first_img–MIDAS has had multiple, evolving missions.Government reports describe MIDAS as a resource for producing analytical reports. But it also seems to have evolved into a linchpin for data transactions with health insurance companies and state Medicaid agencies.MIDAS gathers information from many other systems that serve the health care law’s insurance markets.The MIDAS privacy assessment says policies about personal data have changed over time to allow additional uses and disclosures. The scope of data collected also has been widened.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Some details about MIDAS, gleaned from interviews and publicly available documents:–The administration launched MIDAS without a complete privacy assessment.The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in a report last year that the system went live without a thorough examination of privacy risks. Without such an analysis “it will be difficult for (the administration) to demonstrate that it has assessed the potential for (personal information) to be displayed to users … and taken steps to ensure that the privacy of that data is protected,” the GAO said.The privacy assessment was not completed until mid-January, well into the health law’s second sign-up season.–The privacy analysis is vague on key details.In a section that asks how many individuals have personal data in the system, the administration’s privacy assessment says “1 million or more.”It’s probably a lot more. In addition to the 10 million currently enrolled, MIDAS also keeps information on former customers, on consumers who started applications but never finished them and on people determined eligible for Medicaid.The administration says “1 million or more” is a standard category — but won’t specify the number. Sponsored Stories MIDAS has been criticized in opinion articles by former Social Security commissioner Michael Astrue, a Republican who disapproves of Obama administration policies. Independent experts on technology and privacy echoed some of the concerns.“I accept they have an operational reason, if not a legal obligation, to keep data for a reasonable period,” said Astrue, commissioner from 2007-2013. But there’s no justification for keeping data indefinitely, he added. “I don’t think they should be allowed to do it.”Michelle De Mooy, deputy director for consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said consumers have no way of knowing that their data is being routed to MIDAS. It’s not mentioned on the HealthCare.gov website.“When people go to government services sites, they don’t have a choice,” De Mooy said. “That means the privacy and security bar should be very high.”Although the privacy policy does not mention MIDAS specifically, administration spokesman Albright says its general functions are described.MIDAS stands for Multidimensional Insurance Data Analytics System. It’s owned by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and operated by a major government technology contractor, CACI. The administration says the contract is currently worth more than $110 million from 2011-2017. That’s an increase of more than 85 percent from $59 million when it was awarded. Known as MIDAS, the system is described on a federal website as the “perpetual central repository” for information collected under President Barack Obama’s health care law.The information stored includes names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, employment status and financial accounts.The vast scope of the information — and the lack of a final plan for destroying old records nearly four years after the system was commissioned — have raised concerns about privacy and the government’s judgment on technology.“A basic privacy principle is that you don’t retain data any longer than you have to,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.“Even 10 years feels long to me,” Tien said.The Obama administration says MIDAS is essential to the smooth operation of the health care law’s insurance markets and meets or exceeds federal security and privacy standards. “MIDAS is a critical piece of the marketplace ecosystem,” said spokesman Aaron Albright.But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called the administration’s approach “careless.” Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sobercenter_img Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall “Despite (a) poor track record on protecting the private information of Americans, they continue to use systems without adequately assessing these critical components,” said Hatch, an opponent of the health care law.Electronic record-keeping systems are standard for businesses and government agencies. They are supposed to have limits on how long they store personal data.In the new wired world, every few weeks brings another security breach. Personnel records of millions of federal employees, including background information for security clearances, were compromised in the latest attacks making headlines. Earlier this year, health insurer Anthem reported that information on 80 million customers was hacked.Before HealthCare.gov went live in 2013, Obama administration officials assured lawmakers and the public that an individual’s personal information would be used mainly to determine eligibility for coverage, and that the Affordable Care Act would have a limited impact on privacy.Marilyn Tavenner, the Medicare administrator at the time, told a congressional hearing: “We especially focused on storing the minimum amount of personal data possible,” she added. Check your body, save your life New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   WASHINGTON (AP) — A government data warehouse that stores personal information on millions of HealthCare.gov customers is raising privacy concerns at a time when major breaches have become distressingly common.A government privacy assessment dated Jan. 15 says data “is maintained indefinitely at this time,” but the administration said Monday no final time frame has been decided, and the National Archives has recommended a 10-year retention period. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finisheslast_img read more

