Best Western rewards loyalty members with 10 travel cards

first_img Travelweek Group Thursday, June 22, 2017 Share Tags: Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Promotions PHOENIX — Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ latest seasonal promotion encourages Best Western Rewards (BWR) members to ‘Go. Get. Rewarded.’Now through Sept. 4, 2017, BWR members will earn a US$10 Best Western Travel Card for each night at more than 4,200 Best Western branded hotels worldwide. In addition, AAA/CAA members will earn a $20 Best Western Travel Card for each night.With no limitation to the number of Best Western Travel Cards that each member can earn, members will be able to instantly redeem their Travel Cards and use it towards their next trip, gift it to a loved one, or stack up the rewards and use them for a special occasion.“As we prepare for the busy summer travel season, we are excited to help our loyal guests live out their ultimate vacation getaway, while also putting some money back into their pockets,” said Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “We listen to the voice of our customers and tailor our BWR program to provide the value and perks guests are looking for. This summer promotion is a great example of that as it helps alleviate the stress that can come with travel expenses. We look forward to seeing both leisure and business travellers at our properties this summer.”More news:  Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaBWR, which as recently refreshed, is the only loyalty program in the industry where points never expire. Reward redemption begins at a lower point level requirement relative to industry competitors, and free nights earned can be redeemed at any Best Western branded hotel worldwide, with no blackout dates. Additionally, members have access to special rates – up to 10% off on every night and free night redemptions count toward attaining elite tiers. Finally, members are able to earn gift cards from some of the most popular shopping, entertainment, gas, and airline partners.As part of the BWR refresh, members are given instant rewards and gratification on every stay. Additionally, the ‘Status Match…No Catch’ program allows members to instantly have their status matched with other hotel loyalty programs upon enrollment.In addition, elite members are given a choice of a “Thank You” gift or bonus points. Plus, they receive a 10% discount for all free night redemptions. Finally, Best Western hotels provide guaranteed free nights for Diamond and Diamond Select members at properties with availability.center_img Posted by Best Western rewards loyalty members with $10 travel cards << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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Do you like Carnivals upgraded GoCCLcom Its all thanks to agents

first_img Posted by Thursday, November 9, 2017 Travelweek Group Share Do you like Carnival’s upgraded GoCCL.com? It’s all thanks to agentscenter_img Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Technology MIAMI — Carnival Cruise Line has updated its travel agent online resource GoCCL.com based on extensive travel agent feedback from the line’s Travel Partner Advisory Committee as well as the full agent community through online surveys and an opt-in testing period in October.The upgrade includes what Carnival says are substantial improvements to the cruise and promotion research features, as well as enhanced site navigation and search functionality.The GoCCL.com redesign is the line’s latest addition to #thelist, which includes recent travel agent initiatives that are part of its ‘Travel Agents Rock’ program.“We invested in the redesign of GoCCL.com based on travel agent feedback and our desire to provide the best-in-class travel agent resource,” says Carnival’s Vice President of Sales & Trade Marketing, Adolfo Perez. “This complete redesign will greatly improve the way agents conduct their day-to-day business with us, allowing them to more quickly and easily find the information and resources they need.”More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthEnhancements include:A new, clean and modern designImproved navigation bar functionalityNew ‘Ship Navigator’ on the home page, which provides all key details of a Carnival ship on one page for a seamless research experienceUpgraded search functionality, which allows agents to find what they are looking for more quickly and accurately, says CarnivalMobile device responsiveness, allowing agents to look at information on the goNew direct feed to the line’s trade Facebook pageEasy-to-access sales and promotions informationAll content now resides behind the login, making GoCCL.com a true business-to-business site experience for agentsAgents can take part in a self-guided tutorial on the site. They may also contact their BDM or Carnival’s sales support and operations team at salessupport@carnival.com. << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP Leisure Marketing North America

first_img Travelweek Group Share TORONTO — Well-known travel industry veteran Stephen Smith is taking on the newly formed role of Senior Vice President, Leisure Marketing, North America for Direct Travel.Smith previously held the role of Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications at Vision Travel, which was acquired by Direct Travel in 2017. Direct Travel is a leading member of Virtuoso.Smith has been with Vision Travel for more than 12 years.“I am thrilled to be welcoming Stephen to the Direct Travel team,” said Gerard Bellino, Executive Vice President, Leisure Travel, Direct Travel. “I firmly believe this positions us as the premier leisure travel organization within North America with an established marketing solution for both bricks and mortar operations and independent travel advisors.”Says Smith: “I am truly excited to take on this role within Direct Travel and work with an incredible team as we continue to grow the leisure side of the business. Our ability to grow both organically and through acquisition put us in a unique position with our partners as we head into 2020. I look forward to building on what we have achieved in 2019 across Canada as Vision Travel and throughout the U.S. as Direct Travel.” Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North America << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Tags: Direct Travel Posted by Tuesday, August 6, 2019 last_img read more

