Ballon d’Or 2015: Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Lionel Messi named on final three-man shortlist

first_imgBarcelona duo Lionel Messi and Neymar and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo have been shortlisted for the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or award.The prize is the most prestigious individual player award in the game and the three were chosen from a longer list of 23 names which also included Wales and Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.The winner will be revealed at a gala ceremony in Zurich on January 11.Ronaldo has won four Ballon d’Or awards, including for the past two years.Messi also has four, which came consecutively from 2009 to 2012.The Argentina forward helped Barcelona win the treble last season, and is odds-on favourite to make it Ballon d’Or number five in 2016.Ronaldo certainly feels no reason to expect an upset.“To be honest I think Messi is going to win this year because this kind of trophy, it depends on votes,” the former Manchester United forward said earlier this month.“You win competitions, you win the Champions League you win the league in terms of individual. I did probably the best season of my career which is good and I was the highest scorer in Europe [but] it’s all about votes.“It is difficult and to be honest I am not very worried about that because as I said many times, I never thought I would win three times to be honest.”At 23, Neymar is the youngest of the finalists.The Brazil forward netted twice as Barcelona beat Real Sociedad in the Premiera Division on Saturday, and afterwards spoke of his pride at being included among the contenders.“I have never played football to be the best player in the world, or to win the Ballon d’Or. I’ve always just played with the idea of continually getting better, to always surpass my goals, to always be better, play better, train better,” he said.“To be the best in the world is the direct result of all of this work. If today I am being spoken of in such terms, it is a clear sign that what I am doing is working.” Messi and Neymar have a great relationship 1last_img read more

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New Medicare drug benefits are falling short for some

first_imgWASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of federal audits has found. The problems, described in 91 audit reports reviewed by The New York Times, include improper termination of coverage for people with HIV and AIDS, huge backlogs of claims and complaints, and a failure to answer telephone calls from consumers, doctors and drugstores. Medicare officials have required insurance companies of all sizes to fix the violations by adopting “corrective action plans.” Since March, Medicare has imposed fines of more than $770,000 on 11 companies for marketing violations and failure to provide timely notice to beneficiaries about changes in costs and benefits. The companies include three of the largest participants in the Medicare market, UnitedHealth, Humana and WellPoint. “The Medicare drug benefit is saving seniors an average of $1,200 a year,” said Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services. Medicare officials said the audits also showed that insurers would be held accountable. “The start-up period is over,” said Kerry N. Weems, the new acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “I am simply not going to tolerate marketing abuses.” The same insurance companies that offer stand-alone drug plans also sell Medicare Advantage plans, which provide a full range of benefits including coverage of doctor’s visits and hospital care. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has increased sharply, to more than 7.7 million, from 4.7 million in 2003. Federal auditors found the same types of violations in both parts of the program. Of the audits conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, 39 focused on drug benefits, 44 focused on managed care plans and eight examined other types of private plans. Medicare officials said compliance problems occurred most often in two areas: marketing and the handling of appeals and grievances related to the quality of care. Many of the marketing abuses occurred in sales of the fastest-growing type of Medicare Advantage product, known as private fee-for-service plans. In June, the government announced that seven of the leading companies in this market, including UnitedHealth, Humana and Coventry, had agreed to suspend marketing of these plans. Medicare recently allowed them to resume marketing after they took steps to monitor their sales agents more closely. Each Medicare plan has a list of preferred drugs, known as a formulary. Under federal law, patients can request coverage of other drugs that may be medically necessary. But many insurers do not have procedures to handle such requests, auditors said. John H. Wells, the compliance officer at Bravo Health, defended the company’s record, but he said: “The appeals and grievance process is very complex. It is very difficult for any plan to be fully compliant. In many cases, the government’s guidance is unclear, so it’s impossible for a business to know what to do.” These findings were typical of the deficiencies described in Medicare audit reports: UnitedHealth, which serves more than 6 million Medicare beneficiaries, did not have an “effective program” to supervise its marketing representatives, agents and brokers. In some cases, United improperly denied claims without giving any explanation to beneficiaries. Peter L. Ashkenaz, a company spokesman, said, “We terminated a few agents and brokers for misrepresenting our products.” WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest insurers, had “a backlog of approximately 354,000 claims” at certain Medicare plans offered through its UniCare subsidiary. The company’s call center took an average of 27 minutes to answer phone calls from members and 16 minutes to answer calls from health care providers. More than half the callers hung up before speaking to a representative. Karen Brown, a spokeswoman for WellPoint, had no immediate comment. In March, Sierra Health Services ended drug coverage for more than 2,300 Medicare beneficiaries with HIV/AIDS, saying they had not paid their premiums. In many cases, the premiums had been paid, and beneficiaries had canceled checks to prove it. Sierra initially refused to reinstate them but eventually agreed to do so after repeated requests from federal officials. Peter O’Neill, a vice president of Sierra, said this particular drug plan, which attracted people with very high drug costs, would not be offered in 2008. Humana, which covers more than 4.5 million people on Medicare, promised to investigate every complaint about its marketing practices, but it received so many complaints it could not keep up. Many beneficiaries said they had received incorrect information from Humana agents. Medicare officials said some agents had not been adequately trained or supervised. Thomas T. Noland Jr., a senior vice president of Humana, said the company had taken “corrective action to improve the situation.” Humana did not always tell beneficiaries about changes in its list of covered drugs. In some cases, Humana did not explain its reasons for denying claims and did not inform beneficiaries of their appeal rights. The Sterling Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of the Aon Corp., did not pay claims correctly or handle appeals in a timely way. The company has “a demonstrated pattern of failure” to meet Medicare performance standards. Problems were compounded by a rapid growth in enrollment. Sterling said it had taken steps to improve compliance. Two sponsors of popular Medicare drug plans, MemberHealth and Bravo Health, did not act on requests for coverage of specific drugs within 72 hours, as required by the government. Bravo did not comply with federal rules requiring doctors to review all claims denied for a “lack of medical necessity.” D. Alan Scantland, senior vice president of MemberHealth, a subsidiary of the Universal American Financial Corp., said, “We don’t believe that we were compromising any beneficiaries’ health because of what we were doing or not doing.” Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he had “verified countless stories of deceptive sales practices by insurance agents who prey upon the elderly and disabled to sell them expensive and inappropriate private Medicare plans.” Kathleen Healey, a lawyer at the Alabama Department of Senior Services, said: “Despite the prohibition of door-to-door marketing, agents arrive on residents’ doorsteps stating that the president sent them, or that they represent Medicare. Some telemarketers insist they are calling from Medicare, and they tell beneficiaries that they will lose their Medicare if they do not sign up for the telemarketer’s plan.” Medicare has taken “vigorous action” to halt marketing violations, said Abby L. Block, a Medicare official.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityThe audits document widespread violations of patients’ rights and consumer protection standards. Some violations could directly affect the health of patients – for example, by delaying access to urgently needed medications. In July, Medicare terminated its contract with a private plan in Florida after finding that it posed an “imminent and serious threat” to its 11,000 members. In other cases, where auditors criticized a company’s “policies and procedures,” the effects on patients were not clear. The audits show the growing pains that Medicare has experienced as it introduced the popular new drug benefit and shifted more responsibility to private health plans. For years, Democrats have complained about efforts to “privatize Medicare,” and they are likely to cite the findings as evidence that private insurers cannot be trusted to care for the sickest, most vulnerable Medicare recipients. But federal officials point with pride to their efforts to police the Medicare market, and they say that competition among private plans has been a boon to beneficiaries, offering more choices at lower cost than anyone expected. last_img read more

