What are the worlds most terrifying runways

first_imgWhat are the world’s most terrifying runways? Matekane Air Strip, LesothoA lot can go wrong on an airstrip that’s just 1,300 feet long. Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that the runway is also at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Yikes!More news:  TRAVELSAVERS welcomes Julie Virgilio to the team Quito, EcuadorThis urban runway sits snugly in the midst of urban quarters, streets and highways, making it difficult for pilots to approach on such a steep angle. If that weren’t enough, planes have to fly over active volcanoes to get to this 9,350-foot-hight airport. Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla, NepalSimilar to a rollercoaster approaching its first peak, this runway – situated at 9,383 feet above sea level – has one of the world’s steepest uphill climbs. Flights here are permitted to take off  and land only during daylight hours. Courchevel, FranceThis 1,788-foot runway has two things to be worried about: it’s short and steep. It has a gradient of 18.5%, ending at a sheer rock-face drop that would make anyone tremble in fear.More news:  Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agency Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba IslandThe winds surrounding Saba Island are notorious for being brutal, making every landing a shaky experience. Not only that, planes that overshoot the 1,300-foot runway end up nose-first in the ocean. Travelweek Group Princess Juliana International Airport, St. MaartenWatching planes land on this tropical island has become a popular pastime for tourists and locals alike. The runway is ridiculously short and ends right on the beach, which means sunbathers get up close and personal to the underbellies of approaching planes. Posted by Share Bhutan International Airport, ParoAt 7,333 feet above sea level, this runway is considered so dangerous that only a handful of pilots are qualified to access it. TORONTO — Ever used a barf bag? No? Well, you may need one at these airport runways, considered by Business Insider to be the most terrifying runways in the world.The popular news site recently compiled a list that included 15 of the world’s most nail-biting, vomit-inducing, white-knuckling airport runways. Here are 8 of them: << Previous PostNext Post >> Thursday, July 28, 2016 Sea Ice Runway, AntarcticaAlso known as ‘The Ice,’ this stretch of tarmac is unpaved and is literally made of ice. To make matters worse, the runway essentially disappears as temperatures rise and the ice melts.last_img read more

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Marriott and Starwood expect to complete merger on Sept 23

first_imgMarriott and Starwood expect to complete merger on Sept. 23 Share Wednesday, September 21, 2016 << Previous PostNext Post >> Posted bycenter_img BETHESDA, Md. – It’s a done deal, says Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which have just announced that their merger transaction has received approval from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).As this was the last regulatory approval required to complete the merger, Marriott and Starwood are now able to proceed with closing the transaction. They expect the transaction to be completed before the market opens on Sept. 23, pending satisfaction of customary closing requirements.Upon closing, Marriott will solidify its status as the world’s largest hotel company.In conjunction with the merger closing, Starwood expects its shares will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange before market open on Sept. 23. As previously announced, Starwood shareholders will receive US$21.00 in cash and 0.80 shares of Marriott International, Inc. Class A common stock for each share of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. common stock. Travelweek Group Tags: Marriott Interntaional, Starwood Hotels & Resortslast_img read more

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Free perks US50 deposits with NCLs latest Free at Sea deal

first_img Travelweek Group Thursday, February 16, 2017 Posted by MIAMI — Until March 5 clients who book a Studio or Inside Stateroom can choose one free offer, or choose two when booking an Oceanview, Balcony or Mini-Suite. Passengers who book a suite or The Haven receive all five offers, up to US$2,800 in value.Guests who book by Feb. 13 can also take advantage of up to $500 in onboard credit on select Europe sailings, as well as $50 deposits, in celebration of Norwegian’s 50th anniversary.With Norwegian’s Free at Sea, guests who book a new three-day or longer sailing in an oceanview, balcony or mini-suite category stateroom can select their preference of two free choices from five incredible onboard amenity offers, including free unlimited open bar, free Specialty Dining package, $50 towards shore excursions in each port per stateroom, a free 250 minute WiFi package, or Norwegian’s Kids Sail Free offer that allows third and fourth guests, whether they are kids or kids at heart, to sail for free on almost 350 cruise departure dates.Inside staterooms, as well as Norwegian’s Studio staterooms for solo travellers, can choose one free offer. Guests seeking ultimate luxury at sea are invited to book a sailing in a suite or The Haven by Norwegian and enjoy all five free amenities, providing up to $2,800 in added value to their cruise.Clients who book a new seven-day inter-island Hawaii cruise now through March 5 aboard Pride of America in any stateroom category have the freedom to select one of five offers to enrich their cruising experience, including a free one-night pre-cruise hotel stay with an option to select reduced airfare starting at $399 from select gateways, a free Specialty Dining Package, free pre-paid service charges for the first and second guest in the stateroom, free $50 per port shore excursion credit per stateroom, or Norwegian’s Kids Sail Free. Guests who book a suite aboard Pride of America will receive all five offers. Some restrictions apply. Free perks, US$50 deposits with NCL’s latest Free at Sea dealcenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Norwegian Cruise Line, Promotions Sharelast_img read more