first_imgAdnan stayed in Raqqa for almost a year, watching the extremists pervade nearly every aspect of life. IS authorities came to his family’s car parts store and demanded taxes — the equivalent of $5,000. The group was clearly flush with money from taxing businesses, confiscating lands from those who fled and sales from oil fields captured further east in Syria, Adnan said.The group encourages commerce across the “caliphate,” he said — for example, cement supplies and vegetables moved from Turkey, through Raqqa to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest cityThen Adnan’s one-time activism in support of Syrian rebels caught up with him. In January, a patrol raided his family home, confiscated his laptop and arrested him for publishing online articles they said encouraged secularism. “Such a pretty house,” a patrol member said before smashing two glass water pipes. “This pollutes the environment,” he told Adnan.For the next 55 days, Adnan was held in Point 11, the soccer stadium.He was interrogated three times in the initial days, beaten with a green plastic pipe. Then he was moved out of isolation into wards with other prisoners. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober “We gave up 2,200 martyrs in Kobani, and you go and steal?” Adnan said he heard the interrogator shouting at the two detained militants.Adnan met Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Musallam, whom IS accused of being a spy for Israel. Musallam told Adnan his captors were repeatedly filming him in his own execution video. Each time, he said, they would video a child shooting him in the head — but each time the gun would be empty.“Then one day, they executed him for real,” Adnan said.In March, the Islamic State group released a video showing Musallam’s death. Kneeling in a field, he is shot in the head by a young boy wearing military camouflage.Adnan said he believes that is why many victims in the execution videos appear so calm. “They repeat the thing with them like 20 times. So when the real one comes, the prisoner will think it’s just another mock execution,” he said.___SURVIVING THE CALIPHATE — OR NOTIn Eski Mosul, a village on a bend in Iraq’s Tigris River, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim lives in one of the larger houses, behind high walls with a garden. He looked exhausted as he showed AP journalists one IS vestige he’s keeping: the death certificate for his wife, the group’s black logo on top. Now, he said, “I want to blow myself up among Daesh. Even that won’t satisfy me. If I chop them up, drink their blood and eat their hearts, it won’t take away my pain.”Laying low was often key to survival in the “caliphate,” several of those interviewed said. Best to stay home as much as possible, avoiding checkpoints of IS fighters and the “Hisba” committees, the dreaded enforcers of IS’ innumerable regulations.Armed members of the Hisba patrol the streets, cruising in SUVs with blackened windows and wearing Afghan-style baggy pants, long shirts and face masks, looking for behavior deemed unacceptable.Punishments for smoking, for wearing Western clothes or for playing the wrong radio station can vary from a fine to imprisonment for a few hours or days — often depending on the Hisba’s mood. For more serious or repeat offenses, the fighters might bind the perpetrator to a pole in a town square for several days with his crime written on a sign around his neck.Women try not to go out at all, most of those interviewed by AP said. If they do go to market, they sometimes avoid taking their husbands, sons or brothers with them: If they’re harassed by the Hisba, their male relative might defend them and bring the Hisba’s wrath. “He told me my faith is weak and asked, ‘Do you pray?’” Abdullah recalled. Then the fighter asked to see his “repentance card.” Abdullah had been a policeman until the IS takeover, and policemen and soldiers are required to have one. So are many other former government loyalists or employees — even former English teachers, since they once taught a “forbidden” language and tailors of women’s clothes because they once designed styles deemed un-Islamic.Abdullah had left his card at home. Terrified, he sent his son running to get it.“They are brutal people,” he told The Associated Press. “They can consider you an infidel for the simplest thing.”The Islamic State’s “caliphate,” declared a year ago, stretches across northern Syria through much of northern and western Iraq. Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the IS, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, extending its control into every corner of life to enforce its own radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.The Islamic State’s domain is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where people are thrown to their deaths off buildings on suspicion of homosexuality; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend. Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility The picture they paint suggests the Islamic State’s territory, now an area roughly the size of Switzerland, has evolved into an entrenched pseudo-state, one based on a bureaucracy of terror.___THE TAKEOVERIn January 2014, when the Islamic State group took over the Syrian city of Raqqa, Adnan fled, fearing his work as a political activist would make him a target. But after a few months of missing his family, he returned to see whether he could endure life under the extremists.Adnan found Raqqa transformed from a once-colorful cosmopolitan city into the Islamic State’s de facto capital. Women covered head to toe in black scurried quickly to markets before rushing home, young men avoided the cafes they once frequented. IS fighters turned the city soccer stadium into a prison and interrogation center, known as “Point 11.” One of the city’s central plazas was now referred to by residents as “Jaheem” Square — Hell Square.He soon learned why. He heard celebratory gunshots one day and saw the bodies of three men dangling from poles in Hell Square. The corpses were left there for three days, he told AP as he chain-smoked in a cafe in Gaziantep, a town on the Turkish border filled with Syrians living in exile. 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center It’s all he has left of her.IS swept into the village of some 3,000 families in June last year, established its reign over a grim seven-month period, then fled in January when Kurdish fighters ran them out. IS forces remain dug in only a few miles away, so close that smoke can be seen from fighting on the front lines.Ibrahim’s wife, Buthaina, had been an outspoken human rights advocate and had run for the provincial council in Mosul. So when IS took over, fighters demanded she apply for a repentance card. “She said she’d never stoop so low,” her husband said.He knew the danger. He had seen the bodies of a dozen policemen in the street, shot in the head. He’d seen others thrown off buildings. He had heard talk of the dreaded “Khasfa,” a deep natural sinkhole in the desert south of Mosul where the extremists boast of throwing bodies — or sometimes living victims.Ibrahim sent his wife away to safety for a few days, but she soon returned, missing their three daughters and two sons, he said. Her youngest was 2.A few nights later, in early October, the militants came for her, he said.Ibrahim and his wife were asleep, but their daughters were watching TV. “Wake up, dad, Daesh is in the front yard,” they called out, using the group’s Arabic acronym. Ibrahim saw the house was surrounded. They demanded to see Buthaina. Ibrahim tried to protect her, he said, but she came out and confronted the IS extremists, demanding an explanation. An argument ensued, and one militant handcuffed the sheikh and knocked him across the head with a pistol. The men pushed Buthaina into their car, and took Ibrahim’s as well.A member of the powerful al-Jabour tribe, Ibrahim hoped his connections — and money — could win Buthaina’s freedom.He and fellow tribesmen went to the nearby town of Tal Afar, an IS stronghold from which many of the fighters who took Eski Mosul had come. There, he said, he met in a mosque with Abu Alaa al-Afari, a local IS commander who some Iraqi officials now believe has risen to become the No. 2 figure in the “caliphate.”Ibrahim begged for his wife’s release, pointing out that she was still breastfeeding their youngest son, Arkam.“It doesn’t matter. Your children will become orphans,” al-Afari replied, according to Ibrahim.Another Eski Mosul resident, 31-year-old Fadi Mohammed, wishes that all he had gotten from IS was his brother’s death certificate.He and his brother, Mohammed Mohammed, were both former policemen who had given up their weapons and signed repentance papers. But his brother was arrested after informants claimed he was part of an elite intelligence unit. Mohammed Mohammed was sent to Mosul. In January, 13 days before the Kurds took back Eski Mosul, Mohammed said IS militants “brought us discs that showed his beheading.” In this May 26, 2015 photo, Bilal Abdullah poses for a portrait in the village of Eski Mosul in northern Iraq, nearly a year after Islamic State militants took over the village. In the Islamic State’s realm, a document testifying that one has “repented” from a heretical past must be carried at all times and it can mean the difference between life and death. Abdullah learned that not long after the extremists took over his home village. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen) Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim’s wife, Buthaina, never reappeared after being taken by the militants.Shortly after her husband appealed for her release, he received the death certificate. A simple sheet of paper from an “Islamic court” with a judge’s signature, it said only that Buthaina’s death was verified, nothing more.It is a horrifying document, but he’s keeping it, he said, “because it has her name on it.”___ESCAPING THE CALIPHATEEscape is not easy. Residents are banned from leaving their cities without first applying for permission, filling out a long form with all their personal details and setting property as a guarantee that IS will seize if they don’t return. Women must apply to the Hisba to travel and are often refused permission, out of concern that they will not follow IS dress codes once they are out.When Adnan’s aunt needed cancer treatment, she applied to leave IS territory to get care. The IS refused but sent her to Mosul, paying for transport and some of the medical costs, though not her chemotherapy.In March, after Adnan had spent 55 days in prison, a top IS leader in Raqqa freed about 40 inmates — including the young Syrian activist.center_img Soon after came another gruesome moment. One of the top Islamic State judges in the area, a local man known by the pseudonym Abu Ali al-Sharei, dropped by in early February to teach another lesson in Islamic law to the prisoners. He made small talk with a roomful of them. Then he grinned and said, “Listen, I haven’t told you yet, but today we made al-Kaseasbeh crispy.”He took a flash drive out of his pocket, Adnan said, and, to the prisoners’ horror, played them footage of captured Jordanian Air Force pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive in a cage by his IS captors.Adnan’s account is just one example of how IS uses the execution videos that it broadcasts to the world online to also intimidate people under its rule.In Raqqa’s prison, Adnan’s job of distributing food to other inmates gave him a broad view of operations.He saw two Kurdish prisoners and overheard wardens saying the pair would likely be used in Kurdish-language propaganda videos before being released. Adnan said he also saw several foreign Islamic State fighters being held — three Turks, an Uzbek, a Russian and a Yemeni — apparently on suspicion of spying. Two other IS fighters were brought in for stealing booty looted from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani rather than sharing it with other fighters. Kobani was the scene of the biggest defeat of IS in Syria, when Kurdish forces backed by U.S. airstrikes drove off the militants after months of heavy fighting. Adnan decided it was time for him to go. He paid a smuggler to drive him along dirt roads about 25 kilometers to the Tal Abyad border crossing, which at the time was in IS hands and was shut from the Turkish side, then paid another smuggler to get him into Turkey. “It was an adventure,” he said, smiling.Escape was much more harrowing for Ali, a 63-year-old appliance store owner from the Iraqi town of al-Zaab, near Mosul, who asked that his full name not be used to protect relatives still under IS rule. He told AP that when he decided to flee, he managed to convince local authorities he was only going on a three-day work trip. They gave him a permission slip without a guarantee of property, so he set out in his car with his wife, son and daughter-in-law.Between them and freedom were three different checkpoints. At the first, fighters wrote down the model and license number of his car. At the second, they searched his car, then ordered him to return to the first checkpoint. There, the fighters told him his car registration was improper and he had no property guarantee.“Your fate will be execution,” he said they told him.But in a show of how capricious life can be under the Islamic State, a commander at the checkpoint made a phone call and got approval to let Ali and his family pass. “God give him long life,” Ali said of the commander. He said he’d rather have been killed right there at the checkpoint than be forced to drive back into IS-held al-Zaab. 0 Comments   Share   ESKI MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Inside the Islamic State’s realm, the paper testifying that you have “repented” from your heretical past must be carried at all times. Many people laminate it just to be safe. It can mean the difference between life and death.Bilal Abdullah learned that not long after the extremists took over his Iraqi village, Eski Mosul, a year ago. As he walked down the street, an Islamic State fighter in a pickup truck asked directions to a local mosque. When Abdullah didn’t recognize the mosque’s name, the fighter became suspicious. 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The reign of terror he had fled had gotten only worse, he said.Each time the Islamic State group overruns a community, the pattern has been roughly similar, AP found — as methodical as it is bloody.First comes an initial wave of killings of police and troops. Then the fighters often seek to garner support by quickly repairing electricity and water lines. They call on bureaucrats to return to work. Government employees and any former troops or policemen sign their “repentance” papers and must hand over their weapons or pay fines sometimes amounting to several thousand dollars.In loudspeaker announcements, mosque sermons and leaflets, new regulations are laid out: No smoking, no alcohol, and no women working except as nurses or in women’s clothing shops, where even mannequins in store windows are covered. Residents said they were required to build walls outside their homes so women would never be seen.In each district, an “emir” — often a local militant — is appointed to govern. Schools close, then reopen with IS-written curricula. Taxes are imposed on businesses. Pharmacies are given Shariah courses and banned from selling contraceptives. In most locations, tribes or families declare loyalty to the group and gain positions or perks, several interviewees told AP. There is no safe way out. People vanish– their disappearance explained by a video of their beheading, an uninformative death certificate, or nothing at all.“People hate them, but they’ve despaired, and they don’t see anyone supporting them if they rise up,” said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family still living under IS rule. “People feel that nobody is with them.”The AP interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians who survived life under the group’s rule. One AP team travelled to several towns in northern Iraq, including Eski Mosul, north of Mosul, where residents are just emerging from nearly seven months under IS rule. Another AP team travelled to Turkish cities along the border, where Syrians who have fled IS territory have taken refuge.What follows is based on their accounts, many of which were verified by multiple people, as well as on IS social media and broadcast operations and documents obtained by the AP, including copies of repentance cards, weapons inventories, leaflets detailing rules of women’s dress and permission forms to travel outside IS territory — all emblazoned with the IS black banner and logo, “Caliphate in the path of the prophet.” It’s not an unreasonable fear. Abu Zein, a 31-year-old who recently fled the eastern Syrian town of Muhassan, recounted how a Hisba member one day berated a woman for being improperly covered as she swept her porch. Her brother came out and argued, the fight escalated, the militant shot the brother, and the brother’s relatives promptly killed the militant. Soon after, a larger contingent of Islamic State fighters descended on the house and killed eight members of the family, Abu Zein said.Abu Zein said he was detained multiple times for various minor offenses, including visiting his uncle’s grave.During Islamic holidays late last year, he said, militants announced in mosques that it was forbidden to visit the graves of relatives, a holiday tradition that IS sees as encouraging polytheism. Abu Zein’s uncle had died of cancer the year before, so he, his cousin and another relative decided to defy the ban.As they approached the graveyard, IS fighters opened fire over their heads, shouting “Grave worshippers!” and “This is forbidden!” Abu Zein said he and his friends tried to reason with them. “You cannot stop me from visiting my father,” cried Abu Zein’s 20-year-old cousin — prompting one militant to slap him across the face. The three were arrested and detained for several hours before being released with a warning. In Eski Mosul, delivery from IS came to residents at the hands of Kurdish fighters. Amid the joy over liberation — and perhaps worry over being accused of having IS loyalties — many residents promptly discarded documents from the Islamic State.Not Salim Ahmed. For nearly seven months, the 23-year-old former soldier had clung to his repentance card, always having it ready at checkpoints. He hated the card. He had refused to laminate it, unwilling to give it a sense of permanence.Now IS is gone, but the fear instilled in him is not. He still carries his card.“We live very close to their front line,” he said. “One day, they might come back and ask me for my repentance card again.”____Salama and Janssen reported from Eski Mosul, Karam from Gaziantep, Turkey, and Keath from Cairo. AP journalists Mohammed Rasool and Hussein Malla in Beirut and Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

