Facebook Comments Mr. Thornton, 79, seen earlier this month on his next-to-last day of work for the CIA, retired recently after almost 45 years of driving for the agency. Courtesy of CIA Mr. Thornton, 79, seen Dec. 21, 2013 at his home in Fort Washington, Md., retired recently after almost 45 years of driving for the CIA. People at the agency who didn’t know his name called him “The Hat Man.” Washington Post photo by Sarah L. Voisin No related posts. WASHINGTON, D.C. — The way Mr. Thornton tells the story, it was shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, and he suddenly needed to drive the CIA’s No. 3 official to a secret location three hours away in Virginia. His boss, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, was running late, so Mr. Thornton — a fedora-wearing septuagenarian who everyone, even agency directors, called by that honorific — would need to use his lead foot.“It was at one of these undercover places, and we were doing 80 miles per hour. One time, I hit 100. But I got Buzzy there 15 minutes before the meeting,” said Mr. Thornton, 79, who insists he cannot remember much else about the drive and why the meeting was so urgent. “All I knew about it was that it was a secret place,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”Mr. Thornton never ran spies. (So he says.) He never interrogated a terrorist suspect. But in his nearly 45 years at the CIA — a tenure that ended Dec. 20 when he retired — the Prince George’s County, Md. man worked as an agency driver and became a fixture at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va. In his first two-plus decades, he operated agency shuttle buses, picking up CIA employees around Washington and dropping them off at government facilities. And in the last 17 or so, he chauffeured the agency’s executive director — “ExDir,” in agency parlance — as well as other agency officers.Up until late December, Mr. Thornton occupied an unsung role in the national security establishment. Mr. Thornton was an unarmed CIA driver with top-secret security clearance who every day happened to hold in his hands the lives of elite spymasters — his “principals,” as he dutifully calls them.What did Mr. Thornton overhear in all those trips with the CIA’s senior executives?“You learn not to be too curious,” he said, with a slight grin.“I saw history change all the time, directors and executive directors come in and leave. I was there when things happened,” he said. “But you couldn’t go up and down the street saying you were there. I know it. The people I was hauling know it.”At Langley, Mr. Thornton walked the agency’s seventh floor of senior executives, popping into offices, clad in Burberry or Joseph Abboud suits and red or brown bowlers or fedoras. On his breaks, he routinely could be found in one of the back tables at the agency’s Starbucks, chatting with fellow drivers. (Yes, the CIA has, among other chain eateries, a Starbucks, replete with Aimee Mann music and highly vetted baristas.) Those who didn’t know him by name simply called him “The Hat Man.”In his nearly half-century at the CIA, Mr. Thornton witnessed his employer generate headlines frequently. Some of the people responsible for those headlines were the very people he was driving around.Some of the stories hit close: One of his former principals, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, pleaded guilty in 2008 in a federal corruption case for steering agency contracts to a friend. “Some people have said to me, ‘Well, you were hauling Dusty around, and he was wheeling and dealing,’ Mr. Thornton said. “I just said I was the driver. I didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on.”Foggo, who declined to be interviewed, said in an email: “Mr Thornton, besides being the best dressed person in the agency, was a man whose kindness, humility, and humanity for others often made me wish I was working for him.”Mr. Thornton said one event, more than others, stayed with him: in January 1993, when a Pakistani immigrant shot and killed two agency employees at a red light outside the headquarters. “I had stopped at a McDonald’s and was on the way back to headquarters. I was in the fourth car behind the guys that got shot,” Mr. Thornton said. “The shooter came down the line and was shooting at people. And then he jumped in a car, and they didn’t know where he went. I was scared.”Other memories are more comical. Once, Mr. Thornton recalls, he had to pick up Krongard at a government facility somewhere in Northern Virginia, and suddenly, George Tenet, then the agency’s director, hopped in the back of his car, ditching his armed security.“Tenet just said something like, ‘Let’s go! Put the pedal to the metal!’” Mr. Thornton said, laughing. If Mr. Thornton overheard anything juicy from his principals, the talk likely centered on who was getting which job. “There could be discussion that you were going to promote Joe to John’s job,” Krongard said. “In the agency, that’s worth its weight in gold, rather than whether we’re going to run a coup in some country because that’s business as usual and won’t affect anyone.”One morning this month, Mr. Thornton sat down for his Starbucks routine and was joined by his pony-tailed colleague Bruce, who drives the agency’s general counsel. (The agency asked The Washington Post not to reveal Bruce’s last name because he still works there.)It was about 9 a.m., and Mr. Thornton had just returned from ferrying an agency employee back and forth to the Pentagon.Suddenly, they saw a person sit down next to them carrying a bag with a lock on it.“Sometimes, you see a guy. He looks like a real nerd! Then you see a lock bag and you wonder, what’s in there?” Bruce said, laughing.“That’s small fry. I do the big guys. But if that bag gets out from you, then you are done,” Mr. Thornton said very seriously. “Let me tell you. You are done.”Like other drivers, Bruce views Mr. Thornton as a father figure. At some point after Bruce was hired several years ago, Mr. Thornton pulled him aside. “He shut the office door. He laid down rules. He said, ‘Come to work on time. Wear a tie. Get your shoes shined. Mind your business,’ ” Bruce said. “Some of those things I tell my kids.”The drivers, after all, undergo polygraphs, which Mr. Thornton rarely minded. “They strap you in and put all this junk on you,” he said, with a chuckle. “They ride on you, like ‘What’d you hear in the car?’ and ‘Have you been overseas?’ But I really can’t discuss what they ask you.”Mr. Thornton grew up in Leesburg, Va. as one of 16 children, the son of a domestic worker and farmer. He and his twin sister were the first in their family to earn a high school diploma, graduating in the early 1950s from the all-black Douglass High School in Leesburg. His first job: working as a janitor at Melpar, an engineering government contractor.Then, he got hired as a messenger at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit corporation that operates federally funded research centers for the government. In that job, he often traveled to the CIA to pick up library books, he said. On one of his CIA trips, he learned the agency was hiring drivers, for better pay. He applied and got the job.On June 8, 1969, back when Richard Helms was director, Mr. Thornton began his CIA marathon and became one of the longest-serving employees at the agency.He was one of a small number of black employees at the agency during his first several years on the job. Sometimes, he said, it felt as though “you drove a car, you moved furniture, or worked in the mail room, those were the only jobs you could get as a black person there.” Still, Mr. Thornton said he always felt embraced his supervisors and colleagues.The first No. 3 official whom Mr. Thornton drove around was Nora Slatkin, the first woman in the agency’s history to hold that position. When she interviewed him to be her driver, Mr. Thornton said she specifically told him she didn’t like how her last driver got out of the car on the side of the road to give her privacy when she spoke on the phone.“She said she needed to trust me,” he said. “She was busy and she had to be where she needed to be.”Other top agency bosses say Mr. Thornton knew exactly the tone to set, especially on solemn occasions. Michael Morell, the former acting director, remembers that Mr. Thornton drove him and his wife to a funeral wake for Rachel Dean, a CIA support officer from Virginia killed in 2006 in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan. “The wake was a couple hours outside Washington, it was raining very hard, the highway was filled with cars,” Morell recalled. “Not easy driving. But he got us there on time. He knew the significance of where he was taking us.”V. Sue Bromley, the agency’s No. 3 official until earlier this year, said she most remembers Mr. Thornton driving her to Dover Air Base in Delaware to watch the remains of fallen officers come home. “He knew it was hard. He knew when or if you wanted to talk. And if you wanted to say how it had gone, he’d listen,” Bromley said. “He was my safe harbor.”Mr. Thornton said he’ll never forget the time in 2012 when Bromley brought him into her office. His son had just died from a heart attack — the third of his four children to pass away. “She closed her office down and all the secretaries left,” Mr. Thornton said, his eyes watering. “She said how bad she felt. It was good for me to talk to her, and good for her.”Now, Mr. Thornton is spending more time with his second wife, Dianne Thornton, a retired Montgomery County, Md. school principal. No more 3:30 a.m. wake-up times. No more 5 a.m. arrival times. No more 12- or 13-hour days. No more being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now it’s time for vacations in Florida or overseas. To this day, Dianne doesn’t question what her husband did exactly for CIA. Was he more than a just driver — perhaps a covert operative? At that question, his wife uttered a word not even people at the agency use.“That,” she said, “is not my Bernard.”© 2013, The Washington Post
The International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) issued a report recommending the inclusion of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian spheres of Diquís on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List, President Laura Chinchilla said on Tuesday.The technical recommendation boosts the spheres’ chance of making the list when finalists are announced during the next session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting from June 15-25 in Doha, Qatar.“UNESCO’s decisions have never differed from ICOMOS recommendations. It is a good sign that brings us closer to the goal,” Chinchilla said.Costa Rica in 2012 submitted the nomination of the stone spheres handcrafted by the Boruca indigenous people between 400-1500 B.C. Experts believe that the spheres had astronomical, social and artistic purposes.Some 200 spheres ranging in size from 7 centimeters to 2.5 meters in diameter and between a few kilograms to over 15 tons have been found at 45 archaeological sites in Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific.The spheres were placed in open areas, in front of principal residences or in special locations. Because of their number, sizes, finishes and contexts, the spheres are considered unique.Culture Minister Manuel Obregón said that UNESCO’s approval would help Costa Rica’s nominations planned for Liberia’s Old Town in the province of Guanacaste and the Caribbean Cultural Corridor in Limón. Facebook Comments Related posts:Mysterious stone spheres granted UNESCO World Heritage status Spanish mega-star, haunted houses, and other happenings around Costa Rica PHOTOS: Grinding out the blues over the weekend, Barrio Amón ‘felt like New Orleans’ PHOTOS: Snapshots of Costa Rica’s Independence Day Parade
Facebook Comments The idea of sports uniting an otherwise politically troubled region might seem a little dubious and superficial at first. But there really is something to it, it seems.Costa Rica’s beloved national men’s football team, La Sele, is receiving lots of praise from throughout Central America (and the world, really) after dominating the so-called “Group of Death” during first-round play at the World Cup Brazil 2014.The international love-fest started with Costa Rica’s shocking upset of higher-ranked Uruguay two weeks ago, with a score of 3-1. La Sele’s second goal in that match was scored by Óscar Duarte, a 25-year-old Nicaragua-born naturalized Tico. If you’ve ever traveled to or lived in Nicaragua or Costa Rica, you’ll understand the implications of this duality of citizenship and sport, particularly given the two countries’ historic political hostility.Both countries have pending cases before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, over border spats that reached a boiling point in late 2010, when Costa Rica accused Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega of invading his southern army-less neighbor’s territory. Ortega then threatened to “reclaim” Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste, an outlandish burst of bravado that only deepened the animosity.But that tension could be softening, thanks to La Sele. As Fusion’s Tim Rogers writes:Duarte, however, has suddenly given Nicaraguans a homegrown hero to cheer for on the world’s biggest stage. His goal last Saturday has had the whole country buzzing all week in eager anticipation of Friday’s match between Costa Rica and Italy.Watch Duarte’s goal:https://vine.co/v/MIKX9azaEjrThe piropos have been coming in from all over the region. The latest is from Panamanian-born musical icon Rubén Blades, who wrote a letter to Costa Rican band Editus to praise the Ticos, not only for their World Cup play, but also for being a tiny nation that believes in