Whats fuelling the rise in wellness travel Stress stress and more stress

first_img Travelweek Group What’s fuelling the rise in wellness travel? Stress, stress and more stress Share Posted by PUNE, INDIA — Wellness tourism is on track to grow 10.69% from 2016 to 2020 and a new global wellness tourism report says one of the key drivers for market growth is the rise in stress on a global level.The report also notes that one of the key trends will be the increasing popularity of spas and other related activities among men. In addition to massages, men are seeking other wellness activities such as manicures, pedicures, facials, Botox, and dermal fillers. The trend is fuelled by the aging baby boomers who want their outward appearance to reflect their energy and vitality.Many men and women are undergoing facial aesthetic procedures for a youthful appearance. The demand for facial aesthetics is increasing particularly in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, China, India, France, Italy and South Africa.Currently the Americas account for more than 43% of the overall market share to dominate the global wellness tourism market.More news:  Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaThe report also identified key players in the global wellness tourism market, including Accor, Allergan, Carlson Rezidor, Four Seasons, Fitpacking, Galderma, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Ipsen, KPJ Healthcare, Marriott, Miraval Resort & Spa, Mövenpick, Omni Hotels Management, Pravassa, Rancho La Puerta, Shangri-La and Starwood.center_img Thursday, August 11, 2016 Tags: Wellness Travel << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Trump replaces 90 day ban with new travel restrictions

first_img By: Jill Colvin and Matthew LeeSource: The Associated Press Monday, September 25, 2017 Trump replaces 90 day ban with new travel restrictions WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed a proclamation imposing strict new restrictions on travellers from a handful of countries, including five that were covered by his expiring travel ban. Administration officials say the new measures are required to keep the nation safe.The indefinite restrictions apply to citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea. As part of the presidential proclamation signed Sunday, the U.S. will also bar the entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate families.The changes will take effect October 18.The announcement came the same day that Trump’s temporary ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries was set to expire, 90 days after it went into effect. That ban had barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who lacked a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” from entering the U.S. Only one of those countries, Sudan, will no longer be subject to travel restrictions.“Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” Trump tweeted late Sunday after the new policy was announced.Unlike the first iteration of Trump’s travel ban, which sparked chaos at airports across the country and a flurry of legal challenges after being hastily written with little input outside the White House, officials stressed they had been working for months on the new rules, in collaboration with various agencies and in conversation with foreign governments.More news:  Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agencyTo limit confusion, valid visas would not be revoked as a result of the proclamation. The order also permits, but does not guarantee, case-by-case waivers for citizens of the affected countries.The restrictions are targeted at countries that the Department of Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.DHS has spent recent months working to develop a new security baseline, which includes factors such as whether countries issue electronic passports with biometric information, report lost or stolen passports to INTERPOL, an international law enforcement body, and share information about travellers’ terror-related and criminal histories.Citizens of countries that don’t meet the standard will face restrictions until they make changes to bring them into compliance.The new rules include the suspension of all immigrant visas for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, and the suspension of non-immigrant visas, such as for business and tourism, to nationals of Chad, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen.Citizens of Iran will not be eligible for tourism and business visas, but remain eligible for student and cultural exchange visas if they undergo additional scrutiny. Such additional scrutiny will also be required for Somali citizens applying for all non-immigrant visas.More news:  Hotel charges Bollywood star $8.50 for two bananas and the Internet has thoughtsCritics have accused Trump of overstepping his legal authority and violating the U.S. Constitution’s protections against religious bias each time he has ordered new travel restrictions.And the inclusion of Venezuela and North Korea appeared to be an attempt to block challenges from advocacy groups and others who have called the restrictions a ban on Muslims. Trump during his campaign called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”The U.S. had already imposed wide-ranging sanctions on certain high-ranking Venezuelan government officials to protest the government’s attempts to consolidate power.“The fact that Trump has added North Korea – with few visitors to the U.S. – and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been challenging the ban in court. “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”But administration officials argue the measure is necessary to keep Americans safe. Share Tags: America, Donald Trump << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Lindsay Pearlman leaving Ensemble Travel Group

first_img TORONTO — Well-known industry veteran Lindsay Pearlman is leaving Ensemble Travel Group.For more than eight years Pearlman has served as Co-President of Ensemble along with fellow Co-President Libbie Rice. He joined Ensemble in 2007 and his other posts included Executive Vice President and General Manager of the retail travel group. Before joining Ensemble he was with American Express, including a stint as Director and General Manager, Travel Service Network for American Express Canada.David Harris, CEO of Ensemble Travel Group, made the announcement yesterday. Harris was named CEO in March 2019 after several years on Ensemble’s North American Board, as well as Ensemble’s Canadian advisory board. Tags: Ensemble Travel Group Travelweek Group Share << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Friday, June 21, 2019 Posted by Lindsay Pearlman leaving Ensemble Travel Grouplast_img read more

Tamarindo Talk

first_imgSDI Legal, which was previously located in Villareal, has moved to Tamarindo. This firm, which works with ASADAS and other non-profit organizations, employs English-speaking attorneys. For the exact location and other information, call 2653-9321 or visitwww.sdi.fi.cr.Rumor has it that the desolate Garden Plaza shopping center surrounding the Automercado and Scotia Bank is going to be revived. Apparently, 16 new stores are planned, as well as a Middle-Eastern restaurant called Gazebo and a fully-equipped gymnasium. It will offer locals membership for $10. Keep an eye out for these changes when you hit the supermarket. It would be a good idea to patronize the new shops, so they don’t end up like the previous tenants.Surfers looking for a new surfboard should check out Cheboards, a just opened factory located on the road from Villareal to Huacas, 100 meters south of the Best Western. The shop offers a variety of surfboards as well as repairs. In town, you also can find a selection of Cheboards at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp.Steve and Lisa Quinn, owners of El Pescador, invite you to Wednesday night BBQ at their restaurant, located right on the beach past the circle. Every night, Chef Luis Briceno prepares food right on the beach. Call 2653-2523 or 2653-1001, or visit the website at elpescadortamarindo.com.ellenzoe@aol.com  Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