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Costa Rican hospitals call for blood donors

first_imgRelated posts:San Juan de Dios Hospital needs blood donors Costa Rica’s blood bank needs donors Annual vaccination against influenza begins early Caja to distribute flu vaccines next week Blood donations in Costa Rica decreased 10 percent in the last three months, leading to critical shortages at hospitals, according to Ileana Balmaceda, executive president of the Social Security System, or Caja.“Our country needs some 80,000 blood donors annually to meet the needs of patients and to keep a reserve. But only 40,000 people donate annually,” she said.Erna Meléndez, director of the National Blood Bank, also warned that only 50 percent of the blood used in hospitals nationwide is received through voluntary donations, while the other half is obtained from relatives and friends of patients.“We currently don’t have reserves for a possible emergency. You can see the empty chairs at the Blood Bank. People are not coming to donate,” Meléndez said.The shortage coincides with the months in which more blood is needed because Christmas time usually sees an increase in accidents and other emergencies.The National Blood Bank will hold blood drives in various parts of the country beginning on Wednesday at the Caja’s main facilities in downtown San José.On Nov. 24, the Caja will receive donations at the Catholic Church of Tibás (northwest of San José) and Nov 25. in Cariari, in the Caribbean province of Limón.Donors also can give blood Monday through Saturday at the National Blood Bank in the southeastern San José district of Zapote. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Costa Rica leads Central America in Cup of Excellence coffee auction

first_imgRelated posts:And the best coffee in Costa Rica is … Costa Rica’s best coffee hails once again from Naranjo New smartphone app lets farmers crowdsource coffee fungus alerts Costa Rica’s best coffee comes from this hillside in Alajuela The breakaway favorite of Costa Rica’s 2014 Cup of Excellence competition took home the highest bid in the Alliance for Coffee Excellence international auction Tuesday.Luis Enrique Navarro of Monte Copey in Dota, Tarrazú, winner of the Cup of Excellence in May, received $41.20/lb. for his lot. Maruyama Coffee, Sugi Coffee Roasting, Ponpon Coffee, and Orsir Coffee of Taiwan purchased 1,518 lbs. of Navarro’s coffee for $62,541.60.The $41.20/lb. bid is so far the highest in Central America this year, followed by Honduras with $35.10/lb., El Salvador with $29.50, and Nicaragua with $21.20. The average price per pound of the 25 Costa Rican lots up for auction was $10.25, the highest in seven years, according to Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica, which organizes the auction locally. Cup of Excellence auctions for Guatemala and Mexico will take place on July 2 and 9, respectively.Coffee futures traded at roughly $1.76/lb. Tuesday.“It’s a great prize that we’ve worked toward for 35 years,” Navarro told The Tico Times, “[Winning the Cup of Excellence] is a radical change in our lives, in our family. Now we can live better. I thank God for all he has given us.”The Navarro family also placed second, fourth and fifth in the Cup of Excellence competition this year.Noelia Villalobos, executive director of SCACR, told The Tico Times that while not everyone takes home $60,000 for their coffee, qualifying for one of the 25 slots in the auction offers small producers international exposure that’s hard to put a price on.Roasters around the world are not the only ones interested in Navarro’s beans. Hidennori Izaki, 2014 World Barista Champion from Japan, traveled to Navarro’s farm and worked with the family to select the coffee he used in the competition in Rimini, Italy in June.The winning bid for Navarro’s coffee was close to Costa Rica’s record bid, $45/lb. in 2012. Judges culled 25 lots out of 117 submitted by famers this year that made it to auction Tuesday. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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UN secretarygeneral hops on a bike to promote urban cycling

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica’s Solís joins UN secretary-general in call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza conflict VIDEO: Even in defeat, Costa Rica celebrates President Solís reaffirms carbon neutrality goal in UN Climate Summit address Costa Rica winds down humanitarian mission for Cuban migrants with presidential send-off United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rides a bicycle next to Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Manuel González, right, in San José on July 30, 2014. Ban Ki-moon spoke with urban cycling activist Soledad Castro, expressing his support for the environmental and health benefits of biking. Castro told The Tico Times that officials hope to develop a bike lane traversing San José from La Sabana Park to the University of Costa Rica. Facebook Commentslast_img

