Related posts:Delta to add new Minneapolis-San José flight New Costa Rican airline, Ticos Air, now hiring Canadian airline announces new flights to Costa Rica Copa announces new Costa Rica flights Sansa Regional Airlines is offering cheaper rates for flights within Costa Rica as a way to promote local tourism.Lower rates apply for popular tourism destinations across the Pacific, including Drake Bay, Golfito, Puerto Jiménez, Palmar Sur, Quepos,Tambor Beach, Tamarindo, Liberia and La Fortuna.Rates vary according to destinations and time of the year. During high season, lower rates apply from Feb. 11-April 30, and range from $50-$85 each way, plus taxes.Low season rates apply from May 1-Nov. 30, ranging from $40-$75, plus tax, each way. This is less than half the usual cost, the company said in a release.Passengers must present their Costa Rican identity card (cédula) or permanent residency permit to obtain the discounts.Cheaper rates can be redeemed exclusively at SANSA Regional offices or at the airline’s customer service centers located in local airports. Facebook Comments
Associated PressKAKOLA, Uganda (AP) – American military advisers in Uganda are drawing on lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan to help train African Union soldiers to fight Somalia’s most powerful insurgent group, al-Shabab.Earlier this year, a small contingent of U.S. Marines joined American military contractors at a training base nestled in Uganda’s rolling countryside about 2 1/2 hours drive from the capital, helping fill gaps where the al-Qaida-linked fighters have found weaknesses. The base, called Singo, was built by the U.S. and is a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to bring stability to Somalia. Inside the base is a training area known as “Lil’ Mogadishu” or the “Tin Village” _ stacks of shipping containers making up a small “town” built by U.S. and British trainers for the Ugandan soldiers to practice house-to-house fighting. Soldiers move in and out of doors cut into the containers _ which have been garishly spray painted with violent or provocative slogans like “death is here,” “war only” and “we hate the AU” _ and practice maneuvers along dirt streets and paths.“This has taken us a long way, especially in achieving the operations in Mogadishu,” said Singo’s Ugandan commander, Col. J.B. Ruhesi.About 3,500 Ugandan troops are currently undergoing training at Singo under the State Department’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which also trains soldiers from Burundi and several other African nations. The training should allow the soldiers from different countries to operate with each other more smoothly after they’re deployed to Somalia. The contractors have been training African Union forces since 2007.Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, said Ugandan forces there currently number about 6,000 and make up the largest contingent. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Virginia-based MPRI has the current contract to conduct the program at Singo, and up to two dozen trainers work along with French, British and Ugandan military personnel. The contractors were not permitted to speak on the record to reporters during a recent media visit to the base, but one said all are ex-military and most have had experience in either Iraq or Afghanistan.U.S. funding for the program is expected to be $3.8 million this year for the training, with another $300,000 for the non-lethal equipment that will be given to the Ugandan forces _ things like body armor, helmets and mine detectors.Ugandan forces commander Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said the urban warfare exercises have proved invaluable for soldiers to meet “fresh challenges” when they’re deployed to Somalia. Despite the danger, he said the soldiers have been eager to participate in the AU peacekeeping mission.The average soldier can make several times his normal salary by serving with the AU _ which pays about $1,000 per month.Somalia has been mired in conflict since the 1991, when long-term dictator Siad Barre was overthrown by warlords who then turned on each other. Al-Shabab has had a grip on much of south-central Somalia for the last several years but security in Mogadishu has improved markedly over the past year after AU and Somali government troops pushed al-Shabab insurgents out of the capital. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Sponsored Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security system The United States has sent in only small units of Special Forces to attack al-Qaida members in Somalia or hostage-taking pirates since U.S. troops withdrew from the nation in 1994, while other African countries have deployed thousands of troops to bring order to a country plagued by lawlessness, insurgents and hunger.Many of the American trainers give firsthand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t from years of learning to deal with improvised explosives, fighting insurgents in cities and other experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan.Al-Shabab militants recently figured out how to take out AU tanks with the help of makeshift obstacles and traps, so a group of about 20 Marine reservists is now in the middle of a 10-week program teaching Ugandan forces combat engineering skills, like ways to quickly bridge trenches to permit the tanks to pass.On a recent day at the base, three U.S. military medical specialists showed how to properly apply a tourniquet in a combat situation and other medical skills. The State Department’s training program also includes marksmanship, urban warfare and explosives handling.