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Two baggage handlers go viral for extreme opposite behaviour

first_img Travelweek Group Tags: Airports, Baggage Monday, September 24, 2018 Two baggage handlers go viral for extreme opposite behaviour << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img TORONTO — If your luggage had the choice to fly to Lanseria, South Africa or Manchester, England, which do you think it’d prefer?No doubt, your suitcase would choose to make the trek to Africa each and every time.New videos of baggage handlers at both Lanseria International Airport in South Africa and Manchester Airport have gone viral, each for two very different reasons.The airport employee at Lanseria, Ephraim Sibeko, was caught on camera carefully positioning bags with their handles facing outward for easy reach as they emerged onto the baggage carousel. Sibeko is seen hunched over the carousel, handling each piece of luggage respectfully – almost reverently – in an example of true professionalism.In stark contrast is another video of a baggage handler at Manchester Airport who is seen roughly picking up bags off a conveyor belt and callously tossing them onto a trolley with enough force that several slide off and fall onto the ground. Another baggage handler is seen idly watching the whole episode.More news:  Visit Orlando unveils new travel trade tools & agent perksThe Manchester video was shot by Ryanair passenger Elizabeth Evans, whose own pink suitcase was as one of the unfortunate ones to have taken a tumble. After the video went viral, Manchester Airport issued a statement in which it put the blame firmly on baggage handling company Swissport.“We’re aware of this video and are disappointed to have seen this unacceptable baggage handling. This has been raised with Swissport, the baggage handler in question, directly. Baggage is not handled by Manchester Airport, each airline employs their own baggage handler,” the airport said in a statement.Swissport subsequently confirmed that it is investigating and “will take all steps necessary to ensure this does not happen again.”Meanwhile, over in Lanseria, the airport plans on rewarding Sibeko with a reward and a medal at the airport’s medal parade. According to his supervisor, Luckson Makhuva, Sibeko has been working at the airport since 2012.The video, which was taken by passenger Janina Brand, has been shared over 20,000 times. In her post, Brand wrote: “Next time you travel through Lanseria Airport and you come across Ephraim, stop, thank and tip him because nowhere in the world will you ever receive first class service like that.” Share Posted bylast_img read more

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Enter the Park with a Purpose contest now

first_img Friday, November 16, 2018 Tags: Contest, SeaWorld Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Travelweek Group center_img TORONTO — In this new contest with Travelweek and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, you could win a 4-night trip for two to Orlando.At SeaWorld Orlando, you’ll experience one-of-a-kind attractions, thrilling coasters and up-close animal interactions. For the ultimate family adventure, visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay featuring a unique blend of world-class thrill rides, live shows and more than 12,000 animals. At Aquatica, you’ll slip down high-speed water slides, swim in exhilarating wave pools, and relax on tranquil beaches.Your trip will also include interacting with sharks and penguins, and exploring SeaWorld in a Behind-the-Scenes Up-Close Tour!The prize package also includes:Return airfare for two (2) from an international airport in Canada to OrlandoFour (4) nights/ five (5) days at a SeaWorld preferred hotelTwo (2) all day dining passes at SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and Aquatica OrlandoTwo (2) Behind-the-Scenes Up-Close Animal tours at SeaWorld OrlandoTwo (2) length of stay passes to SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and AquaticaOne (1) return taxi transport from Orlando airportMore news:  A new low for no-frills flying: easyJet assigns backless seat to passengerVisit the contest page here and enter now for your chance to win! Posted by Enter the ‘Park with a Purpose’ contest nowlast_img read more

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Costa Rica and Honduras propose better protection for hammerhead sharks

first_imgNo related posts. Environment officials from Costa Rica and Honduras on Thursday proposed protections for scalloped hammerhead sharks under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).“The time has come to regulate international trade of endangered hammerhead sharks,” said Ana Lorena Guevara, Costa Rica’s environment vice minister, while participating at a minister’s council of the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD) in Honduras from May 9-11.Scalloped hammerheads are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are in high demand for shark fin soup and account for about 4 percent of all shark fins in international trade.Government delegates from the 175 CITES member countries will vote on the hammerhead and other possible shark protection proposals at next year’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which will take place March 3-15 in Thailand. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Infosys opens outsourcing center in San José

first_imgNo related posts. Infosys BPO on Monday opened a new outsourcing center in Costa Rica that employs more than 100 workers. The office will provide key services in strategic sourcing and procurement for Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer packaged goods company.The company plans to offer its entire range of services in Costa Rica for global clients, in areas including finance and accounting, human resources management, analytics, legal processes, customer relations services, marketing, and supply chain management.President Laura Chinchilla and other government officials participated in an opening ceremony, along with Infosys CEO Swami Swaminathan.“This investment is very significant for Costa Rica. Infosys is a global leader in technology, consulting and outsourcing, and they conducted a detailed and rigorous selection process to choose our country for a new center by considering our capabilities and competitive advantages,” Chinchilla said.In addition to Costa Rica, the India-based company has operations in Poland, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, China, the Philippines and Australia, and employs some 25,000 people. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Two job fairs this week offer 3000 posts

