Syniverse opens office in San José suburb plans to hire 70 telecom

first_imgNo related posts. COMEX’s minister cut a ceremonial ribbon and toured the new offices.“With the opening of the telecommunications sector, Costa Rica has broadened and improved its appeal to attract direct foreign investment,” González said at the event. “This has contributed to the country becoming a leader in Latin America and at the global level in the giving and export of high technology services.”Gordon said he hopes Syniverse’s foothold in Costa Rica can be the beginning of a growing telecommunications sector in the country.“It represents an opportunity for people, perhaps coming out of engineering school in Costa Rica, to get to work with, literally, some of the world’s leading experts in telecommunications,” Gordon said. Facebook Comments A telecommunications company celebrated the opening of its first office in Costa Rica, hoping to bring superior mobile services to the growing Latin American market.Syniverse marked the Wednesday opening of a new office in Escazú, a southwestern San José suburb, with a visit from Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) head, Anabel González.The company’s main focus is allowing mobile devices in the region, such as cellphones and smartphones, to operate with each other. An example is coordinating cellphone roaming for those traveling internationally.CEO Jeff Gordon explained Syniverse’s business as coordinating these services for mobile carriers, such as Claro, Movistar and Kölbi.“We don’t sell directly to end customers, we sell to large businesses,” Gordon said in an interview. “When they need that kind of support on a complex issue, they don’t want to have to be fighting time zone issues, or cultural issues, they want to be able to get right down to business.”Gordon said one of the company’s major challenges in Latin America will be coordinating services such as roaming on cellphone plans that are prepaid, which is the kind of plan most subscribers in Costa Rica prefer.Syniverse said they invested $2.3 million in the new office and plan to hire 70 people in 2013 for the central office.Syniverse’s Costa Rica site is nestled in an office park along Avenida Escazú, along with many other international corporations such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and Apple. The office had many of trappings of modern technology companies such as open workspaces and clear glass walls. Syniverse is a global company headquartered in Tampa, Florida, created in 1987. Syniverse CEO Jeff Gordon speaks with The Tico Times at the company’s Escazú office on Wednesday. Alberto Fontlast_img read more

Thieves make off with 300000 in works by famed Costa Rica artist

first_imgNo related posts. Art thieves may be once again targeting works by one of Costa Rica’s most famous artists.On Saturday night, thieves made off with nearly $300,000 in stolen paintings and sculptures from a private residence in San Pedro, east of the capital.The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) reported on Monday evening that the thieves stole six paintings by artist Rafa Fernández and three sculptures by Holgar Villegas valued at $300,000, along with some jewelry.According to the OIJ, the burglars deactivated the home’s alarm, entered through a pedestrian gate and broke in the front door. This is not the first time works by Fernández have been targeted by art thieves. In 2011, the OIJ investigated a rash of thefts involving the famous Tico artist’s works. The stolen works have resurfaced in innocent buyers’ homes and private art galleries, as previously reported by The Tico Times.Some buyers may not be so innocent, however. OIJ Director Francisco Segura told The Tico Times in 2011 that some buyers likely know that their prized possessions are stolen.The Costa Rica Country Club in Escazú, southwest of San José, hosted an exhibition of works by Fernández, 78, on Sept. 5.The authorities request the public call the confidential tip line, 800-8000-645, with any information about the whereabouts of the works.  Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Shrimpers protest trawling ban

first_imgCarrying signs, horns and noisemakers, hundreds of shrimp fishermen marched outside the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday to protest the permanent expiration of another shrimp trawling license following the country’strawling ban.Known for its destructive impact on the ocean floor, shrimp trawling was banned  by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) for violating Costa Ricans’ constitutional right to a healthy environment. Boats with active licenses at the time of the ruling are allowed to continue trawling until their licenses expire.The fishing boat El Rey became the second Costa Rican vessel unable to renew its license after it expired on Sunday. While the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca) reports that only four total licenses have expired since the ban, ocean conservation group MarViva filed a lawsuit against the agency last week, alleging that Incopesca illegally renewed three licenses in August after the ruling.According to Spanish-language daily La Nación, a total of 16 direct jobs were lost after the boats stopped trawling, along with other indirect jobs associated with the industry. Continued job losses were the primary fear for most of the protesters.“In Puntarenas there is really high unemployment,” said Roy Carranza, the president of the Puntarenas Chamber of Fishermen. “To eliminate an entire sector will be catastrophic.”Carranza’s position has found support outside of fishing circles as well, and a week after the Sala IV ruling lawmaker Rodolfo Sotomayor, from Puntarenas, the coastal city at the center of the debate, introduced a bill that, if passed, would regulate and reinstate shrimp trawling.According to Sotomayor and Incopesca officials, the bill would make trawling more sustainable and therefore would not conflict with the Sala IV’s decision.“We in the shrimping sector are in favor of regulation instead of elimination,” Carranza said. “We aren’t trying to fish wherever we want, whenever we want.”Just last month, artisanal fishermen gathered in the same spot to protest against the bill. Those protesters claimed that overfishing by trawlers depletes resources for other fishermen, and that making the practice sustainable through regulation was impossible.Tuesday’s rally centered on claims of environmental degradation, and fishermen argued that environmentalists have overblown the effects of trawling.Tico Times photographer Alberto Font contributed to this story. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica’s dolphin-safe tuna designation under scrutiny Stop giving away free tuna fishing licenses, says NGO Solís signs tuna fishing decree, but will it help Costa Rica’s oceans? Costa Rica investigates company’s navigation permits after weekend chemical spill in Nicoya Gulflast_img read more

Route 27 toll fees to increase on Tuesday

first_imgRelated posts:Toll prices on Route 27 to decrease starting Wednesday With heavy rains forecast, Costa Rican officials close Route 32 to the Caribbean, evaluate Route 27 closure Route 32 to the Caribbean reopens under watchful eye of highway officials Travel Alert: Landslide closes Route 27, a major highway to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast As of Tuesday, July 1, toll fees on Route 27, which connects San José to the Pacific province of Puntarenas, will increase by up to ₡80.Globalvía, the company ​​that administrates the 77-kilometer highway, reported that the increase follows a schedule set by the concession contract. Increases depend on the type of vehicle and distance.For example, motorcycle and car owners will pay ₡10 more at tollbooths in Escazú, southwest of the capital, and fees will increase from ₡330-340 ($0.61-0.63). Semis using the tollbooths in Atenas will pay ₡80 more, increasing tolls from ₡4,180-4,260 ($7.75-7.90).Buses will pay ₡20 more, the same as two- and three-axle trucks.The highway, which begins at La Sabana Park west of San José and ends at Caldera Port on the Pacific coast, was opened in 2010 and reduces the trip to the coast to about 50 minutes, less than half of the approximately two hours the trip used to take on the old route.The full list of fees as of July 1 is as follows: Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Mexican authorities to confirm if missing students among the dead in a

