Monday, April 30, 2012

Venezuela: Lebanese National Shot, Killed in Attempted Robbery in Sucre

Jawad Walid al-Aridi, 22, a Lebanese national was shot and killed in Carúpano, a coastal city in the eastern Venezuelan state of Sucre during an attempted armed robbery on Saturday evening (April  28).  As a result of the unprovoked shooting death, al-Aridi's family and friends put extreme pressure on the  Lebanese Embassy in Caracas to pressure the Venezuelan government to bring the assailant to justice.

COMMENT: What may have been helpful in getting the Venezuelan government to take action is the fact that the victim was closely related to  on  the victim's family is that the  Unconfirmed reports revealed that the victim is closely related to Ghazi al-Aridi, the Lebanese minister of Public Works in Beirut. 

It needs to be mentioned that the population of Iraq and Venezuela are very close to being the same. Yet, whereas 4,644 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2009, the number of homicides in Venezuela during the same year exceeded 16,000.

The sad commentary is that not only have active duty police been linked to criminal offenses, but the country's national police is both ineffective and corrupt, which is why the central government is in the process of totally revamping the police structure. Unfortunately, this could take several years before any positive results can be realized.

Malaysia: Dutch Expat's Son, 12, Kidnapped Near Capital

Nayati Moodliar, 12, the son of a Dutch expatriate living in Kuala Lumpur, was walking to  the Mont Kiara International School on Friday (April 27), where he was a student, when he was suddenly intercepted and kidnapped by two unidentified men who drove him away in a car.

COMMENT: Local media made no reference as to whether the boy's family has heard from those responsible for the kidnapping or whether there has been a ransom demand. 

Although the kidnapping of children for ransom is commonplace worldwide, although much less so in developed nations, it is relatively rare in Malaysia. Presumably police will be looking for a motive, including economic gain. Often the children of expatriates are abducted as a grudge over business disputes or personal conflicts.

It should be noted that the children of parents who attend international schools normally are either from diplomatic or business families, who although not wealthy, do have financial means. Given the possible targeting of such children, it is not normal practice for children attending such schools to walk alone to school, even if their homes are nearby, given general security threats.

This incident will be updated as new information becomes available.

Regional Impact: AQIM Threatens UK Not to Send Radical Cleric to Jordan

Over the weekend, al-Qaeda's North African franchise, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), threatened the UK earlier today (April 30) not to continue with its plan to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada, 51, AKA, Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman to Jordan. 

AQIM has threatened Britain with dire consequences for kidnapped Briton Stephen Malcolm who was abducted by AQIM in September 2010, along with eight other Europeans. AQIM has stated that it will free  Malcolm only if Abu Qatada is sent to an Arab Spring nation (i.e., Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or Yemen).

Malcolm is thought to be one of nine Europeans, including six French nationals, seized by AQIM in Mali and Niger since September 2010. Swedish and Dutch nationals are also included among the captives.

COMMENT: Despite AQIM's threat, the British government has said that it will stay the course and send the militant cleric to Jordan. Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen, has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaeda figure in Europe and a threat to national security. He was first detained in Britain in 2002.

Nevertheless, given the legal complications and potential for a number of hostages to be harmed or killed, it is likely that a multilateral decision on where Abu Qatada will be sent could take months.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pakistan: Kidnapped British ICRC Worker Beheaded by Taliban

The decapitated body of British aid worker, Khalil Dale, 60, who had been employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, and who was kidnapped on January 5 in Quetta, has been discovered in recent days.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Minister William Hague both condemned Mr. Dales execution and lauded the critical humanitarian work he had done over a thirty-year career. Reportedly, the Taliban killed Dale because a demanded monetary ransom had not been paid.

Dale was kidnapped by upwards of eight gunmen near his residence in Quetta when he was intercepted by his kidnappers. He was traveling in a predominantly marked ICRC vehicle when he was kidnapped.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, many foreign governments and international organizations that assign aid workers and other staff into high-threat countries are not particularly good at protecting expats and short-term consultants safe from violent crime and acts of terrorism. Invariably, such organizations "roll the dice" with the lives of individuals whose nationalities are at the top of every extremist's "to do" list.

In my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, I discuss at length a number of strategies that can be effective in keeping foreign staff safe in high-threat environments (e.g., Pakistan). One of these strategies includes the use of ballistic-resistant and light-armored vehicles in which aid workers are transported in.

Sadly, only Western embassies consistently safeguard their diplomats through the use of ballistic-resistant vehicles. Hence, aid workers are left to their own devices while en-route to meetings in unprotected motor vehicles. This is why many foreigners have been kidnapped while en-route from one place to another.

These same aid organizations permit their employees and contractors to live in superficially protected residences, rather than extensively fortifying residential compounds aimed at reducing the risk of facility attacks and kidnappings. 

Dale, who was from Dumfries, Scotland, had been working in Pakistan for nearly a year. He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years and had had assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Quetta is the main town of the insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan. Situated close to Pakistan's border with southern Afghanistan, it is home to the Quetta Shura - the Taliban's leadership council - and is believed to direct a considerable portion of Taliban activity.

The British Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel to Quetta" and other parts of Baluchistan, warning on its website ( that "there is a heightened risk from kidnapping and militant activity" in the area. Unfortunately, this advice should have been disseminated earlier than it was to have any benefit to Mr. Dale.

As many of our readers know, Warren Weinstein, 71, in-country director for J.E. Austin Associates was kidnapped from his poorly secured residence in Lahore on August 13, 2011 by a group of gunmen. 

 Ironically, Weinstein was scheduled to leave Pakistan permanently the day after he was kidnapped, suggesting that he had been under surveillance by his captors for some time, who wanted to kidnap him before he returned to the US. He has now been in captivity for nearly eight months and is reportedly being held in North Waziristan under very austere conditions. It is unknown whether he is alive or not.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Iran: US Department of State Updates Travel Warning

Effective April 27, 2012, and in light of increasing risks to US-Iranian dual nationals, the US Department of State has updated its travel warning for Iran to suggest that US citizens with dual citizenship carefully assess the political ramifications of their traveling to Iran.

COMMENT:  As some of our readers may not know, in January, former Marine Amir Hekmati, 28, a US citizen born in Arizona of Iranian parents was sentenced to death on charges of working for the CIA. 

Fortunately, Hekmati was authorized a new trial due to "flaws" in his first trial. It is unknown when this new trial will commence.

Needless to say,  the case has added a great deal more tension to US-Iranian relations, as Washington and its allies press ahead with sanctions over Iran's contentious nuclear development program.

Hekmati was arrested by Iranian authorities shortly after he visited Iran in late 2011 to see his grandmother. Iran accused Hekmati of receiving special training while serving at US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for an intelligence mission. 

In December 2011, Iran broadcast a video on state television in which Hekmati was shown delivering a purported confession, in which he said he was part of a plot to infiltrate Iran's intelligence agency. 

