The cruelty of algorithms Heartbreaking open letter criticizes tech companies for showing

first_img2018 has thrown up a huge range of examples of the unintended consequences of algorithms. From the ACLU’s research in July which showed how the algorithm in Amazon’s facial recognition software incorrectly matched images of congress members with mugshots, to the same organization’s sexist algorithm used in the hiring process, this has been a year where the damage that algorithms can cause has become apparent. But this week, an open letter by Gillian Brockell, who works at The Washington Post, highlighted the traumatic impact algorithmic personalization can have. In it, Brockell detailed how personalized ads accompanied her pregnancy, and speculated how the major platforms that dominate our digital lives. “…I bet Amazon even told you [the tech companies to which the letter is addressed] my due date… when I created an Amazon registry,” she wrote. But she went on to explain how those very algorithms were incapable of processing the tragic death of her unborn baby, blind to the grief that would unfold in the aftermath. “Did you not see the three days silence, uncommon for a high frequency user like me”. But Brockell’s grief was compounded by the way those companies continued to engage with her through automated messaging. She explained that although she clicked the “It’s not relevant to me” option those ads offer users, this only led algorithms to ‘decide’ that she had given birth, offering deals on strollers and nursing bras. As Brockell notes in her letter, stillbirths aren’t as rare as many think, with 26,000 happening in the U.S. alone every year. This fact only serves to emphasise the empathetic blind spots in the way algorithms are developed. “If you’re smart enough to realize that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realize my baby died.” Brockell’s open letter garnered a lot of attention on social media, to such an extent that a number of the companies at which Brockell had directed her letter responded. Speaking to CNBC, a Twitter spokesperson said, “We cannot imagine the pain of those who have experienced this type of loss. We are continuously working on improving our advertising products to ensure they serve appropriate content to the people who use our services.” Meanwhile, a Facebook advertising executive, Rob Goldman responded, “I am so sorry for your loss and your painful experience with our products.” He also explained how these ads could be blocked. “We have a setting available that can block ads about some topics people may find painful — including parenting. It still needs improvement, but please know that we’re working on it & welcome your feedback.” Experian did not respond to requests for comment. However, even after taking Goldman’s advice, Brockell revealed she was then shown adoption adverts: “It crossed the line from marketing into Emotional Stalking,” said one Twitter user. While the political impact of algorithms has led to sustained commentary and criticism in 2018, this story reveals the personal impact algorithms can have. It highlights that as artificial intelligence systems become more and more embedded in everyday life, engineers will need an acute sensitivity and attention to detail to the potential use cases and consequences that certain algorithms may have. You can read Brockell’s post on Twitter. Read Next Facebook’s artificial intelligence research team, FAIR, turns five. But what are its biggest accomplishments? FAT Conference 2018 Session 3: Fairness in Computer Vision and NLP FAT Conference 2018 Session 4: Fair Classificationlast_img read more

Lyft introduces Amundsen  a data discovery and metadata engine for its researchers and

first_imgYesterday, the team at Lyft introduced a data discovery and metadata engine called Amundsen. Amundsen is introduced to increase the productivity of data scientists and research scientists at Lyft. The team named it Amundsen inspiring from the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen. The aim is to improve the productivity of data users by making their lives simple with this data search interface. According to UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), the data in our world has grown over 40x spanning the last 10 years. The growth in data volumes has given rise to major challenges of productivity and compliance issues which were important to solve. The team at Lyft found the solution to these problems in the metadata and not in the actual data. “Metadata, also defined as ‘data about the data’, is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.” The team solved a part of the productivity problem using the metadata. How did the team come up with Amundsen The team at Lyft realized that the majority of their time was spent in data discovery instead of prototyping and productionalization, where they actually wanted to invest more time. Data discovery involves answering questions like “If a certain type of data exists? Where is it? What is the source of truth of that data? Does it need to be accessed? And similar types of questions are answered in the process. This the reason why the team at Lyft brought the idea of Amundsen inspired a lot by search engines like Google. But Amundsen is more of searching data in the organization. Users can search for data by typing in their search term in the search box. For instance, “election results” or “users”. For ones who aren’t aware of what they are searching for, the platform offers a list of popular tables in the organization to browse through them. Image Source: LyftHow does the search ranking feature function Once the user enters the search term, the results show in-line metadata and description of the table as well the last date when the table was updated. These results are chosen by fuzzy matching the entered text with a few metadata fields such as the table name, column name, table description and column descriptions. It uses an algorithm which is similar to Page Rank, where highly queried tables show up above, while those queried less are shown later in the search results. How does the detail page look like After selecting a result, users get to the detail page which shows the name of the table along with it’s manually curated description which is followed by the column list. A special blue arrow by a column indicates that it’s a popular column which encourages users to use it. On the right-hand pane, users can see who’s the owner, who are frequent users and a general profile of the data. Image source: LyftFurther classification of metadata The team Lyft divided the metadata into a few categories and gave different access to each of the categories. Existence and other fundamental metadata This category includes name and description of table and fields, owners, last updated, etc. This metadata is available to everyone and anyone can access it. Richer metadata This category includes column stats and preview. This metadata is available to the users who have access to the data because these stats may have sensitive information which should be considered privileged. According to the team at Lyft, Amundsen has been successful at Lyft and has shown a high adoption rate and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score. Users can now easily discover more data in a shorter time. Amundsen can also be used to store, and tag all personal data within the organization which can help an organization remain compliant. To know more about this news, check out the official post by Lyft. Read Next Lyft acquires computer vision startup Blue Vision Labs, in a bid to win the self driving car race Uber and Lyft drivers strike in Los Angeles Uber open-sources Peloton, a unified Resource Schedulerlast_img read more

