Share About Latest Posts Cindy SosroutomoDeputy Editor at TravelweekCindy is Deputy Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 2007. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Kenya, Morocco, Thailand and Turkey among her favourite destinations. Latest posts by Cindy Sosroutomo (see all) Frustrations mount over elusive consumer-pay model: Will it ever happen? – July 16, 2019 “It’s in everyone’s best interest to stay open”: Beaches Turks & Caicos will not close in 2021 – May 15, 2019 Putting “Partners First”: NCL’s CEO lauds agents and the new Norwegian Joy – April 29, 2019 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 Cindy Sosroutomo Posted by TORONTO — Having too many cooks in the kitchen wasn’t a problem yesterday at Toronto’s Cirillo’s Culinary Academy, where the St. Kitts Tourism Authority hosted a fun and interactive cooking lesson, Caribbean style.The Tourism Authority’s Paul Minich, Market Consultant, and Jack Widdowson, Marketing Officer, invited travel agents, industry partners and media to roll up their sleeves and prepare a feast that included dishes like Jerk Chicken Kebabs, Crab Cake Sliders and Cane Sugar Glazed Pork Meatballs, each of which is a signature dish at a luxury hotel in St. Kitts.The event, said Minich, was meant to do three things: highlight new offerings in the destination, tease guests with a taste of St. Kitts’ culinary scene, and do it all in a way that was fun.It worked. From prep to finish, guests had a great time learning about the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, how the destination has changed and, more importantly, how it hasn’t.Minich, who in a single year talks to an average of 3,000 travellers at industry events, said that the #1 question he’s asked is, “Has St. Kitts changed?”His response is always the same: Absolutely and absolutely not.“Absolutely not because it still has authentic Caribbean experiences. It’s still a destination that’s untouched – St. Kitts has always been a beautiful destination and still is,” he said. “But at the same time, it absolutely has changed. It’s emerging as a luxury destination.”Minich listed several new ultra-luxe accommodations that are changing the face of the destination, like the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour, and the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino. A few properties will be undergoing renovations like Four Seasons Resort Nevis, while others are counting down the days until their grand openings. These include the highly anticipated Ritz-Carlton in 2021, which will boast 125 suites plus 25 branded villas and residences on the Southeast Peninsula of the island, as well as a Six Senses, also in 2021, featuring 70 pool villas with plunge pools, teen centre, kid’s club and the Six Senses Spa. Even nearer still is a Koi property in 2019, situated on 15 acres of beachfront and featuring multi-storey Resort Studios and Suites, beach and pool villas, and a three-bedroom Penthouse.More news: War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upAll this amounts to a level of luxury never before seen on the island, which Minich admits is not an all-inclusive environment. From having met so many travellers, he’s determined that they can all be categorized into two groups: those who love all-inclusives, and those experiencing all-inclusive fatigue. St. Kitts, obviously, appeals to the latter.“St. Kitts is for those looking for authentic Caribbean experiences beyond the hotels,” he said. “It’s still untouched, the natural beauty is still there, but now it’s emerging towards ultra luxury with all these new properties built in the last couple of years.”Even before clients arrive at hotels, their luxury experience begins upon arrival at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport. There, they’ll be whisked away in a Porsche to Yu Lounge, a private five-star air terminal located adjacent to the main terminal building where they’ll be treated to champagne service, gourmet dining, Wi-Fi access, secretarial services and a concierge who can book hotel transfers, restaurant reservations and local activities. Though primarily used by travellers flying privately to and from St. Kitts, the lounge is also available to passengers on commercial flights.This is great news for the countless Canadians arriving via Air Canada’s direct service from Toronto. And as a sign of faith in the destination, the airline has recently announced that it will be expanding its St. Kitts service to six months, running from Nov. 3, 2018 to April 27, 2019.More news: Marriott Int’l announces 5 new all-inclusive resorts in D.R. & Mexico“Load factors with Air Canada have been in the mid-90s over the last few years,” Minich told Travelweek. “This is an indication of growing demand. We keep filling their planes, even as they get larger and larger.”He added that Canada, as the #2 international market, is incredibly important to St. Kitts, particularly in the golf segment. Home to two championship golf courses with another two under construction, St. Kitts has become a must-golf destination among Canadians.“Last year, we saw a 330% spike in golf searches on the Internet from Canada. Canadian golfers is definitely our biggest golf market,” said Minich.For more information on travel to St. Kitts go to http://www.stkittstourism.kn/. Tags: Caribbean, St. Kitts In the kitchen with St. Kitts: “We keep filling planes, even as they get larger and larger” << Previous PostNext Post >>
Related posts:Finance Ministry submits bill to improve tax collection, reduce evasion Finance Ministry updates income tax brackets, raises tax-exempt salary limit Tax on Costa Rica corporations is unconstitutional, says court Finance Ministry submits tax reform bills to Legislative Assembly Representatives of the Costa Rican Restaurants Chamber (CACORE) warned this week that restaurant owners could face liquidity problems from a 2 percent charge that banks will assess on all dining payments made with credit and debit cards.The measure was prompted in August by a Tax Administration decree and takes effect this month. According to the decree, banks will withhold 2 percent of credit and debit card payments from restaurants as an advance on income tax payments. CACORE criticized the plan during its annual congress of 225 representatives from the sector, who met this week.Chamber executive director Alejandro Madrigal Ramírez on Tuesday said they had requested a meeting with Finance Vice Minister Fernando Rodríguez, and the two sides could begin discussions as early as next week.Tax Administration General Director Carlos Vargas in August said the measure has two goals: To collect advanced income tax payments and to track all payments made with credit and debit cards in the country.CACORE’s congress also held forums to discuss other challenges, including high levels of competition. According to Health Ministry records, more than 20,000 food and beverage businesses operate in Costa Rica.Competition has led to some 1,900 layoffs in the sector this year, but congress attendees said they did not expect more firings for the rest of 2014.Restaurant owners also complained about excessive red tape at public agencies – particularly at municipalities – and dry laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol during certain holidays. Facebook Comments
WASHINGTON, D. C. — A coalition of security researchers has identified a Chinese cyberespionage group that appears to be the most sophisticated of any publicly known Chinese hacker unit and targets not only U.S. and Western government agencies but dissidents inside and outside China.News of the state-sponsored hacker group dubbed Axiom comes a week before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and two weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama are due to arrive in Beijing for a series of high-level talks, including on the issue of cybersecurity.In a report to be issued Tuesday, the researchers said Axiom is going after intelligence benefiting Chinese domestic and international policies — an across-the-waterfront approach that combines commercial cyberespionage, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence with the monitoring of dissidents.Axiom’s work, the FBI said in an industry alert this month, is more sophisticated than that of Unit 61398, a People’s Liberation Army hacker unit that was highlighted in a report last year. Five of the unit’s members were indicted earlier this year by a U.S. grand jury. The researchers concur with the FBI’s conclusion, noting that, unlike Unit 61398, Axiom is focused on spying on dissidents as well as on industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property.