Brazil Drug dealers say no to crack in Rio

first_img“I see this misery,” he said. “I’m a human being too, and I’m a leader here. I want to say I helped stop this.”For the ban to really take hold, it would need the support of the city’s two other reigning factions: the Amigos dos Amigos, or Friends of Friends, and the Terceiro Comando, Third Command.That would mean giving up millions in profits. According to an estimate by the country’s Security Committee of the House and the Federal Police, Brazilians consume between 800 kilos and 1.2 tons of crack a day, a total valued at about $10 million.It’s unclear how much Rio’s traffickers earn from the drug, but police apprehensions show a surge in its availability in the state. In 2008, police seized 14 kilos; two years later the annual seizure came to 200 kilos, according to the Public Security Institute.Nonetheless, the other gangs are signing up, said attorney Flavia Froes. Her clients include the most notorious figures of Rio’s underbelly, and she has been shuttling between them, visiting favelas and far-flung high-security prisons to talk up the idea.“They’re joining en masse. They realized that this experience with crack was not good, even though it was lucrative. The social costs were tremendous. This wasn’t a drug for the rich; it was hitting their own communities.” 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center “Crack has been nothing but a disgrace for Rio. It’s time to stop,” said the drug boss in charge. He is Mandela’s second-in-command _ a stocky man wearing a Lacoste shirt, heavy gold jewelry and a backpack bulging with $100,000 in drugs and cash. At 37, he’s an elder in Rio’s most established faction, the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command. He’s wanted by police, and didn’t want his name published.He discussed the decision as he watched the night’s profits pile up in neat, rubber-banded stacks from across the narrow street. He kept one hand on his pistol and the other on a crackling radio that squawked out sales elsewhere in the slum and warned of police.The talk of crack left him agitated; he raised his voice, drawing looks from the fidgety young men across the road. Although crack makes him a lot of money, he has his own reasons to resent the drug; everyone who comes near it does, he said.His brother _ the one who studied, left the shantytown and joined the air force _ fell prey to it. Crack users smoke it and often display more addictive behavior. The brother abandoned his family and his job, and now haunts the edges of the slum with other addicts. Researcher Ignacio Cano, at the Violence Analysis Center of Rio de Janeiro State University, said crack is still being sold outside only select communities and that it’s hard to tell if the stop is a temporary, local measure or a real shift in operations citywide.He said unprecedented pressure bore down on drug gangs once they began selling crack. In particular, the addicts’ encampments were sources of social and health problems, drawing the attention of the authorities.Since March 2011, dawn raids involving police, health and welfare officials began taking users off the streets to offer treatment, food, a checkup and a hot shower. Since then, 4,706 people have cycled through the system. Of those, 663 were children or teenagers.“I have operations every day, all over Rio,” said Daphne Braga, who coordinates the effort for the city welfare office.At the same time, crack became such a dramatic problem nationally that the government allocated special funds to combat it, including a $253 million campaign launched by President Dilma Rousseff in May 2010 to stem the drug trade. Last November, another $2 billion were set aside to create treatment centers for addicts and get them off the streets. As Froes walks these slums, gingerly navigating potholed roads in six-inch stiletto heels and rhinestone-studded jeans, men with a gun in each hand defer to her, calling her “doutora,” or doctor, because of her studies, or “senhora,” or ma’am, out of respect.“While stocks last, they’ll sell. But it’s not being bought anymore,” she said. “Today we can say with certainty that we’re looking at the end of crack in Rio de Janeiro.”___Even those who question the traffickers’ sudden surge of social conscience say the idea of the city’s drug lords coming together to ban crack isn’t far-fetched. After all, a similar deal between factions kept the drug out of Rio for years.Crack first took hold in Sao Paulo, the country’s business capital, during the 1990s. In the early 2000s, it spread across Brazil in an epidemic reminiscent of the one the U.S. had experienced decades earlier. A recent survey found it was eventually sold or consumed in 98 percent of Brazilian municipalities. Most of the cities were too understaffed, underfunded and uninformed to resist its onslaught.And yet, an agreement between factions kept crack a rarity in Rio until a handful of years ago, said Mario Sergio Duarte, Rio state’s former police chief. “Rio was always cocaine and marijuana,” he said. “If drug traffickers are coming up with this strategy of going back to cocaine and marijuana, it’s not because they suddenly developed an awareness, or because they want to be charitable and help the addicts. It’s just that crack brings them too much trouble to be worth it.”Duarte believes dealers turned to crack when their other business started losing ground within the city.Police started taking back slums long given over to the drug trade as Rio vied to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The plan disrupted trade, and the factions began hemorrhaging money, said Duarte. Crack seemed like the solution, and the drug flooded the market.“Crack was profit; it’s cheap, but it sells. Addiction comes quick. They were trying to make up their losses,” he said.Soon, the gangs were being haunted by the consequences.Unlike the customers who came for marijuana or cocaine, dropped cash and left, crack users hung around the sales points, scraping for money for the next hit. They broke the social code that usually maintains a tense calm in the slums; they stole, begged, threatened or sold their bodies to get their next rock. Their presence made the hard life there nearly unbearable. Also predicting risks, attorney Froes has prepared a civil court action demanding local and state governments prepare treatment centers for users.