Friday, November 29, 2013

Italy: After Years of Ignoring Action, Expat Lecturers at Italian Universities Hope for Pay Parity

According to The Telegraph, the Italian government has indicated it will finally tackle discrimination against expat lecturers at its universities after three decades of inaction.

María Chiara Carrozza, the education minister, and Emma Bonino, the foreign minister, are reportedly "looking for a solution," hopefully in fewer than 33 years since the European Court of Justice first ruled that the foreign lecturers – known as lettori – are treated unfairly in terms of rights and compensation. 

Five other court rulings have followed, yet many Italian universities have simply ignored them. Further lawsuits over the matter were blocked by a controversial law that came into force in 2011. 

Known affectionately as the Gelmini Law, presumably after a former Italian education minister which interestingly overturned the European Court rulings, redrew the terms under which the lettori are employed, and neutralized further lawsuits from even moving forward.

COMMENT: David Petrie, 64, a Scottish lecturer who has been campaigning on the issue, and David Lidington, the UK Minister for Europe, have described the likelihood of Italian action as "encouraging." 

Petrie has provided the European Commission with information concerning 91 non-Italian lecturers who have suffered pay cuts of up to 60%. 

Petrie, who hails from Dumbarton and teaches English at the University of Verona, also detailed those who have had their court cases extinguished by the Gelmini law. This, he argues, has violated their human rights. 

The campaign suffered a setback in September when Armindo Silva, the EC’s director for employment, social legislation and social dialogue, said he’d found no evidence that would allow action against Italy for breaching EU law. 

Silva told Petrie in an official letter that he intended to close the file, but gave the lettori four weeks to provide any information that could change that position.

The Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy, which is headed by Petrie, sought three expert legal opinions to counter Silva’s decision, at which point David Petrie presented these opinions to the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament. 
"Our lawyer has provided a further 17 pages of evidence and analysis and we have asked for a face-to-face meeting to further assist the Commission in discharging its burden of proof," Petrie asserts.

Lidington has previously denounced Italy’s behavior as "immoral and illegal. "He can now report encouraging signs from Italian Ministers Bonino and Carrozza. Additionally, the British, French, German, Irish and Spanish embassies are now taking a keen interest and cooperation has begun among the embassies in Rome," emphasizes Petrie. 

According to THE ITALIAN INSIDER: "Italy’s education minister María Chiara Carrozza has instructed her director general to seek a solution and search for some initial funding to compensate hundreds of foreign lecturers subject to discrimination in pay under the Gelmini law." 

This report will be updated as THE TELEGRAPH reports new information.

Tip of the Day: Currency Conversions

Hi Everyone:

A couple of days after my Tip of the Day on November 26, 2013 regarding one-stop shopping for conversions of all sorts, I received an email from a reader in the UK asking for a good source for currency conversions. Thank you for a great request!

And yes, I do have a great response:

Please go to:

Thailand: Update on Demonstrations Against Amnesty Bill, Protesters Now Want Yingluck Out

According to Reuters, anti-government protesters briefly forced their way into the compound of Thailand's army headquarters on Friday (November 29) in a dramatic escalation of city-wide demonstrations seeking to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46.

Protesters burst into the army base Bangkok's historic quarter, waving flags and blowing whistles. In another district, about 1,000 people massed outside Yingluck's ruling party headquarters, shouting "get out."

The invasion of army headquarters deepened a conflict broadly pitting the urban middle class against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, a former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup and who remains central to Thailand's eight years of on-off political unrest.

The demonstrators left the headquarters peacefully after a few hours and late on Friday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, 64, told his supporters to increase the pressure and target government buildings on Sunday (December 1), including the headquarters of city and police, four ministries and Government House, Yingluck's offices.

"Don't wait for anyone. Every heart that loves this country must stand up together and execute our mission as one," Suthep told a crowd of 7,000 massed outside a state office complex. "On Sunday, brothers and sisters, we will announce our victory and our defeat of the Thaksin regime," he shouted.

COMMENT: The protesters accuse Yingluck of abusing her party's parliamentary majority to push through laws that strengthen the behind-the-scenes power of her populist self-exiled, billionaire brother. They have rejected her calls for talks.

"We want the head of Thailand's armed forces to choose whether they stand by the government or with the people," Uthai Yodmanee, a protest leader, said from the back of a truck.

Yingluck has ruled out resigning or dissolving parliament, and appears intent on riding out the storm, in deference to her older brother.

Suthep, a deputy prime minister in the previous Democrat-led government, urged protesters to shut down a government office complex and surround the ministries of interior, education labor and foreign affairs, two state-run telecommunications firms and even the city's zoo.

Yingluck had governed for two years without a major challenge until last month, when her party tried to ram through an amnesty bill that would have expunged Thaksin's 2008 graft conviction and cleared the way for his political comeback.

The Senate rejected the amnesty bill and Yingluck then shelved it, but the protests escalated, switching from a campaign against the amnesty bill to an actual bid to bring down the Yingluck government.

The government's strategy is to seemingly marginalize the protesters and let them vent, rather than confront or arrest them, which would result in injuries, death or global headlines that would underline that Thailand is unstable, which is exactly what Suthep wants.

