Saturday, August 31, 2013

India: Update--Gang Rapist Gets 3 Years in Reform School Because He Was 17 at Time of Attack

According to and a follow-up to my numerous postings on this tragic incident, an Indian teenager, who was 17 years of age in December 2012, a participant in a gang-rape on a moving municipal bus, was found guilty of the gang-rape and eventual murder of a medical student in New Delhi, has been sentenced to a scant sentence in reform school of only three years! 

It should be noted that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for four participants in the same crime in a separate, specially convened fast-track adult court. 

Amid demonstrations nationwide following the attack and the woman’s death, the government passed laws imposing stricter punishments for sexual assaults and the setting up of fast-track courts. 

COMMENT: Understandably, as in other crimes, rarely are tougher sentences a deterrent for sex crimes, which is why in most countries convicted felons of rape and other dastardly acts usually result in life-long prison terms.

During the two-hour assault aboard the bus, the woman was repeatedly raped before being dumped naked along with her male companion near the New Delhi International Airport.  The couple had been duped into boarding the bus, which the 17-year-old gang-rapist was driving illegally. 

Indian political leaders, including Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, and the victim’s family have been calling for tougher sentences for criminals under the age of 18 in the wake of the woman’s murder. India’s top court is currently hearing an appeal seeking a new interpretation of laws on criminal responsibility so longer sentences can be considered. 

The trial of the four other defendants charged with conspiracy to abduct the woman, sexually assault and murder her is expected to end in about a month. All of the gang-rapists have pleaded not guilty. 

In March 2013, Ram Singh, the bus driver accused of leading the group, killed himself in the capital’s biggest prison midway through his trial. Another defendant, Vinay Sharma, was left in critical condition in May after being attacked by his fellow inmates. Sharma is now out of the hospital. 

A woman was raped every 21 minutes last year in India, according to police records. Protesters took to the streets again in April 2013 demanding the resignation of New Delhi’s police chief after the rape of a 5-year-old girl in the capital. An American woman was gang-raped while hitchhiking back to her hotel in an Indian tourist town in the Himalayas. 

There have been 806 cases of rape in New Delhi in the first six months of this year, according to Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of the city's police force, up from 708 cases throughout the whole of last year.

Given the Indian government's apparent inability to protect its own citizens from forcible rape and particularly gang-rape, I strongly discourage solo women travelers from abroad in traveling alone anywhere in  India.

Syria: Update--Populist US President Seeks Congressional Approval Before Striking Syria

According to Reuters, and my last posting of August 30, entitled "Syria: With Cameron Losing Vote in House for Joint US/UK Op, Washington Naively Goes it Alone," President Barack Obama seemingly has in recent days decided to seek House approval of his solo airstrike on Syria, now that the British House of Commons has said "no" to Prime Minister David Cameron.

COMMENT: The President's strategy is a prudent one, as the jury is still out in terms of whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actually ordered the use of chemical weapons on his own people. 

Thus, it is wise for President Obama to seek Congressional approval, not to mention that of the American people, before ordering a preemptive strike on a country that has close ties with Russia, Iran and even China.

From all indications, the House will consider the Syrian action during the week of September 9, thus giving al-Assad even more time to prepare for the strike.

Interestingly, Representative Peter King (R-NY) was quoted as saying that President Obama does not need Congressional approval to authorize a strike on Syria." 

No doubt President Obama is seeking Congressional approval to conduct his airstrike on Syria on the off-chance that an attack on the al-Assad regime goes terribly wrong: strategically, politically or economically. That way, the President will have members of the House in the "bath-tub" with him, to share in the blame.

India: Goa is Still a Magnet for Budget Tourists, Visitors Urged to Look Elsewhere

According to The Guardian, Goa, located in West India in a region known as the Konkan, and located on the Arabian Sea, is attempting to reverse itself from being a haven for Indian tourists as well as low-budget foreign tourists who spend little money.

Renowned for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year. 

Unfortunately, and most recently, officials in Goa, are attempting to shed the area's reputation as  a hedonistic hippie haven whose promises of sun, sand, cheap beer and drugs transformed it into a magnet for backpackers and budget tourists.

Alternatively, and albeit suddenly, Goa officials seemingly want a much more upscale clientele, a clean-up if you will, and a new direction in terms of the type of folks that Goa officials ostensibly want.

As a result, drinking hours have been slashed, dance bars banned and drinking on the beach forbidden. The ministry of tourism has allocated £7.5 million (US$11.6 million) for tourism-related projects, including a golf course, helicopter tours and a cruise ship terminal. There is even talk of oceanariums and theme parks.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, international tourist arrivals are already down 23% since 2010. Visa fees have soared in 2013 (plus processing fees) and with the collapse of the rupee, tourists are eyeing other Asian beach destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam.

According to THE GUARDIAN, figures released recently by the tourism ministry demonstrate that the state is falling behind many of India's less well-known destinations. Tourism grew by only 0.08% in the past five years. The number of British tourists has fallen from 154,122 in 2010 to 119,891 last year, an indication that Goa is no longer a preferred destination.

Critics of Goa feel very strongly that the beach resort is going to have a hard time winning upscale tourists back after years of sending mixed signals that it wanted Indian and low-budget foreigners. Additionally, the beaches are filthy, strewn with broken glass and soaked in oil discharged by tankers off the coast.

Low alcohol prices have drawn in large gangs of men who drink heavily and whose presence makes it feel less safe for local women and female tourists. 

The British Foreign Office travel warning to Britons thinking of visiting Goa warns: "Throughout Goa there have been reports of drinks being spiked and travelers, including British nationals, subsequently being robbed, sexually assaulted or even killed."

In 2012, 29 British nationals died or were killed in Goa. Some of these deaths were attributed to drug/alcohol abuse, but there has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. Visitors are urged to avoid beaches after dark while stray dogs abound as well as the threat of robbery, sexual assault and harassment.

To make matters worse, those responsible for the death of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, 15, who was raped, drugged and left for dead in 2008 in Goa still have yet to to be adjudicated in court in terms of the two men responsible for her death. 

Of course, the underlying question is: What irresponsible person left Keeling in the hands of the assailants?

Given the tons of garbage adorning beaches in Goa and respectable tourists being robbed, conned, duped, attacked and victimized, and the fact that Goa is still known for its reputation as a haven for hippies and budget tourists, Goan beaches are hardly a place to find solitude, tranquility and safety.

