The GECOM probe

first_imgWhen the issue of the controversial purchase of 50 Very High Frequency (VHF) communication radio sets by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for close to G0 million first broke, it sparked much criticism and prompted a special probe by the Auditor General’s Office into this and other similar transactions conducted by the organisation.This newspaper reported, a few days ago, that the special audit has progressed to the point where the AG has submitted his report to GECOM with the hope that the Commissioners would take the necessary actions against those found to be involved in any wrongdoing. AG Deodat Sharma has since taken a firm stance on the matter, and has wasted no time in sending a strong signal to the agencies involved: that, should they fail to act, he would not hesitate in calling in the Guyana Police Force, if he has to. He was clear in pointing out that “the Audit Act says I can send my report to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) and the police.”Over the years, GECOM’s procurement practices had come under the microscope after allegations of high-level corruption began to surface. In fact, the controversial radio sets’ purchase was the most blatant, and sparked public outrage by the political Opposition and other stakeholders. The purchases were made prior to the 2015 General and Regional Elections, raising concerns over the extraordinarily high cost of the equipment.Based on reports, the radio sets were purchased for use during the 2015 General and Regional Elections, particularly in the outlying regions of Guyana. However, they were never put into use after it was discovered that many of them were not working. As a matter of fact, sections of the Guyanese media reported that the Australia-based manufacturer, Barrett Communications, through its European office, had distanced itself from the purchase. The company made it clear that it had ceased to produce the equipment more than five years ago.Information also surfaced that while the electoral body would have collected quotations from a number of suppliers, it had handed the contract for the supply of the equipment to a company owned by a Water Street, Georgetown businessman.In addition to this most recent case, there were several other cases wherein concerns were raised regarding the methods employed by GECOM in procuring goods and services. In fact, at a previous press conference, one commissioner bluntly told the media that he believed corruption at the electoral body is deep-rooted with key players at many levels of the organisation.If we are to go by what some commissioners are saying, at least in the press, there are serious problems plaguing the organization, and those should be addressed forthwith, not only as they relate to transparency and accountability of public funds, but the overall management and delivery of credible elections.It is no secret that GECOM spends hundreds of millions of dollars, especially in election years or periods when there are heightened activities, such as continuous/house-to-house registration etc, and all efforts must be made to ensure that national procurement laws are followed in utilising those funds.The AG, on many occasions before, had highlighted many lapses in the system over the years, but it is not certain what actions are being taken by GECOM and the powers that be to ensure public funds are spent in a transparent and accountable manner.While many are anxiously waiting to see how the Commissioners would treat the findings and recommendations included in the AG’s probe on the radio sets’ purchase, it is our hope that GECOM would learn its lesson from this entire episode and take the necessary steps to ensure that it is never again caught up in this mess.We had stated before that, as an independent constitutional body, GECOM enjoys financial, functional and operational autonomy; and like every agency which is financed with public funds, it must account in a transparent manner for the expenditure of these funds. Further, principally due to the nature of its work, the organisation should do everything in its power to win the public’s trust. Being caught up in such controversies does not help in any way.last_img read more

Guyana Police Force is being used to muzzle protesters in Region Six

first_imgDear Editor,The Guyana Police Force is mandated to protect and serve the people, unfortunately, the priority of the Police Force is to serve and protect the APNU/AFC coalition Government Ministers, Government officials, while the ordinary Guyanese is being sacrificed to the mercy of bandits and criminals, thanks to the incompetence of Khemraj Ramjattan and the APNU/AFC coalition Government.The security situation in Guyana remains a serious concern for every single Guyanese. The APNU/AFC coalition Government promised the Guyanese people in 2015 that high emphasis would be placed on the security of Guyanese but the only thing that changed was the name of the Ministry that is responsible for security, increased police security for Ministers, leaving Guyana with an uncontrolled level of crimes in the entire country. The Minister who is directly responsible for public security, Khemraj Ramjattan, and the Guyana Police Force boastfully, in reports, stats and the media, highlighted that the crime situation is under control but the reality is quite opposite.The facts are that Guyanese have definitely lost confidence in the Guyana Police Force, whereby people are even refusing to report incidents that they have encountered, and even if these matters are reported, the Police Force is of no help. I am confident that the response that would be given by Khemraj Ramjattan and other Government officials is that crime is under control.A 170-year Indian culture in Guyana where music is being played for weddings is being stopped by Ramjattan and the GPF. This Indian tradition is being strangled by this APNU/AFC Government and confined to Berbice alone.The Guyana Police Force is being used as a political football. Recently at a picketing exercise at New Amsterdam Multilateral School, protesters were being forced by the police to move about 500 feet from the entrance of the school while thugs of the APNU/AFC were allowed to remain at the entrance of the school. APNU/AFC thugs were allowed by the police to behave abusively towards protesters while the police refused to remove them from in front of the school entrance. The police even tolerated the loud abusive and taunts.The protesters who were exercising their constitutional rights were not given that privilege, senior police officers ensured that four policemen were placed to keep protesters 500 feet away from the entrance of the school. During the PPP/C Government in office, during the 2015 campaign, protesters were allowed at the location of a meeting in Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. I’m still contemplating if we had a change in rules now.The big question is, are we moving to a full-fledged dictatorship where the Police Force is being used to subdue and stifle democracy? David Granger’s visits to New Amsterdam Multilateral School is an insult to the lives of many of those students whose parents were dismissed from the sugar estates by this Granger Administration, and can barely afford to be in school, the students’ cash grant was taken away by Granger’s APNU/AFC Government and with the same breath, Granger is preaching that his Government wants every child to be in school, that is “high class hypocrisy”. Granger’s rhetoric about regional involvement is just to mislead the populace. The 1 million dollar cash grant by Granger is a pittance, compared to approximately 100 million dollars that is being spent at Bermine Ground for the Republic Celebration in 2020. So you the people can actually determine what is the priority of this illegal APNU/AFC coalition Government.Regards,Zamal Hussainlast_img read more

