June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in tourism (3)


Visa Hurdles Hurt US Economic Growth

By John Terrett in America
 The United States is on the lookout for more international travelers who want to visit the country.

Part of the problem is the difficulty tourist and business people face obtaining a visa to enter the US.

Wait times of almost a year are not uncommon in some parts of the world.

The US tourism industry is pushing the State Department to speed things up, saying billions of dollars and millions of potential American jobs are in play.

And you can't blame them because when it comes to sight-seeing - the view from here in the Land of the Free is that it's tough to beat the USA!

Fifty states come equipped with some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world.

Where I'm based, in Washington DC, you can see some of the most famous locations like the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Capitol, all within walking distance of each other.

Overseas visitors ploughed well over $100bn into the US economy in the first 10 months of last year ... and while their spending is back to where it was before the 2008 global financial collapse, tough visa rules introduced after the attacks of September 11, 2001, mean the over-all number of international visitors to the US is down in a decade - from 17% to 12% - and that's hurting US tourism jobs.

Patricia Rojas, from the US Travel Association told me:

"We are shovel ready ... you don't have to create America we're here.  You don't have to create the hotels, the destinations, the theme parks. So to make our visa system more efficient to attract those visitors so that we can bring what we believe is over a million jobs this decade."

For countries like Brazil and China with lots of money to spend - and where outbound travel is forecast to grow 38% and 151% respectively in the next 10 years - waiting up to a year for clearance the US often leads tourists to look elsewhere.

Patricia explained more: "The tour operator tells you, well I wish I could get you down to Florida but we can't, we can't even get you in until March for an interview.  Why don't I send you to Paris instead?"

The US travel industry wants Congress to make Brazil one of the more than 30 countries in the visa-waiver scheme and it's calling for lengthier visas to be given to Chinese travelers.

The State Department says security is the top priority ... but it's well aware of the economic implications of speeding up visa processing and its moving staff into vetting positions at US embassies as fast as it can.

David Donahue, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services - he's the man you seen on those Green Card application advisory videos on the State Department's website.

"I think everyone in this administration cares about jobs ... it's a key administration goal to make sure we that we give this economy every opportunity to create jobs and certainly tourism is a great place for good jobs they can't be outsourced they have to be done here."

The tourists are clearly out there with money to spend ... the US knows they're coming from many emerging economies not just China and Brazil.

The question is can enough be done to get them into the USA quick enough before they end up spending their tourist dollars elsewhere in the world.

- Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 


(Report) - Could Egypt's Legendary and Lucrative Tourism Industry Be Devastated? 

(Photo: Tourists riding camels @Egypt's Giza Pyramids. File) (HN-1/30/11) – Cairo, Egypt.  As parts of the Egyptian capital go up in smoke so too is the country’s lucrative and crucial tourism industry. 

“It could take us two years to return to the level we’re at right now“, said the manager of one of Cairo’s 5-star hotels.

He added that while other previous events did little to the harm the industry – such as the April 2006 attack on Jewish tourists in Dahab; and the January 2010 shooting of Coptic Christian bus tourists in Upper Egypt; they had nowhere near the `in your face’ factor of the current uprisings – which have seen Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and many other major tourist sites transformed into veritable war zones.

Egypt has six thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations on the planet.  For millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  Beginning in the early 19th century — from when Napoleon’s French forces invaded Egypt — interest in Egyptology and the ancient world spread across the world; culminating with the modern tourism industry which began with the findings by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922 of King Tut’s tomb which urged this fascination laying the foundations for the modern tourism industry in the country.

Because much of the violence occurred just steps away from many of Cairo’s major hotels many tourists and business travelers were exposed to tear gas, horrifying scenes of vandalism and even live fire. The site of tanks and the sounds of jet fighters and helicopters have scared the living daylights out of many tourist visitors.

(Photo: Cairo International Airport, Courtesy WikipediaHUMNEWS spent the day visiting many tourist sites, hotel and visitor locations and found long lines of rattled tourists rushing to catch planes out of the country. Many had arrived here on prepaid vacations that were abruptly cut short when the chaos began to escalate after Friday’s mass demonstration.