“There will be a great weaning of all these addicts as they’re deprived of drugs,” she said. “We’re not prepared to take on all the people who will need care.”The addicts recognize the difficulty of their own rehabilitation.One 16-year-old boy laying on a bare piece of foam said he’d studied until the 2nd grade but couldn’t read. Now, he was going on his third year in the streets.“Who is going to give me work?” he asked.Sharing his mattress was a 28-year-old woman. It had been three years since she last saw her three children and parents in Niteroi, the city across the bay from Rio. She was filthy, all of her body bearing the marks of life on the streets: bruises and open wounds, missing front teeth, matted hair.“I wasn’t born like this. You think my parents want to see me now?” she asked. “I can’t go back there.”A teenager with jaundiced, bloodshot eyes said she couldn’t remember how long she’d been on the streets, or her age. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Associated PressRIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Business was brisk in the Mandela shantytown on a recent night. In the glow of a weak light bulb, customers pawed through packets of powdered cocaine and marijuana priced at $5, $10, $25. Teenage boys with semiautomatic weapons took in money and made change while flirting with girls in belly-baring tops lounging nearby.Next to them, a gaggle of kids jumped on a trampoline, oblivious to the guns and drug-running that are part of everyday life in this and hundreds of other slums, known as favelas, across this metropolitan area of 12 million people. Conspicuously absent from the scene was crack, the most addictive and destructive drug in the triad that fuels Rio’s lucrative narcotics trade. Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help She knew her name _ Natalia Gonzales _ and that she was born in 1997.“I have nowhere to go,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. Softly, she started to sing a hymn, and its call for salvation in the afterlife took on an urgent note.“God, come save me, extend your hand,” she sang. “Heal my heart, make me live again.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day In May, 150 federal police officers occupied a Rio favela to implement a pilot program fighting the crack trade and helping users.“There are many reasons why they might stop,” said Cano.___Crack’s social cost is clear where the drug is still sold, right outside Mandela and Jacarezinho. In the shantytown of Manguinhos, along a violent area known as the Gaza Strip, an army of crack addicts lives in encampments next to a rail line.Another couple hundred gather inside the slum, buying from a stand inside a little restaurant. Customers eat next to young men with guns and must step around a table laden with packaged drugs and tightly bound wads of cash to use the restroom. Crack users smoke outside, by the lights of a community soccer field where an animated game draws onlookers late into the night.The Rev. Antonio Carlos Costa, founder of the River of Peace social service group, knows the dealers and believes the ban on crack here is “real, without return, and has a real chance of spreading to other favelas.”That’s good news for residents, he said, but users will have to migrate to look for drugs, and that might expose them to real risk.“They won’t be welcome. This society wants them dead,” he said. “This won’t be a problem that can be solved only with money. We’ll need professionals who really take an interest in these people. We’ll need compassion. It’ll be a challenge to our solidarity.” Once crack was introduced here about six years ago, Mandela and the surrounding complex of shantytowns became Rio’s main outdoor drug market, a “cracolandia,” or crackland, where users bought the rocks, smoked and lingered until the next hit. Hordes of addicts lived in cardboard shacks and filthy blankets, scrambling for cash and a fix.Now, there was no crack on the rough wooden table displaying the goods for sale, and the addicts were gone. The change hadn’t come from any police or public health campaign. Instead, the dealers themselves have stopped selling the drug in Mandela and nearby Jacarezinho in a move that traffickers and others say will spread citywide within the next two years.The drug bosses, often born and raised in the very slums they now lord over, say crack destabilizes their communities, making it harder to control areas long abandoned by the government. Law enforcement and city authorities, however, take credit for the change, arguing that drug gangs are only trying to create a distraction and persuade police to call off an offensive to take back the slums.Dealers shake their heads, insisting it was their decision to stop selling crack, the crystalized form of cocaine. The Mandela drug boss said crack even sapped the drug kingpins’ authority.“How can I tell someone he can’t steal, when I know I sold him the drugs that made him this way?” he said.Many saw their own family members and childhood friends fall under the drug’s spell.“The same crack I sell to your son is being sold to mine. I talked to one of the pioneers in selling crack in Rio. His son’s using now. Everyone is saying we have to stop.”In Mandela, residents had to step over crack users on their way between home and work and warn their children to be careful around the “zombies.”“There were robberies in the favela, violence, people killed in the middle of the street, people having sex or taking a crap anywhere,” said Cleber, an electronics repair shop owner who has lived in Mandela for 16 years. He declined to give his last name because he lives in a neighborhood ruled by gang members, and like many, prefers not to comment publicly.“Now we’re going out again, we can set up a barbecue pit outside, have a drink with friends, without them gathering around,” he said. “We’re a little more at ease.” Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more