“Axiom’s activities appear to be supported by a nation state to steal trade secrets and to target dissidents, pro-democracy organizations and governments,” said Peter LaMontagne, chief executive of Novetta Solutions, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm that heads the coalition. “These are the most sophisticated cyberespionage tactics we’ve seen out of China.”Chinese Embassy spokesman Geng Shuang said in an email that “judging from past experience, these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious.” He repeated Beijing’s position that Chinese law prohibits cybercrime and that the government “has done whatever it can to combat such activities.”Senior Obama administration officials have over the past year and a half publicly called on China to halt its practice of stealing U.S. commercial secrets to benefit its own industries. China, especially in the wake of disclosures last year of widespread U.S. government surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has pushed back, arguing that it is the United States that needs reining in.Geng said in his email: “China is a victim of these kinds of attacks, according to the Snowden revelations.” Following the PLA indictments in May, Beijing pulled out of bilateral talks aimed at easing tensions in cyberspace.In recent weeks, the research consortium has detected Axiom malicious software on at least 43,000 computers around the world belonging to law enforcement and other government agencies, journalists, telecommunication and energy firms, as well as human rights and pro-democracy groups.The group said there also are indications that Axiom may be behind a high-profile cyberattack on Google, announced in 2010, which compromised the tech giant’s source code and targeted Chinese dissidents using Gmail.At least one Chinese language computer in the United States was targeted, the report said, without specifying to whom the computer belonged.Novetta senior technical director Andre Ludwig also said Axiom is seeking to hack personnel management agencies to obtain the personal data of people who have access to classified information that it can use for future targeting.Axiom has been active for at least six years and employs techniques that make it stand out from other hacker groups, the researchers said. For one thing, it is highly skilled at burying malware within legitimate computer traffic so that a company or agency analyst who is studying traffic logs cannot detect it, Ludwig said.The malware, called Hikit, can create multiple points of presence — what Ludwig called “breadcrumbs” inside the network to help Axiom move around and steal data, all without arousing suspicion.Axiom also appears to have a “maintenance cycle” in which it periodically switches out malware, Ludwig said. “They have an advanced playbook,” he said.Unlike the security firm Mandiant, which reported on Unit 61398, the researchers were unable to identify the locations in China where Axiom operates from or identify its members. Axiom’s members, Ludwig said, are better at covering their tracks than Unit 61398. They did not, for example, keep email accounts or have an online presence that could be traced back to them.China military expert Mark Stokes said it was “not surprising” to find that Unit 61398 was not as sophisticated as Axiom. That unit is part of the second bureau of the PLA’s Third Department, which is the rough equivalent of the NSA. “Cyber seems a really small part of second bureau’s broader mission, which is signals intelligence,” said Stokes, executive director of Project 2049 Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank. “There are other parts of 3 PLA that reasonably could be expected to have a much more dedicated cyber mission.”The research coalition is made up of at least a dozen companies, including Microsoft, whose Windows operating system is on more than 1 billion computers around the world, enabling the firm to detect infections on a wide swath of machines. Microsoft has loaded special software on its malicious software removal tool that automatically detects the presence of Axiom malware and removes it, while allowing the company to track the results.Some security experts said the report carries valuable remediation advice not often seen in such reports. The researchers created custom “signatures,” ways to detect Axiom malware in users’ computers. This is the sort of data more traditionally exchanged in private intelligence sharing groups, the experts said.“This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a long line of industry-coordinated efforts to expose these threat groups, and to do so without having to use law enforcement, to help corporations and governments around the world combat” hackers, said Stephen Ward, senior director of iSight Partners, another coalition member. “This is a big first step.”Other coalition members include Bit9, Cisco, FireEye,F-Secure, Symantec, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity and threat researchers who did not wish to be identified.© 2014, The Washington Post Facebook Comments Related posts:Hackers with ties to China said to breach United Airlines Snowdenfreude Liberty Reserve defendant pleads guilty to conspiracy Guatemala could compensate US syphilis experiment victims
Facebook Comments Related posts:Climate change could leave sharks unable to hunt The Guardian names Costa Rican journalist among ‘young climate campaigners to watch’ ahead of Paris 2015 El Niño intensifying, could rival strongest in recorded history International climate pact has rough draft The aircraft took off from Muscat at 6.35 a.m. local time for what is expected to be a 16-hour, 1,465 kilometer journey over the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad in India. Pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls, taking over from fellow Swiss aviator Andre Borschberg.On Monday Borschberg had touched down in Muscat after the first leg of the journey, 13 hours and two minutes after leaving Abu Dhabi.“The adventure has started,” Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard said just after Borschberg took off in the early morning from Abu Dhabi’s Al-Bateen airport on the historic journey aimed at promoting green energy.Borschberg spoke of an “emotional” trip, telling reporters in Muscat he cruised at 6,000 meters (almost 20,000 feet) because the trip was “short”. Piccard is set to fly higher on the trip to Ahmedabad, Borschberg said.Both pilots wore traditional Omani turbans as they received an official welcome in the Gulf sultanate.U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon hailed the venture and congratulated the pilots.“We take inspiration from their example and efforts to harness the power of multilateralism to address climate change and to inspire the world to achieve sustainable development,” his spokesman said.“With their daring and determination, we can all fly into a new sustainable future.”Research and testingSi2’s takeoff, which had originally been scheduled for Saturday but was delayed by high winds, capped 13 years of research and testing by the two Swiss pilots.Live video streaming on the www.solarimpulse.com website monitoring the unique aircraft’s progress showed the pilot, wearing an orange jumpsuit, breathing using an oxygen mask.“From Mission Control Center in #Monaco the engineers are helping me to perform Oxygen Mask tests from #SolarImpulse,” he tweeted.Borschberg earlier called his wife from on board, according to the live feed. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard (wearing a traditional Omani turban) and Andre Borschberg pose for pictures during an official welcome after Solar Impulse 2 landed in the Omani capital Muscat on March 9, 2015. Mohammed Mahjoub/AFPThe wingspan of the one-seater Si2 is slightly bigger than that of a jumbo jet, but its weight is around that of a family car. From Muscat, it will make 12 stops on an epic journey spread over five months, with a total flight time of around 25 days.Later legs will take it to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York. Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or North Africa, depending on the weather conditions.The longest single leg will see a lone pilot fly non-stop for five days and nights across the Pacific Ocean between Nanjing, China and Hawaii, a distance of 8,500 kilometers (5,270 miles).Intensive trainingBorschberg and Piccard will alternate flying the plane, which can fly on autopilot during rest breaks.“You have to make the cockpit like your own house…you go to the toilet, you wash yourself with wet wipes, you eat, you drink, you recline the seat to have some rest, you turn on the autopilot,” Piccard told reporters.Both pilots have undergone intensive training in preparation for the trip, including in yoga and self-hypnosis, allowing them to sleep for periods as short as 20 minutes but still awake feeling refreshed.All this will happen without burning a drop of fuel.While in the air, the pilots will be linked to a control center in Monaco where 65 weathermen, air traffic controllers and engineers will be stationed. A team of 65 ground staff will travel with the two pilots.“We want to share our vision of a clean future,” Piccard said of the mission, which was ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled.But the 57-year-old, who hails from a family of scientist-adventurers and in 1999 became the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon, clung to his belief that clean technology and renewable energy “can achieve the impossible.”The plane is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into wings that, at 72 meters, are longer than on a Boeing 747 and approaching those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.Thanks to an innovative design, the lightweight carbon fiber aircraft weighs only 2.3 tons, about the same as a family 4×4 and less than one percent of the weight of the A380.The Si2 is the first solar-powered aircraft able to stay aloft for several days and nights. The propeller-driven craft has four 17.5 horsepower electric motors with rechargeable lithium batteries.It will travel at 50-100 kilometers per hour, but slower at night to prevent the batteries from draining too quickly. MUSCAT, Oman — Solar Impulse 2 took off Tuesday from Oman, launching the second leg of its epic bid to become the first solar-powered plane to fly around the world, in a test of its pilots’ endurance.
