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More than half of UAE residents have been affected by heart disease during their lifetime, according to a new study commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, to mark World Heart Day on September 29. The survey of more than a thousand UAE residents revealed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease, either through being diagnosed themselves (12%), having a close friend or family member diagnosed with heart disease (53%), or both. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the UAE, with symptoms in patients often occurring a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed nations.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi specialized team on standby and ready to provide emergency care. Inset: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi ambulance

“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community. Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned. It doesn’t have to be this way; most heart disease cases could be prevented and that is really the driving force behind our campaign for healthier hearts, together,” says Dr. Ronney Shantouf, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Positive findings in the survey were a strong awareness of the risk factors for heart disease with 78 percent of respondents saying they understood the risk factors and 77 percent reporting they knew heart disease was preventable. In addition, more than half of those surveyed were aware that physicians recommend more than 150 minutes of exercise a week to help prevent heart disease.

Despite this high level of awareness, 53 percent of UAE residents reported they have not had their heart health checked for more than two years, with almost one third (30 percent) saying they had never done so. Even among residents over the age of 45, the highest risk group surveyed, 49 percent had not had a heart health checkup for more than two years, with 22 percent still never having had one. Women were much less likely to have seen a doctor about their heart health, with 35 percent never having done so and 26 percent not having a checkup for more than two years. “It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent heart disease. It is vitally important that people visit a doctor, particularly if they are at higher risk.

 

A proper cardiac evaluation along with some simple, heart healthy lifestyle changes could not only prevent a great deal of pain and anguish for yourselves, but your friends and family” concludes Dr. Shantouf. While the majority of respondents have not had a heart health checkup in recent years, just 15 percent reported they did not have any risk factors for heart disease. The most common risk factors reported by those surveyed were high blood pressure (46%), stress (45%), cholesterol (44%) and lack of exercise (44%). In addition, obesity and diabetes, conditions closely linked to severe heart disease, were reported to affect 35 percent and 30 percent of those surveyed respectively. Residents can find a range of practical information about cardiovascular disease, risk factors, treatment options and tips to lead a healthy lifestyle at https://hearthealth.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae. For more information or to request an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, call 800 8 CCAD (2223), visit www.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae or download the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi app.

WORKERS at a rehabilitation centre run by the International Committee of Red Cross help a Taliban member who claims to have lost his leg during a US air strike in Kabul.—AFP

 

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Monday that the weekend talks with the Taliban were candid and professional.

During the weekend, the Biden administration held their first face-to-face meeting with the Taliban in Doha since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in late August.

On Monday, a State Department official told journalists in Washington that on Oct 9 and 10, an interagency US delegation travelled to the Qatari capital to meet senior Taliban representatives.

“The US delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for US citizens, other foreign nationals and our Afghan partners,” the department’s spokesperson Ned Price said.

Group will be judged on actions, not words: Price

US officials also focused on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society, he said.

“The two sides also discussed the provision of robust US humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” Mr Price said.

“The discussions were candid and professional with the US delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words.”

Mr Price did not specify if any agreements were made.

Although, Taliban officials spoke to various media outlets after the talks, they too offered few details.

A previous statement from the Taliban’s leadership said the meeting “went well” and acknowledged that the United States would continue to provide humanitarian support to Afghanistan, but it would not formally recognise the Taliban.

In another media engagement, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said Afghanistan’s new leaders were committed to ensuring terrorism does not take root in Afghanistan again.

Those comments came just two days after the militant Islamic State (Khorasan) group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that left more than 100 people dead during noon prayer at a mosque in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, another State Department official described the US-Taliban meeting as the continuation of Washington’s “pragmatic engagement” with the Taliban on issues of vital national interest.

The US official, however, made it clear that “this meeting (was) not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions”.

The official said the US delegation included officials from the Department of State, USAID, and other government agencies who met senior Taliban representatives in Doha. He did not specify which agencies, but media reports from Doha claimed that the US delegation included intelligence officials.

“This meeting (was) a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban on issues of US vital national interest,” the State Department official said. “Our key priorities are the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of US and other foreign nationals and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment (and) who seek to leave the country.”

