Unlicensed Travel Agents at Work

A standardized law that basically allows agents to sell travel insurance without having the need to flash a license has just been adopted by 31 states in the U.S., after five years of effort by the United States Travel Insurance Association (USTIA) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) to simplify all state laws and regulations about the sale of travel insurance. This so-called standardized law is a model law adopted by the entire NAIC or National Association of Insurance Commissioners that aims to give unlicensed agents the right to do basic sale of travl insurance plans.

The most recent state to adopt the said law is Delaware. It was able to adopt the brand new law last summer, which was officially used on January 2015. The said law allows travel agents to offer insurance to eager travelers who desire to have a reliable travel insurance plan before they leave the country or their hometown.

In large part, through the said law, travel agents are given the opportunity, despite their lack of license, to provide generational information, collect premiums, and process applications filed by clients who want to purchase a reliable insurance plan. This tactic is entirely different from what the law states regarding the role of licensed insurance agents who get to do the following activities: sell, solicit, and negotiate.

In summary, the model law specifies that agents can sell travel insurance to their customers for as long as travel insurance company administrators commit to doing their jobs by ensuring that all of the unlicensed travel agents under its wing are trained to a certain extent. More importantly, administrators are also practically obliged to keep a list of their official agents that are allowed to sell insurance plans in an attempt to disseminate valuable information about travel insurances.

The Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Allianz Global Assistance, Jack Zemp, had once confirmed that travel agents’ job do not, at all, entail any professional acts that can only be performed by a real insurance agent. Instead, it is a profession primarily focused on organizing quality trips and highlighting the role of travel insurance as an element of any type of trip worthy of purchase. ASTA’s senior, John Pittman, believes that even though unlicensed agents can enjoy a lot of time on their own, they still have to wait for the participation of the insurance provider whenever specific questions about the coverage of the travel insurance has been asked by a customer.

As of now, there are still nineteen states that are not yet adopting the model act of granting unlicensed travel agents the freedom to sell travel insurance plans. Because of this, the aforementioned model act shall not be applicable to any other locations outside the thirty one states any time soon. Thus, an agent has to have a license and retain that same license as he stays on a state where unlicensed travel agents are not allowed to sell anything. According to USTIA’s committee, all those who have purchased travel insurance from unlicensed agents basically have the same benefits as those who have acquired one through the help of licensed travel agents.

In countries such as Denmark car insurances (bilforsikringer), are mandatory. But trave insurances are not. This means that every year people who are not insured get to pay large amounts for treatment if they get injurued on their holiday.

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Travel Weekly

The State of Journalism in Yemen

yemenThe wave of unrest that began in January 2011 to the transition of power in Yemen from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to newly-elected President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in 2012 signified the people’s dream for freedom from a 33-year dictatorship. But hopes for a better Yemen have been crushed by the atmosphere of anarchy, total lawlessness and violence which has claimed the lives of 25 journalists in 2015 alone, following the resignation of Hadi on January 22, 2015 after Shiite Houthi rebels stormed his home, forcing him to flee Yemen.

The attempted assassination of Mansour Nour, the continued imprisonment of prominent Yemeni journalist Abdul Elah Haider Shaye and the recent kidnapping of Yemeni journalist Waheed al-Sufi are just a few examples of the true state of security which mirrors the decrepit conditions of press freedom in Yemen. Air strikes spearheaded by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of 10 countries directed towards Houthi-controlled territory in an attempt to restore President Hadi to office, as well as public protest calls addressed to Houthi militants calling for the release of imprisoned journalists have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, extremists are responding with journalist- centered violence in an attempt to put a cap on press freedom and objective reporting in Yemen.

Even now, journalists in Yemen are living with intimidation, threat, and fear of violent reprisal which not only affect them, but are also carried to family, friends and colleagues. Questions to which they have no answers are raised in their minds, foremost of which is, how they can remain safe and still perform their civilian duty of truthful conflict reporting. Another question is, whether this stressful day-to-day living under threat would negatively affect future generations of journalists operating in war-torn countries and cause them to be content with watered-down facts in exchange for their safety. They have seen too many examples of colleagues who continue the work in spite of the risks, out of love for the job. Yet, they see the very same people eventually buckle down from the psychological toll of living under constant threat, leading them to realize that being a journalist in Yemen is a real challenge, and it is no longer enough to have courage and experience because war could kill.

