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Forbes Travel Guide Reveals Its 2019 Star Award Winners

Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors scoured the globe to discover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas for our 2019 Star Award winners.

Credit: Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi AnForbes Travel Guide’s inspectors scoured the globe to discover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas for our 2019 Star Award winners.For the 61st annual list, we expanded to new destinations, including Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize, Danang, Doha, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, the Swiss Alps, Tel Aviv and Uruguay. The result is our biggest and most diverse group of honorees yet.To find the top luxury experiences, our inspectors checked into a hotel for a minimum of two nights and posed as ordinary guests. Once there, they tested up to 900 objective, exacting standards that covered everything from whether a staff member greets you curbside within 30 seconds of pulling up in a car to whether housekeeping arranges toiletries on top of high-quality underliners on the counter.
The ratings emphasize graciousness, thoughtfulness and personalized service: 75 percent of a hotel’s score is based on its level of service, while 25 percent is determined by the quality of its facilities (for more on how a hotel earns a rating, click here).See the full list of Star-Rated properties here.
Below are some highlights from this year’s esteemed winners:Fairmont Pacific Rim. Credit: FRHI Hotels ResortsHotelsThe Peninsula Hotels emerged as the biggest winner it’s the first all Five-Star hotel company in Forbes Travel Guide history.The Peninsula Manila earned its inaugural Five-Star award, giving the Hong Kong-based brand a total of 10 top-rated hotels.Another brand with a stellar year was Bulgari Hotels Resorts, which claimed a trifecta of Five-Star honors for Bulgari Hotel Beijing; Bulgari Hotel Residences, London; and Bulgari Resort Bali.
This marks the first Five-Star wins for the company synonymous with the luxurious Roman jeweler.Elsewhere around the globe, countries seized their first Five-Star hotel distinction.
Among them were Malaysia’s Crockfords at Resorts World Genting, a secret spot whose luxurious rooms are mostly reserved for high rollers at the nearby casino; Portugal’s Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, an icon whose outdoor rooftop track affords one of the best views of the city; South Korea’s The Shilla Seoul, a historic property outfitted with the latest technology from owner Samsung; Turkey’s Raffles Istanbul, which boasts an unbeatable location in Zorlu Center mall amid high-end shops, restaurants and an Eataly; and Vietnam’s Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, a dreamy beach escape with three tiers of infinity pools and breezy villas.Other newcomers to the list include three hotels in the British capital: The Langham, London, whose experimental Artesian bar is a destination unto itself; Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, London, which makes a triumphant comeback after a June 2018 fire; and Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London, which resides in one of the city’s most-recognized buildings, the hulking Renzo Piano-designed Shard.Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Credit: Four Seasons Hotels LimitedPlus, Five-Star awards went to Fairmont Pacific Rim, a sleek Vancouver spot offering Coal Harbour vistas and the see-and-be-seen restaurant Botanist; Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, the 1909 grande dame that had a major facelift in 2017; and Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, where each of the bright, modern rooms comes with views of the glittering gulf.
And there are two new Five-Star standouts in the United States. On the tiny 141-square-mile Hawaiian isle of Lanai, Four Seasons Resort Lanai offers the exclusivity of a private island alongside amenities like an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course (Bill Gates got married at the stunning 12th hole overlooking crashing waves).Salamander Resort Spa, an elegant equestrian-themed countryside getaway outside of D.C.was inspired by the home of Sheila C. Johnson, founder of the Salamander Hotels Resorts group and co-founder of BET.The final tally was 21 new Five-Star, 49 new Four-Star and 62 new Recommended hotels.

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US, Russia and Blackwater mercenaries plot different futures for Afghanistan

