Top Stories Sponsored Stories Posner said Bahrain’s government showed “great courage” by sponsoring the commission. “Ten months after the release of the report, however, we are concerned that the government is losing momentum on implementation,” he said.Activists focused attention on Bahrain at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said the government’s acceptance Wednesday of the U.N. recommendations must be “quickly followed by releasing leaders of peaceful protests, holding accountable high officials responsible for policies of torture, andÂ adopting broader reforms to uphold human rights.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Associated PressGENEVA (AP) – The tiny oil-rich kingdom of Bahrain pledged Wednesday to improve its treatment of political activists, crack down on torture and prevent violence against ethnic and religious communities while accepting the vast majority of the U.N.’s recommendations regarding human rights.Bahrain is now the first country to be subjected to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council’s reviews of all nations’ records in 2008 and this year. Each time, Bahrain has been subjected to a bright, somewhat harsh spotlight. He also offered to provide an interim report on the nation’s progress.“Our actions, more than our words, should dispel any doubts regarding my government’s commitment to upholding human rights through the rule of law,” he said. “Let us follow the path of dialogue, not propaganda.”Al Khalifa promised his government would tolerate dissent _ within what he called “the limits of orderly discourse in a democratic society.” But, he added, “no one has the right to force factionalism upon a society against its will. We welcome peaceful expressions of disagreement, but not incitements to hatred and violence which damage the social fabric of a nation.”In November 2011, Bahrain released a 500-page report detailing widespread abuses in the Gulf kingdom’s crackdowns on the Shiite-led uprising. Bahrain’s rulers authorized a special commission to investigate the nation’s turmoil in a bid to ease tensions and promised a broad range of reforms as a result.The seriousness of the situation that Bahrain continues to face, however, was underscored by the presence of both the foreign minister and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who came to Geneva for the Bahrain session. A private meeting between the two was planned later Wednesday. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Comments Share This time around, the council had issued 176 recommendations for Bahrain. Some of these focused on the government’s response to the unrest that has hit Bahrain since early 2011, calling for fair trials in the wake of arrests and prosecutions of demonstrators and guarantees against the use of torture.Others called for stepped-up cooperation with the U.N. in its attempts to investigate alleged abuses in Bahrain where Shiites have been demanding a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled country.For 19 months, there has been unrest in Bahrain between Shiite protesters and police, leaving at least 50 people dead in the strategic kingdom, a key American ally that is the base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet. Charges have been filed against some police for allegedly extracting forced confessions from suspected anti-government protesters.In Geneva on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa told the council, the U.N.’s top human rights body, that Bahrain would accept 158 recommendations, including calls for fair trials and improved religious protections. But he rejected the recommendations for abolishing the death penalty, saying that would violate his country’s constitution. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day
Comments Share Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Dozens of people were arrested and scores injured Saturday as protesters clashed with police. Several vehicles were burned, including a police van.No violence was immediately reported during Sunday’s strike.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Schools and businesses are closed and transportation has been disrupted across Bangladesh as hard-line Islamic groups protesting a film that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad enforce a general strike.Thousands of security officials have been deployed in the capital, Dhaka, to try to avert violence during Sunday’s strike.The strike was called in response to police action Saturday against supporters of the groups who rallied in Dhaka to denounce the film, which was produced in the United States. Sponsored Stories How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Top holiday drink recipes
Among those who agree with a modest appraisal of the USA Freedom Act are privacy activists. While calling it landmark legislation, they also lament its limits.“No one should mistake this bill for comprehensive reform,” said Jameel Jaffer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The bill leaves many of the government’s most intrusive and overbroad surveillance powers untouched, and it makes only very modest adjustments to disclosure and transparency requirements___EDITOR’S NOTE — Ken Dilanian has covered intelligence issues since 2012.Follow Ken Dilanian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KenDilanianAPAn AP News AnalysisCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk The existence of the program, in place since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was perhaps the most startling secret revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, because it so directly affected the privacy of Americans. It was the first Snowden disclosure published by the journalists with whom he shared documents, and it landed with a thunderclap.But in the two years since Snowden took up exile in Russia to avoid prosecution in the U.S., his documents have fueled dozens of revelations of NSA surveillance operations, disclosing how the agency seeks to exploit Internet communications. None of those programs are affected by the law President Barack Obama signed Tuesday night.“It’s being talked about like it’s the Declaration of Independence or something,” said Robert Deitz, a former NSA lawyer. “These adjustments are marginal.”Most of the Snowden disclosures have shed light on the NSA’s basic mission of gathering foreign “signals intelligence,” but the way the agency does its job in the Internet age by necessity involves exploiting weaknesses in the same technology the rest of us use. And it also means the NSA “inadvertently” collects the content of a lot of American communications. Exactly how much is unknown and perhaps unknowable. But the government is allowed under certain circumstances to search that data, none of which was obtained with a specific, individual warrant. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober NSA leaders, meanwhile, are shedding few tears over losing the authority to collect Americans’ phone records, former officials say. Independent reviews of the program found that it wasn’t a critical tool, and former NSA officials revealed that some inside the agency had wanted to abandon it. The only reason the NSA didn’t propose keeping the records with the phone companies years ago, former Director Keith Alexander has said, is that no one wanted to seek legislation from Congress while the program remained a secret.Searches of phone company records under the USA Freedom Act may not work as swiftly as the current system, but the NSA will also gain access to mobile phone records it doesn’t now collect under the program.“The damage that’s been done to our intelligence capabilities is modest,” said Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel.Indeed, he and other analysts said, other fallout from the Snowden leaks has played a stronger role in hemming in the NSA than anything Congress has done. The Obama administration curbed some foreign surveillance; foreign governments and technology companies are less eager to cooperate, and Apple and Google have begun encrypting mobile data, making it more difficult for governments to eavesdrop. WASHINGTON (AP) — The surveillance law enacted this week stands as the most significant curb on the government’s investigative authorities since the 1970s. But it’s practically inconsequential in the universe of the National Security Agency’s vast digital spying operations, a technical overhaul of a marginal counterterrorism program that some NSA officials wanted to jettison anyway.After a six-month transition, the new law will end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, moving instead to a system of case-by-case searches of records held by phone companies. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Comments Share New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Sponsored Stories FILE – In this June 6, 2013 file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. While the new surveillance law stands as the most significant curb on the government’s investigative authorities since 9/11, it’s all but inconsequential in the universe of the National Security Agency’s vast digital spying operations. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) Top Stories Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona And Snowden has not been the only source of disclosures about government surveillance.This week, The Associated Press reported that the FBI has been flying spy planes over American cities. And in January, the Drug Enforcement Administration formally acknowledged that it maintained a sweeping database of phone calls made from the U.S. to foreign countries, a program it discontinued in 2013. It is unclear exactly how the information collected in those efforts has been used.Some members of Congress have expressed fierce opposition to the way the intelligence community currently handles the private data it collects on Americans, especially the private information collected from U.S. technology companies under the PRISM program, also revealed by Snowden.“Under current law, the government can search the database on a fishing expedition and get those communications created under this program, including searching information about a U.S. citizen,” Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican and former judge, said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in April. “This can be done without a warrant. That seems to violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution to me.”But efforts to address that issue in this week’s USA Freedom Act went nowhere — because they had no chance of passing. Unlike the phone records program, the PRISM collection has proven instrumental in foiling terrorist plots, and lawmakers are loath to tinker with it. The Obama administration earlier this year tightened some rules on how data on Americans is handled, but rejected more rigorous procedures recommended by a presidential task force on surveillance.
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories A healthier consumer could be a key driver of growth in the second half of this year. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.The economy contracted 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, a sharp slowdown from growth of 3.6 percent in the second half. Yet that is seen as temporary: most economists expect growth will recover to a 2 percent to 2.5 percent pace in the second quarter.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments Share Top Stories The figures suggest that Americans are enjoying solid job security. Applications, a proxy for layoffs, have remained below 300,000, a historically low level, for 15 weeks. The trend indicates that employers are confident enough in future consumer demand to retain their staffs.The data is “very encouraging labor market news,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.The number of people receiving benefits fell 50,000 to 2.22 million. That figure has fallen 14 percent in the past year.Employers have also hired at healthy levels in recent months. They added 280,000 jobs in May, a strong showing. Last year’s monthly average of 263,667 was the most in 15 years.The unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent in May from 5.4 percent in April, but even that contained some good news: More Americans, encouraged by their prospects, started looking for work last month. Not all immediately found jobs, so their numbers lifted the unemployment rate.Other data show that the economy is picking up after faltering at the start of the year. Americans stepped up their spending at retail stores in May, a sign that job growth and cheaper gas prices are finally encouraging more consumers to spend freely. And consumers ramped up their car purchases in May to the fastest sales pace since July 2005. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Top holiday drink recipes WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, evidence that layoffs remain at unusually low levels and the job market is moving closer to full health.Weekly applications for jobless aid dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, near 15-year lows reached two months ago. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 2,000 to 276,750. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of
WASHINGTON (AP) — Some lucky Girl Scouts were set for the ultimate camping experience Tuesday: an overnight in tents pitched on the White House South Lawn. Until late-night rain and thunder washed out the campout.It was the first time that one of the country’s most well-known expanses of manicured grass was turned into a campground, an excited Michelle Obama said as she greeted the 50 Girl Scouts who snagged coveted invitations to the outdoor sleepover. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies But after heavy rain began to fall late Tuesday, accompanied by thunder, the campers were moved to a conference room in an office building adjacent to the White House.Earlier, the scouts squealed upon realizing that President Barack Obama was approaching their singing circle, accompanied by the first lady.“What are you guys doing in my yard?” he said, before taking a seat on a hay bale. “When did you guys show up here?”He clapped and swayed to music from a guitar player as the girls sang, seated in a circle around lanterns that substituted for a roaring campfire.The girls swarmed him when, asked for a hug, he suggested a group one instead.“You guys aren’t going to be making a racket, are you?” he said, before leaving and then returning for a quick look at Saturn through a NASA telescope.Mrs. Obama, who was not a Girl Scout, said earlier that she didn’t know if she could “officially earn a badge but I want to try.”“I don’t know anything. I don’t know how to tie a knot. I don’t know how to pitch a tent,” she said, before drawing a proverbial line against one of their activities. “I’m definitely not climbing that wall.” Sponsored Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes She did, however, master the art of tying the overhand knot and the square knot.The campout was co-sponsored by the Interior Department and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.The White House is a national park.___Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleapCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments Share Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 “This is something you can tell your kids and your grandkids,” said Mrs. Obama, who appeared giddy with excitement as she pointed to the celebrated white building looming above rows of carefully arranged blue and white tents. “Do you understand the impact, the importance of this moment, today? It’s exciting.”As honorary national president of the Girl Scouts, the first lady welcomed the fourth-graders for the evening, which was arranged as part of her Let’s Move initiative against childhood obesity. One component of the program encourages kids and their families to take advantage of the outdoors.The girls, who represent Girl Scout councils in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Oklahoma, spent the afternoon climbing a rock wall, tying knots, pitching tents and participating in orienteering exercises to earn a new outdoor badge.After dark, the girls sang songs and gazed up at the stars under instruction from NASA staff and scientists, including astronaut Cady Coleman, before calling it a night and settling into sleeping bags inside their two-person tents. About 20 chaperones were also spending the night outside.The White House declined to say whether the first lady would trade her second-floor bedroom for a tent, too. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories How do cataracts affect your vision?
