Wandering the side streets of San José’s historic Barrio Amón in search of the restaurant Racó, our anticipation was building for the night’s strange meal. There would be no forks, no knives, and no sight.When we finally found Racó, tucked away at the end of a street 100 meters north of the INS building behind a blue garage door, we were surprised to discover a private world. Down the rabbit hole the restaurant opens up to two dining rooms, decorated with elegant eccentricity. Plates fixed to the wall accent the restaurant’s warm colors and three large bird nest lampshades hang from the ceiling. Were we still in San José?Chef and owner Daniel Vargas greeted us as we came down a ramp cluttered with potted plants. Vargas has the sharp features of an El Greco portrait, complete with a tightly trimmed beard. He has a bouncy, youthful energy. Racó’s head chef, Daniel Vargas. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesVargas lived in Spain for four years training and eventually working at a restaurant in Madrid. There, he heard about the blind dinners served at Barcelona’s Dans le Noir, which means “in the dark” in French and was one of the world’s first restaurants to offer the high concept dining experience: a meal served in the dark, by blind waiters.The chef was intrigued by the idea and how it forced the diner to really think about the food. Later, when Vargas moved back to Costa Rica to be closer to family, he decided to offer a similar experience at Racó.“Today, when someone sits down to eat, they do it by inertia and [they] eat, but don’t savor what they’re eating,” he told The Tico Times. Eating without seeing forces the diner to concentrate on the food without the baggage of preconceptions.“I love to play with textures,” he added. “These dinners are my most interesting food, really. I’m praying for Friday and Saturday to come because I have a great time.”Racó, which offers blind dinners with a reservation each Friday and Saturday night, forgoes the blind waitstaff and pitch black setting for chocolate-colored blindfolds that guests tie themselves. Diners are encouraged to eat with their hands but each seat is ready with a full place setting if someone is bold enough to blindly wield a knife and fork. To add a bit of sport to the affair, Vargas asked us to write down what we thought we had eaten after each course and offered a complimentary bottle of wine to the winning table.We tied the blindfolds over our eyes and waited for the first course.Vargas described his food as Mediterranean prepared with French techniques, but that offered few clues to the first plate. After locating the food, I traced a stout tower with smooth sides and what felt like a cap on top. The browned bubbly crust of broiled cheese?Blindfolded, any self-consciousness I might have felt about eating with my hands disappeared, and soon I found myself breaking one of the first table rules children are taught: Don’t play with your food.While considering a small round ingredient I couldn’t guess, I realized that my rights hand had been tracing the plate, finger painting, unconsciously enjoying the creamy feel of the sauce against my digits as I trawled for some vegetable or nut. I was sure there was a walnut there somewhere!The tower proved to be an upturned zucchini roll with broccoli, onion, petit pois (that round ingredient that stumped me), corn and other vegetables served inside, topped with mozzarella cheese and served with a homemade roasted garlic aioli that was so sweet I confused it for a tomato cream sauce.Our waiter topped off our wine glasses (Vargas said he prefers blindfolded guests drink small but frequent servings of wine) and served the next course.Vargas’ flavors really pulled the wool over our eyes when it came to identifying the rest of the meal. Daniel Vargas, the head chef at Racó, walks among the tables during the restaurant’s Cena a Ciegos event. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesI was convinced the plate was Thanksgiving revisited: a succulent, thick slice of turkey served with a cranberry, no, pear sauce. Mushrooms had to be the next ingredient, easily identified by the feel of the gills and their earthy, meaty taste, followed by Brussels sprouts that still had some bite.I was completely off the mark, and so was everyone else.After diners guessed turkey, chicken, and even pork, Vargas revealed the protein as duck, cooked medium rare and served with a balsamic reduction.“Flavor is very connected to memory,” Vargas said. “I build the plate, make sure there’s a harmony to it and wait for each person to bring their own criteria for what they experience.”The chef recommended forgoing our fingers for a spoon when the dessert came, a strawberry “soup” topped with an oatmeal crumble and a dollop of avocado pastry cream. The texture and flavor of the strawberries was easy to identify and one bite alerted me to the oatmeal topping but avocado has such a subtle flavor, it was a challenge to pick out.The waiters collected our cards and the winner of the bottle of wine was announced. Alas, we didn’t win, but when else would we get the chance to sit down to a nice meal and eat with our hands?My only complaint about the meal was, well, not knowing what was on my plate. The adventure decoding the flavors and textures was fun and a unique experience, but certain dishes, especially the first course, would have been stronger if I had known about that wonderfully sweet aioli that would have livened up the otherwise plain zucchini.That said, anyone wary about the experience should know that diners are free to remove the cloth at any time. “I want people to feel comfortable,” Vargas said.The blindfold can help some diners feel more comfortable in their own skin. There tends to be a social atmosphere during and after the meal service, Vargas said, with eaters united by their delightful confusion.“Two men came in together on Saturday. I could tell they were a little uncomfortable, but once everyone covered their eyes, they reached across the table and held hands. They told me afterwards that once the blindfold was on, they felt safe and had a great time. That meant a lot to me,” Vargas said.“There’s no judgement when you can’t see.”Going There: Racó restaurant is located 100 meters north of the INS building in Barrio Amón, San José. It’s open Monday through Saturday, for prix fixe lunch (₡3,900) and dinner. Blind dinners are served Friday and Saturday nights, ₡18,000 per guest. Reservations required. Gluten intolerant diners should know that the chef avoids flour and added starches in his cooking. He also shies away from lactose and is open to customizing the blind meals to diners’ specifications, be they vegetarian or adverse to red meat. Facebook Comments Related posts:Delicious new gastropub El Gaff already becoming a thing VIDEO: Barbecuing with Lucas Withington Christmas cheer, oxcart parades, and other happenings around Costa Rica Friendship Library lends books out of Atenas restaurant