first_imgThe Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT) on Friday will host a job fair where companies will look to fill 500 vacancies.The event takes place at ULACIT’s main campus in Barrio Tournón, northwest of the capital’s Central Canton, from 9 a.m-6:30 p.m.The fair will bring together recruiters from 21 local and international companies such as Unilever, Amazon, HP, IBM, Cargill, Oracle, Sykes, Thomson Reuters, Pozuelo and Kimberly Clark, among others.Companies are looking for technology and industry bilingual professionals to fill posts as content analysts, IT engineers, graphic designers, senior web developers, industrial engineers, electromechanical and mechanical engineers.Recruiters also will be seeking bilingual staff for administrative posts including business administrators, accountants, human resources, manufacturing process analysts, distribution coordinators, receptionists, and others.ULACIT’s associate rector, Marianela Núñez, said that companies will prioritize applicants with proficiency in two or more languages.The fair schedule also includes seven lectures on topics related to enhancing employment options for applicants and how to strengthen skills to become more attractive to employers.Entrance is free and those interested in applying for a post should bring updated resumes in digital format.2,500 jobs available in AlajuelaResidents of the province of Alajuela and nearby communities can apply for one of the 2,500 posts available at a job fair organized by the municipality’s Central Canton.On Thursday and Friday, representatives of some 20 companies will be at the province’s central park offering posts in areas including sales, marketing, security, engineering and others.The event takes place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and applicants should bring print or digital resumes, a passport-sized photograph, a photocopy of a personal identification, a police records check and both original and photocopies of all diplomas.Among participating companies are: Desinid, INTENSA, Grupo Tical, Suttle of Costa Rica, Grupo Saret, Delta Security, Grupo Monge, Durman Esquivel, Automercado, Public Security Ministry and others. Facebook Comments Related posts:Job fairs seeking 1,300 employees Companies offering 2,000 jobs this week in Costa Rica Employment outlook slightly better for Ticos in coming months, survey finds Costa Rica job fair Tuesday focuses on tourism industrylast_img read more

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VIDEO Costa Rican sloths to be featured in Sloth Week

first_imgOne Costa Rican mammal is creeping its way into the Internet spotlight… very… slowly.That’s right, sloths are taking the InterWebs by storm with “Sloth Week,” six whole days of sloth-related Web content starting June 20. Sponsored by Animal Planet and Animalist, Sloth Week will be an online tribute to the sluggish creatures featuring daily footage from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica.Sloth enthusiasts will be able to laze alongside the furry creatures all week at SlothWeek.com and Animal Planet’s website, enjoying daily updates of sloth facts, listicles and sloth videos. On June 21 at 8 a.m. EST, Animal Planet will also re-air their two-hour special, “Meet the Sloths,” which follows a year in the lives of five sloths at the sloth sanctuary. Related posts:VIDEO: Will the sloth sink or swim? PHOTOS: Wildlife rescue center saves mother and baby sloths with C-section How Buttercup the sloth became a brand ambassador for American Apparel Inside Costa Rica’s Sloth Sanctuary: Horror show or a solution to a complicated issue? Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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ExSEAL Robert ONeill reveals himself as shooter who killed Osama bin Laden