Comments Share Top Stories Whatever the political fallout, the proposal would have permitted the limited display of the Confederate flag at Park Service-run cemeteries in states that observe a holiday commemorating the Confederacy, and only at the graves of rebels who died in the Civil War.In line with a Park Service memorandum from 2010, it would have affected 10 graveyards, including four in Tennessee, three in Virginia and one each in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.The number of graves was unknown, but Park Service spokeswoman Kathy Kupper said there was one at Andersonville cemetery in Georgia and two each at Shiloh in Tennessee and Vicksburg in Mississippi.For her part, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi offered legislation to remove all state flags containing any portion of the Confederate battle flag from the House side of the Capitol, and said she would try again on Friday.Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Smith, said that amounted to a “cheap political stunt” after the speaker had called for private talks on the issue. He said the bipartisan discussions could potentially address Confederate symbols within the Capitol as well as at parks and cemeteries.Republicans prevented a vote on Pelosi’s proposal by sending it to a committee for review — but Democrats slowed the tally by casting their votes manually instead of through an electronic tally system that is customarily employed. “Is it slavery, rape, kidnap, treason, genocide or all of the above?” he asked.No Republican rose to respond, although some officials privately charged that Democrats had falsely accused GOP lawmakers of racism. They noted the proposal would merely have written Obama administration policy into law.Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, referring to the imminent removal of the flag in South Carolina, said it was time for “adults here in Congress to actually sit down and have a conversation about how to address the issue.”In response, Democrats ratcheted up their criticism, even though White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointedly refused to answer directly when asked if President Barack Obama would order the Park Service to ban the flag in its cemeteries.Instead, Earnest criticized Republicans, whom he said “voted for a party leader who once described himself as, quote, ‘David Duke without the baggage.’” He referred to Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranking leader, whose spokesman retorted that the White House and Democrats “have chosen to respond with cheap political attacks that are beneath the dignity of their offices.” The spokesman, Chris Bond, also said Scalise supported removing the flag in South Carolina. FILE – In this June 30, 2015 file photo, a Confederate flag flies at the base of Stone Mountain in Stone Mountain, Ga. The House is about to put its members on record on whether Confederate flags can decorate rebel graves in historic federal cemeteries and if their sale should be banned in national park gift shops. The vote comes after southern lawmakers complained that they were sandbagged two nights ago when the House voted — without a recorded tally — to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries and strengthen Park Service policy against its sale in gift shops. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)n Four benefits of having a wireless security system Sponsored Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like That led briefly to plans to reconsider the prohibition, and then a highly unusual statement by the measure’s chief Republican sponsor after the subsequent decision to reverse course.Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said the now-abandoned proposal “had been brought to me by leadership at the request of some southern” GOP lawmakers, and also would have written into law existing National Park Service regulations approved by the Obama administration.At the same time, he said he regretted not telling Democrats in advance about his plans._____Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Emily Wagster Pettus in Mississippi contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House scrapped a vote on permitting the Confederate flag at Park Service-run cemeteries on Thursday, a retreat under fire that only escalated a ferocious attack by Democrats complaining the banner celebrates a murderous, racist past.“What exactly is the tradition of the Confederate battle flag that we’re supporting?” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. demanded as racial political tensions flared — ironically enough, on the day the same banner was losing its place of honor on the grounds outside the South Carolina Capitol. 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a veteran of the civil rights era, said that was a form of non-violent protest of the type used a half-century ago.Democrats also employed less obvious tactics. As Jeffries and other Democrats spoke, they were flanked by an oversized image of the Confederate flag they want to banish.Republicans seem to be “wandering around in a cul-de-sac,” said GOP Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky, assessing the political ramifications of the events.The developments were the latest relating to the Confederate flag in the House stemming from the shooting deaths last month of nine Bible study participants in a South Carolina church.Earlier in the week, lawmakers decided by voice vote and without controversy to ban the display of the Confederate flag in Park Service-run cemeteries.But GOP leaders soon became concerned that the overall spending measure it was attached to might fail — Democrats oppose it because they want more spending and some Republicans were unhappy with the prohibition on the flag. One, Rep. Stephen Palazzo of Mississippi, had said that lawmakers “from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics.” Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall
New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabia Foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Thursday, July 16, 2015, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley) Sponsored Stories Top Stories Under a bill Obama signed in anticipation of the accord, he has five days to submit the agreement with Iran to Congress. Lawmakers then have 60 days to receive briefings, hold hearings and pass any legislation disapproving it.Strictly speaking, lawmakers do not have the authority to defeat the deal, but they can block the president from lifting sanctions that Congress has voted to put in place. That, in turn, would let Iran argue that the United States was trying to change a deal, and walk away from it.In announcing the deal on Tuesday, Obama said he would veto any attempt to change the terms.In the days since, lawmakers in both parties have largely assumed that Republicans will succeed in passing a measure in September. But it would take a two-third vote in each house to override the veto.Boehner declined to forecast the outcome. “It’s pretty clear to me that a majority of the House and the Senate at a minimum are opposed to this deal. What those numbers look like post-Labor Day, we’ll see.”Several Republicans complained that the United Nations is scheduled to vote before Congress on lifting some sanctions against Iran, but there was no evidence that issue would cause Democratic support for the deal to fray. Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. If anything, it was more likely to become a yet another focus of the 15-way struggle for conservative support among Republican presidential hopefuls. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the contenders, vowed to would block confirmation of all State Department nominees if the U.N. votes before the 60-day period for Congress to register its opinion.Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. nuclear negotiator, said Thursday that even a U.N. vote in favor would not mean sanctions on Iran would come off in that time frame.While Pelosi was reluctant to predict the outcome of a veto clash, one member of the Democratic vote-counting team was more bullish.Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois cited a letter signed by 147 Democrats earlier this year after world powers and Iran unveiled the general framework of their deal. That letter encouraged the president to continue with the negotiation.Since the final deal was announced, Schakowsky said, “I haven’t heard anyone for example say, ‘Oh I learned something that has made it impossible for me now to sustain a presidential veto.’”_____Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Robert Burns, Deb Riechmann and Laurie Kellman in Washington; Jill Colvin in New Hampshire and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this story. Comments Share Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is an implacable opponent of the deal, saying it would put Iran on a path toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.Under the agreement, Iran pledged to curb its nuclear program for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.One prominent supporter of the deal sounded less than enthusiastic.Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton, campaigning in New Hampshire, said that despite the deal, Iran continues “to be a major exporter of terrorism, instability, insurgency, proxies like Hezbollah. They remain an existential threat to Israel, they are intent upon destabilizing the Middle East.”Even so, she said, it’s better to “put a lid” on its nuclear program.At a news conference in the Capitol complex, Boehner spoke strongly against the agreement and rebutted one of Obama’s central claims over the past two days.“If President Obama says it’s this deal or war, well that’s a false choice. The sanctions were working and bringing Iran to its knees,” Boehner said. The House, he added, is “going to fight a bad deal that’s wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.” He said the Republican-controlled Congress would likely soon be on track to pass legislation denying President Barack Obama the ability to lift numerous financial and other restrictions Iran currently faces.House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California became the first prominent Democrat in Congress to back the deal, saying she is “very optimistic about our ability to support the president.”Obama has pledged to veto any bill rejecting the agreement. Neither Pelosi nor Boehner ventured a prediction on the final outcome.The maneuvering in Congress unfolded as Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, coming away without an immediate endorsement for the deal.“We hope that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of the Iranian people and not use it for adventures in the region,” the Saudi diplomat said. His country is Iran’s main rival in the Middle East, and Kerry promised to respond if Tehran supports terrorism against its neighbors.Kerry intends to brief Persian Gulf leaders early next month at a meeting in Qatar. Even before then, Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves this weekend for the Mideast, with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Officials said his mandate is to reassure the Jewish state that the U.S. is committed to guaranteeing its ally’s regional military superiority. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist WASHINGTON (AP) — At home and abroad, the White House courted support for a landmark nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday as congressional leaders in both parties pointed toward a politically charged showdown this fall over Republican attempts to scuttle the agreement.“It blows my mind that the administration would agree to lift the arms and missile bans and sanctions,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, referring to some of the provisions in the complex accord. Parents, stop beating yourself up Mesa family survives lightning strike to home How do cataracts affect your vision?
