August 2017

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Over 300,000 people mobilized to serve Hajj pilgrims

Author: 
MOHAMMED AL-SULAMI
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504216044727693400

MAKKAH: The Kingdom has mobilized more than 300,000 civilians and military personnel to serve pilgrims, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal — Makkah governor, adviser to King Salman and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee — told a press conference in Mina.
He said 101 unlicensed Hajj companies were shut down, 490,785 individuals and 21,990 vehicles without Hajj permits were prevented from entering Makkah and the Mashaaer, and 9,599 people transporting pilgrims illegally were arrested.
The total number of pilgrims this Hajj season is expected to exceed 2 million. The number of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom reached 1,752,014, and the number of domestic pilgrims reached 126,092 citizens and 102,936 residents, Prince Khalid said, adding that 1,564 Qatari pilgrims have come this year, up from 1,210 last year.
Al-Mashaaer Metro is ready to transport 365,000 pilgrims, and 21,000 buses are available to help more than 2 million pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat, he said.
The Health Ministry has mobilized 30,000 doctors and health practitioners to serve pilgrims, he added.
“The ministry furnished 5,000 beds in Makkah and the holy sites, and 550 intensive care units. It equipped 135 health centers and 17 hospitals to provide health services to pilgrims,” Prince Khalid said, adding that there are 100 field medical teams with the latest equipment.
The Finance Ministry has established accommodation centers in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah that can host more than 51,000 people, he said.
“The Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs mobilized more than 23,000 people to ensure the cleanliness of Makkah and the holy places during Hajj,” he added.
“The National Water Co. is pumping more than 18 million cubic meters during the pilgrimage season.” He said 22 million meals and water bottles will be distributed during this Hajj season.

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King Salman to cover cost of sacrificial animals for 5,000 pilgrims on Hajj program

Author: 
ARAB NEWS
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504216044697693100

MAKKAH: King Salman will cover the cost of sacrificial animals for 5,000 pilgrims hosted by the Hajj guest program, an official said.
The offer includes all pilgrims from more than 80 countries hosted by the Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah, said secretary-general of the program, Abdullah bin Mudlaj Al-Mudlaj.
These include relatives of slain soldiers from Palestine, the Egyptian army and police, as well as relatives of Sudanese army personnel who were killed in the Decisive Storm and Restoring Hope operations.
Al-Mudlaj said the number of beneficiaries this Hajj season stands at 5,000, compared to 2,400 last year.
The executive committee of the program has begun work to implement the offer in coordination with the concerned agencies, while all the beneficiaries have been informed of the offer, he added.
The Hajj guest program is coordinated with Islamic figures in different countries around the world. It helps bolster relations between the Kingdom and peoples of Arab and Islamic countries, including Qatari nationals recently hosted by the king.
Meanwhile Tawfiq Al-Sudairi, the deputy minister of Islamic affairs, call and guidance, stressed the history of the Kingdom in disassociating Hajj from political and sectarian divides.
He said: “The Kingdom has disassociated Hajj from politicization and political and sectarian slogans since it was founded by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman. He emphasized that … Saudi officials always emphasize this strategic concept, from which all governmental authorities and service programs are launched to assist pilgrims. Therefore, it is always being reaffirmed that Hajj is a religious ritual that must be elevated and that it is so much purer than political and sectarian matters.”
Meanwhile, a Palestinian woman from Gaza wept as she stood in front of a photo of King Salman in the lobby of a hotel hosting the families of martyrs of Palestine who came to perform Hajj.
Ruwdha Abdulhameed, 63, pointed to the King’s photo and in her local Arabic dialect said: “I send my greetings to King Salman. May Allah give him a long life because he is supporter of Palestine … and we are proud of him.”
She said she has been termed as the “mother of a martyr” because her son was killed at the age of 25, and her two grandsons were also martyred. She said her sufferings faded when she arrived in the Kingdom.
“The sons of Palestine are your sons, and Saudi youths are our sons. Our lives are sacrificed for Palestine and Al-Aqsa, of which we are proud,” she said.
Around 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims will perform Hajj this year at the king’s expense under the Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah program.
Pilgrim Aisha Abul-Qasim hopes that Hajj will be a good opportunity to pray for her son, Ayman Jibril, a mine expert in the Sudanese army who died four months ago.
Abul-Qasim is one of 10 Sudanese mothers who lost loved ones fighting with the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen who will perform Hajj this season as guests of King Salman.
With tears in her eyes, Aisha said that her son had four sons of his own when he died. She said that she has spent most of her days taking care of them since April 22, when the Sudanese armed forces informed her that her son was killed.
“The Saudi Embassy in Khartoum facilitated our travel procedures to Jeddah airport. They completed the procedures in record time,” said Abul-Qasim. She also said that the Sudanese pilgrims were given a welcome reception before they were taken to a hotel in Al-Rusayfah in Makkah.

