Friday, August 31, 2012

Global Impact: Chinese-Born Trade Secret Thief Gets Outrageous, Slap-on-the-Wrist Sentence

The four-year federal prison term that software engineer Hanjuan Jin, 41, received on Wednesday (August 29) for stealing trade secrets from Motorola can only be described as outrageous and an utter slap-on-the-wrist, which hardly serves as a deterrent for other Chinese-born US citizens who fail to take their allegiance to the United State very seriously.

COMMENT: Even though federal inmates do actual time sentenced, in contrast to most state courts in the US, Jin could have received a sentence upwards of 30 years. 

Jin, a naturalized American, was arrested in 2007 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as she prepared to board a flight to China with a one-way ticket and more than a thousand Motorola documents in her possession.

As prosecutors built their case against Jin, they alleged that she was a part of a much broader Chinese-run industrial spying effort that posed a threat to the country's economic prosperity.
Jin worked for Motorola as a trusted employee for over nine years, yet deceptively she intended all along to share the Motorola's trade secrets with Sun Kaisens, a Chinese telecommunications company and supplier to the Chinese military that Jin worked for at the very same time, a fact that Jin carefully concealed from Motorola.
It is noteworthy to point out that the majority of defendants convicted under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA), which also proscribes penalties for trade secret theft, have been Chinese born, suggesting that it is part of the PRC's strategy to steal as many trade secrets from the US as possible, knowing full well the limits of the EEA.
Clearly, it is time for the EEA to be amended by Congress to proscribe lengthy prison terms   as a deterrent for US citizens who fail to take their allegiance to the US seriously. 
Given the negative impact that economic espionage by China is having on the US, politically, militarily and fiscally, it would have been helpful to all Americans if the US Department of Justice had explained why Jin only received a four-year sentence. 

On a much sadder note, one can only hope that the DOJ does not conduct a return on investment analysis on each of its convictions, for in the Jin case, the taxpayers definitely got shortchanged.

UK: Rapist, 16, of Japanese Tourist, 18, Arrested, Charged

As a follow-up to my August 27 posting, and after being arrested and charged yesterday (August 30) in the robbery of a Japanese tourist, 18, a Sheffield youth, 16, is now facing rape charges, for when the victim eventually caught up with him in search of her stolen handbag, he also raped her. 
COMMENT: Although I strongly discourage victims chasing their assailants down after a street robbery, largely because of the risk that the assailant could be working with confederates or violently turn on the victim, that is precisely what occurred in this case.

It is understandable why the victim in the heat-of-the-moment wanted her handbag back, yet, tragically, it resulted in her being further traumatized by the rape. 

The assailant will be arraigned in court today (August 31). Hopefully he will be remanded and face the maximum penalties allowed under British law.

The rape occurred in Ponderosa Park, Netherthorpe.

Fortunately, the UK has a crime victim compensation law which hopefully will enable the victim in this case to remain in the UK and testify against her assailant.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Péru: American Couple, Local Driver Die After SUV Plunges Off Cliff Road in Cuzco

According to EFE,  an American couple, James Dirks and his wife, Judy Leu Dirks, both in their 40s, and their Peruvian driver were killed on Tuesday (August 28) when the SUV they were riding in suddenly drove off a cliff  in Cuzco province and fell into a ravine estimated to be at least 1,300-feet deep.

COMMENT: Comments made by local police suggest that the driver misjudged the roadway as the trio were driving to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins.

As I have suggested in numerous previous postings, mountain roads in both Péru and Bolivia are particularly treacherous, which is why I urge all travelers to be particularly cautious in selecting local drivers who will take them on high-risk routes to historical and cultural sites.

It is far better for travelers in need of ground transportation to go through a reputable travel agency or provider than to spontaneously negotiate a fare with a driver whose experience in maneuvering dangerous mountain roads have not been corroborated.

It should be noted that Huchuy Qosqo aka "Little Cuzco," is an archaeological site north of Cuzco. It lies roughly 3,600 meters (11,600 feet) above the 3,000-meter town of Lamay.

Interestingly, Huchuy Qosqo is inaccessible by public road. Thus, it is possible that the driver did know the area well, which may have contributed to the accident.

Most visitors to Lamay reach Huchuy Qosqo either by hiking in to the site, which can take two days (to and from), or arranging for a horseback trip through local vendors.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New York: Analysis--Street Shootings Must Be Discussed So Our Children Can Learn How to Survive

It is sometimes useful to give unpleasant events that result in injuries and loss of life some time to be digested, as "heat-of-the-moment" reactions can often prove to be  emotional and even invalid.

Let us rewind time back a couple of weeks when New York City police confronted a knife-wielding man in Times Square and then shot him to death a few blocks away, as witnesses and tourists alike followed along and snapped photos.

Shortly thereafter a gunman with a workplace grudge shot and killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building, and then was killed himself by police in a burst of bullets that left at least nine bystanders wounded, some apparently as a result of police rounds.

Since those events dominated global headlines, the fact is that New York City is still the safest large city in the US and will continue to be.

What many of us often forget is that violence is, unfortunately, a byproduct of the human experience, regardless where on Earth it occurs. Thus, it is better for us to reckon with this reality rather than simply putting our heads into the sand.

All the money on Earth will never stop crime or terrorist acts from occurring. Just as the billions spent on combating terrorism after the events of 9/11 will never stop terrorism.

Unfortunately, many media organizations aggressively want to know "why" a terrible act occurred. There may often be an explanation, a motive or a reason as to why humans act in the way they do, but very often such crimes will continue to occur in the future simply because violent acts are a common thread in all societies.

Yet, answering the "why" will never prevent violent acts from continuing to occur.

From my own experience, I can attest that witnessing violent acts is unpleasant and unsettling. Some acts will never be erased from our memory, just as those who witnessed the events of 9/11 will never be the same.

To conclude that two violent acts in the New York City in a matter of days does not render New York City any more violent and dangerous than other cities around the world. One merely has to review my 1,300+ postings to validate that statement.