“We’ve been experiencing some really ugly things for the past 10 years, so we’re taking that experience over here,” said Maj. Mark Haley, 41, from Knoxville, Tennessee. “We’re giving these guys some real important skill sets to keep them alive when they get sent over there.” More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements The militant group has also been facing increasing military pressure from Ethiopian troops in the west and Kenyan troops in the south.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 0 Comments Share 3 international destinations to visit in 2019
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor (middle) and Ms. Runjuan Tongrut, TAT Executive Director of the East Asia Region (the lady on the right corner of the banner) jointly welcomed Japanese students led by Mr. Tsubone, Koge Mayor (standing on the left, next to Mr. Yuthasak), from Fukuoka, Japan.Japanese school groups show confidence in Thailand as planned events go aheadThe Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is pleased that confidence in Thailand as a safe destination for travel and tourism remains high among Japanese travellers, with several pre-booked school tours from Japan taking place as planned and organisers expressing full confidence in the safety and security of the kingdom.Two exchange groups, totalling 57 participants, from Fukuoka, Japan will be visiting Thailand this month. The first group from Koge’s Elementary School will be in Bangkok from 17 to 22 of August, and will comprise a total of 45 participants, including Koge Mayor, Mr. Tsubone, 30 students and 14 teachers and trip leaders. The second group, comprising 10 selected students from 10 high schools in Fukuoka Prefecture will be in Bangkok from 17 to 23 of August. As well as taking part in educational exchanges, some of these students will be experiencing a more personal side of Thai culture by staying in homestay accommodation with Thai families.Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor said, “We hope that these students find their trips to Thailand to be fun and educational and that they go home with many happy memories of the kingdom. There is so much knowledge for Thai and Japanese students to share so it is vital that these cross cultural trips are able to go ahead. As our honoured guests, all these visitors from Japan can feel rest assured that they will be looked after during their time here and that we have all measures in place to ensure their safety and security.”During their visits, the students will be taking part in a range of different activities. The students from Fukuoka prefecture will meet with the Bangkok Governor and enjoy and exchange programme at Baan Bankapi High School. They will also visit Siam Niramit and the Grand Palace. The groups from Koge’s Elementary School will carry out an exchange programme with Chulalongkorn University Demonstration School and also visit Jim Thompson House, Wat Pho and the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.“There’s no better way of showing life going back to normal than by carrying on with everyday activities and continuing with the education of our young people. I hope that all students involved in these trips, both Thai and Japanese learn from this experience and help our nations to enjoy closer mutual understanding,” said Mr. Yuthasak. Fly THAI Amazing Thailand Source = Tourism Authority of Thailand
Levels of dust in the atmosphere will be even higher than in the past few days on Thursday but levels are expected to be back to normal by Friday.The Labour Inspection Department again warned the public on Thursday, telling vulnerable groups to stay indoors as much as possible due to the increase. Employers are urged to take necessary measures to protect employees who work outdoors.On Wednesday the average hourly concentrations of respirable particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 10mm (PM 10) in the atmosphere increased to 113μg/m3 (microgrammes per cubic metre), exceeding the safe limit of 50μg/m3.By 8am on Thursday, the amount had increased to 145μg/m3 in some areas.You May LikeHeart Failure Treatment | Search AdsThe Early Signs Of Heart Failure. Search Acute Heart Failure TreatmentHeart Failure Treatment | Search AdsUndoSenior Living | Search AdsThe Cost of Senior Living in Rowland Heights Might Surprise YouSenior Living | Search AdsUndoClassmates.comLook For Any High School Yearbook, It’s FreeClassmates.comUndo Concern over falling tourism numbersUndoTurkish Cypriot actions in Varosha ‘a clear violation’ of UN resolutions, Nicosia saysUndoThe Deniz boat incident showed clearly the intentions of the Turkish sideUndoby Taboolaby Taboola
