The Canadian Press Share Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> MIAMI — Hurricane Gaston is expected to weaken to a tropical storm in the Atlantic.The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm’s maximum sustained winds early Thursday are near 75 mph (120 kph) with weakening forecast during the next day or so.The hurricane is centred about 1,225 miles (1,970 kilometres) east of the Leeward Islands and is moving northwest near 17 mph (28 kph).Meanwhile in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Lester formed far off Mexico’s coast. The storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (65 kph). Additional strengthening is forecast and Lester could become a hurricane in a few days.Lester is centred about 475 miles (765 kilometres) south-southwest of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and is moving west-northwest near 12 mph (19 kph). Thursday, August 25, 2016 Hurricane season heats up with Gaston and Lester
Posted by Thursday, June 1, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >> MONTREAL — Air Canada has gotten a jumpstart on summer with the launch of two new international routes from Vancouver to Nagoya and Frankfurt. Both launching today, the Frankfurt route flies daily, seasonal, while Nagoya flies four times weekly, also seasonal.The airline’s summer season will get even busier when it introduces additional international nonstop routes in the coming weeks. In total, Air Canada plans to introduce 11 new international routes this summer from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.From Vancouver, in addition to Frankfurt and Nagoya, Air Canada will launch Taipei (daily, year-round) and London-Gatwick (three-weekly, seasonal), both on June 8.National Theater and Guanghua Ponds, Taipei, TaiwanFrom Toronto, new international routes include Berlin on June 3 (four-weekly, seasonal), Reykjavik on June 21 (four-weekly, seasonal), and Mumbai on July 1 (four-weekly, year-round).From Montreal, Air Canada will launch nonstop flights to Marseille on June 9 (three-weekly, seasonal), Tel Aviv on June 22 (twice-weekly, seasonal), Reykjavik on June 23 (three-weekly, seasonal), and Algiers on July 1 (four-weekly, seasonal).More news: Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin Cruises“Nothing says summer like winging off to an exciting foreign destination, and Air Canada is pleased to offer its customers more options than ever this year. Through our ongoing international expansion, we are adding 11 new routes touching three continents beginning this summer. This includes exciting destinations in Asia such as Mumbai, Taipei and Nagoya; new cities in Europe, including Berlin, Marseille and Reykjavik; and our second city in Africa, Algiers,” said Benjamin Smith, President, Passenger Airlines at Air Canada.Botanical Garden of Hamma in AlgiersThe 11 new international services will be operated either by Air Canada mainline, using Boeing 787-8/9 or Airbus A330-300 aircraft, or by Air Canada Rouge, flying Boeing 767-300ER or A319-100 aircraft.Two routes, Vancouver-Taipei and Toronto-Mumbai, will continue to operate year-round while the others are available for the summer season. These international additions to Air Canada’s network follow on new transborder routes started this year from Vancouver to Boston, Denver and Dallas; from Toronto to Savannah, San Antonio, and Memphis and Montreal to Dallas; and, later this month, from Montreal to Washington Dulles. Share Travelweek Group Tags: Air Canada, Britain, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Routes, Taiwan A busy summer season ahead for Air Canada, with 11 new international services
Tags: Air Canada Vacations Share << Previous PostNext Post >> No single supplement on select ACV sun packages booked by March 25 Travelweek Group Posted by Friday, March 16, 2018 MONTREAL — Air Canada Vacations is waiving the single supplement for June packages at a long list of resorts across Mexico and the Caribbean.The booking deadline is March 25.Participating resort chains include Be Live Hotels, Memories Resorts & Spa, Starfish Hotels & Resorts, Hideaways Resorts, Bahia Principe All-inclusive Resorts, Grand Velas Resorts and more. Groups can take advantage of the offer as well.ACV also reminds agents that they can book clients on Trafalgar and Contiki trips with ACV by April 1, 2018 for departures April 1 – Oct. 31, 2018 and save an extra $200 per booking.The deal is valid on air-inclusive packages to Europe, with a seven night minimum. This offer is not applicable to group bookings.
Tags: Club Med, Openings & Renovations Share Tuesday, December 18, 2018 THE FRENCH ALPS — Over 900 guests from 29 countries helped celebrate the grand opening of Club Med’s newest mountain resort, Les Arcs Panorama, in the French Alps last Friday.After 18 months of construction, the 4-Trident, 433-room premium resort debuted on Dec. 14 at an altitude of 1,750 metres, featuring panoramic views of the Tarentaise valley and surrounding peaks. It is now considered one of the largest mountain resorts in the world.Henri Giscard d’Estaing, President of Club Med, told esteemed guests that Les Arcs Panorama reflects what Club Med does best.“With elected members and partners from the Alps, worldwide partners, shareholders and journalists by our side, I am especially proud to celebrate the opening of this impressive new flagship,” he said. “This new location is a testament to our commitment to mountain destinations and our desire to play a leading role in the development of the Alpine tourist heritage.”The resort will be a year-round destination, open in both winter and summer, and is located 20 minutes from the Bourg-Saint-Maurice train station, and 2.5 hours from the Lyon and Geneva international airports. Highlights include a range of childcare facilities for infants and children between four months and 17 years, a vast selection of sports, well-being experiences, and direct access to the region’s 425 kilometres of ski slopes.More news: Beep, beep! Transat hits the streets with Cubamania truckLes Arcs Panorama will be followed by the December 2019 opening of the new Alpe d’Huez Club Med resort, which will be upgraded from 3-Trident to 4-Trident after a complete renovation and extension. Then, in December 2020, the company will open its first mountain resort in Canada, Club Med Québec Charlevoix, Club Med’s first location in North America open all year round. Posted by Now open: Club Med Les Arcs Panorama in the French Alps Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >>