first_imgRelated posts:Mexico mayor accused of ordering attack on missing students Mexico horrified by suspected massacre, incineration of 43 students Mexico police, protesters clash ahead of grim anniversary of 43 missing students Parents of 43 missing students in Mexico wage hunger strike IGUALA DE LA INDEPENDENCIA, Mexico – More bodies were pulled out of a mass grave in southern Mexico Sunday as authorities worked to determine if 43 students who vanished after a police shooting were among the dead.At least 15 bodies have so far been dug out of pits discovered Saturday on a hill outside the town of Iguala, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Mexico City, two police officers at the scene told AFP.The grim find came a week after the students disappeared when municipal police shot at buses they had seized to return home from Iguala, where survivors say they had conducted fundraising activities.Witnesses say several of the students, who are from a teacher training college known as a hotbed of radical protests, were then whisked away in police vehicles.Inaky Blanco, chief prosecutor the violence-plagued Guerrero state, said members of Iguala’s police force are part of a gang known as Guerreros Unidos, which is suspected of taking part in last week’s violence.As anxious families awaited DNA tests to identify the bodies, hundreds of students partially blocked the highway between Acapulco and the state capital, Chilpancingo, on Sunday, holding signs reading “Fraudulent government that kills students.”The site of the mass grave was cordoned off and guarded by scores of troops and police.Authorities have yet to give an official number of bodies, but an officer at the scene said more were being recovered on Sunday.Juan López Villanueva, an official from the National Human Rights Commission, said that six pits were found up a steep hill probably inaccessible by car.Four forensic services vans left for the morgue late Saturday carrying nine bodies in silver bags. Authorities are conducting DNA analysis to identify the victims.The graves were found after some of the 30 suspects detained in the case told authorities about their location, Blanco said. The detainees include 22 police officers and gang members.If the bodies are confirmed to be those of the students, it would be one of the worst slaughters that Mexico has witnessed since the drug war intensified in 2006, leaving 80,000 people dead to date.‘Land of the wicked’Three students were killed the night of the shooting.Another three people died when police and suspected gang members shot at another bus carrying football players on the outskirts of town.A survivor said in an interview that the officers took away 30 to 40 students in patrol cars.In addition to arresting 22 local officers, prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Iguala’s mayor, who has fled.In Pueblo Viejo, a hamlet surrounded by forests and mountains, a resident said the region is dominated by a drug gang and that he had seen municipal police officers going up the hill in recent days, before authorities discovered the mass grave.“They were going up there back and forth,” said the resident, José García, pointing to a location between two mountains where the graves were found. “This is the land of the wicked.”Savagely massacredGovernor Ángel Aguirre appealed for calm in his state, which is mired in poverty, gang violence and social unrest.“I call on all [Guerrero state residents] to maintain harmony, non-confrontation, and avoid violence,” he said late Saturday, offering his support to the families of those who were “savagely massacred.”The police’s links to organized crime has raised fears about the fate of the students in a country where drug cartels regularly hide bodies in mass graves.Around 30 bodies were found this year in mass graves in Iguala, alone.“We are very worried. The families are very anxious,” said Vidulfo Rosales, a human rights lawyer representing relatives of the missing.The United Nations has called the case “one of the most terrible events of recent times.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Deep Discounts Southwest Airlines starts daily service to Costa Rica on March

first_imgRelated posts:Good news for travelers: Costa Rica’s airport exit tax (finally) will be added to ticket prices Travelers in Costa Rica can pay departure tax at airports for 3 more months Spirit Airlines to fly San José-Houston four times per week starting next year Travelers beware: Plane ticket to Peru no guarantee of visa Southwest Airlines and the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) confirmed that the discount carrier will start daily service to Juan Santamaría International Airport outside San José from Baltimore, effective March 7, according to officials at a press conference Wednesday morning.Southwest Executive Vice President Robert Jordan said that customers can expect fares as low as $130 one way from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and that the company’s discount reputation would hold true abroad with fares on average 30 to 40 percent lower than their competitors.Baltimore daily service will be on Boeing 737-700 jets with a capacity of 143 passengers, according to a statement from ICT. Jordan said that customers could connect to 60 destinations on 200 daily flights out of BWI. President Luis Guillermo Solís, center, meets with Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President Robert Jordan, left, and Tourism Minister Wilhem von Breymann on Wednesday to discuss new flights to Costa Rica. (Courtesy of Costa Rican Tourism Institute)The discount carrier also plans to start offering direct service from Houston Hobby Airport sometime in October.“We have millions of current customers in the United States, and we can see where they want to travel, and we can see – based on their requests – that Costa Rica was at the top of their list,” said Andrew Waterson, Southwest vice president of network planning and performance.“Our international expansion in the first phase is geared toward tourist destinations, and San José represents a different kind of tourist destination – not just a beach, but also business and visiting relatives travel. So, Costa Rica looked like the best fit for our market,” Waterson added.Recommended: 21 Tips: The do’s and don’ts of renting an apartment in San JoséTourism Minister Wilhem von Breymann said that the new routes would help bolster Costa Rica’s relationship with the United States, the largest single source of visitors to Costa Rica. According to the ICT, 90 percent of U.S. tourists arrive in Costa Rica by air and spend an average of more than $2,200 per person, per visit.Tourism industry representatives have been increasingly concerned about the rising costs for travelers in Costa Rica, but Waterson said the country continues to provide greater value than many other destinations.“There are many countries, many islands that have a great beach, but you can’t leave the hotel. Costa Rica offers a diversity of visiting nice beaches and hotels, but also of seeing more of the country in a safe manner, and that’s priceless,” Waterson said.President Luis Guillermo Solís said Southwest’s announcement and his intention of opening a direct flight to Costa Rica from China were part of a larger policy to make Costa Rica more connected to the wider world. The president added that the announcement was once again proof that Costa Rica is an attractive, reliable market for companies to invest.Southwest already offers international service to Aruba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Service to Belize City is expected later in 2015.Fans of the carrier’s distinctive cattle-call boarding policy can look forward to seeing the same queues here in Costa Rica, Waterson said.“We can’t wait to show you that Southwest hospitality,” Jordan said. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Multiple fatalities reported after mass school shooting in Oregon

first_imgShooter at Oregon college campus is in custody; at least 10 people believed dead: @CNN— KTLA (@KTLA) October 1, 2015 Police by early afternoon were still going building by building at the college to secure the facility, searching students and staff as they left and boarded buses that transported them to local fairgrounds.School shootings are a disturbing reality of U.S. life, and many facilities have reinforced security in recent years, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Twenty students and six adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.Thursday’s shooting is sure to reignite the debate in the United States on gun control, which is a charged topic in the campaign leading up to the presidential election. At least 10 dead, 20 injured in shooting at Oregon community college— (@globalnews) October 1, 2015 School shooting ‘sounded like fireworks’Local resident Marilyn Kittelman, whose 17-year-old son attends the college, said he texted her as the tragedy unfolded while he hid in his classroom in a nearby building.Lorie Andrews, who lives nearby and whose children graduated from the college, said she heard shots that sounded like fireworks and that lasted for about a minute and then saw police and ambulances rushing to the school.She said she saw one student, bloodied and wrapped in a blanket, being evacuated from the scene.Shoufler said that when firefighters arrived at the scene, police had neutralized the shooter. News reports said police were examining social media postings thought to belong to the gunman. Several reports said he may have shared his intentions online before the shooting. Updated at 2:46 p.m. on ThursdayUp to 10 people were reported killed and 20 wounded when a 20-year-old gunman opened fire inside a rural community college in the U.S. state of Oregon on Thursday, as officials said the shooter had been “neutralized.” Local sheriff John Hanlin confirmed at a press conference Thursday afternoon that the shooter is deceased after a gun battle with police, although he did not offer further details.Authorities said the school shooting took place in classrooms within the science building at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. The gunman reportedly shot his victims methodically and moved from one classroom to the next.Between seven and 10 people were killed and at least 20 injured, local news network KATU quoted Oregon State Police Lieutenant Bill Fugate as saying. CNN, citing local officials, said one woman was shot in the chest.U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation in Roseburg, and asked to be updated as it unfolds, a U.S. official said.The college was immediately placed on lockdown as firefighters, police and concerned parents rushed to the site. Douglas County fire Marshall Ray Shoufler said firefighters had evacuated 11 wounded people from the college, of whom two had died.He said there were “multiple patients in multiple classrooms” and a triage center was set up to evacuate the most seriously injured.Shoufler described Roseburg as a small, close-knit rural community with many locals attending the college which caters to some 3,300 students.“Most of us have relatives taking classes here,” he said. “Pretty much everybody knows everybody type scenario.“So something like this affects many, many, many people.” LATEST: Multiple casualties after shooting reported at college in Oregon:— ABC News (@ABC) October 1, 2015 Related posts:Costa Rican coastal community grieves colleague killed in US church massacre Oregon school shooting: ‘He just tried to do the right thing,’ one victim’s family says Gunman at Oregon college appeared armed for an extended siege Investigators piece together motive in mass Oregon shooting Facebook Comments 137 school shootings in America since Sandy Hook.ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SEVEN. #oregon— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 1, 2015last_img read more