When lethal force must be used by law enforcement agencies, police procedures will be reviewed and improved on so that innocent lives are not put in jeopardy.

If there is any lesson to be learned from random violent acts, it is that we must educate our children that violence is a part of life and that by example we must show them how to safeguard themselves and others when violence occurs during their lifetime, as it will.

What is most extraordinary from reviewing the two New York City shootings is that the majority of bystanders were far more preoccupied with taking photos of the events as they unfolded, rather than seeking cover and concealment.

It is far more important to teach our children and young adults how to differentiate between cover and concealment than to look at a violent event as a "photo-op."

Cover, such as a concrete wall, is a physical object that we can get behind that will protect us from gunshots or a physical attack. Concealment, conversely, in the form of a solid wooden door, may protect us from being seen by assailants, but it will NOT protect us from being hit by bullets.

Fortunately, the young of all ages and nationalities are resilient. We must give them more credit for being so. We must also be honest with them by educating them how to protect themselves and others during a violent event.

We are doing our children no favors by shielding them from reality. Only by showing them how to survive can they actually do so.

Global Impact: Great Site for Understanding and Finding Solutions for Bed Bugs!!

COMMENT: Having spent the better part of the last 35 years working abroad, mostly in developing countries, I pride myself in knowing more than I would care to about bed bugs. 

In all these years, I have had the displeasure of encountering these critters in some of the best and not so best accommodations around the world, including the US.

The purpose of this short posting is to introduce our globetrotting readers to a great website:

...which has corrected even some misconceptions that I have harbored for a number of years. 

Not only is this site a "one-stop-shop" for everything related to bed bugs, but Vice President Richards Cooper of Bed Bug Central, has also authored a great document found at this site entitled "Bed Bugs 101."

Regardless of whether you're a victim of bed bugs or are plagued with neutralizing them in any type of hospitality shelter that can"host" them as a complimentary amenity for guests, please bookmark this site. You'll be glad you did.

México: 12 Federal Cops Remanded Following Unprovoked Attack on US Diplomatic Vehicle

According to EFE, a Mexican judge has ordered twelve federal police officers held without bail for 40 days pending an investigation of last week’s hostile fire attack on a US Embassy vehicle bearing CD (diplomatic) plates.

The CD designation means that the vehicle contains representatives of the Diplomatic Corps. 

Two embassy personnel and an official of the Mexican Navy accompanying the Americans were wounded in the incident, although none of their injuries were reported to be life-threatening.

COMMENT: The Americans and the Mexican official were traveling on a stretch of unpaved road en route to a navy installation when they encountered an unmarked vehicle whose occupants were brandishing firearms.

Not realizing that the unmarked vehicle was occupied by federal police, the driver of the diplomatic vehicle took evasive action, thinking it was an attack by criminals, which is a frequent occurrence in México. 

It was at that time that the occupants of the unmarked vehicle opened fire on the diplomatic vehicle, only to be joined by three other police vehicles who fired upon the embassy vehicle.

Unfortunately, it is a common practice in México for police to shoot first and ask questions later. 

At a minimum, before the police initiated their armed assault on the embassy vehicle, they easily could have radioed a dispatcher to confirm whether the embassy vehicle was legitimate or not.

The occupants of the embassy vehicle subsequently taken to a  hospital in Cuernavaca, roughly 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Mexico City, for treatment of their wounds.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Alaska: Solo Hiker Mauled, Killed by Grizzly Bear in Denali While Taking Photos

According to a press report contained in The Los Angeles Times, solo hiker Richard White, 49, of San Diego, CA, observed and photographed a grizzly bear as close as fifty yards away until such time as the bear suddenly turned aggressive and mauled the man to death.

It is believed that the hiker was killed by the grizzly on Friday (August 24). The mauling occurred along the Toklat River.

COMMENT: After other hikers reported what had happened to the man, park officials were notified at which point rangers in a helicopter spotted a large male grizzly bear sitting on the hiker's remains. 

Subsequently,  a state trooper shot and killed the bear. Investigators will examine the bear's stomach contents and use other forensic analysis to confirm it was the grizzly that killed the hiker.

Although the bear attack was the first fatality ever reported in the Park's history, it should be noted that Park management urges all visitors to stay as far away as 300 yards from grizzly bears they see in the wild, as their behavior cannot be predicted. 

Péru: South African Kayaker, 24, Shot Several Times on Ucayali River

According to The Associated Press, David du Plessis, a young South African kayaker, 24,  seeking to follow the Amazon River from its origin to its mouth is in a stable condition in hospital after sustaining three shotgun wounds on Saturday (August 25). 

It is believed that the motive for the attack was to rob Du Plessis.

Du Plessis was shot by two assailants while kayaking down the Ucayali River near the provincial capital of Pucallpa. The first shot knocked the South African from his kayak, the second hit him as he headed for shore and the third struck him as he reached shore. 

Du Plessis, who began his kayaking challenge in late June, was able to escape to a village despite internal bleeding and a neck wound, according to the young man's father, Louis du Plessis, who flew from the US where he lives to be with his son. His mother, Robyn Wolff, who all expressed concern about her son's welfare, lives in Durban.

COMMENT: It is indeed fortunate that the South African was hit by shotgun pellets; if rifled firearms had been used he in all likelihood would have been killed.

Eventually, Du Plessis reached Pucallpa by motorized canoe thanks to concerned Peruvians, where he was flown to Lima's Anglo-American Hospital where he has been described as being in stable condition.

Du Plessis reportedly obtained a permit
from the Peruvian military before entering the zone where he was attacked and that the military had warned him that it was a dangerous area.

As I have mentioned in a number of previous postings, solo traveling in isolated, high-risk areas in developing countries is a very BAD idea. Du Plessis is simply lucky that he is still alive. 

