Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tip of the Day: Adapting to Expectations as They Actually Are, Not as You'd Like Them to Be!

After working, living and traveling abroad in eight foreign countries and working in roughly 65 other nations over a thirty-five-year career, it is my belief that I've learned a thing or two about adapting to life abroad.

Let's examine, for instance, the concept of time.

No matter where "home" actually is, it is my hope that I've learned something about the concept of time: What you can actually accomplish in a work-day, not necessarily when you're "home," but where around the globe you actually "are." 

 At "home," you may be tethered to your day-timer, appointment book, Android, iPhone courier services and multitasking support devices, etc., yet when you travel to a country so diametrically different from "home," let's say, Pakistan, everything will be drastically different: the legal system, social mores, protocols, meetings, religion, political perceptions, credibility, etc. 

I remember several years ago when I was doing police training in Islamabad. An FBI instructor and myself were doing a presentation on the September 11, 2001 events of 9/11.

Now, please keep in mind that we were speaking to a class of senior-level Pakistani police officers, many of whom spoke English. Yet, 70% of the participants in the course truly believed that the events of 9/11 was a hoax on the part of the US. Imagine!

In many global capitals, traveling three miles can easily take an hour...or more! So...always factor in travel time.

If working in Latin America, reckoning with the official siesta may take several hours out of the highest temperatures of the day. 

Another factor is discovering that everyone in the country that you're in happens to eat at different times. Typically, dinner may be served at 2100 or 2200 hours. A tip! Don't regret invitations...just adapt to them.

In many countries, retail stores are rarely open late in the evening and may not be open at all on certain days of the week. So...plan accordingly.

One reality that I learned some 40 years ago while serving in the US Marines was...

improvise, adapt and prevail. Three of the best virtues I have ever learned!

Pakistan: Chinese Tourist, Age Unknown, Abducted While Traveling in Northwestern Pakistan, All Tourists Urged to "Go Away"

According to The Associated Press, a Chinese tourist traveling through northwestern Pakistan was abducted by unidentified gunmen, Pakistani police said Tuesday (May 27). A militant commander said his Taliban-linked group claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The Chinese national's passport, bicycle and belongings were found on Tuesday in the town of Daraban on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan district, said police chief Sadiq Baluch. He said the man had apparently entered Pakistan from neighboring India sometime in April.

The police were not notified of the man's presence in the district bordering Pakistan's lawless tribal region, which is home to local and al-Qaeda-linked militants, Baluch added. 

COMMENT: As I have echoed all too often in the past, not only are all tourists strongly discouraged to avoid all parts of Pakistan, but particularly those traveling on bicycles who have limited capacity of escaping from the Taliban.

The commander of a militant group allied with the Pakistani Taliban, Abdullah Bahar, claimed responsibility for the abduction. In a telephone call to the AP, the kidnap victim had been taken to a "safe place."

Bahar said his Shehryar Mehsud group, which operates under the Pakistani Taliban, would use the Chinese tourist to try to secure the release of their comrades in Pakistani custody.

Kidnapping for ransom is one of several sources for the militants to generate money. Such abductions are sometime also used to pressure the Pakistani government to release militants in custody.

The local Taliban have been waging war against the state in a bid to install their own harsh brand of Islamic Shariah, killing thousands of Pakistanis.

Since he took office last summer, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been pursuing a policy of negotiation with the Taliban to end the decades of militant violence. His government's efforts have so far yielded no results.

Thailand: Update--Subliminal Reading from George Orwell's "1984" Conveys Message as to how Thais Feel About Coup

According to The Associated Press, in today's junta-ruled Thailand, the simple act of reading in public has become an act of resistance.

On Saturday evening (May 31) in Bangkok, a week and a half after the army seized power in a coup, about a dozen people gathered in the middle of a busy, elevated walkway connecting several of the capital's most luxurious shopping malls.

As pedestrians trudged by, the protesters sat down, pulled out book titles such as George Orwell's "1984," a dystopian novel about life in a totalitarian surveillance state — and began to read from pages word-for-word.

In a country where the army has vowed to crack down on anti-coup protesters demanding elections and a return to civilian rule, in a place where you can be detained for simply holding something that says "Peace Please" in the wrong part of town, the small protest was a major act of defiance — a quiet demonstration against the army's May 22 seizure of power and the repression that has accompanied it.

COMMENT: The coup, Thailand's second in eight years, deposed an elected government that had insisted for months that the nation's fragile democracy was under attack from protesters, the courts and, finally, the army. 

