Friday, November 29, 2013

Emirates Airline Skywards Reward Ticket Fuel Surcharges

Emirates Airline Skywards Reward Ticket Fuel Surcharges

Issue: Excessive fuel surcharges

Emirates Skywards Passengers Complain of Excessive Fuel Surcharges on Tickets

Lieff Cabraser is investigating complaints that Emirates Airline imposes excessive fuel surcharges when members of its Skywards frequent flyer reward program redeem accrued travel miles for a reward ticket. Emirates Airlines states members may purchase "free" tickets with points through its Skywards rewards program, however, it also imposes significant fuel surcharges on Skywards reward tickets. In certain situations, customers have complained that the cost of their "free" frequent flyer ticket was nearly the same as, or in excess of, advertised fares on the same Emirates Airline routes.

Contact Lieff Cabraser

If you are a Emirates Airline Skywards member and have purchased a rewards ticket in the last several years and have concerns over the fuel surcharges imposed on your reward travel ticket, please use the form below to contact Lieff Cabraser and share your experience with us. There is no charge or obligation for our review of your complaint.

Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi

From VC Star: Police to talk to crane operator at Brazil stadium

Title: Police to talk to crane operator at Brazil stadium

By: The Associated Press


(Sent from VC Star)

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, November 25, 2013

Historical Christ the King monument unveiled in Karachi Dawn 112613

Published 2013-11-25 07:00:00

KARACHI: After being restored to its former glory, the magnificent Christ the King monument at the entrance of the St Patrick's Cathedral and visible even from the far end of Shahrah-i-Iraq, has and will continue to bless the people of Karachi for many more years to come.

The 82-year-old monument was blessed on Sunday, which being the last Sunday of November also happened to be the Feast of Christ the King and the closing of the Year of Faith. Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Apostolic Nuncio to Pakistan, blessed the monument after completion of major restoration work.

The Vatican envoy said, "I pray for each of you, especially those who supported you in the renovation work of the monument to Christ the King and for their families, as well as the elderly people and the children and young people of the Archdiocese.

May this jubilee deepen your faith in God's unconditional and caring love for you and every person. And may it strengthen your hope amid difficulties and renew your commitment to love your neighbours as yourself in active charity and witness to the truth in this beloved land of Pakistan."

The idea of a monument was conceived in 1927 by the Apostleship of Prayer during the Papacy of Pope Pius XI as a manifestation of the love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But it was Fr Vincent Gimenez SJ who became the moving spirit behind the construction plan which was completed in 1931 and blessed and consecrated to the City of Karachi by Monsignor Leo Kierkels CP on Oct 17, 1931.

It was designed by M.X. Andrade and the marble used in its construction was imported from Carrara mines in Italy. The monument includes a crypt under the central alter that can accommodate 100 persons and preserves the replica of the body of St Francis Xavier. When first built it cost Rs81,500.

Unfortunately the rising water table, weather conditions and lack of maintenance over the years contributed to the general wear and tear of the Christ the King monument, which developed cracks as the iron rods in the pillars rusted and swelled.

A meeting was called on Jan 30, 2012 and a steering committee of historians architects, engineers and conservationists was set up to undertake the restoration and preservation project. The NED University of Engineering and Technology's department of architecture and planning was one of the main contributors in the repair work. Restored at a cost of Rs8.5 million, the monument was handed back to the Rector of the Cathedral."The money for restoration by and large was met through donations of the local Catholic community including those settled abroad. The Sindh government also announced a grant of Rs10 million for this purpose," shared Michael Ali, a media spokesman at the blessing of the monument. "The amount leftover is now being turned into an endowment fund the profits from which will be used for the maintenance of the monument," he added.

A volunteer, Joaquim Alvares, was grateful to retired Maj Riaz Shahid Siddiqui whose security firm had been provided free security for every Sunday at the St Patrick's Cathedral and all the other churches in the city since the Peshawar church bomb blast in September.

