With cooler temperatures are forecast for the weekend, near-peak color is expected to emerge in the Northeast Kingdom and the higher elevations of the Stowe-Morrisville area of Lamoille County. State foresters say most areas of northeastern and north central Vermont are showing vibrant fall colors that are near, or in some higher elevations, at peak. Elsewhere, expect various stages of color across the state, including the mountain and river valleys where the foliage change ranges from early to mid-stage. ‘The foliage is nearing peak in the mountains of Richford, Montgomery and Enosburg. The valley is starting to show some very nice color (just getting to mid-stage color) and it makes a nice drive through the valley and into the Mountains,’ says Nancy Patch, Franklin-Grand Isle County Forester. The lower elevations along Lake Champlain remain predominantly green. Some hillsides in central Vermont appear to be muted this week, apparently due to a combination of weather-related factors. Longtime forester Russell Barrett explains, ‘Anthracnose (a fungus), a heavy seed crop, and saturated soils seem to be working overtime to make brownish-yellow the dominate color’ on these hillsides. Still, other areas in the region are showing the traditional bloom of red, orange and yellow. The color change is moving slowly into mid-stage in the lower Champlain Valley and the foothills of the Taconic and Green Mountains. However, the mountain ridges and pockets in the higher valleys from Middlebury Gap south to Danby, along the spine of the Green Mountains, are advancing fro mid-stage to near peak color with plenty of vibrant yellows, golds and oranges. ‘Many higher elevations also have nice patches of bright red, particularly Route 100 south from Warren to Rochester, Route 125 from Hancock to East Middlebury and Route 4 west from Killington to Rutland,’ reports spotter Tom Olson, Vermont Maple Museum. At the lower elevations across the broad Champlain Valley, he adds, ‘Soft Maples in marshy areas and around Lake Hortonia are displaying bright reds and oranges-a great contrast against the beige and brown backdrop of swamp grass, wild rice, and cat tails.’ In southern Vermont mid-stage color is showing along the higher elevations while the early stages in the valleys are splashed with the crimson of maples in moist soils. For current road conditions and detailed planning information, please check our frequently updated map: http://www.vermontvacation.com/vtopenforbusiness.htm(link is external) Best Bets: In northern Vermont, recommended scenic routes for peak color viewing include Route 114 between Lyndonville and Norton, Route 58 from Irasburg to Montgomery Center, Route 105 from North Troy to East Charleston, and Route 102 along the Connecticut River. Also try Route 232 through the Groton State Forest, Route 2 between Marshfield and Lunenburg, Route 215 in Cabot, and Route 15 between Walden and Cambridge. Good bets also include back roads in Burke, Peacham, Barnet and Danville, which offer a variety of close-up and long-range views. Look for nice vistas on Interstate 89 from South Royalton to Richmond. Colorful foliage can also be seen on Route 108 between Stowe and Cambridge, Route 100 between Warren and Stowe, and Route 12 between Montpelier and Elmore. Mid-stage to near-peak foliage color is also emerging in west central Vermont: Route 4 west from West Bridgewater to Killington and Sherburne Pass (including the Killington Ski Area Access Rd); Route 103 north from Ludlow to Route 7 (nearing peak); Route 140 west from Mt. Holly to Wallingford and Middletown Springs; Route 155 north from Weston to East Wallingford; and Route 7 south from Middlebury to Brandon. In southern Vermont, suggested drives include Route 11 between Peru and Chester, Route 30 between Winhall and Newfane, Route 7A between Manchester and Bennington, Route 35 from Townshend to Grafton, and Route 9 between Bennington and Brattleboro. The Vermont Hospitality Council advises making advance reservations because the most popular lodgings may fill early on busy weekends during the foliage season. Some innkeepers may require a minimum two-night stay, especially on busy weekends. Vermont tourism officials encourage visitors to take advantage of midweek specials during the foliage season as part of the statewide ‘Midweek Peek’ promotion. Deals range from discounted lodging to free Vermont products. For details, visit www.VermontVacation.com(link is external) Also available on the website are several tools for planning a Vermont Fall Foliage tour: Fall Foliage ForecasterLodging Availability ForecasterScenic DrivesFall Travel Tips For more information, visit www.VermontVacation.com(link is external). Sept 29, 2011
