Monthly Archive: August 2019

Tripcentralca signs with Uplift for installment payment option

first_imgTags: Tripcentral.ca, Uplift Travelweek Group Posted by Tripcentral.ca signs with Uplift for installment payment option << Previous PostNext Post >> Thursday, March 28, 2019 TORONTO — Uplift, which earlier this month announced the appointment of Denise Heffron as its Managing Director overseeing the Canadian market, has signed its first Canadian retailer.Tripcentral.ca has added Uplift’s installment payment option plan to its product offering.Richard Vanderlubbe, President, tripcentral.ca, says recent surveys conducted by tripcentral.ca for Canadian leisure travellers showed a desire for alternative payment methods. When asked what was stopping leisure travellers from booking their dream vacation, ‘money’ was cited by 56% over other issues such as time off work (16%) or health issues (7%).Of those citing ‘money’ as a blocker, 22% said they would use 12 monthly payments at lower than credit card interest ‘in a heartbeat’, and a further 37% said they would consider it if the application was a few clicks and easy.“The online application process is smooth and easy,” says Vanderlubbe.  “We’ve tried other financing programs in the past but they were cumbersome. Ease of application and processing is critical, and Uplift has done a great job. We also like the fact that there are no ‘gotchas’ – no penalty amounts for non-payment deadlines and consumers can pay off the loan early if they wish.”Uplift is based in California and already available in the U.S. on websites including Kayak.com, Allegiant Travel Company, Southwest Vacations, American Airlines Vacations, NCL and United Airlines Vacations.“We believe low-friction monthly installments will be a game changer for the Canadian travel industry, allowing more people to realize their dream vacations and create years of travel memories,” says Denise Heffron, Managing Director of Uplift in Canada.Uplift, which offers a stand-alone agent tool – ensuring access for both online and offline customers – announced Heffron’s appointment on March 7. Heffron was with Transat for 25 years, most recently as VP National Sales and Commercial.last_img read more

Bookings for Disney Cruise Lines Fall 2020 itineraries to open next week

first_imgBookings for Disney Cruise Line’s Fall 2020 itineraries to open next week Share Friday, June 7, 2019 << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Disney Cruise Linecenter_img CELEBRATION, FL — Disney Cruise Line will open bookings for its Fall 2020 itineraries on June 13, giving travellers the chance to embark on a wide range of festive voyages departing from New York, California, Texas and Florida.The season will kick off with the return of Halloween on the High Seas in September and October 2020. On select sailings across the fleet, guests are treated to a ‘mouse-querade’ costume party, ghoulish food and beverages, trick-or-treating and an adults-only villainous party.From early November through December, the company’s fleet will be decked out from bow-to-stern with holiday cheer during Very Merrytime Cruises. Highlights include a tree lighting ceremony, favourite characters in holiday attire, a winter wonderland ball and Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a flurry of ‘Frozen’ snowfall.Here are more highlights:Sailings to Bermuda and Canada from New YorkThe Disney Magic will return to New York in October for sailings to Bermuda and Canada, all featuring Halloween on the High Seas. Three five-night cruises will offer two days in Bermuda, while one five-night cruise will visit Canada’s charming seaport cities, including Saint John and Halifax.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaBaja and Mexican Riviera voyages from CaliforniaThe Disney Wonder will set sail from San Diego in September, with Halloween on the High Seas cruises to Baja and the Mexican Riviera. Baja itineraries of two, three, four and five nights will include calls on Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico. Rounding out California sailings will be a seven-night Mexican Riviera cruise, with additional stops in Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. On Nov. 6, the Disney Wonder will depart San Diego for a 14-night Panama Canal crossing.Bahamas and Caribbean cruises from TexasFrom late November through December, the Disney Wonder will make Galveston, Texas its homeport for Very Merrytime Cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas, with four-, five-, six- and seven-night sailings. Caribbean itineraries will include stops in Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico as well as Grand Cayman. Bahamian cruises will feature stops at Nassau, Key West and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.More news:  War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upTropical island vacations from FloridaIn fall 2020, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream will sail to the Bahamas and Caribbean from Port Canaveral on Halloween on the High Seas and Very Merrytime Cruises. Disney Fantasy will sail Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries ranging from three to eight nights, while Disney Dream will sail three- and four-night Bahamian cruises to Nassau and Castaway Cay. Each cruise will include a day on Castaway Cay. Posted by Travelweek Group last_img read more

Treatment center helps cancer fight

first_imgNo related posts. From the print editionRebeca León didn’t know what to make of the lump she had discovered on one of her breasts in May 2011. Friends told her it couldn’t be cancer because she’s too young. She has no family history. But a specialist confirmed it. León would begin her mid-30s by battling breast cancer. “It was a shock,” León, 35, said. “I did not expect it. There have not been other cases of this type of cancer in my family.” But León learned the type of insurance she had from the National Insurance Institute covered treatment at a private institution in Costa Rica, established specifically for remedying cancer patients. The Costa Rican Oncology Institute (ICOT) was inaugurated in January 2010 with the goal of becoming the premiere cancer treatment center in Central America. ICOT originally only did chemotherapy, while the organization operated with five oncologists in a small hospital in eastern San José. At the beginning of 2012, ICOT moved to a larger location in La Uruca, a northwestern district of San José, next to the state-run Hospital México. By the end of the expansion, the institute will have invested a total of $10 million since 2010. For this year’s opening, ICOT added more than two dozen oncologists to its staff.Oncologists specialize in fields that include hematology (for treating cancers like lymphoma and leukemia) and pediatrics. The premises offer clinical lab services, ultrasounds, mammograms, CT scans, X-rays and MRIs. Since opening the center in January, ICOT has received some 700patients. They began performing their first surgeries in the new facilities on Tuesday.Since her own diagnosis in July 2011, León has fought capably against breast cancer through the help of ICOT. Almost a year has passed since León’s initial operation to remove the tumor, which was followed by reconstructive surgery and chemotherapy. She still undergoes hormonal therapy at ICOT and will need checkups to make sure the cancer does not come back stronger. She’s not yet able to return to work, but León believes “the worst is over.”Her progress is impressive against the deadliest type of cancer for women in Costa Rica, causing 1,206 deaths in 2011 (see box). The disease is considered even more aggressive in younger patients. ICOT officials hope for similar success fighting cancer in its new headquarters. They hope the institute’s 30 oncologists will help reduce cancer deaths in Costa Rica, which totaled 4,212 people last year, according to Health Ministry statistics.Guillermo Rodríguez, president of ICOT, said he believes the private institute could serve as a cancer treatment place for the region, and also for medical tourists from the U.S. looking for more affordable options. “We have put together a center where we can treat patients with cancer in a comprehensive way,” Rodríguez said.The project still has one more stage to go before it’s completed. The new building only can handle out-patient surgery. But over the next three to five years, the institute plans to add another structure for cancer patients who require long-term hospital stays.The ICOT building formerly was used for doing clinical trials, but a court ruling put a halt to clinical testing in 2009. The decision changed Rodríguez’s focus, and he started thinking of how to remodel the place into a cancer center. Rodríguez’s office on the third floor of ICOT overlooks mountainsides. Downstairs, patients receiving chemo look out into a garden. Another room contains a large forum where doctors from throughout the country can discuss medical issues. Although the institute will not accept payment from the Costa Rican Social Security System, ICOT contains many collaborative aspects. Rodríguez said the cancer center will receive academic leadership from top U.S. cancer hospitals at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, and the Sylvester Center in Miami, Florida. Local medical brands such as Hospital Metropolitano, Laboratorios Páez, Imágenes Médicas and Grupo Leisa also will have roles in the hospital. For example, Grupo Leisa runs the pharmacy while Hospital Metropolitano is in charge of the operating room.Roberto Herrera, director of the privately run Hospital Metropolitano, in San José, said ICOT is essential for treating a disease that has become the scourge of the 21st century. The state-of-the-art lab equipment should help with prevention and early diagnosis. “If you’re not able to work as a team, if you’re not able to involve many disciplines, then probably you will not be as good as you want to be in terms of cancer treatment,” Herrera said.León said the staff also proved significant for preparing her to fight breast cancer.She appreciated the closeness of the director of medicine, Joao Bautista, and the head of surgery, Efraín Cambronero, and she was grateful for the flexibility of the hospital’s insurance department. All these factors allowed her to feel more at ease while fighting a frightening disease.“They’re all very close to me at this moment, like friends of mine,” León said. “They were a big help.”A shortage of machines to fight cancer?A recent report asserts that thousands of women in Costa Rica are waiting to receive a mammogram from the Social Security System (Caja). The problem is so prevalent in the country that patients can wait up to two years for an appointment, according to statistics released Monday by the National Union of Caja Employees (UNDECA).Almost 53,800 women are waiting for a mammogram, UNDECA statistics showed. The mammogram is a tool used to detect and diagnose breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in women in Costa Rica. The UNDECA statement said the reason for the logjam is that many hospitals have mammogram machines that are old or no longer work.María Eugenia Villalta, a Caja medical manager, denied that the waits were as severe as what UNDECA claimed, although she did not provide figures proving otherwise. A press release from the Caja stated that the organization did 90,000 mammograms in 2011, and the number of mammograms performed increased 24 percent between 2008 and 2011.Villalta said the situation is improving, and the Caja in recent years bought 14 new mammography machines and hired 26 new radiologists. She said the Caja plans to hire 22 more in the upcoming year. She also said the reason some women might not be receiving mammograms more regularly is because it’s only necessary to receive a checkup every two years.The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the procedure every two years, starting at age 50. A recent study stated frequent mammograms lead to “over-diagnosis” of breast cancer, meaning that the breast cancer detected is so minimal it is unlikely to cause harm throughout a woman’s lifetime. Therefore, a patient receives treatment and tests they do not actually need. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Spanish firm Telefónica sells 40 percent of its assets in the region