It was the mid-1980s, at the height of a brutal civil war in El Salvador, when Jemera Rone, a young American lawyer working for a human rights group, watched as five decomposed bodies were brought up from a well.Four had been shot, one garroted. The stench was overpowering. Later, Rone spoke of that day with an interviewer for Mother Jones magazine.“Her voice cracks only once, when she describes how the mother of one of the victims identified her son only by the neatly folded handkerchief in the pocket of his pants,” the magazine wrote in a 1988 profile of Rone.Having spent years in El Salvador for the human rights group Americas Watch, Rone became known for her intrepid and meticulous work as she visited remote sites across the war zone, gathering evidence of abuses by death squads and trying to dispel false reports intended to bolster U.S. financing for right-wing, anti-Sandinista forces in nearby Nicaragua.“She expanded the scope of what can be verified in a country determined to hide its crimes,” Mother Jones wrote.It seemed an unexpected leap from the privileged corridors of Barnard College, where she had been an undergraduate, and Skadden Arps, the New York law firm where she had worked as a corporate takeover litigator from 1977 to 1985. But she also had a progressive streak that included an early stint as a women’s rights lawyer and a career-changing trip to El Salvador in 1984 with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.She spent the next two decades reporting abroad for Human Rights Watch, the agency that expanded from Americas Watch, and became a specialist in the tumult of eastern Africa. She retired in 2006 after a debilitating car accident and lived in Washington until her death at a District of Columbia hospital on July 29. She was 72.By all accounts, Rone made her deepest mark in Sudan, where she built a reputation as a dogged researcher who reported on abuses by rebel and government forces in a murky conflict where power switched hands.Unpretentious and blunt, she cut an unmistakable figure in the field. Photographs show her swathed in voluminous tribal robes and scarves with tousled orange hair poking through, taking notes in a camp by flashlight or bumping through the bush in a four-wheel-drive truck.During 15 years of research in Sudan, she documented numerous atrocities, including ethnic slaughter and village destruction. She explored the role of human rights abuses in a 1990 famine and produced a definitive 567-page tome on the devastating impact of oil exploration and extraction in southern Sudan, including the displacement of local populations.Although passion drove her, friends said, Rone’s enduring legacy was to bring lawyerly, dispassionate expertise to issues where truth was often overshadowed by moral outrage and ideological fervor.In particular, Human Rights Watch officials said, she pioneered the application of humanitarian “laws of war” to internal conflicts, which meant holding government authorities and rebel or irregular militias to the same standards. They said her approach came to define later rights reporting in diverse conflicts, including Syria.Corrine Dufka, a longtime colleague of Rone’s, recalled meeting her “over dinners or exhumations” in El Salvador and later finding her “buried in a book on Nuer-Dinka sub-clan relations” in Sudan.In an emailed tribute, Dufka praised Rone for her thick skin and terrier-like focus, probing atrocities until there was “at times literally, no stone unturned.”Rone’s work sometimes won grudging respect from adversaries, including Reagan administration officials who often overlooked abuses by U.S.-backed forces in El Salvador and the African government and rebel leaders she hounded with equal conviction. One Ugandan leader referred to her with chagrin as “that crazy redhead.”In a 2005 online discussion in The Washington Post about the war in Darfur, Rone described dealing with the Sudanese government in Khartoum as “like being in a parallel universe: everything they said was directly opposite from what the hundreds of victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch and others have said.”Asked by one reader what people could do to help stop the violence in Darfur, Rone replied: “Find new ways of expressing your outrage. . . . Be creative! Don’t stop. And remember, solutions are not easy or fast, but for that reason it is all the more necessary to stay involved and not give up hope. The people of Darfur, I can assure you, are really counting on you.”Read rememberances of Rone on Human Rights Watch’s memorial pageJemera Frances Rone was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 13, 1943. She spent much of her childhood in Venezuela, where her father worked in the oil business. She graduated from Barnard in 1966 with a focus on Spanish literature and economics and completed law school at Rutgers University in 1974.Survivors include a sister, Janice Rone of Arlington, Virginia.© 2015, The Washington Post Facebook Comments Related posts:Elena Poniatowska: Mexican student massacre reminiscent of concentration camps Making the invisible, visible: In Nicaragua, women journalists call for equality Maduro picks new scapegoat for Venezuela’s problems El Salvador to arrest soldiers accused of 1989 priest murders
President Luis Guillermo Solís urged members of the United Nations on Tuesday evening to find ways to ensure protection of refugees’ and migrants’ human rights — at a time when Costa Rica is facing a major influx of migrants.Solís addressed attendees of the 71st U.N. General Assembly and said that the migration problem is global and requires joint solutions, solidarity, shared responsibility and integral approaches.“We are about to finish 2016 with little progress in addressing the crisis of refugees and migrants, which is the worst since World War II,” he said.Between April and September, some 9,500 migrants passed through Costa Rica, Solís said.In the first six months of this year, the country granted refugee status to 215 people.The president noted that the country is now part of the route for thousands of Cubans, Haitians, Central Americans, Asians and Africans hoping to reach the United States. Solís said the situation has forced the country to invest “its scarce resources to attend these migrants.”Solís noted that environmental disasters worsened by climate change are forcing people to move both within their countries and abroad.The president urged U.N. members to asses the impact of migration on women and work toward implementing better public policies to address the issue.