USs Nuland meets with Russians to back Ukraine ceasefire

first_img Sponsored Stories Nuland’s brief comments came after a meeting with Karasin and fellow deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov. There was no sign of any imminent breakthrough on issues that have sent Washington-Moscow relations to a post-Cold War low.While underlying the resentment his country holds for the United States over its criticisms and sanctions connected to the Ukraine crisis, Ryabkov said he did not rule out an increasing level of U.S.-Russian contacts.“The situation in our bilateral relations is generally depressing and we blame Washington for that,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.Nuland said her talks, together with last week’s meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, allow for “a more direct channel on Ukraine issues with the Russian Federation.”Her visit to Moscow followed a trip to the Ukrainian capital and she said “there is no indication from our own information or from my consultations in Kiev that anybody on the Ukrainian side, anybody in the leadership … has any intentions of launching new hostilities.”Karasin took issue with that.“This will have to be tested in real life. At this point, one has the impression that preparations for this kind of operation is in progress,” he told the state news agency Tass. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation MOSCOW (AP) — The United States wants to help solidify a shaky cease-fire and support efforts to resolve political and humanitarian concerns in Ukraine’s rebellious east, a top U.S. diplomat said Monday after meeting with Russian counterparts.U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also said there are no indications that the Ukrainian government aims to resume offensives against the separatists — a claim that Russian foreign minister Grigory Karasin found unconvincing. Fighting between government forces and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine has subsided since an agreement on a cease-fire and a pullback of heavy weapons was reached in February in the Belarusian capital Minsk. However, clashes continue and concern is high over the flashpoint of Shyrokyne, which is near the strategic port city of Mariupol that Ukraine fears the rebels want to seize in order to establish a land corridor between mainland Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula.The U.S. was not a party to the Minsk agreement, but Nuland said “we particularly dug in on how the United States might be able to support the process of Minsk implementation.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Check your body, save your life Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 treatments for adult scoliosislast_img read more

Exinmates regret destruction of notorious Syrian prison

first_img“I decided I will not say anything then, but one day I will go out and tell what the regime used to do with us,” said Aboudehn, bursting into tears. “May God curse this regime and those people who despised humanity!”When he was moved to Sadnaya Prison, a facility near Damascus where dissidents also were known to have suffered mistreatment, he said it was like “a five-star hotel” in comparison.Aboudehn, who heads the Committee of Lebanese in Syrian Prisons, regretted the destruction of Tadmur by the Islamic State militants.“They demolished a historic symbol that should have stayed, because in every room there were people who were killed,” he said.A 2001 report by Amnesty International titled “Syria: Torture, Despair and Dehumanization in Tadmur Military Prison” catalogued routine abuses against prisoners, including the use of iron bars, whips and cables.“Tadmur Prison appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum suffering, humiliation and fear on prisoners and to keep them under the strictest control by breaking their spirit,” it said.Blowing up the facility may have been part of attempts by the extremists to gain popularity among those who suffered at the hands of the Syrian government. But residents and former prisoners called it a huge mistake. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement BEIRUT (AP) — For decades, the mere mention of Tadmur Prison was enough to send chills down a Syrian’s spine.The notorious facility in the desert of central Syria was where thousands of dissidents were reported to have been beaten, humiliated and systematically tortured for opposing the Assad family’s rule.This weekend, it was demolished by the Islamic State group, which took over the site near the ancient town of Palmyra last month, bringing mixed emotions from many Syrians who wanted it to remain standing so future generations would know its horrors. FILE – This photo released on Saturday, May 30, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Tadmur prison, blown up and destroyed by the Islamic State group in Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic), Homs province, Syria. The prison was where government opponents were held, and reports over the years said it was the site of beatings and torture. (Militant website via AP, File) Sponsored Stories Aboudehn showed the torture marks on both his legs, as well as his permanently dislocated right arm.He recalls the warden telling a gathering of detainees shortly after they arrived: “You have come to your end, there is no mercy here. God is prohibited from entering the jail. We are God. We decide if you live or die.”Aboudehn said he was regularly beaten and humiliated during the four years and eight months he spent there. The jailers never referred to him with his real name, calling him “No. 13” instead.He was held in a cell with about 150 inmates who all shared one bathroom. For food, each prisoner received three loaves of Arabic bread, an olive and a teaspoon of marmalade a day, as well as one egg that was shared among five inmates.Prisoners were completely cut off from the outside world, Aboudehn said, recalling that the first time he knew the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed was in 1993, well after those events happened.Aboudehn broke down when he recalled looking through a keyhole and seeing a soldier urinating in the food that he and those in his cell were about to eat. He refused to eat but didn’t have the courage to tell the others what he had seen for fear of being killed by his jailers. Instead, he told his fellow inmates that he wasn’t feeling well. Yassin Al Haj Saleh, who spent 16 years in Syrian prisons and wrote a book about his experiences, said he was saddened by the news, “as if they have destroyed my home.”“I dreamt that I would visit it someday. … I had imagined that visiting the prisons where I spent time would serve as closure,” he wrote on his Facebook page.“The destruction of a prison that was the symbol of our slavery is the destruction of our freedom as well. Of course, it’s a huge service to the Assad regime of slavery,” he added.Al-Khatib said he and his friends used to dream of entering the prison one day and documenting what happened inside.“Now that Daesh destroyed the crime scene, it is more difficult to know what happened,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “I am totally against destroying it, although it represents a dark page of Palmyra and Syria’s history. It should have stayed as a witness to this dark period.”Syrian opposition figure Radwan Ziadeh wrote on his Facebook page that Tadmur Prison “should have been kept as a museum for future generations as evidence of degradation of human beings during the Assad rule.” Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober “They destroyed our memories, our catastrophe and the walls that we leaned on and told our stories to,” said Ali Aboudehn, a Lebanese who spent four harrowing years in Tadmur. “They destroyed the land that absorbed our blood because of torture.”The sprawling prison — once one of Syria’s darkest secrets — is located a few miles east of Palmyra, a desert oasis famous for its Roman-era colonnades, temples and artifacts. There were fears that the Islamic State militants might destroy the 2,000-year-old heritage site.Instead, over the weekend, they focused their destructive efforts on Tadmur Prison.The extremists released photos that showed men carrying plastic containers apparently filled with explosives. A video showed parts of the prison in rubble.Osama al-Khatib, a Syrian opposition activist who fled Palmyra for Turkey three weeks ago, said the militants destroyed only the part of the prison that held members of the military, including army defectors. He said the facility where political prisoners were held is still intact. His report could not be independently verified.Located about 250 kilometers northeast of Damascus, Tadmur Prison is part of a walled-off military complex that includes military and civilian units as well as an air base. Former prisoners say it could hold up to 7,000 inmates, although the number fell in recent years. By the time IS swept into Palmyra last month, the inmates had been moved elsewhere and the prison was empty. Under President Bashar Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, the prison held mostly members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Saddam Hussein Baathists and loyalists of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.The bloodiest incident in Tadmur’s history came in June 1980, a day after members of the Muslim Brotherhood staged a failed assassination attempt against Hafez Assad. In retaliation, troops belonging to Assad’s brother Rifaat reportedly entered the prison and shot up to 1,000 prisoners who belonged to the Brotherhood.Al-Khatib, who was not born at the time, said his parents told him about the incident, recalling that they heard shooting for much of that night. Afterward, the government took bulldozers from Palmyra to dig mass graves in the nearby Oweimer Mountain just north of the town, he said.“People would pass by the prison, but no one dared look inside,” al-Khatib said.Aboudehn recalls the first day he entered Tadmur in 1988, nearly a year after he was detained in Damascus for allegedly having contacts with Israel, Syria’s archenemy.He had to walk blindfolded and handcuffed between two rows of men who kicked, pushed and beat him with clubs and metal rods. His nose was broken and he bled profusely.center_img “Daesh turned it into rubble today.”___Follow Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam at http://twitter.com/bmroue and http://twitter.com/zkaramCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Patients with chronic pain give advice 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center 0 Comments   Share   last_img read more