I still believe that Suthep will not go down without a confrontation.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

The Gambia: British Businesswoman, 47, Dies in UK From Failure to Take Anti-Malaria Meds

According to The Daily Mail, Briton Jayne Rowley, 47, who made regular trips to The Gambia over the past two decades, suffered a seizure after malaria that attacked every organ in her body. 

Sadly, Rowley died on Wednesday (November 27), simply because she refused to take mandatory anti-malaria medication per her physician's order.

Martin Rowley, 45, Jane's husband, who survived the flu-like symptoms, spoke out this week about his regret that they did not "religiously" take their anti-malaria medication.

Two days after returning from a ten-day break in The Gambia two weeks ago, the couple were rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, it was too late for Jayne.

COMMENT: The couple had been staying in their three-bedroom holiday home in the Brufut area of Gambia, which they had owned for two years.

Rather than promptly going to a medical provider, Martin commented: "We had been bed-ridden and we decided we had better go to the hospital to get ourselves checked...We thought it must have been something more sinister than flu because I almost couldn’t walk, it was so bad."

Martin Rowley said he first started showing flu-like symptoms on November 17 and his wife started feeling ill two days later. He was told of Jayne's deteriorating condition on Tuesday (November 26), the day before she died.

Before their visit neither Martin or Jayne had not followed health warnings to regularly take anti-malaria medication before, during and after the trip, although they had been traveling to The Gambia for over 20 years.

The parasite has become resistant to some treatments and, with no effective vaccine, trying to halt the disease has been limited to controlling mosquitoes, distributing pesticide-laced nets for homes and spraying the indoors of buildings with insecticides - the method known as vector control.

Despite a concerted effort on a global scale, the disease still kills around one million people and leaves more than 200 million sick every year.

The couple, who have owned and operated Carpets of Lytham for many years, began feeling unwell after their return, which he had put down to returning to a cold climate.

Martin Rowley’s condition has been treated and on Thursday (November 28) he was discharged from hospital with a course of anti-malaria medication.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said only two people died of the disease in the UK last  year.

Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite which enters the bloodstream when a person is bitten by the female mosquito. 

Worldwide, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), The Gambia is a major tourist destination for British tourists with more than 60,000 visitors a year accounting for 60% of its tourists.

The above being said, perhaps the Foreign Office should do a survey of the 60,000 British tourists to The Gambia to determine how many fail to take anti-malaria medication as ordered?

For a definitive treatment of the symptoms of malaria, treatments available (including anti-malaria medication before, during and following exposure), the use of insecticide-laced netting  and early reporting of symptoms, see:

Tip of the Day: Foreign Affairs Agency Policy Relative to Hostage-Taking, Kidnapping

Today's Tip of the Day is a bit delicate, as it concerns a citizen requesting written policy relative to a specific foreign affairs agency's position on hostage-taking and kidnapping. 

The motive for the hostage-taking is immaterial.

Many foreign governments actually have a stated policy relative to kidnapping, hostage-taking and abduction that they can hand out to their citizens.

On the other hand, some foreign governments may actually be reluctant to hand out their written policy relative to hostage-taking for one of the following reasons: (1) the policy is being updated, at which point the citizen should request a copy of the policy in writing; and (2) the policy is never reduced to writing because it gives the foreign affairs agency the option of paying ransom or making concessions or not.

The majority of developed nations do have stated written policies relative to hostage-taking or kidnapping, but many developing nations do not.

Unfortunately, if a foreign government has no written policy relative to hostage-taking, kidnapping or abduction, it leaves citizens of such a government unable to effectively make life-and-death choices as to how to handle a hostage-taking on their own, not knowing what their own government's policy is.

For additional guidance, see the chapter in my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD entitled "Ransom Kidnapping, Abduction and Hostage-Taking: What is the Risk."

As a matter of interest, a complete updated edition of of "Staying Safe Abroad" will be released in April 2014 as an E-book to make ordering easier for our loyal international readers. To reserve a copy or copies of this book now, please send me an email at the below address:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Egypt: British FCO Failed to Assist British Tourist Raped by Egyptian Military Officer in Sinai

According to Sky News, British diplomats at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) failed to effectively assist a British woman in May 2011, who had just been raped by a military officer in Egypt when she came to them pleading for help, a report reveals.


The crime victim was attacked at a military checkpoint while traveling in the Sinai region in May 2011, three months after the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. 
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been forced to apologize and pay compensation to the victim after being found guilty of "maladministration and injustice" by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

The report found that officials had failed to help the woman "when she was at her most vulnerable" point.  The victim was attacked at a checkpoint while traveling in the Sinai region.

A man in plainclothes, who the victim believed to be an Egyptian military officer, told her she would not be able to continue her journey until the next day then took her to a place where he said she could sleep, although the man later raped her. 

COMMENT: When she contacted officials at the British Embassy in Cairo they failed to explain clearly how they could help her. 

The report strongly criticized the embassy staff's failure to accompany her to report the attack and the fact they ignored her fears she could be arrested or even killed if she made a complaint against a military officer to the police, who were under the control of the military at the time.