Regardless, the US Government has denied the charge on Kekmati's behalf, knowing he may have been coerced to confess, including threats to harm family members still in Iran.

My personal recommendation is that US-Iranian dual nationals NOT travel to Iran at all, particularly given the threat of being harassed, interrogated, jailed, tried, etc. 

It is also worthy of pointing out that retired  FBI agent Bob Levinson, 63, disappeared in Iran in 2007, while on a consulting assignment. It is unknown as to his current whereabouts or condition, although he is believed to be alive.

For the full text of the Department's newest travel warning on Iran, please see the below link:

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Colombia: US Tourist, 49, Shot, Killed in Hostel in Medellín

According to the daily, El Colombiano, US tourist Denis Ian Levy, 49, was shot and killed at a Medellín hostel, El Tamarindo, shortly after midnight yesterday (April 26) in the city's El Poblado section.

COMMENT: It needs to be emphasized that there are conflicting accounts of exactly how Levy came to be shot and killed, but reportedly the American was using an Internet terminal in the hostel's reception area when two women and a man entered the hotel and demanded Levy's watch.

Unfortunately, Colombia is not a country where crime victims regularly resist assailants, yet Levy nevertheless resisted the assailants, who turned out to be armed. When he began to scream, one of the trio shot Levy twice with a handgun, killing him instantly.

It should be clarified that the assailants also apparently had entered the hostel with the express purpose of robbing the establishment, but were diverted when they saw Levy's expensive watch. 

It is always tragic to see a traveler unnecessarily injured or killed in a situation that is avoidable. Most of our regular readers are well aware of my countless urgings to travelers NOT to resist a violent crime, largely because NO property is worth losing one's life over.

Additionally, Colombia can be a very violent country, particularly for those that make bad choices. The reality is that most criminal carry guns and are prepared to summarily use them without hesitation.

There are many places around the world where hostels are appropriate for foreign travelers, yet Medellín, unfortunately, is not one of them.

I often tell participants in my "Safe Foreign Travel" workshops that hostels are a good, inexpensive choice in many parts of the world, but I would generally discourage the use of hostels in Latin America, where violent crime with the use of guns is a frequent occurrence.

I would urge foreign travelers in Colombia to stay in the most secure hotels they can find that are within their financial means. That being said, I don't mean cutting corners on accommodations so you can live well otherwise, as your safe well-being is directly related to the security level of where you stay. To be clear, a US$12-a-night hostel does not translate into "secure" accommodations.

I also strongly recommend that all foreign travelers register with their appropriate foreign ministry, so that the local embassy or consulate knows where you are staying.

Honduras: Black Pearl Deemed Best Golf Course by Golf Digest

For the benefit of our readers who are golf enthusiasts, Golf Digest has deemed Honduras' Black Pearl as the country's best course. Please see the Honduras Week's link below:


Costa Rica: 140 Stolen Glock 9mm Pistols Still Missing

As a follow-up to my series of postings (see February 20, 2012) on the theft of 215 Glock 9mm semi-auto pistols that were slated to be distributed to the Traffic Police, the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) arrested four suspects this week in connection with the theft.

The pistols, worth ₡83 million ($75,084), were stolen from a Ministry of Transport warehouse in San José in January, with few details disclosed as to whether the warehouse was burglarized or forcibly entered into to steal the firearms.

COMMENT: Thus far, 58 of the pistols were found in the search of a San José home north of the capital, while another seventeen Glocks were recovered in neighboring Panamá. Needless to say, no details have been offered as to who originally stole the weapons or how they fell into the hands of intermediaries. 

Unfortunately, the Public Security Ministry has very been reluctant to provide the media any details on how the theft actually occurred or the results of any forensic evidence that was collected, if it was collected at all. Nor has the Costa Rican government released any information as to culpability on the part of those responsible for safeguarding the firearms.

Generally speaking, government firearms are afforded the highest levels of security to include the use of a vaulted area, a series of gun safes and/or storage areas protected with a central station alarm. No details have been released as to whether any of these measures were in place.

Argentina: Airport Arrests Emphasize Need for Travelers to Safeguard Valuables

Fifteen employees from the service staff at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza International Airport were arrested yesterday (April 24) for complicity in stealing valuables from passenger’s luggage, such as smart-phones, laptops and iPads  and similar devices and selling them on the black market.

COMMENT: The arrests came after the Airport Security Police (PSA) carried out twenty raids in search of evidence. The suspects worked for service providers Intercargo, Lan, Flyin Services y Sky Chefs companies.

Travelers are reminded to carry ALL valuables in their carry-on luggage and not place them in checked baggage, given the high risk of in-transit theft and larceny. As I have mentioned before, international insurance coverage is available through to cover the theft of laptops, iPads, video players and even digital cameras.

Thailand: Australian Tourist, 65, Dies from Heatstroke in Phuket

According to The Phuket Gazette, an Australian tourist, Michael Lester, 65, died from heatstroke on Wednesday (April 25) while vacationing at Surin Beach in Phuket. An EMT unit was summoned after a bystander found the unconscious Australian near the beach. 

Although the man was still breathing when found, medical staff at Thalang Hospital worked for two hours trying to revive Lester, at which point he was declared dead. The initial cause of death was given as cardiopulmonary failure, possibly brought on by heatstroke.

COMMENT: Like most of Thailand, the temperature in Phuket can easily approach to 40ºC (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit). When coupled with high humidity, visitors unfamiliar with the climate can quickly find themselves at risk of heatstroke.

It should also be noted that April can also often bring some of Thailand's hottest weather. Hence, the need for visitors to stay well-hydrated, avoid overexposure to the sun and humidity and to take steps aimed at reducing heatstroke and other cardiopulmonary conditions. Please see:


Lester's death came two days after another Australian tourist, 34-year-old David Sean Fuster, died of natural causes at the Evason resort in Rawai. 

As I have suggested in other postings, it is essential that all foreign travelers have a thorough medical examination before embarking on travel abroad, largely to head off any medical risks that have arisen. 

Additionally, I urge ALL travelers to subscribe to international medical and evacuation coverage before departure, for if you become ill or are injured abroad, you will have to pay for medical treatment in advance.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pakistan: Airline Crashes In Islamabad Raise Concern Over Flight Crew Competence, Professionalism

A report issued by the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday (April 25) reveals that  the crash of  a Pakistan-registered Airblue Airbus A321 that killed 152 people  in Islamabad on July 28, 2010, was caused by interpersonal conflicts that occurred on the flight deck before the disaster.

In a strange sequence of events, a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere were attributed to the worst ever airline crash on Pakistani soil.

The CAA said its post-incident analysis of the crash indicated that the flight deck crew "violated all established procedures" in trying to circle and land in bad weather at Islamabad's international airport. The morning flight from Karachi slammed into the Margalla hills overlooking the Pakistani capital in heavy rain and poor visibility, killing all 146 passengers and six crew on board.

