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COVID-19 provides opportunity to resolve conflicts, address weaknesses across Arab region

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Jabra is seven years old, she lives in Sana, Yemen. She is learning the correct way to wash her hands and how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. © UNICEF

António Guterres has released a policy brief outlining four sets of priorities to help these countries build back better and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines, fissures and fragilities in societies and economies around the world – and the Arab region is no exception,” said Mr. Guterres in a video accompanying the launch.

“Together, we can turn a crisis into an opportunity.  It will be good for the region — and good for our world.”

Poverty threatening millions

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Arab Region: An Opportunity to Build Back Better is the latest UN policy initiative to help countries deal with the pandemic, providing ideas for governments on how to address the consequences of the crisis.

Arab nations – which have a collective population of more than 430 million – have seen a sharp drop in oil revenues, remittances and tourism.  

The regional economy is expected to contract by over five per cent, amounting to an overall loss of $152 billion. As a result, a quarter of the population might end up in poverty.

“In a region already rife with tensions and inequalities, this will have profound consequences on political and social stability”, the UN chief warned.

Concern for women, displaced persons

Years of conflict and social unrest have reversed progress in human development, and some communities will be hit hard by the pandemic. They include women, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).

The Arab region already has the world’s largest gender gap, and the UN fears women could lose around 700,000 jobs, particularly in the informal sector where they comprise more than 60 per cent of the workforce.

“Those caught in armed conflict face particular challenges, especially the 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons, who are among the most exposed to the virus”, said the Secretary-General.

The pandemic is also likely to increase wealth inequality, already the highest in the world.   Meanwhile, weak public institutions mean many countries are not able to plan for major crises.

Mahmoud Charary a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon plays with his one-year-old daughter.

Seize COVID-19 ‘moment’

Despite these challenges, the Secretary-General viewed COVID-19 as an opportunity to effect change in the Arab region, saying it “can also be a moment for resolving long-standing conflicts and addressing structural weaknesses”.

He has proposed four sets of priorities to guide responses, with the immediate focus on slowing spread of the disease, ending conflict, and supporting the most vulnerable people.

“That means prioritising life-saving health care to COVID-19 victims, respecting the call for a global ceasefire; ensuring humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable — including refugees, displaced and host communities; providing emergency support to individuals and households; and taking steps to relieve debt, promote trade and expand relief — for example, through a regional solidarity fund,” said Mr. Guterres.

Invest to end inequalities

Given the inequalities in the region, the UN chief called for greater investment in universal health, education, social protection and technology.  He also highlighted the need to invest in women and girls, and to ensure equal rights and participation.

“Education and opportunities are also critical for young people in the region who face unemployment rates five times higher than those for adults.  With the right investments, Arab youth — now the largest age group in the region — can also be its largest asset”, he added.

A greener, diversified economy

The Secretary-General also emphasized the need to boost economic recovery through more diversified and “green” economic models.  This can be achieved by creating decent sustainable jobs, introducing progressive taxation measures, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and taking greater account of climate risks.

“Now is the moment to prioritize human rights, ensure a vibrant civil society and free media and create more accountable institutions that will increase citizen trust and strengthen the social contract,” said Mr. Guterres, underlining his fourth priority area for the region.

The policy brief also highlights the key role of the international community in supporting any transition in Arab countries, including through providing humanitarian assistance and greater access to financing, as well as measures to manage debt and remove barriers to trade.

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Finance

France challenges UK for title of Europe’s Greatest Equities Market

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Paris is challenging London’s leadership as home to Europe’s largest stock market, undermining post-Brexit Britain’s standing as the continent’s most important financial center, – recognizes “The Financial Times”.

The market capitalization of all companies listed in the French capital rose from $1.8 trillion at the start of 2016 to $2.83 trillion, closing the value of London shares at $2.89 trillion, according to Refinitiv.

“It is a result of the poor performance of British equities, the poor pipeline and performance of new issues in the UK, and the terrible performance of the pound. It is clearly not good news for London – and Brexit is a big factor in all three.”

To re-establish its traditional leadership, the UK government aims in the coming months to finalize proposals to reform the City of London.

However, competition from Paris is set to intensify as France is rated the preferred European stock market by fund managers. 17 percent of fund managers said they planned to “overweight” French equities over the next 12 months, according to a Bank of America survey of 161 investment managers with combined assets of $313 billion.

