Arsenal Defeated

Crystal Palace strengthened their survival bid and dented Arsenal’s top-four hopes with a superb 3-0 win at Selhurst Park on Monday Night Football.

Andros Townsend gave Crystal Palace a 1-0 lead with a close-range finish on 17 minutes, despite Arsenal’s dominance in possession in the first period.

The Gunners were second best after the break, and it was 2-0 just after the hour mark through Yohan Cabaye’s looping effort, before Luka Milivojevic put Palace three ahead from the penalty spot after Emiliano Martinez brought down Townsend.

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Ibrahimovic inspiration keeps Man United in top-four race

After 30 minutes of Sunday’s Premier League game against Sunderland, Manchester United appeared in danger of meandering its way to another disappointing result.

Thankfully for manager Jose Mourinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had other ideas.

The Swedish forward demanded the ball be played to him on the edge of the penalty area, and then evaded the attempts of two Sunderland defenders to halt his progress before sending an unstoppable strike into the far bottom corner.

“You need these players sometimes to make it and normally every top team has a couple of them that can make a difference. Zlatan did that with the goal,” Mourinho said.

After Ibrahimovic’s moment of inspiration, the result was never in doubt and a red card for Sebastian Larsson left space for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and substitute Marcus Rashford to seal the points for United.

With the league’s top four all having won on Saturday, the victory ensured United kept pace in the race for Champions League qualification as it moved above Arsenal into fifth and within four points of fourth-place Manchester City, which has played one more game.

Sunderland remains bottom having now failed to score in its last seven games, 10 points adrift of safety.

“We reacted to the results of yesterday,” Mourinho said. “We got the three points, [with a] solid performance against a team that is sad. When you play against a team that is sad, if you score before [them], the game is almost over because it is difficult to react.”

“After Liverpool and Manchester City’s victories, if we didn’t win today it’s almost mathematically impossible [to finish fourth].”

Unlike its rivals, United can still qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa League. It resumes its campaign with a quarterfinal first leg in Belgium against Anderlecht on Thursday.

Source – TheJakataPost

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Iran, Russia agree on visa-free stay for tour groups

Iran and Russia have eased visa requirements for Iranian nationals visiting Russia and vice versa, following an agreement signed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin in late March.

Tehran Times reported on Monday that “based on the agreement, tour groups of 5 to 50 people heading to Russia from Iran or vice versa will be granted a visa-free stay of up to 15 days”.

The move is expected to increase tourism between the two countries.

Russia’s Tour Operators Association executive director Maya Lomidze said that Russia was welcoming more Iranian visitors following the launch of direct flights from Iran to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Sochi.

Source – TheJakartaPost

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Drinking #Wine a form of exercise, study says

Indulging ourselves in a glass of wine every now and then is often considered as leisure activity.

But according to a recent study, drinking the fermented juice can be considered as an exercise, as it makes human brains work harder than any other physical activity.

According to the book “Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine,” published by neurologist Dr. Gordon M. Shepherd of Yale School of Medicine, drinking and smelling wine triggers the brain to require “exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body.”

Contrary to popular belief, Sheperd also suggested that wine molecules don’t actually contain any flavor and that it’s the brain’s function that perceives the taste.

Read also: The hot new wine regions in your favorite countries

“The taste is not in the wine; the taste is created by the brain of the wine taster,” Shepherd wrote, as relayed by The New York Post.  “Factors including age, gender, the genetic makeup of our saliva and whether or not we’re depressed can also impact how we taste wine.

The American scholar also wrote that wine molecules create emotional and sensory reactions to humans, which may spark cognitive functions such as  memory, pattern recognition and pleasure.

However, Shephard still warned drinkers to keep their dosage in moderation,  in order to fully maximize its benefits. “Too big a gulp and you’ve saturated your system,” he wrote.

Source – This article appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper website

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Years of warnings preceded deadly flood in southern #Colombia

People were caught off guard when a devastating flash flood surged through a small city in southern Colombia, but not everyone was surprised.

Government agencies, land use experts, and environmental organizations had said for years that Mocoa could face dangerous flooding. Many who lived in the most vulnerable areas were aware of the warnings, even if they didn’t heed them. And yet the city continued to spread into the floodplains west of downtown.