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Rezoning worries businesses

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre An area at the intersection of Rosemead and Slauson Avenue would also be changed, from Commercial Manufacturing to Commercial Planned Development. City officials said the changes are meant to provide more openness between developers and community members. “This is not redevelopment,” Community Development Director Jeff Brauckmann said. “This is not eminent domain. This isn’t going to take anybody’s property away. It’s to have a more visible process and a more open process.” Brauckmann said that current businesses would be “grandfathered in,” and would remain in their current condition despite zoning changes. However, the changes would affect any new construction in the areas. According to Brauckmann, the properties are being rezoned because of the many inquiries about the fate of a lot at the corner of Rosemead and Beverly, where the vacant Big Lots building stands. PICO RIVERA – A move to rezone portions of Pico Rivera along Rosemead Boulevard would give the city more control over development in the area, and tenants and developers are wondering if the zoning change would hurt business. The changes, proposed by the City Council last week, must be reviewed by the Planning Commission and receive final approval from the City Council. On Tuesday, the Pico Rivera Community for Truth in Politics (PR-CTIP) distributed fliers to business owners warning them of the change. “Make no mistake!” the fliers read. “The rezoning of your property to `planned development’ is the first step in eminent domain!” The changes would take an area around the Rosemead and Beverly Boulevard intersection from a Commercial General designation to Commercial Planned Development. The new developers would be required to present their plans and obtain a permit, with conditions from the city about what can be built. Fred Wasson of Agoura Realty and Management, the group in escrow to purchase the property from the Berger Foundation, said he did not know about plans to change zoning. “Let us look into it and find more about it,” Wasson said. “Call back in a month or two.” According to Wasson, Agoura plans to use the existing Big Lots building on the property for a new tenant. Wasson said he had no further comment until more was known. Alan Hanagata, owner of Flo’s Flower Shop, was evicted from the location where his business had operated for more than 40 years. He said their move to a location in a nearby shopping complex is almost complete. Hanagata said Wasson told him and his wife that they had to leave by mid-November, but has learned that their building will stand empty until next year. “(The Berger Foundation) told me he had no business telling me I had to leave so soon, and that if we wanted to, we could have stayed through the Christmas holiday,” Hanagata said. Brauckmann said the city has had no contact with Agoura Realty and Management, Inc., but has been in touch with another developer interested in the other property to be rezoned. The property at Rosemead and Slauson is being acquired by Capital Holding Group, according to spokeswoman Mojgan Golcheh. The group has purchased 43,000 square feet of land at that corner and is in the process of adding another 26,000 square feet, Golcheh said. Now the area is occupied by mechanic shops, a single-family home and vacant lots. The change in zoning would streamline the group’s plans to evict the month-to-month tenants there and bring in a shopping center, Golcheh said. “We are going to generate sales tax and hire employees and that itself will bring more income into the city, rather than having a junky single-family house or junky tenants,” Golcheh said. Golcheh said she expects to see the shopping center installed in one to two years. The rezone may also have consequences for one local businessman, whose property is split between the proposed rezoning and an area which will not change. Lou Hernandez, who owns Mark’s Autobody near the intersection of Rosemead and Beverly, said he has been trying for years to get the back portion of his property rezoned, from residential to commercial. It was left out of the proposed area to be rezoned, but Hernandez said he would like to see the back portion of the lot, unusable now as residential land, changed to make business more profitable. “They need to change the zoning, because I am paying a helluva lot of taxes on land that I can’t even use,” Hernandez said. Council members discussed Hernandez and his business at last week’s council meeting, but ultimately decided not to include the second half of the land and wait to hear recommendations from the Planning Commission. Brauckmann said he expects the zoning change will be successful for most of the proposed property, once the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to the City Council and the change is approved. “I’m fairly optimistic that we will be going down a different path than what’s there now,” Brauckmann said. airan.scruby@sgvn.com (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img
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Manchester United fans boo as Louis van Gaal addresses Old Trafford crowd