China detains 20 foreigners from South Africa UK India

first_imgBEIJING (AP) — A group of 20 travelers from Britain, South Africa and India were detained in northern China, a relative said Wednesday. A South African aid group said some of them are accused of watching videos deemed to be terrorist propaganda.The Foreign Ministry said 20 foreign nationals were suspected of committing crimes in Ordos in China’s Inner Mongolia region. It said nine were criminally detained on Saturday, which means they can be held for up to 37 days by police while investigations continue, and 11 were ordered deported. 0 Comments   Share   The news of the detentions came as South African Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa was in Beijing on a trip to China that lasts until Friday. He met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday.Asked to confirm whether South Africans, Britons and an Indian citizen had been detained Friday at Ordos airport, a press officer at the Ordos police bureau said the case was under investigation and refused to give details.The South African Embassy in Beijing referred requests for comment to authorities in South Africa, who were not immediately available. The Indian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies How men can have a healthy 2019 Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Sponsored Stories Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches The British embassy in Beijing confirmed that nine Britons and two dual British-South African nationals had been detained, and said six of them had been deported. It said it was “seeking further clarification” from authorities about those still being held.The group was initially detained Friday at the airport in Ordos and was being held without charge, said Shameel Joosub, a relative of three of the detained people and CEO of South African telecommunications company Vodacom.“My family and I are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of my brother, aunt and uncle,” Joosub said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.Imtiaz Sooliman, a South African disaster response specialist, said in a statement on the Facebook page of his agency, Gift of the Givers, that the detainees were part of a group of 20 people — 10 South Africans, nine Britons and one Indian — who were on a 47-day tour of ancient Chinese sites.Sooliman said nine members of the group were accused of watching terror propaganda in their hotel rooms and that they would continue to be detained.Sooliman said in a phone interview that a relative of some of the detained had contacted him to look into the case and that he was in close contact with South African authorities. He said the group had been heading from Ordos to the central Chinese city of Xi’an when they were detained at the airport.last_img read more

Countdown on for Dallas Fort Worth Qantas partnership

first_imgWith the countdown on to the long awaited partnership between Qantas and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Phil Ritter, executive vice president DFW took time out to speak with e-Travel Blackboard. Currently meeting with stakeholders in Canberra including Martin Ferguson, Australian Minister for Tourism, Mr Ritter shared his excitement at a partnership that seems set to benefit both regions. The result of 10 years work will come to fruition on 16 May 2011 when the first 747-400 ER aircraft flies from Sydney airport non-stop to DFW. Return flights will fly direct to Sydney with a stopover in Brisbane to refuel. Ideal for business travellers needing to access cities like New York and Washington, it also bodes well for cruisers wanting to take advantage of the increase in home ported ships in Galveston, Texas or the busy ports throughout Florida. Any connection within the USA takes 4 hours or less. The first interior connection between the USA and Australia will allow travellers to fly non-stop to 146 domestic destinations and 46 international destinations beyond DFW. “Dallas Fort Worth is the largest US hub…it (DFW) has no slot constraints, no curfews, seven runways and 5 terminals,” Mr Ritter said. DFW also features heavily in Queensland’s bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with a final decision on the successful city being made in just over 180 days. Plans for joint marketing campaigns with Australian tourism boards will be discussed when DFW delegates arrive in the country in mid-July and Mr Ritter expects the Qantas partnership to bode well for an increase in tourism to both regions. Offering flights 4 times per week, the world’s 3rd busiest international airport is hoping to increase visitation to Dallas and their surrounds in addition to presenting an easier option to those wishing to continue through to alternative destinations within the USA, Mexico and Latin America. Currently serving 57 million passengers per year, travellers will be privy to the efficient workings of an airport that offers such features as the ‘Skylink’ high speed train that allows transport between the gates in 8 minutes or less. The development of International Terminal D was completed in 2005 with a further US $2 billion set to be invested in the remodeling of the remaining four terminals over the next 5-6 years.Click here for a photo gallery of Dallas Fort Worth International AirportAre you more likely to fly into DFW instead of LAX with the new partnership with Qantas? Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Alast_img read more