According to the CAA's report, Captain Pervez Iqbal Chaudhary was "harsh and snobbish" towards his first officer almost as soon as the aircraft took off, the report said, and this continued during the flight. "After the intermittent humiliating sessions, the first officer generally remained quiet, became underconfident, submissive, and subsequently did not challenge the Captain for any of his errors, breaches and violations," the report said. Even as the plane was about to crash the first officer, 34, did not take control, the report emphasized.

COMMENT: Even more bizarre was the fact that Chaudhary, 61, became confused and displayed visible signs of anxiety, preoccupation, confusion and geographical disorientation in various phases of the flight, particularly as the flight descended on its flight-path into the capital.

Despite the bad weather and visibility of only 3.5 kilometers (two miles), the captain ignored standard procedure for circling to land, lost visual contact with the airfield and tried to follow his own approach, the report said. As the aircraft got closer and closer to the hills, the captain became more confused and failed to take evasive action despite 21 audible warnings from the plane's safety systems telling him he was heading for solid ground.
The CAA identified no technical problem with the aircraft or evidence of sabotage, structural failure or external impact such as bird strikes.  Hence, the crew was solely responsible for the loss of 152 souls. The CAA stressed that the preponderance of serious violations of procedures and breaches of flying discipline placed the aircraft in an unsafe condition over dangerous terrain at low altitude.
Unfortunately, the crash of a Pakistan-registered Boeing 737-200 Bhoja Air airliner near Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Friday (April 20) killing 127 people has done little to build confidence in Pakistani commercial aviation.

The following day (April 21) the Pakistan government barred the head of the airline whose jet crashed near the capital from leaving the country, vowing to investigate a tragedy that has revived fears about the safety of aviation in a country saddled by massive economic problems.
One of the biggest concerns is why did the government in Islamabad even issue an operating license to an airline that had only four aircraft? It should also be noted that Bhoja Air only recently received a permit and began flying last month after it lost its license in 2001 because of financial difficulties.
As a service to our readers, I would like to introduce them to a website I've used for years in helping travelers identify safe commercial carriers. This site can be found at:, and is a consortium of governmental reports that list a chronological break-down of all air accidents by country.

In past trips to Pakistan, I have avoided flying aboard Pakistan-registered aircraft, largely because of safety concerns.

Analysis: Chinese Strategies Are Destined to Render the US a Once World Power

In 2001, trade Chinese trade with Latin America totaled a mere US$10 billion.  A pittance when examined in global terms.

Unfortunately, 2001 was also the year that the US became deeply entrenched in two of the longest wars in its history-- Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, a third, undeclared war is quickly bubbling in Iran, where the US is hoping that "playing nice" with Tehran will prevent the rogue country from acquiring a nuclear capability. 

Such a strategy is only destined to fail until the world wakes up and Iran is already nuclear, at which point the US will rightly or wrongly be drawn into a fighting war with Iran.

Now, here's the interesting part: In 2001 Chinese trade with the US' and Canada's massive neighbor totaled only US$10 billion. In 2011, ten short years later, Chinese trade with Latin America, also half-a-world away, amounted to US$241.5 billion. Imagine!

COMMENT: Strategically speaking, we can discern from the facts that China has made long-term planning a near art-form. While the US federal budget has a three-year planning cycle, Chinese leaders look ahead as far as ten, twenty and thirty YEARS. That's why they are so successful and that's why China's strategy is to have trade deficits tipped in their favor with whomever they trade with.

Let's look at some facts that come from the Office of the US Trade Representative: In 2011, the US exported US$19.2 billion in goods and services while the US imported US$102.3 billion goods and services from China. Now, fast forward to 2011: Last year the US exported US$103.9 to China, but the US imported US$400 billion in goods and services from China! So much for equitable trade.

Unfortunately, for the US, Washington permitted itself to be outmaneuvered by the Chinese when the US permitted itself to borrow an insane amount of money from China to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Now, with the national deficit out of control,  thanks in part to US presidents who could not do for the federal government what consumer do every day--balance their checkbook--Washington is essentially broke and does not have the resources to compete with China's carnivorous appetite to buy up the world.

To make matters worse, China has for years stolen intellectual property from US companies, and continues to do so. This occurs because the US is too trusting and because so many American companies are reckless in their inability to counter economic espionage.

Unless Washington begins to do things very differently, and quickly, the US is destined to lose the influence and reputation it once had. Sad.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention, acknowledged or not, the US is also engaged in another Cold War with Russia, the latter of which takes actions every day that are clearly not in the interest of world peace. 

Remember President Obama's "hot-mike" slip of the tongue while engaged in a sidebar with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012, whereby the US president told Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin, Russia's new president, that things will be better for Russia during Obama's second term?

Not knowing exactly what the context of the conversation between Presidents Obama and Medvedev were can only be described as disconcerting. What message was the US president communicating to Russian leaders that is not sharable with anyone else? 

Unfortunately, President Obama has made no statement clarifying what he said to Medvedev, despite his promise in 2008 to have one of the most transparent US presidencies in history. 



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maryland: Police Arrest 4th Suspect in Assault, Robbery of Tourist, Witnesses Take No Action

As a follow-up to my recent postings in the case of bystanders who failed to come to the aid of an Alexandria, VA tourist who was assaulted, robbed and stripped of everything he had in Baltimore on March 18, the Baltimore Police Department is to be commended for its fourth and final arrest of those complicit in the attack. All four suspects have been remanded into custody and have been charged with assault and robbery.

COMMENT: This case was particularly repugnant considering that it highlighted the lack of citizenship on the part of a large number of bystanders who saw the victim attacked, but who did nothing, and instead laughed at the victim's plight. Unfortunately, most of the bystanders took footage of the attack and distributed it as being comedic on the Internet, yet such coverage gave Baltimore police valuable leads which resulted in the suspects' arrest.

Even though I have spent the majority of my living and working abroad, I was born and raised in the US. That being said, I find it disgusting that so many Americans today have little compassion for the misfortune of others and generally speaking fail to life a hand to those needing help. It is very sad and is not reflective of the country I grew up in.

Not only was the victim in this case knocked to the ground without provocation, but the assailants took advantage of him as he was intoxicated from St. Patrick's Day celebration. In addition to being assaulted and robbed, he was also stripped of his clothing and left naked on the street. Additionally, he was robbed of his wallet, car keys, a $1,300 watch and an iPhone.

Tourists and travelers alike are reminded that globally, the theft of smart phones is dramatically on the rise. Consequently, it is suggested that users make calls and text in safe surroundings, rather than assuming that they can call and text from anywhere risk-free.

As for watches, in our increasingly unpredictable, perilous and crime-prone society, I strongly discourage pedestrians from wearing expensive or expensive-looking watches (that includes "knock-offs"). I have worn a $25 Casio athletic watch for decades, at home and abroad, and no one has ever robbed me of it:). 

Finally, we are all at greater risk of robbery and other crimes when we're intoxicated, which is why I have consistently urged our readers to drink in moderation.

