International travelers cite politics as factor in US trips

Some international travelers are citing politics as a factor in whether to visit the U.S. this year, according to survey research by the tourism marketing agency Brand USA.

The findings add to existing concerns about the tourism industry. Other new data shows that a slowdown in international arrivals to the U.S. began last spring and continued through August, likely due to the strong U.S. dollar and sluggish economies elsewhere.

POLITICS EMERGING AS A CONCERN FOR TRAVELERS

A survey for Brand USA asked travelers from 11 countries how the political climate influenced the likelihood of them visiting the U.S. in the next 12 months.

Those saying the political climate made them less likely to visit increased from December to February among travelers from every country surveyed but China.

Travelers from Mexico registered the most concern over political sentiment as a factor against visiting.

Travelers from Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and France registered moderate sensitivity over political sentiment.

Travelers from India, Japan, Brazil and South Korea were the least sensitive to the U.S. political climate as a factor against visiting, but their likelihood of visiting also decreased over the three-month period, just less dramatically than the others.

(Read also: Trump’s travel ban basics: What you need to know)

Chinese travelers were the only nationality in the survey who said the U.S. political climate made them more likely to visit.

Brand USA surveys typically provide a multiple-choice list of factors influencing travel plans. Last summer, respondents began writing in issues related to politics as a factor. “So we created a discreet option for that and began to measure that,” Brand USA economist Carroll Rheem said in an interview.

When international travelers were asked in December and again in February “what if any impact the political climate has on their likelihood to visit the U.S. … over the course of time we saw an increase in that as a reason for people being discouraged from visiting the U.S.,” she said.

ARRIVALS DATA

International arrivals to the U.S. last year experienced the first sustained decline since the U.S. economy began to recover from the recession, according to newly released and revised arrivals data from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office.

Between April and August of 2016, international arrivals to the U.S. dropped nearly 4 percent compared with the same five months of 2015, declining from 17.8 million to 17.1 million, the data shows. Prior to the second quarter of 2016, international arrivals to the U.S. had climbed every quarter year-over-year since late 2009.

It takes months for arrivals data to accurately be compiled from all U.S. international airports and border crossings, so whether the downward trend continued into fall 2016 and winter 2017 won’t be clear for some time.

(Read also: A look at what’s in, what’s out in Trump’s new travel ban)

BOOKING DATA

Despite concerns raised by arrivals and survey data, Rheem said preliminary data on airline bookings to the U.S. for 2017 shows continued growth. That booking data “is consistent with what we’re hearing from the trade,” Rheem said. “They’ve said things are stable if not growing. So some of the headlines out there about dramatic downward shifts or challenges in bookings are not really consistent with what we’ve been seeing in that data.”

Rheem cautioned that it’s “hard to tell” what the impact of the political concerns showing up in surveys might be. Arrivals data shows what’s already happened, but surveys merely hint at future behavior.

“There’s a good group of these people who have concerns who have a wait-and-see approach” about vacation planning, she said. “And there are others who are somewhat impacted or slightly negative but at the same time will end up booking. It’s not a complete deterrent, but it’s a bit of a concern.” Sentiment versus booking behavior “don’t always break in the same direction,” she said.

Brand USA adjusts its marketing strategies in response to survey trends in an effort to make travelers feel secure about concerns that might prevent a visit. One strategy involves inviting “influencers” — individuals with large online or social-media followings — to visit the U.S. and then tell stories about their (hopefully positive) experiences.

Source – TheJakartaPost

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Twitter eases 140-character limit in replies

Twitter has found more creative ways to ease its 140-character limit without officially raising it.

Now, the company says that when you reply to someone — or to a group — usernames will no longer count toward those 140 characters. This will be especially helpful with group conversations, where replying to two, three or more users at a time could be especially difficult with the character constraints.

When users reply, the names of the people they are replying to will be on top of the text of the actual tweet, rather than a part of it.

Last year, Twitter said it would stop counting photos, videos, quote tweets, polls and GIF animations toward the character limit. Twitter also said it would stop counting usernames, but the change did not go into effect until now.

Twitter, which has been struggling to attract new users, has been trying to appeal to both proponents and opponents by sticking to the current limit while allowing more freedom to express thoughts, or rants, through images and other media.