The junta's leader says the military had to intervene to restore order after half a year of debilitating protests that had crippled the government and triggered sporadic violence that killed 28 people and injured more than 800.

At least fourteen partisan TV networks have been shut down along with nearly 3,000 unlicensed community radio stations. Independent international TV channels such as CNN and BBC have been blocked along with more than 300 Web pages, including New York-based Human Rights Watch's Thailand page. 

Journalists and academics have been summoned by the army. Activists have fled the country.

On Friday, the group was supposed to gather on another walkway where they had conducted a reading a day earlier. But when troops showed up, they called it off.

Some people have begun using encrypted chat apps on their smartphones, for fear of being monitored. And at least one major bookstore in Bangkok, Kinokuniya, has pulled from its shelves political titles that could be deemed controversial.

So far, Orwell's "1984" in which authorities operating under the aegis of "Big Brother" fit homes with cameras to monitor the intimate details of people's personal lives, is not among them.



Perú: Prisons Block Wifi, Mobile Phones to Suppress Crime within the Walls of Penal Facilities

According to The Peruvian Times, the government has set up systems to block the use of mobile phones in prisons, in an attempt to prevent inmates from perpetrating crimes from behind bars, state news agency Andina reported. 

The Interior Ministry said that the systems, which also block WiFi, have been installed in the El Milagro Prison in the northern city of Trujillo and the Picsi Prison, also located on the north coast in the city of Chiclayo.

Authorities said that the systems would help prevent prisoners from organizing crimes on the outside, by leading rings to commit extortion, kidnappings and robberies. 

COMMENT: “These are concrete steps that we in the executive branch are committed to executing how crimes within the walls of penal facilities are endeavoring to guarantee citizen safety." 

President Humala, a former military officer, came to office in 2011 with promises to improve security in the Andean nation. 

Even though Perú is relatively safe compared to other nations in Latin America, the region still has one of the highest homicide rate in the world.

The perception that crime is rampant and that Humala’s government has done little to tackle the issue has contributed to the President’s approval rating declining sharply over the last year.

Malaysia: Gov't Rarely Has Any Sense of Urgency, Inclined to Deceive, Omit Details

According to AFP, Malaysian police on Saturday (May 31) continue to look for a missing British tourist, 34, who went missing when hiking in the jungle on a popular resort island four days ago.

Gareth Huntley did not return Tuesday (May 27) from a waterfall trek on the island of Tioman off Malaysia's east coast.

A group of ten police officers were combing the jungle Saturday to look for the tourist, said district police chief Johari Jahaya. 

COMMENT:  The deployment of ten police officers to search  for the missing tourist hardly seems as if it is a sense of urgency.

Huntley's friends have set up a "Find Gareth Huntley" Facebook page, saying they are "extremely worried" and urging faster progress in the search.

Johari said police were only informed Thursday (May 29) that Huntley was missing by the owner of the chalets where he was staying, and were doing their best to find him.

French tourist Stephanie Foray, a 30-year-old civil servant, went missing on Tioman in May 2011. Her remains were found in August that year, buried in a cave. She had been murdered by a Malaysian.

A Malaysian shopkeeper pleaded not guilty in May 2012 to murdering her after she refused him sex. The trial is ongoing.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Colombia: Update--Two Left-Leaning Alliances Support President Santos in Supporting a Deal with FARC At Any Cost?

According to The Latin American Tribune, Colombia’s two most left-leaning political formations endorsed center-right incumbent Juan Manuel Santos in the June 15 presidential runoff against rightist Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, yet the country’s largest leftist party urged its supporters to abstain.

Union Patriotica and Marcha Patriotica said they are both supporting President Santos to ensure the continuance of the peace process he initiated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2012.

Zuluaga, the political protegé of former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, is skeptical about the talks with the FARC, although he says he has changed his mind about suspending the negotiations if he becomes head of state.

“We believe that the best thing at this time is to support the candidate who has opened the dialogue and who moves down the path of a political and negotiated solution,” UP leader Aida Avella told a press conference in Bogotá.

COMMENT: It is my greatest fear that President Santos wants a "deal" with the FARC so badly that he will agree to almost any deal with the rebels simply to be reelected.

The real question is not what is good for the FARC, but rather what agreement is best for all Colombians, particularly those who have lost sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and casualties at the hands of the FARC over a 50-year-old war.