first_imgIn 15 years of dangerous missions — from midnight raids on al-Qaida safe houses in Iraq to battling Somali pirates from the deck of a heaving U.S. Navy ship on the high seas — there had never been one so shadowed by dread. As Robert James O’Neill contemplated his jump from a helicopter into Osama bin Laden’s private garden, he was positive it would be his last.“I didn’t think I would survive,” the former Navy SEAL said.O’Neill, one of dozens of U.S. special operators to storm bin Laden’s hideout on May 2, 2011, said he mentally prepared himself to face death from heavily armed gunmen or from the elaborate booby traps that would surely line the approaches to the al-Qaida leader’s inner sanctum. What he never expected was that he would secure a place in history that night, as the man who fired the bullet that ended bin Laden’s life.O’Neill confirmed to The Washington Post that he was the unnamed SEAL who was first to tumble through the doorway of bin Laden’s bedroom that night, taking aim at the terrorist leader as he stood in darkness behind his youngest wife. In an account later confirmed by two other SEALs, the Montana native described firing the round that hit bin Laden squarely in the forehead, killing him instantly.More than three years after the events, O’Neill agreed to discuss his role publicly for the first time, describing in unprecedented detail the mission to capture or kill the man behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.His decision to talk came nearly two years after another team member, Matt Bissonnette, published a controversial account of the raid in the book titled, “No Easy Day.” It also follows what O’Neill has described as an agonizing personal struggle, as he weighed concerns over privacy and safety against a desire to have a least some control over a story that appeared likely to break, with or without his consent. Young boys play cricket while Pakistani security forces demolish the compound where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Feb. 26, 2012. Aamir Qureshi/AFPOver the past year, awareness of O’Neill’s role as “the shooter” had spread through the military community and onto Capitol Hill, where a number of members of Congress knew the story and had congratulated O’Neill personally, he said. Journalists were becoming aware of his name as well.In the end, just a week before scheduled interviews on Fox News and The Washington Post, O’Neill’s identity was leaked by some of his former peers. SOFREP, a website run by former special-forces operatives, posted an article that complained of O’Neill’s decision to tell his story on Fox News and decided to reveal his name pre-emptively.The SOFREP item was subsequently picked up by the British tabloid, the Daily Mail, which reported on Wednesday that O’Neill’s father had confirmed his identity as the shooter in a telephone interview.SOFREP published an Oct. 31 letter — apparently triggered by O’Neill’s impending TV interview — in which the commander and master chief of the Navy Special Warfare Command emphasized that a “critical” tenet of their profession is to “not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my action.”“We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain,” the letter said.O’Neill, in two meetings with The Washington Post, said he had anticipated the criticism. He said his decision to go public was confirmed after a private encounter over the summer with relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York’s World Trade Center. O’Neill, who works as a motivational speaker, had been invited to address a gathering of 9/11 family members at the National September 11 Memorial Museum shortly before its official opening. During what he described as a highly emotional exchange, O’Neill decided spontaneously to talk about how bin Laden died.“The families told me it helped bring them some closure,” O’Neill said.The meeting was facilitated by a member of the New York congressional delegation who asked O’Neill if he would donate his uniform to the museum’s collection.“He insisted on doing this anonymously to honor his unit, however the incredible interest in this story made this difficult,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “I represent thousands of individuals whose lives were forever scarred by the tragedy of Sept. 11, and Mr. O’Neill’s private words to the families who lost loved ones brought a remarkable comfort to them.”Maloney praised O’Neill as “a great American hero and a fine, articulate gentleman who has been very careful to always praise his team for the success of this mission.” The once top secret scale model of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, a precise replica used to plan the raid that killed the Al-Qaeda chief in 2011. Dan De Luce/AFPO’Neill’s involvement in the 2011 bin Laden raid capped a career that had already been extraordinary, by any measure. Tall and athletic with boyish features and reddish-blond hair, O’Neill became a SEAL in 1996 at age 20, and was eventually promoted to elite SEAL Team Six.He eventually received 24 different honors and commendations, many of them earned for multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the leader of missions to capture or kill suspected al-Qaida-allied insurgents.Between tours, his team was pressed into service for rescue missions in far-flung corners of the world. O’Neill was among the SEALs who assisted in the 2009 rescue of merchant marine Capt. Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia, an operation depicted in the 2013 movie “Captain Phillips.”O’Neill’s experiences during the bin Laden raid were first described last year to journalist Phil Bronstein for a February 2013 Esquire magazine article that, by agreement, referred to him only as “the shooter.” In the piece, he described advancing through bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with five other SEALs, eventually reaching the third floor, where bin Laden lived with his wives.As other team members peeled off to search different rooms, O’Neill found himself in the No. 2 position, behind the point man, for the final assault on bin Laden’s bedroom. When bin Laden briefly appeared at the door, the SEAL at the front of the line fired a shot that apparently missed.“I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway,” O’Neill recalled. “There was bin Laden, standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders pushing her ahead.”Though the room was dark, O’Neill could clearly see bin Laden’s features through his night-vision scope.“He looked confused,” O’Neill was quoted in the Esquire magazine as saying. “He was way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit.”Bin Laden was “standing and moving,” thrusting one of his wives in front of him as if to use her as a shield.“In that second I shot him, two times in the forehead,” he said. “Bap! Bap! The second time, as he is going down. He crumbled to the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again.”O’Neill told The Post that it was clear bin Laden had died instantly, his skull split by the first bullet.“I watched him take his last breaths,” he said. A file photo dated June 19, 2001 shows a TV grab of former Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden from a video tape said to have been prepared and released by bin Laden himself, during a shooting exercise in Afghanistan. AFP/HOHe dismissed any talk of heroism, describing his actions as “muscle memory,” the result of continuous, repetitive training, including countless rehearsals of the Abbottabad raid using full-scale models. He described the “heroic” actions of other SEALs, including those of the point man, who tackled two women in the bedroom to create the diversion that allowed O’Neill to get off his shots.O’Neill said the SEALs had little time to contemplate the magnitude of the evening’s events. After taking photographs and squeezing bin Laden’s frame into a body bag, they scrambled to collect computer drives and other obvious sources of intelligence.Then they moved bin Laden’s wives and children away from the house before boarding their helicopter for a sprint across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, just ahead of approaching Pakistani fighter planes.Hours later, O’Neill was back at a U.S. military base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, eating a breakfast sandwich while bin Laden’s body lay in an adjacent room. Just then, President Barack Obama appeared on a television screen.“The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Obama said.O’Neill said he glanced up at the screen and then at bin Laden’s body bag.And then finished his sandwich.© 2014, The Washington Post Facebook Comments Related posts:Obama: Expand effort against Islamic State Obama cannot keep ignoring Bashar Assad in Syria Costa Rica’s President Solís signs condolence book for Charlie Hebdo victims Obama tries to ease anxiety over terror attacks with Oval Office addresslast_img read more

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Costa Rican consumers are shopping more often but spending less

first_imgResults of a study on consumer habits in Costa Rica over the past year show that people are visiting grocery stores and supermarkets more often, but they’re spending less per trip.Consulting firm Kantar Worldpanel conducted the “Consumer Reality” study to evaluate consumer habits here between July 2014 and July 2015. Among other findings, the investigation found that local consumers are now looking for more options on where to buy and making more price comparisons before buying.People in Costa Rica visited stores an average of 133 times during the one-year period — 6 percent more than in the 2013-2014 period — but they didn’t always purchase something when they shopped.On some of those visits Ticos just looked around or requested price information. The number of people who made purchases actually decreased by 8 percent compared to the previous period.Spending on items also declined: local consumers spent an average of 6 percent less this year than they did the previous year.Kantar’s study also found that local consumers are buying less at large supermarket chains and are increasingly visiting more small grocery stores, or pulperías, and discount supermarkets. A total of 85 percent of purchases were made at these kinds of stores, the study found.“People are mostly grocery shopping in nearby small stores and they are mostly making small purchases,” said Vivian Gálvez, Kantar manager in Costa Rica.This buying trend also is increasing the consumption of products in small sizes, mainly in the personal care, snacks and soft drinks categories.Companies are aware of these trends. Offerings of products in small packages at grocery stores and supermarkets grew from 34 percent to 48 percent in the 2011-2015 period, Gálvez noted.As for the most consumed products, the study found that 55 percent of purchases made by families in Costa Rica in the last year were food items; 14 percent were personal care products; 13 percent were beverages; and 12 percent were household items. Facebook Comments Related posts:Solís calls for review of gasoline, electricity prices Costa Rica’s industry sector leaders fed up with high electricity rates Electricity rates for ICE customers to increase in October Regulatory agency drops electricity rates for all distributors in Costa Ricalast_img read more