Experts: Lotto lease no instant win

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Investment bankers told a state Senate committee that how much the state could get by leasing out the lottery to a private operator depends on market conditions and variables that will take time to develop. The proposal also faces the uncertainty of getting approval from state lawmakers and voters, said former state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, who now heads a municipal finance division of Goldman, Sachs & Co. The governor said his lottery leasing proposal could bring in $2 billion a year for the next 15 to 25 years to pay for his plan to cover Californians who lack health insurance. Legislative negotiations over his plan have stalled largely over a question of who would pay for it. In January, Schwarzenegger proposed leasing the lottery to reduce the state budget debt and to help fund education. He now says the money should support his plan to make health insurance mandatory and require employers and hospitals to contribute money to help subsidize coverage for the uninsured poor. Brown, sister of Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, is a key proponent of the Republican governor’s view that the state’s role should be regulating a privately run lottery. But she and other investment bankers said it is too soon to back a preliminary analysis by New York-based Lehman Brothers that the lottery might draw $37 billion for a 40-year lease. The experts said the state can’t get a reliable estimate until it answers fundamental questions like how long the lease would last and whether it will permit new technology like video lottery terminals and soliciting players through cell phones and the Internet. Deputy State Treasurer Paul Rosenstiel said the state could raise money for health care or other purposes by issuing lottery revenue bonds without leasing the lottery. The bonds would bring in bring in billions of dollars now, repaid with future lottery revenues. While some states, including Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Texas have considered leasing their lotteries, 27 state-operated lotteries bring in more revenue per state resident than does California’s, Rosenstiel said. “We’re an underperformer not because of who operates the lottery but because of how it’s operated,” he added. Lottery Director Joan Borucki agreed. She noted that the lottery hasn’t introduced a completely new game in 10 years. “That’s like still offering `Pong’ when everybody else has the Xbox,” said Borucki, who took office last year as the 19th lottery director in 20 years. She estimated she can boost revenue by 25 percent to 35 percent by improving the lottery’s image, positioning lottery vendors and machines to reach more players, and guaranteeing more small payouts instead of focusing on giant jackpots. Fred Klaas, chief operating officer of Schwarzenegger’s Finance Department, said the administration wants legislative approval to hire an independent analyst to weigh the advantages of leasing the lottery over continued state operation. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the governor’s proposal, Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the administration is convinced a private company could make the biggest improvement in lottery revenue. “What you saw this morning was independent validation from the financial community and from a former state treasurer that California has an asset that is not performing to its potential,” Palmer said after the hearing.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! FUNDING: Governor proposed taking state’s lottery private to finance his health-care idea. By Don Thompson THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SACRAMENTO – Leasing the state lottery to help pay for a broad health-care plan, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed last week, is no quick fix and might not bring the roughly $37 billion that has been projected, financial experts said Wednesday. last_img