Meanwhile, the ceremony started with the smart St Patrick's band playing "When the Saints Go Marching" followed by "We Stand for God". Little boys and girls dressed in white led the procession towards the alter. They were the first communicants followed by the alter boys in white and red and the Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Archbishop of Karachi, the Most Rev Joseph Coutts and the rest of the bishops, cardinals and priests. The bishops wore pink caps, the cardinals red. Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, meanwhile, wore a mitre and was also holding a shepherd's staff to signify that he was the shepherd of his people.

The Most Rev Joseph Coutts said that the monument is a shining symbol of ideals that years ago made Karachi a city where people from all corners of the subcontinent lived peacefully together in harmony. "It is very significant that non-Christian professionals gave freely of their time and expertise to work together with Christians to save something beautiful from being ruined. It is the most beautiful example of how we can once again work together to restore and build not only stone structures, but also the harmony that once prevailed in this city."

Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra declared the monument blessed as the Year of Faith also came to an end with the dimming and then switching off of the lights as pigeons and white balloons were freed into the air with the St Patrick's choir singing the hymn "Balundion pe Khuda ki Azmat …" and the cathedral bells ringing. The communion ended with prayers for peace in Pakistan and a spectacular fireworks display.

Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi

Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City NY Times 112613

Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City

Jason Henry for The New York Times

The Changing Mission: San Francisco's technology industry is booming. As housing costs increase some worry that the city's colorful neighborhoods, like the Mission, are at risk of losing their character.

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Published: November 24, 2013 931 Comments
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SAN FRANCISCO — If there was a tipping point, a moment that crystallized the anger building here toward the so-called technorati for driving up housing prices and threatening the city's bohemian identity, it came in response to a diatribe posted online in August by a young Internet entrepreneur.


Readers' Comments

"Why have rent control at all, if a 98-year-old woman can be evicted after living in her rent-controlled apartment for almost 50 years? What's the point?"
dms, NYC

The author, a start-up founder named Peter Shih, listed 10 things he hated about San Francisco. Homeless people, for example. And the "constantly PMSing" weather. And "girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they're 9s."

The backlash was immediate. Fliers appeared on telephone poles calling Mr. Shih a "woman hatin' nerd toucher." CheapAir offered him a free ticket back to New York. Readers responded that what they hated about San Francisco were "entitled" technology workers like him.

Mr. Shih, who said he received death threats after the post, deleted it and apologized.

But a nerve had been struck. As the center of the technology industry has moved north from Silicon Valley to San Francisco and the largess from tech companies has flowed into the city — Twitter's stock offering unleashedan estimated 1,600 new millionaires — income disparities have widened sharply, housing prices have soared and orange construction cranes dot the skyline. The tech workers have, rightly or wrongly, received the blame.

Resentment simmers, at the fleets of Google buses that ferry workers to the company's headquarters in Mountain View and back; the code jockeys who crowd elite coffeehouses, heads buried in their laptops; and the sleek black Uber cars that whisk hipsters from bar to bar. Late last month, two tech millionaires opened the Battery, an invitation-only, $2,400-a-year club in an old factory in the financial district, cars lining up for valet parking.

For critics, such sights are symbols of a city in danger of losing its diversity — one that artists, families and middle-class workers can no longer afford. On the day of Twitter's public offering this month, 150 demonstrators protested outside the company with signs reading "People not profit" and "We're the public, what are you offering?"

More and more longtime residents are being forced out as landlords and speculators race to capitalize on the money stream.

Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a retired accountant, is fighting eviction from the rent-controlled apartment where she has lived for almost half a century. If her new landlords have their way, she will have to move in April, shortly after her 98th birthday, because they want to sell the units.

Her neighborhood has given way around her. The car dealership across the street is now a luxury apartment complex, complete with rooftop herb garden, a butterfly habitat and a Whole Foods.

"I can understand it from an investment standpoint," she said of her landlords' actions. "But I don't think I'd ever be that coldblooded about this."

While the technology boom has bred hostility, it has also brought San Francisco undeniable benefits. Mayor Edwin M. Lee credits the technology sector with helping to pull the city out of the recession, creating jobs and nourishing a thriving economy that is the envy of cash-starved cities across the country.