first_imgNo related posts. MADRID, Spain – Spanish telecommunications group Telefónica announced Tuesday the selling of 40 percent of its assets in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, for a total of $500 million dollars, the company said in a press release.The agreement does not include the company’s operations in Costa Rica, which began under the trademark Movistar in November 2011 and is backed by the parent company in Spain.Telefónica will also receive a variable fee of up to $72 million for the sale, “which will be determined by the evolution of such assets in coming years,” the release said.The firm plans to reduce his debt from 51 billion euros in 2012 to 47 billion euros by the end of this year, and it announced in 2011 a restructuring plan that included, among other measures, reducing by 20 percent its workforce in Spain.Telefónica offers services such as fixed telephone, broadband and mobile in Central America. The company’s revenue last year increased 24 percent to 672 million euros, while operating income before depreciation and amortization fell 15 percent to 140 million euros. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Arenal Report

first_imgNo related posts. Jeudy (Jepi) Castroand his 10 year-old sonRoberto were caught in a massive landslide, and their bodies were recovered Oct. 10. The funeral service was held in Nuevo Arenal Friday evening, during which the family expressed its profound gratitude to the hundreds of people who rushed to the scene with shovels and began digging frantically in hopes for a rescue.As those hopes faded with time, no one gave up. Huge dump trucks, a crane excavator and a front-end loader, aided by a high-pressure hose brought by the fire department, moved tons of earth. At one point it looked like another part of the 100-foot high cliff overhanging the area would break away, but the digging continued. Emergency Medical Services helped other volunteers distribute food, water, juice and coffee to the diggers who worked to exhaustion. At no time was any available shovel standing idle. Sadly, it was not until the afternoon of the third day that the crane scoop grazed the body of Yepi, and soon after revealed that of his son. The hundreds of people who responded to this tragedy are heroes.We are so fortunate to live where Nature abounds in beauty and provision. But with this incident, we have seen another aspect of the natural world, one that has brought grief and sadness to many people. It’s a sobering observation and it will stay with us for along time.Ladies of the Lake Co-President Rene Aoki has announced that the 4th annual Christmas Bazaar on Dec. 8 has been moved to the Salon Communal in Tilarán, across from the police station and bus terminal. Ruth Fountaine has been hosting craft days at her home with groups of women, creating many surprises for the Bazaar. If you have things to donate such as clothes, books, DVDs, furniture or other salable items, arrangements may be made for pick-up and storage. Anyone wishing to participate in any way may contact Ruth at lol4thbazaar@yahoo.com.The indigenous Maleku of the San Isidro de Guatuso area held a fiesta recently that featured historical re-enactments, bow and arrow competition, sports and a large assortment of beautiful crafts. Carved masks and gourds, jewelry, magnificently painted drums and rain sticks, handbags of woven natural fiber, to name just a few of the items, were available at prices well below those of the souvenir shops.Maleku artisans feature themes of nature, especially birds, butterflies, monkeys, snakes, jaguars and flowers. The workmanship is exquisite. An abundant supply of freshly prepared food and drinks kept visitors and participants happy and well fed. This fiesta is fun, and well worth the trip to Guatuso for anyone interested in the historical and cultural aspects of Costa Rica. We plan a return to the fiesta in 2014.Nuevo Arenal’s German restaurant, La Rana held it’s annual Octoberfest on Sunday Oct. 6.  Reinert Becker treated everyone to savory German delicacies and plenty of good German beer and music. Monday, Oct. 7, the Arenal Garden Club met at Guia Pelican’s farm for an outstanding tour of his agricultural achievements. Cows, pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens and ducks all contribute manure for his bio-digester, which then produces methane. Ponds teeming with fish complete the self-sustaining operation. Guia’s presentation was professional and inspiring. It was exciting to see everything we ever read in Mother Earth News actually working on a neighborhood farm. After the walking tour, more than 60 people enjoyed a great potluck picnic and good fellowship with live music provided by Michael McBride.-William & Jean Priestjean_pri@comcast.net Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Viral election video urges Costa Ricans to reject the historically dominant parties

first_imgRelated posts:Election video spurs angry responses VIDEO: Costa Rican woman launched skyward by 1,100-pound bull A look at Costa Rica’s 2014 elections VIDEO: Killer whales hunt tiger shark near Costa Rica’s Cocos Island 30 years agoIn 1982, Luis Alberto Monge of the PLN won a landslide election over then-ruling party the United Coalition (which later became PUSC), including a large legislative majority. Monge inherited a country wracked by economic despair. Costa Rica suffered as much of the world did from soaring oil prices brought on by the 1979 Iranian revolution. Costa Rican exports, on the other hand, were at a low point, including bananas, coffee and sugar.Many Costa Ricans at the time blamed the policies of then–President Rodrigo Carazo, who ordered the Central Bank of Costa Rica to borrow heavily to deal with the economic downturn, against the advice of the International Monetary Fund and his own finance minister. Inflation soared with the colón losing 500 percent of its value.Monge came into power and reversed many of the government-controlled elements of the economy, moving to a more free-market approach. He cut spending, removed import and export taxes, and developed the tourism industry. Monge’s reforms seemed to pay off at the time, with dropping inflation and unemployment.Authors of the current video appear to be singling out this ideology as the culprit for the country’s current woes. At one point in the video it remarks that Costa Ricans have seen the same last names in political power during the last 30 years – sons, cousins, brothers. Current PLN presidential candidate Johnny Araya – who was the mayor of Costa Rica’s capital for two decades – is the nephew of Luis Alberto Monge.Many social media users applauded the video, sharing it with friends in their networks. But it hasn’t been well received by all Costa Ricans. Environment Minister René Castro dismissed the video as having glaring omissions, such as not mentioning the crisis during Carazo’s administration. (Pro-business and pro-tourism environmental policies came under fire in the video.)“’My name is Costa Rica’ is pretty, but typical of leftist communications professors and graduate students,” Castro said, according to Channel 7. “It narrates with emphasis … ancient economic theories; more rice and beans, no pineapple and less golf.”The business newspaper El Financiero published a column titled “What ‘Our name is Costa Rica’ won’t say.” In the article, libertarian columnist Juan Hidalgo accused the video of being a veiled promotion for progressive Broad Front Party candidate José María Villalta. Hidalgo said he was critical of the PLN as well, but that high level of government control of the economy is not sustainable.“For [the video’s authors], it was a paradise 30 years ago when some covetous neoliberals began to dismantle the bricks of Costa Rican solidarity,” Hidalgo wrote. “They do not mention that the model to which they want the country to return has imploded.” Facebook Comments Over the weekend, a group of University of Costa Rica (UCR) students released a nonpartisan video renouncing the traditional political parties that have run the Central American country for more than half a century.Mass communications students released the video last Friday, and it has already received more than 100,000 views as of Monday, being shared widely by Costa Ricans on social media platforms. The video is titled “Nuestro nombre es Costa Rica” – “Our name is Costa Rica.”“For 30 years, you have decided that some people are more important than everyone,” the video’s narrator said at its opening.For the project, one woman traveled across the seven provinces of Costa Rica critiquing the economic development model she said is responsible for social ills such as a 21 percent household poverty rate and levels of inequality worse than Mexico and El Salvador. The video also attacked environmental policies such as private beaches and privatization of water resources.“We want “Our name is Costa Rica” to be a space to reflect on the problem of the development model that has been imposed on us for the last 30 years,” the student group wrote on a Facebook page.The students said they are not affiliated nor are endorsing any political party or candidate in upcoming February elections. But their attacks appear to be directed at the current ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), which have been the dominant parties for more than 50 years.The video appeared during a political campaign holiday enforced by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), which lasts from Dec. 16 to Jan. 1. During that time, parties cannot release advertisements and can only conduct limited in-person campaign activities. However, nothing prevents nonpartisan groups from releasing videos.Luis Guillermo Solís, presidential nominee for the Citizen Action Party (PAC), praised the video, according to Channel 7 News.“Those who have governed us for the last 30 years have imposed a model of exclusionary development that has increased inequality, violence and poverty,” Solís said. “Without a doubt, we need to rescue Costa Rica.”PAC formed as a progressive party in 2000 from discontented former members of the PLN who accused that party of corruption.last_img read more