“We will keep raising our voices and calling for action to fight gender violence and sexual violence,” Solís said.He noted that Costa Rica believes the U.N. should choose a woman as Secretary General. Costa Rica’s candidate Christiana Figueres dropped out of the race earlier this month.Also from the pulpitBesides his comments on migration, the president noted his disapproval of nuclear tests carried out by North Korea and expressed his “absolute and unequivocal condemnation” of terrorism in all its forms, regardless of who promotes it.He also spoke about climate change and cited Costa Rica’s environmental commitments. Among them he noted the country’s goal to become a decarbonization research center and its goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2021.Solís also celebrated the restoration of relations between the U.S. and Cuba and the peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas.Protest against Brazilian GovernmentEarly on Tuesday, Solís and his entourage left the U.N. General Assembly following the announcement of a speech by new Brazil President Michel Temer.Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry said in a news release that the president’s decision was based on the government’s concern over the political situation in Brazil following the impeachment of former President Vilma Rousseff.Delegates from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia also exited before the speech.The Foreign Ministry said Costa Rica’s exit was an unilateral decision.Costa Rican lawmakers passed a motion in the afternoon session to ask Foreign Minister Manuel González to appear before the Legislative Assembly to explain the government’s decision at the U.N.Gerardo Vargas, a legislator for the Social Christian Unity Party, criticized Solís, saying that Costa Rica’s foreign policy “can not depend on the President’s mood” and that “Solís’ action damaged the country’s image.”Maureen Clarke of the National Liberation Party said Solís’ action does not represent the way Costa Rica handles its foreign policy.Foreign Minister González offered explanations for the president’s decision on his Facebook page, saying Solís doesn’t agree with some of the recent political happenings in Brazil. He also said it’s not mandatory for a president to listen to a speech that he has no interest in and said “we have absolutely not offended Brazil.”González also said that he welcomes the lawmakers’ request to appear before the full Assembly. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica begins relocating migrants camped out at Nicaragua border Costa Rica, Panama ask neighbors to help with stranded migrants Brazil faux pas sparks heated debate in Legislative Assembly Venezuelan lawmaker says in Costa Rica that her people eat from garbage trucks
Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years. Support the Tico Times Facebook Comments Chile will take the place of Brazil in hosting next year’s UN climate summit, delegates at crunch talks in Poland were informed on Friday.Brazil last month pulled out as host of the COP25 summit, set for late 2019, claiming that holding the negotiations would be too expensive.Its president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, said during campaigning he was considering pulling the country from the landmark 2015 Paris accord, and his victory has alarmed environmentalists at home and abroad.Chile’s environment minister Carolina Schmidt told negotiators at the COP24 in the Polish mining city of Katowice that her country would step in and hold the two-week summit.Costa Rica will host the annual “pre-COP” meeting of ministers a few months before the main event.Representatives from nearly 200 nations are gathered in Poland to hash out a comprehensive plan that will make good on the promises made in the Paris agreement that aim to limit global temperature rises and avoid the worst effects of runaway climate change.Read more in The Tico Times: Related posts:Costa Rican government responds to Trump’s climate accords exit Climate change threatens Latin America coffee producers Costa Rica offers to host COP25 after Brazil withdraws A little funding and a lot of ideas on how to decarbonize Costa Rica United Nations: Countries must triple contributions to reach global climate goals
Judges say K. stabbed to death 15-year-old Joyce Hau at her home Jan. 14 and then attempted to kill her father.Prosecutors have charged the girl Hau allegedly argued with and another boy with arranging for K. to carry out the stabbing.Dutch media dubbed the case the “Facebook slaying.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The vital role family plays in society Comments Share Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix ARNHEM, Netherlands (AP) – A Dutch court has convicted a 15-year-old boy of murdering a teenage girl after she argued with another girl on a social networking site _ a case that shocked the Netherlands because of the age of the killer and his victim.Arnhem District Court on Monday sentenced the youth, identified only as Jinhua K., to one year in prison _ the maximum punishment for a minor. Judges also ordered him to undergo psychiatric treatment at a juvenile detention center for three years. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project The difference between men and women when it comes to pain
Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober A U.N. spokesman in Damascus, Chris Gunness, urged all parties to “immediately allow” the resumption of aid to the area, where malnutrition is rife.The U.N. “remains deeply concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in Yarmouk, and the fact that increasing tensions and resort to armed force have disrupted its efforts to alleviate the desperate plight of civilians,” Gunness said Monday.Activists estimate that over 100 people have died of hunger or hunger-related illnesses since a blockade began nearly a year ago, preventing food and medical aid from entering Yarmouk.The halt in the food distribution in Yarmouk also underscores problems that bedevil a Feb. 22 U.N. Security Council resolution that called on warring parties to facilitate food and aid deliveries to Syrians in need.The latest clashes also sparked concerns for future aid deliveries.“It will be like it was before. We are back to zero,” said a Yarmouk-based activist who uses the name Abu Akram.The truce, which took months to negotiate, collapsed after rebel gunmen returned to Yarmouk on Sunday. They had withdrawn from the area about a month ago as part of the truce, replaced by a patrol of Palestinian gunmen, keeping out both rebels and fighters loyal to President Bashar Assad. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Comments Share Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk In total, the U.N. has distributed 7,708 food parcels to Yarmouk’s 18,000 registered Palestinian refugees. Activists say there are thousands more displaced Syrians also living in the district and suffering from malnutrition and food shortages.___Hadid reported from Beirut.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The rebels accused pro-Assad fighters of violating the truce, said Abu Akram. An activist group, “Palestinians of Syria” voiced similar accusations.On Saturday, the rebels said Assad loyalists were sneaking weapons into Yarmouk under the guise of the joint patrols, delaying food distribution and arresting young men waiting for U.N. food parcels.A day later, the rebels returned and clashes broke out between fighters of the Free Syrian Army, a Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, and other groups, and soldiers and gunmen of Assad-loyal Palestinian groups on the other, Abu Akram said.The clashes _ a mix of gun battles, sniper fire and mortar shells _ killed an ambulance driver, he added.