To date, 200,000 Colombians have died at the hands of the rebels. Is such a high loss of life sufficient to give the FARC a "pass" and legitimize a poorly negotiated peace accord that will "never bury the hatchet"?

To agree to any deal with the rebels that could well place both the incumbent and Zuluaga in making concessions that neither will bring a lasting peace to Colombian victims of the war.

Avella spent 17 years abroad after surviving a 1996 assassination attempt. Some 4,000 members of the UP, including legislators, mayors and two presidential hopefuls, were murdered over the course of a decade.
 
Union Patriotica originated in 1985 as the fruit of an agreement between the FARC and then-President Belisario Betancur, who wanted the rebels to abandon armed struggle in favor of electoral politics.

The UP leader was herself a candidate for vice president in last Sunday’s first round.

Avella was the running mate of Clara López, presidential nominee of the leftist main opposition PDA, who finished fourth, with just over 15% of the vote.

PDA leaders and elected officials met Thursday to decide what stance the party should take in the runoff.

While some in the PDA, including Senator-elect Ivan Cepeda, urged support for Santos, the opposing faction prevailed in the internal debate.

Acknowledging party members’ freedom to vote in accordance with their individual consciences, Clara López said voters should make their choice with the “understanding that the PDA is, and will be, an opponent of the agendas of the two competing candidates.”

Marcha Patriotica, founded in 2012 by student and peasant organizations and said to have links to the FARC, joined UP in endorsing Santos.

Tip of the Day: Let's Assume That You're an Expatriate Residing in a Nation That You Were Not Born In

Hypothetically, let's assume that you're a foreign expatriate of any nation residing in a country that you were not born in.

Next, let's also conclude that you may or may not be employed and may be living off of investments, an annuity of one sort or another or may even be potentially employed in the country of your residence on a part-time or full-time basis. 

It is also assumed that regardless of your nationality, your home country takes responsibility to evacuate you from a country that you are resident under either permissive or hostile conditions. 

All governments generally have emergency action plans or contingencies that enable them to notify, advise, and assist in the evacuation of their citizens from countries undergoing political unrest, natural disasters or those experiencing political or natural disasters that may threaten foreign expats.

An excellent example of an international crisis occurred during the Summer of 2006, when some 60,000 foreigners were stranded in Lebanon after hostilities broke out between Israel and Hezbollah (the Iranian-supported Party of God):

See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZGHKey0ut8  

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iITTOmrOQLY  

If you are employed abroad, familiarize yourself with how your employer and/or embassy or consulate will contact and assist you in getting out of the country you are resident in when governments recommend or mandate that their citizens leave the country. 

One critically important website that all expats should be familiar with is: 

http://www.sendwordnow.com, which is a particularly useful site that employers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, international organizations, etc. can use to simultaneously contact a select number of or all employees situated abroad. The site is also excellent for sending threat information and instructions to employees.

√ Register your visit abroad w/ your foreign affairs agency before departure;

√ Have a mobile that can communicate anywhere in the country of your destination;

√ Register your itinerary and download the agency's app to your mobile phone;

√  Input the nearest embassy or consulate phone number into your speed-dialer and know
     how to reach your consulate and/or embassy on foot;

If you are in a volatile nation where emergency evacuation is a possibility, carry the following on your person:

√  A photocopy of the photographic page of your passport;

√  Carry at least one credit card and one debit card;

√  To purchase international medical insurance go to:

http://www.insuremytrip.com;
√  If you are in a volatile country, travel with people you can trust for security reasons;

√  Always carry your phone charger, an extra battery and your mobile;

√  A list of family members, friends and people you can count on at home and at destination;

√  Carry a ten-day supply of all prescribed medication;

√  A small FM/SW radio with batteries to last two weeks;

√  Invest in a personal locator beacon which can notify friends and family where you are;

√  Always have a “get out” bag packed and ready. The ideal bag is one purchased locally;

√  One small backpack for every evacuee, including children;

The perfect “get out” bag should include duplicated items in the list above:

√  Inventory of household and personal items, vehicle documentation and contact 
     information for those who have keys to your home;

√  Mobile phone compatible with the country, charger and two extra charged batteries;

√  Photocopy of photo pages of passport as well as entry visas;

√  Clothing and toiletries that can last a week;

√  A small FM/SW radio with batteries with batteries to last two weeks;

√  Under-garment device capable of transporting hard currency and credit cards; and

√  Two bottles of drinking water and two energy bars per person. Use very sparingly.
 