first_img Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   Top Stories Besides McConnell and Boehner, denunciations also have come from several 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Cuban-American Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. In a typical comment, Bush said warming relations should “advance the cause of human rights and freedom for the Cuban people” and said the administration’s moves were “failing this test.”Rubio and Cruz each said they would try blocking any Obama effort to win Senate confirmation of an ambassador to Havana.While Republicans are likely to strongly oppose large expenditures to improve relations with Cuba, the administration may be able to use smaller amounts to buttress its diplomatic presence there.Obama has requested $6 million to improve the current, lower-level U.S. outpost there. Congressional aides said that even without specific approval from lawmakers, the State Department could well access that money because agencies can unilaterally shift relatively small amounts among their budget accounts.Though it’s not yet law, the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee approved foreign aid legislation last month barring work on a U.S. Embassy in Cuba unless Obama certifies that Havana is meeting the terms of a 1996 statute aimed at fostering democracy in Cuba. That includes extraditing people wanted in the U.S. for crimes. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Mesa family survives lightning strike to home The comments by McConnell came a day after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the two nations will open embassies in Havana and Washington July 20 and resume diplomatic relations severed in 1961, the year Obama was born.McConnell’s remarks underscored that despite a push to ease the curbs by U.S. business and agriculture interests and some GOP lawmakers, Republican leaders remain sympathetic to the party’s more conservative, anti-Castro voices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and several contenders for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination criticized Obama’s moves shortly after they were announced Wednesday.“You would think that the normalization of relations with Cuba would be accompanied by some modification of their behavior,” McConnell said Thursday at Commerce Lexington, the chamber of commerce for Lexington, Kentucky. Instead, he called the country “a police state” and “a haven for criminals” wanted in the U.S.“I don’t see any evidence at all that they are going to change their behavior. So I doubt if we’ll confirm an ambassador, they probably don’t need one,” McConnell said. How do cataracts affect your vision? The difference between men and women when it comes to pain The Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee plans to write its version of the aid measure next week.The two countries’ surprise revelation last December that they would move toward normal relations has been followed by other steps. The U.S. has lifted some travel curbs on Americans and began permitting U.S. companies to export telephones and computers to Cuba, and has removed Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.Yet divisions remain.The U.S. remains focused on Cuba’s reputed human rights violations. Cuba wants an end to the U.S. economic embargo, the return of the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay and a halt to U.S. broadcasts aimed at the island.___AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP reporter Adam Beam in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. He added, “Some of their restrictions on Cuba would require legislation to lift, and we’re going to resist that.”Though Obama has not nominated an ambassador for Cuba yet, the current top U.S. diplomat there, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, was expected to be considered for the post.Labeling the moment “a choice between the future and the past,” Obama on Wednesday revealed the latest steps in a half-year of rapid-fire improvements in relations between two nations that lie 90 miles apart but have spent nearly six decades separated by light years diplomatically and economically.Obama also asked Congress to lift the economic and travel embargoes that the U.S. has used for decades to try forcing Cuba’s leaders toward democracy. Obama has partly eased those restrictions on his own, but even before McConnell’s comments Thursday, longtime opposition from many Republicans and some Democrats had made it unlikely that lawmakers will fully revoke the bans quickly.When President Dwight Eisenhower broke relations in 1961 with the communist regime of Raul’s brother, Fidel Castro, it set the tone for decades of Cold War hostility that included failed U.S.-backed efforts to overthrow the island nation’s leaders. WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that his chamber is unlikely to approve an American ambassador to Cuba, dishing out a quick rebuff to President Barack Obama and his drive to normalize relations with the U.S. neighbor and longtime Cold War foe.The Kentucky Republican also suggested that the GOP — which controls Congress — would fight Obama administration efforts to fully lift trade and travel restrictions that have limited American commerce and tourism with the communist-led island nation. McConnell said the country was led by “a thuggish regime.” 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitylast_img read more