Travelweek Group Posted by VANCOUVER — The sky’s the limit with Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours’ new agent incentive, which includes a bonus 25,000 Rewards Points for every new booking on any of its three brands.The offer, available to Canada-based travel agents, applies to bookings made between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2019 on Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Emerald Waterways and Scenic Eclipse. “And with no cap, the sky is the limit,” said Scenic.The Rewards bonus points will be in addition to the points agents earn with Scenic’s Group’s Rewards Program, which grants one point for every two dollars spent. Those points can then be traded in for an array of products, including big and small appliances, fitness and outdoor equipment, electronics, jewelry and fashion items, multiple gift card options, food and wine items and more.Derek Legault, Senior Director of Sales, Canada for Scenic Group, points out how easy it is for agents to earn rewards.More news: AMResorts has a new Sr. Dir. of Cdn. Sales & Consortia Rel’ns“Many of the agents who sell Scenic and Emerald Waterways products will make multiple bookings during Wave Season. Make just five bookings, at an average value of $20,000 net, and the agent will receive 175,000 Rewards points, more than enough for a new Sony Smart TV or Bose speakers or a KitchenAid mixer. Make 10 bookings and the resulting bonus points means they could pick up an iPhone and still have more than 100,000 Bonus points left to spend,” he said.After their first booking, agents receive a welcome email from Scenic and/or Emerald Waterways Rewards with a password reset link and a unique Rewards Member ID. One point is earned for every two dollars spend (excluding air components, taxes and non-commissionable products that form part of the booking, as well as any surcharge or service fees on payments made by credit card, charge card or other forms of non-cash payment).Agents access their accounts at scenicrewards.ca or emeraldrewards.ca to review their points status and browse the catalogue to redeem their points.More news: Marriott Int’l announces 5 new all-inclusive resorts in D.R. & MexicoEmerald Waterways Rewards points are transferrable to their Scenic Rewards accounts, but not the other way around.For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Friday, February 15, 2019 Tags: Agent Incentives, Emerald Waterways, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours Earn 25,000 bonus rewards points with Scenic Group Share << Previous PostNext Post >>
In the women’s match, Caroline Kumahara overcame Puerto Rico’s Carelyn Cordero. For the first few matches, the women went point for point with each other, but by the third set, 16-year-old Kumahara’s triumphant shout came more frequently. During a timeout, Cordero didn’t speak with a coach, gathering her concentration instead. In the end it was not enough, and the Kumahara’s speed overcame Cordero with a final score of 4-2.“This has been a difficult competition,” Kumahara said. “It a much higher altitude here and I definitely have felt that. But as a whole it was a great competition and a great win.” After a few more matches in Brazil, Kumahara will travel to Europe to begin training for the London Summer Olympics.The Latin American Table Tennis Cup drew 12 men and 12 women from across the Latin America. Neither of Costa Rica’s competitors – Angie Araya and Allan Calvo – made it to the final matches on Sunday. Facebook Comments Caroline Kumahara (BRA) took the women’s title and now is heading to Europe to prepare for the Olympics. Gabe Dinsmoor No related posts. Sunday evening, Brazil claimed both the men’s and women’s titles in the Latin American Table Tennis Cup in San José’s National Stadium.In the men’s finals, Thiago Monteiro dominated Argentina’s Liu Song with a wicked right-handed serve and return. The crowd gasped with every miss and applauded with every slam between the two champions. Monteiro was ahead in the third set when a timeout was called for the athletes to seek council from their coaches, wiping sweat from their faces and bouncing on their toes.When the two returned to the table, Song appeared to have regained his control in the first few volleys. Still, three hard smashes from Monteiro closed the deal. The final score was 4-1 (11-9, 12-10, 11-9 and 11-8).“I’ve always wanted to come to Costa Rica,” Montiero said. “Though we don’t always get to see much of the country, we see the people here cheering us on.” Montiero was icing his shoulder, but not because of injury he said, just to keep the swelling down after numerous difficult matches. He said the competition was tough but still very enjoyable.
The jolly gift-giver ziplined over the street on a cable suspended between two buildings, then repelled down onto the street in a sea of applause. Santa and Mrs. Claus then took the stage for the lighting of the shopping center’s Christmas tree, which was followed by a fireworks show.“Avenida Escazú wanted people from around San José to have the opportunity to enjoy this time with their families,” said the event’s organizer, Francisco Valma. “It is a great opportunity to kick off the Christmas season.”Six different groups from around the Escazú and San José area participated in the parade, including the Special Olympics of Costa Rica and Danceworks, a local dance studio. Facebook Comments No related posts. Equipped with wooly hats and gloves, hundreds of people braved the chilly (by Costa Rican standards) weather Saturday for Avenida Escazú shopping center’s inaugural Christmas parade, southwest of San José.Families in attendance were treated to music from two high school marching bands as well as performances from numerous dance groups. Clowns in Santa hats and Disney mascots lined the streets during the march, which culminated in an epic entrance by Santa Claus. Photo gallery Avenida Escazú kicks off Christmas season
No related posts. WASHINGTON, D.C. — In two years as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde has steered the agency beyond the arrest of her predecessor and helped engineer its largest and perhaps most controversial program — the rescue of the euro zone. Criticism has been intense, with the IMF blamed — and accepting partial responsibility — for pushing the region into recession with its recommended austerity measures and for not being forceful enough in securing early debt relief for Greece.Lagarde has been stymied on other fronts: Plans to hand over more power at the IMF to developing countries is stuck, pending U.S. approval. But the euro crisis has eased and the global economy growing. The big issue now is how the world will transition to an era when central banks start reducing their crisis-driven support programs.The former French finance minister chatted recently in her office about the outlook for central bank withdrawal, lessons learned from Greece and other topics. Excerpts follow:To what degree are you disappointed in U.S. leadership on the governance issue and the fact that this is still lingering?The organization functions. We have been able to significantly increase our resources and our capacity to engage, moving from a little over $300 billion to over a trillion dollars — notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. did not contribute or support that move. We have been able to respond to the demands of the membership. Whenever support was expected, we have delivered. And it is really only on the governance reform . . . that we have been stuck. If anything, it has undermined the position of the one member whose ratification would trigger the governance reform implementation and the quota increase. I think everybody would like to complete the process. Let’s face it. It has been around a long time.You came in from the French Finance Ministry with a certain perspective on what needed to happen in Europe. Looking back on the European program and criticisms of that and earlier, parallel criticisms of the IMF through the Latin and Asian crises, do you see any clear reform needed in the way these issues are handled?It is the fate of this organization to be criticized and to be seen as a negative force at the time it prescribes … reforms, fiscal consolidations, in consideration for loans. That is what happened in Latin America, in Asia and in Europe. We intervene at a time when no other tools, no other methods, no other political coalition has been able to restore the situation. We come in as the firefighter. We come in as the doctors, if you will. And the prescription we give is resented. That is very much part of our fate.I have been unbelievably encouraged in my traveling in Asia but also in Latin America at the reaction of some political leaders who have said, ‘Thank goodness the IMF was there to help us rebuild, recapitalize our banking system, consolidate fiscally, reorganize our economy.’ I think that if there is one institution that needs to be judged ex post — and sufficiently ex post that countries have been able to judge the results — it is the IMF.But there has been research by staff at the IMF — on issues like austerity and debt relief — that seems to suggest that future programs may look different. Has groundwork been laid for a different approach? That you are more likely to call for upfront debt restructuring? Or less likely to press austerity?I don’t think we are there yet. It is a matter that is under review. The staff is working on several papers . . . and we will reach conclusions at the end of that process. The debt situation in many countries around the world requires an intellectually honest approach. And we are doing that.And this process could get at the protocols that the fund carries into its crisis analysis?If there is one thing that certainly I have learned, it is that it is country-specific every time. Greece is different from what we had in Ireland and from Portugal and from Spain and Italy. So to just indicate that it will have to be reviewed differently — you know, Japan and Greece are a hundred percent apart [in their debt to gross domestic product], and yet one has access to markets and one doesn’t.Let’s phrase it this way: From your time in the corporate world, there are sensitivities to which mistakes you are more willing to make than others.I would rather not make any.But to the degree you have to do your risk analysis, is the fund now in a situation where it would rather take the moral hazard risks that were present in Europe — whether lending to countries would encourage them to keep overspending — than take on the risks of too harsh austerity, or that it is more willing to say upfront that a country is insolvent and needs debt relief?It is a question of spillover effects or systemic consequences. I don’t have any regret about the way we addressed the European crisis, simply because [the euro zone] was built and engineered in such a way that it could not have resisted the systemic consequences that would have resulted from another approach. And I am pleased to see that, maybe a little bit because of what we said and did, a firewall has finally been built. . . .And there is recognition that if that firewall is not big enough, it should be increased. If we had prescribed anything different at the time, I think we could have had serious problems.People have commented that since the European Central Bank announced programs that seem to keep the euro zone intact, other reforms seem to have slowed down. What’s your diagnosis of this? Is it the politics of the moment? Or is there a more fundamental schism involved — north-south, Hollande-Merkel, however you want to characterize the poles — that probably means slow progress?The crisis has reinforced their common determination to hang in there together. Only a year ago, there was a sense that the euro zone would break up into pieces, that there would at best be northern euro zone, southern euro zone. There was a sense that Greece might be out of the game, and why not others? That has completely changed. . . . They have built a lot. They have done lots of things that would have been considered impossible three years ago. But they still have a lot of work to do.But are you worried that they are stuck? No one is saying we should not have a euro. But neither are many saying they are all in with Brussels, let’s finish the process. There seems to be a middle ground that is not the efficient monetary union we’ve been discussing for three years.At least we have a European Central Bank, which has done an awful lot to keep the thing together. It created space for [European leaders] to strengthen the architecture of the euro zone.Aren’t you worried that this process is losing momentum?Every time the crisis moves away, every time the urgency abates, the energy and the drive to reform and to rebuild wanes a little bit. That is the history of the European construction.That being said, all of these reforms — you can have acute crisis and you can have chronic ones, and it seems that they have traded acute crisis for chronic ones of low growth and less job opportunity.Which I don’t think is bearable for the long term. Which is why also it is comforting to see that Germany, for instance, is looking at stimulating its economy, not increasing taxes going forward, and participating in the growth and jobs debate in a proactive fashion.What about the other contenders here — France, Italy, Spain? What is holding them up from finishing the reforms that are needed?I think confidence is a big factor. I am not going to comment on France, but if you look at some of the other countries, they have done an awful lot to do fiscal consolidation. Italy was in primary surplus, and both of them have restructured their labor markets despite entrenched interests and sort of strong cultural trends. Yet reforms have begun. They have both restructured and strengthened the financial market.Since you did the last report on the U.S., it seems like Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke declared the end of the era. What dynamic is this unleashing? What concerns do you harbor about this unwinding that is going to occur over the next years? Is there high-frequency data you have started to monitor?We have teams whose job it is to look at high-frequency indices. I don’t want to be riveted to what happens on a daily basis. They alert me if things are heading in the wrong direction.What we see is that in quite a few of these emerging-market economies, measures have been taken, the market has deepened, issuance of bonds has varied, including in local currencies. And I think that some of them — not all of them — have strengthened their fundamentals to such an extent that I don’t think they would be the victims of reasonable, well-programmed, well-communicated unwinding of the super accommodative monetary policy of the central banks.Number two, we have significantly reviewed, explored, debated and finally revised our position on capital flows and the management of capital flows. And we certainly think that countries which, once they have exhausted the various macroprudential policies, that they can resort to some capital flow management. We still think that the unwinding has to take place in an articulated way, with proper transitioning, not abruptly. And when I say well articulated — taking into account the potential spillover effects to other markets, not just the domestic consequences.People have said these years of accommodation have left the world economy …Addicted.Withdrawal is always painful.If it is gradual, if it is properly announced and at the same time other policymakers make the right decisions on fiscal, growth and structural measures — that they take the baton from the central bankers — it should work.