Don't Forget

√  Always carry small denominations of hard currency to pay for unexpected expenditures;

√  If you require an exit visa to leave the country know how to get one before departure; and

√   If you have pets, they must be left in the hands of local friends or family.

  
     

 


Malaysia/Philippines: Update--Shainghai Woman, Filipino Worker, 40, Kidnapped on April 2, Rescued

According to The Associated Press, Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker have been rescued nearly two months after they were abducted from a resort off Borneo island, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday (May 30).

The Prime Minister credited their release to cooperation between Malaysian and Philippine security forces, and said no ransom was paid.

Malaysian officials earlier said that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 500 million pesos ($11.4 million) for the Chinese hostage.

Gunmen, believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants, kidnapped the 28-year-old Shanghai woman and the 40-year-old Filipino woman from the Singamata Reef Resort in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah on April 2. They were believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines.

"No ransom was paid to secure their release. Success due to cooperation of Malaysia and Philippines security forces. I thank all involved," Najib tweeted. He said authorities were working to return the Chinese woman to her home country as soon as possible.

COMMENT: There has been a spate of kidnappings in recent months off Sabah, a popular tourist destination and dive spot that is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines, home to Muslim militants and kidnap gangs.

Last month, a Chinese fish farm manager in Sabah was kidnapped and was also believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines.

In November 2013, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants killed a Taiwanese tourist and kidnapped his wife from another Sabah resort. The woman was released a month later in the southern Philippines. Authorities didn't say whether a ransom was paid.

The Sabah government announced measures last month to tighten security, including a curfew and travel restrictions in high-risk areas.

Abu Sayyaf has links to international terrorist networks, including al-Qaeda, but a US-backed Philippine military crackdown has neutralized the group considerably in recent years. 

The group has an estimated 300 fighters that now focuses primarily on ransom kidnappings rather than regional  jihad. 


Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/05/30/3363767/malaysian-pm-chinese-filipino.html#storylink=cpy

Global Impact: US Department of State Warns US Citizens of Impending Hurricane, Typhoon Season

Effective May 29, 2014, the US Department of State alerts US citizens to the upcoming Hurricane and Typhoon Seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.   
 
Hurricane Season in the Atlantic begins June 1 and ends November 30.  The Typhoon Season will last through the end of 2014, though most tropical cyclones typically develop between May and October.  
 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that those in hurricane- and typhoon-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming seasons now.  This Travel Alert expires on December 1, 2014. 
 
 
The Atlantic Basin, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean Sea:  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center expects to see a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season this year with a 50% chance of a below-normal season, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10% chance of an above-normal season.  

NOAA predicts a likely development of El Niño during the summer or early fall and a 70% chance of 8 to 13 named storms, of which three to six are predicted to strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher).  Of those, one to two are expected to become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale)). 

NOAA recommends that those in hurricane-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming season now.


The Eastern Pacific:  Hurricane season began May 15 and ends November 30.  NOAA expects a near- or above-normal season, with a 50 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of a below normal season.  NOAA predicts a 70% chance of 14 to 20 named storms, of which six to eleven are expected to become hurricane strength.  Of those, three to six are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).
  
Western and Central Pacific:  Typhoon season begins June 1 and ends November 30. NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 40% chance of an above- normal season, and a 20% chance of a below-normal season.  CPHC expects four to seven tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season.  

For information on typhoon warnings, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu, the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, and the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) Tokyo - Typhoon Center.

During and after some previous storms, US citizens traveling abroad encountered dangerous and often uncomfortable conditions that lasted for several days while awaiting transportation back to the United States.  In the past, many US citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability.  Roads were also washed out or obstructed by debris, adversely affecting access to airports and land routes out of affected areas.  Reports of looting and sporadic violence in the aftermath of natural disasters have occurred.  Security personnel may not always be readily available to assist.  In the event of a hurricane, travelers should be aware that they may not be able to depart the area for 24-48 hours or longer.

If you live in or travel to these areas during the hurricane or typhoon season, we recommend you obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency. If a situation requires an evacuation from an overseas location, the US Department of State will work with commercial airlines to ensure that US citizens may depart as safely and efficiently as possible.  Commercial airlines are the Department's primary source of transportation in an evacuation; other means of transport are utilized only as a last resort, are often more expensive, and will provide you with fewer destination options.  US law requires that any evacuation costs are your responsibility.  For those in financial need, the US Department of State has the authority to provide crisis evacuation and repatriation loans. For more information, please visit the Emergencies Abroad page on our website.   