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Mafia profits tempt Colombias Marxist rebels as peace nears

first_imgIn January, parts of the city of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast began observing a 10 p.m. curfew. The source of the order was not the mayor or police but a drug-running extortion gang known as the Urabenos.What is especially noteworthy about the gang is that its members come from a defunct right-wing paramilitary group which cut a deal with the government to disband a dozen years ago. The move was acclaimed as a key step in restoring the rule of law to Colombia but many of the demobilized — and unemployed — fighters joined criminal gangs.Now, as Colombia prepares for a historic peace accord with leftist guerrillas as early as March, concern is growing that what happened in the coastal city of 400,000 will recur, that the demobilized rebels will turn into high-powered criminals.“The state doesn’t control Buenaventura, it’s controlled by armed groups,” says Wellington Carneiro, the head of the United Nations refugee agency in the city. “The demobilization of the paramilitaries here was a complete failure. It’s the same risk we’re facing now.”Members of the country’s largest right-wing group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, were demobilized between 2003 and 2006 by then-President Álvaro Uribe. But the government’s failure to tackle poverty and provide former fighters with work opportunities made them easy recruiting targets for gangs like the Urabenos, Carneiro said. A similar challenge faces President Juan Manuel Santos as he cuts a deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a Marxist group of roughly 7,000 who control a big swath of territory.FARC leaders negotiating in Havana have vowed to enter politics if a peace deal is signed. But as many as 20 percent of their subordinates could join criminal gangs and continue lucrative cocaine and illegal gold mining operations, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA.“I’m most worried about mid-level commanders in places like the Pacific coast,” says Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist at WOLA. “People who already have big connections with Mexican gangs or others trafficking drugs.”Most rank-and-file FARC members will be granted amnesty, like right-wing militia members a decade ago. The question is, how will they be integrated into legitimate productive activity? A port worker shops at a fish market in Buenaventura, Colombia, in September. As peace negotiations between the government and leftist guerrillas near conclusion, fears are rising that the rebels will turn to criminal enterprises rather than politics. Bloomberg photo by Mariana Greif EtchebehereLucrative opportunitiesThe government has championed a road-building program in a bid to improve Colombia’s notoriously bad infrastructure and nourish legitimate businesses. And a peace deal will include a rural development component to help small-scale farmers.But a lack of government funds and the limitations of programs to substitute crops make cutting coca production a hugely difficult task. The amount of land planted with coca, the raw material for making cocaine, rose 44 percent in 2014, according to the United Nations, meaning Colombia now grows more than Peru and Bolivia combined.Drug trafficking generated 2.2 trillion pesos ($658 million) in Colombia last year, while illegal mining close to 7 trillion pesos, according to Deputy Defense Minister Anibal Fernández de Soto. Illegal mining includes small-scale, unlicensed miners as well as larger operations run by armed groups.Once a peace deal is signed, some companies are likely to face a rise in extortion and local violence as new groups fight over former FARC territory and lucrative opportunities, according to Reggie Thompson, an analyst with intelligence consultancy Stratfor.“Even if an alternative is given, it has to be pretty profitable for them to really drop the illegal businesses,” Thompson said. “The incentive is just too great.”But the commander of Colombia’s armed forces, General Juan Pablo Rodríguez, dismisses the concern. He says Colombia has analyzed other peace processes and is aware that some FARC members may migrate towards criminal gangs.Military forces are focused on 15 areas where there is a strong rebel presence, he said, including the provinces of Norte de Santander and Arauca on the border with Venezuela, Putumayo on the border with Ecuador and Peru, and Narino, Cauca and Choco on the Pacific coast.“It’s possible that not all members of the FARC will embrace the peace process, instead mutating toward other movements,” Rodríguez said in an interview in Bogota. “We are conscious of this. At no point will the security conditions become worse with the signing of an agreement.”But how exactly the government plans to integrate thousands of hardened guerrillas into the economy remains unclear, and residents of Buenaventura say their experience doesn’t augur well. Many lack electricity, proper sewage systems and running water, despite the substantial rainfall and rivers that divide the city.Manuel Saavedra, a stevedore, says locals have benefited little from investments in the port and that the demobilization of the right-wing paramilitaries has done little to ensure the city’s peaceful future.“A few leaders were put in prison but the spaces were quickly filled by armed gangs,” he said, looking out across the harbor. “It’s much worse today than it was. Now you have to ask permission to go into certain neighborhoods. So far, they are selling a lie.”© 2016, Bloomberg News Facebook Comments Related posts:Colombia is again the world’s top coca producer. Why that’s a blow to the US Brother of Colombia’s former President Álvaro Uribe arrested for homicide Colombia’s ‘discriminatory’ military draft under discussion as peace deal comes closer Demining Colombia will take ‘a generation’: ministerlast_img read more

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Leilani McGonagle wins national surf championship

