Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Note to Our Loyal Readers

Since 2009, I have endeavored to share my diverse international experience with our readers with the sole objective of preventing calamities, chaos and painful experiences to all foreign travelers.

Seemingly, I have exhausted what I can impart to travelers without being unduly redundant. Yet, I appear to be reaching that point in time where I am becoming repetitive.

I have enjoyed this experience very much and only hope that in the final analysis I have along the way prevented discourse, injury and even death to an unknown numbers of travelers.

Like many of you, we hopefully learn along the way not to make irreversible missteps.

I wish you all well and Godspeed.

Sincerely, 

Edward Lee

 

Friday, December 5, 2014

US/Barbados: Delta Resumes Direct Flights to Barbados After 3-Year Hiatus

According to The Latin American Tribune, Delta Air Lines reinstated on Thursday (December 4) its direct service from the United States to Barbados after a three-year hiatus.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) to Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Bridgetown, the Barbados Tourism Authority said on its official website.

COMMENT: The flights will operate with Boeing 737 aircraft that can seat up to 160 people.

Delta’s resumption of non-stop service represents an “opportunity to grow the US market and bring it back to the days prior to the global recession of 2008, Adrian Elcock, chairman of the board of directors at the Barbados Tourism Authority, said in July when the new flights were announced. 


Global Impact: Sen. McCain (R-AZ) Holds Up US Deputy Sec'y of State Confirmation Re: Iraq

According to Reuters, US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said on Thursday (December 4) he is blocking President Barack Obama's nomination of Antony Blinken as the US' deputy Secretary of State, citing sharp disagreement with the nominee's past statements re: Iraq.
"He's totally unqualified," the Republican senator told Reuters, when asked why he was holding up Blinken's nomination to be deputy US Secretary of State.
"He's the guy who said we're leaving behind the richest, safest Iraq in history. Look it up," McCain said, referring to Blinken's reassuring comments two years ago about the decision to withdraw all US troops from Iraq.
McCain, a frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, has repeatedly voiced strong opposition to the decision to end the campaign in Iraq, where US forces are currently battling the militant fighters of the Islamic State (IS).
COMMENT: The White House responded by citing Blinken's decades of foreign policy experience, including stints at the State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "This is somebody who...knows the world, who's got ample experience representing the United States of America and has done so with distinction," spokesman Josh Earnest said. 
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to have voted on Blinken's nomination on Thursday, amid heated debate in Congress over the campaign against the Sunni Muslim group in Iraq and Syria.
McCain's action puts off the vote off until next week, at the soonest. If the committee approves Blinken, as is expected if the vote is able to proceed, the full Senate must still vote to confirm him before he can take office as Secretary of State John Kerry's deputy.

México: Peña Nieto Promises Federal Help in Guerrero After 43 Teaching Students Disappear

According to The Latin American Tribune, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has undertaken his first visit to the southern state of Guerrero to tackle the crisis caused by the disappearance of 43 students more than two months ago, and announce measures for economic stimulation in the region.

Economic activity and tourism has witnessed a slump as a consequence of the protests, some of them violent that have rocked the state  attributed to the mass-casualty university disappearance that most Mexicans believe are long-since dead.

Demonstrations and the blocking of roads, offices and businesses have led to a drop in economic activity, employment and tourist arrivals.

COMMENT: While the Mexican President endeavors to conveniently forget 
that 20,000 Mexicans have disappeared since 2006, such a huge number of people that were loved by families is a national tragedy.

“This obligates the government of the Republic (of México) to come here and address the people, like it has been doing to the entire nation. We will take actions to reactivate the economy of these tourist spots of Guerrero,” Peña Nieto said Thursday in Acapulco.

The president also expressed his solidarity with the people, who are one of the poorest and most backward in the country, regarding the case of the 43 missing university students which was a result of a conspiracy between the then mayor of Iguala (and his wife) and drug cartels in Guerrero.

On September 26, the 43 students were detained by police in Iguala, and handed over to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, which allegedly killed then and burned their bodies, some of whom were burned alive.

Iguala mayor José Luís Abarca Velazquez and his wife are linked to the  to the students’ disappearance and are in custody.

While the president was visiting Acapulco, the families of the victims, who refuse to accept that the students are dead without definite evidence, met with Attorney General Jesús Murillo and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio to learn about progress in the investigation.

In Acapulco, the president said that the Iguala incident was a sad one and caused widespread indignation, leading the authorities to undertake an introspection as to why the tragedy occurred.

Peña Nieto announced several incentives to reactivate tourism in the state including special security forces to ensure the safety of tourists and a 50% reduction in toll duty at a major highway that connects to the capital.

The plan includes fiscal benefits for the taxpayers of Acapulco, Chilpancingo, Iguala, Taxco and Zihuatanejo, a special fund for small businesses at risk of bankruptcy and a temporary employment program that will benefit 130,000 families.

He also requested Transport and Communications Minister Gerardo Ruiz to negotiate lower airfare with major airlines for tourists.

The measures are a part of the security and economic strategy to eliminate corruption and crime announced by the president last week, which also includes the creation of special economic zones in the poorer states of México, among other measures.
 