Our readers might also be interested to know that a Polish couple,  Jaroslaw Frackiewicz, 70, and his wife, Celina Mroz, 58, were shot and killed by three local farmers and their belongings divided on the Ucayali River, not far from where du Plessis was attacked.

The couple was last heard from May 26, 2011, when they wrote in their blog that they were in Atalaya, a jungle city in the province, about 245 miles (393 kilometers) northeast of the capital of Lima. 

Frackiewicz was described as a retired professor at the Gdansk University of Technology and his wife was a retired hydraulic engineer.

This posting is also is an opportunity to point out that ALL foreign travelers should subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before leaving home, as most medical providers in developing countries require payment in advance before treatment is rendered.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thailand: Finnish Tourist Assaulted, Raped and Robbed on Koh Lipe Island

According to a news report carried by, a Finnish tourist, 34, was reportedly punched several times in the stomach, raped and robbed by a stranger on Koh Lipe Island as she returned to her bungalow late at night.

The victim had been on the island for a couple of weeks with friends to obtain certification as a scuba diver. After a few drinks with her friends she apparently was returning to her room when she encountered her assailant who punched her and dragged her to a secluded area where he raped and robbed her of her mobile phone and 1,000 baht (US$32).

After her attack, the woman reported what had happened to her, at which point she was taken to the local hospital by marine police for forensic examination.

COMMENT: Although local police are examining hotel surveillance video and are hopeful of arresting the victim's assailant, it is relatively easy to escape from the island.

Koh Lipe is a tiny island in the Andaman Sea, located 70 kilometers off the southwestern coast of Thailand near the Malaysian border. Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park and is directly south of the larger islands Ko Adang and Ko Rawi and about 50 kilometers from the island of Tarutao.

Although many travelers and tourists to Thailand purposely seek out austere and out-of-the-way destinations, such choices can often have very bad results, particularly when a tourist is a victim of a violent crime.

As suggested in other postings, I also strongly urge all foreign travelers to subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before leaving home. 

Such coverage can often run US$6-8 a day, which can be priceless when faced with a medical emergency such as the one described above where medical providers almost always demand payment in advance.

Philippines: Kidnapped Chinese Merchant Released After US$118,000 Ransom Payment

Unidentified kidnappers on Sunday (August 26) released one of the two Chinese merchants kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay province last June 4, after the alleged payment of a five million peso ransom (US$118,000).

The released victim was identified as Jian Luo AKA James Luo, 43, of Guandong, China. The other victim, who has yet to be released, was Juankai Lin AKA Jampong Lin, 38.

The two Chinese kidnap victims were abducted from their staff house in Barangay F. L. Peña in the town of Kabasalan.

COMMENT:  Hopefully, police debriefings will produce useful intelligence on which kidnap gang captured and held the merchant for nearly three months.

Foreigners are reminded to avoid all travel to the southern Philippines, given the formidable kidnap threat,
in particular the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao. 

As most of our readers know, Australian Warren Rodwell, 53, was kidnapped on December 5, 2011, and is still missing, despite a US$2 million ransom demand made by his captors. He was reportedly shot while resisting capture, which is never a prudent course of action.

It should also be noted that Rodwell refused local police protection before he was kidnapped, claiming that his purchase of a handgun would be sufficient to defend himself against upwards of six kidnappers carrying assault rifles. 

He may well have under-estimated that component of his kidnap prevention plan. Unfortunately, had he heeded the Australian Embassy's travel warning on travel to the south he could have avoided the unpleasant experience that befell him.

UK: Tourist, 18, Pursues Snatch-and-Grab Suspect, Only to Be Sexually Assaulted After Catching Him

A Japanese tourist, 18, was the victim of a serious sexual assault at 1930 hours on August 24, after her handbag was grabbed in a snatch-and-run incident on Hammond Street in Netherthorpe, Sheffield.

COMMENT: I strongly recommend AGAINST solo crime victims chasing perpetrators over stolen property, largely because you can never predict what the outcome will be, as occurred in this case.  

It is also possible that the victim could have been killed if the suspect had been armed.

Rather than chasing down a suspect, it is far more important for crime victims to collect their thoughts and write down their assailant's description for police. South Yorkshire police are investigating.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trindidad & Tobago: British Tourist, 54, Raped, Robbed by Serial Rapist, Assailant Arrested

A Trinidadian serial rapist, 35, who is believed to have raped and robbed a British tourist, 54, on August 12, while she was on a two-month vacation in Trinidad, was arrested on Friday (August 24) in Cunupia. 

According to a news report in The Trinidad Guardian, the suspect, who is well-known to police, struck up a conversation with the victim and another woman in a bar in Chaguanas when he offered to drive them both home.

After dropping off the victim's friend at her home around midnight, the man drove the British woman to her home in Boy Cato Trace where he not only raped her at gunpoint, but also robbed her of some $35,000 in jewelry and $80 and then pushed from a moving vehicle.

COMMENT: Now, here's the really interesting part: The assailant was the COUSIN of the woman who was not raped in the above case, suggesting that the perpetrator never really had a long-term career in crime because of what can only be described as diminished capacity, in raping and robbing her friend from the UK.

Additionally, if the cousin of the assailant did not know her relation well, and particularly his criminal history, both women should simply have called up a taxi to take them both home and avoided what proved to be a nightmare for the British victim.

The assailant's car, which was also stolen, was later found along Madras Road, a short distance away from where the suspect was attacked and robbed. 

Fortunately, on the basis of developed leads, the assailant was arrested on Friday and will participate in a police "line-up" sometime today to confirm his identity by the rape/robbery victim.

Inasmuch as the victim is scheduled to return to the UK on September 11, local police are expediting arraignment and judicial proceedings. The perpetrator will be charged with rape, robbery and kidnapping.

This is a standing suggestion that I've made to tourists and travelers for years: Leave all expensive or expensive-looking jewelry safely at home when traveling abroad. 

