TPI taps Umapped for mobile itinerary platform for clients

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Travelweek Group Wednesday, November 16, 2016 TPI taps Umapped for mobile itinerary platform for clients TORONTO — TPI has joined forces with Canadian travel tech start-up Umapped to provide TPI clients with an interactive mobile itinerary with real-time messaging and content that extends to the client’s personal and social networks.TPI officially unveiled the new partnership with Umapped to nearly 200 attendees at the 2016 TPI Annual Conference aboard Celebrity Reflection.Umapped’s collaborative itinerary management platform is aimed at  streamlining TPI advisors’ workflow, generate incremental revenue and engage with their customers. “We have done our due diligence across all itinerary management tools, and Umapped is by far the most advanced,” said Morris Chia, TPI President and CEO. “Umapped’s unique interactive capabilities and pioneering technology align with TPI’s ongoing commitment to finding new, innovative solutions that deliver continued program enhancements to our advisor members. Umapped empowers our advisors to become true collaborators and build connections on mobile and social platforms where travelers are spending their time. We look forward to the positive impact that this new partnership will bring.”More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthTPI says many TPI advisors already using the platform have reported improved productivity and sales, with increased conversion rates on proposals and upsell revenue.Available as a white-label and API solution, Umapped enables travel brands to deliver visually rich, consolidated mobile itineraries which includes sharing real-time content, exclusive offers and expertise via messaging and social media. “Mobile engagement has moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ as more travellers increasingly turn to their tablets and smartphones to stay connected and simplify their trips,” says Umapped CEO Lisa Israelovitch.Umpapped ( has been growing rapidly and now services agencies and companies in 11 countries, she adds.center_img Posted by Tags: Sphere, TPI Sharelast_img read more

SLH adds five upscale properties to portfolio

first_img Travelweek Group TORONTO — Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) has certainly been busy this month, adding five independently-minded hotels to its growing portfolio. Ranging from a stately home in Queenstown to a classic alpine lodge in Austria, each property is sure to impress even the most discerning travellers.Owl and the Pussycat Hotel (Galle, Sri Lanka)Considered one of Sri Lanka’s newest boutique hotels, having opened in January 2016, this 16-suite luxury coastal retreat is situated nearby the UNESCO listed Galle Fort and Buddhist temples. Each spacious suite is a little different, but guests can expect eye-catching artwork and panoramic sea views in every one. Rates start at $242 per night.Foxhill Manor (Cotswold, England)With just eight rooms, Grade II listed Foxhill Manor is an intimate property set on the magnificent 400-acre Farncombe Estate near Broadway. The hotel’s charm lies in its home-from-home feel, with cozy bedrooms and home-cooked meals. Even more, the hotel is pet friendly and boasts an onsite cinema room and a free shuttle service to sister property Dormy House, where guests have access to its expansive spa, restaurant and facilities. Rates start at $627 per night.More news:  CIE Tours launches first-ever River Cruise CollectionHulbert House (Queenstown, New Zealand)Just 10 minutes from the centre of Queenstown, Hulbert House was built during the height of the Gold Rush in 1887 and has since been lovingly restored. Each of the six rooms has a lake, garden or skyline view and is uniquely decorated – where one room boasts a canopy bed or a wood burning fireplace, another is home to an antique writing desk or teardrop chandelier. Rates start at $880 per night.Villa Dell Pergola (Alassio, Italy)The hotel’s 12 bedrooms are split across three buildings, with each room boasting its own individual style and furnishings dedicated to the many figures who’ve stayed at the hotel in the past. The grounds extend over 22,000 square metres and include an abundance of Mediterranean flora and exotic evergreens. The hotel restaurant, Ristorante Nove, is headed up by Executive Chef Giorgio Servetto who serves traditional Ligurian cuisine in an elegant setting. Rates start at $470 per night.More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthDas PostHotel (Tyrol, Austria)This classic alpine lodge features 27 rooms and an eco-conscious design that’s deeply rooted in mountain traditions. Sustainability is at the heart of the resort, which shows in the many design features like the solar-heated pool and organic menus at HeLeni restaurant. Das PostHotel is situated in the Zillertal ski area of Austria, allowing guests to ski year round on the slopes of the Hintertux Glacier. Rates start at $282 per night.Travel Agents booking with SLH can enjoy a range of benefits. Simply visit to receive commissions ranging from 10% to 20% available through all SLH booking channels. In addition, agents can keep updated with all the latest hotel news, receive travel industry rates and sign up to the ‘Small Luxury Heroes’ program to start earning points for added benefits and rewards.For more information go to Tags: Small Luxury Hotels of the World Posted by Tuesday, November 22, 2016 SLH adds five upscale properties to portfolio << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

PEOPLE Ensemble announced new Marketing VP for Canada US

first_img Ensemble Travel Group has announced the appointment of Carl Schmitt to the executive position of vice president, marketing, for its 850 member agencies in the U.S. and Canada. He will be responsible for developing and executing a full suite of marketing programs and services for Ensemble members and its global network of preferred partners.Schmitt brings nearly 30 years’ experience in global brand strategy, customer relationship management, and B2B sales and marketing to the role, having served in senior management roles at PFP Services (credit union and life insurance provider) and Avon Products. At Avon, he helped transform the sales rep network and led the development and launch of the Anew skincare line, which generated sales of over $100 million in its first year and quickly became Avon’s flagship brand.“While Carl comes from outside the travel industry, his professional background has many parallels to Ensemble’s model of supporting members’ needs with results-driven marketing and business solutions,” said Ensemble’s Libbie Rice, co-president. “That said, we’re excited about the fresh perspective and new ideas he will bring to this position. Carl is strong in analytics and technology and is highly collaborative, which is important as we continue to capitalize on North American synergies.”More news:  Canada raises travel warning amid escalating protests in Hong KongOn his dedication to helping others succeed, Schmitt said: “For me that commitment goes as far back as my years at Avon working with thousands of independent contractors across the country. My top priority was to help them exceed in their goals, so in order to do that I trained in their shoes for a better understanding of what drives them every day – their successes and challenges.“The travel industry appears to be at the intersection of technology and human connection. Consumers want a personalized experience that makes them feel special, and technology can help make that happen. Skilled travel professionals are those who can build a trusting relationship with clients while capitalizing on all that technology can offer. I look forward to forging that same connection with Ensemble members and partners and helping them both succeed.”In his new role at Ensemble, Schmitt will be responsible for creating an overall North American marketing strategy that balances the needs of both the organization’s members and travel partners, including all print and digital marketing initiatives. In a cross-functional capacity, he will work closely with other departments to explore opportunities that drive shareholder growth and organizational efficiencies. In addition, Schmitt and his team of 10+ staff in the U.S. and Canada will create and implement marketing products and campaigns that showcase the expertise of Ensemble members as well as strengthen the overall Ensemble brand.More news:  Visit Orlando unveils new travel trade tools & agent perksSchmitt will begin work out of Ensemble Travel Group’s New York headquarters office on June 19. << Previous PostNext Post >> [PEOPLE] Ensemble announced new Marketing VP for Canada & U.S. Posted by Monday, June 19, 2017 center_img Share Travelweek Group Tags: Ensemble Travel Grouplast_img read more

