Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Greece: Update--British Debauchery by Young on Crete Force Officials to React, Not Wisely Respond

According to The Guardian, and following the killing of a young British tourist, 19, on Crete last week, which also resulted in the arrest of upwards of a dozen British youths, the Greek island is considering setting up a segregated nightlife zone for young tourists.

Tyrell Matthews-Burton, a 19-year-old Londoner, was stabbed to death in a brawl outside a bar in the Cretan resort of Malia on July 23 while celebrating his birthday.

To make matters worse, three British women have also been reported raped in recent days.

Young British tourists, often abroad for the first time, and away from parental oversight, form a foundation of predominant foreign visitors to Malia, resulting in unbridled debauchery and public drunkenness.

Matthews-Burton's death has led to support for Malia to consider establishing tourist "ghetto" in a strip outside the town, following increasing complaints from peaceful islanders.

COMMENT: Please review my posting of 7/28 entitled "Greece: Update--Mass Mêlée Prompts Cretans to Reevaluate Riotous Britons," which Malian fathers have underwritten to create a tourist "ghetto" for young adults, which will still result in wholesale debauchery and public drunkenness, not to mention noise and violation of the law in peaceful Crete, which I have visited a number of times in the past.

Strangely, local officials in Malia seem to be planning for a "hands-off" "ghetto" for young adults on the outskirts of town that would permit clubs, bars and quad-bike racecourses to be established in a "closely monitored" enclave.

Unfortunately, local officials fail do not define what "closely monitored"  actually means.

In a related development, the mayors of Zakynthos, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes and Kos are to hold a mini-summit in Athens in October, where the issue of riotous tourists will be discussed. 

Tourism to Greece some time ago surpassed shipping as the country's largest industry with tourism now responsible for 20% of its income.

Rather than discouraging out-of-control young Britons to go elsewhere through the strict enforcement of local laws, including public drunkenness which I proposed in my July 28 posting, Cretan officials, as well as those of the cash-strapped Mainland, seem to have alternatively chosen to "take the money of young, rowdy Britons" rather than lose the revenue to another country. What does that say for the maintenance of legal principles?

In the end, the law-abiding citizens of Crete will be punished as will the elderly Britons who quietly visit Crete year after year without as much as a fuss.

What I find interesting is that on such a controversial issue, why don't Cretans have a public hearing on the issue of debauchery and public drunkenness on the island, considering it affects all citizens?

The sad part of the Malian plan is that in the interest of securing a flood of revenue from abroad, largely by rowdy young Britons, seemingly local police will now be tasked with selectively enforcing the law in the "young adult ghetto" versus the rest of the island. In essence, there will be TWO rules of engagement, not one as in most communities worldwide.

The Malian plan is hardly one that supports rule of law. Rather, it supports "taking the money" at any cost, regardless of the impact it has on social mores. What a pity.


Thailand: American Tourist, 51, Stabbed to Death by Musicians in Krabi, Son, 27, Injured

According to Fox News, US citizen Bobby Ray Carter, 51, died after he was stabbed twice in the chest while his son Adam, 27, suffered a stab wound to his arm, during a fight with members of the house band from the Longhorn Saloon earlier today (July 31) at Ao Nang beach in Krabi.

Reportedly, the elder American and his son refused to stop singing during a performance by three musicians

Much of Krabi province has been the seat of several national parks. The most prominent destinations are Hat Noppharat Thara, Ao Nang, Railay, Ko Phi Phi National Park. Yet over 80 smaller islands such as Lanta islands, or Koh Lanta, Phi Phi islands - made famous as the ideal location for adventurers, yachtsmen, scuba-divers, snorkelers and day-trippers from Phuket.

COMMENT: Police said the three musicians were arrested at the scene and confessed to stabbing the Americans.

Carter, 51, joined the musicians on stage for a singalong, but a dispute broke out when the American refused to stop singing while the band members took a break.

The end result might very well have been avoided if Carter and his son had just stopped singing as requested, rather than becoming "Ugly Americans" and giving the US a bad name.

As I have emphasized in so many of my postings in recent years, destinations in Thailand have reached the saturation point largely because of the Thai government's failure to intercede before things get totally out of control and someone gets stabbed or killed.

Having lived in Thailand for well over six years, most of it as a US Embassy senior Regional Security Officer (RSO), where I have dealt with virtually every types of mayhem that humans can wield against each other, the biggest problem today is that the Thai government, unofficially, has a "hands-off" policy where tourists are concerned.

Unfortunately, one key variable that differentiates Thailand from many other countries, apart from being called "The Land of Smiles," is that most Thais have a innate distrust of the police, which is why they invariably take the law into their own hands, rather than calling the police for assistance.

I should also note that beneath the smiles, Thais are very often inclined to resort to physical violence, given the nation's history.

I would suggest that new readers of our blog do a word search of our roughly 2,200 postings since 2009 and type in "Thailand," in order to see just how often cultures of the East and West clash.

Although the majority of foreign travelers, particularly young adults, seek cheap booze,  debauchery, "pirated" products, "knock-off" watches, most of the 22 million foreigners who visit Thailand every year fail to do one thing: Learn about the Thai culture, which is paramount to staying out of Harm's Way. Actually, one book I strongly recommend is CULTURE SHOCK-THAILAND, which will arm travelers and tourists with the information and skills they need to understand Thais.

See:
http://www.amazon.com/Culture-Thailand-Survival-Customs-Etiquette/dp/1558680586

Another book I would suggest is my own 2008 book entitled STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, which has a good number of chapters on adapting to an international environment, which can be ordered by sending me an email to:

ed@sbrisksolutions.com

As a matter of interest, STAYING SAFE ABROAD is being fully updated and will be available for the iPad, Kindle and Nook in November 2013. To reserve a copy in print, just drop me an email. 