The industry is "not so much taking over but complementing the job creation we want in the city," Mr. Lee said while giving a tour of middle Market Street to show off its "renaissance" from a seedy skid row to a tech district where Twitter, Square and other companies have made their home.

Yet city officials must grapple with the arithmetic of squeezing more people into the limited space afforded by San Francisco's 49 square miles. And it is the housing shortage that underlies much of the sniping about tech workers.

San Francisco has the least affordable housing in the nation, with just 14 percent of homes accessible to middle-class buyers, said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia. The median rent is also the highest in the country, at $3,250 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

"Affordable housing projects are constructed, and the money set aside for that purpose is used, but the demand is just far greater than what can be supplied," said Fred Brousseau of the city budget and legislative analyst's office. Evictions under a provision of state law that allows landlords to evict rent-controlled tenants if they convert a building for sale have more than tripled in the past three years, just as they did during the first tech boom.

To Yelly Brandon, a 36-year-old hairstylist, and her boyfriend, Anthony Rocco, an archivist, the obstacles to finding housing became clear when they spent two months searching for an apartment. At open houses, they said, they were competing with young tech workers, who offered more than the asking price and cash up front.

"People were just throwing money in the air," Ms. Brandon said.

The influx of wealth is, in turn, changing the tenor of neighborhoods. Fort Mason, a renovated military post on the bay, has been nicknamed "Frat Mason" for the 20-something "tech bros" — tech company salespeople, marketing employees and start-up founders — who have moved into luxury apartments there and play bocce on the great lawn.

Nowhere are the changes starker than in the Mission District, once a working-class Hispanic neighborhood, now a destination for the tech elite.

Evan Williams of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have bought homes near there.

Longtime residents of the Mission District complain that high-end apartments, expensive restaurants and exclusive boutiques are crowding out the bodegas, bookstores and Mexican bars. They complain about workers who, like residents of a bedroom community, board company buses every morning and return every evening to drink and dine on Valencia Street.

And they grumble about less tangible things: an insensitivity in interactions in stores and on the street, or a seeming disregard for neighborhood traditions. The annual Day of the Dead procession, meant to be solemn, has turned into a rowdy affair that many newcomers seem to view as a kind of Mexican Halloween.

"Some of the people in the stores that I knew, they are good people and nice people, and then I see them get evicted and then the people who move in there are not as nice," said Rene Yañez, an artist and founder of Galería de la Raza in the 1970s, who started the procession. Mr. Yañez and his partner, who is battling cancer, are being evicted from the apartment they have occupied for decades.

Evictions are higher in this neighborhood than in any other part of the city.

"They are not only expelling the homeless and the gangbangers," said Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a performance artist. "They are also expelling the performance artists, the poets, the muralists, the activists, the working-class families — all these wonderful urban tribes that made this neighborhood a very special neighborhood for decades."

"One day," he added, "they will wake up to an extremely unbearable ocean of sameness."

Some tech companies are trying to give back. Salesforce has donated millions of dollars to the public schools, and Twitter, which declined to comment on its effect on the city, is providing lawyers to help fight evictions, under an agreement with the city in exchange for tax breaks.

But the onus, many people say, is really on the city government.

"There has to be some kind of public support to make sure you don't just have a city of the very wealthy, but people to make the city run," said Kevin Starr, professor of history and policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California.

"You can't have a city of just rich people," he said. "A city needs restaurant workers, a city needs schoolteachers, a city needs taxi drivers."

Mr. Lee says he has a strong commitment to affordable housing — he pointed to theHousing Trust Fund, which will provide $1.5 billion in affordable housing over the next 30 years — and to preserving the character of San Francisco's neighborhoods.

Wholesale evictions, he said, are "not good for the city."

He conceded, "We have to figure some things out."

For his part, Mr. Shih said the response to his post was a lesson he will not soon forget. He has augmented his work on Airbrite, the company he and a colleague started, with volunteering at homeless shelters.

"What I did was wrong," he said. "I feel like the changes the tech scene has made to San Francisco have made people very angry, and I was caught in the cross-fire."

Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Talk and Review: A Country of Cities A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America by Vishaan Chakrabarti

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Talk and Review: A Country of Cities

A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America by Vishaan Chakrabarti
Metropolis Books, 2013
Hardcover, 252 pages

On Monday, Vishaan Chakrabarti gave a book talk at the Center for Architecture on A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, published by Metropolis Books. The SHoP Architects partner and Columbia University professor presented the major arguments from the self-described manifesto, accompanied by illustrations from the book. Those in the full-house crowd left with a fairly good understanding of what Chakrabarti envisions for America: dense urban environments served by local and regional rail infrastructure. The basic treatise of the book is "it's all about density," based on the assertion that environmental sustainability and economic opportunities are greater in cities.

[Photo courtesy of Center for Architecture]

For a city dweller, like me, who won't need much convincing that cities are better (healthier, more diverse, more interesting) places than suburbs, the book's value lies in how it convinces others of urban benefits and what it proposes for shifting the focus of American development, infrastructure, and subsidies from the sprawling suburbs and exurbs to compact cities. Attempts at convincing can be found in how Chakrabarti writes the book: "economics, environmentalism, joy; all under one umbrella that laypeople can understand" (to paraphrase what he said in the book talk). The accessibility of the text can be found in now only how he writes, but in what he references to help people understand his position.

Most memorable is a discussion of an episode of Bob the Builder, which pits Bob and his 1-house-per-4-acre plan against an architect's city of towers for Sunflower Valley. Bob's winning scheme says a lot about what Chakrabarti calls the "American Scheme," in which the "American Dream" of opportunity has been replaced by that of home ownership and inefficient land use. Another way that the book is geared toward laypeople is through the illustrations. These are quantitative visualizations in most cases, yet many of the diagrams are more polemical (the sprawl-vs-city illustration below is a good example)—all of them do a good job of paralleling the text and explaining often complex concepts.

[Photo via Design Observer]

So what does Chakrabarti propose for enabling the shift from what he calls a country of "highways, houses, and hedges" to one of "trains, towers, and trees"? Following from his desire to make things understandable to a wide audience, he gives one of his proposals an acronym, ASIA (American Smart Infrastructure Act). (The irony of referring to the continent that is fast becoming the world's largest polluter is not lost on Chakrabarti, especially considering they are the most innovative corner of the globe when it comes to infrastructure.) His basic proposal reorients the subsidies that now are funneled into the suburbs so they serve cities.

In order to achieve the magic density of 30 dwelling units per acre (what he considers the baseline for sustaining a subway), cities require decent public transportation, which in turn require subsidies; they also need affordable housing, not mortgage interest deductions for single-family houses. These are big ideas and bigger plans that require substantial political and economic muscle to implement. It's understandable that one reviewer interprets the book by the architect/academic/one-time developer/former director of city planning as "the groundwork for another career switch, into New York City politics."

Speaking of NYC, underlying the whole book is the notion that the city, Chakrabarti's home, is the model for an American "country of cities." This arises from the numerous examples used throughout the book (many by SHoP Architects, like Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the East River Esplanade near the South Street Seaport) and the way many of the ideas seem rooted in the city's built environment and infrastructure. As someone who also lives in NYC—in Queens, rather than Manhattan—I can appreciate the positive qualities of the city, but I also find the massive inequalities and catering to the rich to be characteristics of the current NYC not worth replicating.

That said, the core of Chakrabarti's book—that "hyper-dense" cities are environmentally sustainable, rich in economic opportunity, and full of joy—and the way he explains how to "make a good city" are general lessons that need to be told. Through his accessible text and illustrations the arguments for density go down easy and convincingly—good medicine for a sustainable and equitable future. 

A Country of Cities: Building Hyperdensity and Civic Delight: Places: Design Observer

A Country of Cities: Building Hyperdensity and Civic Delight: Places: Design Observer:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Revelation Reveals About Disasters + Humans Are Disrupting the Climate

What Revelation Reveals About Disasters

Craig R. Koester

Craig R. Koester, the Asher O. and Carrie Nasby professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary, is the author of, among other books, "Revelation and the End of All Things."

UPDATED NOVEMBER 18, 2013, 7:46 PM

Even among believers who take an apocalyptic worldview, the connection between God and disasters is complex and controversial.