Keylor Navas Real Madrid clinch second consecutive Champions League title

first_imgReal Madrid made history Saturday as the first team ever to win two consecutive Champions League Title, in an action-packed game that – because of the presence of Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas – was followed as passionately in Costa Rica as any National Team contest.Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid crushed Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff on Saturday to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era.The Portugal superstar’s opener was cancelled out by an astonishing Mario Mandzukic strike, but goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo and Marco Asensio secured Madrid’s third Champions League triumph in four years and 12th in total.Now a four-time Champions League winner, Ronaldo finished as the competition’s top scorer for the fifth season running, substantially enhancing his chances of matching eternal rival Lionel Messi’s tally of five Ballons d’Or.Zinedine Zidane, a head coach for only 17 months, became the first manager to oversee back-to-back European Cup successes since Arrigo Sacchi’s fabled AC Milan team won the tournament in 1989 and 1990. It crowns a glorious season for Madrid, who have pulled off a La Liga and European Cup double for the first time since 1958, having also won the Club World Cup and European Super Cup.Zidane’s triumph was his former club Juve’s misery, Massimiliano Allegri’s side crashing to a fifth successive defeat in Champions League finals and seventh in total, extending their own desperately unwanted record.The first Champions League final to be played beneath a closed roof saw Juve hit their heads against a familiar ceiling as they missed out on a chance to complete the first Treble in their history.The Italian champions also had substitute Juan Cuadrado sent off after he was shown a second yellow card for a gentle push on Sergio Ramos that drew a comical overreaction from the Madrid skipper.Kick-off at the Principality Stadium was delayed by two minutes due to an elaborate pre-match ceremony involving American pop act the Black Eyed Peas and when play got under way, Juve settled first.Navas’ was worked twice by Gonzalo Higuain, and had his biggest save of the match when Miralem Pjanic’s snappy half-volley forced the Madrid goalkeeper to produce a smart one-handed save.Navas was the second Costa Rican star to contest a Champions League Final on the Cardiff field this week. Shirley Cruz, of Paris Saint Germain, logged a strong performance Thursday, though her team ultimately lost 7-6 in a penalty shootout to Lyon.  The game was the fifth Champions League Final for two-time title winner Cruz. Related posts:Keylor Navas and Real Madrid beat Wolfsburg to classify for Champions League semifinals Keylor Navas and Real Madrid tie 1-1 with rival Barcelona in dramatic Clásico Lionel Messi surprises Real Madrid, Keylor Navas with 500th Barcelona goal Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, Real Madrid nab third consecutive Champions title Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Ombudsmans Office opposes hikes in electricity rates for CNFL

first_imgOfficials from theOmbudsman’s Office attended a public hearing at the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) to voice their rejection of two hikes in electricity rates requested by the National Power and Light Company (CNFL).CNFL’s customer base encompasses most of the Greater Metropolitan Area, including San José and parts of Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.The agency filed two rate petitions in March that, if approved, would apply in two stages. A 26.6 percent increase would apply between July 1 and December 31. Starting in January, rates would be 13.75 percent higher than they were before July.The Ombudsman’s Office in a public statement called the hike petition excessive, in relation to the economic situation of most Costa Rican families.“It could also hurt job creation, as the CNFL requested new rates for both households and businesses,” the document states.Funding shortfallThe CNFL argued that it needs the rate hike because it lacks funding for this and the next year, and that the measure would compensate for the purchase of electricity from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute.Ombudsman’s Office advisors said at the public hearing that the studies on which the CNFL based its hike requests are deficient. They asked the CNFL to coordinate actions with ARESEP in order to “solve both technical and administrative deficiencies of the tariff study they presented.”The Ombudsman’s Office representatives said that these deficiencies are precisely the reasons why ARESEP rejected similar rate modification requests that the CNFL filed in 2013, 2014 and 2016. They asked the regulating agency to, instead, approve hikes progressively over a longer period of time, in order to reduce the economic impact on clients.ARESEP also received separate requests to dismiss the CNFL petition from the Costa Rican Association of Large Energy Consumers and from the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries. Both groups argued that the requested hikes are excessive and that they would seriously hurt competitiveness.Several companies in recent years closed or relocated their operations in Costa Rica, citing as the country’s high electricity rates as one of the main reasons. Facebook Comments Related posts:Reduced electricity rates this year? Don’t hold your breath Regulator approves decrease in electricity rates Regulator approves decrease in electricity rates for next quarter Electricity rates to go up starting Julylast_img read more