Related posts:Hablando paja: What if Jesus had been born in Costa Rica? A love letter to Costa Rica’s second language Costa Rica, The Quiz: How much has your adopted country changed you? Costa Rica, The Quiz: How much has your adopted country changed you? See also: La horma de mi zapato – on love and taxisIt was still pitch black when I sat up in bed, thoroughly annoyed.“What is that damned noise?” I asked my husband, on whom the incredible din outside our window seemed to have absolutely no effect.“The national bird of Costa Rica,” he murmured, his pride waking up even before he did.“The national what?”In response, he uttered a sequence of vowels that were unintelligible to me at the time, but which I know in retrospect must have been “yigüirro.”“Why is it making so much noise at night?”“Está pidiendo agua,” he explained, and rolled over, end of discussion. It’s asking for water. It’s asking for rain.Costa Rica is home to any number of spectacular, jaw-dropping birds, but it’s not the scarlet macaw or gorgeous toucan or lovely motmot who’s calling the shots: It’s the clay-colored thrush, a plain gray bird whose unremarkable appearance is matched by its unfortunate scientific name, Turdus grayi. I like to think that Costa Rica’s choice of the yigüirro reflects the country’s practical nature. Surrounded by so much feathered beauty, they went with the bird that knows what’s going on. They say that una golondrina no hace verano (one swallow does not a summer make) but Costa Rica does have a single bird who makes winter. At least, that’s how it feels.Every year as summer winds down and the rains approach, like clockwork, much more reliable than any groundhog, the yigüirro and its unique song “ask for rain.” María Mayela Padilla, in her book “Dichos y Refranes de los Ticos,” writes that according to one veterinarian she consulted, the birds actually sing at this time of year because it’s their time to mate – but she goes on to question that conclusion because the birds look so content when the rain does arrive and they splash around in the puddles.At any rate, while I’ve made a happy avocation of listening to the words and phrases on Costa Rican lips, one of the sounds that would remind me of Costa Rica most quickly, years and miles hence, wouldn’t be human at all. It’d be the unmistakable, slightly spooky annual reports of the country’s best weathermen.That said, there’s a whole host of words and phrases to learn when it comes to Costa Rican weather. In honor of the rainy season now beginning all around us, I’d like to offer up a few. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that rain is not necessarily rain. Allow me to explain. I once went to a conference in Toronto and, when it ended, arranged with a Panamanian colleague to split a cab from our hotel to the airport.Recommended: Ticos in a winter wonderlandOn the morning of our departure, she called my room to ask whether we should leave earlier than planned. “I checked the forecast, and it says it’s going to rain,” she said. I glanced out the window at a nondescript, heavy, gray day, and told her no, we’d left plenty of wiggle room. Later, as our taxi pulled away from the curb, a light rain was falling.“I thought it was going to rain,” she said, gazing out towards the CN Tower.“It is raining,” I said.“This?” She was shocked. “This isn’t rain! Come on, now.”I burst out laughing, not at her, but at myself, for forgetting. How many times had my husband and I had the same conversation? “Está lloviendo,” I’d say, it’s raining, and he’d correct me. This isn’t rain. It’s hair of the cat (pelo de gato), or llovizna, or está garuando. Rain, real honest-to-God lluvia, is a serious affair. Rain means that every pothole or crevice in sight – that is, thousands – overflows. Rain means that the umbrella you optimistically hold overhead keeps water away from your face, but not from the rest of your body, because sheets of water are blowing in horizontally. Rain is a plans-changer, a car-swamper, a water-oozing-down-your-walls event. When it’s really a proper show-stopper, it’s an aguacero or a chaparrón or even a baldazo – a bucketful. So when a Costa Rican gazes skyward and tells you, “Está de agua,” or “Se puso de agua,” or “Ya viene el agua,” or you’d better pay attention, ‘cause things could get real. (You might also hear “Se vino la doña de los frescos” – literally, “The lady who sells drinks is here” – in which case you should grab your umbrella, not your milk money.)Costa Rica may have only two seasons, differentiated by factors that, to a person used to ice storms and leaf piles and dog days, might seem slight. But those two seasons don’t mess around. Not only does rain come by the bucketful, but the seasons also come and go with panache, like divas given a dull script but determined to bring it to life through sheer force of will.Summer goes out with intense heat that leaves you gasping, droughts that leave the Guanacaste plains a spiky brown. Winter, or the rainy season, leaves you drowning by degrees in endless umbrella puddles, fantasizing about afternoon walks and Christmas breezes. What’s more, both seasons, while sashaying out the door, throw in some apocalyptic events for good measure. Mild-mannered birds wake you up in the night. Little earthquakes abound, as if to toss us into the next season by the scruffs of our