My personal suggestion is that there are countless beaches in the region far safer and healthier for tourists than Goa. If you need suggestions, please email me at:

Venezuela: Update--Health Minister Puts "Political Spin" on Deficiencies Cited By VMF

According to EFE, and as a follow-up to my posting of August 21 entitled "Venezuela: President of VMA Declares Health Care System Dysfunctional," Venezuelan health minister Isabel Iturria finally acknowledged on Friday (August 30) that Dr. Douglas León, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation (VMF) was absolutely correct in his description of the poor condition of health care in the Socialist country.

Dr. Iturría said "there are “difficulties” in the nation’s hospitals following the complaints of medical personnel and patients over the past few weeks about the lack of resources." 

COMMENT: Unfortunately, Dr. Iturría went to great lengths to "sugar-coat" her statements about the condition of the health care system in Venezuela, taking extraordinary steps to characterize health care in the best "political" light.

Like a good politician, Itturía rejected, however, "the idea that a hospital crisis exists, since how well the country’s healthcare system is working can be judged by the health indicators since the late President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999."

Although Dr.  Itturía is a licensed cardiologist, presumably her political accountability supersedes her medical accountability to "do no harm."

Conversely, Dr. León, president of the VMF, who represents all medical professionals in the country, told reporters earlier in the month that "90% of the nation’s hospitals “are almost technically closed down” and asked that a healthcare emergency be declared." 

My advice to multinational companies who send expats to Venezuela is that they be in the best physical and emotional health condition as possible as the medical environment they are being sent into is comparable to developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

As an important side note, companies sending expats to Venezuela should also provide them an adequate weight allowance for the importation of food, given the shortages that prevail in the country.

Australia: Update--In a Strange Twist, Italian Tourist, 26, Charged with Fraud to Cover-Up Carjacking

As a follow-up to my August 30 posting concerning the Italian tourist, 26, who reportedly was carjacked and assaulted, it now appears that the "victim" conned both the police and yours truly, as she seemingly has now been arrested for fraud and filing a false police report to cover up a collision she had with her rental car!

As our readers may recall, the "victim" originally said that she was carjacked by a man and a woman near Kakuda National Park when in fact she used the "carjacking" to cover up a collision she had with her rented Hyundai.

COMMENT: On Friday (August 30) she apparently acknowledged to police that she fabricated the story to cover up a collision she had with her rental.

Understandably, police took the woman's very seriously and devoted considerable police resources to investigating the "crime," only to discover that she came up with the elaborate "carjacking" and theft of all of her belongings to cover up a major collision she had had earlier. 

The injuries the woman alleges occurred during the assault and carjacking were in fact injuries sustained earlier.

She has now been charged with two counts of making a false declaration, driving without due care, failing to report an accident, and has been remanded into custody until she appears in court on Monday (September 2).

Needless to say, it appears unlikely that the Italian tourist requested "full coverage" of the Hyundai when she rented it, otherwise she would have no basis to engage in a major deception with police and concoct a "carjacking, injuries and theft of her belongings" that never stemmed from a crime. 

Foreign travelers should ALWAYS take full coverage of vehicles rented in a another country. 

We can only hope that an Australian magistrate will sentence her to time in jail so she learns her lesson. Otherwise, she'll continue to lie as she goes through life.

As a side note, over the last few years, our readers should know that a good number of foreign tourists and travelers have engaged in lying about such events as "forcible rape, assault and other crimes," simply to cover up their own bad choices, errors in judgment, inexperience and not understanding how to successfully function abroad.

If I can offer any advice to INEXPERIENCED foreign travelers and tourists, it is this: 

1. PLEASE study the risks and cultures you will encounter abroad BEFORE ever leaving home;

2. Ask for advice on how to function abroad if you don't really understand the "in's and out's" of how to be a prudent foreign traveler; and

3. Never, ever lie to cover your own mistakes, particularly to government officials.

Our readers will be updated as new information on this case becomes available. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Spain: Foreign Tourists Spent 6% More Than They Did During Same Period in 2012

According to EFE, foreign tourists who visited Spain in the first seven months of 2013 spent 32.21 billion euros ($43 billion), roughly 6% more than they did during the same period in 2012.

The rise in the average expenditure per tourist was 2%--up 949 euros (US$1,270), according to figures from the Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry.

In July alone, the spending of international tourists climbed to 7.79 billion euros (US$10.43 billion), or 4.3% more than in the same month of 2012.

COMMENT: Nationality-wise, British visitors continued to account for the largest chunk of spending with 6.36 billion euros (US$8.51 billion), which is almost 20% of the total. 

Germans followed in second place with 5.15 billion euros (US$6.9 billion), or 16% of the total.

By July of this year, Spain had welcomed a record 34 million foreign tourists, 3.9% more than in the same period in 2012.

Tourism in Spain represents 10% of the GDP and employs roughly 2 million people.

Global Reach: Skype Celebrates 10th Birthday, 300 Million Users, Conversations Total 2.6 Billion Years

According to EFE, Skype is celebrating its 10th birthday with 300 million active users and conversations totaling 2.6 billion years worth of time.

The unique service which has brought global citizens closer together by easing spoken communications for both entrepreneurs and conglomerates alike.

The first phone call using Skype on a personal computer was made in April 2003 in Estonia, but it was not until August 29 of that year that the first beta version of the voice over IP service was released.

COMMENT: Skype was successful as a pioneer in video calls and HD video calls, and has tried to always be available on all platforms – PCs, television, tablets and smartphones – as well as on operating systems.

Some 50 million people use the service on peak days, with video calling the most popular feature.

Skype, which was founded by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis in Estonia, was acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005 and was later taken private and became a unit of Microsoft in 2011, selling for $8.5 billion. 

To join, go to:

Philippines/China: Update--High Court Rules That Manila is Immune to Suit, But...

According to The South China Morning Post, and my previous posting of August 26, a High Court judge yesterday (August 29) struck down a claim filed by victims of the 2010 Manila hostage tragedy against the Philippine government on the grounds that a sovereign state is immune from being sued in Hong Kong.

Yet, two of the survivors of the botched hostage rescue effort and the mother of the tour guide killed in the bungled rescue three years ago could continue their legal battle against eight Philippine officials, said Justice Mohan Bharwaney of the Court of First Instance.