10Dec Walsh bill bars bidders with back taxes, blight violations from property auctions Categories: News Proof of sound property tax standing required for saleThe Michigan House today passed legislation authored by state Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, allowing counties holding auctions on tax foreclosed properties to cancel sales of those properties to potential buyers with outstanding delinquent property taxes or blight violations.“Municipalities with high foreclosure rates are trying to rebuild neighborhoods and eliminate blight,” Walsh said. “Allowing property owners who cannot pay taxes on what they currently own to continue to purchase more property will only hurt cities that are trying to improve their neighborhoods.”House Bill 5960 requires bidders at foreclosed property auctions to be in good standing on current property taxes and adhere to local blight codes. Bids will be prevented and sales canceled to buyers who fail to meet these requirements.“Foreclosure auctions are becoming revolving doors,” Walsh said. “Properties are auctioned off, foreclosed on, auctioned again and foreclosed again. It’s a cycle we must break if we’re serious about reviving Michigan’s blighted communities.”The bill also requires all purchasers to sign an affidavit stating they are in compliance with the requirements and hold no other properties with delinquent taxes or blight violations. Violation of the affidavit results in termination of the sale.“This legislation encourages well-intentioned buyers and protects county administrations from those gaming the system,” Walsh said. “It will reduce the number of homes foreclosed upon annually and improve the quality of neighborhoods by eliminating blight.”HB 5960 also clarifies that foreclosing governmental units can accept electronically transferred funds for tax delinquent property sales.The bill will be considered further in the Senate.###
02May Rep. Bizon heralds cost-cutting in House-passed budget The bills now go to the Senate for consideration. Increasing funding for public safety by adding 100 more Michigan State Police troopers. Categories: Bizon News,News Paying down retiree debt and adding to state government’s main savings account for tough times, pushing that emergency fund above $1 billion. Making health care more effective and efficient, with an enhanced focus on improving mental health care. State Rep. Dr. John Bizon, of Battle Creek, today voted in to approve the state budget, praising the spending blueprint for fiscal restraint and common-sense financial responsibility.Bizon – an ear, nose and throat doctor for nearly four decades – is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Medicaid and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Affairs. He applauded the actions of state Rep. Shane Hernandez, of Port Huron, chair of the Appropriations Committee on Transportation, for achieving cost-saving solutions in the budget.“I love that Rep. Hernandez suggesting getting rid of planes the state does not need to own to find more money for our roads,” Bizon said. “He has also proposed other administrative changes to reprioritize funding for transportation projects.”Other highlights of the bills include:Allocating the highest funding in state history for K-12 schools with a proposed $14.3 billion; improving access skilled trades training through career and technical education. Making life better in communities across Michigan by adding money for road repairs, public safety departments, parks and other programs to improve our daily lives. ####
20Jun Glenn bill banning sex between prostitutes, police gains House approval Categories: Glenn News,News Bipartisan legislation from state Rep. Gary Glenn, which makes it illegal for law enforcement officials to engage in sexual acts with prostitutes or victims of human trafficking during the course of an investigation, was approved by the full membership of the state House today.“This unintended legal loophole has existed for too long, to the detriment of victims of human trafficking and the reputation of our law enforcement officers,” said Glenn, of Larkin Township. “There is no evidence that law enforcement officers are taking advantage of this exemption, but people who impersonate police officers can use this to intimidate women into having sex and that must be stopped.”The legislation was introduced at the request of the director of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. It also continues Michigan’s commitment to helping victims of human trafficking, who are frequently forced into prostitution.The House Law and Justice Committee approved the legislation last week, advancing it to today’s vote.“This bill will eliminate a black cloud over Michigan, protecting our officers and human trafficking victims,” said Glenn. “We do not need the stigma of being the last state in the country where police officers having sex with prostitutes cannot be prosecuted.”House Bill 4355, which was approved by an overwhelming 93-14 vote, advances to the Senate for its consideration.