Red Cross says 1in100 forced from homes

first_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day GENEVA (AP) – The Red Cross says 72.67 million people _ about one of every 100 around the world _ were forced to leave their homes last year by conflicts, disasters or development.The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says about 43 million were uprooted by conflict and violence, 15 million were made homeless by natural or technological disasters and 15 million were displaced by development during 2011. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project But the IFRC reported Tuesday the figures represent a drop from 101.2 million such people in 2010, 74.85 million in 2009 and 92.30 million in 2008.The report says the figures strongly correlate to “mega-disasters” such as the 2008 earthquake in China, the 2009 floods and cyclones in India and the Pakistan floods and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix How do cataracts affect your vision?center_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Top Stories Sponsored Stories last_img read more

Afghan police school tries to fix struggling force

first_img“In 10 years this academy I promise will be as good as any in the world,” he said inside his comfortable office across from the parade grounds. A giant picture of Karzai hangs on the wall. A bouquet of dusty plastic flowers dominates a small bookcase, and plush couches line the walls.Khaliq said the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014 could be an opportunity for Afghans to rise to the occasion and prove themselves, but he acknowledged that the job ahead is colossal.After the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, the academy’s traditional three-year program was mostly supplanted with a new eight-week training course in the rush to turn out uniformed policemen. Large sections of the police were drawn from the ranks of militias whose warlord leaders sit in the Afghan parliament. Others came from remote villages. Few had seen the inside of a school.Standards for the eight-week police training program are low, according to Khaliq. There is no educational requirement, and new recruits don’t even have to be able to sign their name, just provide their fingerprints. They do, however, need to be recommended by a government official, who vouches they are neither Taliban nor a criminal. The readiness of Afghanistan’s security forces is central to U.S. and NATO plans to withdraw all forces from the country by the end of 2014, and the academy’s new commander wants to help turn around a 146,000-strong national police force long riddled with corruption, incompetence and factional rivalries.Such problems are not always acknowledged publicly. On Thursday, President Hamid Karzai said that his military and police are prepared to take full responsibility for security if the American-led international coalition decides to speed up the handover. And a statement released this week by the NATO-led force, ISAF, called the Afghan National Army the most respected institution in the country and said “the Afghan national police also rank highly.”But the National Police Academy’s director, Mullah Dad Pazoish, presents a different viewpoint.“There are police who don’t even know the meaning of the word `police,’” Pazoish said in a recent interview. “We have generals who have no training. They are the jihadi commanders.”International observers warn that the largely illiterate police force will disintegrate after 2014 into factional militias more loyal to local warlords than to the state. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Nearly 30 women are enrolled at the academy. They study with their male counterparts but train separately and eat their lunch behind a giant white curtain, hidden from the hundreds of men in the cavernous dining halls. The female police officers are trained to protect and search other women. They are not deployed to outposts and checkpoints. At the academy they wear the gray uniform, with a longer tunic and a black headscarf.A female recruit who goes by only one name, Spushmai, said she does not fear retaliation from insurgents who advocate a strict code of conduct for women, but that “we will be very worried after the foreigners leave.”Another fresh recruit, who wanted to practice his English, spoke haltingly.“We are the future. We will have real training and education,” said Azim Aga, 18, from northern Baghlan province. “Right now the police who are on the street are not educated and are from the jihad,” a reference to Afghanistan’s successive wars. “We will be proud policemen.”But pride alone will not defeat the militants.In one Taliban attack on a police station this month, only two of the four officers had weapons, according to Khaliq. He said police have more vehicles than weapons and that barely 60 percent of the police out on the streets and in the rural outback have communications equipment. Quick workouts for men Associated PressKABUL (AP) – At the gate to the National Police Academy, on the western edge of the Afghan capital, the guard’s rifle bolts into firing position. “Stop!” he shouts.It’s 4 a.m., the street lights are not working and the guard’s superiors had neglected to tell him that the red Toyota Corolla would be arriving. Time and again, suicide bombers have attacked Afghanistan’s police and army outposts. So one of the first lessons taught at the academy is diligence. Khaliq, who acknowledged the mountain of criticism heaped on the police, said they also make some of the greatest sacrifices, living among the insurgents, not knowing if their neighbor is Taliban.This month in Ghazni province, Zalmai Faizi, a seven-year veteran of the national police force, buried his 5-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son. Taliban militants shot and killed them both as they sat in his parked car outside the family’s home.Faizi’s voice broke, his eyes watered and he bit his lip as he recounted the killing in an interview. For a moment he couldn’t speak. He clenched his fist and in a hushed voice said: “I don’t want anyone to see me cry, because it will give strength to my enemies and hurt the morale of our policemen.”___Kathy Gannon is AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed on Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairycenter_img Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Falaq Niaz Samedi, a lawyer and law professor at the academy, said government officials promote poor-quality candidates and then blame the academy for turning out corrupt police.“I was at a seminar when the deputy (interior) minister said to me, `All police are robbers,’ but I told him, `Police are not the robbers. It is you people who are bringing in the robbers. You take all those people that you send out and the police will not be robbers.’”When he arrived on the job, Khaliq said he was surprised to find only a handful of students in the three-year program. The academy’s entrance exam had also been suspended for two years.He immediately held nationwide exams in which 8,257 men took part. Nine hundred were selected for the academy.But a discouraged-looking Khaliq said the government is already applying pressure to reduce the standards for entrance. Currently recruits have to have a Grade 12 education and be 18 to 25 years old, but the government wants to increase the upper age limit to 35 _ presumably to accommodate more unemployed militiamen.Khaliq said 30 years of war have devastated the country’s education system and that even high school graduates today are poorly educated. Nevertheless, Khaliq is trying to shore up standards, increasing the three-year program to four to allow for one year of specialization. The curriculum has been expanded to include human rights, prisoner treatment and gender studies. There are also questions about the ability of the Afghan army, which continues to suffer from a high rate of attrition.A report released this month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group concluded that Afghan security forces are not even close to being ready to take over security nationwide. “Only 7 percent of the army and 9 percent of the national police units are considered capable of independent action even with advisers,” the report stated.And Karzai himself complained two weeks ago that Afghan forces are not getting the weapons they need from NATO allies, suggesting Afghanistan might have to go to other countries such as China and Russia to acquire them.Little noticed amid the criticism is that the police have taken the heaviest casualties in the war. On average, nearly 10 police officers are killed or wounded every day, according to the ISAF statement.The risks were clearly on the mind of the guard who recently pointed his weapon at the Toyota approaching the gates of the 70-year-old academy, the nation’s oldest, a sprawling compound that harks back to a peaceful Afghanistan ruled by a monarchy.Gen. Nawroz Khaliq, who took command of the academy eight months ago, wants to restore higher standards to the institution. A career cop with a receding hairline, Khaliq envisions an academy that will create a new generation of policemen who understand the law and are committed to upholding it. 0 Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img

Far right protesters storm French mosque

first_img Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement French TV broadcast images of dozens of rowdy, waving and chanting protesters on the mosque roof next to its minaret. They unfurled a banner that read “Generation Identitaire” and demanded a referendum on immigration and mosques. The banner also bore the number 732, which Dassonville said was a reference to the year when the army of medieval French leader Charles Martel stopped an Arab invasion in Poitiers.Muslim leaders said the protesters had disrupted a prayer inside, and expressed incomprehension over the stunt.“We are thunderstruck … these are people who are stuck in the year 732, and who don’t see that the world has changed,” Poitiers imam El Haj Boubaker told France’s BFM-TV. “People can live differently than in a mindset of war and conflict.”France is home to Western Europe’s largest population of Muslims, estimated to be at least 5 million even though the government does not provide official figures. Many have family roots in former French colonies in northern Africa. French governments for years have struggled to integrate Muslims, who often pray in cellars, apartments and, at times, in the street because of a shortage of mosques in the country. Associated PressPARIS (AP) – Dozens of far right extremists stormed atop an unfinished mosque in western France on Saturday to show their hostility toward it and denounce immigration that has brought millions of Muslims into the country, a regional official said.About 70 protesters traveled from around France for Saturday morning’s demonstration in the city of Poitiers, which has symbolic meaning as the place where a French medieval ruler once drove away Arab invaders, regional prefect Yves Dassonville said by phone. After police arrived, the protesters dispersed without resistance _ and three were detained to face accusations of “incitement of racial hatred” and damage to property, he said. Comments   Share   Dassonville said the completion of the Poitiers mosque has lagged for years because of ongoing troubles the Muslim community has had in drumming up needed financing. He said he was assembling an interfaith meeting of Jewish, Catholic and Muslim leaders in the city Saturday to show unity in the face of the far right demonstration.Interior Minister Manuel Valls denounced a “hateful and inadmissible provocation” by the extremists.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project How men can have a healthy 2019 How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

