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Travelweek takes a time out with Condominium Rentals Hawaii

first_imgTravelweek takes a time out with Condominium Rentals Hawaii Share Tuesday, December 6, 2016 It’s no secret that many Canadians love booking condo properties for their Hawaii vacations. The trend started decades ago, since the majority of Canadian visitors to Hawaii typically opt for longer stays. This trend also took hold at a time when the U.S. dollar maintained a stronger position over the Canadian dollar.Now that Canadians are facing those times again, accommodation providers like Condominium Rentals Hawaii (CRH) may be a saving grace – offering accommodation options with full kitchens for cooking meals and space for families. Travelweek took some time with CRH to learn a little bit more about how it can help Canadian travel agents make their clients’ Hawaiian dreams come true. Travelweek: On what islands are CRH’s properties located and who are the clients you cater to most?CRH: “CRH is a family-owned company and has been offering top-quality accommodations since 1982. Presently CRH offers 16 vacation condo properties on Maui, and four on Kauai. We have a commitment to quality accommodations at outstanding value and strive to offer efficient service so guests will have the most remarkable vacation. On Maui we have acquired condos at Wailea Elua Village and Wailea Grand Champion. On Kauai most recently we have acquired Makahuena, located in Poipu.”Travelweek: Canadians are still itching to get to Hawaii, even though they now have to combat a low Canadian dollar. How can CRH help Canadian travel agents make a Hawaii vacation a reality for their clients? CRH: “Because we offer a variety of properties, both beachfront or near sandy beaches, we offer something for every budget. This includes traditional hotel rooms, studio, one and two bedroom condos. The CRH fabulous condo/car package has become very popular with guests and also includes one free additional driver.“The car/condo package, from now until Dec. 16 is US$122.80 per night, plus tax and fees. The condo/car package starting Jan. 1 and running until March 30 is $205 per night, plus tax and fees. These rates are based on a Studio condo at Kihei Akahi and a four-door compact car. The rate is also based on two adults.”Travelweek: What commission do you offer to agents booking with CRH? Are there any agent incentives you are also currently provide? CRH: “The starting commission for our condos or condo/car packages is 10%. This commission is on a sliding scale and will also vary by property.”Travelweek: What are some of the other specials you are featuring over the winter months? CRH: “We also work with our Canadian wholesale partner TravelBrands where agents can take advantage of ongoing winter specials.” Posted bycenter_img Tags: Hawaii << Previous PostNext Post >> Travelweek Group last_img read more

Could Rikers Island spell relief for congested LaGuardia Airport

first_img Share Tags: Airports, New York City Monday, April 10, 2017 Could Rikers Island spell relief for congested LaGuardia Airport? The Canadian Press center_img NEW YORK — Travellers stuck in endless delays at New York City’s cramped and congested LaGuardia Airport can feel like prisoners. Now there’s a plan to liberate them by closing the city’s most notorious jail.A commission that helped persuade city officials to eventually close New York’s violent jail complex on Rikers Island said the 400 acres could be redeveloped as a new runway and terminal extension for LaGuardia. The island sits just off one of the runways at LaGuardia, which is squeezed onto a narrow strip of land at the edge of Flushing Bay.That idea is being met positively by some who say it would help improve air service and increase capacity at an aging airport that is among the most ridiculed in America.Last year it had by far the highest rate of late-arriving flights among the nation’s big airports. And then-Vice-President Joe Biden highlighted its wear and grime in 2014 when he quipped that a visitor who didn’t know better would think he had arrived in a Third World country.“This for us, we think would be a dream come true,” said Joseph Sitt, a real estate developer and chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance, a group that advocates for improvements to the region’s airport system.But skeptics scoff at the $22 billion estimated cost of the plan, pointing out that LaGuardia is already in the beginning stages of a multi-year, $4 billion overhaul. They also say it would increase noise over nearby neighbourhoods and wouldn’t solve the bigger problem of New York’s congested airspace.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youth“All this needs is $22 billion of new, imaginary funds,” said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant who lives nearby, in Port Washington, New York. “If it wasn’t for the hideous amounts of money involved and the huge impact on the surrounding communities, I suppose it would be a good thing.”Mann also questioned the wisdom of the proposed east-west runway, which would be a different orientation than the two existing runways at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, and could make flying in and out of the area even more complicated than it is already.Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city would develop a plan to shut Rikers over the next decade, replacing a centralized jail plagued by violence and abuse with smaller jails in each of the city’s five boroughs. His decision came just days before the release of recommendations by an independent commission that had been looking into the jail’s place in the city’s criminal justice system.In its report, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform said a third runway for LaGuardia could increase flight capacity 40 per cent and a new terminal that could be used for an additional 12 million passengers.The $22 billion cost includes the expense of demolishing the jail, cleaning up polluted soil and the construction of nearly $11 billion in other types of public infrastructure on the island, including a wastewater treatment facility, a solar field and a public greenway.More news:  Help Princess Cruises break the world record for largest vow renewal at seaA second concept floated by the commission would drop the airport expansion but include many of those other infrastructure projects, and cost about $15 billion.The commission noted there are constraints for what can be done with Rikers Island. Being next to LaGuardia limits the height of what can be built there. The island is now accessible only by a single, long causeway.The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airports, had no comment. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment, as well. A spokeswoman for the mayor said that a decision on what to do with the island after a closure of Rikers is years away, but that nothing is being ruled out.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke ground last year on a LaGuardia’s redevelopment project that includes a new 1.3 million-square-foot, 35-gate central terminal, expected to be finished by 2022.Asked about the possible use of Rikers for a LaGuardia expansion, Cuomo’s administration pointed out a redevelopment is already underway. But Cuomo has expressed interest in the idea, saying in September to a civic group that he was “very intrigued” by the idea. He publicly supported the closing of the prison, on humanitarian grounds. << Previous PostNext Post >> Posted bylast_img read more