4 life lessons best learned by living abroad

first_imgRelated posts:Amateur Fishing Club names 2017 Tarpon Champion Multipurpose malinche, an attractive and useful ornamental A second round, Holy Sunday and the poor electoral menu How a cowboy saved me $30,000 in Costa Rica Based on remarks to wonderful staff members, volunteers and friends of AFS Costa Rica in San José on Sept. 29.I’ve spent a number of years and many thousands of words pondering the lessons Costa Rica has taught me. Some of them are specific to the delightfully unique attitudes, wordplay, foibles and flaws of this particular country. Others, however, are life lessons that I think are familiar to anyone who has lived or studied abroad.We carry them with us, whether we “forget to come home” – as my father, who turned 80 last week, likes to say of me – or whether we head back to our native lands, forever changed.Here are four of the lessons that have been most important for me. What about you?Progress isn’t always linear.This is, perhaps, a lesson learned simply by getting a little older – but experiencing the intricacies of culture shock over a period of years definitely helped me figure this one out. The thing is: it’s not really one shock. And it’s definitely not a series of steps to check off.It’s more like waves, experienced as if you were a bit of flotsam and jetsam, bobbing in changing and inconsistent waters. You may be confident and serene right now, but in a flash you’ll be tossed backward, more lost or excluded than the day you arrived. Perhaps the tide in this metaphor is indeed marching in the right direction, heading slowly but surely up the beach. However, you’re just a bit of wood or a lost flip-flop, so it won’t feel like progress to you.It’s not your fault, or the waves’. It’s the way things work.Recommended: A tale of two Costa RicasYou have to get used to that, or you’ll be very frustrated. And that’s true not only of cultural adaptation, but of most anything in life that matters: Friendship. Parenthood. Love. Learning hard things.A reader wrote me recently telling me he found the fact that I’m still learning about language and culture in Costa Rica after decades of study “disheartening.” My response: please don’t! It’s so much fun. If I ever did reach mastery of these un-masterable skills, I’d have to move somewhere new.The worst thing is sometimes also the best thing.Again, we learn this sooner or later simply by being alive, but experiencing another country accelerates it. We quickly see that the qualities we treasure most in the places we’re encountering, and in our own homelands, are often the things that frustrate us the most.Costa Rica’s famous laid-back approach, exemplified by pura vida: the key to happiness, or a frequent gateway to acceptance of mediocrity? The convenience and ease of life (say, running errands) in the United States: delightful, or the foundation for materialism and obesity?The answer is usually both. The same is often true for the people in our lives, as well.Others – people, communities and countries – are always more complex than we realize.When I’m home in the United States and come across Latin American Blend coffee, it always seems so strange to me. Latin American Blend? Why? Even a Costa Rican Blend would be very strange, when coffee from Orosi and, say, Santa María de Dota taste so different. Twenty years ago, I would never have thought about this the same way, but years of mountainous drives and many, many cups of café chorreado gradually changed the way I thought about what’s in that bag.Obviously we estadounidenses are particularly renowned for a lack of understanding of countries beyond our borders; our size, power and linguistic dominance contribute to our myopia. But I’m often asked in Costa Rica what people eat in the United States, or what we believe, or what the weather is like, and find myself explaining just how many varieties are housed within those 50 states.Any lack of understanding I’ve encountered pales in comparison to my own ignorance about, say, the almost unfathomable diversity and nuance among the nations of Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe. Hmm. I should really get on the road again.Being an outsider grants you powerful vision – and insiders should seek that out.I’ve written before about “immigrant vision,” the fresh perspective outsiders have on our adopted countries, a perspective that is often overlooked or underutilized. Those who travel or live abroad gain such perspective. However, I think it’s even more important that we gain an appreciation for the value of the outsider, and can take that appreciation home with us.You can travel the world and remain as close-minded as the day you began. You can live abroad for 30 years and refuse to learn a thing. You can live your whole life within a five-mile radius and be the wisest, kindest and most learned of people.However, I do believe that travel and student exchange are, without any doubt, powerful medicine for a world continuously wobbling in the wake of violence, hatred and bigotry.To all those packing their bags, enrolling to study abroad, or working hard as teachers, parents or volunteers so young people can venture forth into the world: thank you. The world needs more of you. More homestays, more awkward first days, more this-will-be-funny-later misunderstandings that lead to humility and knowledge.That’s progress: as messy and sure as an incoming tide.Read more columns from Katherine here.This piece was originally published on the Love in Translation blog by Tico Times Editor Katherine Stanley Obando.  She is the author of  The Tico Times’ “Maeology” column and “Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter,” a book of essays about motherhood, Costa Rica’s unique street slang, bicultural parenting, and the ups and downs of living abroad.  Facebook Commentslast_img read more

InterAmerican Court endorses samesex marriage Costa Rica reacts

first_imgGay rights activists and supporters of marriage equality celebrated in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America Tuesday night after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that all of its signatory countries must allow same-sex marriage.The court’s verdict is binding for most Latin American states – some of which still hold traditionalist views opposing such unions. Costa Rica’s legislation does not currently permit same-sex marriage, although there is recognition of economic and property rights for same-sex couples.The decision, published Tuesday, was in response to a motion lodged by Costa Rica in May 2016. It sent approximately 300 Costa Ricans to the Fuente de la Hispanidad in San Pedro, just east of the capital, to celebrate the ruling, according to the daily La Nacion.States that are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights adopted in 1969 are required to adhere to the court’s rulings.Several of them already do recognize same-sex marriage, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. Others, such as Chile and Ecuador, currently recognize same-sex civil unions but not marriages. And some countries, such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru acknowledge neither.Venezuela, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, has withdrawn from the convention.The United States and Canada, although part of the Organization of American States that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is part of, have not ratified the convention, but both accept same-sex marriages.The ruling from the Costa Rica-based court said gay married couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones existing under each country’s laws. As such, it said it is inadmissible and discriminatory for a separate legal provision to be established just for gay marriages.The court acknowledged that some states would face institutional difficulties in bringing in the right for same-sex couples to marry, noting that often opposition was based on religious criteria; many Latin Americans identify as Catholic.But the court said that “in democratic societies, there should exist mutually peaceful coexistence between the secular and the religious,” with neither interfering with the other.How will the country’s presidential candidates react? La Nación consulted eight candidates, all of whom said they would respect the ruling with two exceptions: Mario Redondo of the Democratic Christian Alliance, and Fabricio Alvarado of the National Restoration Party.Edgardo Araya, the candidate representing the left-wing Broad Front party, published an exuberant video on Facebook.“This is a historic day for our nation,” he said. “Today we celebrate, at long last, the recognition of equal marriage in our country.” Related posts:New poll in Costa Rica shows huge surge for evangelical pastor Q&A: What happens when US Supreme Court hears arguments about same-sex marriage Tuesday? Voices of Nate: Five first-hand accounts of Costa Rica’s devastating storm The power of kindness: Karma Tribe in Costa Rica Facebook Commentslast_img read more