Sydney Airport reported a 12 percent spike in earnings before depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year ending 31 December 2010. According to the airport’s end of year report, its profits grew to AU$733.3 million, up from the 2009 figure of AU$690.2 million. Sydney Airport’s chief executive Russell Balding said the results are outstanding and demonstrates, “Sydney’s appeal as the gateway to Australia”. “EBITDA growth of 12 percent has been driven by the completion of a significant multi-year investment program across the business, solid increases across all revenue streams and strong traffic growth,” Mr Balding said. Passenger numbers also grew in 2010 by up to 7.8 percent, boosting retail income by 10.5 percent to AU$212.9 million. In all areas of business the airport’s revenue increased by 10.5 percent to AU$943 million from AU$853.2 million. Amongst international visitors, the airport saw growth from China, Korean and Japan markets. “The growth in the Chinese market over recent years has been very strong,” Mr Balding said. “The number of Chinese arrivals into Sydney has nearly doubled from 147,148 in 2004 to 282,641 in 2010.“The 2010 figures on flights into China, including both Australian outbound and Chinese inbound, show exceptional growth at 26.2 percent over 2009.” Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Despite facing constant strikes over pay and job security disputes, Qantas is still the favoured domestic airline when it comes to customer service, receiving up to 87 percent in a satisfaction report.Leading the pack in the Roy Morgan quarterly Domestic Airline Satisfaction survey, the flag carrier topped the list and was followed closely by Virgin Australia, sitting at 81 percent.Roy Morgan Research international director of tourism, travel and leisure Jane Ianniello said Qantas is still the clear favourite down under, although she was keen to see how the carrier would perform in the next three months as industrial action picks up.“The satisfaction rating for Virgin Australia fell amongst both its leisure and business customers after their reservation and check-in system failed in late September 2010, affecting approximately 50,000 customers,” Ms Janiello said.“Although Virgin Australia’s satisfaction has rebounded in the last quarter, it is still lower than it was before the incident.”For the three months to July, Qantas’ subsidiary Jetstar received up to 66 percent ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied customers while Tiger’s grounding saw the carrier hit an all time low at 37 percent.Ms Janiello added that she was concerned that the Singapore-based carrier could see it customer satisfaction fall further.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Confirming speculations, Delta Air Lines has announced it will purchase Singapore Airlines’ 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic.The US$360 million agreement will make Delta the second largest stake holder in Virgin Atlantic, following Sir Richard Branson, who will retain his majority 51 percent stake.As part of its new partnership with Virgin Atlantic, Delta will apply for an antitrust immunity, to allow closer coordination on schedules and operations and expects the sale and regulatory approval to be finalised by the end of 2013.Reassuring the carrier will continue to retain its brand and operating certificate, Virgin Atlantic said the arrangement was designed to expand its trans-Atlantic network as well as increase competition between the UK and North America with 31 peak-day round-trip flights. Delta chief executive Richard Anderson added that the new partnership will “strengthen” both airlines and further assist the travelling public. Earlier this week Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson lashed out at British Airways chief Willie Walsh, betting the rival’s boss the Virgin airline will survive the market. Click back onto e-Travel Blackboard tomorrow for more. The new partnership is expected to “strengthen” both airlines and offer seamless trans-Atlantic services. Image: The Globe and Mail
Untapped avitourism industry identified. Image: Malaysia Tourism Board The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has declared avitourism to be an untapped, multi-billion dollar industry in Singapore in need of development.The MNS’s Johor branch wants the Singapore Tourism Department to ramp up efforts to grow the unexploited avitourism industry in the state, the New Straits Times reported.The MNS said there was a lack of training courses for tour guides to become competent in the field of nature tourism and claims groups were coming into the state, possibly led by their own guides.“I have received calls from a group of Singaporeans who offered as much as RM16,000 for a local guide who can help them find a particular species of bird,” MNS chairman Vincent Chow said.“Unfortunately, I had to turn them down because I really do not know anyone who can assist them.”The Tourism Department has said there are already licensed local nature guides operating in Singapore but did not reveal the number of guides available.In December 2012 the MNS conducted a joint pilot programme with the Iskandar Regional Development Authority to rope in fishermen in Kampung Sungai Melayu to help in the development of avitourism.“However, the plan later fizzled out… it should be an on-going effort and the relevant government agencies, especially the Tourism Department, should step up efforts to develop avitourism in the state,” Mr Chow said. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T
Lalie, Rob and Deborah (South African Tourism). Source = e-Travel Blackboard: GA Australian buyers and wholesalers enjoyed a warm (if wet) welcome to Durban and this year’s Tourism INDABA at a special function on Friday night.On the eve of INDABA 2013, South African Tourism Australia teamed up with Kwazulu-Natal Tourism to bring together African suppliers and the newly arrived Australians at Bertoua Café Lounge in Durban’s trendy Berea.Commenting on the recent growth from Australia (14 percent) and New Zealand (17 percent), South African Tourism Australia country manager Lalie Ngozi acknowledged the commitment of local suppliers and the passion of the Australian trade.“You being here shows confidence and shows that you do see value in what we are trying to achieve,” she said. Michael Zhang (Webjet), Sue Bohme (Gay Globe), Rob Gurr (South African Tourism), Andrew Kelleher (Scenic Tours), Patrick Barden (This is Africa) and Wayne Hamilton (Swagman Tours).