necks. Everyone gets terrible colds (“Ah, it’s the change of the weather,” the pharmacist will say). Volcanic ash is falling? Seems par for the course. I wouldn’t be that surprised if frogs or locusts showed up, too.I miss autumn, as I say frequently. I miss long summer nights and hot cocoa after snow and the first shoots of spring. But I’ve found that learning another weather is just like learning another language, with the same broadening of perspective, the same opening of the soul. It’s humbling to be instructed in the specific amount of precipitation that constitutes pelo de gato. It’s satisfying to feel the coming of a real aguacero. It’s comforting to find familiarity in what was once very foreign: the expressions that capture a particular feel of water on skin; the phrases that connote the sound of a storm coming at you across a thousand tin roofs; the birdsong that tells the story, without any words at all, of the ominous press of heat, the heaviness of clouds, the silence of a country at night, waiting for a change.Read previous Maeology columns here.Katherine Stanley Obando is The Tico Times’ managing editor. Portions of this column originally appeared on her blog, “Love in Translation,” where she writes about Costa Rican language and culture, and raising a child abroad. Her book by the same name was published by The Tico Times Publications Group in 2016 and is available for purchase worldwide. Facebook Comments
Award finalists recognised for fantastic holiday park hospitalityAward finalists recognised for fantastic holiday park hospitalityFive holiday parks are being recognised for the fantastic hospitality they offer their guests, being named today as finalists in the AA Traveller Spirit of Hospitality Award for 2018.This is the sector’s premier award, made to the park which excels in providing an outstanding visitor experience, Holiday Parks New Zealand Chief Executive Fergus Brown says.“To be a finalist in the award is fantastic achievement. All five finalists have demonstrated consistently high levels of customer satisfaction and have received impressive online reviews,” Mr Brown says.“The award is about businesses that consistently go well beyond what would normally be expected.”The finalists are:· All Seasons Holiday Park, Rotorua (winner of the Award in 2017).· Athenree Hot Springs & Holiday Park, Bay of Plenty.· Himatangi Beach Holiday Park, Manawatu.· Miranda Holiday Park, Firth of Thames.· Russell TOP 10 Holiday Park, Bay of Islands.“We are very impressed with both the quality and number of parks that were considered in 2018,” Mr Brown says.The winner of the Award will be announced at the Holiday Parks Conference in Hamilton on 25 July.Source = Holiday Parks New Zealand
The 3rd Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM 2019) concluded successfully at Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu attracting more than 700 delegates from 43 different countries including 150+ international delegates and national stakeholders. The four-day event is the biggest and Nepal’s premier international travel and tourism trade show organised and executed by PATA Nepal Chapter in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal Tourism Board, PATA Headquarter, Nepal Airlines and the other prominent Tourism Organisations of Nepal.The mart was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Nepal, K P Sharma Oli on June 6, 2019. Addressing the inaugural ceremony, PM emphasised the immense tourism potentialities with diversified tangible and intangible products and services including cultural heritage, art and architecture, pilgrimage, yoga, ayurveda, meditation, holistic retreats, etc. with pristine nature, unique climate and the most hospitable people which are unparalleled to attract people with various interests from around the world.HTM 2019 Conference was held on June 7 under the theme ‘The Spirit of the Himalayas’ unveiling a new way forward, new programmes, products and uncovering hidden treasures with new potentials for the Himalayan Nations with Nepal at the helm of this promotional endeavour. The delegates witnessed about 20+ world-class high-value speakers/industry thought leaders, spiritual leaders, mystics, religious gurus, influencers and international tourism experts who shared unparalleled insights on the various subjects including Spiritual Tourism, Adventure Travel Trends, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism, Digital Transformation and New Trends in Tourism, Travel Media Trends, contemporary issues, challenges and opportunities for the development of tourism for Nepal as well as the Himalayan nations.The International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference (ITBMC), an event alongside HTM brought together 40+ international travel bloggers and media as well as hundreds of local media delegates to promote Nepal as the most promising and happening tourism destination. The speakers during ITBMC put emphasis on the role of travel media and bloggers for tourism promotion of a destination and inspired the bloggers/media for creating contents and sharing their experiences about Nepal.A special International Media Briefing Session for Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY 2020) campaign was organised during ITBMC promoting and showcasing the country’s offerings and plans for the mega campaign. Suraj Vaidya, the National Program Convener for VNY 2020, made the presentation followed by Q/A session along with NTB CEO Deepak Raj Joshi, PATA Nepal Chairman Sunil Sakya, and NTB Sr Director Nandini Lahe Thapa.This year, the two-day B2B mart held on June 8 and 9 witnessed the participation of 58 buyer organisations from 30 different countries from the USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and CIS countries, Asia and the Gulf Region and 54 exhibitors from six different countries including Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Tibet (China) and Thailand; felicitating the opportunity to explore, establish, strengthen or expand their business partnerships and networking opportunities.PATA Nepal Chapter will be organising the 4th Himalayan Travel Mart from June 12-15 in 2020.