US to sign international Arms Trade Treaty over protests of the NRA

first_imgNo related posts. The United States will sign the international Arms Trade Treaty on Wednesday, agreeing to the accord to stem the flow of weapons to human rights violators and conflict zones, over the strong opposition of the U.S. gun lobby, according to a senior State Department official.The treaty, to be signed by Secretary of State John Kerry on behalf of President Obama, requires countries to put in place a system for keeping track of transfers of conventional weapons, from battle tanks and warships to small arms, and to ensure they are not sold to countries that are under international arms embargoes, that promote genocide or war crimes, or that might use them against protected civilians.The National Rifle Association has said the treaty will be used to regulate civilian weapons and to create an “unacceptable” registry of civilian firearms purchasers.The administration disagrees. The main purpose of the treaty is to “stem the international, illegal and illicit trade in conventional weapons that benefits terrorists and rogue agents,” said the official, who was authorized to anonymously announce the planned signing.“The treaty recognizes and protects the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes,” the official said. The United States already has strict export controls, “which haven’t diminished one iota the ability of Americans to enjoy their rights under our Constitution.”Amnesty International, which has been a leading sponsor of a two-decade international campaign to stem the international arms trade to human rights abusers, said “all Americans should celebrate” the administration decision to sign the accord.The treaty will go into effect once it is signed and ratified by at least 50 U.N. member states. The United States will be the 89th country to sign the treaty, which was adopted in a 153 to 3 vote, with 20 abstentions, in April.Although the treaty, the first to regulate the $70 billion annual arms trade, is considered historic, the names behind those numbers indicate why its implementation will be difficult.Syria, North Korea and Iran, the three countries that voted against it, are all under international arms sanctions. The 20 abstentions included Russia and China, the world’s largest arms exporters along with the United States. Russia is Syria’s main arms supplier, China is North Korea’s, and North Korea itself is a weapons exporter.Only four countries have ratified the treaty — Iceland, Nigeria, Guyana and the Caribbean island state of Antigua and Barbuda. Ratification in this country requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, where many Republicans and some Democrats are strongly opposed, and the administration is unlikely to submit it in the near future.In a General Assembly address Tuesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called the weapons trade a primary source of internal and cross-border violence in Nigeria and throughout West Africa.“It is regrettable that these scourges are sustained by unfettered access by non-state actors to illicit small arms and light weapons with which they foster insecurity and instability across our continent,” Jonathan said. “For us in Africa, these are the weapons of mass destruction.”Weapons covered in the treaty include but are not limited to battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.Washington Post staff writer Anne Gearan at the United Nations contributed to this report.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Military role in drug war at stake in Honduras presidential vote

first_imgHondurans will choose between competing strategies for lowering the world’s highest murder rate this weekend in a presidential election that includes the wife of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup.The final opinion poll last month showed a statistical tie between Juan Orlando Hernández, 45, of the ruling National Party and the Libre Party’s Xiomara Castro, 54, who rose to prominence by leading protests after her husband was forced out of the presidential palace at gunpoint. Hernández had 28 percent support and Castro 27 percent in an Oct. 9-15 survey by CID- Gallup. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.Violence in the Central American country of 8.3 million people has escalated in the coup’s wake as gangs tied to Mexican drug cartels use Honduras as a transit point between South America and the U.S. Hernández backs President Porfirio Lobo’s strategy of deploying military police to curb crime, while Castro says the government has lost control of the streets.“It comes down to the perspective on security,” said Enrique Reina, Castro’s vice presidential candidate, in a Nov. 18 phone interview. “The current strategy on security has failed. The military has been out in the streets since 2001 and crime rates have not gone down.”In the eight-candidate race, the Liberal Party’s Mauricio Villeda, a lawyer and son of a former president, was third with 17 percent support. Whoever gets the most votes in the Nov. 24 election wins. There is no second round.Bordered by Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras has a murder rate of more than 80 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world, according to the United Nations. The State Department estimated that last year about 90 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing South America for the United States first land in Honduras, where illegal airstrips abound in poorly patrolled parts of the country.Hernández, who led the national assembly when Zelaya was ousted, backs Lobo’s plan to deploy 4,000 military police in the streets to reduce violence, as well as earlier efforts to introduce drug testing to the national police and justice system. The new military police would help compensate for one of the smallest police forces, and highest levels of private security forces, in Latin America, according to the United Nations Development Program.Messages left for Hernández and his vice presidential candidate, Ricardo Álvarez, by Bloomberg News weren’t answered.“It is essential to recuperate peace and tranquility,” Hernández said in an interview with CNN’s Spanish-language channel this month. “Security is key and we are on top of it.”Castro says the experience in Mexico, where members of an elite anti-drug force went on to form their own violent cartel, the Zetas, shows that such a plan can backfire. Instead, she says the government should foster smaller, community-based police groups.In vying for her first elected office, Castro has rejected criticism from political opponents that she would be a puppet for her husband. Zelaya was forced into exile in 2009 after pushing a national referendum to change the constitution. He reached an accord with the government to return in 2011. A victory by Castro would make her the country’s first female president and end more than a century of rule by the National and Liberal parties.“If the question is who is going to rule, the answer is the person who will be taking over the presidency, there is no doubt about it,” she said in a Nov. 7 interview with online channel CB24, wearing a white cowboy hat similar to the one for which her husband became known.As difficult as the security situation is in Honduras, the economy is almost worse, said Eric Olson, the associate director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center in Washington.The $19 billion economy contracted 2.4 percent in 2009 as Zelaya’s ouster prompted international condemnation. Growth has averaged 3.2 percent per year since, less than the 5.7 percent average in the four years before the coup, according to IMF data. Economic activity rose 0.8 percent in September compared with a year earlier. About 61 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.“Honduras is borrowing to pay for its bills and often times doesn’t have enough money to pay police, teachers or judges,” Olson said.Investors wary of Zelaya’s former alliance with late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have fueled a rally in Honduran bonds since September as polls showed Hernández gaining on Castro, who led earlier this year.Contrary to some investor expectations, Castro will work with the private sector to reduce government spending without risking economic growth, according to adviser and former central bank President Noé Pino.“The government’s resources are very limited since the fiscal deficit is likely to end the year at 8 percent of GDP with domestic and external debt to mature in the next four years taking almost 20 percent of the national budget,” Pino said.Castro’s support comes from a range of ideologies, including the business sector, and as president she would probably seek International Monetary Fund assistance to close financing gaps, said Jefferson Finch, a Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York.“There is very little room for radical shifts in policy direction,” Finch wrote in a Nov. 19 report. “A Castro administration would be more moderate than pundits expect.”Cota reported from San José, Sabo from Panama City.© 2013, Bloomberg News Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