Qantas no strikes if appeal is successful

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T Qantas long-haul pilots have hurried an appeal through Federal court, disputing Fair Work’s termination of the use of industrial action a few months ago. Qantas and the pilot’s union have pending matters regarding enterprise agreements due to be arbitrated in June this year. Australian and International Pilots’ Association vice-president, Richard Woodward, said the union would not disrupt ongoing business. “AIPA made it clear throughout 2011 that our struggle was against damaging management policy and not loyal Qantas passengers,” he said. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the pilot’s will argue Fair Work “exceeded its power” when it dismissed the allowance of industrial action. “We did not take stop-work action last year and we will not take stop-work action this year either, even if we win this case,” Mr Woodward said. In other news, the IASC declined Qantas and South African Airways (SAA) five year extension on the Australian-route code share agreement. The standing arrangement will continue until 31 December 2012.Assuring the airline’s “commitment to the Australian market”, SAA general manager, Theunis Potgieter said “SAA will review its options and will announce any potential changes in due course.”last_img read more

Etihad acquires a piece of Virgin

first_imgEtihad Airways has confirmed that it has acquired a 3.96 percent stake in Virgin Australia Holdings, with its stake being built up through several purchases on the open market.The UAE flag carrier believes the equity investment in Virgin Australia’s domestic operations will fortify the ten year partnership forged by the two carriers in August 2010.According to the airline the shareholding will enrich the commercial benefits which the alliance already provides for both airlines, as well as increasing the benefits to Australian consumers and visitors to Australia.Together, Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia operate 24 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Australia and combined provide their passengers access to a network of over 150 destinations.Etihad Airways has been flying to Australia since March 2007 when it launched its services to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane followed shortly after.In the last three years almost 2.2 million passengers have been carried between Abu Dhabi and these three Australian cities.Virgin Australia has recently reported that its domestic passenger numbers for the month of April 2012 increased by 7.9 percent over the previous year with a revenue load factor of 77.1 percent. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: S.P Etihad Airways confirms 3.96 percent stake in Virginlast_img read more

Travelport American Airlines reach new agreement

first_imgAbility to shop and book flights and other products. Travelport will become the first global distribution system (GDS) to offer access to American Airlines’ alternative content, as well as flights.Once fully integrated, Travelport will be able to provide continued access to shop and book the full content of American Airlines flights and deliver additional extras to subscribers, such as new Main Cabin Extra seating products.Main Cabin Extra seating provides additional legroom, Group 1 boarding privileges and seating closer to the front of the aircraft.This content will be accessed through both Travelport’s Universal API technology and American Airline’s XML-based direct connect interface.“All of our subscribers will continue to access American’s full content, while American can merchandize its full line of products through Travelport, providing consumers and travelers a transparent marketplace and the ability to shop and book all services at their channel of choice,” Travelport vice president and general manager of global distribution sales and service Dan Westbrook said.Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T.last_img read more

Australian tourism ends year on a high as dollar fall changes travel

first_imgQualia Luxury Resort in Hamilton Island AustraliaThe latest National Visitor Survey (NVS) shows that the fall in the Australian dollar has led to a significant increase in domestic tourism.According to Tourism Research Australia (TRA), the year ending September 2015 saw significant growth in domestic travel with overnight trips up 7% to 85.3 million, total nights increasing 5% to 318 million and spend growing 6% to $56.9 billion.The strong domestic results complement sustained inbound growth, and the impact of the dollar has become more pronounced with the number of Australians holidaying overseas falling 1% during the year ending September 2015, after growing by 132% between 2006 and 2014. This is the first decline in the number of Australian resident holidays overseas since 2003.On the back of strong growth for domestic overnight holiday and business travel, the number of nights in hotels, motels and resorts increased 10% to 80.2 million.Australia’s peak accommodation body, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA), welcomed the results, saying that the Federal Government’s support of the industry was producing positive outcomes for the industry and would encourage developers investing in Australia’s hotel industry.The only concern was that while regional performance had improved, some regional areas lagged behind their city counterparts, with Victorian regional visitor nights down 2.3% compared to metro growth in visitor nights of 9.5%. In NSW, regional visitor nights grew 2.4%, but this contrasted with metro visitor night growth of 6.9%.CEO of TAA, Carol Giuseppi, said that both the National and International Visitor Surveys showed that Australian tourism was in a healthy position, with international visitors growing at over 5% annually, and more Australians choosing to stay and holiday at home rather than travel overseas for a holiday.“The sustained fall in the Australian dollar has clearly had an impact on travel patterns,” said Ms Giuseppi.“There is usually a lag in figures because people don’t suddenly switch from overseas to domestic holidays, but the NVS statistics are now reflecting a trend that began two years ago.“Allied to that, Australia is in the middle of its largest ever hotel expansion phase, which will see some 70 hotels added by 2020, providing high quality accommodation in areas that have often had little new supply since 2000. The new hotels are offering world-class design and standards for both domestic and international travellers.“It is very pleasing to see Federal and State Governments invest heavily in tourism infrastructure development and tourism promotion.“This is very positive, and we would like to see a particular concentration on growing business events and holiday travel in regional areas, as many of these areas have struggled over the past few years, particularly through falls in business-related travel.” Tourism Research AustraliaSource = Tourism Research Australialast_img read more

