MERS Outbreak in South Korea Hits Record High, 3 New Cases, 2 More Die

who says south koreas mers outbreak large and complex, photo courtesy of ritika patel

who says south koreas mers outbreak large and complex, photo courtesy of ritika patel

SOUTH KOREA - An outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in South Korea has led to 138 confirmed cases and 14 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Just 17 hours ago news outlets reported 3 new cases with 2 more deaths.

A single traveler brought the disease to South Korea last month and since then it has spread exponentially overwhelming the healthcare system. Contributing factors include overcrowded emergency rooms, the sick and worried returning numerous times to hospitals, additional delays as medical professionals seek second opinions, coupled with an ill-trained medical community unfamiliar with the disease.

Currently, all cases have occurred have been traced back to a hospital where patient zero contracted the disease. Many citizens have started wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from infection. However, the larger community isn't taking any chances either and have subsequently closed more than 2,900 schools and quarantined 3,680 people. (Source: BBC).

An early setback has been a lack of government transparency. President Park Geun-hye has been accused of not being pro-active in his response and of withholding information about who has been infected. The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, said that a now quarantined doctor attended a gathering of more than 1,500 people the day before he was diagnosed with the disease. (Source: New York Times)

However, the WHO has issued a statement that human-to-human transmission of the virus is only possible through very close contact. As long as reasonable measures are taken there is no need for panic. Currently, the WHO is working with scientists to better understand the disease, develop treatment strategies, and determine the best way to respond to the outbreak.

Although the disease is not well understood and has no cure, the spread of it has thus far been predictable. Most contagious diseases are opportunistic and are most easily incubated and spread in hospitals and other healthcare facilities due to close proximity of the infected. Although doctors and scientists are struggling to find a way to treat the infected, predictive and statistical models have proved invaluable in anticipating what part of the population is at greatest risks and thus help communities implement proactive precautions.

The disease originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there is currently no vaccine to prevent MERS-CoV infection, but the South Korea outbreak is the largest outbreak outside of the Middle East. “MERS-CoV is thought to spread from an infected person to others through respiratory secretions, such as coughing. In other countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. (Source: CDC)

Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski
Facebook: Sarah Joanne Jakubowski

Egyptian Policeman Receives Life Sentence for Raping Disabled Girl in Police Station

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

CAIRO, Egypt - According to the activist Engy Ghozlan of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR), nearly 200,000 rapes occur annually in Egypt. This figure was presented in response to a 2008 U.N. report which quoted Egypt's Interior Ministry's figure which was significantly less. (Source: ECWR).

As in many countries rapes in Egypt are one of the most under-reported crimes, and until recently, many perpetrators weren't brought to trial because of lack of interests or cultural biases which blamed the woman for allowing herself to be raped.

In August 2014, a 17-year-old mentally disabled teenage girl walked into the Imbaba Police Station in Cairo's low-income neighbourhood of Imbaba to report her abduction by two men earlier that day. Instead of receiving just consideration of her charges, or even for the police to initiate an investigation, Khaled Abdel-Rahman Mohamed, the policeman on duty, inexplicably locked the teenager a cell.

Other female prisoners confirmed the testimony of the girl in which she stated that she was subsequently taken forcibly from the cell by Mohamed ostensibly for further questioning. It is alleged that he dragged her by her hair and raped her in the corner of the station. Two women in an adjacent jail cell watched the assault through a crack in the cell door. A camera also bore silent witness to the girl's ordeal and was crucial to proving the guilt of the officer.

Egyptian law permits rapists to be sentenced to death for the rape of any female under the age of 18; however, on 7 June 2015 the court sentenced Mohamed to life in prison.

Qatar: Conciliators, Regional Superpower, or Simply Another Wealthy Arab Nation?

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

DOHA, Qatar - An internationally renowned nation which was once known only for its pearl-fishing has become a major global player. Pumping out nearly 2.3 millions of barrels of natural gas a day which gets shipped around the globe as LNG, it is in the top 25 producers of oil and gas. (Source: Forbes) 

Unfortunately, it is also currently at the center of the FIFA scandal that is reverberating around the world, yet this is not the topic of discussion here.