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US mission thanks Saudi’s King Salman for generous hospitality

Author: 
Arab News
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504216044677692800

JEDDAH: On behalf of the US mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Americans visiting the Kingdom to perform the Hajj this year, Christopher Henzel, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy, expressed gratitude to King Salman; Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Bentin; and the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Saleh Al-Asheikh for welcoming the thousands of American Muslims participating in this year’s pilgrimage.
“Additionally, I extend my thanks to the people of Saudi Arabia for their hospitality and generosity toward American Muslims.”
“We offer our best wishes to Muslims around the world for a blessed Eid Al-Adha. We congratulate all Muslims — including thousands of Americans — who are performing Hajj this year in fulfillment of one of the fundamental pillars of their faith,” said Henzel.

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An Energy Independent North America Needs NAFTA

NAFTA talks continue. Goods like milk, lumber and auto parts are all under the negotiators’ microscopes. Oil is clearly visible too. Last year, the bilateral trade of energy (including natural gas, oil and power) between the U.S. and Canada was about U.S $55 billion, with oil being 80 percent of the total. Its dollar amount dwarfs other industries, but negotiators may need to view this vital commodity using a different lens. Beyond size, the upstream oil business between America and Canada reveals big shifts in dollar and volume trade over…


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Democrats Furious After Trump Announces 90% Cut To Obamacare Marketing Funds

It appears as though President Trump has just given the Democrats yet another reason to shift the blame for Obamacare’s epic failure to his administration, as ridiculous as that may be.  According to The Hill, the Department of Health and Human Services has just announced that they’ll be slashing the Obamacare advertising budget by 90% for the 2018 plan year, from $100 million down to $10mm. 

Department of Health and Human Services officials said on a call with reporters that funding for advertising and other outreach for ObamaCare enrollment will be cut from $100 million last year to $10 million this year.

 

An HHS official argued the administration is seeing “diminishing returns” from ObamaCare spending.

 

The administration will still be spending some money on signing people up for the law, despite its opposition to ObamaCare.

 

Officials also announced they are cutting funding for “navigators,” which are outside organizations that help sign people up. Funding will be proportional to how navigators have fared in hitting their enrollment target the previous year. If a group signed up 70 percent of their target, they will get 70 percent of the funding.

Obama

Of course, what this really means is that when enrollments start to decline, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will have the perfect excuse lined up for immediate distribution via their own personal propaganda machines, CNN, MSNBC, etc., as to why this is all Trump’s fault.

And, right on cue, Schumer has just released the following statement:

Sen. Schumer: “The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system.” pic.twitter.com/YjTOqOYQ9J

— Liam Martin (@LiamWBZ) August 31, 2017

You know, because prices surging by 30% every single year couldn’t possibly have any impact on demand, right?

But, lest you forget, Nancy and Chuck have that angle covered too.  You see, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently, 2018 Obamacare price increases are also Trump’s fault because his threats to remove the individual mandate and/or cut federal subsidies have thoroughly confused the insurance companies and forced them to raise rates.

Major health insurers in some states are seeking increases as high as 30% or more for premiums on 2018 Affordable Care Act plans, according to new federal data that provide the broadest view so far of the turmoil across exchanges as companies try to anticipate Trump administration policies.

 

Insurers are also concerned about whether the Trump administration will enforce the requirement for most people to have insurance coverage, which industry officials say helps hold down rates by prodding young, healthy people to sign up for plans.

 

In Montana, Health Care Service linked 17 percentage points of its 23% rate increase request to concerns about the cost-sharing payments and enforcement of the mandate that requires everyone to purchase insurance. Kurt Kossen, a senior vice president at Health Care Service, said the company’s rate requests are driven by causes including growing health costs and “uncertainty and the associated risks that exist within this marketplace, including uncertainty around issues like the continued funding of [cost-sharing payments] and mechanisms that encourage broad and continuous coverage.”

 

The impact of potentially losing the cost-sharing payments was also clear in the rates requested by Blue Cross of Idaho, which average 28%. That would probably be in the lower teens if the payments were guaranteed, said Dave Jeppesen, a senior vice president. “It’s a big swing,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk associated with the uncertainty in Congress right now, and we are pricing appropriately for that risk.”

