Agency groups part of the process as Carnival Corp develops new Ocean

first_img When Carnival Corp.’s new Ocean Medallions make their debut on Regal Princess this November, they’ll have the stamp of approval from the cruise company’s biggest retail partners, among them host agency TPI.TPI President and CEO Morris Chia and VP Tim Morgan were among three dozen Carnival Corp. partner executives flown in for Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald’s keynote address highlighting the new Ocean Medallions at CES earlier this month. CES is the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show and Donald made history as the first travel industry executive to deliver the opening keynote speech in CES’ 50-year history.“Carnival made it clear to us that they were bringing their key partners in at this point, 11 months prior to launch, because travel advisor feedback is important to them as they continue to develop the product offering,” said Morgan.“We are working with Carnival on how travel advisors can further benefit from this enhanced technology.”Morgan says the Ocean Medallions are simple to use and intuitive, and will help the cruise company with guest retention and acquisition, “which are both important to travel advisor success.”Morris Chia, TPI President & CEO; Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises President; Tim Morgan, TPI Vice PresidentThe Ocean Medallions  are wearable tech for passengers, a small disc about the size of a quarter that can be worn as a pendant on a wristband in a clip, or placed in a pocket. The medallions will do everything from eliminate keycards by unlocking staterooms as passengers approach their stateroom door, to streamlining and expediting the port embarkation and disembarkation process, to allowing passengers to make onboard purchases without any transaction, cards or paper.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youthSimilar in concept to other wearable tech devices like Walt Disney World’s MagicBand, Carnival says its Ocean Medallion “goes well beyond the growing number of wearables used by theme parks and other vacation companies by leaving behind the required action of ‘tap’ and ushering in a new paradigm for guest interactions.”The new guest experience platform will debut on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November 2017, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in 2018. The new Medallion Class on Princess Cruises will be rolled out over multiple years on the entire Princess Cruises fleet.In addition to stateroom access and onboard purchases, the Ocean Medallion will also enable passengers to locate friends and family around the cruise ship, deliver enhanced dining experiences based on food and beverage preferences, power an array of interactive gaming and immersive entertainment experiences and significantly enhance interactions with crew members and guests, says the cruise company.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youthThe medallion can be accessorized with jewelry, clips, key chains and bands or carried in a pocket or pocketbook.The Ocean Medallion has no discernible technology – no on-off switch, no charging and no menu to navigate. The device, laser-etched with the guest’s name, ship and date of sailing, is provided to all passengers at no cost. Travelweek Group Share Agency groups part of the process as Carnival Corp. develops new Ocean Medallions Wednesday, January 18, 2017 center_img Posted by Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Sphere, TPI << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Gateway to Spains Costa del Sol Malaga is a worthy destination in

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> MALAGA — Travel marketing experts from more than a dozen countries around the world took part in the recent Malaga Costa del Sol Marketing Summit in Malaga, Spain, with an aim to discuss marketing issues, trends and techniques with some of the most innovative brands shaping the future of travel marketing.Hosted by the Travel Consul, Costa del Sol Malaga and Diputacion de Malaga, the summit was attended by Travel Consul experts from 16 countries including Canada, marketing representatives from the Costa del Sol Malaga and other tourist bureaus, tour operators and marketing experts representing countries all over the world, from Peru, Iceland, Australia and France to Netherlands, Spain, Russia, China, India and Canada.The is an international travel marketing alliance consisting of advertising, brand strategy, PR, digital media and marketing firms operating in over 16 different countries. Travel Consul admits only one member from each country and all members must be focused and specialize in the tourism and travel industry.RadonicRodgers Strategy+ Travel and Tourism Marketing is the Canadian member of the Travel Consul and Edward Radonic, Managing Director, represented RadonicRodgers Strategy+ at the summit. Radonic said its access to the expertise and knowledge of the other Travel Consul members allows RadonicRodgers Strategy+ to build on its expertise and offer superior consultative services to its Canadian clients.The summit included various panel discussions covering such topics as Leveraging Data in Travel and Tourism, Responsible Destination Marketing and Sustainability, The Shifting Profile of Leisure Travellers and Booking Behaviours and Reaching the Luxury Market and Shopping Traveller.More news:  Flights cancelled as British Airways hit by computer problemTravelweek took part in the Spain trip and found that Malaga – long considered the gateway to the Costa del Sol – has become a destination in its own right. Its modern airport and updated train station make it easily accessible by high speed trains and by air. And with the Mediterranean coast on its southern boundary and surrounded by hills, Malaga boasts a micro climate with winter temperatures averaging around 20 degrees Celsius and sunshine 325 days a year.Here are some of Malaga’s top attractions and activities:Like many areas bordering the Mediterranean, Malaga has its own Roman ruins including a Roman theatre, providing the centerpiece for a leisurely tour of the town centre where other highlights include Malaga Cathedral, the sprawling 11th century fortification Alcazaba and the nearby beach, featuring a long beach-side promenade and beach bars serving tapas unique to Malaga.The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Malaga hosts the Picasso Museum located near the Plaza de la Merced. The museum displays many of Picasso’s earlier works depicting local life in the region and boasts some 285 works donated by members of Picasso’s family.Among the other 30 or so museums in Malaga is the must-see Carmen Thyssen Museum, also in the city centre. Its main focus is on 19th century Spanish and particularly Andalucian painting.Food lovers can take the ‘Taste of Malaga Tapas Tour’ offered by Spain Food Sherpas, a locally-owned and operated company. Tours start around lunch time at the local central market (an experience in itself), where you sample several varieties of tapas and sip some of the local wines in one of the market’s food stalls, sample some Spanish olives at another food stall and chat with the local merchants. You then move on to a local bar and sample different grades of Iberian hams (Jamon Serrano), then to a restaurant serving modernized versions of traditional tapas and finally to a wine bar to sample more local wines. Lasting about four hours, the tour becomes the most pleasant extended lunch. For more information see Caminito del Rey (‘The King’s Little Pathway’) is located just over an hour outside Malaga and can be reached by either train or car. It provides a great opportunity to escape to the countryside and experience some adventure. A path cut out of the steep walls of a gorge in El Chorro, it was known for many years as the most dangerous walkway in the world, originally built in 1901 and rising 330 metres on a sheer cliff above the river flowing through the gorge. After it was closed and rebuilt, the walkway was re-opened in 2015 for public use. The gorge is part of a larger nature reserve in one of the most picturesque areas of the Malaga mountains. For more information go to is the town of Ronda, the home of bullfighting in Spain featuring an original bullfighting ring and other artifacts relating to bullfighting for those who are interested. For others the city epitomizes rural life in the region.More news:  Kory Sterling is TL Network Canada’s new Sales Manager CanadaFor more information about Malaga and its surrounding region go to Share Posted by Tags: Spaincenter_img Monday, November 13, 2017 Gateway to Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is a worthy destination in its own right Travelweek Group last_img read more