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Microsoft announced its financial results for the second quarter, the market panicked. The firm’s stock dropped 10 percent in after-hours trading, even though revenue and profits both topped their numbers from the second quarter of 2012.Why did the market freak out? The biggest reason was that Microsoft booked a $900 million charge for “inventory adjustments” for its Surface tablets. In plain English, Microsoft admitted that its heavily promoted tablet is selling poorly. And that’s an ominous sign for the Redmond, Washington, firm’s long-term prospects. Tablets and smartphones are the future of computing, and Microsoft is falling farther behind the market leaders, Apple and Google.Even so, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer shouldn’t be too depressed. Microsoft probably won’t lead the next generation of high-tech innovation. But history suggests that Windows and Office, its existing cash cows, will continue generating profits for years to come. The numbers bear this out: Second-quarter revenue was up 10 percent, to $19.9 billion. And profits were $6 billion, compared to a small loss a year ago.Tablet computing is an example of what Harvard business guru Clay Christensen dubbed a disruptive innovation. While the term has become so overused as to render it almost meaningless, Christensen gave it a precise definition. Disruptive innovations are those that are dramatically simpler and cheaper than what’s already on the market — in this case, the PC.Tablets are less powerful than full-featured PCs. But their simplicity and low cost allow many more people to experiment with them — witness the hundreds of thousands of apps in the Apple and Google app stores. That has led to a rapid pace of innovation in mobile software. Over time, disruptive technologies like tablets outstrip the capabilities of the older technology like PCs, despite the latter’s greater complexity and initial sophistication.This pattern has played out before in the computer industry. In the early 1970s, the cutting-edge machines of the computing industry were “minicomputers,” which cost tens of thousands of dollars and were the size of washing machines. Then start-ups such as Apple began introducing “microcomputers,” known today as PCs. They were small enough to fit on your desk and cost only a couple of thousand dollars. These early PCs had extremely limited capabilities. But millions of people who couldn’t afford a minicomputer could afford a PC. And so the PC market grew much faster than the minicomputer market, making Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other PC pioneers wealthy men.The computing industry is now undergoing a similar transition. Millions of consumers are foregoing relatively pricey and complex PCs in favor of Android phones and iPads. And the experience of Digital Equipment Corp., the leading minicomputer firm in the 1970s, provides some clues to Microsoft’s own future. The parallels between the two firms are striking.According to Christensen, DEC tried to enter the PC market four times between 1983 and 1995. But each time, the firm’s corporate culture proved an insurmountable obstacle to success in the PC business. A workforce that was used to making tens of thousands of dollars on each sale did not have the talent or enthusiasm for selling computers that would fetch a few thousand dollars each. None of DEC’s PCs was a hit with consumers.Microsoft has repeatedly tried to enter the mobile OS market with similarly dismal results. The Redmond giant introduced its first tablet PC more than a decade ago, and it was offering a mobile version of Windows for years before the iPhone came on the scene. But Microsoft was too invested in the PC business model to succeed in the mobile marketplace. It tried to offer the full capabilities of a PC in a mobile form factor, producing an interface that was too cluttered and confusing for small screens. And its business model of charging smartphone manufacturers for each Windows phone it shipped left the company flat-footed when Google offered Android for free.DEC eventually fell on hard times, but it took more than a decade for the growth of PCs to seriously undercut DEC’s business. The firm’s relatively powerful computers continued to sell well throughout the 1980s. And the company continued to innovate. The Alpha processor, introduced in 1992, was widely regarded as a technological marvel. In 1995, DEC released AltaVista, one of the first full-text search engines. But none of these products proved profitable enough to replace declining revenue from its minicomputer business.Microsoft is due for its own decade of stagnation as the computing industry shifts from PCs to mobile devices. Yet PCs aren’t going away. Businesses are not going to put iPads on people’s desks anytime soon, nor are they going to ditch Microsoft Office in favor of Google Docs. So if the Redmond firm can keep its costs down, it can continue to be profitable for years to come.The problem is that no technology CEO wants to admit that his firm is no longer capable of succeeding on technology’s cutting edge. Selling Windows and Office may be profitable, but it’s not as glamorous as writing the software that powers smartphones and Web apps. So just as DEC continued producing innovative but doomed products such as the Alpha and Altavista in the 1990s, Steve Ballmer will probably keep pouring money into such money-losing projects as Bing, the Zune and Surface. That’s probably not good for Microsoft’s shareholders, but it could be great for consumers.© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Comments No related posts.
Peru’s Chief Prosecutor José Peláez arrived Tuesday in Costa Rica along with two other prosecutors to collect evidence related to a case of alleged corruption involving former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.Peláez will meet with Costa Rica’s Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría to obtain information related to money laundering investigations conducted in the country of at least three Costa Rica-based corporations created by people linked to Toledo, including his mother-in-law, a Belgian citizen named Eva Fernenbug.Last week, Peláez told the Peruvian daily El Comercio that his trip to Costa Rica will focus on determining the origins of a corporation called Ecoteva Consulting Group, as well as the source of funds used by Fernenbug to acquire two properties in Lima, costing some $5 million.One of the most important pieces of evidence that Peruvian prosecutors seek in the country is the testimony of a local notary who allegedly stated that Toledo “asked him to create the Ecoteva corporation.” Prosecutors believe the ex-president, who served from 2001-2006, also was involved in the creation of another corporation named Ecostate Consulting.Investigators will conduct interviews of two people listed as board members of Ecoteva: Claudia Centeno, a domestic employee, and a security guard named José Alfaro.In May, Toledo told a radio station in his country that he will authorize prosecutors to lift all banking secrecy in the case.“I will collaborate, even though I have nothing to do [with the property purchases],” Toledo said in a telephone interview from the United States, where he currently works as a professor at Stanford University. “I will return to Lima soon to give a full statement to the Prosecutor’s Office.” Facebook Comments No related posts.