Air Canada waiving change fees offering discounts in wake of BC wildfires

first_img Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Air Canada waiving change fees, offering discounts in wake of B.C. wildfires Share Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img TORONTO — Air Canada is offering assistance, ticket flexibility, reduced fares and more to travellers in areas affected by the B.C. wildfires.If customers do not have a ticket and are seeking to fly from Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Prince George and Williams Lake as a result of the state of emergency, Air Canada is providing an additional 25% discount, as well as waiving the advance purchase, to help facilitate travel from these communities to any destination in North America.“You can book your customers at using the promotion code A3VRZAR1, or can call Air Canada Reservations (1-888-247-2262) for further assistance,” says Air Canada.If customers have a ticket with Air Canada for travel to/from/via affected areas, for travel between now and July 22, they can change their flight without paying a change fee. “Please review our Goodwill Policy on or contact Air Canada Reservations (1-888-247-2262) for more details and assistance.”Agents can also check and for Air Canada’s updates on the B.C. wildfires.More news:  Hotel charges Bollywood star $8.50 for two bananas and the Internet has thoughtsWildfires that have forced more than 60 provincial parks in central B.C. to close are stoking fears among tourism operators that the financial damage will spread to the province’s entire industry early in the critical summer season.The fires have forced officials to close roads, including a part of the TransCanada Highway near Cache Creek, as well as the airport in Williams Lake, a community placed on alert on Monday for a possible evacuation order. Travelweek Group Tags: Air Canadalast_img read more

AirlinePros is named Ukraine Internationals new GSA in Canada

first_imgAirlinePros is named Ukraine International’s new GSA in Canada Share TORONTO — Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), which recently launched nonstop service between Toronto and Kiev, has appointed AirlinePros as its GSA in Canada.AirlinePros will be responsible for managing the airline’s commercial affairs, including marketing and business development in Canada.“We are extremely honoured that UIA has expressed full confidence in all that AirlinePros can offer to support UIA’s online flight operations,” said James W. foster, AirlinePros Chairman and Founder. “Our experienced Canadian sales team, with their strong links and access to Canada’s travel industry members, will help ensure we provide the necessary commercial support towards the success of Ukraine International’s operations in Canada.”Karl Müller, AirlinePros Canada Director, added: “UIA’s flights offer Canadian travellers access to the Ukraine capital Kiev, with easy onward connectivity to Ukraine International’s extensive route network across Asia, the Middle East and Eurasia.”UIA operates three times weekly flights, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, by wide-body Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with Business, Premium Economy and Economy classes. Flight duration from Toronto to Kiev is 9 hours 50 minutes while the return is approximately 10 hours 15 minutes. Friday, June 22, 2018 Posted bycenter_img Travelweek Group Tags: Kiev, Toronto, Ukraine International Airlines << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

US Transport Administration will allow passengers to carry small knives on planes

first_imgChanges to Prohibited Items List  Airline passengers going through U.S. airports will be allowed to take on board small Swiss Army-type knives, provided the blade is no longer than 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) and does not have a locking fixed blade or a molded grip. “This will bring U.S. airport carry-on security rules within International Civil Aviation Organization Standards and our European counterparts,” TSA statement reads.The ruling has drawn sharp criticism from airlines and unions representing flight attendants, air marshals and pilots. This week the U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation will have a hearing regarding the decision.Last Friday, flight attendants protested the TSA policy change by handing out fliers at various U.S. airports with the slogan “No knives, ever again.” Also the Association of Professional Flight Attendants put up a website ( asking people to write letters demanding their congressmen reverse the TSA’s decision. Facebook Comments –Download TSA document of new regulations (PDF format) As of April 25, passengers flying to or within the United States may carry pocket knives, golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, pool cues, ski poles, hockey sticks and other items in carry-on luggage. The items previously were banned by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after 9/11 as potential blunt weapons.The measure brings the U.S. in line with international standards for screening procedures, TSA said on its website.However, razor blades, scissors and box cutters like the ones used to hijack planes during the 2001 terror attacks will still be prohibited. No related posts.last_img read more