People Two new marketing hires for the Anguilla Tourist Board

first_img Friday, February 9, 2018 Share [People] Two new marketing hires for the Anguilla Tourist Board ANGUILLA — The Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) has announced two new appointments: Colwayne Pickering, its new Marketing Officer, and Jameel Rochester, who will serve the ATB as Assistant Manager, Destination Experience.In his new role, Pickering will assist in leading the development of an island-headquartered marketing department, which will include designing and executing new digitally-focused marketing strategies, supporting international efforts, and developing partnerships to increase tourism arrivals. He has also been tasked with overseeing the marketing efforts of the international representatives in North America, the U.K., Latin America, Germany and Italy.Prior to joining ATB, Pickering served as General Manager (Cable and Broadband) Operations of Wireless Ventures (Digicel) Anguilla Ltd., where he managed million-dollar budgets and targets, and supervised a team of over 50 staff members.“I have a strong background and experience in excess of 10 years directly relating to marketing and promotions, coupled with operational and people management. I am confident that I will be an excellent asset to the organization, with a full appreciation for time management and the ability to work autonomously and under pressure in achieving required objectives,” said Pickering.Rochester will be responsible for assisting in the development, promotion and management of the on-island experience, which includes engaging with stakeholders in relation to all elements of Anguilla’s Tourism Product. His key duties include assisting in managing Public and Private Sector Relations, organizing and promoting internal and external training in the elements of hospitality, and coordinating community outreach programs to highlight the role of communities in the visitor experience.Prior to joining ATB, Rochester was the Resort Assistant Manager at the Four Seasons Resort & Residences Anguilla, and also held the position of Executive Assistant at Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa.“With my practical experience combined with my educational studies, I am confident that I can and will become an invaluable asset to the Anguilla Tourist Board,” said Rochester. “My long-term career goal is to continue to learn and develop my skills and abilities within the hospitality industry, whilst utilizing my experience, knowledge, and skills to the benefit of the organization.”Both Pickering and Rochester began their new roles on Feb. 1 and are based at ATB’s head office in Anguilla. Posted bycenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Anguilla, People Travelweek Group last_img read more

Private security industry grows as organized crime spreads through Central America

first_imgNo related posts. By Juan José RodríguezAFPPANAMA CITY – Rising crime rates caused by organized criminal groups in Central America, one of the world’s most violent regions, is causing an increase in the number of private security guards operating on the isthmus, primarily in the area known as the “northern triangle,” which includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.Throughout the region, security analysts said, a lack of public security forces has led to a boost in the private security business.According to recent statistics from the Pan-American Private Security Federation, more than 200,000 private security guards work in Central America, most of them performing their duties in informal jobs.In the northern triangle, the concentration of private security services is a response to organized crime and violent street gangs, known as “maras” or “pandillas.”“The northern triangle is an area that has severe security problems, and therefore, it has the most number of private security personnel,” Omar Garrido, a representative to Central America for the international security consulting firm Asis, told AFP.Garrido estimated the actual number of private security personnel in the region at about 300,000, of which an estimated 200,000 operate in the northern triangle.Growth of the region’s private security sector totals approximately 8 percent annually in an area that has the highest homicide rates in the world, according to the United Nations.Honduras, with a homicide rate of 92 per 100,000 residents, is the most dangerous country not currently at war. El Salvador is next, with 69 homicides per 100,000, followed by Guatemala with 39.According to the U.N., Mexico’s war on illegal drug cartels has forced organized criminal networks to spread to neighboring countries in the northern triangle, where they operate in an environment marked by poverty, youth unemployment and government corruption.Rubén Fajardo, a security consultant, said that while “authorities focus more attention on organized crime, matters of ‘common’ or everyday crime are left unattended, and the private security sector increasingly is stepping in to provide protection.”Fajardo, who participated this week in a private security industry forum held in Panama, said the sector has seen “enormous growth” in the past 15 years.In Guatemala, the number of private security guards outnumber the country’s 24,000 police officers by four to one. In Honduras, there are twice as many private security guards as the country’s 29,000 police officers.In Costa Rica, which has lower crime statistics than its Central American neighbors in the northern triangle, the number of private security guards also doubles the 13,000 public police officers.Kidnappings, extortion and armed robbery of cargo containers shipped via Central America’s highways are among the crimes that most worry the region’s business owners, who represent a large percentage of private security firms’ business.“We have more customers because there is a greater movement of goods and people, and that raises the risks,” one Central American security business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP. “Just as we speak of the globalization of the economy, we must also talk about the globalization of crime, which affects every facet of society.”An estimated 14 cargo containers are stolen each week in Honduras, as well as 10 in Guatemala and eight in El Salvador, he said.However, the majority of private security guards in the region are poorly paid and lack adequate training to confront organized criminal elements. In many cases, private security guards also commit crimes or are paid off by drug traffickers, experts said.“If drug traffickers are able to buy police chiefs, why wouldn’t they be able to hire other people with less power?” said Ernesto Alvarado, president of Asis in Panama.“Temptation will always be there,” Garrido said, adding that private security guards should be paid “sufficiently so that there is no temptation to commit a crime.”Fajardo also said that private security companies are sometimes used to launder money in Central America, although he stressed that most are legitimate companies. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Supreme Courts Constitutional Chamber to hold hearing on proposed mobile Internet rate

first_imgRelated posts:Court orders new hearing to discuss proposed changes in mobile Internet rates ICE postpaid mobile plans top consumer value ranking in Costa Rica, new study shows Social media campaign targets problems with mobile network coverage Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber suspends public hearing on proposed changes to mobile Internet rates The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, scheduled a hearing on Thursday at 9 a.m. for advocates and opponents of a proposed change in mobile Internet rates, originally scheduled to take effect last month.The rate proposal by the Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL) responds to a request by the country’s three carriers – Movistar, Claro and the state-owned Kölbi – and includes charges for transferred data instead of connection speed, which is how plans currently operate.The process was delayed on June 12 when a private citizen, whose name the court did not disclose, filed a complaint with the Sala IV against SUTEL and the Science and Technology Ministry. The legal action argues that SUTEL “is acting as judge and jury in this matter” and questions the agency’s role in deciding on the change to the rate model.At Thursday’s hearing, each party – including the complainant, SUTEL and representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office – will be allowed to present arguments and be assisted by an attorney and an expert, according to the Sala IV. Members of the public are invited to attend, but cannot present arguments or statements.Sala IV justices agreed to hold the hearing before issuing a final ruling.“For users, this process will represent a guarantee of the defense of their rights,” Sala IV justices said in press release.Under the proposed rates, carriers would offer a basic plan at ₡3,750 ($7) for both prepaid and postpaid users that includes 500 MB of data transfer. Anything beyond that means companies would charge ₡0.0075 per Kb downloaded.Catalina Delgado Agüero, legal affairs director at the Ombudsman’s Office, and Economic Affairs Director Karina Zeledón Lépiz also will attend the hearing “to present a technical report in order to protect citizens’ rights and interests,” spokesman Ahmed Tabash said.An email address set up in July by the Ombudsman’s Office to receive consumer feedback on the proposal has received more than 1,300 messages that were evaluated and included in the drafting of the report, he added. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Former Guatemalan police chief to stand trial for 1980 Spanish Embassy fire