In the 1940s the nascent country’s oil and gas industry was developed by Western nations as they continued to implement colonization strategies that included primary control of natural resources. This all changed in the 1990s when Qatar exercised greater control of the profits from its oil and gas industry thus transforming it into one of richest countries in the Emirates.

The government recognizes that shifting from a major global supplier of oil and gas will be a long and somewhat protracted process. But, the proactive open-market policies being instituted by the government is helping Qatar to become both a major financial hub in additional to a luxury tourist destination. At the start of 2015, Qatar’s economy was ranked a score of 70.8 according to the data tracked, which means that it is the 32nd most investor friendly economies in the world. With this type of recognition comes the ability to not only exert influence, but also encourages criticism as in the case of allegations of impropriety with the award to host the 2022 World Cup soccer games to Qatar.

Owing to economic diversification, investors from different parts of the world have taken a keen interest in doing business with the country as well as establishing corporate headquarters. The ramping up of foreign investments in infrastructure, finance and banking, products and services, etc. being delivered by these foreign corporations prognosticates some excellent job opportunities in Qatar, and is one of the main reasons that it was chosen as a host country for the games.

Qatar is often regarded as a study in contradictions and is known to be significantly more liberal than many of its neighbors. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the state of Qatar is the only Middle Eastern nation to adopt Wahhabism as its official state religion. The religious demographics in Qatar seem to support both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement, and the internecine conflict between the two is quite complex and sometimes terrifying. At the moment the ‘tug of war’ raging inside the Muslim world consists of two sides. The Salafi jihadis―or hardcore Wahhabis, who are financed and supported by Saudi Arabia versus the Muslim Brotherhood who are supported by Qatar on the other.

For years Qatar has been supporting and propagating the Muslim Brotherhood's agenda in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa through its Al Jazeera television network. Though this may seem partisan at first glance, history reveals a more nuanced story, one in which Qatar has maintained a very diplomatic approach towards an increasingly global religious dilemma. Qatar's ability to act as arbiter and play the role of conciliator was demonstrated in its role in achieving the 2008 ceasefire in Lebanon according to the online news site Asharq Al-Awsat.

Unfortunately, the world’s eyes are trained upon Syria and the tragedies that are occurring within its borders, and though Qataris are working behind the political scene to help support Syrians to establish a post-Bashar Hafez al-Assad governance, these efforts toward stabilization are not obviously visible. As with much that occurs in negotiations, what is seen in the public eye is rarely what occurs behind the scenes, and in this context Qatar always positions itself to ensure that its interests are preserved. One of the main motives and interest in facilitating peace in Syria is the hope that a more moderate form of Islam will prevail in a new Syria, and if successful, may help to garner a bigger seat at the table of powerful Arab nations.

The initiatives taken thus far reflect Qatar’s desire to continue in its role as conciliator in the global economic and religious amphitheater. Qatar hopes that by making greater strides with this goal through an open job market, flexibility in accepting the customs of foreigners within limits of decorum, and negotiating for an air of tolerance, balance, and acceptance will ultimately serve to change external perceptions. From the highest levels of government to the ordinary Qataris, there exists a desire to be counted amongst the most developed and advanced countries in the world, and thus the nation hopes to break the stigma of mistrust and judgment that plagues almost every Muslim nation today.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Does Middle East Harbour Fears of Oil Drying Up?

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MIDDLE EAST - Will the world soon experience a major oil and gas crunch? Many global countries are gradually becoming self-dependent and planning to adopt new drilling technologies in the hope of discovering their own oil reserves. The Middle East, which has long maintained its stature as the world’s largest oil exporter, now feels great pressure. Someday the oil reserve will dry up under the burden of consumption of a vast volume of barrels of crude oil per day.