It is far more prudent to acquire nice, but inexpensive jewelry locally and avoid the theft of a major collection.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sri Lanka: Australian Tourists Victims of Larceny from Hotel Room in Talpe

After arriving in Talpe last week, an Australian civil engineer and his wife, their two children and two friends booked a suite in Talpe to enjoy the sun and sand.

Shortly after their arrival, they returned to their hotel one night after having dinner only to discover that Rs 350,000 (US$2,643), five passports and several cameras were missing from their room.

COMMENT: Foreign travelers should take measures to prevent theft from hotel rooms. 

This should include safeguarding passports, money, travelers' checks, etc. in the hotel lobby's two-keyed safe deposit box system. If such a system is not available, upgrading to a hotel that has such a system should be strongly considered, particularly if carrying a large sum of currency.

Foreign travelers should take precautions to prevent passport theft. This should include carrying a photocopy of all photo pages of passports, including passport numbers, as well as extra passport photos in the event passports are stolen. This precaution will speed-up the process of getting stolen passports reissued by consulates and embassies.

Global Impact: Non-Essential Travel to Iran Should be Deferred

COMMENT: As most of our readers know, there has been extensive international media coverage, both print and broadcast, in recent weeks speculating as to when Israel could initiate military action against Iran to counter Tehran's progress in developing a nuclear military capability.

Although there is no certainty as to when Israel might act preemptively, it is a given that the US government will be drawn into such an effort if not directly, assuredly indirectly.

Additionally, there some analysts who strongly feel that such military action potentially could be initiated before the scheduled national election in the US on November 6, 2012.

Needless to say, any foreigners who happen to be in Iran at the time may well find themselves unable to leave Iran if Israel does initiate military action on Iranian nuclear facilities

As we saw during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War in Lebanon (July 12-September 8), when the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon began rocket attacks on Israel, resulting in the eventual closure of Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, thousands of expats and foreigners were prevented from leaving Lebanon. 

During the short period of the 2006 war, 53 foreigners were killed and 23 were wounded.

Thus, with the majority of foreign diplomatic offices in Iran either completely closed or diminished in their capability to help in the evacuation of foreigners who could be trapped in Iran if Israel were to attack Iran, it is suggested that foreigners defer non-essential travel to Iran until it becomes clearer as to when Israel might justifiably attack Iran to protect its national interests.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hawaii: Australian Tourist, 20, Pleads No Contest in Negligent Homicide of CA Teen, 16, Faces 1 Year in Jail

As a follow-up to my August 15 posting, Australian tourist Tyson Dagley, 20, pleaded no contest on Thursday (August 23) after being charged with third-degree negligent homicide in a Hawaii personal watercraft crash that killed a California teen, Kristen Fonseca, 16, on August 5.

COMMENT: Unfortunately for Dagley, police investigators recovered a video clip of the defendant standing on a jet-ski posing for a photo as he looked toward his girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, 21, rather than looking where he was going. Subsequently, he crashed into Fonesca's jet-ski from behind; she died the following day.

Dagley faces up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine if convicted. Currently, he is free on $100,000 bail; he has also surrendered his passport. Sentencing is scheduled for September 5.

In a related matter, Dagley’s girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, 21, remains charged with hindering his prosecution. She is free on $500 bail. Ryan told police that Dagley was sitting and looking straight ahead before the collision, and that she didn’t see the crash.

Yet, a forensic computer examiner recovered two deleted videos from the memory stick in Ryan’s camera, which depicted the crash. The report said that in the video, Dagley appears to be standing on the watercraft.

It should be noted that Fonesca's family has also filed a wrongful death suit against both Dagley and the company which rented him the jet-ski with no safety training.

This report will be updated after Dagley and Ryan are sentenced.

Cyprus: Russian Tourist, 32, Alleges Rape Against Local She Met in Limassol Nightclub

An unidentified Greek Cypriot, 47, was arrested and remanded yesterday (August 23) in Limassol after a Russian tourist, 32, filed a complaint against her assailant for raping her repeatedly after she met him in a nightclub in Yermasoyia on Wednesday night (August 22).

COMMENT: Following her complaint to police, the victim was examined by a state pathologist who confirmed that the injuries she sustained from the experience were consistent with forcible rape. 

Subsequently, based on the woman's description of her assailant, an arrest warrant was issued and the man was taken into custody.

Yermasoyia is a small town on Greek Cyprus' southern coast (near Limassol) with significant history going back to the Roman period. The village was fortified in the medieval period by the Knights Templar. Today, it is one of the countless charming Cypriot towns that attracts tourists from all over the world.

As I have said on several occasions in the past, incidents of sexual assault and rape have been rising in Cyprus over the last few years with solo travelers often being targeted because of their vulnerability. 

Clearly, traveling with a friend and having a suspicious nature contribute to one's overall sense of personal security awareness.

Leaving a nightclub with a person one has just met can only be described as risk-rich behavior that may well result in being victimized. 

It is far more prudent for tourists and travelers to find out more about people they have just met before permitting themselves to be placed in a vulnerable situation that may jeopardize their well-being.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Costa Rica: New Open Container Law a Reminder to Ask If Drinking in Public is Legal in Other Countries

According to La Nación, effective August 8, offenders of a new open container law in Costa Rica could be fined up to US$360 for drinking alcoholic beverages on the street. The law also establishes a new system for distributing liquor permits.

COMMENT: The Regulation and Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Law does permit public drinking at sanctioned activities such as civic festivals, fairs and other public events.

Sanctions also include a ₡5.4 million (US$10,800) fine for businesses caught selling liquor to minors.

I bring this topic up not only because it directly affects the huge number of tourists and expats who travel to and live in Costa Rica, but as a reminder for tourists and travelers everywhere to ask whether drinking in the streets is legal in the countries they are traveling in BEFORE THE FACT.