Argentina: The Consequences of Nationalizing Foreign Companies

According to EFE, Spain proposed a series of consequences through its membership in EU on Monday (April 23) in an effort to force Argentina into negotiation over its recent nationalization of YPF, a unit of Spanish oil major Repsol. Specifically, Repsol wants fair compensation for the nationalization of its majority stake in YPF.

Among the measures proposed by Spain and which its partners have promised to study is the possibility of filing a claim with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and excluding Argentina from the Generalized System of Preferences before the scheduled date in January 2014.

COMMENT: At the same time, Spain wants further negotiations on the agreement with MERCOSUR (the trade bloc comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) without Argentina. 

According to EU sources, several foreign ministers expressed their complete support for Madrid during the recent ministerial meeting, among them Britain’s William Hague, while some also did so in remarks to reporters.

The Americas: Internal Polls Reveal Popularity of Regional Presidents

Based upon local approval ratings of presidents in the Americas conducted by the Mexican polling firm, Consulta Mitofsky, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is considered to be the most popular head of state in the region, with an 81% approval rating. At the bottom of the list is Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, with a rating of 26%.

The study collected data from 19 countries to create a list divided into five categories of approval: outstanding, high, medium, low and very low. 

US President Barack Obama ranked 11th with 48% approval compared to and Canada's Stephen Harper, who was ranked 15th at 41%. 

The complete list of heads of state, in order of popularity, include:

1. Rafael Correa, Ecuador
2. Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia
3. Mauricio Funes, El Salvador
4. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua
5. Ollanta Humala, Perú
6. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil
7. Hugo Chávez, Venezuela
8. Cristina Kirchner, Argentina
9. Leonel Fernández, Dominican Republic
10. Felipe Calderón, México
11. Barack Obama, United States
12. Porfirio Lobo, Honduras
13. Fernando Lugo, Paraguay
14. José Mujica, Uruguay
15. Stephen Harper, Canada
16. Evo Morales, Bolivia
17. Ricardo Martinelli, Panama
18. Sebastián Piñera, Chile
19. Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica

COMMENT: Our readers should keep in mind that approval ratings are based solely on  popularity internal to the country and not a mean based on regional popularity.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

México: Wal-Mart Market Value Plunges US$10 Billion Amidst Bribery Allegations

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. lost US$10 billion of its market value on Monday (April 23) on concerns that bribery allegations in México could cause further losses.

Two US lawmakers said they were launching their own investigation into allegations in a New York Times article that Wal-Mart de México had engaged in a campaign of bribery to build its business. In México, the front-running presidential candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, and lawmakers also called on local authorities to investigate.

If the allegations are proven, Wal-Mart could face criminal penalties under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which forbids bribes to foreign government officials.

Shares of Wal-Mart de México, which is 69% owned by Wal-Mart and known as Walmex, fell 12% to 37.89 pesos ($2.88). The drop wiped out a 12% year-to-date gain in the second-most-weighted stock on México's IPC index.

COMMENT: The Times reported on April 21, that a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an email from a former Walmex executive in September 2005 that described how the Mexican company had paid bribes to obtain permits to build stores in the country. 

Wal-Mart subsequently sent investigators to Mexico City and found a paper trail of suspect payments totaling more than US$24 million.  Unfortunately, the company's leadership shut down the probe and did not notify US or Mexican law enforcement officials until after the newspaper informed Wal-Mart that it was looking into the issue. 

UK: British Diplomat Attacked, Robbed in West London, Loses Sight in One Eye

George Fergusson, 56, a senior British diplomat currently assigned to the Foreign Office in London  was viciously mugged on Friday (April 20) while walking through Margravine Cemetery in West London.

As a result of several powerful blows to the face from his assailant, Fergusson lost the sight in his left eye. After being robbed of 50 pounds (US$80), the victim was able to walk to a nearby hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, emergency room physicians were not able to save the sight in his eye.

Fergusson, who has been assigned to Bermuda as governor, along with his wife, Margaret, intends to leave for Bermuda next month.

COMMENT: On Sunday (April 22), the Metropolitan Police arrested a 29-year-old suspect in the robbery and assault of Mr. Fergusson.

Fergusson previously served as Governor of the Pitcairn Islands and high commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa. Additionally, he held responsibilities for a number of regional departments in London. The governorship of Bermuda is considered to be a coveted assignment in the British Foreign Service.

The attack on Fergusson is a reminder to both tourists and business travelers alike that violent crime has risen dramatically in London in recent years, which mandates that pedestrians not wear expensive-looking jewelry or carry large sums of money on their person and to exercise proactive security awareness at all times.

Philippines: Japanese Tourist, 41, Rape Hoax Used by Police to Extort Money

Yukiga Haga, 41, a Japanese tourist, has accused police officers of Manila Police District Station 5 of allegedly charging him of raping a 17-year-old college student because he refused to pay police  one million pesos ( US$23,453). 

As a result, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim revealed in a press conference yesterday (April 23) that the supposed victim was not raped at all, but rather Haga's arrest was nothing more than an extortion attempt on the part of several rogue Metro Manila police.

To support Mayor Lim's statement, the Japanese Embassy in Manila has obtained and presented an affidavit certifying that the alleged victim denies that she was ever raped at the Bayview Hotel on Roxas Boulevard on April 19, 2012. 

COMMENT: Fortunately for Mr. Haga, and thanks to the efforts of the Japanese Embassy, as well as Mayor Lim, it has been determined from both the alleged victim and her mother that the allegation was a hoax orchestrated by the police who arrested Mr. Haga.  

Unfortunately, police misconduct in the Philippines is a frequent occurrence with rogue cops often being involved in criminality themselves. Visitors and travelers alike are urged to register with their respective embassy and notify diplomats of any alleged misconduct on the part of local police. 

It should be noted that Mayor Lim, known throughout the Philippines as Fred Lim, served as a distinguished member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) before pursuing a political career. He is also a former senator and director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is the equivalent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Mayor Lim is 83 years old.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yemen: Al-Qaeda Demands Release of Prisoners for Kidnapped Diplomat

The Saudi Embassy and Yemeni officials in Sana'a have been searching Yemen vigorously for a Saudi diplomat who was kidnapped by alleged members of al-Qaeda on March 28, to no avail.

That being said, the al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen is now demanding the release of sixteen incarcerated members of the terror group, comprised of six women and ten men, all of whom are either convicted or facing pending terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia.

COMMENT: The abducted diplomat is reportedly being held captive in a hostile mountainous area between the Aden and Lahj provinces in Yemen.

Aden is the city closest to Yemen's Abyan province, where government forces have been struggling to neutralize al-Qaeda's support by local for a number of years.

The majority of kidnappings in Yemen are generally committed by local tribesmen seeking either the release of incarcerated family member for various crimes or social welfare concessions from the central government, but in the case of the kidnapping of the Saudi diplomat, al-Qaeda has a specific objective and very specific demands.