Of course, as we’ve noted multiple times over the past couple of years, Obamacare premium increases are hardly a new phenomenon.  In fact, data from the Department of Health and Human Services recently revealed that premiums across the country soared an average of 113% over the past 4 years, or nearly 30% per year.  Ironically, that 30% is the same hike that many insurers are seeking for 2018…some folks would call that a trend.

 

But, other folks don’t believe in things like math and adverse selection bias that results in deteriorating risk pools and higher costs for insurers…no, they prefer simple, provocative narratives that can be exploited for political gain while masking the real underlying problems of a failed policy that is ruining healthcare for millions of hard working Americans.

The post Democrats Furious After Trump Announces 90% Cut To Obamacare Marketing Funds appeared first on crude-oil.news.


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Saudi Health Ministry issues eye-safety tips for pilgrims

Author: 
RODOLFO C. ESTIMO JR. & RASHID HASSAN
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504215375227623900

MAKKAH: The Health Ministry has urged pilgrims to follow eye-safety guidelines during Hajj, and avoid standing under the sun for long periods without protective eyewear.
The ministry called on pilgrims to wear sunglasses during the day to protect their eyes from potential damage by the sun.
Allergic conjunctivitis from dust during the Hajj season is common. Symptoms include watery eyes, redness and severe itching.
The best way to relieve it is by using cold water to wash the face and eyes. 
When eye problems occur, patients should use special drops, including lubricating solutions and anti-allergic drops, depending on the severity of the disease.
The ministry said another eye disease pilgrims are exposed to is inflammatory bacterial conjunctivitis, due to exposure to severe dust or using someone else’s personal items.
Symptoms include redness of the eyes, discharge and swollen eyelids in the morning.
In this case, patients should get prescription drops, ointments or antibiotics.
They should also wash their eyes and avoid using any other people’s personal items such as towels. 
Pilgrims who recently underwent eye surgery should wear a plastic protective cover on their eyes throughout Hajj to avoid dust and potential inflammation, the ministry said.
It also urged them to avoid severe stress or carrying heavy objects. 
If a foreign object enters the eye, a pilgrim should not try to remove it, but instead wash the eye and visit the nearest medical center.

Toll-free number launched to assist pilgrims

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a 24-hour, toll-free number to serve and help the guests of Allah.
The ministry has allocated the number 8004304444 to communicate with pilgrims and receive their inquiries and observations, from inside and outside the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday.
“Calling the… number will help pilgrims find a solution to a problem they might face during Hajj,” a ministry official said.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom has launched a Persian-language satellite TV channel to broadcast Hajj, which began live coverage on Thursday.
Adel Al-Barriah, the program director, said the 24-hour live broadcast channel will provide valuable information about the pilgrimage, targeting more than 130 million Persian-speaking people worldwide.
The channel will telecast its coverage via four satellites: Arabsat, Nilesat, Yahsat and Hot Bird.
The Persian telecast will also highlight the Kingdom’s concerted efforts to facilitate Hajj in its endeavor to serve the guests of Allah.

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Sign language most common language among Hajj pilgrims 

Author: 
Tariq Al-Thagafi
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504215375187623400

MINA: Sign language is the most-used language at the holy sites, as it can be used to guide crowds, organize them safely at the Jamarat and warn people about overcrowding.
Crowd flow expert Akram Jann said there are more than 100 languages used at the holy sites, but the only one that can unify them is sign language, which does not need dictionaries and can help pilgrims of all nationalities.
Fayza Netou, president of the Deaf and Mute Club, said signing is used to guide lost people, and is not limited to the hard of hearing.
“I’ve seen many pilgrims lose their way, and sign language has been the only solution to help and guide them. This made me and the volunteer teams want to serve pilgrims,” said Netou.
She added that the club, in cooperation with the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, has organized training sessions for presidency members to teach them about sign language in order to help pilgrims. 
Volunteer teams have used sign language at the holy sites for 16 years. There are eight sessions organized at the Haram in Makkah to train women and men to use sign language.
The sessions help workers who do not speak the most common languages, enabling them to communicate with all pilgrims. 