The four greatest risks to journalists today in the order of importance are: Surveillance (33%), Imprisonment (29%), Murder (22%) and Kidnapping (16%). The risks are evenly distributed and not confined to well-known international media personnel or foreign correspondents; the reality is that nine out of ten are local media men covering local news.

Even if they have learned to live with the hazards of competent journalism, phone tapping, roving bugs, surveillance cameras, cell-site location information, call and email records still remain a stark reality the moment they enter into a conflict area. If journalists intend to protect themselves, they have to adopt stringent measures to protect the identity of their sources through secure and untraceable tip lines, surveillance-resistant equipment such as state-of-the-art encryption software, cell-site location information and gap computers, blending into the local population to stay out of the discerning eye of government surveillance. Journalists traveling to Yemen ofte do hostile environment awareness training before arriving.

Despite previous indications of radical changes in Yemen’s government information mouthpiece in the form of news and television channels, the journalists’ high hopes that media is going in the right direction has been squelched. Journalists and cameramen covering military operations, indiscriminate filming of bombing sites, reporting demonstrations protesting issues that affect the Yemeni population and documenting politically sensitive issues such as terrorist networks, corruption, civilian conflicts and anything which would put the government in a bad light, all meet the same fate.

Abdul Elah Haider Shaye, who attracted international renown for reporting the true circumstances of the 2009 bombing of Al Majallah village in southern Yemen, and his exclusive interview with a top Al Quaeda official, put him in bad graces of the Yemeni government, resulting in his imprisonment. He was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court for Terrorism in January 2011 and sentenced to up to five years in prison. He would have been released by virtue of a presidential pardon a month after his conviction, but former Yemeni President Saleh recanted his decision following intervention from U.S. President Barack Obama, and to this day, concerted action to demand his release have been unsuccessful. Just barely 8 months before Shaye will have served the full 5-year sentence, the journalist community watches with apprehension the final outcome of Shaye’s ordeal when someone else is holding the key.

This is the reality of the plight of journalists in Yemen, and in any other conflict area for that matter. Their profession, albeit a noble one is not without its hazards, but each one can provide a support system for another and adopt measures to lessen the risks and ensure their safety.

UN fight against ISIS Funding Resources


The financial reports about the funding of the terrorist group ISIS suggest an unprecedented magnitude of wealth that has been accumulated by the group. Apart from its illegal oil trafficking revenues, which generates 30 to 60 million dollars each month, the militant group has added about 25 million dollars to its financial reserves in the form of ransoms. The group continues to grow in number with supporters from over 80 countries joining the cause.
Most of the resources are generated by the ISIS held regions and this significantly compounds the problem of stemming the inflow of financial resources to ISIS. The most important one being the illegal trafficking of oil from ISIS captured territory, across the Syrian and the Iraqi borders.
The biggest market of oil is presently in Turkey due to the countries incredibly high oil prices. Many reports have suggested that the oil is smuggled through the Turkish/Syrian border. ISIS is thought to be in control of approximately a dozen oil producing wells in the regions it has captured. The revenues being generated from this illegal oil trafficking of the oil has been assessed in value of up to two million dollars per day.
These figures have dropped as of result of the US leading an air strike on the oil fields being controlled by ISIS in an effort to curb the financial resources flowing to the extremist militant group. These attacks have, however, not been very effective against ISIS while the people in the region continue to suffer.
Oil trafficking is not the only source of income for the extremist group. ISIS receives substantial amounts in donations from its supporters all over the world. They have also resorted to the use of social media to appeal for funds from their supporters, which has also led to recruitment of many devotees. These believers in the ISIS cause are strategically placed worldwide in an effort to generate more funds.
Though they deny it vehemently, the group is also involved in criminal activities like looting in its captured territories, which is another source of income for the group. The looting of banks in Iraq and Syrian occupied territories has added millions of dollars to the ISIS’ funding reservoirs, according to financial analysts.
From withdrawal of money from the banks to toll tax collection from the local residents of the ISIS controlled territories are taxed heavily which further adds to their funding resources. Together these funding resources have made ISIS one of the most resourceful, extremist militant groups of all time, allowing them to increase the scope of their activities.
In the middle of last year, the United Nations Security council unanimously reached the decision of imposing resolution 2170 whereby the extensive abuse of human rights in the ISIS held territories was condemned and the countries were called upon to play an effective role in curbing the financial, as well as social media support of ISIS originating from these regions.
In its efforts to isolate the ISIS terrorists, earlier this year UN Security Council took significant steps whereby the financial resources of the group were to be targeted. The condemned funding methods included black market oil trafficking, international donations and looted resources from the occupied territories.