“Unfortunately, in Colombia we don’t have a good assessment of risk, or good land use policies to prohibit people from settling in areas like these,” said Marcela Quintero, a researcher with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, one of the organizations that raised the alarm about deforestation in the area.

Mocoa was vulnerable because of its location, amid a confluence of rivers in the wet subtropical Amazon region of southern Colombia. The danger had grown worse as trees were cut down for cattle ranching and other agriculture, removing critical protection against flooding and landslides. Then came an influx of new residents, many fleeing the violence from the government’s long fight with guerrilla forces.

When a month’s worth of rain fell in a single night late Friday and early Saturday, the long-predicted disaster had arrived.

Sixty-eight-year-old Deya Maria Toro, who moved to Mocoa 12 years earlier, said she realized what was happening in time and managed to flee to safety. “I woke up at 9 p.m. with this sensation: Is this when the avalanche comes?”

Many others didn’t react in time.

Three of the six rivers surrounding Mocoa overran their banks. A wall of muddy brown water and tree limbs raced through the streets, destroying homes and carrying away cars and appliances like driftwood. At least 290 people, many of them children, were swept away, and died, according to the most recent count released by the government Wednesday. There were about 330 injured, including 19 in the hospital, and many still unaccounted for amid the wreckage.

It was one of the worst natural disasters in Colombia in recent years, and the finger-pointing started quickly. Headlines told of the “disaster foretold,” a reference to “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” the 1981 novella by the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the country’s most famous writer. Some media cited a 1989 report prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, which outlined the scenario that played out over the weekend and recommended flood-control measures.

The Corporation for the Sustainable Development in the Southern Amazon, which has an office in Mocoa, has been warning of the danger as far back as 1995, when the government built a power station that was knocked out by the weekend’s flood. The group says that similar disasters have occurred over the years in the area, the most significant in 1962.

A Catholic priest in Mocoa, the Rev. Omar Parra, said in an interview on radio station LA FM that he was dismissed as “paranoid” when he told local officials three years ago that the Taruca River was spilling over onto people’s land and would soon burst. “It was a tragedy foretold and the authorities didn’t do what they should have done,” he said.

People in the city were also quick to lay blame, even when they acknowledged knowing that the steep, forested mountains looming above the river by their homes posed a potential threat. “It’s the government’s fault for letting us build homes here,” said Carlos Garces, who came to Mocoa more than a decade ago with his young son and wife. “Everyone knew that it was going to flood but nobody did anything.”

The national attorney general’s office announced Tuesday that it was questioning the mayor of Mocoa and other officials to determine if any action, or inaction, on their part was responsible and whether an investigation is warranted. President Juan Manuel Santos met Tuesday in the city with the director of the Corporation for the Sustainable Development in the Southern Amazon.

It’s not clear that even with the warnings Colombia could have done much about the situation in Mocoa. The country only emerged about a decade ago from a period of intense drug violence and a wave of kidnappings tied to its long civil war. Santos signed a peace deal last year with the largest of the insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

By some estimates, nearly half the population of Mocoa, a city of about 40,000, had come to escape violence in other parts of the country.

It also might have been hard to get people out. Jaime Martinez, a 38-year-old construction worker whose home was left in ruins, said he and others didn’t take the threat seriously enough. “People were warned. It was known that the mountain was coming but nobody did anything because we don’t pay attention to rumors,” Martinez said.

Santos has pledged to rebuild Mocoa and make it better than before, though the government has not yet said whether that includes moving people out of the flood zones. Those who study the region say what’s needed are better land-use policies aimed at preventing the deforestation that takes away the best natural protection from flooding, and will be even more critical if climate change brings additional rainfall.

“The most important thing here is that people should not settle again in areas that are very high risk and prone to flooding and that measures are put in place to conserve the areas upstream,” Quintero said. “With those two things we can mitigate the risk.”

Source – TheJakartaPost

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Suu Kyi denies ethnic cleansing of #Myanmar minority

Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Muslim minority, speaking to the BBC after the UN rights council agreed to investigate allegations against the army.

“I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening,” Suu Kyi said in the interview televised on Wednesday.

Her one-year-old government has faced international condemnation for the treatment of the country’s Rohingya Muslims, who are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, prompting the UN rights council to agree last month to launch an investigation into violations against the minority.

The Geneva-based body’s fact-finding mission will examine allegations of torture, murder and rape allegedly committed by troops.