first_imgLouis van Gaal was booed by a number of Manchester United fans as the under-fire manager thanked them for their “unconditional support”.A topsy-turvy campaign ended with a 3-1 win at home to Bournemouth on Tuesday, with Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young scoring before Chris Smalling turned in a late Max Gradel effort.That was too little, too late for many fans, with under-fire Van Gaal booed by portions of the crowd when addressing the fans after the game.“I want to thank you for the unconditional support of you,” he said.“Whenever we have played, however the things have gone on the field, you never let us down.“Thank you for that and we want to bring the FA Cup home. You deserve it. Thank you.”Many applauded at the end of Van Gaal’s address, but Bournemouth fans goaded him with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning”.Fresh speculation linking Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to the Old Trafford helm emerged before the match.Asked by Sky Sports if he understood the booing fans, Van Gaal said: “Of course, but the expectation is very high. The fans expect a lot, these expectations are too high. We are a team in transition.” 1 Louis van Gaal was jeered by fans, hours after fresh speculation emerged linking Jose Mourinho to the Old Trafford hotseat last_img read more

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Joint inquiry launched into CIA tapes

first_img“I understand that your office has already reviewed the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the videotapes, as well as the existence of any pending relevant investigations or other preservation obligations at the time the destruction occurred. As a first step in our inquiry, I ask that you provide us the substance of that review at the meeting,” Wainstein wrote. The White House had no immediate comment on the decision. On Friday, presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said the White House would support Attorney General Michael Mukasey if he decided to investigate. Angry congressional Democrats had demanded the Justice Department investigate. Some accused the CIA of a cover-up. The man now at the center of the storm is Jose Rodriguez, who retired as head of the CIA’s clandestine directorate of operations in August 2007 but will leave the agency at the end of the year. Rodriguez decided the tapes should be destroyed, one former and one current intelligence official told The Associated Press. A career spy, Rodriguez was promoted to the job by then-CIA Director Porter Goss. Goss learned of the tapes’ destruction “a couple of days” after it happened, a government official familiar with the events said. The official said Goss did not order an investigation or inform Congress. Goss was upset by the tapes’ destruction but did not take any action because the decision was within Rodriguez’s authority, a former intelligence official told the AP. The CIA’s spy service has broad latitude to take actions to protect operational security. “Though Goss believed this was a bad judgment it falls within prerogatives of the directorate of operations,” said the former official, who like other current and former officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. The tapes were destroyed shortly after The Washington Post in late 2005 revealed the existence of secret overseas prisons, which angered the cooperating governments. Another intelligence official said Rodriguez was concerned the tapes would leak and the interrogators seen in the tapes would be targeted by al-Qaida. “Rodriguez felt he had good reasons to deep-six the tapes. They had people’s faces on them. It’s not like a name getting out,” the official said. The Justice Department and CIA inspector general inquiry is expected to focus on whether Rodriguez had the inherent authority to destroy the tapes.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “This administration cannot be trusted to police itself,” Reyes said. The Senate Intelligence committee is also investigating. Hayden told agency employees Thursday that the recordings were destroyed out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. He said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for interrogators using new, harsh methods authorized by President Bush as a way to break down the defenses of recalcitrant prisoners. The CIA’s acting general counsel, John Rizzo, is preserving all remaining records related to the videotapes and their destruction, according to Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general. Justice Department officials, lawyers from the CIA general counsel’s office and the CIA inspector general will meet early this coming week to begin the preliminary inquiry, Wainstein wrote Rizzo on Saturday. WASHINGTON – The Justice Department and the CIA’s internal watchdog announced Saturday a joint inquiry into the spy agency’s destruction of videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists as the latest scandal to rock U.S. intelligence gathered steam. The review will determine whether a full investigation is warranted. “I welcome this inquiry and the CIA will cooperate fully,” CIA Director Mike Hayden said in a statement. “I welcome it as an opportunity to address questions that have arisen over the destruction back in 2005 of videotapes.” The House Intelligence Committee is launching its own inquiry next week. It will investigate not only why the tapes were destroyed and Congress was not notified, but also the interrogation methods that “if released, had the potential to do such grave damage to the United States of America,” said Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, on Saturday. last_img read more

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Gift ideas to keep your wheels happy