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Australian politician calls for US travel warning after California shooting

first_imgTim Fischer, a retired Australian politician and former deputy prime minister in the right-wing government of Prime Minister John Howard, issued a stern rebuke of U.S. gun laws Thursday in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino attacks.In an interview with Australia’s ABC News, Fischer decried the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States, insisting that it’s time to “call out” Washington.“All [the shootings are] unacceptable because the U.S. is not stepping up on the public policy reform front,” said Fischer, who was a prominent campaigner for the gun law reforms enacted by Howard’s government following a 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania. The Australian state bought back more than 600,000 firearms from gun owners.According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those measures significantly curbed gun violence in the country:Since the mid-1990s, Australia’s firearm mortality rate has dropped from 2.6 per 100,000 people to just under one per 100,000, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The rate in the US is more than 10 per 100,000, according to the US National Vital Statistics Report.In the 18 years leading up to the Port Arthur massacre, there were 13 mass killings in Australia. There have been zero in the 19 years since.Fischer urged Canberra to consider its formal travel advice for Australians planning to visit the U.S. “Have we not reached a stage where the Smart Traveller advice of [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] now needs to be muscled up?” he asked. Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer. Andreas Solaro/AFPLike many other overseas observers, he poured scorn on the U.S.’s National Rifle Association.“The NRA in particular needs to be called out for their unacceptable blockage of any sensible reform, including [ammunition] magazine limitation,” he said.As The Washington Post’s Karla Adam details, the U.S.’ particular culture of gun violence is the subject of incredulity and macabre fascination in countries elsewhere.“The rest of the world looks on with utter bewilderment,” read an editorial in the Irish Times.© 2015, The Washington Post Facebook Comments Related posts:In the wake of attack on Paris newspaper, extremists take to Twitter to celebrate France, allies signal major response after Paris attacks leave at least 127 dead FBI investigating San Bernardino shooting as ‘act of terrorism’ Blood, bodies, bullets turn heart of France into war zonelast_img read more

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Illegal logging threatens Costa Ricas valuable species and vulnerable national parks