Skyscanner has come up with some futuristic predictions for airports in its latest Future of Travel report including automated check-in and even greater use of technology.The report finds that the future will see a completely automated airport experience which will get rid of the need to wait in check-in queues and passengers possessing digital luggage tags and suitcases pre-coded with flight details and destinations.The aesthetic of airports will also change, with open buildings housing open-air parks and pools.Lastly the report predicts that Skype like holographic systems will be available in-flight, allowing passengers to have conversations with friends and family way up to 35,000 feet in the air.Skyscanner’s head of business to business operations, Filip Filipov said that new technologies will allow people to travel with a number of fun distractions.“Emerging technologies mean that by 2024 the travel journey from our home to holiday destination has the potential to be a stress-free and enjoyable experience – full of fun distractions for everyone,” Mr Filipov said.“Airports and flights will no longer be the price we pay to travel but instead will signify the start of our holidays where travellers can relax and create the perfect space to suit their needs whether they’re flying for business or leisure.”Source = ETB News: Tom Neale
Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific has announced the appointment of Diane Mitchell to the position of senior director of owner services and loyalty.Ms Mitchell will be based at the company’s corporate headquarters on the Gold Coast and will oversee the operations of several key departments including Reservations, Travel Club, Owner Services and Owner Education.These departments work simultaneously to deliver exceptional service and unforgettable holidays to WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham’s 50,000 plus Club Owners.Ms Mitchell has been in the timeshare industry since 2007, most recently as the director of marketing and operations Asia Pacific, with Wyndham’s sister company RCI, based in Singapore.She was a finalist in the Corporate Manager of the Year category of the Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council awards in 2011 and 2012.She has extensive experience in change management, policy/process development, recruitment and training and will bring a wealth of knowledge to the role.Source = ETB Travel News: Lewis Wiseman
US Airways is approaching its final destinationThe 75-year-old airline will cease to exist as a brand this fall.Starting this fall, an iconic American brand will be no more as US Airways completely folds into its new parent American Airlines.The fadeout of flights under the US Airways banner is expected to start in July and take around 90 days, according to the Associated Press.“It’s absolutely critical because it’s really the core system for almost every customer-facing transaction that happens at the airline,” said Maya Leibman, the chief information officer for parent American Airlines Group, according to the AP.The merging of bookings systems was a huge sticking point for United Airlines and Continental after their merger in 2012. The two companies now form United Continental.US Airways has been flying for over 75 years.Source = TIME
Victoria Beckham hosts exclusive British Airways cocktail party in SingaporeBritish style icon Victoria Beckham tonight hosted an exclusive British Airways cocktail party to celebrate Singapore Fashion Week, while also taking the opportunity to share her travel tips with the audience and discuss how she balances her busy schedule as a mother and businesswoman.The singer-turned-fashion designer attended the event for a selection of VIP British Airways guests at the renowned Flutes restaurant, which is housed at the National Museum of Singapore. Victoria was wearing a dress from her autumn/winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection.Victoria spoke of juggling her time as a mum of four with the demands of life as an international businesswoman and global brand. She discussed travelling the world with her family and shared that as soon as she gets on board she changes into something comfortable so she can relax and enjoy catching up on films. Dark sunglasses and a lot of water are her travel essentials.The renowned designer revealed that the White Cube gallery and the V&A are among her favourite spots in London, the city she chose as the location of her flagship Mayfair boutique.Victoria Beckham said: “I’ve been flying with British Airways since I was a child. I have some very fond travel memories associated with the airline and it was great to relive them this evening.“David and I love visiting Asia and I feel at home every time I return to Singapore. I always find the fashion here incredibly exciting and inspiring, and it was an honour to show my collection over the weekend.”Victoria Beckham also shared insights into how she prepares for long-haul flights: “I travel a lot with my job and charity work for UNAIDs so I have my on board routine perfected. Flying is my opportunity to disconnect and catch up on work and sleep. Once I’ve boarded the plane, I kick off my heels and change into something comfortable and sit back to unwind.”Robert Williams, British Airways regional general manager, South East Asia, said: “Victoria Beckham is the epitome of British sophistication and it has been wonderful to have her here with us this evening. We always look forward to welcoming her on our flights.”Source = British Airways
Etihad Airways and flybuys, one of Australia’s most popular loyalty programs, today launched an innovative partnership which enables flybuys members to turn everyday shopping into international flights with the World’s Leading Airline.flybuys members will be able to collect flybuys points when booking Etihad Airways flights and enjoy exclusive access to airfare deals to more than 100 destinations worldwide.In a world first, flybuys members who link their Etihad Guest membership to their flybuys account will also earn Etihad Guest Tier Miles when they spend at any Coles Supermarkets, Coles Online, Coles Express, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor stores nationwide.Tier Miles count towards elite Etihad Guest status, which affords top tier members benefits such as priority check-in and airport lounge access when flying with Etihad Airways and its partner airlines.To earn Etihad Guest Tier Miles, flybuys members must link their Etihad Guest membership to their flybuys account.Members will earn one Etihad Guest Tier Mile (up to a maximum of 2,500 Tier Miles per month) for every AUD 1 spent at any Coles Supermarkets and selected partners and, at the same time, collect flybuys points.flybuys members can also convert their flybuys points to Etihad Guest miles, giving them access to flight rewards and upgrades.Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer said: “The launch today of the partnership with flybuys is exciting news for millions of flybuys members.“Now they will be able to turn their weekly shopping at Coles and other selected stores into travel to exciting destinations worldwide.“Together, we are offering flybuys members the unique ability to earn Tier Miles in the Etihad Guest program and, as a result, to enjoy the exclusive benefits we offer our most valuable frequent flyers.”Adam Story, Coles General Manager flybuys said: “flybuys is thrilled to be partnering with Etihad Airways.“We are proud to be offering our members the opportunity to collect flybuys points quicker and redeem them on exciting rewards like international travel.“flybuys members will also benefit with access to exclusive discounts on Etihad Airways and members will be able to accelerate their status within the Etihad Guest frequent flyer program by shopping at Coles Supermarkets, Coles Online, Coles Express, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor.”To celebrate the partnership launch:Etihad Airways will offer flybuys members up to 25 per cent off all Etihad Airways Economy and Business Class fares (excluding Breaking Deals) to anywhere on the airline’s global network. This applies to bookings made by 3 November for travel until 4 December 2015. At the same time, until 31 December, flybuys members will collect five flybuys points per AUD 1 spent on Etihad Airways flights, by booking through the flybuys ‘My Offers’ page. Etihad Guest members will also be able to earn Etihad Guest reward miles on the same flights.Linked program members will be able to earn three Etihad Guest Tier Miles for every AUD 1 they spend in Coles, Coles Online, Coles Express, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor (capped at a maximum of 5,000 Tier Miles per month) until December 31, 2015. This will normally be one Etihad Guest Tier Mile for every AUD 1 they spend (capped at a maximum of 2,500 Tier Miles per month).Linked program members will have the chance to win one of 25 prizes of round trip Economy Class flights for two to an overseas destination of their choice on the Etihad Airways’ network.Other prizes include 10 sets of two tickets to an A-League game at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium or AAMI Stadium during the 2015/16 season.Throughout the year, flybuys and Etihad Airways will offer flybuys members other benefits including bonus flybuys points for flight purchases, discounts on air travel and stopover packages.Terms and conditions apply. Learn more hereSource = Etihad Airways
roomsXML connect today here www.roomsxml.com Helping agents, kids and drunk Irish travelersAs “Webjet” ads persist on TV, the fallout and feedback continues.I didn’t expect Chris Hill, from “dreary Belgium” to validate travel agents. Through a lengthy (enlightening, saddening and amazing) email it became obvious that Chris was a person whose work should be celebrated.Chris is helping us. Read a little about him. It’s an excerpt from an epic travel tale.How we “met” “I received ETB from a friend in South Africa. It’s easy to “scan”…. allows me to spot new hotel builds/takeovers/info faster than they “trickle down” from the “God Floors”. “In ETB I noticed your article “Webjet. Agents Can Do Better Than This.”What Chris had to say about Agents“Travel Agents ARE the human link with all your “In-One Place” travel arrangements. For 8 years I was doing RTW trip covering every continent 6 – 8 times a year – not including regional and national trips.“My Travel Agent saved me time and my company a lot of money. He also found it was cheaper to travel First Class on RTWs because we never paid excess baggage and the Frequent Flyer mileage produced a free trip every 5 trips. He even managed to book me on Concorde a few times with no extra cost“I had an accident in LAX and was hospitalised. The doctor estimated 5 days in hospital and 3 days rest. My Travel Agent re-booked all the flights and hotels .“Imagine if you had made all your air and hotel bookings direct on the Internet ?” Sounds like you are a busy man – how do you fit in health line? “I am now retired (I must be – my wife says I am – so now I have time….).“HelpLine was originally a charitable service offered by my Church in Pattaya where I helped foreigners who had fallen foul of the Law and were in jail.“At first we just provided fresh water (there was none) and friendship. The prisons were terrible. So I started Helpline because the numbers of children in jail (arrested with Mothers, some only a few days old) was heartbreaking. The Police don’t provide the disgusting accommodation with no fresh water , yet they receive all the blame which is unfair.“The churches and the Orphanages couldn’t help “Such people” so I decided to start a Children’s Shelter and did this with the pastor of my own Church.“The jail visiting service expanded to family contact. “Good morning Mr XYZ … sorry to call you at 03:00 but I have just met your son who has been arrested and is in Jail in Pattaya. Have a very quick hello with your son and then call me back on this number…. “Where there were health complications or documents lost the best source was the Travel Agent and many I had to pull out of bed in the ‘wee sma’ hours’. Some groaned, most didn’t and I was never refused.So help line is still running?“Bad health forced me to Europe. HelpLine faded away and was never replaced.“Some years ago we started a free school for slum kids inspired by the dedication of an Australian teacher.“For the first two years we funded literally from our own pocket. Then we started getting donations – usually small amounts. One of the prisoners made porn movies. … He was a rogue, but a very funny and positive person.“He offered to film the projects, visit the slums, see how they live and show the alternative provided by the Shelter. I refused with thanks and he said – “It’s because of what I do isn’t it?” Yes I told him – porn film making and Helpline simply do not mix well.“Along with other prisoners and bought me a Canon XH A1 camera, lights and a book on how to make a documentary and told me “Make a documentary on the slum kids and their solution.”I never heard from him again and that was close on 10 years ago.You must have some incredible storiesChris listed literally half a dozen great tales. But this one is my fave.“One Sunday morning I found a very bleary eyed young man from Ireland in the “Visiting Cell”. I checked the night log and he had been found on the street, drunk, and was in custody for his own protection.