Moreover, embassy staff did not arrange a medical examination or offer to accompany her to a hospital and seemingly had no knowledge of  the availability of a treatment which can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered the body.

When the victim went to report the attack to the tourist police she found herself in a room with a number of unidentified and armed plainclothes officers, a situation she described as "extremely intimidating."

Later, when interviewed by an officer she was asked to re-enact her ordeal, including being forced to repeat the positions into which her attacker had forced her.

The victim also complained to the FCO about the way she had been treated with "impatience, rudeness and a serious lack of sensitivity" by its staff.

Surprisingly, the victim's complaint was initially rejected until the human rights organization, Redress, and then Parliamentary Ombudsman became directly involved in her ill-treatment.

Simon Fraser, the Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, said they had "unreservedly" apologized to the woman and taken steps to ensure there was no repeat of her substandard treatment at the hands of diplomatic staff.

Additionally, the rape victim was paid £1,000 (US$1,624.70) in compensation as a result of her unprofessional treatment.

Thailand: Update--PM Yingluck Begs Protesters to Call Off Amnesty Bill Demonstrations

According to The Associated Press, Thailand’s prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, begged protesters Thursday (November 28) to call off sustained anti-government demonstrations and negotiate an end to the nation’s latest crisis. Yet, protesters marched instead to new targets, including the national police headquarters, where they cut power lines.

Yingluck Shinawatra issued the plea after she easily defeated a no-confidence vote pushed by her opponents, who are heavily outnumbered in Parliament but have taken to the streets in droves to demand not only her ouster, but changes that would make the country less democratic.
Protesters say they want to uproot the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, Yingluck’s brother, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of power. They also accuse the PM of being a puppet of her billionaire brother.

Suthep Thaugsuban, 64, who resigned as an opposition Democrat Party lawmaker to lead the protests, has insisted he will not negotiate.

The demonstrators, most of them sympathetic to the Democrat Party, have taken over or surrounded several ministry buildings, which Yingluck said failed to shut down the government, yet created the potential for violence.

COMMENT: Police spokesman Piya Uthayo said a total of about 15,000 protesters were grouped Thursday at about six locations in and around Bangkok, a significant rise the numbers of Thais prepared to go into the streets to protest.

Yingluck has been reluctant to use force to evict the protesters for fear of escalating the conflict and sparking bloodshed, which would harm investor confidence and the lucrative tourism industry.

Hordes of demonstrators marched to the police headquarters in the center of Bangkok where they cut the electrical lines to the compound. Helmeted riot police with shields remained holed up inside, but did nothing to stop them.

On Sunday, more than 100,000 people rallied in Bangkok against Yingluck’s government.

Suthep says his goal is to replace the government with a non-elected council — an apparent call for less democracy, not more. He says the change is necessary to uproot the Shinawatra political machine from Thai politics. Thaksin remains highly popular in rural areas, and parties allied with him have won every election since 2001.

Thaksin, who continues to live in Dubai to avoid a two-year jail term for a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated, is a highly polarizing figure in Thailand. An ill-advised bid by Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai party to push an amnesty law through Parliament that would have allowed his return sparked the latest wave of protests earlier this month.

Thaksin's adversaries, largely members of the urban middle class and elite, see him as a threat to democracy and their own privileges, and have fought back hard. 

After the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin, a new constitution was drafted to reduce his influence. Controversial judicial rulings removed two pro-Thaksin prime ministers, and army-backed parliamentary maneuvering allowed the Democrat Party to form a government.

Although Yingluck has prevailed in avoiding a "no confidence" vote, simply because she is soft-spoken and very unlike her influential older brother, this could quickly change if Suthep orchestrates street violence, which could push protests onto front pages around the world, creating an impression that Thailand is once again unstable.

The downside of this House of Cards is that Suthep is as much a "street fighter" as is Thaksin, the latter of whom may have a hard time mobilizing his rural loyalists into the streets of Bangkok.

My prediction is that Suthep will slowly turn up the heat, which will force Yingluck into restoring order, which could give Suthep the fight he is looking for. Time will soon reveal who has the best strategy. 

Global Impact: Swiss Firm, Weatherford Int'l, to Pay More Than US$252 Million for FCPA Violation

According to Switerland's The Local, Swiss oil services firm, Weatherford International, is facing to pay more than US$252 million to settle charges of corruption and violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) sanctions against Iran, Cuba and other countries, US officials said on Tuesday (November 26).
Weatherford and its US subsidiaries falsified its accounts to hide bribes paid to win business in Africa and the Middle East and its violations of US sanctions and export controls.
Three subsidiaries of Weatherford agreed to plead guilty to anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and export controls violations under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US Justice Department said in a statement.
According to the US Treasury Department, Weatherford exported $23 million in goods, technology and services to Iran from 2003 to 2007.
From 2005 to 2008, the company had extensive business with Cuba, totaling $69 million. And from 2005 to 2006, Weatherford did about $295,000 in business with Sudan.
The Treasury said that Weatherford, as part of a combined $100 million settlement with several federal government partners, had agreed to pay $91 million to settle the apparent violations, noting it was the largest-ever settlement outside of the banking industry for sanctions violations.
Weatherford will also pay a $87.2 million criminal penalty to the US  Justice Department and $65.6 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


COMMENT: The SEC noted the fine included a penalty for lack of cooperation earlier in the investigation.
The rest of the fines will be shared by the US Commerce Department and the US attorney general's office in Texas, where the company has substantial operations.