Things To Do

first_imgMoonlight Hike, 5:30 p.m. today at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce. Meet at the park office. Call (661) 268-0840. “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be presented, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 26 at the Canyon Theatre Guild, 24242 San Fernando Road, Newhall. Tickets: $8-$13. Call (661) 799-2702. “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will be presented, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 18 at the Repertory East Playhouse, 24266 San Fernando Road, Newhall. Tickets: $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. Call (661) 288-0000. Don McMillan and Amy Anderson will perform, 9 p.m. today and Saturday at J.R.’s Comedy Club located inside Marie Callender’s at 27630 The Old Road, Valencia. Cost: $15, or $25.99 for dinner and the show. Call (661) 259-2291. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card Bird Walk, 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Placerita Canyon Nature Center, 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall. Call (661) 259-7721. Tesoro Adobe Historic Park is open to the public, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Saturday with guided tours of the Harry Carey/Farmer John Ranch House from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Call (661) 702-8953. Santa Clarita Youth Grove dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, 10-11 a.m. Saturday at Central Park, 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus. Call Tess Simgen at (661) 255-4965. Family Nature Walk, 11 a.m.-noon, and an animal presentation, 1-2 p.m. every Saturday at Placerita Canyon Park and Nature Center, 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall. Call (661) 259-7721. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will be presented, 2 p.m. Saturdays and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 26 at the Canyon Theatre Guild, 24242 San Fernando Road, Newhall. Tickets: $8-$13. Call (661) 799-2702. Murder Mystery Dinner Train will depart, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Saunday and Tuesday from Fillmore & Western Railway in Fillmore. Tickets: $89. Call (800) 773-8724. By the Light of the Silvery Moon Hike, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday at Towsley Canyon, 24255 The Old Road, Newhall. Call (661) 255-3606. Grateful Dudes perform bluegrass music, 7:30-10:30 p.m. every Saturday at Vincenzo’s, 24504 Lyons Ave., Newhall. Call (661) 259-6733. Sierra Club hike to Slide Mountain, 9 a.m. Sunday at the entrance to Ed Davis/Towsley Canyon Park, 24255 The Old Road, Newhall. Call Matthew Lax at (661) 252-2393 or Geraldine Lorme at (661) 296-0246. Ranger-led nature hike, 11 a.m. the second, third and fourth Sundays of each month at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce. Call (661) 268-0840. Comedy Club Night with God will feature comedian Anthony Griffith, 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Santa Clarita United Methodist Church, 26640 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus. Admission is free, but a donation will be taken for the Hurricane Katrina Victim Family sponsored by Comics4Christ. Call (661) 297-3783. “Love, Gershwin Style” will feature musical creations of George Gershwin, 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Vital Express Center for the Performing Arts at College of the Canyons, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia. Tickets: $25-$50. Call (661) 362-5304. Valentine’s Day show will feature John DiResta and Frances DiLorenza, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at J.R.’s Comedy Club located inside Marie Callender’s at 27630 The Old Road, Valencia. Cost: $76 per couple includes dinner, show and champagne. Call (661) 259-2291. To submit an event for the Things To Do calendar, contact Sharon Cotal two weeks prior to the event at (661) 257-5256, fax her at (661) 257-5262, e-mail her at or write to her at 24800 Avenue Rockefeller, Valencia, CA 91355. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

LaLiga giants monitor Martial, England try Zaha U-turn and more – GOSSIP

first_img1 Transfer Rumours and Paper Review Here are the top headlines and transfer-related stories in Sunday’s newspapers…Arsenal are preparing to make a sensational offer to bring Cesc Fabregas back to the Emirates Stadium. The Chelsea midfielder has struggled for game time this season, but he returned to the side in Nemanja Matic’s absence for the win at Manchester City, assisting his side’s equalising goal. (Sunday Express)Anthony Martial could be in the middle of a £60million battle between Barcelona and Real Madrid. And unhappy £63m Real star James Rodriguez may hold the key. (The Sun)Gareth Southgate says that he will personally try to persuade Wifried Zaha to reverse his decision to switch international allegiance to the Ivory Coast and has revealed that he was close to selecting the Crystal Palace man for his last England squad in November. (The Telegraph)Everton boss Ronald Koeman has joined the race for in-demand Burnley star Michael Keane as he looks to strengthen his defence. The 23-year-old was a £15million summer target for champions Leicester, who retain an interest, and Chelsea are also hot on his trail. (Sunday Mirror)Arsene Wenger insists Santi Cazorla’s recent run of injuries will not affect his decision on whether to extend the Spaniard’s Arsenal contract next month. (London Evening Standard)Jesse Lingard is in a stand-off with Manchester United – despite being offered a new contract paying £60,000-a-week. The new five-year deal is worth double the 23-year-old’s current £30,000 weekly wage, but it is believed Lingard is in no hurry to sign. (Sunday Mirror)Everton manager Ronald Koeman has admitted he would like to bring both Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay to Goodison. (Sunday Express)But the Toffees face competition from Serie A giants Roma, who have lodged a loan bid for the Manchester United flop, according to reports. The Italian club hopes to sign Depay until the end of the season, with the option to make the move permanent for £21million. (The Sun)West Ham and Crystal Palace are both chasing Newcastle hitman Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbia striker, 22, has scored five times this season for the Championship side but is still unable to command a regular place at St James’ Park. (Daily Star)Mesut Ozil has continued his praise French legend Zinedine Zidane with words that will only add fuel to the transfer rumours surrounding the German playmaker. (The Sun)Chelsea have stepped up their interest in young Italian striker Andrea Pinamonti. The 17-year-old Italy Under-19 international is one of the stars of Inter Milan’s youth set-up and is well known to Blues boss Antonio Conte. (Sunday Mirror)Aitor Karanka has put a host of top Championship clubs on alert after confirming that Jordan Rhodes can leave Middlesbrough. Boro’s head coach has ended months of speculation over the future of the out of favour Scotland international by revealing the 26-year-old is free to move on after less than a year – as long as the price is right. (The Northern Echo)?The latest headlines from ‘apologise profusely’ to former youth player Gary Johnson over sexual abuseChapecoense say thank you to the football worldBarcelona 1-1 Real Madrid: Late Sergio Ramos goal sees the spoils shared in El ClasicoLISTEN: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hails Alexis Sanchez’s ‘killer instinct’Premier League results: Tottenham thrash struggling Swansea, while Crystal Palace and Sunderland register much-needed winsManchester City news: Players aren’t buying into Pep Guardiola’s tactics, claims former Arsenal starManchester City v Chelsea player ratings: Blues stars rated and slatedEx-Premier League stars slam Sergio Aguero over ‘career wrecking’ tackle on David LuizStoke City news: Mark Hughes fearful over Jack Butland setbacklast_img read more