Where is Yerelin and the other missing children of Costa Rica

first_imgA search that has lasted more than two weeks in Costa Rica for a missing 6-year-old girl so far has turned up nothing. Yet it highlights a troublesome and growing trend in Costa Rica of disappearing minors.Yerelin Guzmán disappeared near her home in Santo Domingo de Heredia, 10 kilometers north of the capital, on July 11, setting off a nationwide search that has involved more than 686 people. Missing children were previously rare in Costa Rica, with only a handful of cases reported each year from 2004 to 2007. The number of children who have disappeared since then has climbed to more than 70 per year in four of the last five years, with 93 reportedly missing so far this year.Still, unlike Yerelin’s case, the overwhelming majority of cases of missing children in Costa Rica – 93 percent, excluding the year 2014 – are solved.The story of Yerelin first broke on national news media a day after she was last seen, as Costa Rican authorities spread the word and asked for public assistance. According to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), Yerelin was last seen leaving her family’s home only a few meters from the Santo Domingo police station with a 24-year-old male cousin of Yerelin’s father.“A woman from the corner store, 50 meters from here, told us that he [the cousin] arrived with my daughter to buy something. They didn’t return after that,” Yerelin’s mother, Hellen Calvo, told the daily La Nacíon.That relative, who also has the last name Guzmán, became the primary suspect in the young girl’s disappearance after Yerelin’s brothers accused him of sexually abusing her. Police arrested and held the suspect in preventive detention four days after her disappearance. According to La Nación, a former judge in the same prison said Yerelin’s relative reportedly confessed details of her disappearance to him, but that information so far has led nowhere, according to police spokesman Juan José Andrade, who addressed the media at a press conference on July 18.Outside of prison, Andrade said eight search teams – 686 people – had scoured neighborhoods and nearby coffee fields around Heredia, to no avail. He said police were moving to a second phase in the search, expanding the sweep to nearby municipalities and setting up 70 checkpoints on the country’s highways, as well as notifying border authorities and coordinating with neighboring countries.“We are going to continue the search with the same force and the same number of people,” Andrade said at the time.Despite the expanded search, police last week appeared no closer to determining Yerelin’s whereabouts. Yerelin’s brothers are now in protective custody by the government’s Child Welfare Office (PANI) as child welfare workers investigate the fitness of their parents and home, according to a report in the online daily crhoy.com.According to Rocío Rodríguez, director of Alliance for Your Rights, a nonprofit group that focuses on the human rights of children, kids from troubled homes are among those most at risk to disappear and never be found.“Costa Rica has a serious problem because it does not have sufficient laws regarding disappeared children,” Rodríguez said in a phone interview.The country’s primary investigative police branch, the OIJ, is accustomed to investigating crimes only after complaints are filed. But in many cases involving missing children, no one comes forward to file a complaint. Most children who disappear are runaways, Rodríguez said, and the majority of those suffered abuse at home. But it is rare for the government to intervene in those cases, according to Rodríguez.“There is no way to care for [those kids] in this country,” Rodríguez said. “There needs to be extreme measures taken in these cases.”A growing trendCases like Yerelin’s used to be rare in this country of approximately 4.8 million people. From 2004 to 2009, only 52 children were reported missing in the six-year span, according to OIJ figures. Less than half – 25 – were under the age of 12. But since then, from 2010 until today, Costa Rica has averaged 98 missing children per year. Data from http://latinoamericanosdesaparecidos.org which relies on figures from OIJ. 2014 case statuses are not updated, explaining the high number of unresolved cases. Corey Kane/The Tico TimesMost of those missing since 2010 are older than 12, requiring a 72-hour waiting period for OIJ to begin an investigation. A spokesman for the OIJ, Marco Monge, said that an overwhelming majority of missing kids older than 12 are runaways. Monge also said that data for 2014 cases have not been fully updated, explaining the high percentage of cases that are not resolved. The OIJ was not able to provide comment on the growth of reported disappearances.If you have information that may help find Yerelin, contact OIJ at 8710-1988 or 8453-6900. The convenience store near Yerelin Guzmán’s home in Santo Domingo de Heredia, where she was last seen with a relative, who is now a suspect in her disappearance. Alberto Font/The Tico Times Facebook Comments Related posts:Canadian longtime expat goes missing in Costa Rica under ‘strange’ circumstances Colleges cut ties with Bill Cosby as the list of women accusing him of assault hits 20 Tico migrants shipwrecked in Caribbean en route to US are still missing Costa Rican legislators to approve missing child alert systemlast_img read more

US embassies struggle to process visas amid global system failure

first_imgUnited States embassies around the world, including the U.S. Embassy in San José, have been struggling for over two weeks to overcome a system outage that has led to serious backlogs in processing visas.On July 20, system administrators updated the software for the the Consular Consolidated Database and suffered “significant performance issues” soon afterward. The system was brought back online in a limited capacity on July 23, but it remains problematic. The State Department said on its website that it would take weeks to get the CCD back to full capacity.Evelyn Ardón, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in San José, confirmed to The Tico Times that consular services in Costa Rica also were affected by the system failure. The State Department has yet to determine the cause of the failure.For U.S. citizens, consular offices are still issuing passports and emergency passports.Visa applicants, however, should plan for a delay. Non-immigrant visas could take an additional 10 to 14 days to process because the system is operating at just over 50 percent of its normal capacity. Consular services are prioritizing immigrant visa and adoption cases, non-immigrant medical emergencies and humanitarian cases, according to the website.Costa Rican students who need educational visas to study in the U.S. should contact their designated school official or U.S. sponsor’s responsible officer to work out an arrangement for when they can start their program, if needed.“We are committed to issuing visas to all qualified students and exchange visitors. Student and exchange visitor visa applicants should submit their applications well in advance of expected travel dates. We will make every effort to ensure timely visa issuance,” the website said.The State Department said that it regrets any delays but that it would not reimburse applicants for missed flights or other costs due to the CCD delay.People traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are not affected, nor are those whose previously issued visas remain valid, the website noted.Follow updates at http://www.travel.state.gov. Facebook Comments Related posts:White House names Democratic donor as nominee for ambassador to Costa Rica ‘Snowpocalypse’ strands air passengers in Costa Rica US Embassy in Costa Rica announces changes for visa requests 7 things to consider before retiring abroadlast_img read more

