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PolWorld, Author at POLSKA УКРАЇНА

Las Vegas Tourism Sees Changes in Aftermath of Shooting

Las Vegas’ tourism sector is bracing for changes in the aftermath of the massacre that killed 58 people at an outdoor music festival.

 

Analysts who closely track the finances of the city’s casino companies say Las Vegas will see a short-term dip in visitors in response to the shooting.

 

Casinos and police may have to impose new security measures after gunman Stephen Paddock brought more than 20 rifles into his hotel room and drove a car filled with explosives into the parking garage.

 

The “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” slogan has been put on hold, as has one unveiled in the weeks before the shooting by the owner of Mandalay Bay that said, “We are not in the hotel business … we are in the holy s— business.”

 

Electronic billboards that typically promote restaurants, concerts, a topless pool and other entertainment are now showing a dedicated phone line for victims and their families, along with words of appreciation for first responders and casino employees.

 

“We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now,” reads a black-and-white billboard message with the city skyline and “#VegasStrong.”

 

It’s hard to quantify the effect the shooting will have on Las Vegas tourism. Airplanes still carry loads of tourists to the desert oasis, convention-goers fill large halls to discuss the latest industry trends, and slot machines ring in the casinos.

But stock prices of the main Las Vegas casino companies all took a minor tumble after the shooting, in an indication the attack will have some effect on the industry. Analysts with investment bank Morgan Stanley forecast the shooting will decrease demand for the Las Vegas market for about six months and have a 4 percent to 6 percent economic effect.

 

The analysts looked into the effect of terrorist attacks on “revenue per available room,” a key gauge of a lodging company’s performance, across different markets to measure the shooting’s potential impact. The report said not all markets are alike, but the effects on tourism of events such as the Orlando, Florida, nightclub attack have gradually become less pronounced and shorter.

On October 1, Paddock, a 64-year-old professional video poker player, shattered windows of his hotel suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel casino and unleashed withering gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival below before killing himself. His vehicle was found at the hotel’s massive parking garage with a potentially deadly cargo of 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 90 pounds of chemical explosives.

 

In the days after the shooting, visitors found marked police SUVs parked outside their hotels along the Strip. Security employees of the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore casino-resorts used hand-held metal detectors to check bags. Guards asked some visitors to pop their trunks.

 

But those measures have since been scaled back. A tour of several major resorts found no apparent new security measures other than guards checking room keys at Mandalay Bay.

 

Business as usual, hotels say

Mandalay Bay’s parent company, MGM Resorts International, owns more than a dozen properties, including casinos, convention space and arenas on the Las Vegas Strip. Spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement the company has elevated its level of security, but she declined to provide details.

 

Las Vegas hotel operators must make their guests feel valued and comfortable in the aftermath of the shooting, said Michael McCall, Michigan State University professor of hospitality business. He suggested resorts offer room upgrades or discounted tickets to customers as tokens of appreciation.

 

But he said many casinos and hotels will tread lightly when it comes to airport-style security in a city where people want to let loose.

“You don’t want it to become a sort of ground zero military-type of operation,” McCall said. “People are going there largely for fun.”

 

MGM declined to comment on any hotel room or convention cancellations. Caesars said its properties haven’t received out-of-norm room cancellations, and no conventions were called off.

 

Last week, the National Business Aviation Association convention drew around 27,000 people to Las Vegas. IMEX America, an expo for incentive travel, meetings and events, brought 12,000 attendees.

 

Luis Barros visited Las Vegas for the aviation conference. While sitting at an airport slot machine, he said he never considered canceling his trip after the shooting and had no concerns about his safety.

 

“I figured this is probably going to be one of the safest places after what just happened,” the Dallas resident said. “I think I’m more concerned about the somber feeling, but as far as security-wise, no, not at all.”

 

The shooting has altered at least one event. Organizers of the GEICO Rock`n Roll Marathon scheduled for November will no longer start the annual race outside Mandalay Bay or hold the pre-race concert at the venue where the shooting took place.

 

Las Vegas last year welcomed 42.9 million visitors and hosted almost 22,000 conventions. On average, 95 percent of the 149,339 rooms available were booked during weekends. Clark County recorded gambling revenue of $9.7 billion.

 

For the time being, the fierce competition for those dollars is not on display.

 

“There’s going to be a time when we go back to promoting Las Vegas as the greatest destination in the world, but that’s not now,” said the city’s top tourism official, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter. “We need to take care of this, we need to take care of our customers, we need to take care of the community itself, and that’s what we will be doing.”

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California Wildfires Spreading

Wildfires in the U.S. state of California’s famed wine country are spreading after a week of the worst blazes the state has ever seen.