Colombia: Government, FARC to Reconvene Peace Talks During December 10-17

According to The Latin American Tribune, Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said on Wednesday (December 3) that they have overcome a crisis stemming from the capture of an army general and that the next round of negotiations will take place in Havana from Dec. 10-17.

“The national government and FARC delegations, after jointly analyzing the events of the past few weeks, consider the crisis resolved,” the parties said in a statement read in Havana by representatives of guarantor nations Cuba and Norway.

In the upcoming round of the two-year-old talks, aimed at ending a 50-year-old armed struggle, the parties will seek to “advance on de-escalating the conflict with a view to reaching an agreement on that issue as soon as possible.”



As part of the December cycle, a fifth and final group of conflict victims will share their experiences with the peace negotiators on Dec. 16 in Havana.

COMMENT: The government and the FARC have reached agreement on three issues of their six-point agenda: land reform, political participation for the guerrillas, and efforts to combat drug trafficking.

The three remaining issues are the rights of victims, rebel disarmament and implementation of the peace accord, which would have to be approved in a popular referendum.



The parties also have agreed to “establish a permanent mechanism via the guarantor nations to facilitate a solution to eventual crises that many arise in the future.”



The agreement announced Wednesday in Havana ends the crisis that erupted after the FARC’s November 16 capture of Colombian army Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate and two other captives in the northwestern province of Choco, an action that prompted President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend the talks a day later.




The rebels freed those individuals last Sunday.

After the Dec. 10-17 cycle, the two sides plan to meet again in January at a date to be determined.

Thailand: Resident Killed While Traversing Train Tracks While Talking on Mobile

According to The Bangkok Post, the below link demonstrates the importance of focusing on life-threatening issues that are incompatible with living:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/447457/woman-talking-on-phone-killed-by-tourist-train-when-crossing-track-in-kanchanaburi

COMMENT: All lives are precious, even those of citizens that are preoccupied with technological advances that can put their lives in peril.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brazil: ANFAVEA Reports Auto Production Down 15.5% in First 11 Months of 2013

According to The Latin American Tribune, auto production in Brazil totaled 2.94 million vehicles between January and November, down 15.5% from the first 11 months of 2013, the ANFAVEA industry group said Thursday (December 4).

November output came in at 264,800 vehicles, a decline of 9.7% compared to both October (293,300) and November 2013 (293,200), according to the automotive industry trade association.

Exports in November totaled 25,971 vehicles, up 10.5% from October but down 42.6% from the same month of 2013.

For the year’s first 11 months, exports fell 40.6% to 310,781 vehicles due to a drop in demand from Argentina, the destination for 90% of automobiles that are made in Brazil and shipped abroad.

COMMENT: “In November, the Argentine market purchased 38,000 units, compared to 61,000 in the same month of last year, a decline of nearly 38%. That drop affected the result,” ANFAVEA President Luíz Moan said.

A total of 294,700 vehicles were sold last month, a 4% decline from October and a drop of 2.7% from November 2013, the industry association said.

More than 3.1 million vehicles were sold between January and November, down 8.4% from the same period of 2013.

Vehicle manufacturers say sales for all of 2014 will be down 5.4% year-on-year, although the decline could be even greater depending on December’s results.


The ANFAVEA president, however, said he expects better industry results in 2015.

Ohio: Cleveland PD Never Told of Officer Timothy Loehmann's Suitability Issues in Independence, OH

According to Reuters, the Cleveland police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy playing with a pellet gun at a park last month left his previous job with a suburban police department after a string of suitability problems, including immaturity and "dismal" handgun performance, personnel records showed.

The shooting of Tamir Rice, who is black, by 26-year-old officer Timothy Loehmann on November 23, 2014, sparked protests in Cleveland, and came amid flaring tensions nationwide over recent police killings of unarmed black people, most notably in New York and Ferguson, MO.
The US Justice Department said on Thursday (December 4) an investigation found the Cleveland Police Department systematically engages in excessive use of force against civilians.
A memo written by Independence, OH deputy police chief Jim Polak in November 2012  revealed that Loehmann was beset with emotional issues during his brief stint with the department, according to records provided by the Independence police.
The memo, which recommended Loehmann's release from the department, highlighted a "dangerous loss of composure" during a handgun training event where Loehmann was said to be "distracted and weepy" over a girlfriend issue. It said his "handgun performance was dismal."
During Loehmann's background check, Cleveland police detectives did not review his Independence, OH personnel file, Cleveland police spokesman Ali Pillow said in an email.
Polak also wrote that Loehmann once kept his firearm in an unsecured locker, despite being told to lock it, and lied to a superior about abandoning part of his orientation at the city's police dispatch center.
COMMENT: The incidents "show a pattern of a lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions," Deputy Chief Polak said.
"I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies," Polak wrote. 
Loehmann decided to resign after Polak recommended his release, the memo said.
Loehmann, who Cleveland police said is on leave, was not available for comment. Nor was Joseph Delguyd, attorney for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, which represents police officers.
Loehmann fatally shot Tamir Rice, who had an Airsoft-type replica gun that resembles a semiautomatic pistol, last month within two seconds of arriving on-scene.
Pillow said Cleveland detectives interviewed Independence's human resources director during Loehmann's background check, and were not told of any past suitability issues.
About 200 people attended Rice's funeral on Wednesday (December 3).

