WestJet adds Belize City with exclusive nonstops

first_img Travelweek Group Tuesday, August 9, 2016 Share WestJet adds Belize City with exclusive nonstops Posted bycenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Belize, New Routes, WestJet CALGARY — Starting Oct. 29 WestJet will offer nonstop service from Toronto to Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize, the only Canadian carrier to do so.Flights depart Toronto at 9:15 a.m., arriving in Belize City at 11:59 a.m. Introductory fares start at $267.66 one-way, until Aug. 15.The flight’s departure time will allow guests to connect seamlessly from many cities across Canada to a destination known for its large Canadian ex-pat community, said Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Commercial. “WestJet continues to respond to the needs of the communities we serve by delivering more choice, competition and lower fares to Canadian travellers,” he said.Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism for Belize, cheered the move, saying the new flight “will boost the demand for Canadian travel to our unique destination … this direct flight from Toronto to Belize City will encourage even more Canadians to venture south to our beautiful jewel,” she said. Canada is one of the strong source markets for tourist arrivals in Belize, she added.More news:  Sunwing offers ultimate package deal ahead of YXU flights to SNU, PUJEarlier this month WestJet also began year-round, nonstop service between Calgary and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Both the Belize nonstop and the JFK nonstops come on the heels of WestJet’s recent winter schedule announcement of more than 85 new flights across its growing network.last_img read more

US to ask for social media details from all visa applicants

first_img By: Matthew LeeSource: The Associated Press << Previous PostNext Post >> Monday, April 2, 2018 Tags: America, Donald Trump WASHINGTON — The State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers, vastly expanding the Trump administration’s enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors.In documents to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, the department said it wants the public to comment on the proposed new requirements, which will affect nearly 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the U.S. each year. Previously, social media, email and phone number histories were only sought from applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have travelled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 people per year are in that category.The new rules would apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education, according to the documents.More news:  Virgin Voyages de-activates Quebec accounts at FirstMates agent portalThe documents were posted on the Federal Register’s website on Thursday but the 60-day public comment period won’t begin until Friday’s edition is published.If the requirements are approved by the Office of Management and Budget, applications for all visa types would list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. It would also give the applicant the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed in the application.In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants will be asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types may be exempted from the requirements, the documents said. U.S. to ask for social media details from all visa applicants Sharelast_img read more

Its a great time to be in the hotel industry – even

first_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Airbnb, Best Western Hotels & Resorts It’s a great time to be in the hotel industry – even with Airbnb TORONTO — How much have booking patterns changed over the years? When Best Western’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Dorothy Dowling, started her career, the average booking lead time was nine months. Now? It’s 45 days. Everything is faster, more streamlined and more focused on a never-ending parade of new technologies, and travellers – and travel agents – are busier than ever. Notes Dowling: “In my 35-year career, the past two years have moved faster than any others.”Heading up yesterday’s 13th annual Leisure Travel Summit, Dowling said Best Western had a stellar year in Canada in 2017 and the momentum is carrying into 2018, with forward bookings up close to 8% year over year. The hotel company’s loyalty program, Best Western Rewards, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and clients who have been with the program from the beginning were rewarded with top tier status as part of the celebration. Back in the early days just 9% of the company’s revenue was generated through Best Western Rewards. These days it’s 47%. Best Western has been on the forefront with new technology, from VR to AR. The latest tech innovation for the company is the new Best Western Rewards chatbot, set to launch this month. TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea, also on the panel, said it’s all about personalization, “to make sure you’re going to get the information relevant to your trip.” Best Western has 26 hotels in the pipeline in Canada, including first property here from its Glo brand, opening in Kanata just outside of Ottawa. The Glo brand is geared to suburban destinations and feature larger spaces and themed décor elements.Echoing Best Western’s success in 2017, hotels across Canada had a record year last year, buoyed no doubt by all the Canada 150 arrivals.Part of the panel at yesterday’s event, Susie Grynol, President, Hotel Association of Canada, said the country’s hotel’s posted a 66% occupancy rate in 2017 and that looks like it’s holding into 2018. There’s an uptick in groups business and there’s almost certainly a boost from travellers opting to vacation or hold their events in Canada instead of the U.S., although Grynol is too diplomatic to come out and say so. “Overall it’s a great time to be in the hotel industry,” she said.One cloud hanging over the hotel industry’s sunny results, is, as always, digital platforms like Airbnb, however the hotel industry is making headway on that front too. Last month HAC made April 30 – Canada’s tax deadline – a day of protest in Ottawa, saying the Canadian government hasn’t taken steps to collect the taxes they should from digital platforms like Airbnb, and demanding that the inaction has to stop.More news:  AMResorts has a new Sr. Dir. of Cdn. Sales & Consortia Rel’nsOver the last two years, the commercial side of Airbnb’s business – those renting multi-unit entire homes – grew by 108%, says Grynol. These entire home rentals generated 83% of Airbnb’s revenues.HAC continues to call on the federal government to ensure Airbnb pays its fair share of taxes, and to take real action to address tax avoidance in the digital space.“Digital business have an unfair advantage over bricks-and-mortar,” says Grynol. “Our focus is on establishing a level playing field for the commercial side of Airbnb. We’re not talking about the residential side, like the people who rent out a room in their home. We’re talking about the commercial side, where people are buying up properties and essentially running them as a hotel through platforms like Airbnb.”The latest HAC survey focusing on driving factors for travellers when it comes to choosing accommodation shows that leisure is currently more of a growth driver than corporate travel, and that bleisure travel – where people tack a few extra days of vacation onto a business trip – is over-indexed this year, suggesting this trend is still on the rise. Kathryn Folliott Posted by Thursday, May 17, 2018 About Latest Posts Kathryn FolliottEditor at TravelweekKathryn is Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations. Latest posts by Kathryn Folliott (see all) “They need to go where the bucks are”: Agents on ACTA partnership – April 18, 2019 As the cost of doing business climbs, host agencies, retail groups say they have options – April 4, 2019 As of 2021 Europe-bound clients will need to apply online for a visa waiver and pay a fee – April 3, 2019last_img read more