As many of our readers know, fines can be huge in some countries and payment is expected after being cited by a police officer, otherwise violators could face arrest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Portugal: British Grandfather, 66, Granddaughter, 5, Perish from Rough Seas While Walking Along Beach

Every now and then an incident that takes the lives of innocent foreign travelers becomes so gut-wrenching in terms of its impact on families that it is a challenge to fathom and understand. This is one such event that will only reconcile a family unit through the peace found in faith.

For the complete story in the Telegraph, see:

At 1400 hours on Tuesday (August 21), Lara Lewis, 5, and her grandparents, Jill and Brian O'Dwyer, both in their sixties, were walking along a stretch of beach at the tourist resort of Nazare, located some 60 miles north of Lisbon.

Lara's parents, Philip and Sian Lewis, were sunbathing on the beach when the grandparents decided to take Lara for a walk along the beach In Praia dos Dalgados. Unfortunately, Lara and her grandparents wandered into a section of beach not protected by lifeguards and known to be particularly treacherous and capable of pulling beach-walkers into the rough water.

All three, Lara and her grandparents, were pulled into the powerful surf. Although two nearby fishermen were able to rescue Jill O'Dwyer, who has already been discharged from a local hospital, tragically, Lara and Brian both drowned

COMMENT: Our condolences and sympathies are extended to both the Lewis' and the O'Dwyers in the hope that they will find peace solace at this tragic time.

As many of our regular readers know, I regularly urge foreign travelers not familiar with beach areas and coastal waters found abroad to talk to local lifeguards FIRST before ever venturing near such areas, given the prevalence of ripe tides [or ripe currents] and strong currents that can pull beach-goers out to sea.

Anyone caught in a powerful current or ripe should never attempt to swim toward shore, but rather swim parallel to the shore in order to escape from the pull of the current.

Sri Lanka: Three French Tourists Given Six-Month Suspended Sentences for Desecrating Buddha Shine

According to AFP, three French tourists were given suspended six-month prison sentences on Tuesday (August 21) after their holiday pictures depicted one of them--a woman-- kissing a Buddha statue in the town of Kandy on the lips, in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka.

The trio, two women and a man, pleaded guilty to desecrating a Buddhist shrine and were also fined 1,500 rupees (US$11.33) each. Additionally, the man also attempted to imitate the pose of the Buddha in another photo. 

COMMENT: The tourists' problems began on Monday (August 20) when they used a local photo processor to make copies of their photographs. Unfortunately, the proprietor of the photo shop alerted police of the religious infraction and promptly placed the tourists under arrest, at which point they pleaded guilty to the charges filed against them.

In this case, the three French tourists no doubt were grateful to the Sri Lankan government for not jailing them for months, although their legal trouble might well have been avoided by some preliminary research on religious mores as it relates to the Buddhist faith in Sri Lanka.


The French tourists could also have been deported, but were not, considering the importance of foreign tourism in Sri Lanka. Also, see my postings of February 19, 2012 and December 26, 2011.

Sri Lanka banned US rap star Akon in March 2010 arguing that he had produced a music video involving scantily clad women in front of a Buddha statue. Eight years ago, Sri Lanka's supreme court ordered police and customs to seize Buddha Bar music and bikinis with Buddha images after monks complained they hurt local religious feelings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Costa Rica: US Hiker is Found After Red Cross Mounts Search

According to an article carried by The Tico Times, members of the Costa Rican Red Cross found missing US hiker Daylor Tangey, 30, yesterday (August 20), who had gone missing while hiking alone in the foothills of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, in the northwestern Guanacaste province.

COMMENT: The Red Cross began a search operation on Sunday (August 19) with staff from its offices in Liberia, Cañas and Bagaces. 

On Monday, a special mountain unit joined the search effort and found fortunately found Tangey by mid-day. He was dehydrated, but otherwise in reasonably good health. 

On November 23, 2009, another US tourist, David Girmelfard, disappeared in the same area and continues to be among the missing.

Sadly, the Girmelfard Family has visited Costa Rica every year since their son’s disappearance and has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to their son's whereabouts.

As most of our regular readers know, in today's unpredictable and often perilous world,  traveling alone is never a good idea, unless the traveler is highly experienced and intimately knows the country's geography, culture and language.

So many of my postings, tragically, involve solo travlers. Any person traveling alone in a foreign country is far more vulnerable to unforeseen threats, accidents and calamities than those traveling with others.

If travelers are committed to traveling alone, they should at a minimum carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) and ideally a regionally-based satellite phone, so that their whereabouts can be pinpointed and they can call for assistance if necessary.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thailand: Four Die in Phuket Nightclub Fire, Only the Tip of the Iceberg

According to Phuketwan, the leading newspaper in Phuket, highly flammable foam used as insulation in the elevated dance balcony of Phuket's Tiger Discotheque was a contributing factor in the death of four unidentified bodies who perished in Friday's (August 17) fire.

An expert said similar unsuitable foam had also been used at the Santika Pub in Bangkok, where more than 60 people died on New Year's Eve 2009.
There were seven fire exits but some required patrons to traverse a balcony railing before descending to a lower level.

Representatives of the Association of Siamese Architects, after reviewing the establishment, concluded that 20% of the building was spray-on foam when 10% was the legal maximum.

The foam used was expansion polystyrene, inappropriate because it burned rapidly instead of being slow-burning and resistant to temperatures up to 750 degrees, as the appropriate foam would have been.

Two sets of concrete stairs run to the the dance balcony that surrounds the dance floor. Two bodies were found at the top of each of the stairways.

Moreover, the Building Safety Inspectors and Officers Association, told the media that the building had no fire detectors and no sprinkler system, an industry best-practice for a high-occupancy premise, even in the absence of mandatory codes.

What has yet to be determined is when the foam was installed in the thirteen-year-old building and whether Phuket authorities should have checked it and detected that it was the wrong type of material to be used in a nightclub.

At a news conference held after the fire was extinguished, a company executive who owns the nightclub stated that each of the four families whose loved ones died in the fire will be paid one million baht (US$31,530).