Lebanon: Restaurant Bombing in Tyre Hospitalizes Seven

Seven people were injured and hospitalized late on Sunday (April 22) in the Lebanese coastal city of Tyre when an IED detonated in the elevator adjacent to the Nocean Restaurant. The Nocean is well-known for attracting attracting large parties.

COMMENT: The blast area covered an area of some 1,000 meters (roughly half a mile), suggesting that the IED was of sufficient size to injure a large number of patrons.

Several restaurants in the Shia region of Lebanon have been damaged by bombs in recent months, the last occurring in December 2011. Two explosions have also targeted shops selling alcohol.

Tyre is one of the few towns in south Lebanon where alcohol is served in restaurants, which brings in tourists including members of the UN force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Nevertheless, increasing bomb incidents have dissuaded many establishments to stop serving alcohol.

Tyre is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and lies on the Mediterranean coast, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Beirut. Residents are referred to as Tyrians.

The city also services a major port and has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Not knowing whether restaurants have hired off-duty police to search for IEDs before opening, a prudent step for tourists and travelers is to use restaurants that do not serve alcohol.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spain: Two British Tourists Fall, Die in Less Than One Week in Majorca

As a follow-up to my August 20, 2011, "British Tourists Have a Deadly Summer on Ibiza," we have seen a reemergence of a hazardous game played by intoxicated tourists on the island of Majorca, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of two tourist in the same resort in a matter of days.

During the early morning hours of Friday (April 20), Benjamin Harper, 28, from Twickenham, south-west London, fell from the fifth-floor balcony at the four-star Hotel Antillas while attempting to traverse balconies in a risky game of bravado. As a result, he died from his injuries.

Mr Harper's death came just three days (April 17) after Adam Atkinson, 20, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, died after falling down a stairwell he was climbing at a nearby hotel.

COMMENT: Although it is sad when any life is lost before the person's time, yet alcohol-fueled pranks can have irreversible results.

Consequently, an appeal goes out to the parents of young adults to appeal to their children not to engage in a game often referred to as "balconing," which involves jumping from one balcony to another after a night of heavy drinking.

The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Last year (2011), nearly a dozen foreign tourists were either killed or seriously injured throughout Europe after engaging in "balconing,"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Portugal: Danish Tourist, 30, Raped by Truck Driver, Assailant Arrested, Charged

Portuguese police have arrested a married truck driver, Marco Rebelo, 30, in connection with the assault and rape of a Danish tourist, 24, who picked the tourist up after she was observed hitchhiking on her way to Lisbon on Monday (April 16).

The victim was found ate Monday night Monday near a gas station in the town of Alto da Serra, attempting to get help from passers-by. Fortunately, she was able to give police the truck driver's license tag number, which enabled officers to later arrest the assailant.

COMMENT: The victim and a group of her friends had arrived in Oporto a few days prior to the incident. She decided to go off on her own, and ended up hitching a ride with Rebelo. Instead of driving her toward Lisbon, though,the assailant stopped his truck in a deserted area and raped her.

Additionally, she suffered blows to her head, forehead and neck as she resisted her rapist's advances, who prevailed in overpowering her.

A forensic examination also confirmed that she had been raped. DNA comparative analysis is underway.

As I have said on numerous occasions in the past, hitchhiking is never a good idea, even in Western Europe. It is far better to pay for safe transportation than to risk becoming a victim of violent crime. Rebelo was remanded into custody pending prosecution.

Unfortunately, young adults are convinced they will never become victims.

Panamá: Carnival Corp. Launches Investigation into Why Cruise-ship Did Not Stop for Distressed Vessel

As a follow-up to my April 19 posting concerning a Carnival Corporation cruise-ship which failed to stop and render aid to a distressed fishing boat on the high seas, causing the death of two fishermen, Carnival has launched an internal investigation to determine why the Star Princess did not stop for the adrift vessel after a passenger attempted to report the matter to the captain, Edward Perrin, but could not gain access to him.

COMMENT: As I stated in my earlier posting, no captain should be so inaccessible to receive a passenger's observance of a boat in distress.

This is a rudimentary precept that all novice and professional sailors learn early in their training.

Minimally, Carnival should financially make things "right" with the families of the two fishermen that died because of the Star Princess' failure to stop and rescue the fishermen.

California: Rapist of Australian Tourist, 47, Gets Eight Years in Prison

As a follow-up to my March 13, 2012, posting, Akeem Jelani Johnson, 28, was sentenced to eight years in prison yesterday (April 20) in connection with the rape of an Australian tourist, 47, as well as having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The victim, who was visiting family in Tustin, CA on November 25, 2010, was alone and intoxicated at a local bar when she encountered the assailant. He subsequently escorted her to his parked SUV just after midnight, when he took advantage of the victim and raped her in the backseat of his vehicle, before convincing a couple buddies to help him lift and carry the woman to the alley. She was passed out as she was dumped onto an old, dirty mattress.

COMMENT: In her victim impact statement, which was read to the court before he was convicted, the woman said: "My confident nature has taken a beating. I have become anxious around male strangers. I have trouble functioning without fear and anxiety in unfamiliar surroundings and become nervous of anyone coming too close to my personal space...This whole ordeal has changed me for life. I will never be the same person I was before Thanksgiving 2010."

Fortunately, a Good Samaritan passing by heard the victim in the alley and drove her to a local police station where she could be helped.

Considering that the stated goal of my daily blog is not to criticize victims, but for readers to learn from their misfortune, a lesson learned from the case is that solo travelers take steps not to become overly intoxicated while abroad, as such situations definitely render them vulnerable to being victimized.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thailand: Indian Tourists Urged to Avoid Jet-Ski Rentals in Phuket, Pattaya

My frequent postings for travelers and tourists concerning the security risks in Phuket and Pattaya are unfortunately increasing in numbers, for a variety of reasons, but I urge our readers to read the below link from, which concerns a strong warning not to ride jet-skis in Phuket or Pattaya, or face aggressive extortion attempts:‘Jet-ski-at-your-own-peril-in-Phuket-and-Pattaya.'

COMMENT: Fortunately, THE BANGALORE MIRROR wrote one the strongest warnings yet, urging tourists not to rent jet-skis in Pattaya or Phuket, or face the consequences. Clearly, I strongly endorse this recommendation, otherwise renters may well face some of the hardest looking cases ever seen, who will intimidate and threaten them in no uncertain terms.

Like many scams against tourists in both Phuket and Pattaya, complacent police may be complicit in looking the other way in exchange for gratuitous payments from the jet-ski mafia. I make this statement having worked closely with the Royal Thai Police for several years while posted at the US Embassy in Bangkok as Regional Security Officer (RSO).

Continuing tourist scams on Phuket, verified by Patong police and honorary consuls, are likely to be raised when Phuket's honorary consuls meet with Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha and Phuket officials in May. That being said, little action is anticipated.

Philippines: PNP Issues Advisory on Police Checkpoint Protocols

The Philippine National Police (PNP) issued guidelines yesterday (April 19) to motorists in the Philippines outlining proper conduct at checkpoints for police officers as part of what it called “rights-based policing.”