Governments and those involved in framing policies in the Middle East are now aware that the world’s oil fields are depleting at a rate of 9.1% per year, which is terrifying. It has been reported that if nothing is done to overcome the threat, then oil production could fall 38% in only five years. A recent report in the Guardian revealed that conventional sources of oil are expected to continue to decline and future oil demands will need to be satiated through more unconventional resources.

This is a matter that requires immediate attention for most of the oil producing nations in the Middle East. What if the economic highs created by the precious oil drop down to nothing? This very fear has brought economic diversification to the center stage. The only saving grace that can protect the global population from experiencing this painful outcome is to introduce a diversification strategy.

The concept of economic diversification is to improve the GDP. Economic diversification is a process that generates a growing range of economic outputs. This diversifies the markets for exports or income sources outside of domestic economic activities (i.e. income from overseas investment). The Middle East and its constituting nations have adopted the concept, where previously they were characterized by the lack of it.

Other sectors will now stand with pride and make their own contributions to the GDP and thus lead to a flourishing fiscal health. At the moment, private sectors are the first visible output of the economic divergence protocol.

Price and demand are two of the most important aspects of the global economic system and fiscal diversification is one way to escape the complex phenomenon. Countries and their respective economic systems are experiencing problems such as low growth rates, lack of public and private incentives to accumulate human capital, lack of competition in manufacturing, and similar problems. This is something that has coaxed the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council to opt for economic diversification.

Economic diversification can reduce a nation’s economic volatility and increase its real activity performance. With oil consumption going up at a very steep rate, diversification is something that can pacify the fear in the Middle East associated with its diminishing oil reserve.

The answer lies in the relationship between fiscal divergence and private sector economic reforms. The theory suggests that diversification will help increase the private sector and will lower the contribution of the public sector to a certain level. One of the reasons for more private sector involvement is that a part of economic divergence relates to the issue of the foreign direct investments. A report from LSE suggests FDIs can bring in capital, create new jobs for people living in the Middle East, encourage development of new technology, and formulate management methods. These will help the countries build and expand their societies and knowledge communities.

It can safely be said that the potential of the Middle Eastern nations to attract FDI is severely limited without a well-functioning private sector. The growth of the private sector in the overall GCC economy has not only brought a fresh breath of air but has also created ripples in the employment market as a whole. The premise is simple: Take the revenue from oil and gas and invest it in other budding industries and sectors.

The expectation of fiscal diversification is freedom from the monopoly of oil and gas revenue on the GDP, and newcomers entering the economic arena. The Gulf would soon be relieved from the fear of depleting oil reserves and could still manage the country with a growing private sector. There would be well-paying jobs in the Middle East and the standard of living would still be maintained.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

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Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister

turkey-bursa-two-muslim-women-laughing-photo-by-forest-gan.jpg

ANKARA, Turkey -- Chastity has long been a source of contention and in fact has often been used as a justification for the domination of women throughout the centuries in various parts of the world. It is another means by which some men seek to control women’s sexuality and reproductive freedom.

Though many people think of the issue of controlling women and forcibly “preserving” their chastity as a phenomenon unique to countries with emerging economies where young girls are routinely subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), these practices have been imported to the U.K. and other E.U. nations with high immigrant populations.

However, the West is not without guilt as similar overt restrictions and unsanitary practices were routinely implemented in Europe during the 16th century when men made their wives wear ‘chastity’ belts to prevent sexual intercourse during their long absences at sea or war.

The history of women being controlled subtly and overtly is a never ending battle; however, this week the war for equality reached ridiculous lows when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, stated in a speech that “among other activities that women laughing in public somehow contributed to the moral turpitude of the nation.

During his 28 July 2014 speech which was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end of the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan, “Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.” (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

This atavistic attitude at once casts sexuality as “unclean,” but also blames women for defiling themselves, a specious argument often used to justify rape, while also claiming that these 'loose' women constantly lure otherwise chaste men into debauchery and sin. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

These ideas are not Arınç’s alone, but are an outgrowth of the conservative tenor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a prominent member. The AKP has been in power since 2002, and in the intervening years has shepherded over a subtle but systematic erosion of women’s rights.