Hong Kong – Reported by Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazineMandarin Oriental Hotel Group is delighted to announce the highly anticipated opening of Mandarin Oriental, Paris on June 28 at 251 rue Saint-Honoré, in the city’s first arrondissement.To celebrate the launch of this luxurious new city hotel, the “J’aime Paris” opening offer is now available for stays between July 17 and August 28, 2011, with rates from $1,110 a night inclusive of a $435 credit per room and $725 credit per suite that can also be redeemed at the hotel’s spa or restaurants.Mandarin Oriental, Paris has the most prestigious address in the heart of this fashion capital, with the Garnier Opera, the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens all close by. The original, magnificent Art Deco façade of this luxury hotel has been beautifully complemented by chic, contemporary interiors, making this the most luxurious, glamorous, and truly Parisian experience in the city.The hotel’s 138 luxurious rooms are some of the largest in Paris, providing elegance, comfort, space and light. The design combines Parisian sophistication, with art deco details and oriental touches. The hotel has worked with the foremost international names in architecture and design. The architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte supervised renovation of the building, facade and patio. Sybille de Margerie imagined the interior design and decoration of the rooms, spa and public spaces, while Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku lent their talent to the bar and restaurants. The hotel’s vast indoor garden of oriental inspiration was created by Wilmotte & Associés, in association with the landscape artists François Neveux and Bernard Rouyer.Dining facilities include two restaurants, a live cooking counter, a bar, Cake Shop and a Garden that offer a variety of settings and moods. Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx, a gourmet restaurant seating 44, is an intimate, light filled haute-couture cocoon. Open all day, Camelia serves authentic cuisine with seating for 70 people and a further 25 in the hotel’s indoor garden; specialties are prepared “live” at the Counter with seating for ten. Bar 8 seats 49 people inside and 25 in the garden. The Cake Shop serves delicious delicacies while the Garden Table welcomes six to eight guests for a unique dining experience.Entirely devoted to well-being and relaxation, the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris offers a holistic experience to promote complete mind-body harmony. At 900 square meters, this is one of the city’s largest hotel spas, offering exclusive Mandarin Oriental signature therapies, including holistic beauty treatments and massages. Open to guests and non-guests, the spa has seven private suites, all equipped for hydrotherapy and heat treatments, a large indoor pool and a fitness centre. Mandarin Oriental, Paris also has elegant facilities incorporating state-of-the-art technology for meetings and private events.www.mandarinoriental.com/paris
In addition to Tuesday’s announcement that a section of Spyros Kyprianou Avenue would be closed until Sunday due to the demolition of a building, which went over schedule, sections of Makarios Avenue will be closed to traffic on Wednesday evening from 5pm to 9pm.Traffic chaos is expected to ensue near the Lycavitos police station as the Maklarios thoroughfare is being closed to facilitate a visit by President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday evening to inaugurate a new citizens centre in the capital.Makarios will be closed from the Stasandrou traffic lights until Hera Street. Also closed will be Ayia Elenis and Gregoris Xenoouilou and Bouboulinas. You May LikeFigLeaf Beta AppGet Maximum Privacy with Minimum EffortFigLeaf Beta AppUndoTotal Battle – Online Strategy GameIf You’re PC User This Strategy Game Is A Must-Have!Total Battle – Online Strategy GameUndoClassmates.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 saysUndoTwo arrested in connection with attempted murderUndoby Taboolaby Taboola
Categories: News,Photos Rep. Mike Callton reads the book “Pouncing Bobcats” to students at St. Peter and Paul School in Ionia.State Rep. Mike Callton is continuing his tradition of reading to local schools in recognition of reading month. For his first visit this year, he added a special twist while reading to students at a school in Ionia County.Callton, R-Nashville, visited St. Peter and Paul School in Ionia on March 4. He read the book “Pouncing Bobcats” by Joelle Riley to students from kindergarten through seventh grade. After finishing the book, Callton announced that the students were so well-behaved that he would be bringing in a special guest – Cosmo the bobcat.Cosmo is owned by Bill Yoder, who runs a traveling zoo out of Clarksville. The children took turns petting the bobcat and got to ask questions of Cosmo’s owner. They learned that while Cosmo is still considered a “kitten” weighing in at 30 lbs., he will grow to be more than 50 lbs. at full size.Rep. Mike Callton gets a hug from Cosmo the bobcat during a reading month appearance at St. Peter and Paul School in Ionia. 05Mar Rep. Callton brings local students’ imaginations to life for reading month A student at St. Peter and Paul School in Ionia pets Cosmo the bobcat. At left is Cosmo’s owner, Bill Yoder. Rep. Mike Callton, center, arranged Cosmo’s visit to the school as part of a “Bring your imagination to life” theme for reading month.Callton says the idea behind Cosmo’s visit surrounds his theme of this year’s reading month: “Bring your imagination to life”. “By reading a book about bobcats and then having one appear, children are able to see how they can use books to learn and experience new things,” Callton said.After leaving each of the students with a Cosmo-themed bookmark that reminds them to read, Callton promised to return next year, possibly with another surprise guest.