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rica surf squad will bring out its brightest stars for World Surfing Games World Surfing Games in Jacó: 5 things to know about attending Team Costa Rica shines on first day of 2016 World Surfing Games Leilani McGonagle wins bronze medal at World Surfing Games Leilani McGonagle has already won virtually every other surfing award there is in the country, so it was only a matter of time before the 16-year-old surf phenom was crowned Costa Rica’s national champion in the women’s open category.McGonagle took home her first national title at Sunday’s Gran Reef Final in Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas, concluding the 2016 surf season. She’s the third woman to take the crown in the championship’s 16-year history, after 12-time champ Lisbeth Vindas and three-time winner Nataly Bernold.The Pavones native, who has won three junior national titles, topped fellow teenager Emily Gussoni, who held a slight lead over McGonagle going into the Gran Reef Final. The 16-year-old Gussoni finished second in the season, followed by the veteran Vindas. Leilani McGonagle, right, celebrates next to Emily Gussoni and Lisbeth Vindas after finishing the 2016 surf season in first place in the women’s open category. (Courtesy of Alfredo Barquero/Surf Federation)“The title was up for grabs between us going into this final,” McGonagle said of her narrow win. “I want to congratulate Emily for putting up an incredible battle and Lisbeth, who I’ve admired since I began competing.”Gussoni, however, managed to edge out McGonagle for first place in the women’s junior (17 and under) category.The men’s side was void of any suspense as champion Anthony Fillingim officially clinched the title last month at his home beach of Santa Teresa with a record-setting point tally this season. Fillingim, the former Latin American champion, competed in all seven Costa Rican circuit events and finished first place in four of those competitions.Surfers Angelo Bonomelli and Anderson Tascon finished second and third, respectively, in this year’s men’s open circuit.Both Fillingim and McGonagle, who were part of the 2015 world champion national team, are expected to be included again in the six-surfer roster that will be announced Wednesday for the 2016 World Surfing Games. Costa Rica will host this year’s world championship in Jacó starting on Aug. 7.Fillingim and McGonagle will likely be joined by the country’s top-ranking world circuit surfers Carlos “Cali” Muñoz and Leilani’s older brother Noe Mar McGonagle. That leaves room for one more male and one more female surfer.The big question for national team coach Wade Sharp is whether he’ll favor Vindas, a member of the 2015 gold medal team, or if he’ll pick the streaking Gussoni for the second female spot next to McGonagle. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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A Costa Rican Christmas

first_imgRelated posts:To the streets we go, bearing lanterns Just another manic Monday… A reader’s glimpse of Monteverde recovery Fiestas de Zapote get underway in San José It’s Christmas Eve; a time to celebrate with your family and friends – preferably by eating atamal, drinking some eggnog and setting up the Nativity scene at home?On behalf of all of us at The Tico Times, we wish you a wonderful holiday with your family and friends. See also: The perfect Costa Rican Christmas in 10 easy stepsWould you like to submit a photo to our #TTPicOfTheDay series – the view from your home or favorite Costa Rican spot, or a photo of your upcoming special event? Please send horizontal photos at least 1100 pixels wide to kstanley@ticotimes.net. We’d love to see the sights with you. Facebook Commentscenter_img The perfect Costa Rican Christmas in 10 easy stepslast_img read more

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Carlos Alvarados victory speech This election held up a mirror to Costa

first_img Facebook Comments Fabricio Alvarado gives concession speech in Costa Rica To deafening applause, the president-elect thanked Rodolfo Piza, the former candidate for the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) whose declaration of support for Carlos Alvarado early in the second round was undoubtedly a decisive factor in his victory.“The flag we must raise tonight with great pride to show to the world is the flag of Costa Rica… a unique country that we love, and for which we work… What unites us is much greater than what divides us,” he said.Stay tuned for more on this developing story. Related posts:Candidates face off at Grupo Extra debate in Costa Rica New poll in Costa Rica: another small Fabricio lead, another statistical dead heat 5 keys to understanding Costa Rica as it faces new elections BREAKING: Carlos Alvarado wins 60.6 percent of vote with 90.6 of votes recorded in Costa Ricacenter_img “Today the world is looking at Costa Rica, and Costa Rica, once again, sends forth a beautiful democratic message. Well done, Costa Rica,” said Carlos Alvarado, the victor in today’s presidential runoff with a surprisingly decisive 60.8 percent of the vote at press time, with 39.2 percent for his rival, conservative pastor Fabricio Alvarado.The president-elect delivered his speech to a euphoric crowd at the Plaza Roosevelt in San Pedro, the university district just east of downtown San José.“Costa Rica is a marvelous country, and it is one country. Let’s celebrate that,” he said. “This election, in particular, has held up a mirror to our country. We have to understand this in a profound way, and as the country’s first servant… I must unite this country and make it a leading republic in the 21st century.”He thanked his opponent for his hard-fought campaign, which divided Costa Ricans in unprecedented ways over issues including marriage equality. He also thanked Fabricio Alvarado for his pledge of support for the new government.“I have received a call from Fabricio Alvarado and his congratulations. I congratulated him, as well, for the work his movement has done. I ask for applause for them, for the work they carried out,” he said, to dutiful cheers. “We have seen a country with inequality, a country that needs to work to bring bigger opportunities to its various regions… to reduce the inequality between men and women. A country that must provide opportunities for people with disabilities, for the elderly, for our children.” Experience Election Day in Costa Rica with The Tico Times’ first-ever 360 videolast_img read more