SKorea approves 6 million in aid for NKorea

first_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Park took office after five years of high tensions between the authoritarian government in Pyongyang and conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Seoul blames North Korea for attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. Park has vowed a tough response to any North Korean provocations but has also supported a policy meant to build trust and encourage dialogue with Pyongyang.The South Korean ministry also approved about $700,000 for a project allowing people in the South to leave video messages for family members in the North they were separated from because of the 1950-1953 Korean War. Many elderly people fear they’ll die before reuniting with their loved ones.The announcement of the $6 million in aid comes as the two Koreas remain deadlocked over efforts to restart a jointly-run factory park in North Korea that has been shuttered since Pyongyang withdrew its workers in April. North Korea unleashed a torrent of threats in March and April, including vows of nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul. Pyongyang said it was responding to annual U.S.-South Korean military drills and U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s February nuclear test.The rival Koreas have had six unsuccessful rounds of talks meant to restart the Kaesong industrial complex, which was the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. But Pyongyang hasn’t responded to a call by Seoul in late July for another round of talks. 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Comments   Share   Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Sponsored Stories Top Stories (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea has approved $6 million in government aid for vaccines, medical care and food for North Korean children, officials said Tuesday, the first such humanitarian aid for Pyongyang since South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in February.Seoul will send the U.N. Children’s Fund the money Wednesday, and it will be used over the next year, the South Korean Unification Ministry, which is responsible for ties with North Korea, said in a statement. Seoul last provided aid through the U.N. agency in 2011.last_img read more

Vatican 100000 attend Syria peace vigil

first_imgVATICAN CITY (AP) – Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter’s Square for a four-hour Syria peace vigil late Saturday, answering Pope Francis’ call for a grassroots cry for peace that was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in Syria and in vigils around the world.The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Parents, stop beating yourself up Medea Benjamin, a founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, said a cross-section of Americans, many of whom disagree on a variety of issues, are united against military intervention.“We have suddenly found ourselves united as Americans, overwhelmingly saying we will not let you drag us into another war,” Benjamin shouted into a megaphone in front of the White House.Francis announced the day of fasting and prayer Sept. 1, alarmed at the acceleration of U.S. threats to strike Syria after the chemical weapons attack.Since then, the Vatican has ramped up its peace message, summoning ambassadors for a briefing by the Holy See foreign minister this week. Francis appealed directly to world powers at the Group of 20 meeting in Russia, urging them to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria and work instead for a negotiated settlement.Bishops around the world joined Francis in the daylong fast and organized similar vigils in their home dioceses. In Francis’ native Argentina, human rights and religious groups held a vigil in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo and in cities across the country. Vatican Radio reported similar initiatives were taking place throughout Italy, in Cuba and elsewhere. Even the grand mufti of Damascus, who thanked the pope for his initiative in a letter earlier this week, invited Muslims to join the fast in solidarity. How men can have a healthy 2019 Comments   Share   Vatican officials have stressed that Saturday’s event was religious, not political. But the gathering nevertheless took on the air of an anti-war rally, with protesters holding up Syrian flags and banners in the square reading “Don’t attack Syria” and “Obama you don’t have a dream, you have a nightmare.” A few rainbow “Peace” flags fluttered in the breeze.But by the time the vigil got underway, the posters and flags had mainly disappeared as a more religious tone took over, with leaders from a variety of Christian and non-Christian denominations joining cardinals, politicians and ordinary folk for the evening of prayer, hymns and meditation.“This is already a success, the fact that all of us are here, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, atheists,” a Hindu believer named Anata said. Pilgrims “made an effort to fast, not to do many things, and come here from all over Italy and Europe. This is already a success.”The pope entered the square from the basilica steps, foregoing his usual high-spirited drive through in his open car _ an indication of the sobriety of the evening, which capped a day of fasting for the pontiff. The 76-year-old pope held up well throughout the four hours _ lasting longer than many who by the vigil’s 11 p.m. conclusion had already gone home. He thanked those who had stayed to the end for their company, and wished them a good night’s sleep.The peace vigil marked something of a novelty for the Vatican: Nothing of its kind has ever taken place in St. Peter’s Square, though popes past have participated in daylong peace prayers in places like Assisi, known for its peace-loving native son and the pope’s namesake, St. Francis.That’s not to say popes haven’t taken vigorous anti-war positions in the past: Pope Paul VI famously uttered the words “War never again, never again war” at the United Nations in 1965 as the Vietnam War raged, a refrain that has been repeated by every pope since. Pope John Paul II sent an envoy to President George W. Bush on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq urging him to stand down _ to no avail.Francis has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but has been careful not to lay blame on any one side, exhorting world leaders instead to focus on the plight of Syrian civilians and the need in general to end the violence. Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are “captivated by the idols of dominion and power” and destroy God’s creation through war.“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!” he said.“May the noise of weapons cease!” he said. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity.”In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a service in the al-Zaytoun Church, joining Francis’ invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer and to oppose outside military intervention in the conflict.Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch and All East presided, saying most countries supported a political solution to the crisis in Syria and few wanted military action. “This is the start of the victory,” he told the Damascus faithful. “No to war. Yes for peace.”In Washington, at least 150 protesters picketed in front of the White House and marched to Capitol Hill to voice their opposition to a U.S. military strike in Syria. Anti-war protests were also held in other U.S. cities, including one in New York City’s Times Squares and a prayer vigil in Boston that echoed Saturday’s massive gathering at the Vatican. Other church officials, both at the Vatican and in dioceses, have been more pointed in their criticism of any internationalization of the conflict, saying U.S.-French military strikes will only exacerbate the situation for civilians, particularly Christian minorities.___Albert Aji contributed from Damascus, Syria.___Follow Nicole Winfield at Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