first_imgYour wheels are your second-biggest investment, next to your home or apartment, and the major mode of transportation for most of us. So with just nine shopping days left till Christmas, don’t forget your car – or your car lover – when shopping for gifts. Here are a number of suggestions – from the practical to the indulgent, the sensible to the sumptuous – as well as places to find them. Get schooled in driving No matter how stylish your ride, you can’t go anywhere without the keys. The Loc8tor is designed to help you track any item you don’t want to lose – keys, cell phones, pets and even kids. You apply a small sensor to any item, and the Loc8tor tracks it within a 100-yard radius. The original Loc8tor is about $100 and includes the handheld device and two homing tags. The Loc8tor Plus is $170 and includes the device, three homing tags and one panic tag. loc8tor.com; sharperimage.com; amazon.com Gear up in fashion World Class Motoring sells auto-related apparel and collectibles and everything else in between. If that special someone on your shopping list is a fan of the USC Trojans, UCLA Bruins or the Cal Bears, there’s a Sunlite Car Cover adorned with the school logo for about $300. The retailer also sells licensed Team Shelby Jackets, an upgraded version of those worn by the Shelby racing team, priced from $200. Matching Shelby driving shoes are $100. You can also splurge on Zeyner briefcases starting at about $350 or a leather Zeyner Backfire Motorcycle backpack for $460. World Class Motoring, 5076 Chesebro Road, Agoura; worldclassmotoring.com Buying on a budget For those on a budget, here’s a trio of practical offerings from www.cleantools. The Absorber ($8 to $13 at retailers) is a lightweight, durable drying towel that’s safe for even the most precious paint surface. The cloth is machine washable, and it won’t leave lint on the car or abrade its wax layer. The Glosser is a pack with five disposable microfiber towels that are filled with car-washing and polishing formulas and also sell for $6.95 at retailers nationwide. Think of the movie “The Karate Kid” when using this product and just wipe on, wipe off. Your car should have a nice shine, and you probably won’t break a sweat. These are small enough to stow under the seat or in the glove box. The Dash Gear cleaning towel is designed for instrument panels and electronics. It’s made of an ultra-fine microfiber that lifts dust, dirt and grime without scratching surfaces or requiring liquid cleaners. It retails for $6 to $13. cleantools.net For the Porsche fanatic If you know a Porsche fanantic – and there are plenty of them out there – Clewett Engineering in Manhattan Beach makes shopping a little easier. The online store specializes in hard-to-find parts that can add more spunk to older models of these already-spunky cars. Pure Power oil filters, which retail for about $200, are cleanable and reusable, and the UEGO 2000 Wide Band Oxygen Sensor, at $500, is popular among racing enthusiasts. A little less pricey are spark-plug wire sets, which start at slightly less than $150. clewett.com Site helps if still looking If you are really stumped, gifts.com has a slew of gift ideas in every price range for the auto enthusiast. They range from silly, a Darth Vader dashboard hula toy for $10, to the practical, a Garage Shop Pro Vac for $175 that makes cleaning up a little easier. And you can always buy the motorhead on your list his or her own personalized garage sign. That will set you back just $70. gifts.com greg.wilcox@dailynews.com 818-713-3743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! That certain someone on your gift list has a really hot car, and you want to make sure the driver knows how to handle all that horsepower – especially if you go on frequent ride-alongs. A gift certificate for a driving course at Danny McKeever’s FastLane driving school at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, might be just the ticket. It could prevent one, too. McKeever’s Defensive Driving Academy costs $395, and you get to drive your own hot rod. If you want to shift into a higher price range, sign up for the popular High Performance Driving Course. Participants get to drive a Toyota Celica GT coupe, so they need to be able to work a manual transmission. Classes range from one to three days and from $775 to $2,300. raceschool.com Never lose keys again last_img read more

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Legislators trying to keep snouts in the public trough

first_imgHERE at the height of the winter holiday season, it’s easy as can be to spot people seeking generous gifts for themselves. For Californians contemplating the Feb. 5 primary election and the fast-approaching start of early absentee voting, there are 42 very obvious gift-seekers. These are the 18 state senators and 24 Assembly members who provided many of the Legislature’s votes for creating the early presidential primary and now are pushing voters to give them another four or six years in office. For make no mistake, this is what the early February vote is really about. Yes, the early date will probably give California far more voice than it’s had for decades in choosing the presidential nominees of both major parties. But for the people who set this up, Proposition 93 is the real point of the earliest-ever California balloting. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champIt’s about Fabian Nu ez wanting six more years as Assembly speaker and Don Perata wishing for four more years at the helm of the state Senate. And many of their legislative minions also wanting to keep their snouts in the public trough. As it now stands, both will be termed out at the end of next year, along with about one-third of their fellow lawmakers. Nu ez, with only six total years of service, could conceivably run for a state Senate seat if one opens up, but none seems about to in his area. Perata’s Sacramento career would simply be finished a year from now. Both would lose all the lucrative campaign contributions they spread around to colleagues to ensure support when leadership positions come up for new votes. Both would lose the opportunity to take luxurious lobbyist-funded trips abroad. Imagine, no more $5,000 wine-buying excursions in Bordeaux, France, for poor Fabian. No Louis Vuitton luggage bought with campaign dollars. So these guys and their colleagues created Proposition 93, which would limit service in the Legislature to 12 years, two less than the current limit of 14, but would allow that service all to be conducted in one house or the other, ending the present six-year Assembly limit and the eight-year maximum in the Senate. Plus, everyone now serving would be able to keep running for re-election until they reach that magic 12-year mark in one house or the other. Altogether, 42 present legislators could get extensions under this measure, to be decided a convenient month or so before the filing deadline for the June primary election for state offices. Does anyone still wonder why the Legislature decided to have two primaries, rather than one, as has sufficed in all prior election years? One slight snafu: Because of the same ineptitude that creeps into so much of its work, the current crop of legislators wrote Proposition 93 so that legislators who were previously termed out can probably run again – so long as they didn’t switch houses and serve the full 14-year maximum. Oops, that wasn’t what the incumbents wanted – some of them might actually get unexpected primary election challenges. The current lawmakers say it ain’t so, claiming ex-members of their club are excluded. But virtually every other lawyer reading their measure says that’s wrong. The courts will eventually have to decide this one, but it seems likely Proposition 93 might provide at least a little less safety than the incumbents intended. Still, any law that favors a small class over all others is a bad law. Yes, it makes sense to let lawmakers concentrate their service in one place and make better use of acquired experience. But no, it makes no sense to give a few men and women a free gift, just because they want it. In short, Proposition 93 is unjust because it would give Perata and those in his situation more time in office than others who have gone before or anyone who might come after. It’s discrimination against anyone who doesn’t belong to a small and exclusive class that simply wants to keep slurping money, privilege and power. Which means voters should decide to give themselves a gift after the holiday season and reject this most self-serving of propositions. Thomas D. Elias is a writer living in Southern California. Write to him by e-mail at tdelias@aol.com.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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RADISSON BLU LETTERKENNY – THE PERFECT VENUE FOR CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS

first_imgPromoted postThe Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny features spacious conference facilities which can accommodate up to 600 delegates. With a large dividable ballroom, prefunction area and 5 additional meeting rooms, Location:Radisson Blu make Conferences & Meetings easy with free business-dedicated wireless internet, AV equipment, ample free parking, and a dedicated Meeting and Events team on hand to assist.Meeting Rooms:All meeting rooms are complimented with Wi-Fi, natural daylight & projection equipment. Whether you are organising a small meeting or large conference, the Radisson Blu Letterkenny has complimentary inclusions as standard. Radisson Blu is conveniently situated in the town centre, with Main Street only a 5 minute walk away. Perfectly located for travelling guests – Donegal & Derry Airports are only a 40 minute drive away.Hotel Facilities:The hotel has received an AA Rosette in Culinary Excellence and offers a choice of eateries including TriBeCa Restaurant, Port Bar & Grill and the relaxing Palm Lounge. Choose to stay the night in one of the well-appointed 114 bedrooms, including Business Rooms and Suite. Relax & unwind after a full day in the Health Club including gymnasium, sauna, steam room, and indoor swimming pool.Contact: For Meeting & Event booking enquiries, or further information – contact Meetings & Events on +35374 919 4444 or by visiting our website here https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-letterkenny/meetings RADISSON BLU LETTERKENNY – THE PERFECT VENUE FOR CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS was last modified: March 8th, 2016 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:conferencesdonegalmeetingsRadisson blu Letterkennylast_img read more

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A JOURNEY OF HOPE – MY 55 YEAR SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER

first_imgA Journey of Hope and Heartbreak…..from Cork to Donegal and beyond, …my 55 year search to find my Mother. Written by donegaldaily.com reader John O’DonnellIn her late teens, terrified, friendless and five months’ pregnant , my mother Mary Cotter  stood  at the entrance of an imposing grey building that was to be her home for the next  ten months . It was a dark miserable day in November 1955 and this was to be a defining day in the life of a young girl from Inchegella Co Cork.The year was 1955  and this  building was  The Sacred Heart Convent in Bessborough  Co. Cork, a home for unwed mothers and their babies. In a Catholic ridden Ireland where the Church ruled supreme, to get pregnant outside of marriage was a major scandal both for the girl involved and for her family. The solution  usually was for the girl to ‘disappear’ for a time, have the baby in a ‘mother and baby ‘home ,  have the baby adopted and hopefully forget this sorry episode in her life.But life does’nt work that way !My mother’s own mother died when she was 9 years old and she would have undertaken the task of a mother at this tender age in a household of two brothers and her father.  Without a mother’s guiding hand and advice she would have grown up a vulnerable teenager and I can only assume an innocent in the ways of the world.Her time spent in Bessborough was hard and relentless.   Life was tough enough in the 50’s but in this prison of sorts life must have been unbearable.  Each day of toil and despair and worry about the future.  ‘What will become of my baby?  Where will I go when I leave this place?  Life  will never be the same no matter where I go .  You can’t escape from the memories of a small baby snatched from a mother’s arms and perhaps sent to the other side of the world to be adopted.    Will I be able to find forgetfulness  and make a new beginning , if such a thing exists’ The girls were expected to do all the manual work in the house and help on the farm despite being in advanced states of pregnancy.  Compassion was in short supply in this place of ‘shelter’.  The Sisters of Charity ran the place with an iron fist, you were here  to pay for your sins .  No concessions to backache or tiredness, each weary day followed another  until the  time arrived for your baby to be born.Girls had to pull the grass on the front lawn tuft by tuft and place in a large pocket in an apron which she wore , lay paths with tar and stones , hammering the tar into potholes with the back of a shovel,   work incessantly in a hot laundry,  scrub floors even whilst suffering labour pains    amongst other backbreaking tasks on the adjoining farm.     Labour was usually long and hard and pain relief was non existant .  ‘You’re paying for your 5 minutes of fun’  Sister would say .   By placing a light in a window a  midwife would be summoned  to the home , this was her signal to attend a birth.  Aftercare was scant , no sanitary care was provided , you coped  the best way you could.  I was born on the 3rd of April 1956 and my mother named me John Sylvester Cotter.  My life had begun!How it pains me to think how she must have suffered alone and friendless in this souless place .Did she lie awake at night pondering what the future would hold for her in an uncaring world , her baby taken away regardless of her wishes?A payment of £100 was required to be paid by the family of the unfortunate girl for her upkeep and care and if this amount was’nt paid she would have to stay for 3 years in order to pay off this debt to the Order of Charity. This was a very considerable amount of money , the equivalent of a few thousand euros in todays currency so it must be assumed that most of the girls stayed for the 3 years.However, in my particular case my Uncle Sylvester  duly paid the £100 and  so my mother left and immediately went to England where she met a  man called Joe  Moran from Galway and very shortly afterwards they got married. I was by now 5 months old and ready to be adopted.  An advertisement was placed in a National paper  seeking a  good home for a ‘beautiful baby boy’ .  When I see ads in todays publications looking for good homes for dogs and cats I cant help but  compare  myself to them and feel such a sense of sadness tinged with  a degree of anger .   There were many replies to the ad and in the words of my uncle Sylvester ‘ My adoptive mother  and father in Donegal was selected as they appeared to be the most suitable’At this time , many babies were ‘exported ‘ to be adopted by families in  America , leaving from Shannon Airport in the charge of a nurse. This could have so easily have been me. Would my life have been a lot different if I was sent to America I have often asked myself.This was not to be and my destiny was to go to live in Churchill, in Donegal  a small village about 9 miles from Letterkenny.I arrived to Donegal in September 1956 and into the loving home of   Dan and Sarah   O’Donnell and their son Patrick who was 13 years old at this time.  So often I have heard the tale  from him of his arrival home from St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny on the day of my arrival   and hearing the crying of a baby.  There was great excitement in  the house…my parents had a new little baby to care for and their son the novelty of a brother! I was accompanied on the journey from Cork by my uncle Sylvester Cotter and an female  whose   identity  so far I have been unable to discover, perhaps a relative or maybe a nurse.  In later years when my mother was willing to talk about that day she described the man as very tall  and his companion at one stage referred to him as ‘Syl’.  He gave her £11 which was to be used for the purchase of a pram and all the paraphernalia that a small baby requires.I cried a lot in those early days, according to my brother. After all I was 6 months by now and would have been able to recognize strange faces and places . Eventually I settled and spent my early years in a very happy and loving home.  My father was blind for most of his life but this in no way hampered his daily life  and his activities on the farm.   My early years at school were on the most part happy except for a degree of bullying . I was referred to as a ‘basket case’  and other unpleasant names by  some children on account of my adopted status . Many’s a time I got a  beating as well but I was a feisty wee fellow and stood my ground as best I could.My perfect little world was to change dramatically and tragically when I was 9 years old  when I was sexually abused and raped by a  male member of the local choir and another man who lived in his house. This abuse lasted until I was 15 years old and had  most traumatic  and devastating effect on my life.  In fact it has haunted me for all of my life and has been responsible for the many twists and turns so far in my life.I turned 13 and began attending St Eunan’s College as a boarder .  I had to produce my Birth Cert to gain admittance and for the first time I discovered a lot more about my  birth and subsequent adoption. My mother’s name was  Mary Cotter from Inchageela in Co Cork   .For the first time  I began taking a serious interest in my past and birth family.I was older and wiser by now and I knew what had been done to me by my abusers was very wrong . Carrying around such a vile secret was beginning to take it’s toll on me .  I felt violated ,angry …could’nt  trust people.   Not being able to carry this secret for any longer, when I reached 17 I decided to report the abuse  at my local Garda Station. However, the reception I received there was far from encouraging and certainly not what I expected from a guardian of the law.    When I tried to explain what had happened to me , I was slapped across the face by a guard and kicked out the door.  ‘How dare you tarnish the reputation of an upstanding member of the community’ I was told in no uncertain terms  and thrown out the door.  Hurt , humiliated and angry I left . This appalling treatment  meted out to me by an upholder of the Law only made me  more determined to find justice ,however this was  to be a long way in the future and a story for another dayAnother devastating event in my life occurred a year later when I was in  involved in a  serious car accident in which a 17mths toddler war killed.  To this day I am haunted by the memory of thisEventually, I left Donegal and headed for Dublin where I was employed in various jobs .I married and settled down and began rearing my family.  When my father died in octomber 1979, I made a decision to return to Donegal and help my mother with the farm as she was living on her own  by now . I would occasionally ask my mother for details about my adoption  but answers were vague and the subject was taboo .    For now  and not wanting to hurt my mother’s feelings ,I put it to the back of my mind,     Life intervened ,  I was busy raising a family and providing for them.  But the question of my birth and my blood family was never far from my mind .  I tried to push it to the back of my mind but questions kept going round and round in my head. I desperately needed to find out about my birth family ,if my mother was still alive and where she was .    Maybe I had siblings and who might my father be?  So many questions and so few answers.Finally, in 1996, I set the ball rolling and commenced searching.  On the 29th May 1996 I contacted Barnados in Dublin who in turn referred me to The Sacred Heart Adoption Society in Cork. They advised me to contact a Sr Sarto.   as matter of interest, it has been alleged in recent times that Sr Sarto has withheld files on adoptees from the authorities.   I contacted her by phone and her immediate reaction was for me to forward £20 to enable her to conduct a search.  I was surprised and somewhat annoyed by this request  on a matter of principle but I complied with her request.  After a time a letter arrived from Sr Sarto stating that she had visited a family in Co cork who supplied her with the address of my mother who was  now living in England.  She did not say who this family might be but I suspect it was my mother’s homeplace.  This was great news and I awaited with trepidation what the outcome of this might be.  Three months later a letter arrived from Sr. Sarto . It contained a single sheet of notepaper….Basildon Bond  lined blue notepaper….and written on were the eight words which caused my heart to drop‘Please do not contact again.  Signed Mary Moran’    Hurt , bewildered and feeling rejected I stared at those eight words for hours and tried to see some other meaning behind these stark words.  Did she really mean them, was she protecting her own family from a secret that lay hidden for years ?  Perhaps her husband knew nothing of this  traumatic episode in her life  I could only guess at their true meaning!   But there was also a degree of comfort there , however strange this may sound…this was written by my mother’s hand and was my first tangible contact with her.  Initially, this was a dreadful blow but on reflection after the pangs of disappointment had subsided  I realized this was  the very  first acknowledgment that my mother was alive and for whatever reason did not wish to meet me . But it gave  me hope although it was not the response I had hoped for.However since leaving my home and moving to my present place  of residence this precious piece of paper has been mislaid or cannot be found.   