Three more Princess ships slated to get Ocean Medallion

first_imgTags: Princess Cruises Share Wednesday, June 28, 2017 Posted by Travelweek Group center_img SANTA CLARITA, CA — Golden Princess, Crown Princess and Ruby Princess will be the next three ships to feature Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion wearable devices, enabling a new level of personalization and enhanced guest experience.Golden Princess passengers can experience Ocean Medallion starting in November 2018), Crown Princess in November 2018 and Ruby Princess in January 2019. The three vessels join four other Princess ships scheduled to debut Ocean Medallion Vacations — Regal Princess on Nov. 13, 2017, followed by Royal Princess on Jan. 19, 2018, Caribbean Princess on March 18, 2018 and Island Princess on May 16, 2018.“With the addition of Golden Princess to the fleet of Medallion Class ships, we will make available a more personalized vacation to guests sailing in and around Australia,” said Jan Swartz, Group President, Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia. “And, as we continue to enhance our ships with the Ocean Medallion, we do so to further our commitment in providing our guests the most memorable and relaxing vacation.”More news:  CIE Tours launches first-ever River Cruise CollectionHighlights for these three ships for the 2018-2019 season includes:Golden Princess returns to Melbourne for a season sailing October 2018 to April 2019 with departures to South Pacific, Tasmania, South Australia and New ZealandCrown Princess will be Ocean Ready for the Fall 2018 Caribbean season. With this news, all Princess Cruises Caribbean cruisers will experience Ocean MedallionRuby Princess sets sails from Los Angeles for a season of West Coast cruisingThe Ocean Medallion has no discernible technology – no on-off switch, no charging, no menu to navigate – and can be worn as a pendant, on a wristband, in a clip or simply placed in a pocket. The device reveals enhanced services and personalized experiences without guests having to push a button or take any action. The pre-cruise engagement will allow guests to provide preferences that detail their wants, needs and desires so their onboard experience can be personalized.Pairing with the Medallion is the Ocean Compass, a digital concierge accessible by all guests using interactive displays throughout the ship, on stateroom TVs, via guests’ own smart devices or through a crew member.More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthSome of the initial service innovations include:Ocean Ready: Expedites embarkation as required information is added to the guest profile at home.Stateroom Access: The Ocean Medallion will unlock a guest’s stateroom door – replacing the key card.Here & Now: Guests can place food and beverage orders and have them delivered to select locations.There & Then: Guests can place select food and beverage orders and have them delivered to where they plan to be at a designated time.Ocean Navigate: Accessed through the Ocean Compass, guests can learn the whereabouts of their family as they enjoy activities throughout the ship and be guided seamlessly in finding their way around the ship. Friends and family will also be able to easily communicate with each other through a seamless messaging service. << Previous PostNext Post >> Three more Princess ships slated to get Ocean Medallionlast_img read more

Millennials get their very own airline with launch of Air Frances Joon

first_img Posted by Millennials get their very own airline with launch of Air France’s Joon Travelweek Group Share Thursday, July 20, 2017 center_img Tags: Air France, Low-Cost Carriers, Millennial Travel TORONTO — Everyone is marketing to the Millennials and now Air France is the latest to aggressively target this market with a specific product, namely a brand new airline called Joon that Air France says is aimed at “the millennials (18 to 35 year-olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology”.Air France says Joon will start on medium-haul routes out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle in fall 2017 and expand to long-haul service in 2018.Details about destinations and fares will become available this fall.Air France said the new brand “has been entirely designed to meet their requirements and aspirations, with an authentic and connected offering that stands out in the world of air transport.“Joon will not be a low-cost airline as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France. Joon is a lifestyle brand and a state of mind. Short, punchy and international, the name Joon is designed to address a worldwide audience. Its visual identity is based on an electric blue colour code symbolizing the airline’s dynamic attitude, as well as the sky, space and travel.”More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin Cruises“We started with our target customer segment, the millennials, to create this new brand that means something to them,” said Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand at Air France. “Our brief was simple: to find a name to illustrate a positive state of mind. This generation has inspired us a lot: epicurean and connected, they are opportunistic in a positive sense of the word as they know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others. Joon is a brand that carries these values.”“With Joon, we have created a young and connected brand that will give the Group a new impetus,” added Dominique Wood, EVP Brand and Communications at Air France. “Designed for our millennial customers, it will offer more than just a flight and a fare, it will offer a global travel experience. We’ll provide a further update in September, with more details on the brand’s content, products, services, destinations and range of fares.”More news:  Air Canada’s global sales update includes Managing Director, Canada & USA SalesThere are now more Millennials in North America than any other generation. Air France is the latest but certainly not the first to market a product so specifically to one demographic, and it won’t be the last.U by Uniworld, Uniworld’s river cruise brand for Millennials, is now available to book with the first itineraries sailing in spring 2018.Virgin Voyages, another cruise line targeting Millennials, has signed on for three vessels with its first ship scheduled to debut in 2020. For the first ship, Virgin Voyages says it will offer a range of Caribbean itineraries to ports that deliver “unique and very social experiences”. << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