Arsenal and West Ham told to move on from William Carvalho

first_img Carvalho in action for Sporting Lisbon this season 1 The Sporting Lisbon president has told Arsenal and West Ham to forget about signing star man William Carvalho this month.West Ham seemingly came close to signing the 25-year-old in the summer, before a deterioration in the relationship between the two clubs saw the deal called off.Despite the two clubs resolving their difference, President Bruno de Carvalho has quashed any rumours of a move materialising.Speaking to Record (a Portuguese sports newspaper), de Carvalho said: “Forget [it]. He is not transferable in January.“If one day he leaves, wherever it is, we must ensure that the footballing aspect of the decision is not called into question.”The Euro 2016 winner was apparently desperate to leave Sporting earlier in the season according to the same publication.It now seems as though the midfielder will have to wait until the summer.last_img read more

Flying Southwest Airlines Like a Boss

first_imgBusiness Select fares are the most expensive fares, and they tend to be $20 or so more expensive than an Anytime fare. They are also fully refundable, and they additionally entitle you to one free drink and allow you to be one of the first 15 people on the plane. This early boarding perk is far more important on a Southwest flight because of their open seating policy, which I’ll explain in a bit more detail below.The easiest way to book is on Southwest’s web site. The booking screen looks like this:Booking on is easy, and provides several options for sorting and comparing flightsAdditional verbiage you need to know when booking: understand the difference between “direct” and “nonstop” flights. “Nonstop” flights are just that, nonstop. Get on the plane, it flies to your destination, and you get off. “Direct” flights are the next best option — you will stay on the same plane for the duration of the trip, but you’ll have to stop one or more places along the way to drop off and pick up other passengers. Any other flight will require you to change planes to get to your destination, and the more planes you have to fly, the more opportunities there are for something to go wrong. Accordingly, nonstop and direct flights are usually preferable; you can sort the available flights from your search results to include only these flights by checking the box at the top of the result list. It bears mention (and this goes for most airlines, not just Southwest) that you can see significant differences in price depending upon what day and time you fly. Southwest makes it easy to see how things would change by shifting your day of travel in one direction or another — just click on the tab for the alternate day you’re considering, and you’ll see what the cost would be for you to fly in the day before or after. Sometimes, it can be so much cheaper that you can justify coming in a day earlier. For example, on a flight I recently booked, there was such a significant difference in price between flying in on Friday morning (our intended day) and Thursday night (the day we switched to) that it covered an extra hotel night and then some. Start your vacation earlier, for less cost. Tough to beat that!  Note: when booking, you’ll also be offered the option to purchase “Early Bird Check-in” for $15 per leg of your journey. I’ll explain that in more detail below, because it comes into play when talking about Southwest’s unique seating and check-in policies.Changes and CancellationsWhat if your plans change after you book?  As I mentioned above, Southwest will let you change to any other flight, without change fees or penalties, you’ll just need to pay the difference in fare. If the new flight is cheaper, you’ll get a cash refund if you booked a refundable ticket, or a credit for a future Southwest flight if not. For that reason, it usually makes sense to check back from time to time after you’ve booked your flight (especially during Southwest’s fare sales), and see if there have been any price drops that help you. My personal practice is to go ahead and book at the earliest possible opportunity, because there is absolutely no upside to waiting to see if the fare drops — if it does, I’ll just get a credit that I will inevitably use at some point, because I fly Southwest so frequently. If you expect this to be your only occasion to fly Southwest, however, a credit might not help you, so that’s something to keep in mind when deciding when to book.If you need to cancel entirely, what happens will be based upon what sort of ticket you purchased. If you have a Wanna Get Away ticket, you’ll get a credit to be used on a future Southwest flight. Any other ticket will give you the option of a credit or a cash refund.Boarding and FlyingCheck-In and SeatingChoose any seat! © Southwest Airlines Co.Unlike most airlines that assign you a seat for your flight, Southwest has open seating, which means that you can choose any open seat you like. Of course, this is subject to availability, so the earlier you get on the plane, the more selection you’re going to have. That’s part of the reason that the ability to be one of the first 15 people on the plane by virtue of buying a Business Select ticket is valuable — you will more or less have your choice of seats, and you won’t have to worry about overhead bin space running out for your carry-on baggage.There was a time when Southwest was known for its “cattle call” approach to seating, where the right to get on the plane first was awarded on a first come, first served basis, which in turn resulted in people lining up literally hours prior to their flight to make sure they got a decent seat. Thankfully, those days are gone. Now, you are given a boarding number when you check in, and that number determines when you get to board. You will be assigned a group — A, B or C — and a number one through sixty, and when your group is called, everyone lines up in order and that’s the order in which you board the flight. It’s slightly reminiscent of elementary school, but it actually works pretty well.Boarding PriorityThe letter and number on your boarding pass determines when you board. A1, baby!The boarding number you get is determined by when you check in. You are allowed to check in 24 hours prior to your flight time and boarding numbers are distributed in order starting at that time, so it is common that people will literally check in at the specific moment the clock switches and they are eligible to check-in to get the best number possible. The longer you wait after that check-in time, the higher your number and the later you’re going to get on the plane.It’s a very egalitarian system, but the reality is that not everyone wants to — or is even