Paris is difficult London’s lead as the house to Europe’s greatest inventory market, consuming away at Britain’s place after Brexit because the continent’s most essential monetary centre.

“This gap between London and Paris in the domestic market is a lot smaller than it used to be or should be,” stated William Wright, founding father of New Financial, a UK think-tank, – writes “Business Land”.

…Thus the strange politics of London in recent years – from Brexit to a kaleidoscope of people in the prime minister’s chair, has led to the fact that Britain may say ‘goodbye’ even to such a privilege as being the financial center of the World and Europe.

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Health & Wellness

In fight against male cancer, caring for mental health is a growing priority

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By Anthony King

At a hotel in the Scottish city of Aberdeen about 20 years ago, urologist James N’Dow and other doctors met a group of men who had suffered prostate cancer to ask for feedback on their care before and after surgery. The clinicians were stunned by the critical, albeit constructive, responses.

‘Frankly, they felt abandoned,’ said Professor N’Dow, who works at the University of Aberdeen. ‘When we discharged them after surgery, we thought their general practitioners were looking after them and their GPs thought we were.’

Minding the mind

Dealing with the emotional and mental toll of prostate cancer has grown in importance along with detecting and curing the disease itself. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cancer among men in Europe and is sometimes mistakenly viewed as a disease only of old age. It caused an estimated 335 500 cases, or 12.5% of cancers, in the EU in 2020.

Prof N’Dow heads an Innovative Medicines Initiative project – PIONEER – on prostate cancer that seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment. A parallel EU-funded initiative called FAITH is developing an electronic application for cancer survivors that could help spot if the “black dog” of depression is stalking them.

‘Depression is a big thing in post-cancer survivors,’ said Gary McManus, who leads FAITH and works at the Walton Institute for Information and Communication Systems Science in Waterford, Ireland.

Four in 10 men who have been treated for prostate cancer say they are anxious or depressed to some degree, with troubles worsening the more advanced the cancer, according to a 2020 study by Europa Uomo, a European advocacy movement for sufferers of the disease. Prostate cancer can increase the risk of suicide.

Stopping the spread

When prostate cancer is caught early enough, a man can be cured. If it spreads beyond the prostate, the cost of treatment is high and delivers minimal benefit. Usually, the disease will spread – metastasize – to the bones and lymph nodes.

‘It is not curable at that stage,’ said Prof N’Dow. ‘We are still picking up too many men with metastatic disease – and this is a failure of the system.’

Without treatment, the average period of survival from prostate cancer that has spread beyond the gland is about 21 months. With some newer therapies, some metastatic prostate cancer patients can survive five years or more.

Even when the cancer is aggressive, if it is restricted to the prostate gland a patient can be cured by surgery or radiation therapy – or a combination. Almost 95% of these patients are still alive up to 15 years after their diagnosis. Treatment can, however, affect a man’s urinary or erectile function.

Prof N’Dow hails recent EU recommendations to screen prostate cancer in men up to the age of 70 using a blood test and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans based on an individual’s risk. Certain men over 50 and those of African descent or with a family history of prostate cancer are at heightened risk from this cancer and should be targeted for early detection.

Tracking the blues

Amid the efforts to improve detection and cures, FAITH’s planned app highlights the heightened focus on the psychological well-being of cancer patients.

Although it is being tested on people who have overcome lung and breast cancer, the app could be made to work for survivors of the disease in other parts of the body including the prostate.

In its study two years ago on anxiety or depression among men who have been treated for prostate cancer, Europa Uomo said 0.5% felt either one to an “extreme” degree and almost 4% to a “severe” extent. Nearly 11% and 28% fell into “moderate” and “slight” categories, respectively.   

A tracker of sorts, the app is being developed by European technologists and cancer doctors working together. The tests are taking place at three hospitals in Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

At home, a wearable watch records movement and sleep patterns that get fed into a phone app. Patients must occasionally answer questions from the app, for example about dietary choices, while a voice module checks for any changes in a person’s speech that may indicate depression.

In all, 27 measurements are being tracked in a bid to uncover which ones could flag a downward trajectory in a patient’s mental health. Performance will be compared against clinical questionnaires that doctors already use to monitor patients.

‘Once the patient is signed out of the hospital, they’re often on their own,’ said McManus. ‘If the hospital gives this app to a patient, doctors can remotely monitor how the patient is getting on.’

The phone app will not send sensitive patient data to the Internet. Instead, an algorithm is updated on the phone and fed back to the development team, which helps improve the app’s performance.

‘We’ll build our algorithm and try to pick out these downstream trajectories,’ said McManus. ‘Then we are basically training the app.’ Eventually, if the app picks up worrying signals, ‘an alarm is raised in the hospital and the patient is contacted,’ he said.

Empowering patients

The mental-health aspect of cancer diagnosis and care needs to be improved across Europe, according to Prof N’Dow, who said that this is a central goal of the European Association of Urology, where he is adjunct secretary general responsible for education.

‘The impact psychologically of the diagnosis or consequences of treatment is huge,’ he said. ‘This is something we understood in PIONEER.’

The project has sought to ensure that treatment comparisons take into account the impact on patient quality of life such as sexual, bowel or urinary function. Also crucial has been to identify those outcomes that matter most to patients.

That is why PIONEER has included patients themselves in discussions aimed at determining key unanswered research questions about prostate cancer.

‘Patients understand what they need,’ Prof N’Dow said. ‘Our job is to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and get them back to the life they knew before it was rudely interrupted by disease. The psychological well-being of the patient and their families should be recognized as central to that.’

Research in this article was funded via the EU. This material was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.   

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Tech News

5 Reasons Why Use Premium Proxy Server

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Not many people truly know the importance of a premium proxy server. To many people, they believe its sole purpose is to enable them to access websites that their IP address has been barred from accessing. Proxy servers do more than just keep your details private on the internet.

For the record, a proxy server serves as an intermediary between a browsing computer and another server on the internet. The server has its private IP address, which is made open online while shielding the IP address of whoever is browsing. You may think this is just about breaking entry into a secured network server, but it is more than that.

5 Reasons Why Use Premium Proxy Server

Proxy servers are important to the security of anyone browsing the internet. While there are different proxy servers, using a premium one is important for many reasons.

If you are a business owner or an IT person, here is why you must channel some investment into getting a premium proxy server.

Ensures Corporate Security

As more and more people use the internet daily, the number of persons that also use the internet for the wrong reasons also increases drastically. More than ever, companies and brands are taking caution to avoid cyber attacks on their servers.

A data breach could cost a brand its image. Also, it could lead to financial loss for a brand. While a proxy server reduces the risk of breach, a premium server intensifies the security of a server.

They act as a buffer. That’s why cyber attackers might be able to get a proxy, but a premium proxy makes it almost impossible for them to reach the server. And if the server can’t be reached, there won’t be any manipulation on the network.

Be Anonymous

As a business establishment, certain tasks online would require you to do them anonymously. You may not understand the importance of this, except you work in the line of reporters, security agencies, and others. You will need an extra layer of security that will allow you to move in and out of different networks without being noticed.

You can never tell if spies are online trying to monitor your activities. And leaking vital information to a spy or competitor isn’t exactly bold for a business.

Protect Server From Crash

This is very important if you run a business requiring your customers always to visit your website. Imagine an e-commerce website going down due to a server crash; you know how frustrating this will be for their customers.

Premium proxy helps protect your server from crashes. A premium proxy server creates an access point for your website data online. With this, customers can easily access your website without stress. 

Increase Internet Speed

This is one thing not many people know about proxy servers. Many people believe they slow down the internet speed of a browser due to their background internet usage. This is not true.

Proxy servers save bandwidth and increase the internet speed of any browser. It does this by ensuring the following:

  • compress traffic;
  • cache files;
  • remove unwanted ads.

With all of these, the bandwidth is saved to boost internet speed.

Control Employee’s Internet Activities

You won’t want your workers to access certain websites with the company’s network. This might leave your company’s information in the hands of potential threats. With a premium server, you can restrict your workers from accessing certain websites with your company’s network.

Also, with this server, you can access blocked sites. This is the most prominent function of the proxy server known to many. You can bypass restrictions on any site using a premium proxy server.

Conclusion

The function of premium proxy servers can not be overemphasized. It reduces the risk of being vulnerable online. So you should consider getting one today.

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