first_imgRelated posts:Guatemalan police ordered to remove Spanish Embassy protesters ‘dead or alive,’ witness testifies Guatemalan ex-police officers accused of assassinating Myrna Mack investigator to finally stand trial Guatemala high court paves way for new genocide trial against ex-dictator Ríos Montt 26 lawyers have been murdered in Guatemala in the past 3 years GUATEMALA CITY – A Guatemalan court will open a trial on Wednesday against a former police official accused of causing the deaths of 37 people in a fire at the Spanish Embassy in 1980, announced Nobel Peace Prize winner and indigenous rights advocate Rigoberta Menchú, whose father, Vicente Menchú, was killed in the attack that occurred in the context of the bloody 36-year Guatemalan civil war.“Our emotion right now is happiness, because we’ve had a lot of patience,” a tearful Menchú said, referring to the decades-long struggle for justice in the case.The accused is former police chief Pedro García Arredondo, who is charged with ordering the massacre. García, who headed the National Police from 1974-1982, was arrested in 2011 and convicted the following year on charges that he kidnapped, tortured and murdered a student in 1981. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.The court hearing the embassy case is the same tribunal that is charged with the ongoing genocide case against former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In a historical ruling in May 2013, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide charges and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. The verdict was considered a landmark victory for the mostly indigenous Mayan victims of Ríos Montt’s brutal and brief rule in the early 1980s, two years after the embassy fire. But that victory was short-lived, as Guatemala’s Constitutional Court struck down the genocide verdict on a technicality a few days later. Guatemalan ex-police chief Pedro García Arredondo sits in a security cell at court in Guatemala City on Aug. 21, 2012. Arredondo was convicted of the murder and disappearence of Edgar Sans Calito in 1981, during the 1960-1996 civil war. He now stands trial for ordering the murder of 37 people in 1980. Johán Ordóñez/AFPOn Jan. 31, 1980, a group of indigenous protesters, poor farmers and university students, among them Rigoberta Menchú’s father, occupied the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City to denounce ongoing military repression by the Guatemalan state against their communities.Soldiers and police set fire to the embassy with the protesters inside, killing 37 people – most of them indigenous Mayans. Human rights groups called the attack one of the worst atrocities committed by the armed forces during the civil war, which lasted from 1960-1996. More than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during the war, according to the United Nations.Spanish Consul Jaime Ruiz del Árbol also was killed in the embassy attack, along with Guatemala’s former Vice President Eduardo Cáceres and former Foreign Minister Adolfo Molina.“We want them to give us the opportunity to close a chapter that’s been open for 34 years, because I’m completely convinced that if we don’t close the open wounds that thousands of Guatemalans still have, it will be difficult to create peace,” said Menchú, a plaintiff in the case.The only person to survive the embassy fire and its aftermath was then-Ambassador Máximo Cajal, from Spain. An indigenous protester survived the fire, but was later kidnapped from the hospital and murdered. His body was dumped on the campus of the San Carlos University.Cajal died last April, but his testimony in the case has been documented in order to present it at trial, Menchú said. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Petrobras top management resigns in Brazil corruption case