Alaska Airlines Unveils First Major Brand Change in 25 Years

first_imgAlaska Airlines Unveils First Major Brand Change in 25 YearsAlaska Airlines today unveiled its first major brand change in 25 years to a crowd of about 1,800 employees. The refreshedbrand was introduced on a newly painted Boeing 737-800 and soon will be featured throughout the airport experience, on all digital channels, in marketing materials and across Alaska’s entire fleet.“Our company has a unique personality and a vibrant spirit that our Eskimo has personified for almost half a century,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden. “We believe our refreshed look reflects the warm relationships our employees have built with ourcustomers, and makes us stand out in a compelling and consistent way as we expand into new markets, build loyalty and attract new customers.”In addition to the newly painted plane, starting tomorrow travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will see a more welcoming lobby and 41 newly branded gates.“Our refreshed brand really is an evolution, not a revolution, of Alaska Airlines,” said Sangita Woerner, the airline’s vice president of marketing. “Our goal was to reflect the soul of our company, which is known for its genuine, caring service and top-notch performance.  It’s now time to show up to our customers in a bigger, brighter way.”The most visible changes to the brand are the wordmark, the Eskimo icon and a bold, energetic new color palette.“Performance is in our DNA and it’s why we’ve been named the most on-time airline in North America for six consecutive years, have a 5-star mobile app, a 20-minute bag guarantee, and why we have received J.D. Powers’ highest rating for customer satisfaction for traditional carriers eight years in a row,” said Woerner. “While our Eskimo is meant to represent our warm, genuine service, ourevolved wordmark represents our high performance culture with its italicized motion and bold and precise lettering.”The iconic Eskimo prominently featured on the tail of the plane has been Alaska’s brand beacon since 1972, welcoming customers and guiding employees with a warm, friendly face. His profile has been modernized and new vibrant colors added around his parka trim, which include Tropical Green and Breeze Blue, reminiscent of the tropical regions Alaska serves including Hawaii and Costa Rica. Atlas Blue, which is a cue to Alaska’s 14 global airline partners, is also featured throughout the design.“Our goal in modernizing our Eskimo was to optimize his facial expression so it was clear to our newer customers that he represents warmth and kindness,” said Woerner. “It was critically important that we approached his redesign with sensitivity, which is why we sought and received the input of Alaska native leaders from the Arctic region and across Alaska.”To bring the refreshed brand to life, Alaska collaborated with Seattle-based Hornall Anderson, a global branding and design firm. A dedicated team specializing in strategy and design spent 12 months in partnership with Alaska to develop and apply the brand expression to all customer touchpoints.In the next month Alaska will take delivery of four Boeing 737s with the new paint theme and by the end of the year will have 40 planes in the new livery. All 111 airports Alaska and its regional partners serve will be rebranded, a project that is expected to be completed around the end of the year.“Our approach to rolling out our refreshed brand has been very strategic,” said Woerner. “We’ve taken a cost-conscious approach to rolling out the updates. In terms of changing the liveries, we plan to repaint planes when they are scheduled. It will likely take three to four years to complete this refreshed brand roll-out.” Fly Alaska AirlinesSource = Alaska Airlineslast_img read more

Brisbane named in top trending beach destinations by KAYAK

first_imgBrisbane has been named a Top Ten Trending Beach Destination in KAYAK’s 2016 Travel Hacker Guide, an interactive resource comprised of data-driven insights and hacks.As one of the fastest growing capital cities in the world, Brisbane makes for a perfect balance between aquatic and urban relaxation.“We’re thrilled that Brisbane has been included as a top beach destination in KAYAK’s 2016 list. In addition to our beautiful beaches, Brisbane offers the quintessential Australian lifestyle and personality that Americans dream about, along with vibrant music, arts scene, restaurants and nightlife, and more,” said Leigh Arredondo from Tourism and Events Queensland.“There’s also so many other fantastic experiences to visit within the Greater Brisbane region. Whether it’s exploring Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary, snorkeling or scuba diving the reef at Moreton Island, or exploring the sub-tropical rainforest at the World Heritage designated Lamington National Park, there’s no shortage of experiences of a lifetime in the Greater Brisbane region.”As the third largest city in Australia, Brisbane is home to two million residents and stretches from Bribie Island in the north to City of Logan in the south and bordered by the immaculate beaches of the Sunshine and Gold Coasts.Brisbane is also the capital of the state of Queensland, home to amazing and diverse destinations such as the Whitsundays Island, the Daintree Rainforest, and the world-renowned and inspiring Great Barrier Reef.Brisbane earned the fourth spot on the Top Ten Trending Beach Destination list as one of the most searched destinations by KAYAK users.The 2016 Guide was curated by KAYAK’s team of data scientists and travel experts who analyzed the site’s more than one billion annual searches to identify key insights on where to go and when to book to make travel planning easier.The Guide also includes useful information that will make planning easier, including guidance on when to book, most popular hotels and average temperature and precipitation by month.In addition to the Top Ten Trending Beach Destination list, the Travel Hacker Guide features five other Top Ten lists ranging from top family vacation spots to the best places to score a deal. Visit the 2016 Travel Hacker Guide for full findings and detailed methodology. Plan your trip to BrisbaneSource = Tourism and Events Queenslandlast_img read more