Lawyers on both sides are considering whether to appeal the judge's decision.

Last week, Lee Mei-chun, mother of tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, and survivors Yik Siu-ling and Joe Chan Kwok-chu said in writs that they suffered injury and loss as a result of negligence or breach of duty by the Philippine government and the eight officials involved in the failed rescue attempt. They are seeking millions of dollars in compensation. 

COMMENT: The judge referred to the landmark Congo case of 2011 in which the Court of Final Appeal ruled that sovereign states enjoyed "absolute immunity" and therefore were protected from civil or criminal litigation.

Bharwaney said a jurisdiction could not assert judicial authority over a foreign state against its will.

The judge announced his decision after he dismissed the claimants' bid to have the hearing held behind closed doors due to the "sensitivity" of the case.

The eight officials were sued because they were criticized in a report by Philippine Secretary for Justice Leila de Lima. Those officials include:
  1. Then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim;
  2. Manila Police Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay;
  3. Vice Mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso;
  4. Police Chief Leocadio Santiago;
  5. Former Police Director General Jesus Versoza;
  6. Former Interior/Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno;
  7. Chief Hostage Negotiator Orlando Yebra; and
  8. Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual.
The three victims filed the writs ahead of a legal deadline on the third anniversary of the tragedy in which terminated policeman Rolando Mendoza took 22 Hongkongers and three Filipinos hostage on a tour bus in Manila and shot and killed those from Hong Kong before being killed himself.

The plaintiffs took legal action after they said their demands for an apology, compensation, punishment of the officials responsible and better tourist safety were not fulfilled.

Yik and Chan filed a separate claim against Hong Thai Travel Services for negligence and breach of duty. Chan's hands were injured and Yik's lower jaw, left thumb and right index finger were shattered by a bullet.

Perú: Macchu Picchu's Sister City to Install Two-Way Tram, Revolutionizing Tourist Access

According to ABC News, the central government in Lima has approved what in all likelihood will be Perú's first two-way aerial tram.

I'm sure a good many of our readers are already very familiar with the Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu, and many of you may very well have even visited them, but Macchu Picchu's sister city, Choquequirao, located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, is expected to have the tram in place by late 2015.

Unfortunately, in the past, Choquequirao was only accessible as a result of a relatively arduous two-day hike, which excluded many of the disabled, not to mention thousands of seniors.

COMMENT: Bridging the deep canyon of the Apurimac River, it is expected to make Choquequirao reachable in just 15 minutes from the nearest highway, which in engineering terms is phenomenal. 

The five-kilometer (3.10 miles) will be designed to whiz 400 people an hour in each direction nearly a kilometer above the river (3,281 feet). 

Hopefully, the Peruvian government will not accept LOW bid. 

The president of the Apurimac state government, Elias Segovia, anticipates the tramway will bring about 3,000 tourists a day after it opens. “This is going to generate tourist services. It will generate great investment” in hotels, restaurants and other amenities, Segovia says.

Choquequirao, phonetically pronounced as "Choqek'iraw," is a ruined Inca city in southern Perú, similar in structure and architecture to Machu Picchu. The ruins are buildings and terraces at levels above and below the truncated hill top. 
Choquequirao is situated at 3,050 meters above sea level (10,006 feet) is in the spurs of the Salkantay Mountain Range in the Province La Convención in the Cuzco region above the valley of river Río Apurímac. The complex is 1,800 hectares, of which only 30–40% is excavated.

The site was built by Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1471-1493) and Huayna Capac (1493-1527). It was one of the last bastions of resistance and refuge of the Son of the Sun (the "Inca"), Manco Inca Yupanqui, who fled Cuzco after his siege of the city failed in 1535.

The construction of the trams to the ancient Inca citadel of Choquequirao has been declared a priority by the Apurimac Regional Government, which are destined to receive 220 million Peruvian Soles (US$ 82.7 million) to fund the project.

Carlos Canales, president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) believes that in the first year of operation the Choquequirao cable car will receive 200,000 tourists, which will generate an income of US$4 million, with the average visitor paying US$20 per ticket.

Syria: With Cameron Losing Vote in House for Joint US/UK Op, Washington Naively Goes it Alone

According to The Los Angeles Times, the United States will seemingly go it alone in terms of its air strike on Syria, now that British PM David Cameron lost a vote in the House of Commons on Thursday (August 29) authorizing an air strike on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military forces.

COMMENT: Despite the fact that the US is war-weary after fighting on two fronts for well over a decade, not to mention its putting combating terrorism first, over economic stability, it appears that the House of Commons' "no" vote might well have been a clue for President Barack Obama.

At first blush, President Obama's goals in engaging in an air attack on Syria seem credible: deterring further use of chemical weapons; stopping terrorists from obtaining such weapons, and protecting nearby allies such as Israel and Turkey as well as US military bases in the region.

Nevertheless, as often said, "He who initiates a military engagement 'owns it,' both in the short-term and long-term." 

In point of fact, however it is described, Syria seems to be undergoing a civil war where there is no direct evidence of US interests being targeted, attacked or put into jeopardy.

Admittedly, both Turkey and Israel potentially are at risk, yet there is no reason why the US cannot, through diplomatic channels, convey a démarche, which would be conveyed to the Syrian government outlining those conditions that would constitute likely military consequences if Syria engaged in a number of actions against US interests or the allies of the US.

Although my entire career (US Marines, US Department of State and 20 years in transnational counter-terrorism) has been devoted to safeguarding people in an international environment, I truly believe that the US must concentrate on rekindling its economic stability on a global scale and not get bogged down in fighting other nations' wars or in attempting to stamp out transnational terrorism wherever it exists around the globe.

Although the Obama Administration has generally leaned toward obtaining United Nations support, even in the case of unilateral domestic issues, it is noteworthy to point out that the Administration avoids it love affair with the UN when contentious votes from Russia and China are imminent.

Very similar to the US intelligence community's making a bad call in 2003, in terms of Saddam Hussein's possession and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was later used as a basis to invade Iraq, there seemingly is no "smoking gun" in terms of the details concerning al-Assad's apparent use of chemical weapons. 

US intelligence is similarly guarded. There is no proof that al-Assad, rather than a lower-level or rogue commander, was directly involved or that the attack wasn't a cynical attempt by opposition forces to draw the West into Syria's civil war, now in its third year.