Related posts:UPDATE: CNN seems to have bumped special on US man’s mysterious death in Costa Rica Costa Rica court finds US expat Ann Patton not guilty in third murder trial Guilty of murder: Costa Rica court convicts expat Ann Patton of killing husband in 2010 Costa Rica appeal of Patton ‘not guilty’ verdict would have little to stand on, legal experts say Facebook Comments Ann Maxin Patton, 43, was in court again today in San Isidro de El General for a retrial on charges that she murdered her husband, U.S. financier John Felix Bender, 44, in a bizarre incident at their jungle mansion in 2010.Patton, born in Brazil, has always claimed Bender’s death, the result of a single gunshot wound to the neck, had been a suicide. A Costa Rican court had cleared her once of the charges, but an appeals court tossed out that verdict and ordered a retrial.Upon entering the courtroom Monday morning, Patton said, “I hope justice in Costa Rica does its job, as it did the first time. I must trust this country’s justice system. My husband committed suicide and that’s what happened. All this is very painful to relive.”Costa Rican prosecutor Edgar Ramírez, however, insisted Patton killed her husband as he slept. “We will demonstrate that there is convincing evidence, scientific proof that is irrefutable, “Ramírez said.Asked by the court on Monday about her relationship with Bender, Patton described how the two met, how their relationship evolved and how it ended on a fateful night in January 2010.Patton said she met Bender on March 15, 1998 at 4:30 p.m. “On that day it was love at first sight for both of us,” she said.For the next two weeks she visited Bender where he was living, on a farm in the U.S. state of Virginia.“Besides love at first sight, what made us such good friends, such good partners, were primarily our love for animals, a love for conservation, a love for any and all things that were conservationist in ethics and in action,” Patton said.In the U.S., Bender worked from home as a hedge fund manager, and Patton became his personal assistant as he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week.“This was John’s trust in me, and he seeing in me someone that he felt to be intelligent, useful, valuable, was an amazingly beautiful thing for me, just at a time when I needed it most,” Patton testified.“After we met and fell in love I remember something that John told me, that he had never expected that it would happen to him. He had felt that he would never meet someone that he would want to spend the rest of his life with,” Patton said.“Between when we met and when we decided to come to Costa Rica for the first time for me, which was November of ’98, over the course of that time we realized in our discussions the way we were living together, how successfully we were able to live and work together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the exception of when we had doctors appointments or the like,” she added.According to Patton, at 30, Bender decided he would continue working a few years and then move to Costa Rica, where he planned to establish a wildlife refuge.In March 2000, the couple moved to Costa Rica permanently, where they settled into 5,000 acres of land in the Southern Zone. They met and hired a lawyer, who also would become a fiduciary for the land deals in Florida de Barú, Pérez Zeledón.In previous statements to the press, Patton has said the couples’ lives together began to change one year after moving to Costa Rica. She claimed they were attacked by corrupt police who had been hired by another U.S. citizen, who had sued Bender. To protect themselves, they bought firearms and allegedly obtained firearm permits.They continued their plan of building a jungle paradise home and retreat, and in October 2004, construction of the Boyacarán wilderness refuge was complete.But Patton testified that Bender’s estate trustee said he was quickly running out of money, and the death of some animals on the estate led Bender to believe he had failed at in his conservation efforts. Patton said her husband’s frame of mind quickly deteriorated and he became depressed. He also had a history of depression and bipolar disorder, she said.Patton’s version of the events on Jan. 8, 2010 has remained consistent with her past statements: Her husband committed suicide and she fought with him that night in an unsuccessful attempt to wrestle the firearm away from him. Prosecutors, however, say she shot him.In January 2013, a Costa Rican court agreed with Patton’s version of events, and the case was thrown out. But in August 2013, an appeals court in Cartago, east of the capital, annulled the previous ruling and ordered the court in Pérez Zeledón to schedule a new trial.According to the appeals court, the penal court that first heard Patton’s case failed to correctly review evidence and alleged inconsistencies in Patton’s testimony.Prosecutors say that when Bender died, he was wearing earplugs, had three pillows under his head, and his legs were flexed in a sleeping position. They claim it is illogical that he would shoot himself in that position. They also say there were no signs of gunpowder residue on Bender’s hands, while Patton allegedly wiped her hands with napkins after the shooting. Those napkins revealed traces of gunpowder, prosecutors claim.Patton has Lyme disease, and to alleviate symptoms she took intravenous morphine, she testified, along with an anticoagulant and antibiotics. She also is bipolar, and takes clonazepam and alprazolam.The trial is expected to last a week.The case is featured in a special CNN investigation titled, “Love & Death in Paradise.” Watch a trailer here:
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At 9:18 p.m., a guard appears outside the cell and asks, “Guzmán? Guzmán? Guzmán Loera?” using the most-wanted man’s full last name.A guard is later heard speaking to a commander, saying as he looks between the cell’s bars: “There’s a hole in the shower.”When the commander asks the size of it, the guard answers: “Large, chief, large.”“But the intern is not there?” the commander asks. “No, chief. He’s not.”It is only at 9:29 p.m., or 37 minutes after El Chapo slipped out, that guards finally open the cell door and go into the hole.One guard can be heard saying that the hole was sealed farther down.Guzmán fled through a 1.5-kilometer (one mile) tunnel with a redesigned motorcycle on special tracks, emerging in a house outside the prison.‘Officials lied’Opposition Senator Alejandro Encinas, a member of Congress’s bicameral security committee, accused the government of “lying and hiding information” to lawmakers about the escape, noting that officials had said that it took 18 minutes for guards to go to the cell.Encinas also complained that authorities had refused to provide a copy of the video to his committee.More than a dozen officials have been arrested over the escape, including several guards, the prison director and the head of Mexico’s national penitentiary system.The jailbreak was a massive embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who lost one of the greatest victories of his administration.Guzmán had been captured in February 2014 after a 13-year manhunt. He had previously escaped from another maximum-security prison in 2001 by sneaking out inside a laundry cart.Peña Nieto had refused to hand Guzmán over to the United States, but the authorities have now secured an arrest warrant to extradite him if he is captured again.Related: ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and the Sinaloa cartel have growing ties to Costa Rica, authorities say Facebook Comments MEXICO CITY — A hammer-like noise reverberates in Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s cell minutes before his jailbreak. Almost 30 minutes later, a guard finally arrives outside the empty room and asks, “Guzmán?”New surveillance footage of El Chapo’s July 11 escape, leaked to the Televisa channel on Wednesday, featured for the first time audio from the maximum-security prison cell near Mexico City.The images show previously unseen footage before and after El Chapo Guzmán sneaked down a hole in his shower. Televisa also obtained images from the surveillance camera control room.Guzmán, 58, lay on his bed under a blanket while watching a show on a small television when the loud hammering suddenly rings out.The Sinaloa drug cartel chief gets up, heads to the shower, bends down behind a dividing wall, and disappears at 8:52 p.m. Nobody seems to immediately react among the half-dozen people working in the control room.See also: Lawyer for Mexico’s most-wanted man, ‘El Chapo,’ doesn’t know where client is Related posts:Military helicopter shot down as drug violence surges in western Mexico Mexico drug war shootout leaves dozens dead Undermining Mexico: How ‘El Chapo’ built a criminal empire, and escaped prison, by digging deep Villagers recall fear as troops fired in ‘El Chapo’ raid