Suu Kyi told the BBC there was “a lot of hostility” in the western state of Rakhine, where more than one million Rohingya live.

“It is Muslims killing Muslims, as well, if they think they are collaborating with authorities.

“It is not just a matter of ethnic cleansing. It is a matter of people on different sides of a divide, and this divide we are trying to close up. As best as possible and not to widen it further,” she said.

Myanmar has launched its own domestic probe into possible crimes in Rahkine and appointed former UN chief Kofi Annan to head a commission tasked with healing long-simmering divisions between Buddhists and Muslims.

Suu Kyi said the army was “not free to rape, pillage and torture”.

“They are free to go in and fight. And of course, that is in the constitution… Military matters are to be left to the army,” she said, adding that she aimed to amend the constitution.

Almost 75,000 people from the persecuted minority have escaped to Bangladesh after the military launched operations in the north of Rakhine state to find Rohingya militants who raided police border posts in October.

Rohingya who have fled have told the UN rights office that soldiers executed babies in front of their mothers, as part of campaign to terrorise the Muslim minority.

“If they come back they will be safe,” said Suu Kyi, adding that those who fled were welcome to return.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) faced the ballot box on Saturday in by-elections across the country, winning a string of seats but losing out in ethnic minority areas including Rakhine.

The NLD came to power in a historic 2015 election which ended half a century of brutal military rule, but there has been disillusionment with the administration as it struggles to push through reforms and ease unrest.

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Laos – Xaysana’s Associate, Drug Kingpin Sisouk Daoheuang Captured

Since the capture of notorious kingpin Xaysana “Vanlob” Keophimpha earlier this year, authorities have been on a manhunt for all of Xaysana’s known associates, including drug kingpin, Sisouk Daoheuang.

A senior official confirmed that the arrest of Sisouk was made by Lao authorities in Luang Prabang on Friday, and the suspect was transported to Vientiane Capital for questioning. However, the official maintains that details of the case still remain unclear and  the investigation is still ongoing.

Though captured in Luang Prabang province, Sisouk is said to have owned and operated a used luxury car shop and a horse-riding business in Vientiane, both of which have since been closed.

Thai police major general Pornchai Charoenwongse, deputy chief of the Narcotic Suppression Bureau, has stated that Thai officials are preparing to travel to Vientiane to investigate the alleged felon and that the NSB officers are set to join the Narcotics Control Board in the interrogation expected to take place next week.

Sisouk, who fled authorities after the arrest of Xaysana, is suspected to be part of a major methamphetamines distribution network in Southeast Asia, operated by the 42-year-old Lao national.

As previously reported by The Laotian Times, Xaysana was arrested on Jan. 19 at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport following a five-year investigation by Lao and Thai authorities.

Authorities assert that the drug baron was distributing caffeine-laced meth tablets known as “yaba” throughout the region.

On Jan 10, police captured a major drug trafficker said to be even bigger than Xaysana, 50-year-old Khonpasong Soukkaseum, also known as Xiengther, along with three of his associates.

Source – Laotian Times

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11 essential tips for women traveling solo

Traveling solo is a big step as it puts you outside of your comfort zone. Understandably, many women do not have the courage to travel alone; they tend to go in groups or at least with a close friend.

If you have never done it but are eager to challenge yourself, there are some things you can do to prepare, especially for overseas travel. The most important concern is, of course, safety, but there are also other things that you should add to your list of considerations.

Mentality

The most important element of preparation is mentality. You must have confidence and belief in yourself, and assure yourself that it is safe to visit your destination alone.

Start by reading articles or books about traveling solo and about the destination you want to visit. Try to get used to going out by yourself; see if you can visit restaurants or join a crowd without any company and see how you feel.

Make sure you prepare all the travel essentials to help yourself feel safe on the journey, which will help you enjoy your solo trip later. And, by the way, although you will travel by yourself, most of the time you will likely not be alone and will end up joining others you meet on the way.

Listen to your instincts

The hardest part of mental preparation is making your own decisions. You have to trust yourself and listen to your instincts because that is your best defense system.

Don’t worry about other people’s opinions or be afraid that you’ll offend someone. You only have yourself to rely on throughout the trip, so you must know yourself very well.

One step at a time

Start your solo trip by visiting a close destination, and take it further one step at a time.