"Although Weatherford's extensive remediation and its efforts to improve its compliance functions are positive signs, the corrupt conduct of Weatherford International's subsidiaries allowed it to earn millions of dollars in illicit profits, for which it is now paying a significant price," said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general of the US Justice Department's criminal division.
The Geneva-based multinational oilfield service company operates in more than 100 countries and employs over 55,000 people worldwide.

Thailand: British Kickboxer, 30, Sentenced to 25 Years in Stabbing Death of Marine Veteran

According to The Telegraph, the first Briton to be extradited to Thailand in over 100 years has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of a decorated US Marine veteran.

Lee Aldhouse, from Yardley, Birmingham, admitted killing Dashawn Longfellow, 23, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, on August 14, 2010, a few hours after the pair clashed in a bar on the popular tourist island of Phuket. 

The shaven-headed, powerfully-built Aldhouse appeared at Phuket’s Provincial Court Thursday (November 28) morning in prison garb and with his hands and ankles shackled. 

A former kickboxer who fought under the name "The Pit-Bull," Aldhouse was given a life term by Judge Montri Sarot, yet the sentence was immediately reduced to 25 years because the 30-year-old had pleaded guilty to the murder charge. 

Longfellow’s family reacted with dismay at the amended sentence. 

COMMENT: Last month, Longfellow’s mother, Tammy, made an emotional plea on her Facebook page for Aldhouse to receive a full life term, which in Thailand is 50 years. 

Aldhouse stabbed Longfellow to death hours after the pair fought in Phuket’s Freedom Bar. Subsequently, Aldhouse fled Thailand immediately, but was later arrested at Heathrow Airport upon his return to the UK. 

Following a two-year legal battle to avoid extradition to Thailand, Aldhouse was returned to Phuket last December on the condition that he would not face the death penalty. 

The Briton is believed to be the first Briton to be extradited to Thailand under a 101-year-old treaty that has never previously been used. 

Initially, Aldhouse denied murdering Longfellow, telling the court during his trial in February that he had accidentally killed him in self-defense while searching for his pet dog. 

Yet, after CCTV surveillance video revealed him demanding two knives from a convenience store close to his home, Aldhouse changed his plea to guilty in August and apologized to Longfellow’s family. 

Having spent the last year in Phuket’s over-crowded jail, Aldhouse is expected to serve the remainder of his sentence in a prison on the Mainland. 

Aldhouse's attorney said he has no plans to appeal the verdict or to ask to be transferred to a prison in the UK.

Tip of the Day: If You Drive Abroad, Be Cautious, Detail-Oriented and Know the Trouble You Can Get In

Unless you have LOTS of experience in driving abroad, particularly in a given country or region, my first suggestion is: Don't Rent a Car!

First of all, I'm not a spoil-sport. I'm a realist, who knows that assumptions generally fail.

When we rent a car abroad it is our intention to NOT not get into an "accident," hit another car or injure or kill someone.

Yet, we fail to consider the fact that we are in a foreign country where social mores, local laws, language, traffic signs and everything else are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, including the lack of equity at the hands of local police, particularly if they happen to represent a developing nation where almost anything is negotiable at the right price.

Also, please don't forget one unwritten rule in international law: The foreigner is almost always at fault, particularly in developing countries.

Now the details:

1. Always obtain comprehensive coverage with a low deductible;

2. Even if you're able to drive on your license back home or use an International Driving Permit (IDP), don't rent a car in a foreign country unless you understand ALL traffic laws, as ignorance of the law rarely serves you well;

3. Inspect the vehicle you rent in great detail for damage and take a mobile phone photo of anything you might be charged for;

4.  If the country you are renting a car in drives on the "left," and you have never driven in "left-hand drive is my suggestion that you NOT drive in the country, given the risk of an accident that you can be charged with; and

5. Before renting a car at your foreign destination, seek out advice from your embassy or consulate on the possible legal repercussions if you are in an accident, damage another vehicle or injure or kill someone. Such information could very well dissuade you from driving a rental.

If you are planning to drive in a foreign country, please contact the Association for International Safe Road Travel, as ASIRT sells excellent country reports on countries you may wish to drive in:

Chile: Former Members of Late Augusto Pinochet Regime Still Being Paid

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Chilean military pays thousands of dollars a month to veterans of late dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police, documents on the Chilean Army's website reveals.

Chilean lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the deputy defense minister, Gen. Oscar Izurieta, who, as army chief, assured a congressional committee in September 2009 that no former agents of the 1973-1990 regime remained on military payrolls.

Unfortunately, secret police operatives AKA “consultants” include retired Gen. Gonzalo Santelices Cuevas, who receives 1.67 million pesos ($3,270) a month as an adviser to army intelligence.