itself.An excerpt of the letter, posted on Blades’ Facebook, states:What pride you must feel, justly so, for this triumph… which in spite of having to do with sports seems to me to transcend that boundary and transform into yet more proof of what a country like Costa Rica can be, within the realm of competition and international rivalry. What we owe now to that representation of your country is never to forget the quality, passion, faith and total commitment of a team that dignifiedly represents the potential of the Costa Rican Nation, and in general, of ALL of Latin America.Blades loves Costa Rica’s Editus, who played on his 2002 Grammy-winning album “Mundo” and have accompanied the salsa and Latin jazz icon in several performances and tours over the years. (Another Costa Rican band, Son de Tikizia, also have backed Blades on tour.) “They don’t even know how important they are in my life,” Blades once said of Editus, in an interview during a performance on the musical show “Sessions on West 54th.”It’s a compliment the tiny nation – often dubbed one of the happiest countries on the planet – will happily embrace. And as Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís recently noted, the world’s eyes are now upon us. But politicians aren’t the ones who brought us to this pinnacle; it was a team of young, ambitious footballers, led by a brilliant Colombian coach, whose accomplishments will be remembered forever. ¡Vamos Ticos!Costa Rica takes on Greece in the next round of World Cup play on Sunday at 2 p.m.Watch Rubén Blades and Editus play “Sessions on West 54th”: Related posts:Who’s Eddie Vedder got: Costa Rica or Italy? In Costa Rica, pride for La Sele’s historic World Cup play Snapshots from the Web of Costa Rica’s historic World Cup win A rebuttal to Wall Street Journal editor’s call for US World Cup fans to ignore Costa Rica
Related posts:What to do in Costa Rica: concerts, culture and love around the country PHOTOS: Latin Americans gather in Costa Rica for graffiti festival Ballet performance raises funds for low-income patients and families Benefit concerts for Guatemala to take place in Costa Rica, Mexico 13’30 Restaurant, located in Barrio Escalante in eastern San José, also serves as a small gallery space for both national and international artists, designers and musicians. Today it will be inaugurating the exhibition “Amorfia” by Guatemalan artist Herssonoe.The exhibit is 13’30’s first international artist exhibition and features nine different paintings focused on the artist’s concept of imperfection. The paintings are portraits in a bright, vivid color palette, with irregular lines and a lack of perspective.The exhibition’s inauguration is today at 7:00 p.m. at 13’30 in Barrio Escalante. Entrance fee is for free and the exhibition is up for 15 days. All of Herssonoe’s paintings are on sale. For more information visit the event’s Facebook page, Herssonoe’s Facebook page or 13’30’s Facebook page. Facebook Comments
Facebook Comments Jaguars represent an important part of Latin America’s indigenous heritage. For its strength, grace and mysterious aura, it is a fascinating creature that lives in the Costa Rican forests.But not everyone knows about the dangers these wildcats face. Jaguars keep bumping into human obstacles, which stop them from their natural path and lead to several dead jaguars every year.Read about this problem and approaches to solve it: Jaguars in danger: Building pathways for wild cats to protect a Costa Rican symbol Related posts:Gardeners of the forest: The tapir in Costa Rica Fighting for women’s issues with art Another culinary trip around the world HolaLola: Capturing Costa Rica’s essence in art
Campiani, who asked his workers to stay optimistic, work hard and “don’t forget to smile for our passengers,” blamed Uruguay’s neighbors, competitors and politicians for his company’s difficulties.Airlines worldwide face higher fuel prices and tighter profit margins, but some are suffering more than others as competitors merge to cut costs and squeeze out smaller competitors.Brazil’s TAM and Chile’s LAN each reported a 22 percent plunge in first-quarter profits, citing rises in fuel costs and other expenses among other factors. Another Brazilian airline, GOL, laid off 1,200 people to cut costs. Aerolineas Argentinas continues to bleed money, receiving more than $200 million in subsidies during the first quarter of this year alone.“The price that airlines are paying for fuel is still very high so airlines have been pressured by costs. There has also been a worldwide and regional tendency towards mergers. This allows for lower costs for clients but it pressures margins for less efficient airlines that have a hard time competing with major carriers,” said Jorge Sepulveda, who watches LAN for the EuroAmerica brokerage in Santiago, Chile. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Pluna, the plucky airline of little Uruguay, is particularly vulnerable since it competes with Argentina’s heavily subsidized national airline and Chile’s LAN, which this month completes its merger with Brazil’s TAM to create the region’s largest airline, LATAM. Twenty-five percent of Pluna’s shares are state-owned and 75 percent are held by an investment group, LeadGate, which specializes in turning around struggling companies in emerging markets.“We’re going through strong turbulence,” Campiani wrote. “All the aviation in our region is suffering from big problems, due to the major slowdown of economies that were growing at gigantic steps and now have stopped.”He blamed Brazil, where economic growth slowed to 2.7 percent last year after booming at 7.5 percent in 2010, and he cited “the restrictive policies applied by Argentina” for Pluna’s change of fortune, which has come so suddenly that it still hasn’t shown up in quarterly reports.Pluna just had its best summer vacation season ever, flying nearly full planeloads of Argentines from Buenos Aires to the Uruguayan beach resort of Punta del Este. But that traffic has collapsed in the last few weeks due to draconian currency controls imposed by Argentina’s government on its citizens, who have long used Uruguay as a place to shelter and hide their wealth from tax collectors. Check your body, save your life Associated PressMONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) – Brazil’s slowing growth and Argentina’s bewildering trade and currency restrictions are dragging down the profits of some of the region’s airlines, which tend to be a reliable indicator of economic misfortune.In Uruguay, the national airline Pluna is resisting a $30 million government bailout offer, saying that unless politicians provide more protection from unfair competition, “everything we built will collapse.” That warning came in an unusually frank letter that became public Monday after CEO Matias Campiani sent it to Pluna employees. Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology “For months now, the government has said it wants to invest more and the private partner is saying that it has no problem with investing more, as long as some of conditions change so that Pluna can be more competitive,” he said.The lack of access to Argentine destinations, which are now dominated by Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral, runs counter to a South American trade agreement that Argentina signed along with Uruguay establishing reciprocal access to each other’s destinations. The executive said the member countries confronted Argentina on this point during their last summit, but the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez still refuses to comply.Pedro Apezteguia, a top official at Uruguay’s economy ministry, told The Associated Press that the government will do all it can short of giving preferential treatment to Pluna or any other company.As for Argentina’s restrictions, “it’s a sovereign country,” he said. “There’s little the Uruguayan government can do about the resolutions of the Argentine government.”Campiani said Pluna has fallen victim to a price war as Aerolineas Argentinas and TAM sell tickets for Buenos Aires-Sao Paulo flights at just $180, compared to $300 a year ago, despite higher costs. But these larger carriers also face cutthroat competition: Brazilian budget airlines Trip and Azul now plan to merge, angling for position in the battle for their country’s expanding middle class. “These Argentine currency controls have significantly reduced our traffic and made it impossible for us to bring money from Pluna Argentina to Pluna Uruguay,” Campiani said.Other frustrations abound: The Argentine government has refused to let Pluna fly to more destinations inside Argentina, even though Uruguayan politicians allowed Argentina’s state-owned domestic carrier, Austral, to fly inside Uruguay. And because of shortcomings in Uruguay’s air traffic control, the newspaper El Observador reported, Pluna can’t fly close to the coast, increasing the cost of its Buenos Aires-Montevideo route by 30 percent.All of these factors have contributed to Pluna’s reported losses, which still haven’t reflected the abrupt disappearance of Argentine passengers in the last few weeks.An Uruguayan executive in a position to know about the airline’s negotiations with the government said options under discussion include bringing in new investment, taking on more debt, reducing costs and finding ways to boost revenue.The executive, who insisted on speaking anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the bailout, said improving Pluna’s situation isn’t something the airline can accomplish alone. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Top Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Sponsored Stories Comments Share Ricardo Marenco, duty manager for Pluna at Montevideo’s gleaming new international airport, said Monday that he was relieved to get such an honest accounting of the company’s challenges from its CEO.“It’s a feeling of support,” Marenco told The Associated Press. “Without a doubt, before the letter there was a general feeling of deep concern, and now people are less anxious, and sticking together. Not just with him, but with the group, with our fellow employees.”___Associated Press writers Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile; Bradley Brooks in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 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Top Stories Comments Share _ New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras receives a presidential mandate Monday to start coalition-building talks. He will have three days in which to strike a deal. If that fails, the mandate goes to Alexis Tsipras, head of the second-placed Syriza radical left coalition, who wants to scrap Greece’s austerity commitments._ Tsipras would have another three days to form a government. If he is also unsuccessful the third-placed Socialists would have a go. A new impasse would force a last-ditch effort by President Karolos Papoulias to broker an agreement during special meetings of party leaders._ After the previous May 6 vote, which also led to a hung parliament, party leaders exhausted the entire process without result. This time a government looks likelier, as the conservatives combined with Socialist PASOK would control a total 162 seats in Parliament. However, PASOK has said it would prefer a broad coalition including Syriza, even though Tsipras’ party has ruled out the idea.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Patients with chronic pain give advice ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The next steps in the laborious process of forming a coalition government in Greece after Sunday’s new inconclusive elections:_ Conservative New Democracy came first in Sunday’s vote with a higher percentage than on May 6. But it is still 22 legislators short of forming a government on its own. That means it needs a coalition partner. To pass laws, it needs a simple majority of 151 seats in the 300-strong Parliament. In practical terms, however, it will need a much stronger majority to have a real chance of success. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches
Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Comments Share Sponsored Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day For years, the FARC sought a military withdrawal from the area in order to negotiate a prisoner swap. But successive governments refused.The government of President Juan Manuel Santos formally inaugurated peace talks with the FARC on Oct. 18 in Norway, seeking to end a stubborn nearly half-century conflict that yearly claims at least 3,000 lives.The talks are to resume in mid-November in Cuba. The government has refused to agree to a cease-fire or a safe haven, which it granted during the last attempt to negotiate peace in 1999-2002.___Associated Press writer Vivian Sequera contributed to this story.(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 New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like They were carrying the suitcase on a bicycle two blocks from the central square of Pradera, in Valle del Cauca state, where more than 5,000 children had gathered, said town security chief Carlos Leynton. The bomb apparently went off prematurely.He said seven of the injured were hospitalized, including the 9- and 11-yearold boys who suffered head injuries and were rushed in critical condition to the regional capital of Cali. Fourteen children in all were reported injured.“It was chaos, horrible,” said Alba Nelly, a 45-year-old housewife who was slightly injured in the blast, which struck as she sat by her door diagonal to the square with her 22-year-old paraplegic daughter.“We were celebrating Halloween and my daughter was giving out candy to people who passed by,” she told The Associated Press by phone.Ramirez speculated the bomb’s intended target was Pradera’s police station, which is a block from where the explosives detonated. He said such bombs are typically triggered by cellphones. Leynton announced an $11,000 reward for those behind the action.Pradera, a town of 60,000 people, is located in an area of traditionally strong FARC influence, where security forces are often attacked. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Associated PressBOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – A suitcase bomb exploded near a town square where 5,000 children were celebrating Halloween, killing two suspected bombers and injuring 37 people, including two boys who were hospitalized in critical condition Thursday, authorities said.The two dead were suspected members of a drug-trafficking band allied with rebels from the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the regional police chief, Col. Nelson Ramirez. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day