COD 2565 The real concept of luxury in Los Reyes Alajuela

first_img Previous Image No related posts. info heading info content Next Image Price: $1,295,000COD: 25-65Email: realestate@ticotimes.netPhone: + (506)2258-1558Province: AlajuelaCantón: AlajuelaConstruction: 710m2Land: 3117m2Bedrooms: 5 Or MoreBathrooms: 5 Or MoreParking: 5 Or MoreA/C: YesLocated in one the best areas in Los Reyes, this luxurious but welcoming property lies in a 3,117 m2 lot and rises magnificently into a 3-story palace, with more than 700 m2. The house’s surrounding areas are something truly beautiful: Fruit trees, BBQ ranch with Internet and cable TV outlets, a 100 m2 swimming pool, green areas and a 2-car, roof-covered garage are all part of the property.On the inside, oil-painted and stone ceilings welcome you. The kitchen, dining and living room merge into a 140 m2 space, fully covered in top-quality marble.On the upper level, the master bedroom features 2 equipped walk-in closets as well as a bathroom/Jacuzzi and balcony. The house also has 3 more spacious bedrooms, all with their own walk-in closets. The upper level is complemented with two more bathrooms.This house has enough space for a 4-car garage with an automatic garage door that is located on the first level. This incredible place gets its hot water from a solar heating system that can supply the entire house. There is A/C within the building with separate controls for independently climatized rooms. Quartz counters cover the entire kitchen, all bathrooms and the laundry room.Paradox alarm system with movement sensors support the house’s security, along with a special double-lock door system and the Los Reyes surveillance personnel.One of the most impressive and appealing features of this house is the independent apartment that is thoughtfully located on the first level. This lovely apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, quartz-counter kitchen, living/dining room and swimming pool access.See this and other listings in the new Tico Times Real Estate section here. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

New probe again rejects govt claim that missing Mexican students were incinerated

first_imgMEXICO CITY – A second independent forensic investigation rejected on Tuesday the Mexican government’s conclusion that 43 students who went missing in 2014 were incinerated at a garbage dump.The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team said there was “no consistency between the physical evidence” and the testimony of drug gang suspects who claimed that the students were killed and burned at the site.While the bone remains of at least 19 people were found at the dump in Cocula, southern Guerrero state, they “clearly do not belong” to the trainee teachers, said Miguel Nieva, a member of the Argentine team.Nieva showed photos and studies of plants demonstrating that there was “not any sign of a recent fire in the vegetation” at the dump in Cocula, southern Guerrero state.Nieva said there were several blazes at the landfill over the years since 2010, but “no fire occurred on the night of” Sept. 26 to 27, 2014, when the students vanished after they were detained by police in the nearby town of Iguala.Former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karám declared last year that the “historic truth” was that the students were delivered to a drug cartel, which killed them, incinerated their bodies at the dump and tossed the remains in a river.One of the students was identified among the remains found in bags in the river. Authorities also found a possible DNA match for a second student.But independent investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rejected the official conclusions in September, saying a fire expert found no scientific evidence of a massive funeral pyre at the dump.Attorney General Arely Gómez has vowed to conduct a new forensic investigation with international experts while looking at other lines of investigation into the possible final destination of the students. Facebook Comments Related posts:Yet another Veracruz journalist is kidnapped, tortured and killed in Mexico Amid routine ‘disappearances,’ Mexico reels over 43 missing students Mexico’s 43 missing students continue to haunt President Peña Nieto – and they should Parents of 43 missing students in Mexico wage hunger strikelast_img read more

Michigan fugitive arrested in Jacó

first_imgCosta Rican police announced Monday evening that they had arrested 34-year-old fugitive John Saatio from Houghton, Michigan in a downtown Jacó nightclub on June 2, according to a news release.Saatio had been on the run since June 19, 2015 after escaping police custody while being transported to jail, according to Houghton’s Channel 6 TV News. He was facing a 25-year sentence for home invasion, destruction of police property and violating probation at the time of his escape.The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that a car Saatio had stolen was located some 200 miles south in Green Bay, Wisconsin two days after his escape.Costa Rican police arrested Saatio after his name was flagged as wanted by the United States through Interpol. Immigration authorities confirmed Tuesday that Saatio had snuck into the country.When police apprehended him in Jacó, Saatio resisted arrest and tried unsuccessfully to escape custody again, reportedly bending the bars of his holding cell, according to the police statement.Authorities are in the process of deporting Saatio back to Michigan to serve his sentence. Facebook Comments Related posts:US fugitive John Saatio escapes again, this time from Florida police Police raid offices, home of US real estate mogul accused of fraud Top 6 crime stories of 2014 Canadian expat Ryan Piercy, missing for one month, appears safe at his Costa Rica home, police saylast_img read more

