Planning a trip to the Wild West of Canada? Visit Calgary!

Have you always wondered what a real cowboy looks like? Then you should certainky visit Calgary in Canada. Calgary is the biggest city in the province of Alberta and has an old tradition of raising cattle and being a cowboy town from the late 18th century to the 70s of the last century. After the discovery of big oil reserves, the city transformed into an economic metropolis.


The skyline changed dramatically fast, but the architecture has always been important. If you visit during winter time – do not forget your warm boots and jacket – you can walk through the buildings, they are all connected with each other by crossovers. The CORE Shopping Centre is located downtown. Next to it is the shopping street Stephen Avenue. Another good opportunity for shopping is the Chinook Centre, a giant shopping mall with an IMAX Scotiabank Theatre. You can reach it by train, bus or car.

Bars, designer shops and artist supplies are located at the 17th Ave SW. It is the perfect place to grab a coffee, go for some ice cream or have a drink. But alcohol in Canada is not cheap. It is normal to pay six bucks (dollar) for one beer. And do not forget to tip the waitress – they are living from tips. If you are planning to go to a club, you usually tip after every drink. If you are a good tipper, you might get a non-alcoholic drink for free.

And now back to the opening question: If you want to see cowboys, go to Calgary but please wait until the summer. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede is a ten-day long agricultural fair, most of it in July. The city is crazy at this time of year. Everyone digs his cowboy hat and boots up and starts acting like a wrangler. The Stampede starts with a big parade (with Mounties, some tanks and many cowboys and -girls) through the downtown area. Most interesting events are probably the Rodeo Events like barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping or bull-riding.

Hidden gems

  • Prince's Island Park: This is a little island on the Bow river, located in the downtown area. You can go for a walk there, play with your kids, or lay down and enjoy the sun. Watch out for the Canadian gooses! Sometimes they can be aggressive!
  • Go to the Elbow River Casino for brunch on Sunday. They have an all-you-can-eat-buffet for approximately 11$. It starts at 11 a.m. and goes on until 1.30 p.m. The sports bar there also has very nice food.
  • Are you hungry and you have no clue where to go to? Chicken Wingsnights are a thing at almost every pub on different days of the week. You can get a chicken wing for 25 ct, but you need to order at least ten of them. Still cheap. And if you do not like the marinade, just choose a different one for your next round of ten wings.
  • The Ship & Anchor Pub is directly located at 17th Ave SW and is the place to be. It is an nice old Pub with very friendly waiters. It has events like Live Soccer, British New Year, or XMAS Night. There is always something going on.
  • Back to the future: The Heritage Park Historical Village is like a journey back to the roots of Calgary. You can walk through an old fort or through a cowboy town. You can take a ride with an old steam locomotive, a carriage or the old paddle steamer S.S. Moyie. It is the perfect activity for a family trip or a even a date.
  • Backpacker? A nice place to meet new friends, host group events or have food together at Thanksgiving or Christmas is the Wicked Hostels on MacLeod Street SE, on the corner of 17th Avenue SW. The owner, Jeff, organizes events like shooting range or floating on the river together with a bunch of people.
  • West from Calgary are the Rocky Mountains. It is just a one-and-a-half-hour drive to Banff, a tourist town that looks like an old Bavarian village. But if you ask me, I would recommend Jasper. It is a four-hour drive from Banff through the Rocky Mountains. The best time of the year to do this is during the fall, if the leaves change their colors.
  • If you really want to learn something about Buffaloes and the dark history of the Buffalo hunting, you need to go South. There is the World Heritage Site of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. It is one of the most interesting museums I ever went to. You can learn how the first nations hunted the Buffaloes before the white men came on their horses.
  • The next UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the east of Calgary: The Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is land from before our time. Rain swamped layers of earth away in the middle of last century. This means, that you are walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs. It is the richest deposit of dinosaur bones in the world.
  • If you like to see more bones and dinosaurs, you have to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum. You can find it between Calgary and the Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is located in Drumheller, which looks like an adventure park with all the Dinosaur figures around the town.
  • And if you want to eat some real Canadian fast-food, try Poutine: fries, cheese curds and gravy. It actually comes from the French-Canadian part of Quebec, but you can find it almost everywhere.