“This public advisory guides motorists on how to deal with authorities at checkpoints and ensure its implementation on proper searches and seizures to avoid violations of human rights,” Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr., PNP spokesperson, said in a press statement. Cruz said the advisory should also serve as a warning to non-complying police as well as discouraging illegal checkpoints.

The content of the PNP advisory stated the following:

“The checkpoint must be well-lighted, properly identified and manned by uniformed personnel. Upon approach, slow down, dim headlights and turn on cabin lights. Never step out of the vehicle. Lock all doors. Only visual search is allowed. Do not submit to a physical or body search. You are not obliged to open glove compartment, trunk or bags. Ordinary/routine questions may be asked. Be courteous but firm with answers. Assert your rights, have presence of mind and do not panic. Keep your driver’s license and car registration handy and within reach. Be ready to use your cell phone at anytime. Speed-dial emergency number. Report violations immediately. Your actions may save others.”

COMMENT: Chief Supt. Cruz also told the press that marked police vehicles should not have clear windows and that tinted windows are not authorized, pointing out that only unmarked police vehicles can utilize tinting in order to successfully conduct covert surveillance.

Considering the large number of citizens who are injured or killed at both unmarked and marked police checkpoints every year worldwide, the PNP is commended for their efforts in publicizing how police checkpoints should be conducted.

The PNP's good example should be adopted by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

As many of our readers are aware, the daughter of a Chilean diplomat, age 19, was shot and killed just recently in Maracaibo by Venezuelan police who had set up an UNMARKED police checkpoint, an operation that was uniformly criticized by Venezuelan officials. As a result, the diplomat's daughter and her brother "ran" the checkpoint, thinking they had been set up for an armed carjacking.

Think You Know the World Well? Take this Quiz!

If you pride yourself in knowing the world well, particularly geography, try this quiz offered by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service:

Morocco: Women Protest Archacic Law That Permits Rapists to Marry Their Victims

Some 200 Moroccan women staged an angry protest outside Parliament last weekend in Rabat, a week after the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry the man who had raped her, with her parents consent.

The protesters advocated for dramatic changes in the Moroccan penal code that allows a rapist to stay out of jail if he marries his victim.

The suicide on April 14, of Amina al-Filali, 16, who drank a lethal amount of rat poison, sent shock waves through Morocco and sparked widespread calls for reform of a law that appears to defend family values.

COMMENT: Sadly, Moroccan culture and law often permits the families of rape victims who are under 18 often agree to such a union because the loss of a woman's virginity outside of marriage is considered a dishonor to the family. Amina's father, Lahcen al-Filali, had opposed the marriage, but his wife had insisted their daughter marry her rapist.

In a sharp editorial, the independent AL SABAH, was quoted as saying: "It's the law, an absurd, grotesque social rule, that tries to remedy an evil, rape, with another even more repugnant one, marrying the rapist.....Whom are we punishing in the end, the victim or her tormentor?" it asked its readers.

To make matters worse, after Amina's suicide, Moroccan police released the rapist.

Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, or between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor, which also entails a ridiculous fine of 200 to 500 dirhams (18-45 euros, US$24-60). If the rapist marries his victim he cannot be pursued legally unless she later obtains a divorce after she is of age.

Unfortunately, the practice of granting a rapist immunity from prosecution if he marries the minor woman he raped, is not limited to Morocco. The practice is also permitted in Algeria and Tunisia.

Bolivia: Rural Bus Plunges Off Cliff After Brakes Fail, 18 Killed, 31 Injured

According to an AFP report, 18 passengers aboard a rural bus that originated in La Paz and was destined for the Yungas region were killed on Wednesday (April 20) when the brakes on the bus failed and the bus plunged some 656-feet (200 meters) off a mountain road.

Thirty-one others were also injured, many in critical condition. The "accident" occurred some 46 miles (76 kilometers) from the capital. The injured were taken to a La Paz hospital.

COMMENT: The accident occurred on a route known popularly as the “Highway of Death” due to the frequent accidents involving buses and trucks that plunge into ravines and off cliffs on the narrow, winding road.

Passengers that were on the bus reported that the vehicle's brakes apparently failed. Simultaneously, the driver and his assistants jumped to safety from the vehicle before it left the roadway.

Having worked in Bolivia for a number of years, I can honestly tell our readers that it has one of the highest motor vehicle fatality rates in the world. Although treacherous terrain is one risk to reckon with, it is also commonplace for commercial drivers to drink while on duty and for buses, in particular, to be poorly maintained.

President Evo Morales’s administration enacted a law in January 2010 that cracked down on bus drivers caught working drunk, inexperienced drivers and drivers who work excessive hours. That being said, little has changed because of poor or non-existent enforcement.

For travelers and tourists who visit Bolivia, my suggestion is to avoid rural buses completely and hire reputable drivers and vehicles in La Paz, with a relief driver if necessary. It is far better to pay more and live than to save money and die.

South Africa: Body-boarder, 20, Killed by Five-Meter-Long Shark in Cape Town

According to a report from AFP, a South African body-boarder was killed yesterday (April 19) when a shark estimated to be at least five meters long (16 feet) severed the man's leg at the hip in a Cape Town bay, the second such attack this year.

Witnesses reported seeing a single shark, thought to be a Great White, but following the attack, six other sharks were seen in the vicinity of the incident in False Bay.

COMMENT: Although the victim's body was recovered by his brother, who was with him at the time, the severed leg was never found. The attack actually occurred at Kogel Bay Resort which is near Gordon's Bay, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city center.

The attack is the latest shark blow for the top tourist city after a British tourist lost parts of both legs at Fish Hoek in September 2011, after he ignored warning flags on a beach which had been closed due to shark activity.

Officials are also considering placing a shark net at Fish Hoek, a popular swimming beach where three attacks, two deadly, have also taken place.

For tourists and travelers alike, it is always prudent to speak to local police, lifeguards or first responders in beach areas before entering the water, so as to determine if sharks have been seen in the area or whether there are shark spotters or shark nets in place.

I would also suggest a search of my 1,000+ postings under "shark attacks," so as to see where sharks have attacked humans worldwide.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Panamá: Cruise-Ship Ignores Fishing Boat in Distress, Two Die Because Ship Did Not Stop

As most of our readers are well aware of, during the last couple of years cruise-ship lines have deteriorated in a number of ways. This deterioration includes passengers being criminally victimized while participating in ship-sponsored shore activities, passenger disappearances aboard at-sea ships, fires aboard ships rendering them unable to have electricity and operate under their own power and, of course, the ill-fated Costa Concordia whose captain left the ship to save his own hide while passengers perished.

To see some of my postings involving cruise-ship emergencies, simply go to a list of my postings and type in "cruise-ships."

The below link from an extremely well-written Associate Press report, depicts passenger accounts of the Star Princess, whose staff failed to report to the ship's captain a fishing boat in distress off the coast of Panamá. Because the Star Princess did not stop for the boat and render aid to a distressed vessel that had run out of gas, two of the men on the distressed boat died.