Central American envoys in Israel Dont forget about us

first_imgRelated posts:Refugee program for Central Americans ‘still on the drawing board’: US official Strong earthquake off El Salvador felt in Costa Rica VIDEO: New Costa Rican documentary explains forced Central American migration Foreign Ministry signs agreements with United Arab Emirates TEL AVIV — As Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu wrapped up his historic trip to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico — marking the first time any Israeli leader has ever visited the region — the Israel-based envoys of four small Central American nations hosted a big party Thursday night whose underlying message seemed to be, “Hey, we’re here, too!” Two Central American ambassadors to Israel — Costa Rica’s Esteban Penrod and Guatemala’s Sara Angelina Solís — at a Sept. 14 reception at the Tel Aviv Sheraton honoring Central America’s 196th anniversary of independence. Larry Luxner / The Tico TimesThe lavish reception at the Tel Aviv Sheraton attracted about 200 diplomats, private executives, government officials, journalists and others. The occasion: the four countries’ 196th anniversary of independence from Spain.“It is a great honor for me to welcome you on behalf of the embassies of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras,” said Costa Rican Ambassador Esteban Penrod, with Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, at his side. “Ever since 1821, when our union was formed, we have seen ourselves as brothers and sisters. Today, we are all as one when it comes to building a better future for our people, recognizing our multicultural societies and achieving peace in the region for more than 30 years now.”A fifth country, Nicaragua, should have been at the party as well. But Managua has no ambassador here yet; it was only six months ago that Israel restored diplomatic ties with that nation’s left-leaning Sandinista government after a seven-year hiatus.Lieberman, calling Israel’s rapprochement with Nicaragua “a very important recent development,” also praised the role all Central American nations played “in the events which led to Israel’s establishment” in 1948. He also noted the recent visits to Israel of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales last November, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández in October 2015, and Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González Sanz this past May.In June, Costa Rica held its first-ever trade seminar in Tel Aviv hoping to boost bilateral trade, which in 2015 came to barely $45 million.“Thousands of Central Americans have taken part in courses run by Israel’s development agency, Mashav, including the current president of Honduras and two current ministers of Guatemala,” said Lieberman. “Latin America is playing an increasing role in Israel’s foreign policy, and many of our young people choose your region as a favorite place to travel.”Standing on the podium with Lieberman and Penrod were Ambassadors Werner Matías Romero of El Salvador; Mario Edgardo Castillo Mendoza of Honduras, and Sara Angelina Solís of Guatemala.“Some say there are no friendships in international relations, only interests,” said Lieberman. “But I think the closeness between our countries shows there is a real friendship grounded in the shared ideals of democracy and freedom.”Thirty years ago, all of Central America, with the notable exceptions of Costa Rica and Belize, were military dictatorships. Today, democracy reigns in all seven countries, whose combined population is about 45 million — roughly the same as Colombia’s.Yet poverty, natural disasters, drug trafficking and widespread gang violence still plague much of Central America. Last year, Honduras and El Salvador led the world in homicides, with murder rates of 108.6 and 63.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.Even so, Penrod focused on the positive, noting Guatemala’s hosting of the next Ibero-American Summit in November 2018, as well as a referendum supporting the resolution of that country’s long-standing border dispute with neighboring Belize.“Our efforts to integrate have generated economic stability, making us the area of greatest growth in Latin America today. We are now on the verge of a customs union which has already been implemented by Guatemala and Honduras, and we expect El Salvador to join by the end of this year,” said the Costa Rican diplomat, adding that El Salvador currently holds the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council.“We remember on this occasion the first year since the passing of a great leader who worked to build bridges for peace — President Shimon Peres — and the first visit of a prime minister of Israel to Latin America,” Penrod concluded. “A new year is approaching in the Jewish calendar, another beginning to a promising future. Allow me to say in advance, l’shana tova l’kulam.”After his speech, Castillo gave Lieberman a box of premium Honduran cigars, and Guatemala’s Solís presented a gift basket of Central American products to Ariel Bennie Goldgewicht, the Latin American director of Keren Kayemet L’Israel-JNF.During the dinner that followed, I chatted with Romero, who represents El Salvador — a small, struggling nation roughly the same size and population as Israel.Despite its large, influential Palestinian community and its paucity of Jews (only about 65 live in the entire country), El Salvador was the last nation in the world to maintain an embassy in Jerusalem. It relocated its Israeli mission to Tel Aviv in 2007 shortly, after Costa Rica — under then-President Oscar Arias — took that step in hopes of drumming up business with the Arab world.“Latin America as a whole was instrumental for getting the approval of the United Nations for Israel to become an independent country. The Central American nations were particularly supportive, maybe because we’re small and also struggled for independence,” said Romero. “But sometimes we feel that Israel doesn’t fully recognize that.”Tensions flared last year after Netanyahu closed the Israeli Embassy in San Salvador, the capital, for budget reasons. In response, El Salvador threatened to shutter its embassy in Tel Aviv and move its operations to Ramallah or even Cairo.But since then, the rhetoric has subsided. These days, friendship is in the air.“We are very positive about seeing that the prime minister of Israel is visiting Latin America for the first time,” the Salvadoran diplomat told me. “That’s a good sign.”Romero said the Central American Integration System (known by its Spanish acronym, SICA) “would have loved” to host Netanyahu on his current Latin America trip as a way to boost trade ties between Israel and the eight-member group. Efforts to bring Netanyahu to Panama, which now occupies the presidency of SICA, failed even though Israel hopes to achieve observer status within the organization — which includes all six of Central America’s Spanish-speaking nations, plus Belize and the Dominican Republic.“But the fact that the Israelis have negotiated a free-trade agreement with Panama opens the door to many more opportunities for trade and investment between the SICA region and Israel,” said Romero. “We hope the Panamanians are able to sign the agreement very soon, because we can piggyback on that.”To which most Israelis — even though piggy is far from kosher — would happily endorse with a hearty “L’chaim!”Tel Aviv-based journalist Larry Luxner is a longtime correspondent for The Tico Times. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Attending the Apertura Watching a firstdivision Costa Rican soccer match the right