first_imgRelated posts:PHOTOS: ¡Vive Jairo! Protesters demand justice (again) for slain Costa Rica conservationist Rangers at Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park use satellite technology to fight illegal gold mining Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson turns to human rights commission to block Costa Rica’s legal chase Costa Rica court orders new trial over alleged Crucitas mine impropriety LA CRUZ, Guanacaste — A half hour north of the Pocosol ranger station outside Santa Rosa National Park, park ranger Josué Sandoval turned the beat-up Toyota Land Cruiser off the Inter-American Highway and down a dirt road that flanked Guanacaste National Park. The sun baked in the December sky as Sandoval bounced in the front seat over washed-out roads, through a field with grass so high the road vanished altogether, across a river and up another hill.It’s hard to know what to look for when it’s not there. But after stepping out of the truck the damage came into view. A tangle of branches and leaves was all that was left of a stand of precious cocobolo hardwood trees that had stood there a month before. Backhoe tracks led up to the muddy clearing like the spent fuse of a bomb.“They left anything that was too small to sell,” Sandoval said, picking up one of the smaller logs to show off the plum-colored heart of the wood. The cocobolo bandits had been here.Since 2014, Costa Rica’s dry tropical forests have been under siege from loggers looking to cash in on skyrocketing demand for precious hardwoods, especially cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), also known as tropical rosewood. The illegal logging of cocobolo and other precious hardwoods threatens Costa Rica’s famous but understaffed national parks as loggers look to protected areas as the last untapped source of valuable lumber for export. Josué Sandoval holds blocks of cachimbo, left, and cocobolo, right, used by park rangers to help identify illegal lumber. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesCocobolo is indigenous to Central America. The tree can reach higher than 20 meters and prefers the dry northwestern Pacific province of Guanacaste. Compared to larger or more famous trees, like the Guanacaste or mahogany, it would be easy to drive past a cocobolo tree and not think twice about it. But under its plain appearance is its true value. The heart of the cocobolo tree ranges in color from pink to deep red to black. The dense, heavy wood is used mostly for furniture, floors, decorative crafts – such as bowls or fountain pens – and musical instruments, including a Doug Irwin guitar made with a cocobolo body played by the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, lists cocobolo under Appendix II — the same category as hammerhead shark fins — in Costa Rica. This means it can be logged in prescribed amounts as long as an impact study determines its extraction is not harmful to the species. The hardwood is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, one step below “endangered.”Under Costa Rica’s Forestry Law, cutting down any tree requires permission from the government regardless if it is on private or public land, but the government occasionally grants permits to harvest cocobolo. Demand for the lumber and other tropical hardwoods from China and India, though, has outpaced the legal supply. High demand for the lumber has led to illegal logging and debate as to whether or not organized crime is involved in the practice, as well as the export of the wood. Between 2014 and 2015, rangers in the ACG area seized roughly 100,000 inches of cocobolo.“The illegal logging, trade and export of cocobolo is a serious problem of national interest,” Assistant Environmental Prosecutor José Pablo González said in an email. González said the environmental prosecutor is pursuing several cases but could not comment on them because they are ongoing investigations. Police seize 16 trunks of endangered cocobolo wood (Dalbergia retusa) on July 11, 2014. (Courtesy Public Security Ministry)Organized crime?In an email to The Tico Times, the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) office in Liberia, the provincial capital of Guanacaste, denied that there was a criminal organization behind the illegal logging.Park rangers with whom The Tico Times spoke disagreed with the OIJ assessment. Raúl Acevedo, a park ranger with the Guanacaste Conservation Area (ACG) and member of the cocobolo working group, said the illegal harvest was well organized. “The characteristics of the operation are similar to how organized crime operates,” he said.Acevedo said that middlemen use word of mouth to find farms where there is commercial-grade cocobolo. Once the farm is located, the middlemen approach the land’s owner and offer upwards of several hundred dollars to cut down the trees.“It’s hard to find work here,” ACG park ranger Josué Sandoval told The Tico Times. “If you’re a simple farmer and someone shows up saying they’ll pay you $400 to cut down a tree, what are you going to say?”According to Acevedo, that same wood could be worth ten times as much in Asia.Once the trees are cut down, Acevedo described behaviors that sounded more like drug trafficking than logging. He said that officers have found trunks of cocobolo, typically cut down to just the reddish hearts, hidden under scrap metal, hay, oranges and among other lumber. Typically, an advance car will drive ahead of the truck carrying the cocobolo to alert the driver if there is a police checkpoint ahead.Park rangers also described lumber laundering whereby loggers find loopholes around the law to continue exporting cocobolo. One scheme involves getting a legal permit to log a certain amount of cocobolo and then continuing to cut down the trees until a ranger or police officer asks to see the permit.Another method involves buying cocobolo that has already been seized from the Prosecutor’s Office. The seized lumber is auctioned and sold to the same loggers Acevedo said allegedly cut the trees down in the first place. After the sale, the illegal lumber is suddenly legal. Assistant Environmental Prosecutor González said the lumber is likely exported through ports with false identification. Santa Rosa Park Ranger Josue Sandoval revs up a chainsaw over a pile of illegal lumber seized by the National System of Conservation Areas. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesOutnumberedSINAC park rangers are tasked with handling illegal logging in Costa Rica, both within protected areas and on private land. Acevedo said he was frustrated with the lack of resources. “There are only 13 of us working in the ACG,” Acevedo said. “That’s one park ranger for every 110,000 hectares.”Back at the Pocosol station, Sandoval showed off piles of cocobolo and cachimbo, another hardwood with a pink core, stacked haphazardly behind the ranger station. A truck seized by police and park rangers a few days before The Tico Times visited still had its illegal lumber load in the back. Planks and whole trunks of the precious wood seized from across the province — Cañas, Santa Cruz, Nicoya — were stacked like forgotten pyres, rotting in the shade.Sandoval went off to search for a chainsaw to show the different hues of the wood, but none of the two he found worked. Looking around the station it was not hard to see that the rangers lacked the basics — from manpower to gasoline for the beat up Land Cruiser. Outside the barracks where rangers slept the back seat of a car sat in front of a television as a makeshift living room.“We’re forgotten out here,” he said.The answer to the cocobolo crisis might end up being the same market forces that created the illicit demand in the first place. Acevedo said that after boom years in 2013 and 2014 for cocobolo, 2015 was relatively quiet. The OIJ office in Liberia said it received only two reported cases of illegal cocobolo logging last year.The Environment Ministry has been studying a possible moratorium on logging cocobolo but the drop in demand internationally might make the effort moot.Regardless if the lumber d’jour is cocobolo, teak, or another hardwood, illegal logging remains a serious concern for Costa Rica, a country that made its name internationally with an aggressive reforestation and conservation effort following decades of aggressive deforestation for lumber and cattle industries.Acevedo said that illegal logging in Guanacaste threatens not only the trees’ survival but the watersheds in the parched province. After a serious drought in 2015, protecting water sources by leaving trees and forests along streams and rivers is more important than ever, he said.Acevedo seemed resigned to the challenge of protecting the country’s forests with few resources in the face of voracious, but fickle, international demand for precious hardwoods. “Right now it’s cocobolo but soon it’ll be another species.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Mudsoaked migrants fight for food as Greek border blockade drags on