Stano said such reforms should include easing restrictions on the investigation and prosecution of lawmakers, government officials, judges and prosecutors.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The changes, which will apply to the next national elections planned for 2013, follow a key request for electoral reform from the EU, which Albania hopes to join.But they do not address small opposition parties’ demands for a national proportional system of representation. The small parties say the existing system makes it hard for them to enter Parliament, because when they fail to pass a 3 percent threshold in any of the 12 electoral districts their votes in that district go to the two biggest parties.Albanian President Bamir Topi is expected to issue a decree within the next few days passing the reforms into law.A spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele welcomed the changes. Peter Stano said the adoption of the reforms was a move “towards meeting a key (EU) priority.”This autumn, Albania expects the EU to make a new assessment of its bid to be designated a candidate member _ following two consecutive refusals from Brussels over the past two years.Stano also urged a “constructive attitude” from Tirana towards further reforms in the rule of law, which he said were “essential for Albania to advance on the EU path this year.” Comments Share 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Sponsored Stories TIRANA, Albania (AP) – The Albanian parliament on Thursday approved electoral reforms following pressure from the European Union and opposition allegations that past votes have been rigged.Lawmakers voted 127-2 in favor of constitutional amendments that allow greater transparency in the selection of key electoral commission officials and introduce digital voter identity checks in the capital, Tirana. Parliament also approved a pilot project to computerize the vote count in the city of Fier. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Top Stories
“For her to go inside this community at this hostile time was amazing,” says Veliz of the dictatorship years. “We thought the world was just that and that we had to hate anyone who thought differently, but when the workshop arrived it changed our way of thinking.”Throughout the years, Vega has scrounged up funding from the Education Ministry, the U.S. and Scandinavian embassies, churches, French humanitarian groups and Chilean artists. But every year, she still struggles to get the $3,000 she needs for materials, adult supervisors and snacks.“I keep on doing it because I see in children’s faces that every year, with every experience, they achieve goals that they never dreamed of,” Vega says. “Parents tell us that they focus and do better at school, and more importantly, they’re happier.”And thanks to Vega, they have passed on some movie magic to their own children.“I recently bought a film projector just like in the workshop, and I buy popcorn and watch movies with Zara, my 4-year-old daughter,” Veliz says.“Aunt Alicia would teach that movies have a beginning and an end, and in great way, that’s how life is. But what happens in that movie of life depends on us,” he adds. “In order to do that, you have to help children dream. Alicia does that and her legacy is huge. It’s so many generations of us, and the movie keeps rolling.” Men’s health affects baby’s health too Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement “I’ve never been to the movie theater but I want to learn what a movie is and how it’s made. I like this a lot,” says Ortega, the 9-year-old “pilot” of the cardboard plane.Kids also watch the moving stick figures of the century-old Fantasmagorie, the world’s first cartoon. Eventually, frame by frame, they will draw their own moving images _ of dinosaurs, soccer players, ships and trains _ to make their own movie. They also grasp the difference between film and documentary or real life.“They’re used to not being listened to at home, hardly having an opinion at all,” Vega says. “So when they come back home and tell their parents what happened in class they become the protagonists. It helps them find grounding in who they are and find a space in life, and that’s very valuable.”Flashback to 1973, when Chile was living through the darkest moment of its recent history. Vega’s adult classes at the university were cut after Marxist President Salvador Allende was ousted by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Helicopters hovered over Santiago’s slums like Lo Hermida in the municipality of Penalolen, keeping children up at night while the military searched for leftist dissidents among their parents. Sometimes soldiers broke into the porous plywood homes and dragged people out for questioning and torture. Many never returned, joining the more than 3,000 who disappeared after being seized by the dictatorship. Vega worried that their children, already enduring poverty and hunger, would also lose their innocence.She spent the early years of the dictatorship developing a film curriculum for kids in Roman Catholic schools, but eventually she decided to go straight to the slums. In her first workshop, seen in the 1987 documentary “100 Children Waiting for a Train,” she asks children to create their own documentary. They reach for red markers and draw images of protesters being shot by police.Vega is small-framed and grandmotherly, but no pushover. Her toughest decisions come when she’s had to dismiss children from the workshop for stealing the snacks. Her assistants sometime ask her to reconsider, but she won’t give in. “If you were to forgive every child we couldn’t continue with the class,” Vega says in her book.She’s not the hugging type: In the film, she explains that she can’t get too close emotionally to kids whose lives are already full of pain. It’s hardest when she sees youngsters who have been abandoned or sexually abused, beaten or just hungry. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix As the first black-and-white images of Mickey Mouse pop up, they roar with laughter. The 83-year-old woman responsible for their joy smiles faintly, paying no attention to the movie. She’s more interested in these starry-eyed kids, who have never walked into a cinema.Her name is Alicia Vega, a no-nonsense filmmaker who has seen that look during 27 years of workshops. In slum after slum, all across Chile, she has helped thousands of poor children soar by teaching them about the magic of movies.Film, she says, has a uniquely transformative power.“My intention was never for them to become filmmakers, but for them to become better human beings, to discover themselves,” says Vega, who recently documented her life’s work in a book, “Film Workshop for Children,” so others might be inspired to follow her lead.“Movies help children escape poverty because it lifts their self-esteem. They learn values, it expands their culture. It’s universal: Kids are kids anywhere and they learn a lot through images,” she says.In her four-month workshops, children start by making devices that preceded the first projected moving images, like the Zoetrope _ a cylinder with vertical slits surrounding a band of pictures that come alive when spun. The children often take the toys back home and teach their parents that the name comes from the Greek words “zoe” for alive and “trope” for turn. ___Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories “The Zoetrope impressed me most, because I never imagined that an inanimate image could have movement. It was shocking,” recalls Leonardo Veliz, 38, who used to sell shoelaces in the streets when he attended Vega’s workshop in 1987 at age 13. He now works as an electrical technician.