Twitter’s character limit was created so that tweets could fit into a single text message, back in the heyday of SMS messaging. But now, most people use Twitter through its mobile app. There isn’t the same technical constraint, just a desire on Twitter’s part to stay true to its roots.

Of course, there are ways to get around the limit , such as sending out multi-part tweets, or taking screenshots of text typed elsewhere.

Source – TheJakartaPost

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Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show

Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show.

Billed as the alter-ego of the world’s leading super luxury brand, the Rolls-Royce Black Badge makes its Southeast Asian debut this week, with the Wraith model showing its star quality to visitors at the 38th Bangkok International Motor Show.

According to Rolls Royce, Black Badge speaks to a younger, more assertive customer, the people they call the “rule breakers” and the “disrupters”, those that work hard in the day and commit the same intensity to play once darkness falls.

“Southeast Asia is now a global hub for highly successful young entrepreneurs, who have broken away from tradition to make their own mark in the world. Rolls-Royce Black Badge is presenting a darker and bolder proposition to suit this new attitude,” says Paul Harris, regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in the Asia Pacific region.

“These clients are assertive, demanding and unafraid to take charge. Black Badge is the perfect bespoke answer to this distinctive, decisive and dynamic breed of owner-drivers without compromising the sublime Rolls-Royce driving experience.”

Starting from Bt35 million depending on the bespoke specification, the metamorphosis of the Rolls-Royce Wraith into its Black Badge alter-ego starts with the intensity of the black. Multiple layers of paint and lacquer are repeatedly hand-polished in the most exacting process ever developed for a solid colour. The result is a black that’s darker than night, sinister but sensuous and above all smart.

The Wraith Black Badge also includes a sophisticated centrepiece – aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing. Threads of aluminium just 0.014mm thick are woven together and bonded with carbon fibre through a painstaking process, resulting in one of the world’s most innovative and super-luxury materials.

Black Badge holds the ground with exclusive composite carbon fibre and lightweight alloy wheels, developed over four years, featuring 22 layers of carbon fibre laid in three axes and folded back on themselves to create 44 layers of strength. Further strength is added via a 3D forged, aircraft-grade aluminium hub, which is bonded to the rim using titanium fasteners.

And while the intense black will appeal to many, customers can specify whatever colour they want for the exterior and interior of their Rolls-Royce Black Badge.

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Nadal on track for Federer showdown as Sock downed

MIAMI, March 30, 2017 – Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne.

Nadal’s 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.

The Spaniard’s forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes.

Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.

He broke Sock in the American’s first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.

The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up.

Instead Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.

“We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best,” said Nadal.

Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.

The 29-year-old world number 40 showed plenty of confidence as he took the game to his Japanese opponent from the outset.

It was the Italian’s first victory in three attempts over Nishikori and his first Masters series quarter-final win since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte-Carlo.

Nishikori earlier said he had not felt fully in top shape for the contest.

“I wasn’t 100%, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me,” he said, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.

“But it was also same for him, too. He was playing a lot of the long matches, but I think he still played good enough to beat me today,” he added.

Fognini, who was cheered on by his friend, former Italy footballer Christian Vieri, said he had come through a demanding test.

“It wasn’t easy and I was just focused on my game. I am very happy, I’m in the semifinal, I’m playing well and I feel good again on the court,” he said.

On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany’s Alexander Zverev against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

Source -TheNation

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Samsung’s Galaxy S8 phone aims to dispel the Note 7 debacle

March, 2017, photo, new Samsung Galaxy S8, left, and Galaxy S8 Plus mobile phones are displayed in New York. The Galaxy S8 features a larger display than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant.

Samsung seems to be playing it safe —at least with its battery — as it unveils its first major smartphone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7.

The Galaxy S8 will come in two sizes, both bigger than comparable models from last year. To maximize display space, there’s no more physical home button. The S8 also sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant.

But battery capacity isn’t increasing, despite the larger sizes, meaning more breathing room for the battery. Samsung had pushed the engineering envelope with the Note 7 battery, which contributed to spontaneous combustions. That recall cost Samsung at least $5.3 billion. Though many customers remain loyal, any further misstep could prove fatal.

The phone, announced Wednesday in New York, will come out April 21. The standard-size S8 will cost about $750 and the larger S8 Plus about $850 — both about $100 more than comparable iPhones and rival Android phones.