Legislation introduced by state Rep. Kurt Heise (R- Plymouth Township) is aimed at stopping Wayne County from selling or transferring ownership of regional sewer systems already paid for by communities.House Bills 4033 and 4082 are in response to a 2014 plan by former Wayne County CEO Robert Ficano and the County Commission to force more than thirty Wayne County communities to ‘buy back’ sewer systems that the communities had already paid through their water and sewer bills, effectively helping to bailout Wayne County.The so-called ‘buyback’ plan was the centerpiece of Ficano’s failed 2014 Deficit Elimination Plan, submitted to the State of Michigan and obtained by Rep. Heise. The buyback plan would have generated $121 million, helping bail the county out of a deficit situation.None of the communities impacted by the plan, including Heise’s communities of Ply- mouth, Northville, and Canton, supported the buyback move.“The scheme, orchestrated by Bob Ficano and approved by the County Commission, would have cost our residents and businesses millions of dollars, and cheated us out of decades of investment,” Heise said. “My bill protects our hardworking taxpayers and makes sure we don’t get blindsided again by the county or anyone else.”Attorneys representing the impacted Wayne County communities were alerted to the plan through filings submitted with the state. They then wrote to the Michigan Department of Treasury stating that the communities never consented to the plan. The communities also outlined multiple legal, policy and contractual objections to the state, including whether Wayne County could claim ownership of the sewer systems in the first place.“As a result of the municipal attorneys’ complaints to the Michigan Department of Treasury, Bob Ficano was informed by the State Treasurer in April 2014 that the buyback scheme was a non-starter, primarily because the communities never consented to it,” said Heise.Heise’s bills would require that any buyback, leaseback or asset transfer of a sewer system by a county, city, drainage district or authority be approved by a simple majority of the communities served by that system, following notice and an opportunity to negotiate the terms and conditions of that sale or transfer.“My bills simply require that Wayne County – or any other governmental sewage provider in Michigan – negotiate in good faith with the customer communities who are paying the bills, and not try to pull one over on us,” Heise added.### Categories: News 03Feb Heise Bills Would Stop Wayne County from Forcing ‘Buyback’ of Local Sewers
Multi-bill package announced in response to recent Nassar scandalState Rep. Diana Farrington unveiled legislation on Monday to increase penalties for possession of child pornography.The bill is part of a 10-bill legislative package to protect Michigan’s children and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, which Farrington helped unveil at a Capitol news conference.“Our most vulnerable citizens need our protection from predators who seek to subject children to terrible, illegal and abusive acts,” said Farrington, of Utica. “There is no reason for anyone to have images or video involving physical and sexual abuse of children.”Under her legislation, the maximum criminal penalty for possession of over 100 images will be 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Repeat offenders also would be subjected to a mandatory five-year prison sentence.The legislative package:Expands the criminal statute of limitations to enable prosecutors to hold offenders accountable;Increases criminal penalties and expands definitions related to the possession of child sexually abusive material;Ends immunity for abusers and enablers of abuse;Preserves anonymity for survivors in civil lawsuits;Expands the civil statute of limitations for survivors;Increases criminal penalties for mandatory reporters, such as coaches and athletic trainers, who fail to report child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse.The legislation is inspired by the recent sexual assault allegations against former physician Larry Nassar, who has been sentenced to up 175 years in federal and state prison for his crimes against more than 200 victims. Also attending Monday’s press conference were several of Nassar’s victims.“We must do better in Michigan to not only protect children from physical and sexual-based abuse, but also material that depicts it,” Farrington said.##### Categories: Farrington News,News 27Feb Rep. Farrington bill to protect children from child pornography
“While I respect her for taking a play out of President Trump’s playbook, unfortunately for our attorney general, her blocking me on social media was just ruled illegal by a U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday. Clearly she can’t take the heat. Maybe she should travel to the Upper Peninsula after she shuts down Line 5 to cool off a bit.” 10Jul Rep. LaFave: Attorney General ‘can’t take the heat’ State Rep. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain today issued the following statement after the Michigan attorney general blocked him on social media. The move comes just one day after a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled it is illegal and in violation of the First Amendment for elected officials nationwide, including the president, to block constituents on social media: Lawmaker issues statement after being blocked on social media Categories: LaFave News