It’s not wise to embark on a solo trip to a dangerous or complex country. Our suggestion is to go to a place where you have a colleague or friend. Then, once you have more confidence, you can go a level up for your next destination.

Prepare required documents

Print out copies of your identification, insurance, plane tickets, hotel bookings and emergency contacts and put them in separate places: in your suitcase and other bags. Also store the files on an online drive.

You should carry a copy of your identification with you at all times as well as a hotel address and emergency contact. Keep your passport in your hotel’s safe or, if you’re in a hostel, store it in a cabinet with your own lock.

Emergency contacts

Always have an emergency contact and update him or her whenever you move and tell them what is happening. You may not be aware that danger is near, but a friend listening to your story might be able to sense it.

Take note of the license plates of vehicles that you travel in and share them with your contact.

Extensive research

Wherever you go, always do extensive research beforehand. Learn not only about the location of your accommodation, but also the current situation of surrounding areas as well as your desired tourist sites.

Learn also about local scams and precautions.  

Emergency exits

It is very important to plan an emergency exit strategy. You must take note of your country’s embassy or consulate address as well as their telephone number.

Learn which best hospital is best in your destination and whether it will accept your health insurance or not. Also, find out about the scenario for a medical evacuation, just in case.

Extra cash

You must have a plan for extra cash, just in case you get robbed or lose your suitcase. You can ask a friend to send emergency money if needed via Western Union or MoneyGram and agree on a secret passcode.

Try to divide your cash and keep it in separate places: in your luggage, secret pockets, shoes, etc.

Safety mechanism

Plan your safety mechanisms and always bring along one thing that can be used as a weapon, for example a wooden stick. Always carry with a padlock, extra batteries for your gadgets, conventional clothes to blend in with locals and clothes with hidden pockets to hide your hotel keys and important notes.

It’s advisable to wear a ring that looks like a wedding band and say you’re married and your husband is waiting for you at your hotel if a stranger asks. It is also important to bring simple first aid supplies and medicine with you at all time.

Printed map

It may be old fashioned, but your GPS will be useless if the battery is flat. That’s when you realize that printed maps are important.

Carry less

You may want to look chic, but there’s no point packing your wedges or other unnecessary stuff. Just bring basics like T-shirts, one dress, flip flops and simple make-up.

It might be hard to find someone to help you to carry your luggage, but you can always buy cheap clothes when you arrive instead of carrying heavy bags.

Source – TJP

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Berlin’s airport debacle: Five years late and counting

You think you have a travel story from hell? Try this one: The inaugural flight from Berlin’s new international airport is almost five years late, and no one can say when it might take off.

The airport’s planned launch in June 2012 was scrapped a month before its unveiling because of fire safety issues, and it’s since been pushed back three times. With costs piling up at €13 million ($14 million) a month, the operating company in March saw the departure of its third chief in four years. The black eye for Germany’s exalted engineering prowess threatens to undermine a tourism boom in Berlin, and there’s talk of scrapping a plan to shutter Tegel, one of the city’s existing airports. “This airport should have been a world-class showpiece for Germany,” says Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, which has long sought to introduce service to Berlin. “It’s an embarrassment.”

The bill for Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt—most people call it BER—has more than doubled, to some €5 billion, since construction began in 2006. And the delayed opening has wounded local restaurants as well as airlines Air Berlin Plc and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which had expected to expand routes from the capital. Instead, Germany’s biggest city has fewer overseas flights than Düsseldorf (with less than a quarter of Berlin’s population).

The list of construction defects reads like a bad joke: Automatic doors lacked electricity, escalators were too short, and a smoke-extraction system was so complex, yet ineffective, it was dubbed “the Monster,” according to daily tabloid Bild. To keep the air flowing and limit mold growth, empty trains run to an empty station in the basement of BER’s glass-clad terminal. Upstairs there’s everything an airport needs—except passengers.

Once BER opens, it may already be too small. It was designed to accommodate 27 million passengers annually—ample for the 18 million arrivals in Berlin in 2006. But last year, Tegel and the city’s other functioning airport, Schönefeld, handled 33 million passengers. And BER will have 118 check-in counters, about 80 fewer than the combined number at Tegel and Schönefeld. “Resolving the capacity problem of BER will take another several years,” says Simon Morris, vice president at aviation adviser ICF International.

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