People Uniworld appoints Palma to VP Field Sales North America

first_img[People] Uniworld appoints Palma to VP Field Sales, North America Share Posted by Travelweek Group Friday, November 17, 2017 center_img TORONTO — Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has announced the promotion of veteran travel executive Michelle Palma to the new position of Vice President, Field Sales for North America.In this expanded role Palma becomes directly responsible for the strategic, functional and administrative management of all Uniworld District Sales Managers throughout Canada and the U.S. She will report to Kristian Anderson, Senior Vice President-Global Sales.“Michelle is an incredible sales strategist, whose consistent positive and affirming attitude serves our brand well. She is ready for this position and we look forward to the impact she will make,” said Anderson.Prior to her new role, Palma served as vice president of sales for Canada, overseeing the revenue development and growth of the Canadian market and management of the national sales team. She has been part of the Uniworld team since 2010. Prior to joining Uniworld, Palma held senior sales and marketing roles at Signature Vacations. Tags: People, Uniworld << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Contiki launches Travel Together Connected Forever promotion

first_imgTags: Contiki Contiki launches ‘Travel Together, Connected Forever’ promotion Travelweek Group Share << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img TORONTO — Contiki is offering up to $670 off Europe trips starting today for bookings made and paid in full by April 10 as part of its new ‘Travel Together, Connected Forever’ campaign.Canadians travelling as a ‘squad’ can save an additional 5% if they bring four of their best friends, 7.5% if they have seven in their group or 10% off if 10 people join (or the 11th traveller goes free).An additional 25% off is also available on select trips to Europe. Readers and their clients can visit for more details.Contiki says it’s putting the ‘group’ back in ‘group travel’ with the new ‘Travel Together, Connected Forever’ campaign that encourages clients to travel together and form new bonds with other millennials from around the world.“We have always believed that travel is an experience best shared and a Contiki adventure provides the perfect people to make any trip as epic as possible,” says Lauren Howard, Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy for Contiki Canada.More news:  Marriott Int’l announces 5 new all-inclusive resorts in D.R. & Mexico“Ask anyone who’s ever been on a Contiki trip and the first thing they will tell you is the relationships they made with their group. Whether they travelled solo or with their own group of friends, the bonds that are fostered on any given Contiki trip end up lasting a lifetime. If agents only have one selling point to make about Contiki, it’s that: you’re travelling with like-minded people and you’re guaranteed to come back with new friends from around the world.”Nearly 20 of Contiki’s most popular trips are highlighted in the campaign and span the world, with an additional 25% off on select trips to Europe. They include Simply Italy, Spanish Spree, European Highlights, Eastern Road, Greek Island Hopping, European Discovery, Italian Bellissimo, Ibisza and Beyond, Asian Adventure, Thai Island Hopper East, Vietnam Experience, Pure Vida, Inca Panorama, Andes and Amazon Highlights, Beaches & Reefs, Kiwiana Panorama and The Big Tiki. Thursday, February 22, 2018 Posted bylast_img read more

Here is Holland Americas Australia NZ South Pacific 2019 schedule

first_imgTags: Holland America Line SEATTLE — Holland America is set to sail a variety of itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2019 onboard the Noordam and the Maasdam.Offering a premium, mid-sized ship experience, the Noordam will explore the islands of the South Pacific, Australia’s southern and eastern regions, and the North and South islands of New Zealand on a series of cruises that range from 10 to 26 days.The Maasdam’s EXC In-Depth Voyages will also touch the South Pacific and New Zealand on cruises from 11-30 days and reach the entire coast of Australia.Many of the itineraries can be booked together to form longer, more in-depth Collectors’ Voyages of up to 51 days, which combine nonrepeating back-to-back cruises.Here are some highlights:NOORDAMThis ship will offer cruises roundtrip from Sydney, Australia, or between Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand. During the voyages, guests experience some of the world’s most scenic cruising, including Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Shoreside, many of the tours include UNESCO World Heritage Site visits.Noordam will kick off the new year departing Jan. 4 on a 10-day South Australia Discovery cruise roundtrip from Sydney, with a call in Tasmania and Kangaroo Island. Its 14-day Pacific Treasures cruise in January is also roundtrip Sydney but highlights more exotic and lesser-known tropical ports on the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, with four calls at each locale.More news:  Canada raises travel warning amid escalating protests in Hong KongThe 13- or 14-day Australia and New Zealand cruises between Auckland and Sydney run January through March 2019 and again in November and December, including a special holiday cruise departing Dec. 21. Those itineraries visit seven to 10 ports and include a day of scenic cruising in Fiordland National Park. Several departures also include scenic cruising in Milford Sound.The 14-day New Zealand Discovery voyages departing in March and April sail roundtrip from Sydney and include nine calls in New Zealand. The cruise includes scenic cruising in Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.A Transpacific crossing between the Pacific region and North America is offered at the beginning and end of each season. Departing April 21, 2019, Noordam sets sail from Sydney to Vancouver on a 22-day journey that calls at seven ports in New Caledonia, Fiji, American Samoaand Hawaii. The ship returns to Australia on a 26-day South Pacific Crossing from Vancouver to Sydney Oct. 13, making calls in Hawaii, American Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia.MAASDAMMaasdam’s first 2019 cruise in the Australasia region departs in March to the South Pacific. The 17-day Pacific Odyssey itinerary from Brisbane, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand will explore several ports on the islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Zealand. The ship then heads to North America on a 24-day Polynesian Crossing from Auckland to San Francisco, California, calling at Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands, Bora Bora, Moorea, Papeete, Rangiroa, Tuamotu, Marquesas and Nuku Hiva.More news:  Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels; no injuries reportedThe ship will return to New Zealand in September 2019 for an 11-day cruise before embarking on an epic 30-day Australia Circumnavigation Oct. 17. During this memorable voyage, the ship will call at 14 Australian ports, infamous Komodo Island and feature scenic cruising in the Great Barrier Reef, Ribbon Reef, Torres Strait and a sunrise at Lizard Island.Maasdam will then sail a 17-day Australia & Melanesia itinerary departing Nov. 16 up the eastern coast of Australia to Alotau, Kiriwina, Kitava and the Conflict Islands. In December the ship will offer a 20-day Pacific Islands Adventure cruise roundtrip from Sydney to New Zealand, Tonga, Niue, Fijiand New Caledonia. Departing Dec. 23, the 14-day Southern Australia Holiday cruise will offer Australian ports and can be combined with the 20-day Pacific Islands Adventure cruise to form an ideal 34-day holiday adventure.Book Back-to-Back Cruises with a Collectors’ VoyageRanging from 24 to 51 days, Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Collectors’ Voyages are perfect for avid explorers seeking a more extensive cruise experience. The voyages combine back-to-back itineraries and represent the best per-day value for guests. During the Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruise season, Noordam sails six Collectors’ Voyages and Maasdam offers seven, affording the most in-depth exploration of this diverse region with extended itineraries visiting multiple destinations. Share Travelweek Group Here is Holland America’s Australia, NZ & South Pacific 2019 schedulecenter_img Posted by Wednesday, November 28, 2018 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Kempinski Gaviota team up again for new 5star resort in Cubas Cayo