The other key priority, the official said, was “holding the Taliban to its commitment not to allow terrorists to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States or its allies”.

The United States, he said, would use the talks to reaffirm that “we continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments” and “we will press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and to form an inclusive government with broad support”.

The US official noted that Afghanistan “faced the prospect of a severe economic contraction and possible humanitarian crisis, and the US delegation pressed the Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need”.

GENEVA: The World Health Organization yesterday endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first against the mosquito-borne disease that kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly African children. The decision followed a review of a pilot program deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi where more than two million doses were given of the vaccine, first made by the pharmaceutical company GSK in 1987.

After reviewing evidence from those countries, WHO said it was “recommending the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine”, the agency’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The WHO said in a statement it was recommending the widespread application of the vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

Many vaccines exists against viruses and bacteria but this was the first time that the WHO recommended for broad use a vaccine against a human parasite. “From a scientific perspective this is a massive breakthrough,” said Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program. The vaccine acts against plasmodium falciparum – one of five parasite species and the most deadly.

Malaria symptoms include fever, headaches and muscle pain, then cycles of chills, fever and sweating. Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria, according to the World Health Organization. Before the newly recommended vaccine can reach African children, the next step will be funding. “That will be the next major step… Then we will be set up for scaling of doses and decisions about where the vaccine will be most useful and how it will be deployed,” said Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

Meanwhile, new research may have found the first-ever treatment for the dengue virus, which affects tens of millions each year, producing the brutal symptoms that earned it the moniker “breakbone fever”. Tests in cell cultures and mice found that a newly identified compound can effectively disarm the virus, stopping it from replicating and preventing disease, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature.

And it appears to be effective whether taken protectively before infection or as a treatment after the virus is contracted. It is an “exciting” development in the battle against dengue, according to Scott Biering and Eva Harris of the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. It “represents a major advance in the field of dengue therapeutics,” the pair, who were not involved in the research, wrote in a review in Nature.

There is no doubt about the threat posed by the mosquito-borne dengue virus, which is estimated to infect at least 98 million people a year and is endemic in 128 countries worldwide. It can cause intense flu-like symptoms, and sometimes develops into severe dengue which can be fatal. And because there are four different strains of the virus, infection with one doesn’t protect against another, and catching dengue a second time is often more serious.

No treatment exists so far, with efforts focusing instead on reducing transmission – including a program that infects mosquitoes with a disease-resistant bacteria. A vaccine called Dengvaxia is approved for use only in some countries and is effective against a single strain. Enter the unassumingly named JNJ-A07, a compound found by screening thousands of potential candidates, in a process researcher Johan Neyts described as like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.

It turned out to be worth the wait. Its effect “in infected animals is unprecedented,” Neyts, who helped lead the research, told AFP. “Even if treatment is started at the time of peak viral replication there is important antiviral activity,” added Neyts, a professor of virology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. JNJ-A07 works by targeting the interaction between two proteins in the dengue virus that are key to its replication.

Tests in cells, including from mosquitoes and humans, found it worked against all four dengue strains. Dengue can evolve quickly, and so the team also examined how JNJ-A07 would fare as the virus mutates. “It took us in the lab, in infected cells, almost half a year before we could obtain important resistance (to the treatment),” said Neyts. “Given that the barrier to resistance is so high, it is very unlikely that this will clinically be a problem.”

Intriguingly, the mutations that caused resistance also appeared to make the virus incapable of replicating in mosquito cells. That could suggest that even if the virus develops resistance to treatment with JNJ-A07, it would no longer be transmissible via mosquitoes, effectively reaching a dead end in its host. Promisingly, the compound was effective whether administered to mice before infection or afterwards.

The version of the compound reported in Nature has now been “further slightly optimized” and is in clinical development by Johnson & Johnson, Neyts said. Various questions about JNJ-A07 remain, including whether it would be more effective if paired with other compounds, wrote Biering and Harris. Another potential issue is whether it could increase vulnerability to reinfection.