Government wants to hike taxes to boost income

first_imgFinance Ministry officials this week presented a series of amendments to Costa Rica’s sales and income tax laws in the hopes of increasing revenue by around ₡600,000 million ($1.1 billion). That would represent 2 percent of the national economy, officials said.The proposal, however, faces serious opposition from some business owners, legislators and unions.“As always happens, the consumer will end up suffering the consequences,” Francisco Ovares, president of Costa Rica’s Private Accountants Association, said Thursday.“We believe all affected sectors should read and do a deep analysis of the proposal,” Ovares said, “but most importantly, they should communicate their concerns to the Finance Ministry.”One of the major proposed changes would swap the current sales tax for a value added tax, and increase the rate gradually from the current 13 percent to 15 percent by 2017. Switching to a value added tax would mean most services, as well as goods, would be taxed.Businesses operating within free-zone regimes would remain exempt from the tax. Education and private health services would also be exempt, except for surgery and hospitalization.Tourism activities would be exempt for the first year after the law goes into effect, then levied a 5 percent tax in the second year, 10 percent in the third and 15 percent starting the fourth year.Services provided by self-employed professionals — including doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants — would be taxed. Concert and sports tickets, plastic surgery and cosmetic services, among others, would also be taxed.The proposal does include a provision designed to soften the effects of tax increases on the poor. Authorities would define a package of essential goods and services that would be exempt from the value added tax.The package would be revised periodically based on results of the National Institute of Statistics and Census’s survey of household income and expenses.Final drafts of the bills will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly for discussion and voting between April 13 and 17, Finance Minister Helio Fallas said.Proposed changes to income tax lawThe proposal includes two new salary brackets for income tax purposes. Monthly income above ₡2,225,000 million ($4,120) and up to ₡4,450,000 ($8,240) would be taxed at 20 percent.All monthly income above ₡4,450,000 would be taxed at 25 percent.Currently, monthly income above ₡793,000 ($1,469) and up to ₡1,190,000 ($2,200) is taxed at 10 percent, while all income above ₡1,190,000 is taxed at 15 percent.Monthly income under ₡793,000 ($1,469) would remain tax-exempt.The proposal would also tax all remittances paid to individuals and businesses outside of the country.In addition, large cooperatives would have to pay a 30 percent tax on their profits (all cooperatives are currently exempt).Micro, small and medium-sized businesses would be exempt as long as they are registered as such with the Economy Ministry.Private companies that provide energy generation services would also be exempt.Mario Hidalgo Matlock, a tax expert with the consulting company Deloitte, said the proposed tax law changes weren’t new.“They are very similar to those proposed during the last four or five administrations,” he said.He said the proposed expansion of taxed services would especially hit small entrepreneurs and businesses, like beauty parlors.He said the proposed tax on remittances “would affect the country’s appeal for attracting investors and even retirees and foreign residents sending remittances from here,” Hidalgo added.Drafts of both tax bills, along with forms that citizens can use to submit comments and suggestions, are available for download at the ministry’s website.Negative reactionsThe tax proposals generated plenty of criticism from different sectors of Costa Rican society.Leaders of the country’s main labor unions rejected both proposals. Eight major public and private sector unions grouped under the Patria Justa Coalition of Labor Unions, issued a joint statement, saying the proposed changes would disproportionately affect the poor and those who already pay most of the taxes.“The government is opting for the easy way to solve its (economic) problems,” they said.“Transforming the sales tax into a value added tax will only aggravate the already unfair tax structure,” the union leaders wrote. “Poor citizens are not the ones stealing or dodging tax money.”Labor leaders said they were considering street demonstrations against the proposed changes.The business sector was more guarded in its reaction. Luis Mesalles Jorba, vice president of the Costa Rican Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations, said the group would consult its members before submitting observations to the Finance Ministry.Mesalles said that any solution to the problem should combine fiscal reforms with tighter controls on public spending.He acknowledged that the government has already taken some actions to control spending, but said it had yet to address bigger problems, such as yearly wage adjustments and large cash benefits received by many bureaucrats.The outlook for the bill’s passage in the Legislative Assembly is dubious.Leaders from five parties — the National Liberation Party, Christian Democratic Alliance, Broad Front, Social Christian Unity Party and Libertarian Movement — publicly said they will vote against the government’s plan.Instead of raising taxes, they said the government should make further efforts to cut public spending and improve tax collection.During the full Assembly’s session on Wednesday, Libertarian Movement leader Otto Guevara Guth said his party will vote “against taking more money out of Costa Ricans’ pockets.”Social Christian Unity Party leader Rafael Ortiz Fábrega said his party “will not tolerate employers and taxpayers having to pay for the government’s inefficiency.”He said his party won’t approve any tax reform as long as the government fails to propose concrete measures for reducing spending.Comments and suggestions regarding the proposed reforms must be submitted via a template available on the Finance Ministry’s website and emailed to: cordobazm@hacienda.go.cr or esquiveljm@hacienda.go.cr or sent by fax: 2255-4874.The deadline to send comments is March 27. Facebook Comments Related posts:Finance Ministry submits tax reform bills to Legislative Assembly Higher and ampler sales tax recommended Government tables draft bills aimed at approving fiscal reforms Restaurant owners say 2 percent bank charge on credit, debit transactions could cause problemslast_img read more

Mexico sacks prison chiefs over Guzmán escape offers bounty

first_imgRelated posts:Undermining Mexico: How ‘El Chapo’ built a criminal empire, and escaped prison, by digging deep Actor Sean Penn secretly interviewed ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán in hideout before capture Sinaloa drug cartel lives on despite ‘CEO’ El Chapo’s capture Did Delta Force help capture El Chapo? US role yet to be detailed MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Mexico’s government offered a $3.8 million reward for the capture of fugitive drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on Monday and sacked top prison officials amid suspicions that guards helped him escape.Guzmán vanished from his cell late Saturday even though he was wearing a monitoring bracelet and surveillance cameras were trained on the room 24 hours a day, Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said.Osorio Chong said Guzmán “must have counted on the complicity of prison personnel… which if confirmed would constitute an act of treason.”Guzmán had been behind bars for just 17 months when he escaped for the second time since 2001, dealing a humiliating setback to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.This time, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel managed to flee a maximum-security prison some 90 kilometers (55) miles west of Mexico City through a 1.5-kilometer tunnel found under his cell’s shower.“What happened two days ago is a terrible event that has angered Mexican society,” Osorio Chong said.While cameras were constantly trained on the cell, Osorio Chong said there were “two blind spots,” while the bracelet only worked inside the prison.Osorio Chong said he decided to fire the Altiplano prison’s director as well as the head of the nation’s penitentiary system and general coordinator “to facilitate” the investigation.Attorney General Arely Gómez said 34 prison officials and 17 inmates were interrogated by prosecutors. No charges have been announced so far.A federal official said prison employees of various rank, including the warden, spent the night at the anti-organized crime unit of the attorney general’s office.The guards in charge of the capo’s cell and those who monitored the surveillance cameras that look into the room were among those interrogated, the official said.Two of Guzmán’s lawyers were questioned and anybody else who visited him during his incarceration is being sought.The owner of the property where Guzmán’s tunnel ended also faced questioning.‘No rest for Guzmán’ The government has launched a massive manhunt for Guzmán, who amassed a huge wealth as the head of the country’s most powerful drug gang, with tentacles reaching around the globe.Troops and police patrolled highways, borders and airports, while the governments of the United States and Central American neighbors were cooperating.The U.S. State Department said Guzmán’s “swift recapture by Mexican authorities is a priority for both the Mexican and the US governments.”Osorio Chong urged Mexicans to help authorities find Guzmán.“There will be no rest for this criminal,” he said. “There will be no break in efforts to rearrest him.”The government released a recent photo of Guzmán, with his head and famous black mustache shaved off.Guzmán was last seen right before 9:00 pm on Saturday, when he went into his private shower. After he failed to come out, guards found a hole 10 meters (33 feet) deep with a ladder inside.The gap led to a sophisticated tunnel with a ventilation and light system that ended inside a gray brick building on a hill surrounded by pastures in central Mexico State.A huge water pipeline project is under construction around the prison, which could explain why the tunnel’s construction went unnoticed.Guzmán’s first escape was in 2001, when he slipped past authorities by hiding in a laundry cart in western Jalisco state. He had been captured in Guatemala in 1993.Marines recaptured him in February 2014 in a pre-dawn raid at a condo in Mazatlán, a Pacific resort in Sinaloa state, with the DEA’s help.Losing Guzmán was an embarrassing blow to Peña Nieto, who has won praise for capturing a slew of kingpins, with Guzmán — a diminutive but feared man whose nickname means “Shorty” — the biggest trophy.Some U.S. prosecutors wanted to ask for his extradition following last year’s arrest, but Mexican officials insisted on trying him first. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Ann Patton in new battle with Costa Rican government over 7 million