in a position to — stop what they are doing to check-in 24 hours on the nose before their flight, especially when you’re supposed to be on vacation having fun. Southwest has attempted to solve this quandary by offering Early Bird Check-In. For $15 per flight (from one destination to another, regardless of how many planes you have to board), you will be automatically checked in at the 24 hour mark, and will be in front of all of the people that are manually checking in at that time. Priority among Early Bird Check-In travelers appears to be determined based upon when you bought your ticket, with earlier purchasers getting better numbers.There are three other groups of travelers that board at a specific time — pre-board, families and A-list members. Pre-board passengers are travelers who need extra time and/or assistance to board the plane. They board before everyone else, but they are prohibited from sitting in the exit row seats, so don’t think you can pretend to need the extra time just so you can snag a prime seat — I see people try all the time, and it’s generally pretty awkward when they get bounced.Families are defined as any group including a child 6 or younger, and they board between the A & B groups (although if you all have A boarding passes, there is no need to wait to board, you can board as you normally would). My understanding is that there is some restriction upon how many people can board as a family, but in practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it enforced. I routinely see mammoth groups of people boarding during family boarding, especially on the family-heavy Orlando flights.  A-list members are members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards (read: frequent flyer) program that have flown enough to achieve status. Once you hit a certain level, you get complimentary Early Bird Check-In as an A-List member; if that Early Bird Check-in doesn’t get you an A Group boarding pass, you’re permitted to board along with Family Boarding between the A & B Group.To summarize, here’s the boarding priority:Pre-BoardingBusiness Select CustomersEarly-Bird Check-in Customers (including A-List Members)Family Boarding and any A-List Members that did not get an “A” boarding passAny remaining Early-Bird Check-In CustomersEveryone else, in order of check-inA question I often see asked is “should I get Early Bird Check-in?” The answer, as is usually the case, is “it depends.” If you have a member of your party that is under the age of 6, there is little reason to pay for Early Bird Check-in — regardless of what your boarding number is, you’re only going to have 60-ish people in front of you, and you’ll still have no trouble finding seating together even for fairly large groups of people. If not and you care about sitting together, it’s probably worth considering if you can swing it financially. There are a large number of families on Orlando flights, and there is a very good chance that you’ll be behind every single one of them if you don’t have Early Bird.Good and Bad SeatsIf a tray table isn’t important to you, this exit row seat provides ample legroomMost of the seats on Southwest flights are essentially the same, so there isn’t a huge difference from one part of the plane to another apart from personal preference. There are, however, a few that are worthy of special note. On the positive side, the traditional exit row seating gives you the most legroom you can get without sacrificing a proper tray table; in my view, they are the prime seats in the plane, and I’m stunned that people don’t universally rush to them. Also in the exit row, Southwest planes have one (older planes) or two (newer planes) seats that have no seat in front of them at all. They offer more legroom than most people could ever need, but they come at the expense of a real tray table (your tray table instead flips out of the arm rest). Note that neither children under the age of 16 nor adults with mobility issues are permitted to sit in the exit rows.If legroom is the only thing you care about, the bulkhead (i.e., front) rows provide lots of legroom but you lose the real tray table AND the ability to store your stuff under the seat in front of you (because there is no seat in front of you). Realistically, however, the bulkhead seating tends to be occupied by pre-board passengers. Are you the sort of person that likes to get your drink on as quickly as possible? Southwest divides the cabin into 3 zones for drink service — rows 1 to 8, 9 to 16, and 17 to the back of the plane.  Flight attendants will start taking drink orders at the lowest row in their zone, and then work towards the rear of the plane, and drinks are distributed in the same order.  Accordingly, sitting in rows 1, 9 and 17 will ensure that you are served first!On the opposite end of the spectrum, I often see families rush to the very last row because it puts them close to the bathroom, and there is some logical appeal to that plan, but those are, by a wide margin, the absolute worst seats in the plane. In addition to getting served last, the seats in the last row do not recline at all but the seats in front of it do.  As a result, you could spend the entire flight gnawing on the headrest of the seat in front of you back there. If you want to be in the back of the plane for easy bathroom access, mazel tov, but pick the second or third row from the back — you’ll still be plenty close, but it won’t be as cramped. Also worthy of note are the seats in the middle of the plane just in front of the exit row — they do not recline either. They aren’t quite as jammed up as the last row, but they are still less than ideal and inferior to just about every other seat on the plane.There are no other differences between seats on Southwest planes that really matter, so it is just a matter of personal preference, like whether you care about having a wing obstructing your view or not. Yes, there are seats that some people would consider marginally better or worse — is a great site to visit to thoroughly map out the pros and cons of every seat on a plane — but in my opinion, everything that will really move the needle for you on a Southwest plane is referenced above.  The In-Flight ExperienceOnce upon a time, airlines presented themselves as more than just a place to get from point A to point B. You were served a meal, there were in-flight movies, blankets, pillows, and the experience as a whole was far more posh. During that time, Southwest distinguished itself by eschewing any pretense and bragged about the fact that it was a no-frills experience in exchange for lower fares. You got a drink and a bag of peanuts, and that was it.