A full-scale haj, which last year drew about 2.5 million pilgrims, appears increasingly unlikely after authorities advised Muslims in late March to defer preparations due to the fast-spreading disease.”It’s a toss-up between holding a nominal haj and scrapping it entirely,” a South Asian official in contact with Saudi haj authorities told AFP.A Saudi official told AFP: “The decision will soon be made and announced.”Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, withdrew from the pilgrimage this month after pressing Riyadh for clarity, with a minister calling it a “very bitter and difficult decision”. Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.Many other countries with Muslim populations — from Egypt and Morocco to Turkey, Lebanon and Bulgaria — have said they are still awaiting Riyadh’s decision.In countries like France, faith leaders have urged Muslims to “postpone” their pilgrimage plans until next year due to the prevailing risks.The haj, a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, represents a major potential source of contagion as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites.But any decision to limit or cancel the event risks annoying Muslim hardliners for whom religion trumps health concerns.It could also trigger renewed scrutiny of the Saudi custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites — the kingdom’s most powerful source of political legitimacy.A series of deadly disasters over the years, including a 2015 stampede that killed up to 2,300 worshippers, has prompted criticism of the kingdom’s management of the haj.”Saudi Arabia is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” Umar Karim, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told AFP.”The delay in announcing its decision shows it understands the political consequences of cancelling the haj or reducing its scale.” ‘Heartbroken'”The haj is the most important spiritual journey in the life of any Muslim, but if Saudi Arabia proceeds in this scenario it will not only exert pressure on its own health system,” said Yasmine Farouk from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.”It could also be widely held responsible for fanning the pandemic.”A cancelled or watered-down haj would represent a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, which is already reeling from the twin shocks of the virus-induced slowdown and a plunge in oil prices.The smaller year-round umrah pilgrimage was already suspended in March.Together, they add $12 billion to the Saudi economy every year, according to government figures.A negative decision would likely disappoint millions of Muslim pilgrims around the world who often invest their life savings and endure long waiting lists to make the trip.”I can’t help but be heartbroken — I’ve been waiting for years,” Indonesian civil servant Ria Taurisnawati, 37, told AFP as she sobbed.”All my preparations were done, the clothes were ready and I got the necessary vaccination. But God has another plan.” Saudi Arabia is expected to scale back or call off this year’s haj pilgrimage for the first time in its modern history, observers say, a perilous decision as coronavirus cases spike.Muslim nations are pressing Riyadh to give its much-delayed decision on whether the annual ritual will go ahead as scheduled in late July.But as the kingdom negotiates a call fraught with political and economic risks in a tinderbox region, time is running out to organize logistics for one of the world’s largest mass gatherings. ‘Buying time’ The kingdom is “buying time” as it treads cautiously, the South Asian official said.”At the last minute if Saudi says ‘we are ready to do a full haj’, [logistically] many countries will not be in a position” to participate, he said.Amid an ongoing suspension of international flights, a reduced haj with only local residents is a likely scenario, the official added.A decision to cancel the haj would be a first since the kingdom was founded in 1932.Saudi Arabia managed to hold the pilgrimage during previous outbreaks of Ebola and MERS.But it is struggling to contain the virus amid a serious spike in daily cases and deaths since authorities began easing a nationwide lockdown in late May.In Saudi hospitals, sources say intensive care beds are fast filling up and a growing number of health workers are contracting the virus as the total number of cases has topped 130,000. Deaths surpassed 1,000 on Monday.To counter the spike, authorities this month tightened lockdown restrictions in the city of Jeddah, gateway to the pilgrimage city of Mecca. Topics :