Santelices was forced out of the army in February 2008 by then-President Michelle Bachelet after a newspaper cited a court statement by Santelices acknowledging his involvement with the Caravan of Death, a mobile task force that summarily executed more than 70 political prisoners in the weeks following Pinochet’s September 11, 1973 coup.

Santelices testified that on the night of October 18, 1973, he and men under his command seized fourteen political prisoners from a jail in the northern city of Antofagasta and drove them to a remote spot where they were shot and killed.

Patricio Zambelli Restelli, who gets $2,540 a month for advising army intelligence, worked at Villa Grimaldi, one of Pinochet’s most notorious torture chambers. He was also part of a secret police unit that in 1976 abducted leaders of Chile’s Communist Party who were subsequently murdered.

Izurieta and the incumbent army commander, Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba, will face questioning from legislators, lower house member Jorge Tarud according to EFE.

COMMENT: Neither Bachelet, representing a center-left alliance, nor main rival, Evelyn Matthei, standard-bearer of the governing rightist coalition, won the required 50% plus one in the November 17 balloting and will face each other in a December 15 runoff.

Both daughters of air force generals, Matthei and Bachelet were childhood friends whose paths diverged sharply after Pinochet’s takeover of the government by force.

While Bachelet’s father, who opposed the coup, died as a result of torture by his brothers-in-arms, Matthei’s father became a member of the junta.

Bachelet and her mother were also tortured, but colleagues of her father were eventually able to have them released and allowed to leave the country.

The Pinochet Regime killed more than 3,000 people, tortured around 27,000 others and forced tens of thousands more into exile. Pinochet died in 2006.

If reelected as President, Bachelet, now 62, will no doubt stop the hiring of former military officers as consultants to the Chilean government. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Zealand: Head-On Collision on South Island, Causation: High-Risk Roadways of Unschooled

The Indian national driver of a rental car that drifted across a Canterbury Highway on New Zealand's South Island at 1315 hours on November 25 and crashed head-on with an oncoming vehicle was a tourist in New Zealand on holiday, killed himself as well as 54-year-old Kiwi from Ashburton.

Police are not ruling out inattention or unfamiliarity with New Zealand roadways being a factor in the double-fatality crash. 

The names of the two drivers killed in the collision on State Highway 1, just north of the Rakaia River are expected to be released in the next few days. 

The Indian tourist was traveling south with a woman, also in her 20s, thought to be his wife. She remains in critical condition in the Christchurch Hospital. 

The Ashburton woman was traveling in convoy with family members, including her partner, to Christchurch for a family gathering. Sadly, her partner was in the car behind hers when the crash occurred. The 54-year-old Ashburton driver was also transporting a female relative in her 20s, who was seriously injured. She she in a stable condition in the hospital.  

COMMENT: The dead tourist possessed an Indian driving permit, although he would have been unfamiliar with New Zealand roadways, let alone driving obstacles, wildlife, livestock and unpredictable driving patterns.

Although I have endeavored in recent years to emphasize that New Zealand's roadways are among some of the most dangerous on Earth.

The first challenge for foreign travelers in particular is that driving in New Zealand is on the "left" not on the "right," which invariably poses a huge challenge in reaction time when drivers least expect it.

Many foreign travelers who often fly the arduous trip to New Zealand from the US, Canada or another long-haul point of origination somehow strangely feel that can can emerge from a 15-hour to 24-hour airline trip and be fresh and alert to drive on the "left" for the first time in their life.

I strongly urge travelers to take a shuttle or taxi from where they arrive in New Zealand as they are invariably dead-tired and jet-lagged and hardly  cognizant to adapt quickly to driving on the "left," stopping for sheep and cattle, winding roads, etc.

Unfortunately, many foreign travelers over-estimate their ability to drive on the "left, and often are seriously injured or killed on roadways as a result of not having the reaction time to make the right driving choice in a matter of seconds.

Sadly, foreign travelers continue to be maimed and killed on roadways in New Zealand and often take law-abiding Kiwis along with him because of their inability to adapt easily to driving on the "left."

Rather than continue to see foreign travelers and Kiwis as well die unnecessarily, it may be time for New Zealand to mandate  that all foreign drivers pass a written and road test to determine their competency to drive safely in New Zealand.

Yet, it is doubtful that government officials will ever agree to such a stringent proposal on the basis of losing dramatic market share or annoying tourists who are insulted by the need for such an essential safety requirement.

France: Appelate Court Overturns High Court Ruling on Firing of Staff for Refusing to Remove Head Scarf

According to The Associated Press, a Paris appellate court, overturned a high court decision, ruled on Wednesday (November 27) that a private nursery school was justified in firing an assistant director who refused to remove her Islamic head scarf while on the job.

The decision was the fourth in the emblematic case of the firing of Fatima Afif at the Baby Loup nursery school five years ago. It was likely to provide justification for lawmakers and associations seeking a law to ensure the highly prized French value of "laicité," or secularism.