first_imgRIO DE JANEIRO — Petroleo Brasileiro Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster and five of her top managers stepped down amid a corruption probe that’s wiped out billions of dollars of the oil producer’s market value and threatens Brazil’s economic revival.State-run Petrobras’ board of directors will meet Friday to elect replacements for Foster, 61, and her management team, it said in a one-sentence statement Wednesday. It’s unclear from the announcement whether managers will remain at their posts until replacements are founds. No one CEO candidate has emerged yet.The Rio de Janeiro-based company is shaking up management after allegations that at least three other former executives were bribed to award construction contracts. The departure of Foster, an engineer who rose through the ranks to become the first female CEO of Latin America’s largest publicly traded oil company in 2012, comes after the stock sank as much as 70 percent from a September peak on collapsing crude prices and multiple corruption investigations.“It might be hard to find executives who are willing to join management under the current conditions and with all these problems,” Alexandre Povoa, who helps oversee $100 million at Canepa Asset Management, said in a phone interview from Rio. “Investors want a new CEO who is, first of all, not linked to political groups. It should be someone from the markets who’s able to put Petrobras back on track.”A record 23 billion reais ($8.9 billion) in suspect transactions have been uncovered in the probe, dubbed Carwash. Two former Petrobras executives were arrested last year including ex-refining head Paulo Roberto Costa as part of the investigation into alleged kickbacks by contractors. Petrobras has delayed releasing audited financial results as it considers writedowns needed to account for graft-related costs.Petrobras rose 2 percent to 10.20 reais at 11:31 a.m. in São Paulo. The stock surged 15 percent Tuesday as speculation of a management overhaul mounted.It remains unclear which members of the executive team apart from Foster stepped down or if Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbassa, who had expressed a desire to retire since 2012, is among them. Petrobras’ press department in Rio declined to elaborate.Foster’s departure probably will help Petrobras’s outlook because it means the government is trying to fix management and may have a more friendly approach to outside investment, according to Eurasia Group analysts led by Christopher Garman.“With low oil prices and Petrobras’s financial difficulties, the incentives to lean more on international oil companies to help develop the pre-salt have grown substantially,” the Eurasia analysts wrote about the company’s offshore discoveries. “It is clear that any substitute to Graca is likely to be someone with industry credentials and capable of conducting a ‘house cleaning’ of the firm.”The scandal has also engulfed Brazil’s largest construction companies, which may bring public works projects to a halt, and threatens the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, who served as Petrobras chairman during some of the time when the alleged graft was occurring. Taxi drivers are seen filling their tanks with natural gas at a Petrobras gas station in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobas is shaking up management after allegations that at least three other former executives were bribed to award construction contracts. Bloomberg News photo by Dado GaldieriFoster, a frequent guest at the presidential palace in Brasilia, had offered to resign “one, two, three times” after the company was forced to delay quarterly results because of the scandal, she told reporters on Dec. 17. Foster said then that she would stay in the job as long as the president trusted her. Rousseff has been a personal friend since the two worked together at the Ministry of Mines and Energy in 2003.Pressure on Foster started to build in October, when the company’s external auditor refused to sign off on quarterly results. She faced resignation calls after a recently demoted Petrobras executive alleged she’d ignored corruption warnings in the past. The company said Dec. 15 that Foster acted swiftly to pursue claims of corruption and misconduct.Brazil Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot, who is leading an investigation into any political links from the alleged corruption, called for the company to replace its management in a Dec. 9 speech.Foster’s departure is in stark contrast to her appointment as CEO. When she was first reported to be a candidate for the job, Petrobras surged 18 percent in less than a month as investors bet her technical background would benefit the company’s management style and offset the government’s political intervention in business decisions.Foster’s first steps included removing Costa and two other directors, who are now under arrest or under investigation by prosecutors and police. Foster also slashed production growth estimates, toughened negotiations with suppliers and criticized the previous management for missing targets.She also attacked budget overruns at the Abreu & Lima refinery in northeastern Brazil, one of the main projects where contractors and Petrobras officials are now accused by prosecutors of colluding to divert funds. Part of these funds allegedly went to political parties in the ruling coalition, according to testimony that is part of the court record.Initial investor enthusiasm for Foster waned after she failed to eliminate fuel subsidies that have caused more than $44 billion in operating losses since early 2011. The government controls Petrobras’s board through a majority of voting shares.The company has lost 56 percent since she took over on Feb. 13, 2012, making it the worst-performing major oil stock tracked by Bloomberg.Foster’s exit comes at a time when Petrobras is trying to speed oil output growth after increasing the number of production vessels extracting crude from the largest crude discoveries in the Western Hemisphere in almost 40 years.The company, which is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and had at least four class actions lawsuits filed in the U.S., must report audited results in the coming months to avoid violating bond agreements.Speaking to the press at the company’s headquarters before Christmas, Foster said she’d had to hand over her laptop, iPhone and iPad to independent investigators, who have a one-year contract to probe the corruption allegations.“This is good for the company,” she said, wearing a Petrobras-logo shirt. “We aren’t afraid of the truth.”Godoy reported from São Paulo. Juan Pablo Spinetto contributed from Rio de Janeiro.© 2015, Bloomberg News Facebook Comments Related posts:Rousseff’s horror movie may only get worse in 2nd half In a hideaway for Brazil’s rich and famous, a new scandal emerges Lula’s bridge to nowhere hints at global reach of Brazil graft Treasurer of Brazil’s ruling party arrested in Petrobras probelast_img read more

Tourists in Costa Rica now can board cruise ships in Limón

first_imgRelated posts:Cruise ship season on Costa Rica’s Caribbean is off to a good start Limón sees 60 percent jump in cruise ships Lawmakers propose tax cut for cruise ships docking at Caldera port Costa Rica rises in global ranking of travel, tourism competitiveness The Caribbean port of Limón became a boarding port for cruise-ship tourists this week, after 20 years as a stopover on cruise routes.On Wednesday a total of 1,189 tourists — 95 percent of them Ticos — boarded the Monarch cruise ship that tours Central American and Caribbean ports, the Atlantic Port Authority’s (JAPDEVA) said.JAPDEVA President Ann McKinley said it was a breakthrough for the province, after being just a stopover destination for decades.“Finally tourists here can board and return to Costa Rica,” she said. Previously, local tourists had to fly to ports in Panama, Mexico or Florida to board cruise ships.The cruise ship will return to Costa Rica on Sunday and 1,200 more tourist will embark on a new tour, JAPDEVA confirmed.“This means the creation of jobs for our province, and also represents a great improvement for Costa Rica as a home port,” McKinley said.The port’s new status involved the construction of new facilities at the Limón dock to host offices for officials of the Immigration Administration, Health and Agriculture ministries, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, Child Welfare Office, Drug Control Police and Traffic Police. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Rica feels the chill from North Americas cold snap

first_imgRelated posts:More heavy rains will hit Costa Rica’s Pacific coast this week, red alerts issued Cold front claims fourth victim in Costa Rica UPDATED: 150 rescued after landslides leave motorists trapped on Route 32 More heavy rains expected this weekend, red alerts issued Tropical Central America has been feeling the chilly outer rim of the weather phenomenon that has plunged the eastern United States and Canada into a deep freeze.Unusually low temperatures were being recorded in the region, though nowhere near as low as in North America, of course.Costa Rica’s capital, San José, saw the mercury plunge as low as 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts, far lower than the usual 25 degrees, according to the state meteorological service.Two homeless men reportedly died from hypothermia in San José.The cold front dampened the spirits of some of the travelers visiting Central America in its peak tourist period to escape the icy winter up north: many beaches were lashed by windy gusts, and the weather was overcast and rainy.The airline Avianca cancelled several flights leaving Central America for snowed-in New York.“The cold snap we are feeling from Guatemala to Costa Rica is a polar mass that is affecting the northeast coast of the United States. We are feeling the tail end of it,” Costa Rican state meteorologist Luis Diego Naranjo told AFP.He said the weather pattern would continue through Sunday, after which temperatures would climb back up toward normal. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Christiana Figueres Costa Rica is in danger of losing what its gained