Fitzroy Island Resort to expand

first_imgFitzroy Island Resort to expandFitzroy Island Resort will undergo a $2.5 million refurbishment and expand its Great Barrier Reef experiences to include diving and sunset cruises.Managing Director Doug Gamble said the locally-owned Cairns tourism operation had added a catamaran to its fleet and purchased a half share in the Cairns Dive Centre operations on the island.“I have appointed Glen Macdonald, who previously managed Fitzroy Island Resort for six years, to the new role of Chief Executive Officer with the sole focus of driving our expansion program forward,” Mr Gamble said.“General Manager Tim Moloney, another long-term employee, will continue to manage the Resort and lead its management team.“it is an exciting period of growth for our locally-owned company which will generate additional jobs for the community and provide a boost to local suppliers and contractors.“The $2.5 million refurbishment will be rolled out gradually over the next 12 months so there will be no disruption to guests.“It will give the resort a new lighter, contemporary styling with blue and white accents to reflect the spectacular ocean surrounds of Fitzroy Island.“We have bought a 50 per cent share of the Cairns Dive Centre operations on the island and will work with co-owner, local tourism identity Peter Boundy, to offer fresh Great Barrier Reef experiences.“Islands and sailing go hand in hand and we will soon provide day trips around the island and sunset cruises on the 16-metre catamaran Eye Spy which is now based at Fitzroy Island.“Cairns is undergoing a solid period of growth with major investment in tourism infrastructure, so the timing is right for our company to invest in the future and ensure Fitzroy Island Resort continues to excite the marketplace.”Rainforest-clad Fitzroy Island is just a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns city and where you will find secluded Nudey Beach, Australian’s Best Beach for 2018.A National Park with rainforest walks and a summit hike to the lighthouse, the island is home to the volunteer-run Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where visitors can meet Jet, an eight-year-old green sea turtle rescued off Fitzroy Island in July 2017.Fitzroy Island Resort is also supporting the Reef Restoration Foundation with the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef’s first offshore coral nursery in the island’s waters.Keep up to date with the new experiences on Fitzroy Island at www.fitzroyisland.comSource = Fitzroy Island Resortlast_img read more

Amadeus reveals new study showing how and why we will travel

first_imgA report commissioned by Amadeus and written by global consumer trends consultancy, The Future Foundation defines the six ‘traveller tribes’ or segments that will emerge by the end of the next decade. By 2030, more than 1.8 billion of us will travel internationally every year, and what motivates us as well as how we behave will be radically different to today.By the end of the next decade, some people will purchase and consume travel experiences almost entirely on the basis of how shareable they are, or how much ‘capital’ they generate, via social networks. Another group of travellers will demand total simplicity and freedom from having to arrange their own travel by 2030, wanting as much as possible to be done remotely, by third parties.The findings are based on interviews with leading futurologists, travel industry experts and travellers from across the world, including from six Asia Pacific markets. The research process involved interviews and workshops with industry experts as well as trend-spotting research with consumers in the relevant travel markets including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.“The traveller today has more power than ever before. They are increasingly complex, empowered, and no longer want to be siloed into demographic groups of age, nationality and income. By 2030, hyper-customisation will be the default expectation among many customers. With Asia Pacific set to lead global travel growth through to 2030, it is particularly critical for all providers, buyers and sellers of travel in the region to truly understand these emerging ‘traveller tribes’ and make the right investment decisions now to gear towards future traveller preferences. Amadeus is playing a leading role in driving the travel industry forward is are working closely with our customers and partners to deliver a future travel experience that is more personalised, connected and sustainable,” commented Angel Gallego, President, Amadeus Asia Pacific.Nick Chiarelli, Director, Future Foundation stated, “Our research shows not just that the type of experience demanded by travellers in 2030 will be different to 2015 but that the way travellers buy and engage with the industry is also set to change. Over the next 15 years the desire to share travel experiences will be profound, and so too the impact of sharing on inspiration and purchase trends will grow. As consumers in developed markets approach a post-material era we expect a much greater focus on, first of all, experience, and second of all, ethics, both environmental and social, to significantly influence people’s travel choices and behaviours.”last_img read more

Montcalm Royal London House opens its doors in London

first_imgThe Montcalm Luxury Hotels, an independent hotel group in London, has opened the doors to its sixth property, the Montcalm Royal London House – City of London.The 253-bedroom hotel, which is situated just moments from the Liverpool Street station and close to Shoreditch, marks a transformation of a mid-century office building into a stylish five-star property with striking views of London’s City skyline.The hotel’s lead contractor and designer SGP Contracts along with interior designer Russell Sage, Tonik Associates and 5Plus architects worked together to make its design and concept so unique.The contemporary accommodation has a total of 253 bedrooms, which includes 50 Deluxe Rooms, 168 Club Rooms, 27 Suites, from junior suites to family suites and quad rooms, and eight Studio Suites with kitchenettes. There are also five Business Suites available with generous work space and a laptop on request. Two Palm Suites with private balconies overlook the Shard and other iconic City landmarks.The hotel’s two restaurants, two bars and room service operation are being run by acclaimed restaurateurs, Tom and Ed Martin of ETM Group. On the ground-floor, ‘Burdock’ features a juice bar, lounge area and restaurant.  ‘Aviary,’ a unique concept of Bar and Restaurant on the roof top and boasting some of the best skyline views, is due to open mid-November.In terms of technology, the hotel is the first in the UK to offer 10GB bandwidth capacity on demand, ensuring its ability to cope with peaks in network usage for meetings and events. All bedrooms also benefit from iPod docking stations, Smart 55” TVs, and a complimentary handy smartphone service, giving guests unlimited 3G internet data and free local and international calls to selected countries.The hotel’s state-of-the-art meeting and event spaces, due to open in November, are fully versatile and can be hired for exclusive use for up to 300 guests or individually for smaller events of around 60. All private rooms boast natural daylight from the building’s large, striking light wells.Two Palm Suites with private balconies and a host of bespoke touches are also due to open in November, together with three private meeting rooms featuring a terrace overlooking the city skyline.last_img read more