“I was surprised to see how movies were made, or to find out that the first ones were silent. The classes awakened my curiosity,” Veliz says. “We learned that images are not really what they seem at first, and this has helped me at work. I’ll be repairing computers for hours, and I also have to find a way to see things in a different way.”Studying cinema history, the kids sneeze together after watching Vega’s 16-mm copy of the earliest surviving motion picture, the 1894 “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze.” Children pencil handlebar moustaches on their faces and dress in 19th century clothes to watch images of a train arriving at a station, famously shown to a shocked public by the Lumiere Brothers in Paris. Of the mustachioed brothers, sometimes they ask: “Which one is Louis and which one Auguste?”On other days, they wear top hats and giggle at the slapstick comedy of Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin’s first silent films. They discover shots and angles behind a real camera, construct a box office and pay for their classroom cinema using fake bills. And they always enjoy snacks during screenings. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Associated PressLO HERMIDA, Chile (AP) – Inside the community center for this slum where children shiver in the winter chill, dozens of kids are dreaming of flying away. Their pilot is 9-year-old Benjamin Ortega, who tips his hat inside their cardboard plane and calls for takeoff while an old 16-mm projector rolls and clicks, projecting Walt Disney’s 1928 classic film “Plane Crazy” on a white sheet. Sponsored Stories Comments Share Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like
Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top Stories Comments Share Lawmakers also gave the government sweeping powers to blacklist websites in July, ostensibly to combat child pornography. Last week, however, Russia’s communications minister tweeted that the law could be used to shut access to YouTube over a U.S.-produced anti-Islam film that has provoked riots across the world.The parliament is also considering making offending religious beliefs a criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. The move follows a public outcry over the hooliganism conviction three members of feminist rock band Pussy Riot received in August for a “punk prayer” against Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) “We survived the Soviet power, and we’ll survive this,” Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Thursday.The law passed in July requires any NGO that receives foreign funding _ from governments, groups or private citizens _ and engages in vaguely defined political activity to register itself as a “foreign agent,” provide detailed quarterly reports of its finances and identify itself as a foreign agent in any material it distributes.Failure to comply would bring fines of up to 5,000 rubles (about $150) for members, 50,000 rubles ($1,150) for the heads of these organizations and up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for the organizations themselves. Anyone who continues to participate in organizations that violated the rules can be fined up to 300,000 rubles ($9,000) or sent to prison for two years.The law is part of a package of repressive bills initiated by the Kremlin after President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term in May. Putin has repeatedly accused the U.S. of staging major protests against his rule to weaken Russia. His claims played well with his core support group of blue-collar workers and state employees, many of whom remain suspicious of the West. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Associated PressMOSCOW (AP) – Leading Russian non-government organizations said Thursday they would defy a new Kremlin law requiring those who receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”The heads of nine prominent NGOs have issued a joint statement saying they would ignore the law, which was approved by the Kremlin-controlled parliament over the summer in a bid to undermine the groups’ credibility. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology The supporters of the new law described it as a necessary shield against foreign meddling in Russian affairs.Alexander Sidyakin, one of the bill’s authors, claimed during its passage that NGOs had “smeared” Russia’s parliamentary and presidential elections last winter with “mud.”“We’ll let citizens know whose megaphone this mud is crawling out of, and they can draw their own conclusions,” he added.Alexeyeva and other rights activists also criticized a plan by Radio Liberty, a station funded by the U.S. government, to shift its broadcasts to the Internet, urging it to stay on the airwaves.“We cannot lose a station with an active civil stance based on the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” they wrote in a letter, adding that these values “are under attack from the Russian government.”Earlier this month, Moscow declared an end to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s two decades of work in Russia, saying it was using its money to influence elections _ a claim the U.S. denied.And last week, parliament gave a quick preliminary approval to a new treason bill drafted by the main KGB successor agency that vastly expanded the definition of treason to include such activities as financial or consultative assistance to an international organization. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top holiday drink recipes Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Representatives of Myanmar’s government and Kachin ethnic rebels said Thursday they made significant progress in their latest peace talks and that a comprehensive cease-fire agreement including all armed ethnic groups might be in sight.Myanmar for decades has faced rebellions from minority groups seeking autonomy. The Kachin are the only major group that does not have an active cease-fire with the government, after a truce signed in 1994 broke down two years ago. But a Kachin spokesman said a cease-fire might be signed as early as next month. “The nationwide cease-fire agreement will include the government and all non-state armed groups and would represent an end to fighting in Myanmar for the first time since independence in 1948,” it said.The government and the Kachin have met more than 15 times without making any breakthroughs while clashes continued between them. In their latest meeting, they agreed to work to end all armed fighting, establish a joint monitoring committee, develop a plan for the voluntary return and resettlement of internally displaced persons and reopen roads in Kachin state.Kachin spokesman Dau Hka said his side was encouraged to see stronger commitments by the government “to resolve political issues through political means and not through fighting.”He also described as “significant” the government’s willingness to allow all ethnic guerrilla groups to hold an official joint conference. He did not explain how such a meeting would differ from previous ones held by allied rebel groups, but said the conference is planned to be held at the Kachin guerrilla headquarters in Laiza on Oct. 28-30, and 11 armed groups would be invited.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Sponsored Stories Tensions with minority groups are considered the biggest threat to Myanmar’s stability, and the government is anxious to conclude a comprehensive cease-fire agreement, which would also help stem criticism from Western governments and rights groups over military repression.The elected but army-backed government of President Thein Sein, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of repressive military rule, wants a peace agreement to complement the political and economic reforms it has implemented.The government had hoped a nationwide cease-fire accord would be signed in July, but later postponed its goal to October and now is targeting November.“It is likely that the nationwide cease-fire accord could be signed in November as the government has targeted,” said Dau Hka, a spokesman for the guerrilla Kachin Independence Army.Aung Naing Oo, who is helping facilitate negotiations for the government, said the three days of peace talks marked a significant improvement. He said there had been a major decline in armed clashes between the two sides since the last talks in May, when they signed a seven-point agreement to ease tensions.The Myanmar Peace Center, for which Aung Naing Oo works, said the two sides “agreed to work together toward a nationwide cease-fire agreement and lay foundation for political dialogue” in their talks in the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina, in the country’s far north. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Comments Share