It would be fanciful to imagine an America-free Afghanistan in the foreseeable future, writes Saeed Naqvi. Two parallel peace processes on Afghanistan are underway.
In Doha, Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan has held extensive round of talks with Taleban leaders, spread over several days last month.
The authorship of this process is, quite jealously, America’s. But on February 5 and 6, Taliban and other Afghan political groups also met in Moscow.
A roadmap for the future, titled the Moscow Declaration was announced. Among its nine points is one which also suggests coordination with the Doha process – there is no jealous guarding of ownership of the peace process here.
Anyone interested in peace is the joint author. The declaration was immediately rubbished by the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
“Moscow declaration will not have impact on the peace process in Afghanistan” said palace spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri.I have Russian estimates of five years ago.
They may have changed, but in those days the Russians were convinced of 30 US bases in Afghanistan.Of these, the ones at Bagram, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand (Herat) and Mazar-e-Sharif were, by the sheer volume of masonry and architecture, not temporary.
These bases will remain. Are we then talking about a qualified departure?If the US is actually planning departure, why would it build a consulate in the heart of Mazar-e-Sharif on a scale which would dwarf large embassies? Renaissance is the only reasonable hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif.
It does not take long for great powers to develop more than one point of interest once they have entered an area of strategic significance. It would therefore be fanciful to imagine an America-free Afghanistan in the foreseeable future.
“All this blood and treasure was spent for what?” some Americans will ask. Also the chant in Kabul once was “We must remain in the vicinity to keep a watch on the world’s only Muslim nuclear state.
”After Obama announced on December 1, 2009 the US intention to leave Afghanistan in July 2011, I had argued in a paper for the Observer Research Foundation that Americans can simply not leave Afghanistan. I have been proven right so far.
And now once again the “We are leaving” story has been let loose. True, this time the circumstances are different, but let us take a look.
Last July, Zalmay Khalilzad and Morgulov Igor Vladimirovich, Russia’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, (who was behind the scenes in the intra-Afghan dialogue in Moscow on February 5 and 6) attend a high power meet in New Delhi on regional issues.In a more cooperative world order, one would have expected the representatives of the US and Russia to exchange notes on Afghanistan.
What transpired was to the contrary. Vladimirovich made an allegation that startled the gathering.
“ISIS fighters were being flown to Northern Afghanistan from Syria” was the claim. The Afghan air space is under the control of the US and the government in Kabul.
“So, who is responsible?” Khalilzad offered a tepid denial. The denial lacked credibility because the Russian allegation had been preceded by another made by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatullah Khomenei.
In the course of his Friday address on January 30, 2018. Khomenei said, “The US transfer of IS terrorists to Afghanistan is aimed at creating a justification for its continued presence in the region.
”In countries surrounding Afghanistan, doubts about American intentions may be more muted but are just as strong. It is deeply ironical that Jihadism, terrorism and Islamism manufactured in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 80s, may be returning to complete the circle.
Indeed, there is a certain inevitability about Islamic militancy becoming a tool of American foreign policy. The triangular romance between Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will ensure this state of affairs for as long as this romance lasts.
Let me explain the inevitability. When animal rights groups forced the famous annual fox hunt to stop in South India’s most Anglaise hill station Ooty, I expressed my curiosity to the master of the hunt: “What have you done to the hundreds of hounds of high pedigree trained diligently for the hunt?” The lovely canines had been transferred to an expensive kennel from where dog lovers could acquire them.
So now we know what to do with redundant foxhounds of high pedigree? What does a state like Saudi Arabia do with spare Islamic militants who have been heavily equipped and trained to kill at the cost of billions? They can only be relocated to newer theatres of conflict like Afghanistan. From here they can plague all the countries the US wishes to destabilize – Xinxiang in China, the Caucasus in Russia, Iran and Pakistan, too, if it does not behave according to the US diktat.
To make the confusion worse, Erik Prince, founder of the world’s biggest mercenary military company, which has mutated from Blackwater to Academi and Triple Canopy, is back in Afghanistan floating the idea of US troops to be replaced by Prince’s mercenary army. His plan that Afghanistan be administered by a “viceroy” was shot down by National Security Adviser H.
R. McMaster and Defence Secretary James Mattis.
After the two were shown the door, Prince has been all over Afghanistan again in and Khalilzad’s notice. The only person who has refused to meet him in Kabul is President Ghani.
The writer is a journalist based in IndiaTags:Analysis Saeed Naqvi Related PostsMemoryMagic Latch February 15, 2019News AnalysisA Gnarled Oak with a Broken Heart February 15, 2019Next Post Can everyone have health insurance in Pakistan? Leave a Reply Cancel replyThis site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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Ex-Mossad Chief Secretly Visited Saudi Arabia in 2014 – Israeli Channel 13