5 questions for Costa Rican artist Adrián Gómez

first_imgArt that helps build a collective imagination depicting the vibrancy and liveliness of Costa Rica’s Caribbean region: that’s what characterizes the work of Adrián Gómez, more than thirty years in the making.“The vocation, interest or inclination for art has always been present in my life ever since I can remember. That’s why I say that I was born an artist,” Gómez, 56, told The Tico Times.When Gómez was just 12 years old, his mother enrolled him in the National Artisans Association (ANDE), where he learned woodcarving. Gómez went on to study at the Juan Ramón Bonilla School, founded by artists from Cartago including Hernán Hidalgo, Fernando Carballo, Luis Fernando Quirós and Jorge Valverde. Carballo would become an important source of support later on when Gómez set out to create art that would celebrate Afro-Costa Rican communities in Limón.After graduating from high school, Gómez studied construction engineering at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology (TEC), but dropped out due to family issues. He began working in advertising agencies, which allowed him to study composition and colors that he transferred unconsciously to his self-taught art.As his passion for art deepened, he found himself remembering childhood trips with his mother to visit his father, who was working in Limón. He began to incorporate his love for the Caribbean province into his art, especially focusing on black childhood; today, his paintings of faceless children joyfully playing or riding swings hung from clouds are instantly recognizable around Costa Rica. His work has been exhibited in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala as well.On a sunny, warm afternoon at Entre Nous Café in Barrio Escalante, east of San José, Gómez sat down and spoke with The Tico Times about his life and work. Excerpts follow. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Adrián GómezHow did you come to depict Afro-descendants in Costa Rica’s Caribbean?My father used to work in heavy mechanics, repairing trolleys, backhoes and all that sort of machinery. He worked for various companies, but a large percentage were in Costa Rica’s Caribbean region. My mother had to visit him to sustain their affection and love, and to get the money for our sustenance. We would go with my mother; there are nine of us. Obviously the nine of us wouldn’t go at the same time.It had a great impact on me, all those images of the black Afro-descendant, but what surprised me the most were the colors they’d use in their heritage, in their traditions, in their way of dressing.Of course, with the passage of time my reading of the Caribbean and its people has been enriched, and it’s very different from what [I thought] about the Caribbean when I began. Courtesy of Adrián Gómez Adrián Gómez posing with one of mosaics. Courtesy of Adrián GómezHow has your artwork developed over the years?With passion. With endeavor and clinging to build an imagination through the viewers’ interest, affection and empathy for the pieces. The artist needs a spectator: not only the viewer, but also the person who acquires [artwork].Besides that, the artist must keep his mind stimulated. An artist is not only one that creates. You have to manage and build. In my short internship of thirty-something years in advertising, I never stopped building… I participated in fairs. I made paintings. I kept enriching my knowledge about techniques. I played with images in different environments, always respecting the thematic concept, which is color, because for me the Caribbean is color. My artwork is humanized, but in the end it’s an excuse I have to be able to apply the color of [the region’s] heritage. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Adrián GómezHow has persistence been important in your work?What one is looking for in each image or painting is for the spectator to approach, to communicate more. Capturing the spectator is what paintings, sculptures or engravings do. I try to capture a person and retain his or her attention for as long as possible. That’s why people buy paintings and keep looking at them, year after year, and don’t get bored. A sculpture by Adrián Gómez. Courtesy of Adrián Gómez A sculpture by Adrián Gómez. Courtesy of Adrián GómezCan you tell us more about how you arrived at your specific focus?I only paint a very small point in the whole universe that we call the Caribbean, because to speak about the Caribbean you have to talk about the people and their experiences in the sea. You’d have to speak about the people cultivating in the land. You’d have to speak about the dances. So, I only do a miniscule point, a minimal sensation.To speak about the Caribbean, we’d have to speak about all the races or the mixture of races, understanding the Costa Rican indigenous as the first inhabitants of the Caribbean before the Spanish came, and when there were no borders. Then there’s the black community that the Spanish brought from the colony as slaves, and then you’d have to add the arrival of the Asian communities.All this marvelous mixture of races in the Caribbean… but in my license as an artist I chose in my youth to differentiate myself and [focus on] the black inhabitants of the Caribbean zone. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Adrián Gómez One of Gómez’s paintings adapted to the tin top of a paint can. Courtesy of Adrián GómezWhy did you choose not to paint facial expressions on the characters in your paintings?There were faces in a lot of my paintings, but the spectators themselves taught me that I was wrong… People would see them and ask why they were sad or serious, or why they had their eyes closed. I understood that they were only concentrating on the emotional state of the face and that they were not seeing the position of the arms. They were not seeing the search for the whole composition. So, I decided over a period of years that I’d leave some things present, and some things absent.When I left the [facial features out], what happened was that the spectator didn’t see someone they had to identify. The spectators built the silhouette of a child they had in their memory or in their affection. In taking away this girl’s or boy’s face, I went from speaking in singular to plural. I was not speaking about one child in the Caribbean. I was speaking about Caribbean childhood. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Adrián Gómez Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Adrián Gómez“Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at Facebook Comments Related posts:5 questions for Costa Rica’s indigenous Jirondai Project October in Costa Rica: when the Caribbean comes a’callin’ Tortuguero business owners form new tourism chamber Men caught with one ton of drugs in Costa Rica allowed to walk free, police saylast_img read more

Off the eaten path Al Masri Cocina Egipcia

first_imgAdmittedly I have never eaten Egyptian food, so I have no reference point for good Egyptian food. But I do know food, and the food at Al Masri is good. I’m pretty sure it’s authentic too since the owner, Mohammed Hussien, only moved to Costa Rica from his native Egypt six years ago.Mohammed’s always in the kitchen himself, making sure the food comes out in true form. It really seems to be a labor of love and one that keeps him connected to home. Even though Mohammed is on the other side of the planet, at least the smells and tastes at Al Masri are familiar.Mohammed first came to Costa Rica from Cairo to work in kitchens at some of Costa Rica’s best hotels. Then he went into business for himself and opened one of the, if not the, only Egyptian restaurants in the country. This is truly a one-of-a-kind gastronomic offering in Costa Rica. Al Masri is small, but delicious (William Ayre / The Tico Times)Al Masri is literally a hole in the wall just west of the INS building in the Barrio Amon district of San Jose. An area known for its beautiful architecture, old buildings and homeless people, the restaurant occupies a small space along Avenida 7 (near Calle 13).Very small, in fact.The restaurant has only six tables, for a combined total of 16 seats. I was the only customer on my visit, but I can confidently say that if there were 16 people dining at once, it would be uncomfortable.I was very comfortable, but I am told they can get busy in here on weekends. (William Ayre / The Tico Times)When it comes to food, I bet you couldn’t find the same menu being served anywhere within a few thousand kilometers.The five-page menu is split into categories like appetizers, salads, traditional plates, grilled meats, soups and sandwiches. Despite the small size of the restaurant, Al Masri has quite a few options. The waitress, who was friendly if not a bit shy, was happy to recommend me a vegetarian platter to start, followed by a plate of grilled meat skewers and rice.I followed her recommendation, without second-guessing. The Mezcla Almasri (William Ayre / The Tico Times)The vegetarian platter is called Mezcla Almasri and included a portion of hummus, babaganoush, falafel, pita bread, salad and french fries. Everything tasted fresh and was served in generous portions. I actually couldn’t finish it all, as I was saving myself for the main course.When I ordered the grilled meat plate, the waitress confirmed that I wasn’t in a hurry. She warned me that it’s prepared to order and could take a while. I actually wasn’t in a rush, but it didn’t take too long for the food to hit the table.But I guess it could be a real concern when they’re full on weekends. Anyways, take your time. Slow down. Enjoy it.The Mezcla Kebab, as it is called on the menu, included one skewer of kofta (ground beef) and for an additional 1,000 colones, I got a second skewer of lamb meat. Both were delicious and you could really taste that flavor that comes off of the grill.The meat came with sides of white rice, tahini and a plate of beans. This time I ate it all. I cleaned that plate. It was really delicious, especially when you consider the prices. The Mezcla Kebab (William Ayre / The Tico Times)On my next visit, I have my eyes on another two of the traditional Egyptian dishes on the menu; Hawawshey and Kushari.Hawawshey is pita bread stuffed with minced meat with of mix of different herbs, spices and onion, kind of like a pastry or perhaps an Egyptian empanada. To be eaten with your hands, like a sandwich.Kushari is a strange mix of rice, spaghetti pasta and lentils with chickpeas and tomato sauce amongst other ingredients. It is difficult to describe but when you eat it, somehow it makes sense. Or so I am assured. I look forward to trying it.They serve Egyptian desserts, as well.Al Masri is very cheap, or put better, a great value meal. Dishes average around 4,000 colones (about $6.5) and some items, like sandwiches, cost less than 2,000 (about $3). This is a spot you can go to fill your stomach without spending a lot of money. They don’t sell alcohol either, which always keeps my bill down.I had Egyptian Lemonade for 1,200 colones (about $2) and it was refreshing, but a bit sour. I couldn’t figure out what was Egyptian about it, but I do love lemonade. You can also get coffee, tea, or water. The menu at Al Masri promises to take you back in time (William Ayre / The Tico Times)The front cover page of the menu claims that Al Masri doesn’t just specialize in authentic Egyptian food, but also showcases a Pharaonic theme that will transport you back in time. I can imagine what Mohammed originally had in mind when he dreamed up this concept but in its execution, I assume perhaps for budget restrictions, it missed the mark.While there are some neat pyramid, mummy and pharaoh themed decorations scattered around the restaurant, including photography and even a glass display case of imported souvenirs (available for purchase), interior design is not a draw at Al Masri.The Egyptian music playing was a nice touch, though. I enjoyed listening to it while I ate. But let’s be clear, the only part of this restaurant that is truly an experience is the food. And that’s good enough for me. Some of the Egyptian trinkets on sale at Al Masri (William Ayre / The Tico Times)Al Masri is open from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. every day of the week except for Sundays, when they close. Credit cards are accepted. Vegetarian options are available. Conveniently located directly beside the restaurant is a public pay parking lot, and pay street parking is also available nearby. Search “Al Masri Restaurante” on Waze or Uber to arrive conveniently.William Ayre is a Canadian born chef and restaurateur who has spent the last half of his life doing business in Costa Rica, where he now considers to be home. Inspired by Anthony Bourdain, Ayre’s passion of experiencing different cultures through food has taken him to 35 different countries over five continents. Whether it’s a 20-course meal at a fine dining restaurant in Toronto, or cantina hopping in search for the best chifrijo here in San José, he fits in just fine.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 Related posts:Off the eaten path: Soda Lima Off the eaten path: Cantina X Off the eaten path: Bar La Selegna Off the eaten path: Pad Thailast_img read more