“Reconciliation efforts have, in my opinion, reached a deadlock,” said Anwar Raja, the spokesman for the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.Assad-loyal forces initially began blockading the camp to force out rebel gunmen.Since the uprising began three years ago against Assad’s rule, blockades have played a key role in government efforts to crush rebels in their enclaves and strongholds.The U.N. began distributing food to Yarmouk on Jan. 18 after warring parties agreed to a truce. The distribution was hindered by sporadic clashes, including on Feb. 7 and 8, said Gunness. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Food deliveries to thousands of people living in a blockaded area in southern Damascus ground to a halt after a truce collapsed and clashes broke out between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to the government, a U.N. official and activists said on Monday.The clashes, which erupted out on Sunday afternoon and lasted until Monday morning, were the most serious violence in weeks in the Palestinian-dominated district of Yarmouk and seriously undermined a tentative truce struck there in early January. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement
FILE – In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 file photo, actress Naomi Watts, center, poses for photographers as she arrives for the opening ceremony and the screening of the film La Tete Haute (Standing Tall) at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File) 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Top Stories Legendre Guillaumaud recounts how the entourage of Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi once rushed in within minutes of the ceremony.“Major alterations were needed so we just cut the dress, and the stylist ran off along with it,” she said.Sometimes the red carpet emergency room team needs to go into the Palais to sew actresses into dresses. That is especially the case for members of the Cannes jury, who are holed up in a bunker before the awards ceremony, sequestered from the press.“One member of the jury, actress Alexandra Maria Lara, was in the bunker and burst out of the dress and the zipper broke,” said Legendre Guillaumaud. “We literally had to stitch her into it back stage just before she went on.”The red carpet can be a cruel world — but there is help out there.___Thomas Adamson Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAPCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Paris fashion house Elie Saab is room 331’s occupant this year, equipped with fitters, assistants and tailors in full war mode.“There’s always drama,” said Emilie Legendre Guillaumaud, Elie Saab’s head of communications. “This year we’ve dressed Naomi Watts, with Lea Seydoux, Sonam Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai coming in here.”“We haven’t had any emergencies this year,” she said, before pausing. “So far.”The last day is the one normally packed with the most drama, she said, because winning actresses are often called back unexpectedly for the awards ceremony.That happened to Cannes best actress winner Berenice Bejo, star of “The Artist,” who in 2013 had to be flown in at the eleventh hour from Paris.“It was the very last minute before the ceremony that we had to fit her,” said Legendre Guillaumaud. “It’s very stressful.”The Martinez’s close proximity — half a mile — from the festival location makes it a perfect location. Top actresses can hop into their limos and be driven down the glamorous croisette in style, with spectators unaware of the drama that has just transpired. Comments Share Parents, stop beating yourself up CANNES, France (AP) — For most of the year, room 331 of the Martinez Hotel is just your run-of-the mill luxury five star hotel suite.But during the Cannes Film Festival, it is radically transformed into a red carpet emergency room — where celebrities like Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman can rush if they pop out of a dress, or a zipper breaks minutes before their film premieres at the Cannes Palais, the festival HQ just a stone’s throw away. Top holiday drink recipes
Men’s health affects baby’s health too 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced two South Koreans to life in prison with labor after finding them guilty of spying for Seoul.Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil were convicted of state subversion and, under North Korean law, their sentences are final and cannot be appealed.North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said prosecutors had sought the death penalty. State media earlier said the two were detained last year for allegedly collecting confidential state information and attempting to spread a “bourgeois lifestyle and culture” in the North at the order of South Korea’s spy agency and the U.S. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility North Korea dismisses any outside criticism of its human rights record as a U.S.-led campaign to overthrow its government.The U.N. office’s opening is likely to worsen already-tense relations between the two Koreas with Pyongyang expected to ratchet up harsh rhetoric against Seoul, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University. He said things will get worse if North Korea believes that South Korea is providing the U.N. office with information on North Korean human rights and arranging interviews with high-profile defectors.The two Koreas have been divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.___Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Sponsored Stories Comments Share New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Analysts saw the sentences as retaliation against South Korea for the opening Tuesday of a U.N. office in Seoul tasked with monitoring human rights in North Korea. The North has repeatedly called the office a grave provocation.South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed regret over the verdicts and urged North Korea to immediately release the men. South Korean officials have denied that the two men were involved in espionage.Analysts say past detentions of South Koreans and Americans on spying charges were attempts by the impoverished North to wrest outside concessions. But Tuesday’s sentences may have been connected to the opening in Seoul of the U.N. office.“North Korea thinks South Korea is applying pressure on Pyongyang with the U.N. office so it’s responding by (sentencing) these South Korean nationals,” said analyst Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea.South Korean officials said Monday that North Korea cited the new U.N. human rights office last week when it announced a decision to boycott next month’s University Games in South Korea.The U.N. office, the first of its kind, was proposed in a ground-breaking U.N. commission of inquiry report last year on North Korea’s rights record.