Unbeknownst to many in the West, “Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a back slide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Women’s rights are being eroded on all fronts from wage equality and reproductive rights in the United States, to FMG in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the 'One Child Policy' in China, to chastity requirements in restrictive Middle East nations. Though many in the West and East have greeted Arınç’s comments with derision and mockery, this is no laughing matter.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Meet Our Journalists

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Ayanna Profile PicAyanna Nahmias is the Editor-in-Chief. She is passionate about international affairs, geopolitics, and human rights and writes articles with an emphasis on women's rights and child advocacy. She is working on her first novel and was interviewed about growing up in Africa as the daughter of a radical, Islamist expatriate on Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Click to hear interview.

Twitter: @AyannaNahmias

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorMichael Ransom is a Contributing Editor. He is a recent graduate of The College of William + Mary, where he studied English. Michael enjoys exploring new cultures and learning languages. In the future, he hopes to merge his love for international travel with his writing career. His interests include intercultural exchange, environmental justice, criminal justice topics and all forms of equality.

Twitter: @Mandrewranson

Sarah Joanne JakubowskiSarah Joanne Jakubowski is our Africa Correspondent. Currently, living and working in Accra, Ghana, she reports directly from the Continent.Upon her return, she will resume her studies in English, Philosophy and Anthropology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Sarah is dedicated to combining these interests to make world issues and scientific findings more accessible to the public. She is passionate about human rights issues, global health issues, and art. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in international journalism.

Twitter: @SJJakubowski

Oliva ElswickOlivia Elswick is a Contributing Journalist and Asia Correspondent. Most recently she worked in India at a rehabilitation center for former child laborers. She is currently employed in Yanji, China, on the border of North Korea where she has been reporting on events in the region.She is passionate about art, literature, traveling, and social justice. A recent graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina, she studied Writing & Publication Studies, and Communications.

Twitter: @OCElswick

Vineeta Tiwari, NCR JournalistVineeta Tiwari is our Middle East Correspondent. She is Indian by nationality but travels and works in the Middle East. She is a professional writer and blogger with a passion for issues facing emerging economies and employment markets. She is a computer science graduate who chose to become a writer because of her interest in global economic initiatives and world affairs.

Her area of expertise focuses on immigration challenges facing many countries, especially in the Gulf region. Vineeta writes about the Middle East and other Gulf countries to inform and expose readers to the fact that these countries have become major players in social and economic development.

Twitter: @vinita1204

Allyson CartwrightAllyson Cartwright is our Contributing Journalist. She is a third-year student at the University of Virginia where she is studying English with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. She is passionate about human rights issues, specifically surrounding women's rights in the Middle East. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career in journalism with a focus on the Middle East region.

Twitter: @allysoncwright

Chrycka HarperChrycka Harper is our Poet & Social Commentator. She is currently living and studying in South Africa where she will report on events occurring on the Continent, and continue to provide social commentary through poetry and prose.Chrycka Harper was born and raised in Wichita, KS, and is a Psychology Bachelor of Science candidate attending Howard University. Her interests include writing about significant personal issues and observations through poetry and prose, reading, eating/cooking, learning more about the unknown. After undergrad, she plans to pursue a research career in the Neuropsychology.

Twitter: @Chrycka_Harper

Jessamy NicholsJessamy Nichols is our Africa Correspondent and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with majors in Global Studies and Political Science, and a minor in African Studies.She has traveled throughout East Africa the international affairs realm after recently moving to Washington, DC. Her interests include global human rights issues, international conflict resolution, African politics, regional instability, and multilateral institution behavior.

Twitter: @JessamyNichols

Ty ButlerTy Butler is the Sr. Correspondent on International Development and Conflict. He possesses a Master’s in International Affairs from Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs.