Laws already ban head scarves in public school classrooms and face-covering veils in public spaces. There is no French law regulating religious apparel in private institutions, schools or companies. Many Muslims have seen the two laws in place as an infringement on their religious freedom and freedom of expression.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday opened a hearing in another case in which a Muslim woman who covers her face is contesting the face veil ban, which became effective in 2011.

COMMENT: In the case of the nursery school, the appellate court ruled that Baby Loup had a right to impose internal rules on its employees banning head scarves and other ostentatious religious symbols "to transcend the multiculturalism" of those using its services. It noted that the school received some state subsidies.

The Court of Cassation ruled in favor of Ms. Afif in March 2013, overturning decisions by a lower court and a labor court.

The French government's Observatory of Laicité, which helps guide official action regarding respect for secularism, noted after the ruling that it had recommended a circular containing guidelines outlining what the law allows and what it forbids. The Observatory said it will be issuing its own guide on the issue.

Numerous sectors in France, from political parties to professionals such as social workers, fear the country's constitutionally guaranteed value of secularism is being undermined by immigration and its increasingly diverse citizenry, particularly by Muslims.

Tip of the Day: Finding a Certified Interpreter or Translator...Anywhere

Anyone traveling abroad on business needs to think carefully about the need for a certified interpreter or translator, as someone that speaks your native tongue and the language of the country you're visiting is not going to cut it! Precision is a "must."

Over my various public and private sector careers I've probably used the services of interpreters or translators or both perhaps upwards of 150 times. So, I have a rough idea of what to look for, what information must be obtained from candidates you might utilize, what technical terms or acronyms you might be using and the duration and intensity of the services you're seeking.

If you're dealing from half way around the world getting critical information is essential. A resume or cv in your language would be a first, along with contact information, rates, etc. Most interpreters and translators also have their own consulting agreements that spell out the context of their services and costs.

Unquestionably, one of the best resources I can think of is the American Translators Association (ATA) which includes both certified interpreters as well as certified translators, the latter of whom certify that translated documents are accurate in every detail.

If you go to the following link and provide the necessary information requested you should be in very competent, able hands: 

Unless you are contracting for very comprehensive, diverse and voluminous services, I would suggest that you talk to at least three INDIVIDUAL interpreters or translators to specify the nature of the services needed. 

Understandably, if you select a language services company you may well be paying for overhead and profit that you may not necessarily need, although let me caution you that interpreters and translators are not inexpensive. Thus, you want to specify your needs and peculiarities in detailed terms.

Planning to use an interpreter and/or translator requires planning and logistics, particularly if international travel or logistics (interpreting equipment is to be utilized) is concerned, so don't think that you're going to sort out the details in a couple of days.

Give yourself at least a month to coordinate with those you may need, as certified translators and interpreters often plan their schedules months in advance. Because they're good, they're also busy. Beware of a provider who is sitting on his or her hands. Not a good sign.

If you have any questions regarding how to use translators or interpreters, please drop me an email at:


Thailand: Protesters Endeavor to Shut Down Ministries, PM Yingluck May Find Herself "Under the Bus," Out of a Job

According to Reuters, thousands of Thai demonstrators marched on Wednesday (November 27) towards a government office complex they planned to shut down as part of efforts to cripple the government and oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46.

Having forced the closure of five ministries in the past two days, some 4,000 protesters rallying against Yingluck and her influential brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, aimed to surround the complex in northern Bangkok while smaller groups readied to target six other ministries.

Demonstrations and street protests are a familiar reality in Thailand, which has seen eight years of on-and-off turmoil, from crippling street protests to controversial judicial rulings and military intervention, each time with Thaksin at the center of the disputes.

Unfortunately, demonstrations have been going on for weeks and are gaining momentum. In response to a rousing speech by protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, 64, screened on cable television late on Tuesday (November 26), demonstrators in ten southern provinces massed in front of government offices, according to police.

Despite fleeing into exile to dodge a jail sentence for abuse of power in 2008, billionaire former telecommunications mogul Thaksin has loomed large over Thai politics.

He won the support of the rural poor who voted him twice into office, in 2001 and 2005, before he was ousted in a 2006 military coup. His supporters remain fiercely loyal to him and the parties he backs.

His opponents are fewer in number, but hold considerable power and influence, among them wealthy conservatives, top generals, bureaucrats and royalists with sway over the urban middle class.
COMMENT: Many Thais see Thaksin as a corrupt, crony capitalist who manipulates the masses with populist handouts and is a threat to the monarchy, which he denies. 

Suthep led his group towards an office center containing important government agencies, including tax, revenue, immigration and land departments. It also houses the Supreme Court and headquarters of Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, its equivalent to the US FBI.

Another group of 1,000 protesters marched to the Labor Ministry and some splintered off towards the Energy Ministry.

The protests, though peaceful, have raised fears of a repeat of the sort of violence seen three years ago when more than 90 people were killed in a military crackdown on demonstrations by Thaksin's supporters.

The real potential loser in this house of cards is Prime Minister Yingluck herself. If she sides with her elder brother, Thaksin, who is disliked in major cities and is pushing for amnesty which would exonerate him of previous crimes, the opposition could well push for a "no-confidence" vote, although success is unlikely.