first_img GENEVA — Kempinski Hotels and Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA have signed a management contract for Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski, marking the arrival of the first five-star luxury resort complex in Cuba.Kempinski is no stranger to Cuba, having successfully managed the country’s first five-star city hotel, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, for almost two years now.The brand says it will enhance its presence on the Caribbean island and will further extend its footprint in the Americas with Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski, currently under construction and is scheduled to open during 2019.The resort hotel is all-new, but it’s not all-inclusive. Billed as “Cuba’s first non-all-inclusive resort hotel”, Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski will be a “luxury hideaway from the crowds”, says Kempinski.The design will be striking as well. Kempinski says the resort will be built like the bow of a boat advancing into the Atlantic Ocean. Surrounded by a breathtaking natural landscape and extensive gardens, it will have 245 rooms and suites including six over-water villas with a minimum 75 square metres, plus a 200 square metre over-water presidential suite, all of which will have private pools.More news:  Air Canada’s global sales update includes Managing Director, Canada & USA SalesThe majority of the standard guest rooms will also boast unobstructed sea views and the white sand Playa Pilar beach will be directly adjacent to the resort.Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski “will ensure an unprecedented experience of barefoot luxury, including spa and yoga, extensive pool landscapes and an unparalleled gastronomic delight,” says the luxury hotel company. Specialty and buffet restaurants will serve fresh seafood and will set the resort apart from all other offerings on the Cayo, according to Kempinski. A kids club, gym, tennis court, lobby bar and cigar bar round off the facilities.“After having successfully introduced our city hotel Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana almost two years ago, we will complement our offer and will soon provide exclusive luxury in a beach resort, Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski,” says Carlos Miguel Latuff Carmenate, Executive President of Grupo de Turismo Gaviota. “We are delighted to be able to partner again with Kempinski Hotels. Renowned for its expertise in managing resorts and hotels throughout the world, the luxury hotelier will continue to bring individuality and European refinement to Cuba.”More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin Cruises“Having grown our project pipeline by 18% last year, I am delighted that this year our development growth has started equally bullish and I am very pleased to have signed our second project in Cuba with our long term partner Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A.,” said Markus Semer, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of Kempinski Hotels. “With Gran Hotel Mazana Kempinski, we introduced the concept of luxury hospitality to the city of Havana and are honoured to have also been selected as management company for the first ever luxury resort in the country. We are proud of the strong partnership we have built with Grupo de Turismo Gaviota and look forward to replicating our accomplishments in Havana, where we look back on particularly successful first two years of operation.” Share Friday, May 3, 2019 Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Kempinski, Gaviota team up again for new 5-star resort in Cuba’s Cayo Guillermo Travelweek Group Tags: Cuba, Kempinski, Openings & Renovationslast_img read more

Are Ticos getting hooked on credit cards

first_imgThe number of credit and debit card owners in Costa Rica increased by 20.9 percent in 2012, the Central Bank (BCCR) reported on Tuesday.Currently, 7.1 million credit and debit cards circulate in the country of 4.7 million. Of these, 22.6 percent (1.6 million) are credit cards. This means that on average each Tico owns at least one card (1.6 cards per person).The BCCR report indicates that credit cards were used mainly for shopping (95 percent of transactions), while debit cards were used primarily to withdraw cash from ATMs (51 percent).In the past four years, the use of debit cards as a payment method also increased from 43 percent of transactions in 2009 to 49 percent in 2012, according to figures detailed by the BCCR’s Payments System Division.The value of all purchases made with cards (credit and debit) is equivalent to 18.5 percent of the gross domestic product, a figure that is similar to that registered in countries with high use of electronic payment methods such as Sweden (21.9 percent) and Belgium (17.1 percent). Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Acid Test the case for using psychedelics to treat PTSD depression