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Vaso Lleno opens the door hundreds of stories of sexual abuse pour

first_imgRelated posts:Vaso Lleno hosting event for sexual abuse survivors Costa Rica reports lower cancer mortality rates Seed festival is a gardener’s dream come true Óscar Arias, Costa Rica’s former president and a Nobel Prize winner, accused of sexual assault, per reports Everything was perfect.Cris Gomar had a good job and was living with friends in Colorado. She was snowboarding and having fun. Then, one day, when she was out snowboarding, she felt colder than normal. Then she couldn’t breathe. Gomar entered a state of shock and was taken to the hospital. She showed signs consistent with an asthma attack, but she never had asthma before.Gomar went home to Costa Rica and spent weeks in pain. They tested her heart and lungs, after weeks of feeling terrible and hospital exams, they found nothing physically wrong with her.Now Gomar, 29, recognizes what happened to her. It was an anxiety attack, an avalanche of mental stress that manifested itself physically. Mental illness runs in Gomar’s family, but she didn’t know that because no one ever spoke about it. “Vaso Lleno is my experience living with anxiety and depression,” Gomar said.Vaso Lleno started as a thesis project in 2010 and became a social outreach initiative that raises awareness about mental illness through inclusion, conversation, workshops and an openness about the mental health that Gomar says is severely lacking in Costa Rica. Gomar is hoping to turn Vaso Lleno into a foundation soon.Vaso Lleno translates to “Full Glass.”“It’s not half empty, it’s not half full, but always full,” Gomar said. “There’s always something positive you can learn from bad experiences and transform it.”Gomar used her experiences as the foundation for a TEDx talk in Costa Rica. She talked about her experiences with depression, anxiety and laid out her insecurities. “After [the talk] people started taking pictures and thanking me,” Gomar said. “People started writing to me on Facebook and I kept wondering, why are you thanking me?“I didn’t say anything new. I didn’t overcome terrible cancer or something. I just said things we all think but are afraid to say out loud.”Gomar said she realized how important the need was for people to talk about these issues. She said people would come up to her at bars and tell her about their suicide attempts. So one day she opened up a public forum on Facebook for people to share their stories with her. She was amazed by the response she got, especially with people who told her that it was the first time they were sharing their stories. “There’s a real need when someone trusts a social network more than they trust someone close to them,” Gomar said.That’s why when the news about Oscar Arias’s alleged sexual misconduct broke last month, opened up another anonymous forum and let people share their stories. Gomar says she received nearly 450 responses in a few days.“I noticed this is a problem in every household in Costa Rica,” Gomar said. “It’s not about legal [aspects of abuse], it’s about education, about creating consciousness.”A lot of the women who sent their stories didn’t know what happened to them at the time was abuse, Gomar said. Many men, she suspects, might not have known their actions constituted abuse either. It was different, they were at a party, she didn’t say no, Gomar says justifications abound. “My obsession with exposing these stories is that people hear about women facing abuse, but they don’t know what that looks like,” Gomar said.  “When people here about sexual abuse they think about the construction working raping a woman in a field.“But they don’t think about the 6-year-old whose grandfather puts his hand up her skirt. They don’t think about the 11-year-old whose cousin asks her for oral sex.”The sheer volume of the stories has also had a healing effect for the women who’ve submitted them. Gomar says she’s received messages from women saying they no longer feel alone, that they feel better by writing and sharing their stories. Gomar wants this to have a lasting effect: to help nip the problem at the bud and prevent future assaults from happening. “I feel this is the perfect moment to rock the boat and make people conscious of what’s wrong,” Gomar said. “Gossip lasts 15 minutes and I don’t want this conversation to end here.”Gomar wants to expand her project. She wants to organize an event for women in late March. She’s planning on going back to school to study psychology and also wants to help women navigate Costa Rica’s complicated legal system, which can be overwhelming for victims of abuse. Gomar also wants to address toxic masculinity in Costa Rica, which she says is a root cause for a lot of abuse.“Lots of women have tried to kill themselves after [sexual abuse], some turned to drugs and others still aren’t comfortable around their partners,” Gomar said. “I hope this isn’t a fad because of Oscar Arias, but a chance to change culture.“If we can change behavior, we can change a lot of things.”You can find Vaso Lleno’s form to submit stories of sexual abuse here. They are also on Facebook and Instagram.This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5% Club. If only 5 percent of 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

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China fishermen detained by NKorean boat released

first_img Sponsored Stories Top Stories Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Comments   Share   5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese Embassy in North Korea says Chinese fishermen detained there after their boats were hijacked have been released.Chinese media said last week that a North Korean boat hijacked three boats with 29 Chinese fishermen on board on May 8. The media did not say who the captors were but said they demanded $190,000 for the fishermen’s release.A statement on the Chinese Embassy website Sunday said that vessels and crew have been freed and are on their way back to China.center_img It did not mention if a payment was made. No other details were provided.It was unclear if a territorial dispute or piracy was behind the incident involving boats from the two communist-led nations. China is the North’s biggest diplomatic ally and source of economic assistance.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