first_imgAnn Patton speaks with reporters on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Earlier in the day, a Costa Rican appellate court ordered her release from prison. The Tico TimesSix years and three murder trials since the death of her husband, one might expect Ann Patton’s tumultuous relationship with Costa Rica to be over. Not so: Patton, 45, faces the possibility of yet another murder trial, plus several legal battles over the couple’s lavish estate in southern Costa Rica, including a standoff with the government over its continued holding of a private gemstone collection valued at more than $7.2 million.Patton’s husband, the late U.S. financier John Felix Bender, shot himself to death on Jan. 8, 2010 while lying next to her in bed in the couple’s jungle mansion in La Florida de Barú, Pérez Zeledón. Since then, prosecutors here have tried to prove – in three separate murder trials – that Patton actually pulled the trigger.Although judges in the first criminal trial in January 2013 found her not guilty of murder, citing reasonable doubt, a second court found her guilty a year later following an appeal, sentencing her to 22 years in prison. With Patton hauled off to preventive prison, her lawyers appealed, sending the case to a third trial, where appellate judges acquitted her, again, and ordered her released from custody.That was last September. Since then, Patton, who has consistently maintained that her husband’s death was a suicide, has left the country. But she still claims multi-million-dollar assets in Costa Rica, including a large wildlife reserve spanning thousands of acres, a lavish mountaintop home and personal items, including the gems, which Patton believes the government should have returned to her years ago. The four-story home of John Bender and Ann Patton in La Florida de Barú, Pérez Zeledón. Bender was found shot to death in the couple’s bedroom on the top floor on Jan. 8, 2010. His widow, Patton, was tried three times for his murder. The multimillion-dollar residence sits in the 5,000-acre Boracayán wildlife sanctuary. (Courtesy OIJ)The raid, dropped charges and precious gemsIn the chaotic aftermath of Bender’s death, investigators seized numerous items from the couple’s luxurious mansion in southern Costa Rica, where Patton and Bender had bought and reforested several thousand acres of land for a wildlife refuge they named Boracayán. The items included a refrigerator, household furniture, gym equipment and over 400 reproduction Tiffany lamps, valued at $80 to $12,000 a piece.They also took the gems: a striking array of precious and semi-precious stones, including opals, rubies, sapphires and tourmaline, some set in ornamental jewelry including silver rings, aquatic animal-shaped brooches and elegant necklaces.According to Peter Delisi, a longtime friend of Bender and now an informal spokesman for Patton, the couple bought the gemstones during several trips to the United States in 2008 and 2009. They were purchased as investments at the height of the global financial crisis, Delisi said, but their main purpose was to be displayed in the couple’s home, which also had extensive art glass and the replica Tiffany lamps.“Both John and Ann had a passion for gemology and took advantage of the ‘fire sale’ prices that were the result of the 2008 global economic meltdown,” Delisi told The Tico Times in one of several emails. “Like any art or collectible, the gemstones were for their personal use, but obviously an investment. … They did not buy [them] to speculate like one would buy a stock or real estate.”In a story published in Outside Magazine about Bender’s death and the first murder trial, writer Ned Zeman notes that the jewels played a key role in the prosecutors’ narrative about Bender’s death, with a theory that Patton had killed her husband to inherit the gems. That theory was never proven in court.Zeman writes:And there it was. The prosecution’s not-so-secret theory about motive was a noir classic: the lady wanted the jewels.On the morning after John’s death, investigators found more than 3,000 gems inside the home: diamonds, rubies, opals. Some lay neatly arranged in custom-made display cases; others sat randomly on counters or were stuffed inside backpacks. According to prosecutors, most had been brought into the country illegally: no receipts, no duties paid.Ann told me that everything had been legally acquired and that she was working on providing all the paperwork. But for the prosecution, an implied narrative began to form. The Wall Street bubble bursts in 2008. The Benders, facing liquidity problems, hit upon a cash business big on profits and short on tax oversight. But then the femme fatale kills her poor dupe to make off with the loot.Investigators seized the jewels the morning after Bender’s death, and a month later, in February 2010, they accused Patton of money laundering and racketeering, and later of smuggling contraband, Patton said.The money laundering and racketeering accusations – which came long before Patton was charged with murder in August 2011 – eventually were dropped, but not the contraband charge. According to Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Tatiana Vargas, on July 29, 2012 the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime moved forward with formal charges against Patton for violating Costa Rica’s General Customs Law by acquiring and storing jewels that “entered the country by eluding customs control.” Ann Patton’s gems. (Courtesy Peter Delisi)At the center of that accusation were the questions of how and when the gems were brought into the country, and for what purpose.But the law Patton was accused of violating was amended two months later, leaving prosecutors without a case. On Oct. 28, 2014 – more than two years after she was formally charged with smuggling – the Second Circuit Criminal Court of San José dismissed the customs violation charge against her.After that ruling, custody of the jewels, which a court-appointed expert had appraised at $7,234,990.77, was turned over to the General Customs Office “for that agency to collect the corresponding taxes that had not been previously collected by the Costa Rican government when the jewels entered the country.” Vargas from the Prosecutor’s Office said the unpaid taxes totaled $1,538,759.63.According to the spokeswoman, the judge in that case did not see reason for the judicial branch to maintain custody of the jewels “because there was no crime to prosecute.”The tax issue Without a crime to prosecute, did Patton actually owe taxes on the gems, which she maintains are personal items and, therefore, not subject to taxes?The government believes so, but hasn’t been able to provide a definitive answer as to why, and how much is due, despite the figure quoted by the Prosecutor’s Office to The Tico Times.Patton’s spokesman Delisi stressed that customs officials at the airport did not question Bender and Patton about the gemstones, nor did they require taxes be paid on the gems during any of the trips between the U.S. and Costa Rica, although Delisi could not say if the two filled out customs forms declaring the items.“There was no reason to declare the gems as they were personal possessions,” Delisi said. “Upon visual inspection, [Patton] was not questioned. There was no form.”Like many things in Costa Rica, customs laws regarding personal items are open to a degree of interpretation, a legal expert consulted by The Tico Times said. For example, if you enter the country wearing a $35,000 Rolex watch, it would be considered a personal, tax-exempt item. But what if you brought in two Rolex watches?Delisi argued that because customs officials at the airport did not charge taxes on the gems, or even question the couple at the time, and because a court found no crime had been committed, customs officials should not have reason to continue holding them. Police confiscate the gems. (Courtesy Peter Delisi)When the criminal court dropped the smuggling charges against Patton, it turned custody of the gems over to the General Customs Office. But it is the Central Customs Office – a separate office – that must now determine who owns the gems, as well as any possible taxes due on them, according to Roy Chacón, assistant director of the General Customs Office.Despite her assertion that she owed no taxes on the gems, Patton said she reached a verbal agreement, through her attorneys and Delisi, last December with the former manager of the Central Customs Office, Enilda Ramírez, to pay $1.5 million in taxes in order to get them back.According to Delisi, in a Jan. 8 meeting, customs officials and Patton’s attorneys “walked through the entire process of the inventory and steps to hand over the gems, and pay the tax.” The process finally seemed to be moving forward after dragging on for years.The ownership question According to Chacón, part of the customs agency’s mandate regarding the gems – and one reason for its decision to continue holding them – is to determine their ownership. Documents obtained by The Tico Times show the Central Customs Office conducted a review of the ownership question in a Jan. 13, 2016 report from the office’s department of procedural review sent to Ramírez, the manager.As part of due diligence in the case, the study noted that in May 2015, customs officials had consulted the Second Circuit Penal Court judge about the ownership of the jewels and other items seized from Patton’s home. The judge responded on July 6, 2015, confirming the gemstones were removed “from Ms. Ann Maxine Patton’s home,” and adding that the court “no longer had the jurisdiction to resolve the ownership issue.”Another statement cited in the customs report from the Government Attorney’s Office noted that, “On Jan. 8, 2010, the accused, Ann Maxine Pattron [sic], known as Ann Bender, stored/had in her possession in her home located in San José, Pérez Zeledón, a collection of jewels, precious and semi-precious stones, … merchandise acquired outside of Costa Rica and brought into the country. … ”No other individual or corporation had disputed Patton’s claim to ownership of the gems, the report added.Another section of the ownership report addressed the question of whether the gems could be declared by the government as “abandoned,” a legal status describing potential evidence in judicial proceedings that remains unclaimed within a month of the end of those proceedings. Patton’s lawyer filed a claim for ownership of the gems on her behalf within the appropriate time allotted by law, and the report concluded that they could not be declared abandoned.The report also cited a court ruling from Nov. 27, 2014 – a month after smuggling charges against Patton were dropped – that stated: “The previously cited norms clearly indicate that items can only be held in custody when a crime was committed.” The court complex in the southern Pacific canton of Pérez Zeledón, where U.S. expat Ann Patton was acquitted of murder charges on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. Alberto Font/The Tico Times‘Under review’With ownership of the gems already established by an internal customs review, and with a $1.5 million tax payment ostensibly agreed upon by both sides, Patton said she was convinced the process would move forward in early January. But since then, it seems to have hit a bureaucratic wall, she said.On Jan. 15 – two days after the gem ownership report was submitted to Ramírez – she was replaced as manager of the Central Customs Office by Guiselle Joya, whose last name, in one of many strange coincidences in Patton’s case, means “jewel” in Spanish. After that, communication began to break down between the two sides, Patton said.Joya “started asking questions that really had no bearing,” Patton told The Tico Times in a telephone interview, adding, “this was an administrative procedure, and she just stalled it out by asking questions, by simply being completely intransigent and ignoring the deal that had been in place.”Patton said she found it “peculiar” that the Costa Rican government “would not see [the tax deal] as being a positive for everyone.”In a March 11 telephone interview with The Tico Times, Chacón would not confirm or deny that a verbal agreement had been reached regarding the taxes. He said that while Patton and her legal team had been pushing for a prompt tax payment, there were unresolved issues, including who owns the gems and what exact amount of taxes is due. Chacón said the Central Customs Office had jurisdiction to resolve those pending issues.The Tico Times sought an interview with Joya or other officials from the Central Customs Office, but was told by a Finance Ministry spokeswoman that only Chacón was authorized to speak about the case.After sending follow-up questions by email, we were told: “According to the General Customs Office, until the process of reviewing the case is concluded, we cannot provide any further details.”In the initial interview with Chacón, The Tico Times asked what documents customs officials were waiting on to move forward.“There have been a few requests made to the prosecutor, in order to obtain proof and criteria to have complete clarity regarding the issue, and to determine ownership of the merchandise, and to make a decision.”The Tico Times asked what decision Chacón was referring to.“The part that corresponds to Central Customs, the appropriate paperwork by them, to have clarity about the jewels and the items that are being processed to generate a customs declaration and the respective tax payments,” he said.“For us, charging the tax isn’t the only important issue, we must also have clarity that the owner of the merchandise effectively is Ms. Ann [Patton] in order to proceed to charge [the tax],” Chacón said.Asked how long the process would take, Chacón said, “I can’t give you a date, given that Central Customs has jurisdiction to analyze and resolve the case.”One possible explanation for the delay, according to the legal expert consulted by The Tico Times, is that given new management, Central Customs officials may be re-examining the $1.5 million tax figure to determine how it was calculated. They also may be looking at the appraisal to see how it was conducted.In an email on Tuesday, The Tico Times asked a spokeswoman for the Finance Ministry for a clarification of the specific law under which customs continues to hold Patton’s gems, and how they would be appraised. This story will be updated with any response received.Patton, who remains skeptical about the recent delays in recovering the gems, said she can’t figure out why the Costa Rican government would stall a $1.5 million voluntary tax offer.“I’m doing the best that I can to simply analyze the situation and find some logic,” she said. “Of course, it’s a little difficult for me not to smell a rat.”Chacón from the General Customs Office said that the legal issues with the gemstones are separate from the appeal of Patton’s murder acquittal. Attorneys on both sides presented their arguments to an appellate court last January – almost six years to the day of Bender’s death – on whether the latest verdict should be upheld, or whether the case should be sent to an almost inconceivable fourth trial.“The criminal part of the case is something that we have no participation in,” Chacón said.Besides the drawn-out battle over the gems and the possibility of yet another murder trial, Patton also has an outstanding legal accusation against a former trustee for allegedly stealing tens of millions of dollars from the couple’s estate. Her attorneys have filed a joint criminal and civil complaint against the man, who last September was ordered to surrender his passport pending an investigation.But Patton has received some, at least partially good news in the past few weeks: Officials finally returned her household items, including the furniture, refrigerator, gym equipment and all of those reproduction Tiffany lamps – with no taxes due.However, when the lamps arrived, according to Patton, more than half were damaged or broken. Facebook Comments Related posts:Peace Corps volunteers petition to reinstate sexual assault victims’ advocate Costa Rica man arrested with 400 cloned US credit cards Global drug policy isn’t working. These 100-plus organizations want that to change. US seizes $12 million of drugs in Caribbeanlast_img read more