UltraOrthodox Israeli minister slams Reform Judaism members

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s minister for religious affairs criticized Reform Judaism on Tuesday, saying he doesn’t consider members of the denomination to be Jews.David Azoulay of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party told Israel’s Army Radio Tuesday that these are “Jews who lost their way” and he hoped they would “return to the midst of Judaism according to Jewish law.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement saying he rejects the minister’s “hurtful remarks about reform Judaism which do not reflect the position of the government.” Mesa family survives lightning strike to home New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academiescenter_img Top Stories Sponsored Stories Parents, stop beating yourself up Comments   Share   The comments by the religious affairs minister followed an Israeli Cabinet decision to reverse an initiative aimed at easing the conversion process to Judaism. It marked a blow to the previous government’s attempts to break the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel and make Judaism more inclusive.The more liberal Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism make up the largest denominations in the United States but they are mostly marginal in Israel, where religious life is dominated by a strict ultra-Orthodox establishment.“I have spoken with minister Azoulay to remind him that Israel is a home for all Jews and that as minister of religious affairs, he serves all of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said in the statement.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.last_img read more

Egg prices blowing up because of avian flu

first_img WASHINGTON (AP) — Eggs are getting much more expensive — by the dozen and otherwise.The outbreak of avian flu caused the cost of eggs to nearly double last month for producers. Wholesale prices for chicken eggs jumped 84.5 percent in June, the Labor Department said Wednesday.The spike comes amid otherwise tame inflation across the rest of the economy. The producer price index, which measures the costs of goods and services before they reach consumers, increased 0.4 percent in June. Core prices, which exclude energy and food, rose 0.3 percent in June.Relatively cheap oil has limited inflation across much of the U.S. economy. The cost of Brent crude oil in the markets barely budged for much of June, after climbing at the start of May to nearly $68 a barrel.Gasoline prices have stayed relatively flat so far in July, dropping to a national average of $2.78 a gallon from $2.80 a month ago, according to AAA. Average retail gas prices have fallen nearly 23 percent over the past 12 months.Federal Reserve officials are monitoring measures of inflation as they weigh whether to raise a key short-term interest rate. They have kept the federal funds rate at a record low near zero for more than six years, making it cheaper to borrow, spend and invest in ways that aid economic growth.Fed officials have said they want to be “reasonably confident” that inflation is headed toward their 2 percent target, which would signal a stronger economy.The Fed will meet for two days starting July 28 to consider interest rates. Still, most private economists believe that September will be the earliest that they will hike rates.Analysts say the Fed wants assurance that the economy is strong enough to raise rates without disrupting growth. But even once the Fed starts raising rates, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other officials have said that any increases will be gradual. Sponsored Stories Over the past 12 months, producer prices have actually fallen 0.7 percent due to lower oil and gasoline costs. Wholesale gas prices rose 4.3 percent last month but are down 30.3 percent from a year ago, keeping inflation firmly in check.A surprising amount of the increase in producer prices last month came from eggs, which make up an extremely small share of the broader index but have soared in price since April.“When they’re rising at a 58,000 percent annualized rate, as they have the past two months, the impact is material,” said Ted Wieseman, an analyst at Morgan Stanley who estimates that eggs alone account for nearly a fifth of the total 0.4 percent increase in producer prices last month.Wholesale chicken egg prices recorded the largest increase since the government began tracking the costs in 1937. More than 49 million chickens and turkeys died or were euthanized in 15 states this spring as the flu virus spread from the Pacific Northwest into Midwest farms.The loss of those birds has cut into the supply of eggs, provoking a shortage that should begin to cause higher egg prices at grocery stores, Wieseman said.Still, the producer price index showed that overall inflation remains mild. Comments   Share   Mesa family survives lightning strike to home In this photo taken, Friday June 12, 2015, butcher Jorge Gonzalez weighs steaks at a local grocery store in the Little Havana area of Miami. The Labor Department reports on U.S. producer price inflation in June on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) How do cataracts affect your vision? Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 5 treatments for adult scoliosis 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Top Stories “If the economy evolves as we expect, economic conditions likely would make it appropriate at some point this year to raise the federal funds target,” Yellen said in prepared remarks Wednesday before a congressional committee.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.last_img read more

Qantas confirms Jetstar talking to AirAsia about possible merger

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: W.X <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Qantas has recently confirmed that wholly owned subsidiary Jetstar has been talking to Malaysia-based low cost carrier AirAsia about a possible joint venture.This news comes after Qantas eyed Malaysian Airlines earlier in the year as a possible partner earlier in the year in order to set up a strong presence in Southeast Asia.“Qantas confirms that its wholly-owned subsidiary Jetstar and AirAsia have entered discussions regarding a potential cost-saving joint venture,” said Qantas.“However, these discussions are at a preliminary stage and no binding agreements have been reached.”If successful, this cooperation should better position Qantas to battle it out with Singapore Airlines and its low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways.The announcement also comes days after an Australian federal government aviation White Paper indicated that foreign ownership laws on Qantas may be slackened.last_img read more