Categories: VanWoerkom News 16Jul Rep. VanWoerkom encourages students to participate in summer reading program State Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores, today reminded area students about the summer reading program hosted by his office and encouraged them to participate.Students first through fifth grade are eligible to participate in the program. To enter, students simply pick up Rep. VanWoerkom’s customized summer bookmark from their local library, read ten books, and record the titles and number of pages read using the online form found at www.RepVanWoerkom.com. Readers must submit their information by August 31 to be eligible to win. One young reader will be rewarded with a trip to Lansing as a “Representative for a Day.”“An early love of reading translates to a lifetime love of learning,” Rep. VanWoerkom said. “By participating in this contest and reading throughout the summer months, students can keep their skills sharp before the next school year.”For more information, you can contact your local library or reach out to Rep. VanWoerkom’s office at (517) 373-3436 or GregVanWoerkom@house.mi.gov.###
Categories: Paquette News 16Jul Rep. Paquette announces office hours for July State Rep. Brad Paquette announced an upcoming opportunity to meet with area residents during local office hours for the month of July.“Having regular office hours are a great way to engage the people I represent,” Rep. Paquette said. “If you have an issue on your mind, please stop by and let me know how I can help.”Rep. Paquette will be available Saturday, July 20 at the following times and locations:11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Nikki’s Café, 126 E. Ferry St. in Berrien Springs; and1 to 2 p.m. at Maple Café, 68867 M-62 in Edwardsburg.No appointments are necessary. Those who are unable to attend at the scheduled times, but would like an opportunity to talk with Rep. Paquette may call his office at (517) 373-1796 or email BradPaquette@house.mi.gov.###
25Jul Representative Ann Bollin awarded fellowship to attend Midwestern leadership institute (Lombard, Ill.) July 24, 2019 — Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township was among 37 select lawmakers chosen to participate in a training program that annually identifies and assists promising state leaders in the Midwest. Rep. Bollin will meet with fellow lawmakers from Michigan and 10 other Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces on August 9-13 in Minneapolis, Minn., for The Council of State Governments’ 25th annual Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD). “The Bowhay Institute is one of the premier leadership training programs in the nation,” says Nebraska Sen. Sara Howard, who serves as co-chair of the institute’s steering committee. “The legislatures in the region have benefited greatly from the skills their members have gained through this unique educational experience. Many of the graduates now hold key leadership positions in their state.”Since 1995, 840 lawmakers have graduated from the Bowhay Institute. State legislators from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin are chosen to participate through a competitive, nonpartisan selection process. Members of the Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan legislative assemblies are selected by their caucuses to take part in the program.BILLD was founded in 1995 to help new legislators meet the demands of increased policy responsibility being shifted to the states and, in many states, term limits and high legislative turnover. These two emerging forces highlight the shortage of training available for legislators — a void that BILLD aims to fill. A program of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Office, the 2019 BILLD program will be held in partnership with the Center for the Study of Governance and Politics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Courses and seminars are conducted by Humphrey faculty, Midwestern legislative leaders and professional development experts. In addition to curriculum designed to develop leadership skills, the program analyzes a variety of public policy issues, including the economy, trade and health care policy.The Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development is named in honor of the late James Bowhay, longtime director of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Office. The program is funded through grants from foundation and corporate sponsors and an in-kind contribution provided by The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Office.Founded in 1933, The Council of State Governments has national headquarters in Lexington, Ky., and regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago (Lombard, Ill.), New York City and Sacramento. The goal of the national, nonpartisan organization is to assist and advance state government by providing research assistance, professional development opportunities, interstate consulting services and educational networking opportunities.### Categories: Bollin News,News