Although all global citizens can be outraged by the loss of roughly 100,000 lives in Syria, it very prudent for all of us to flush out the details involved before we rush to judgment and militarily attack a sovereign nation. 

We have been wrong before, actually many times, so it is in our best interests, and Syria's, to verify, verify and verify before taking irreversible military action.

Australia: Italian Tourist, 26, Assaulted, Robbed of Rental Car, All Belongings in Northern Territory

According to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), a solo Italian tourist, 26, is recovering after her visit to the Northern Territory on August 29.

The young woman was reportedly taking photographs of rocks next to the Kakadu Highway when a man and a woman pulled up in a dark SUV.

Initially, the couple appeared innocent enough. Yet, they offered to sell her a visitor's pass for Kakadu National Park at which point she walked over to her rental car to retrieve some money.

Suddenly though, the man attacked the tourist with a large piece of wood, hitting her severely in the legs. The next thing that happen is that the man stole her rental car and all of her possessions with the woman following him closely in the SUV.

COMMENT: Although the victim did sustain minor injuries, the incident had a dramatic emotional impact on her, having lost everything she had.

The Italian victim did not report the robbery until later in the day because she was stranded on the side of the highway after she was attacked and robbed of her car and possessions.

As a result, she was forced to catch a bus which took her a considerable amount of time to get to a police station. 

The male assailant is described as about 30 years of age, Caucasian, with blonde medium-length hair and stubble on his chin and wearing shorts while the female was described as thin with blond hair.

Although I'm probably the first one to express the benefits of solo travel, simply because it gives you the option of enjoying new surroundings at your own pace and on your own schedule, the downside for inexperienced foreign travelers is that many young adults are too trusting of strangers. 

For instance, selling tickets in the middle of nowhere strikes me as a pretense to target someone.

It might have been far better for the solo traveler to simply have declined the couple's offer and promptly gotten into her car, locked the doors and driven off, while keeping the man and woman in view.

Another facet of foreign travel that I would like to emphasize is that ALL foreign travelers should subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage, regardless of their destination, before they leave home in the event they are injured or become ill. 

Such coverage normally costs US$7-10 a day and is priceless at the cost, particularly if you have to be medically evacuated.

From the ABC news report, it doesn't mention whether the Italian victim carried a mobile phone permitting her to promptly call the police, but ALL travelers should carry a mobile phone (compatible with the country they're in) 24/7 for emergencies such as the one that confronted the victim. 

The fact that she had to wait for a bus to come along suggests that she did not have a mobile.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

India: Preparation is a Key for Trekkers in North India, 30 Foreigners Disappear Over 20 Years

According to India Today, the search is on for the whereabouts of two French backpackers who were reported missing from Dhauladhar range on August 23, 2013. 

Police search parties and the members of the trekking team failed to locate the trekkers on Tuesday (August 27).  

Balbir Thakur, superintendent of police in Kangra said that a group of 32 foreign trekkers, including the two missing French trekkers had left Dharamshala for trekking on August 19. The trekking expedition was organized by Field Service Intercultural Learning, an NGO.

Reportedly, on August 21, two Frenchmen, ages 20 and 21, did not return. According to their fellow trekkers they had decided to move towards the snowline. 

COMMENT: Although police are searching for the two young men, more than two dozen tourists have been murdered or vanished without trace in the Dharamshala and Manali valleys in recent years.

Two kinds of foreigners descend on Kullu and Manli Valley every year: tourists who want to enjoy a trek across its beautiful landscape; and relatives searching for those who never return.

At least 30 foreign tourists have gone missing in the Manali and Dharamshala during the last two decades.

Australian Daniel Mount Whitten, 23, and Japanese Kajuya Uaeno, 32, were reported missing on the same day, August 2, 2005, in Manali and Mandi.  They were never found.

Unfortunately, frequent disappearances of foreigners have given the tourist hot-spots of Dharamshala, Kullu and Manali a very bad reputation. 

LONELY PLANET, which publishes popular tourist guides, has dubbed Parvati Valley, where at least six foreign tourists have gone missing, the "valley of death."

Security agencies fear that most of these tourists were robbed and killed. While one foreigner was beaten to death at Hampta pass four years ago, another was stoned to death in Tunda Bhoj.

Solo hikers often carry precious watches, cameras and money and are attacked by local people. They are either buried in the forests or thrown into rivers with stones tied to their bodies. Some are also killed by landslides.

The towns of Kullu and Kangra district are dotted with posters pasted by worried relatives, announcing cash awards for information leading to the missing hikers' rescue.

The list of missing tourists includes three Australians, two Americans, two Israelis, a Briton, a Russian, an Italian, a Yugoslavian, two Swiss hikers, two Dutch tourists and one from Ireland, besides the two French trekker lost last week.

An NDTV producer Ravi Nibhanpudi, 27, who was reported missing from Dharamshala on November 24, 2012, was found dead in a gorge after three months. 

Such a high disappearance rate over a period of only 20 years is very unsettling for trekkers, their families, the police and the reputation of the area. 

Yet, many of the disappearances are a direct result of solo trekkers who are over-confident about their skill level and the false belief that they will not be victimized, robbed, raped or killed.

There are safety in numbers, no doubt about it.  Do be cautious and plan for the worst.

We will update our readers on updated information concerning the welfare of the two French trekkers who disappeared last week.

México: Country's Armored Vehicle Production Projected to Reach 2,500 Units in 2013

According to EFE, México’s armored car production program is expected to total 2,500 units this year, a figure matching the output in 2012, as reported by the Mexican Automotive Armor Association (AMBA).

Reportedly, the production of light-armored (LAV) and fully-armored vehicles (FAV) fell to about 20% during the second quarter in 2013, largely because of delayed acquisition from Mexican government procurement sources. Normally, roughly 30% of all LAV/FAV vehicles in México are purchased from the Mexican government.

The auto industry expects to sell up to 1.07 million light units this year even though the government revised its economic growth forecast downward from 3.5% to 1.8%.

COMMENT: AMBA members had a 51% market share in the first half of this year, when 589 vehicles were armored.

Purchasers are reportedly looking for ballistic-resistant vehicles with greater defeating capability, while lighter armor was the most popular five or six years ago. 

Exports are generally low due to high tariffs. Also, the demand for armored cargo trucks now accounts for 5% of the market.

Were export tariffs much lower, the demand for both LAV/FAV vehicles internationally has always been high, particularly in recent years, which is why most AMBA members generally service a domestic demand.