Spending blueprint invests in Michigan’s futureState Rep. Tim Kelly, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid, today praised his House colleagues in passage of the school budget for the coming fiscal year, noting that it invests in the state’s future with a record amount of money for K-12 education.Kelly, of Saginaw Township, said the budget also increases spending for career and technical education by one-third, giving people a chance to learn a trade and fill the in-demand positions available throughout the state.“This is the fifth year in a row that we have increased spending for public school students,” Kelly said. “We are focused on giving students the education they need to succeed and helping Michigan prosper for decades to come.”Highlights of the bill:Michigan’s K-12 public schools would get record funding at $14.5 billion, with a priority on keeping more money in the classroom to benefit students.Early childhood literacy is emphasized with more funding dedicated to help K-3 students improve their reading skills.An additional $120 million is dedicated to help “at-risk” students, with the definition expanded to include students who are homeless, migrant and in foster care.Funding for career and technical training would increase through competitive grants for equipment upgrades and for intermediate school districts to hire counselors. The programs are designed to help prepare Michigan students for jobs of the future.The higher education budget supporting Michigan’s 15 public universities would get a 2.9 percent funding increase, including an average of 2 percent more for university operations.##### 20Jun Rep. Kelly: School budget approved, provides record funding for K-12 students Categories: Kelly News,News
Categories: News,Reilly News 05Sep Rep. Reilly to chair Affordable Energy Caucus in Michigan House Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland, has been elected chair of a newly formed caucus in the Michigan House of Representatives aimed at lowering energy costs.Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, will serve as vice chair of the Affordable Energy Caucus. The caucus also includes Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township, chair of the House Energy Policy Committee, along with other legislators.The caucus will meet monthly to discuss the financial impact of energy policy and proposed legislation, and work to develop real solutions to encourage growth and protect the rate-paying public.“I’m honored to have been chosen by colleagues for this position,” Rep. Reilly said. “As a caucus, our guiding principle is that the retail price of energy should be a key consideration in evaluating legislation. We are committed to doing what is best for the energy consuming public as a whole.”Reps. Reilly and Glenn have discussed their concerns that the Michigan Public Service Commission is considering a requirement that electricity choice providers who compete with the state’s two electricity monopolies — Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison — prove they can supply their customers using only higher-priced electricity generated in Michigan. Such a move would take tens of millions of dollars out of public school classrooms each year to pay for higher electricity costs, Glenn said, and make Michigan’s business climate less attractive and competitive for new businesses and jobs. Glenn said the MPSC proposal would go against the intent of state law.Rep. Reilly has requested legislation to stop the MPSC from implementing such a measure.Reps. Reilly, Glenn and Robinson all are among the founding members of the Affordable Energy Caucus. Others are Republican Reps. Tom Barrett of Potterville, Triston Cole of Mancelona, Shane Hernandez of Port Huron, Gary Howell of North Branch, Steve Johnson of Wayland, Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain, Peter Lucido of Shelby Township, Jim Runestad of White Lake and Jim Tedder of Clarkston.“The economic impact of Michigan’s energy policy cannot be overstated,” Reilly said. “It affects all aspects of our lives. The cost of energy is reflected in the price of everything we buy, in the taxes we pay, and of course, in our residential utility bills.”###
07Feb Legislators applaud governor’s plans to end privatized prison food service, restore jobs to local residents State Reps. Roger Hauck and James Lower today praised Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans to end privatized food service at Michigan’s state prisons, returning the duties of preparing food to state workers.Michigan corrections facilities are located in the communities the representatives serve.Today during his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, Snyder announced he plans to invest $13.7 million in the Department of Corrections (DOC) to place prison food responsibilities under state employees. DOC officials announced that it will remove Trinity Services Group this summer and hire 350 state employees to do the work.“The privatization, first by Aramark and then by Trinity, proved to be a failure,” said Lower, of Cedar Lake. “I commend the governor for realizing the need to put those duties back in the hands of trusted state workers. It’s hard for anyone to admit they made a mistake, and I appreciate his candor.”Hauck, of Union Township, said privatization did save money, but the challenges it created far outweighed the financial benefits.“Switching to a private company created constant unrest and discontent in the corrections facilities. Spoiled food was served, staffing levels were frequently low and workers had inappropriate relationships with inmates,” Hauck said. “That also created a public safety issues, putting employees and prison guards in danger.”Snyder said the $13.7 million investment will be offset by $18.8 million saved when the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon is shut down because of a declining prisoner population.##### Categories: Hauck News,News