Serbias new president revives Balkan tensions

first_img Top Stories Nikolic said cooperation with Croatia will be “very much welcome and open.”But Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that Nikolic still needs to revise his wartime stands.“Once it is clear that Mr. Nikolic is firmly on that road, there will be no obstacle for cooperation,” Josipovic said. “But this needs to be shown and proven.”___Associated Press correspondent Dusan Stojanovic contributed.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Associated PressBELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Serbia’s new nationalist president has been in office for less than a week and he’s already rocking fragile Balkan stability and casting doubt over his proclaimed pro-European Union policies.Tomislav Nikolic, a former ultranationalist ally of Serbia’s wartime leader Slobodan Milosevic, revived ethnic tensions in the still volatile region by stating that the Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serb forces killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995, was not genocide but a “grave crime.” Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center “There was no genocide in Srebrenica,” Nikolic told Montenegro state TV last week.Europe’s worst slaughter of civilians since World War II was proclaimed genocide both by the International Court of Justice and a U.N. war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia that has convicted several Bosnian Serbs for taking part in the carnage.In Brussels, the office of EU’s Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned Nikolic’s comments Monday, saying that “the EU strongly rejects any intention to rewrite history.” Spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said that “the massacre in Srebrenica was a genocide … a crime against all of humankind.“We should never forget and it should never be allowed to happen again.”Nikolic also told a German newspaper that Croatia’s border town of Vukovar, which was bombed to the ground by the Serb-led army during the country’s war for independence in 1992, was in fact a “Serb town.”The statements were reminiscent of the war era of the 1990s, when Milosevic launched the wars in Croatia and Bosnia to create a pan-Serbian state after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. They fueled fears that Nikolic’s surprise victory over liberal Boris Tadic in a May 20 presidential runoff vote will threaten the volatile process of postwar reconciliation in the Balkans _ one of the main conditions set by the EU for Serbia to become a member. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family The war in the former Yugoslavia claimed more than 100,000 lives and left millions homeless. The United States and its EU allies have sought to foster harmony in the region, encouraging the Balkan states to put the past behind them and work together to join the EU.While campaigning, Nikolic _ a former right-wing extremist who supported Milosevic’s war campaigns _ claimed to have become a conservative populist who supports Serbia’s integration into the EU. But his resurgent nationalism has triggered alarm in the region and could derail Serbia’s EU membership bid.Bakir Izetbegovic, one of Bosnia’s three presidents, said that Nikolic’s remarks are “an insult to the victims” of the 1995 Srebrenica killings.The comments “cast a shadow and seriously brought into question his publicly proclaimed pro-European rhetoric and statements in which he supported regional cooperation,” said Izetbegovic, who represents Bosnia’s Muslims. He added that “unfortunately, Nikolic has shown that he is not ready to face the events of the recent past.”A prominent Serbian human rights group, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, demanded that Nikolic apologize to the families of the Srebrenica victims. The group said that Nikolic’s remarks “added uncertainty to future of the regional relations.” Serbia had slowly started to shake off its troublemaker image under Tadic, who championed the country’s pro-EU reforms.During his eight years in office, Tadic had moved to mend ties with both Croatia and Bosnia. He visited Srebrenica and apologized for the massacre, and parliament passed a declaration condemning the killings. Nikolic now says he won’t apologize over Srebrenica.“If Boris Tadic, the (former) Serbian president, has already been to Srebrenica, if he condemned the crime in Srebrenica, if the Serbian parliament has done the same, then why would I revive that issue again?” Nikolic asked.While taking important steps on the road to the EU, Tadic fell victim to Serbia’s economic crisis and plummeting living standards. Nikolic campaigned on promises of reviving the economy and fighting corruption.Tadic is still hoping to forge a pro-EU government with Socialist allies and a liberal group, which would sideline Nikolic as a figurehead president because the post of the prime minister is more powerful than that of president.During his inauguration Thursday, Nikolic pledged to maintain friendly relations with Croatia and Bosnia. But he reiterated that Serbia should abandon its EU ambitions if it means giving up its claim on Kosovo _ the former province that declared independence in 2008. Check your body, save your life Comments   Share   last_img read more

Cossacks to crack down on migrants in Russia

first_img New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Ethnic Russians treat Caucasus natives with increasing xenophobia and hostility. Migrant workers from former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Armenia and Azerbaijan also face increasing discrimination.Tkachyov’s remarks drew strong criticism. A member of the Public Chamber, a Kremlin-approved advisory body, said it would ask state prosecutors to investigate whether they violated Russian law on the incitement of ethnic hatred.“Tkachyov has called for the disintegration of the country,” Public Chamber member Alexander Sokolov said in a statement on Friday. “He considers the Caucasus provinces enemy territory and calls for fencing them off with illegal paramilitary militias.”Cossack paramilitary communities spearheaded czarist Russia’s expansion and were notorious for anti-Semitic pogroms that triggered mass Jewish migration to the West. In the Soviet era, Cossacks were persecuted and purged for their resistance to Communist rule, and the post-Soviet revival of their squads and parades is often seen as harmless theatrics. In Russia’s 2010 census, some 70,000 people identified themselves as Cossacks.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Comments   Share   More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements The Cossacks will be unarmed but still wear uniforms identifying them as adherents of a military force that still celebrates its pre-Soviet role as a defender of Russia’s borders.Their mission beginning Sept. 1 will be to deal with migrants whose “behavior is not always legal, not always right,” Konstantin Perenishko, deputy head of the Kuban Cossack Army, said Monday by telephone from Krasnodar.Gov. Alexander Tkachyov announced the deployment of the Cossacks in a speech to police officers last week.“What you can’t do, a Cossack can,” Tkachyov said. He said the Cossacks would not be as restrained as police in maintaining public order and enforcing migration laws.“The police have sufficiently high powers, but there are limitations,” the governor said. “We have seen this in recent years because of democracy and the greater attention paid to human rights and civil society.”He said the presence of the Cossacks would deter non-ethnic Russians from coming to Krasnodar, an agricultural region.Tkachyov appeared most concerned about Russian citizens from the multi-ethnic Caucasus region, which has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency and economic woes since the start of the first Chechen separatist war in 1994. Associated PressMOSCOW (AP) – A thousand Cossacks, who formed a feared military force in czarist times, will help police patrol the southern Russian region hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, charged with preventing an influx of labor migrants from the nearby Caucasus.The planned deployment of the Cossacks, announced by the governor of the Krasnodar region, has been harshly criticized in Russia, with some warning that it will lead to a rise in ethnic tensions and even hate crimes against mostly dark-complexioned Muslim migrants. Top Stories Sponsored Stories Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more