Calgary was my home for almost two years. The winters are really cold (normaly between -30°F and -5°F (or -33°C and -20°C) and long (up to five to six months). The best time for a visit is around summer or fall. But the prices for accommodation go up around Stampede. If you are not interested in cowboys, come around early September and enjoy all the places around the city.

Patrick Klapetz is our German correspondent. His interest is science, culture and media psychology. He studies Media Management and Journalism at the Jade University of Applied Science.

The opinions expressed here by Shout! columnists are their own, not those of Shout!

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Pope Francis attends an audience with President of Iraq Barham Ahmed Salih at the Apostolic Palace on November 24 2018 in Vatican City Vatican (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis to plan first ever papal trip to ​Iraq

Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Iraq's conflicts since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the spillover from the Syrian war have led to a dramatic decrease in the country's Christian population.

What's happening: Iraqi Christians trace their presence back to Christianity's founding, and they preserve ancient customs including the Aramaic languages, which some Christian villages in Iraq and Syria still consider their mother tongues. Caught between repressive, apathetic or hostile governments and a Sunni Islamist insurgency, Iraq's Christians have suffered persecution, death and exile.

  • Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, there were 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.
  • Today, the number is about 200,000, according to the documentary Christian in the Mirror, which premiered in Washington, DC on June 10, 2019.

Between the lines: The first papal trip to Iraq is all but certain, despite Pope Francis' willingness. In 2000, the late Pope John Paul wanted to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham. But negotiations with the government of then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down and he was unable to go, Reuters reported.

What's next: If Iraqi Christians all but disappear, the loss for Iraq goes beyond the immediate loss of life to the identity of the country. Iraq will no longer be seen as a culturally diverse society, home to ancient religions and rich cultures.

Go deeper: Syrian Christian Perspectives on the War

A general view shows the Syrian flag flying in front of the Syrian Saint Sarkis Church for Armenian Orthodox as Armenians celebrate Christmas in Damascus on January 6, 2015. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Exclusive: Syria war is driving Armenians back into exile

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Armenia sent a team of experts to Syria to help clear mines and provide medical assistance. That this team will be based in Aleppo in northern Syria is no coincidence. Before the war, Aleppo was home to 110,000 ethnic Armenians, one of the world's largest Armenian diasporas.

The big picture: About 22,000 ethnic Armenians have moved to Armenia since the start of the war in 2011. An additional 12,000 headed to Europe, America and Russia. Most are from Aleppo and some from the area controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria, Alexandre Goodarzy, the chief of mission for Syria at SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, a non-governmental organization providing relief services in Syria, told Shout! News.

Details: The neighborhood where ethnic Armenians live in Aleppo is called Midan. While in the Syrian government-controlled western Allepo, during most of the war Midan sat on the front line with rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo. But the territorial demarcation of Midan was also disputed by Kurdish armed forces on the northwest side of the neighborhood and by al Qaida's affiliated Jabhat al Nusra on the northeast side. Therefore, Midan's inhabitants were being shelled by both Kurdish forces and Jabhat al Nusra.

As a result, from all the Christian communities in Aleppo, ethnic Armenians suffered the most from shelling and bombardments.

Why it matters: Ethnic Armenian numbers decreased considerably because of the war. Their presence in Aleppo dates back many centuries. But Midan's Armenians came as a result of the genocide that took place during last century's two World Wars. There presence increased Allepo's population by 25%.

The impact: Bringing ethnic Armenians back to Syria will be a challenge, Goodarzy from SOS Chrétiens d'Orient said. They will likely not return, and those in Armenia might not stay either, because of the catastrophic economy there, he said.

A veiled woman living in alHol camp which houses relatives of Islamic State group members sits next to her child in the camp in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019. (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

These are the latest countries to repatriate their Islamic State-affiliated citizens

It is estimated that the Syrian Democratic Forces have custody of more than 9,000 foreign citizens affiliated with the Islamic State. They are from around 60 other countries.

United States

Two American women who were detained for Islamic State links in Syria have been repatriated to the U.S. together with their six children, the second such transfer between the two countries since the defeat of the terror group's caliphate, the Independent reported.

France

Last month, France repatriated five young children from camps in northern Syria, which are home to tens of thousands of Islamic State families, French media reported.

Why it matters: Repatriation of women and children affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been the least controversial. Children of foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria are "among world's most vulnerable" and should be brought home, says the United Nations.

Yes, but: Government officials from the Islamic State-affiliated citizens' countries of origin worry about the security risk these children can pose. For example, the British government has so far refused to repatriate any of its citizens who went to join the Islamic State, citing security fears. Shout! News learned of similar security concerns from a Belgian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.


Clockwise from top left, French nationals Vianney Ouraghi, Salim Machou, Mustapha Merzoughi, Brahim Nejara, Leonard Lopez, Yassine Sakkam, Kevin Gonot and Fodil Tahar Aouidate, all sentenced by a Baghdad court to death for joining the Islamic State. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Iraq condemns French Islamic State supporters to death

Iraqi terrorism courts sentenced 11 French citizens and one French resident to death for support of the Islamic State, the New York Times reported. The French government claimed it reiterated its opposition to capital punishment to the Iraqi government. However, prominent French defense lawyers signed a letter that blasted the government, saying it violated the constitution by risking the execution of its citizens.

Driving the news: The fate of citizens from France and other Western countries in Iraqi courts where they face the death penalty for joining the Islamic State is under scrutiny. Should those Western countries that ban capital punishment pressure Iraqi courts to try to get death sentences commuted?

Why it matters: There could be more cases to come. There are some 450 French citizens in camps in Syria who joined the Islamic State, according to France's Foreign Ministry.

What they're saying: Judge Ahmed Mohamed Ali, who heard all 12 cases, said that the French who joined the Islamic State played a special role by legitimizing the organization in the eyes of the world, and that what it did in Syria reverberated in Iraq. "[The Islamic State] wanted to be an international organization and thousands of Syrians and Iraqis joined it," Mr. Ali said. "That had an impact on Iraq." "The foreigners — the Belgians, the French — they came and created legitimacy for this organization."

Go deeper: What will the President do?

Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Sajid Javid (Getty Images)

As the Syrian conflict drags on, UK bans its citizens from Syria

Under a new law, British citizens going to terror hotspots face 10 years in jail, The Guardian reported. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 creates a criminal offense of entering or remaining in "designated area" overseas.

The designated areas: So far, the British government has yet to identify designated areas. Asked by the House of Commons which areas were being considered, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said his designation will be subject to parliamentary debate and approval:

"Of course we are [looking at designated areas]. In anticipation of the Bill becoming an Act, we had already commenced some work on that. It would not be appropriate at this point for me to say which areas we looked at specifically—for an area to be designated, it has to come before the House and it has to be the will of the House to designate that area, and I do not want to prejudge that."

Sajid Javid

The Home Secretary later mentioned Syria, with a focus on the city of Idlib and the north-east region. It is not clear whether areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces will be included or not.

Details: In an explanatory note, the Home Office said that the act will not be retrospective, but a person already in a designated area at the time of designation will have to leave the area within one month. The law also contains a number of exempted purposes for traveling to designated areas, such as humanitarian aid and journalism.

The big picture: 900 individuals of national security concern from the UK have travelled to engage with the conflict in Syria, the Home Office said. About 40% of these individuals are still in Syria.

Interviews
Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian democracy and human rights advocate, exits the Canadian embassy on August 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Interview: The Syrian Army disappeared completely

Radwan Ziadeh, a scholar and human rights activist who founded the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria told Shout! News that only a liberal democracy can work for Syria and accommodate the country's various religious and ethnic communities.

Mr. Ziadeh is a critic of what he sees as the current Syrian Kurds leadership's "imagined identity." Syria's 8% Kurdish minority can't replicate northern Iraq's self-governance, where the Kurds make up one third of the country. From the late 1960s onward, Mr. Ziadeh said, Syria's Kurds went through persecution, indiscriminate Arabisation and an extreme policy that forbade the use of their language and the celebration of their holidays. Yet, they have significantly contributed to Syria's political life, notably by providing seven presidents and prime ministers. There will be no room for identity politics if Syria's Kurds are granted full rights.

Highlights from the interview:

  • The international community is lacking a common response to the 5 to 6 million Syrians displaced by the war. In this vacuum, recipient countries have come up with their own policy, which is adversely affected by the rise in populism and is beyond the capacity of any country.
  • Syrian refugees who return home are not safe. Out of the 400 refugees who recently returned to Syria from Germany, 35 are missing, for example. In addition, studies show that refugees settle in their host country past the third year.
  • Only a liberal democracy can accommodate the religious and ethnic communities that make up Syria, such as the Druzes, Armenians, Kurds and Assyrian Christians.
  • There won't be any successful mechanics the international community can design to attract the Syrian government to deal with the opposition. Why would the regime negotiate now when it never negotiated in hard time. There isn't any rationality in its approach anyway.
  • The Syrian Army disappeared completely. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, local militias leaders where given full power to suppress the opposition by any means and at any cost: barrel bombs, siege, crimes based on gender and ethnicity. This policy empowered local leaders. They have proven that they could suppress the opposition and will not accept to negotiate their power away.
  • The U.S. has become irrelevant in the resolution of the conflict. The kind of U.S. strategy required for Syria right now can't be developed by the Trump administration. The Secretary of State can't initiate a long-term strategy without the risk of being reversed or challenged by the president's tweets. As a result, the U.S. strategy continues to be in limbo, leaving the initiative to Russia and Iran.
Analysis
(Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.S. to leave a residual military force in Syria

Trump administration's special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey claimed at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that the president had never intended a comprehensive troop withdrawal, but instead to leave a residual force in northern Syria.

Why it matters: Jeffrey's statement is another departure from President Trump's order, announced in December, that all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would leave, since their mission to destroy the Islamic State caliphate, in his view, had been achieved.

  • Jeffrey claimed since the U.S. could not get other members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State to agree to replace all of American forces in northeast Syria, the president decided to slow down the withdrawal and leave a residual force.
  • Yet, Jeffrey also said the administration wants other coalition members to bear the cost of stabilizing Syria: "We are shifting the focus from an exclusively American funded largely American boots on the ground to a more balanced one...It is burden sharing."

The big picture: Both the Obama and Trump administrations have sought to prevent its Kurdish partners from establishing an independent state in Syria. They also have had to take into consideration the position of Turkey, another ally in the fight against the Islamic State, for whom Syrian Kurdish forces are one and the same with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group designated as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington. Nevertheless, Jeffrey said in the hearing that the United States would stand by its Kurdish allies in northern Syria, as evidenced by the residual U.S. force to remain in Syria.

Go deeper: Interview: Trump left a tripwire military presence in Syria

News
A young Yazidi student attends a class in the Newroz refugee camp in Syria, near the Faysh Kabur border with Iraq. May 18, 2015. Tens of thousands of mainly Yazidis have fled to Syria since Islamic State militants captured Sinjar and other northern Iraqi towns in August 2014. (Flavius Mihaies/Shout! News)

Children of Yazidi women raped by ISIS men banned from community

1. The offspring of Yazidi women captured, raped and impregnated by Islamic State fighters have been barred from joining the community in Iraq, the Media Line reported. Islamic State fighters murdered thousands of Yazidi men, forced young boys to join their ranks and abducted Yazidi women to use as sex slaves. Those children born to female captives have been the subject of fierce debate in the community, which recognizes children as Yazidis only if both parents are members of the sect.