Share6TweetShareEmail6 Shares December 10, 2013; The TelegraphOn BBC One, Comic Relief’s sketch with Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) as a fictional Archbishop of Canterbury who compared the disciples of Jesus to the pop singing group One Direction generated the most complaints of any televised program in the UK in 2013. But they might have been more aggrieved by the BBC’s decision in October to cancel a planned airing of a BBC Panorama investigation of Comic Relief and purportedly other charities as well concerning how they invest the funds they raise.The documentary was cancelled at the behest of BBC executives with close relations ties to Comic Relief, but the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, and its news director, James Harding, intervened and arranged to have the show aired on December 10th. Since the airing, Comic Relief has been under some fire for investment policies that seemingly contradict the values of the charity.The Panorama show says that the investments include significant sums in BAE Systems, a weapons manufacturer, the alcohol firm Diageo, and £3 million in tobacco companies. The tobacco investments, for example, seemingly contradict Comic Relief’s donations to Target Tuberculosis, a group that says that smoking may be a significant contributor to TB.Comic Relief defended its investment policy with a statement from an unnamed spokesperson, who said that the charity puts its money into large managed funds just like other charities and pension funds do, arguing, “On balance, we believe this is the approach that will deliver the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people.” The Telegraph quoted Sam Younger, the head of the Charity Commission, to offer a different perspective: “If a charity says ‘we need to invest for the maximum financial return’ that is right…If they go on to say ‘we therefore can’t have an ethical investment policy,’ that’s wrong.”In the Guardian, Comic Relief’s top executive, Kevin Cahill, admitted that Comic Relief still had money in such managed funds that invested in weapons, alcohol, and tobacco, but they were “a small percentage, no more than 5 percent of our funds in any of those particular areas.”That is a slightly different tack than Comic Relief took prior to the Panorama airing. Its law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, undertook a campaign to get the BBC to block the show, saying that the revelations would “damage vulnerable people in the UK and abroad.” After the show, Cahill changed his message to say that he would “of course” prefer to make ethical investments, though he wanted the Charity Commission to provide better guidance regarding the “rules” for ethical investments.The tagline of Comic Relief is “a just world free of poverty.” But it failed to kill the show, so the Comic Relief front page features a statement on its investment policy, a response to stories in the media, and an explanation of how it raises money. It really doesn’t explain its having turned a blind eye to this array of easily pruned troubling investments. It also doesn’t explain how it could invest in tobacco companies when one of its trustees, Duncan Bannatyne, is on record against any investments in tobacco and made a documentary for the BBC in 2008 attacking a British tobacco company for marketing to African children to encourage them to smoke.Lessons for U.S. charities: First, as we pointed out in our review of the Washington Post “diversions” series, watch what your investment advisors are suggesting for investments—not only for their potential fraudulence, but, as the Panorama investigation of Comic Relief revealed, for potential lack of symmetry with the your charity’s mission and values.Second, it is clear that precious little attention is given to the charitable investments of nonprofits in the U.S., partly because simply reading the investment components of Form 990s is nearly investigative journalism in and of itself. The American public—donors as well as the intended beneficiaries of charities—deserve to know what kinds of activities are being supported by charitable investments.And third, the behavior of the BBC—until the intervention of the BBC director general—was reprehensible. For any charity to squelch facts that the public has a right to know, or ought to know regardless of legal rights and obligations, by leaning on friends in the press is as bad a statement about charitable values as investments in alcohol, weapons, and tobacco.—Rick CohenShare6TweetShareEmail6 Shares