first_imgIn Costa Rica we can’t allow outrages against human rights, nor can we allow threats of withdrawing from international legal frameworks where we’re supported and which we’ve helped to create. [Candidate Fabricio Alvarado’s rise in the polls in January followed his statement that if elected, he would pursue Costa Rica’s withdrawal from the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights following a ruling from the court in favor of marriage equality.]When it comes to human rights, Costa Rica is already great, deeply respected on an international level. Today we have the obligation not to lose those achievements, and to face the challenges in areas where we are still weak. I’m very worried that some people have focused this election on questioning the personal right of choosing whom to love.We’ve fallen into serious danger of concentrating the attention of a campaign on only one topic and such a personal one. That cannot be the only factor in deciding the future of our country.Friends, the person who’ll lead this country from May onward has to have the capacity to address all our national worries: the single mothers who cannot feed their children well, the young adults who have had no job for months, the parents who have not been able to rebuild their homes after the floods, the eternal waiting for medical attention at the Caja, the fear of leaving the house unoccupied on Sundays and the overwhelming traffic jams on the streets the whole Central Valley, among other [problems]. These are the challenges to which both candidates for the presidency should be dedicated, with serious and responsible proposals.Let’s get to the point. You can’t aspire to govern against the rights of a minority while everyone’s well-being is ignored. Costa Ricans, I call on you for reflection. I make a respectful but urgent call to both candidates to present their proposals to unite a country in search of the economic, social and environmental improvements we so badly need.Above all, I call upon the sense of civic duty with which all of us, young people and not-so-young people, must go out and vote on April 1. Thank you, and may God bless you all.Watch the original video published on Hablando Claro’s Facebook page: One of the most prominent Costa Ricans on the international stage released a statement on Costa Rica’s ongoing election process.Christiana Figueres, the daughter of three-time Costa Rican President José “Pepe” Figueres, has become a global leader in the work to combat climate change. This week, Figueres shared a video on her Facebook profile in which she calls on Costa Ricans to vote based on the country’s future, rather than the polarizing topics which have divided the nation  in recent weeks.Debate over gay marriage dominated Costa Rica’s presidential campaign in January and propelled an opponent of same-sex marriage, Fabricio Alvarado, to first place in the first-round election held Feb. 4, while also boosting gay marriage supporter Carlos Alvarado (no relation) to second place. The two candidates will face off in a second round of voting April 1.Read Figueres’ translated comments:Dear fellow citizens,It’s Christiana Figueres speaking. I don’t participate in the internal politics of our country, but I see that in Costa Rica we’re in danger of losing what we’ve gained throughout our history.As a mother of two Costa Rican daughters, I simply can’t stay quiet. I invite you, young people and not-so-young people, to pause and reflect on our country for a moment.In Costa Rica we’re governed, not by military force, but by the force of our laws and international legal decisions. We practice democracy because we know that dictatorships lead to outrages that are unacceptable, and we defend human rights because we know they’re the basis of our peaceful coexistence.What we must remember about human rights is that they’re applied not only to certain people, but to everyone. For example, you have the right to health, and I do, too. The fact that you enjoy your health does not threaten my health in any way. You have the right to express yourself and so do I. Your free expression does not threaten my right to expression. You have the right to not be discriminated against, for any reason, and so do I. The fact that you’re not discriminated against means that you shouldn’t discriminate against me, nor your neighbor, acknowledging the dignity of each one of the members of the human family. Facebook Comments Christiana Figueres sees lessons for UN leadership in climate talks Related posts:Costa Rica’s elections 2018: a primer On sunny Election Day, Costa Rican voting heats up Why these Costa Rican women dressed as characters from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ to vote today Presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado pulls out of UCR debatelast_img read more

Costa Rican immigration officials detained released by Nicaragua

first_imgRelated posts:Nicaraguan-Costa Rican journalist Lucía Pineda jailed and accused of inciting terrorism in Nicaragua Music and migration: The struggles of Ceshia Ubau Nicaragua govt agrees to prisoner release to restart opposition talks La Prensa: Daniel Ortega imposes repression, misery on Nicaraguans Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years. Support the Tico Times Facebook Comments A potentially tense international situation was resolved amicably Monday evening after two Costa Rican Immigration Administration officials were apparently detained by the Nicaraguan army.According to Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security (MSP), the officials had been carrying out work in a government vehicle Monday afternoon when they were stopped near the Upala canton, which borders Nicaragua. Following diplomatic communications, the pair were returned safely to Costa Rica that night.“After positive coordination [between Nicaragua and the Ministry of Public Security], at 8 p.m. exactly, they were liberated and returned to our territory,” said Michael Soto, the Minister of Public Security. “They are in perfect health and had no other inconveniences.“It was an assertive and positive communication with Nicaraguan authorities to prevent the incident from escalating.”Per the MSP, the Costa Rican Immigration Administration officials had turned away a Nicaraguan citizen near the border prior to their detainment. They had been “proper in their actions,” according to a press release.However, the officials may have entered Nicaraguan territory, though the MSP says that is “still being investigated.”According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, at least 20,000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum in Costa Rica since April as citizens of that country flee political tensions and human-rights violations.For more, read “Fleeing Nicaragua,” The Tico Times’ three-part series on Nicaraguan refugees:center_img Fleeing Nicaragua: The escapelast_img read more

Court No info on Magnotta before Monday

first_imgBERLIN (AP) – A Berlin court says there will be no information until next week on a request to transfer a Canadian porn actor suspected of the grisly slaying and dismemberment of a Chinese student into pre-extradition custody.Berlin state court spokesman Tobias Kaehne said Friday the court would “soon decide” on the request, but that information would be available “Monday at the earliest.” More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Reached by phone, Kaehne said he could not elaborate on whether the statement meant there would be a decision later Friday, or if one was expected on the weekend.Once the court decides, the German government will then have to sign off on the extradition of 29-year-old Luka Rocco Magnotta, but no problems are anticipated.Magnotta’s court-appointed attorney in Berlin has refused to comment.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img Sponsored Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Comments   Share   last_img read more