The Council has declared that any country that has trade involvement with ISIS will be considered support for the terrorist organization. Thus measures have been taken to ensure that the ISIS funds and accounts have been frozen all over the world. In addition, adding the leaders of ISIS to the terrorist watch list significantly limits their free movement across the globe.
The Council has also expressed its concern over the looting of items that hold cultural heritage from the occupied regions and have strictly advised the countries not to participate in the trade of these items.
The council has developed a policy that it is a breach of international law for anyone who funds ISIS with foreign private donations, in addition to anyone who pays a ransom for an individual that has been kidnapped.
ISIS is one of the most dangerous and calculating terrorist groups that the world has ever witnessed. Defeating them will require all countries to work together, concentrating their efforts on this important cause, albeit time consuming, it will ultimately result in the restoration of peace to the Middle East and the world at large.

Polio in the Middle East, the vaccination campaigns are working


Preventive vaccination campaign against polio that was conducted for twelve months in eight countries of the Middle East was able to stop the progression of the disease in this region of the world, after the appearance of more than thirty-eight cases in Syria and Iraq.

According to experts from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, other preventive vaccination campaigns against polio have yet to be conducted over the coming months.

The disease appears to be limited according to the experts who met recently in Beirut. In a statement released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, they explain that following the diagnosis of the cases mentioned above, a wide vaccination campaign was conducted in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and the West Bank, targeting some 27 million children aged between 0 and 5 years. More than a year has passed since the onset of the last case in Syria and nine months since the last case in Iraq.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have said that the epidemic was stopped”, said Maria Calivis, Regional Director of UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. “But since the conflicts continue in the area, UNICEF and its partners will spare no effort to ensure the protection the children need against this terrible disease.”

According to the experts gathered in Lebanon, many children could not receive regular vaccine, because of fighting in Syria and Iraq. This is the reason why other vaccination campaigns have yet to be conducted over the next few months, they said.

According to Chris Maher, head of department of eradication of the disease at WHO, the next step is to “reach all children in the region, even those living in the most conflict-affected areas.”

It should be recalled that WHO had confirmed the outbreak of the disease in Syria in late 2013, reporting at least ten cases of paralysis, that is to say, almost fourteen years after the disappearance of the disease in 1999. The resurgence of polio is mainly due to the deterioration of health facilities and lack of vaccination campaigns. The WHO said that the virus came from Pakistan. The disease also affected Iraq where vaccination has sometimes been hampered in some places because of the war.

Polio is a highly contagious disease that results in flu-like symptoms with fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs of the body. The disease is caused by poliovirus that multiplies in the intestine and is transmitted primarily through fecal-oral route. Not everyone develops the disease. Nevertheless, when mention of a reported case of polio, that is to say a case of paralysis due to the virus, this means that 200 people are already infected.

Preventive vaccination campaign aims to create this intestinal immunity. According to the national immunization schedules worldwide, every child should receive the injectable vaccine. But it provides individual protection to the child, and does not prevent it from being a carrier of the virus, hence the importance of these massive campaigns within which the oral vaccine is administered to children. This actually allows creating the intestinal immunity, preventing the virus to multiply. There is a catch, however. The oral vaccine may represent a risk for people with severe immune deficiency (cancer, AIDS…), since it is composed of attenuated viral strains. If they receive the vaccine, these children will develop a vaccine-associated paralysis, that is to say, they will develop the disease in response to the vaccine. That is why this category of children was excluded from the vaccination campaigns against polio that were conducted to date in Lebanon.

There is no treatment against polio. It is only possible to prevent it through vaccination. Some symptoms may nevertheless be relieved with medication (such as antispasmodics to relax the muscles). The WHO says, “Polio does not respect borders – every unvaccinated child is exposed. For every case of paralysis, between 200 and 1,000 children are infected without symptoms. It is therefore difficult to detect polio and also difficult to prevent the virus from traveling. Children living in areas with low levels of immunity are particularly vulnerable. Eradication of the virus is the best defense against polio imports. It is only once this goal is achieved that all children are protected.”