first_imgRelated posts:‘It’s despair on all fronts,’ says Ebola aid worker UN confronts deadly Ebola epidemic White people are more likely to deal drugs in the US, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it World Bank: Zika will cost Latin America $3.5 billion in 2016 Facebook Comments This article is excerpted from Tom Shroder’s “Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal,” which comes out Sept. 9. The book focuses on researchers’ attempts to determine whether psychedelic drugs administered with talk therapy can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric ailments. Such studies flourished in the 1950s when more than 25,000 doses of psychedelic drugs were administered to thousands of patients and the accepted assessment held that the drugs would be “of utmost value in psychotherapy.”Rampant recreational drug abuse in the ’60s provoked government restrictions on research, but a small group of scientists persisted in the belief that psychedelic drugs were too potentially valuable to be discarded. In the past decade, a number of clinical trials have won approval at major research institutions, including Johns Hopkins.These studies have shown promising results using MDMA, psilocybin and other psychedelics in controlled clinical settings under close medical supervision, even as abuse of drugs sold on the street as psychedelics continues to claim victims.•Roland Griffiths, a slender man with a thatch of white hair and piercing eyes, got his PhD in psychopharmacology in 1972 from the University of Minnesota, then went to Johns Hopkins’ Behavioral Biology unit, where he specialized in determining the relative abuse potential of drugs.Griffiths became a recognized expert in his field, was happy and successful in his work. In his personal life, he discovered meditation, and that changed him in a fundamental way.“I had remarkable experiences that were unlike anything else I had had. … And all of a sudden, for lack of a better descriptor, it opened a spiritual window in the world for me,” he said. Tom Shroder’s “Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal.” (Blue Rider Press)At some point, a light went on in Griffiths’ mind and he realized his personal and professional concerns could converge seamlessly: He researched psychoactive drugs. A certain class of psychoactive drugs was reputed to induce just the kind of experiences he’d been so affected by in meditation. Psychedelic drugs.“I grew up in a scientific culture that had just ruled out doing research with these compounds,” Griffiths says. “But as I just contemplated more deeply and really thought where my interests lay, I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ “With his track record doing drug research in cooperation with the government and his sterling reputation, Griffiths won approval to do one of the first studies of the effects of psychedelic drugs in 30 years. Over the course of the study, which began in 2001 and was published in 2006, three dozen people lay on a comfy couch in an architecturally challenged building on Johns Hopkins’ stark medical campus in north Baltimore and took a naturally occurring psychedelic compound called psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” which like most psychedelics, as he had learned in his previous work, was not addictive.“What I wasn’t prepared for,” he says, “is people would come in two months later and I would say, ‘Well, so what do you think of the experience?’ And they’d say … ‘It was one of the most important experiences in my life.’ “In the end, more than 70 percent of the participants self-rated the experience as one of the five most important in their lives. Perhaps even more astoundingly, nearly a third rated it the single most important experience of their lives.“My initial response was kind of disbelief. It just doesn’t sound right, does it?”Griffiths wanted to know more. He began recruiting subjects for another study in 2008 to determine if the, for lack of a better term, religious experience induced by psilocybin could ease the anxiety and depression of those with life-threatening cancer.The study will eventually involve 44 subjects. Three quarters of the way through it, Griffiths has found that the experience significantly reduces the subjects’ fear of death and tends to change their focus from aggressive medical treatment to enhancing the quality of their remaining life. (Researchers of earlier pilot studies at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and New York University also found psilocybin therapy promising. Charles Grob, the psychiatrist at Harbor-UCLA who conducted one study, cautioned that his conclusions were based on small sample sizes, but said his subjects had consistently positive results.)A retired psychologist named Clark Martin saw a mention of the study online in 2008. His cancer had been diagnosed in 1990, when he was 46, the same year his daughter was born. He had a kidney removed. Four years later, doctors discovered extensive lung cancer, for which he had surgery and 11 months of chemo, followed by the discovery of three more metastatic tumors. He threw himself into researching his illness, and fighting it took over his life. He had been a passionate sailor but lost interest in that, and almost everything else, even to the point where he felt like he grew emotionally unavailable to his daughter. “I kind of got into this very narrow sort of life space,” Martin said.But his obsession with his illness led him to the Johns Hopkins Web site, and Martin called the number he found there. He qualified for the study, and Griffiths flew him to Baltimore.Recommended: An appointment with Dr. IbogaAfter taking the drug in a comfortably appointed room, the first thing Martin noticed was that the music on his headphones annoyed him. But before he could act on it, the music disappeared. Everything began to dissolve. He felt a clutching panic as simple everyday constructs began to melt down and evaporate. He thought of falling out of a sailboat and treading water helplessly, as the boat disappeared. Then the water disappeared. And then he began to disappear.Martin had always been about maintaining control in his life, pegging the world in neat, rational categories, everything in its place. Now he was flailing. “It’s like my entire body, my entire psyche, just wanted to get everything to fall back into place, to gel again.” Roland Griffiths. Photo for The Washington Post by Andre ChungHe thought that if he could get up off the couch, do something, touch something solid, maybe he could regain a sense of normality. At one point he became aware of the presence of his two “sitters,” the attendants who watched over all the experimental subjects to offer a sense of security. Martin sat up, obviously distressed. The attendants said nothing, but one put his arm around Martin’s shoulders. He felt that presence as a link to a more soothing reality. He lay back down and went deeper into the psychedelic experience, which can be astoundingly variable from person to person, and even from one time to another. Martin saw no hallucinations, had no thoughts, not even visual images. In fact, he had no sense of self — there was only a diamond-cut void where he disappeared entirely. Except something remained: an unadorned, unelaborated awareness, thoughtless, yet present.The panic faded into tranquility. The hours that passed he would later describe in a journal entry:“There was no experience of any ‘things’ and the mind seemed lucid and alert. It was very comfortable and somehow familiar. There was no drugged feeling. If there were any words to describe it, they might be curiosity or awe. …”And then he had the sense he was beginning the long journey back to the familiar reality. He found himself reluctant to leave the simple clarity, so he practiced allowing himself to slip out of it toward normality, then return to the void.“I did that, I don’t know, maybe a dozen times, because I wanted to sort of bake that into my muscle memory, so to speak, so that I could voluntarily return to that state.”As he emerged, he began to marvel at the steady presence of the sitter who had put his arm around his shoulder, and the fact that it was his presence alone — no words, no actions other than that one touch — that had meant everything to him in his panic. He realized that he had been missing that simple fact in his most important relationship, with his daughter.“I had an insight that my primary role as a father was to maintain a rock-solid attunement with my daughter. … The significance of this for me was that personal relationships do not need to be managed. Therefore, there is no need to present a false self and, in fact, doing so will severely limit the joys available naturally in relationships.”When he returned to his hotel room, he was shaken. “I was scared to go to sleep because I was fearful that I would drop back into the study stage and there wouldn’t be anybody there.”In the coming weeks the experience kept working on him. Eventually, he says, he fell into a new way of being. A year after his psilocybin experience he wrote:“There has been a shift from trying to micro-manage life to trusting intuition and spontaneity. … I’m more focused on values and process and less likely to feel long-range goals are set in stone. I am again involved professionally and socially. Most significantly, life has continued to open up, a move away from the depression and what felt like a downward spiral. Somehow, the psilocybin re-engaged a fullness of function that had been lost.”He had a new relationship with his daughter: Instead of an arm’s length, role-dominated father-daughter relationship, “we’re two people who share what’s going on in our lives in a very real, spontaneous kind of way.”Another breakthrough he hadn’t considered possible came in his relationship with his father, who lived in a nursing home in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. Before the psilocybin, Martin had visited him out of obligation.“I wasn’t really present,” he said. Mostly “I was … figuring out in my mind … how long will it be before I leave.”After his psilocybin experience, he found that “I connected with him at the level that he was functioning. And he just really cranked it up, not that he can maintain a conversation but he attempted it.”He began to see things through his father’s eyes, and felt his frustration at being so constrained, day after day, by four walls. On impulse, he gathered his father up and went driving for hours in the wide-open ranchland that surrounded the home, something he never would have considered doing before.Now his father “just lives for those drives. He thrives on it. He’s actually gotten better physically and mentally. And I know it sounds odd, but I’ve never felt closer to him.”“Acid Test” is published by Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Tom Shroder. Virginia author Shroder is a former editor of the Washington Post Magazine.last_img read more