Analysis How to market Las Vegas in the Oct 1 aftermath

first_img Share LAS VEGAS — In the weeks after the Oct. 1 Route 91 Harvest Festival tragedy, can the travel industry expect visitor volume to decrease, hold steady or continue a steady increase? Whether your firm is a travel agency, a tour operator or an airline, thoughts must be given to how marketing resources are allocated for this destination.It was just over six weeks ago that Las Vegas experienced the greatest tragedy in its 112-year history. Travellers from around the world saw the news reports of the shooting tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest Festival: 58 people killed and 489 injured, the worse mass shooting in American history.While our hearts go out to all those affected by this terrible event, as an industry we need to know what this means for Las Vegas as a destination going forward. Close to 43 million people a year visit Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.In an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, University of Central Florida economic professor Sean Snaith compared the mass killing with one that occurred in Orlando: the Pulse nightclub shooting attack in 2016.“At that time, tourism experts voiced concerns about the Orlando area facing a decline in tourism. Orlando has the second-most hotel rooms of any U.S. city behind only Las Vegas. But in the year following Pulse, the Disney and family-oriented area didn’t see any change to its overall visitation numbers.”While the long-term effect of the Pulse shooting on Orlando may have been muted, statistics from STR, a US based data analytics firm specializing in hotels, showed a slight decline of 1.3% in hotel occupancy in Orlando, a city with about 124,000 hotel rooms, for the first 11 months compared to the same period in 2015.Looking at Las Vegas, we are just over six weeks past the tragic day and resort companies in Las Vegas are beginning to discuss initial findings regarding bookings.Last month Caesars Entertainment CEO Mark Frissora told a group of investors in New York that business levels were returning to normal. “It’s fair to say we are cautiously optimistic about the rebound,” he said. “We think that occupancy rates across the Strip took a little bit of a hit the first day, the first week into the second week, but then every week it seems to change and improve.” He went on to further describe the MICE segment: “The meeting business itself is solid. There hasn’t been any cancellation of meetings that we’ve seen really for the rest of the year.”More news:  Sunwing offers ultimate package deal ahead of YXU flights to SNU, PUJCaesars Entertainment operates nine Las Vegas Strip area properties including the iconic Caesars Palace and the Flamingo.During an earnings conference call Penn National Gaming weighed in on the situation. Penn National owns the Tropicana Las Vegas, which was the closest resort property to the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Jay Snowden, Penn National President, said; “Of the 35% increase in cancellations year-over-year (at the Tropicana), 80% of those were isolated to October and November.”He went on: “If you add in December, it goes to 90%. At this point, it appears there will be very little impact going into 2018, but it’s still the first month post-event. It’s hard to say exactly how it’s going to play out.”He also pointed out that group and MICE business remained strong, saying it was leisure visitors that made the most cancellations.“The cancellations were largely in the leisure-online travel agency segment,” said Snowden. “In our group business, we didn’t have any cancellations and our casino block has held out very well. It’s really that leisure business that decided to cancel in the fourth quarter. We’ll see how it plays out in Q1.”Boyd Gaming, operators of 11 Las Vegas valley hotel/casinos spoke to Wall Street analysts during a conference call as well. CEO Keith Smith told analysts that Boyd properties near the Strip experienced a slight uptick in cancellations in the days after the shooting, however, business quickly returned to normal.Another indication of the possible strength of tourism to Las Vegas are plans announced since the shooting regarding either new construction or activity in long stalled projects.The long-delayed Resort World project, being built on the site of the old Stardust resort, announced last month that they finally hired a construction management firm, W.A. Richardson for the project. Previously, Richardson was the general contractor for Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, the LINQ and the Cromwell. The project has received the initial construction permits from Clark County and construction cranes should be up and running by mid-December. When completed this should add 3,000 room to the Las Vegas Strip.MGM Resort International has announced that they had purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and will be moving the team to Las Vegas. They will become Las Vegas’ second major league sports team as the NHL’s Golden Knights just started their first season at the T-Mobile Arena. The Stars will play in the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center. Construction is also underway just west of the Strip on the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders new stadium, which should be ready for the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas in 2020.More news:  Le Boat has EBBs along with its new 2020 brochureDuring Caesars Entertainment’s investor meeting the company announced they are starting work on a new convention center behind the Flamingo and the LINQ resorts. The 300,000-square-foot facility will be built on 39 acres that is currently a parking lot and will cost in the range of US$300 to $350 million dollars. This project should be completed in two years, depending on permitting and coordination with Caesars’ new board of directors.Additionally, Wynn Resorts announced that its famed Golf Club will close Dec. 22 to make way for construction of its new Paradise Park, the lagoon development will include a new hotel planned for behind the Wynn and Encore. The carnival-themed new development will have a 103-foot diameter carousel rotating over the man-made lagoon, electric bumper cars that light up when bumped and a nighttime parade with 10-12 floats that guests can pay to join in on the fun. The development will also have a new 47-storey, 1,500-room hotel with its own convention space, casino and restaurants. It will sit roughly between the Encore and the Wynn Las Vegas.In preparation for this article, I contacted the Nevada Commission on Tourism for their input. They said that traffic to their website, regarding Las Vegas, dipped right after the shooting, which they attributed to the cessation of all promotions, advertising and paid search terms immediately following the shooting. They said that when normal marketing resumed, website traffic returned and they did not see any lingering downturn in visits to their website.Considering the anecdotal evidence presented by the major Las Vegas resort companies it would seem that the best way forward would be to follow their lead and promote Las Vegas with the idea that while business may slip a bit in this first calendar quarter after the tragedy, the long term view suggests that business will, after a short period, return to its historical booking patterns.Michael Schoenberger is a freelance travel writer who lives and works in Las Vegas. Analysis: How to market Las Vegas in the Oct. 1 aftermath By: Michael Schoenberger << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Las Vegas Wednesday, November 15, 2017 last_img read more