Share144Tweet9ShareEmail153 SharesBosc d’Anjou from New York, NY, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsFebruary 14, 2018; Washington PostJeff Stein’s article last week in the Washington Post on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s new staff should trigger reflection in our sector. He writes, “Many freshman lawmakers avoid the national spotlight, and it is very rare for their staffers to speak out. But just as Ocasio-Cortez is blasting away some of the conventions of politics, so is her team.”One of the staffers, legislative assistant Dan Riffle, who grew up poor to a single mother in Tennessee and whose one meal a day as a child was the free lunch at school, says of his peers in Congress,“I don’t mean to paint too broad a brush. But these are people who don’t think big and aren’t here to change the world. They’re here because it’s a good, safe, stable job, and this is a good platform to get to K Street. Which is what the vast majority of Democratic Hill staffers do.” He added: “They only conceive of the world as it is, and work within that frame. They don’t think, ‘Here’s the system; it sucks and we should burn it down.’”Elaine Kamarck of the Democratic National Committee suggests that perhaps Riffle doesn’t understand. She says, “‘Thinking big’ is not an option when you are not in control of the House and you are fighting every day to protect food stamps, Medicaid, and the other critical pieces of the social safety net that Republican majorities have attacked.”But perhaps this is just when big thinking is needed—when things are not working well for most people.In a sense, this is how our sector works, too. For years, nonprofits have been trying to make headway on racial justice (or equity, diversity, and inclusion, or racial equity, depending on comfort level). The dominant thinking on this is that predominantly white organizations must be challenged and given support to go through a change process that brings them up to date with changing standards and expectations. (At NPQ, we hear that sometimes the whiter they are, the more money they get to change, a sort of reverse incentivizing.) It hasn’t worked.While changing the whole organization is often perceived as the only way forward in nonprofits, in fact, what it does is limit the change to a response to the current system, or at most, a deviation from it. This approach often precludes completely different narratives, functions, and outcomes.A 2015 report by the Rockefeller Foundation, Social Innovation Lab Guide, identifies three elements of systems change.Developing new solutions—In this case, the problem definition is unchanged, but a need for more solutions is acknowledged.Changing the way the system behaves—Interventions change the way the system is governed, funded, and/or incentivized.Building capacity of people and organizations—Systems wide change starts with passionate innovators that pioneer new solutions and are willing to take risks, but it grows with early adopters and the early majority, “the people who will only innovate when we can show evidence and offer support to help implement it.”Labs, spaces connected to but outside an organization’s structure, can offer a critical space for systems change. In fact, social innovation labs have been touted for years as ideal vehicles for more open space, or blank slate, design. The aforementioned report recommends these labs for “gaining system sight, redefining problems, and identifying opportunities in the broader context with the potential to tip systems in positive directions.” It outlines key elements of social innovation labs.They are driven by an intention to transform. “Rather than adapting to intractable problems, interventions are designed to fundamentally shift the rules and relationships that shape and govern the system being targeted.”They know how to recognize and take advantage of thresholds. Existing systems have a self-interested sense of the correct speed for change—the slower, the better. They tend to not notice or, if they do, respect thresholds—the moment when what used to work no longer does. Much racial justice change processes in the sector moves at the speed of white people.They focus on innovating, not just inventing. Innovation matches the good ideas of inventing with the opportunities needed to scale. In this way, change ripples through the system.They pay attention to cross-scale dynamics. Labs don’t require all the change to happen at large scale, which is good because complex systems don’t respond to cause and effect relationships, so big efforts can have no impact and small efforts can have big impact.They catalyze a range of innovations. Activities at different scales provide more opportunity for creating ripples in a system. “It’s not possible to know ahead of time which of them will have the most impact.”Perhaps our sector should be more like Ocasio-Cortez and less like the Democratic Party. At least some of us should be blowing up the system.—Cyndi SuarezShare144Tweet9ShareEmail153 Shares
Samsung expects to pass 20 million apps downloaded on its Smart TV platform around the end of this month, according to the consumer electronics giant’s European content services director, Dan Saunders.Speaking to DTVE, Saunders said that Samsung expected to “touch 20 million” apps downloaded this month, having grown from one million downloads in October 2010 to 10 million a year later.“The absolute numbers are not that interesting, but if you look at that against time spent [and] engagement with the Smart TV platform, you can see the shape of a growth curve that’s very exciting,” said Saunders.