US Afghanistan start talks on status of US troops

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Afghanistan and the United States have tried to defuse regional concerns about the agreement. Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran is opposed to any such agreement.“Both sides clarified that these negotiations are premised on the understanding that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan, or a presence that is perceived as a threat to Afghanistan’s neighbors,” said a joint statement issued after the meeting.The bilateral security agreement is essentially a status of forces agreement and will include all the authorities needed to operate military forces in Afghanistan, including taxation, visas and other technical issues. It does not need to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. The U.S. has similar agreements with dozens of countries.In Iraq, a similar deal fell apart after U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain there.Karzai said last month that the issue of soldiers being protected from prosecution in Afghanistan could be a problem in the talks. He has said Afghanistan might demand prosecutions in some cases. The issue took on new meaning after Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly attacked Afghan civilians in two villages in southern Afghanistan. The American soldier faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attacks against civilians. A preliminary hearing was held this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Associated PressKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The United States and Afghanistan faced potentially divisive issues such as immunity for U.S. troops as the two sides began talks Thursday on a security agreement that will shape America’s military presence in the country after the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops in two years.However, the talks could last up to a year, and questions about specific military operations or the exact number of U.S. troops that will remain in the country were being put off until later, according to a senior U.S. official. U.S. and Afghan officials also indicated that the issues of legal jurisdiction will be left until later, after easier topics are negotiated. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Obama administration expected a decision in the next few weeks on how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014. He added that Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had developed several options but would not reveal what troop levels were being considered.It is believed that the United States wants to retain up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train and support Afghan forces and go after extremists and groups, including al-Qaida. Afghanistan now has about 66,000 U.S. troops and it remains unclear how many will be withdrawn next year as they continue to hand over security to Afghan forces. The foreign military mission is evolving from combat to advising, assisting and training Afghan forces.The two countries also are grappling with the potentially divisive issues of whether U.S. troops can be prosecuted under Afghan law _ an issue that sank America’s security deal with Iraq last year _ America’s military footprint, and what bases and facilities the U.S. will use after 2014.“The negotiations we just started today will be about the quantity, quality and the condition of the presence of American forces in Afghanistan after 2014,” Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s ambassador in Washington, told reporters after the one-day meeting. New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like He and James Warlick, the Obama administration’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan are leading the talks, which are expected to resume next month.“This document is intended to provide the legal authorities of our military forces and its civilian component,” Warlick said.The decision on troop levels will depend in part on Afghanistan’s desire to allow troops to remain and whether the U.S. receives acceptable legal guarantees for American troops. But the agreement is not expected to be a defense deal and the senior U.S. official said it would not include a security commitment.The so-called bilateral security agreement follows a deal that was signed last May in Kabul by President Barack Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai _ a document that drew the outlines of the broad relationship between their countries after 2014.In that deal, the United States said it would work with Afghanistan to develop a response if it was ever attacked, but was not committed to help. Washington was committed, however, to supporting Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security institutions and regional cooperation through 2024. In turn, Afghanistan promised to strengthen government accountability, transparency and oversight and to protect the human rights of all Afghans, both men and women. How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

Chinese cook crashes on balloon to disputed isles

first_img The vital role family plays in society New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility He was picked up by a boat and later handed over to a Chinese patrol ship, the coast guard said.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Xu was in good condition.Qin disavowed any official ties with Xu. “I note that he is a hot-air balloon enthusiast,” he said.The islands have been a sore point in bilateral relations for years, and nationalists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have occasionally tried to sail to them.A recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a Tokyo shrine that honors World War II war criminals has outraged China, adding to the bilateral tensions.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sobercenter_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology TOKYO (AP) – A Chinese cook who crashed into the sea while trying to fly on a hot-air balloon to islands claimed by both China and Japan has been rescued by Japan’s coast guard.Xu Shuaijun, 35, crashed Wednesday after hitting turbulence as he approached the islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and Diayou in China, the coast guard said Thursday.The coast guard said it received a missing-person report from Taiwanese officials and that one of its helicopters spotted Xu about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the islands. Sponsored Stories 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologistlast_img read more

Suicide bombers kill 11 in Pakistani capital

first_img 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The peace process has proceeded in fits and starts but seemed to get a boost on Saturday, when the Pakistani Taliban announced they would implement a one-month ceasefire after the military pounded their hideouts with airstrikes.The militant group was quick to distance itself from Monday’s attack. A spokesman for the organization in a telephone call to an Associated Press reporter said the group was not involved in the assault and restated his group’s commitment to the ceasefire.But the attack highlighted the difficulty in negotiating a peace deal with a multi-faceted group like the Pakistani Taliban, made up of varying factions. Analysts say that while some in the group may want to negotiate a peace deal, other factions may not, making it difficult to enforce a peace deal across all the factions. The cease-fire did not include other groups, such as al-Qaida, that operate in Pakistan.__Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Witnesses spoke of attackers wielding automatic weapons running into the narrow alleyways in the sleepy capital’s court complex, hurling grenades and opening fire indiscriminately on lawyers, judges and court personnel.One lawyer described it as a scene from hell, with blasts and firing all around. “My colleague was shot, and there was no one to help him. When I reached him, he was bleeding and crying for help,” said Momin Ali.There were conflicting reports on how many attackers were involved in the incident and if any of them had managed to escape from the police. It also remained unclear if anyone had been arrested, how the attackers penetrated so deep into the city and whether a specific person in the complex was the intended target.Initial reports suggested two men wearing explosive vests rushed into the court complex, threw hand grenades and started shooting, then blew themselves up, said Islamabad Police Chief Sikander Hayat. He put the death toll at 11.“It was certainly an act of terrorism,” Hayat said. One of the attackers blew himself up outside the office of the lawyers’ union president and the other outside the door of a judge’s office, he added. The explosions sent lawyers and judges running in fear for their lives as police stormed in. Police subsequently searched the entire complex and found no additional attackers, said Hayat.Other officials and a lawyer on the scene said there were more than two attackers. Police official Jamil Hashmi said there were about six to eight attackers who spread into different areas of the court complex.“One of the attackers entered a courtroom and shot and killed a judge,” Hashmi said.Lawyer Murad Ali said he saw several attackers walking toward a courtroom, brandishing weapons.“They had automatic weapons. They had hand grenades,” he said. “I saw them shooting a female lawyer.”His hands were splattered in blood that he said came from helping remove four dead bodies. Another lawyer, Sardar Gul Nawaz, said the attackers had short beards and wore shalwar kameez, a traditional Pakistani outfit of baggy pants and a long tunic.The dead included two judges and five lawyers, said Dr. Altaf at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad where the dead and wounded were taken. Altaf, who spoke to television reporters and only gave his family name, said most of the victims had bullet wounds. He said 25 were wounded, five of them critically. Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   The area where the attack occurred is a warren of walkways filled with judges’ chambers, lawyers’ offices and restaurants and businesses catering to the legal community. The walkways are filled with copying machines for clerks and clients to make copies of legal documents, and prisoners wearing chains can often be seen walking through the complex on their way to and from court. Families of suspects on trial also often stand around the area, waiting for their loved ones to appear in court. Some spots in the complex have metal detectors, which are often not used.Pakistani television showed images of the area with windows blown out, walls torn and lawyers in traditional black suits carrying what appeared to be lifeless bodies and wounded from the buildings. Policemen with weapons raised ran through the area and searched offices.Body parts and blood mingled with pieces of shattered glass littered the ground outside the courtrooms and attorney’s offices. The police cordoned off the complex, which was taken over by commandos from the police anti-terrorist force.The attack was a shock to Islamabad, which has mostly been spared the frequent bombings and shootings prevalent in other parts of Pakistan such as Peshawar near the tribal areas or the port city of Karachi. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help ISLAMABAD (AP) – A group of armed men, including two suicide attackers, stormed a court complex in the Pakistani capital on Monday in a rare terror attack in the heart of Islamabad that killed 11 people and wounded dozens.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault, which came just days after the Pakistani Taliban announced a one-month ceasefire, raising questions about the group’s ability to control its various factions. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been trying to negotiate a peace settlement with militants in the northwest who have waged a bloody war against the government for years. 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