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Ties with Beijing, long icy but cordial since 2008, have shaped up as an early campaign issue.Voters in Taiwan, which has been democratic since the late 1980s, have never elected a woman as president nor had a choice between two female candidates backed by the major parties.Joanna Lei, chief executive officer of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank in Taiwan, said that some younger women struggle to advance in Taiwan. However, she said society accepts the leadership of women over age 50 because they historically ran clans in China, where Taiwan’s culture originates.Women manage 10 government departments and some of Taiwan’s top companies. One third of Taiwanese legislators are female, compared to 13 percent in Japan and 16 percent in South Korea, said Sean King, senior vice president with Park Strategies, a New York-based consultancy firm.Elsewhere in Asia, Park Geun-hye took office two years ago as South Korea’s first female president, and Sheikh Hasina is currently the prime minister of Bangladesh. Women have also been elected to the highest office over the years in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India.China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, where Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists based their government in the 1940s after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists. China insists that the two sides should eventually reunite, though opinion polls on the island say most Taiwanese prefer autonomy. Elected in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou set aside the political dispute to start dialogue with Beijing and sign economic agreements. He agreed with Beijing to negotiate on the basis that both sides belong to one China, though with different interpretations.Hung supports a similar understanding with China, but Tsai’s party rejects that basis for talks as a slight to Taiwan’s autonomy. Without a framework for dialogue, tensions could rise again, making new agreements difficult.Hung’s Nationalists lost nine mayoral and county magistrate seats in November, with younger voters accusing Ma’s government of getting dangerously close to China while ignoring a wealth gap at home. Ma must step down in May due to term limits.Tsai, a 58-year-old lawyer by training and once Taiwan’s top policymaker on mainland China affairs, lost the 2012 presidential race to Ma by six percentage points.Hung, 67, has been dubbed a “little chili pepper” for her biting, humorous style of grilling government officials in parliament.“The usual way to win, of course, is to try to capture the pivotal political middle,” said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu. “In this respect, Hung is an unexpected, even odd, choice for nominee. What seems to be most clear is that Taiwan’s voters are ready for a female president.” Sponsored Stories The Nationalist Party’s best-known figures, including the chairman, did not enter their names as potential nominees. Analysts say those would-be candidates are waiting until the 2020 race, when they stand better odds of winning.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academiescenter_img Parents, stop beating yourself up Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Top Stories 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Patients with chronic pain give advice TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s top two political parties have each nominated a woman for president in 2016, a historic first signaling acceptance of female leadership and kicking off a campaign highlighted so far by clashing views on ties with rival China.The ruling Nationalist Party on Sunday picked as its candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, a former teacher and the current deputy legislative speaker. Hung, who supports friendly relations with China, will run against Tsai Ing-wen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman and an advocate of more cautious relations with Beijing. Tsai leads in opinion polls ahead of January’s election.last_img read more

first_img<a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/256ab/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&amp;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Over 13 million travellers took a cruise in 2009, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimated last week.CLIA said despite a dismal year for the travel industry, its 25 member lines were able to fill its ships, carrying a record13.445 million passengers.It said average occupancy was 104.4%, with the average length of cruise at 7.2 days.The record numbers have been attributed in part to the arrival of new ships according to USA Today.Major lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Cunard are collectively spending $6.5 billion this year to launch 12 new ships.A surge in the number of non-American cruise passengers is also a contributing factor with ships comprising of 23.5 percent of international passengers in 2009 compared to less than 10 percent a decade ago.”CLIA’s member lines and travel agents responded amazingly well to the economic crisis and have put themselves in a very strong position to succeed in 2010″ said CLIA chief executive Terry Dale, said in a statement.CLIA forecasts that member lines will carry 14.3 million passengers this year, an increase of 6.4 percent over 2009. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.Llast_img read more

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L <a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/271d8/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&amp;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Figures released today have revealed Australia is experiencing a solid recovery in international arrivals.Released today, Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey (IVS) showed that the country welcomed three percent more foreigners for the for the twelve months to March 2010 compared to the same period last year.Visitor nights were up five percent while international tourism expenditure figures rose four percent to $661 million.In the 2010 March quarter, international visitor numbers were up 6 percent year on year, with visitor nights up 8 percent, representing the biggest increase since 1999.International tourism expenditure figures rose 3 percent to $186 million in the quarter.Of Australia’s top 10 international markets, Korea rose by 15 percent, USA and China were up seven percent, UK was up two percent and Japan rose by three percent. The business travel market also rebounded with a 10 percent increased compared to a 14 percent decline the year before.The Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson welcomed the figures, attributing the increases to the successful marketing and presence of Australia.He said the Australian Government would now invest $5.5 million over four years to implement and operate the National Tourism Accreditation Framework to strengthen Australia’s tourism industry. “Assuring the quality of Australia’s tourism products through accreditation is essential to providing tourists with confidence and will position Australian tourism for long-term health and success” he said.“The Australian Government is also investing a further $4.1 million in Australia’s international tourism trade between China and Australia. “The China Approved Destination Status Scheme will ensure inbound tour operators continue providing a quality service to leisure tour groups from China.”last_img read more