Finnish telco, broadcaster and cable TV operator DNA has acquired digital-terrestrial pay TV service Plus TV.Plus TV, formerly owned by Swedish infrastructure and pay TV provider Teracom, operator of the Boxer platform, has approximately 220,000 customers and reported turnover of €65 million in 2012.DNA said the acquisition would further rits goal to become Finland’s number one TV and entertainment provider. It said the addition of Plus TV would strengthen cable arm DNA Welho’s nationwide offering, allowing the operator to reach the majority of Finnish TV households.“DNA’s strategic goal is to develop Finland’s best and most comprehensive entertainment service offering while retaining the most satisfied customers in Finland. Pay TV will continue to gain popularity and people’s viewing habits will become more diverse in the future. We want our customers to have easy access to all high-quality content, and we will make significant investments into new service features, such as the DNA Welho Matka TV service, launched in early April, which enables viewing and remote recording of TV programmes also with mobile devices,” said DNA CEO Riitta Tiuraniemi. “The acquisition of PlusTV will enable the nationwide marketing, sales and development of DNA’s entertainment services and help DNA to offer customers more versatile entertainment services.”The value of the acquisition, which is subject to approval by the Finnish competition regulator, was not disclosed.
Swedish broadcaster TV4 is adding Bollywood content from Kanal Global to its TV4 Play premium online live and on-demand service.Kanal Global will become part of the TV4 Play premium offering from June 3, making content from the service available on devices including tablets, mobile phones and PCs.In addition to Bollywood content, Kanal Global also offers a mix of shows from other parts of the world, including Brazilian telenovelas.The service, which will be available as VOD and live streams, will replace TV11, which TV4 has sold to SBS Discovery Media. A number of popular shows from TV11, including Big Brother, will still available via TV4 Play.
Chris BeardMozilla, the organisation behind the Firefox browser, has appointed interim CEO Chris Beard as its full-time chief executive.Beard rejoined Mozilla in April to take the interim CEO job, having first joined the firm in 2004. Prior to returning, he spent almost a year as executive-in-residence at venture capital firm Greylock Partners.“Over the years, Chris has led many of Mozilla’s most innovative projects. We have relied on his judgment and advice for nearly a decade. Chris has a clear vision of how to take Mozilla’s mission and turn it into industry-changing products and ideas,” said Mozilla.Earlier this month, Mozilla confirmed that it is preparing to launch a Chromecast-style HDMI streaming device later this year.The development marks Mozilla’s ongoing efforts to expand its Firefox OS ecosystem, with the software already available on seven smartphones offered by five major operators in 15 countries. At CES in January, Firefox also announced it is working with Panasonic to develop next generation smart TVs running the Firefox OS.
Production and distribution group Endemol is launching a new video game-focussed online channel, Legends of Gaming.The new service will be run by Endemol’s digital channels unit Endemol Beyond, which launched last year. The channel will feature up-and-coming and established YouTube gamers as they compete in a UK-wide tournament.The contestants will take on superhero personas for the competition and dress accordingly while battling each other. The Legends channel, which rolls out later this month,will be fronted by YouTube gamer Ali A.The culmination of the competition will lead into a new live four-day gaming event, Legends of Gaming Live, which Endemol will run with events firm Upper Street.Commenting on theforthcoming release of the Legends of Gaming channel, Endemol Beyond UK director of digital content, Randel Bryan, said: “Legends of Gaming is a channel that was just crying out to be made. For years we’ve seen the YouTube gaming elite entertaining their audiences from their own bedrooms, now it’s time to bring them all together, level the playing field and find out who really is the ultimate Legend of Gaming.”Endemol Beyond has channel hubs in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It launched late last year with a US$40 million initial investment and attracted criticism from producer and distributor Beyond for its branding.