Sandals Royal Barbados unveils 50 new luxury suites

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Travelweek Group Wednesday, November 21, 2018 Posted by BARBADOS — Not even a year old and Sandals Royal Barbados has already expanded with the addition of 50 new luxury suites.The luxury resort, which opened its doors in December 2017, unveiled the new suites last week, bringing Sandals Resorts International’s total number of rooms and suites across two resorts in Barbados to 552.According to the company, this represents the third major project that has taken place in Barbados and demonstrates Sandals’ commitment to the “development and growth of excellence in the all-inclusive space.”In Barbados, guests enjoy twice the fun with Sandals’ exclusive exchange program between Sandals Barbados and neighbouring Sandals Royal Barbados. Between the two resorts, there are 17 restaurants, 12 bars and five pools, plus there are several ‘Sandals firsts’, including the first rooftop pool, bar and restaurant, the first four-lane bowling alley, and the first men’s only barbershop.The all-suite Sandals Royal Barbados, which Sandals Resorts International Chairman and Founder Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart called a “game changer” at its ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, offers 222 concierge and butler-level suites, three 5-star Global Gourmet signature restaurants, a cantilevered cocktail lounge, the 15,000 square-foot Red Lane Spa, private chauffeured Rolls-Royce airport transfers and The Beach House Resort Shop, a new retail brand featuring resort wear, home goods and local provisions.center_img Share Tags: Barbados, Sandals Resorts Sandals Royal Barbados unveils 50 new luxury suiteslast_img read more

Its a crowded field but Canada Jetlines says it wants PVR CUN

first_img Travelweek Group Tags: Canada Jetlines, Jetlines VANCOUVER — Canada Jetlines says it intends to provide future service to several sun destinations in Mexico including Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and Cancun.The start-up ultra low-cost carrier, currently aiming for a summer 2019 launch, says it has reached agreements with Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico to provide future service to the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) and the Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), as well as Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR) to provide future service to the Cancun International Airport (CUN). “We are thrilled to announce future service to these airports,” says CEO Javier Suarez. “I have worked in this market extensively and have a deep understanding of how to operate successful routes in and out of Mexico. We look forward to providing Canadians with ultra-low fares for their vacation plans. With the money saved, Canadians will have the ability to spend more at their destinations; staying longer or in nicer resorts with their friends and family members. Our low fares will also encourage Mexicans to visit beautiful Canada.”Suarez joined Canada Jetlines in June 2018, first as Chief Commercial Officer and later as CEO, from Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus where he was Vice President, Network Planning, Revenue Management, E-Commerce.Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico CEO Raul Revuelta says, “We at GAP are pleased to welcome Jetlines at our Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos airports. During 2018, for the first time in history, we received a combined traffic of 10 million passengers at both airports; this due to the growing number of hotel rooms and the high quality of the touristic products offered at these amazing destinations. I am sure that our Canadian friends will have a wonderful time while visiting Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, and we at GAP will continue to work to provide them with the best airport experience.”And ASUR’s Customer and Route Development Director Alejandro Vales said, “ASUR is delighted to welcome Jetlines to our Cancun airport. A brand-new Canadian airline bridging new origins from Canada to our world-class destination will be a recipe for success indeed.”The long list of carriers flying Canadian vacationers to Mexico got even longer this month with low-cost carrier’s Swoop’s new service to Cancun, Mazatlzan and Puerto Vallarta.Suarez says Canada Jetlines’ ability to service these routes is subject to the completion of the airline licensing process and the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals. It’s a crowded field but Canada Jetlines says it wants PVR, CUN & SJD Thursday, January 17, 2019 center_img Share Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Hilton Curacao will reopen as Dreams Curacao in Dec 2019

first_imgHilton Curacao will reopen as Dreams Curacao in Dec. 2019 Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA — AMResorts has announced a new resort management deal to bring its Dreams Resorts & Spas brand to Curacao.The property, owned by Lionstone Development and formerly known as Hilton Curacao, will undergo a $15-million-renovation before re-opening in December 2019 as Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino.“We’re very pleased with the Caribbean’s current momentum and expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Javier Coll, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of ALG. “We’re looking forward to introducing our very first Dreams property in the country and are confident our firm’s proven track record and unmatched expertise will continue fueling our growth throughout the region.”Located in Piscadera Bay, Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino will have 197 rooms and suites, each with a private balcony and other luxury touches meant to resonate with couples and families.Upon reopening, the resort will feature access to two private white sand beaches, two culinary concepts, a luxury spa, fitness facilities, a corner shop and café and more.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaDreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino will offer the brand’s signature Unlimited-Luxury vacation concept, which covers all on-site dining and service options, including gourmet a la carte dining offerings, 24-hour room and concierge services, an unlimited premium beverage program, daily refreshed mini bar, daytime activities and live nighttime entertainment all without wristbands.This latest deal brings AMResorts’ resort portfolio to 64 resorts, plus an additional 10,000 rooms currently under development. Travelweek Group center_img Monday, May 13, 2019 Tags: AMResorts Sharelast_img read more

Love is love is love Labrador meets up with dolphin every day

first_imgLove is love is love: Labrador meets up with dolphin every day for a swim Share Travelweek Group Posted by DONEGAL, IRELAND — Would you swim across an ocean to be with your soulmate? One dog did, and he does it every single day in the name of love.Okay, maybe it’s not the length of an entire ocean, but to Ben, a lovable labrador in Donegal, Ireland, it may as well be because that’s how deep his love goes for his #1 pal and soulmate, Duggie.And if that weren’t enough to melt your heart, get this: Duggie is a dolphin.According to residents, Duggie has remained off the Donegal coast after her dolphin mate unexpectedly died. One day, she met Ben – who likes long walks on the beach – and the two hit it off.According to residents, Duggie has remained off the Donegal coast after her dolphin mate unexpectedly died. One day, she met Ben – who likes long walks on the beach – and the two hit it off. More news:  Save the dates! Goway’s Africa Roadshow is backSince then, the two mates meet up to swim every day, sometimes up to three hours at a time, said Ben’s human, Pat Doohan.“Occasionally a school of dolphins will go by and she will join them. When I see them I think she will forget the island and go back to her wild ways but she never does,” he says.So there you have it: love is love is love. Here’s hoping Ben and Duggie have a lifetime of happiness together!center_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Thursday, June 27, 2019 Tags: dog, dolphin, Lovelast_img read more