first_imgDrums beat, a cluster of rowdy fans dances nonstop, and the concrete stands shake. The World Cup may be over, but Costa Rica’s passion for soccer never is. The veritable mosh pit in the south stands at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá is always there.If you’re a diehard supporter, a casual fan, or a soccer novice looking to catch a match in Costa Rica, it’s an enjoyable weekend activity that won’t break the bank. Even if you stay far away from the mosh pits, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement, and we’re here to help you navigate the gameday experience. The 2018 Apertura tournament, which began in late July and concludes in December, will crown the champion of men’s first-division club soccer in Costa Rica. Not that the ultimate result is too much in question. Three teams—Deportivo Saprissa, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, and Club Sport Herediano—have won a gluttony of the titles, 89 combined since the Costa Rican Soccer Federation was founded in 1921. Not that the lack of parity detracts from the fun. A soccer game lasts just 90 minutes, but the festivities begin well before kickoff as the streets surrounding the stadium are shut down by a bevy of horn-blaring fans. If you don’t own a team jersey, or want a plastic horn of your own, the street vendors on nearly every corner will make sure you’re well-equipped before reaching the entry gates. Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico TimesA quick word of warning: UNAFUT, the governing body for first-division soccer in Costa Rica, maintains a long list of items prohibited at games. These include large banners and umbrellas—which can block the view for those sitting nearby—but also smaller objects like coins and water bottles, which disgruntled fans have thrown at players before.Once you pass a thorough security check, you’ll find a typical stadium atmosphere with a Costa Rican twist. Shops sell official merchandise, food carts offer traditional stadium fare, and vendors walk through the stands with reasonably priced bags of local snacks, like salted mango. Just don’t expect to enjoy a beer while you enjoy the game — the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages remain prohibited. But the party continues in the stadium regardless. Whether or not you’ve mastered Spanish, you’ll quickly learn when to cheer, and—almost more importantly—when to jeer the opposing team. You’ll likely receive a crash-course in Spanish swear words, too. A list of every game is available here. For each match, the home team is listed first.While each club calls a different stadium home, two, in particular, stand out. Saprissa plays its games at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá. Located in San Juan de Tibás, the stadium is the largest for a Costa Rican club team and is well-known for the intimidating atmosphere it can present to opponents. L.D. Alajuelense hosts matches at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in the Ellano neighborhood of Alajuela. Affectionately called the Cathedral of Costa Rican Soccer, the stadium owes its name to a Tico player who became known as “The Magician of the Ball” when he played internationally in the 1930s. Tickets to a game at either stadium can be purchased online with seats starting at 3,000 colones. Saprissa partners with Eticket, while L.D. Alajuelense distributes ticketsthrough Publitickets. Both have options to print tickets at home or to download them to your phone for no additional charge. Clubs have implemented heightened security to deter hooliganism, as soccer fanaticism has spilled over into violence before, particularly during Saprissa-Alajuela rivalry matches. But you can steer clear of the barras (and the mosh pits) at either stadium: At Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, the superfans occupy the southern bleachers, while at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, they populate the northern stands. Sit elsewhere, and enjoy the event in peace.Go for the food and the festivities, or go for the fútbol. Either way, you don’t need to wait until the next World Cup to immerse yourself in the beautiful game. Facebook Comments ‘The Classic’ turns violent: A horse-punching teenager and 69 others arrested at Sunday match between rivals La Liga and Saprissacenter_img Related posts:‘The Classic’ turns violent: A horse-punching teenager and 69 others arrested at Sunday match between rivals La Liga and Saprissa Mexico’s Tigres defeat Costa Rica’s Herediano to advance in Champions League Men’s sub-21 soccer team face Honduras in must-win match today, women sweep group stage Saprissa defeats Mexico’s Tigres UANL behind Venegas goallast_img read more