Top Stories Long before the frog deaths in April, the authority asked Peru and Bolivia for permanent monitoring efforts and laboratories to measure contaminants entering the lake. Even without such resources, the signs of contamination are obvious.Mamani blames the frog kill on untreated sewage and other waste that distill into a hydrogen-sulfite cocktail that chokes the life out of near-shore aquatic habitats.“It is time that urgent and coordinated measures be taken,” Mamani said.While only a small portion of Titicaca’s waters are polluted, the affected areas are along shores where more than a half-million Aymara people live, he said.Trout farms and nearby agriculture also have suffered.Quispe said the potatoes he grows near the shoreline have shrunken over time, a change he blames on contamination of the lake waters, which partially cover his fields before each growing season.Locals fear the tourism industry is next. Each year, some 750,000 tourists visit the 12,470-foot-high (3,800 meter-high) Lake Titicaca for its reed boats, pre-Columbian ruins and majestic views of snowcapped Andean peaks.Villagers from Puerto Perez, who paddle tourists on the lake on weekends, showered Bolivia’s environment minister, Alejandra Moreira, with complaints at a meeting in a nearby village in May. This April 25, 2015 photo shows dead frogs floating on the surface of Lake Titicaca in Pata Patani, Bolivia. As human and industrial waste from nearby cities increasingly contaminate the famed lake that straddles the border between Bolivian and Peru, the native Aymara people who rely on it for food and income say action must be taken before their livelihoods, like the frogs, die off. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) A study by the binational Lake Titicaca Authority found elevated levels of iron, lead, arsenic and barium in the water, the worst at the mouth of the Katari, which flows from El Alto.Contamination is most serious in the shallow waters of Cohana Bay, near the popular tourist spot of Copacabana and, on the Peruvian side, Puno Bay and near the Ramis and Coata rivers. The latter flows from the city of Juliaca.Urban runoff is not solely to blame. More than half the people living along the shores lack plumbing and existing local water-treatment plants are badly overtaxed, the lake authority says.To date, the only true remediation has been sporadic algae cleanups, authority president Alfredo Mamani said. “It’s like cleaning a pus-oozing wound without attacking the cause.”Bolivia and Peru created the authority to manage the body of water but have given it few resources to do so, he said. While Mamani declined to disclose the authority’s budget, he said it has 30 employees and no money for equipment or projects.During a meeting Tuesday in Peru, the presidents of the two countries agreed to strengthen the authority and to form a binational commission that, over the next six months, will come up with a plan to help the lake and finance the effort. BAHIA DE COHANA, Bolivia (AP) — Gulls swept down to feast on hundreds of dead and dying giant frogs floating in the rancid waters along a southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca, where the algae-choked shallows reek of rotten eggs.The die-off was the most striking sign yet of the deteriorating state of South America’s largest body of fresh water.Local fishermen have a harder time finding anything to catch, while farmers who work the land along the shores complain that tainted water is stunting crops. She suggested the 46 communities on Titicaca’s shores and islands, which are among the poorest in the two Andean nations, pool funds for expanded sewage systems and treatment plants.The village secretary, Guillermo Vallejos, called her response worse than inadequate.“When we have problems, officials come, take pictures and leave,” he said. “Rarely do they return. We must do everything ourselves to save the lake.”Deputy Environment Minister Ruben Mendez later said that the Bolivian government plans to raise tens of millions of dollars to build waste treatment plants along Titicaca’s shores.Details about the plan, however, have yet to be provided.___Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Men’s health affects baby’s health too Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments Share Sponsored Stories As human and industrial waste from nearby cities increasingly contaminate the famed lake that straddles the border between Bolivian and Peru, the native Aymara people who rely on it for food and income say action must be taken before their livelihoods, like the frogs, die off.“We used to live off of fishing,” said Juan Quispe, a local villager. “But now we have nothing to sustain us.” The fish have moved farther and farther from shore.On a recent Saturday, the 78-year-old Quispe joined a cleanup brigade to remove dead dogs, tires and other refuse from the shore of Cohana Bay where the lake meets the Katari River.Near-shore fishing was good until about 2000, when locals began to notice that the crystal azure waters periodically would turn a murky green, Quispe said.Most pollution on the Bolivian side, including such toxic heavy metals as lead and arsenic, originates in El Alto, a fast-growing city of 1 million people near La Paz that sits 600 feet (200 meters) above the lake and just 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.Seventy percent of El Alto’s 130 factories operate illegally and are not monitored for pollution, says Bolivia’s environment ministry. Runoff from mining exacerbates matters. Parents, stop beating yourself up 3 international destinations to visit in 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a six-month study aimed at formally ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service, saying the Pentagon’s current regulations banning transgender individuals from serving in the military need to be examined.“The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions,” Carter said in a statement released Monday. “At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite.” Men’s health affects baby’s health too Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Brynn Tannehill, who was a Navy pilot before leaving the force and transitioning to a woman, recalled the difficulties when serving.“It was stressful and it was something that I couldn’t talk with anyone about, because if you even breathed a word of it you didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Tannehill, who still serves in Individual Ready Reserve. He noted that it was possible to lose your career after years of service.Several Congress members, including Rep. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed support for Carter’s decision. But the more conservative Family Research Council questioned the change.“Considering the abysmal condition of our military and a decline in readiness, why is this a top priority for the Obama administration?” said retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the council’s executive vice president. “The Pentagon must answer whether this proposed policy makes our military more capable of performing its mission. The answer is a very clear and resounding ‘no.’”The move follows several weeks of high-level meetings in the Pentagon among military chiefs, secretaries and Defense Department leaders, including one Monday involving Carter and the chiefs of the various services. Some of the key concerns involved in the repeal of the ban include whether the military would conduct or pay for the medical costs of surgeries and other treatment associated with any gender transition, as well as which physical training or testing standards transgender individuals would be required to meet during different stages of their transition.Officials said the military also wants time to tackle questions about where transgender troops would be housed, what uniforms they would wear, what berthing arrangements they would have on ships, which bathrooms they would use and whether their presence would affect the ability of small units to work well together. The military has dealt with many similar questions as it integrated the ranks by race, gender and sexual orientation.Transgender people — those who identify with a different gender than they were born with and sometimes take hormone treatments or have surgery to develop the physical characteristics of their preferred gender — are banned from military service. But studies and other surveys have estimated that as many as 15,000 transgender people serve in the active-duty military and the reserves, often in secret but in many cases with the knowledge of their unit commander or peers. Military leaders have pointed to the gradual — and ultimately successful — transition after the ban on gays serving openly in the military was lifted in 2011. Although legislation repealing that ban passed Congress in late 2010, the military services spent months conducting training and reviews before the decision actually took effect the following September.The latest Pentagon move comes just weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry.Officials familiar with the Pentagon meetings