Catering to pilgrims’ food requests in Makkah
More than 210 companies in the food and catering sector in Makkah try to meet all food requests from pilgrims, the head of the catering committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shaker Al-Harthi, told Arab News.
There are many cuisines offered, such as Indian, Indonesian, European, Turkish, Egyptian and Shami. This gives pilgrims an opportunity to experience different civilizations through food.
Catering companies provide meals according to their contracts with the Hajj delegations, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Menus differ according to demand. 
Al-Harthi said the food sector in Makkah is facing challenges, especially with population growth, expansion of the holy city and the resulting increase in the number of visitors and pilgrims.
These factors mean small companies need more support from chambers of commerce to help them compete with larger companies, he said, adding that supporting small companies will provide greater employment and investment opportunities. 
Al-Harthi said a number of goals are being pursued. “The first one is the establishment of an electronic portal that will soon provide several services. The most important of these will facilitate and identify service providers, and show contracts offered during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.”

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How Long Can U.S. Refineries Remain Offline?

When Hurricane Harvey blew into Texas last weekend, it dumped more than 30 inches of rain, flooding Houston and large areas of southeastern Texas, while leaving thousands homeless or without power. The worst storm to hit the U.S. since 2004 and by some estimates the largest rain-storm in U.S. history, Harvey has had a profound impact on the nation’s largest oil-producing and oil-refining region. Refinery shutdowns, pipeline closures and other consequences of Harvey has sent the Gulf oil industry into a tailspin while throwing oil markets…


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Washington tells Russia to close consulate, buildings in US

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504214537527543400

WASHINGTON: The US has told Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two annex buildings in Washington and New York, the State Department said on Thursday, a response to Moscow last month ordering cuts in the US diplomatic mission in Russia.
The announcement was the latest in tit-for-tat measures between the two countries that have helped to drive relations to a new post-Cold War low, thwarting hopes on both sides that they might improve after US President Donald Trump took office in January.
Last month Moscow ordered the US to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people, after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia. The sanctions were imposed in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and to punish Russia further for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” Nauert said. “These closures will need to be accomplished by Sept. 2.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed regret during a phone call with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson about Washington’s decision, his ministry said.
“Moscow will closely study the new measures announced by the Americans, after which our reaction will be conveyed,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
To cope with the reduction in staff in Russia, the US said last week it would have to sharply scale back visa services, a move that will hit Russian business travelers, tourists and students.
The Russian Consulate in San Francisco handles work from seven states in the western US. There are three other Russian Consulates separate from the embassy in Washington. They are in New York, Seattle and Houston.

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Pakistan Parliament denounces Trump policy

Author: 
Sib Kaifee
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504214537497543100

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani MPs on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution presented by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif rejecting the new US strategy in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Khurshid Shah asked that a joint session of Parliament be held immediately after Eid Al-Adha to compose an appropriate response to anti-Pakistan statements made by US President Donald Trump during his televised address to the nation.
During his speech on Aug. 21, Trump said Pakistan harbors “agents of chaos” and protects militant groups that allegedly use Pakistani soil to launch attacks against the US-backed Afghan government.
Asif advised MPs to postpone all official visits to the US, and scheduled visits by American delegations to Pakistan.
A visit by the US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to discuss the Trump administration’s new Afghan policy was postponed without reason in a statement issued on Sunday by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
Former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said resolutions and condemnation will not halt US criticism.
He urged Islamabad to revisit the rules of engagement with the US since it continues to blame Pakistan for its own failures in the region.
“The US did not ask Pakistan before going to Afghanistan,” Khan said, adding that America chose to talk with the Taliban, but when Pakistan does so it is unacceptable to Washington.
Javed Hafiz, a retired Pakistani diplomat, told Arab News that Parliament’s resolution was hashed out prematurely.
“Have (MPs) thoroughly studied our deficit, neighboring relations and our dependency on the IMF (International Monetary Fund), which the US controls?” he asked.
“Before adopting any confrontational policy, they need to take a step back and open doors for talks. The current approach isn’t right.”
Parliament concluded its session by demanding the formulation of an economic policy in case US reimbursements under the Coalition Support Fund are further slashed or halted.
The resolution said Afghanistan, the US and its allies should better manage the border and stop terrorists from attacking Pakistan.
It added that the US tilt toward India would create an imbalance between the nuclear rivals, thus destabilizing the region. The US ambassador is to be summoned and briefed on Pakistan’s reservations.
A Foreign Ministry official told Arab News that Asif will lead a delegation to China, Russia, Turkey and Iran to hold talks with the regional stakeholders following the resolution.
Mosharraf Zaidi, a foreign policy expert and former advisor to ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, told Arab News that Pakistan should maintain a working relationship with the US while engaging other countries.

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