first_imgWolgan Valley Resort & Spa team at the 2010 HM Awards. L-R: Dwane Goodman, Rosanna Barthelot, Andrew Adams-Smith, Maryann Romeo, Joost Heymeijer. Source = Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa Heritage Suite living room With a one year anniversary just around the corner, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa has even more reason to celebrate, after receiving the most hotel awards at the 2010 HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence. As Australia’s first conservation-based luxury resort, Wolgan Valley was honoured with six awards including Winner in Unique Accommodation, Best New Hotel, Regional Property, Hotel Chef, and Environmental Program with a Highly Commended in the Resort category.Now in its eighth year, the annual HM Awards recognise the leaders in hospitality and honour the achievements of excellence in a wide range of categories in the accommodation industry.With a record 1,300 entries received this year, the highly competitive awards span across Australia, New Zealand and selected South Pacific nations. Joost Heymeijer, General Manager, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa said: “This is an outstanding achievement for a resort that has been in operation less than one year. These awards recognise the efforts of the entire Emirates Wolgan Valley team who strive for unparalleled service and superior standards every day.” “To date Wolgan Valley has been a great success and has introduced a new era of luxury to Australian and international travellers. Now as we reach our first anniversary we look forward to continuing setting the benchmark for excellence within the industry,” said Mr Heymeijer. A scenic three-hour drive from Sydney, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is nestled between two of Australia’s most prominent national parks and borders the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Occupying just two per cent of a 4,000-acre conservancy reserve, Wolgan Valley combines the expectations of the high-end traveller with a commitment to conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife, ecological and environmental sustainability. Since its opening in October 2009, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa has also been awarded the following accolades: Conde Nast US and Conde Nast UK “Hot List” (Spa and Resort categories). National Trust Heritage Awards – for its work in restoring the original 1832 farmhouse.  Luxury Travel Magazine – Gold List Awards. (Voted by readers “Most desired new resort to visit in the world“)Australian Hotels Association (NSW) Accommodation Awards for Excellence for Best Environment Initiative, Regional Deluxe Accommodation of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Tourism.Conservation Award Winner, with Emirates Hotels & Resorts, in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2010 “Tourism for Tomorrow” Awards Travel + Leisure’s “It List 2010″ 2010 Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism Awards for New Tourism DevelopmentThe resort was the first hotel in the world to achieve carbon neutral certification from CarboNZero, an internationally accredited greenhouse gas certification scheme. Wolgan Valley is also a proud member of Leading Hotels of the World, the world’s largest luxury hospitality organisation, representing more than 450 of the finest hotels, resorts and spas around the world; and is a founding member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, an association launched in May to promote the uniquely Australian breed of luxury experiential lodges, domestically and internationally. Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa Main Homestead and Main Swimming Poollast_img read more

first_imgTasmania should focus its tourism efforts on visitors from the Middle East, a growing market to Australia. According to NRG Tourism chief executive Nicole Randall, Australia attracts up to 30,000 visitors from the Middle Eastern region every year and a hidden treasure city like Hobart could help boost those numbers, The Mercury reported. “A lot of my clients are from the Middle East and have, therefore, done many of the traditional parts of the world,” Ms Randall said.”They are now looking further afield and this is the next big city for them.” Ms Randall said the state should promote itself through its nature and outdoor activities.”They have come from a desert, they want the lush and the green and the nature-based activities,” Ms Randall said.”What they are after is something completely different to what they have got at home.” Ms Randall added that although 30,000 visitors was a relatively small number in tourism, the spending that comes from Middle Eastern visitors is high.NRG Tourism was among 20 other companies from around the country in Hobart late last week to discuss marketing and promotional tools to increase the state’s tourism. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

first_imgBreakaway Aviation Services has been selected to represent a third international carrier in Australia and New Zealand, with its appointment as the general sales agent (GSA) for Olympic Air (OA).Effective 1 August this year, Breakaway Aviation Services will add OA to its airline portfolio currently made-up of Air Malta and Brussels Airlines.General manager Tony Wilson told e-Travel Blackboard that the company was “proud” to be appointed to the GSA position for the carrier.“[We] will provide quality and professional representation within the region,” Mr Wilson explained.He added that Breakaway Aviation Services is always looking to add airlines to its portfolio and will “continue to strengthen and build on that [GSA] side of the business”.The Sydney-based company will represent the carrier in Australia and New Zealand, including its 14 weekly code share service with Etihad Airlines on flights between Sydney and Melbourne to Athens OA also announced this week that it has added ‘Premium Economy’ cabins to its fleet of Bombardier Q400s.“Olympic Air presents to its passengers a modern and flexible proposal, specifically designed for people who want to stand out, while keeping costs low,” a statement from the carrier read.The airline currently carries 10 Q400 Bombardier and flies to up to 170 flights per day to over 40 destinations worldwide. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

first_imgTen of Travellers Choice’s top agency members will depart Australia today on an exclusive educational to San Francisco and the Napa Valley courtesy of Trafalgar Tours and Qantas Airways.All of the Travellers Choice agents taking part on the unique trip are winners of the national retail network’s annual Silver Choice Awards, presents to members based on their support for key preferred partners.Led by Travellers Choice General Manager Christian Hunter, the Silver Choice Award winners will take part in a Trafalgar Tours eight-day ‘San Francisco and Wine Country Delights’ coach journey. Highlights will include a visit to Golden Gate Park, a tour through the legendary hippy district of Haight Ashbury, and the chance to experience some of Napa Valley’s world-renowned restaurants and vineyards. Agents will also have the opportunity to experience Alcatraz, Monterey and Yosemite National Park.Travellers Choice members compete each year for a total of 30 Choice Awards across three categories – Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year’s Gold Choice Award winners travelled to Europe in April for an eight-day ‘Springtime Along the Rhine’ cruise on Uniworld’s River Empress, while Bronze Choice Award winners travelled to New Zealand in May for an eight-day AAT Kings ‘Northern Experience’ tour of the North Island.The 2011 Choice Awards will be presented at the group’s Annual Shareholders’ Conference, which will take place from 28-30 October at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Source = Travellers Choicelast_img read more

first_imgQantas’ commitment to excellence in wine service has resulted in six top awards at the internationally prestigious Cellar in the Sky Awards, held in London last night.Qantas has scooped the pool with a number of awards, including Best First Class Cellar and Best Business Class Cellar for the second year running.Qantas has also won the award for consistency of wines across the First and Business Class Cellars and Best Presented Wine list.In the individual wine categories, Qantas won Best Business Class Red for Mount Langhi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2008 and Best First Class Sparkling Wine for Comtes de Champagne Taittinger 1999.The Qantas wine program is led by an expert panel of wine industry judges and respected winemakers, Tom Carson (Yabby Lake), Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines) and Stephen Pannell (S.C. Pannell).The program showcases the diversity and quality of the Australian wine industry and the Qantas list is one of the world’s most prestigious with over 250 specially selected local wines.Qantas Executive Manager Customer Experience, Alison Webster said the Qantas Wine Panel continue to deliver an exceptional cellar for Qantas customers.“The Qantas Wine Panel ensures the best selection of Australian wines is delivered to Qantas customers in their seat. We pride ourselves on developing a selection of wines, from the latest wines made by boutique winemakers to the iconic drops that form the very base of Australia’s great winemaking legacy,” Ms Webster said.“Qantas also goes to exceptional lengths to ensure customers are provided with detailed information about what they are drinking through our Sommeliers in the Sky cabin crew training program, in which cabin crew are trained extensively in all aspects of wine service.“It is becoming an increasingly competitive industry however Qantas is continuing to shine by showcasing the best Australia has to offer.”Qantas invests over $25 million dollars in the Australian Wine industry every year through the Qantas Wine Program.In 2005, Qantas became the first airline to be awarded both the Cellars in the Sky Best First Class and Business Class Wine Lists and has continued to win awards, also collecting six awards in 2011.The Cellars in the Sky Awards have been running since 1985. The internationally esteemed competition recognises the best red, white, sparkling and fortified and dessert wine served in the air. Source = Qantas Airwayslast_img read more