The Middle East is definitely obese!


According to a recent study that gathered private data and trends among 188 countries, it was found that more than 58% of the men and more than 65% of women across the Middle East and North Africa suffer from either overweight or obesity in 2013. More than three-quarters of the countries in the region have seen their rates of overweight and obesity increasing by more than 50% for both men and women. Altogether, there are 259 million people suffering from obesity or overweight in the Middle East. 180 million people are actually overweight and 79 million people suffer from obesity.

The study was published under the name “Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013”*. It was conducted by the Health Metrics and Evaluation Institute (IHME) at the University of Washington and published in The Lancet on May 28th, 2014.

According to the study, the prevalence of overweight and obesity of adults in North Africa and the Middle East increased from about 53% to 62% during the study period. In 2013, the prevalence of overweight and obesity rate among men was almost 59%, while it was higher among women, approaching 66%. In this region, Kuwait has the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults in general.

During the 33 years of research, many Middle East countries showed a large increase in global obesity rates, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. The top three countries in terms of increasing prevalence of obesity among men in 2013 are Qatar (44%), Kuwait (43%) and Bahrain (31%). The rate of obesity among women exceeded 50% in three countries in the Middle East, which are Kuwait (59%), Libya (57%) and Qatar (55%).

In most countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates, rates of overweight and obesity reached more than 50% in both men and women.

Overweight and obesity are some of the major health issues for children in the Middle East and North Africa. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the region among children dramatically increased from approximately 19% to 25% during the study period, making the region occupy the third place in terms of regional spread of obesity and overweight in 2013.

The top three countries in terms of increasing prevalence of overweight or obesity among girls are Kuwait (46%), Oman (42%) and Libya (42%). The countries with the highest rates among boys are Qatar (34%), Libya (33%) and Lebanon (33%).

In Egypt, approximately one-third of boys and 40% of girls suffer from either overweight or obesity. Approximately 40% of Saudi girls also suffer from overweight or obesity. And it is the same situation for nearly a quarter of boys.

What should we do to fight obesity?

The World Health Organization defines overweight and obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health” stating that “The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended”.

Governments at all levels should act on the problem of obesity as they do to counter an outbreak of infectious disease or to protect the population of a toxic substance in the environment. They had to pass legislation to reduce smoking, as they were also right to mandate the wearing of seatbelts. The current situation of excess weight in the population has developed over several decades, especially because our environment has become absolutely unhealthy. Slowing weight gain and reversing the situation cannot be done in a few years. The impacts of these actions will certainly take place gradually. An annual improvement, however small it may be, will result in health benefits and considerable long-term economic benefits for the entire society.

By taking measures to promote the health of the population, governments play their role, which is not limited to looking after people who already became ill. Diseases caused by tobacco are in decline, deaths caused by drunk driving too. These successes are largely due to government policies and, of course, citizens who supported them. It will be the same for the obesity epidemic.

Source: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60460-8/abstract

Have the Arab Springs dried up?


The fourth anniversary of the Arab Springs was celebrated in Egypt with a climbing death toll that just reached 17. A further 50 people were injured with the greatest degree on unrest being reported in the Matariya district, Cairo.

Far from peaceful, the demonstrations were marred with bombings. There was also causalities in Giza, in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and in a village west of Nile Delta where two people were killed.

The political context for the demonstrations must have Egyptians wondering if their country will ever be a truly peaceful place. It has been four years since Hosni Mubarak was ousted and two since the then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, sits as the sixth president of Egypt after running for elections. He resigned from the military and democratically earned the post he removed from his predecessor. As a leader he is adored by some and hated by many. His strong stance against the Muslim Brotherhood and speeches which can be construed as motivational or dissident, depending on your point of view, appeal to some and appal others.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for an Islamic reinvention, during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The terrible terrorist attacks and this terrible image of Muslims led us to think that we must stop and think and change the religious discourse and remove from it things that have led to violence and extremism” He said.