Thousands flee as Tomas rips through Fiji

first_imgMore than 10,000 people have fled to 178 evacuation centres across Fiji as Tropical Cyclone Tomas continues to thrash the archipelago with extreme winds and giant waves.The cyclone is one of the strongest to hit Fiji for several years, with the Fiji Meteorological Service recording winds speeds of up to 175 kilometres per hour moving in a southerly direction.There have been reports of at least one village evacuated due to flooding while heavy rain and wind has battered Koro, Nairai and Ovalau on the Lomaiviti island.Contact had been lost with Lau and parts of Vanua Levu as antennas were damaged by the winds, but communications links were restored this morning according to disaster management officials.No communication has been received from Udu or Cikobia which lay directly in Tomas’ path according to the Fiji Times.A 31-year-old woman named Tamarisi Tabua is the only reported death so far. Tabua saved her sisters and two children before being swept away by strong waves on Vanna Levu.Reports this morning said there were 40 people in two evacuation centres in Nadi, 477 people in 12 centres across Ba, and 480 people in six centres in Tavua with hundreds in other parts of Fiji. <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> However, post-disaster operations have already commenced today with the National Emergency Operation Centre taking action on immediate needs.These included securing freezer units for temporary morgues through AusAID, supplying a 10,000litre water tank for the temporary Navua Hospital at Ro Matanitobua House and two direct lines for the Commissioner Eastern Division Emergency Operations Centre.Tourism Fiji said Air Pacific, Air New Zealand and V-Australia would resume flights in and out of Nadi today.The tourism body’s chief executive Josefa Tuamoto said the country was very experienced at cleaning up after a cyclone and was confident that once the worst was over Fiji would be back to normal within days.Tomas is expected to continue on its southerly track throughout the day, passing near the south of Lakeba tonight and moving to the southeast of Suva tomorrow morningcenter_img Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.Llast_img read more

ShangriLa embraces hospitality philosophy for new brand campaign

first_img<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Shangri-La Hotel Sydney unveiled their new brand campaign last night to coincide with the group’s global launch focusing on their distinctive philosophy of hospitality entitled, “It’s in our nature”. The campaign, which includes a 2 minute advertisement shot in the French Alps as well as multiple print versions, was said to cost “seven figures” and will immediately be rolled out on various print, viral and in-flight programming avenues.The new brand was said to be inspired by the essence of Shangri-La culture, ‘embracing people from the heart and treating them like family’, according to the hotel’s manifesto.“Our brand is growing, and by 2012 we expect to have 100 Shangri-La properties worldwide, so while we continue to expand we need to compete in every increasing fields, we need to make these values known,” Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, Director of Communications, Joanna Keogh said.“For us, this is more important than talking about palatial buildings or beautiful locations, which is why we choose this dramatically different and powerful style of campaign.  It conveys the value of genuine kindness, something that is very relevant in today’s society,” Shangri-La Hotels, President & CEO, Greg Dogan said. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: D.Mlast_img read more

Australian inbound operators look to China

first_imgAustralia’s inbound tourism industry must get “more deeply involved” in the increasingly important Chinese market or see it “pass us by”, according to Asia Tourism Relations Managing Director Glen Hingley.”This is a quickly evolving market and I know many of Australia’s most experienced tourism sellers and marketers are constantly seeking more information on China,” Mr Hingley said ahead of this week’s 2011 ATEC Symposium in Hamilton Island.With the emergence of China as Australia’s leading tourism expenditure market, worth around AU$3 billion annually, Australian tour operators are looking at ways in which they can capitalise on the rapid growth from the world’s second largest economy.   According to Mr Hingley, the Chinese market will require traditional marketing and distribution models to make way for new processes, providing a unique challenge for the industry. These sentiments have been echoed by ATEC manging director Felicia Mariani, who said the recently signed Tourism Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and China would open the door for more tourists from the Asian nation.  “Australia can offer an unrivalled travel experience with beaches, nature and culture all within easy access of China and it is up to our industry to provide the kind of tailored services that really gets them in the door,” Ms Mariani said.“Capitalising on the growth in the Chinese market relies on our ability to create and deliver quality experiences that are matched to the needs and expectations of these new consumers and research is critical in gaining a clear picture of how the Australian product should respond in order to deliver to these growth markets.” Australia offers Chinese visitors world-class beaches Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.Hlast_img read more

India Australia connection a dream come true

first_imgAir India launches daily direct flight to Australia due to popular demand. For more photos, check out our facebook gallery. Air India’s direct service will operate daily with a 256-seater Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner. Source = ETB News: L.B. The flight had over 60 domestic transfer passengers and more than 40 international transit passengers.center_img Air India has launched its first daily direct flight from Delhi to Sydney and Melbourne after a 22 year break, with the Dreamliner landing at Sydney Airport this morning. The long awaited service is in response to a strong demand for direct services, with 140,000 passengers travelling between Delhi and Sydney last year alone. “India is one of our fastest growing inbound markets, particularly amongst leisure travellers, and with Indian arrivals up nearly eight percent so far this year, the demand is clearly there”, Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said.last_img read more

Australians mixing business with pleasure

first_img84 percent of Australians said they never argued with their partner about working during a holiday. Source = ETB News: P.T. The most popular devices used for work during a holiday were smartphones, laptops and tablets. 63 percent of Australians said they were not expected to be contactable and work while on holiday. More than half of Australian travellers check their emails when holidaying, while some push their partner’s patience by writing work presentations whilst on vacation, according to new research. When it comes to redeeming their full annual leave allowance, 65 percent of Australians make use of this option and approximately 40 percent take more than the regular four-week leave allowance.  center_img Do you check work emails while on vacation? Despite 78 percent of respondents indicating that they only make calls and send emails during holidays, 16 percent confessed to constructing work presentations.  “The findings of our survey indicate that work demands in this age of technology are eating into the holidays of travellers, but most Australians are still able to take it in their stride and maintain a work-life balance,” TripAdvisor spokesperson Jean Ow-Yeong said. TripAdvisor’s ‘Working on Holiday’ survey has revealed that 55 percent of Australians admitted to checking their emails while away on holiday, with 60 percent checking their mail once per day.last_img read more

roomsXML applauds the Rewarding Agents

first_imgroomsXML applauds the Rewarding AgentsIn a time when there has been negative press around travel agents it’s refreshing to see a positive news story emerge.Early in 2015 roomsXML quietly launched “Real Rewards” where agents are rewarded with Coles Myer vouchers. But there’s more, as explained by Mark Luckey, MD roomsXML Asia Pacific.“Agents told us straight up they wanted meaningful incentives. We wanted to deliver not only that but to create something extra, new opportunities.“If agents earn $100 worth of vouchers, they can ask roomsXML to donate $200 to supporting kid’s education in India. So the agent donates back, roomsXML matches the contribution and we have created something extra.“We then collaborate with the agent to generate them business. With a media feeding frenzy on agencies like CTS going broke, the industry needs a good news story. The story here is about these agents who did just that; money out of their pocket back into the global community.In no particular order, the agents who participated are Departure Lounge Berwick, Goway Travel Sydney, Balwyn Travel, East Ivanhoe Travel & Cruise, Reho Travel and Boutique Travel Services Sydney. Several agents declined to be mentioned due to concerns on “non-preferred” arrangements.Mark continues with “It’s very gratifying to be doing business with travel agents like these. We think customers of these agents will see it the same way.In total for the first quarter of the “Real Rewards” program, nearly $3,000 was raised.“It’s a good start. What’s amazing is just how many agents have their own causes and programs in place supporting World Vision, Oxfam, Nvader and so on. So many Australian and New Zealand agents have a global perspective of how lucky they are and have a sense of duty to give something back.”Travel agents wanting to join the roomsXML “Real Rewards” program can click here roomsXMLSource = roomsXMLlast_img read more