When people contract dengue, the presence of the virus in their blood – known as viraemia – generally stimulates a potent immune response that protects them from future infection. But in some people, the immune response is weaker and that leaves them vulnerable to reinfection with different strains, which can produce more serious symptoms.

Given that JNJ-A07 works to reduce viraemia, Biering and Harris cautioned that research is needed into whether this might leave people more susceptible to reinfection. Despite the unknowns, Neyts said the study offers exciting possibilities. “Seeing the compound work so potently in animals was breathtaking,” he said, describing the research as “an amazing ride”. – AFP

TRABZON, Turkey: A commerical airliner coming from Kuwait made an emergnecy landing at Trabzon Airport in Turkey following a bomb threat. Passengers were evacuated and a bomb disposal team has begun a search of the plane.

A bomb threat was made against an Airbus A320-type passenger plane with flight number J-9313, while it was in the air. Extensive security measures were taken at the airport. The fire brigade and ambulances are waiting.

Jazeera Airways issued the following statement to the press today: “Earlier today Jazeera Airways received a communication indicating a potential security situation. This communication was evaluated and deemed to be not credible. However, with an abundance of caution, Jazeera has engaged with the authorities in Kuwait and around our network to safeguard the protection of our passengers and crew,and all flights have been provided with additional screening measures as a precaution. Jazeera’s security team is closely monitoring the situation. The airline apologies for any delays that passengers might have experienced during this time.”

An Afghan girl goes to a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 18. — Reuters/File

As the weeks pass in Afghanistan, the new Taliban administration has yet to announce when it will re-open secondary schools for girls, leaving them stuck at home while their brothers return to class.

Two weeks since boys in classes above the sixth grade were told to go back to school, the government says it is working on making it possible for girls to do the same.

"My request to the Islamic Emirate is that girls be allowed to go to school," said Marwa, a Kabul schoolgirl, using the term the Taliban use to describe their government.

"Also [female] teachers should be allowed to go to school and teach girls. I dreamt of becoming a top doctor to serve my people, my country, and my family and work in the community, but now it's not clear what my future will be," she added.

"The Ministry of Education is working hard to provide the ground for the education of high school girls as soon as possible," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference on September 21.

The ministry put a statement on its Facebook page on Sept 24 saying no decision had been reached on when girls would be able to go to school, but that work on the issue was continuing and information would be shared as soon as possible.

Girls' education and literacy rates, while still relatively low by world standards and well below the rates for boys, have risen sharply since the last Taliban government was ousted by a US-led campaign in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks.

But increasingly, foreign officials and rights activists including UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have warned that one of the biggest social gains of the past 20 years may be under threat.

Facing a potentially catastrophic economic crisis that will require large amounts of foreign aid, the movement has tried to present a conciliatory face as it seeks to gain international recognition for its government.

Officials say they will not repeat the harsh rule of the previous Taliban government toppled in 2001, which banned most girls' education and forbade women from going out in public without a male guardian.

They say all rights for women and girls will be guaranteed in accordance with Islamic law. But they have not said when and under what conditions girls' schools will be allowed to re-open.

"If our Taliban brothers want their government to be stable and the international community to recognise it, according to sharia, they should allow girls to study," said Shaima Samih, a 57-year-old maths teacher from Kabul.

The Integrity Commission and the Iraqi Ministry of Justice organized on Wednesday an international conference to recover the “looted and smuggled” Iraqi funds, in the presence of Arab justice ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister and Kuwaiti Minister of Justice Abdullah Al-Roumi. A statement by the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi quoted him as saying in his speech at the conference, “Corruption and money smuggling is a dangerous disease that affects any society and any country if the risks of this disease are not dealt with seriously and responsibly and through measures to combat corruption and eliminate outlets for squandering, smuggling and disregard for the capabilities of people.”

He stressed that “there should not be any safe haven for looted money and thefts, and the corrupt and thieves should not feel that there is a haven for money stolen from any country,” referring to billions of dollars stolen and fl ed during the era of the former Iraqi regime. He considered that the “foundational errors” in the years that followed the overthrow of the former regime exacerbated corruption and more seriously in the country. He stressed that fighting corruption and recovering the Iraqi people’s money smuggled out of the country is a priority for the Iraqi government, noting in this regard that his government formed a special anti-corruption committee that was able in one year to uncover corruption files that had not been revealed for 17 years and recovered funds looted from abroad.