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First French jihad suspect arrested in Mali

first_img Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix The difference between men and women when it comes to pain PARIS (AP) – Mali’s authorities have arrested a Frenchman in the west African country who allegedly was trying to join radical Islamists controlling the north.French and Mali officials confirmed Friday that 24-year-old Ibrahim Ouattara was taken into custody there this week and charged in France with trying to reach radicals fighting in another country.Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is among three extremist groups controlling northern Mali. It’s made up mainly of foreign fighters. Radical Islamists moved into the region after a military coup in March overthrew Mali’s president. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectcenter_img Outtara is the first French citizen arrested in Mali, but France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, is concerned it could itself become a target of battle-hardened returning fighters.A judicial official said on condition of anonymity that Ouattara holds French and Malian nationality.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

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Afghan poppy farmers say new seeds will boost opium output

first_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Growing poppy for opium is illegal in Afghanistan and forbidden under Islam, the country’s predominant religion. But Afghan farmers feel they have no choice. For more than a decade the government and its international partners have pleaded with them to grow something else — wheat, fruit or even saffron.When that didn’t work, the police were sent to destroy crops. And when that failed, the Americans and the British tried handing out free wheat seeds, an enterprise that found little fertile ground.This spring, the opium fields have again erupted in a sea of bright pink poppy flowers.The new poppy seeds allow farmers to almost double the output from each plant, said Helmand’s provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail. At harvest, collectors cut the bulb of the plant, allowing the raw opium to ooze out. This resin dries and is collected the following day.Malakhail said the new seeds grow bulbs that are bigger than usual and can be scored twice within a few days, thus doubling the quantity of raw opium. The plants mature in three to four months, rather than the five months of the previous seed variety, allowing farmers to crop three times a year instead of just twice. In Kandahar’s Zhari district, farmer Abdul Baqi said he knows poppy growing is illegal and that, given a choice, he would “rather eat grass.” But, he added, “I cannot feed my kids with nothing but the air.”Baqi said the Taliban and associated crime gangs make it easy for the farmers to produce opium, and difficult — even deadly — not to.Without government support, it’s impossible to grow food crops as the cash-strapped farmers would have to pay for the seeds, tools, fertilizer and irrigation themselves. No one would come and collect their crop, even if their landlords allowed them to grow wheat or other food.If the government took charge and provided irrigation and power, Hismatullah Janan, another Zhari poppy grower, said he would gladly change to growing wheat or similar crops “so we could make an honest and decent living, and leave this so-called dirty work behind.”Afghan anti-narcotics officials say they need international assistance to proceed with poppy eradication.Yet since 2002, the United States has spent at least $7 billion “on a wide variety of programs to reduce poppy cultivation, prevent narcotics production, treat drug addiction and improve the criminal justice system to combat drug trafficking,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in January. No one seems to know where the seeds originate from. The farmers of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of Afghanistan’s poppies are grown, say they were hand-delivered for planting early this year by the same men who collect the opium after each harvest, and who also provide them with tools, fertilizer, farming advice — and the much needed cash advance.To the villagers, the shadowy men are intermediaries for drug lords and regional traffickers working with or for the Taliban, underscoring the extensive web that fuels the opium trade and keeps the poppy farmers in a clasp of terror and dependency. The impoverished famers have little recourse but to accept the seeds and other farming materials on credit, to be paid back when they harvest the crop, continuing a never ending cycle of debt.Afghanistan’s poppy harvest, which accounts for most of the world’s heroin, is worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Production hit a record high in 2014, up 17 percent compared to the year before, as opium and the drugs trade continued to undermine security, rule of law and development, while funding both organized crime and the Taliban — often one and the same. 0 Comments   Share   Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium and opiates originating from there find their way to every corner of the globe, Sopko said.The Taliban will also likely be emboldened, since for the first time this year, there are no international combat troops on the battlefields of Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown at the end of 2014.Many anti-narcotics officials also left, fuelling concerns that Afghanistan’s economic addiction to opium, worth around 15 percent of its gross domestic product, would only grow, Sopko added.Almost 90 percent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is in the south and the west — and provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar, longtime Taliban strongholds, have become synonymous for poppy cultivation.As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan’s own drug addiction problem. Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million. And the unchecked Afghan opium production is also blamed for rising drug addiction in neighboring countries, including the former Soviet republics to the north, Iran to the west, and China and Pakistan to the east. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility The trend is expected to continue in 2015, in part thanks to the new poppy seeds, according to officials tasked with overseeing the eradication of poppy crops.This upcoming harvest in late spring is expected to surpass last year’s country-wide record of 7,800 metric tons (8,600 U.S. tons) by as much as 7 percent and 22 percent in Kandahar and Helmand provinces respectively, local officials said.Experts say the Taliban, who have been waging war on the Kabul government for more than a decade, derive around 40 percent of their funding from opium, which in turn fuels their insurgency.Fierce fighting in recent months in poppy-growing regions shows the Taliban’s determination to protect their trafficking routes and the seasonal workers who come to earn money at harvest time from government forces under orders to eradicate the crop.Gul Mohammad Shukran, chief of Kandahar’s anti-narcotics department, said the new seeds came with the drug traffickers, but he did not know exactly where from. They yield “better drug plants, which require less water and have a faster growth time.”“This is a big threat to everyone,” he said, adding that Afghanistan’s central authorities had failed to act on his warnings. The UNODC can do little beyond encouraging the government to curb opium production, said the organization’s chief in Afghanistan, Andrey Avetisyan.Kabul, with the support from the international community, he said, needs to find a way to introduce “crops that can be a serious competition to opium.”But for now, finding something more lucrative than the mystery poppy seeds is a daunting task, so the vicious opium cycle continues.___Lynne O’Donnell reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.Follow Lynne O’Donnell on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lynnekodonnellCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. In this Saturday, April 11, 2015 photo, Afghan farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in Kandahar’s Zhari district, Afghanistan. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)center_img Quick workouts for men Sponsored Stories ZHARI, Afghanistan (AP) — It’s the cash crop of the Taliban and the scourge of Afghanistan — the country’s intractable opium cultivation. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin.The plants grow bigger, faster, use less water than seeds they’ve used before, and give up to double the amount of opium, they say. Former Arizona Rep. 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Minister US weighing placement of army equipment in Poland