The real art in armoring all vehicles rests largely with using lighter armoring materials with greater defeating capability, particular attention to engine efficiency vis-à-vis armoring material weight distribution and creating a vehicle that does not look like it is light-armored or fully-armored. 

If any of our readers are interested in reputable firms who do factory-armoring or after-market installation, just send me an email at:

Panamá: Update--Skeletal Remains Found 8/20/13 Confirmed to Be US Expat Yvonne Baldelli, 42

According to The Yuma Sun, and my last posting of August 22, the Panamanian government's forensic analysts have confirmed that the skeletal remains found on August 20, inside a backpack in Panamá do in fact belong to US expat Yvonne Baldelli, 42, a Californian who went missing on November 26, 2011.

Authorities in Panamá compared the DNA of the bones with that of Baldelli's immediate family members to determine that the remains did in fact belong to her.

As a result of the confirmation, Baldelli's family will be able to repatriate her remains back to the US for a formal burial. 

COMMENT: Baldelli moved to Panamá in September 2011 along with her boyfriend at the time, Brian Brimager, a retired Marine now living in San Diego with a woman he subsequently married and had a child with out of wedlock.

Ms. Baldelli was reportedly last seen on November 26, 2011, leaving a restaurant with Brimager on Isla Carenero in the Bocas del Toro region of Panamá. Brimager is suspected by US law enforcement of murdering Baldelli.

In early December 2011, Brimager left Panamá and traveled to Costa Rica and then on to the US. Law enforcement officials believe this was part of an elaborate scheme to make it appear as if Baldelli had left him for another man.

Baldelli's family did not immediately suspect anything was wrong because Baldelli, a clothing designer, was frequently out of contact with them. Yet, Yvonne failed to attend a family reunion and couldn't be reached by family members, they grew concerned and reported her as missing to police in January 2012.

In May 2012, Panamanian police began investigating Baldelli's disappearance as a homicide. That year, FBI agents and Panamanian forensic specialists found traces of blood on the walls and floor of the hostel El Sapo in Bocas del Toro.

On June 27, 2012, Brimager was arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements in connection with the case. 

The indictment charged Brimager with murdering the young woman and creating a cover story to explain her whereabouts, even going so far as to impersonate Baldelli via email “in an attempt to trick her friends and family into believing she was still alive, thereby obstructing, influencing and impeding investigation into her disappearance and suspected death.”

The indictment also accuses Brimager of assaulting Baldelli after they arrived in Panamá and in attempting to dispose of evidence, including some of Baldelli's personal belongings and a bloody mattress.

Brimager has denied any involvement in Baldelli's disappearance and has not been charged with homicide, either in Panamá or in the US.

What is particularly strange is that the capabilities of the FBI Laboratory in Quantico were not made available in an attempt to link trace evidence and woman's clothing found in the backpack in which some of Baldelli's remains were found.

Indeed, it is even more tragic when a US citizen is killed in a foreign country, very likely by another US citizen, and potentially gets away with murder.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hawaii: Update--Retrial of US State Department's Chris Deedy, 29, Postponed Until September

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a hearing to re-try special agent Chris Deedy, 29, has been postponed until September 13.

Deedy's first trial on 2nd degree homicide charges ended last week in a hung jury in connection with the shooting death of Kollin Elderts, 23, who was shot and killed by Deedy on November 5, 2011. 

Elderts was unarmed at the time.

Deedy fired three rounds from his government-issued semi-auto 9mm pistol, one of which hit and killed Elderts.

COMMENT: Presumably the delay in Deedy's new trial is no doubt based on the fact that the prosecution does not want to run the risk of another hung jury. 

Finding twelve jurors who are unaware of and undecided in terms of the case potentially could be a challenge for both the prosecution and the defense.

Global Impact: A "Must-Read" Piece: "Daily Mail" List of Bizarre Laws That Can Get You Arrested

COMMENT: I strongly suggest that all readers review today's issue of THE DAILY MAIL entitled "Eating Next to Church, Chewing Gum on Trains and Wearing Camouflage" Bizarre Ways British Tourists Get Arrested Abroad."

Admittedly, the title is a bit long, but this excellent piece offers virtually all foreign travelers, not just Brits, very useful information to maneuver a shopping list of bizarre laws that can get all of us into trouble.

I strongly recommend you read it:

Thailand: British Kickboxer, 29, Extradited in Homicide of US Marine Veteran, 23, in Phuket

According to AFP, British kick-boxer Lee Aldhouse, 29, AKA "The Pit-Bull," pleaded guilty in Phuket on Wednesday (August 28) in the stabbing death of former US Marine Dashawn Longfellow, 23, in Phuket in 2010.

Thai prosecutors allege that Aldhouse stabbed Longfellow, who was in Phuket after sustaining a combat injury in Afghanistan at the time.

After killing Longfellow, Aldhouse fled to the United Kingdom in 2010 and was eventually extradited back to Thailand under a century-old extradition treaty.

COMMENT: Aldhouse's attorney, Kampon Siriwatunyoo told AFP  that his client was pleading guilty to Longfellow's homicide, without explaining a change in his original plea.

Prosecutor Chaingsaen Panya said Aldhouse's hearing was expected to start on September 2 and would hear the testimony of at least three witnesses.

Aldhouse fled to Britain after Longfellow was stabbed but was arrested upon arrival and detained for almost two years while he fought extradition to Thailand.

The Briton lost his extradition battle and in December 2012 became the first Briton in more than a century to be sent to Thailand for trial.

Reportedly, the Home Office has been assured by Thai prosecutors that Aldhouse would not face the death penalty.

The kick-boxer, who had been training and competing in Thailand, was arrested at Heathrow Airport on August 18, 2010, after he fled Thailand to avoid arrest in Longfellow's murder.

In details not reported in the media, the Marine war veteran was apparently attacked in his apartment in Phuket on August 14, 2010, following an earlier fight in a bar in Phuket.

As I have said so often in the past, there are always options available when a life is snuffed out between two people, which is why I contend that the Royal Thai Police have not done a very ineffective job in reducing disputes and altercations between foreigners, particularly in cases fueled by the over-consumption of alcohol.

The underlying causation of this increase in ineffective law enforcement and the unnecessary loss of life is a direct result of Thai police not using proactive intervention in preventing conflict-based fatalities when such intervention could actually save lives. 