Comments Share New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies “There are time constraints and liquidity constraints and hopefully we will reach an agreement before time runs out and before money runs out,” said Dijsselbloem.Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis indicated that Greece may not have more than a couple of weeks before the country’s liquidity issues become “binding.”Greece is facing a cash crunch that could see it go bankrupt within weeks and possibly leave the euro currency. It has for over three months been trying to agree on a list of reforms and budget measures to get a bailout loan — worth 7.2 billion euro ($8 billion) — that will help it pay upcoming debts.Earlier Monday, Greece said it had given the go-ahead to make a big debt repayment worth 757 million euros ($844 million) to the International Monetary Fund due Tuesday. But it will have trouble meeting other repayments in the following weeks.Varoufakis said “there has been considerable convergence” in the talks over recent weeks and noted progress on issues such as privatization and tax reform. However, he said much of the progress was primarily because of concessions made by his government.He conceded his disappointment that there has yet to be a firm agreement on the rescue loans but that discussions are taking place “in good spirits.” Varoufakis said his discussions with his German counterpart and tough negotiator, Wolfgang Schaeuble, were the friendliest they’ve had.In the event of a debt default, Greece could have to put controls on the flow of money through its banks and eventually even drop out of the euro altogether.Despite three months of talks, Greece and its creditors have failed to agree on the reforms and savings Athens needs to qualify for the loan installment.Greece hasn’t had any bailout money since last August and has relied on its own resources.Whether Greece will default on its debts and leave the euro is one of the biggest uncertainties surrounding the global economy. Most stock markets in Europe were trading lower Monday, with Athens’ main index down 2.5 percent.Greece’s left-led government was elected in January on a mandate to end crippling austerity policies, blaming them for the parlous state of the economy. The budget cuts required in return for 240 billion euros worth of rescue loans contributed to a massive shrinkage in the Greek economy and the sky-rocketing of unemployment and poverty.The Greek government has indicated it will reject any deal that doesn’t offer a credible prospect of ending its economic crisis. It has hinted at a possible referendum on any deal that runs counter to its electoral mandate. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives at prime minister’s office to take part in a cabinet meeting in Athens, on Sunday, May 10, 2015. Eurozone finance ministers will meet on Monday amid slow-moving talks on a deal with Greece’s creditors. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis) Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility BRUSSELS (AP) — Greece has made progress in talks with creditors but “more time and effort” is needed to reach a deal to give the country the money it needs to avoid default, the eurozone’s top official said Monday.Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after a meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers that “important progress” is being made in the negotiations. However, he said “more time is needed to bridge remaining gaps” to reach a deal on the reforms Greece must make in exchange for more loans. Top holiday drink recipes Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said it “could be perhaps a correct step to let the Greek people decide.”Back in 2011, Greece’s then prime minister, George Papandreou, floated the idea of a referendum on Greece’s bailout but was rebuked by his counterparts in Europe.“The decision lies with Greece,” Schaeuble said. “We just want to help Greece, but Greece must do its part as well.”Dijsselbloem said it’s every country’s right to call a referendum but warned that the disbursement of bailout funds may not be made if implementation of the reforms hasn’t started.Though conceding that a referendum is something that could be used to “elicit” the support of the Greek people on any deal that emerges, Varoufakis said it’s “not something that’s on the radar screen.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. How do cataracts affect your vision?
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Poe’s spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, said Poe did not learn how the trip was paid for until he was contacted last year by the Houston Chronicle, which published a story in July raising questions about the trip.“Not only was our office responsive to the Houston Chronicle, we also went a step further by contacting the House Committee on Ethics, self-reporting the allegations raised by the Chronicle to the (ethics) committee and requesting that they look further into them,” Hynes said.Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, said in a statement that he believed the purpose of the trip was to strengthen U.S. relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, which is rich in oil and natural gas.“I received souvenirs of what I believed to be of minimal value and in compliance with the House gift rule,” Hinojosa said.Poe, Hinojosa and other lawmakers said they have fully cooperated with the investigation.Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., said in a statement that he made good-faith efforts to follow House rules on gifts. Bridenstine reported on financial disclosure forms that he received two rugs appraised at $2,500 and $3,500, respectively. In a July 2013 letter to the ethics panel, Bridenstine said he wanted to donate the larger, more expensive rug to the House Clerk’s Office. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Sponsored Stories WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of House lawmakers say they had no idea that a 2013 congressional trip to Azerbaijan was paid for by that country’s government.At least seven members of Congress or their aides said Wednesday that the lawmakers obtained approval for the May 2013 trip from the House Ethics Committee. Two Houston-based nonprofit corporations reported to the panel that they were sponsoring the conference in the capital city of Baku, near the Caspian Sea. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company allegedly paid $750,000 to cover travel expenses for the lawmakers — as well as scarves, rugs and other gifts — by sending funds through the nonprofit corporations.Congressional rules generally bar foreign governments from paying for travel by members of Congress or otherwise trying to influence U.S. policy.The independent Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee are investigating the trip, which included at least 10 lawmakers from both parties and 32 staffers.A spokeswoman for Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said Wednesday that the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians told Poe’s office and the Ethics Committee before the trip that it was the sole sponsor of the event. The council is one of two companies identified by the Post as entities used by the Azerbaijan government to conceal the fact it paid for the trip. The other company was identified as the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan.In reality, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic allegedly funneled $750,000 through the U.S.-based corporations to pay for the conference in the former Soviet nation, the Post reported. Top Stories After consulting with the Ethics Committee, he returned the rugs, Bridenstine said.Others attending the conference were Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas; Yvette Clarke and Gregory Meeks of New York; Danny Davis of Illinois and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico; as well as Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J. and former Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas.___Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments Share