Pending release of the identities of the decedents, it is believed that one of those who perished in the fire was British tourist, Michael Tzouvanni, 24, who called friends when he realized that he would perish in the fire. A ring he had been wearing was later found amongst the debris in the club.

Four French tourists were also among those severely injured in the fire. Reportedly, three other unidentified persons continue to be missing. Some survivors reportedly have sustained burns on as much as 40% of their bodies.

COMMENT: Initial findings suggest that the cause of the fire may have been from lightning that struck a transformer followed by an explosion when local power was restored, although this has not as yet been factually proved.

As someone who lived in Thailand for a number of years as the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy in Bangkok, I can sadly report that like everything else in Phuket specifically, and in Thailand generally, safety regulations governing nearly everything is overlooked or ignored, in keeping with the Thai cultural attitude--"mai pen rai"--which loosely translated means "don't worry."

Traffic safety is poorly regulated and enforced, which is an explanation for the high death and injury rates on Phuket roadways.

Additionally, tourists have died after diving into hotel pools; others have died when local power is interrupted, only to be electrocuted when power is restored during heavy rain.

Because local regulations don't require experience or a license to operate two-wheeled motorbikes and motorcycles, many tourists are seriously injured and die on the roadways either because of a lack of inexperience or because they drink and drive while operating such vehicles.

Notwithstanding, many tourists are fleeced, conned and victimized because local police either have been bought off by vendors and tourist establishments or because they've been told by their superiors not to rigidly enforce the law, so the tourists keep coming back in large numbers.

Unfortunately both Phuket and Pattaya have declined to the point of being somewhat out of control and borderline lawless, unless, of course, a tourist happens to file a complaint.

For those who dispute my comments, I would respectfully invite them to search my 1,352 postings over the last couple of years and search postings under "Phuket."

I raise these concerns not to be unduly harsh or critical, but to tragically emphasize that many tourists and travelers to Phuket will never return.

In the event my cautions fall upon deaf ears or some of us actually consider themselves immortal, or truly believe that bad things only happen to someone else, permit me to mention how Australian travel agent Michelle Smith, 60, from Perth, was stabbed to death on June 20, when she resisted the efforts of two street thugs to steal her handbag.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Canada: UVU Student, 27, Faces 4-6 Months in Prison

According to The Salt Lake City Tribune, Kraig Jacobson, 26, and a business major at Utah Valley University (UVA) and his brother, Kevin, 19, were planning to celebrate Kraig's 27th birthday raising money for cancer while riding across North America.

Ten days into their six-week motorcycle trip, though, the two brothers crossed over a bridge on July 15 that led to a Canadian immigration and customs checkpoint. Inasmuch as they were camping in wilderness areas, Kraig had packed a loaded handgun in the event they ran into bears or other menacing wildlife, a choice that would later head to Kraig's arrest.

Unfortunately for Kraig, the two brothers were stopped at the border and asked if they had anything to declare. Being tired and a bit dehydrated, Kraig instinctively said "no" to the first officer he encountered, but then acknowledged to a second officer that he had a handgun locked behind his seat on the motorcycle in anticipation of running into bears while camping.

COMMENT: Although the handgun possession charge was later dropped, the next thing that happened was that Kraig was summarily arrested and charged with smuggling with malicious intent and lying to a border control officer. The two charges together carry a four- to six-month prison term.

For the benefit of our readers, Canadian laws outlining the process of bringing firearms into Canada are outlined in great detail at:

Canadian law states that visitors bringing any firearms into Canada or planning to borrow and use firearms while in Canada, must declare the firearms in writing. 

The law also requires officials to confiscate firearms and weapons from persons crossing the border who deny having the items in their possession. Confiscated firearms and weapons are never returned. Possession of an undeclared firearm may result in arrest and imprisonment.

Kraig's not declaring his possession of a handgun to the first Canadian customs officer has left him in a precarious situation. After spending eighteen days in jail, he was eventually permitted to post bail, but cannot leave Canada until his legal troubles are resolved.

His trial date is scheduled for January 24, 2013, so it is unknown as to when he'll be able to return to his job in Alpine or his studies at UVU.

Reportedly, the Crown prosecutor assigned to Kraig's case is asking for incarceration of four to six months in jail. He could also be facing charges from local authorities, in addition to customs charges.

In the interim, a petition has been established on Kraig's behalf appealing to the Canadian government.

Admittedly, ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. Yet,  six months waiting for trial and who knows how long Mr. Jacobson may be incarcerated at such time as he goes to trial in January, seems to be unduly harsh.

If Kraig is not currently represented by US counsel licensed to practice in Canada, he should pursue this avenue as soon as possible. 

Additionally, writing his Congressional and Senate representatives and appealing for their help should also be at the top of his list.

Clearly, Kraig needs to be punished for his offenses, but extensive media coverage on his plight hardly is an endorsement that US citizens put Canadian travel at the top of their "To Do List."

Latin America: Paper Articulating China's Policy Direction a "Must-Read"

COMMENT: For the benefit of both governmental and private sector readers, I strong suggest that you download and read Dr. Victor López Villafañe's excellent paper entitled "Chinese Policy toward Latin America: Implications for Japan and the US."

Dr. Villafañe's work was previously presented in an earlier version as a paper at the Six University Symposium, hosted by American University, Washington D.C., October 26-27, 2011.

Dr. Villafañe is Professor Emeritus at the Graduate School of Public Policy (EGAP), Tecnologico de Monterrey. San Pedro Garza García, C.P. 66269, Nuevo León, México. He can be reached as follows: Email: Tel: (52 81) 8625-8356; Fax: (52 81) 8625-8385.

This work was presented in an earlier version as paper at the Six University Symposium, hosted by American University, Washington D.C., October 26-27, 2011.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ecuador: UPDATE: Body of Missing American Thomas Mosher, 46, Found in Coastal Waters

As a follow-up to my August 8 posting, it is with regret that we report the discovery earlier this week of the body of American entrepreneur Thomas James Mosher, 46, who disappeared off the coast of Salinas, on July 29. 