If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents (especially your passport and other identification).  Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies.  NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have additional tips on their websites.

Monitor local radio, local media, and the National Weather Service to be aware of weather developments.  Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.  Inform family and friends of your whereabouts and remain in close contact with your tour operator, hotel staff, transportation providers (airlines, cruise lines, etc.), and local officials for evacuation instructions during a weather emergency.

We strongly encourage US citizens to enroll with the nearest US Embassy or consulate through the US Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling, you will receive the most recent security and safety updates during your trip.  Enrollment also ensures that you can be reached during an emergency.  While we will do our utmost to assist you in a crisis, be aware that local authorities bear primary responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their jurisdictions.

Additional information on hurricanes and storm preparedness can be found on the Department’s "Hurricane Season - Know Before You Go" webpage. You can get updated information on travel to your destination from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, 1-202-501-4444. We also encourage you to check the Country Specific Information and the website of the US embassy or consulate with consular responsibilities for the territory you will be visiting. Follow us on Twitter and become a fan of the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ page on Facebook as well.

Venezuela: Update--Not Unexpectedly, Russia Opposes Foreign Involvement in Internal Affairs

According to The Latin American Tribune, Russia opposes any foreign interference in the affairs of Venezuela, including the imposition of sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday (May 30) at a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart.

“All problems should be solved on the constitutional basis, without external interference, as well as without sanctions or threats to impose them,” Lavrov said following talks with Venezuela’s Elias Jaua.


Moscow supports Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts, in collaboration with the Vatican and the Union of South American Nations, to establish a negotiating process between the government and “a constructive opposition,” Russia’s top diplomat said.


His comments came a day after the US House of Representatives passed a bill to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials accused of violating human rights during the last three months of anti-government protests in the Andean nation.

Violence surrounding those protests has claimed the lives of at least 42 people, including both opponents and supporters of Maduro, as well as bystanders and members of the security forces. Venezuelan prosecutors have charged government agents in connection with some of the deaths.

COMMENT: Even President Barack Obama seems reluctant to get further involved in Venezuela, especially since other countries in the region have stepped forward as mediators.

Standing alongside Lavrov, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jaua compared the anti-government movement in his country to the events that led in February to the toppling of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.


The foreign ministers of the two oil-rich countries said they had high hopes for the 10th meeting of the Russia-Venezuela High Level Commission, set to get under way Friday in Moscow.

“I am sure that tomorrow after the work of this commission, new accords that promote our economic association will be announced,” Lavrov said.

US House Passes Sanctions on Venezuela’s Maduro Regime (VIDEO)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Puerto Rico: FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge in Bribery Scheme

According to The Associated Press, FBI agents on Thursday (May 29) arrested a Puerto Rico Superior Court judge suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for acquitting a man charged in a fatal drunk-driving case.

Judge Manuel Acevedo Hernández, 62, was detained at his home in the northwest coastal town of Aguadilla. He had previously been suspended when the federal investigation began.

Also charged in the case is CPA Lutgardo Acevedo López, 39, who was acquitted in 2013 on charges including vehicular homicide. 

He had been arrested on suspicion of hitting another car in June 2012 and killing a security guard.

COMMENT: Acevedo López is now charged with using intermediaries to pay $3,200 worth of taxes owed by the judge, as well as to pay for the renovation of his garage and the purchase of a $1,200 motorcycle, clothing and other items.

The indictment also stated that the judge agreed to acquit Acevedo López in exchange for help in being promoted to appellate judge and to find employment for two of relatives.

"In my 35 years of experience in the law, I've never seen anything like this," said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez. 

She said federal authorities are in touch with Acevedo López's attorney, noting that the businessman is in the US and has not yet been arrested.




Guatemala: Spain's Gran Solar, Grupo Green, Swiss Investor Escosolar Inaugurate First Solar Power Plant

According to The Latin American Tribune, Spanish developer Gran Solar, Guatemala’s Grupo Green and Swiss investor Ecosolar on Wednesday (May 28) inaugurated the country's first solar power plant.

The 5 MW plant in the eastern town of Estanzuela cost US$14 million to build, will provide power to more than 24,000 residences and is the largest of its kind in Central America.

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, who attended the inauguration, termed the project historic and said initiatives of this type will ensure “the country’s economy will keep growing to help many families that are now in poverty.”

“We’re moving toward renewable energy and there’s a willingness on the part of the government to keep promoting these environmentally friendly projects,” the president said.