first_imgWARSAW, Poland (AP) — The U.S. will “soon” take a decision to place heavy army equipment in warehouses in Poland for decades to come, the eastern European country’s defense minister said Sunday.A former Moscow satellite, Poland believes that its security is threatened by Russia’s hostile actions in neighboring Ukraine and is seeking permanent U.S. and NATO presence on its territory and in the region, as a deterrent. Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak tweeted Sunday that he and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter held talks about placing U.S. heavy army equipment in Poland last month.“Decisions are near,” he wrote.Siemoniak did not specify numbers or what type of equipment was being discussed. The White House and the U.S. defense secretary need to approve such a move.Siemoniak told the PAP news agency that if such warehouses with equipment are placed in Poland, they will remain “for years and for decades.”“It is not a temporary reaction to crisis,” he said.Poland’s General Command spokesman, Col. Artur Golawski, said on Twitter that efforts have been taken to find locations where the equipment could be placed.Commentators say that permanent stationing of heavy equipment near potential threat areas help speed up the reaction to an event, as relocation of troops is much easier and faster than relocation of large, heavy equipment.NATO is holding massive sea, land and air exercises this month in Poland, the Baltic states and Romania in response to calls from these members for greater security reassurance.Among the thousands of NATO troops is the new rapid reaction force, the so-called spearhead, agreed on at a NATO summit last year. It is testing it relocation and cooperation potential in southwestern Poland. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img How men can have a healthy 2019 Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of ErrorOKFree Rate QuoteCall now 623-889-0130 ErrorOK Sponsored Stories last_img read more

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Russian consumer rights group warns against trips to Crimea

first_img Sponsored Stories MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Prosecutor General’s office has launched a probe against a consumer rights group that has cautioned Russians against traveling to Crimea.Acting on a request from prosecutors, the government communications watchdog on Monday quickly blocked the website of the Society for Protection of Consumer Rights.Last week, the group published a notice warning Russians that after visiting the Black Sea peninsula without permission from Ukrainian authorities they could face criminal punishment in Ukraine. The group argued that Russia’s annexation of Crimea violated both international law and treaties Russia signed with Ukraine. Comments   Share   Four benefits of having a wireless security system Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 weeks after the ouster of Ukraine’s former Moscow-friendly president. The U.S., the European Union and other countries have responded by imposing economic sanctions on Russia.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your homecenter_img 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academieslast_img read more