Motorcycle duo shoots US businessman in Escazú suburb of San José Costa

first_img Facebook Comments Related posts:Following recent crime wave, Solís announces new investment in San Carlos police force Inept criminals sentenced to prison for attempting to steal a truck they couldn’t drive 7 injured in Limón bar shootout involving at least one AK-47 assault rifle Boozy bandit tries to steal $50,000 ambulance in Costa Rica UPDATE: March 19, 9:45 a.m. A spokeswoman from San Juan de Dios Hospital confirmed that the victim is still interned at the hospital and is in “delicate” condition. She said she was not authorized to give further details.—-A 42-year-old U.S. businessman identified as Noah was shot four times outside a restaurant near the Paco Commercial Center in San Rafael de Escazú Wednesday morning, according to initial reports from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).Noah, who lived in the upscale area, was seen leaving a restaurant and getting into his car when two men on a motorcycle pulled up next to him. One of the two reached into Noah’s vehicle and shot him at least four times in the chest.The U.S. citizen, who police said worked in real estate, was taken to the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José for surgery at approximately 11:00 a.m. The Tico Times was unable to obtain an update on his health status on Wednesday afternoon.Criminals riding motorcycles have shot 45 people dead in the past year, officials say. The string of motorcycle-mounted attacks has led OIJ Director Francisco Segura to request new restrictions for motorcycles on the roads, including prohibiting more than one rider on a bike.In 2014, OIJ received 1,738 complaints of assaults committed by individuals driving motorcycles. So far this year they’ve received 251 complaints.OIJ is investigating the case.last_img read more

China throws Brazil multibillion dollar lifeline for jets oil

first_imgBRASILIA, Brazil — China extended billions of dollars in loans and investment to Brazil as the South American nation reels from a slowing economy and a corruption scandal engulfing its largest oil producer.China Development Bank and the Asian country’s export credit financing agency agreed to provide a total of $7 billion in financing for Brazil’s state-run energy company Petroleo Brasileiro. And Tianjin Airlines signed a contract to buy 22 jets from São Paulo-based Embraer.Deals signed during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang coincide with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s efforts to kick-start an economy that is forecast to contract 1.2 percent this year, its worst performance in a quarter-century. China also said it will study investments to expand and modernize Brazil’s bottlenecked roads, ports and railways.“Investment between China and Brazil can and will mean an improvement of our economic situation,” Rousseff told a group of entrepreneurs from both countries on Tuesday.One of the biggest projects Chinese companies are eyeing is the construction of a railway that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via Peru.China Three Gorges Corp. is interested in the construction of the Tapajos hydroelectric generator in the Amazon rain forest, which would be Brazil’s fourth-largest dam and cost at least 18 billion reais ($6 billion), according to a government official who asked not to be named.The two countries also signed an agreement to allow the export of beef from Brazil to China, which had been banned since 2012.Brazil is the first stop on Li’s Latin American visit that also includes Colombia, Chile and Peru.Exports to China, Brazil’s largest trade partner, fell 12 percent in 2014 as demand for commodities including iron ore and soy beans eased.The 22 jets Embraer will sell to Tianjin Airlines, a subsidiary of the HNA Group, are part of a previously-announced commitment to supply 40 aircraft. The deal is valued at $1.1 billion at current list prices. Airlines typically receive a discount on those prices. Chinese authorities later should approve the other planes, Embraer said in a statement.China is forecast to need 900 aircraft with 70-130 seats in the next 20 years, Paulo Cesar Silva, head of Embraer’s commercial jet business, said in a May 11 interview with Bloomberg Television in Singapore.The China Development Bank last month extended a $3.5 billion loan to Petroleo Brasileiro, just as the embattled oil company was struggling to quantify operating losses due to corruption and mismanagement. More than half of the suppliers investigated for paying bribes also will close deals with Chinese banks and companies, according to Charles Tang, chairman of Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce & Industry.© 2015, Bloomberg News Facebook Comments Related posts:Petrobras top management resigns in Brazil corruption case In a hideaway for Brazil’s rich and famous, a new scandal emerges Lula’s bridge to nowhere hints at global reach of Brazil graft US concerns grow over possible Nicaragua Canal land expropriation, ambassador sayslast_img read more

Regulator approves decrease in electricity rates

first_imgThe onset of therainy season and the launch of two renewable energy projects have prompted a decrease in electricity rates for the next three months.Both situations allowed for a reduction in thermal generation of electricity between May and July.The Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) calculates the costs for companies to generate electricity using fossil fuels each quarter. The cost savings recorded in recent months translates into lower rates starting October, the agency reported.The new rates will apply for the eight electricity companies in the country, although the change in tariffs will vary by company.Customers of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), the Public Services Company of Heredia, the National Power and Light Company (CNFL) and Electric Services Administrative Board of Cartago will see a 1 percent decrease in their monthly rates.Customers of CoopeAlfaroRuiz will see a 0.7 percent decrease; customers of CoopeGuanacaste and Copesantos will see a 0.5 percent decrease and customers of Coopelesca will see a mere 0.07 percent decrease in their monthly bill.The agency passed the last rate-setting in July when it approved increases ranging from 1 to 6 percent to compensate electricity providers for $14.5 million spent to purchase fuel.Hike request pendingGood news for consumers, however, could be short-lived as ARESEP is currently evaluating two requests for hiking tariffs for next year.ICE and CNFL, the two largest suppliers in the country, filed requests earlier this month to increase rates by 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively.If approved rates in January would go up for 1.2 million customers of both utility companies, representing 77 percent of the local electricity market. Facebook Comments Related posts:Reduced electricity rates this year? Don’t hold your breath Ombudsman’s Office opposes hikes in electricity rates for CNFL Regulatory Authority approves lower electricity rates except for San José, Cartago residents Regulator approves decrease in electricity rates for next quarterlast_img read more