RealtyTrac Recruits Specialist to Drive Growth of Broker Network

first_img January 15, 2014 429 Views Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Lenders & Servicers Movers & Shakers RealtyTrac Service Providers 2014-01-15 Tory Barringer New,RealtyTrac Recruits Specialist to Drive Growth of Broker Network in Technologycenter_img Share “”RealtyTrac””:http://www.realtytrac.com/home/?a=b&utm_medium=7&utm_source=137300&utm_campaign=534&accnt=137300, one of the nation’s leading sources for housing data, announced the hiring of real estate and technology specialist Samantha Tino as VP of sales for the RealtyTrac Network.[IMAGE]””We are excited to announce the addition of Samantha to the RealtyTrac team,”” said RealtyTrac CEO Jamie Moyle. “”Her years of valuable sales experience coupled with her [COLUMN_BREAK]extensive knowledge of the real estate industry will ensure that we continue targeting and serving top-notch brokerages to advance the growth of our exclusive network.””Tino brings to her new position more than 15 years of real estate and sales experience. She most recently served as VP of sales for Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies, where her efforts contributed to the development of the company’s sales strategies and its acquisition of new customers. Prior to that, she was director of regional sales for the Western United States at Delta Media Group, a technology marketing and business management company.Tino’s responsibilities at RealtyTrac include spearheading the continued expansion of its licensed broker network in markets across the country.””The RealtyTrac Network provides brokerages with a competitive edge with a multi-faceted offering that includes RealtyTrac’s extensive database, exclusive leads and impressive media reach,”” she said. “”I look forward to expanding the RealtyTrac Network’s reach by bringing this unique opportunity to leading brokerages.””last_img read more

Report Loan Risk Remains High QM Having No Discernible Impact

first_imgReport: Loan Risk Remains High; QM Having ‘No Discernible Impact’ Despite a slight pullback in March, risk in the mortgage marketplace remains perilously high, say researchers.The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) International Center on Housing Risk released this week its latest National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI), a measure of likely loan default rates in the event of another economic crisis. For its March data, the group calculated that under stress, 11.5 percent of recent home purchase mortgages would default, just down from 11.6 percent in February.Even with the decline—the second consecutive drop—potential default rates remain nearly double the 6 percent maximum AEI says is conducive to a stable market, suggesting there’s been no “discernible impact from QM [Qualified Mortgage] regulation,” the group asserts.As AEI points out, while all of the purchase loans covered in its index classify as QM, half have a down payment of 5 percent or less, and nearly one-quarter have total debt-to-income (DTI) ratios exceeding 43 percent. Federally guaranteed loans are exempt from the 43 percent cutoff.“High DTI loans are risky, with a stressed default rate well above that for all loans regardless of DTI,” analysts said.Also troubling is the fact that while the composite index was down over the month, expected default rates among loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continued to climb up to 6 percent, while the rate for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Rural Housing Services (RHS) inched up to 24.1 percent. Both values represent new highs for each category.Explaining the decline in the headline index, AEI noted the share of high-risk loans decreased again, hovering just above 35 percent, partially due to a fall in FHA loan share.Ahead, the Center on Housing Risk sees no let-up in risk rates, especially as lenders—and some regulators—move to open up credit standards to allow more borrowers in.“In a housing boom, mortgage lending moves out the credit curve,” the group said. “Credit risk is rising as political pressures are again pushing for degrading lending practices.” April 30, 2014 547 Views Sharecenter_img American Enterprise Institute Fannie Mae FHA Freddie Mac Mortgage Risk 2014-04-30 Tory Barringer in Daily Dose, Featured, Government, Headlines, News, Originationlast_img read more

Seller Confidence Wavers as Housing Market Finds Balance

first_img Confidence Home Prices Housing Supply Redfin 2014-10-27 Tory Barringer The number of homeowners optimistic about selling their homes dropped in the third quarter, interrupting a streak of rising confidence as the housing market shifted out of their favor.Out of hundreds of home sellers surveyed nationwide earlier this month, only 35.1 percent said now is a good time to sell a home in their neighborhood, according to the latest Real-Time Seller Survey from Redfin.The response reflects a decline of more than 17 percentage points from the second-quarter survey, which found more than half of sellers felt they had an advantage in the market. At that time, 40 percent of people selling their homes said they were planning to take advantage of low inventory and high demand by pricing their house aggressively—a strategy that didn’t pay off for many, Redfin says.”In July and August, sellers were testing the market by pricing their homes above market value,” said Denver-based Redfin agent Paul Stone. “They were hopeful, but many got the message too late that the market had already shifted. They had to adjust their expectations and their home prices. As of September, it seems that sellers have gotten the memo and are pricing closer to market value.”Throughout the month, Redfin reports 16.5 percent of homes sold above list price compared to 18.1 percent in August and 23 percent a year ago.Even as more sellers bring their expectations in line with what’s happening in the market, the majority are still hoping to get as much out of selling their home as possible. When asked why they’re waiting to sell, 59.3 percent of respondents in Redfin’s survey said they want to get the maximum price as appreciation continues to carry on (albeit at a much slower pace than a year ago).”Sellers hoping for higher prices will face reality soon, as all signs point to lower price growth and less competition among buyers in coming months,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. “Buyer demand is there, but only at the right price.”Sellers also cited supply concerns as a reason to wait, with 36.3 percent saying there’s not enough inventory for them to find a new home—and with more than half of homeowners hoping to squeeze every dollar out of their listing, 16.3 percent said they’re waiting right now because there aren’t enough affordable homes to choose from.With the stock of for-sale homes in markets served by Redfin was up 6.3 percent year-over-year last month, the company hopes more homeowners will feel secure in listing their own house, boosting supply further.”Right now the real estate climate is very different from this time last year,” said Shawn Flynn, a Redfin agent based in Boston. “While some sellers are disappointed that they can no longer expect double-digit price gains, increasing inventory and stabilizing prices provide relief for everyone—buyers and sellers—that we are moving toward a much more balanced market.” Seller Confidence Wavers as Housing Market Finds Balance October 27, 2014 444 Views center_img in Daily Dose, Data, Featured, News Sharelast_img read more