Yet, no matter how the various sides cross sabers in this game of cat-and-mouse, Yingluck, could potentially lose her position as PM even if she survives a "no-confidence" vote, as Thais will blame her for siding with her despised brother, which could be fatal. 

The anti-government campaign started last month after Yingluck's ruling Puea Thai Party tried to pass an amnesty bill that critics said was designed to absolve Thaksin of his 2008 conviction on corruption charges.

Thailand's Senate rejected the amnesty bill, but that did nothing to defuse the crisis.

In the days ahead, Yingluck may be put to the "test" in more ways that she can even contemplate, particularly if protesters turn violent and turn Thailand into a very unstable government once again, in which Yingluck could become a martyr for Thaksin, who is simply not worth the effort, no matter how much money he has. 

A large number of foreign embassies have warned their citizens to avoid all large-scale, potentially violent protests, as bystanders and curiosity-seekers are often injured, even killed.

Chile: Former President, Center-Left New Majority Alliance Candidate Falls Short of Majority

According to The Latin American Tribune, former head of state Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jería, 62, is poised to regain Chile’s highest office after garnering 46.69% of the vote in the presidential balloting on Sunday, easily outdistancing conservative ruling-coalition hopeful Evelyn Matthei in an election marked by low voter turnout.
Inasmuch as the former president fell just short of an outright majority in Sunday’s election, the candidate of the center-left New Majority alliance will square off in a December 15 runoff against the Alliance for Chile’s Matthei, an economist and former labor minister under current President Sebastian Piñera who received 25.01% of the vote.

With ballots counted from 98.66% of polling stations, the total number of votes cast stood at 6,599,973, equivalent to just 48.8% of registered voters.
Yet, Bachelet hailed the result and said she was confident Chileans would back her again in the runoff.

COMMENT: Bachelet said voters supported her program of free and high-quality universal higher education, an increase in the corporate tax rate, a partial overhaul of the pension system and a new constitution “that is born in democracy without traces of authoritarianism,” referring to the current charter imposed on Chile in 1980 by the late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“We’re going to work to win in December. I have no doubt we’ll achieve that,” said Bachelet, who after serving as Chile’s president from 2006 to 2010, headed up a UN body known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The results of the congressional balloting remained uncertain Sunday night although the initial results and projections pointed to a victory for the opposition, which could increase its seats in the Senate to 22 out of a total of 38 elected seats.

Camila Vallejo, Gabriel Boric and Giorgio Jackson, activists who came to prominence in Chile’s 2011 student uprising, appeared headed for election to Chile’s lower house.

Unless there is a surprising shift in predictable voters in the run-off election on December 15, former President Bachelet is poised to easily beat out her closest competitor, Evelyn Matthei, of the Alliance, a consortium of right-wing political parties. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tip of the Day: Avoid Taking Photos Inside Airports, Military, Police Personnel Without Asking Permission First

NEVER take photos inside of airport terminals or of police or military personnel anywhere in the country, UNLESS you first ask permission to do so.

Otherwise, you may potentially confront having your digital media and/or your camera confiscated, not to mention being fined or even jailed, as most airports are considered critical infrastructure facilities.

Most uniformed police and members of the armed forces are subject to being targeted by drug cartels, organized crime and criminal enterprises, which is why most uniformed police are predictably "camera-shy."

Remaining copies of the 2008 version of STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD will be sold at 50% off, which is US$11.00 plus shipping, if you include a copy of THIS posting.

To order copies of STAYING SAFE ABROAD @ the US$11.00 rate, plus shipping, send me an email @:

México: Pacifico Sur Drug Cartel Assassin, Age 17, Deported to US for Multiple Murders, Beheadings

According to The Latin American Tribune, Edgar Jimenez Lugo, a 17-year-old, known as “El Ponchis” (The Cloak), a teenager arrested in the Mexican state of Morelos in 2010 for belonging to the Pacifico Sur drug cartel and participating in several murders was released from a reformatory on Tuesday (November 26), after completing his sentence and is being deported to the US, his country of origin.

National Migration Institute (INM) agents confirmed that the San Diego-born teen had the necessary documents to travel to San Antonio, TX, media reports said.

Jimenez Lugo was arrested by army troops along with two of his sisters at the airport in Xochitepec, Morelos, when he attempted to catch a flight to the US in December 2010.

The boy, who was just 14 at the time, planned to fly to Tijuana, cross the border and head to San Diego, where he was born.

COMMENT: Jimenez Lugo, who became involved with drug traffickers at the mere age of 11, told investigators that he beheaded four victims on the orders of a cartel boss.

A judge sentenced Jimenez Lugo to three years in prison a few months later after convictions were handed down on murder, organized crime, kidnapping and drug charges.

The Pacifico Sur drug cartel was created by former members of the Beltran Leyva gang.

With nearly seven years' experience as an assassin, regrettably, US law enforcement will spend the next 60 years attempting to rehabilitate an incorrigible career criminal. 

Hopefully, most of that time will be incurred by US penal institutions estimated at a projected life-time cost of at least US$5 million.