“That’s a big bet that its phones will justify a higher price, whereas it could have used these new phones as a way to drive higher sales after a couple of years of stagnation,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research.

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March, 2017, photo, the new Samsung Gear 360 camera, right, Gear VR headset, and controller are displayed during a preview in New York.

Cambodia bans breast milk exports after international media coverage

Cambodia has permanently banned the sale and export of human breast milk a week after suspending exports by an American company that was harvesting it from impoverished mothers.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health yesterday, Cambodia’s governing Council of Ministers officially banned the sale and export of pumped human breast milk, putting an end to a controversial industry that has grabbed attention locally and worldwide.

Cambodian women began selling their breast milk to the Utah-based Ambrosia Labs over a year ago. They would generally earn between $7 and $10 per day for the sale of their milk, a sum that allowed many to support their families. But welfare officials argue the practice is exploitative and could impact the nutrition of the women’s children.

“Even if Cambodia is poor, it is still not alright for people to sell breast milk,” read the Council of Minister’s letter, which was signed by Secretary of State Ngor Nongly.

The Ministry of Health immediately responded by releasing a statement on its Facebook page asking Ambrosia Labs, which is currently the only company known to export Cambodian women’s breast milk, to terminate its activities immediately.

The government suspended Ambrosia’s trade a week ago after news of it gained traction in local and international media. The trade was first exposed by The Post in 2015, and drew wider attention after a recent article on the women’s website Broadly, part of Vice.com.

The sale of breast milk is a global trend, with mothers selling their excess lactation online via sites like Only the Breast to mothers who need it for their newborns, as well as to bodybuilders seeking “liquid gold”, cancer patients and breast milk-fetishists who get a sexual charge from consuming mother’s milk. Ambrosia insists its milk is sold to mothers who cannot supply enough milk on their own.

Company spokesmen could not immediately be reached to comment on the permanent ban.

At its annual meeting on Tuesday, the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs named the sale of breast milk and participation in commercial surrogacy as two of the newest issues impacting Cambodian women today. She noted that a law regulating the commercial surrogacy industry, in which a woman rents her womb to carry the child of strangers, should be completed in the near future.

“At first the sale of breast milk seemed to be happening on a very small scale, but now it seems this company was selling a lot of breast milk,” said Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi.

Phavi argued that the sale of breast milk could stunt children’s growth and development by thwarting the government’s efforts to promote breastfeeding among new mothers.

“The government had a program to push women to breastfeed their babies instead of using powdered formula,” she said. “But now women are selling their breast milk and continuing to feed their babies with formula.”

Ambrosia, however, has maintained that its work helps Cambodian mothers and children by encouraging women to breastfeed longer while providing them with a steady income. It said it allowed donors to pump no more than twice a day to ensure they had enough to feed their own children.

In a statement after the suspension it said: “We believe in empowering the mothers of Cambodia with a way to make money while nurturing their families, as well as others, through the donation of their excess milk.”

Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, welcomed the government’s decision on Tuesday, saying that rather than empowering mothers, the breast milk industry was fuelling social inequality in Cambodia.

“The company has said that it is providing economic opportunities, but I don’t agree. They are not really helping the women, they are treating them as a tool to benefit themselves,” Sopheap said. “This is really against women’s rights and human rights. Even if the women agree to sell their breast milk, they are targeting poor and under-educated women.”

But some Cambodian mothers selling their breast milk have lamented the loss of the industry, saying it provided important supplemental income.

Chek Srey Toy, a 19 year-old mother of a one-year-old girl, said the $10 she made selling her breast milk every day allowed her to support her daughter.

“I would give some of my breast milk to my daughter and the rest to the company to sell,” she said. “I am very sorry that they closed. I am very poor, and I don’t know what to do.”

Bangkok International Motor Show kicks off today

Automakers hopeful of boost as motor show kicks off today

THE 38TH RUNNING of the annual Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS) kicks off today at Impact Muang Thong Thani with automakers crossing their fingers for the market to continue growing after finishing last year with a slight shrinkage.

Altogether 768,788 vehicles were sold in the domestic market last year for a drop of 3.9 per cent, but auto companies are optimistic that the market has bottomed out and sales would reach 800,000-810,000 units this year.

The BIMS is considered a sales extravaganza, with companies launching fleets of new and improved models while dangling irresistible promotions.