first_imgRelated posts:NATO ships to combat migrant-smuggling networks in Aegean Refugee program for Central Americans ‘still on the drawing board’: US official Mexico to contact US candidates to rebut ‘disinformation’ Solís touts Costa Rica’s treatment of migrants, refugees IDOMENI,Greece — Desperate and freezing, migrants scramble over each other to grab food thrown out from the back of a van. It has been a long, cold night on the Greek-Macedonian border.In mud-soaked fields nearby, a chilly March daybreak reveals a bleak scene, after an overnight downpour left hundreds of tents drenched and children coughing miserably.“We have been waiting for six days,” said Farah, a 32-year-old Iraqi woman from Baghdad, as the van distributing canned food and long-life milk was quickly mobbed and emptied in minutes.“The food is not enough, everyone is lying to us and we are desperate,” added Farah, among some 7,000 people — many stranded near the Idomeni border crossing for days, who awoke under wet canvas among sodden wheat fields.Fayez, a 27-year-old computer technician from Syria, agreed. “We have to queue for over three hours, for not enough food,” he said. “We’ve been here four days, we want to go to Sweden but our money is running out.”The grim weather has already taken a harrowing toll on the travelers’ health: many children can be heard coughing and crying among the tents.Zineb Hosseini, a Syrian mother of five, said her family was “freezing.”“And now the wait begins anew,” she added.The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity that is helping to run one of the area’s two camps has reported widespread colds and several cases of gastroenteritis, while warning that tent and food supplies are running low.“The situation here is quite chaotic. [People] are coming with taxis, on foot, with whatever means they can find,” MSF representative Vicky Markolefa said.‘A second war’Yousef Karajakes, a 30-year-old Syrian pharmacist from the northern city of Aleppo, said he fled the civil war only to find himself in another conflict.“We are Syrian and Iraqi, we come here from the war just to find another war. They told us come, come, come here, come here and now we come and found a second war,” said Karajakes, who lost his wife and child in a bombing.With Austria and Balkan states capping the numbers of migrants entering their soil, there has been a swift build-up along the Greece-Macedonia border with Athens warning that the number of people “trapped” could reach up to 70,000 by next month.Overall, there are around 25,000 refugees and migrants in Greece and 1,000 continue to arrive on a daily basis, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili told reporters.Angered by ongoing border closures, hundreds of desperate migrants tried to break through the border on Monday, with Macedonian police firing tear gas into a crowd that included children.The closures have sharpened divisions in the EU with Germany accusing Austria of triggered a domino effect by saying it would cap asylum requests at 80 per day and allow only 3,200 migrants to cross its territory daily.Austria in ‘state of panic’Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday blamed Austria’s stance on domestic political considerations.“I think my friend (Austrian Chancellor) Werner Feymann … is in a state of political panic, he’s not reacting in a correct way and I’ve told him so,” Tsipras said.“The far-right is rising above 30 percent ahead of presidential elections and this has led to spasmodic moves,” he told Star TV.Back on the mud-caked border, Karajakes welled up as he recalled what led him to flee his home country, leaving him in his current plight.“I lose everything there, I lose my wife and I lose my daughter. They are dead, in a bomb, in the war,” he said, suddenly overcome, emotion catching in his throat.“I don’t have anyone here. I’m alone in this life.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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The progression in world views on Syrias conflict

first_img Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family MAY 31:“The longer this goes on, the longer that Assad and his thugs are allowed to brutally murder the Syrian people, the more likely it becomes a sectarian civil war, ” White House press secretary Jay Carney says, also citing potential of a “proxy war” with Iran backing Assad and other nations backing insurgents.JUNE 12:U.N. peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, says the Syrian conflict has escalated into civil war: “Yes, I think one can say that.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Comments   Share   New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Top Stories (AP) – Sunday’s statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross that it considers Syria’s conflict a civil war is the latest in the progression of sharpening world views of that country’s bloodshed since it began in March 2011 with the regime’s crackdown on protesters against the rule of President Bashar Assad. Here is a glance at some key statements by politicians and international officials on the conflict. Sponsored Stories center_img Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day MARCH, APRIL, 2011:In early days of protests, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expresses hopes for reform from Assad, saying he is a “different leader” than Libya’s then-leader Moammar Gadhafi and urging Assad to “be responsive to the needs” of Syrians. But by mid-April, her tone toughens, saying, “We strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government over the past few weeks.”AUG. 3:The U.N. Security Council issues its first presidential statement on the crisis _ weaker than a binding resolution _ urging Syrian authorities to end all violence and launch an inclusive political process. Ever since then, the council has been unable to pass a resolution on the crisis, with Assad’s allies Russia and China twice vetoing drafts, most recently in February.AUG. 18:“For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” U.S. President Barack Obama says in a call simultaneously echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel _ their first outright demand for Assad to go. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates 4 must play golf courses in Arizona More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Syria’s crackdown “may amount to crimes against humanity,” investigators from the U.N. Human Rights Council say in a report, noting a pattern “widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population.” The report advises Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court.The following day, the court’s prosecutor says it has no jurisdiction since Syria not a member, unless the Security Council votes to refer it.DEC. 2:“The Syrian authorities’ continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war,” says Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. She says the violence reinforces the need for the Security Council to submit the situation in the country to the ICC.FEB. 5, 2012:After Russia and China veto latest attempt at a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, Clinton warns that a failure to act increases chances for “a brutal civil war” as Syrians move to defend themselves from crackdown.“Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” Clinton says of Assad later in the month in Senate testimony.last_img read more

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Brazil church must pay for abuse of epileptic

first_img Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Comments   Share   center_img Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology The court statement says the church confirmed Santos suffered an epileptic attack inside one of its temples but denied that pastors beat him.Phone calls to the church for comment went unanswered.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) SAO PAULO (AP) – The Sao Paulo State appeal’s court has ordered one of Brazil’s biggest evangelical churches to pay compensation to a follower who says he suffered physical abuse while having an epileptic attack during a service.The court says in an emailed statement on Tuesday that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God must pay 10,000 reals ($5,000) to Alcione Saturnino dos Santos. He says that in 2001 he was repeatedly beaten by church pastors who allegedly thought he has been “possessed by the devil.” Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologistlast_img read more