México: Forty-Five Percent of Mexicans Below Poverty Line, 9.8% Destitute

According to EFE, and specifically a 2012 report released by the National Council to Evaluate Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) the proportion of Mexicans living below the poverty line was 45.5%, while 9.8% of Mexicans are destitute. Tragically, these figures represent 53.3 million people and 11.5 million people, respectively.
 
CONEVAL's calculation includes factors such as per capita income, access to education, healthcare, food and the quality of housing.

The poorest of México’s 32 states (including the Federal District) was the remote southern state of Chiapas, where nearly 75% of residents were living below the poverty line and more than 32% were destitute.

In Nuevo León, which borders Texas, 23.2% of the population had household incomes below the poverty threshold.

COMMENT: CONEVAL sets the poverty line at the level of income necessary to buy food and other everyday necessities.

People classified as destitute lack the money for a secure supply of food.

Roughly 50% of the Mexican population is thought to subsist on the equivalent of US$4 a day or less.

Unlike countries in the US and Canada, the demographics in México has a much smaller middle class while a large number of Mexicans are considered to be among the super-rich, even when compared to the US and Canada.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kenya: Update--Kenyan, 27, Sentenced to Death for Role in Abduction, Murder of British Couple

According to the BBC, a Kenyan criminal court has sentenced unemployed hotel resort worker, Ali Babitu Kololo, 27, to death after convicting him of being involved in a gang which murdered British businessman David Tebbutt, 58, finance director for a publishing house based in Bloomsbury. David was shot and killed in September 2011.

David Tebbutt is believed to have been shot and killed while attempting to resist the kidnapping of himself and his wife, Judith, 57, the latter of whom was later taken hostage and spirited off to Somalia where she was held for ransom.

Somalian pirates suspected of carrying out the raid in which an armed gang of five gunmen stormed their villa at the Kiwayu Safari Village at approximately 0400 hours, located just 18 miles from Somalia.

Unfortunately, David Tebbutt endeavored to protect his wife, Judith, resulting in David's death from a bullet shot by one of the kidnappers. 

Subsequently, Judith Tebbutt was bundled up and taken to Somalia.

Sadly, the couple had been at the Kiwaya only a few hours and strangely were the only guests.

COMMENT: The Kiwayu resort is made up of 18 luxury villas spread along a private beach. Holidaymakers pay from £280 (US$430) a night. 

Having seen photographs of Kiwayu, I was alarmed immediately  that such a pricey resort had virtually no security deterrents of any sort--no physical barriers, no grill-work, alarms or even nominally armed guards--particularly considering that it was a stone's throw from Somalia. 

Given the high nightly cost for a bungalow and the fact that neither Kenya or Somalia are low-risk destinations, I am actually stunned that celebrities visited the Safari Village, in light of the sparse security for VIPs.

The resort is managed by a British-Kenyan, George Moorhead, and his Italian wife, Simone Pelizzoli. Its website reassures visitors that it takes security "very seriously," yet how could that be given how wide-open the entire property is, particularly against well-armed and motivated kidnappers. 

Mrs. Tebbutt was reportedly held for roughly six months in Somalia with the end result that her family paid a ransom of £800,000 (US$1.3 million) for her release. 

As regards Kololo, I find it very strange that that he would be sentenced to death for his complicity in the death of David Tebbutt and yet be sentenced to a mere seven years in prison for Mrs. Tebbutt's abduction. 

Very, very confusing. So which is it, a death sentence, which may or may not be carried out, or seven years for the loss of freedom for six months in addition to the loss of £800,000?

It has also been learned that it has been 26 years since anyone in Kenya was executed with the norm being that most death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment. Again, which is it?

Sadly, Judith Tebbutt was told of her husband murder two weeks after she was kidnapped. 

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, Judith Tebbutt said she felt very uncomfortable after arriving at the beach resort for a two-week stay as she and her publisher husband were the only guests. Unfortunately, though, the couple remained at the resort until gunmen broke into their bungalow early the next morning, changing their lives forever.


France: Update--Chinese Tourists Need to Learn How NOT to Become Victims

According to The Guardian, Chinese tourists continue to be an easy mark for French criminals, largely because no one has apparently educated them as to how to avoid becoming a crime victim, whether in Paris or elsewhere around the world.

Although prominently carrying boutique shopping bags that render Chinese tourists very vulnerable, that is the least of the PRC's security lapses that render them easy targets. Alternatively, Chinese tourists should toss the boutique bags and carry their purchases in a well-used and worn backpack.

COMMENT: I would respectfully submit that it is not Paris or other French cities that are responsible for economic crime confronting tourists, but rather foreign ministries that fail to properly educate their travelers on how to avoid becoming a crime victim abroad.

Many Chinese tourists to France use public transportation, such as the Metro, only to fail to realize that a good number of French criminals ride the Metro each day so as to make it very easy to make off with wallets and mobile phones belonging to unsuspecting passengers.

To make matters worse, many Chinese tourists still carry far too much cash than they should--approaching the equivalent of 800-1,200 euros--only to find their trip abroad turning into a major disaster. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, for example, should be educating the Chinese to carry little cash and alternatively use credit, ATM or check cards so they can withdraw small amounts of cash at a time.

Unfortunately, the wholesale pickpocketing, tourist scams, con games and the like that go on in France and most European capitals have focused largely on Asian and Chinese tourists in recent years because of their vulnerability, particularly around museums, art galleries and tourist attractions.

Very often, many pickpockets that flood France and other European cities are made up of youngsters under the age of 18, very often controlled by Eastern European organized crime, which are very hard to neutralize, as they keep moving from city to city. In most cases, if they are caught by police, they are summarily released.