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares April 22, 2014; Lancaster Online (Associated Press)NPQ has written previously about the financial travails and bankruptcy of the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh. The Center, which opened in 2009, cost $40 million, $17.4 million of which was taxpayer money. It was to be a center for African American culture, and is of course named for the famed Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright who grew up in Pittsburgh, drawing from his experience there for his work.As a result, Pittsburgh is invested in having the center survive in the fullest possible sense, but Judith Fitzgerald, a conservator appointed by the court, has, in the estimation of Pittsburgh’s mayor and the county executive, tended to dismiss bids for the center that held the best promise for mission implementation in favor of those that promised more cash. They have now requested that the judge replace that conservator.The request was made after three foundations—the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation—declared that they were withdrawing from the bid process because the conservator seemed so inclined toward a higher bid for the property that persistence would be “futile.”Last week, the conservator wrote in an interim report that a bid from a developer interested in building commercial space atop the building could be “very attractive to the city, the county and the African-American community in Pittsburgh” because the proposed addition could subsidize programing and the developer would offer free gallery, office, and storage space to the center, which would be allowed to use the theater at a nominal fee for at least 120 days a year.The foundations say this arrangement “would apparently give the center only limited access to its own theater and create an arrangement whose eligibility for future charitable funding is questionable at best.” They hold that intent was for the center to be used for its original purpose “as a premier home for African American arts and culture programs.”—Ruth McCambridgeShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share15Tweet16Share3Email34 SharesFrom the Togo Tribune. October 18, 2017; Washington Post (Associated Press), Al Jazeera, and BBC NewsIn past months, the machinery of state military muscle has been deployed murderously against unarmed citizens demanding the end of a 50-year family dynasty in Togo that is currently seeking to consolidate its reign all the way to 2030. Activists are being arrested, school children shot at, and wounded protesters and allies beaten in their homes—some fatally.Gory images of bloody mutilated corpses suffuse cyberspace, proof of the violent orgy being orchestrated by President Faure Gnassingbe. Freedoms of speech and assembly are being blatantly ignored, while the world watches, unmoved and unmoving.This humanitarian catastrophe merits extensive consistent media coverage. But in its absence, citizen journalism has stepped up with members of a civil society coalition, Front Citoyen Togo Debout, defying a prolonged Internet ban to provide live updates on the chaos. While the activism is physically vigorous and persistent, its online persona has suffered the fate of many predecessor movements—the initial swarm of support and anger expressed in the heated pace of active tweets and retweets has given way too soon. Which brings us back to an obvious question: Why is the public outcry on Togo so muted? Fear? Indifference? Political expedience? What does this portend for global attitudes toward remote social injustices?To bring it closer home, where is our regional solidarity—our famed Ubuntu? Why are more Africans not talking about this and acting on it and petitioning their heads of state to take action?This latest episode of Africa’s social uprisings is a sure sign of the potency of cohesive popular resistance to question and discomfit illegitimate regimes. Why else would Togo’s government react so viciously to defenseless dissenters? Heavily armed soldiers patrol deserted streets lined by armored tanks, as though the country were at war. Yet there are no hostile combatants here; the bodies of aggrieved citizens have become the new battlegrounds of the deadly bloodlust that is some leaders’ quest for power at all cost.Has Faure learned nothing from Burkina Faso? From The Gambia? How long will regional body ECOWAS maintain its apathy while its chairperson continues to massacre his people in clear violation of its stated principles?Togo is burning and the world is looking the other way. The resounding silence, punctuated only slightly by minimal sporadic reportage, smacks of complicity. As Niemöller expressed through his famous poem, to choose to do nothing when people are being persecuted is to choose to leave them to their fate. How will history remember this moment?—Titilope F. AjayiShare15Tweet16Share3Email34 Shares
News broadcaster France 24 increased its distribution by 33 million homes last year. The company, which operates English, French and Arabic channels, reached 235 million homes at the end of December.Of that total figure, 183 million households have 24-hour access to at least one of France 24’s channels while 52 million can watch for several hours a day as part of other channels’ schedules.In Europe, France 24 increased its distribution by about 10% last year and currently has a penetration rate of 75% across the continent. In north Africa and the Middle East the broadcaster expanded its distribution by 8% in 2011 and currently has a penetration rate of 98.5% throughout the region. In sub-Saharan Africa, it has a coverage rate of close to 95%.In terms of platforms, 70 million households receive France 24 by free-to-air satellite, 50 million receive the channel as part of a satellite pay TV package, 27 million receive it part of a cable offer, 19 million receive it via IPTV and 17 million receive it directly via free DTT.Frank Melloul, head of strategy and development for France’s external media organisation Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France, said: “France 24 has now achieved optimum distribution in Europe, the Middle East and in Africa. This is a resounding success for a channel that was launched just five years ago. Now we have to expand massively into new zones, in new ways and adapt to the demands of local operators, particularly in Asia and North America. Because of the original perspective it provides within the international news sector, France 24 has real assets to offer on these markets.”