Mr. Mosher was still wearing his life-jacket when found by local fisherman.

COMMENT: Mosher and his wife operated a jet-ski rental company near Salinas.  The couple had been married five years.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Elsa López, as well as his family.

Spain: Three Britons Die, Ten Injured in Baclony Falls

The British government's Foreign Office and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) have launched a campaign to try to reduce the number of young people involved in falls from balconies, many of which have occurred while intoxicated or taking extraordinary risks while on exterior balconies.

Thus far this year, three Britons have died from falls and 10 have been injured. Nine of the falls were on the Spanish islands of Ibiza and Majorca, and the majority involved young adults aged between 18 and 35.

The number of incidents already equals the totality of incidents for the entirety of 2011, despite it being only halfway through the summer season.

Many of the three million young tourists heading overseas this summer will receive leaflets featuring 18-year old Jake Evans, who fell seven floors after leaning too far over his balcony to retrieve a cigarette lighter during a holiday in the resort.

Evans, who had been drinking heavily, collided with the edge of other balconies as he fell, landing on a sun lounger, which doctors contend probably saved his life. Among his injuries, the teenager sustained a fractured skull, a snapped right wrist, broken fingers and permanently damaged his back.

COMMENT: Of the thirteen Britons who have fallen thus far this year, several have been hurt or killed under conditions not necessarily attributed to "balconing," a term coined by Spaniards to characterize tourists who, motivated largely by bravado and excessive drinking, jump from one balcony to another.

On the other hand, it is puzzling to me as an analyst as to why the victims from these falls appear to be predominantly British when Britons do not necessarily make up the majority of all tourists to Spain. 

Nevertheless, Britons do tend to visit Spain in groups of five-to-eight persons which could cause one to conclude that there is a tremendous amount of peer pressure to engage in "balconing," particularly when fueled by binge drinking.

Regardless of the causation, it is hoped that efforts of the Foreign Office, ABTA and concerned parents take hold, as increasing death and serious injuries for Britons while on balconies is becoming a serious hotel security issue.

In light of the increasing deaths and serious injuries facing British families, it may be time for the Foreign Office, ABTA and Spanish hoteliers, particularly in Ibiza and Majorca, to collectively meet and attempt to find solutions to how to neutralize the continuing deaths and injuries to British youths.

One approach would be to engage in a pilot project at one or two hotels in both Ibiza and Majorca to test various methods of reducing the casualties. 

I personally would be happy to participate in such an effort in the interest of tourist safety, as cautions alone to not seem to effective.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cyprus: Series of Rapes in Ayia Napa Don't Reflect Well on Cypriot Police

According to the Cyprus Mail, and as a follow-up to my August 4 posting concerning the rape of a Norwegian tourist, 19 in the beach resort of Ayia Napa, there have reportedly been a series of four rapes, also in Ayia Napa, each concerning a gang of six assailants.

At approximately 0330 hours on Wednesday (August 15) a woman, 19, reported that she was raped by six men in Ayia Napa, after a British couple reported that they were attacked by six assailants who attempted to rape the woman on Nissi Beach.

Notwithstanding, as far back as mid-July, an Irish newspaper [Sunday World] carried an account of two women, each of whom had been raped by a member of a member of six assailants on two separate nights a week apart.

Cypriot police have acknowledged that they are also investigating a reported rape of a British woman, 19, who works at a night-club in Ayia Napa.

COMMENT: Despite the serious nature of the rapes and cases of sexual assault reported above, police in Ayia Napa claim to have no information on several of the cases described above, despite victims who claim to have filed complaints with the police.

In the case of the British couple who had visited Nissi Beach a couple of years ago, on Sunday morning (August 12) they decided to have a swim, at which point they were confronted by six men who assaulted the woman, stole all of the couple's belongings and broke the jaw of the man accompanying the woman.

For an island-nation that depends so heavily on foreign tourism, the unprofessional attitude toward crime victims as displayed by the Cyprus Police Force in Ayia Napa, hardly promotes confidence. 

Disclaiming to have received previous reports of rape and sexual assault and failing to get back to crime victims on the status of their cases also sends a strong message to tourists to "go away."

For the benefit of our readers, some years ago, I served in Cyprus as a security adviser for the US Department of State on two different occasions and worked extensively with Cypriot police. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the dramatic increase in violent crimes on the island and a rise in police apathy, Cyprus should not now be characterized as a "safe" destination. 

As I said in my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, "...there are no safe countries." To order a copy, please go to

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hawaii: Australian Tourist, 20, Charged with 3rd Degree Negligent Homicide in Jet-Ski Collision

According to the Associated Press, Australian tourist Tyson Dagley, 20, from Logan (south of Brisbane), was riding a rented jet ski on August 5 in Keehi Lagoon when it collided with a jet ski ridden by Californian Kristen Fonseca, 16, the latter of whom died the following day from injuries sustained in the collision.

As a result of Ms. Fonseca's death, Mario Canton, her father and a high-ranking official with the US Department of Homeland Security, filed a civil lawsuit against Dagley and the jet-ski rental company, Aloha Jet Ski, on Monday (August 13) in the Circuit Court in Honolulu.

To further complicate Dagley's situation, the Australian is also being held on $US100,000 ($A95,707) bail for a third-degree negligent homicide charge over the death.

A Honolulu judge denied Dagley's request to reduce his bail at his arraignment on Tuesday (August 14). Dagley also requested a jury trial on the misdemeanor charge. His next court date is August 23.

COMMENT:  Mr. Canton's civil lawsuit argues that the employees of Aloha Jet Ski "failed to give any instructions or warnings about driving at excessive speeds" before turning over the watercraft to the Australian.

Investigators say that Dagley was standing on his rented watercraft at the time it hit Fonseca's watercraft from behind. They also contend that he was looking at his girlfriend, who was taking video and photos at the time, and didn't pay attention to where he was going. 