Step beyond the arch The Los Cabos experience is in demand

first_img“Step beyond the arch”: The Los Cabos experience is in demand Tags: Los Cabos, tourism Thursday, October 4, 2018 Travelweek Group Posted bycenter_img TORONTO — It’s growing at a good clip but Los Cabos still isn’t a mass market destination, and that suits the Los Cabos Tourism Board just fine. “We’re a luxury destination, we’re very exclusive and we want to keep it that way,” says Director, Commercial, Eduardo Regules.Los Cabos gets some three million visitors annually and while that’s ramping up – someone needs to fill all those new hotels, after all – the growth rate is still manageable, says Regules.Taking centre stage last night at a presentation at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum, Regules told industry partners that Los Cabos currently has 75 properties right now with several more on the way, but there’s a good mix of room stock, even if it does skew to the high-end crowd. “We have about 17,000 rooms. We have more than 1,200 luxury rooms, 8,000 EP, 6,500 all-inclusive, 1,000 adults-only and 50 boutique,” Regules told tour operators, agents and media.Eduardo Regules, Director, Commercial, Los Cabos Tourism Board and Cesar Mendoza, Regional Director, Canada for the Mexico Tourism BoardMany of those tour operators and other partners say they’re seeing double-digit growth for their Los Cabos product, he added.More news:  Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaOver the next three years Los Cabos will welcome 4,000+ new rooms in 17 new properties. In 2019 alone the destination will welcome six luxury properties: Ritz Carlton Reserve (Q1); Nobu Los Cabos (Q2); Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos (Q2); Vidanta East Cape (Q4); Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos (Q4); and Villa Valencia (TBD).Including the expansion of three existing properties, this will create 2,463 new rooms in Los Cabos in 2019.Several new resorts opened this year as well, including Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort, Le Blanc Spa Resort and Montage Los Cabos. In the north hotel zone of Puerto Vallarta, the all-inclusive Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort expanded its offerings earlier this year with ‘The Hacienda’, adding an additional 192 suites for a total of 451 guest rooms. “We’re getting luxury brands that have never ventured into Mexico before.”Is Los Cabos worried that it might be too much, too soon? No, says Regules. “We’re a destination that has come up very quickly. So we’ve had to do a lot of marketing, to get the word out there. But we’re still not crowded. We want the growth to continue, but with balance.”More news:  Sunwing offers ultimate package deal ahead of YXU flights to SNU, PUJLos Cabos is doing well for lift out of Canada – working with carriers including Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing – but more seats are always welcome, says Regules. “We’re constantly trying to get more connectivity.”Los Cabos may be best known by many visitors for the bars and restaurants that line its port area, but there are in fact there are five regions in the destination: Pacific, Cabo San Lucas, the tourist corridor, San Jose del Cabo and the East Cape.Los Cabos is also home to 19 Blue Flag-designated swimmable beaches, the most of any destination in Mexico. Los Cabos is also working hard to keep development sustainable with urban image control maintaining the aesthetics of the destination, as well as cruise ship anchoring restrictions and seawater desalination facilities. Share << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Survey says politics exchange rate will lead to rise in domestic travel

first_img TORONTO — Head’s up: 2019 will be the year of domestic travel.According to the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA)’s 2018 Smart Travellers survey results, Canadians will be motivated to stay close to home next year due to the political climate and exchange rate.These results are also reflected in Statistics Canada data about declining travel to the U.S. by Canadians, which has been seeing a downward trend for five months, said THiA Executive Director Will McAleer. “Our survey shows that many Canadian traveller will be exploring travel options within our borders.”When asked how the political climate impacts their desire to travel to the U.S., 57% of Canadians claim they’re less likely to book a trip south of the border. In fact, Canadians are turning to the Great White North as a 2019 vacation alternative, with 42% of Canadians choosing Canada as their next vacation destination.Other factors include the currency conversion; according to the survey, 59% of Canadians are less likely to travel to the U.S. right now due to the exchange rate.More news:  Venice to ban cruise ships from city centre starting next monthOn the topic of money, 19% of Canadians admit to intentionally providing inaccurate information to a travel health insurance medical questionnaire, with 58% of Canadians doing so in order to pay a lower rate in an attempt to save a few dollars. But as THiA reminds travellers, it’s important to include travel health insurance in every vacation budget to avoid unexpected surprises.The online survey, conducted in September 2018, polled 1,343 respondents ranging from ages 18-60+ across Canada. Share Monday, November 5, 2018 Posted by Tags: Statistics, Statistics Canada, THIAcenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Survey says politics & exchange rate will lead to rise in domestic travel Travelweek Group last_img read more