New administration inherits a mess with pay backlog teacher strike

first_imgThousands of teachers filled San José’s Second Avenue Monday, marching from the Parque de la Merced to the Finance Ministry to protest a new government-run payment system that has left them without salaries for months.An indefinite strike began this week called by several teachers unions, including the National Teachers Association (ANDE), the High School Teachers Association (APSE) and the Costa Rican Educators Union (SEC). Meanwhile, outgoing Education Minister Leonardo Garnier prepared to pass on the fiasco to his replacement in the new administration.Just three days before incoming Education Minister Sonia Martha Mora takes office, there seems to be no agreement on the horizon, although the Education Ministry [MEP] said on Monday that teachers could be paid as early as May 13. Striking teachers in San José on May 5, 2014. Fabiola Pomareda/The Tico TimesThe problem stems from a decision by the current administration of President Laura Chinchilla to begin using a new teacher database system just weeks before leaving office. Due to what officials have described as a “technical problem,” APSE said at least 6,000 educators haven’t received salaries, some since February.One of the teachers working without pay, Ana María Fernández, from the Colegio Técnico Profesional Carrizal in Alajuela, said she was asked in April to lead 40 one-hour classes per week.“This mess started with [MEP’s] naming of educators, because it started too late. We were in April and they had just begun naming the teachers. They knew all these kids would be left without classes and they still hadn’t named [teachers]. Those who went ahead and taught, yet weren’t officially named, didn’t get paid,” she said.To date, Fernández said she’s received only about half of her salary.“Since the ministry changed its database, we have no idea how many classes we’ve taught, nor if they’re paying us the right amount,” she said.Fernández, like many, hopes her salary situation will be corrected on May 13.Delia McCarthy, director of the 15 de Septiembre School in Hatillo, said the school’s 35 teachers haven’t been paid in full either, and they plan on striking indefinitely until the problem is resolved.“We can’t survive this any longer,” McCarthy said. “Some of us have to pay our children’s high school and college, not all of us own our own homes, we’re in debt, and [banks] won’t lend us more money. How are we supposed to pay our bills?” Delia McCarthy, left, of the Escuela 15 de Septiembre in Hatillo, San José. Fabiola Pomareda/The Tico TimesAt McCarthy’s school, the ministry still must name one teacher.“I’m the school’s director, and I’m teaching classes because [MEP] didn’t issue the names on time. We do what we have to for the kids, but we’re not being paid overtime for this,” she said.Integra IIIn January 2013, Costa Rica’s Comptroller General’s Office (CGR) reported on the chaotic management of payrolls at MEP. In some cases, teachers were overpaid, and in others, payment was delayed. The Comptroller discovered that MEP had no registry of files sent to the Finance Ministry in order to recover the excessive payments and mistaken overtime pay.To establish order, MEP decided to utilize a system called Integra II to streamline the process between the two ministries. MEP promised to implement the system before Chinchilla’s term ends on May 8. It began the transfer in April.But entering data in Integra II was an overwhelming task, and the ministry’s workers were unable to keep up.John Vega, a social studies professor at an adult education center in Santa Ana, southwest of the capital, and a member of APSE, said that an APSE administrative disputes tribunal has processed more than 1,000 complaints per month regarding back pay owed for bonuses and other salary incentives.“They said the delays would be resolved by the Integra II system, but really it only created more problems,” Vega said.MEP asked teachers to email the ministry in order to receive a payment voucher, but several teachers said they’ve sent emails a week ago and have received no response. Others said they received an email with a payment amount due, but no information on the classes being reimbursed, nor for what schools, nor if any deductions have been included.According to Vega, the strike has three goals: first, that officials “pay workers up to the last colón owed, because no worker should have to wait for an employer to comply with obligations.”Second, each teacher is entitled “to have access to information regarding what exactly is being paid, because currently no worker knows if they’re being paid a biweekly or monthly amount, or if any amount has been deducted,” he said.And third, “those who are responsible for this chaos should be punished, because this was provoked by high political officials, and while some of them will leave MEP on May 8, that doesn’t mean that they are no longer responsible,” Vega added. Ana María Fernández, a teacher at the Colegio Técnico Profesional de Carrizal, in Alajuela. Fabiola Pomareda/The Tico TimesAvoiding finger pointingIn a press conference Monday morning, Garnier did not discuss blame, saying only that the setback was caused by technical problems and not the lack of a will to solve them. He said that implementing Integra II to manage payrolls was a positive step, because it helped prevent even more teachers from being affected.At a May 3 meeting with APSE, incoming minister Mora said the payment delay would be the new administration’s problem as of Thursday.APSE President Ana Doris González called on teachers who haven’t participated in the nationwide strike to do so.“Any teacher who hasn’t yet joined the strike is sending a message to employers that it’s OK to work for free,” González said.González told The Tico Times that on Tuesday, a closed-door meeting would be held with leaders of teachers’ union and government officials. Facebook Comments Related posts:As teacher strike continues, government announces plan to distribute back pay Teachers’ strike reaches 9th day Costa Rica’s month-long teachers’ strike comes to an end Following strike-ending agreement, public schools (slowly) return to normallast_img read more