Dagley's girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, 21, is also charged with hindering prosecution, although she was released  on $US500 bail.

The case has been further complicated by the fact that Ryan told police that Dagley was sitting down on his jet-ski and looking straight ahead at the time of the collision and that she didn't see the collision. Yet, if Ryan was taking photos at the time, how could she not have seen the collision?

Unfortunately, for Dagley, a forensic computer examiner recovered two deleted videos from the memory stick in Ryan's camera which showed the crash, depicting Dagley in a standing position.

Ms. Ryan is scheduled to appear in Honolulu District Court on September 7 for the misdemeanor charge; she is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Although the number of jet-ski accidents worldwide are difficult to nail down, anecdotal information tends to suggest that inadequate training of those renting or owning personal water craft (PWC), poor judgment and inadequate enforcement of jet-skiers who drink and drive are attributed to an ever increasing number of jet-ski accidents.

As a matter of interest, I have personally observed a number of jet-ski users carrying young children without the benefit of personal flotation devices (PDF).

If for no other reason than reducing the number of accidents and protecting the water-borne public, it is time for some centralized entity to be tasked with maintaining a global database of jet-ski accidents.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Cyprus: Autopsy Reveals that Excessive Drinking Led to Death of British Tourist, 20

British tourist George Yuill, 20, from southeast London, died in an Ayia Napa hotel room on Monday (August 13) after he and five friends had consumed two-dozen beers and ten three-liter bottles of cheap vodka.

COMMENT: On Tuesday (August 14) an autopsy revealed that Mr. Yuill had died of asphyxiation after choking to death on his own vomit.

It is always tragic to see young lives of promise die well before their time as a direct result of binge drinking.

As I have urged in countless postings, parents of young adults, even at risk of alienating their off-spring, need to caution them on the high risk of excessive drinking while on holiday.

Ironically, Matthew Kidd, Britain’s top diplomat in Cyprus, visited Ayia Napa just one month earlier to encourage British tourists to drink in moderation.

As a recovering alcoholic who had his last drink on August 18, 1986, I know all too well how binge drinking can needlessly end lives. For our younger readers, PLEASE drink in moderation so you can live a full and long life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pakistan: Wife of Kidnapped American Pleads for al-Qaeda to Release Her Husband

As many of our regular readers will recall, and as a follow-up to my May 7, 2012 posting,  US citizen Warren Weinstein, 71, was kidnapped on August 13, 2011, after a number of gunmen seized him from his home in Lahore.

Al-Qaeda released a video of Weinstein in May in which the American aid worker said he would be killed unless President Barack Obama agreed to the group’s demands. The White House has called for Weinstein’s immediate release but has said it won’t negotiate with al- Qaeda, in keeping with the US policy which prohibits making concessions to terrorists.

Weinstein's wife, Elaine, observed the anniversary of his disappearance on Monday (August 13, 2011) with a statement urging his release. She said he suffers from a heart condition, severe asthma and high blood pressure and fears that his health ”will deteriorate if he is not allowed to see the doctors and specialists that have helped keep him alive in recent years.”

Weinstein was the country director in Pakistan for JE Austin Associates, a US-based development contractor that advised various Pakistani ministries on technical assistance programs.

COMMENT: In my experience, keeping a kidnap victim healthy is paramount on the minds of kidnappers, otherwise they may lose their only bargaining chip. 

Thus, it is important for captives to communicate with their captors as to what critical medical prescription they are on so that their experience in captivity can be as healthy as possible.

As I have pointed out in previous postings, when he was kidnapped it would have been his last day in Pakistan, as the following day he was scheduled to permanently return to the US, suggesting that intensive surveillance of targets almost always precedes a kidnapping.

It is very likely that those conducting the surveillance knew his schedule very well and may even have known him. 

In the video released in May by al-Qaeda, Weinstein is quoted as saying, "My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” the American emphasized. ”If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

Although it is understandable and normal for the family members of kidnap victims to plead for the release of their loved ones, unfortunately, in my some 30 years' experience in analyzing and interviewing kidnap victims, I've never known a captive to be released as a result of such appeals.

Actually, such appeals almost always bolster the propaganda benefit of kidnappers, yet it is psychologically beneficial for families to plead for the release of their loved ones. 

Pleas for release also make families feel like they are doing something constructive at a time when everything else seems hopeless, particularly following a lengthy period of captivity. Yet, in the end, it rarely persuades kidnappers one way or the other.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yemen: Release of Saudi Diplomat Held Since March by al-Qaeda Falls Through at the Last Moment

Abdallah al-Khalidi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in the Yemeni port city of Aden, who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on March 28, was scheduled to be released to local tribal mediators on Saturday (August 11), but on Sunday (August 12), the deal apparently fell through. Thus the release never occurred.

Shortly after the diplomat was kidnapped, an al-Qaeda affiliate demanded an undisclosed ransom payment and the release of several members of al-Qaeda, all women, who were being held in the Kingdom.

In two videos that were sent to the Saudis during al-Khalidi's captivity to prove that he was alive, he is depicted as urging King Abdullah to release women detainees from Saudi jails if he wanted safe release of the diplomat. 

A militant who claimed responsibility for the abduction had threatened to kill al-Khalidi unless a ransom was paid and al-Qaeda prisoners were freed from Saudi jails.

COMMENT: Coincidentally, last month [July] five al-Qaeda-linked women prisoners were freed by the Saudi government. 

Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turkis stressed at the time that the move was not connected to the demands made by al-Khalidi’s captors. Yet, for what other reason would the women have been released?

As for the ransom demand, it is unknown as to whether the payment was ever made to al-Qaeda. 

With the jailed women released, the only loose end would have been the ransom demand. Thus, it seems plausible that the ransom demand fell through, which may caused al-Qaeda to renege on al-Khalidi's release.

In any event, as this posting is filed, al-Khalidi appears to still be in al-Qaeda's hands.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.