This breaks my heart as it is was the first positive piece of proof  that my mother was still alive.I have requested, pleaded and even demanded for this to be given to me but so far all to no avail.  In 2009 I  again contacted Sr Sarto requesting her to write to my mother again hoping she might have changed her mind.   In time I received a reply from Sister who said that she had not received any reply to her letter.   I was to discover at a later stage that by this time my mother  had passed away.Disillusioned but not beaten I continued searching .   During an Internet trawl   I  accidently discovered the Cotter Family Tree  of Inchageela Co Cork,   This immediately caught my attention and having perused the hundreds of family photos on the site  and observing the resemblances to my own children and  having noticed the names John and Sylvester   appearing in each generation on a regular basis I was convinced I was on the right track and the jigsaw was closing  I also found the name Mary  Cotter by now Mary Moran and discovered she had three children two sons and a daughter.     Following my hunch  on the 31st March 2011  I contacted the Administrator , a Michael Cotter who lived in Dublin.     I did not identify myself but said I was interested in the name d person Mary Cotter .  It was then that I was informed that my mother had died and that she had three children and another daughter   Bernadette  who had died at 7 months.How can I explain my feelings at this news?  Such a conflict of emotions …my beloved mother who I had desperately wished to meet had passed away but to discover I had two brothers and a sister …sadness and joy tinged with a terrible sense of loss.Early the next morning I had a call from Michael who was curious as to my enquiry and it was at this stage I informed him my mother  did not have four children , in fact she had five and I was her firstborn.   To say he was shocked  at this news was an understatement as he was completely unaware of my existence . He said he would get in touch with my sister and  break the news to her and would report back to me on her reaction.Two days later Michael called again to say he had contacted my sister in England and although initially shocked beyond belief she would be delighted to hear from me .   This was the 3rd April and my 55th Birthday and I had just received the best birthday present ever!  I had a sister  Josephine who wanted to make contact , I had two brothers as well, I was so happy I wanted to tell the world.  Mixed with these emotions was a terrible sadness that I would never meet my birth mother.  The bond between a mother and child is so strong and transcends all obstacles but this was not to be in my case.Nervous, excited and apprehensive were some of the emotions racing round my head as I dialled the number  Michael had given me but I need’nt have worried.  She was as nervous as me but so easy to talk to and within minutes we were exchanging news and catching up.   She told me she had just returned from the airport having seen off her son on a year’s world tour and was feeling downhearted but this was just the boost she needed .  She had temporarily lost her son but gained a brother  all in one day.  We talked for ages , trying to catch up on 55 years and more .  She was most anxious to meet me as I was her .  She would be coming to Dublin in the near future and we arranged to meet on the 15th May .  However due to  her work commitments this was  postponed ‘til the 29th May so the venue  for this meeting was arranged for Wynne’s Hotel in Dublin city centre.    What a coincidence…this was exactly 15 years to the day when I first contacted Sr. Sarto.   So many coincidences , could my mother be looking out for me , her firstborn child , fromwherever she was ?The day dawned, a lovely sunny day in late May and as I made my way to the arranged meeting place, so many emotions crowded my mind. My brother Patrick accompanied me for a bit of moral support but after the initial emotional welcomes were out of the way we all settled down to a long long chat comparing notes about our families and how our lives had panned out.  Accompanying my sister Josephine was her husband and her uncle John  [my adopted mother’s brother] who had travelled from Cork for the reunion.  My sister informed me she had no idea of my existence as  my mother never talked or referred to that time in her life.  That secret that would have got harder to divulge as time went on .    She filled me in on the many details of my mother’s life  who had unfortunately passed away in early2007 from cancer.  However , my Uncle John would certainly have known about me but he said his recollection of whatHappened was vague as he was only 15 at the time and the family secret was never talked about . Perhaps the thinking was ‘Out of sight out of mind’ but the past has a way of catching up  with us all and the truth will  out eventually! When my brother queried the name on my original birth cert…John Sylvester…..my uncle’s reply was that this was possibly a name given to me by the nuns.  I was not convinced by this answer as I was well aware these two names were ‘family’ names which kept cropping up in each branch and generation of the family and given to the first born son.  My mother  had  named me John Sylvester Cotter, her firstborn son and she was carrying on the longheld tradition.My sister had brought with her numerous photos of my mother at various stages of her life…her wedding photo ,how pretty and happy she looked …. more photos of her at other stages of her life…photos of her children and again the family  resemblances to my own family was evident.Amongst the photos was a small black and white photo of a baby about 6 months old sitting propped up in a crib and in the background was a large grey building . It was obviously an old photo and had a crease in it  ,.Josephine said she found it at the bottom of a wardrobe whilst clearing out my mother’s house after her death and had no idea who the baby might be but felt it was important and decided to bring it along with her.  I immediately recognized it as  being  a photo of myself because when I had been brought to Donegal my adoptive mother had a photo taken of me and it was clear  both these photos were of the same baby.  How many times had she looked at this photo and wondered what had become of me and how had I fared in life? The 3rd of April each year  must have had such bitter sweet memories for her .My sister also had brought with her a small doll which she had fashioned from a  polka-dot dress of my mothers after she had passed away . She had made four , one for each brother and one for herself. She had made an extra one but was unaware what prompted her to make that extra doll.  Now she knew why , it was meant for me!  Today and forever, this little doll is my most precious possession and travels with me everywhere I go , even under my pillow at night.    It is the closest I will ever get to my mother in this life.The following day we all met up again for lunch and a photo session  and that evening we returned to our respective homes with all the memories of this life changing meeting.Today my  life continues much as before but  it has changed in so many ways.  I now have an identity …I no longer feel a burning need to uncover my past . The jigsaw is almost complete…the last piece being the identity of my father. But I am making progress on that one and hope to have an answer soon.  My adoptive Mother is now nearing  mid 90s seriously ill in a nursing home.  I visit here most  days and return the love and devotion she has lavished on me for so long.  I owe her so much …for providing me with a kind and loving home and welcoming me into her life  and home as if I was her natural child.In the meantime I continue to write my lifestory and I enjoy song writing  and playing my guitar. I hope to publish a book of poems shortly which is a passion of mine. Some of my poetry is shortlisted for publication in the Boston Review.Unfortunately, I suffer from a debilitating genetic illness, Haemochromatosis , a blood disorder where my body produces too much iron.  This lifelong illness  means a weekly visit to my local hospital where approx two pints of blood are taken from me each week.   As of yet there is no cure …..it’s effects are chronic fatigue and tiredness and takes a profound toll on my health.But My Journey of Hope  is not over yet….this year I intend to visit my mother’s grave in Middlesex  , England.  I will spend some time at her resting place and open my heart to her.  I hope she will hear me from her everlasting home where I finally hope to meet her one day.  I hope she understands I had to undertake this journey …a journey that has taken many years  and many tears and which has not the happy ending I hoped for. I will also visit my sister Mary Bernadettes  grave in Cork she was sadly taken away from this world at the tender age of 7 months,But I am content now ,My  journey is almost over,Rest easy in your Heavenly home‘Til we meet , Slán.(a few words from the heart for mum mary cotter )ME AND MY MOTHER.Me and my Mother  were parted at birth,Wrenched from each other on this terrible earth,With no place to go Mum walks through the night,Looking for somewhere till the morning light.Lonely and sad and with no family or friend,Shunned and broken hearted – too delicate to mend,Mum searched for a room to lay down her poor head,Suffering her punishment for being unwed.She spotted an ad. offering “bed and full board”,For someone to clean; this could not be ignored,She located the house and knocked on the door,Praying that no one had been there before.A kindly old lady answered her call,Inviting her in to the fashionable hall,She said she’d come about the job advertised,And could start immediately, if so desired.A few questions asked and she was given the job,But emotions overcame her, she broke down and sobbed.The kindly old lady put her hand on her arm,Said, “there’s no need for tears, here you’ll come to no harm.And so for my  mother a new life begins,Toiling each day but remembering her sins,Her little child gone, would she see him again?Could she go through her life with this terrible pain?I came to Donegal  at an early date,And in my brother Patrick I found a great mate,To a home where life was abundant with love,And God watched over from his place up above.But the day finally came I had to leave this behind,And enter a school where little love did I find,Beatings and bullying were ‘the order of the day’,I had no one to turn to, so its here I must stay.But some boys from the school were different to others,Not only because of the absence of mothers,It was survival of the fittest, you couldn’t be weak,You kept your mouth shut and not be a sneak.©  John O Donnell (cotter)A JOURNEY OF HOPE – MY 55 YEAR SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER was last modified: February 18th, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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FROM £14 TO €48 MILLION – LETTERKENNY CREDIT UNION CELEBRATES 50 YEARS