Costa Ricas major league concern

first_imgTURRIALBA, Cartago –“And it’s going, going, GONE!”That play-by-play has been repeated thousands of times in the history of U.S. baseball. It was screamed when the San Francisco Giant’s Travis Ishikawa hit a pennant-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth to win his team a spot in the 2014 World Series. And when Hunter Pence hit a long ball to start the scoring in the Series. The phrase has marked thousands of priceless moments for baseball players and fans alike. But for Overly Monge, those moments aren’t priceless. To him, every homer has a very real price.Monge doesn’t know about the World Series that concluded just two weeks ago, or about Ishikawa or Pence. He’s from a country where soccer, not baseball, is by far the most popular sport. But Monge does know, just by look and feel, if a baseball is of professional caliber. And he knows exactly how much blood, sweat and tears it takes to make it so.Monge, 47, spent 15 years of his life making baseballs in a factory owned by Rawlings Sporting Goods in Turrialba, Costa Rica. With 750 employees, this small factory in a town tucked into the fertile mountains 60 kilometers east of San José produces the baseballs used in the major leagues. The factory’s output is about 2.4 million baseballs per year.Until 2013, the factory was the exclusive provider of baseballs for Major League Baseball, according to a report by Reuters. Rawlings Costa Rica didn’t confirm if it is still the exclusive provider of professional baseballs, although representatives did tell The Tico Times that Rawlings Costa Rica still holds a contract with Major League Baseball. The exact number of Costa Rican baseballs sent to the major leagues per year was kept confidential, but some reports have said upwards of 1.8 million.Demand for professional baseballs is steadily increasing. During every major league game about 100 baseballs are used. Once taken out of play, a professional baseball will not be reused – some because they are scuffed or dented, others because they are foul balls or home runs kept by eager fans. Some balls are recycled to batting practice and others are sent directly to the minor leagues. The average lifespan of a baseball in the MLB is just two plays during a game, and eight days total.Professional baseballs are made by hand at the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica. Each of the 108 stitches per ball must be perfect. The balls themselves are better than a machine could make them. About 300 of the factory’s employees are sewers, while many others are assemblers or winders responsible for constructing a ball’s core.Newer sewers wear medical tape on their fingers to protect themselves from cuts and blisters as they pull each stitch tight. But Monge proudly said that he had long since developed calluses and didn’t need the tape. Experienced workers like Monge can make between three and four baseballs per hour.“Costa Ricans know how to make the balls the best,” Monge beamed.But pride in his work quickly turned to anger as Monge explained that, in the end, he felt his expertise and loyalty to the company counted for little.“They threw me out like a dog on the street,” Monge said. Overly Monge, a 47-year-old former Rawlings employee, stands in front of a baseball diamond located behind the company’s factory in Turrialba, Costa Rica. Sarah Blaskey/The Tico TimesInjuries and intimidationTwo years ago, Monge developed a severe pain in his right shoulder. Pains like this in the arms and wrists are common at the factory due to the poor ergonomics of hunching over a ball for nine or more hours a day, and performing difficult and meticulous movements repeatedly over the course of years.“The problem at that factory is that if you have a hurt shoulder, then you aren’t good for anything anymore,” Monge said. An injury like that is easily treated with rest, he said, but rather than providing medical care or transferring him to a different department for a short period of time, Monge claimed that factory management fired him.“They don’t give you any appreciation for your work, nor a letter of recommendation. They give you five minutes to leave the factory or be escorted out by security,” Monge said.Shirley Gómez, human resources manager at Rawlings Costa Rica, explained that the company has “an in-house doctor that sees employees and helps them with the INS [National Insurance Institute] procedures when necessary.” She stated that when workers receive a recommendation to be relocated, “Rawlings evaluates relocation possibilities.”“For those cases where Rawlings is not able to relocate an employee at the company, Rawlings opts for a full compensation of the employee in accordance with Costa Rican labor laws,” Gómez wrote in an email to The Tico Times. Monge alleged that he had to fight for his pay, and others said the company doctor is absent most of the time except for a few hours per week.“If the worker comes from an appointment at INS, that person is fired. He is paid what he is owed and is fired, even if he has permanent damage,” said José, a worker at the Rawlings factory who asked that his real name not be used. “What they’ve done to many people is move them to a different area of work [if injured in the morning], to one that does not involve sewing balls. From there, sometimes they’ll call you around two or three in the afternoon, before the appointment [with INS] and just fire you.”Some employees at the factory say it is common practice for an employee to be fired immediately if a chronic injury develops that prevents the worker from making the quota. Ana – another worker who asked that her real name not be used because she feared retribution for speaking to a journalist – said that although the weekly quota for each worker is 156 balls, there is a lot of pressure to produce more.“Really, I like to work here. The work is good and so is the place. But they push us a lot with the quantities. They order quantity from us and they order quality from us,” Ana said. “If you miss a quota once, they bother you about it. Twice, they suspend you. The third time they fire you.”Gómez wrote that “employees are encouraged to meet their minimum production levels.” She elaborated that “employees that have been with Rawlings for some time and face challenges to fulfill their minimum production level may be moved to the training line to contribute to their productivity improvement, using best practices.”Although she has five years experience and makes more than her weekly quotas – which earns her extra pay – Ana said she fears she will develop an injury and be fired like others she knows from the factory.According to a 2004 report by the National Labor Committee (NLC) entitled “Foul Ball” – the most recent report of its kind – nearly 80 percent of Rawlings workers were injured or were suffering from repetitive motion disorders. Most workers at the time lasted less than three years on the job, the report stated.However, Rawlings has disputed all of the findings of that report. The company maintained that, “the Report does not reflect any of Rawlings conditions.” Gómez said that daily ergonomics training is offered every morning, and workspaces are sized according to height to help prevent injury.José has worked at the factory for 20 years, and said the daily ergonomics training is just a few minutes of exercises in the morning. He claims the practice is ineffectual in preventing repetitive stress injuries.“It’s too little. It’s a routine of three or four minutes. They are extremely basic movements that won’t help to prepare for what’s coming, because it’s many hours of work,” José said.The Tico Times spoke with employees who developed injuries this year and are afraid to see a doctor or say anything about the pain for fear of losing their jobs. They claim to know others in the same situation.“If you have a pain, you have to remain quiet because at any moment they will fire you,” Ana said.“We are like machines. It’s easier to replace us than to repair us,” José added.José claimed that the factory atmosphere is stressful, and Rawlings looks for reasons to fire employees without severance. He alleged that last year, bosses spied on employees to see if they were doing anything that wasn’t permitted. One example he gave was helping a newer colleague meet a daily quota.“There are people there who come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 5:40 in the afternoon. They eat lunch in five or 10 minutes because they need to work. It’s hard for them to produce the minimum quota of balls. So, sometimes those of us who are a little faster, who can produce more balls, will help them, and that’s not permitted. If they see you helping a teammate, they fire you without pay,” José explained.José also claimed workers face intimidation and possible firing if they talk to journalists about what is happening inside the Rawlings factory. In a follow-up interview with The Tico Times, he said he was reported to managers for talking to a reporter outside the factory.“The day I talked to [The Tico Times], they reported me with my identification code. I don’t know what measures they might take against me. They haven’t yet taken any,” he said.Gómez denied all of José’s and Ana’s allegations. “Rawlings Costa Rica is a company that is fully compliant with local labor and constitutional legislation,” Gómez wrote. “Therefore, Rawlings does not interfere with the employees’ freedom of expression or speech.”Still, workers claim there is little job security at the Rawlings factory in Turrialba. A high regional unemployment rate provides the factory with a pool of available workers to fill a vacancy at a moment’s notice, keeping Rawlings employees on constant edge. After agricultural labor, Rawlings is the largest provider of jobs in Turrialba. For many, it’s the best option they have.“The problem is that there are almost no other jobs in this area,” José said.Despite ongoing allegations of intimidation and questionable firing practices, Rawlings representatives and some employees said there is a good atmosphere inside the factory.“We have a good working environment,” Gómez stated. “We observe all occupational health measures in our facilities and provide employees with proper conditions for the execution of their duties. We encourage employees to keep a respectful and friendly environment.”Ken West, who was factory manager in 2004 when the NLC report came out, told The New York Times that Rawlings “was a good place to work.” When asked about repetitive stress injuries he said, “We just don’t have that problem.” Employees of Rawlings Costa Rica take a lunch break outside the factory in Turrialba during a recent visit by The Tico Times. Sarah Blaskey/The Tico TimesTwo worlds collideWhen bat hits ball in the major leagues, two worlds collide. One is “the home of the brave,” where fans leisurely enjoy America’s favorite pastime. The other is a world of alleged insecurity and low pay, where every at-bat adds to a future quota that hundreds of workers may struggle to meet.Major League Baseball is a conglomeration of 30 teams with an average net worth of $811 million for each team. Five teams have a net worth of more than $1 billion each. In 2013, MLB’s gross revenue totaled up to $8.5 billion, while the average player’s salary was $3.39 million. MLB Commissioner Allan Huber “Bud” Selig’s salary is reported to exceed $20 million annually. Average ticket resale prices topped $1,000 for this year’s World Series, and standing-room-only ticket prices ran about $400 each.In contrast, workers at the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica reportedly earn $1.88 per hour, although wages vary depending on productivity level. José said he makes about $2.33 an hour as a baseline wage. That totals about $100 a week, which barely meets Costa Rica’s minimum wage and is a far cry from a comfortable living salary in a country that has seen its cost of basic goods and public utilities continue to rise.Just 13 standing-room-only tickets for the 2014 World Series would have paid José’s yearly salary. Major League Baseball pays $45 per World Series ball, yet only about 50 cents of that goes to the Costa Rican worker who produced it.Yet Ana expressed her gratitude to the baseball players in the United States for playing and thereby giving her a job. She said that while she doesn’t understand much about the sport, her husband is a fanatic. And while she likes her job and is proud of what she does, Ana believes she should be paid a higher salary for her labor.“In reality, the way this work kills us, the pay is unjust,” she said. But for many workers, low pay is better than no pay, which often is the alternative in Turrialba.Employees also report that some conditions in the factory are harsh. The NLC report called conditions there “like being in jail.” Employees at Rawlings work long hours – nine or more per day – in a factory without universal air conditioning. Temperatures have reached upwards of 36 degrees Celsius (97 F) by some reports as the Costa Rican sun beats down on the factory roof. The NLC report from 2004 called on the company to install some sort of cooling system.According to Gómez, the Turrialba factory has a fixed fan system for air circulation. “Some areas of Rawlings facilities have air conditioning and other areas do not,” she wrote. Some employees said ventilation has improved over time, while others said there have been no changes at all.“The bosses have air-conditioned offices and we’re suffocating in there,” José said.The Tico Times requested a tour of the factory, but the company said it is unable to immediately facilitate the request.Rawlings workers also claimed they have no real way of protecting themselves from job insecurity or a harsh working environment. Although labor unions and collective bargaining are legal in Costa Rica, according to the NLC report, “At the Rawlings plant, the workers were very clear: If they ever attempted to organize a union, they would be illegally fired on the spot. And if they were ever somehow successful, Rawlings would shut down the plant and move it to a place like China.”Ten years since that report was published, the fear of organizing continues among the workers interviewed for this story.“If someone does that [starts a union], they’ll fire you. They’ll throw you out, with no rights if you’re not careful,” Ana said.Gómez also disputed those allegations, saying, “Rawlings does not interfere with the employees’ freedom of association and their actions toward the development of any kind of employee group or similar, regulated in the Costa Rican legislation.”Instead of a union or collective bargaining, the workers at Rawlings have a solidarista association, which is a uniquely Costa Rican movement that entails a worker-management association managed by employees. That movement was founded in Costa Rica in the 1940s.Rawlings formed its solidarista association in 1992 as a “direct agreement” between management and employees. But some workers claim the association is undemocratic, with managers appointing the board. “That organization doesn’t do anything,” Ana claimed. Gómez countered that Rawlings “does not interfere with its [the solidarista association’s] internal operations.”According to the NLC report, “Solidarista Associations, which clearly are not under the control of the workers, are also violating the principles of autonomy and independence of worker organizations which are guaranteed under ILO Conventions 87 and 98.”Also according to the report, while the solidarista association makes payday loans available to workers and provides lunch coupons, it does not deal with: production goals, piece rates, wages, contracts, hiring and firing, grievances, overtime, health and safety, social security, social benefits, sick days, maternity issues and accidents.Like many corporations, Rawlings does not discuss the circumstances involved in the firing of one of its employees. But Monge said he believes he was dismissed two years ago partly because he was president of the solidarista association at the time. He said he used his position as a platform to speak in favor of workers’ rights and better working conditions. Workers at Costa Rica’s Turrialba plant produced the baseballs used by Major League Baseball in the 2014 World Series. (Via Rawlings Facebook page)Costa Rican David and the Globalized GoliathAccording to several reports, the Rawlings factory began transitioning from Haiti to Costa Rica in 1986, following the departure of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, with whom Rawlings had an amiable business relationship. The company selected Costa Rica because of its renowned economic and political stability.In exchange, Rawlings, now owned by Jarden Corporation, received a 5,000-square-meter free-trade zone in Turrialba to build its tax-free factory. The company imports – duty-free – all of the raw material that goes into making a baseball, including cowhide, cork and rubber cores, and sheep-wool thread, according to Reuters.Rawlings’ free-trade status also preceded Costa Rica’s larger free-trade agreements with the United States and other countries.In 2007, CAFTA-DR passed a national referendum in Costa Rica by a narrow margin, and the agreement took effect two years later, expanding free-trade zones across the country. While proponents of free trade say agreements like CAFTA-DR stimulate the economies of participating countries, critics say they erode labor-rights standards and promote “race-to-the-bottom” wages.According to Global Exchange, an international organization promoting human rights, “CAFTA contains no meaningfully enforceable standards that might prevent countries from lowering their public health, workplace safety, and environmental laws in order to attract investment.”Rawlings in Costa Rica is caught in a global trend towards low-wage jobs, competing with countries that have even lower minimum wages and less intrusive labor legislation. If wages were to increase in Costa Rica, what would keep Rawlings from moving the factory to Nicaragua or to China?“Rawlings does not intend to move its baseball production factory to another country, regardless of employees’ benefits,” Gómez wrote to The Tico Times. “Rawlings and its clients are pleased with the Costa Rican work force, and the baseballs are praised around the world for their detailed handiwork and excellence.”Yet the threat of a factory moving elsewhere is common within the global maquiladora industry. It scares workers away from unionizing and fighting for better wages and conditions. In response to this growing problem, in 2012, the U.S.-based Workers Rights Consortium proposed the “Designated Suppliers Program“ (DSP). DSP is a licensing agreement between colleges and sports apparel companies that secures living-wage pay and long-term contracts between factories and apparel companies to prevent then from “jumping ship” to cheaper locations.Although DSP is currently limited to collegiate apparel licensing agreements only, it is one method for preventing some of the problems within the globalized production industry. In theory, Major League Baseball or any other professional sport could adopt DSP language into licensing agreements.Still, without a union the workers have little hope for organizing for change, and any action could jeopardize their jobs, workers claimed. Some said solidarity from abroad could help their situation.“It’s good that the friends in the United States know a little bit about what is really happening at the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica, that it’s not as nice as it seems,” Monge said.Ana urged professional baseball players in the U.S. to get involved. “If you can make a structural change, help us to make it,” she said.To date, MLB licensing agreements do not have “requirements or guidelines that address production standards, domestic versus foreign production, and labor standards at production facilities,” according to the NLC report. But the report’s authors proposed a solution: raise awareness among fans and players – many who don’t know where or how their baseballs are made – and push for policy change within Major League Baseball.“The amazing thing is that the Major League players have such power, that if even one of them spoke out, factory conditions and respect for worker rights at the Rawlings plant in Costa Rica could be cleaned up overnight,” the report stated.The Major League Baseball Players Association does not have direct influence over the contract between MLB and Rawlings. But it did speak out in favor of workers’ rights. Although he couldn’t comment on the specific details of Rawlings Costa Rica, Greg Bouris, director of communications for the Major League Baseball Players Association, told The Tico Times,“We certainly share the view that workers in all plants are entitled to, and should enjoy, appropriate and safe working conditions.”“We sacrifice a lot so they can play,” Maribel Elizondo Brenes, whose hands were disfigured due to her work at Rawlings Costa Rica, told The New York Times back in 2004. “It’s an injustice that we kill ourselves to make these balls perfect, and with one home run, they’re gone.”Sarah Blaskey is a freelance reporter based in Pérez Zeledón. Her work has appeared in various publications and can be read here.  Related posts:Rawlings lays off 200 employees at its Costa Rica apparel operation Major League Baseball gets in on US-Cuba thaw An MLB first? Fans locked out as riots rock Baltimore With Obama visit, Cubans hope for home run in baseball diplomacy Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Festival Under the Stars to screen third edition in Puntarenas