Gold Coast Company set to Transform Travel Agency with new CEO

first_imgTess WillcoxGold Coast Company set to Transform Travel Agency with new CEOWorld Resorts of Distinction (WRD), is delighted to announce the appointment of sustainable travel advocate and industry virtuoso, Tess Willcox, as Owner and CEO.WRD is a leading, Gold Coast-based Resort Creative Agency that provides its carefully-curated portfolio of some of the world’s best luxury, sustainable resorts with a suite of personalised services including marketing, social media, sales, branding and publicity.Tess has been a crucial member of the WRD team since 2004, when she joined the company as a Sales Executive fresh out of university with a Bachelor of Communications and dreams of becoming a travel journalist.Today, 14 years later, she is celebrating the purchase of the business that has not only defined her career but has also allowed her to pursue her single greatest passion – championing environmental awareness.“WRD is essentially an extension of my personal life and how much I love exploring and preserving the world,” Tess said. “I have always felt extremely fortunate to have my dream job and was driven to buy the business because I knew there were ways in which I could expand it that we hadn’t previously explored, including further embedding the sustainability seed within our culture.”“My vision for WRD is that we trailblaze the sustainable luxury space in travel by curating a global community of socially responsible travellers who are committed to exploring the world, and conserving it at the same time,” she added.Tess noted that while the travel industry has many cultural and economic benefits; it also, unfortunately, has a negative impact on the environment. It is one of the largest industries in the world – surpassing that of oil exports, food products and automobiles – and according to a study published in Nature Climate Change in May 2018, the carbon footprint of international travel is four times bigger than previously thought.Increased pollution; discharges into the sea; habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation; and the depletion of the ozone layer are just some of the harmful impacts of global tourism, which produces about 8 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.“WRD was borne out of our desire to combat the negative environmental toll of the global travel industry and provide the growing number of conscious travellers with more responsible options,” Tess said.Hailing from a family of entrepreneurs and hard workers, Tess is well versed in what it takes to build a successful business, and said surrounding herself with a skilled and equally passionate team is paramount.“WRD is made up of creative, capable and driven professionals with a genuine appetite for environmentally-friendly travel,” she said. “We live and breathe sustainability and that’s what makes our team, vision and brand proposition so unique.”“We’re a young team and we’re proud of it. We’re also entirely female, which is not exactly intentional because I am a big believer in diversity, but it is refreshing in the business world, especially on the Gold Coast, where a lot of the biggest companies are run predominately by men.”Tess’ small yet dynamic and pioneering team of marketing, PR, social media and design specialists are intimately familiar with the travel industry and well equipped to challenge the status quo.Their combined experience spans some of the biggest names in the tourism and hospitality sectors in Australia including Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific, MTA – Mobile Travel Agents, Mercure and Seaworld Resort & Water Park.About World Resorts of DistinctionWe are the home of transformative travel. We bring together a global community of travellers who seek authenticity and sustainability, offering a carefully-curated collection of socially responsible, sustainable and distinctive travel experiences in some of the world’s most luxurious settings.Source = World Resorts of Distinction (WRD)last_img read more

Qantas unveils second film series under Feels Like Home brand campaign

first_imgQantas launched the second series of films in its ‘Feels Like Home’ brand campaign. The series builds further on the first series launched in November 2014 and the simple concept of what the national carrier has been doing for almost 100 years, bringing people home.The new films will be released to Qantas Frequent Flyer members and Qantas employees via digital channels. Filmed in New York, regional Victoria, Sydney, Longreach and Brisbane, the series highlights the reach of Qantas’ international, domestic and regional network and also features Qantas employees.The second series tells the story of the Shelper family as they journey home with Qantas. “The story of the Shelper family, of siblings living in different part of Australia and the world, is a very real one for many Australians. The anticipation, the joy and emotion felt when journeying home is powerful and for many Australians that sense of homecoming starts the moment they see Qantas’ red tail or step on board,” said Qantas Brand Marketing and Corporate Affairs Group Executive, Olivia Wirth.last_img read more

2015 marks a milestone year for Qatar Airways

first_img2015 had been a milestone year for Qatar Airways right from the beginning, with the start of A350 operations for which it was the global launch customer, to growing its fleet by 20%, through to ending on a high note by launching a new brand campaign, ‘Going Places Together’ and debuting an exclusive on-board safety video featuring the world-famous FC Barcelona players.Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker said, “This has been a momentous way to end what has been a truly historic year for the national carrier of Qatar which has seen, amongst other things, several top award wins, the forging of new partnerships, strong engagement on social media, the launch of a brand new aircraft type and the start of several new routes on both its passenger and cargo networks.”Responding to the growing demand in its existing markets, the airline increased service to more than 30 of its destinations. Moreover, in the recently launched global ‘Going Places Together’ campaign, the airline highlights its core ambitious plan for this year, that is, to strengthen its global reach by bringing people and places together. This year, it has plans of further expansion to Adelaide, Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Los Angeles, Sydney and Ras Al Khaimah.“The phenomenal response to our new global brand campaign and safety video has been overwhelming and has strengthened the strong bond that Qatar Airways has with its passengers. The new brand campaign evokes an emotional connection inspiring passengers to go to new places together, where our dreams and ambitions may be brought to life. In a more humorous tone, our new safety video with FC Barcelona players has captured the attention of our passengers and the wider communities, including our large social media fan base,” said Salam Al Shawa, Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Marketing and Corporate Communications.last_img read more