VIDEO New Costa Rican documentary explains forced Central American migration

first_imgIn Costa Rica, the migration process toward the U.S. represents barely 3 percent of the population. Costa Rica has become a transit area for migrants from other Central American countries who are seeking refuge here or trying to get to the United States.“The violence issue in Central America has increased so much, that these people ask for refugee status here. Last year the number of [asylum requests in Costa Rica] from people from El Salvador was 1,471, ” Sandoval told The Tico Times.For Villalobos, Costa Rica is a pivotal juncture.“We’re in a moment in which we have the challenge of becoming a Costa Rica that’ll imitate the solidarity in Mexico we were able to depict in the documentary; we can become like the Mexico in which there’s all that extortion towards migrants; or we can begin to take affirmative actions for the defense of these populations,” she said. “That’s one of the challenges that the documentary raises for Costa Rica.”Casa en Tierra Ajena premiered officially at the Cine Magaly in San José on March 30. Later this month it’ll be uploaded to YouTube. Facebook Comments “It’s not only about the journey, but also about profoundly addressing on what drives these people toward the forced migration,” she said. “An important element was all the investigation carried out emphasizing on the communities that are being displaced due to the extractive model [high-impact, unsustainable resource extraction]… mainly mining, hydroelectric, monoculture and hotel developments that use beaches in Garifuna communities.”In Honduras, filmmakers visited the Observatory of Human Rights in Bajo Aguán, which is an organization responding to difficulties created by African Palm monoculture, and the community of Barra Vieja, which was displaced by the development of enormous hotels such as the Indura Resort, Villalobos explained. They also worked in Ciudad El Progreso’s Committee of Disappeared Family Members (COFAMIPRO), which is one of the organizations providing aid towards the migrants.In Guatemala they visited the towns of Santa Cruz Varillas, which is resisting the hydroelectric project Ecoener Hidralia, and San José del Golfo, resisting the open-cast mining project La Puya. The film was inspired by the work of UCR researcher Carlos Sandoval. His 2013 book “Exclusion and Forced Migration in Central America” (now available in English) eventually led him to the filming and production of “Casa en Tierra Ajena” with communicator and producer Ivannia Villalobos and the rest of the team in 2014 and 2015.During a recent interview at the UCR’s Social Research Institute, Villalobos told The Tico Times the documentary is divided into three sections. “The right not to migrate” focuses on root causes of migration, such as gang violence; “the right to have rights” focuses on the dangers migrants face during the trip; and the final section, “the right to hope,” focuses on hope and solidarity shown by migrants.“The structural violence that Central America lives in is characterized by unemployment and a lack of access to basic needs such as health, education and household,” Sandoval said. “Criminal violence is now added to this, which makes intentional homicide rates highly increase. For example, El Salvador, a country that has not been declared in war, is the country with the highest intentional homicide rates in the world. Some of the most violent cities in Latin America are San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.”Anti-immigration measures such as a the U.S.-Mexico border wall proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump don’t address this complex combination of structural and criminal violence, nor do they address what Sandoval points out is the role of the United States in the equation.“Regarding criminal violence, a lot of it has to do with illicit substances that have the United States as their main market,” he explains, adding that the U.S. policy of cracking down on drug trafficking from Colombia through the Pacific through the Plan Colombia aid package, implemented in 2000, worsened Central America’s problems. “A majority of those illicit substances [now] go through the Central American territory, and many of the territorial disputes that occur in Costa Rica, El Salvador and many other countries have to do with the control of the narcomenudeo [local drug  trafficking].” The Costa Rican documentary Casa en Tierra Ajena shows the journey migrants from Central America must go through to get to the United States. (Via Casa en Tierra Ajena’s Website)Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) estimates that between a 40% and 50% of intentional homicides are associated with drug disputes, Sandoval pointed out.“If we didn’t have this problem in Costa Rica, we’d have fewer homicides,” he said. “It’s an interesting paradox for the U.S. audience because [Central American] migration is produced by an economic activity whose main market is the United States.”These issues, whose urgency was heightened by the waves of Central American migrant children traveling to the United States in 2014 and increasing deportations of Central American people from the U.S. and Mexico, became the motivation for creating “Casa en Tierra Ajena,” Villalobos said. Related posts:Refugee program for Central Americans ‘still on the drawing board’: US official Migration issues dominate Tuxtla Summit speeches in Costa Rica Latin America most dangerous region for environmentalists in 2015 Dire conditions for migrants camped out in Peñas Blancas Waves of Central American migration toward the United States have been increasing during the past decade, but the root causes are often misunderstood. To tell the untold stories of the region’s migrants, the team behind the new Costa Rican documentary “Casa en Tierra Ajena” (“Home in a Foreign Land”) traveled 4,200 km and visited more than 40 different locations in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.The film, produced by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the State University at a Distance (UNED), and financed by the National Council of University Rectors’ (CONARE), focuses on people who have been forced to flee their countries because of increased unemployment, poverty, and violence in the region.Take a look at our overview of the film:last_img read more

Waiting for the train

first_imgIt’s a day when planes, trains and automobiles are setting off on holiday journeys around the world. In Costa Rica, many families get to stay put altogether or have shorter trips ahead, like the ones made by the city’s urban train, which travels through the capital and to Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago. Here, a train waits for passengers at the Atlantic station in San José.Would you like to submit a photo to our #TTPicOfTheDay series – the view from your home or favorite Costa Rican spot, or a photo of your upcoming special event? Please send horizontal photos at least 1100 pixels wide to kstanley@ticotimes.net. We’d love to see the sights with you. Facebook Comments Related posts:Name that beach A piece of paradise Luscious green Relaxing among Costa Rican cactilast_img read more

Spotted in Cahuita

first_imgRelated posts:Almost ready to let go A Christmas tamal for your afternoon coffee Waiting for the train Tan lindo Tamarindo At this time of year, folks in cold places and harriedjosefinos have something in common:  they’re dreaming of moments as sunny and still as this one, captured by Kristel Segeren at Cahuita National Park when she came across a Brown Basilisk Vittatus.This holiday, we hope that all our readers find a little time to enjoy nature, explore and travel. For more stories and photos from Kristel, visit her blog, The Tiny Travelogue, or follow her  (and her dog’s) adventures in the tropics and beyond on Facebook or Instagram. Would you like to submit a photo to our #TTPicOfTheDay series – the view from your home or favorite Costa Rican spot, or any other image you care to share? Please send horizontal photos at least 1100 pixels wide to kstanley@ticotimes.net. We’d love to see the sights with you. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Ojalá A Costa Rican sense of luck