In a region where religion and politics are intertwined to the detriment of both Indoctrinations and a political leader is assessed, more so on their piety than policies, one begins to wonder, at what a reinvented Islam could look like.

Thought provoking speeches aside Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been accused of suppressing journalist freedoms. Human rights watch released a damning report that details scores of detainees dying and wasting away in government custody; many of whom are members of the imprisoned Muslim brotherhood. He has also been accused of prosecuting government critics and gay people.

He shows little reluctance to jail people on political grounds and the twenty three people still sit in jail, who were arrested June 21 for protesting, anti-protesting laws.

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are the three Al-Jazeera journalist jailed for supposedly aiding a terrorist organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood. Their charges include publishing lies that harmed the national interest and supplying money, equipment and information to 16 Egyptians.

A statement from Al-Jazeera said: “Baher, Peter and Mohammed have been unjustly in jail for over a year now.

“The Egyptian authorities have a simple choice – free these men quickly, or continue to string this out, all the while continuing this injustice and harming the image of their own country in the eyes of the world. They should choose the former.”

It’s business as usual in Egypt. The Arab spring’s anniversary a yearly reminded to all Egyptians that in spite of their best efforts these monstrosities still occur in their country. Political stability seems an unachievable goal and whoever finds their way into office be it through uprisings or democratic election is more determined than their predecessor to persecute, control and imprint backwards ideologies on the nation.

The Arab Springs briefly had massive momentum. It saw the ousting of the ruler in Tunisia, with the jasmine revolution/ Sidi Bouzid Revolt, long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. The country now has free and democratic elections. After a troubling three years in which their economy plummeted, jobs were lost and living conditioned worsened the country optimistically took to the polls again in 2014. In the hope that with time and consistency democracy might hold the answers.

Libya is still struggling with local conflict. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s is dead but the countries problems refused to die with him. The country is at war with its self, split into fractions it is now a constant battle field, with electricity for less than four hours a day, schools have been disband the economies in tatters and two thirds of its people are below the poverty line. The political situation in the country is too complicated to go into but the ousting of a dictator has created a power vacuum in which several struggle for control.

Yemen, began their revolution at the same time as Egypt. The protests, initially protesting poor living condition and unemployment grew to calls for the stepping down of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and after 33 years in power he signed The Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement. The last three years in Yemen have seen some progress with the creation of a transitional unity government, and the completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a complete break with the past is yet to be seen. The country is yet to see any political restructuring and officials are still appointed based on their alliances and status with the parties.

Civil uprisings also occurred in Bahrain and Syria. Major protests broke out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests had occurred in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and Palestine.

While some progress has been made the Arab springs failed to bring about any real order and prosperity. The yearly riots and violence to commemorate the anniversary are only taking lives and completely devoid of any kind of structure or political motive.

The problems of the region continue to scroll along the teleprompts of foreign news channels and collectively the world shakes its head and wonders. Paralysed by the extremes of religion and culture. It must be frustrating, the perpetual death, violent protests, corrupt officials and failed democracies. How and when will these problems ramify themselves? If overthrowing governments and civil uprisings can’t fix the region, what will?



ToDo: Quitting smoking to get rid of back pain


Smokers, here is another reason to quit smoking! The terrible back pain you are suffering from may actually be one of the many negative aspects of smoking. A recent study* conducted by researchers at the British University of Rochester indicated that quitting smoking can reduce back pain for people who suffer from problems in their spine.

The association of back pain and nicotine

The study emphasized the importance of quitting smoking for patients suffering from spinal disorders, since the existence of a link between improved back pain and smoking cessation was proved. It also revealed that pain rates are significantly higher for smokers compared to non-smokers.

The study which lasted 8 months included 5,300 patients with back pain due to a problem in the spine. The researchers stressed the need to develop programs for those patients to quit smoking in order to get rid of their back pain. They found that among people who began receiving treatment, former smokers and non-smokers, the back pain was definitely better eased compared to current smokers who did not quit smoking during the study.

The researchers said that patients who quit smoking during treatment had the best improvement in pain compared to those who continued smoking as usual. Glenn R. Rechtine, M.D., a nationally recognized spinal surgeon and adjunct faculty at URMC, led the study and stressed that “nicotine increases the pain. The study showed that if he quits smoking during treatment, the patient feels better.”