said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force did not express opposition to lifting the ban. Instead, they said the military leaders asked for time to figure out health care, housing and other questions and also to provide information and training to the troops to ensure a smooth transition.Although guidelines require that transgender individuals be dismissed from the military, the services in recent months have required more senior leaders to make the final decisions on those cases, effectively slowing the dismissal process.The transgender issue came to the fore as the military struggled with how to deal with convicted national security leaker Chelsea Manning’s request for hormone therapy and other treatment while she’s in prison. Manning, arrested as Bradley Manning, is the first transgender military prisoner to request such treatment, and the Army approved the hormone therapy, under pressure from a lawsuit. ___AP Broadcast writer Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. FILE – In this July 7, 2015 photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Associated Press has learned that Pentagon leaders are finalizing plans aimed at lifting the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Senior U.S. officials say an announcement is expected this week. They say the military would have six months to determine the impact and work out details, with the presumption that they would end one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Comments Share Sponsored Stories Top Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Carter said he is creating a working group that will review the policies and determine if lifting the ban would have any impact on the military’s ability to be ready for battle. But he said the group will begin with the presumption that transgender people should be able to serve openly “without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”The plan, which was first reported by The Associated Press, gives the services time to methodically work through the legal, medical and administrative issues and develop training to ease any transition, and senior leaders believed six months would be sufficient.Carter asked his personnel undersecretary, Brad Carson, to lead the working group of senior military and civilian leaders to take an objective look at the issue, including the costs, and determine whether it would create any insurmountable problems that could derail the plan. The group would also develop uniform guidelines.During the six months, transgender individuals would still not be able to join the military, but any decisions to force out those already serving would be referred to Carson. One senior official said the goal was to avoid forcing any transgender service members to leave during that time. That official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility 4 must play golf courses in Arizona 5 treatments for adult scoliosis
Helloworld Limited today announced its results for the half year ended 31 December 2014, and chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said the period had been characterised by delivering significant improvement in profit before tax.“We are delivering on our priorities of engaging with our network of agents and preferred suppliers, driving opportunities through investment in technology, delivering successful and targeted marketing, growing our brand awareness, and continuing to roll-out our Ambassador store initiative,” Ms Gaines said.For the half year ended 31 December 2014 (1H15), the Group’s loss before tax of AUD$0.2 million represented an improvement of AUD$3.7 million compared to the loss before tax of AUD$3.9 million in the first half of 2014.The transformation to helloworld in Australia is now complete, and profit before tax has improved significantly reflecting a reduction in business transformation costs and other non-recurring items.The Retail segment, which comprises helloworld bricks and mortar network and online business helloworld.com.au, which generated AUD$1.7 billion for the first half of this year.“We have succeeded in our goal of creating a network of high-calibre agencies, including many of the industry’s leading corporate and retail travel agents as evidenced by our success and that of our franchisees and members,” Ms Gaines said.The Travel Management segment generated Adjusted EBITDAI of AUD$1.8 million in 1H15, representing an improvement of 229 per cent on the 1H14 EBITDAI loss of AUD$1.4 million.This improved result reflects the benefits of the restructuring initiatives and productivity improvements, as well as successful customer retention and acquisition across our businesses in Australia and New Zealand.Adjusted EBITDAI for the Wholesale segment for 1H15 was AUD$3.8 million representing an improvement of $1.7 million (81 per cent) on 1H14.“The remainder of FY15 will see HLO focused on maintaining the momentum of helloworld’s growing brand presence in the Australian market, continued top line growth in helloworld.com.au and building on the increased profitability of both the Wholesale and Travel Management segments,” said Ms Gaines.Source = ETB Travel News: Lewis Wiseman
Brisbane Hotel Capitalises on Stunning ViewsBrisbane Hotel Capitalises on Stunning ViewsSpacious guest rooms and suites brought to life with sparkling new vision, breathtaking views across the Brisbane skyline and a hotel experience that feels like the warmest welcome… expect all this and more at the stunningly refurbished Pacific Hotel Brisbane.On the previous Hotel Urban site, the Pacific Hotel Brisbane is ideally located close to the CBD, overlooking the lush Roma Street Parklands of Spring Hill. Convenient for business and leisure visitors, the Hotel is just 100m from Brisbane Private Hospital with easy access to Roma Street Station, Queens Street Mall, Suncorp Stadium and more.From all 179 guest rooms and suites, through to the function rooms, restaurant, bar and swimming pool, the hotel has undergone a magnificent renewal. The unique interior design transformation happened under the creative eye of talented Australian hospitality designer, Janine Lauder of Janineous Design.Technical upgrades allow the hotel to cater for the needs of contemporary business and leisure guests, with Smart TVs and streaming capabilities, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. The Pacific Hotel Brisbane’s lobby now features plenty of relaxed seating and a co-working hub perfect for casual meetings or working remotely.Every accommodation room and suite have direct balcony access with the majority boasting city or park views, perfect for enjoying your morning coffee or after work drink. The impressive views continue from the 10th floor function venues where the professional events team deliver conferences, meetings, private events and weddings against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the ever-changing Brisbane skyline.“With Brisbane set to embark on an incredible journey over the next few years, we are delighted that the Pacific Hotel Brisbane is ready to contribute to that evolution,” said Andrew Hudson, General Manager.The new look coincides with the launch of the new Pacific Terrific promise with a spotlight on the Hotel’s friendly, relaxed vibe that flows easily through the stunning design and engaged service.“We’re passionate about providing guests with a truly relaxing and memorable stay that captures the Pacific Terrific spirit. It’s all about how we want the guest to feel from the minute they walk through the door to the minute they leave. Whether you’re here on business, with family or to attend an event,” said Andrew.Adding to the revitalisation is the new winter menu that has been thoughtfully and created by Executive Chef Zac Ruston to be enjoyed on the large alfresco terrace with its leafy outlook. The refreshed feel is also well-reflected in the new website design (www.pacifichotelbrisbane.com.au), which is stylishly simple and very user-friendly offering guests a first look at the new direction for the Pacific Hotel Brisbane. Source = Pacific Hotel Brisbane
There was an increase of 5.3% in the year ending May 2018 for international visitor arrivals in New Zealand. The number of holiday arrivals increased by 6.5%. Off-peak season too witnessed about 5.6% increase on the previous year and regional spend increased to 14.1%.These increase in the number of tourist arrivals are as a result of Tourism New Zealand’s campaigns on social media as well as in China.Stephen England Hall, Chief Executive, Tourism New Zealand said, “The regions are increasingly benefitting from the rise in international visitors with spend growth in the regions surpassing that of the gateways. Over the past 12 months, international visitors have injected USD 497 million into the regions. International visitors choosing New Zealand as a destination makes Aotearoa a better place for Kiwis. Beyond the significant economic benefits, it also grows employment, business opportunities and is the backbone of many communities.”#GetNZontheMap campaign and the Chef Nic campaign in China were the major contributors to this steady growth of international visitor arrivals to New Zealand.