Ty has previously worked with the non-profit Ag2Africa as a technical editor and as an economic policy staff intern with the US Dept. of State, Bureau of African Affairs. Ty’s interests include gender studies, conflict & terrorism, and economic development with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Twitter: @TyWButler

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Punjab Immigrants Stuck in Iraq | How to Avoid Fraudulent Job Offers

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:50 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Self portrait – All about the Sandy’s, Photo by: MattysFlicksPUNJAB, India & Dubai -- When dreams get wings, they fly high. But when dreams are met with deceit, often disappointment and broken aspirations are the residue left behind.

The metaphor is evident in a recent tragedy that has stirred the whole world and has discredited the developing economies involved in Dubai.

Let us unfold the chapters of this very dark story......

A Shameless Tale of Innocent Job Seekers & Fraud Predators

More than 40 young job aspirants from Punjab were lured west by proposals offered by travel agents who promised them high-paying job opportunities in Dubai. The worst part here was that these travel agents were in direct connections with illegal recruitment organizations operating from the Gulf countries.

The travel agents (as per their promise) sent these youth to Dubai, but there the job seekers were told to wait for many weeks. Later, they were informed that Dubai has dearth of ideal jobs, and currently Iraq would be a better fit for them.

In need of money and a better career, the aspirants agreed and moved on, not knowing that Iraq has been the epicenter of political and social unrests for the past decade.

Subsequent to the arrival, several of the hopeful employees disappeared and are still unaccounted for, and the families of these individuals are heartbroken. They are imploring Dubai to deliver justice and proper punishment for the fraudsters. Those immigrants who have been located in Iraq are trying to return home, but the cost of travel has been a barrier for many of these individuals. Other reports claim that ISIS terror group are holding the Indian workers.

Be Aware

While this seems like an extraordinary occurrence, many similar cases have been reported in recent years. The best antidote is to be aware and cautious when applying to jobs in Dubai or elsewhere. Whether you are promised a job in a large metropolis or rural area, the same risks apply.

Here is a plan to avoid becoming the next victim of such fraud:

  1. “Deposit Money & Get Your Dream Job In-Hand”

This is the first red flag that the there is something suspicious about the job offer. As the saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Well, if the opportunity is genuine, potential employees will never ask for money, but rather they will ask you your expected salary range. In these cases, the best advice is to avoid such opportunities and not fall prey to fraudulent career-furthering options. The statement is generally mentioned in the ‘terms & conditions’ part of the intent letter.

  1. Remuneration Amount Beyond Experience & Expectations

This is another technique used by the conmen to raise hopeful employee's hopes and encourage a flood of applicants. It is understandable that if you get an opportunity to go for a high-paying job in Dubai or EU, as these are some of the flourishing economies of late, you might have a hard time saying 'no.' However, it is advisable to study the current global market salary trends in advance, so you can find work that pays well, and avoid fraudulent job offers.

  1. Use the Power of Internet

Make use of the power of the internet by searching buzzwords and hashtags related to your job. There are cyber cafes that offer access to the world wide web in small towns and big cities of every globalized country. To know the authenticity of the job offer, enter the company’s name, the agency’s name, and even the address of the company. You can find this information in prior corporate mailings and brochures.

  1. Job Search Sites

If you are eyeing opportunities in Dubai or other flourishing economies, you should access famous Dubai job portals like Naukrigulf.com. You just have to create a profile, and then you can access several legitimate job options at your convenience.

  1. No Personal Information Please!

There have been incidents of hacking and identity theft; therefore save yourself from this trap. There are mailers containing job opportunities that may ask you for your birth date, social security number or your mother’s maiden name. It is safe to assume that the intention of these mailings is to steal your identity or access your financial accounts.

Last Word of Advice

Be aware as you conduct your international job search. However if you find yourself a victim of a fake job offer, immediately report it to the job board, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The commission or the establishment will vary from country to country, but by reporting the offense, you can actively end the fraudulent and exploitative practices perpetrated by these recruiters.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204