first_imgFilm buffs andporteños, take note: This coming weekend, the year’s first edition of the Festival de Cine Bajo las Estrellas will bring outdoor screenings of two Costa Rican films, Puerto Padre, directed by Gustavo Fallas, and Por las Plumas, directed by Ernesto Villalobos, to the Pacific port city of Puntarenas.The Festival began in 2012 as a project of the Costa Rican Center for Cinematographic Production, inspired by various film festivals taking place in both Latin America and Europe. Its mission: to bring audiovisual art forms to parts of Costa Rica beyond the Central Valley.“Most of the time, all cultural events occur in the capital,”  Daniela Arias, spokeswoman of the festival, told The Tico Times. “We want to reach other communities. Our plans are to share with different people and expose them to a different film style, not the commercial one.”The Puntarenas version, which is co-sponsored by local production company Nosotros Producciones,  is the third edition of the festival, and the first in the province of Puntarenas.  Previous iterations of the festival have included events in the Osa Peninsula, Puerto Viejo, Bagaces, Sarchí, San José, and Nandayure, screening Costa Rican films including El Regreso by Hernán Jiménez, Cielo Rojo by Miguel Gómez, and Gestación by Esteban Ramírez.“This time Puntarenas was chosen because we really wanted to release the movie Puerto Padre in this location,” Arias said, “It was filmed right here in Puntarenas and some of the actors are from here, so we want them to be part of this experience.” Director Gustavo Fallas will participate in the festival and will share information about the movie with the audience.Besides enjoying the experience of watching movies outdoors, festival participants will be able to participate in workshops about audiovisual production in order to learn about the filmmaking process. The festival will also screen some short films produced by students from Veritas University.For more information about the festival, visit the Cinematographic Center website. Facebook Comments Related posts:Cowboys, coffee, and other happenings around Costa Rica Art fair, Renaissance artist, and other happenings around Costa Rica BMX bikers, TEDx lectors, and other happenings around Costa Rica Envision Festival, Paula Rock, and other happenings around Costa Ricalast_img read more