Brazilian among 3 swept out to sea in New Zealand

first_img Sponsored Stories Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Men’s health affects baby’s health too Comments   Share   New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Rescue crews were continuing to search Thursday for the trio near New Plymouth on New Zealand’s North Island. Police named them as 42-year-old Bryce Jourdain and 17-year-old Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, both of New Plymouth, and Felipe Melo, the 17-year-old Brazilian exchange student.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) How do cataracts affect your vision?center_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – A 17-year-old Brazilian exchange student is one of three people feared drowned in New Zealand after a high school rock-climbing outing ended in disaster.New Zealand police say two local instructors were taking 11 students on a coastal rock-climbing exercise Wednesday when three of the students fell into the water. An instructor then dived in to try to help. One of the students clung to a rock until he was rescued, but the instructor and two students were swept out to sea. Top Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, familylast_img read more

Dead in Nepal avalanche include Alps veterans

first_imgFABRICE PRIEZ, France. Mountain guide based in Chamonix in the French Alps, supervised activities in Chamonix for the UCPA national sport vacation organization.CATHERINE MARIE ANDREE RICARD, France. Lived in Chamonix in the French Alps, described by French media as a climber.LUDOVIC PAUL NICHOLAS CHALLEAT, France. Mountain guide originally from Lyon who most recently lived in Chamonix in the French Alps. He recently posted videos online from climbing and skiing expeditions from Greenland to the Himalayas.PHILIPPE LUCIEN BOS, FranceCHRISTIAN MITTERMEYER, GermanyALBERTO MAGLIANO, ItalyDAWA DORJI, Nepal(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Parents, stop beating yourself up Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project 0 Comments   Share   Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day (AP) – Most of the nine climbers killed in Sunday’s avalanche on Mount Manaslu in Nepal were from Europe. Here’s the eight names released by the Tourism Ministry and what’s known about them.MARTI GASULL, 43, Spain. Founded the Platform for the Language in Catalan that promotes and defends the Catalan language and culture of his native region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain, where many citizens want greater autonomy from Spain or outright independence. His group described Gasull as an independence supporter and an experienced mountaineer. He was born in Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, and is survived by his parents and a younger brother. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Sponsored Stories Top Stories last_img read more

Contrasting politics of China Hong Kong Taiwan

first_img(AP) – China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, all societies rooted in Chinese culture, have developed very different ways of selecting their leaders and taking part in public affairs. The distinctions are highlighted as China undergoes its once-a-decade transition to a new slate of Communist Party leaders in Beijing this month. Despite China’s dramatic transformation into an economic superpower, the authoritarian legacy of communist founder Mao Zedong continues to weigh heavily on the country’s politics, leaving the vast majority of the population with little voice or knowledge of how their leaders are chosen. The process remains steeped in secrecy and backroom dealings. China’s territory of Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy, freedom of the press and limited democracy, but its politics remains highly constrained by Beijing’s wariness over threats to its authority. The former British colony now directly elects 40 of 70 legislators, but the head of the regional government is still elected by a special body limited to just 1,200 members. Taiwan, in stark contrast to China, shrugged off authoritarian rule and underwent a transition over the past two decades to complete democracy, with sometimes-rowdy elections and a thriving civil society. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)center_img The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t likelast_img read more

Illegal gold mining in South Africa brings hope

first_img Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement “When the police come, we run away. We’ve never gotten caught and we don’t want to give them a reason to catch us,” said 45-year-old Daniel Mazibuko who has three children and a wife. “It’s illegal, but I still do it because I’m suffering and if there’s no food at home I must do this job.”“Sometimes I make 100 to 150 rand ($11-$17) per day if I’m lucky. In my best week I’ve made 500 rand ($57),” he said.On a recent day he was working with 21-year-old Siphelele Dyasi, who smoked a cigarette as he poured heavy buckets of water into a yellow plastic bin and shook it to separate the soil. The miners sometimes endanger their health by using mercury to extract the gold.“There’s no other choice, you go into it knowing the risks,” said Dyasi, who came to Johannesburg from the distant Eastern Cape of South Africa after his father died and his mother couldn’t provide for him and his brothers and sisters.Dyasi and Mazibuko were trying their luck outside the Tudor Shaft mine, not far from the Durban Deep mine. At least five makeshift mining chutes could be seen among dusty fields of rock, orange dirt and black rocks near pools of water, that the miners use and recycle in their prospecting. Comments   Share   “You’re never sure what you’ll get. For example this week I only got 150 rand ($17) which I used to buy a small tin of milk, a packet of nappies (diapers), a small bag of maize, paraffin, fish oil and a bit of meat but it has all finished already,” Dyasi said.“I hope to get something today so I can bring some food home.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Sponsored Stories center_img Men’s health affects baby’s health too How do cataracts affect your vision? South Africa, once the world’s foremost gold producer, has been experiencing a labor upheaval in its critical mining sector, and Mthembu and Viriato are emblematic of both the troubles and the hope that persists, with not only gold but also platinum, chrome and other minerals remaining untapped.A violent six-week strike at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg ended Sept. 18 after a pay hike of as much as 22 percent was given to the miners. The deal inspired thousands of workers in other mines to lay down their tools to seek higher wages. Mthembu and Viriato said they had been contract workers at another Lonmin mine _ mostly working on pipes through the mines _ and that they were laid off when the company they worked for lost money during the strike.They wound up near a highway outside Johannesburg, sifting through the soil around the shuttered gold mine and hoping to strike it rich or at least eke out a living. Dozens of other men and women were also participating in illegal mining, working in makeshift operations in a sort of gold rush not far from the skyscrapers and highways of Johannesburg, still marked by towering mustard-colored mine dumps, a leftover from the city’s heyday in mining. Gold was discovered here in 1886 and it helped fuel the creation and growth of Johannesburg, known in the Zulu language as Egoli, meaning “the place of gold.” South Africa produced nearly 70 percent of the world’s gold in the 1970s. Production has been falling and South Africa is currently the world’s No. 5 producer, according to the government. With strikes having affected not just platinum mines but gold mines too, gold companies are trying to keep their footing.Major said 500,000 people were working in gold mines in 1990, with the official number now 150,000. Some of those who lost their jobs are certainly doing illegal gold mining, he said.Buyers often come to the ad hoc operations to weigh and purchase gold. Miners say they also sometimes sell gold within their squatter camps. Mthembu said he melts all his gold particles together and sells it at the end of the week.Zingaphi Jakuja, spokeswoman for the South African Department of Mineral Resources, said the ministry is collaborating with law enforcement agencies to combat illegal mining “as the activities are generally fuelled by complex criminal activities.”Illegal miners are generally undeterred by the threat of arrest. Associated PressROODEPOORT, South Africa (AP) – Julius Mthembu’s mud-spattered face lit up as he held a tin pan and pointed to the glimmering flecks of hope lying among sand and water: gold. The find meant the 48-year-old would eat that week.“It’s difficult. I don’t make a lot of money here,” Mthembu said as beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. The Mozambican and his countryman Santos Viriato have been gathering dirt from the shuttered Durban Deep mine and sifting it for leftover gold for two months. “We want money and we have no choice,” Viriato said.They sift for gold by dumping soil into a plastic bin with holes punched in the bottom, pour water in and shake the bin, allowing the wet soil to fall onto a chute made of boards and covered by plastic tarps and bath towels. After dumping a bunch of buckets into the contraption that empties into a muddy creek, the men wring the towels out into three large buckets and then pan whatever comes out.Another half-dozen such operations are nearby. Closer to Main Reef Road, women break up rocks and grind them between stones and concrete to reduce them to powder to be later panned for gold. The activity takes place in many other parts of South Africa, mostly around mines that were shuttered because of lack of productivity, and is fueled by rising gold prices that these days stand at around $1,700 per ounce.“There are 6,000 abandoned mines in the country and I think the majority of them still have ore that would be economical (to extract) at today’s prices,” said Peter Major, a mining expert at Cadiz, a financial services group. “The problem is getting the capital to reopen them.”The illegal mining provides a chance at income for unemployed South Africans and immigrants. But in the long term the activity will make it harder to attract a legitimate mining company to an abandoned site because some of the more easily accessible minerals will have been removed by the illegal operations, Major said. Parents, stop beating yourself uplast_img read more