Bryns pura vida how Costa Rica inspired a teenagers musical legacy

first_imgBryn left behind a musical legacy of the pure life inspired by Costa Rica; a legacy that allows his parents to hold on of who he was, how he thought and what he chose to express through art.“There is nothing that can ever compensate for Bryn’s loss, but as his parents, we cling to what he left behind, including his music. One of my friends who was at the Orpheum concert said to me afterward: ‘In my interpretation of how the world works, some aspect of Bryn is now floating around the ceiling of the Orpheum, mingling with aspects of Shostakovich and Tovey et al. Not bad company.’” Buechert writes. “Indeed, it seems as if each time his music is played, a part of him is still alive and sending us his message, one of love for life and for the things that make life worth living.” The year is 1998. A couple in Langley, British Columbia, is excited to welcome their first and only child: Bryn Hutchinson. Bryn’s parents are Marian Buechert, a writer and editor of books, magazines and blogs, and Mark Hutchinson, who works in quality control within the food processing industry.Bryn’s parents are thrilled about their child, who is full of life. As Bryn grows up, his parents notice he’s quiet, yet an intense person interested in listening more than speaking.“When Bryn was two, he hardly spoke. He mostly pointed and used just a few simple words. When he finally began to talk, it was in full sentences. Soon he was using long words and complicated vocabulary. He was reading well before he started school, and throughout his life, he read everything from fantasy novels to scientific non-fiction books,” Buechert tells The Tico Times in an email.This natural interest in reading and learning continues to develop when he goes to school, where he immerses himself in his subjects, particularly enjoying English and the sciences.“He loved maps: collecting them, pinning them on his walls, and drawing maps of both real and imagined places,” his mother writes. “He was always fascinated by nature and the environment, which led him into birding.” Birding or bird watching on the bank of the Tárcoles River. Courtesy of Marian BuechertAlong with his interest in school, he also enjoys respecting and helping others.“Bryn was a compassionate, tolerant, and caring friend who accepted everyone as they were. His friends have spoken to me about how they were drawn to him because he didn’t judge people and he had a kind of self-contained composure rare in a teenager. He was never cruel or mean. He wanted to help his friends always,” Buechert tells The Tico Times.In December 2014, Bryn and his family visit Costa Rica.“We chose Costa Rica because we were interested in learning more about this country that had no army and that was famous for its progressive environmental policies. We were also intrigued by the idea that Costa Rica had been ranked first in the world in the Happy Planet Index. And, of course, Costa Rica has amazing bird life,” Buechert writes. Filming hummingbirds in the gardens of the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Courtesy of Marian BuechertWhile visiting Costa Rica, Bryn decides to create a documentary titled “Resplendence” about the resplendent quetzal he sees while birdwatching. He applies what he’s been learning in his filmmaking course at the Langley Fine Arts School back home, and writes a script describing Costa Rica’s quetzal population as well as the country’s active role in protecting it.“Was it possible that Costa Rica’s recent population growth would oust the quetzals from even the last of their mountaintop forests? But, as I wandered the streets of San José, one night, I realized that the Costa Rican people wouldn’t let that happen,” the script reads. “Looking around, I saw the streets were as clean or cleaner than our own streets in Vancouver. Even with fewer natural resources, lower wages and shorter lifetimes, smaller populations and tighter spaces, the people were willing to sacrifice in the name of the environment. I doubted they would allow such a bird to go extinct.”Bryn is so inspired by Costa Rica that he doesn’t stop there: upon his return home, he decides to write an orchestral composition named “Pura Vida” for his music program, honoring the iconic Costa Rican phrase. Bryn playing drums at an informal performance at the Chan Centre, Vancouver. Courtesy of Marian Buechert“As part of his requirements for graduating from the music program, Bryn was asked to compose an original music piece on a theme of his choice,” Buechert writes to The Tico Times. “The piece is complex and full of tension, which reflected how he saw Costa Rica’s challenges. Despite the title of ‘pure life,’ this is not a sweet pastoral composition; there is a great deal of struggle and push-and-pull happening in it. ‘Pura Vida’ does not come without sacrifice and determination,” Buechert writes. Bryn with the final score of ‘Pura Vida’ after he stayed up all night to complete it. Courtesy of Marian BuechertThe piece was never performed by the Langley Fine Arts School, due to its complexity.Following his graduation in 2016, Bryn struggles to choose a university major that he is passionate about; he ends up choosing biology and gets accepted into the University of British Columbia. To help finance his education, he gets a summer job at a wildlife refuge.Things change in a tremendously unexpected and saddening manner for Bryn’s family on his way to work one day: he is killed in a car accident.“He didn’t have his driver’s license yet, so he was carpooling to the job in the mornings with a co-worker. En route, she made a fatal error and turned left directly in front of an oncoming dump truck. Being in the passenger seat, Bryn was crushed instantly. The driver survived with minor injuries,” Buechert writes.He was 17 years old. Bryn Hutchinson’s graduation portrait for the Langley Fine Arts School, where he graduated in 2016 and two weeks after graduation was killed on an automobile accident. Courtesy of Marian Buechert“There is nothing that did not change. Mark calls it ‘the day the world ended.’ Everyone experiences loss in their lives, but only parents who have lost a child understand what it is like. It is losing the best part of yourself. It is losing your connection to the future. It is seeing your partner suffer through the worst pain imaginable,” Buechert writes.After this unimaginable pain, in a very unexpected manner, the legacy of the pura vida that Bryn left behind was revived. A year after his death, in 2017, Langley Fine Arts School music program teacher Robert Goddard decided to perform Bryn’s “Pura Vida” composition at the Christ Church Cathedral. Bryn playing timpani at one of his final performances with the Langley Fine Arts Orchestra. Courtesy of Marian Buechert“When we heard the performance, we were so proud, both for them and for Bryn’s work, which we finally got to hear with proper instruments,” Buechert recalls.Another surprise was just ahead: during this performance, Maestro Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, heard the piece and was hooked. He wanted the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to perform it, and so it did this year: the orchestra performed it at two concerts in June at the Orpheum, a theater and music venue located in Vancouver.“To sit in that theater and hear the full orchestra play our son’s music was a bit surreal, but afterward, we met backstage with Maestro Tovey and he was so warm, down-to-earth, and kind in speaking to us that I was able to take it all in a bit better,” Buechert tells the Tico Times.Watch the Langley Fine Arts School Orchestra perform ‘Pura Vida’ at the Christ Church Cathedral Related posts:Our favorite Weekend Arts Spotlight interviews of 2017 Tamarindo gears up for Art Wave Festival PHOTOS: The annual Oxcart Parade in Atenas, Alajuela 5 questions for a Canadian punk rock band in Costa Ricacenter_img Facebook Commentslast_img read more