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NATO vows action on insider attacks in Afghanistan

first_imgThe United States and its allies are pushing to have Afghan forces take over security for the country by the end of 2014. That effort has been imperiled by the spike in insider attacks, which have killed 45 international service members this year, most of them Americans. There were at least 12 such attacks in August alone, resulting in 15 deaths.On Sunday, the U.S. military halted the training of some Afghan forces. Although the move affects only about 1,000 trainees, a small fraction of the country’s 350,000-strong army and police, it highlighted the potential of the attacks to derail the U.S.-Afghan handover of security considered so essential to the international exit strategy.Additional measures to prevent insider attacks may include strengthened vetting and screening procedures, improved counterintelligence, as well as cultural awareness training, Fogh Rasmussen told journalists. He did not elaborate.Officials say that the international coalition ultimately hopes to re-check the backgrounds of the entire Afghan army and police forces.“We have introduced and will continue to introduce a broad range of measures to prevent such attacks, because these attacks threaten to undermine trust and confidence between foreign troops and Afghan security forces,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “We’ll do everything it takes to prevent such attacks.” Associated PressBRUSSELS (AP) – The surge of assaults by Afghan soldiers and police on their foreign allies will not derail plans to draw down international troops from Afghanistan, but in the meantime, NATO will “do everything it takes” to stop such insider attacks, the military alliance’s top official said Tuesday.“Our goal, our strategy, our timetable remain the same,” Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   Top Stories Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Military historians have noted that that the level of violence by local forces in Afghanistan against their Western allies was unprecedented in modern guerrilla warfare. This included the Vietnam War and wars waged by France, Britain and other colonial powers since the 1940s.In such conflicts, the guerrillas usually sought to infiltrate local security forces to obtain intelligence on enemy intentions or to subvert enemy operations rather than mount attacks on Western soldiers, said Martin Windrow, a British military historian and expert on colonial wars.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairylast_img read more

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Cambodian police beat eviction protesters

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement About 100 police began beating demonstrators when they tried to push through their lines, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. At least two protesters suffered apparent broken limbs and were taken to a hospital by fellow demonstrators. At least four others _ including a 72-year-old woman _ fell unconscious, though it was unclear whether it was from being beating. Scores of other protesters nursed cuts and bruises from being pushed and kicked.“The police forces beat us like they do to animals. They treated us, peaceful protesters, as badly as the Khmer Rouge did,” said a crying 42-year-old woman, Eng Houy, comparing the authorities to the genocidal rulers of Cambodia in the 1970s.The Boueng Kak dispute is a high-profile example of the evictions and land grabs that have become a volatile social problem nationwide, with deadly force sometimes employed. Activists link the deals to corruption and cronyism.The issue is seen as a weak point in Hun Sen’s administration as it faces a general election in July. His Cambodian People’s Party is all but assured a victory, but the opposition may be able to pick up some parliamentary seats due to popular anger over land grabbing. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodian police beat demonstrators who marched to the prime minister’s house Wednesday to protest being evicted from their homes, a confrontation that highlights how contentious the issue of land grabbing is this election year.Nearly 100 protesters, mostly women, marched to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in the middle of Phnom Penh to petition him to provide land they claim was promised them when they were evicted from their homes in the capital’s Boueng Kak lake area to make way for a luxury real estate development. The Boueng Kak land was awarded by the government to a Chinese company for commercial development with a hotel, office buildings and luxury housing. The protesters demand land titles they said had been promised by Hun Sen’s government. The city government resettled some families, but did not include them, they claimed.Since their eviction, the primarily female protesters have kept up the pressure, even though public dissent is discouraged under Hun Sen’s often heavy-handed government.Last May, 13 of the protesters were sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for aggravated rebellion and illegal occupation of land, when they tried to rebuild their homes on the land where their houses were demolished by the developers in 2010.An appeals court judge upheld their convictions in June, but ordered them freed on the grounds that they were unfamiliar with the law, did not resist arrest and had children to take care of. Several of the protesters had staged a hunger strike prior to the order to free them.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   5 ways to recognize low testosterone Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Sponsored Stories last_img read more

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US to abandon Chineseowned Waldorf at UN General Assembly

first_imgWASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department will abandon decades of tradition this fall at the annual U.N. General Assembly by setting up shop in a hotel other than New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria, which was purchased last year by a Chinese company.Officials said Wednesday the department would base its U.N. operations at the New York Palace Hotel instead of the famed Waldorf. The officials did not give a reason for the switch, which will affect hundreds of American diplomats and support staff who travel to New York for the General Assembly each September and usually stay and hold meetings on two secured floors at the Waldorf. 0 Comments   Share   Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top holiday drink recipes New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img However, officials pointed to Hilton Worldwide’s sale of the Waldorf-Astoria to China’s Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion last year, a deal that prompted security concerns. Terms of the sale allow Hilton to run the hotel for the next 100 years but also call for “a major renovation” that officials say has raised eyebrows in Washington, where fears of Chinese eavesdropping and cyberespionage run high.The U.S. suspects China-linked hackers were behind a recent massive breach of federal personnel records that compromised the data of millions of government workers.Both the White House and the State Department declined to comment on the hotel choice for the U.N. General Assembly.At the time of the October 2014 sale, officials said it could have implications for the U.S. government’s longstanding relationship with the hotel. They said decisions about the relationship would be made on cost, Anbang’s plans, the government’s needs and security concerns with an eye on the renovation project.The State Department routinely warns U.S. diplomats in China about physical and electronic surveillance and tells American citizens in the country to be aware of similar risks, notably in hotels. Sponsored Stories The vital role family plays in society Top Stories “Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge,” the department’s travel advice for China says.“Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests,” it says.The officials said the State Department’s decision probably would affect the traveling operations of the White House, which also sends large numbers of officials to New York for the General Assembly, including the president, who has in the past stayed at the Waldorf.It was not immediately clear whether the Waldorf residence of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would be moved to another location. The State Department has leased an apartment for the ambassador on the 42nd floor of the hotel’s Waldorf Towers for more than 50 years.U.S. law allows the department to rent the ambassador’s residence for a term of 10 years or less. The current lease expires this year with an option to renew for one or two years. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywalllast_img read more

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