EU 2 other nations meet to pledge Mali trainers

first_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Men’s health affects baby’s health too Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Top Stories Comments   Share   The office of British Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. would contribute as many as 40 people to the EU mission.The trainers will work near Bamako, the Malian capital, and will not see combat. The training is projected to begin April 1, the EU official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing meeting.Tuesday’s session groups representatives of the 27 EU countries plus Norway and Canada. One or two more such meetings are expected.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)center_img Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Associated PressBRUSSELS (AP) – EU countries are meeting Tuesday in Brussels to pledge personnel and other support for a military training mission to Mali, an EU official said.The EU envisions a mission of 500 people, up to half of them military trainers, the official said. The purpose is to turn the Malian army into a force that can control the vast African country once international soldiers wrest the north from Islamist rebels. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous oflast_img read more

Puerto Rico rejects smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes

first_img 5 treatments for adult scoliosis “Smoking marijuana is not being contemplated as part of a medical treatment,” he said.Advocates say marijuana helps with conditions like chronic pain, glaucoma, anxiety, and nausea from chemotherapy or drugs to combat HIV.Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla issued an order late Sunday directing the island’s health department to authorize the use of some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use. Health Secretary Ana Rius has three months to submit a report that details how the order will be implemented, the impact it will have and what future steps could be taken.It is unclear whether Garcia supports smoking pot to treat illnesses. He did not specify in his executive order what type of medical marijuana uses he supports, and his office said he had no plans to comment on the issue.Rius told reporters Tuesday that smoking marijuana regardless of its purpose would still be considered a crime.The general use of medical marijuana is legal in 23 U.S. states, and a group of U.S. legislators is seeking to remove federal prohibitions on it. In the Caribbean, Jamaica recently passed a law that partially decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of pot and paves the way for a legal medical marijuana sector. Rius added that the University of Puerto Rico is collaborating with two U.S. companies to launch a clinical investigation into the use and production of medicinal cannabis. She identified the companies as Chicago-based Quantum 9 and Las Vegas-based GrowBlox Sciences.___Associated Press writer Lilliam Irizarry contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes will not be allowed in Puerto Rico, but cannabis derivatives could be consumed in other ways, government officials said Tuesday as they provided more details on the governor’s weekend executive order on cannabis use.Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda told The Associated Press that the government would allow patients access to cannabis derivatives that would be inhaled or used orally, such as potions or pills. Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories center_img Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Of the 23 states permitting medicinal uses of marijuana, only New York bars people from smoking pot for such purposes, said Amanda Reiman at the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports marijuana legalization.“A lot of patients prefer to inhale the cannabis than take it orally,” she said in a phone interview. “If they have to take it only through a pill, it can be very difficult to tell what the right dose is … It’s pretty short-sighted to take away that method that most patients rely on to figure out how cannabis affects them.”Some patients might opt for a tea or an edible form of marijuana if they are having trouble sleeping, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Others dealing with spasms from multiple sclerosis or nausea from chemotherapy will likely want an immediate effect, he said.“Smoking brings on the pain relief in less than a minute,” he said. “You want them to take the medication in the form that works best for them.”Puerto Rico’s justice secretary said that once the health department’s report is finalized, it can go into effect without further approval from the governor. Top holiday drink recipes Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more