Rechtine also pointed out that “This study emphasizes the importance of smoking cessation for patients suffering from spinal disorders because of the existence of a link between improved back pain and smoking cessation.” A previous study has been conducted on more than eight thousand people in Germany and showed that smokers were more likely to have chronic back pain than non-smokers.

Many people suffer from spinal disorders such as spine curvature disorders (the most common ones being lordosis, kyphosis and scoliosis). There are numerous reasons for the spread of these problems, mainly bad daily habits that most of us have adopted long time ago.

Spine harmful habits

There are several factors that can damage the spine, most notably:

– Sitting on the ground, which causes curvature of the back if it lasts for a long time.

– Back and neck banging which is a common habit among many people, but that can cause some serious damage of the spinal cord and the vertebrae.

– Charging the spine above what it can bear such as pushing a parked car, causing the back muscles to stretch more than what is allowed and possibly evolving to lead to a discal hernia and thus to sciatica.

– Fatigue at work.

– Lack of exercise and inactivity.

– Intense exercising.

– Sitting for long periods and bending in front of the computer, because it causes blood to flow to the legs and keeps the spine twisted for a long time.

Smoking in the Middle East

Trends have been varying since 1980 by country and gender. Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait are still among the countries where smoking rates remain high.

Both Saudi Arabia and Yemen and Oman are among the ten countries that have a population of over one million and in which the daily consumption of cigarettes rate is the highest in 2012. Kuwait was one of the countries – including China and Russia – which suffered from a high health negative impact of the combined effects of the high prevalence of smoking and the consumption of cigarettes. Lebanon was one of the few countries in the world where smoking rates among women were higher than 20%.

Overall, the prevalence of smoking by age dropped by 42% among women and by 25% among men between 1980 and 2012. Despite the decline in the prevalence of smoking, high population growth contributed between 1980 and 2012 to increase by 41% the number of daily male smokers and a 7% increase of the number of daily female smokers. Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East in which the prevalence of smoking exceeded 20%.

Many Middle Eastern countries registered seriously high levels of daily cigarettes consumption. Smokers in Kuwait consumed an average of 22 cigarettes per day in 2012. The average daily consumption of cigarettes in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman was even higher. Saudi Arabia ranked sixth in the world according to cigarettes consumption with 35 cigarettes a day, while Oman ranked seventh with 33 cigarettes a day. Globally, the number of cigarettes smoked exceeded 6 trillion cigarettes in the world. The average consumption of cigarettes is higher than 20 cigarettes per day in 75 countries in 2012.

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Diabetes in the middle east, it is getting serious!


Head of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Medicine at the Medical College of the Arabian Gulf University, Dr. Faisal Al-Nasser said that the incidence of diabetes in the Arab Gulf “is one of the highest in the world”, and attributed this to the lifestyle and dietary habits in the Gulf region.

Dr. Al-Nasser gave a keynote paper at the International Conference of Family Physicians, which was held in Dubai, titled “Diabetes, the plague of our era”. During the conference, he explained that “the Arab Gulf is one of the top 10 countries in the world which are witnessing a steady increase in the proportion of patients with diabetes.”

He pointed out that the prevalence of diabetes in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is ranging currently from 15 percent to 20 percent but is definitely expected to increase in the coming years.

He also pointed out “the beginning of the emergence of a strange phenomenon, a proliferation of type II diabetes of children in the Arab Gulf states,” while the illness used to be confined to the first type.

Diabetes is classified into three main types which are similar in the general characteristics but differ in their causes : Type I diabetes, Type II diabetes and gestational diabetes.

It is known that the second type of diabetes is spreading due to dietary habits and lifestyle, while the first type of diabetes is caused by genetic factors.

Dr. Al-Nasser predicted the increasing of the prevalence of diabetes in the Middle East up to twofold by the year 2030, bringing the total to 60 million ill patients.

About the recommendations that should limit the spread of this disease, Dr. Al-Nasser launched an initiative to establish a coalition of Euro-Arabic family doctors. He believes that this cooperation “will strengthen the role of family medicine in improving the health of the individuals and the society,” pointing out that the coalition will be organizing regular conferences to highlight the health and social problems encountered by the public communities in the Arab Gulf states in particular.