Sunwing Barcelo ACV Trafalgar Black Friday week begins

first_img Travelweek Group Monday, November 19, 2018 Posted by Sunwing, Barcelo, ACV & Trafalgar: Black Friday week begins Tags: Barceló Hotel Group, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Insight Vacations, Sunwing, Trafalgarcenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Share TORONTO — Sunwing’s Orange Friday deals kick off our annual roundup of Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, updated daily with new promotions available this week and into next week.Sunwing opted to launch its popular Orange Friday campaign a week early, with savings available while supplies last.Here’s a look at Sunwing’s deal as well as several more Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers for 2018, from ACV, Barcelo Hotel Group, Insight and Trafalgar…SUNWINGSunwing’s Orange Friday promotion takes up to 35% off premium all-inclusive vacation packages to select top-rated resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Clients can also save on cruise packages and Florida fly, drive and stay packages. An array of included perks add value to each booking, including Kids Stay, Play and Eat FREE deals, unlimited specialty dining, discounted spa treatments and access to exclusive areas, depending on the selected resort. Featured properties include the adults-only CHIC Punta Cana on Uvero Alto Beach, the adults-only Platinum Yucatan Princess All Suites Resort and Spa in Riviera Maya, and for families, Ocean Vista Azul in Varadero.More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthAIR CANADA VACATIONSAir Canada Vacations is offering up to 40% off on all destinations for new bookings made between Nov. 19 and 22 for travel from Feb. 1 to April 30, 2019. ACV also has an exclusive offer just for its trade partners: agents can earn 50% commission on CareFlex and CareFree travel protection plans when added to their booking. This equates to a value of up to $49 for every traveller booked. BARCELO HOTEL GROUPBarcelo Hotel Group’s Black Friday / Cyber Monday savings offer savings worth 30 – 57% off. Properties taking part include Occidental Costa Cancun, Occidental Tucancun, Barcelo Karmina, Barcelo Puerto Vallarta, Occidental Nuevo Vallarta, Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort, Barcelo Huatulco, Occidental at Xcaret and Occidental Punta Cana. For these resorts the booking window is Nov. 19 to Nov. 26 or 27, for late fall travel. Barcelo Maya Grand Resort is also taking part, with a Nov. 23 – 29 booking window. Sale bookings also open for Allegro Cozumel and Occidental Cozumel on Nov. 23. See news:  SEVEN WONDERS OF EGYPTINSIGHT VACATIONSInsight Vacations is offering 10% off with the Early Payment Discount on any trips booked to Spain, Portugal and Morocco by Nov. 26. Pre-paid gratuities are also on the house, says Insight. “Travel Advisors can help clients take advantage of this limited-time offer by calling 1-866-747-8120 to claim the offer or submit a request online here until Nov. 26.” Past Guests will save 5% on all premium escorted journey to Spain, Portugal & Morocco and receive pre-paid gratuities complimentary for new bookings between Nov. 15 – 26, plus save 10% with the Early Payment Discount. For more information and promotion codes click here.TRAFALGARTrafalgar is offering a savings of 15% off per person on 15 of its trips to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia. The promotion runs through Nov. 26 using the promotion code PPBLACKFRIDAY18. For more information visit read more

Will November elections bring a political shift in Honduras

first_imgHonduras’ National Party presidential candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, center in white shirt, leads a march in Tegucigalpa on May 26. General elections in Honduras will be held on Nov. 26. Orlando Sierra/AFP But some have labeled Castro as a puppet for her husband, whose alleged desire to seek re-election despite constitutional term limits was partly responsible for his unceremonious removal. Zelaya’s detractors have described him as a caudillo, or strongman, trying to make himself in the mold of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and current Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.It doesn’t help that Castro often seems all too willing to take a backseat role, letting her husband speak to the press and participating in few debates. And Castro’s campaign is seldom covered by local media, though this stems mainly from the country’s newspaper and television-station owners, who tend to be conservative.All of this gives the impression of a party content to remain in the shadows until Election Day on Nov. 24. But when Castro’s supporters do hit the streets, it’s with force.During an Independence Day celebration put on last month by the government, thousands of Free supporters carrying red and black banners – Free’s colors – thronged outside the stadium where the celebration was taking place. Student bands that had been invited to participate by the government marched outside instead, in street clothes, defying official government orders not to do so.“It’s a party that was born in the streets with the people,” said Agustín Ramos Montes, leader of a farmers’ rights organization. “In Libre we have placed enormous hopes.”Can anyone make Honduras safe?It will be difficult, however, for Castro to meet the expectations of Free’s diverse and ardent supporters. She recently told a radio program that she “is not in agreement with gay marriage,” though some of her support comes from gay-rights organizations.Castro’s main campaign promise is to call an assembly to rewrite the constitution, something her husband had proposed shortly before the coup. Suazo, the political scientist, said this would be difficult for her to achieve, because only Congress can call a constitutional assembly, and Free is unlikely to win a congressional majority.If she wins, Castro would likely try to ease the country’s financial woes by boosting participation in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program, which provides oil and gas on preferential terms. She would seek to strengthen ties with other left-leaning nations such as Ecuador and Nicaragua, Suazo predicted.But the most pressing issue she would face is public security. Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, with 86 murders per 100,000 people last year. And there are few signs of a significant drop this year. New military policing units already are being rolled out – a solution supported and implemented by Hernández, the National Party candidate. Castro has said she would focus on community policing but keep the military in its bases.Hernández, in his campaign, has painted Castro and her party as closet left-wing radicals. This may be resonating with some voters, not least because the campaign material of the resistance can be tinged with a harder rhetoric than Castro or her party professes.But Hernández must contend with his own reputation as manipulative and untrustworthy.“People perceive him as a person who is not authentic,” Suazo said. “He is perceived as being calculating politically. That is a big weakness.”Still, Hernández comes from a powerful party with enormous resources, and has the advantage that he “is holding almost all the key reins of institutional power,” said Dana Frank, an expert on Honduras and a professor of history at University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States.“Never underestimate the potential for fraud in this context,” she said.With two candidates with such stark differences, this presidential race has come to polarize the electorate and divide even families. Unlike during past election seasons, few people are displaying campaign slogans on their cars or properties.“I don’t visit a few uncles now,” said Yamileth Gonzáles, a 28-year-old campaign manager for Free. “Because they ask me, ‘Why do you do all that, going into the streets for that party?’ ” Facebook Comments TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – It is impossible to walk a block along the main drag of this Central American capital without seeing the face of presidential hopeful Juan Orlando Hernández, a longtime fixture of conservative politics here.Nowhere to be seen, however, is his upstart rival, Xiomara Castro, who narrowly leads him in the polls. And yet of Honduras’ eight candidates vying for the presidential office in Nov. 24 elections, Castro and her new left-leaning Free Party – which lacks even funds for street posters – may have the best chance of all to upend the elections here, poll-watchers say.For the past 50 years, Honduras has been ruled by two traditional political parties: the centrist Liberal Party and the highly conservative National Party, which many say are made up of the same moneyed elite. But their hold on power is being questioned for the first time as Honduras faces a myriad of problems: soaring murder rates, insecurity, large debts, drug trafficking, corruption and the failure of many of its institutions.Castro started her campaign with a sizable advantage over Hernández, the president of the National Congress and the National Party candidate. However, since May, Hernández has consistently edged closer in the polls, as his party outspends Free by huge margins. The latest CID-Gallup poll has Castro receiving 29 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for Hernández. The poll claims a 2 percent margin of error.“This is the first time that in Honduras political power has been put in play,” said Sergio Suazo, a political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. “Never has [the two parties’] political power been in dispute. That is the big difference.”From First Lady to resistance leaderFour years ago Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, then president of Honduras, was awakened at gunpoint, escorted to a military plane, and flown to Costa Rica in a military coup. Castro’s Liberty and Refoundation Party, otherwise known as Libre, or Free, has roots in Honduras’ resistance movement – an unlikely confluence of human-rights defenders, students, labor unions, women’s groups, farmers, indigenous movements, gay-rights organizations and others who took to the streets to protest the coup for more than five months in 2009.Many within these same groups were then united politically for the first time when Zelaya returned from exile in May 2011 and broke with his former party, Liberal, after some in the party supported the coup. A month after his return, he formed the Free Party to serve as the political arm of the resistance. The Stetson-wearing Zelaya is an unlikely leader for the left, as he comes from a wealthy ranching family. But during his presidency he took on an increasingly populist tone. Free would eventually select Castro, Zelaya’s wife, as its presidential candidate.Castro herself led a number of street protests after the coup, and this converted her in the public eye from a formerly low-profile First Lady into “a victim who was with the people,” said Bertha Oliva, head of Honduras’ Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared, a human rights group founded in 1982.center_img No related posts.last_img read more