This report will be updated as new information is made available.


Canada: Elderly Tourist Falls at Peggys Cove Lighthouse, Sustains Minor Injuries

According to, an elderly tourist sustained minor injuries after falling three meters (nine feet) at Peggys Cove, nova Scotia on Tuesday afternoon (August 27). The cruise ship passenger injured his head and leg in the fall.

The incident sparked questions about whether tourists are aware of the dangers at one of Canada’s most photographed lighthouses. 

The government used to hire people to patrol the rocks around Peggys Cove and to warn people about the dangers in the area.

The Canadian Department of Tourism has placed warning signs on the rocks and says the site’s visitor information center and brochures highlight the hazards.

COMMENT: Peggy's Cove is a small rural community located on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay in Nova Scotia's Halifax Regional Municipality, which is famous for the Peggy's Point Lighthouse.

It is incumbent upon all cruise-ship lines who have line-sanctioned ground excursions to alert all passengers to situations that may make them vulnerable to falls and accidents.

Colombia: México's Coca-Cola FEMSA to Build US$200 Million Bottling Plant in Tocancipá

According to EFE, México’s Coca-Cola FEMSA, which also owns 20% of Heineken beer group, reports that FEMSA has broken ground on a US$200 million bottling plant in Tocancipá, a city in central Colombia, a short drive from Bogotá.

The new plant will be in operation in late 2014, according to FEMSA CEO José Antonio Fernández, considered the world’s largest independent bottler of Coca-Cola products in terms of sales volume.

The plant “will feature state-of-the-art design and technology, and will be considered green because it will have the highest sustainability standards,” Coca-Cola FEMSA said.

The new bottling plant will create 150 direct jobs and other indirect jobs, FEMSA reported.

COMMENT: FEMSA currently has bottling plants in Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, Cali and La Calera.

Coca-Cola FEMSA is a unit of Fomento Economico Mexicano, a conglomerate that also owns FEMSA Comercio, the operator of more than 10,600 OXXO convenience stores, FEMSA Empaques and FEMSA Logistica.

Tocancipá is a municipality and town of Colombia in the department of Cundinamarca. It's population is 68,000.

Thailand: Two Chinese Tourists Killed, Eight Injured Aboad Speedboat, Awaiting Updates

According to, two Chinese tourists were killed earlier today and eight were injured in a speedboat crash off Pattaya Beach that represent another indicator of negligent risks to foreign tourists.

The two decedent were severely cut by a propeller
, causing their deaths. The speedboat crashed when it caught on an anchor rope and flipped over about some 200 meters offshore. 

There were 29 passengers aboard the speedboat, named "Choksuwanni 17." It was returning from an outing to Lan Island, seven kilometers off Pattaya.   

The boat's 'driver, Kengkai Boonsri, 23, was among the injured. It is believed the boat was traveling at speed when it hit the anchor rope.   

China's Bangkok Embassy is conducting its own investigation of the speedboat collision, in addition to the one being conducted by the Royal Thai Police, which, given the Thai government's often unengaged and cursory investigation of accidents, is warranted.

The incident occurred at 1330 hours local time. The dead have been named as two men, Dong Feiyue, 30, and Zhang Tao, 29. 

Those injured include: Geng Yanzhi, 33, Xiao Manying, 47, Xiao Xiongping, 62, Qign Xiaolin, 32, Xiao Shungen, 49, Liang Kaiyao, 49, and Gu Yu Zhang, 33.

China's Ambassador Guan Mu warned Phuket officials at a public gathering in May that better safety standards have to be applied to protect Chinese tourists. It is believed he transmitted the same message to authorities in Pattaya. 

COMMENT: A total of 2.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year and one million are expected to visit Phuket alone this year. 

Ambassadors from other nations have for years expressed concern about the manner in which people with little experience or no training are permitted to operate speedboats in Phuket, Pattaya and other beach resorts in Thailand. 

Previous speedboat crashes in Pattaya have killed and maimed a large number of foreign tourists in recent years.

Having spent a number of years as the senior Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy in Bangkok, the Thai criminal justice system is generally sympathetic to Thai citizens.

Consequently, we will provide updates on this death investigation as new information is received to determine what action is taken against the driver of the speedboat, who should have been more cautious.

United Kingdom: British Tourist, 28, Assaulted in Blackpool

According to The Blackpool Gazette, detectives have released CCTV surveillance camera footage of an unidentified man they would like to speak with in connection with a serious assault that occurred at approximately 1230 hours on Saturday, July 6.

The victim, a Briton, 28, from Burton-on-Trent, was involved in an argument with a man inside Bar 19 on Queen Street. 

The offender then subsequently punched the victim causing him to suffer a fractured jaw. He was initially treated at Blackpool Victoria Hospital before being transferred to Royal Preston hospital.

COMMENT: The victim was visiting the resort with friends when a confrontation occurred at the nightspot.

Detectives are also keen to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the incident.

Colombia: Starbucks, Partners to Begin Operating in 2014, Fifty Cafés Envisioned

According to EFE, Starbucks Coffee Company, a long-term buyer of Colombian beans, will open its first cafe in Colombia in 2014. Grupo Nutresa and México-based Alsea will operate the Starbucks outlets in the Andean nation.

Alsea already operates more than 500 Starbucks cafes in México, Argentina and Chile.

COMMENT: The plan calls for the opening of as many as six Starbucks stores in Bogotá next year, Alsea executive Alberto Torrado said, adding that the partners hope to have 50 cafes in Colombia within five years.

“We have great pride in being the first Latin American market where Starbucks commits to serving only locally sourced and roasted Colombian coffee,” Grupo Nutresa CEO Carlos Piedrahita also said at the press conference.

There are currently more than 650 Starbucks cafes operating in a dozen Latin American countries.

Colombia: Update--ELN, As Promised, Releases Gernot Wober, 47, After 7 Months in Captivity

According to EFE and the ICRC, the National Liberation Army (ELN) freed Gernot Wober, 47, on Tuesday (August 27) after seven months in captivity.

The ELN abducted Wober from a mining camp in the department of Bolívar on January 18, 2013.

Wober, vice president of exploration for Braeval Mining Corporation, was handed over to a delegation including Red Cross personnel, the archbishop of Cali and the head of the Jesuit order in Colombia.
An ICRC physician examined the former captive and determined he was in very good health.