China defends Iranian oil imports

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Comments   Share   That leaves China alone among major importers of Iranian oil without a U.S. waiver. It has until June 28 to reduce its consumption of Iranian oil or face the penalties, unless it receives a national security waiver.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories Parents, stop beating yourself up New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img Sponsored Stories Quick workouts for men BEIJING (AP) – China is defending its Iranian oil imports but not saying whether it would be willing to reduce them to avoid U.S. sanctions against Chinese banks as part of Washington’s financial squeeze on Iran.Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Tuesday that Beijing remains opposed to unilateral sanctions and has communicated its position to Washington.The Obama administration on Monday exempted India and six other governments from U.S. economic sanctions after they significantly reduced their imports of Iranian oil. More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, familylast_img read more

Decline of entrepreneurship blamed for Japan woes

first_imgAP Business WriterTOKYO (AP) – Worn out and resigned to its dwindling status, Japan Inc. is said to be quietly shuffling off the world stage. But don’t tell that to Kenji Hasegawa, who is ready to conquer the global auto market with his nifty innovation, a bolt that doesn’t need a nut. Or Chiaki Hayashi, who makes millions teaching big-name companies to be creative again.As different as they seem _ Hasegawa runs auto-parts supplier Lock’n Bolt Corp. and Hayashi is a rare woman to help found a Tokyo startup _ both highlight the potential of innovation and entrepreneurship in a nation that is often typecast as facing an unrelenting decline. Hayashi’s young business, Loftwork Inc., earned 900 million yen ($11 million) in annual sales taking a different but equally Japanese route as Hasegawa’s.She offers a service that stems from her diagnosis of the sickness at major companies _ the loss of the innovative spirit. She hopes to start a kernel of creativity going at companies that “starts small but snowballs.”Top Japanese companies have a load of talented hardworking people, but they have become so obsessed with rigidity like quality control in mass production that their thinking has grown static, and they can’t figure out where to start or how to change, she said.“The companies need our help because they’ve grown to be a giant Gundam robot that isn’t able to handle delicate innovations, which are like ants at its feet, and may instead squash them,” Hayashi said, referring to a Transformer-like robot.Saito, a son of Japanese immigrants to California, believes Japan Inc. has simply lost its entrepreneurial spirit. His assessment underlines a growing view among experts here.Saito’s own career took off when he was just a teenager, partly because management of major Japanese companies like Sony Corp. and NEC Corp. weren’t afraid to take risks in the past, even on a child prodigy like Saito, when he came up with fingerprint-recognition encryption for security. Top holiday drink recipes Saito says conformist Japan frowns upon failures, and doesn’t allow for second chances. Worse, Japan appears to be wallowing, when what it needs is action, Saito and others say. Even the rising yen, long cited as the death knell for an exporting economy such as Japan, should be reframed as an advantage, delivering bigger purchasing power for Japanese companies abroad.For some, Japan’s revival can come from re-inventing what it has long known best _ manufacturing, but with innovative ideas.As tiny as a nut-less bolt is, it has the potential to make Hasegawa, the supplier, rich. Much of machinery, including cars, ships and factory equipment, use bolts _ untold numbers of them. And so a bolt that doesn’t require a nut is a big timesaver.A nut-less bolt, based on the idea of a smaller bolt within a bolt, a patented secret, is also significantly lighter than a regular bolt, delivering cost-savings in fuel and raw materials and other perks like better mileage in a car.Hasegawa is talking with a long list of interested companies, including Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. He is looking into production outside Japan, perhaps Vietnam, he said.Hasegawa says the key to Japan’s revival lies in breakthroughs such as his that developed because of a legacy in “monozukuri,” which translates as “making things,” but is more akin to craftsmanship. More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Of the decline, there is plenty of evidence.Long in the doldrums after its 1980s bubble economy burst, Japan has been eclipsed by China as the world’s second-biggest economy. Many of its consumer technology companies have been overtaken by South Korean competitors and are racking up huge losses. The number of young Japanese choosing to study abroad has dropped. And while Facebook lured hundreds of millions of members worldwide, management at Japanese social network Mixi never looked to grow overseas.The naysayers claim Japan is stagnating, only looking inward and squandering advantages such as its well-educated workforce, low crime rate and a rich history of technological prowess. But even while acknowledging big challenges that include its swollen national debt and rapidly greying population, Japan Inc.’s boosters say it can still rekindle the sparks of ingenuity that in the past delivered network-connecting mobile phones years before the arrival of smartphones, and made “instant noodles” part of the global diet for the last four decades.First though, Japan must recognize that what ails it is at least partly in the mind.“In order to have innovation, you must accept a certain amount of failure. To the Japanese, this has become taboo,” said William Saito, a prolific technology inventor who now runs a company that identifies up-and-coming innovators and tries to match them with investors. Comments   Share   Top Stories Parents, stop beating yourself up (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Quick workouts for men Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama Sponsored Stories Microsoft Corp. licensed Saito’s core technology in 2000, and bought his company nine years ago, allowing him to technically retire.“But I’ve never been busier, doing a ton of different things, to really give back to society, and to reinvigorate the creative spirit and become a more entrepreneurial society again because it used to be here,” said Saito. “It’s just bringing it back. All the parts exist. It’s just a matter of how to execute that.”Saito, the computer whiz, has opened “Creative Lounge Mov,” in a fashionable shopping mall in Tokyo’s Shibuya, known as this nation’s Silicon Valley, complete with locker rooms, offices and sofas, to provide a place where venture types can exchange ideas and hook up with investors.He and others believe such ventures will nurture entrepreneurs, and in the longer term get Japan back in front.Despite being ahead in key technologies like the mobile Internet and electronic money, Japan saw its lead eroded by latecomers with more imagination, according to Gerhard Fasol, a consultant who works with Japanese companies.“Japan hasn’t woken up,” said Fasol.___last_img read more