first_imgAs the clock strikes midnight and the fireworks light up the night sky on Sunday, thousands of Costa Rican families will have prepared for the rituals that, for generations, have marked the birth of a New Year. Some defy the choking hazard of eating 12 grapes in 12 seconds in order to secure prosperity and even find out what number to play in the lottery (corresponding to the number of seeds they find in the grapes). I’ve heard of friends who wear their underwear inside out and then put it back on the right way after twelve o’clock, families that fill up their fridges to ensure a yearlong supply of food, and mothers who hand out uncooked chickpeas or lentils to carry around as a charm (no explanation as to the choice of legume).Despite a healthy propensity for skepticism and a strong belief in the importance of scientific method, my family and I observe several New Year traditions. We run around the block with a suitcase, hoping we’ll get to travel in the upcoming year; we wear yellow clothes on January 1 for good luck and happiness; and we pick Santa Lucía flowers to store in our wallets to provide us with love, health and money.It is true that the line dividing tradition and superstition can sometimes be blurry, in Costa Rica and everywhere else. But few people actually believe that failure to carry around a purple flower will lead them to bankruptcy, or that running half a mile with 30 pounds of luggage will grant them platinum flyer status. Like many of the things we do, New Year rites serve as signposts to guide us through the tides of change. They provide some sense of permanence amidst the mutability of life and the inexorable passage of time. We preserve these customs because – for the most part – they are harmless and fun. I suspect that we also maintain them as a salutation to luck, as an acknowledgment that, in the year ahead, we will need a lot of help from God, fate and/or lottery tickets. Ticos in a winter wonderland There are subtle differences across cultures in the way people understand the role that luck plays in their lives. Latin American culture in general, and Costa Rican culture in particular, are filled with references to fortune and providence. Every day, Ticos use expressions such as “por dicha” (roughly translated as “luckily”), “si Dios quiere” and “Dios mediante” (“God willing”), and my personal favorite “ojalá” (derived from the Arab “Insha’Allah” but used mostly as a way of saying “Let’s hope”). I have a sense that these are more than idioms or simple phrases. They communicate a certain worldview, the notion that we are subject to forces we cannot fully control, the idea that the future will be shaped not just by our actions but also by indomitable chance.Other cultures put a stronger emphasis on individual initiative as a factor of success. A whole industry of self-help books and seminars rests on the assumption that outcomes depend on personal will and enterprise, implying that people are conversely responsible for their inability to attain their goals and objectives. It is easy to see how this would prove useful for a society: it generates an incentive for people to work hard. It allows for a sense of accountability that is essential to any collective endeavor. It opens the door to necessary criticism. It brings attention to the specific, personal challenges and not just the structural, shared problems. Yet I feel that, taken to the extreme, the self-help philosophy can also be a heavy burden. In a world where everyone is trying to succeed and not everyone is succeeding, it is not always fair to blame people for their failures. Sometimes, we are dealt an unlucky hand. Sure, Costa Ricans could use a stricter sense of responsibility in some areas. As a people, we could be more organized in programming actions and managing risks. We could improve the mechanisms by which we promote and reward individual initiative and ingenuity. We could be better at giving and receiving criticism, allowing people to think strategically about their impact on the success or failure of a particular project. On the whole, Ticos could benefit from attributing less to chance and more to human behavior. But I hope we never lose awareness of the myriad things outside our power. I hope we are able to develop greater ownership without forgetting that we will never fully control our destiny.There is something profoundly moving in seeing a hard-working janitor carry in his pocket an estampita (a small picture of a deity or saint), hoping it will drive away potential thieves; something precious in seeing grownups throw a bucket of water outside their window to get rid of bad luck. Whether it stems from religious fervor or simple optimism, it reveals a humility that might contribute to our overall wellbeing.Beyond the specific rituals of each person or household, it is nice to know we continue to have faith in what life has in store. We continue to trust the unknown. From shantytowns to mansions, from the most educated to the barely literate, we are somehow united by that feeling of the New Year, by our commitment to enter the future with the will to work hard and the hope that luck will be on our side.So, here’s to 2015, a year we will not be able to control but we just might be able to conquer. Ojalá.*I want to thank all the people who contributed to this column by telling me hilarious accounts of New Year traditions in their families. I cherished your stories and the feelings they conveyed.Originally published on Jan. 17, 2015.Read previous Please Send Coffee! columns here.We recently relaunched “Please Send Coffee!” and invite submissions from Costa Ricans living abroad who would like to share their experiences. Are you a Tico abroad, interested in writing about your first days abroad, challenges you’ve faced, what you’ve learned and enjoyed, or what you miss from home? Contact us at kstanley@ticotimes.net.  Facebook Comments Of snow, kindness and Northern Lights: a Costa Rican in Manitoba, Canada Related posts:Ojalá: A Costa Rican sense of luck Ojalá: A Costa Rican sense of luck You can’t speak Spanish without huevos Costa Rica, The Quiz: How much has your adopted country changed you?last_img read more

Costa Rica issues green alert due to high winds

first_imgRelated posts:Strong winds to hit Costa Rica again Thursday UPDATE: Evacuations ordered as tropical storm Otto becomes hurricane National emergency declared; Costa Rican public agencies to close due to Hurricane Otto Sun halo dazzles in sky over Costa Rica The National Emergency Commission (CNE) issued a green alert throughout Costa Rica due to high winds. The effects are expected to last throughout the weekend, with their largest impact Saturday.The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) says a high-pressure system is causing an increase in wind speed throughout the region. Friday, it recorded wind speeds of 82 kph at Volcán Orosi, 60 kph in Alajuela and 46 kph in San José.On Saturday, IMN expects gusts of up to 100 kph in parts of Guanacaste, and gusts of up to 70 kph in the mountainous areas of the Central Valley and throughout the country.The alert warns of strong wind and waves in the North Pacific, and strong winds with low temperatures in the Central Valley.The CNE is recommending caution when operating small boats in the affected regions. They also warned beachgoers that the rough seas could create strong rip currents.Strong winds can also damage roofs, posts, electrical wires, trees and road signs.Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years. Support the Tico Times Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Seven tips to get the best implants in Costa Rica