(REUTERS) – A loophole that allows national teams to boost their seedings for the World Cup by avoiding friendly matches is likely to disappear after next year’s finals in Russia, with changes due to the international calendar and a FIFA review of their rankings system.Currently seedings are based on the FIFA world rankings, using a points system which calculates average points for each game and is weighted against friendly matches.The result has been that some teams, such as Poland and Switzerland, who have played only a small amount of friendlies, have gained an advantage over teams who have played regular friendly games.Friendly internationals played in November have not counted towards the seeding pots for the World Cup as they are based on last month’s FIFA rankings.But two changes are set to impact the system significantly.From September 2018, European and CONCACAF region teams will begin playing in Nations League competitions which will be played on the dates in the FIFA calendar traditionally set aside for friendly games.That means there will be very little space available for friendly matches for the 90 national teams who are FIFA members in those two confederations.That trend could well spread with FIFA confirming recently that they are in talks with confederations about creating a global Nations League structure, which would further reduce the amount of friendly games.FIFA also said it plans to review the rankings system.“FIFA is reviewing the FIFA World Ranking system and will take a decision after the completion of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup if any changes are be made to improve the ranking,” the organisation said recently.Asked if those changes would address the issue of nations avoiding friendly matches to improve their rankings and how Nations League games would be factored into the calculation, FIFA told Reuters: “The FIFA ranking will be reviewed in the near future. As long as this has not been done, we can’t speculate on future scenarios. The current ranking takes into account all official matches.”The World Cup draw will be held on Dec. 1 in Moscow.
Junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux was stripped of one of his 122-pound title belts because of inactivity.The WBO world championship committee voted unanimously at its 28th annual convention, which is taking place in Orlando, Florida, this week, to vacate the belt, rejecting Rigondeaux’s plea in a “show cause” letter the organization had asked him to provide stating his case to remain champion.READ: AL-SMITH – Why is everyone avoiding talented Rigondeaux? Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs), 35, is a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected and now lives in Miami. He won the WBO’s version of the title when he outpointed Nonito Donaire to unify it with his WBA belt in April 2013. But Rigondeaux has only fought three times since.He has not boxed since Dec. 31 in Japan, where he was knocked down twice in the seventh round by unknown Japanese challenger Hisashi Amagasa before rallying for an 11th-round knockout victory.The WBO sent Rigondeaux and his promoter, Caribe Promotions, a letter Oct. 7 directing them to “show cause” as to why he should not be stripped of his title because, under WBO rules, it has the unilateral discretion to vacate a title “if the champion fails to defend his title within a nine-month period.” With Rigondeaux idle for 10 months and nothing in the works, the WBO followed its rules and stripped him of the title. To fill the vacant title, the WBO will order on Thursday a fight between Mexico’s Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13 KOs), No. 1 in the organization’s ratings, and No. 2 Donaire (35-3, 23 KOs).Top Rank, which promotes Donaire and used to co-promote Rigondeaux, is making plans to put Juarez-Donaire on its truTV-televised card Dec. 11 at a site to be determined.In the Rigondeaux/Caribe response to the WBO “show cause” order, they argued in an Oct.16 letter that Rigondeaux should be granted an exception because of a “lack of appropriate available opponents willing to fight” and that “it would be an abuse of discretion to vacate because Mr. Rigondeaux has never failed to defend against the mandatory challenger.”In its ruling, the WBO said it was “not moved to consider the reasons contained therein to constitute ’cause’ for Mr. Rigondeaux’s failure to comply with our regulations for world championship contests.” The WBO further said in its ruling that “this committee shares Team Rigondeaux’s opinion that he is a fighter of utmost skill and pedigree, a gifted athlete that is not only perhaps the greatest amateur boxer ever, but also one of the top pound-for-pound professionals in the world, and we also recognize that Mr. Rigondeaux’s talent, record of accomplishment and complicated style, invariably pose difficulties securing premium fights on the top-tier stage.But that it is the boxing promoter’s paramount responsibility — not ours or that of any sanctioning organization for that matter — to secure, organize, and produce such fights.”However, Rigondeaux remains WBA super-bantamweight champion–Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @Joy997FM. Our hashtag is #JoySports