More than 30 auto and 12 motorcycle brands are showcasing their products at the event, which goes to April 9.

“The BIMS is an auto exhibition event that brings together the highest level of automotive technology and one that helps drive the economy,” said Prachin Eamlumnow, chairman of the organizing committee. 

“Throughout the event, starting from construction to the last day, no less than Bt40 billion is expected to be spent.”

The show serves as a platform for displaying the latest automotive trends. It also helps stimulate the car market, allowing consumers to compare makes and models by visiting just a single venue.

Several companies are also showing off futuristic concept vehicles.

Toyota is displaying its FCV Plus, while Mitsubishi is putting the spotlight on the MiEV Evolution III. Nissan is unveiling its SOFC (solid oxide fuel cell) vehicle, featuring the world’s first bio-ethanol electric power system.

Prachin expects increased competition in the passenger-car market this year.

“Since the start of the year, there has been a good number of new passenger car launches for small and medium-sized models, which were postponed from last year because of the passing away of King Bhumibhol. The premium market is also seeing a lot of action due to the increasing number of players,” he said.

The premium segment is welcoming a new player, as Meister Technik Co has been appointed as the new official Audi importer and is offering a large combination of models to compete against leaders Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Many consumers are ready to replace vehicles purchased through the last elected government’s first-car-buyer scheme, with the five-year ownership requirement ending last October for the first batch of buyers.

“We believe that this group of buyers will start looking for a new vehicle, but we can’t pinpoint what type of vehicle they will be interested in. They could upgrade to a larger model or still go for a small car,” Prachin said. 

Eased financing measures during the past two years have helped more people purchase vehicles, he added.

 Source – TheNation

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This attraction requires a lot of courage

The Terror-dactyl in Colorado Springs is not for everyone. Two men sitting in a chair and visitors they are released over a gap of 60 meters. First you fall 45 meters down and then you swing through the Williams Canyon. You have to dare …

Discovered in 1881, Cave of the Winds has been a premier Colorado attraction for more than a century. Explore amazing caverns, experience total cave darkness, and marvel at the beauty of formations hundreds of thousands of years old. Then step outside and walk on the wind on the Wind Walker Challenge Course, fly like a bat on the Bat-a-Pult Zip Line, and dive into Williams Canyon on the one of a kind aerial dive ride, the TERROR-Dactyl. Lots of family fun, amazing views and memories to last a lifetime!

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Indonesia – Transjakarta increases 2017 target to 185 million passengers

Public transportation provider PT Transportasi Jakarta (Transjakarta) hopes to attract some 185 million passengers this year, or 62 million more than last year’s target, an executive has said.

The company is optimistic that the new target can be reached because in February alone, the number of passengers had increased by 34.4 percent compared to the same month last year, said Transjakarta president director Budi Kaliwono.

“As of February this year, we have served 22.4 million passengers compared to 16.7 million in February 2016,” Budi said as quoted by tempo.co during the celebration of PT Transjakarta’s third anniversary at the Harmoni bus stop in Central Jakarta on Monday.

Budi also promised to keep improving Transjakarta’s services. Passengers can report inconveniences they experience while taking the bus.

“For example, if the air conditioning is not cool enough, passengers only have to report it to get the bus upgraded,” he said.

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Teens wearing leggings barred from United Airlines flight

Two teenage girls were barred by a gate agent from boarding a United Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday because they were wearing leggings, according to a spokesman for the airline.

The girls, whose ages were not specified, were not allowed onto the morning flight because they were traveling under an employee travel pass that includes a dress code, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.

The dress code bars pass travelers from wearing spandex or Lycra pants such as leggings. The teenagers agreed to change their clothing and take a later flight, Guerin said, but the airline’s actions sparked a quick backlash on Twitter.

Activist Shannon Watts of Denver tweeted that she witnessed Sunday’s events and questioned United’s decision to police women’s clothing.

Watts said the girl’s father was allowed to board while wearing shorts and called the airline’s policy sexist.

Regularly ticketed passengers are not subject to the same dress code and can wear leggings, Guerin said. But the airline was standing by its policy for pass travelers because they are essentially representing the company, he said.

“We would ask the same of pass riders who were wearing flip-flops or who were wearing clothing that revealed their undergarments or torn, tattered jeans,” Guerin said.

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Source – TheJakartaPost