President Solís laments media criticism analysts say its nothing new

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica’s Solís claims $112 million in losses from corruption in speech highlighting first 100 days of his administration Costa Rica’s first official sign language interpreter has long history of bridging the communication gap President Solís gets good grade from most Costa Ricans as first 100 days pass Costa Rica ‘victim’ of US-Cuban immigration laws, says President Solís Tense relations between the press and the president are as common as rice and beans in Latin America. It’s a measure — with flaws — of a functioning democracy.It’s just as common for a president to rail against the press when the headlines aren’t rosy enough for his or her taste. This administration’s battle began last Sunday when President Luis Guillermo Solís wrote on op-ed lambasting Costa Rican national media for what he perceived as unethical and irresponsible reporting on his government and its policies. Solís continued his charge on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.“Information becomes a weapon — and I’m using that term deliberately — a weapon that can do great damage to a democracy like this one that defends freedom of expression,” Solís told reporters gathered at Casa Presidencial.“This is not about deflecting responsibilities from the government,” Solís said, “It’s about debating the role of the media in a democracy that does not tell the full truth, perverts it, or even reports something false.”The comments came on top of Solís’ bitter op-ed printed Sunday in the daily La Nación. In it, the president complained about daily harassment from the press “in which the use of alarmist or openly false headlines, of highlighted bad news and very well concealed good news has become the rule.”He also wrote: “If an alien came to San José and read some media outlets these days, it would think Costa Rica is on the edge of an economic and social catastrophe.”La Nación defended its coverage in a long and detailed editorial on Tuesday. It diligently noted all the days it had published stories about much of what Solís considers the good news of his administration, like the pending construction of the new Moín terminal (groundbreaking is scheduled for this weekend), the recently-approved Alajuela-San Ramón highway project and the Route 32 expansion.In the case of La Nación’s Route 32 coverage, the paper noted that it would have been impossible to ignore the doubts expressed by Solís’ own party starting when the deal was first negotiated by the former administration of President Laura Chinchilla (2000-2014). The paper noted that Solís’ own Public Works and Transport Minister, Carlos Segnini, repeated those doubts before the Legislative Assembly.“The sudden change of heart is, at the least, noteworthy,” the editorial stated.Observers told The Tico Times that the president’s attempt to call out his critics might well end up further complicating his relationship with the media.Political analyst Constantino Urcuyo said the president’s jeremiad might have been cathartic but it had no apparent political value besides starting a fight with the media. Urcuyo said that presidents forget how much they need the media to push their agenda and how fickle the press can be with its praise.“I would tell Solís to pray the media does what he wants 5 percent of the time; I’d be happy with that,” Urcuyo said.Marlon Mora, president of the Costa Rican Journalists’ Association, was similarly unsympathetic to Solís’ tongue-lashing.“[President Solís] needs to talk about public policy as president, not start fights with the media,” Mora said.He said taking a confrontational stance with the press did little to push Solís’ agenda or to get out the message that he alleges the media has been ignoring.Mora noted that blaming the press was a time-tested strategy for politicians when they find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. Solís, who was elected with more than 77 percent of registered voters — the highest margin of any president in the country’s history — has seen his popularity plunge since taking office. “If [authorities] are looking for a press who are an echo chamber, they’re not going to get it,” said Alejandro Delgado, president of the Free Expression and Press Institute (IPLEX).“If there were false news stories or lies, the judicial system has avenues to explore them, but at this time there has not been one case or accusation that contradicts what the press has reported,” Delgado said, referring to the right to reply, a protection allowed to all Costa Ricans who believe they have been misrepresented or slandered.The IPLEX president said that elected officials need to remember that their office requires them to defend their policies to the public — including the media — and that good press follows bad.Gina Sibaja, a political scientist at the University of Costa Rica who studies media and politics, said that President Solís’ critiques of the media were less a failing of ethics than of form. Sibaja noted that media companies have a social responsibility but they are also businesses.The drive for some media organizations to seek out spectacle in their coverage instead of deep reporting is a strategy that lends itself to misrepresentation and distraction from the real story in favor of flashy headlines. This kind of confusion in reporting is compounded, she said, in mediums that use short bursts to tell a story, like television or social media.Sibaja said that the Solís administration was struggling to find its balance point with the media after the presidential campaign enjoyed sympathetic treatment from the media. Now that Solís is in office, she said, the media views him and his administration more critically as it develops public opinion about his policies and their impacts on Costa Rica.“It’s just part of politics,” she said. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Two requests to lower fuel prices await Sala IV ruling

first_imgThe National Oil Refinery (RECOPE) requested two fuel price cuts in the past month and international prices of oil products this week fell to their lowest levels in the past three months, but motorists in Costa Rica are unlikely to benefit from those circumstances anytime soon.The Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) suspended its evaluation of both of RECOPE’s requests, alleging that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, has barred ARESEP from acting on the request until the court rules on a complaint filed by the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries (CICR) against the price calculation methodology.Both of RECOPE’s requests correspond to declines in international prices of oil. The first one filed in October asked for a ₡9 cut in the per-liter price of Diesel and of ₡2 in the price of Plus gasoline.The second request filed Friday would have lowered per-liter prices an additional ₡21 for Super gasoline, ₡20 for Plus and in ₡16 for Diesel.If approved by the regulatory agency, a liter of Diesel would have gone from ₡467 to ₡443 ($0.83-0.79); Super, from ₡579 to ₡560 ($1.03-1); and Plus, from ₡554 to ₡534 ($0.99-0.95).Price settings on holdARESEP requested that Sala IV Justices explain why the agency is not allowed to set prices until the Sala IV ruling takes place. The agency is worried about a lengthy wait, since justices do not have a deadline to issue a ruling and could take months or even years to do it.RECOPE this week also submitted an “urgent request” to the Sala IV to allow ARESEP’s to revisit fuel prices.The request would allow the regulatory agency to proceed with pending price adjustments and also with future settings required for the purchase, import and distribution of fuels in the country, RECOPE said in a public statement.ARESEP spokeswoman Carolina Mora said the delay “might cause strong differences” between local and international prices, and problems for RECOPE derived from budgeted costs they used to plan future purchases of fuels from international markets.Mora said that RECOPE’s first request should have been resolved by Oct. 28, while the one filed last week should have been ready within the next two weeks and go into effect at the end of this month.The appealThe CICR brought the complaint before the Sala IV in response to a complaint filed by Social Christian Unity Party lawmaker Luis Vásquez in August. Vázquez asked the justices to overturn an executive decree continuing a subsidy included in the prices of gasoline and diesel since 2008 to maintain the price of cooking gas.CICR Assistant Executive Director Carlos Montenegro said in a public statement that ARESEP’s decision to refrain from approving price settings is completely unfounded. He argues that according to the chamber’s legal advisers, ARESEP is misinterpreting the Sala IV orders.“ARESEP’s legal interpretation is like that of a judge who stops trying people for their crimes just because someone challenged the country’s Penal Code,” Montenegro said. Facebook Comments Related posts:Motorists get cheaper fuel prices starting this week Fuel prices set to rise for the second time this year Request to raise fuel prices provokes sharp criticism RECOPE opposes referendum that could break its fuel market monopolylast_img read more