The new HbbTV 2.0 standard should “hopefully” be released later this year and will include four new features contributed by the EU-supported HBB-NEXT project according to HBB-NEXT technical coordinator Michael Probst.Probst, who also represents the German broadcasting technology institute, IRT, made the comments in an update by the European Commission about the evolution of HbbTV.HBB-NEXT coordinator Bettina Heidkamp, of German public broadcaster RBB, added: “We identified several missing pieces in the user experience for which we and our partners designed and developed solutions.“These include the personalisation and recommendation of content for users, notably in a multi user environment, and the synchronisation of broadband with broadcast content onto one or more screens.”The Hybrid Broadcast and Broadband TV (HbbTV) standard allows broadcasters to offer additional internet services directly to the TV set. The HBB-NEXT project ran from October 2011 to March 2014, working on the next generation of this technology.Solutions devised by HBB-NEXT include synchronising video across consumer devices via the cloud and controlling TVs using face and gesture recognition technology.“The face and gesture recognition achieved in the project goes beyond what has been possible before. It is really innovative and people will enjoy it,” said Heidkamp.“As for the broadcast apps, we are now creating an HbbTV Toolbox based on HBB-NEXT so that very soon editors will be creating them on a day-to-day basis so that everyone can personalise and enrich the television they are watching,” she added.
Ghanaian commercial broadcaster Crystal TV has signed a 10-year deal with satellite operator Eutelsat for capacity on the African beam of the Eutelsat 16A satellite.The new capacity will enable Crystal TV to provide nationwide coverage of Ghana for its digital pay TV and free-to-air channels.The company’s current subscription-free premium television content, including its branded channels – Crystal TV Prime, Crystal TV Plus and Crystal TV Xtra – has until now been limited to terrestrial reception in Ghana’s main urban areas in Accra, the Ashanti Region and parts of the country’s Eastern and Central regions.Crystal TV will use the satellite’s high-power sub-Saharan African footprint to extend access to homes beyond range of terrestrial reception.“Our partnership with Eutelsat is a major milestone in a new phase of digital broadcasting, embracing technology that goes beyond the varied limitations of signal distribution. This is the moment Ghana and Africa have been waiting for – to challenge ourselves as we embrace the future. It is an opportunity to offer unparalleled access to other broadcasters whose mission is to become global players with the support of Crystal’s technical facilities. With this Eutelsat partnership and other project partners, we believe the stage is set for Ghana and Africa to accelerate with ease the transition from analogue to digital TV,” said Paul Crystal-Djirackor, Crystal TV’s chief executive.“This new relationship with Crystal TV is further evidence of Eutelsat’s ambition to leverage its experience and assets to support the digitisation of Africa’s TV landscape. Satellite technology is once again showing how it completes and complements terrestrial infrastructure, and is playing a key role in a fundamental shift to digital that brings viewers the benefits of choice and quality. We look forward to sharing our experience of pay-TV and free-to-air platforms with Crystal TV, and to further consolidating our 16° East neighbourhood as a major pole in Africa,” said Rodney Benn, Eutelsat’s regional vice-president for Africa.
Powerline technology standards body the HomePlug Alliance has completed what it describes as the world’s first multi-vendor interoperability event for HomePlug Netricity technology. HomePlug’s Netricity programme promotes the adoption of products built on the low-frequency, narrow-band IEEE 1901.2 standard.According to the HomePlug Alliance, a number of member companies collaborated in the event.The programme addresses the need for long-range powerline networking for outside-the-home, smart grid, smart city and industrial control applications, according to the body. It provides for dense urban and sparse rural communications using frequencies below 500kHz. The technology also incorporates an IEEE 802.15.4 based media access control (MAC) layer which is key to enabling hybrid networks such as combinations of wired and wireless, according to the HomePlug Alliance.The event, held in Paris on January 20-21, included Cisco, Itron, Semtech (EnVerv) and Texas Instruments.“HomePlug is pleased to see growing support for the Netricity programme with this landmark interoperability event,” said Rob Ranck, president, HomePlug Alliance. “This event is a key step to establishing product interoperability toward finalisation of the Netricity certification programme, which will provide customers such as utilities and energy companies a sizable product portfolio from which to choose.”