Top Stories Sponsored Stories (AP) – Syria’s neighbors are increasingly being drawn into the country’s civil war in a variety of ways, whether militarily or due to an exodus of Syrians fleeing the fighting at home. The spillover has raised concerns that the nearly 20-month-long conflict between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebels trying to topple him could endanger the entire Middle East.Here is a look at how neighboring states are being affected by Syria’s bloodletting: 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 IRAQSunni and Shiite fighters from Iraq have made their way to Syria to join the civil war _ the former on the side of the opposition, the latter siding with Assad’s regime, according to Iraqi officials and Shiite militants. Sunni al-Qaida fighters are believed to be moving between Iraq and Syria, and some al-Qaida fighters in Iraq’s western Anbar province have regrouped under the name of the Free Iraqi Army, a nod to the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, Iraqi officials say.The United States has pressured Baghdad to stop Iranian planes suspected of ferrying arms to Syria from using Iraqi airspace. Iraq has so far acknowledged only forcing two planes to land for inspection and said it didn’t find any weapons either time.About 49,000 Syrian refugees have temporarily resettled in Iraq, according to the U.N. refugee agency.(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 Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments Share TURKEYTurkey has struck the Syrian military repeatedly in response to shelling and mortar rounds from Syria since Oct. 3, when shells from Syria struck the Turkish village of Akcakale, killing two women and three children. The incident prompted NATO to convene an emergency meeting and Turkey sent tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to the area. Turkey’s military has also scrambled fighter jets after Syrian helicopters flew close to the border.There are about 120,000 Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkish camps, with up to 70,000 more living in Turkey outside the camps. Thousands more wait at the border, held up as Turkey struggles to cope with the influx. Turkey also hosts much of the opposition and rebel leadership.Turkey has called for a buffer zone in Syria where the opposition and civilians would be protected, a step that would likely require international enforcement of a no-fly zone. Russia and China have blocked robust moves against the Syrian regime at the U.N. Security Council, and the United States has been reluctant to use its military in another Mideast conflict.ISRAELIsrael on Monday became the second country to strike the Syrian military, after Turkey. An Israeli tank hit a Syrian armored vehicle after shells from fighting in Syria exploded in Israel-controlled Golan Heights. A day earlier, Israel fired a warning shot near a group of Syrian fighters. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 5 ways to recognize low testosterone On Oct. 19, a car bomb assassinated Lebanon’s top intelligence chief, Wissam al-Hassan. Many in Lebanon blamed Syria and Hezbollah for the assassination.The northern Lebanese city of Tripoli has seen repeated clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites _ the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs. Battles in the city in May and August killed at least 23 people total and wounded dozens.The kidnapping of Lebanese Shiites in Syria by rebels has also had repercussions in Lebanon. In May, Shiites blocked roads and burned tires in protest over the abductions, and later in the summer a powerful Shiite clan took 20 Syrians and a Turk in Lebanon captive in retaliation, all of whom have since been released.Lebanon also shelters about 100,000 Syrian refugees.JORDANJordan has taken the brunt of the refugee exodus from Syria, with some 265,000 Syrians fleeing across the border. Around 42,000 of them are housed at Zaatari, a dust-filled refugee camp, where riots have broken out several times by Syrians angry over lack of services.A growing number of stray Syrian missiles have fallen on Jordanian villages in the north in recent weeks, wounding several civilians.Late last month, a Jordanian border patrol officer was killed in clashes with eight militants trying to cross into Syria. Hours earlier, Jordan announced the arrest of 11 suspected al-Qaida-linked militants allegedly planning to attack shopping malls and Western diplomatic missions in Jordan. Syrian shells have exploded inside the Golan several times in recent weeks damaging apple orchards, sparking fires and spreading panic but causing no injuries. In early November, three Syrian tanks entered the Golan demilitarized zone, and in a separate incident an Israeli patrol vehicle was peppered with bullets fired from Syria; no one was hurt in the incident and the Israeli military deemed it accidental.There is concern in Israel that Assad may try to spark a conflict with Israel, opening up the potential for attacks by Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel has also warned that Syria’s chemical weapons could be turned on the Jewish state. Still, while no friend of Assad, Israel is also worried that if he is toppled, Syria could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists or descend into sectarian warfare.LEBANONMortars and shells from the Syrian side regularly crash in Lebanon, causing several casualties, though Lebanese forces have never fired back. More dangerously, Syria’s conflict has heightened deep rivalries and sectarian tensions in its smaller neighbor. Lebanon is divided between pro-Assad and anti-Assad factions, a legacy of the nearly three decades when Damascus all but ruled Lebanon, until 2005. Assad’s ally, the Hezbollah militia is Lebanon’s strongest political and military movement. How do cataracts affect your vision?