Costa Ricas Copa del Café wraps up with surprises exciting play

first_imgCosta Rica’s 50th Copa del Café tennis tournament came to a close Saturday evening on an intimate court at the Costa Rica Country Club, southwest of the capital. The final matches were played in front of a captivated audience who held on to every point played in each of the four two-set matches.The biggest surprise of the evening was Catherine Bellis of the United States, who defeated the No. 1 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in the girls’ singles final. Bellis, 14, played a strong, confident game and won in straight sets (6-4, 6-3). She will advance from her spot at 105 in the International Tennis Federation rankings to a spot in the top 50. Andrzejczuk said “It was a great tournament, lots of nice people. Close match, but we tried our best.”His sentiment was echoed throughout the evening on the podium, as the tennis players expressed their gratitude to everyone for making Copa del Café a great tournament.Check out some more photos from the finals: Facebook Comments Rafael Coutinho hugs his doubles partner Nicolás Álvarez after their victory in the boys’ doubles finals at the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendt Boys doubles winners Rafael Coutinho and Nicolás Álvarez show off their new Copa del Café plaques.Lindsay Fendt Bouzkova, ranked 19 in the world on Jan. 6, appeared to be nervous from the beginning of the match and committed a lot of unforced errors, which contributed to her loss. Despite losing the final match, the points gained in earlier matches will advance the 15-year-old Czech in the ITF rankings.In the boys’ singles final, the No. 1 seeded Roman Safiullin from Russia met expectations and defeated Ryotaro Matsumura from Japan in straight sets, 7-6, 6-1.In the girls’ doubles final, the Belgian team formed by Morgane Michiels and Greetje Minnen won 5-4 and 7-5 over British Emily Arbuthnott and Brazilian Luisa Stefani.The boys’ doubles final was won by Peruvian Nicolás Álvarez and Venezuelan Rafael Antonio Coutinho in an exciting 10-point tiebreaker played in place of a third set. Álvarez and Coutinho won 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 over their opponents, Adrián Andrzejczuk from Poland and Nam Hoang Ly from Vietnam. Nicolás Álvarez of Peru lunges for the ball during the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendtcenter_img Catherine Cartan Bellis from the U.S. won the girls’ singles tournament at the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendt Catherine Cartan Bellis hoists the victory plate over her head after winning the girls’ singles tournament at the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendt Marie Bouzkova returns the ball during the girls’ singles finals at the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendt Catherine Cartan Bellis celebrates after a point in the girls’ singles finals at the Copa del Café.Lindsay Fendt Related posts:15-year-old Catherine Bellis pulls off biggest upset of U.S. Open, seven months after winning Costa Rica tournament UPDATE: 2014 Copa del Café champ Catherine ‘CiCi’ Bellis falls in US Open second round Marin Cilic, 2014 U.S. Open champion, played in Costa Rica’s junior tournament 10 years ago Costa Rica’s Copa del Café tennis tournament opens in Escazúlast_img read more