first_imgThe president of AGC Aerospace and Defense is now out of a job after being charged for allegedly slapping a toddler on a Delta Air Lines flight.According to reports, the executive was travelling from Minneapolis to St Paul International Airport earlier this month when he allegedly slapped a two-year-old boy sitting in the seat next to him, Minneapolis Business Journal reported.Although pleading not guilty, the boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett said her son was crying shortly ahead of landing, when the business man slapped the boy on the face and left a scratch under his right eye.The executive’s boss, AGC chief executive Al Haase has described his behaviour as “offensive and disturbing” and stressed he was “no longer employed with the company”.It is still unclear whether the executive resigned or was terminated.Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J.last_img read more

first_imgOnly a week before Luxperience 2015 opens and diaries are fullOne week today the Australia Technology Park will be bursting with exhibitors and buyers at the start of the business component of the leading luxury and experiential travel trade exhibition, Luxperience. The Luxperience proprietary on-line appointment system, coordinating over 30,000 meetings across the 3.5 day event, has filled everyone diaries to almost overflowing.The highly anticipated opening event is the Thought Leaders Forum and Welcome Cocktail Party kicking off Luxperience 2015 at the Sydney Town Hall on Sunday, 06 September. Respected journalist, author, columnist, news presenter, blogger and mother (what can’t she do!), Jacinta Tynan will be the Master of Ceremonies.Jacinta is introducing a galaxy of keynote speakers from Anouche Newman, the passionate and fascinating customer experiences expert from the Customer Service Institute of Australia and award-winning cinematographer Corey Baudinette from LUXHD, to Dr Matthew McDougall, CEO of Digital Jungle, the renowned digital marketing expert advising organisations on how to the work through and succeed in the often perplexing social media platforms.There will be a panel discussion on the paradoxical perceptions of high cost events. Is there a backlash on this perceived overt consumerism in events and incentives? And is this perception of materialism stifling innovation in events?  On the panel will be luminaries of the meetings and conventions arena: Anne Candy, from Signature by Anne Candy; Renita Collins, from Directions, and Melissa Bajugi, from Sydney Town Hall.Also presented at the Thought Leaders event will be the initial findings of the latest trends, opportunities and challenges facing the luxury travel industry uncovered in the research initiated by Luxperience with respected market research specialists, MyTravelResearch.com. Not to be forgotten at Luxperience 2015 is the world premiering of the LUXE Concierge App. Everyone attending Luxperience will be given access to their own travel itinerary and appointment schedule through the App, along with access to LUXE’s insightful, comprehensive yet playful guide to Sydney including maps and up-to-the-minute recommendations.Luxperience 2015 is the place to be this September.Source = Luxperiencelast_img read more

first_imgSource = Travel Money NZ Rhine River, GermanyNew report identifies best value holiday spots in UK & EuropeIn the wake of the Brexit vote the spotlight has been on the UK and Europe and many Kiwi holidaymakers are wondering just how far their money will now go due to the fall of the Sterling.While the Euro and other currencies within the European Union haven’t been affected like the British Pound, many travellers have recognised that now is a good time to be travelling to this part of the globe. Travel Money NZ reports the question many of their customers are asking is what destinations offer the best value for money.Released today, the latest edition of the Travel Money NZ Holidays Costs Index (UK/Europe edition) answers this question. Monitoring the price of 10 tourist items in 13 destinations popular with Kiwi travellers, the easy to read index shows how potential destinations measure up, comparing on-the-ground costs such as bottled water, a local meal out and transport from the airport to the city centre.Key findings include:As far as best value destinations go Eastern Europe comes up trumps with Poland a good option for budget conscious travellers, a taxi into the city centre will only set you back $3NZD, compared to $135NZD in London,Croatia also tops the list of inexpensive destinations, particularly for a night out with a meal and beer costing $18NZD per person, on the flip side a night out in Norway might set you back $45NZD,Surprisingly Germany comes out as one of the more affordable destinations, one nights accommodation in a 2/3 star property will cost around $115NZD, that’s compared to $280NZD in Amsterdam,Coffee lovers should head to Italy where a cappuccino will only cost $1.90NZD, Norway on the other hand will set you back $6.70NZD,McDonald lovers might want to re-consider visiting Sweden where a Big Mac will cost $8NZD,Budget-conscious travellers who like a night out should consider the Czech Republic or Poland where a beer costs between $2-3NZD, andThanks to the fall in the Sterling the UK no longer sits at the higher end of the scale, in fact the UK is the cheapest destination for buying a bottle of Coke, $1.10NZD compared to Norways $5NZD.The destinations in order from best value:PolandGermanyCroatiaCzech RepublicSpainGreeceUKIrelandPortugalNorwayItalySwedenNetherlandsScott McCullough, general manager Travel Money NZ, says that since the Brexit vote the demand from customers purchasing Sterling has been phenomenal.“Since the result, our Travel Money NZ stores around the country have had record numbers through the doors with Kiwis wanting to buy large quantities of Sterling. After the initial announcement we nearly ran out of physical cash.”At today’s exchange rates, a traveller converting $5,000NZD into British Pounds would receive approximately £2,800GBP, 10 years ago in July 2006 this would have only bought around £1,600GBP.Mr McCullough says many Kiwis make the mistake of foregoing to pay attention to exchange rates, however this latest movement has really shone the spotlight on the savings that can be made if travellers do their homework.“We know that most of our customers book their flights months in advance but wait until the day they travel to purchase their foreign currency, this can cost in the long run. Exchange rates can see a lot of movement so it’s a good idea for travellers to monitor the market and purchase in advance when the rates are in their favour.” Travel Money NZlast_img read more

first_imgHawaiian Airlines’ new lie flat seats take off from Sydney todayHawaiian Airlines’ new lie flat seats take off from Sydney todayAustralian travellers flying Hawaiian Airlines from today on flights between Sydney or Brisbane and Honolulu will step on board the airline’s newly redesigned Airbus A330 aircraft featuring an elegant new Premium Cabin and expansion of the airline’s popular Extra Comfort product.New Premium CabinIncorporating flowing curves evocative of the winds and the ocean, Hawaiian’s spacious Premium Cabin features 18 lie-flat leather seats that fold into 180-degree beds at a roomy 20.5 inches wide and 76 inches long.  Aligned in a 2-2-2 configuration, the seats are ideally tailored to leisure guests such as couples, families and honeymooners, while offering superior functionality to the business traveler.Hawaiian has also partnered with renowned local designer Sig Zane on a new line of complimentary amenity kits, a cotton quilt and a lounging pillow all fashionably adorned in a ‘Auli‘ilani lehua flower pattern. Premium Cabin guests will receive a selection of soothing products, including a hand and body balm, lip balm and hydrating mist, dental kit, a bamboo comb, and socks with a playful slipper design that invites travelers to “E Hiamoe Maika‘i” (Sleep well). An eye mask, plush mattress pad and pillow are also provided for restful sleep.Hawaiian’s Executive Chef Chai Chaowasaree will delight guests with world-class cuisine presented on custom-crafted dinnerware, linens and trays, and showcasing delicious regional food by Hawai‘i’s top local chefs. A premier cocktail and full beverage bar service will offer specialty drinks such as a signature Mai Tai, wines selected by Hawaiian’s Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya, local craft beer and Hawai‘i-made spirits.Guests will enjoy intuitive seat controls and access to multiple power ports, including two USB connections and one A/C outlet. An advanced in-flight entertainment system with over 100 hours of movies and TV is powered by a 13-inch wide-screen tablet resting on an adjustable telescoping arm for optimal viewing angle and comfort.68 Extra Comfort SeatsThe airline’s popular Extra Comfort seating introduced in 2014 has proven a hit with Australian travellers and is now expanded from 40 to 68 seats per aircraft. Extra Comfort offers 36 inches of seat pitch, priority boarding at the gate, complimentary on-demand in-seat entertainment, and a personal power outlet.In the new configuration, Hawaiian’s A330 aircraft seat 278 passengers, with 18 Premium Cabin Lie Flat seats, 68 Extra Comfort seats and Main Cabin seating for 192 guests with a roomy seat pitch of 31 inches. From the moment travellers board a Hawaiian Airlines flight, the airlines’ signature mea ho’okipa (translation: I am host) on-board hospitality is offered – a warm and friendly celebration of the culture, people and Aloha Spirit of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiian Airlinesbook your flight hereSource = Hawaiian Airlineslast_img read more

first_imgAustralian pilots launch innovative appAustralian pilots launch innovative in-flight entertainment & flight-tracking appInflighto Pty Ltd, an Australian-based company, today announced the launch of their new in-flight entertainment and flight-tracking app, Inflighto, in the Apple App Storeand the Google Play store. The Inflighto app is the first in-flight entertainment app designed by pilots for use by airline passengers while in-flight. It combines highly-accurate ADSB flight-tracking technology and premium content to give passengers an elevated perspective of the world from the air. The Inflighto app supersedes the traditional ‘moving-maps’ currently used by airlines.Inflighto is one of the most sophisticated flight-tracking apps available. It’s the first flight-tracking app to feature geolocated points of interest, tourist destinations and events information so airline passengers can easily see flight-path highlights and identify key landmarks as they fly. This information, from premium content providers, is displayed on highly-detailed ‘moving-maps’. Furthermore, Inflighto is the only flight-tracking app to incorporate live marine vessel tracking, live weather radar, satellite images and in-flight chat. For aspiring pilots, the Inflighto app provides live flight data such as; altitude, ground-speed, vertical speed, heading and geographic location coordinates – which further uplifts the flying experience.The founders of Inflighto are two Australian pilots who are passionate about heightening the flying experience of passengers. Co-founder and commercial airline pilot John Hopkins said that the Inflighto team wanted to create an app that answered the questions most often asked of pilots from passengers; “Where are we?” and “What are we flying over?”. He said that what differentiated the Inflighto app from other flight-tracking apps was the combination of super-accurate tracking technology, premium content and unique features like live marine tracking. John said that the Inflighto team wanted to provide passengers with a better, more informative and inspiring in-flight entertainment experience than the traditional ‘moving-maps’ most airlines currently provide.Inflighto’s co-founder, Christopher Smyth said that the Inflighto app allows airlines to transition traditional, seat-back moving-maps to passengers’ own mobile devices. He said that many airlines are replacing seat-back, in-flight entertainment systems with ‘bring your own device’ solutions to reduce the cost of expensive technology installation and to save weight and fuel costs. Chris said; “The Inflighto app provides a cost-effective moving-map solution to airlines that is fully autonomous and doesn’t require integration with aircraft systems. Inflighto uses ADSB flight-tracking technology so it remains super-accurate on large airliners, at any altitude, anywhere in the world”. The Inflighto app is designed for use with in-flight Wi-Fi which is being rolled-out on commercial airlines globally, and tracks over 90,000 flights and 7,000 airlines world-wide.The Inflighto app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play as a free download. Inflighto also offers a number of paid ‘upgrades’ for users who want premium features such as live weather radar overlay – so they can see where the clouds are on the flight-path and at their destination. Co-founder John Hopkins said; “Passengers can access live weather information so they can better understand why an aircraft may be placed in a holding pattern due to severe weather or anticipate when to expect turbulence during their flight. It’s like the weather radar pilots have in the cockpit but in the palm of your hand!”.Another unique feature of the Inflighto app is In-flight Chat. This innovative feature allows passengers to chat with flight crew and fellow passengers in an open chat-room dedicated to their flight. Chris Smyth said; “Inflight Chat provides the potential for pilots and cabin crew to communicate with interested passengers about flight path highlights without using the PA system. This doesn’t disrupt other passengers who may be resting”. Inflighto also integrates with the major social media platforms to allow passengers to share flight-path images and accurate flight schedule information. Passengers can let family know their actual arrival time and even their gate number with the tap of a button.Response to the launch of the Inflighto app has been very positive with very strong downloads in both the Google Play and Apple App Store and a fast-growing user-base. “Inflighto is helping window-seat aficionados and passengers of all ages engage more with their flying experience by providing them with super-accurate information on aircraft position and key features and landmarks along their route” said John Hopkins, airline pilot and Inflighto co-founder. “If we can help passengers enjoy flying as much as we do, then our job is done!”.About Inflighto Pty LtdInflighto Pty Ltd is an Australian-based technology company formed in 2017 by two Australian pilots, John Hopkins and Christopher Smyth. John and Chris are available for media interviews. Contact Chris Smyth on +61417298598 or chris@inflighto.com. More information and images for media use can be found on the Inflighto website and on the Inflighto app store pages. App Store promotion codes are available on request for parties wishing to review Inflighto premium features.Source = Inflightolast_img read more

first_imgSource = Destination Southern Highlands The Southern Pie-lands warming up for Pie Time 2018The Southern Pie-lands warming up for Pie Time 2018The Southern Highlands is donning its chef’s hats, rallying their many star bakers and bakeries, taste testing some amazing pie fillings, and heating up the pie warmers for what promises to be an even bigger and better Pie Time this June.“Off the back of our National Award-winning short breaks destination marketing campaign for Pie Time 2017 at last month’s Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, the region –  where there is a large saturation of quality pie producers –  is super excited to become The Southern Pie-lands once again for the month of June,” said Steve Rosa, Manager Tourism and Events, Destination Southern Highlands.“June definitely is the time the entire region celebrates the great Australian pie with a series of mouth-watering pie themed events and festivals,” Steve continued.Mr. Rosa revealed some big changes planned for Pie Time 2018 at an industry briefing held last week in Bowral.“This year sees the expansion of the Best Pie Competition to become the NSW and ACT Best Pie Competition. On from 13-15 June, it is this year held further ahead of the Pie Festival allowing bakers from near and wide throughout NSW and ACT to pit pie against pie in five categories, and to be able to keep up with the baking demands to have the pies available for the public at the festival later in the month,” Mr Rosa said.He continued by saying that both Destination Southern Highlands and their Pie Time Events partner, The Big Event Group, have really listened to feedback from both industry and consumers for how Pie Time 2018 could improve upon last year.“Our two-day pie festival has been re-located to the Bong Bong Picnic Racecourse in Bowral this year to accommodate a greater number of stallholders and activities and to make access and parking easier for patrons. Taking place 23-24 June, the newly branded PieFest will celebrate all things pies, wine, beer, cider and spirits from the Southern Highlands and further afield,” Mr Rosa continued.He said the local pie makers, bakers and producers from the Southern Highlands will once again take part in the other pie related events which were highly successful at last year’s Pie Time including Dine with a Pie, where visitors can sample the region’s signature pies at hotels, cafes and restaurants available only for the month of June;  a locals’ pie night; and the Pie Trail where visitors can tour and sample locally made pies from over 30 local pie outlets and pie cooking classes.“We’ll also have a range of brand new pie themed experiences in 2018 including Pie Trike Tours, Pinot and Pie tours and Pie-cycle, a cycling tour which takes in several famous pie stops throughout the Highlands,” Steve continued.For more information on Pie Time visit www.pietime.com.aulast_img read more

first_imgMövenpick Hotels & Resorts strengthens its Thailand portfolioMövenpick Hotels & Resorts strengthens its Thailand portfolio with takeover of iconic Bangkok HotelMövenpick Hotels & Resorts has expanded its Thailand portfolio to nine properties Kingdom-wide after signing an agreement to rebrand and manage the renowned Nai Lert Park Hotel in Downtown Bangkok.The iconic upscale urban resort strategically located on Wireless Road in the Central Business District, yet nestled in an oasis of lush landscaped gardens set back from Bangkok’s bustling streets, will re-open under Mövenpick’s management in early 2019 after a comprehensive refurbishment programme.Offering 294 stylish guest rooms and a wide range of business and leisure facilities, it will be the hospitality firm’s third property in the Thai capital, joining Mövenpick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 Bangkok and Mövenpick Residences Ekkamai Bangkok.Close to major attractions, malls, embassies and corporate offices and within walking distance of Ploenchit BTS skytrain station and Phetchaburi MRT metro station, the property offers guests convenient access to the entire city.“Opportunities to manage legendary hotels do not arise often, and we’re delighted to bring Mövenpick’s signature style to the Nai Lert Park Hotel, which has been a Bangkok landmark for more than three decades,” commented Andrew Langdon, Chief Development Officer for Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.“We look forward to moving this captivating property into an exciting new era as we introduce a health-conscious generation of guests to Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok and further provide world-class wellness facilities in association with the adjoining BDMS Wellness Clinic,” he added.Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Public Company Limited (BDMS) was established on 30th October 1969.  Through business expansion, the Company was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand on 2nd October 1991 and registered its conversion to public company limited in 1994.BDMS is ranked in the top five private hospital groups globally in terms of revenue, one of the most prestigious hospital networks in the Asia-Pacific region with a total of 45 hospitals across the network that have been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). BDMS offers world-class medical care and treatment to both local and international patients, complemented by the latest medical technology.Dr. Poramaporn Prasarttong-Osoth, COO of BDMS group, says, “We are excited to work with Mövenpick to introduce a Wellness Resort with world-class hospitality as well as specialised in-house wellness programmes that are designed for prevention and the achievement of a healthy lifestyle.”All rooms and suites will feature contemporary designs and high-tech amenities while resort facilities will include a large freeform outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and wellness spa. The hotel’s restaurant will serve all natural, organic Thai and international cuisine, the lobby lounge will offer all-day health-conscious refreshments and the pool bar will provide the perfect spot for informal gatherings.Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok will also become a preferred meetings and events destination with its ballroom and function rooms featuring natural light and direct garden access, able to cater to groups of all sizes, from intimate social occasions to large-scale corporate conferences, while the hotel’s garden provides a romantic setting for al fresco events and weddings.The Nai Lert Park Hotel originally opened in 1984 but closed its doors at the end of 2016 to undergo a complete refurbishment. When it opens next year, it will offer guests the high-quality international standards and facilities for which Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is known.For more information on BDMS please visit www.bdms.co.th About Mövenpick Hotels & ResortsMövenpick Hotels & Resorts is a modern, international upscale hotel management firm with a we make moments business philosophy, recognising that small gestures make a big difference to its guests, business partners and its workforce of more than 16,000 team members. The company manages more than 83 hotels, resorts and Nile cruisers across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East and is on track to meet its target of operating 125 properties by 2020. Headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts’ values reflect its Swiss roots and rich culinary heritage and it is passionate about delivering gastronomic excellence and intuitive service – all with a personal touch. Committed to sustainable practices and caring for local communities in the destinations where it operates, Mövenpick is the most Green Globe certified hotel company in the world. For more information, please visit www.movenpick.comSource = Mövenpick Hotels & Resortslast_img read more

first_img Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Agents & Brokers Debt Crisis Euro European Union Fixed-Rate Mortgage Freddie Mac Investors Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Rates Origination Points Processing Service Providers Treasury Yields 2012-07-12 Tory Barringer July 12, 2012 447 Views Mortgage Rates Tumble on Disappointing Jobs Report “”Freddie Mac’s””:http://www.freddiemac.com/ latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates finding yet another record low.[IMAGE]The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.56 percent (0.7 point) this week, down from 3.62 percent the previous week. At the same time last year, the 30-year loan averaged 4.51 percent. This week marks the fourth month that the 30-year average has stayed below 4 percent.[COLUMN_BREAK]The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also fell, averaging 2.86 percent (0.7 point), a drop from 2.89 percent last week. A year ago, the 15-year fixed averaged 3.65 percent.The same took place for the 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), which averaged 2.74 percent with a 0.6 point, down from 2.79 percent from the week before. The 1-year ARM inched up a bit, traveling to 2.69 percent from 2.68 percent a week ago.””Frank Nothaft””:http://www.freddiemac.com/bios/exec/nothaft.html, VP and chief economist with Freddie Mac, attributed the falling rates to Treasury bond yields, which eased on the heels of a disappointing jobs report in June.””Bankrate.com’s””:http://www.bankrate.com/ findings showed that the jumbo 30-year fixed fell to 4.44 percent, while the 15-year fixed drop to 3.05 percent-both record lows. The popular 5-year ARM also fell to a new record low of 2.95 percent.””Between the European debt crisis and evidence of weaker economic growth both in the U.S. and around the globe, investors have had plenty to worry about,”” the finance website said in a statement. “”And when investors worry, they gravitate toward secure investments like U.S. government bonds, to which mortgage rates are pegged.””center_img Share in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicinglast_img read more