What is Juan Santamaría Day

first_img Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Related posts:What is Juan Santamaría Day? Diquís spheres to be declared UNESCO World Heritage site Who was Juan Santamaría? Five (debated) things you should know Welcome to Bound Brook, New Jersey, ground zero of Costa Rican migration to the US Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Costa Rica, lacking an army since 1948, doesn’t have many war heroes. The most notable exception is Juan Santamaría, a poor drummer boy from Alajuela. Santamaría helped thwart a notorious U.S. figure’s march through Central America during the mid-19th century.Celebrated every year on April 11, Juan Santamaría Day commemorates the Costa Rican victory in the Battle of Rivas in 1856 against the U.S. citizen William Walker and his mercenary army.After overthrowing the government of Nicaragua, Walker set his sights on other Central American countries in hopes of developing a slave-trade empire. The Costa Rican government sent troops to Nicaragua to fight the growing threat.It seemed unlikely that Costa Rica would win the battle until young Juan Santamaría set fire to a hostel where a number of Walker’s soldiers were staying. The fire led to a heavy loss in troops for Walker’s army, but also killed Santamaría. This act of heroism confirmed Costa Rica’s sovereignty and is celebrated every year with a parade and ceremony in Alajuela. Originally published on April 10, 2014. Facebook Comments Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Timeslast_img read more

Nine years later US parents still searching for missing son in Costa

first_imgUS parents still looking for answers in son’s 2009 disappearance in Costa Rica Related posts:US parents still looking for answers in son’s 2009 disappearance in Costa Rica Family of US hiker disappeared in Costa Rica passes another dark anniversary Human remains in Corcovado could belong to missing US hiker Cody Dial Missing US hiker Cody Dial’s passport found with human remains in Corcovado National Park Roma and Luda Gimelfarb have repeated the story so many times even their translator thinks she could recite it verbatim.How David Gimelfarb visited Costa Rica in August 2009 for a six-day vacation. How the then-28-year-old disappeared sometime after arriving at Rincón de la Vieja National Park on the 11th. How a three-week manhunt with the Costa Rican Red Cross, private investigators, and American helicopters left the parents with no answers.How every year it seems fewer people are searching for David, even though Roma and Luda believe he’s still alive.“People look at this as a cold case,” Luda told The Tico Times. “They really don’t pay very much attention.”It has been nine years since David went missing. His parents came to Costa Rica this week, as they do nearly every August, with a focused mission: to remind the public of David’s disappearance and to convince officials to continue their investigation.But their trips have so far been unfruitful.“If we’re not going to help him, who’s going to?” Roma said. “And we both think he’s alive.”That belief stems from a lack of contradictory evidence. If David had gotten lost or hurt while hiking through Rincón de la Vieja National Park, the Gimelfarbs say, surely the search party would have found something.Roma pulls out a stack of drawings and sets them on the table. Found in an abandoned house in Quepos several years ago, the Gimelfarbs believe the crayon sketches share stylistic similarities to David’s artwork. They wonder if the person who left those drawings at the house crossed paths with David and has more information about his whereabouts. “We follow all possibilities,” Luda said.The latest possibility is a tip received earlier this week when a woman contacted Luda and said she thought David might have received treatment at the National Psychiatric Hospital in Pavas. But an OIJ representative who visited the medical facility Wednesday told the family they found no one matching David’s description.Luda moderates a Facebook group, Help Find David Gimelfarb, which contains more than 2,200 members. She and her husband also maintain a network of connections in Costa Rica who help them pursue potential sightings year-round.And in August, the Gimelfarbs come here to follow-up on those leads themselves. They meet with Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and the U.S. Embassy, contact news outlets to keep David’s disappearance part of the national conversation and travel to Guanacaste to seek any new information that might lead to answers.Tuesday, they met with OIJ in Liberia, only to learn the case had been transferred to the agency’s Department of Criminal Investigations at their San José office.“If you are not pushing people, they are not doing anything,” Luda said. “They are not.”The Gimelfarbs pledge to repeat their annual trip to Costa Rica until they are too old to travel. They continue to offer a $100,000 reward for information that leads to David’s discovery. Please report any tips to the family by emailing gimelfarb@comcast.net or calling the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) at 800-8000-645. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Schools reopen in Malis Islamistheld Timbuktu

first_imgAssociated PressBAMAKO, Mali (AP) – Schools reopened Monday in the city of Timbuktu for the first time since an Islamic faction seized control last month of the fabled tourist outpost, where they are now working to impose Shariah law.Thousands of residents, including the majority of the city’s Christian population, fled Timbuktu in early April, when disparate rebel factions invaded the northern half of Mali and declared independence. Timbuktu fell to the rebels on April 1. It was the last of the three major towns in the country’s north _ an area the size of France _ to be seized by the ethnic Tuareg rebels, plunging Mali into crisis. In Timbuktu, as well as in the two other regional capitals of Gao and Kidal, the Islamist groups have smashed bars and ripped down posters of uncovered women. Although there is resistance by Tuareg rebels to the imposition of Shariah in this region known for its moderate interpretation of Islam, Ansar Dine has also won some supporters through the measures they have taken to restore law and order in the wake of the widespread looting led by various armed groups.In Gao, also controlled by Ansar Dine, residents said that schools reopened on April 30.“Here, the classes are mixed, but the boys sit on the first row of benches, while the girls sit in the back. In other classes, however, they’ve allowed only girls. Or only boys,” said Hama Dada Toure, a teacher in Gao, who was reached by telephone on Monday.A high school student in Gao who is preparing for the end-of-the-year baccalaureate exam, said that the mixing of the sexes is allowed in instances where the class is small. Top Stories Sponsored Stories 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, familycenter_img Comments   Share   Although the rebels initially claimed they were fighting for a separate homeland, it soon became clear that an Islamic faction within the larger rebel movement had the upper hand in Timbuktu. They have since attempted to impose the strict Islamic code, including the veiling of women and the banning of alcohol.Mahmoud Djitteye, a member of the school district in Timbuktu, said that schools had reopened with the blessing of Ansar Dine, the Islamic faction whose fighters are garrisoned at the main military camp in the city. The faction has agreed to pay school fees and on Monday a small number of students arrived to register for classes, said Djitteye.Alpha Cisse, the father of a student, said that the Islamists are requiring the separation of the sexes, with boys and girls alternating between morning and afternoon classes. Certain subjects have also disappeared from the curriculum.“We’re being told that certain subjects will be forbidden, like the teaching of philosophy and certain modules in biology, like the teaching of evolution,” said Cisse. “Also there will be no mixed classes, with boys coming in the morning and girls in the afternoon, or boys in the afternoon and girls in the morning.” “If a class has a lot of students, they separate the boys and the girls. But if there are only a few students, the boys sit in front and the girls in the back,” said Abdoulaye Maiga. It’s the first time that we are seeing something like this, but we can suffer through it so long as we get to study, because the situation has left us no choice.”In Kidal, the last major city in the north, schools are still closed. Ansar Dine also controls the town and a majority of families have fled the area, seeking refuge across the border in neighboring Algeria.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Centerlast_img read more