Obamas surprise opening to Cuba sparks cautious reaction among US travel execs

first_imgRelated posts:A cultural anthropologist ponders Cuba before and after Obama’s decision Cuba’s Christmas surprise for Caracas As talks with US begin, Cubans anticipate changes in their lives Cuba dissidents urge US to focus on Castro human rights record Watch The Tico Times’ Washington correspondent Larry Luxner discuss U.S.-Cuba relations with Al-Jazeera. Interview starts at minute 6:37.WASHINGTON, D.C. – First, the good news: if you’re a U.S. citizen who’s already licensed to travel to Cuba, you may now come back to the United States with $400 worth of Cuban goods, including $100 in duty-free rum and cigars. Now, the bad news: it may still be awhile before the rest of us can legally visit this forbidden island only 90 miles from Florida’s shores.On Wednesday, President Obama announced in a live TV address that he would seek to end half a century of U.S. hostility toward Cuba. That declaration – which includes the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Castro regime – followed the long-sought release of jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison, as well as the return of three convicted Cuban spies back to the island of their birth.That morning, as shipping executive Jay Brickman was leaving for Miami International Airport for his 50-minute charter flight to Havana, he had no clue the earth was about to shake under his feet.But by the time Brickman had boarded his plane, the whole world knew.“I had planned this trip before, so this makes it even more productive once we’re there,” said Brickman, vice president of Crowley Liner Services, which earlier this year became the first customer at Cuba’s nearly $1 billion mega-port at Mariel.“The reason for switching container traffic from Havana to Mariel was to make Havana a more attractive cruise-ship port,” said Brickman. “If the U.S. government says it’s OK for cruise ships to go directly from U.S. ports to Cuba, obviously that will have a significant impact on the industry. The question is, are the Cubans ready to receive more cruise ships, and if so, how many more? And what are they going to want in their negotiations for letting the cruise ships in?”These are the types of questions to which everyone in the airline and cruise-ship industry suddenly wants answers.Joseph Hinson is president of Miami-based United Americas Shipping Services, which has been planning passenger ferry service from Florida to Cuba since 2010.“Obviously, we’re very excited. We’ve been waiting to hear this news for the last six or seven years, and finally we see some real opportunities here,” said Hinson, whose Baja Ferries unit already transports 250,000 passengers per year between the Mexican ports of Mazatlán and Topolobambo. “We will resurrect our overall business plan and get in touch with key people in Washington immediately.”Baja Ferries also owns the Caribbean Fantasy, which carries 1,000 passengers and 1,900 lane meters of cargo between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The vessel has 150 cabins and offers a nightclub and duty-free shopping on its evening departures to the D.R., which alternate between San Juan and Mayagüez.Hinson hopes to launch similar service to Havana from South Florida – either Miami or Port Everglades, charging roughly $250 round-trip per passenger.“We have done all our homework,” Hinson said. “We’d still have to negotiate with Cuban authorities over the exact location where we would place our ship. Truthfully, we’ve been contacted by so many people over the years who wanted to do this but never had the assets. We’re one of the few who actually have ships – and we’re ready at a moment’s notice.”Yet John Tercek, VP of commercial development at Royal Caribbean Cruises, is somewhat skeptical.“These are nice words, but I don’t see any immediate impact until a number of pieces fall into place,” he said. “The president has gradually liberalized travel and made small, incremental steps, and maybe this will lead to something bigger. But I don’t see anything happening overnight.” A panoramic view of Havana taken from the top of the Focsa building in Vedado, with the venerable Hotel Nacional in the foreground. Larry Luxner/The Tico TimesThere will be competitionMichele Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, said she hopes Obama’s predictions will eventually be converted into concrete action resulting in more U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba.“Basically, none of the restrictions have been lifted. It would be phenomenal to go to Cuba, and there’s a lot of pent-up demand, but Congress would have to approve it,” she said. “Under the law, any ship that does business in the U.S. cannot call on Cuba – and until that is changed, it’s kind of a moot point.”Paige, whose FCCA is a nonprofit group representing 15 member lines that operate more than 100 cruise vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters, said the average cruise ship holds 3,000 passengers and injects $500,000 into the local economy per port call.“Cruise tourism requires the least amount of infrastructure,” she said. “It’s perfect for Cuba. They don’t need hotels, they just need to move people.”But what’s good news for one Caribbean island may not be so good for others.“Destinations that provide a satisfactory experience for passengers and are doing a good job have nothing to worry about. It’s the destinations that are having problems that need to worry,” Paige said, adding that she’d be particularly concerned with the Bahamas and Jamaica – both of which, like Cuba, are relatively close to the U.S. mainland, and both of which have reported rising violent crime against cruise passengers in recent years. “We’ve said continually that they have to be cognizant of the fact that when Cuba opens up, there will be competition.” Foreign tourists enjoy the colonial architecture of Old Havana. Larry Luxner/The Tico Times‘The embargo is still in effect’At the moment, six charter tour operators are licensed to offer flights between the United States and Cuba. The vast majority of those flights are from Miami International Airport, with a few flights also offered from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. Direct service from Los Angeles was cancelled two years ago, and California-based Cuba Travel Service said it’ll soon reinstate service from New York JFK to Havana.CTS says its initial request to operate Havana-bound flights from Newark Liberty was denied by local airport authorities, though JFK is still easily accessible from New Jersey, home to the nation’s second-largest Cuban exile community after South Florida.Ronen Paldi is president of Ya’lla Tours USA, an authorized travel service provider based in Portland, Oregon, that has been bringing visitors to Cuba since 2002. He said it could be a while before OFAC makes clear what’s allowed and what’s not.Paldi pointed out that Obama vowed to relax restrictions governing the issuance of people-to-people licenses to Cuba in January 2011. But OFAC announced those changes only in April, and they weren’t implemented until June – half a year after they were first promised.“The embargo is still in effect. We need to see if the restrictions to be eased will include [letting] airlines fly to Cuba. If we still have to depend on charter flights, that will remain a very narrow bottleneck that limits capacity on anything going to Cuba.”Even if all the restrictions are lifted, he said, Cuba isn’t exactly a travel bargain compared to its Caribbean rivals – and the tourism bureaucracy is mind-numbing.“It’s getting worse, not better. The Ministry of Tourism decided to consolidate most tourism companies in Cuba under one roof. So instead of decentralizing the industry, they’re centralizing it under the banner of Havanatur, which will create less competition. Also, they are not allowing American organized tourists to make their own reservations at paladares [private restaurants],” Paldi told us.“They are almost full to capacity with their existing hotel rooms, tour buses, tour guides and parking lots. Finding rooms in Havana – not just at Christmas, but in January, February or March – is already very difficult. ASTA predicts that once restrictions are completely lifted, more than one million Americans would flow into Cuba during the first five years. Cuba just isn’t ready for that.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Whos on first Misadventures in languageland

first_imgRelated posts:On tweeting and twitteando: Should we resist when languages change? Brush up your bathroom Spanish: a truly crappy language lesson A love letter to Costa Rica’s second language You can’t speak Spanish without huevos “Who’s on First,” the famous dialogue by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello about baseball players with funny names, was first used in 1938 and is still recalled today. It is a perfect example of how language can get screwed up.Language mixups are common, and even more so when it comes to working in two or more languages. Even big international companies can get into trouble, as did Rolls Royce: they tried to sell their Silver Mist in Germany, where the word mist means manure. And Chevrolet couldn’t push their Nova cars in Latin America because the words no va mean “it doesn’t go.”In Spanish, the word molestar means to bother. Una molestia is a nuisance. These words are heard all the time. But you would never tell someone in English to stop molesting you because she is being annoying, or say you were molested because you lost your umbrella. Another example is the word van. In English, it’s a little bus. In Spanish it means ‘they are going.’ In Hungarian, it means ‘is,’ but that doesn’t concern us because only Hungarians speak Hungarian.We also have to deal now with computer language and new words and expressions that are not in our standard lexicons but which crop up on the internet and spread to the rest of life. LOL. REMFLO. U2. X. Por q. Scan and escanear. What’s a bucket list? We didn’t have those when I lived in the States and trolls lived under bridges and ate billy goats. I won spelling bees when I was in school, and now I don’t understand English and can’t spell it.Worse yet is bilingual spelling, especially when we come across new names or products. When talking person-to-person, we can call on clues from body language, or whip out a pen and pencil and say “Could you write that down please?” Over the phone we are stymied. “Could you spell that for me please?” “¿Lo podría deletrear, por favor?” Sometimes kind Spanish-speakers will try to clarify a word by using English, which makes it even more confusing. “Is that an ‘a’ in English or ‘e’ in Spanish? Is that an ‘e’ in English or an ‘i’ in Spanish?We work it out in the end. “‘A’ as in Alajuela. ‘E’ as in escuela.”Then one day someone wanted to give me an email address with a “w” in it. This is a letter that can generate some confusion. The doble uve can make a language learner wonder what words in English or Spanish have a double v, and the only word with two u’s is vacuum, a word I use only when I plan to clean floors. If you check a Spanish-English dictionary under “W” it says, “This letter does not belong to the Spanish alphabet and is only used in proper names and foreign words.”There we were, stumped, trying to clarify the letter “w” in an email address in a bilingual phone conversation, until I thought of one “w” word familiar to all.“’W’ as in Walmart,” I said. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