The British newspaper “Financial Times” highlighted on November 14, 2014 the high prevalence of diabetes among the population throughout the Middle East and North Africa and reported expectations of an increase of the burden on health care systems in the region unless governments take further action to change the life pattern there.

According to the newspaper, in a report posted on its website, one out of every 10 adults suffer from diabetes, half of whom are actually undiagnosed. The report invokes the quick increase of type II diabetes cases in the region, and without a true lifestyle change, a quarter of the population of the Middle East would be affected with diabetes by 2035, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

The newspaper report explained that overeating and junk food, in addition to the lack of physical exercise, undermines the attempts to control the spread of diabetes, which is associated with obesity, and with the increased incidence of obesity, particularly among children, the increase of diabetes is currently one of the most pressing health issues in the region.

The British newspaper quoted Mr. Adel, Regional President of the International Diabetes Federation, who said: “We have the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, due to our habits in eating and lack of exercise.”

The federation expects to see the prevalence of diabetes double in the region during the next two decades, with the number of cases rising from 37 million (10% of the population) to 68 million (about 25% of the population forecast in 2035).

The newspaper pointed out that the disease has already caused 363 thousand deaths in 2014, half of whom are under the age of 60. Throughout the region, Egypt is one of the states with the highest population density and also the largest number of cases of diabetes, about 7.6 million, but the implications of diabetes are relatively higher in the wealthy states of the Gulf region.

International Diabetes Federation says that up to 70% of cases of Type II diabetes can be prevented or delayed through the adoption of healthy lifestyles, calling on governments to implement more regulations to encourage citizens to eat different foods and get used to exercising.

Bassem Youssef; who is he and what is happening in Egypt?


Bassem Youssef is a man who has had a handle on the pulse of the Egyptian people, both in the literal sense during his time as a cardiac surgeon and in a more figurative sense as a host of a popular Egyptian political satire show. Bassem attended Cairo University where he studied to be a surgeon, specializing in cardiovascular.

However, Bassem moved away from surgically cutting heart and stepped into the role of getting into the heart of the matter when he entered the realm of journalism.

His time as a satirical political commentator earned him many accolades and unique praise, including being listed in 2013 as one of Time magazine’s ‘top 100 most influential people in the world’, awarded the ‘international press freedom award’ again in 2013 and being called a friend of the American TV talk show host Jon Stewart.

Bassem: Egypt’s Jon Stewart

His entry into political commentary had quite humble beginnings, starting off with short five minute webisodes called B+, Bassem’s blood type, which were posted on the video sharing platform Youtube. The videos, despite being filmed in a laundry room and far from the glamour of a typical TV show studio as you can get, became immensely popular and in only three months gained over 5 million views. This popularity resulted in Bassem and his fellow creators being offered by ONTV the opportunity of moving their satirical and cutting political talk to Egyptian television, with a TV show titled ‘Al-Bernameg’. This show tackled pressing issues in a daring blunt yet still humorous manner. Jon Stewart, who was an inspiration for Bassem in his own media endeavours, praised the show, describing it as sharp, smart and very well executed.

However, despite being praised and watched by many; the show garnered heavy criticism primarily from Egyptian authorities. In 2012 the show was lampooned for alleged insults towards Islam, former president Mohamed Morsi and for a general cause of disruption to public peace. Criticism reached an all-time high in October 2013 with numerous complaints put forth regarding the show, including accusations that Bassem had insulted the armed forces and the acting president, Adly Mansour. This censure resulted in strife with CBC, Al-Bernameg’s broadcaster, which eventually resulted in the show being pulled from its channels. Following this cancellation, Bassem was suspended from his next channel due to continuing controversy and widespread criticism. This second disruption to the airing of the show, alongside the constant controversy and criticism, seemed to be the straw that broke the long labouring camel’s back, resulting in Bassem terminating the Al-Bernameg show. When asked on his actions, Bassem said he felt that his safety and the safety of his family mattered more than a TV show.


Silence in Egypt

This act of succumbing to national pressure and the forsaking of freedom of speech has unfortunately been a regular occurrence in Egypt, especially since its military takeover. This was starkly evident during Mohamed Morsi 2012-2013 leadership, who issued cease and desist notices to private media organizations and threatened to have them shut down if they did not cease their criticism of him.