For his part, the head of the Iraqi Integrity Commission, head of the looted funds recovery fund, Alaa Al-Saadi, said in a statement to reporters on the sidelines of the conference that the meeting today aims to create a united front to pressure the countries that refrain from returning those funds. He explained that the major obstacle that prevents the recovery of this money is “the lack of cooperation of a number of countries that embrace the looted money, protect those convicted of smuggling it, and work to invest or launder this money, in addition to granting citizenship to those convicted.” He revealed that the commission prepared 217 files condemning the smuggling of money outside the country last year until the middle of this year to request international legal assistance, in addition to issuing 157 judicial decisions in absentia to hand over convicts and fugitives wanted by the judiciary. (KUNA)

The U.S. has removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show. The redeployment of the defenses from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh came as America’s Gulf Arab allies nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including their last-minute evacuations from Kabul’s besieged international airport.

 

While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the U.S.’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses. Tensions remain high as negotiations appear stalled in Vienna over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers, raising the danger of future confrontations in the region. “Perceptions matter whether or not they’re rooted in a cold, cold reality. And the perception is very clear that the U.S. is not as committed to the Gulf as it used to be in the views of many people in decision-making authority in the region,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden – three successive presidents – taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment.”

Denied
Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand U.S. troops since a 2019 missile-and-drone attack on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production. That attack, though claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, appears instead to have been carried out by Iran, according to experts and physical debris left behind. Tehran has denied launching the attack, though a drill in January saw Iranian paramilitary forces use similar drones. Just southwest of the air base’s runway, a 1-square-kilometer (third-of-a-square-mile) area set off by an earthen berm saw American forces station Patriot missile batteries, as well as one advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit, according to satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. A THAAD can destroy ballistic missiles at a higher altitude than Patriots. A satellite image seen by the AP in late August showed some of the batteries removed from the area, though activity and vehicles still could be seen there.

 

A high-resolution Planet Lab satellite picture taken Friday showed the batteries’ pads at the site empty, with no visible activity. A redeployment of the missiles had been rumored for months, in part due to a desire to face what American officials see as the looming “great powers conflict” with China and Russia. However, the withdrawal came just as a Houthi drone attack on Saudi Arabia wounded eight people and damaged a commercial jetliner at the kingdom’s airport in Abha. The kingdom has been locked in a stalemate war with the Houthis since March 2015. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby acknowledged “the redeployment of certain air defense assets” after receiving questions from the AP. He said the U.S. maintained a “broad and deep” commitment to its Mideast allies. “The Defense Department continues to maintain tens of thousands of forces and a robust force posture in the Middle East representing some of our most advanced air power and maritime capabilities, in support of U.S. national interests and our regional partnerships,” Kirby said.

In a statement to the AP, the Saudi Defense Ministry described the kingdom’s relationship with the U.S. as “strong, longstanding and historic” even while acknowledging the withdrawal of the American missile defense systems. It said the Saudi military “is capable of defending its lands, seas and airspace, and protecting its people.” “The redeployment of some defense capabilities of the friendly United States of America from the region is carried out through common understanding and realignment of defense strategies as an attribute of operational deployment and disposition,” the statement said. Despite those assurances, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the kingdom’s former intelligence chief whose public remarks often track with the thoughts of its Al Saud ruling family, has linked the Patriot missile deployments directly to America’s relationship to Riyadh. “I think we need to be reassured about American commitment,” the prince told CNBC in an interview aired this week. “That looks like, for example, not withdrawing Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia at a time when Saudi Arabia is the victim of missile attacks and drone attacks – not just from Yemen, but from Iran.” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on a tour of the Mideast in recent days, had been slated to go to Saudi Arabia but the trip was canceled due to what American officials referred to as scheduling problems. Saudi Arabia declined to discuss why Austin’s trip didn’t happen after the withdrawal of the missile defenses.

Source: Arab Times

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