Sahara extremists pledge allegiance to Islamic State group

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility RABAT, Morocco (AP) — An extremist group based in the Sahara desert known for carrying out terror attacks in Algeria, Mali and Niger appears to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group after years with its rival, al-Qaida.If it is authenticated, the statement represents a major shift among extremist groups in the vast Saharan regions — and the possible demise of one of the most notorious extremists in the desert. Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The Algerian-born militant was famous for extending al-Qaida’s reach beyond the Algerian heartland and into the Sahara desert where he made contacts with disaffected tribes, especially from the Tuareg minority, and made millions off smuggling and kidnapping.Several high-profile members of the group were caught and killed in the past year during French-led operations in northern Mali, where the group is believed to operate.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Patients with chronic pain give advice Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The audio recording from the Mourabitoune group was sent to a Mauritanian news agency late Wednesday that has carried its statements in the past and was in the name of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, rather than the group’s founder, Moktar Belmoktar, who gained notoriety for the January 2013 assault on an Algerian gas complex.“We call upon all the jihadi groups to pledge allegiance to the Caliph, to unify the word of the Muslims and align the ranks in front of the enemies of religion,” said al-Saharawi’s statement, according to a translation by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group on Wednesday.Belmoktar, once known as the most dangerous man in the Sahara, formed the Mourabitoune in August 2013, combined his own group with another and had recently renewed his allegiance to al-Qaida.“If it’s confirmed, then we need to wonder about the whereabouts of Belmoktar,” said Djallil Lounnas, an expert on North African Islamic groups. “He’s either been removed, or killed or they split.”The group most recently attacked a restaurant filled with foreigners in the Malian capital, Bamako, in March. Belmoktar’s most well-known operation was on an Algerian gas plant that resulted in a standoff with the Algerian military and the death of 39 foreign workers. Check your body, save your life Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more

Japans tourism boom lifts economy but brings headaches

first_img Sponsored Stories Top holiday drink recipes TOKYO (AP) — From the slopes of Mount Fuji to the temple streets of Kyoto, tourists are cramming Japan’s prime sightseeing spots, puzzling their way through Tokyo subways, and splashing out cash on cosmetics, sushi and high-tech toilet seats.The cheap yen, easier visas and other initiatives are luring foreign travelers eager to stretch their budgets and see some UNESCO World Heritage sites, bringing in welcome cash as well as myriad complications. Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Top Stories 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Tourism was among many Japanese industries that limped through more than 20 years of sluggish economic growth as locals tightened their belts and most foreigners stayed away, scared off by tales of $200 melons and other scandalous prices.But Japan has become a hot destination as the exchange rate weakened from about 80 yen to the U.S. dollar in late 2012 to its current level of about 123 yen. Foreign visitors exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2013 and rose to 13.4 million last year. The aim is to have 20 million by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has jumped on the bandwagon with “Cool Japan” and “Omotenashi,” or Japanese-style hospitality, national branding campaigns that capitalize on products and concepts considered uniquely Japanese, such as “anime” cartoons and traditional “washoku” cuisine.The efforts seem to be paying off: In April as the cherry blossoms coincided with Easter and Asian holidays, a record 1.7 million foreign tourists visited. In May, tourists overall doubled to 1.6 million, with big increases from China, Hong Kong and South Korea.With the yen at its weakest in decades, “It’s pretty good value for us at the moment,” said Grant Lutwyche, an Australian car mechanic who was visiting Tokyo’s Asakusa temple district with his wife. The boom offers new business opportunities but brings challenges. Investment in infrastructure has lagged, and many working in the services industry are unused to dealing with foreigners, including the hundreds of mostly Chinese cramming into the elegant Ginza flagship shop of cosmetics and skin care company Fancl.“We need more staff who can speak foreign languages, especially Chinese,” said Noriko Fukazawa, director of Fancl Ginza Square. Staff are learning one phrase of Chinese and one of English a day, she said. Wednesday’s phrase: “Please put your bags over here,” in Chinese.As a rainy afternoon wore on, dozens of potential Fancl customers took one look at the long line for the duty free counter inside and walked away.“We’re just holding the bags,” said Yao Shanding, waiting for his wife outside with 19-year-old son, Jiayi. Yao wasn’t exactly sure what, apart from shopping, was on the agenda on the family trip from their home near Shanghai, Jiayi’s reward for finishing rigorous high-school exams.But Yao was happy with what he had seen so far on his first day in town.“It’s so clean. The traffic is so orderly,” he said. “It’s nice here.” Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img Since globally, tourism and travel account for about 9.5 percent of GDP compared with just 2.2 percent in Japan, there should be ample room for growth. Japan expects spending by tourists to exceed 4 trillion yen ($32.4 billion) by 2020, up from 1.6 trillion yen last year, said Ichiro Takahashi, a Japan Tourism Agency official.The country is stretching to accommodate that growth. Though Japan has some of the world’s snazziest train systems, investments in new restaurants and hotels have lagged. Ever greater numbers of tourists are cramming into aging facilities that once served a much smaller market.The scarcity of moderately priced hotel rooms has created a niche opportunity for flophouses and capsule hotels that have been renovated and converted into backpacker hostels charging as little as 1,500 yen ($12) a night if reserved in advance.Other headaches include a lack of ATMs that will take foreign bank cards and the reluctance of many hotels and other businesses to accept payment by foreign credit cards.A scarcity of signs in foreign languages leaves many scratching their heads as they navigate labyrinthine subways.Takahashi said the government was determined to fix those problems. Another aim is to get tourists off the beaten track, to regions largely ignored in the past both by foreigners and most Japanese. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall “One thing that may help us rediscover the value of these locations is foreigners’ experiences of them,” he said.___Ken Aragaki contributed to this report.___Follow Elaine Kurtenbach: www.twitter.com/ekurtenbachCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Visits by Chinese slowed after the 2011 nuclear disaster and a 2012 revival of tensions between Tokyo and Beijing. After exploring South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Bali, many affluent Chinese travelers are making up for lost time, said Shaun Rein, Shanghai-based managing director of market intelligence firm CMR.“There’s massive pent-up demand,” Rein said.To lure more big spenders, Japan has slashed sales taxes on a wider range of items favored by foreign tourists and is setting up duty-free counters at hundreds of shops in Tokyo and elsewhere, even in drug stores — medicines and supplements are big sellers among Chinese and Russian tourists.The Laox duty free shop in Ginza was crammed with Chinese buying watches, cosmetics, robotic vacuum cleaners and space-age rice cookers.Ultra high-tech, detachable toilet seats with automatic lighting and lid opening and closing, that warm, wash and dry are another big must-have among Chinese, even though the products are made-in-China for export to Japan.“The new status symbol in China is buying things and having experiences,” said Rein. “It’s not just buying a Louis Vuitton bag but how you bought it and how you did something cool.” Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving soberlast_img read more