Bank of America Morgan Stanley Report Strong 2015 Earnings

first_img Share Bank of America, Morgan Stanley Report Strong 2015 Earnings With multi-billion dollar mortgage-backed securities settlements mostly in the rear view mirror, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley both posted solid results in their respective Q4 and full year 2015 earnings statements released on Tuesday.Without the legal expenses and related charges that plagued them in 2014, Bank of America reported a net income of $15.9 billion for the full year of 2015—more than triple the bank’s reported net income of $4.8 billion for 2014, a year in which the bank entered into a $16.65 billion settlement with theJustice Department and several states over the sales of faulty MBS. In fact, Bank of America’s earnings for 2015 were the highest for the bank since the pre-crisis year of 2006, when it reported a record net income of $21.1 billion.Bank of America’s Q4 net income was reported at $3.3 billion, down from $4.5 billion the previous quarter but up from $3.1 billion year-over-year.“The 2015 results were our highest earnings in nearly a decade, reflecting the work we’ve done to develop a straightforward operating model focused on responsible growth and doing more business with each customer and client,” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said. “We saw solid customer activity in loan growth, deposits, and wealth management asset flows, and we returned more capital ($1.3 billion) to our shareholders. As we build on this progress, we will continue to invest in the future and manage expenses.”Likewise, with legal cost burdens removed, Morgan Stanley’s reported net income for the full year of 2015 was $6.1 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2014. In February 2015, Morgan Stanley entered into a settlementwith the Justice Department for $2.6 billion to resolve claims that the investment firm packaged and sold toxic MBS in the run-up to the crisis. With litigation costs of $3.1 billion reported for 2014 as a result of the settlement, the firm’s earnings took a significant hit.“The 2015 results were our highest earnings in nearly a decade, reflecting the work we’ve done to develop a straightforward operating model focused on responsible growth and doing more business with each customer and client.”Brian Moynihan, Bank of America CEOThe year 2015 started out strong for Morgan Stanley, with net incomes of $2.4 billion, $1.8 billion, and $1.7 billion for the first three quarters, respectively. The firm’s net income for Q4 2015 was $908 million on net revenues of $7.7 billion.“A strong overall performance in the first half of the year was impacted by difficult market conditions in the second half that dampened trading activity,” said James P. Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. “In the fourth quarter we took action to meaningfully restructure our fixed income business on a capital and expense basis. We enter 2016 with a continued focus on managing expenses across the firm and driving up returns for our shareholders.”While Bank of America’s mortgage production was up by 13 percent in Q4, the bank’s Legacy Assets and Servicing (LAS) Division— which works with customers who are delinquent on their mortgage payments—saw some major cuts in 2015 due to the reduction in distressed mortgage loan volume. The number of employees in the LAS Division declined by 35 percent in 2015 down to about 11,200, while the number of 60-plus day delinquent loans serviced declined by 46 percent down to about 103,000.Click here to view the Q4 and full year 2015 earnings statement for Bank of America.Click here to view the Q4 and full year 2015 earnings statement for Morgan Stanley. January 19, 2016 531 Views center_img 2015 Bank of America Earnings Statement Morgan Stanley Net Income 2016-01-19 Staff Writer in Daily Dose, Data, Headlines, Newslast_img read more

The Mortgage Markets Best Kept Secret

first_img CoreLogic Mortgage Market Rural Housing Market 2016-05-13 Staff Writer May 13, 2016 600 Views There is one growing sector of the housing market that often flies under radar of industry attention: the rural housing market. But it’s definitely making some noise now.According to CoreLogic’s Faith Schwartz, the rural housing market is often an afterthought in the industry and does get the respect or attention it deserves.Schwartz noted that the rural housing market should receive more attention for two reasons:It serves as a laboratory for cutting edge affordable housing techniques.It benefits a huge swath of the country: about 80 percent of all land area and about 20 percent of the country’s population.Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and HUD have products packaged into Ginnie Mae’s Rural Housing Service Section 502 direct and guaranteed mortgage, and the HUD Section 184 mortgage program targeted to American Indians, Schwartz reported. These programs made up about four percent of the $436 billion in Ginnie Mae securities issued last year or about $17 billion to fund rural housing.HUD 184 has guaranteed some $5 billion through more than 25,000 loans in single family mortgages for Indians, most of them on or adjacent to their rural reservation since starting to guarantee loans in 1995, the report said.In March, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) announced a new ruling that will qualify for small, rural crediting provisions.According to the CFPB, the Bureau has officially moved to implement Congress’ recent HELP Act, which stands for Helping Expand Lending Practices in Rural Communities. The act expands the guidelines for what “small creditors” are and will allow more lenders to take advantage of special lending provisions on CFPB mortgage rules set forth in January 2014.Since the initial implementation of these rules, the CFPB has made several moves to expand the definitions of “small creditor” and “rural area,” but before the HELP Act, smaller lenders were only eligible for special provisions if more than half its loans were in rural or underserved areas.CFPB Director Richard Cordray explains: “The Consumer Bureau today has acted to implement the recent law that extends to more small creditors the specific provisions for operating in rural or underserved areas. This rule provides broader eligibility for lenders serving in those areas to originate balloon-payment qualified and a high-cost mortgages.”Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may soon be made to offer mortgages for homes in ‘underserved markets.’A new rule, introduced in December 2015, requires the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) by federal law to issue a regulation to implement the Duty to Serve requirements specified in the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992, as amended by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 among both GSEs.According to a press release from the FHFA, the proposed regulation will require the GSEs to serve three underserved markets including manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural markets.”The proposed rule would require the Enterprises to adopt plans to improve the distribution and availability of mortgage financing in a safe and sound manner for residential properties that serve very low-, low-, and moderate-income families in the three specified underserved markets,” the FHFA stated in the release.Schwartz concluded, “So even though you don’t hear about rural housing all that often that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot happening…and a lot of good being done.” in Daily Dose, Headlines, Market Studies, Newscenter_img The Mortgage Market’s Best Kept Secret Sharelast_img read more