Jordan police say probing Syria refugee fire death

first_img Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology The statement said a police probe was underway to determine the circumstances of the man’s death.No other details were immediately available.Jordan hosts the largest number of displaced Syrians, with more than 150,000 sheltering in the country.Some 7,000 are located in the Zaatari camp near the northern border with Syria.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 0 Comments   Share   How men can have a healthy 2019 Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Sponsored Stories Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Daycenter_img Top Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordanian officials say they are investigating the death of a Syrian refugee who died in a fire in Jordan’s first refugee camp _ the first such incident at the tent city.The man, who was not identified, died on Monday morning after a fire broke out in one of the tents inside the Zaatari camp, the official Petra news agency reported. It cited a press statement issued by Jordan’s General Security Directorate. 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

Remains of Spaniards killed in Germanwings crash come home

first_img Comments   Share   Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Top Stories Families were sending hearses to pick up the remains so they can be transported to home towns for funeral services, Riecken said.All 150 people aboard the Barcelona-Duesseldorf flight on March 24 died. Among them were citizens of more than a dozen countries, including 72 Germans, 47 Spaniards and four with dual citizenship and a Spanish passport.The transfer on Monday from Marseille to Barcelona came a week after the first 44 remains were sent to relatives in Germany.Among the German victims were 16 high school classmates who had been finishing an exchange program in Spain.Authorities say co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into a mountainside.Lufthansa has said all of the remains should be sent to their relatives by the end this month.The crash is under investigation by French authorities.___Clendenning reported from Madrid.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The remains of 32 Spaniards killed in the Germanwings jet crash were flown from France to Barcelona on Monday, 12 weeks after the plane’s co-pilot slammed the plane into the French Alps.Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, set up a large room in an airport building where relatives received the remains of their loved ones in a “dignified setting,” said airline spokesman Martin Riecken. Psychologists were at the site for grieving relatives who needed them. Sponsored Stories Employees load coffins of the victims of the Germanwings aircraft crash aboard a Lufthansa plane lands to transfer the remains of the victims of the Germanwings aircraft crash to Barcelona in Spain, at Marseille airport, southeastern France, Monday, June 15, 2015. After months of waiting, families of the 150 people killed when a Germanwings plane smashed into the French Alps in March will finally start burying their loved ones as the airline’s parent company sending home victims’ remains. Lufthansa prepared Monday to ferry coffins with remains of 30 victims by cargo plane from Marseille, France, to Barcelona, Spain, where Germanwings flight 9525 from Barcelona took off March 24. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

Qantas pushes for denial of VirginEtihad interim approval

first_imgQantas have urged the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to deny the request of the Virgin Blue Group and Etihad Airways for interim approval of their proposed alliance.Claiming that the “true value” of the proposed alliance is not in travel to Abu Dhabi, but rather the services from Australia to UK/Europe, Qantas General Counsel Brett Johnson told the ACCC that interim authorisation would result in “more widespread price coordination across the broad codeshare network”.“It is not possible that the applicants will not also be coordinating prices between Australia and Europe when they are price fixing on the Australia-Abu Dhabi route and most passengers will then be connecting to Etihad services to Europe,” Mr Johnson wrote.Mr Johnson made clear that Qantas did not feel that Virgin Blue and Etihad’s desire to start marketing their proposed services was a “compelling” enough reason to be granted interim authorisation and would be detrimental to consumers should the alliance be denied further down the path.“Qantas considers passengers will suffer considerable harm and inconvenience if tickets are booked on a new service during the interim period but final authorisation is ultimately denied.”Qantas further took a swipe at Virgin Blue, claiming that they should have lodged an application earlier to meet their “commercial desires” thereby rendering interim approval unnecessary – a lesson Virgin Blue should well know given “the number of applications for authorisation lodged by Virgin Blue recently”.The ACCC is set to make a decision in regards to the alliance sometime this month. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A Rivals Virgin Blue and Qantaslast_img read more

American Airlines Sabre row affects agents

first_imgDisputes between American Airlines (AA), Sabre and Travelport have started impacting agents who are having troublesearching for AA fares. Fort Worth based Ridgmar Travel owner Debbie Stevenson said since issues between the two companies commenced, agents have been forced to spend significant amounts of time checking airline websites for flight information, The Los Angeles Times reported.”I feel totally helpless… I’m at the mercy of two large companies, American and Sabre,” Ms Stevenson said. Issues in the industry started late last year after AA withdrew its flight information from Orbitz to prompt travellers to purchase flights from its website. The airline was then dropped by travel site Expedia and will be ditched by Sabre at the end of its contract in August. Ms Stevenson is among many who do not see the benefits of selling airline tickets if the work load will increase for its agents.”We don’t make money on airline tickets, but they are a courtesy for our clients,” All Ports Travel in Arlington, Texas general manager Dezi Whiteaker said.”That is the only reason we continue selling it.” Forrester Research industry analyst Henry Harteveldt said the current system in which airlines pay fees to global distribution systems like Sabre is not “sustainable”.”What is really needed is a new model where the airlines pay less for distribution and the travel agencies pay more, but are compensated in another way, recognizing their benefit,” Harteveldt said. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

PO Cruises welcomes first female captain

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A Pacific Pearl’s female officers with Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry – left to right:  Cruise Director Zoltina-J Medwick Daley, Revenue Director Martina Damonte, Captain Sarah Breton, Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry, Executive Housekeeper Mari Schoon and Hotel Director Jane Herron Sarah Breton fulfilled a dream last Friday when she sailed through the heads in Sydney Harbour as Captain of P&O Cruises newest flagship, Pacific Pearl. “I’ve sailed into Sydney Harbour many times, but to sail into one of the world’s most beautiful harbours as Captain of Pacific Pearl is really something,” said Captain Breton. Having served on board a wide array of ships, including the Sky Princess, Canberra, Pacific Princess, Grand Princess and Coral Princess, 45-year old Captain Breton understands that long periods at sea may deter women from a career in shipping.  “It takes time to build up the necessary experiences so rising to this position takes many years – there are no shortcuts. The responsibility as captain is huge, but it’s the same responsibility whether you are a man or woman and the reaction to my captain’s appointment has been terrific.” In a first for the line, Captain Breton joins four other female senior offices, the largest on any other cruise ship in the region.“We are thrilled to finally have a female Captain in charge of one of our great Australian ships and believe that Captain Breton is a fantastic role model for girls who dream of a career on the high seas,” said Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia.Captain Breton is one of only three other female captains on major ships worldwide. last_img read more

Board appointments ACTE for Aus market

first_imgThe Association of Corporate Travel Executive (ACTE) has reaffirmed its commitment down under, appointing new regional managers and board members to head up operations.Speaking at the inaugural ACTE forum down under since it announced Australasia as its newest region last month, executive director Ron DiLeo outlined the new appointments and stressed that the Group was committed to assisting the market and appointments highlighted that pledge.Among the appointments include a new member to the ACTE global board, Georgie Farmer as well as a regional chair person to coordinate activities in Australia and New Zealand, Aileen London.Mr DiLeo added that over the next few days the company was looking to hire a new regional director, regional manager as well as relocate on of its US-based reps down under to assist “activities and make sure all new resources perform well [and ensure] consistency of the brand”.“As for our infrastructure clearly we are taking the investment in this region very seriously, we are diving in full body not just putting toes in the water,” Mr DiLeo told forum attendees yesterday. “Hopefully with a beginning like this with 100 or so of our closest friends from the region here we are expecting to be engaged very quickly here.”Other investments in the Australasian market include entering a “strategic relationship” with Reed Travel Exhibitions to present educational programs at the AIME conference in Melbourne next year.Mr DiLeo said the Group approached him in October and said that up to 20-25 percent of their attendees were responsible for business travel and asked if ACTE would be able to develop five or six programs for the conference.The executive director explained the program would run inside the event “so the AIME conference will continue to be the AIME conference but you’ll see ACTE on the inside”.He also told forum attendees that the Group had planned to kick off a new ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ initiative in Sydney during March next year to drive young thinkers into the travel industry.For more information on the program click back onto e-Travel Blackboard tomorrow.  Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more