Mixed emotions vex Pedro Pan generation after Cuba move

first_imgRelated posts:US officials in Cuba to discuss embassies As talks with US begin, Cubans anticipate changes in their lives US says next round of Cuba talks to take place in Havana on Monday US, Cuba resume talks amid Venezuela tensions See also: Latin American leaders hail renewed US-Cuban diplomatic relationsAmong the sharpest memories Guillermo “Bill” Vidal has of being sent from his childhood home in Cuba was waiting in the airport. There he was in 1961, he and his two brothers and so many other kids, distraught, excited, scared, separated from their parents by glass.“It was terrible,” he said. “It was called La Pecera, the fishbowl, and all the people leaving would be put inside the waiting area and the parents would be on the other side. They would be looking at you through the glass of the boarding gate. We were on one side and we would touch the glass and they would put their hands on the other side and mouthing ‘I love you.’ ”Like many Cuban Americans, Vidal now looks at President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will seek to reestablish diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba with nuanced feelings. In many cases, they are overjoyed. In others, skeptical. Some are of a generation that still hears the voices of their parents, who believed Fidel Castro robbed them and should be punished until the regime collapses. In Operation Peter Pan, 14,048 kids aged 3 to 17 left Cuba without their parents from 1960-1962. (WikiMedia Commons)In the first years following the revolution and Castro’s seizure of power from dictator Fulgencio Batista, 14,000 children like Vidal left Cuba for the United States, under the auspices of the Catholic Welfare Bureau. They were relocated with relatives or placed in foster homes and orphanages. Operation Pedro Pan, the exodus was called. Peter Pan kids, they would come to be known. Many were joined by their parents later. Some were not. They would grow up to become professors, lawyers, doctors, business and city leaders, or, as in Vidal’s case, a mayor of Denver.“We never thought we would be here forever,” said Ledy García Eckstein, whose parents sent her and her brother to the United States in August 1961. “I mean never. We lived in Iowa, my mom was there for I don’t know how many years, and she wouldn’t let me buy an electric beater. She would say, ‘I don’t [want] to be burdened by all that stuff when I got back to Cuba.’ ”Vida’s father was of the same mind: “He called life in the United States exile and when you are in exile, you can never plant roots. You can never establish relationships. We were as Americanized as you could get. We were going to high school and college. We were looking at a future in the U.S. and they were looking at a future in Cuba. When they sent us away, Papí said, ‘We’ll see you in a couple of months.’ ”Vidal and Garcia Eckstein greeted the news of closer ties between the United States and Cuba after decades of embargoes as a development long overdue.“Whatever we can do to normalize relationships is what I want,” Garcia Eckstein said. “As a student of politics, I know that a policy that doesn’t work for 50 years or more is a policy you don’t keep doing. It doesn’t make sense. The purpose [of the embargoes] was to get rid of Fidel and [brother] Raúl [Castro] and it hasn’t worked, so let’s see what we can do to help the people of Cuba back into the 21st century.”María Halloran’s parents sent her to the United States on April 20, 1962. It was just before her 12th birthday and she would wind up in an orphanage in Denver. Her parents joined her a year and a half later.“And like everyone else, we did not think we would stay here because previous regimes were short-lived and here we are 52 years later. But I never thought what happened today would happen in my lifetime,” she said pausing, her voice breaking. “We had given up. We really had.”The move announced Wednesday has not been universally praised throughout the larger Cuban community. Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, a conservative political advocacy nonprofit group, blasted the decision, calling Obama naive. “The truth is that renewed American economic activity in the island will only help the regime line its pockets, and thus strengthen its repressive hold on the country,” he said.Upon hearing Aguilar’s reaction, Vidal was quiet for a moment and then said he felt “great reverence for that opinion. It was my father’s opinion.”“My father felt he gave up everything and that he was living a life that was not of his own choosing. . . . But under current policy, [it] is the common people who are suffering,” he said. “. . . The embargo was cruel to people who are not responsible for the government in place.”Related: White House travel exemptions to Cuba do not cover tourism Members of Operation Peter Pan meet at Barry University to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the operationin 2010. Juan Castro Olivera/AFPNelson Valdés, a writer and a retired professor who taught at the University of New Mexico, is not as certain. His stepfather sent him to the United States on April 13, 1961, four days before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was 15, a teenage boy with wanderlust, under the influence of François Truffaut and his movie “The 400 Blows.”But Valdés believed, as many others did, that he would return to Cuba. He did, eventually, in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter tried to do what Obama is trying to do now. It was a controversial move to defy the anti-revolutionary zeal and return to Cuba but all this informs Valdés’s view that, while the president’s message is “generally positive,” it also carries with it the distinct odor of paternalism.“The very concept of ‘normalizing’ relationships is a very peculiar one, because Cuba has never had normal relations with the U.S.,” he said. “What may be normal from a U.S. viewpoint may not be normal from the Cuban.”Washington Post staffers Danielle Paquette and Jonnelle Marte contributed to this report.See also: Pope leads global praise for ‘historic’ US-Cuba rapprochement© 2014, The Washington Post Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Obama promises human rights talk with Castro

first_imgHAVANA, Cuba – U.S. President Barack Obama,who visits Cuba in a week, promised dissidents he would directly discuss human rights issues with their president, Raúl Castro, in a letter published Sunday.Obama told the Ladies in White, a group of wives and children of political prisoners, that he understood their struggle, in the letter dated March 10 but published online by the dissident organization three days later.“I fully understand the obstacles that ordinary Cubans face in exercising their rights,” Obama wrote in English. “The United States believes that no one in Cuba or anywhere else should face harassment, arrest, or physical assault just because they are exercising a universal right to have their voices heard.”“As I have in the past, I will raise these issues directly with President Castro,” Obama stressed.The White House confirmed to AFP that the letter was authentic. Cuban Americans share their thoughts on @POTUS’s efforts on Cuba ahead of his visit:— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) March 12, 2016 Related posts:Obama to make historic visit to Cuba in March Obama, Castro hail ‘new day’ for US-Cuba relations Obama addresses the Cuban nation in historic Havana visit Costa Rica winds down humanitarian mission for Cuban migrants with presidential send-offcenter_img When Obama sets foot in Havana on March 20, the White House imagines a “Berlin Wall moment” — a singular legacy-gilding event like Ronald Reagan’s 1987 address before the Brandenburg Gate.While Reagan sought to end the Cold War division of Europe, Obama hopes to symbolically “tear down” decades of Cold War antagonism across the narrow Florida Straits.Obama will visit the island March 20 to 22 — the first visit by a U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and a symbolically charged capstone to the rapprochement that he and Castro announced in December 2014.Obama’s Republican foes accuse him of betraying the cause of human rights in Cuba by engaging with the Castro regime, the Americas’ only one-party Communist state.In a bid to fend off such criticism, the White House has announced Obama will meet with anti-regime dissidents in Havana, although it has not given any details beyond insisting that the Cuban government will not be allowed to hand-pick them.See: Costa Rica winds down humanitarian mission for Cuban migrants with presidential send-off Facebook Commentslast_img read more