Another facet of tour agencies that specialize in Asian tourists is the fact that many tour groups are huge--often amounting to 50-75 visitors--which makes it impossible for crime victims to spend hours in line to file a police complaint. As a result, many Asian tourists who have become crime victims are back on the bus so quickly that a complaint on most criminals is never filed.

Although I offered a list of do's and don't's for Chinese tourists traveling in Europe a couple of months ago, for those tourists who may have missed the tips, below are crime prevention tips to consider:

1. Travel with a debit, ATM, check or credit card, keeping in mind that several credit card issuers charge a service fee of 3-5% for overseas purchases;

2. Never carry more than €75 in cash and never prominently display in public more than €20;

3. Avoid wearing "fanny" packs;

4. Do not use ATMs that are on the street level. Use only ATMs that are located inside banks. NEVER use ATMs on the street after dark;

5. Avoid displaying your mobile phone in public, particularly a smart-phone, and never make calls from your mobile phone while on the street;

6. Never purchase euros from "black-market" vendors, as you may be given currency that is no longer in circulation;

7. Avoid young children that might gather around you on the street. Most are pickpockets;  

8. You may see signs urging you to be careful of pickpockets on the street. In many cases, such signs have been placed by pickpockets themselves to see whether you physically check where you carry your wallet;

9. It is strongly recommended that you not carry your actual passport on your person, but rather carry a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and the date stamp that you entered the country you are in. This practice is urged to prevent the theft of your passport on the street;

If you carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp page, safeguard your passport in the two-key safe deposit system in the lobby where you can also safeguard cash that you don't need;

10. DO NOT use in-room safes or locked drawers in your guest-room as the hotel has access to both of them;

11. Do not wear logos or insignias identifying the country you are from;

12.  Beverages in convenient "mini-bars" are very expensive.  Purchase bottled water and beverages in a nearby grocery store;

13. NEVER open your guest room door to anyone unless you know who they are;

14. Do not go out alone at night, as all foreign cities pose risks for tourists who are alone;

15.  If you go to a tavern, bar, restaurant, etc. and order a drink of any type, do not leave your drink unattended, as "date-rape" drugs are often used by criminals to immobilize their targets;

16. It is a common practice to leave your television on in your guest-room so as to create the impression that you're still in your hotel;

17. Whether you don't want to be disturbed in your guest-room or not, display the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the outer door so that hotel staff will not bother you;

18. Don't turn your guestroom door into lobby reception when you leave the hotel, as you want to create the impression that they don't know where you are;

19. Be very cautious in using hotel business center computers, as they are often are used by persons that have contaminated computers. If you use a flash drive or a CD to download files, make sure you don't place the flash drive into your computer when you return home; and

20. Be observant of those around you as people you encounter on the street may very well be targeting you for a crime.






New Zealand: Update--Death Toll in Waitomo Rises as Transport Agency is Slow to Act

According to http://www.tvnz.co.nz, the Transport Agency (NZTA), New Zealand's public road construction and safety organization, seems to have been dragging its feet in terms of focusing on reducing dangerous roadway risks for residents and tourists alike.

Of particular concern is restructuring a particularly dangerous intersection in Waitomo that has claimed a number of lives over the years.

US citizen Jean Stithem, whose honeymooning son, Kenneth Kallan Stithem, 31, died at the intersection of state highways 3 and 37 last September [2012], is frustrated with the time it is taking the agency to reduce life-safety risks in Waitomo.

Ken Stithem died when his rental vehicle collided with a concrete truck. His bride, Kirsten Steinke, received serious injuries and spent months in recovery in both New Zealand and the US.

COMMENT: What Jean Stithem may not realize is that the New Zealand government is often very slow to reduce safety risks, even for their own citizens, let alone foreigners. 

NZTA is saying little about the four proposals, but has previously said consultation would start soon. In actuality, it appears that public hearings on their plan may not occur until August or even September.

The intersection in question is well known to Waitomo residents as an accident hub, which involves a blind corner  intersecting with a state highway where the speed limit is 100kmh (62mph). 

To make matters worse, Waitomo District Mayor Brian Hanna said he was not aware of frustration within the community while at the same time saying that traffic has been diminishing and there have been no accidents, as if to suggest there is no roadway safety issue at the intersection.

Ken Stithem's death followed that of Canadian tourist Michele Smith in an almost identical accident when the campervan she was a passenger in, driven by her husband, Douglas, collided with a truck in February 2012. 

Both deaths came months after NZTA changed the layout of the road, installing a pair of traffic islands which unfamiliar drivers often mistook for a roundabout. 

The speed limit of 100kmh (62mph) was eventually reduced to 70kmh (44mph) after the accident, but Jean Stithem, who has visited the site of her son's death, does not think that is slow enough.

Unfortunately, for the number of accidents that have occurred at the Waitomo intersection in question over the years, NZTA is moving no more swiftly than the large number of tourists who have died in adventure travel "accidents" because of a lack of safety protocols. Please see my postings of: January 3, May 7, May 10, May 11 and May 28, 2013.

I also remind foreign drivers that New Zealanders drive on the "left." Additionally, New Zealand's roadways are among some of the most dangerous in the world, as I've reported over the years.

I discourage foreign visitors accustomed to driving on the "right" from renting cars in Auckland or Wellington upon arrival until they have an opportunity to carefully observe the road patterns and driving risks, as many foreign drivers do have a problem with adapting to the roadways.

If you feel uncomfortable driving on the "left," DON'T DRIVE. It is far safer to take a shuttle or a taxi than to die trying.