The former leader of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad visited Saudi Arabia in secret in 2014, in an effort to rally support against Iranian influence, Israel’s Channel 13 News revealed on Tuesday evening.The dispatch is the latest to come from a report on covert efforts between Israel and the Gulf countries to normalise security and diplomatic ties over recent years, as Tel Aviv presses for open ties with its Gulf allies at a Middle East summit in Warsaw today.
The report revealed that the then-chief of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, made a behind-the-scenes visit to the Saudi capital where he met with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, King Abdullah’s special envoy to discuss the Iranian issue shortly after the nuclear deal was signed between Iran and the major powers, bringing to end the sanctions that had crippled the Islamic Republic for decades.The meeting was unprecedented due to the fact that until that point, Saudi officials had only met with Israeli officials in a third country, refusing to host them themselves.The report, quoting unidentified Western diplomats, said that by the end of 2013, following the signing of the interim nuclear deal, there was a major breakthrough in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.The report comes as Netanyahu suggested at an anti-Iran summit in Warsaw on Wednesday that he would make public Israel’s covert normalisation of ties with many Gulf states.With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, who have signed treaties with Israel, no other Arab state has official direct relations with Tel Aviv. However a series of under-the-table deals and alliances are gradually being unearthed.
The ultra-conservative kingdom, concerned about international rapprochement with its regional nemesis, reportedly decided to ally with Israel, who is equally opposed to any move that will enable the strengthening of Iranian influence.Israel and Iran consider each other their primary enemy, while Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the wider region.Bandar bin Sultan is believed to have developed the sharing of Saudi and Israeli intelligence during his tenure as director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, before he became King Abdullah’s envoy and adviser.These ties have accelerated since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince and de facto ruler, as he has also been developing an anti-Iranian front to include Hizballah and Lebanon.
Channel 13’s report also reveals how a Saudi proposal to lead peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians amid the 2014 Gaza War was rejected by Netanyahu, to the Saudis’ bitter dismay.The report comes as the Saudi monarch reaffirmed his support for a future Palestinian state.Meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, King Salman said his country “permanently stands by Palestine and its people’s right to an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital”, reported the official Saudi Press Agency.The pledge comes as the United States is expected to offer hints of its proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference on Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland.

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Massive crowds mark 40th anniversary of Iran revolution

TEHRAN (AFP)  Iran s president on Monday insisted “enemy” plots against the country would fail as vast crowds marked 40 years since the Islamic revolution at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.

The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran,means that the enemy will never reach its evil objectives, a defiant President Hassan Rouhani told those thronging Tehran s Azadi (Freedom) Square, decrying a conspiracy involving Washington.Chador-clad women, militia members in camouflage fatigues and ordinary citizens marched through the capital in freezing rain to commemorate the day in February 1979 that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ended millennia of royal rule.The routes leading up to the square were packed with people as loudspeakers blared revolutionary anthems and slogans.Life-size replicas of Iranian-made cruise and ballistic missiles stood in a statement of defiance after the US last year reimposed sanctions following its withdrawal from a deal on Tehran s nuclear programme.

Rouhani lambasted calls from the United States and Europe for a fresh agreement to curb Iran s missile programme.We have not, and will not, request permission from anyone for increasing our defensive power and for building all kinds of missiles, he told the crowd.Speaking from a flower-festooned stage overlooking the square, the president warned that Iran was now far stronger than when it faced off against Saddam Hussein s Iraq in a devastating 1980-1988 war.
Today the whole world should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerably more powerful than the days of the war, Rouhani said.Seemingly reaching out to his political critics within the country, the president added: The more we allow different ideas, beliefs and (political) factions the stronger our system will be.A pre-prepared resolution was read out ahead of his speech that proclaimed unquestioning obedience to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and called US President Donald Trump an idiot.In a tweet written on the anniversary that he also sent out in Farsi, Trump said the revolution had been a complete failure. 40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure, he wrote.The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future, the American president added.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran that this year could be the last time it celebrates the anniversary if it attacks his country.

If this regime makes the awful mistake of trying to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa, it will not succeed, he said. However, this would be the last anniversary of the revolution that they celebrate.The events Monday were the culmination of official celebrations called the 10 Day Dawn that marks the period between February 1, 1979 and February 11 when Shiite cleric Khomeini retuned from exile and ousted the shah s last government.The state has played up this year s anniversary as 40 is symbolic of maturity in the Islamic tradition and the age at which Prophet Mohammed received revelations from God.But despite the official festivities today s Islamic republic faces acute economic challenges as it struggles with a mix of domestic hardships and US sanctions.State television offered blanket coverage of the commemorations, showing marches in cities ranging from Abadan in southwestern Iran to Mashhad in the northeast.

Banners held by marchers or hung along the streets bore slogans including Death to America, Death to Israel, we will trample on America, forty yeas of challenge, forty years of US defeats.A number of Israeli and American flags were set on fire by the crowds.An anchor on state television warned of hostile foreign media trying to downsize the participation of Iranians in the march but expressed confidence that they would be confounded by the unprecedented level of attendance.Those who took to the streets were bullish despite the economic problems in the country, made worse by Washington s punitive measures.
Former public servant Saaghi insisted that it remained paramount for Iranians to stick by the revolution.We are here to support the revolution, the 57-year-old pensioner, who refused to give his first name, told AFP at the event in Tehran.He compared the US sanctions and economic hardships to riding a bicycle when someone puts a stick in the wheels but pointed to advances in other fields as more than making up for them.On the revolution s 40th anniversary we are at the top for scientific achievements like nanotechnology or accurate missiles, he said.Cleric Hossein Firouzi told AFP Iran s revolution had achieved everything it set out to in terms of military power, political identity and scientific achievements.Iran has changed from a backwards nation to a world power, said the 50-year-old.

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