2. Both prisoners Israel set to release, following the return of the body of Israeli soldier, ask not to be returned to Syria, Haaretz reported. One of the two, an accused drug smuggler, refuses to go back to Syria where he says authorities persecute him, while the other, a Fatah operative, requested to be placed in Hebron where he wishes to get married.

3. Astana process: Syria talks end without deal on key constitutional body. The Syrian government and armed opposition groups have failed to agree on the makeup of a constitutional committee during two-day talks in Kazakhstan that were led by Russia along with Iran and Turkey, Al Jazeera reported.


Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters stand by a pick-up truck near the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria. February 11, 2019 (Reuters)

The stakes of Syria's gas shortage

Syria's acute gas shortage is a stark sign of the daunting challenges the country will face in post-war reconstruction. A step up in economic sanctions imposed by the United States are partly responsible for the crisis.

Details: A Shout! News source in Damascus describes unprecedented scenes of cars and people waiting for petrol in lines spilling into the streets. The wait has been counted in days with drivers leaving their cars in the line at night to sleep and coming back to take their spot in the morning. This energy crisis is even worse than what the country experienced during the war, the source says.

The big picture: The U.S. dialed up its sanctions against Iran and the Syrian regime lost access to supply from the oil field captured from the Islamic State by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

  • The Trump administration aims to drive Iran's oil exports to zero by ending sanctions waivers on May 2. It also asked the Sissi government in Egypt to close the Suez Canal to Iranian oil tankers supplying Syria.
  • Concurrently, the Syrian regime lost access to oil supplied by the Islamic State when the jihadist group lost access to oil field captured by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by American and coalition's airpower. It is unclear whether the SDF will resume supply to Damascus, which the U.S. will most likely oppose.
  • The source in Damascus does not exclude the Syrian government's role in exacerbating the gas shortage, as a mean to enrich those close to the regime.

So far, Iran found a way around the increased economic sanctions by supplying oil from Iraq through trucks at the Baghouz border crossing, Shout! News learned. Freed from the Islamic State last month by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the village of Baghouz sits along the Euphrates River at the Iraqi border in eastern Syria. Iran is considering building a railroad on that supply route.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Please email team@shout.news

News
Sri Lankan local people pray near to St Anthony Church on April 23, 2019 evening in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At least 321 people were killed with hundreds more injured after coordinated attack on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday rocked three churches and three luxury hotels in and around Colombo as well as at Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. Based on reports, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks while investigations have shown that the attack was carried out in retaliation for Christchurch mosque shootings last month. Police have detained 40 suspects so far in connection with the suicide bombs, which injured at least 500 people as the blasts took place at churches in Colombo city as well as neighboring towns and hotels, including the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand. (Atul Loke/Getty Images)

Islamic State 2.0: A global platform

Today's news roundup

1. The Islamic State relaunches as a global platform and the Sri Lanka bombings were a preview of its future, Charlie Winter and Aymenn al-Tamimi say in The Atlantic. In fact, Winter and al-Tamimi argue, the Islamic State has been ideologically strengthened by its failed proto-state, which the jihadi group claims was a way to build a global platform that would ensure the movement's future by mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters.

2. Syria's gas shortage has worsened. A Shout! News source in Damascus describes unprecedented scenes of cars and people waiting for petrol in lines spilling into the streets. The wait has been counted in days with drivers leaving their cars in the line at night to sleep and coming back to take their spot in the morning. This energy crisis is even worse than what the country experienced during the war, the source says.

3. Amnesty criticizes U.S.-led coalition's 'indiscriminate' actions in Raqqa, against the Islamic State, which killed about 1,400 more civilians than the U.S. military has acknowledged. Amnesty International produced names of more than 1,000 people reported killed from June to October 2017 in the northern Syrian city, NPR reported.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Please email team@shout.news