Finally, seat belts are required for all occupants and punishments for drinking and driving are rigidly enforced.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Philippines: Several Western Governments Advise Their Citizens to Avoid, Leave Mindanao

According to The Manila Standard Today, the UK, Canada and Australia joined the US on Thursday (July 25)  in issuing travel advisories for their citizens to either avoid traveling or leave specific areas in Mindanao for their safety against “threats of terrorism and kidnapping.”

In response to the travel warnings, Malacañang Palace (the official residence and office of President Benigno S. Aquino III)  quickly downplayed the series of travel advisories, carefully saying that the Philippine intelligence community is not aware of "any specific threat."

That being said, the reality is that most foreigners in Mindanao are regularly sought by kidnapping gangs and Muslim extremists. Those caught result in huge ransom demands that can easily approach US$1 million, although not always. 

According to The Philippine Star, the Southern Mindanao provinces of Compostela Valley and Cotabato to the Western Mindanao provinces of Sulu, Zamboanga, and Basilan criminal  lawlessness is the norm not the exception. 

Most recently, a restaurant in Mindanao’s northernmost city of Cagayan De Oro was targeted by bombers, killing eight persons and wounding 48, including Misamis Oriental provincial board member Roldan Lagbas, Manila physician Dr. Erwin Malanay and several medical representatives attending a convention of cardiologists.

The bombing in Cagayan De Oro placed into question the prospect of peace being achieved in Mindanao. Clashes between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan and between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and between the military and the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the NPA (New People's Army) in the Davao, Surigao, and Agusan provinces are a daily occurrence, putting into question the effectiveness of government security and intelligence elements.

COMMENT: The US Embassy had earlier warned of the security risks in the Zamboanga Peninsula, not to mention the entire area of Mindanao and the Sula Archipelago. 

The Sulu archipelago, specifically the town of Patikul, was the site of a recent clash between the military and an undetermined number of extremists belonging to Abu Sayyaf, which has been designated by the US as a terrorist organization. The recent engagement resulted in 16 fatalities, including seven soldiers on an exploratory mission. 

Last April, armed men abducted a businesswoman and her live-in partner before dawn in Zamboanga City. The PNP said the gunmen kidnapped the couple, later identified as Nancy Gonato, owner of Ocean World Marine Products, and her live-in partner, Ronnie San Sagon, from their exclusive wharf residence.

It should be noted that wealthy local business executives and foreigners are kidnapped with increasing regularity in Mindanao, yet fail to adhere to the advice of embassy representatives and Philippine government officials.

Egypt: Associated Press Reports Seven Flight Cancelled, Others Operating at 50% or Less

According to The Associated Press, Cairo airport officials report that seven flights to Egypt have been cancelled and that others are arriving with less than 50% occupancy following weekend clashes that killed 84 people.
 
Passengers from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Italy as well as Syria and Lebanon were rerouted Monday onto other planes because of low seat occupancy.

Fewer passengers are coming from Damascus and Beirut because Syrians escaping the war in their country now need visas for Egypt following changes to security rules.

COMMENT: Officials say that more than 55% of seats on flights to Cairo have been empty over the past three days. Political turmoil over the past 2.5 years has dramatically and negatively impacted on  foreign tourism.

Please see my earlier posting on the US Department of State urging US citizens to defer travel to Egypt and if in Egypt depart as soon as possible.

Egypt: US Department of State Warns US Citizens to Defer Travel, If in Egypt Depart

COMMENT: As a reminder to US citizens, please note that on July 3, the US Department of State issued an updated travel warning for Egypt which  warns US citizens to defer travel to Egypt and US citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest.

On July 3, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.  

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, is likely to worsen in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. 

While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh, continues to be calm, albeit unpredictable. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault. 

On June 28, a US citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria while photographing protesters. THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

 On May 9, a private US citizen was attacked with a knife outside of the US Embassy after being asked whether he was an American.  Additionally, Westerners and US citizens have occasionally been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations. US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the US Embassy. 

If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other US government-sponsored evacuations. US citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. 

The US Department of State strongly urges US citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. Because of the proximity of the US Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the US Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. 

The Embassy will notify US citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the US Embassy during demonstrations, US citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the US Embassy during that time. 

US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt. 

For the full text of the updated travel warning see:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_6024

Saudi Arabia: US Department of State Updates Travel Warning, Effective July 25

COMMENT: Effective July 25, the US Department of State has updated its travel warning for Saudi Arabia on the basis of an elevated threat of terrorism.

For the entire text of the travel warning, please see:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5813

Saipan: Korean Tourist, 27, Raped by Resort Staff, Judge Mandates $100,000 Cash Bond, Rapist Held

According to The Saipan Tribune, a South Korean tourist, 27, was reportedly raped by an employee of the Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio at approximately 0200 hours local time on Saturday (July 27).

Earlier on Friday night, resort employee Bradley Demapan, 26, struck up a conversation with the two South Korean women and asked them where they would be later that night, at which point the two women said they would be at the Buoy Bar, which is also on the property of the hotel at which they were staying.

Later that night, at approximately 2230 hours, the two hotel employees visited the Buoy Bar, located the two women and joined in their having drinks at the bar.

At approximately 0100 hours on Saturday, one of the South Korean women tourist left the group to use the restroom, but when she returned her companion and the two resort employees were no longer at the bar.

The woman, worried about her friend, sought the assistance of the hotel’s security staff. At roughly 0200 hours, the security guard and the tour agent heard screams and found the victim and Demapan in the bushes nearby.

When the security guard and the tour agent arrived at the scene, the victim was wearing only a bra and was crying, while Demapan was pulling on his pants.


COMMENT: The next day,  Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho ordered cash bail of $100,000 for Demapan and ordered his arrest on charges of sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in the second degree, assault and battery and disturbing the peace.

After the initial appearance hearing, Camacho remanded defendant Demapan into the custody of the Department of Corrections. His next court appearance will be on August 6 at 1330 hours.

A useful first step for all hotels on Saipan, not to mention elsewhere, is to have a written hotel policy that prohibits hotel staff from fraternizing with hotel guests, largely in order to head off the type of situations described in this posting. The consequences of such fraternization should include a warning for a first offense followed by termination for a second offense.

It is also suggested that women traveling together should be circumspect in telling men they don't know where they will be at a later time, so as to avoid serious incidents as described above that may haunt them the rest of their days. 

Saipan is twelve miles long and 5.6 miles wide and and is the largest island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) after Guam, both of which are unincorporated territories of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. According to the last census Saipan's population is 48,220.

Italy: Thirty-Nine Killed When Tour Bus Plunges 100 Feet from Roadway After Crashing into 11 Vehicles

According to CNN, a bus returning pilgrims from a weekend visit to a Catholic shrine went off a bridge in southern Italy (near Naples) on Sunday (July 28), leaving at least 39 dead, including children.

The death toll rose by two after one person who was hospitalized died, and the body of another victim was found under the bus, according to first responders. 


Police did not have an exact number of passengers on the bus, though reports indicate as many as 50 may have been on board.
 

The passengers were participating in a weekend pilgrimage to the Padre Pio shrine in Pietrelcina at the time of the crash.

Andrea Regione, a photographer for the Corriere dell'Irpinia, told CNN that the bus went off a bridge and fell roughly 30 meters (almost 100 feet) into a heavily wooded area below. Photos from the scene showed a broken guardrail and the bus laying on its side.
 

COMMENT: Police said the bus struck eleven vehicles on the road before falling off the bridge, leading police to suspect the bus may have had brake problems, although the cause of the collision is still under investigation.
The driver of the bus is said to be among the dead.

As most of our readers know all too well, I have often vocalized my concern over the large number of tour bus accidents that we see weekly all over the world.

Sadly, many of these accidents occur largely because of the diminished maneuverability of such large vehicles; outdated roadways; a lack of  electronic signage for road work and changing road conditions; diminished maintenance of vehicles; and inexperienced drivers. These discrepancies are further highlighted when tour buses are traveling on elevated roadways and operating in mountainous regions. 

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yemen: Update--Kidnapped Dutch Couple Still Missing

According to CNN, a Dutch couple kidnapped in the Yemeni capital [Hadda] on June 15 are still missing. 

The couple, comprised of Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her husband, Boudewijn Berendsen, were abducted as they left their home. Strangely, they were missing nearly a week before Yemeni authorities were aware of their abduction who in turn notified the Dutch Embassy.

A tribal leader involved in the mediation process told CNN that the health situation of the Dutch couple was stable although the couple is understandably depressed by their plight. 


COMMENT: The kidnappers, not yet identified, have asked for a ransom payment, but have been elusive as to the exact amount.

Interior Ministry records reveal that some 35 kidnappings have taken been reported of late, although most victims have been released, apart from those still being held.


Al-Qaeda and/or its franchisees are believed to be behind many of the abductions, including that of a South African couple in May. A Finnish couple and an Austrian who were seized by tribesmen last December [2012] were released five months later following tribal mediation involving on the part of the Omani government. 

The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YJS) has condemned the kidnapping, saying that local groups are using abductions as a bargaining chip against the government.


One of the longest-standing kidnap victims in Yemen is Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Khalidi, who has been held hostage in Yemen since March 2012, when he was seized outside of his home in Aden. It is believed that the vice-consul was kidnapped in order to be exchanged for al-Qaeda elements held by the Saudis.

Increasingly, many kidnap victims in Yemen have been seized near or adjacent to their homes, a natural "choke-point," and a place they can always be expected to be. 

Thus, it is essential that all foreigners be particularly cautious when selecting a residence so that activity in and around their residence can be carefully observed, as well as identifying suspicious vehicles or persons in the vicinity, to include copying vehicular tag registration numbers down and reporting them to their respective embassy for investigative purposes.

Additionally, it is essential that foreigners take exceptional care in ensuring they do NOT leave their residence at the same departure and arrival times, so as to frustrate would be kidnappers who depend on predictable patterns of behavior in order for an abduction to be successful.



Tennessee: Defendants in Home Invasion, Robbery and Kidnapping Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

According to The Jackson Sun, defendants Desmond Anderson, 20, and Camillia Harrison, 25, both of Jackson, have been sentenced to 20 years in prison for their involvement in a 2012 home invasion robbery and kidnapping of a woman and her 3-month-old child, according to a news release from the Jackson Police Department.

Anderson and Harrison were found guilty by a Madison County jury on June 4. After a sentencing hearing Friday in Madison County Circuit Court, Division II, the judge sentenced Anderson to 20 years with no parole for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, according to the release.

Harrison was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, police said. She must serve 85% of her sentence before she will be eligible for parole. 

Harrison had previously been convicted in 2008, for attempted aggravated robbery in Jackson, resulting in her being placed on eight years’ probation. After the 2012 home invasion, Harrison’s probation was revoked, sending her to prison. Harrison will begin serving her 20-year sentence after she finishes the remaining four-year sentence for the 2008 conviction.

COMMENT: A combination of home invasion, armed robbery and kidnapping are among one of the fastest growing collective crimes in the US today.