© Southwest Airlines Co.As other carriers have stepped away from these old-school offerings and moved more towards a no-frills approach, Southwest has actually upped its game a bit. It’s still presented with little or no pomp and circumstance, but you’re now offered a grab bag (or box, actually) of different snacks on most flights (rather than strictly being limited to a single bag of peanuts), in addition to your beverages. Alcoholic beverages are available for sale for $5/each and can only be purchased using a credit card, so have that ready when they come around to take the order. Tipping is not expected, and you will be politely refused if you try to tip. The bigger change, however, is that most Southwest planes are equipped with WiFi (for a fee), and in addition to allowing you to get email and surf the web, it also allows Southwest to offer free television shows (including both live and on-demand offerings) and movies for rent, all of which is accessed through your own mobile device. It’s a great way to pass the time and/or keep your little ones occupied during the flight. Note, however, that to watch TV, you’ll need to have the Airtime Player app (iOS – Android) already on your phone or tablet, so make sure you add the app before you get on the plane. The in-flight WiFi is adequate for routine web surfing and email, but you should not expect it to work for data-intensive applications like Netflix or Pandora that stream large amounts of data.  Finally, while there are certainly no guarantees on this front, Southwest tends to have a more jovial, celebratory approach to flying, particularly on flights coming into Orlando that are full of people heading on vacation. Flight attendants have been know to try out their stand-up routines while delivering the safety information, and I’ve heard the Mickey Mouse theme song sung more than a few times during landing. Just run with it, you’re on vacation!Pro TipsAir travel is a heavily regulated activity, so the number of hacks and tricks available to you are somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I do want to close out with a couple of quick tips that I’ve adopted from several years of flying extensively on Southwest.  Without further ado:Make Yourself An Unattractive SeatmateNowadays, flights tend to be pretty full, but you will occasionally be on a flight that has empty seats, and your best case scenario is having one of those empty seats be next to you.  When trying to pick out a seats, every person getting on the plane is making an assessment of whether or not they want to spend the next couple of hours or so with you, so to the extent that you can dissuade them from joining you, the better your chances of having some breathing room on your flight.I’m not suggesting that you should make yourself a complete pariah, but there are plenty of little things that will encourage others to just move on rather than join you.  Setting your stuff on the seat next to you, others might assume someone else is there or even just be uncomfortable enough with the prospect of asking you to move your gear that they’ll move on to a less confrontational seat.  This is also not the time to showcase the pearly whites — cold and aloof will do well for you. Boarding time is also not a bad time to come down with a hacking (but ultimately harmless) cough that miraculously clears up after the plane takes off. Holding a motion sickness bag can also help deter would-be seatmates from joining you.You Don’t Need to Buy Early Bird Boarding For EveryoneWith that said — and I say this as a parent myself, so no offense intended to anyone out there — there are few things that will make you less likely to have a seatmate like having a child with you. Accordingly, if you have a child that is over the age of 6 (such that you can’t use family boarding), you might consider buying Early Bird boarding for just a portion of your party.  They will board first, armed with the powerful deterrent effect that only a child can bring, and you can be rest assured that no one is going to take the other seat in a row with your kid, and you’ll be able to join them without paying the premium for Early Bird boarding.The same thing works fine for adults — just have some in the party do the Early Bird, and they’ll save seats for the rest of the party. I do want you to advise you to be considerate and not have one person try to save several rows worth of seats, but you can save a seat or two per person without a lot of grief. I have no idea if Southwest has an official policy on this, but frankly, if you advise someone that you’re holding the seat for a family member or friend and they insist upon sitting in it anyway, it’s going to make for a pretty awkward flight; it’s therefore very unlikely that you’ll be unsuccessful when saving a seat.So, what other tips and tricks have you all picked up from flying Southwest?  Got any other questions?  Let me know in the comments! Share This!© Southwest Airlines Co.Many of you are close enough to Orlando to drive down when you visit Walt Disney World or Universal Studios Orlando, but for the rest of us, flying is the only viable option. Southwest Airlines is Orlando International Airport’s largest carrier, and between that and the traffic I often see on Disney trip planning forums and Facebook groups, I know that many of you will be using Southwest to get to Orlando. As you may be aware,  however, Southwest operates a little differently than other airlines, and that can make flying with them a bit confusing to the uninitiated. I happen to fly on Southwest a ton — I am at their highest loyalty tier, in fact — and wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences about Southwest and how to get the most out of your travel experience with them.BookingFirst, the basics: Southwest fares fall into three categories:Wanna Get Away? Fares are the cheapest fares, and they are more likely to be available the earlier you book. You can sometimes find them close to your travel date, but if your goal is to pay as little as possible, booking at the earliest possible opportunity is going to get you the best prices as even the price of these fares tends to rise as you get closer to your departure date. They are nonrefundable, but you can cancel them and get a credit for a future flight or switch to another flight just by paying the difference in fare. These fares tend to be at most approximately 50% less than the refundable fares, but they can be even cheaper, particularly during fare sales. Anytime fares are fares that can be refunded for cash if your plans change and you need to cancel your flights. They are significantly more expensive than Wanna Get Away fares, and are the cheapest fares you are most likely to see if you’re booking within a week or so of departure.last_img read more