The death toll rose to at least 40 on Saturday, with at least 16 fires burning. One side of the fire zone stretched for 160 square kilometers, destroying some 5,700 homes and businesses. Some 100,000 people have evacuated their homes. But some have stayed behind.

“It was wind driven. Wind driven is basically powerful winds started pushing and intensifies the fire,” said Captain Jimmy Bernal of the Rancho Fire District.

The flames have crept into the town of Sonoma, a name synonymous with the California wine industry, forcing 400 households in the city of 11,000 to evacuate.

“And the biggest thing is we have lost way too many people on this fire. The intensity of the fire was incredible. I think we are at 36 people lost and there are some multiple unaccounted for. The potential for more fatalities is huge, which is very, very sad,” Bernal said.

The nearby town of Santa Rosa also saw mass evacuations. Santa Rosa was put under mandatory evacuation as wildfires continued to burn across a wide area north of the San Francisco Bay.

Fire officials ordered residents of the communities of Skyhawk, Mountain Hawk as well as parts of Rincon Valley to evacuate their homes.

The strong, dry Santa Ana winds that blow down from the mountains every late summer and early fall are creating conditions that make the fires spread easily. Some gust to 64 kilometers per hour, pushing the flames over fire breaks dug by firefighters.

More than 9,000 people — many of them exhausted — are fighting the California wildfires, both local fire personnel and thousands of volunteers, who have poured into the area over the last few days.

The firefighters have come from other parts of California, and as far away as Australia.

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In Africa, LGBT Rights Activists Worry About Trump impact

Gay rights activist Joseph Achille Tiedjou is worried every day that he will be harassed or arrested in Cameroon.

 

Defending LGBT rights can be dangerous in Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality. But in recent years activists have stepped out of the shadows, empowered by the support of the Obama administration and the international community.

 

Now many fear the Trump administration will undermine those gains, and that their exposure could make them more vulnerable if support fades.

 

“I have so many worries with the new administration,” the 32-year-old Tiedjou said, pointing out Trump’s ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. “Obama was known to be very engaged. Hillary Clinton was a champion of LGBT rights and made many guarantees in addressing these issues specifically.”

 

Obama’s administration made LGBT rights a major domestic and foreign policy, though some in Africa saw it as pushing “Western ideals.” The Obama administration also created a special envoy position on LGBT rights. The Trump administration has said it will keep the post, but concerns remain.

 

 

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Minority Residents, Massachusetts City Head to Federal Court

In May, 13 Asian and Hispanic residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, filed a voting rights lawsuit against the city government, alleging the at-large electoral system, in which the winner takes all, dilutes the minority vote and discriminates against the candidates from community of color running for office.

The plaintiffs asked the federal court to rule that the city’s electoral system “violates Section 2 the Voting Rights Act” and for “the adoption of at least one district-based seat.”

The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday before the U.S. District Court in Boston. Lowell’s City Council filed a motion to dismiss in its first response to the residents’ lawsuit on Sept. 15.

At the Tuesday hearing, the judge will decide whether to allow the suit to move forward. If it does, Lowell will be going to trial against some of its residents.

“We’re not surprised” by the city’s response, said Oren Sellstrom, litigation director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

Lowell prides itself as being a diverse city, but “it remains to be seen” whether the city wants to “reflect diversity in the hall of power,” Sellstrom said.

City officials said they could not discuss the lawsuit because the issue is still in executive session.

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in August 1965 is considered one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the United States.

The Lowell citizens’ lawsuit is based on the section of that law that specifically prohibits state and local governments from using voting systems that result in discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities.

This is important in Lowell because altogether the minority populations of the former mill town come close — 49.2 percent — to being the majority. Of the minority population, Asian-Americans form the largest minority group, about 21 percent, a cohort that includes more than 30,000 Cambodians.

Since 1999, only four Asian and Hispanic candidates have been elected to the Lowell City Council, which is currently all white. No non-white candidates have ever been elected to the school committee, Lowell’s version of a school board.

Changes possible

No matter how the judge decides, the City Council will be looking at the possibility of changing the city’s form of government, which includes the voting system. There have been two public discussion sessions on the issue since August.

“It is better for us and the citizen to have a district representation with a combination of at-large councilor, and it is better for the public to elect the mayor,” said James Leary, a city councilor and one of the three councilors leading the ad hoc subcommittee on the charter review that was formed in June.

In the next few months, after organizing several public sessions across the city, the committee is expected to make recommendations to the City Council on changing or keeping the current form of government.

After reviewing the committee’s recommendation, the City Council will make a decision on which direction to take. Before anything changes in Lowell, though, residents will be faced with a ballot measure in November 2018 using the current system.

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Hundreds Attend Service for Victim of Las Vegas Shooting

Hundreds of people have gathered to remember a 42-year-old Massachusetts woman who was among the 58 people killed in the mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival.