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Guerrero state prosecutors said in a statement the inmates killed Monday had been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison for robbery and homicide.Last week, a group of six gunmen managed to enter the prison in Iguala and opened fire, killing four inmates.They then opened fire on guards who returned fire, killing five gunmen. A prison guard was also killed.The gunmen apparently gained entry to the prison by telling a guard at the gate that they were officials bringing in a prisoner.Mexican drug gangs have been known to assassinate members of rival gangs in prison. They have also have stormed prisons to free gang members.Guerrero state authorities said they haven’t determined what group or groups are behind the attacks.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) MEXICO CITY (AP) – Three inmates were beaten to death inside a prison in the resort city of Acapulco on Monday, an attack linked to a shootout inside another penitentiary last week that left 10 people dead.The three men were killed after being transferred to Acapulco from a prison in the city of Iguala, where five gunmen, four inmates and a guard died in a shootout last week, said a Guerrero state official.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the inmates were killed hours after arriving at the prison. Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy 0 Comments Share Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Men’s health affects baby’s health too How men can have a healthy 2019
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober — ECONOMIC NUMBERS BETTER THAN THEY APPEARThe economy shrank in the January-March quarter at an annual rate of 0.7 percent, its worst showing in a year. Growth is recovering in the current quarter, though it’s expected to reach no more than a modest 2 percent to 2.5 percent annual pace.Economists say much of the winter slowdown reflected temporary factors that are fading: Harsh winter weather kept many shoppers indoors. A steep drop in oil prices hammered the energy industry, which sharply reduced spending on drilling rigs, steel pipe and other goods. A labor dispute at West Coast ports disrupted exports.“There’s a lot of reasons to believe that the first quarter was transitory,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase. “Presumably, employers saw the same thing — that if you had a bad winter, you wouldn’t change expansion plans.”Plus, economists say the government may be having trouble measuring first quarter economic data accurately. The government is reviewing the issue and may adjust its figures in July.— HOT TIME FOR COLLEGE GRADUATESThe jobs recovery has been defined in part by a disproportionate number of low-wage positions: Burger flippers, store cashiers and home health aides. It’s hard for an economy to boom when a growing share of workers are stuck in jobs that pay far less than the average hourly wage of $24.96. But employers are showing a renewed appetite for new college graduates. In May, 780,000 began looking for work, and 760,000 found jobs. College graduates tend to have higher lifetime earnings and fewer bouts of unemployment, reflecting the prosperity that generally comes from higher education.Deonta Brooks graduated from Auburn University in May and received two job offers. He chose to become a government food inspector in Alabama, figuring his salary would go further there than in Chicago, where the other position is based.“There are a ton of jobs,” he said. “I applied for 20-something jobs, so I knew eventually that I was going to get something.”— MANY COMPANIES AREN’T FEELING THE PAINMajor U.S. corporations are burdened by the strong dollar, which has made their goods more expensive overseas and cut into export sales and foreign profits. But smaller businesses, which employ a majority of the U.S. workforce, are largely immune to currency swings. And they appear to have stepped up hiring in May more than larger companies did.Payroll processor ADP says companies with fewer than 50 employees added 122,000 jobs in May — 10 times the number added by companies with more than 500 workers. Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Sponsored Stories How men can have a healthy 2019 4 must play golf courses in Arizona “It’s still not great, still not a 3 percent growth rate, but it’s better than the past two months,” said Gregory Daco, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, who sees wage growth returning.A separate government measure that includes wages and benefits has risen 2.6 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department. The additional income will enable consumers to spend more.___Follow Josh Boak at https://twitter.com/JoshBoakCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The Baltimore-based tutoring company Sylvan Learning plans to open up to 20 centers this year, creating 30 to 40 full-time and potentially 400 part-time jobs. Greater demand for their programs in science, math and robotics indicates that more parents are investing in their children’s futures, said Sylvan Learning chief financial officer John McAuliffe.— FULL-TIME JOBS ARE PICKING UPOne ongoing concern throughout the recovery has been the prevalence of part-time jobs. But full-time employment has been picking up in recent months, while part-time jobs have leveled off. The number of Americans with full-time jobs surged 630,000 in May and has jumped 2.6 million in the past year.But more progress is needed. The ranks of full-time workers are only now nearing their pre-recession level. There are still nearly 2.8 million more part-time workers than when the Great Recession officially began in December 2007.— PAY RAISES PICKING UPPay increases have been a missing piece in this recovery. Workers have been getting by on raises barely above inflation. But pay rose at a faster clip in May — 2.3 percent over the past year. This suggests that the 5.5 percent unemployment rate may be leading to the kind of tight job market that generally compels employers to raise wages to attract workers. Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers last month delivered a vote of confidence in the U.S. economy.They added 280,000 jobs — a surprisingly robust total at a time when consumers are hesitant to spend and the economy appears less than fully healthy. Some key industries, from energy to manufacturing, have been struggling. And economic troubles overseas have put investors on edge.Yet Friday’s report from the Labor Department showed that employers seem confident that the economy is regaining its footing after shrinking at the start of the year and that their customer demand will accelerate. “It’s kind of a strange situation because consumers are getting jobs, and their incomes are improving,” said John Silvia, chief economist at the bank Wells Fargo.Six years after the worst downturn in more than seven decades officially ended, Silvia said, “We’ve moved beyond the Great Recession.”Across the economy, employers are betting that steady hiring has begun to drive economic momentum. Home and auto sales are up. Restaurants, sports stadiums, theaters and hotels added 57,000 workers last month in anticipation of summer vacations.Friday’s report led many economists to predict that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as September because the economy might no longer need the stimulus of near-zero rates.Even the slight rise in unemployment in May, to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent in April, reflected a positive trend: The rate rose because hundreds of thousands more Americans felt it was a good time to start looking for work. Because not all found jobs right away, they were counted as unemployed, and their numbers raised the jobless rate.Here are five reasons U.S. employers are stepping up hiring despite tepid economic growth: Comments Share
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A Anne Marie Mathews – Director of Public Relations & Kevin Sheehan – President, Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Cruise Line launched their ‘Partners First’ philosophy at the Cruise3Sixty Conference in Fort Lauderdale last week.The focus on their partners was emphasised by the inclusion of such clients as Avoya, Cruise Planners and World Travel Holdings as part of the introduction to their press conference. Whilst not a new philosophy, ‘Partners First’, encourages accountability by the cruise line on all levels.“We want to be available for our travel partners 24-7,” said Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Passenger Services, Norwegian Cruise Line. With a vast majority of the company executives former travel agents, Mr Stuart believes it gives the line a broader perspective. 73% of Norwegian’s bookings are currently recorded as being made through travel agents. Whilst this is a significant reduction from previous years, Mr Stuart believes this has been attributed to a change in the consumer mindset. An increase in this percentage is anticipated as a result of the ‘Partners First’ program.