Saving South Africa’s wildlife

first_imgIn 1973 Clive Walker, James Clarke and Neville Anderson established the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), dedicated to conserving endangered species and restoring the delicate balance in southern Africa’s ecosystems.The organisation has, since then, played a major role in conserving many of Africa’s unique species.Droughts, floods, poachers and predators make survival for Africa’s wild animals a difficult affair and a growing human population encroaching on their habitats is driving many species to near extinction“We as human beings rely heavily on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems and without them we jeopardise our own wellbeing,” says Nomonde Mxhalisa, communications manager for the Endangered Wildlife Trust.“People around the world can no longer ignore the fact that the environment in which we live underpins every single human need.”The EWT has worked to bring issues of conservation to the fore in terms of issues in the way of social and economic development.THE THREATDroughts, floods, poachers and predators make survival for Africa’s wild animals a difficult affair and a growing human population encroaching on their habitats is driving many species to near extinction.The quagga, which used to be a subspecies of the plains zebra or common zebra, once roamed the African landscape in large numbers. But the animal was hunted to extinction in the 1880s, when the last quagga died at the Amsterdam Zoo.Other indigenous African species such as the African wild dog and the black and white rhinoceros face the same fate. To preserve these animals, the EWT has created a number of programmes targeting threats such as poaching, deforestation, disease, traditional migration route interference, and mitigating the impact that human involvement is having on their habitats.The Riverine Rabbit or Vleihaas is South Africa’s second most endangered animal after the De Winton’s Golden Mole. Pictured above is a juvenile Riverine Rabbit. (image: Endangered Wildlife Trust)PROJECTSMost animals are suited to very limited environments; humans however can adapt environments to suit their needs, and with a growing human population needing food and other resources, natural areas are getting smaller and smaller. Animals that lose their habitats often can’t survive this encroachment and can eventually go extinct. Recognising that humans and animals need to share environments the EWT works on programmes to teach communities, like farmers, how to run their farms without driving the animals out.The Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Programme, involving the Livestock Guarding Dog Project aims to reduce this kind of human/animal conflict.“We often deal with a great deal of human/wildlife conflict particularly when it comes to our work with carnivores,” Mxhalisa explains.“We have solved these issues however by introducing mitigation measures such as the livestock guarding dogs that we encourage farmers to use to ward against their livestock being eaten by various carnivores.”The Livestock Guarding Dog Project encourages farmers to use guard dogs to drive predators away, instead of shooting the animals or poisoning them (images: Endangered Wildlife Trust)Livestock farmers need to protect their domestic animals; but these animals are easy prey for carnivores such as lions, leopards, hyenas, wildcats and the now endangered African wild dog and cheetah. The programme encourages farmers to use guard dogs to drive predators away, instead of shooting the animals or poisoning them.The Livestock Guarding Dog Project has, since it was taken over by the EWT in 2008, helped farmers reduce their annual losses from an average of R3.4-million, to about R150 000.“. . . The work we do is literally bringing amazing creatures back from the brink of extinction and that means we’ve bought more time for all people to enjoy these species and to continue to reap the benefits of living in ecosystems that are healthy and thriving,” says Mxhalisa.“Many of the EWT’s staff live and breathe care for the environment.“Many of us are idealists who want to make a difference, to leave a real and positive mark on the world. We believe the work is important and the results and successes we have keep us pushing forward.”Another project, the African Crane Conservation Programme, in partnership with the International Crane Foundation, helps to ensure the sustainability of wetland, grassland and Karoo ecosystems that crane species such as the Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird, depend on.PLAY YOUR PART“You can make a difference to the environment simply by not littering, not wasting water or electricity, disposing of rubbish and oil correctly and spreading the word that you are forever linked to your environment and without it we will suffer,” says Mxhalisa.The EWT also regularly holds talks “about biodiversity and conservation at the Country Club Johannesburg and events that commemorate the various wildlife and biodiversity days that take place during the year”.Along with individual action, the EWT needs funds to manage and run its programmes; it accepts corporate sponsorships and private donations. Corporate sponsors can contact Debbie Thiart on or call her on +27 (0) 11 372 3600.For more information on the organisation’s programmes and lectures, or how to donate, visit its website or call +27 (0) 11 372 3600/1/2/3.last_img read more