COMMENT: The project was completed in a record time of four months, Pérez Molina noted.

The Sibo plant consists of 20,320 solar panels and covers an area of nearly 14 hectares (35 acres).

The electricity will be fed to a line operated by Guatemalan energy distributor Energuate, which will purchase the power generated by the plant under a 16-year purchase agreement.

Until now, a 46 KW plant in Costa Rica had been Central America’s largest solar facility.

Global Impact: FORBES Selects 2nd-Time Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as One of World's Most Influential Women

According to The Latin American Tribune, FORBES, has selected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, 62, as one of the world’s most influential women, government officials said on Wednesday (May 29).

The former director of UN Women appears in the No. 25 spot among the world’s most powerful women, according to the list published by FORBES annually.

As a result of a communiqué from the president’s office, Bachelet is one of four Latin American leaders among the top 30 spots on the list.


Also selected among the most influential was Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and the CEO of Petrobras, María Das Gracas Silva.


COMMENT: This year’s list is headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by the head of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen.

The publication said that Bachelet received 62% of the votes upon her election to her second term as president, adding that the Chilean leader ended her first 2006-2010 mandate with popular support of 84% and later became the executive director of the UN Women organization.


FORBES also emphasized some of the elements of her current government program, including implementing 50 measures in her first 100 days in office, as well as initiating a thorough review of the country’s educational system and reforming the Constitution.

Global Impact: Saudi Health Ministry Reports Thirteen Die in Last Two Weeks from MERS

According to The Associated Press, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry says thirteen people have died over the last two weeks from the Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus (MERS).

The Ministry says 186 people in total have died from the virus since it was discovered in 2012. The ministry said late Wednesday (May 28) another 565 people had contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia.

COMMENT: The recent figures indicate that the rate of infections and deaths may have slightly dipped in the last two weeks after a sharp rise in infections and deaths in April and the first half of May.

MERS is part of the coronavirus family of viruses, which includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. MERS can cause symptoms including fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.

See http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index




Global Impact: Hate Crimes and Overt Threats Based Upon Religous, Ethnicity and Sexual Preferences

Travelers of certain cultural backgrounds (e.g., African-Americans, Arabs/Persians, Asians and targeted immigrants who may be subject to harassment, threats, targeting and assaults by extremist groups in a number of countries should, as a matter of course, engage in pre-departure research in order to "flag" their vulnerability to targeting while abroad.

http://76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal 

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/hate-crime

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/history-of-hate-crimes-against-sikhs-since-911_n_1751841 

http://www.adl.org

https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights









A "Must-Read" Piece: Special Report on Mass Abductions in Nigeria Produced by Reuters

Produced by Reuters reporters Issac Abrak and Joe Brock four hours ago, the below link is a "must-read":

http://news.yahoo.com/special-report-rifts-behind-nigerias-mass-kidnap-121219390



Jamaica: Update--Tourist, 26, Miscalculates Distance While Cliff Diving, Hits Rocks, Dies

According to Canada's National Post,  Canadian tourist Taylor Rankine, 26, was not an intentional suicide as initially reported, but an apparent and lethal miscalculation positioning while cliff diving in Negril.

Tragically, Rankine seriously miscalculated cliff diving after jumping off seaside cliffs in a Negril, and hitting coastal rocks rather than deep water on Tuesday (May 27).  

COMMENT: It is unknown as to how many foreign tourists die or are seriously injured annually while cliff-diving, although I was able to find our readers a link to a foreign traveler who was severely injured while cliff-diving:

http://www.rickscafenegril.com/jamaica_news

Hopefully, an autopsy will be performed on the young Canadian's body to determine whether he had been drinking, as having a clear head seems essential in any high-risk activity.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force determined that the lad was from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Investigators in the tourist town of Negril said Rankine apparently was aiming to land in the sea on Tuesday when he jumped from coastal cliffs. He was among a group of companions.

Negril is well-known for cliff jumping and diving. Some tourist businesses built alongside rocky cliffs market themselves with images of vacationers hurling themselves off 40-foot drops into crystal waters below.

It was not immediately clear if Rankine jumped at a resort property or hiked to other rocky cliffs that fringe Negril’s famed west end.

South Africa: Update--Police Constable, 33, Commits Suicide After Shooting, Injuring His Female Partner

According to The Associated Press, a 33-year-old police constable, Bonginkosi Makaula, reportedly committed suicide after having a domestic disturbance with his female partner, who was shot and injured in the incident on Wednesday night (May 28).