first_img Facebook Comments Related posts:Why Americans are saying ‘yes’ to dental tourism in Costa Rica What are dental implants, and why are they better in Costa Rica? Is Costa Rica a safe destination for dental tourism? All on 4 Dental Implants: Is it Cheaper in Costa Rica? Every year, tens of thousands of dental patients arrive in Costa Rica seeking low prices on dental procedures like All on 4, dental implants and cosmetic dentistry. No matter how many warnings they receive, some still seek dental clinics that promise the lowest prices regardless of quality. If you’re one of those patients that needs to get the lowest price, this article is for you.If you are missing one or more teeth, the best option for replacing these lost teeth is dental implants. In most cases, dental implants are a better solution than dentures and removable bridges. Dental implants are durable, resistant and natural-looking; they also last a lifetime.Here are some good tips to help you get the best dental implants at low prices in Costa Rica. (Notice I didn’t say “the lowest prices!”)1. Discuss Your Procedure in AdvanceEven minor dental surgery or getting crowns creates some fear and apprehension. The way your dentist speaks to you and makes you feel is important to help reduce or eliminate stress. When you talk to your dentist about the procedure, in addition to all the pertinent questions, you should also ask yourself if the dentist makes you feel at ease, or on the contrary, makes you feel like a number or an annoyance. If the dentist makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s not a good sign. Find a clinic with compassionate and caring representatives that take the time to answer your questions. This is a clinic you can trust.2. Get Information About What the Procedure EntailsWhile you should always consult a dentist, dental implants are a well-established, standard procedure with few complications, and there’s plenty of reliable information online. If you do some research, you’ll be able to ask pertinent questions to your dentist and understand better his or her explanations. For more information about dental implants, visit Costa Rica Dental Guide.3. Seek a SpecialistJust because a dental clinic claims to place lots of dental implants does not mean that they are qualified to place implants. It is important for patients to know that only two types of specialists are qualified to place dental implants.PeriodontistsMaxillofacial SurgeonsIf the practice you are considering does not have a periodontist or a maxillofacial surgeon, then they are not qualified to place dental implants. It doesn’t matter how many specialty certificates or courses they may have taken. It doesn’t matter if they call themselves “dental implantologists” (no such title exists according to the ADA) or dental implant specialists. Only clinics that utilize a periodontist or maxillofacial surgeon are qualified to place your dental implants. (Read more about Misconceptions Regarding Dental Implant Specialists.)4. Work with a Dentist Who is Fluent in EnglishIf you choose to receive dental work in Costa Rica like many Americans are doing, make sure that your dentist is fluent in English. Experienced dental tourism dentists are often fluent in English to satisfy the constantly increasing demand of international patients arriving daily. This is yet another reason why it’s a good idea to talk with your dentist beforehand. You’ll get a better result by talking with a person who understands your questions and who will give you explanations and instructions in your mother tongue. Some clinics are American-owned and operated. These clinics guarantee that your dentist will speak fluent English.5. Consider Getting Other Dental Work DoneIf you plan to receive dental care in Costa Rica, you might want to consider additional dental work that you might need or to bring family and friends that might also need dental care. Families that get dental care together often end up having more fun! For example, if you are traveling to Costa Rica with family or friends, ask them if they need any dental work as well. Doing so will split the cost of the trip among the different procedures and might very well save you quite a bit of money.6. Ask about GuaranteesThe best quality dental materials come with a guarantee against breakage or other defects within a period of years. Asking if the materials come with a guarantee is one way to assure that you are getting quality implants. The top-rated dental clinics offer a written lifetime guarantee on high quality titanium dental implants.7. Choose a Clinic that Helps with Travel PlanningThe best dental tourism clinics in Costa Rica have hospitality coordinators and staff to help patients plan their travel and make reservations at recommended hotels and lodges. They can help with recommending airlines and will also arrange your airport pickup. Clinics that offer these services are experienced in managing the needs of dental tourists. Remember, the best care is rarely the least expensive…and the least expensive care is rarely the best.The best dental clinics provide the highest quality care and materials at competitive prices that save patients an average of 50% to 70% when compared to costs for the same dental care in the USA. If you need to save more than 70%, you will be taking a risk. Patients that choose the lowest-priced dental care often regret their decisions. Research the best dental clinics in Costa Rica, read patient reviews and ask for patient references to find the best dental clinic for your needs. Patrick Goodness.Patrick Goodness is the founder and CEO of Goodness Dental, ranked the #1 dental clinic in Costa Rica and one of the Top Ten Dental Clinics in the World by Global Clinic Ranking. Goodness writes and lectures frequently on global medical and dental tourism topics and is an outspoken advocate for affordable dental care for everyone. last_img read more

Muslims get ready for Ramadan fast in summer heat

first_img Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Many clerics say that’s OK. Islam already gives exemptions from the fast for those in certain circumstances _ the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, children and travelers.Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates allow laborers to break their fast if the temperature exceeds 122 Fahrenheit (50 Celsius). Other Muslim scholars say, regardless of the temperature, laborers can break their fast if they feel weak or thirsty. They have to make up the days later, said Sheik Mohammed Ali, an Iraqi Shiite cleric.“They should have the little food and drink that can make them able to work,” he said.Dr. Sarmad Hamid, a physician in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, said people should use common sense and stay out of the sun _ and those who work outdoors, such as traffic police, should not be expected to fast.Observing the fast is a particular challenge in Gaza, a tiny sliver of land between Israel and Egypt, ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. After years of strife and border blockades, Gaza is propped up by U.N. food aid and suffers daily hours-long blackouts.Gazans have to make do without fans to cool sweltering, crowded apartments, without TVs to distract children and unemployed husbands, without ovens to cook and without water because the electric pumps are idle. As summer heat rises, some have taken to sleeping on floor tiles, the coolest part of their house. Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Arab television channels broadcast their best soap operas, betting on a captive audience feeling lethargic after a heavy meal.Impoverished Gaza women said they are planning ahead to feed their families.Umm Alaa, 52, who relies on U.N. food donations for her seven children, three daughters-in-law and grandchildren, plans to cook whenever the power switches on _ even at 3 a.m. She has a cool corner in the house, where the food doesn’t go bad. Her husband, a peanut seller making $7 a day, can’t afford a generator.Governments are trying to ease hardship.The Pakistani government has promised to prevent blackouts during key food preparation times.Iraq’s Electricity Ministry promised to provide 12 to 14 hours of electricity a day in Baghdad and other areas. Minister Karim Aftan al-Jumaili also said the government would give free fuel to private generators. Despite billions of dollars spent to rebuild Iraq’s dilapidated electrical grid, Iraqis still suffer through chronic power outages that have led to sometimes violent protests.Gaza’s militant Islamic rulers Hamas promise eight-hour rotations of power and blackouts.The Tunisian government has stockpiled eggs, milk, meat, poultry and other staples to avoid shortages and says it will fight price gouging. Tunisia’s Social Affairs Ministry said it would distribute food or money to some 235,000 needy families. Top holiday drink recipes New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Despite the hardship, for many Muslims it’s the most anticipated part of the year _ a time of family togetherness and religious devotion, a break from routine. Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of their holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan.The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar. The last time Ramadan started in mid-July was in 1980. Winter fasts are easier because of cooler temperatures and shorter days. This year, Ramadan starts in most parts of the Muslim world on Friday, though some mark the beginning on Saturday.“There’s no choice but to bear the heat,” shrugged Jalal Qandil, 38, a sun-browned, sweating construction worker in Gaza City, father of five school-age children. “If I don’t work, we won’t eat this Ramadan. But God will help us.”Other laborers said they would quietly break their fast, trusting that God understands.“Sometimes it’s so hot, that we can’t touch the metal poles on the scaffolding without gloves,” said Munir, a 26-year-old Pakistani laborer in Dubai. “You cannot work in these conditions without water. I am religious and respect Ramadan, but it also is not intended to make you sick or put you in danger.”center_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Now, they’ll go through all that hungry and thirsty.For many exhausted housewives, their biggest enemy will be boredom and exhaustion that erode family relations and the joy of this usually festive month.“Frankly, men, women and children, everybody is sick of each other,” said a 52-year-old mother of 10, who would only be identified as Umm Mohammed. “Especially the men: They just sit at home and harass the children.”Her three sisters-in-law nodded in agreement.And yet, they said they are looking forward to the season.For believers, Ramadan is meant to be a time of reflection and worship, abstaining from swearing, gossip and bursts of anger, remembering the hardships of others and being charitable.In mosques across the Muslim world, volunteers will serve free evening meals for the community. Those who can afford it prepare elaborate dinners for “Iftar,” or the meal that breaks the fast. In Morocco, the sunset meal is light, consisting of a traditional spicy thick tomato soup with chickpeas, followed by milk, dates and a croissant. Several hours later, Moroccans eat a full dinner.Tunisian economist Ridha Gouia estimated that household consumption in his country goes up 1.5 times during Ramadan. Many gain Ramadan pounds, particularly through snacking all evening on cream-and-nut stuffed fried pancakes soaked in syrup, a traditional favorite. Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   ___With contributions by Bouazza ben Bouazza in Tunis, Brian Murphy in Dubai, Rebecca Santana in Islamabad, Paul Schemm in Rabat. In Baghdad: Bushra Juhi, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Four benefits of having a wireless security system Associated PressGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades. No food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year.The test of self-restraint is made only harder by daily power cuts in some parts of the Muslim world such as Iraq, Pakistan and tiny Gaza.With temperatures in the region routinely climbing above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast. Morocco resets the clock so believers can break the fast an hour early. Pakistan promises to reduce daily blackouts, which can last up to 22 hours. Public servants are allowed to work fewer hours.last_img read more