Government Fights Document Release in GSE Profit Suit

first_imgGovernment Fights Document Release in GSE Profit Suit in Daily Dose, Featured, News, Secondary Market The government has fought back in the battle over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac profits.In September, Judge Margaret Sweeney in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the U.S. Department of Treasury to release 56 documents related to sweeping of GSE profits into Treasury in a shareholder lawsuit.The government is refusing to release the documents, however. The government asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus seeking to have Sweeney’s order reversed. A writ of mandamus is a direct order to a lower court that is considered a drastic and extraordinary measure that is typically used only an abuse of discretion has occurred. According to the Wall Street Journal, the appeals court agreed to consider the government’s request on Thursday, October 27; Fairholme has seven days to respond.Sweeney’s ruling required the government to turn over the 56 documents to Florida-based mutual fund Fairholme Funds and other GSE shareholders. According to Fortune, presidential privilege was cited in the government’s decision to withhold four of the 56 documents ordered to be released which were either authored or sent to then-National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, who in May 2016 was named Hillary Clinton’s top economic advisor.The GSEs’ bailout agreement was amended in August 2012 to require all of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s profits to be swept into Treasury quarterly. The original agreement required only a 10 percent dividend to be paid to Treasury annually. The Net Worth Sweep, as it has come to be known, has prompted close to two dozen lawsuits from GSE investors who claim the sweep is illegal.In April 2016, Sweeney ordered the unsealing of seven documents related to the Net Worth Sweep that seem to suggest that key government officials (namely the CFO at Fannie Mae at the time, Susan McFarland) knew that the GSEs were on the brink of major profitability in the summer of 2012 right before the bailout agreement was amended. October 31, 2016 499 Views center_img Share GSE Profits Lawsuits Net Worth Sweep 2016-10-31 Seth Welbornlast_img read more

Economy Sees Significant Drop in Underwater Properties

first_img in News, Origination Economy Sees Significant Drop in Underwater Properties Share February 8, 2017 606 Views center_img ATTOM Data Solutions Home Equity underwater homes 2017-02-08 Staff Writer The number of seriously underwater properties dropped significantly last year, with 1 million fewer reported at the end of 2016 than 2015. This is the lowest point for seriously underwater properties since the beginning of 2012.According to ATTOM Data Solutions’ Year-end 2016 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, 5.4 million U.S. homes deemed seriously underwater at the close of 2016, accounting for 9.6 percent of all mortgaged properties in the nation. Seriously underwater homes, which means the combined loan amount on the property was 25 percent, or more, higher than the home’s market value, were down from 10.8 percent at the end of Q3 2016 and 11.5 percent year-over-year.“Since home prices bottomed out nationwide in the first quarter of 2012, the number of seriously underwater U.S. homeowners has decreased by about 7.1 million, an average decrease of about 1.4 million each year,” said Daren Blomquist, SVP of ATTOM Data Solutions. “Meanwhile, the number of equity-rich homeowners has increased by nearly 4.8 million over the past three years, a rate of about 1.6 million each year.”The highest share of seriously underwater homes was found in Nevada, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Louisiana. At the end of 2016, nearly 20 percent of all mortgage properties in Nevada were seriously underwater. As for individual metro areas, Las Vegas; Cleveland; Akron, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; and Toledo, Ohio took the top spots.In Ohio, the large number of underwater properties is causing an inventory problem, according to Matthew L. Watercutter, Senior Regional Vice President and Broker of Record for HER Realtors, which serves the Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati markets.“One of the primary reasons we have a shortage of inventory is due to the high number of homeowners who are still underwater, making it difficult to sell and move as they would need to conduct a short sale or bring money to the closing,” Watercutter said. “A high percentage of those homeowners are waiting it out until they are no longer underwater or in a better position to sell, contributing to the shortage of inventory. I expect this dynamic to continue through 2017.”On the other end of the spectrum, properties that are equity-rich—meaning the loan amount was 50 percent or less than the home’s market value—have risen. At the end of 2016, there were 13.9 million equity-rich properties, accounting for 24.6 of all properties. This marks a jump from 22.5 percent in 2015—and 1.3 million homes.“Despite this upward trend over the past five years, the massive loss of home equity during the housing crisis forced many homeowners to stay in their homes longer before selling, effectively disrupting the historical domino effect of move-up buyers that feeds both demand for new homes and supply of inventory for first-time homebuyers,” Blomquist said. “Between 2000 and 2008, our data shows the average homeownership tenure nationwide was 4.26 years, but that average tenure has been trending steadily higher since 2009, reaching a new record high of 7.88 years for homeowners who sold in 2016.”The highest share of equity-rich properties was found in Hawaii, Vermont, and California. San Jose, California; San Francisco; Honolulu; Los Angeles; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were the most equity-rich metros.last_img read more