The service for Rhonda LeRocque was held Saturday in the auditorium of Tewksbury Memorial High School.

WBZ-TV reports that the Tewksbury woman was remembered as a “fireball” and loving woman with a deep faith.

A wake was held on Friday afternoon at the Nicholas Funeral Parlor in Wilmington.

LeRocque’s mother, Priscilla Champagne, says her daughter was at the concert with her husband, Jason, their 6-year-old daughter and her father-in law.

The daughter and father-in-law left the event before the shots were fired.

Champagne says LeRocque’s husband was next to her when she was shot.

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Kerry on Trump Nuclear Deal: ‘Reckless Abandonment of Facts’

John Kerry, the former U.S. Secretary of State, had harsh criticism for President Donald Trump’s decision not to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal signed by six world powers in 2015.  

Kerry said the decision is a “reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology.” Kerry, who negotiated the deal, added that Trump “weakens our hand, alienates us from our allies, empowers Iranian hardliners, makes it harder to resolve North Korea and risks moving us closer to military conflict.”

Iran’s president said Friday the nuclear deal it signed with six world powers in 2015 could not be revoked.   

In a nationally televised speech following Trump’s remarks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged all signatories to the agreement to honor their commitments. He called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “an outstanding achievement” in international diplomacy and said Iran would continue to comply with it.

 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal. But if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions” Rouhani said.

 

The Iranian leader also hit back at Trump’s characterization of Iran as a “dictatorship” and “rogue regime,” calling the American president a “liar” and a “dictator.”

 

“Today the U.S. is more isolated than ever against the nuclear deal, isolated than any other time in its plots against [the] people of Iran,” Rouhani said.

He rejected Trump’s remarks listing Tehran’s support for international terrorism, calling the examples “baseless accusations” and adding that the “Iranian nation does not expect anything else from you.”

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. House, said the president’s decision was “a grave mistake” that threatens U.S. security and credibility.  

She said Trump ignored “the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own Cabinet, including, reportedly, his secretary of defense and secretary of state.”

EU reaction

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the Iran agreement “has shown for the first time that it is possible to prevent war by negotiations and, above all, to prevent a country from arming itself with nuclear weapons.” Gabriel added, ” We need such examples, for example, to convince countries like North Korea , but perhaps also others, that it is possible to create security without obtaining nuclear weapons.”  

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said, “It is not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort.  She said, ” The president of the United States has many powers (but) not this one.”

 

She noted the multilateral agreement was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

 

The EU foreign policy chief noted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified eight times that Iran is meeting all its nuclear-related commitments in line with the “comprehensive and strict” monitoring system.

 

IAEA Director Yukiya Amano released a statement, saying Iran is already subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime and is implementing the deal’s requirements.

In a joint statement British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they are concerned by the possible implications of Trump’s decision not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal.

 

“Preserving the JCPOA is in our shared national security interest. The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step toward ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program was not diverted for military purposes,” the European leaders said in the statement.

Sees opportunity

Asked if he was confident he could get the Europeans to renegotiate the Iran deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday he thinks there is a real opportunity to address all the threats that are posed by Iran.

“I fully expect that our allies and friends in Europe and in the region are going to be very supportive in efforts undertaken to deal with Iran’s threats,” Tillerson told reporters.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is committed to supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Ahead of Trump’s remarks, the Kremlin warned that if the United States abandons the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran would be likely to quit it as well. Russia is a signatory to the JCPOA, along with the United States, Iran, Britain, Germany and France.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also voiced support for the Iran nuclear deal Friday.

“China’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue has been consistent. The JCPOA has played a key role in upholding international nuclear non-proliferation regime and the peace and stability of the Middle East region,” she said. “We hope that all relevant parties will continue to uphold and implement the JCPOA.”

Praise for Trump’s tough stance on Iran came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who released a video statement.

 

“I congratulate President Trump for his courageous decision today. He boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime,” Netanyahu said.  The Israeli leader has long been one of the deal’s fiercest opponents.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also expressed their strong support for Trump’s shift in policy toward Iran.

The Saudi Press Agency said Riyadh praised Trump’s “vision” and commitment to work with U.S. allies in the region in order to face common challenges, particularly “Iran’s aggressive policies and actions.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he backs Trump’s decision, describing the Obama administration deal as “fatally flawed.”

Nobel winner

 

But the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, strongly criticized Trump’s decision.

 

The group’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said Trump’s “attempt to disrupt” the Iran deal, despite Tehran’s compliance, is a reminder of the “immense nuclear danger now facing the world” and the  “urgent need” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

 

“In a time with great global tension, with increasing threats of nuclear war, the U.S. president is igniting new conflict rather than working to reduce the risk of nuclear war,” Fihn said.

 

 

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