The discourse occurred while the couple was having a meal at a restaurant at Cape Town's International Airport, police reported on Thursday (May 29).
 
The 33-year-old constable, Bonginkosi Makaula, went to the restaurant and spoke to his female partner on Wednesday evening, Police Capt. Frederick van Wyk said in a statement. 

COMMENT: It is not a positive trend that Cape Town police officers have so little discipline and restraint that they are inclined to use lethal force against a female partner and then commit suicide.

The police constable opened fire during the altercation, injuring the girlfriend and two employees who were working the woman in the airport food court, and then strangely pointed his handgun at his head, killing himself instantly.

It is fully understandable why most major cities in South Africa are classified as "Critical" threat for crime, which is the highest level of threat on the US Department of State's four-tier threat categorization system of "Critical, High, Medium and Low" managed by the Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.





South Africa: One Killed, Three Injured at Cape Town International Airport

According to The Associated Press, South African media say one person has died in a shooting in Cape Town International Airport.

News channel eNCA said on its website that police reported at least three other people were injured in the shooting in an airport restaurant on Wednesday (May 28). 

The news website carried a photograph of a man lying on the floor with blood around his head.

Local reports said that a man shot a woman before shooting himself.

COMMENT: As the security risks we increasingly face around the globe, not knowing when we may be asked to help out in an emergency situation, it is every global citizen's responsibility to take a first-responder first aid course and to learn how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Not learning these vital skills can easily put all of us at risk.

Initial reaction is that the shooting stemmed from a domestic disturbance.

This report will be updated tomorrow as new and accurate information is received.


PRC: Xinjiang Considers Compensating Tourists 500 Yuan Each to Revive Tourism

According to The South China Morning Post and Reuters, officials in Xinjiang are considering offering each tourist 500 yuan (HK$630) as part of an effort to revive the region's flagging tourism industry, state media has reported.

Regional authorities are seeking to project an image of stability following a series of violent attacks. On Tuesday (May 27), dozens of people were sentenced in a large rally held in a stadium in a city near the Kazakhstan border.

Tourist volume has fallen off by 40% since last year, China Radio International reported.

"Many tourists went skiing and skating in Xinjiang during the winter, but since the deadly knife attack in Kunming in March 2014, many have postponed their tour to Xinjiang," the region's tourism chief, Inam Nesirdin, was quoted as saying. 

In a display reminiscent of the mainland's revolutionary-era rallies, 55 people were sentenced for crimes including terrorism, separatism and murder before a crowd of 7,000 at a sports stadium in Yining, state media reported.

Photographs showed packed stadium stands and trucks parked on the field loaded with prisoners in orange vests, guarded by armed police.

COMMENT: The sentencing comes after courts in the region jailed 39 people last week on charges including leading and organizing terrorism groups.

Thirty-nine people were killed when attackers drove two off-road vehicles into crowds and tossed explosives at an open air market in the regional capital of Urumqi last week.

A bomb and knife attack at the end of April at the main railway station in Urumqi killed one bystander and wounded 79 people. Two assailants also died.

The attack in Kunming in March 2014, which the authorities have blamed on separatists from Xinjiang, killed 29 people.

Regional tourist chief Nesirdin said tourists in Xinjiang should be allowed to easily visit the region's neighboring countries.

Unlike Yunnan province and Guangxi, where domestic tourists can apply for visas to Vietnam, Xinjiang has kept its borders closed.

The vast autonomous region had been attracting a large number of visitors before the spate of violent attacks on the Mainland.

Over the Lunar New Year holiday, more than a million tourists flocked to the region, Xinhua reported in February 2014.

More than 1.5 million jobs were in tourism-related industries in the region at the end of last year, according to Xinhua.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jamaica: Canadian Tourist, 26, Intentionally Ends His Young Life

According to http://www.globalnews.ca, police say a Canadian tourist, Taylor Rankine, 26, died after jumping off seaside cliffs in a western Jamaican beach town and hitting rocks below.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force on Wednesday (May 27) identified the dead tourist as 26-year-old Taylor Rankine. They say he was from Ontario, but could not provide his hometown.

COMMENT: It is always with sadness that foreign travelers chose to end their precious life while abroad, away from close family and friends. How tragic.

Investigators in Negril say Rankine apparently was aiming to land in the sea on Tuesday (May 26) when he intentionally jumped from coastal cliffs. 

He was among a group of companions, none of whom seemed to have known the Canadian's intentions.