COMMENT: Admittedly, cruise-ships have schedules to keep, but it is criminally negligent for any vessel to not stop and rescue passengers on the high seas when observed by those aboard a ship capable of rendering aid.

As the AP article clearly emphasizes, some passengers did everything humanly possible to get word to the captain of the Star Princess about the disabled vessel, but the chain-of-command simply broke down or was non-existent.

Clearly, the US Coast Guard and Panamanian authorities should thoroughly investigate the conduct of the Star Princess.

Perú: Group Who Kidnapped 36 Gas Workers Disavow Sendero Connection

For the benefit of our readers who follow events in Perú closely, please see the below link to an excellent Latin American Herald Tribune (LAHT) piece entitled, "Perú Guerrillas Who Held Workers Deny Shining Path Link."

COMMENT: Most noteworthy in the LAHT article is the fact that the leadership of the group responsible for the mass-hostage-taking, the Militarized Communist Party of Perú, said that no ransom was received before the release of their captives. The group did acknowledge; however, that they shot down a Peruvian police helicopter, which killed the co-pilot.

Australia: Japanese Tourist, 29, Held Hostage, Raped Repeatedly

Australian citizen Robert Mariage, 48, was arrested yesterday (April 18) and charged with kidnapping and three counts of aggravated sexual assault after he held a Japanese woman, 29, hostage in his home in Sydney on Wednesday (April 18).

The victim and Mariage became friends in January 2012, just after she arrived in Australia for an extended vacation, but she kept in contact with him as she traveled about Australia.

COMMENT: Unfortunately for the victim, she made arrangements to see Mariage on Tuesday last and stayed the night at his home in Miranda. Even though the two slept in different rooms on Tuesday night, when the victim woke up on Wednesday she faced Mariage making sexual advances on her with the end result of her being repeatedly raped and tied up to prevent her escape.

At one juncture, she asked to be untied so that she could use the restroom, but used that pretense as a basis of escaping and reporting what happened to her to Sydney police. She emphasized to police that since meeting Mariage, she looked upon the friendship as platonic. Unfortunately, as a predator, he did not.

After reporting her experience, the victim was taken to a hospital where forensic evidence was obtained.

Within hours Mariage was arrested and charged. Police are also using evidence they've collected to determine whether the assailant has been involved in other rapes in the area. He will be arraigned today (April 19).

As most of our regular readers know, my postings abound with examples of tourists and travelers who are not instinctively suspicious of new acquaintances they encounter while abroad. As a result, they are vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

In this case, the young traveler's vulnerability was further complicated by the fact that her command of English was not particularly good. In fact, police had to use interpreters during her victim interviews.

One of the best personal security awareness tips that can be offered to naive and trusting travelers is not to permit oneself to be placed in one-on-one encounters with people they don't know well, particularly members of the opposite gender.

Tragically, the young victim's decision to overnight in Mariage's home was not a prudent one, considering she knew little about him. A better choice would have been to find accommodations nearby.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yemen: Saudi Diplomat Kidnapped, Al-Qaeda Makes Deliberate Threats

According to the Saudi government, al-Qaeda's franchise on the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in Yemen outside of his home in Aden on March 28.

Saudi officials said yesterday (April 17) that a fugitive al-Qaeda suspect, Mashaal Rasheed al-Shawdakhi, reportedly called the Saudi Embassy in Sana'a and threatened to kill the diplomat, attack a Saudi embassy and assassinate a Saudi prince unless the Saudis pay an undisclosed ransom and release specified militant imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

COMMENT: The response from Riyadh was that it would not be intimidated.

Although al-Qaeda, globally, is not nearly as well-financed as it was even three to four years ago, many of its affiliates, particularly in North Africa, have been successful in kidnapping foreigners with regular frequency.

Although al-Qaeda continues to prefer mass-casualty car-and-truck bomb attacks, as well as pedestrian-borne suicide bombings, the fact that the group successfully abducted a diplomat in a major Saudi city is noteworthy.

The next few weeks should dictate whether the cell that kidnapped the diplomat will deliver on its threats. This posting will be updated as new information becomes available.

Dominican Republic: Taiwanese Diplomat Murdered in Her Apartment

Julia Ou, 55, a Taiwanese diplomat accredited to the Dominican Republic was found murdered in her apartment in Santo Domingo's university district on Tuesday (April 17). According to EFE, the victim had been stabbed, strangled and beaten to death.

Ms. Ou, a second secretary at the Embassy, had mid-level responsibilities in the Embassy's consular section, and had been assigned to Santo Domingo for roughly a year. Her previous assignment was in Guatemala.

With Ou absent from work the next day and failing to take any calls or respond to email, Embassy staff and Dominican police went to her apartment building where they found the apartment entry door ajar, the apartment ransacked and Ms. Ou's body.

COMMENT: With information being very sketchy, it is difficult for authorities to identify a motive in Ou's murder; however, it is typical in homicides, even when cause of death may be evident, to conduct an autopsy in order to determine other motives for murder.

Like many Caribbean nations, economic crime in the Dominican Republic is high, with drug trafficking being a common thread in the society.

It goes without saying that all diplomatic organizations in our increasingly violent and perilous world should have formal security awareness training prior to being being posted abroad.

Additionally, all foreign embassies should ensure that the accommodations of their staffs are well-secured against burglary, home invasion and violence against persons.

This posting will be updated as new information becomes available.

Florida: Increasing Risk to Beachgoers from Emergency Vehicles

Recent news coverage by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and other news outlets have highlighted the risk of beach enthusiasts being injured or killed by emergency vehicles on public beaches.

This risk has been particularly flagged as it relates to emergency vehicles that have been responsible for both injuries and death to beach enthusiasts, particularly in South Florida, but anyone who spends time on beaches should be observant 0f vehicles driving on sand and position themselves in such a way as to avoid areas where emergency vehicles may be operating.

COMMENT: Proponents of pickup trucks on beaches call them life-saving tools, largely because lifeguards rely on them for transportation in emergencies and to carry medical equipment, such as backboards, defibrillators and first-aid kits.

That being said, there have been at least a dozen incidents involving injuries to sunbathers just in the last ten years and one documented wrongful in which the City of Miami Beach was ordered to pay a US$1.5 million judgment to a French family whose daughter was killed in 2003.

North Carolinian Rinda Mizelle, 49, was sunbathing on a Fort Lauderdale beach just last week when she was run over by an Ocean Rescue vehicle. As a result, she sustained severe injuries and burns and was taken to Broward General Hospital with lacerations to her arms and legs.

John Philipps, Mizelle's attorney, alleges the city was negligent, and is urging Fort Lauderdale to prohibit large vehicles on the beach.