Several countries including Turkey, India, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Japan, and the US will begin evacuating their citizens Monday.

As recently as Saturday many luxury hotels in Cairo were already operating low - below the 20% occupancy level. Normally the average rate of occupancy during season is about 75%. The manager of one international chain property in Central Cairo said he may temporarily close his 366 room hotel on the Corniche El Nil. This same manager said he was attacked by armed men Saturday evening while attempting to drive home.

As the chaos continues to spiral out of control, the iconic Nile River, the longest river in the world, has gone from being a virtual water highway to an empty expanse for miles. Grand tourist boats and elegant Falukas are all docked along the banks of the river because of a lack of business – increasing as the days goes on - and a restrictive nighttime curfew – also more constrained by the day.

Many hotels are struggling to maintain service standards as employees strain to make it to work and (Photo: Cruise ships on the Nile River, Courtesy Wikipedia)supplies run short.

Because of widespread looting hotel managers are going to unprecedented measures to secure their properties at night. The Four Seasons Cairo at the First Residence in the Giza district boarded up its entrance way, turned off lights and drew curtains at dusk. The Grand Hyatt Hotel on the opposite side of the river – and much closer to the protests in Tahrir Square – hastily barricaded its entrance with banquet tables and chairs. Most of its popular food and beverage outlets including the Hard Rock Café Cairo were shuttered.

The widespread fear is not misplaced. In the last few days several shops, malls and even some hotels were attacked and looted by roving groups of looters. Some had even managed to breach security at the extremely popular Egyptian National Museum in Central Cairo and damage some of the ancient displays. And since for the first time since anyone can recall the Giza Pyramids have been closed indefinitely.  So has the Cairo Zoo also located in Giza. Because most of the police have disappeared off the streets of cities, a sense of lawlessness has taken hold.

The tourism industry is one of the largest income industries for Egypt – bringing in an estimated $11.6bn (£7.3bn) in last year and employing about 12 percent of Egypt's workforce.  Last year more than 13 million people visited Egypt, drawn by its stunning beaches, ancient sites, value for money and relatively safe reputation. The US, the UK, Europe, the Arab Gulf states and Russia are the top markets for the industry. The Sinai Peninsula is renowned for its azure waters and is a popular tourist destination for Israeli tourists.

(Photo: Sphinx at Alexandria, Courtesy Wikipedia)The harsh blow to the tourism industry comes as many new hotel properties are being built and are coming online in Cairo and Alexandria, and the expansion of the international airports in both Cairo and Alexandria are nearing completion.

Because of its rich history and well developed tourism infrastructure, Egypt has become a magnet for retired, well-heeled Western travelers. HUMNEWS spoke to many visiting couples in the last few days, many forced to cut short their dream vacation. One American couple from New Hampshire arrived in Cairo on Friday only to be told that their excursion to Upper Egypt had been cancelled and that they would have to depart the country less than 48 hours after arriving.

The crisis escalates.

The first priority of many visitors today was to leave the country as soon as possible. However a quick exit has been complicated by a complete nationwide shutdown of the internet.  Mobile phone text messaging has also been constrained.  Tour operators who rely on internet for bookings have been completely paralyzed.

The national flagship airline carrier – Egypt Air is completely overwhelmed by the crisis. Its website has crashed and many travelers complain that accessing the call center is nearly impossible. The ongoing curfew which will be extended Monday from 3p-8a means the carrier will have to adjust its flight schedule once again.

The curfew and information vacuum have forced many tourists to make a mad dash to the airport to catch flights home. Most arrive to Cairo International Airport to find impossibly long lines, delayed or cancelled flights and few check-in staff. There have also been complaints from stranded American and Canadian travelers for not being able to reach consular assistance lines of their home countries by telephone.

In addition to the tourists the country has a large expatriate population of mostly Thai, Sudanese, Eritrean, Somali and Iraqi. Many of whom are also wondering what to do. Stay, or go?