Long history of fan trouble in Serbia

first_imgAssociated PressBELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – The racial abuse that black English players suffered during a soccer match in Serbia wasn’t the first time such problems have occurred at the hands of Serbian fans. On Tuesday, the under-21 England players suffered abuse in Krusevac, Serbia, including monkey chants and objects thrown onto the field. The British government is now urging UEFA to impose “tough sanctions” against Serbia, and the decision could be influenced by similar problems in the past. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCESUEFA President Michel Platini had warned Serbia in February 2011 of possible expulsion of its clubs and the national team from international competitions, if its notorious fans continued to cause trouble. Platini personally issued the warning during a meeting with Serbia’s former President Boris Tadic in Belgrade. In 2007, the Serbian Football Association was fined a small amount _ >16,000 _ after supporters racially abused England players at the under-21 Euros in Holland.SERBIAN FANSThe nation’s soccer fans are notorious for causing trouble at home and abroad. UEFA awarded Italy a 3-0 win over Serbia after a European Championship qualifier in Genoa, Italy, in 2010 was stopped when Serbia supporters threw flares and fireworks onto the field, burned a flag and broke barriers. Police then clashed with Serbian fans outside the stadium. A Belgrade court last year convicted 14 Serbian fans and sent them to prison for the fatal beating of a French soccer fan in the capital before Partizan Belgrade’s Europa League soccer match against Toulouse, France, in September 2009.FAR-RIGHT GROUPSSoccer fan organizations in Serbia have been infiltrated by extreme right-wing groups who propagate anti-Western xenophobia and intolerance toward foreigners, blacks, ethnic groups and minorities, including gays. The notoriety of the fans dates back to the wars in the Balkans when they were recruited to fight rival Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croats as paramilitary forces, including the late warlord Zeljko Raznatovic’s “Arkan’s Tigers.” Groups of soccer fans also have allegedly been involved in drug trafficking and other illegal trade. SERBIA’S GOVERNMENTDespite repeated pledges to crack down on violent soccer fan groups, Serbia’s authorities have done little to prevent such problems. Instead, they have repeatedly bowed to threats from such groups, including when police cancel gay pride marches after extremists threaten to attack them.SOCCER IN THE BALKANSSerbia’s fans are not the only troublemakers in the Balkan region. Platini has also warned Croatia of severe punishment if its right-wing extremist fans continue racial abuses against black players and chanting pro-Nazi songs that usually target rival Serbs. Despite repeated incidents since the warning last year, UEFA has only imposed financial punishments of the Croatian Football Association.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Top Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementlast_img read more

In Syria Sunni rebels besiege Shiite villages

first_img Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Sponsored Stories “They kept me in an underground room for six days,” recounted the father of two. Three others were also held there, he said, though their captors did not abuse them. They were eventually released in a prisoner exchange.Now dirt mounds _ and in some cases slabs of limestone _ block the roads leading into Zahraa and Nubl. Rebels have set up checkpoints, and snipers are positioned in empty buildings. Zahraa has its own snipers, on a hill overlooking the road, and they open fire on anyone they see trying to get into the village, fearful of rebel attacks. The barricades were the closest The Associated Press was able to get to the two villages.In the distance, Syria’s national flag _ now the symbol of Assad’s regime _ was flying from a water tower in Zahraa, unlike the rebel flags raised in Sunni towns. The Shiites in Zahraa and Nubl are coping with the siege by relying on supplies from a friendly Kurdish village on the other side. But they cannot venture further than that for fear of being killed or kidnapped. Government helicopters land there twice a day, bringing in supplies.For Beyanon and a cluster of nearby Sunni villages _ Hayan, Retan, Haritan and Mayer _ the feud means they can no longer go into the two larger Shiite villages, or have access to their restaurants, better-stocked grocery stores, mechanics and doctors. The two villages have the area’s only high school, along with a vocational institute. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement There have been countless cases of tit-for-tat slayings between Sunnis and Alawites or Shiites across much of the country. In the main cities, mixed Alawite-Sunni neighborhoods are fast disappearing, as residents of one sect are driven out by the other or flee to areas where their community is the majority.In neighboring Idlib province, which has been the scene of heavy fighting, a Shiite leader from the village of Kifaraya said his son-in-law was kidnapped seven months ago by Sunnis.“I hope it is all part of the war and that it will go away when it is over and we can live together again in peace,” said Abu Abdullah Hassaneh. “I am not pointing an accusing finger at anyone. It is haram (religiously prohibited) to do so.”In a wider context, Syria’s sectarian fault lines reflect a divide in the region. Shiite powerhouses Iran and Hezbollah have backed Syria, while Sunni Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their smaller Arab allies have aided the rebels and called on Assad to step down. Syria’s rebels accuse Hezbollah guerrillas and Iraqi Shiite hard-liners of fighting alongside Assad’s forces, though they offer no proof.While Syrian opposition politicians in exile speak of inclusion and equality in a post-Assad Syria, the Sunni rebels on the ground bitterly talk of the need to exact retribution against Alawites they say victimized them for decades. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Al-Hajji and fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army insist they will lift the siege on Zahraa and Nubl if the government forces and Shabiha surrender.But their desire for vengeance shows through. They say the Shiite villagers are doing more than providing sanctuary for the regime loyalists and accuse them of taking part in kidnappings and sniping at Sunnis.Al-Hajji’s wife’s brother was wounded in a recent firefight with Sunnis, he said, but her family said nothing of his injury. They are also evasive when she asks them about conditions in the two villages.Al-Hajji’s 62-year-old father, Abdou al-Hajji, adopts a conciliatory tone when speaking about the divides. He notes how Sunnis “embraced” Shiites who fled Lebanon during Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2006.“We have long lived in peace alongside the Shiites,” the elder al-Hajji said. “We shared joy in weddings and grief in funerals.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The bitterness and reprisals between neighbors illustrate how the civil war has torn apart the longtime coexistence among ethnic and religious groups in Syria. And it points to the perils of sectarian divisions that lie ahead for the nation of 21 million as the war worsens.Zahraa and Nubl make up a small pocket of Shiites, mostly regime loyalists, in this overwhelmingly Sunni region in the northern countryside of Aleppo province. The siege has its roots in months of tensions since the Sunni-led revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Sunnis in the area say pro-regime gunmen, known as Shabiha, operated from the two villages, attacking nearby towns as they rose up against Assad.The violence fueled a cycle of tit-for-tat killings and kidnappings and tore apart the social fabric between the sects.Then in July, rebels overwhelmed most of Aleppo province, driving out government forces and taking control of the region’s towns and villages. The tables were turned: Many Assad loyalists fled to Zahraa and Nubl for refuge, and the rebels clamped down their siege, seeking revenge.Perhaps more than anyone, Bashar al-Hajji feels the impact of the rift. A native of Beyanon, a Sunni village of 5,000 across the main north-south highway from Zahraa and Nubl, he’s the only Sunni in town who’s married to a Shiite. His wife of five years is from Zahraa. Associated PressBEYANON, Syria (AP) – Anyone who tries to slip out of the Shiite villages of Zahraa and Nubl is risking his life. Sunni rebel snipers stand ready to gun down anyone who dares. Roads are blocked with barricades and checkpoints.For more than three months, Syria’s rebels have imposed a smothering siege on the villages, home to around 35,000 people, maintaining they are a den of pro-regime gunmen responsible for killing and kidnapping Sunnis from nearby towns. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 0 Comments   Share   “Our villages are poor. Zahraa and Nubl are rich and have so much that we don’t have,” said al-Hajji, one of six siblings born to a retired military man with 30 years of service in the air force as an aircraft mechanic.The tears in the social fabric are nationwide. Syria’s multiple sects, religions and ethnicities long coexisted _ not always completely in tune, but usually more harmoniously than in neighboring Lebanon. The country is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while Shiites make up a tiny proportion, less than 5 percent, though exact numbers are not known.The most serious split is between Sunnis and Alawites, an offshoot sect of Shiism that makes up about 15 percent of the population and dominates Assad’s regime. Assad and his family are Alawites and elevated their community to top military and government positions.Like the Alawites, Syria’s small Shiite community has largely sided with Assad’s regime, as has the small Christian minority, which fears the rise of Sunni fundamentalists if Assad falls.“Syria has sustained sectarian scars that will simply take a long time to heal,” said Loai Hussein, an opposition political activist. “There has been a great deal of polarization, some of which is encouraged by neighboring countries.” Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project “I am caught between the two sides,” said al-Hajji, a 28-year-old mechanic who is not just Sunni but follows the sect’s most conservative school, Salafism.His wife’s family shuns him and is persistently telling her to leave him and come home to Zahraa.“They know that I am a Salafi, and they think it is permitted for me to kill Shiites,” said al-Hajji, sitting in the yard of the family’s home in Beyanon.“Well, if this is the case, I don’t have to go far to kill one,” he said, nodding toward his house.Al-Hajji limps from a gunshot wound he suffered in February, when a gang of Shiites from Zahraa beat and kidnapped him.“Only when my family and others kidnapped about 20 of their own and threatened to kill them was I released,” he said. He showed a photograph taken after his release, his face bruised and a deep cut across his cheek.He pointed to a neighborhood of Zahraa in the distance and said it had been home to pro-regime snipers and machine gun nests that shot at “everything that moves” in Beyanon.“They killed and wounded so many of us, we had to block the road,” he said.A friend, Khaled Mohammed Saraj, a 29-year-old carpenter, was kidnapped by Shiites in July while driving near Zahraa at 6 a.m. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generationlast_img read more

UK marines accused of murder granted anonymity

first_imgLONDON (AP) – Five Royal Marines accused of a murder in Afghanistan have the right to remain anonymous during their trial because they could face attack if identified, a British military judge said Wednesday.The five men, identified only as Marines A, B, C, D and E, were charged last month with the murder of an unidentified captured Afghan national on or about Sept. 15, 2011.UK military officials have said the incident involved an “engagement with an insurgent” in Helmand province, where the majority of Britain’s 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are deployed. They say no civilians were involved. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Quick workouts for men Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top Stories Sponsored Stories center_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   British news organizations, including the Press Association agency and the Guardian newspaper, challenged an order that the men _ who have been released from custody and allowed to return to their units _ could not be publicly identified until the end of court martial proceedings.But Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett ruled that “there may be a real and immediate risk to the defendants’ lives” from terrorists or “lone wolf” attackers if they were named.The judge said that risk “will increase significantly when all of the prosecution evidence is disclosed as the trial unfolds.” He said, “I am not prepared to take a chance with these men’s lives.”The defendants are the first British troops to be charged with murder in Afghanistan since deployments began there in 2001.Blackett said he would reconsider the anonymity order if any of the men was convicted.Their next court hearing is set for Dec. 10.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more