As a result, would-be victims of home invasion are urged to do the following to prevent home invasion and other simultaneous crimes: 

1. Keep in mind that many home invasions begin when potential targets are followed home from another place. Thus, it is essential that residents make it a practice to regularly use their rear and side mirrors to determine if they are being followed; 

If would-be targets believe they ARE being followed do NOT drive home, but drive to the nearest police station and report that you believe you're being followed; 

2. If you drive a luxury vehicle you may want to downsize, as such vehicles can often be a clue that you live in a home worthy of a home invasion, robbery and potential kidnapping; 

3. Never open an exterior door to your home unless you are absolutely sure that the person on the other side of the door does not pose a threat to you; 

4. All of your exterior doors should be of solid construction; 

5. If you don't have an optical viewer installed on your exterior doors, install them asap; 

6. If you are in your home, you may wish to consider purchasing a legal firearm that you're capable of proficiently handling in the event you are targeted by home intruders; 

NOTE: If you have a criminal record for domestic violence or you have a history of mental disease, you may not be eligible to legally purchase a long gun (i.e., a shotgun) or handgun. NEVER purchase an illegal firearm. If you do, you have committed a felony; 

NOTE: THE RIFLEMAN, one of the many publications produced by the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a monthly column entitled "The Armed Citizen," which carries a number of actual events where armed citizens have defend their lives or those of others; 

7. If you do not know the criminal threat in your neighborhood, I would strongly suggest that you go to: http://www.neighborhoodscout.com and type in your address and zip-code. You'll then be given your risk of violent and property crime; 

8. Ideally, you should always park your vehicle(s) in a locked enclosure. If you don't have a locked garage you risk of auto theft is tripled; 

9. Consider establishing a "safe room" in your home to which you can seek refuge in the event of a home invasion. This "safe room" should have a single-cylinder deadbolt lock on the inside and be equipped with horizontal barricade bars top and bottom; 

This "safe room" is where all members of your family should seek refuge in a home invasion or a threat against your lives. You must practice in getting all of your family members into the "safe room" from the front door in an emergency. Second counts, so try to get everyone in the "safe room" within 15 seconds; 

This "safe room" will give you time to react with deadly force if have a legal firearm and your lives are endangered; and 

10. Contained in your "safe room" should be the following: (1) a mobile phone on a charger; (2) Call 9-1-1 and advise the dispatcher that people have broken into your home; (3) Use your firearm only if you or your family believe that your life is endangered. If you have one (a shotgun is preferably, 20 gauge for women); and (4) a portable fire escape ladder to escape if you must.


Spain: Driver of High-Speed Train Being Held, 79 Dead, 71 Others in Critical Condition

Spanish authorities have reported that high-speed train driver, Francisco José Garzón, would be taken before a judge, perhaps today (July 28), to face charges of his complicity in the death of 79, as well 71 others that remain in critical condition.

The passengeer train derailed near the town of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday (July 24) along the route linking Madrid and the Atlantic coastal city of Ferrol.

At the moment, Garzón is being held in police custody on suspicion of multiple charges of negligent homicide. 

COMMENT: Garzón asserted his right to remain silent when police sought to question him at the hospital.

Authorities have initially reported that excessive speed may be to blame for the derailment and crash. Garzón earlier in the week acknowledged that he was going at around 190 kph (118 mph) on a curve with a speed limit of 80 kph (about 50 mph).

The train involved in the accident entered service in 2012 and can reach speeds up to 250 kph (155 mph) on international rail networks and 220 kph (136 mph) on the Spanish high-speed rail system.

The signals on the stretch where the accident occurred were operating properly at the time of the derailment and the train had been inspected earlier in the day on Wednesday, the day of the derailment.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Turkey: Update--Attacks on Britons in Marmaris, This Time At the Blue Bays Resort


According to The Mirror, a married British tourist in her 40s, was raped on July 26 in a spa at the Blue Bays resort in Marmaris, and had reportedly had a couple of sessions for the treatment for a bad back without incident, but on Friday the victim was raped as she was face down on the massage table. See http://www.bluebayshotel.com

The victim was reportedly raped by married masseur Ziya Bozkurt, 27,

The victim is said to have quickly sprung from the table screaming for help, and fleeing to her guest room. Subsequently, hotel staff and a friend accompanied the victim to the hospital for forensic examination and then to local police to report the attack.

COMMENT: Fortunately, we live in an era of DNA analysis. Thus it is hope that the rapist will not be free for long.

Although in the majority of countries those who are alleged to have committed serious crimes (i.e., homicide, armed robbery and rape, etc.) are remanded into custody, the rapist in this case first said he "made a mistake" and then said that sexual intercourse was consensual. Bozkurt was released on bail. 

Generally speaking, and largely to reduce the allegations of sexual misconduct, a good number of luxury hotels worldwide insist that masseurs and masseuses and their clients be of the same sex, but not always.

The incident is the third sex attack involving Britons reported in ­Marmaris in recent weeks.

Last week THE SUNDAY MIRROR reported how a woman managed to fight off a knife-wielding assailant who broke into her room. He was later arrested. 

Another British tourist said she was raped by a taxi driver.

The sex attacks follow other recent ­incidents in Marmaris involving Britons. Dwayne Ward, 17, from Middlesbrough, was robbed and stabbed. Schoolgirl Faye Jones, 16, from Northumberland, ran away with a violent local bar-worker. She has now been found.

Now, for the interesting part. An unnamed Foreign Office spokesman said: “We would encourage people to take the same ­precautions they would at home.”

Perhaps the unnamed spokesman was new to the post, perhaps he/she had never traveled abroad or simply was raised in a cloistered environment.

In any event, British nationals are arrested and become crime victims with increasingly regularity on a global basis. Additionally, an AOL Travel survey reveals that 20% of respondents indicated that they were crime victims while abroad.