Last year [2011], two people were run over by a Miami Beach officer who was allegedly drunk while joyriding on a city-owned ATV. One of the victims suffered serious injuries. Lawsuits against the city are pending.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reuters Report: "Sleepy Air Canada Pilot Thought Venus Was Approaching Aircraft"

For the benefit of our readers, below is a link to an excellent Reuters report which describes sleep inertia on the part of an Air Canada trans-Atlantic co-pilot who awoke suddenly from a nap (while the captain was controlling the aircraft) and thought that Venus was an approaching aircraft on a collision course.

The January 2011 incident aboard a Boeing 767 injured sixteen people aboard the aircraft when the airliner suddenly dove to avoid a perceived collision which was imaginary.

COMMENT: What is most noteworthy in the Reuter's report is the fact that Air Canada has two flight officers aboard trans-Atlantic flights compared to three aboard US carriers on similar flights to ensure that pilots are well-rested.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) analysis also revealed that the co-pilot had napped for nearly 75 minutes in violation of Air Canada's maximum of 40 minutes, to preclude pilots dropping into a deep sleep.

For a complete copy of the TSB report, go to:

Puerto Rico: Another US Tourist Raped

For our readers who may recall my April 3 posting, which describing the rape of a vacationing US medical student from Massachusetts on the nearby island of Vieques, another US tourist, 21, was raped on Saturday (April 14), in San Juan's upscale Condado district, by an ex-cop who had been fired for cause.

According to EFE, William Rodriguez, has been charged with the crime against the victim. How he was able to even get work as a security guard has yet to be explained.

The chief of the San Juan police district, Maj. Orlando Rivera, said that the alleged rape occurred on the rooftop of the building where Rodriguez was employed. Rodriguez was unable to post bail, set at $500,000, and was remanded in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon.

The director of the state tourism agency, Luis Rivera Marín, acknowledged the authorities’ concern after the violent attack suffered by an American woman on the small island of Vieques, one of Puerto Rico’s top tourist attractions. That victim, a vacationing US medical student, 29, was severely beaten by her assailant on Vieques’ Coconut Beach. He has yet to comment on Saturday's assault.

COMMENT: Despite how small the island of Vieques is (population 9,300), no arrest has been made in the case of the US medical student who was raped and beaten.

Although two rapes of tourists does not make a crisis, the fact is that any rape is too many, particularly on an island of 4 million.

Unfortunately, though, Puerto Rico's overall crime problem IS a major crisis with one of the highest per capita rates of homicide of any US state.

Added to that is a serious problem with police corruption and an extraordinarily high rate of drug violence. For an island that prides itself in being a top tourist destination, the factors just described are not reassuring.

Even though the island's top cop recently resigned because of his inability to control crime, it could easily be a couple of years before the FBI veteran who just replaced him will be able to demonstrate improvement in the situation.

Consequently, I would suggest that tourists wanting to go to Puerto Rico reconsider, as I would be happy to suggest other islands in the Caribbean that are much safer. Simply drop me an email at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Maryland: Bail for Assailant Who Attacked Tourist Set at US$500,000

As a follow-up to my previous postings on the four leaders of tomorrow who assaulted, robbed, stripped and left an intoxicated and immobilized Arlington, VA tourist who participated in St. Patrick's Day celebrations on March 18, Aaron Parsons, 20, police identified the man who punched the victim after comparing amateur video clips to DMV records.

Please see

COMMENT: The despicable part of this attack is that rather than bystanders rendering aid to the victim, they laughed and jeered at him and took an opportunity to take video clips which began to appear on the Internet, which afforded the Baltimore Police Department very useful leads.

Taiwan: Chinese Tourist Falls into Sea After Entering Restricted Area, Dies

A Chinese tourist from the PRC, 47, fell into the sea while touring a scenic rock park (Yehliu Geopark) along the northern Taiwanese coast earlier today (April16), after entering an area of the park prohibited to tourists. Unfortunately, the man died at the hospital from severe head injuries sustained in the fall.

A security guard posted in the restricted area attempted to deter the tourist from entering the area, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

COMMENT: The decedent, a village chief in China's Shaanxi Province, was unconscious when he was pulled from coastal waters and never regained consciousness. He was part of 19-member tour group from China that included several other officials from his office. The group's 7-day, 6-night tour of Taiwan was scheduled to return to China on April 17.

Yehliu Geopark is one of the most extraordinary rock formations in the world and is located on a cape in the town of Wanli, between Taipei and Keelung. The cape, known by geologists as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Taliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 meters into the ocean.

Argentina: Assailant Shoots, Kills Off-Duty Police Officer for Resisting Carjacking

An off-duty Metropolitan Police officer in plainclothes in the Buenos Aires suburb of Caballito was shot and killed earlier this morning (April 16) when an assailant described to be in his teens fired at the officer several times after the officer resisted the armed carjacking. The officer's girlfriend was in the car with him at the time of the incident.

The officer and his girlfriend were waiting for a traffic signal to change to green when the assailant attempted to carjack the officer's privately owned vehicle. The officer's girlfriend was not injured.

COMMENT: The girlfriend promptly called an ambulance on her mobile phone, but due to the multiple gunshot wounds the officer sustained (two rounds to the stomach and one to the back), he could not be revived when he reached Churruca Hospital.

For both armed citizens as well as off-duty police officers, it is far better to surrender a vehicle to a carjacker and be able to easily identify the suspect, unless the intended victim is absolutely sure they can neutralize the perpetrator with a firearm. Otherwise, giving up a precious life for replaceable property is never a wise choice.

Ecuador: Police Arrest 22 Robbery Suspects Operating at Traffic Signals

As a matter of interest, Judicial Police in Guayaquil arrested 22 suspects last week who had been committing armed robberies at traffic signals in the coastal city.

Although this criminal tactic is not commonplace in most developed nations, it is a frequent occurrence at intersections throughout Latin America, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

These crimes were not the work of sole practitioner, but rather an organized criminal enterprise whereby the group financed street vendors who would then use a whistle system to alert confederates at other intersection as to which motorists to target based upon the surveillance of the interiors of vehicles.

This cursory, but effective notification system also was used to alert perpetrators to the presence of uniformed police.

COMMENT: Fortunately, with the cooperation of citizens who had been victimized, the task force was able to videotape and record the operation, resulting in a high probability of conviction.

For our readers who are familiar with Guayaquil, the focus area of the operation was centered in the vicinity of
Ayacucho and Benalcazar Noguchi. The suspects will all be prosecuted under Ecuadorian conspiracy statutes.

Travelers and tourists visiting developing countries, particularly those riding in motor vehicles, are urged to be particularly cautious at traffic intersections where peddlers are known to ply their wares or offer to wash windows of vehicles.

When encountered, contact with such persons should be avoided by keeping auto windows up and doors locked. Additionally, purses, tote-bags, backpacks and briefcases should be kept out of sight, as some criminals will break auto windows with hammers and forcibly steal valuables.

In some countries, it is a common tactic for "spotters" to be used at one busy intersection, who identify a prospect vehicle by placing a bright piece of chewing gum on the exterior of the vehicle near the driver in anticipation that a criminal at the next intersection will consummate the crime.