The Virgin Blue group of airlines has expanded its codeshare agreement with Delta Air Lines to increase services across the US, Australia and New Zealand. As part of the expanded agreement, Virgin Blue’s subsidiary, V Australia will add San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Detroit to its operations while Delta will code share on flights between Sydney and Perth , Adelaide, Canberra, Auckland and Christchurch.With over 60 percent of passengers scheduling the US as a stop over to other destination, Virgin Blue Group executive of corporate advisory Merren McArthur said the expansion is a “natural step forward” for the carriers. “We know that connectivity within the US is extremely important to Australian travellers,” Ms McArthur said. “It will also bring more traffic from the US onto the Virgin Blue domestic network and help promote key tourist destinations within Australia and New Zealand.”Ms McArthur concluded that the carrier also recently submitted an antitrust immunity request with Delta to the US Department of Transportation and is expecting a decision within the coming month. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Jetstar has gone on the defensive, rejecting employee claims that the low-cost carrier is exploiting its staff and forcing them to work long hours.Earlier this week cabin crew told media that the Qantas subsidiary compromises flight safety by often expecting its staff to work up to 20-hour shifts with no breaks between return flights, ABC News reported.However, chief executive Bruce Buchanan denied the claims, stating that rostered shifts do not exceed up to 14 hours and that the carrier implements “the highest level” of fatigue procedures. Mr Buchanan added that he does not see truth in the majority of claims and that in-line with industry there are circumstances that result in people working extra hours. “If someone is extending, we take them off the next day and make sure they get some rest,” he explained.”Fatigue risk management is about creating rest periods, either when they are flying or when they are on the ground.”He concluded that the carrier also encourages its staff to notify the airline if they are feeling fatigued and management will ensure they are taken off “that shift”.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Following its acquisition of Brisbane’s Chifley hotel, SilverNeedle Hospitality has announced the property would undergo refurbishment and be rebranded as the world’s first NEXT Hotel. Described as one of the largest rebuilding projects in Australia in recent years, SilverNeedle chief executive Iqbal Jumabhoy told e-Travel Blackboard the first wave of refurbishments would be completed within the first 12 months while the entire hotel is expected to be completed by 2014 and in time for the G20 Meeting in Brisbane.As part of the redesign, Mr Jumabhoy said the property would become a completely business focused hotel with an extra 150 rooms as well as extra facilities and meeting spaces.“It will be a completely business focused hotel… designed by business people for business people,” he explained.Selecting Brisbane, Australia to host the first NEXT Hotel, Mr Jumabhoy said the city was chosen because of a combination of circumstances, including the city’s recently unveiled Master Plan, but stressed the company would look at expanding the brand to other major metros overtime.“We will build those out overtime, but at the same time acquiring a hotel in Australia underscores our commitment to the Australian market as well as the continued growth of our other brands.”Meanwhile, Mr Jumabhoy said the company was also looking to expand its presence in Asia with a particular focus on South and South East Asia.
Regional Express (Rex) today launched its first flight between Cairns and Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) Airport, a new service that will operate each week day.Rex general manager network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge said the new service will bring safe and reliable air travel options to regional communities in Australia.“The Rex Board has set aside a considerable budget to fulfil this commitment and we will explore all viable propositions from any community that wants to work in partnership with Rex as was showcased today in our collaboration with the NPA council,” Mr Lodge said.Since Rex commenced flights on the Gulf route in January this year, Mr Lodge said the company has been approached by businesses and individuals demanding direct flights between Cairns and Mount Isa – a service which has been unavailable for three months.“Today I am pleased to announce that Rex will commence a direct Regular Public Transport (RPT) service between Cairns and Mount Isa with effect from Monday 25 May 2015,” Mr Lodge said.“This will allow business travellers from Cairns to spend a full day in Mount Isa before returning home late evening.”From 25 May, the airline will base three aircraft in Cairns with the possibility of expanding its fleet size in the new financial year.The expansion has resulted in Rex investing in infrastructural support in far North Queensland, where they will open a new crew base in Cairns and will purchase a large engineering facility to service and maintain the aircraft.Rex, Australia’s largest independent regional airline, consists of a fleet of more than 40 Saab 340 jets and operates 1,300 weekly flights to 53 domestic destinations.Source = ETB Travel News: Brittney Levinson
Yellowstone National ParkMammoth dining room in Yellowstone National Park earns coveted 4-Star Green Restaurant CertificationIt seems only appropriate that the Mammoth Dining Room is the first restaurant in the national park system to ever earn the coveted 4-Star Green Restaurant Association certification, given Yellowstone National Park is also the first national park in United States (established in 1872). Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the company that operates the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, received the news in December 2016. The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is a national non-profit organization that provides a cost-effective way for restaurants to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability. The Mammoth Dining Room 4-Star rating (out of a possible 4 Stars), is the FIRST 4-Star certified restaurant in Wyoming and one of only 25 restaurants to hold the distinction in the world. To achieve certification, restaurants must address critical areas that include: energy, food, water, waste, disposables, chemicals and pollution reduction, and furnishings and building materials. To achieve its 4-Star certification, the Dining Room demonstrated sustainable operations through a major restroom remodel, installation of energy-saving LED lamps and water-saving fixtures, sourcing of local and organic cuisine, recycling and composting restaurant waste, and using environmentally-preferable cleaning products. Located near the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park on the site of historic Fort Yellowstone, the Dining Room embraces a casual setting with sweeping views of what was once the cavalry parade ground. It’s also not uncommon to have front-row views of grazing elk and bison from the windows of the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room. In the winter, wolf watching is immensely popular. Some of the mouth-watering tastes on the menu include Bison Burgers, Montana Family Ranches Meatloaf and Trout Tacos. Dinner reservations are not accepted during the summer season. Dinner is first come, first seated. Breakfast and lunch are on a first-come, first-seated basis. For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties CLICK HERE Source = Yellowstone National Park
Anantara Vacation Club Launches Partnership with Thai AirwaysAnantara Vacation Club, Asia’s leading luxury shared vacation ownership concept for discerning travellers, is pleased to present its Diamond, Platinum and Royal Club Points Owners with the opportunity to convert their points into Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Plus Miles. With a 1-to-5 conversion rate, the new partnership makes it easier than ever for Club Points Owners to fly to Anantara Vacation Club resorts throughout Asia and beyond.“We are delighted to offer the benefits of this partnership to our Club Points Owners,” said Maurizio Bisicky, Chief Commercial Officer. “Thai Airways easily connects our resorts to the rest of the world with service to dozens of destinations throughout Thailand, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Europe.”Anantara Vacation Club Diamond, Platinum and Royal Club Points Owners now have the option to convert their Club Points into Royal Orchid Plus Miles. Club Points Owners will receive 5,000 Royal Orchid Plus Miles for every 1,000 Anantara Vacation Club Points converted. There is a USD 50 conversion fee; and converted points will be available for use eight weeks after the conversion.Formed in 1988, Thai Airways is Thailand’s flagship carrier with corporate headquarters in Bangkok. Thai Airways is based at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok, offering service to 84 destinations in 37 countries throughout Thailand, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Thai Airways is a founding member of Star Alliance; and co-owns low-cost carrier Nok Air and regional carrier Thai Smile.Source = Anantara Vacation Club
Sydney Airport lands China Airlines A350 serviceChina Airlines offers first scheduled A350 service to SydneyNew product and increased frequency will add about 100,000 seats annuallyExpected to drive an estimated additional $48 million in annual visitor expenditure Sydney Airport has welcomed China Airlines’ new A350-900 service, which is expected to bring tens of thousands of extra tourists to NSW each year. The first plane touched down yesterday at Sydney Airport, marking Sydney’s first passenger Airbus A350 service. Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Mather said the China Airlines service would help strengthen the NSW economy and support jobs. “It’s incredibly exciting to welcome Sydney’s first A350 service with China Airlines,” Ms Mather said. “Not only will passengers be able to enjoy a fantastic product with an impressive new inflight experience, but more services mean a boost for tourism in our state. “The move to double the number of daily services will mean about an extra 100,000 seats and an estimated additional $48 million in annual visitor expenditure for NSW.”The A350 will replace China Airlines’ current A330 aircraft and has been designed to incorporate fine-tuned mood lighting that conjures images of sunrises, sunsets and aurora within the high ceiling cabin, contributing to an exceptional level of comfort. China Airlines’ Oceania Vice President, Kelvin Chen, said the aircraft upgrade was a win for passengers. “In its 25th year of operating to Sydney, China Airlines is very pleased to upgrade its Airbus A330-300 services to brand new A350-900 aircraft featuring the latest inflight product,” Mr Chen said.“Not only are we upgrading the passenger experience with these next-generation aircraft, but lifting frequency to offer twice daily departures to Taipei from December 17.“This allows China Airlines to offer improved connectivity for the significant traffic flows between Sydney, Europe and Asia.”The 306-seat A350-900 brings Sydney into line with new London services and other key international connections, such as Frankfurt, Rome, Amsterdam and Vienna.Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said growth in visitor numbers from Taiwan reflected the importance of North Asia as a key tourism market for Australia. “Chinese airlines continue to be a huge driver of growth for our tourism industry, from both mainland and Greater China,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “This latest increase in capacity by China Airlines, as well as the added kudos of the new A350 aircraft now being deployed on the route, should hopefully help maintain that positive momentum.” NSW Tourism Minister Adam Marshall said the new China Airlines A350 service was a welcome addition.“The aviation industry is a key player in turbocharging tourism growth in Sydney and throughout rural and regional NSW,” Mr Marshall said.“We want to see more tourism dollars flying into Sydney and rural and regional NSW and into the pockets of local economies, and I look forward to welcoming increased visitation to our State as a result of this new service.”Sydney Airport is a leading airport globally for next generation aircraft. The state-of-the-art A350 is quieter and has a reduced carbon footprint compared to previous aircraft. ABOUT SYDNEY AIRPORT Sydney Airport is Australia’s gateway airport, serving more than 43 million passengers a year and connecting Sydney to a network of more than 100 international, domestic and regional destinations. Located just eight kilometres from the city centre, Sydney Airport contributes $30.8 billion in economic activity a year, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of the NSW economy. Sydney Airport is a major employer in NSW, generating more than 306,700 direct and indirect jobs, equivalent to 8.9 per cent of NSW employment. Some 29,000 of these jobs are at the airport itself.Source = Sydney Airport