WATCH Keylor Navas makes soaring save in Saturdays Madrid Derby

first_img#RMAvATM | HALF TIME | @realmadriden 0-0 @atletienglish Navas was called into action twice just before the break.— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) February 27, 2016 Related posts:WATCH: Keylor Navas takes flight to make a miraculous diving save Costa Rican Keylor Navas keeps historic Champions League shutout streak alive Keylor Navas puts on a show in Real Madrid win Keylor Navas’ coach at Real Madrid sacked, Spanish media report The next time manager Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid send keeper Keylor Navas onto the field, they should give him a cape. It felt like it was the only thing missing after another Superman-performance from the Costa Rican star on Saturday against Atlético Madrid.It’s no secret that Real Madrid’s backline has been the weak link for Los Merengues all season, and that Navas has been asked repeatedly to bail out the defense with incredible saves. Despite a 1-0 loss to the intra-city rival, Navas did all he could to keep a blank slate in Saturday’s crucial battle for second place in La Liga.In the 40th minute of the Madrid Derby, star Atlético forward Antoine Griezmann broke through Madrid’s porous backfield and made an admirable strike on goal. But Griezmann’s attempt, like so many would-be goals from Real Madrid opponents all season, was denied when Navas soared through the air to make a spectacular stop. minute later, Atlético broke through Madrid’s defense again as striker Koké gained the corner on midfielder Luka Modric and sent a shot with a clear path towards the net. Again, Navas was there just in time to swallow up the ball and deny the cross-town rivals of a goal.Atlético was finally able to get past Navas in the 53rd minute when Brazilian Filipe Luís penetrated Real’s disjointed defense and set up a beautiful assist for Griezmann, who rocketed in the game’s only goal.Madrid was threatened again in the 66th minute when Juanfran spun his way into the box and left a golden opportunity for Atlético to score. Again, Navas had to come out to take away the ball from Saúl Ñiguez as Real’s defense looked lost and confused.With the loss, Madrid remains farther away from the top spot in La Liga, where rival Barcelona has a controlling, nine-point lead. On the other side, Atlético Madrid’s win has increased its hold on second place with a four-point cushion over Real.Even with Navas’ absurd play, constant rumors continue to pour out of Spain that eccentric owner Florentino Pérez still intends to trade Navas for Manchester United keeper and Spain-native David De Gea. The club tried to make the trade in August during the last transfer window, but came minutes short of faxing in the paperwork.The 29-year-old Navas has responded by turning in one of the best campaigns of any goalkeeper on the planet this season, breaking multiple club and world records in the process. He was named as one of the top five goalkeepers in the world by a players-only poll taken by FIFA and named as the 67th best football player by The Guardian. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Explosion at Rincón de la Vieja Volcano spews vapor gases into the

first_imgRelated posts:Turrialba Volcano spews ash; Rincón de la Vieja heaves vapor Turrialba Volcano spews ash 1 km high Turrialba Volcano again spews ash and vapor Wind takes ash from Turrialba Volcano to Caribbean communities Rincón de la Vieja Volcano recorded a strong explosion of hot water, vapor, gases and mud that, according to the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI), began at around 10:12 a.m. on Tuesday.Expelled materials were visible on the north slope of the volcano, located some 270 kilometers (167 miles) northwest of San José in the province of Guanacaste.Residents of the nearby community of Upala reported hearing a loud sound during the explosion, similar to that of a jet turbine. Mud and other materials from the volcano also fell on the Penjamo River and changed the water color, OVSICORI report stated.The National Seismological Network reported that a seismic monitoring station located south of the volcano recorded a tremor associated with the explosion that lasted for about a minute and a half.Blas Sánchez Ureña, a geologist at the National Emergency Commission, said in a news release at approximately 3 p.m. that the commission had not received any reports of damage from nearby communities.Rincón de la Vieja is one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes, along with Turrialba, Poás, Irazú, Miravalles and Arenal.Its most recent activity occurred last year with similar vapor and gas explosions. On March 9, 2016, local residents told OVSICORI experts that ash had fallen on the roofs of their homes, mainly in communities north of the crater in Upala and Buenos Aires. Materials from the explosion fell on the Pénjamo river and turned its water muddy. (Via OVSICORI) Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Pic of the Day Protecting and celebrating Costa Ricas birds

first_imgRelated posts:Another culinary trip around the world Gardeners of the forest: The tapir in Costa Rica Covering Santa Teresa Tico Times Pic of the Day: Corcovado National Park from above This weekend, the Osa Conservation Area, Osa Birds and the Neotrópica Foundation are hosting the annual International Bird Festival in Puerto Jiménez, Golfito.The festival will focus on reducing Costa Rica’s reliance on single-use plastics in order to protect birds and other wildlife.The festival features several free family-friendly activities. There is a drawing station for children, a photography workshop hosted by Osa Photography, a migratory bird photography contest and the fan-favorite bird “marathon.”The festival concludes today in Puerto Jiménez.​​​​​​This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.​​​​Support the Tico Times Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Obama calls Greek elections positive

first_imgGreece’s conservative New Democracy party came in first in the critical weekend elections and pro-bailout parties won enough seats to form a joint government. The results calmed fears of an imminent Greek exit from the Eurozone.A Greek exit would have had potentially catastrophic consequences for other ailing European nations, the U.S. and the entire global economy.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Patients with chronic pain give advice Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debatescenter_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Top Stories LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) – President Barack Obama says weekend elections in Greece indicate “positive” prospects for a new government there that will cooperate with Europe.However, Obama says Europe’s economic woes remain a concern for world leaders. He says the world economy must grow without protectionism.Obama spoke alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who is hosting the G-20 economic summit. The European economic crisis is expected to dominate much of the discussion there. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathslast_img read more