Australia: Major Cities Continue to Attract British Citizens as Expats, Given Concern for Social Welfare

According to The Telegraph, Australia’s major cities continue to attract the lion’s share of British citizens relocating in search of a better life. 

Four cities Down Under make it into the top ten most popular destinations for Brits to move to with Perth taking top spot, according to a survey by, an online marketplace for expats. 

Perth, on the west coast of Australia, enjoys good beaches and a world-class zoo and aquarium. Most people work in mining, agricultural or public administration roles. 

Sydney and Melbourne came in second and third place, respectively, on the list.
COMMENT: The rest of the cities making up the top 10 are Dubai, which has climbed up the rankings since 2012, Auckland, Cape Town, Brisbane, Singapore, Berlin and Toronto. 

Dropping off the list for the first time is New York City and Hong Kong, very likely due to rising property values.

MoveHub expects São Paulo to sneak in or near the top 10 next year, as the heart of the Brazilian economy, along with the Middle Eastern cities of Doha and Oman. 

Lagos is also predicted to feature, according to Holloway, with workers likely to be lured by tempting salaries paid to expatriates employed in the Nigerian oil and gas industries. 

A large number of Britons who are thinking of relocating are over fifty years of age. Almost half of UK residents in that age group are tempted to move abroad in retirement, with the cost of living the primary motivation, according to a recent survey from financial advice group, deVere. 

The MoveHub poll revealed that the over-50 crowd, particularly in the UK, have concerns about retiring at home, due to the standard of care for the elderly, quality of life and harsh weather conditions.

Philippines: Leader of Major South Korean Crime Syndicate, 63, Found Overstaying His Visa

According to AFP, one of South Korea's most wanted fugitives, Cho Yang-Eun, 63, the alleged head of a major crime syndicate, was arrested in the Philippines on Tuesday (November 26) after hiding out in the country for two years and overstaying his visa.

Immigration Bureau spokeswoman Angelica Pedro told reporters that Cho had allegedly founded the Yangeuni Family, one of the biggest gangs in South Korea, in 1978.

A South Korean Embassy representative in Manila confirmed Cho's extensive criminal enterprises and requested his deportation to Seoul. 

COMMENT: Cho, who is facing charges for allegedly embezzling US$2.5 million from a South Korean bank, was arrested while leaving a casino in Angeles City, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) north of Manila, the immigration bureau said.

Cho entered the country as a tourist in 2011, but never renewed his visa. South Korea revoked his passport in March 2012, rendering him an undocumented alien and paving the way for his deportation.

South Korea has become the top source of foreign tourists to the Philippines in recent years, with over 822,000 coming to the Southeast Asian archipelago during the first eight months of 2013, government indicate.

Although the Immigration Bureau reported Cho's arrest, it seems apparent that the Bureau was remiss in not ordering his arrest at the time his tourist visa expired, presumably some nineteen months ago. 

It is fortuitous that Cho didn't seek out another country to hole up in in order to escape the clutches of the South Korean government. 

Unfortunately for Cho, he failed to renew his tourist visa, which might have enabled him to indefinitely evade Philippine immigration law.

Puerto Rico: Violent Crime Unrelenting as Yet Another Chief of PRPD Takes the Helm Dec. 1

According to The Latin American Tribune, violent crime continues relentlessly in Puerto Rico, where ten citizens were slain over the weekend amid a wave of violence that residents hope can be halted by the new chief of police, veteran New York City retired cop, James Tuller Cintrón, who is in his early 60s.

Murders committed to date in 2013 number 809, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) said Monday (November 26), leaving Chief Cintrón to serve as the FIFTH chief of police since 2009.

While that total is 57 less than the death toll a year ago, it remains alarming for a territory of only 3.7 million inhabitants, particularly considering that Puerto Rico's homicide rate is nearly double that of Chicago, which renders Puerto Rico having a higher murder rate than any US city on the Mainland.

Interestingly, Puerto Rico with 809 murders has already exceeded Chicago's homicide rate (333), the highest in the Continental US, with a population of 2.7 million.

Tuller, introduced by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s administration as someone who took part in “sweeping” crime from the streets of New York, is due to take charge of the PRPD on December 1.

COMMENT: The change forced on the police high command by the resignation in late October of Hector Pesquera, who gave no reason why he was stepping down, obliged the government to find a substitute promptly for the office of superintendent.

Officials in San Juan settled on Tuller, a New Yorker of a Puerto Rican mother who lived as a child on the Caribbean island, and until recently was chief of transportation with the New York Police Department.

The new chief of the PRPD will not only have to deal with criminals in the streets, he will also have to implement a reform plan adopted to settle a US Justice Department lawsuit against the PRPD over civil rights abuses and widespread corruption.

We wish Chief Cintrón the very best of success in his new challenge, as taming a corrupt police department with a history of human rights violations is no small task. 

As a side note, I strongly discourage tourists from visiting Puerto Rico until such time as Chief Contrón has had an opportunity to reduce violent crime, say by the end of December 2014.

In the interim, business travelers to Puerto Rico are urged to be extremely security conscious relative to essential travel, as they are entering a territory fraught with violence.