Romanian service provider RCS & RDS is involved in a dispute with commercial broadcaster Antena over retransmission fees.Antena Group has demanded over €7 million a year for the retransmission of its Antena 1 and Antena 3 channels by RCS & RDS, which operates the Digi pay TV service in the country. RCS & RDS said this was the first time in eight years that the broadcaster had asked for money to retransmit its channel and said that, if it paid up it would be forced to raise the price of its subscription service.
Ericsson has agreed to buy Microsoft’s IPTV platform business Mediaroom, in a move the firms described as mutually beneficial from a strategic point of view. With the deal, Ericsson said it would account for more than 25% of the IPTV and multi-screen solutions market, at a time when the global IPTV space is tipped to reach 76 million subscribers this year.Microsoft said the deal would allow it commit 100% of its consumer TV strategy to its Xbox games console, which already acts as a gateway to web-powered video services.Mediaroom powers entertainment services to TV, PC and mobile devices inside and outside the home. Microsoft claims the platform currently powers 22 million set-top boxes deployed in households across EMEA, the Americas and Asia Pacific. Operator partners that use Mediaroom include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Telus and Swisscom.“Mediaroom is the leading platform for video distribution deployed with the world’s largest IPTV operators. This strategic acquisition positions Ericsson as an industry leader thanks to the skills and experiences of the talented people of Mediaroom combined with Ericsson’s end to end service capabilities,” said Per Borgklint, senior VP and head of business unit support solutions at Ericsson.Microsoft’s Mediaroom business is situated in Mountain View, California and employs more than 400 people worldwide. Ericsson plans to incorporate it into its Business Unit Support Solutions business.Yusuf Mehdi, corporate VP of marketing, strategy and business for the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft said: “With the sale of Mediaroom, Microsoft is dedicating all TV resources to Xbox in a continued mission to make it the premium entertainment service that delivers all the games and entertainment consumers want – whether on a console, phone, PC or tablet.”Mehdi added that Microsoft aims to partner with content creators, studios, labels, networks, content aggregators, operators and distributors in order to “deliver the next wave of innovation in games and consumer entertainment.”The deal is expected to close during the second half of 2013 subject to regulatory approval. Reports first emerged claiming that Ericsson was in discussions with Microsoft over the Mediaroom business last month.
News Corp has said it will rename its media arm 21st Century Fox following the split between the group’s publishing and film and TV units.21st Century Fox will replace the previously announced name for the media arm of Fox Group.21st Century Fox will include pay TV channels Fox, FX, FXX, FS1, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports, Fox Sports Network, National Geographic Channels, Fox Pan American Sports, MundoFox and Star; film studio Twentieth Century Fox Film; and television production studios Twentieth Century Fox Television and Shine Group.The company will also comprise pay TV services Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and its equity interests in BSkyB and Tata Sky.“Over the years, we have built a global portfolio of companies that has consistently defied conventional wisdom, and succeeded where others have failed because we are driven by a steadfast belief in great ideas, the power of imagination and the desire to thrill and engage audiences with enduring stories and experiences,” said Rupert Murdoch, who will serve as chairman and CEO of the company. “21st Century Fox is a name that draws upon the rich creative heritage of our film studio, while also speaking to the innovation and dynamism that define all of our global media and entertainment businesses and will guide us into the future.”
David Scott, the outgoing CEO of Digital UK – the non-profit organisation formed to help consumers covert to digital TV – has been awarded a knighthood for “services to digital switchover.”The knighthood was bestowed in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and follows the Digital UK-led the implementation of digital TV switchover from 2008-2012.Scott said: “I am honoured to receive this recognition. It has been a real privilege to lead the wonderful team at Digital UK and I am delighted that we were successful in our aim of ensuring everyone can access the benefits of digital television.”Prior to taking the Digital UK CEO role in 2008, Scott worked at Channel 4 for more than 25 years and held a number of roles, including of director of finance, managing director, and acting chief executive – for which he was awarded a CBE for services to broadcasting in 2006.He announced in May that he is stepping down from Digital UK in the summer, with former director of strategy for Ofcom and Channel 4, Jonathan Thompson, named earlier this month as his successor.Thompson will help to oversee Digital UK’s shift to leading developments on the Freeview platform, taking responsibility for strategy and policy, as well as handling the day-to-day technical management of the electronic programme guide.