first_imgEugene O’Boyle retires after 48 years of service to credit unionMore than 100 guests including past and present committee members of Letterkenny Credit Union gathered last night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the organisation.The evening recalled the history of the credit union which started life in 1962 with cash reserves of just a little more than £14. Today Letterkenny Credit Union has a balance sheet of an impressive €48M and more than 14,000 members.Micheal and Sadie Dawson don’t go home empty-handed!The Mayor of Letterkenny, Cllr Dessie Larkin, paid tribute to all volunteers who has helped people pay for everything from a car, to a house extension to simply getting over Christmas.“Letterkenny Credit Union has paid no small part in making the town what it is today.“From a car loan to holidays to house extensions, it has played a pivotal role in the success of Letterkenny and its people,” he said. Among those honoured last night was retiring director Eugene O’Boyle.The well-known Letterkenny man has served with the credit union for an outstanding 48 years.JJ Kelly, the longest credit union member, was also honoured.Tributes were also paid to many deceased members including Charles J Kelly and Brian Walsh.Treasurer James McMonagle said he was sorry that many other members could not be invited on the night as it was all the members who had made the credit union the successful organisation it is today.Other members present last night included Micheal Dawson and wife Sadie, Stephen McDaid, Susan Doherty and husband Declan, Cllr Tom Crossan, Mary Forde and Fintan Dawson. Among the many guests on the night was Eunan McIntyre, Donal Kelly and wife Jackie, Paddy and Bernie Walsh, Seamus and Mary Temple, Mickey and Kathleen Doherty, Paul Hume and Michael Gibbons.FROM £14 TO €48 MILLION – LETTERKENNY CREDIT UNION CELEBRATES 50 YEARS was last modified: December 7th, 2012 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:50th anniversaryLetterkenny Credit Unionlast_img read more

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