Egypt: Update--al-Sisi Swept into Office by 93.3% of Egyptians Who Seemingly Voted Out of Fear, What Future Can Egypt Have?

According to Reuters, former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who toppled Egypt's first freely elected leader in July 2013, swept to victory in a presidential election, provisional results showed on Thursday (May 29), joining a long line of leaders drawn from the military.
But a lower than expected turnout figure raised questions about Sisi's credibility after his supporters had idolized him as a hero who can deliver political and economic stability.

al-Sisi captured 93.3% of votes cast as counting nearly came to a close, judicial sources said. His only rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, gained 3% while 3.7% of votes were declared as void.

al-Sisi, who ousted Morsi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule, is seen by supporters as a strong figure who can end the turmoil that has convulsed Egypt since the revolution that ended Mubarak's 30 years in power.

 The former Field Marshal enjoys the backing of the powerful armed forces and the Interior Ministry, as well many politicians and former Mubarak officials now making a comeback.

COMMENT: What is so strange is that al-Sisi seemingly captured 93.3% of the vote, even though few Egyptians fully understand why they were voting for al-Sisi, other than the fact that he is yet another product of the military without  a reason as to why voters case such a large percentage of the vote for a man they really don't respect.

Now that al-Sisi has been elected, will political violence end? Probably not.

In 2012, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood swept Mohammed Morsi not  having any understanding as why they actually voted for the Brotherhood.
Yet, al-Sisi metal will be proven or refuted in his ability to restore order to an unpredictable Egypt that may well continue to suffer from a defunct tourism industry that may take considerable time to rekindle.

Overall turnout was only 44.4% of Egypt's 54 million voters, according to the judicial sources. That would be less than the 40 million votes, or 80% of the electorate. 

It would also suggest that al-Sisi had failed to rally the overwhelming support he hoped for after toppling Mursi.

In a country polarized since the revolt against Mubarak, many Egyptians said voters had stayed at home due to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth and calls for a boycott by Islamists.

New York City-based Human Rights Watch said a crackdown launched after Morsi's ouster had created a repressive environment that undermined the fairness of the election.

Despite an official campaign to bring out more voters, Egyptians, many opposed to al-Sisi, gave various reasons for their lack of enthusiasm.

The Muslim Brotherhood, believed to have at least one million members, has rejected the election, describing it as an extension of the army takeover. The group, loyal to Morsi, was outlawed by the military as a terrorist group and saw around 1,000 members killed in a security crackdown.

Since he gave a series of television interviews, many Egyptians feel al-Sisi has not spelled out a clear vision of how he would tackle Egypt's challenges, instead making a general call for people to work hard and be patient.

al-Sisi also faces the formidable challenge of crushing an Islamist armed insurgency and eliminating any threat from the Brotherhood, which as the country's best-organized political force, had won every national vote held after Mubarak's fall.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been devastated by one of the toughest crackdowns in its history. Its top leaders, including Morsi, are on trial and could face the death penalty. The movement seemed inspired by the low turnout in this week's polling.



Libya: US Department of State Urges US Citizens to Defer Travel, If In Libya, Depart As Soon As Possible

The US Department of State warns its citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that US citizens currently in Libya depart immediately.   

Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to US citizens in Libya.

The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution.  

Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.  

Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country.  In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.Scitizens and US interests in Libya.  

Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against US government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya.  Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially US citizens, in Libya may be associated with the US government or US-connected NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. US citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately. 

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire.  Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital.  Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents.

The status of the country’s interim government and the General National Congress both remain uncertain.  Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities.  In Tripoli, armed groups attacked the General National Congress (GNC) May 18 as part of a campaign to influence and intimidate institutions of government.  

Heavy fighting flared for a day, resulting in deaths and injuries, followed by tense posturing between rival militia groups.  This posturing has the potential to continue and reignite fighting at any time.  State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict.  As a result, the potential for political violence continues, centered around specific events, including elections for a new General National Congress and appointment of a new government, both anticipated for as early as June. 

US citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. US citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya, despite this Travel Warning, should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.

We strongly recommend that US citizens traveling to or residing in Libya enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest US Embassy or consulate.

The Embassy’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages for US citizens in Libya.  US citizens in need of emergency assistance should call 091-220-5203 within Libya or 218-91-220-5203 if dialing from outside of Libya.

For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the US and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 0800-2000 hours EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays).

For further information, US citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.  Stay up-to-date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

For the complete text of the above travel warning see:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/libya-travel-warning