After conviction former Italian PM goes to Kenya

first_img 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Chai said Berlusconi traveled to Kenya with Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectcenter_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives in Kenya a week after an Italian court convicted him of tax fraud and sentenced him to four years in prison.Berlusconi arrived Thursday in Malindi _ a fishing and resort village where many Italians live and visit. His arrival was confirmed by Phillip Chai, the manager of the exclusive Lion in the Sun resort.Berlusconi, who dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades, has seen his image tarnished by sex and tax scandals. Last week a court found him guilty of inflating the price his media empire paid for TV rights to movies from the United States and pocketing the difference. Berlusconi is appealing the ruling. Check your body, save your life Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 3 international destinations to visit in 2019last_img read more

Zimbabwe electoral body seeks end to media bias

first_imgHARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe’s official electoral body says it will for the first time take disciplinary action against journalists for unfair reporting ahead of the nation’s upcoming elections.Electoral Commission head Judge Rita Makarau said Monday it will start monitoring media reports on the polls set for July 31.Makarau said all political parties must be given “equitable” coverage in the independent media and the dominant state-run media controlled by loyalists of longtime President Robert Mugabe. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Comments   Share   Top Stories center_img Equal media access was set as a condition of a power-sharing deal forged by regional leaders between Mugabe and former opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after violent and disputed elections in 2008.But it has not been adhered to by Mugabe’s state media and the sole national broadcaster.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generationlast_img read more

Chevron Corp signs longsought deal to invest 124 billion with YPF in

first_img Comments   Share   Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Chevron Corp. signs long-sought deal to invest $1.24 billion with YPF in Argentine shale oil.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories Top Stories Top holiday drink recipeslast_img read more

UKs Cameron visits troops in Afghanistan

first_imgCAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (AP) – British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed confidence Monday that a security agreement will be signed to allow a continuing allied training mission in Afghanistan after 2014, as he declared Britain had accomplished its mission in the South Asian country.Cameron was in Afghanistan for a pre-Christmas visit with U.K. soldiers, who form the second-largest NATO contingent fighting to stop the Taliban insurgency, ahead of a planned withdrawal of all British combat troops by the end of next year. Check your body, save your life Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories Comments   Share   Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daycenter_img Afghan security forces took the lead in security around the country last summer, and are now mostly training and assisting the army and police.Cameron later pointed to those gains as a reason that U.K. combat troops can go home “with heads held high” next year.Where it once had about 9,500 military personnel in Afghanistan, by the end of this month Britain is expected to have about 5,200 troops on the ground. Cameron repeatedly said he has no plans to break his promise of bringing all combat troops home by the end of 2014 and that this would be his last pre-Christmas visit.While the U.K. will not be leaving behind a “perfect country,” Cameron said, it is important to note that the purpose of the NATO mission was to build an Afghan security force that could maintain basic security and ensure the country never became a haven for terrorist training camps again.“That is the mission, that was the mission, and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done,” he said.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Cameron said it would be better if the deal is signed “sooner rather than later” because NATO countries have to plan.A post-2014 mission could involve around 8,000 American and 6,000 allied troops. The U.K. has committed to leaving a small number of advisers to Afghan’s Ministry of Defense and trainers at the national officer’s academy in Kabul _ and those plans could be in jeopardy if a deal is not signed.“Clearly Britain wants to continue playing its role,” Cameron told reporters.He noted that “the big drawdown” is now taking place and praised British troops for helping to train the Afghan National Army.Cameron toured Camp Bastion, having breakfast with troops and taking in a soccer training session between Afghan soldiers and British troops.He then then took a Chinook helicopter to one of the last four British forward operating bases. At one point, there were 137 such bases.Upon alighting at Forward Operating Base Sterga 2, with breathtaking views of the Helmand River, Cameron was given a briefing on reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.“The surveillance kit _ it’s amazing!” he later said to troops while touring their accommodations. He stressed that Britain would stick to that timetable to withdraw all troops by the end of 2014, but noted the importance of a deal to ensure the framework for training missions and counterterrorism support, to ensure security through the transition and after 2014, when the NATO mandate expires and all foreign forces must depart.“That’s clearly in Afghanistan’s interest, that’s in America and NATO’s interest, too, and so I’m confident that after some discussions an agreement will be signed,” he told reporters at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.Much is at stake if the deal falls apart. Afghanistan could lose up to $15 billion a year in aid, effectively collapsing its fragile economy and making it unable to pay its 350,000-strong army and police.After helping forge the deal _ known as the Bilateral Security Agreement _ President Hamid Karzai balked at signing it. Although a national assembly of 2,500 delegates known as the Loya Jirga endorsed the deal last month and backed a U.S. request that it be signed by the end of the year, Karzai has said he will be deferring that to his successor and has added new conditions, such as restarting peace talks with the Taliban.last_img read more

Construction jobs fueled April employment gains

first_imgBy contrast, manufacturing job growth remained basically flat, reflecting the beating the industry is taking from the rise in the value of the dollar. A strong dollar makes U.S. exports less competitive in overseas markets because they become more expensive. It also makes imports cheaper for U.S. consumers.Manufacturers added just 1,000 jobs in March and April combined.Overall, U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, the lowest level since May 2008.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction and manufacturing — two bedrock sectors of the American economy — landed on opposite ends of April’s jobs report.Construction companies added 45,000 jobs during the month, bringing their year-to-date total to 108,000. Most of April’s gains came from the “specialty trade contractors” subsector, which includes carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Four benefits of having a wireless security systemcenter_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories Comments   Share   How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more