Lafakis acknowledges now.During their policy meeting last month, Fed officials grappled with the changing impact of cheaper oil, according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday. Several policymakers said the economic drag from drilling cutbacks could be “larger and longer-lasting than previously anticipated.”They also worried that the weakness in consumer spending, despite cheaper gas, suggested that Americans might generally be more reluctant to spend than assumed.Some economists are reconsidering assumptions they use to forecast the economy.“The benefit of lower oil prices is less pronounced than, say, 10 years ago,” says Jim Burkhard, a researcher at IHS Energy. “You’re taking a big engine of economic activity and cutting it sharply.”Lafakis and many others still expect consumers to spend much of their savings from cheaper gas, powering faster growth in the second half of the year. Economists say it can take up to six months for people to spend unexpected windfalls. But any gains won’t likely be enough to counter the anemic start to the year. 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies ___Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at .Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daycenter_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility That’s led companies like U.S. Steel to temporarily close factories that make the steel pipe used in oil wells. Texas-based Superior Silica Sands, which makes fracking sand, has canceled the building of a factory and has slashed capital spending plans.Investment in wells and production facilities collapsed nearly 50 percent last quarter, the government says, and cut the quarter’s annual economic growth by three-quarters of a percentage point. Goldman Sachs estimates that three jobs will be lost in other industries for every position shed by energy companies as laid-off workers spend less.That trend is painfully evident in Texas, which lost 25,400 jobs in March, the most since 2009. Many were in mining, which includes oil and gas. But most of the losses were indirect: As laid-off workers cut spending, retailers cut 6,600 jobs.Cheaper gas has hardly been a comfort to Orlando Garza, 34, who lives near Corpus Christi, Texas, and was laid off from his job in February as a well site leader.“I’ve had to cut back tremendously,” Garza says. “I tell my kids, ‘I don’t have a job, so I can’t buy it.’”___AP Writers Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas and Jon Fahey and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Moody’s Analytics expects the economy to expand just 2.6 percent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 3.3 percent. (The downgrade is also due in part to a stronger U.S. dollar, which has depressed exports.)For families, the drop in gas prices was an unexpected gift. The government has estimated that cheaper gas will save a typical household $675 this year.Yet still scarred by the recession, many remain reluctant to spend freely. Analysts also note that Americans are less likely to spend extra money if they think the gain is temporary.“Consumers have been very reluctant to spend (savings from cheaper gas), because they view that as fleeting,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at spending rose at an annual rate of just 1.9 percent in the first quarter, compared with the previous quarter’s 4.4 percent. Much of the cash saved at the gas pump was put away: The U.S. savings rate reached its highest point in more than two years. Wal-Mart and Target have confirmed that their sales aren’t getting much lift from cheaper gas.For Vince Cimilluca, a 28-year-old video editor in Edison, New Jersey, lower gas prices haven’t changed his finances much. He’s struggling to pay $800 a month in student debt while saving for a home. He’s seen gas prices gyrate and doesn’t trust they’ll stay low. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain WASHINGTON (AP) — If there was one thing most economists agreed on at the start of the year, it was this: Plunging oil prices would boost the U.S. economy.It hasn’t worked out that way.The economy is thought to have shrunk in the January-March quarter and may barely grow for the first half of 2015 — thanks in part to sharp cuts in energy drilling. And despite their savings at the gas pump, consumers have slowed rather than increased their spending.last_img read more

Orange chief apologizes to Israeli premier over exit remarks

first_img Comments   Share   “I regret deeply this controversy and I want to make totally clear that Orange as a company has never supported and will never support any kind of boycott against Israel,” Richard said.“We are doing business, we are doing communication, we are here to connect people, certainly not to participate in any kind of boycott. Israel is a fantastic place to be in the digital industry and of course our will is to strengthen and to keep on investing here,” he said.Richard’s previous comments appeared to give a boost to the boycott campaign that seeks to isolate Israel. He said last week in Cairo that he would end his company’s relationship with Partner Communications Ltd. “tomorrow” if he could, but that he was bound by a contract for the time being.Orange has long been a target of the anti-Israel campaign known as BDS — an acronym for boycott, divestment and sanctions — because its local partner maintains a series of transmission towers in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israeli media have pointed out that Palestinians, including many senior Palestinian officials, use Orange services as well.Israel has grown increasingly jittery as the BDS movement appears to be gaining steam, claiming pro-Palestinian activists are not out to promote peace, but instead aim to “delegitimize” the country’s very existence as a Jewish state. “It’s no secret that the remarks you made last week were widely seen as an attack on Israel and so your visit here is an opportunity to set the record straight,” Netanyahu told Richard.“We seek a genuine and secure peace with our Palestinian neighbors, but that can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions,” Netanyahu said. “It will not be achieved through boycotts and through threats of boycotts.”In Paris, an official in French President Francois Hollande’s office denied that it had pressured or called Richard, but said that it supported his visit to “clarify the misunderstandings.” The official spoke only on condition of anonymity in line with protocol.The French Foreign Ministry has said that France opposes any boycott of Israel and that it was up to Richard to define the commercial strategy of his company.___Associated Press Writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.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 New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall JERUSALEM (AP) — The chief executive of French telecom giant Orange SA apologized to Israel’s prime minister on Friday for his recent comments on pulling out of Israel, saying he opposes the boycott movement against the Jewish state and will continue to invest in it.CEO Stephane Richard stoked anger in Israel last week after announcing he wanted to sever business ties with Israel as soon as possible, citing a desire to improve business relations in the Arab world. On Friday he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he wanted to “clear up the confusion that was created after those statements.” Parents, stop beating yourself uplast_img read more