As someone who has served abroad a good part of my adult life as a US Regional Security Officer and Associate Director of Security in Latin America, the statement made by the unnamed Foreign Office spokesperson is simply NOT TRUE and has conveyed inaccurate information.

Foreign travelers who visit foreign destinations, particularly in developing nations, are often victimized by local criminals, largely because they have not checked and registered their travel with their appropriate on-line foreign affairs agency to determine the threats they may face.

Invariably, foreign travelers are not only unfamiliar with the threats they may face abroad, but the criminal tactics used by local thugs to relieve them of their wallets, cash, credit cards, mobile phones, tote bags, etc. and even their life.

Additionally, foreign visitors are frequently victims of homicide, armed robbery, assault, sexual assault, rape, extortion, con-games played on travelers and "snatch-and-grab" tactics. 

For our readers who may be "a doubting Thomas," I suggest that you review my daily blog, which can be found at:

http://www.stayingsafeabroad.blogspot.com or purchase a copy of my completely updated book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD,"  which will be released in November 2013 in iPad, Kindle and Nook formats. For those wanting a copy now, please contact me @: ed@sbrisksolutions.com.

As I have said so often in the first printing of my 2008 book, "Foreign travel can be fun, exciting, rewarding and fulfilling," but only if travelers of all nationalities are well-prepared for foreign travel, fully understand the threats they will encounter and have a strong sense of personal security awareness that will keep them from Harm's Way.

If they are unprepared for the threats abroad, they can and often will become victims.





Greece: Update--Mass Mêlée Prompts Cretans to Reevaluate Riotous Britons

According to The Guardian,  the mass mêlée that occurred on July 23 outside of a bar in Malia, have prompted Cretan islanders to seriously reevaluate whether such hooliganism and death is worth continuing to offer Britons a "welcome" mat.

The Guardian interviewed Professor Manolis Michalodimitrakis, Crete's chief forensic pathologist, who himself was trained in Detroit in the 1980s, who increasingly has seen out-of-control, intoxicated British youths giving his island home a bad name.

On Thursday (July 25), Professor Michalodimitrakis had to face the mother of Tyrell Matthews-Burton, a moment that he described as "sacred," considering that few parents are forced to bury their offspring.

During what could only be described as a riot, Tyrell was celebrating his 19th birthday, only to return home in the cargo compartment of an airliner.

To make matters worse, Professor Michalodimitrakis report revealed that there was no evidence of defensive wounds on the part of Tyrell, suggesting he was the victim of an execution. 

COMMENT: Tragically, it took Cretans two days to scrub the pavement clean of blood. 

All week, local media has been preoccupied on the killing. Television cameras have been trained firmly on the island's courthouse, where three British teenagers have been charged in connection with the crime.

For the first time in living memory, guards patrolled not only the sandstone building in the heart of Heraklion, Crete's Venetian-walled capital, but paced its dark corridors, with guns at the ready, forcibly keeping friends of the victim and friends of the alleged perpetrators apart.

"It's never other nationalities, only the British, and in Crete it's only in Malia," said Professor Michalodimitrakis to THE GUARDIAN.

The sad part is that senior Britons are rewarded with honors for their loyalty when they have visited Crete after 20 years, yet punishing the serene and law-abiding Britons would only result in Crete losing the very type of foreign tourists they covet. 

Unfortunately, during the summer some 20,000 youngsters stream down Malia's main street, frequently so intoxicated they have no recollection of where they are. Worse, local bars and clubs serve mind-bending drinks, only escalating the situation. Additionally, many young Britons literally go wild on their visit abroad without parental oversight.

Although Malia's city fathers are inclined to set up youth-only sections of town permitting largely intoxicated Britons to do whatever they want, that is hardly an answer, as there will still be lewd, out-of-control behavior that violates local cultural mores.

Alternatively, the city of Malia should enact a wide-sweeping ordinance on public intoxication that includes a written public policy that stipulates an appropriate blood alcohol level that permits police to arrest those who exceed that level. 

Further, police should be authorized to arrest and detain the intoxicated overnight. 

Moreover, breathalyzers should be employed to measure blood alcohol levels and police should also be authorized to shut bars and clubs down that don't adhere to public policy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Global Impact: Update--Canadian, Australian Wanted in Connection with 2012 Bulgarian Bus Bom

According to The National Post, Bulgarian authorities have named a Canadian terror suspect, Hassan El Hajj Hassan, 25, as a wanted fugitive and suspected Hezbollah operative involved in last year’s bombing of a tourist bus at an airport on Bulgaria’s coast that killed five Israelis and their local driver. Hassan is a Canadian-Lebanese dual national.

Additionally, the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior said Thursday (July 25) has released the name of a second suspect in the bombing, Australian citizen Meliad Farah, age unknown.  Farah also reportedly goes by the name of  Hussein Hussein.

Both men were seen in several parts of Bulgaria in the weeks before the July 18, 2012, airport Israeli at Burgas Airport (situated 400 kilometers or 248 miles from the capital of Sofia).

While in Canada, Hassan is suspected of also collecting money transfers from Hezbollah. Roughly $100,000 in additional funds were received through accounts in Australia, with the money allegedly earmarked for organizing the bombing and fact-finding missions in other countries.

Bulgarian authorities believe that Hassan and Farah received operational and weapons training from Hezbollah in Lebanon prior to the attack.

COMMENT: Hassan came to Canada at the age of eight, with his mother and brother, to join their father who had immigrated years earlier. The family settled in Vancouver. It is believed that Hassan became a Canadian citizen some 15 years ago when he was younger, yet after his parents divorced in 2000, he has been living in Beirut, where he may have become radicalized.

The two confederates were allegedly recruited by Hezbollah while they were studying in Beirut. 