Tip of the Day: Traits That Typify Many Crime Victims

Why are foreign travelers victimized abroad more often than at home? Many factors contribute to this increased risk, including:

1. They are often jet-lagged and/or fatigued;

2. They are easy to identify from a distance;

3. They are often "creatures of habit" whose movements are predictable;

4. They are very often monolingualpage58image496;

5. They often fail to review their governments' travel warnings;

6. Compared to local conditions, they are perceived as being "wealthy";

7. page58image656They often can be easily identified as foreigners;

and

8. Travelers are often unschooled when it comes to local criminal tactics and travelers' scams.page58image1136 page58image1296 page58image1456 page58image1616page57image15760 page57image15920 page57image16080 page57image16240 page57image16400

Yemen: British-Born US Photojournalist, 33, Abducted a Year Ago, Potentially May Be Executed

According to The Associated Pressal-Qaeda's branch in Yemen threatened a British-born US hostage, identified as Luke Somers, 33, who was kidnapped over a year ago, giving Washington three days to meet unspecified demands in a new video released Thursday (December 4).

This is the first time that Somers has been depicted in a video-clip, which was posted on the al-Qaeda Twitter account. The video comes weeks after an apparent unsuccessful attempt by US special forces to rescue Somers in a raid in the remote Yemeni desert.
The footage apparently seeks to mimic hostage videos released by al-Qaeda's rivals from  IS (Islamic State), which has threatened--and later beheaded--several US and British hostages in the aftermath of a summer blitz that captured much of Iraq and Syria. The IS fighters have at times battled al-Qaeda and prompted defections among their rivals.
Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 from a street in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, where he had worked as a freelancer for The Yemen Times. Since his capture, Yemeni journalists have been holding sit-ins in Sana'a to press the government to seek his release.
Somers was likely among a group of hostages who were the objective of a joint rescue mission by US operation forces and Yemeni troops last month that freed eight captives in a remote area of dunes called Hagr al-Saiaar near the Saudi border in Hadramawt province.
At the time, a Yemeni official said the mission failed to liberate five other hostages. Among them were an American journalist and a Briton who were moved elsewhere by their al-Qaeda captors days before the raid. The American was not identified by name and Yemen did not officially confirm the participation of US commandos in the rescue mission--a rare instance of US forces intervening on the ground in Yemen.
COMMENT: In the 3-minute video, Somers appears somber and gives a brief statement in English, asking for help. The video was first reported by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant sites.
"It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sana'a," Somers said. "Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much."
Before Somers' statement, the video shows local al-Qaeda commander Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, reading in Arabic and speaking about alleged American "crimes against" the Muslim world.
Al-Ansi criticizes US-led airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) and President Barack Obama for his "latest foolish action," referring to the "failed operation" in Hadramawt. He says an "elite group of mujahedeen," or holy warriors, were killed in the US raid.
He also warned the US against more "stupidities," referring to future attempts to rescue hostages.
Al-Ansi gives the US three days to meet al-Qaeda's demands or "otherwise, the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate," without elaborating or explicitly saying they would kill their captive. He doesn't specify the demands but says Washington is "aware" of them.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni group is known, is considered by the US to be the world's most dangerous branch of the terror network and has been linked to several failed attacks on the US homeland.
Abduction of foreigners have been commonplace in impoverished Yemen, troubled both by al-Qaeda and the advance of Shiite rebels, but while kidnapping for ransom was common in the past, threatening a hostage's life appears to be a shift in the al-Qaeda branch's tactics.

Chile: President Bachelet's Approval Rating Declines Every Month, Now at 42%

According to The Latin American Tribune, after only six months into her second presidential term, President Michelle Bachelet’s approval rating fell in November for the fifth month in a row, dipping to 42%, pollster Adimark said Wednesday (December 3).

Disapproval of Bachelet increased five percentage points to 53%.

Adimark conducted telephone interviews with 1,045 adults nationwide between November 6-28. The survey has a margin of error of 3%.

The monthly poll found that the government’s approval rate deteriorated even more than Bachelet’s, falling by five points to 37% during a month marred by public transportation troubles in Santiago and a debate over educational reform.

Over the last month approval for the government’s handling of education fell 10 points to 25%, while support for the management of public transportation fell six points to 19%, according to Adimark.

Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre and Transportation Minister Andrés Gómez Lobo, each with approval ratings of 32%, got the worst grades amongst Cabinet members.

COMMENT: Pollsters found some bright spots for the Bachelet government: approval for the government’s foreign policy stood at 71%, followed by environment, with 44% and employment and energy, both at 38%. 

Chileans continued to show a growing disgust with politicians in general.

The ruling center-left New Majority coalition got the thumbs-up only from 37% of respondents, while the rightist Alianza tumbled to 21%, its worst showing since Bachelet took office in March.

Bachelet’s popularity was at record levels when she left office after her presidential term in 2006-2010.