“His first comment to me was, “Are you the Manager here?” “This is not my hotel is it?”“I told him that he would be released as soon as he provided the Police with proof of identity and address.“He said his passport was in his room. I told him that one of our helpers would go to his hotel with a note from him and collect his passport.“He could not remember the name of his hotel, but did remember it was in Thailand.“I asked how he had paid for his ticket …. He did remember the Travel Agent’s name. I telephoned the Irish Police in the small town, they knew the Travel Agent and had an emergency contact number of the Manager .“Within half an hour the Agent was on the phone (It was just after 04:00 in Ireland) and told me the name of the hotel our prisoner was staying. The prisoner was released two hours later and rejoined his companions who had not missed him as they were drunk to the World. roomsXML.comlearn more hereSource = roomsXML
Travellers Choice thanks “true partners”Travellers Choice thanks “true partners” for key role in 40-year journeyTravellers Choice marked its 40th anniversary last night by throwing a stylish party in Sydney for the industry partners that have helped it grow from a small WA-based cooperative to Australia’s leading national network for independent agents.Managing Director Christian Hunter told more than 75 guests at the Museum of Contemporary Art that since being formed by a handful of agencies in 1977, Travellers Choice had “come a long way”.He said the group’s unique culture, its support services and its focus on returning all profits to its member shareholders were essential to its success, but just as vital were the “true partnerships” forged over four decades with its broad stable of preferred partners.“In the early days, when we were very small, some of the companies here tonight took a punt on us,” Hunter told the gathering.“Across the decades, as we grew, others came on board. And throughout our 40 years we have developed long-standing and highly-valued relationships with all of the businesses represented here tonight.“We know we cannot do what we do, as successfully as we do it, if it wasn’t for your unwavering commitment and enduring support. So please, on behalf of all Travellers Choice members, accept our thanks for your past, present and future efforts.”Travellers Choice members from across Australia will come together in Perth in November for their own 40th birthday party.The celebrations will be a highlight of the group’s Annual Shareholders’ Conference, which takes place this year at the six-star Crown Towers, Australia’s newest luxury property.For further information on Travellers Choice please visit www.travellerschoice.com.au
Coral Expeditions continues fleet growth David Li PhotographyCoral Expeditions continues fleet growthAustralia’s pioneering expedition cruise line, Coral Expeditions, continues to expand their Australian-flagged fleet announcing the order of a fifth ship, Coral Geographer, to be delivered in December 2020.The new build, which is currently under construction at VARD Shipyard, will be a sister ship to the company’s recently launched Coral Adventurer, which arrived in home waters in Darwin, Australia, earlier this month.The 120-passenger Coral Geographer will feature the same state-of-the-art specifications as the Coral Adventurer. However, in response to market demand, the new ship will have an increased proportion of bridge deck suites – up from two to six large suites – all featuring horizon bathtubs.The new ship order further extends the growth plans of the company and the modernisation of the fleet towards 2021. The fleet is designed for exploration with small passenger numbers, world leading proprietary expedition capabilities, and ability to access the farthest regions of the world with comfort and ease.“We’ve witnessed significant demand for our unique style of expedition cruising, and the business has confidence to order a fifth ship only weeks after launching Coral Adventurer,” says Mark Fifield, Group General Manager of Coral Expeditions.“We are confident in the ongoing strength of the expedition sector along with the vessel’s size, her design and her capabilities. She represents the perfect balance between being large enough for ocean voyaging yet having a small and intimate ship feel to maximise our guest experience. We classify ourselves as a “true expedition” operator and are one of a small fraternity of global operators with the experience and focus to understand and deliver this style of adventure,” said Mr Fifield.In a first for Coral Expeditions and drawing on the company’s pioneering tradition, in her maiden season the Coral Geographer will embark on an expedition series exploring the “Small Islands of the Indian Ocean”.In January 2021, Coral Geographer will set sail on her inaugural voyage over 25-nights from Singapore to the Seychelles including the islands of Sumatra, Sri Lanka and numerous remote atolls of the Maldives before ending in the Seychelles.Her second sailing will be over 15-nights from the Seychelles to Mauritius, featuring an extensive exploration of the remote coastline of northern Madagascar, Reunion Island, and Aldabra atoll, named by David Attenborough as “one of the wonders of the world” and as a “crown jewel” of the Indian Ocean.The third voyage will see her complete an epic traverse of the Indian Ocean from Mauritius back home to Fremantle, Australia. This voyage is being planned as a 25-30 night research exploration and in conjunction with partners focused on scientific and natural environment content. Guest numbers will be strictly limited on this voyage.Voyages 1 and 2 of the Coral Geographer maiden series are open for bookings from this week, whilst Voyage 3 across the Indian Ocean is open to expressions of interest at this time from individuals and associations.Celebrating 35 years of history in expedition cruising excellence in 2020, Coral Geographer will join the existing fleet, which at present includes the 120-guest Coral Adventurer and the 72-guestCoral Discoverer. The company also operates the 46-guest Coral Expeditions I, and 42-guest Coral Expeditions II.According to Mr Fifield, construction is currently well progressed and running on schedule, with all milestones on track for a December 2020 delivery. The inaugural series of three voyages will set sail from Singapore on January 6th, 2021 and the Coral Geographer will arrive home to Australian waters in Fremantle in late March 2021.For bookings and further information, please visit www.coralexpeditions.com, email email@example.com or phone 1800 079 545.Source = Coral Expeditions