Moroccan royal dominance Is it out of step

first_img Comments   Share   “God blesses you, my ruler says unto you,” shouted a servant as the elected officials and local bureaucrats bowed deeply at the waist three times in rapid succession before scurrying out of the way and letting the next rank of white-robed officials approach the king. As each rank withdrew a servant intoned “God blesses the age of my ruler.”The sensitivity surrounding the annual ceremony, which was held this year on Aug. 21, was evident by the state’s reaction to a small protest against it in front of parliament the next day. Riot police with truncheons charged the few dozen protesters chanting “long live the people” instead of “long live the king.” A journalist was beaten and police pursued the protesters into the nearby train station.The violent behavior of security forces was in stark contrast to most other protests in Morocco during the past year of Arab Spring, which were allowed to proceed, suggesting that criticism of the king remains a red line.One needs look no further than Great Britain’s recent lavish celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee for examples of the pomp and circumstance of other monarchies around the world. But in Morocco, where the king still holds real power in a country with low literacy and high poverty, these displays are a key part of proving the crown’s authority. The ceremony of allegiance has existed in one form or another since the 16th century and was used by Morocco’s rulers to assert their primacy over the country on a political and spiritual level as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, explained Nabil Mouline, a professor at Paris’ Sciences-Po Institute and an expert on religion and monarchy in the Middle East.“Now there is a struggle between this old identity, of the king as the center … and now the nation as the center of identity,” he said, explaining that just in the last few decades Morocco and its people have modernized and change dramatically.Ahmed Benchemsi, a former magazine publisher in Morocco and now visiting scholar at Stanford University, pointed out in a recent article that, despite the reforms, the new constitution still makes the king “inviolable” and of respect and veneration.“Versions of this pharaonic performance are repeated regularly throughout the year at various royal reviews and ribbon-cuttings, complete with adoring crowds, bowing servants, and hand-kissing officials, all united in devotion to a monarch blessed with divine potency. Who shall tell the average Moroccan that his sovereign is not sacred anymore?” he wrote in the January edition of the Journal of Democracy. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day The new constitution, however, still makes the king the final decision-maker with the power to issue his own laws and check any move of the government. And the PJD, as the Islamist party is known, has muted its criticism of the system since coming to power.The PJD came to power on a platform of creating jobs and fighting corruption, but most experts say the roots of the problem run right up to the highest levels of power and include those linked to the monarchy itself.Several initiatives by the PJD government, including reforming state broadcasting and adding greater transparency in lucrative concessions for transportation, fishing and other sectors, have been blocked.Part of the challenge for would-be reformers is that the king, whose family has ruled since 1666, remains a popular figure, especially for the large swaths of the population that are poor and uneducated and have been raised on these ceremonies surrounding the monarch that appear on state television regularly.Abdelaziz Aftati, a member of parliament from the PJD, was not chosen to be part of the delegation wearing white robes and bow before the king. He thinks that’s because of his constant criticism of the system. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The minister of religious affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, defended the ceremony recently by comparing it to the oaths of allegiance given the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century A.D. That prompted the country’s largest Islamist group, the banned Justice and Charity Movement, to issue a sharp rebuttal.“Did the Muslims bow before the Prophet? No, at the time of the Prophet, allegiance was shown by shaking hands,” said the group’s statement, which accused the palace of “playing with the Muslim religion.”A more moderate Islamist group, the Justice and Development Party, won a plurality in elections prompted by last year’s protests, allowing it to form a government under its own prime minister. The result has been a bipolar system of power with the prime minister and his ministers on one hand and the king and his array of counselors forming a kind of shadow cabinet.The government wants to use the new constitution to limit the king’s power. “Our objective is the disappearance of the so-called shadow government,” said Foreign Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani in an interview with the Associated Press. “Before it wasn’t possible but now with the new constitution, all is clear, the role of the government as well as the role of the king.” Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Four benefits of having a wireless security system Morocco has been hailed as an Arab Spring success story, where the king promoted constitutional reforms and early elections that defused the protests that swept much of the region. The North African kingdom of 32 million is a close Western ally and presents itself as a progressive fusion of modernity and tradition that succeeds where the dictatorial Arab republics failed.Critics maintain that the constitutional amendments, while granting the parliament and prime minister greater powers, still leave a king with ultimate power _ as symbolized by events like the annual ceremony of allegiance.“It all looks like a prayer _ it gives a divine sense to the king,” complained activist Zeinab Belmkaddem of the Feb. 20 activist movement that led pro-democracy protests last year.She said that while the new constitution no longer describes the king as a sacred figure, true democracy is impossible as long as he occupies such elevated status over the elected officials. “The rituals play a role in this, when the head of the government goes to meet the king, everyone around him is bowing down and kissing (the king’s) hand and it condemns the conversation to be one between master and servant.” Associated PressRABAT, Morocco (AP) – Rows of figures in traditional hooded white Moroccan robes advance in unison under the blazing sun to where the king, surrounded by his courtiers, is seated on a black pure-bred horse shaded by a burgundy parasol. The quasi-religious ceremony has a medieval feel at odds with Morocco’s self-proclaimed emergence as a modern democracy.Every year, hundreds of civil servants and elected officials from all over the country must gather at one of King Mohammed VI’s palaces to pledge allegiance to the “Commander of the Faithful” in a tribute that critics say is increasingly outdated. The subservience points to the contradictions in a nation that quelled Arab Spring protests by promising the people a greater voice. Aftati maintains that attitudes toward such rituals are changing.“All of these practices must be reviewed,” he said. “Everything that is degrading, such as the bowing and hand-kissing, has to disappear.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories last_img read more

Egypt hosts meeting of 4 nations in new Syria push

first_imgCAIRO (AP) – Diplomats from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt held on Monday the first gathering of a quartet of regional heavyweights aiming to work out a resolution for Syria’s civil war.The quartet is an initiative put forward by Egypt’s new president aiming to bring together key supporters of the Syrian rebellion _ Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Egypt itself _ with Iran, the biggest regional ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria’s bloody 18-month conflict, which activists say has killed at least 23,000 people, has so far stymied attempts at international mediation.The new U.N. envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is heading to Damascus this week, tasked with brokering a diplomatic solution. The peace plan of his predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, collapsed, and Annan stepped down in frustration.The new quartet may also have trouble reaching common ground. Sunni-led Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have called on Assad to step down; Shiite Iran has firmly stood by Assad. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also bitter rivals with longstanding disagreements over Gulf security issues.Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi appears to be hoping that bringing Iran into the quartet can eventually sway it to accept an alternative to Assad and put its weight behind a peace initiative. Last month, he went to Tehran for an international conference and gave a full-throated call for the world to back the Syrian opposition, startling his Iranian hosts.The sessions that began Monday were among diplomats preparing for a possible higher-level meeting of the four country’s foreign ministers later, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said. Egypt is hoping the group can find consensus on an initiative calling for an immediate end to violence, maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria, supporting Brahimi’s mission and launching a political process with various spectrums of Syrian society, the ministry said in a statement.The quartet is aimed at “stopping the bloodshed by launching a political process designed to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity,” the ministry said.Similarly, Annan’s peace plan was centered on a cease-fire that was supposed to open the way to political dialogue. But the fighting never stopped.In Cairo for talks ahead of his trip to Syria, Brahimi met with Morsi, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby on Monday.Morsi, who came to power as a result of his country’s own Arab Spring uprising, proposed the four-nation contact group during a conference of Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia last month.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 ways to recognize low testosterone 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Comments   Share   Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Sponsored Stories The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