TTF Kolkata Hyderabad to showcase various facets of tourism sector

first_imgExhibitors will promote their best and latest tourism products to the Indian and International travel trade industry during the TTF season. These participants have great expectations from TTF as they see it as a platform to give their business a momentum.By Sulagna GhoshTravel & Tourism Fair (TTF) is India’s oldest and largest travel trade show, which is now organised in nine cities annually. With TTF Kolkata (July 8-10) and TTF Hyderabad (July 15-17) round the corner, it is pleasing to see the response gathered from multiple Indian as well as International organisations.These two shows will be followed by TTF West Series covering Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai and Pune, together comprising the biggest tourism market in India.Highlighting the importance of the TTF Kolkata and Hyderabad, Sanjiv Agarwal, Chairman & CEO, Fairfest Media Limited (organiser of TTF shows and Publisher of Travel News Digest), said, “Needless to mention the huge importance of Kolkata as a source market and gateway to the Eastern India, those in travel business know it too well. As usual, the space in TTF Kolkata is fully sold out. Immediately after Kolkata, TTF Hyderabad provides an equally important opportunity to be present in a hugely strategic market in the centre of South India. We have recently experienced a rapid expansion of TTF in Hyderabad.”Country representations from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh, Dubai, China, Bhutan, Macau and more have set the bar high at various TTFs this year. Among the state tourism departments who have in-principally committed big participation in these two TTF editions are: Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana.TTF series will witness a vast participation of major Indian and global players. The big private exhibitors, in-principally confirming in multiple locations include Adlabs, Travstarz, Oyo Rooms, IRCTC, Merakey Technology solutions, Nicco Parks.Talking about the agenda and promotional activities at this year’s TTF editions, Pankaj Nagpal, Managing Director, Travstarz Global Group, commented, “We have now split our business in four verticals to look after our product portfolio: Travstarz Global, HotelsConnect.In, DMCConnect.In and Our focus this year will remain on promoting our Dedicated B2B Online Travel Portal. The focus will remain promoting our new products and Destination Abu Dhabi at the TTFs and our focus cities will remain Tier 2 & 3 Cities only.”Exhibitors also plan to launch lot of new features at the various TTFs. Manoj Sherman, Vice President, Enoah I Solution India Pvt Ltd, plans to introduce eXenia suite of solutions for hospitality. “We will be targeting boutique properties with eXeniaLite and PRO solutions, while we will offer eXenia Enterprise bundled with SAP B1 for the hotel chains that would like to leverage on Central procurement, strong inventory and other rich ERP functionality,” he said.Deepak Singh, Regional Head- Delhi NCR, Galaxy Tourism Pvt Ltd, said that every year they participate in exhibitions like IITT Mumbai, SATTE Delhi and TTF Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata. As of now, they are DMC for UAE and Singapore, but planning to come up with some new destinations like Malaysia and Bali.Isra Stapanaseth, Director, TAT New DelhiTourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) designated August 2016 as a ‘month for woman travellers’, in a way of marking Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday. In order to promote this initiative and inspire female travellers to come to Thailand, TAT has come up with five different promotional concepts: Beautiful LOOK, Beautiful SHAPE, Beautiful RETREAT, Beautiful MIND, Beautiful EXPERIENCE. Our focus at TTF would be to meet and engage with the travel trade from East India and introduce new properties, attractions and destinations in Thailand which they could further promote and sell to their clients.Ujjwala Dali, Officiating Director- Tourism Marketing & Promotion, Nepal Tourism BoardOur efforts this year will be to focus on tapping the market in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, as well as cities Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Patna, exploring new avenues. Our next product for the India market would be the adventure segment which has not been explored by the market yet, but which we are positive will strike a chord with the young audience, at this point of time. Our focus on TTF editions will be to communicate fresh updates about the destinations to the market to streamline positive message.last_img read more

Technology brings back pink and white terraces for new tourism experience

first_imgAugmented Reality (AR) is giving visitors the chance to experience the majesty of New Zealand’s world-famous Pink and White Terraces for the first time since they disappeared in the late 19th century.The geological formations, 20 km from Rotorua, were once known as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ were obliterated by the devastating Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886.Now the terraces have been brought to life again with a specially-developed app launched by Waimangu Volcanic Valley, an eco-tourism experience. Visitors can download the free app and experience the magic of the re-created terraces on daily cruises across Lake Rotomahana to the place where the terraces once were. They simply have to hold up their device to explore the site and discover its hidden secrets.Old reference photos and paintings have been used to re-create the terraces in AR along with work by early explorers and scientists.A visitor trying out the app on the first day of its release described the experience as “a really beautiful reproduction of the Pink and White terraces. It’s very interactive and you can move around the structures and appreciate how the light, silica and water would have interacted on the real thing.”Waimangu Volcanic Valley General Manager, David Blackmore said that although AR is not new, the technology available through the devices is and that’s what has made the recreation of the terraces possible. “Having the old images brought to life by the latest in technology is really something to see,” he said.The Pink and White Terraces formed over thousands of years as silica-rich water emerging from springs and boiling geysers crystallised into giant tiered staircases. The White Terrace covered more than three hectares while the smaller Pink Terrace was used for bathing on the lower levels.As well as bringing the terraces to life, the app also reveals fascinating geological insights into other features like the now-extinct Waimangu Geyser, which regularly played in the valley between 1900 and 1904. The geyser was known to erupt to heights of over 400 metres – roughly the same size as the Empire State Building.The new app experience is expected to spark interest with domestic and international visitors because of the mystery surrounding the location of the terraces today and their history.The fabled Pink and White Terraces were once a thriving tourist destination attracting intrepid travellers from around the world to view the ‘eighth wonder’ and gather on the terrace shores to experience the natural spa and health benefits.The app was produced by a local Rotorua company in conjunction with an Australian apps specialist and has been in development since early 2018.last_img read more