Even though the current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared that his ‘new’ Egypt would have ‘no limitation on freedom of expression’. He went on to say that anyone could be criticized, even himself, without any fear of consequence. This though has been far from the reality of the situation. As it is frequently cited, actions speak louder than words, and the actions of Egyptian officials in relation to the media and freedom of speech have caused these to be nothing more than empty pretty declarations. There are threats and intimidation tactics regularly enacted towards journalists from authority figures, a constant censoring of articles and the removal of issues of newspapers from circulation due to dissatisfaction with content. Just late last year, an issue of the private newspaper, ‘Al Masry Al Youm’ was removed due to it having presented a posthumous interview with the former intelligence agent Refaat Jibril. This article then was ordered to be removed from the paper by security officials without any kind of explanation.

There is a perceived imperative need to conduct this careful control of speech for the stability of their government, a sentiment which even some journalists seem to be adhering to of late. In October 2014, editors from 17 newspapers issued a shared declaration not to criticize the state or the army in their publications. It was felt that a united front is needed and that journalists have a responsibility to aid in the stability of their country.







Is Yemen Ruled By Law Of Emergency?


‘’He was shopping one day at the center and gunmen kidnapped him, ‘said Khaled al-Anesi, the popular Yemen layer for human rights, of his young client Mobley Sharif, a US citizen. He claims that he was tortured and beaten in jail. Here’s where it gets suspicious. His own government was aware that he was tortured and missing for a year, according to the young man. ‘’They arrived in civilian clothes and he mistook them for tribal gunmen and tried to save his dear life by running. He was shot and arrested. He was brought to the cells by US investigators that threatened to kill him then rape his dear wife. The young man was beaten and his leg broken.’’

It is not clear whether Mr. Mobley who became a Yemen citizen in 2008 to learn Arabic was in any way involved with the number one terrorist group, Al-Qaeda in the Peninsula. This is the most feared terrorist group in Yemen. In fact, no evidence shows he was involved in Al-Qaeda.

Anwar al-Alwaki had regular contact with Mr. Mobley. He was the group’s spiritual leader. The United States says he was the master propagandist in the terrorist cell and was later killed in a U.S. drone strike. According to official reports, Mr. Mobley met the spiritual leader in 2000 in New York. Awlaki was emailed by Mobley, whose wife was pregnant. He wanted recommendations on where to take her wife.

On March 2020, Mobley tried to escape from the hospital he was in. According to official reports, Mobley shot and fatally injured a guard and all terrorism charges he had were dropped and now he is in jail waiting to be tried for murder. His lawyer has not seen him for months and Mobley says that he has missed more than four trial hearing because those who took him failed to take him to court. ‘’They did not have a right to detain him according to Yemeni law,’’ said his lawyer, Mr. Anesi.

The lawyer claims that Mr. Mobley’s case was delayed indefinitely due to inconsistencies in Yemen judicial system. As Anesi argues, the government has been ready to proceed with his case but for unknown reasons, Mr. Mobley still remains a captive. ‘’The hearing process will move faster soon, said an official who doesn’t with to be named for safety reasons.

An American told Mr. Mobley that Yemen has no constitutional jurisdiction. We are able to do as we please.’’ Well, they did exactly that, said his lawyer.’’ His story has a large audience because Mr. Mobley has his roots in American not a Yemen citizen. He belongs to a group of people who share the same story, said Belkis Wille, a Kuwait and Yemen research for Human rights.
A popular Yemen judge says that Yemen will slowly become disintegrated because the law is never followed even by government officials. For instance,’’ Yemen constitutional law prohibits anyone from killing someone, he said.’’ ‘’It is unfair and unconstitutional to kill anyone without due process, a fair trial so to speak.’’ He further claims that Yemen by law of emergency, not by constitution. America made dozens rules and Yemen abides by those rules.

According to rules enacted by the United States on 2011, a law was passed in the wake of the Twin Towers bombing and offers a legal framework for a ‘’bloody war without end in near’’ This act is widely used and seems to disown United States human rights protocol and has a dire impact that affect Yemen when it comes to legal matters.

‘’It is sad that Americans comes here and do whatever they want’’ said Mawri. It weakens the government’s judicial jurisdiction. ‘’The citizens feel that if the judges cannot protect their reputation, who else will help them, a great state of shame,’’

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