COMMENT: Wober was one of six people seized by the ELN in their raid on Braeval’s Snow Mine project in the gold-rich region. The rebels released the other five captives in February.

The ELN, which has an estimated 1,500 fighters, said in April that they would only release Wober if Braeval relinquished its mining concessions in Bolívar, which the company has stated that it would comply with.

Yet, the ELN ultimately dropped its demand and agreed to free the Canadian after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made it a condition for peace talks with the ELN.

Notwithstanding, President Santos' success in negotiating with the FARC has been a bit of a roller coaster ride of late, although seemingly the ELN appears to be much more reasonable in its contacts with government negotiators.

As I recently mentioned, the likelihood of a lasting peace with the FARC seems much less certain than previously, considering the 8,000-strong rebel group is insisting on far too many concessions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

India: Uzbeki Crime Victim, 28, Turned Away at Police Station Because Her Complaint Was in English

According to The Press of India, an unidentified Uzbeki woman, 28, had her victimization complaint rejected by Indian police near the Aditya Mall in Indirapuram on the basis that her complaint was in English and not Hindu. 

The crime victim, known only as Anistesia, was robbed by two assailants on a bike shortly after she had gone to a local mobile  phone repair shop.

When she arrived at the shop, the two men grabbed her purse, passport, an undisclosed amount of foreign currency, a smart-phone and the keys to her flat. 

COMMENT: After rushing to a police station where she filed a written complaint in English, where it was rejected because it was not in Hindu, eventually a senior superintendent intervened and directed constables in the station to have the complaint translated into Hindu so that it could be acted upon.

This is an excellent example as to why many foreign crime victims are frustrated by police they encounter in foreign countries who have deficient language skills and who have no sense as to how to interact with foreigners who have been victimized.

Fortunately, a senior officer interceded on the victim's behalf.

Strangely, despite the huge number of foreign tourists who visit India each year, particularly women, who are often the victims of sexual assault and rape.

The proposal was recently discussed after a series of incidents in Goa. The Ministry has advised all the hotels, run by both Government and private owners, to enhance up physical and procedural security.

Several states have already deployed or are planning to deploy tourist police, like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

In Chandigarh, the Department of Tourism sponsors the special squad to train at Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management. They are provided the basics of English, Italian and French language to help them effectively interact with foreigners coming from different parts of the world.

Initially,  the tourist police will be in green uniforms so that they can be easily recognized and provided language instruction in the most common languages found amongst foreign tourists.

Actually, it is very surprising that a tourist police organization was not formed years ago, given the large number of foreigners who are victimized in India annually and particularly foreign women who are guests of the Indian government and who are entitled to be protected.

South America: The South American Explorers Need YOU, Drop in and Pick Up Great Info

Over the last 35 years the South American Explorers ( has come to be viewed as many things to its many loyal members and friends: a respite for alienated expatriates and bewildered backpackers, an invaluable meeting ground and resource for explorers, archaeologists, historians, guidebook writers and researchers of all stripes.  For many others a trusted friend in the pursuit of long-held plans and dreams — of travel, exploration and self-discovery.

Even in this digital age of mass online information, the non-profit SAE network continues to be the prime source for the most reliable travel information available,  and its clubhouses in Lima, Quito and Cusco provide what no on-line source can ever match: somewhere to trade stories, meet other travelers, listen to the experts.

And now there is a new stage: the Lima clubhouse is moving to new premises, still in Miraflores, to provide more and better services.

Would you help us make this possible?  Join us in this exciting new stage.

Your donation will help towards purchasing and setting up our new premises, expanding our information services, and helping volunteers and interns continue developing the new series of InfoPacks, maps and travel database.

No donation is too small. Every contribution makes a difference.

In Perú, you can make a donation to either of the following bank accounts:
Club Sudamericano de Exploradores
 In Dollars: Scotiabank Acct No. 068-7362540
(Interbanking code 009 054 210687362540 87)
 In Soles: Scotiabank Acct. No.  068-7362533
(Interbanking code 09 054 200687362533 84)
OR donate via PayPal or Credit Card at:
Thank you for your kindness and generous donation to our 35 years of Latin American history and come visit us in Quito, Lima or Cuzco. It will be worth the trip.

Colombia: Update--FARC Say "No" to President Santos' Referendum Proposal on Peace Accord

According to EFE, Representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced on Monday (August 26) (FARC) that they won’t accept President Juan Manuel Santos’ “unilateral” proposal for a referendum on an eventual accord to end the nearly five-decade war.

COMMENT: Despite their rejection of the plebiscite, the rebels “will remain at the table faithful to the commitment to seek peace,” deputy leader of the FARC,  Iván Márquez said. 

Márquez, incidentally, is known to a be tough negotiator and a long-term FARC loyalist. He is 58 years of age.

Santos' administration and the leaders of the parties in Colombia’s ruling coalition submitted a bill to Congress last week proposing that a referendum on an eventual peace accord be held on the same day as next year’s May 25 presidential election.

A ballot question is not the right way to go about seeking popular ratification for a peace accord, the FARC said Monday, arguing instead for the election of a constituent assembly to review any proposed agreements.

Unfortunately, the FARC's rejection of the referendum puts President Santos in a very tenuous position. 

If Santos caves in to the FARC's refusal to agree to the referendum, he appears potentially weak and agreeable to peace at any cost, which could potentially cost him big-time with Colombian voters in the upcoming election, if he chooses to run for re-election.

Santos' next decision amounts to nothing more than high-risk poker:

In order to retain his stature with voters, he really has no other choice but to stand firm in his insistence for a referendum, otherwise he could be in real trouble next year as his popular support is already close to 50%.

It has been my opinion for years that the FARC has never really wanted peace, but only if the Colombian government agrees to all of the group's demands and they ultimately will have a chance for political legitimacy, which would not be wise for Colombia's long-term economic stability.

The next step is crucial: Who blinks first--the FARC or Santos?

Hawaii: Update--Judge Karen Ahn Declares Mistrial When Jury Says It Could Not Reach Verdict

According to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Circuit Judge Karen Ahn declared a mistrial shortly after 1600 hours on August 26 after the jury said it could not reach a verdict.

The initial announcement that the jury was at an impasse came at 1530 hours in court. Defense attorney Brook Hart told the Circuit Judge Karen Ahn that the defense was not ready to accept a hung jury, but Ahn cut him off and called all parties to the bench for a private conference.