Turkmenistan to make people pay for gas

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober In an issue of a government newspaper released Saturday, Turkmenistan’s state-owned gas company encouraged citizens to install the gas meters, which would enable the population to “normalize” energy consumption.Berdymukhamedov’s regime has simultaneously encouraged energy exports, particularly with China. In September, Turkmenistan struck a deal that would boost its gas exports to China to 65 billion cubic meters per year by 2020, up from 25 billion cubic meters this year.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Parents, stop beating yourself up Comments   Share   ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) – Turkmenistan’s president said Saturday his government will begin installing gas meters in households, ending the unlimited supply of free gas to citizens in the energy-rich Central Asian nation.President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov said during a televised address the government hoped the meters would encourage people to consume energy more efficiently, but neither he nor the country’s state-owned gas company gave a timeframe or a reason behind the policy change. The government also didn’t immediately reveal how much it will charge for gas. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility How men can have a healthy 2019 Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona The move comes in the wake of signs that Berdymukhamedov’s authoritarian government sees the subsidized domestic energy market as too heavy an economic burden, and is making profitable energy exports a bigger priority.The nation is estimated to have the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, and gas, electricity and water have been supplied free to households since 1993. In 2006, the same year Berdymukhamedov became president, the country’s rubber stamp parliament voted to extend the free energy policy until 2030.The free gas has been the carrot to the stick of Berdymukhamedov’s regime, which has allowed no dissent or independent media in the predominantly Muslim nation of 5 million people. Berdymukhamedov, nicknamed Arkadag (the Protector), won by a landslide 97 percent in 2012 presidential elections, in a vote widely criticized by election monitoring groups.The government has made it clear in recent months the domestic subsidies are too costly. At a conference in October attended by Berdymukhamedov, one delegate publicly announced that free gas to the country’s citizens cost Turkmenistan $5 billion each year.“The installation of the meters will allow people to economically consume natural gas, while the maximum payment for using the gas will not create difficulties for the population, for each family,” Berdymukhamedov said during the televised address. Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories last_img read more

Asia still popular for small group tourism

first_imgTravel Indochina assured agents last night that smaller group tourism is not on the decline to Asia. Speaking at Travel Indochina’s Asian Roadshow host and general manager Paul Hole said ‘experts’ claiming group tourism to Asia is decreasing must be referring to larger tours because Travel Indochina witnessed a 45 percent increase in small group journey passengers year on year. “Coming out of the GFC we are now beyond recovery growth and into actual growth,” Mr Hole told e-Travel Blackboard. “We have a Vietnam cross boarder program for March and April that has been full since before Christmas.” Mr Hole added that people prefer to travel in smaller groups to Asia because it offers a personal and unique experience. Speaking at the annual event, the company’s head took the opportunity to update agents on its latest Hand-made package, which offers travellers the opportunity to take creative control over their tour. Time Fly’s Travel owner Trudy Rice told e-Travel Blackboard Travel Indochina’s packages allow agents to offer clients something new and interesting. “You get first-hand knowledge of the destinations,” Ms Rice told e-Travel Blackboard. “When you visit a country and try to find out the unique places say in Vietnam, you often get someone that can’t speak English.“But Travel Indochina put together different packages for a variety of people from family groups, independent travellers and small groups.” Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

Japan ticket sales drop Korean Air Asiana

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have noted that the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have impacted ticket sales on flights to the country. Making up 20 percent of overall ticket sales, Korean Air said the airline has experienced a ten percent drop in sales to Japan from 177,027 last year to 159,388, while load factor has decreased by 83 percent to 10 percent, The Chosunilbo reported. Meanwhile Asiana Airlines saw a 17.7 percent dip in passenger travelling into the country and was forced to suspend flights to Sendai, Ibaraki and Fukushima.Airlines are also feeling the heat with rising oil prices forcing an increase in passenger fuel surcharges. last_img

Westglow Resort Spa Named to Travel Leisure 2011 World

first_imgWestglow Resort & Spa receives top honors in 2011 World’s Best Spas Reader’s PollTravel + Leisure has revealed its Top Ten Destination Spas (2011 World’s Best Awards) and Westglow Resort & Spa is thrilled to announce it has received this highly coveted accolade. Westglow Resort & Spa was recognized as the second-highest-rated destination spa in the world.The “World’s Best Awards” are voted on by the readers of Travel + Leisure to honor the top hotels, destinations, airlines, cruises, spas, and transportation companies in the world. The Top Ten Destination Spas will be featured in the September issue of Travel + Leisure magazine (on newsstands August 23) “We are honored to be in the company of these other world-renowned destination spas,” said Bonnie Schaefer, owner of Westglow Resort & Spa. “Westglow strives to provide guests with an unparalleled experience and we are so pleased that Travel + Leisure readers value this.”Top Destination Spas 11 – Golden Door, San Marcos, California 87.05 8 4 Canyon Ranch, Lenox, Massachusetts 87.92 2 – Westglow Resort & Spa, Blowing Rock, North Carolina 93.87 Source = Westglow Resort and Spa 4 7 Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson 91.21 9 9 Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa, Miami 87.51 14 10 Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Carlsbad, California 85.94 6 – Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, Pennsylvania 90.19 5 3 Mii Amo, a Destination Spa at Enchantment, Sedona, Arizona 90.82 center_img 13 – Red Mountain Resort & Spa, Ivins, Utah 86.09 10 8 Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin 87.12 Rank ’10 Name Score 12 5 Canyon Ranch, Tucson 86.72 3 2 Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, Vista, California 91.90 1 1 Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico 94.79 15 – Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe 85.85 7 – Copperhood Inn & Spa, Shandaken, New York 89.33 last_img read more