House GOP votes to block administration on immigration

first_imgWASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans voted Wednesday to block the Obama administration from spending any money to defend against a lawsuit over the president’s immigration policies.The 222-204 vote came on an amendment by leading immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King of Iowa to a spending bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments.House Republicans spent weeks earlier this year trying to overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions from last fall that granted work permits and stays of deportation to millions of immigrants living in this country illegally. The House efforts were unsuccessful, but Republicans have claimed success anyway, noting that the policies have been put on hold by a federal judge in a lawsuit by a group of states seeking to overturn the actions. Comments   Share   Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories More than two dozen states argued that Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional.The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear arguments next month in the lawsuit. King’s amendment would block the administration from spending any money to defend against it.It was one of a handful of immigration-related amendments offered by King and approved by the GOP-controlled House.By voice vote, the House adopted an amendment that would block spending for trade deals that add visas.The House also voted 227-198 for an amendment that would block certain federal funds to localities that refuse to report names to federal immigration authorities. That’s become an issue in recent months as localities refused to participate in a federal program that turns over the names of people picked up for crimes to federal immigration authorities.“All we’re saying is follow the law. … They are undermining the rule of law,” said King.Democrats objected to his approach.“This is not the appropriate bill for this,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.The spending bill has already drawn a veto threat from the White House over cuts in domestic programs, and the addition of the immigration measures will only harden the administration opposition. Quick workouts for men Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous oflast_img read more

A shepherds life proves a hit in print and online

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall A land of deep, narrow lakes, gray stone walls and green-brown mountains, the Lake District attracts millions of campers, climbers and hikers each year, and has inspired artists and poets since William Wordsworth 200 years ago. But Rebanks felt one important voice was missing.“If you go into any of the bookshops here, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of books about the Lake District,” said the burly, talkative farmer. “You’ll struggle to find three or four that tell the story of the people who live and work in the landscape.“Until fairly recently, people were still talking about this landscape being ‘discovered’ or’ invented’ in the 18th century by Wordsworth and people like that,” he said. “Our way of life was fully formed before that person ever put pen to paper.”Rebanks’ memoir describes that way of life, whose essence has changed little over the centuries. It is partly an account of a shepherd’s year, from the treacherous snowdrifts of winter to the burst of new life in spring.It’s also partly a political statement: “If we want to understand the people in the foothills of Afghanistan, we may need to try and understand the people in the foothills of England first,” he writes. It’s also a primal story of fathers and sons, poverty and struggle. Rebanks left school at 15 to work on the farm, but clashed with his father and with the brutal economics of farming. He earned a degree in history from Oxford University in his 20s, came home and struggled to keep the family farm going. The last few decades have been hard for small farmers. Most have second jobs; Rebanks works as an adviser on sustainable tourism to the U.N cultural organization, UNESCO.“We’ve been going to disappear for 200-odd years,” he said. “That’s always been the story. Nearly all books about shepherds are ‘The Last Shepherd.’ There’s always ‘last’ in it because it adds a touch of romance.”Rebanks is determined not to be the last of anything. He lives with wife Helen and three children aged between 3 and 9 in Matterdale, one of the Lake District’s many narrow valleys. The family owns 450 sheep, rising to 1,000 after lambing season.One recent day, with a journalist in tow, he hopped on his quad bike and drove some of his flock down narrow lanes to low-lying fields, with the help of his skilled sheepdogs, Tan and Floss. MATTERDALE, England (AP) — James Rebanks sits in his stone farmhouse, describing the hardscrabble mountain life his family has known for six centuries or more. Then his cell phone rings. It’s a big London ad agency, hoping to sign him up for a project.Rebanks is probably the world’s most famous shepherd, with a hit Twitter account, a best-selling book and TV crews rattling up the lane to his farm. He’s gratified by the attention, if a bit bemused. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories “Somebody from Hollywood rang up yesterday, wanting to make a movie out of my book,” the 40-year-old said. “Which is completely bonkers.”Readers around the world have flocked to Rebanks’ dispatches from a way of life that has — against the odds — survived industrialization, globalization and mass tourism.On Twitter, his descriptions of lambing and haymaking have attracted 65,000 followers. “The Shepherd’s Life,” his book recounting the rhythms of the rural year and the daily struggle to make ends meet, is a best-seller in Britain and Canada and is being translated into German and Swedish. The New York Times called it “captivating.”Separately, British broadcaster ITV is making a reality show called “Flockstars” that will see celebrities compete in sheepdog trials. And “Rams,” a movie about Icelandic shepherds and their flocks, won a major prize at last month’s Cannes Film Festival.Suddenly, sheep seem to be everywhere. But they have been the center of Rebanks’ life for as long as he can remember.He belongs to one of the few hundred families who farm the valleys and mountains, or fells, of the Lake District in northwest England. It’s a rugged area that has produced stubborn people, as well as sturdy sheep whose homing instinct means they can graze, unfenced, on the unhospitable high fells. In this June 5, 2015, photo, shepherd James Rebanks rounds up a flock of sheep as his son Isaac sits on a quad bike in Matterdale, England. Rebanks is the world’s most famous shepherd, with a hit Twitter account, a best-selling book and TV crews rattling up the lane to his farm. He’s gratified by the attention, if a bit bemused. Readers around the world have flocked to Rebanks’ dispatches from a way of life that has _ against the odds _ survived industrialization, globalization and mass tourism. (AP Photo/Jill Lawless) He said the popularity reassures him “that people do care about the land, even if they’re a very long way from it.”“I think there’s a sort of Harvard Business School way of looking at the world which is to say, because it’s old-fashioned, because it doesn’t make very much money, people should rationally choose to go off and be IT consultants or bankers in the City of London,” he said. “I think in my early 20s I bought into that. I thought, we’re on the wrong side of history. It’ll all disappear.“Twenty-something years later I’m looking at it, and we haven’t gone anywhere.”___Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Comments   Share   Top Stories Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Rebanks loves sheep, especially the indomitable, white-faced Herdwicks, and he writes about them with irresistible enthusiasm. At one point in “The Shepherd’s Life,” he describes a male sheep, or tup, as looking like Russell Crowe in “Gladiator,” and the comparison seems entirely reasonable. When he sells one prized ram, he misses seeing him, “as if I once had a Van Gogh on my wall and now it is gone.”“It’s as complicated looking at a great Herdwick as it is looking at a great painting,” Rebanks said.Part of the appeal of “The Shepherd’s Life” for many readers is its focus on place and belonging, things many of us think we’ve lost in our hectic, uprooted lives.Colin Dickerman, editorial director of Flatiron Books, the volume’s U.S. publisher, said memoirs “are often about trying to leave somewhere: kids from small towns who want to escape to the city, people who are sick of the city and want to move to the country.”“This was about trying to stay in one place. To me that was really fascinating.”Rebanks has been delighted by others’ interest in his life and work. His Twitter account, Herdwick Shepherd, has fans around the world. When he live-tweeted the birth of Floss’s puppies in March, he briefly became an Internet sensation.last_img read more