Private Clouds: Standards For Interoperability Could Spur Adoption

first_imgPrivate cloud infrastructure is now a hot topic with many IT organizations.   The benefits cloud computing include agility, flexibility and cost savings, but for many, worries about security, loss of control, compliance and other legal issues when data is moved to the public cloud have kept many organizations away.  Private cloud computing is an alternative that many companies, especially large companies, are now considering.In an eWeek article, Matthew Richards, senior director of Product Marketing, Cloud Computing, at CA Technologies said that “There’s a lot of interest in building private clouds on the part of large enterprises today. It’s becoming more and more important for IT departments to think of themselves as an internal service provider and focus on the services that are being delivered to business people.”The larger the cloud structure and the larger the number of participants, the more efficiencies of scale that can be achieved.  A private cloud is unlikely to ever be as cost efficient as what can be achieved with a large public cloud offering like Amazon or CEO Marc Benioff, for example, has warned of problems with the public cloud.  “Beware of the false cloud.  The false cloud is not efficient,” he said.In order to facilitate the building of and management of private cloud infrastructure, standards are beginning to be established.   One such standard, called OVF (Open Virtualization Format) would allow the interoperability of different virtual environments.  Consider a private cloud with the capability of being able to “cloudburst” in periods of heavy demand to use the resources of a public cloud.  But interoperability only comes when a large number of vendors move to support a standard like OVF.OVF is a standard that came about in 2007 and is managed by the Desktop Management Task Force and it has now become an ANSI standard.   The adoption of OVF by cloud vendors will bring users more flexibility and help them to avoid lock-in into any one particular vendor.  OVF would allow users to move their data easily between cloud vendors.  But not all vendors are excited about implementing it.  Amazon, for one, is still on the sidelines when it comes to OVF.last_img read more

Here’s Your 3-Point Strategy For Owning Black Friday

first_imgOn Friday, retail’s version of The Hunger Games will commence. That’s when the holiday hordes descend on stores and websites around the country, trying to claw the very best deals on gifts for their loved ones (and themselves).You can not only survive the weekend, but you can thrive, knowing you got the best value for your shopping dollars. Here are a few ideas that can help along the way. See also: Brace Yourselves For Amazon’s Big Holiday BlowoutStart Out With A List Of Products You Want To BuyIf you’re not sure what to get your friend, co-worker or family member, it’s possible to browse for gifts this weekend. You might even get lucky and score some great values here and there. But don’t leave your whole list up in the air. The other shoppers scavenging for supplies at stores probably won’t. You don’t want a lack of focus to leave you exhausted, desperately hunting for whatever you can get. Do A Little Research; It Goes A Long WayAmazon has extra lightning deals going. Best Buy offers some sneak peeks and early sales. (It also offers a price match guarantee on certain items, if you happen to spot it somewhere else for less.) So do Staples, Target and others. Even Twitter has a holiday initiative to connect stores and users. See also: Twitter Lets Retailers Tweet You Deals—Just In Time For Black FridayFor particular products, check out CNET’s picks for the best Black Friday tech deals, or peruse USA Today’s Black Friday Stock Lists, which covers whole-store inventory for more than 35 major retailers.Stay On Top Of Deal Alerts And’s sole purpose is to corral Black Friday deals—it even has an iPhone app—and DealNews does an admirable job of staying on top of specific droolworthy sales and promotions. Keep these tools in your bookmarks or phones, to keep abreast of jaw-dropping sales and discounts. With a little savvy, some swift action and a lot of chutzpah, you won’t want for gifts and other products. And even if you do miss out on a few items, don’t fret: The season has only just gotten started. Let the Holiday Games begin. Know of another great deal or holiday shopping resource? Tell us in the comments section below. Photo by Mark Hillary Tags:#Black Friday#holiday season#shopping Related Posts 4 Keys to a Kid-Safe App adriana leecenter_img 5 Outdoor Activities for Beating Office Burnout 9 Books That Make Perfect Gifts for Industry Ex… 12 Unique Gifts for the Hard-to-Shop-for People…last_img read more