Tiger heads back to Cairns

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Tiger Airways has announced its return to Cairns later this year, months after the carrier was forced to suspend all its operations down under due to safety concerns. Commencing 25 April this year, the carrier will resume one of its “fastest growing” domestic routes, relaunching its daily return service between Melbourne Tullamarine Airport and Cairns Airport.Adding up to 2,500 additional visitor seats weekly between the two cities, Tiger head of marketing and communications Vanessa Regan said she was confident the daytime flights will be well received by Australian travellers.“We’re an airline that is highly responsive to customer demand and we’re confident that our new daytime services will prove to be convenient and extremely popular, especially since they are available for travel just in time for the tropical north’s peak winter season when many Melbournians are looking for a warm winter escape from the cold,” Ms Regan explained.According to figures released by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Tiger Airways saw a 29 percent passenger growth on its services between Melbourne and Cairns from April 2010 to April 2011.The carrier noted in a statement that it looking to reinstate further operations down under after its Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) enforced suspension last year. Return services will depart from Melbourne 8.50am and arrive in Cairns at 12.15pm and return from Cairns at 12.45pm landing in Melbourne at 4.10pm.last_img read more

Etihad steps in to support Tourism Australia

first_imgEtihad chief executive James Hogan says Australia is strategically important to the carrier. The UAE carrier has announced a new agreement with Tourism Australia that could help fill the marketing gap left behind by Australian airline, Qantas.Late last month, the Australian flag carrier terminated a joint three-year AU$44 million marketing contract with Tourism Australia, claiming it could not work with the bureau’s director.Since the announcement, Etihad alliance carrier, Virgin Australia announced it would double its contribution to Tourism Australia, from AU$6 million in joint commitments to AU$12 million over the next three financial years.In addition, Etihad signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tourism Australia to invest up to AU$6 million over the next three years in a range of cooperative programs targeting visitors from the Middle East, UK and Europe. Etihad chief executive James Hogan said Australia is strategically important to the carrier and the new arrangement tied up naturally with its airline partnerships. According to the airline’s head, the two organisations have already started planning a new campaign for the first half of 2013. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

2013 Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange kicks off

first_imgThe 2013 Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange, hosted by InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa kicked off yesterday, with e-Travel Blackboard and e-Travel Blackboard TV the exclusive trade media for this year’s event, reporting every day through articles and videos, bringing you what’s hot and new in Fiji and also reporting from the stunning InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa.David Voss Chair of the BFTE organising committee said that BFTE is the event for marketing Fiji and other Pacific islands taking place in the stunning setting of the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, offering unrivalled networking opportunities, showcasing the best of tourism in Fiji, a top destination for Australians  and also one of the closest exotic destinations to our shores and other Pacific destinations, including Tonga, Vanuatu, Cook Islands and moreWith the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa offering delegates five star accommodations and award winning dining, all in a recreated BFTE ‘village’ layout, but this year undercover within the building, Mr Voss also said that the 2013 Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange will expose key industry partners and buyers from all over the world to some of Fiji’s top and exciting tourism offerings and to hear what he had to say about this excellent event, click on the video box below: To “be there” with me, John Alwyn-Jones at e-Travel Blackboard and eTravel Blackboard TV reporting on location from the 2013 Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange, brought to you by the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and Fiji Airways, watch out for our article and video reports on what’s hot and new in Fiji and other stunning Pacific islands, all this week and next.John Alwyn-Jones reporting for e-Travel Blackboard and e-Travel Blackboard TV on location from the 2013 Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange, brought to you by the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and Fiji AirwaysSource = e-Travel Blackboard: JAJ InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. Image: InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spalast_img read more

Australian travellers ordered to appear in Peruvian court

first_imgSix Australians have been ordered to appear in Peruvian court next month after being accused of allegedly murdering a hotel doorman while backpacking through South America last year.Jessica Vo, brothers Hugh and Tom Hanlon, along with Harrison Geier, Andrew Pilat, and Sam Smith have been accused of killing Lino Rodriguez Vilchez in Peru last January, ABC News reported.The case was originally ruled as a suicide, but investigators re-opened their inquiries after a public campaign by the victim’s brother who claims that the evidence was inconsistent with suicide.Mr Rodriguez Vilchez’s family believe the Australians pushed the 45-year-old from an apartment building after a dispute involving a noise complaint.While the Australians, known as the ‘Peru Six’, maintain their innocence, one of the accused said the group would not defy orders to return to Peru in August because they have nothing to hide.“We just want an opportunity to actually give statements, so far they haven’t allowed us to have any input whatsoever,” Harrison Geier said.A Peruvian judge has rejected a request to deliver evidence via video-link from Australia.“The Government has been great and the various departments like DFAT and obviously Bob Carr and the Attorney-General,” he said.The group’s lawyer has indicated that the six travellers will appeal the Peruvian court summons. The ‘Peru Six’ have been summoned toappear in Peruvian court next month.Image: The Sydney Morning Herald. Source = ETB News: P.T.last_img read more