Cambodia Frenchman to help China probe Bo scandal

first_img Top Stories Though authorities in China initially said Heywood died from either excess drinking or a heart attack, they have since named Gu as a suspect.News reports have said that Devillers, an architect, was closely linked to Bo, Gu and Heywood, and had helped Bo rebuild the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian when Bo was the city’s mayor in the 1990s.China has considerable influence in Cambodia, having provided millions of dollars in aid over the past decade.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Associated PressPHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – A French citizen detained last month in Cambodia for alleged links to an explosive Chinese political scandal was freed and flew to China voluntarily to help its investigation, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.Police released Patrick Devillers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday after China formally requested it. Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Beijing had assured the Frenchman he would be allowed to leave China within 60 days. Sponsored Stories 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Comments   Share   More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Cambodian authorities detained Devillers on June 13 for possible links to the death in China last November of British businessman Neil Heywood, but he has not been charged with any crime. Heywood had close ties to Bo Xilai, a Chinese political high-flier who was ousted as Communist Party chief of Chongqing city earlier this year.China had asked Cambodia to arrest Devillers so he could be interrogated and sought his extradition. But Cambodian officials said they would not hand him over unless they obtained proof of wrongdoing.Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Beijing gave Devillers assurances he would be allowed to leave China within two months if he promised to help Chinese investigators. After his release, he voluntarily boarded a plane to China on Tuesday night, Kanharith said.Sopheak said Devillers would not have gone if he had been “facing imprisonment” in China.Beijing did not report his arrival or comment on its investigation.Bo, the politician, fell from power after his former police chief and longtime aide fled to a U.S. consulate and divulged suspicions that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in Heywood’s death.Bo was subsequently removed as Chongqing party secretary in March and then suspended as a Politburo member amid speculation he tried to quash an investigation of his wife and a household employee over the Briton’s death. And the former police chief, Wang Lijun, resigned from the national legislature last month _ a sign that he might be a step closer to formal arrest and trial. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Top holiday drink recipeslast_img read more

Rescued Filipino miner said a thousand prayers

first_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Sponsored Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Comments   Share   The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Top Stories center_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Rescuers who pleaded for help from tribal deity saved a miner on Friday who had been trapped for a week in a collapsed tunnel in the northern Philippines.Their efforts to pull out Felipe Pilmaco finally paid off after rescuers offered a black pig to tribal god Kabunian, said police Supt. Mario Mayam-es, a member of the Igorot indigenous group in Benguet province.Pilmaco turned 33 years old Tuesday inside the tunnel in Bokod township where he had been trapped since Aug. 2. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis “I must have said a thousand prayers inside the tunnel,” said Pilmaco, a Roman Catholic originally from the central Philippines.There were times when he almost lost hope but found strength in prayers, he added in a telephone interview from his hospital bed.The small-scale miner survived on food, oxygen and a cellular phone delivered through a galvanized pipe inserted between boulders and mud.The town’s doctor, Lilian Velasco, said he was fine except for dehydration, minor cuts and an eye infection.Mayam-es said rescuers asked for “guidance and help” from Kabunian because every time they were closing in on the trapped miner, loose sand, boulders and rocks would rush down, blocking their way.Pilmaco said while he was not an Igorot, he believed in the power of the ritual because rescuers were able to get him alive.“I thank all those who saved me; I owe them my life,” he added in a spritely voice.He said he has been mining in the area since April in hopes of finding gold but has not had luck yet.Thousands of poor and untrained miners brave makeshift mining tunnels in the area to eke out a living.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 4 must play golf courses in Arizonalast_img read more

Indias Parliament ends chaotic nowork session

first_img Top Stories Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   The Lok Sabha or lower house of Parliament worked for only 25 hours this session and the upper house for just over 26 hours, the group’s data showed.Over the last two weeks, both houses of Parliament have done little business as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party stalled proceedings demanding the prime minister’s resignation after an audit report said the government lost huge sums of money by selling coal fields without competitive bidding. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was coal minister during the 2004 sale. The auditor’s report exonerated Singh, but it estimated that private companies got a windfall profit of $34 billion because of the low prices they paid for the coal fields.The Congress party-led ruling coalition offered to debate the matter in Parliament but the BJP refused, saying that the government only sought to waste time in debate. They also demanded that all coal block allocations be cancelled.The government has promised a fair investigation into any wrongdoing in the allocation of the coal blocks. Since the release of the national auditor’s report India’s top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation has opened a probe into the business dealing of a Congress party lawmaker from the western state of Maharashtra. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Daycenter_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Singh’s government has been weighed down under a crush of scams and corruption accusations over the last two years and has been unable to push through crucial economic reforms. The slew of scandals have included corruption charges made against ministers and senior officials over the hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and an earlier audit that found India’s treasury lost billions of dollars through the government’s haphazard sale of cellphone spectrum.The Comptroller and Auditor General said last week the allocations of coal fields were made on the recommendation of state governments and cleared Singh.The BJP-led opposition has used the corruption scandals to repeatedly paralyze Parliament over the last two years, slowing down work on reform legislation.On Friday Singh said that India could restart growth in its economy, generate employment and direct resources to pull hundreds of millions out of poverty but added that “we cannot do this if the government is constantly distracted by the actions of those who prefer obstruction over discussion.“We take pride in the fact, that we, since independence, have been a practicing, functioning democracy. What we have witnessed in this session is a total negation of that,” he said in a statement Associated PressNEW DELHI (AP) – India’s Parliament adjourned a raucous, one-month session Friday that had more shouting matches than official business, especially after the opposition pressured the beleaguered government over a coal scandal said to have cost the treasury billions.Only four out of 30 slated bills passed. Another 15 bills were to be introduced for discussion but lawmakers managed to squeeze in only six, according to PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based research group. Arun Jaitley, a spokesman for the BJP, told reporters that his party’s attempt was to “shake the conscience of this country.”Before the current session India’s Parliament was less productive only in the winter session of 2010, when it wasroiled by the cellphone spectrum scandal, “not even a day’s work was done,” said Devika Malik, a spokeswoman for PRS Legislative Research.“This year is only marginally better.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizonalast_img read more

Outgoing Red Cross head in Kabul has bleak outlook

first_img Top Stories Comments   Share   3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Stocker said in a statement Monday that the proliferation of local armed groups has left civilians “caught between not just one but multiple front lines.”But he says the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross has made some progress by persuading warring parties to hear some its concerns about the war that began when the U.S. invaded on Oct. 7, 2001.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day GENEVA (AP) – The outgoing head of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan says civilians are in greater danger with less hope for peace than when he arrived on his job seven years ago.Reto Stocker says he’s “filled with concern” as he leaves the job he’s had since 2005 because suffering and hardship have increased among ordinary Afghans while their “hope for the future has been steadily declining.” 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectlast_img read more

Bus crashes in Bangladesh killing at least 16

first_imgCOX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) – A bus packed with Muslim pilgrims plunged off a bridge into a muddy ditch early Monday in Bangladesh, killing at least 16 people, police said.The bodies recovered from the bus included children, said local police officer Ranjit Kumar Barua. Rescuers took another 15 people who were injured to a hospital, and the rest of the occupants were not hurt.The accident happened in Cox’s Bazar district, 296 kilometers (185 miles) south of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Comments   Share   The vital role family plays in society Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Top Stories Barua said the bus was carrying 43 people returning from a shrine of a local Muslim saint Mujibur Rahman Maizbhandari.Road accidents kill about 10,000 people every year in Bangladesh, the government says. Crashes often are blamed on rash driving and faulty vehicles.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)center_img Sponsored Stories Quick workouts for men Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more