There are certain forms of apocalyptic thinking that assume disasters are acts of divine judgment against a sinful humanity. Those who take this view may point to scenes in Revelation, which picture divine wrath falling on an unrepentant world. That idea helps "make sense" of devastation by asserting that it is not random, and that God is ultimately just and in control. The problem, of course, is that many of us cannot see that the people hardest hit by a disaster are somehow more sinful than all the other people, who are not affected.

In disasters, some believers see the wrath of an angry God. But a careful reading of the Book of Revelation complicates that thinking.

A second type of apocalyptic thinking is inspired by a more careful reading of an apocalyptic text like Revelation. We find that it portrays some disasters occurring because of the evil powers that are ultimately opposed to God. Revelation refers to such powers as the destroyers of the earth. In some scenes in the book, these powers work through the political and economic structures of society to oppress the innocent. In other scenes, the powers of destruction operate through war, famine and disease. At points, the book envisions such disasters striking the world in what appears to be an indiscriminate way.

This second perspective is often linked to the idea that disasters are not necessarily caused by God, but they occur by divine permission. That may seem like small comfort, but for some people the point is important. Saying that God "allowed" disaster to happen stops short of making God the perpetrator. This approach leaves many questions unanswered, but it enables those who hold it to affirm that God is in control and that events do not occur at random.

There is, however, a third way to approach the question of disasters in light of apocalyptic texts. It begins with the recognition that a book like Revelation really does not offer a comprehensive explanation for disasters. The book pictures a complex world in which the forces of God and evil are at work, and given the complexity, one cannot tell what "caused" the devastation.

Moreover, the God pictured in Revelation is the creator of all things, whose will is ultimately for life and new creation. Therefore, the book calls readers to place their allegiance on the side of the creator, and to persevere in that commitment in the face of the forces that threaten life. Rather than attempting to explain devastation, this kind of apocalyptic thinking focuses on how people are to respond to devastation — whatever its cause — by asking where God's goal of giving life might be worked out.

Humans Are Disrupting the Climate

Lucas F. Johnston

Lucas F. Johnston, an assistant professor of religion and environmental studies at Wake Forest University, is the author of "Religion and Sustainability: Social Movements and the Politics of the Environment."

UPDATED NOVEMBER 18, 2013, 7:46 PM

Severe weather is becoming increasingly frequent and intense, and that's happening for a reason. So it matters whether we think of God or humans as being responsible. We cannot conclusively link individual weather events to human disruption of the climate, but we do believe that human activity is the main force behind climate change and that climate change will lead to more "super storms" like Haiyan and Sandy.

Other trends in human activity add to the toll of such storms. For the first time,more people live in cities than in rural areas, and a majority of the most heavily populated cities are in vulnerable coastal areas. It is a double catastrophe: More and more humans are affected by these increasingly severe and frequent storms – as well as earthquakes and tsunamis.

Most 'natural' disasters can be traced to human activity and should not be written off as unforeseeable, unstoppable 'acts of God.'

An international consensus of scientists said six years ago that the current rate of climate change is "very likely" attributable to human activity. The correlation (though not causation) between changing climate and severe weather events is obvious, and although last year the United Nations recognized a safe, clean, healthy environment as a human right, no meaningful international action has been taken to address global climate disruption.

The U.N. and other international organizations have repeatedly pointed out that it is the world's poor who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate disruption. The recent typhoon Haiyan — one of the strongest storms ever recorded — is a tragic example of the humanitarian, not to mention ecological, challenges we face globally. In fact, many of the world's armed conflicts that are portrayed as ethnic or political conflicts are primarily about access to resources. And "climate refugees" alone are likely to number 200 million by 2050.

Certainly not all disasters are traceable to human activity. But many are – including disasters that tend to be written off as "acts of nature" or "acts of God." We could do a better job of predicting climate change and subsequent conflicts, and in mitigating humanitarian disasters, perhaps making some headway toward the new U.N. mandate on the human right to a healthy environment. The first steps would be to stop blaming human-caused disasters on God, and to start taking responsibility for making the world a better place.

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Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi