Ayman's blog

Islamist militants have killed 18 people in an attack on a village in eastern Congo, a regional official and a local human rights group said on Monday, the latest in a 60-day counter-offensive that has killed nearly 200 civilians.
Iran is threatening "grave consequences" after US airstrikes hit five targets in Iraq and Syria associated with an Iran-backed militia. CNN`s Arwa Damon reports.
Iraq said on Monday that United States military air strikes targeting Iraqi paramilitary groups will force it to reconsider its relationship and work with the U.S.-led international anti-Islamic State coalition stationed there.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine this week, the State Department said on Monday, on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump`s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine.
Islamist group al Shabaab on Monday claimed responsibility for a bomb blast in Mogadishu that killed at least 90 people over the weekend while Somalia said a foreign government that it did not identify helped plan the attack.
The story of the assailant who shot people in a Texas church is wrong and is being withdrawn. A new version of the story will be published shortly. The parishioner who shot the gunman trained worshippers on a shooting range; it was not the assailant who trained parishioners.
Former army general and ex-Prime Minister Umaro Cissoko Embalo said on Monday he was on course to win Guinea Bissau`s presidential election and his opponent urged the nation to await official results.
The Nicaraguan government said it freed more than 90 people on Monday who rights groups say were jailed for anti-government activity, including about a dozen people who were arrested after ferrying water to a group of mothers on hunger strike.
For the Iraqi government, it`s the stuff of nightmares: A proxy war between the United States and Iran in a country already wracked by protests, crippled by political paralysis and threatened by renewed terrorism. But that war has come a step nearer with Sunday`s US airstrikes against a pro-Iranian militia in Iraq.
A Cyprus court on Monday found a British woman guilty of lying about being gang-raped by Israeli youths six months ago.
A Mexican deputy foreign minister said on Monday that the government had not made a decision to declare Bolivia`s ambassador a "persona non grata."

Source: UNICEF

A new health campaign focusing on pregnant women in Egypt will be launched next January, which aims to detect and treat diseases in pregnant mothers to prevent their transmission to unborn babies, according to a statement by the spokesman of the Egyptian presidency.

In light of the strategies adopted by the Ministry of Health and Population, particularly in regards to the current steps in improving the health insurance system, advance professional medical education and train cadres, the initiative will be part of the new phase of the comprehensive health insurance system to ensure that services and healthcare to citizens is provided in accordance with international standards.

The new initiative, focused on the “health of pregnant women” during January, will detect and treat diseases of the mother and prevent its transmission to the fetus, taking into account the health and safety of both lives.

According to Unicef, Egypt went through important achievements in improving child and maternal survival, as in 2014, around 90 percent of mothers underwent antenatal care checks during pregnancy, and 83 percent of them had antenatal care on a regular basis. Ninety-two percent were attended by a skilled birth attendant, while 87 per cent took place in a health facility.

However, regional disparities continue to exist as in the same year, the under-5 mortality rate ranged between 42 deaths per 1,000 live births in rural Upper Egypt compared to 20 deaths per 1,000 live births in urban areas.

Improving maternal health plays a significant role in saving the lives of more than half a million women who die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth each year.

A majority of these deaths could have been prevented if women access to adequate diets, safe water and sanitation facilities, basic literacy and health services during pregnancy and childbirth.

Bolivia`s government expelled Mexican and Spanish diplomats on Monday, escalating a diplomatic dispute after Mexico`s embassy in La Paz granted asylum to allies of Bolivia`s former socialist president Evo Morales.
U.S. military officials said they are closely watching for reprisals for American air strikes in Iraq and Syria against an Iran-backed militia group, with the potential for a cycle of retaliatory actions that could inflame tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Monday condemned air strikes by the United States on several bases belonging to an Iranian-backed militia group in Iraq and said the attack would have consequences.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has devised technology to restrict the use of anti-aircraft missiles after they leave American hands, a researcher said, a move that experts say could persuade the United States that it would be safe to disseminate powerful weapons more frequently.
Aroon`s eyes rolled back into his head, his breath became fast and labored, and his body started to quiver.
Iraqi Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Monday he was willing to work with Iran-backed militia groups - his political rivals - to end the United States military presence in Iraq through political and legal means.
Turkey is considering sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya as part of planned military support for the besieged government in Tripoli, four senior Turkish sources said on Monday, potentially bringing more foreign influence into the complex conflict.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Monday condemned U.S. air strikes on Iranian-backed Iraqi militia bases, a move that could plunge Iraq further into the heart of a proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran.
U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group have brought a threat of reprisal.
Bolivia`s interim government on Monday asked the Mexican ambassador and several Spanish officials to leave the country, raising the tension over Mexico`s decision to grant asylum in its La Paz embassy to nine people including some allies of Bolivia`s former socialist president, Evo Morales.
Russia`s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that U.S. air strikes on Iraq and Syria were unacceptable and counterproductive, and urged all sides to avoid fuelling tensions in the region.
Somalia said an unnamed country helped plan Saturday`s bomb explosion in Mogadishu that killed at least 90 people, and added it would investigate the assault with help from a foreign intelligence agency.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the potential for arms control in a phone call on Sunday, the White House said.
CAIRO - 30 December 2019: A green sea turtle was released into its natural habitat at a beach in Arish city, North Sinai, Monday after it had been rescued and treated by the local community and teaching staff at Sinai University.

A group of wildlife conservationists were notified of a the turtle at a fish market in Cairo, and they convinced the seller to give it to volunteer vets as the reptile seemed rather ill. The turtle was then treated for four days for pneumonia.

The volunteers traveled all the way to Arish to release the animal, where young people in Sinai University and the local community dug a large hole by the beach to observe the turtle and first ensure that it is able to live independently before the release into the Mediterranean.

The turtle before being released in Arish - Press photo

Prior to the release, a seminar was held on the importance of sea turtles and communal responsibility towards biological diversity. Many people of all ages attended the seminar and the release of the turtle, according to a statement by the Ministry of Environment, which praised the collaboration and concerted efforts to rescue the turtle.

The Ministry of Environment`s hotline 19808 is available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on holidays where it is unavailable after 3 p.m., to inquire about wildlife or report illegal hunting/fishing and trafficking of endangered creatures.

It can also be contacted 24/7 over Whatsapp on 01222693333.

An Israeli who confessed to spitting on Poland`s ambassador at a time of heightened tensions between the countries was convicted on Monday of assault, an offence that could carry up to two years in jail.
A magnitude 5.4 earthquake struck southern Iran on Monday near Bandar Abbas, site of a major oil refinery, Iranian state media reported, but there were no reports of casualties or damage to oil installations.

Featured in Ripley`s Believe It or Not!

red underwear

While we all have our own personal New Year’s Eve traditions and practices for good luck, some cultures’ rituals date back hundreds of years. In the American south, people consume black-eyed peas in preparation for the new year. In Spain, they consume 12 grapes before flipping the page of the next calendar—one for each month. Still, there’s one tradition that might go as far back as the Middle Ages, and many Americans have never heard of it: wearing red undergarments on the night of New Year’s Eve.

The Dubious Origins of Red Underwear for NYE

Yes, it’s said to be a good luck charm if you wear red underwear the night of the big ball drop. But, where does this concept come from? The tradition is common among the Spanish, Italian, and Chinese cultures, but it’s difficult to pin down exactly who started doing it first. Some think it stretches all the way back to medieval times when women might have worn red undergarments to give themselves luck in love.

However, it’s more likely tied to the practice where medieval men would wear a piece of red fabric over their groins while sleeping. This was so witches could not cast spells on them and take away their fertility. Since it was believed that witches had more power during the winter months, and especially during the solstice or Yule, it’s plausible to assume this tradition could have come from this antiquated practice.

Ensuring Your Own Underwear-Related Luck

As you read this, you might very well be rifling through your own underwear drawer, hoping to find a pair of red, cotton panties or boxer briefs to throw on during the last evening of the year. After all, it couldn’t hurt. But there are a couple of stipulations one must follow in order to get the full New Year’s luck associated with this tradition.

First, most versions state that the underwear must be a gift, which means it won’t work if you buy it for yourself. Second, it must also be a new pair that you wear for the first time on New Year’s Eve. Finally, while some sources state that any kind of red undergarment will work—a sock or a garter, for example—we recommend sticking with the actual underwear itself, as it seems to be the most traditional option, according to its supposed origin.

So, this year, make sure you have your red underwear on to encourage good fortune and, you know, to protect yourself from witches.

By Julia Tilford, contributor for Ripleys.com

Source: Grab Your Red Underwear And Get Ready For New Year’s Eve

Featured in Ripley`s Believe It or Not!

If you’ve been invited to a masquerade ball this year and want to wear something that screams “creepy-casual,” consider adding a moretta to your ensemble.

Old School Sunscreen

When we think of carnival masks of Venice, Rio or New Orleans, we think of bright colors and ornate design. But, if you go waaaay down to the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find the moretta—a woman’s mask of plain black with no sparkle or flare, and no opening for the nose or mouth. In artists’ depictions, they look decidedly eerie; it almost appears as though someone has cut out the person’s face.


Of all the styles of masks worn at the time, moretta was as sleek and simple as could be. Likely made of a material like cardstock or cardboard, it would have been waxed, painted over, or had black fabric affixed to it for a blank effect.

Popular in Paris and Venice during the mid-to-late 17th century, the moretta was an oval-shaped, black mask of French origin. It disguised the lady who wore it and stayed put with a button held between the teeth, rendering the wearer mute. It’s no wonder the moretta, meaning “dark,” was also sometimes called the “servetta muta,” or “mute servant.”

From the late 1600s until about 1700, women in Paris had a tradition of covering their faces in public. “Women didn’t always wear hats, so they used masks, including the moretta partially to keep their fashionably pale skin safe from the sun,” says  James H. Johnson, Professor of History at Boston University and author of Venice Incognito: Masks in the Seren Republic.

The plain, dark mask accentuated the paleness it helped protect. A moretta might be also worn on a visit to a convent for the sake of modesty and, of course, the quiet created by that button.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Masks in Paris at the time were also worn as a “protection against charges of being immodest,” Johnson says. It was rare for an upper-class woman to go walking in public alone but, he points out, not rare for prostitutes. A lady could walk out in public in a mask and not be seen as being that kind of girl.

You would think that women at this time would see the near-literal buttoning of their lip and “invisibility” in public as an inconvenience. However, for most, being covered up and unheard almost gave them a bit more freedom.

Masks could be “about protecting a psychic space when you don’t have physical space,” Johnson says, and that it was somewhat akin to the modern habit of “wearing sunglasses, not to disguise ourselves but to create a kind of psychic distance so that we don’t have to acknowledge people if we don’t want to.”

Meanwhile, Venice in the 1660s and 1670s was seeing the dawn of new social spaces like enclosed theaters, public cafes, and gambling halls. Venice had a rigid social hierarchy “in which the two or three percent of the population who are noble did not associate closely with or talk to commoners.” Now, suddenly, there were public spaces in which the mingling of classes could occur.

In a sartorial move, likely unique to Venice, “people began to wear masks in public as a way of facilitating being very close to a different social status,” in these new class-fluid spaces, Johnson says. Aristocrats could drink and gamble alongside absolute nobodies and no one would ever know.

Who Was That Masked Woman?

Venetian painter Pietro Longhi often showed masked figures in his work, including women in morettas, as in The Rhinoceros and The Meeting of the Procuratore and His Wife, which, as the University of Mary Washington blog observes, shows a lady removing her moretta for reasons unknown. As with the mysterious moretta, there’s some fun to be had in this little bit of mystery.

By Liz Langley, contributor for Ripleys.com

Source: Unmasking The Dark History Of The Moretta

A Sudanese court sentenced 29 members of the national intelligence service to death by hanging on Monday over the killing of a teacher in detention in February during protests that led to the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.
Mexico`s foreign ministry said on Monday it had instructed its ambassador in Bolivia to return to Mexico to ensure her safety, after Bolivia`s government declared her a "persona non grata."
Spain`s state attorney on Monday recommended the release of Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras from prison in what was widely seen as a gesture of political goodwill as the Socialist Party seeks support to form a government.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for "positive and offensive measures" to ensure the country`s security before a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearization talks with the United States, state media KCNA said on Monday.
Indonesia said on Monday it had protested to Beijing over the presence of a Chinese coastguard vessel in its territorial waters near the disputed South China Sea, saying it marked a "violation of sovereignty".
Former army general and Prime Minister Umaro Cissoko Embalo is on course to win Guinea Bissau`s presidential election, his spokesman said on Monday, a result that if confirmed would mark an upset victory over the ruling party`s candidate.
The Chinese scientist and two associates were sentenced after a secret trial.
Around 180 flights in Germany were canceled on Monday due to cabin crew strikes at Lufthansa`s budget airline Germanwings, in a bid to put pressure on management in wage talks.
Spain`s state attorney called on Monday for the temporary release of Catalan separatist Oriol Junqueras from prison, in what was widely seen as a gesture of political goodwill as the Socialist Party seeks support to form a government.
CAIRO - 30 December 2019: The Ministry of Health and Population revealed that the second stage of the initiative to combat the spread of infection in beauty salons and health clubs will be launched in January in nine governorates.

The governorates include Alexandria, Minya, Qena, Menoufia, Assiut, Red Sea, North Sinai, South Sinai and Marsa Matrouh and aims to eliminate the hotbeds of infection in beauty salons and health clubs under the slogan "Protect Yourself and Your Family from Hepatitis Infection. "

Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed said that this initiative complements President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi`s initiative to eliminate virus C and to detect non-communicable diseases early under the slogan "100 Million Healthy Lives."

Khaled Mujahid, adviser to the minister of health and population for media affairs and the official spokesperson for the ministry, said that the initiative conducts workshops to educate beauty professionals and distributes single-use cosmetics for free.

Mujahid indicated that this initiative is an important step that comes as part of the measures taken by the Ministry of Health and Population to combat the transmission of hepatitis.

He also pointed out that the Ministry of Health issued a book in cooperation with the Ministry of Local Development to clarify some instructions that must be followed to limit the transmission of hepatitis viruses in beauty salons and health clubs, which included the use of tools such as blades, metal tools, towels, and others for one time only.

He also stressed that in case the owners of beauty salons and health clubs do not act in accordance with the instructions, their licenses will be withdrawn and necessary legal measures will be taken.

CAIRO, Dec 30 (MENA) - In line with directives of the General Command of the Armed Forces, the border guards managed to seize nearly 48 tons of drugs (hashish, bango, heroin, opium and cocaine) and 9.3 million tons of narcotic bills and destroy 373 feddans planted with cannabis during 2019.

They also succeeded in seizing 1,027 pieces of firearms, 850,000 bullets, 206 gun magazines, six binoculars (field glasses) and 105 kg of explosives.

Also, 12 cross-border tunnels were destroyed in North Sinai throughout 2019.

The border guards also thwarted illegal infiltration attempts by 30,000 persons of different nationalities.

They seized 836 vehicles, 13 loaders, 24 bikes and 14 inflatable boats used to smuggle contraband and duty-unpaid goods.

They also confiscated 296 kg of silver and gold ornaments, 60 satellite devices and one million pounds` worth of hard currency in the possession of smugglers.
CAIRO, Dec 30 (MENA) - Manpower Minister Mohamed Safaan said January 7, which falls on Tuesday, will be an official holiday for the private sector employees on the occasion of Christmas.

Tuesday will be a fully paid vacation for the workers in accordance with Law no. 12 of 2003, he added in a statement on Monday.

An employee may work on that day and be compensated with double the salary, the statement added.

The Manpower Ministry instructed its directorates in the different governorates to notify private facilities and companies about the holiday.
A Sudanese court sentenced 27 members of the national intelligence service to death on Monday over the killing of a teacher in detention in February during protests that led to the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.
More than 10,000 people have registered for a "Run Against Dictatorship" in Bangkok next month while supporters of the Thai government plan to stage a rival walk on the same day, organizers said on Monday.
Tesla broke ground on its Shanghai factory just under a year ago. Now, it`s producing cars for customers.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed efforts to reach a diplomatic solution for the Libyan conflict in separate phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, whose government intends to send troops to Libya, a government spokesman said on Monday.
Turkey`s main opposition party said on Monday it opposes a bill to allow a troop deployment to Libya, arguing such a move would exacerbate the country`s conflict and cause it to spread across the region.
CAIRO - 30 December 2019: The Interior Ministry thwarted on Monday an attempt to embezzle goods worth LE 18 million in Nuweiba Port, revealing a large deficit in the contents of the port`s general administration store.

Investigations revealed that the goods were prohibited and kept at the warehouse because they did not meet the import requirements. The goods included auto parts, clothes, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, electrical appliances, mobile phones, laptops and iPads, blankets, fabrics, among other misappropriated goods.

This comes in light of the Ministry of Interior`s efforts to combat crime in all its forms, including smuggling crimes and corruption.

The Ministry of Interior had launched comprehensive security campaigns to target all forms of lawlessness and holders of unlicensed firearms used in quarrels and violence, in coordination with various directorates, based on the directives of Minister of Interior Mahmoud Tawfiq.

Within 24 hours, the security forces managed to arrest 83,134 criminals fleeing judicial rulings, confiscate 206 firearms, and thwart 255 drug dealing attempts.

CAIRO – 30 December 2019: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi instructed the health ministry to launch next January an initiative to care for the health of pregnant women and protect the transmission of diseases to their unborn babies, the Presidency said in a statement.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli, Health Minister Hala Zayed, and Finance Minister Mohamed Ma’eet, Sisi order launching the national initiative based on the highest standards to detect and treat diseases that women may suffer during pregnancy.

The Ministry of Health has launched many initiatives under the auspices of President Sisi, including a campaign to treat patients of Hepatitis C, a campaign to treat obesity, anemia and nutritional stunting, a campaign to treat breast cancer, and another to treat vision problems among children.

The Egyptian government expenditure on health and education hiked 82 percent during the last 5 years, recording LE 210 billion in 2019, compared to from LE 115 billion in 2014, the Ministry of Finance revealed earlier this month.

Zayed in December said a total of 542,758 citizens were registered as part of the Universal Health Insurance system in Port Said governorate. She added that 166, 827 digital family records were also created as part of the new insurance system.

Kicked off in July 2019 as part of the presidential 100 Million Healthy Lives initiative, the first phase of the women health campaign included examining more than 2.1 million women, spokesman for the Health Ministry Khaled Megahed said.

Meanwhile, 510,259 women have been screened in the campaign’s second phase, launched in November, Megahed added.
A top Iraqi militia leader warned of a strong response against U.S. forces in Iraq following air strikes in Iraq and Syria overnight that hit several bases of his Iranian-backed group and killed at least 25 people.
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