Redfin: Prices, Sales, Inventory All Climb in April in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing The housing market came out of April in a particularly strong position, according to “”Redfin’s””:http://www.redfin.com/ latest “”Real-Time Price Tracker””:http://blog.redfin.com/blog/2013/05/real-time-price-tracker-april-2013.html, with prices, sales, and inventory posting gains across the country.[IMAGE]Redfin’s monthly report–based on home prices, sales, and inventory across 19 U.S. markets–shows prices rose 4.9 percent in April on a monthly basis and 16.1 percent on a yearly basis. Out of the 19 metros measured in Redfin’s report, 18 reported month-over-month increases in April, the same number as in March. All metros experienced price increases on a year-over-year basis.San Francisco, Sacramento, and Las Vegas saw the biggest year-over-year price gains, improving 34.5 percent, 33.5 percent, and 31.6 percent, respectively. “”The housing market across the nation was hot again in April. Yes, home prices are up. But the big story in this month’s report is that inventory posted its largest month- [COLUMN_BREAK]over-month increase in over three years,”” wrote Redfin blogger Tim Ellis. “”With more homes finally available to buy, home sales posted their strongest March to April gain since 2009.””According to the brokerage, April home sales rose 7.2 percent over March and 10.7 percent over April 2012, returning to double-digit yearly gains. While last month’s figures were promising, Ellis noted last May was especially strong for sales, “”so it is possible that this number may slip some … with year-over-year sales going slightly negative.””Fifteen of the 19 markets tracked saw sales increase from a year ago, five more than in March.Meanwhile, the number of homes for sale increased 6.4 percent from March to April (the biggest monthly gain since March 2010), with only three markets reporting declines from month to month. On a yearly basis, inventory was still down 26.2 percent.RE/MAX’s “”National Housing Report””:https://themreport.com/articles/re-max-april-inventory-shows-evidence-of-rebound-2013-05-16, released in the same week, also pointed to a monthly rise in inventory as a potential sign of a comeback in supply.The percentage of listings that were under contract within 14 days of debut inched up again in Redfin’s survey, climbing 70 basis points to 35.2 percent–another record high in that category. The company predicts that number will level off through the summer.””The market is as competitive as ever with more than a third of homes going under contract in two weeks or less, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel for buyers with the solid gains in inventory,”” Ellis wrote. Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies For-Sale Homes Home Prices Home Sales Housing Supply Investors Lenders & Servicers Processing Redfin Service Providers 2013-05-17 Tory Barringer May 17, 2013 497 Views Share
Mortgage Fraud Actions Down in Q3 Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Fraud Service Providers 2013-12-16 Tory Barringer December 16, 2013 444 Views Legal actions on mortgage fraud cases fell to a post-crisis low in 2013’s third quarter, “”_Mortgage Daily_””:http://mortgagedaily.com/ reported in its quarterly Mortgage Fraud Index.[IMAGE]The index, which tracks motions and decisions on cases in which lenders are given false information for the loan decision process, was 655 in Q3, the lowest value since the fourth quarter of 2007.[COLUMN_BREAK] The number of tracked cases retreated to 91, while total of estimated loan amounts came to $1.1 billion–the lowest in nearly three years. Both the number of cases and dollar amount involved are factored into the index.According to “”_Mortgage Daily_””:http://mortgagedaily.com/ founder Sam Garcia, the improvement in the index reflects greater quality control and increased fraud prevention efforts.””As mortgage bankers have been hit with a tidal wave of repurchase demands on agency mortgages, they have taken steps to reduce risk on new originations,”” Garcia said.Preliminary fourth-quarter data suggest another fall in the next report, owing partly to the government shutdown slowing prosecution activity, he added.Despite the overall decline, certain states remain hot spots for fraud. According to the site, California had the highest third-quarter index value, and Nevada’s index climbed again, marking a full year of increasing activity. in Data, Origination Share
LendingQB Launches ‘Lean Lending’ Model in Technology Share January 14, 2014 510 Views Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Company News Compliance Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investors Lenders & Servicers Qualified Mortgage Service Providers 2014-01-14 Tory Barringer “”LendingQB””:http://www.lendingqb.com/, a California-based loan origination software (LOS) provider, has unveiled its “”Lean Lending”” model designed to reduced origination costs by as much as half.[IMAGE][COLUMN_BREAK]Using the model, lenders receive guidance on streamlining processes or eliminating functions, ensuring compliance issues early in the process, and driving continuous improvement with staff reviews and re-training.””It can take up to 3 years for lenders to understand a new LOS platform and create the best practices to take advantage of new technology,”” said LendingQB president Binh Dang. “”LendingQB can shorten the learning curve to just 6 months by providing a lean set of best practices.””In keeping with its Lean Lending strategy, LendingQB also announced the release of the Qualified Mortgage (QM) functionality within its platform. The new functionality checks the limits on loan features, automatically checks for caps on points and fees, and verifies test performances and calculation results for underwriting requirements, allowing for easy compliance with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new guidelines.
Share May 1, 2014 444 Views RealtyTrac released its U.S. Home Flipping Report for Q1 2014, reporting that 3.7 percent of all U.S. single-family home sales in the first quarter were flips. Home flipping overall is down, dropping 4.1 percent from the fourth quarter in 2013, as well as declining 6.5 percent from the previous year’s first quarter.The company defines flips as homes purchased and sold again within six months.”Slowing home price appreciation early this year in many of the most popular flipping markets put some investors in danger of flying too close to the sun,” said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac. “But investors appear to have recalibrated their flipping strategy, accounting for the slower home price appreciation even if that means fewer flips.”Blomquist continued, “This is another good sign that this housing recovery is behaving much more rationally than the last housing boom, which was built largely on unfounded speculation rather than fact-based calculations.”The average sales price of a single-family home in the first quarter was $55,574 higher than the purchasing price. The gain reflects an unadjusted return on investment of 30 percent.On average, flips in the first quarter took 101 days to complete, up from 92 days in the previous quarter.”Investors interested in flipping houses are having to dig deeper into a new pool of inventory as the market surges,” said Chris Pollinger, SVP of sales at First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. “The affordable properties have quickly disappeared, pushing flippers into higher-priced properties with better margins and longer carry times.”According to RealtyTrac, 82 percent of all properties flipped in the first quarter were sold to owner-occupants. 18 percent were sold to buyers with a different mailing address than the property.Additionally, 43 percent of all properties flipped in the first quarter were all-cash sales to new buyers.Among metro areas with a population of at least one million and at least 25 single-family homes flipped in the first quarter, those with the highest share of flips were New York, New York (10.2 percent); Jacksonville, Florida (10.0 percent); San Diego, California (7.1 percent); Las Vegas, Nevada (6.7 percent); and Miami, Florida (5.9 percent).Among major metros, those with the biggest decrease from a year ago in home flipping as a share of all sales were New Orleans, Louisiana (down 83 percent); Baltimore, Maryland (down 81 percent); Minneapolis, Minnesota (down 80 percent); Richmond, Virginia (down 80 percent); Detroit, Michigan (down 76 percent); and Washington, D.C. (down 73 percent). Home Flipping Home Prices Home Sales Investment RealtyTrac 2014-05-01 Colin Robins Home Flips Drop as Investors Cool in Daily Dose, Data, Headlines, News
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