Merpati plane skids off runway in West Papua 20 injured

first_img<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> A Merpati Nusantara Airlines service originating from Sorong overshot the runway at Manokwari Airport in West Papua yesterday, and while all on board survived, 20 passengers have been injured.Carrying 103 passengers and six crew, the Boeing 737 operated by Merpati was attempting to land in inclement weather, when it overshot the runway and slid into a nearby river-bed.Initial reports say that the bouncing of the aircraft as it landed on the runway contributed to the fuselage breaking into two sections.  The left wing of the aircraft has also broken off the body of the aircraft.All passengers survived the incident, but 20 were taken to a nearby hospital for minor injuries.Late last year a Merapti twin Otter plane carrying 16 passengers went missing in Indonesia’s remote Papua region.  Found two days later, none of the passengers and crew survived the crash.Based in Jakarta, the domestic Indonesian carrier operates a fleet of 14 aircraft.  It is currently on the European Union blacklist of airlines which are not allowed to operate within the EU. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: W.Xlast_img read more

Aviation industry recognises space pioneer

first_imgNeil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, has become the first astronaut to be awarded the Global Aviation Leadership Award (GALA). The GALA, awarded to Armstrong by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at their 66th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Berlin, was in recognition of the contribution the space program as a whole has had on making aviation safer and more efficient. IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani recognised the thousands of people who have pushed the boundaries of space travel, but said that Armstrong holds a very special place of honour. On top of being a test pilot for over 200 models of aircraft and leading the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong has also helped prepare the next generation of aviators by teaching aeronautical engineering, Bisigani said. The GALA, established in 2002 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s historic first flight, has only been awarded to three other people. But Armstrong is the first person to receive a GALA from the space program. Many of the innovations the commercial aviation industry relies upon today have roots in the development of the space program, Bisignani said.“Even our ability to process information can be traced back to the microchips developed to support NASA’s Apollo missions,” he said. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: S.F <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a>last_img read more

Chaos puts carrier comms under the cloud conTgo

first_imgAirlines should be doing more to keep passengers up to speed on disruptions to flights during times of crises, according to ConTgo Asia Pacific managing director George Freney.  In an interview with e-Travel Blackboard, Freney said the chaos caused by the recent volcanic ash clouds had highlighted the need for airlines to do “a better job” in communicating updates to stranded travellers.   “At the moment the onus is on the traveller to get information on the status of their flights,” Mr Freney said. Whilst affected passengers are able to check their carriers’ websites for information, Freney said people were still arriving at airports not knowing if their flights had been cancelled.“Airlines need to be more proactive than reactive about updating the individual traveller.” conTgo offers an SMS communication service for airlines and travel agents to contact passengers, with more than 400,000 unique travellers in over 70 countries having used the company’s mobile technology.“We never want to see disruptions to travellers … but recent events have highlighted the need for this technology,” Mr Freney said.“Our technology lets travellers know in an easy and automated way how the status of their flight is progressing.” conTgo Asia Pacific MD George Freney Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.Hlast_img read more

Jetstar whistle blower sounds safety concerns

first_imgAustralia’s budget airline Jetstar is facing allegations it is exploiting staff and compromising the safety of its passengers, a former flight attendant has revealed.Former Jetstar flight attendant Dallas Finn quit his job with the carrier just two months after employment due to his concerns over long shifts for cabin crew and staff’s inability to answer simple safety questions, the ABC reported.Mr Finn filed a report about fatigue after flying five return international flights over five days.“The majority of these flights were quite busy, I found that my sleeping patterns were drastically affected to the point of fatigue,” Mr Finn wrote in a report.“The Ho Chi Minh flight is between a 12 and 13 hour day, they would change the pilots over in Ho Chi Minh but the cabin crew would have to fly back,” he added.Mr Finn said his concerns arose after a recent flight experience he shared with fellow Singapore based staff, which during a pre-flight briefing were incapable of answering emergency procedural and a medical questions. “It was the first time I’ve actually been scared of flying because if something went down I didn’t actually know if that crew would be able to back me up,” Mr Finn said.Despite the allegations, the airline maintains it has rigorous safety standards.The ABC reported further concerns that Jetstar’s Singapore based crew are not receiving the same protection as Australian crew by requiring Singapore-based staff to work shifts longer than 20 hours.Mr Finn said Jetstar is exploiting foreign based workers.“I think they are abusing the situation with the working rights, they are going under Singaporean law and Thai law however they are flying above our skies.” According to a Jetstar representative, overseas contracts reflect local market conditions. Jetstar Source = e-Travel Blackboard: S.Plast_img read more

Sultanate of Oman Nominated For Best National Tourism Office

first_imgAfter seven years of representation in the Australian market, Sultanate of Oman has received a well-deserved nomination for Best National Tourism Office in the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) National Travel Industry Awards. Country Manager Mona Tannous says, “Educating the Australian market about Oman has been an in-depth process. For the first few years, people had never heard of it. For the next few years, people didn’t know where it was. These days, a lot more Aussies are travelling to Oman which is an absolute triumph for us.”The nomination comes at the perfect time with Oman launching its highly anticipated consumer campaign into the Australian market in June. The campaign will drive business and bookings to travel agents across Australia and New Zealand with agents who have completed the Oman online training academy benefiting the most. The training can be found on the website with the last module coming online within the month. Voting opens on March 21st, 2012. To cast your vote, please visit further information about the Sultanate of Oman, please visit Source = Sultanate of Omanlast_img read more