After about 20 minutes, the judge cleared the courtroom of everyone but the parties to the case. When she reopened the courtroom 10 minutes later, she polled the jury and declared the mistrial.

All parties will meet Friday (August 30) to discuss a new trial date, very likely in May or June.

COMMENT: Deedy, 29, of Arlington, VA, is accused of murdering Kollin Elderts with a gunshot to the chest at the McDonald's restaurant on Kuhio Avenue early on November 5, 2011. The federal agent was in Waikiki providing security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

Members of both Deedy's and Elderts' family left the courtroom today without commenting.

Judge Ahn did not give the jurors the option of convicting Deedy on the lesser charge of manslaughter, meaning that the jury only had the choice of guilty or not guilty on the second-degree murder charge, which carries a penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oklahoma: Analysis--The Senseless Murder of Promising Australian Chris Lane, 22

I've waited a good ten days to analyze the senseless, deplorable and disgusting "thrill-murder" of promising Australian baseball player Chris Lane, 22, who was shot and killed for no reason at all on August 16, in Duncan, OK.

Occasionally, analyzing an emotional event, albeit senseless, can often be seen with greater clarity after the passage of time.

Being an avid reader of global news, and having lost many good friends to violent acts over the years, I can empathize with Australians everywhere, but not fully be in their shoes, having seen one of their countryman gunned down for no reason at all.

Mr. Lane's assailants were two black teenagers and a white youth, all under the age of 18.

The really disgusting part of this homicide is that it was carried out for no reason at all...simply to see someone die.

James Edwards, 15, is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Chris Lane, the latter of whom attended school at East Central University in Ada, OK.

Chancey Luna, 16, who allegedly pulled the trigger, has been charged with first-degree murder. 

Michael Jones, 17, the alleged driver of the car, has been charged with use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

People such as the three murderers that killed Chris Lane weren't inclined to fight fairly. They shot the promising Australian from a moving car as they approached Lane from behind as he was jogging. How cowardly.

A $1 million bond was set for Jones at a hearing, while Edwards and Luna were remanded.

None of the assailants have entered pleas and none have as yet retained attorneys, according to a spokeswoman from the Stephens County District Attorney's Office.

According to county officials, race was not the predominant motive for the murder of Chris Lane, although one perhaps could make an instinctive conclusion to support such a premise.

Opportunity, no doubt, was a more likely motive, largely because the victim was vulnerable and available.

Duncan chief of police Danny Ford has said it was Jones who told authorities that the teens indiscriminately chose to kill Lane because they were "bored." Chief Ford also couldn't recall the last time there was a homicide in Duncan, which has a population of 24,000.

An online fundraiser has brought in more than US$150,000 for Lane's family to fly to Oklahoma, bring his body back to Australia and to pay for funeral expenses.

Lane's coach, Dino Rosato, remembered a business and finance major who "had an above average baseball IQ" and also excelled in the classroom.

Sadly, the murder killing of Lane has drawn international attention, sparked an attempted tourist boycott and reignited debates about easy access to guns in the US.

COMMENT: It is very easy for liberal journalists such as CNN's Piers Morgan, a Briton, to engage in muckraking and attempt to convince the narrow-minded about all that is wrong with the US. For example, Mr. Morgan inevitably sees gun violence behind every terrible act so as to stir an already boiling pot.

Admittedly, criminals and teenagers under 18 don't purchase firearms on the legitimate market...they buy them in dark alleys and from criminals such as themselves because they don't qualify to purchase a firearm legitimately, nor could they.

As I have said so often in the past, criminals have no problem getting their hands on illegal guns, which really should be the focus of the federal government's effort to reduce illegal gun violence.

Police in Duncan have charged Edwards and Chancey Luna, 16, as adults with first degree felony murder. Michael Jones, their alleged 17-year-old driver, faces two charges: use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory after the fact to murder in the first degree.

Police say it was Jones who ultimately told them, "We were bored and didn't have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody." The police affidavit lists Edwards and Chancey as black, and Jones as white.

The conservative news website has rightfully noted that Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights figure, and even President Barack Obama, "who quickly opined on the George Zimmerman self-defense case against Trayvon Martin, are both starkly silent. 

The three assailants AKA reprobates should be publicly condemned and imprisoned to the full extent of the law, as should their parents...IF you could even find a court in the US that would  conceptually hold parents accountable.

Although the liberal left will comfortably allege that all three of these "children" were victims of poverty and destined for a dead-end and desperation, the reality is that even the most underprivileged in America can rise above the odds if they are so inclined.

The others, often inherit bad luck, even bad parents, but as our history has demonstrated, perseverance is not limited by race, ethnicity or socioeconomic level.

Why did Al Sharpton express no outrage for the death of Chris Lane. Perhaps because he "cherry-picks" his causes. Was Chris Lane's rights not infringed upon?

An examination of Al Sharpton's Twitter feed and transcript from his August 21 program did not reflect any reference to Mr. Lane's death.

Yet, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, another well-known civil rights figure, issued a statement referring to both the killing of Christopher Lane and the recent beating of a white 13-year-old boy by three black teenagers on a school bus in Florida.  The incidents call "each of us to collectively resist all forms of violence in our society," he wrote. No doubt, Rev. Jackson took the moral high ground.

Lane was a promising young athlete, living his dream of studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship. The people of Duncan also welcomed him.

As a US citizen, my heart and prayers go out to all Australians around the globe that what happened to Chris Lane was not indicative of the majority of Americans who thankfully are law-abiding and good people. 

I am well aware that Australia has one of the lowest gun-related death rates in the developed world.

I am also very aware that in terms of visitors to the US, Australian is among the top ten nations.

I know that few Australians will reflect on this fact, but there actually are 87 countries ahead of the United States when it comes to homicides per 100,000 population. Actually, the US' homicide rate is 4.8 per 100,000. 

It is my hope that Australians around the world will not hold ill-will of the US as a result of Chris Lane's murder.

If Australians bind together, as they are so good at doing, I will understand if a boycott against travel to the US gains steam.

Yet, for all Australians, please remember that the place I call home has far more good things than bad. Americans are predominantly a good people; we just happen to have far more bad ones than we actually need. 

During the course of my life, I have visited Australia several times and have met and built friendships with Australians across the globe. That will continue.