Both suspects would be tried in Bulgaria if they are ever arrested, although if in Lebanon, the likelihood of their being arrested is unlikely.

Hassan allegedly arrived in Bulgaria three weeks before the bombing. He then began using a fake Michigan driver’s license that named him as Ralph William Rico. The suspects allegedly built the explosive device in Bulgaria.

Although investigators initially described the attack as a suicide bombing, they now believe the bomb, hidden in a backpack, went off prematurely as it was being planted in the bus’s luggage compartment.

DNA found on a fraudulent MI driving permit was recovered outside of the bus following the bombing. It is believed that the suicide bomber that was killed following the detonation may have been related to Hassan.

The attack targeted Israeli tourists arriving at Sarafovo Airport from Tel Aviv to visit the sunny beaches of Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort area. Thirty-two people were injured. 

Bulgarian counterterrorism sources believe that Hassan and Farah AKA Hussein Hussein that Hassan and/or Farah may be using fraudulent identification in the names of Brian Jeremiah Jameson, Jacque Felipe Martin and Ralph William Rico.

In July 2012, Farah reportedly rented a Renault Clio with the licence plate number А9027КТ in the village of Ravda.

The Canadian government has already taken legal action to strip Canadian citizens convicted of terrorism of their citizenship resulting in their passports being cancelled.

The Bulgarian government has already determined that Hezbollah was behind the July 2012 Burgas Israeli bus bombing and confirmed that the fraudulent US driving permits were produced by a Beirut printer linked to the terror group.

California: Kidnap Victim Jumps from Trunk of Moving Vehicle in Napa, Abductors Arrested

According to Reuters, two suspects alleged to have abducted a kidnap victim driving away with another man in the truck of their car were arrested after a short police pursuit in Napa Thursday afternoon (July 25).
 
Napa police received reports of an altercation at 1525 hours in the 2100 block of Shurtleff Avenue that ended when two men forced another man in to the trunk of a green Ford sedan.
Just after police received a call that a man had jumped out of the trunk of a moving car on Soscol Avenue near Napa State Hospital, the apparent victim ran through traffic and said he had been kidnapped.

Five minutes later police spotted a green Ford with two men inside and the trunk open driving south on state Highway 29. Officers attempted to stop the car, but the driver fled. 

COMMENT: Eventually the suspects got off the highway and stopped in a vineyard near South Kelly and Paoli Loop roads at which point officers arrested the car’s two occupants, Donald Arthur Lawson, 49, and Daniel James Allen Rowe, 36, both of Vallejo, on suspicion of unauthorized flight.  

Lawson was also wanted on a number of warrants in both Napa and Solano counties.

Subsequently, the kidnap victim was taken to Queen of the Valley Medical Center for treatment of his injuries suffered from jumping out of the moving car. The severity of his injuries unknown. 

The underlying motive  for the abduction was not reported in the Reuters piece. Therefore, it is very difficult to assess the kidnap victim's response in jumping from the trunk of a moving vehicle, which alone can result in loss of serious injury or loss of life. 

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

UK: Canadian Translator, 53, Has Her Laptop Stolen from Rental Car in London

According to The London Free Press, Canadian Michele Campeau, 53, from Ottawa, on her first trip to London, could have had a much me uneventful trip. On the other hand, it could have gone much worse: She could have been robbed at gunpoint. 

The purpose of Ms. Campeau's visit to London was to go to Forest City on July 6 for Sunfest in Victoria Park.

Instead of leaving with wonderful memories memories and a few quaint souvenirs, she spent much of her time completing police reports for the theft of her Dell computer which had been stolen from her car in the vicinity of Queens Avenue near Clarence St.

London police report that more than 1,200 people have reported thefts from their vehicles this year. On average, six thefts from vehicles occur every day.

She left her laptop in a briefcase on the passenger side floor covered carefully with miscellaneous items, thinking there would not be a problem. 

At first blush, Queens appeared to be a perfect normal street. It is clean, has lots of traffic and she concluded that her laptop would be fine. It wasn't.

It wasn’t until she returned to her guest room in Port Stanley that Campeau realized her laptop was missing.

COMMENT: From all indications, her car seemed fine. None of the windows were smashed and there was no evidence that the victim's vehicle had been compromised.

Ms. Campeau looked repeatedly for her laptop on the floor and finally concluded that her laptop was stolen by gifted thieves who were skilled at getting into her car easily and quickly.

Not only did she have personal and banking information on her laptop, but additionally she had lots of professional data that stemmed from her work as a translator, including client work products and proprietary information.  Then, of course, her concern for identity theft also ran through her mind.

After filing reports with the OPP and London police, Campeau decided to return to London the following day and do a little investigating on her own, to no avail. Actually, all she lost was a vacation in London.

Unfortunately, what Ms. Campeau did not realize is that laptop theft is one of the greatest risks for global travelers bar none.

What the victim in this case may not have known is that there were options of choice in this case that potentially could have prevented her from becoming a victim and losing her only laptop that was used for business and pleasure.

Here are some key tips to remember and follow:

1. First of all, never take a laptop abroad WITHOUT backing up all data;

2. NEVER leave a laptop or mobile device in any vehicle unattended;

3. Consider utilizing the services of:

 http://www.absolute.com/en/products

 This site can offer services that include Lojack for both laptops and mobile devices; remote deletion of data (regardless of where the unit is located); encryption of data, folders and files; to name but a few services; and

4. Consider purchasing a small mini-laptop for travel anywhere, enabling the user to place only those files that are needed on the mini, have Wi-Fi access, stay in in touch with the office and family and friends, etc. 

Even better, such minis weight less than two pounds, enabling them to be carried in a totebag anywhere effortlessly.  Such units can also be encrypted to protect vital information and identity theft.