UPDATED Mexico reels in response to 71 earthquake

first_imgRelated posts:Magnitude-6.9-quake strikes southern Mexico, northern Guatemala, kills at least 2 At Mexico-US border, pope decries migrant ‘tragedy’ Strong earthquake off El Salvador felt in Costa Rica Costa Rica offers search-and-rescue teams to Mexico after earthquake At least 100 people were killed when a powerful, 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico on Tuesday, toppling buildings in the capital and sowing panic on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.The toll from the authorities was preliminary and could rise, as rescue crews and volunteers in Mexico City – home to 20 million people – clawed through the rubble of collapsed buildings looking for survivors and bodies.Four deaths were initially confirmed in Mexico City. The others occurred in nearby regions, mostly in Morelos state just to the south where 42 deaths were recorded.“I’m so worried. I can’t stop crying. It’s the same nightmare as in 1985,” Georgina Sanchez, 52, sobbed to AFP in a plaza in the capital.“We ran outside thinking all was going to collapse around us,” said Lazaro Frutis, a 45-year-old who escaped an office building before it crumpled to the ground. “The worst thing is, we don’t know about our families or anything.” AFP PHOTO / Pedro PardoThe quake – which occurred in the early afternoon, hours after city authorities had conducted an earthquake drill – caused damage in the bustling center of the city, and to areas south and west of the capital.Several buildings were reduced to debris and cars were flattened by falling masonry.Scenes of chaos permeated the city, with traffic jammed to a standstill before blanked-out stop lights, and anxious people running between vehicles as ambulances tried to make headway, sirens squealing.Emergency officials warned people in the streets to avoid smoking because of the risk of igniting gas leaking from ruptured pipes.In several locations, people were seen clambering on buildings that were now piles of stone and tangled metal to seek pull people out. People hurry to free possible victims out of the rubble of a collapsed building after the quake in Mexico. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo Estrella‘Everyone was frantic’The disaster immediately recalled the 1985 quake in which more than 10,000 people died, escalating panic among the population.Jorge Lopez, a 49-year-old Spaniard living in Mexico City, said that he raced to the school in the central Roma district where his children aged six and three were in class. He found the school collapsed but his offspring safe, if terrified.“We arrived at the school and everyone was crying, everyone was frantic, and the kids were holding on to a rope,” he said. “It’s uncontrollable. You can’t do anything against nature.”Witnesses said another school was smashed to rubble in Cuernavaca, a town just south of the capital. The fate of the pupils and teachers was unknown.An office building of approximately five stories in the chic Condesa district of central Mexico City collapsed. Volunteers scrambled among the debris, pulling out three survivors and looking for more.“There are people trapped there!” yelled one woman.Similar efforts were made at other smashed buildings nearby. At one, an emergency worker held up a sign commanding “Silence” so crews could listen for the sounds of any survivors.Patients were evacuated from a hospital in the adjoining Roma district, wheeled out on beds and wheelchairs as staff set up makeshift wards outside. Civil defence personnel and volunteers form a perimeter around the site where a building collapsed. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo EstrellaMexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, said on Twitter he had ordered the evacuation of damaged hospitals “and the transfer of their patients to other medical facilities.”He was to hold an emergency coordination meeting after flying over the disaster zone.At one collapsed building in Roma, dozens of people clawed at the rubble as they waited for the arrival of heavy machinery to move the massive chunks of stone. Officials called out for more volunteers, and for water.A woman standing and watching the efforts with her husband, a doctor, turned to him and said, “Darling, if you want to help, give me your glasses and take care.”Hours after the quake, residents stood around outside, in the streets, fearing aftershocks.Unconfirmed social media posts suggested the city’s international airport had closed because of damage.Mexico’s stock market was shut because of the quake. An injured woman is helped in the aftermath. AFP PHOTO / Pedro PardoInternational responseOfficials in other countries began to react to the disaster, with many offering to help.Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, who is in New York with other world leaders for the UN General Assembly, expressed his “solidarity” with the Mexican people.Back home, Costa Rican authorities offered Mexico support in the form of search-and-rescue teams.“With rising casualties & many collapsed buildings, my thoughts are with those impacted by the Mexico earthquake. The UN is ready to support,” tweeted the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock.U.S. President Donald Trump, who has forged an antagonistic relationship with Mexico since coming to office, tweeted: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, tweeted: “Devastating news from Mexico City. My thoughts are with those affected by today’s earthquake – Canada will be ready to help our friends.”Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray responded by saying “Mexico sincerely thanks the displays of international solidarity that we are receiving.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

UN condemns student attacks on Nepal schools

first_imgKATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – The United Nations in Nepal has condemned recent attacks on schools that it says are endangering children’s lives and jeopardizing their right to an education.Student groups have attacked several high schools and junior colleges mostly in the capital, Katmandu, this month. They accuse managers of charging high fees, running misleading advertisements and giving the institutions foreign names such as “Liverpool,” “Cambridge” and “Florida” to lure students. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Quick workouts for men The vital role family plays in society More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   center_img Attackers damaged property and set school buses on fire on two occasions.The U.N. statement says the most recent attacks on school buses could have had disastrous consequences as some children were inside.It urges authorities to investigate the attacks and identify those responsible. Attacks by student groups are rarely investigated by Nepalese authorities.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Top Stories Four benefits of having a wireless security systemlast_img read more