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Moscow officials allow vote on restoring Sovietera statue

first_img 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility The KGB’s main successor, the FSB, now occupies the landmark building on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square.Images of demonstrators dismantling the towering monument with the help of a construction crane were among the most powerful symbols of collapse of the Communist rule.Dzerzhinsky’s statue has remained at a Moscow park since then along with other sculptures of Soviet leaders removed from their original locations after the Soviet collapse.Communists and other hardliners long have pushed for restoring the statue to its original place, but authorities had ignored their demands until now.The proposed referendum caused dismay among liberal politicians and rights defenders.Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a 87-year old Soviet-era dissident who heads the respected Moscow Helsinki Group, denounced the planned vote as a “farce.”“I only can walk with assistance, but if they restore the Dzerzhinsky monument, I will come there to splash it with red paint, the color of blood that bloodsucker spilled,” she said, according to Interfax.The Moscow city legislature on Wednesday allowed the Communist Party to start collecting the nearly 150,000 signatures needed to hold a September referendum on restoring the statue to its original location. The Moscow Election Commission, which initially vowed to block the vote, abruptly reversed course Thursday and registered a group that would collect signatures for holding the vote.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. MOSCOW (AP) — Moscow election officials cleared the way Thursday for a popular vote on whether to restore a statue of the Soviet secret police’s founder to a square in central Moscow.The referendum’s approval appears to reflect increased readiness by the Kremlin to resurrect Soviet-era symbols amid a showdown with the West over Ukraine.The statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary nicknamed Iron Felix, stood outside KGB headquarters in Moscow until it was toppled by protesters in 1991 when the Soviet Union was falling. A statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, stands in the Museon Park, also known as Fallen Monument Park, in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. The Moscow city legislature has agreed to allow residents to decide whether the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky should be restored to a square in central Moscow. The statue of the Bolshevik revolutionary known as Iron Felix stood outside KGB headquarters in Moscow until it was toppled by protesters in 1991 in the final months of the Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) Comments   Share   Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizonacenter_img Sponsored Stories 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Top Stories Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving soberlast_img read more

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New species of featherwinged dinosaur unearthed in China

first_img Sponsored Stories 0 Comments   Share   Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Top holiday drink recipes Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh, co-authored the study published online Thursday in Scientific Reports. He said the newly discovered dinosaur “looks just like a bird … just like an eagle or a vulture.”The skeleton was discovered in the western part of Liaoning Province in China where the first feathered dinosaurs were found.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. LONDON (AP) — A nearly complete, new dinosaur fossil has been unearthed in China, the first in its family to have unusually short feathered wings.The new species named Zhenyuanlong suni is a close cousin of the dinosaur predator Velociraptor.Scientists said the new addition, which lived around 125 million years ago, had multiple layers of dense feathers covering both its wings and tail. Experts, however, believe the feathers are more for display instead of flying. This is an image provided by University of Edinburgh taken in Jinzhou, China, in 2014 and released on Thursday July 16, 2015 of the fossil of a new species of dinosaur named Zhenyuanlong suni. A nearly complete, new feather-winged dinosaur fossil has been unearthed in China, busting the Hollywood version of their cousins’ look as portrayed in the Jurassic Park movie series. The new species named Zhenyuanlong suni is a close cousin of the famous dinosaur predator Velociraptor in the Jurassic Park movies. (Steve Brusatte/University of Edinburgh via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitylast_img read more

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China lifting ban on sales of video game consoles

first_img Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Communist leaders are promoting entertainment and technology development as part of a marathon effort to shift the world’s second-largest economy to more sustainable growth supported by domestic consumption and cleaner industries.The Shanghai trade zone was created in 2013 and gives foreign companies wider access to a range of industries, allowing bigger ownership stakes and activities that are prohibited elsewhere in China.Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. both have announced plans to manufacture game consoles in the Shanghai zone with Chinese partners.“We welcome the move,” said a Sony spokesman, Sousuke Kamei, in an email. “We remain committed to deliver fun and exciting console gaming experiences to as many Chinese users as possible.”Nintendo Co., another video game maker, declined comment.The latest rules are intended to promote technology development and a “healthy and progressive” entertainment environment, the ministry notice said.Content of games will be subject to government censorship, it said.___Chinese Ministry of Culture (in Chinese): www.mcprc.gov.cnCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Top Stories Sponsored Stories How men can have a healthy 2019 Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technologycenter_img Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall BEIJING (AP) — China is lifting its ban on sales of video game consoles to promote the industry and a new manufacturing zone in Shanghai.Consoles produced in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone will automatically be approved for sale in the rest of China, according to a Ministry of Culture notice dated Friday.The announcement eases a sales ban imposed in 2000 due to concern Chinese children would waste time playing video games. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 5 treatments for adult scoliosis New Valley school lets students pick career-path academieslast_img read more

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North Koreas tourists now allowed to keep personal mobile phones

first_imgIn the past, the few tourists who made it across the border into North Korea had their personal mobile phones confiscated upon arrival and left their rights to free information (via the internet) behind. Not so anymore.Although (very limited) internet is available to some, BBC news has reported that according to a spokesperson from North Korea’s mobile network company, Koryolink, foreigners may soon have access to internet services.And they can reportedly keep their phones says a tour guide from Young Pioneer Tours, who, on a recent trip to North Korea, was able to keep his mobile phone. Tourists still need to buy a SIM card for their phones, however communication with family and friends overseas as well as foreign embassies, should be considerably easier. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: A.N North Korea stops bagging tourist’s phones. Image: Reuters.comlast_img read more

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