When HUMNEWS visited Cairo International Airport Sunday it was a complete scene of confusion – many travelers have been forced to stay overnight because of the curfew and cancelled flights.  Many Egypt Air aircraft have been parked on remote aprons of the airfield as demand for flights to and from Egypt have taken a fall.

Monday is again another work day in Egyptand it could be another day of unrest. For tourists, it still remains a day to try to leave this troubled country.

-        By HUMNEWS Michael Bociurkiw in Cairo who has only hotel TV and hard line and mobile phone; no internet or SMS, as told to HUM staff.


South Africans Ask: Should Murder Suspect Shrein Dewani Apologize? (Perspective)

By Roxy Marosa

(HN, January 3, 2011) One of the pieces I wrote in 2010 was about my tour with friends of one of the first townships in Cape Town - the sprawling and impoverished Langa. I expressed my emotions on a video clip.

It’s a township where a large number of poor black South Africans reside. Although there are a few residents regarded as middle class, the majority of the people are poor and face daily security and health hazards. On the tour, our guide explained that people freely roam around the streets during daylight hours but, as early as 7:30pm, most retreat into their homes - due to the security risks at night.

Their fears are well-grounded: there have been a number of muggings and even murders in Langa. People have reported these to the authorities, and in some cases, the perpetrators were never caught or brought to justice.

Fed-up, the community has taken charge and formed a community policing forum - essentially a group of responsible residents who receive crime reports and take swift action. They also work together to quickly bring the crimes to the attention of law enforcement authorities, who are then forced to act fast on the crimes. When a member of the forum witnesses a crime, they punish the perpetrators immediately, in addition to making a formal police report. This innovative collaboration has seen the crime rate in Langa decline. The members of the forum are known and respected in this township.Langa women returning from church services. CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

These acts of crime are a clear indication that South Africa is a country still overcoming it’s apartheid history. The highly-publicized November 2010 murder in nearby Guguletu Township of Annie Dewani - allegedly by a hit-man hired by her wealthy British businessman husband Shrien Dewani - reinforced the doubt many people here have in the security of the country and in the government.

It is no secret to South Africans that many people who were previously disadvantaged before apartheid are still mired in grinding poverty. Indicative of this is is the reported $2,200 payment received by the perpetrator and killer of Annie - in what has now become known as the "Honeymoon Murder." Although many people, especially the disadvantaged, want situations to change fast or have their society changed already, it is logical that this will not take place overnight. And the past 16 years have demonstrated change as a process, that it takes time - sometimes a painfully long time.

South Africa’s political future is also capturing worldwide attention. The blood and sweat of many who have contributed to the country’s current prosperity are seeing a growth in tourism fuelled, in part, by the 2010 World Cup.

Although an attractive tourist destination for many, South Africa still attracts ample criticism from others, due to a high murder rate (nationwide an average of 46 murders occurred daily last year, among the world’s highest rates), low level of safety and security and other reasons.

Having said this, the murder of Annie left many South Africans apologetic and doubting their own country. Even many South Africans government officials, fearing a backlash to tourism, offered apologies or felt compelled to explain what happened. As friends reflect on the country’s aftermath of the killing, interesting views were expressed to me, particularly about South African’s lack of confidence in the country. It came to light that these friends had pride over the country’s legal system.

In the end, the murder was solved (the suspect is on $350,000 bail in the UK, facing extradition back to South Africa) with the puzzle put together in a relatively short space of time. My friends acknowledged the soundness of the legal system and saluted it for the action and fast resolution.

All this begs the question: ‘Do South Africans have overall trust in their country?’ Responded to by friends, the answer was a clear ‘NO’. More views about other countries were expressed. ‘If Shrien had taken Annie to what is regarded a dangerous area in America, and she got killed there, Americans would protect their country by saying ‘What were they doing in that area at that time? People should not be hanging around the streets during that time,' " said one friend.

Is this confidence and love for a country or what?

So, knowing that South Africans are still recovering from the apartheid history and that the healing process will take years, should the accused Shrien Dewani apologise to playing on the vulnerability of South Africans?

Cape Town-based Roxy Marosa is host of the Roxy Marosa Show and runs several projects assisting people affected by HIV and Aids in South Africa.