US Navy tests antimine drones in Gulf drills

first_imgMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) – The U.S. Navy is putting underwater drones through wartime-style drills as part of international mine-clearing exercises in the Persian Gulf following similar maneuvers by Iran.The U.S.-led exercises, which began last week, include operations by the unmanned SeaFox devices, which are equipped with sonar and an explosive charge designed to shoot and destroy mines. It is part of the Navy’s plans to increasingly deploy automated surveillance and protection systems, including aerial drones. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Comments   Share   Four benefits of having a wireless security system Sponsored Stories Navy commanders insist the exercises, comprising more than 41 nations, are not intended solely against possible Iranian threats. But Iran has previously warned it could block critical Gulf oil routes in retaliation for Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program.In apparent response to the U.S.-led drills, Iran last week staged its own minesweeping operations.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sobercenter_img The vital role family plays in society Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories How do cataracts affect your vision?last_img read more

Germany charges 2 alleged members of Islamic State group

first_imgBERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors say they have filed terror charges against two men they say are members of the Islamic State group who traveled to Syria via Turkey in May 2014.Federal prosecutors said Thursday that 27-year-old Ayoub B. and 26-year-old Ebrahim H. B. — whose surnames were withheld under German privacy rules — have been charged with being members of a foreign terror organization.The 27-year-old allegedly underwent weapons training and later took part in fighting near Syria’s Iraqi border. Prosecutors said the 26-year-old volunteered to carry out a suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, but the plan collapsed after some of the IS members he traveled with were arrested.The men returned to Germany in late August and September last year.They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Comments   Share   Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academieslast_img read more

Can US housing industrys comeback endure The outlook dims

first_imgMarina Rodriguez, a 26 year-old dental hygienist, recently signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in suburban Chicago.“The idea of buying is a little scary — it’s a huge financial obligation,” she said. “I would rather rent and travel and be year-to-year then be locked down.”Builders are tapping into the rental market. Nearly all the 7.4 percent increase in June building permits came from apartment complexes, the government said last week. The three-story townhomes that Chicago-based REVA Development Partners once sold to first-timers and empty-nesters are now being rented.“There has been a fundamental shift in people’s attitudes toward home ownership,” said the Matt Nix, the firm’s principal.There’s also evidence that construction is topping out, a potential blow to overall economic growth. The American Institute of Architects said its index that tracks billings for houses and apartments has reached a four-year low. There’s often a nine- to 12-month lag between drawing up blueprints and a groundbreaking, a sign that builders view the current demand as short-lived.“What we’re seeing now is going to hit construction in 2016,” said Kermit Baker, the institute’s chief economist. “It does look like that market is getting close to peaking.” Sponsored Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility But an unusual trend has taken hold: Stronger home sales have yet to motivate many people to put their homes on the market. Listings for existing homes have barely edged up in the past year. And the pace of home building remains subpar compared with previous economic expansions.With buyer demand outstripping supply, the national median sales price for homes last month reached $236,400, the highest ever recorded, the Realtors said.For many would-be buyers, those higher prices are manageable if mortgage rates remain ultra-low. In June, the average 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.8 percent. The average has since topped 4 percent as the Federal Reserve has moved toward raising a key interest rate from its near-zero level. When the Fed last prepared to curtail its stimulus efforts in 2013, rates spiked and home sales sank.Though only modestly up, the higher mortgage rates are having a dampening effect, according an index of buyer demand released Thursday by the national real estate brokerage Redfin. It expects a slowdown in the growth of sales and prices as buyers pursue less expensive homes.“Interest rates are having an effect,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. “It’s making buyers a bit more conservative.” Comments   Share   Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The main problem is also the simplest: There just aren’t enough homes available. Robust demand has failed to draw many sellers into the market. And few in the industry foresee a flurry of home listings arriving soon.Other pressures will also likely slow sales. Steadily rising home prices can put ownership out of reach for some. What’s more, builders are increasingly focused on apartment construction rather than single-family homes.And then there are mortgage rates, which have crept up from recent lows and made it incrementally harder for some would-be buyers already struggling to afford a purchase. Some buyers are rushing to finalize deals for fear that rates will keep rising — a trend that could depress demand later this year.“What we fear is next is if interest rates rise and prices rise,” said Deborah Heffernan, a Boston-area broker. “That combination will definitely eliminate people from the market.”Early this spring, buyers leapt back into the market. Mortgage rates were just slightly above their 2012 lows, and nearly two years of solid job growth had generated millions of new paychecks.Sales of existing homes have surged 9.6 percent in the past 12 months, according to the National Association of Realtors. In June, they hit an annual rate of 5.49 million, a pace last achieved before the recession began. And sales of new homes have jumped 21 percent through the first half of 2015, the government reported Friday. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day (AP Photo/John Bazemore) New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Four benefits of having a wireless security system In some key markets, prices have begun to stagnate as buyers seem to be retreating. A majority of homes in Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., either lost value or basically flat-lined during May, according to a study by Weiss Residential Research.Weiss’ analysis points to a contributing factor for the shortage of available homes: Many homeowners can’t find affordable homes themselves and so can’t list their own properties for sale.“The reason why demand is high relative to supply is that homeowners are having a hard time moving up,” said Allan Weiss, founder of Weiss Residential Research. “There is gridlock.”In addition, many Americans remain squeezed by sluggish pay raises and have chosen to continue to rent. And some who do want to buy are unmoved by the limited selection and have decided to wait, said Tony Smith, a real estate broker in Charlotte, North Carolina.“Buyers are leaving the market because they don’t have anything to buy,” Smith said. “Some of them get frustrated and sign another lease.”Indeed, home ownership is declining, and renting has surged. Fewer than 64 percent of Americans own homes, the lowest level since 1989, according to the Census Bureau. The share of people under age 35 who own has dropped to around 35 percent from a high of 44 percent in 2004. WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. housing market has sizzled this summer, lifting expectations that home sales will finally help drive an economic expansion now in its seventh year.Or will it?Signs are emerging that housing’s momentum may be destined to falter in coming months. Analysts note that some of the key foundations needed to sustain a brisk pace of home-buying in the long run appear to be missing.The U.S. economy had only just begun to derive strength from housing for the first time since the Great Recession began in 2007. If home sales flag, that strength would fizzle. Top Stories last_img read more