Written by: John Keenan. Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The United Arab Emirates recently appointed its first ‘minister for happiness’, underlining Dubai’s ambitious plan to become the happiest city on the planet. But a new report suggests there is still much work to be done.
Dubai’s ambition to become the “world’s happiest city” by the end of the decade has suffered a blow with the publication of the latest annual World Happiness Report, which sees the United Arab Emirates slip down the rankings from 20th to 28th place.
The new report, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, also states that “happiness inequality” has increased significantly “in most countries, in almost all global regions, and for the population of the world as a whole.”
In an effort to counter this trend, in 2014 Dubai – one of seven emirates that make up the UAE – launched its own “happiness index”, aimed at collecting data on how government services impacted happiness. Smart devices were distributed around the city – 23 touch-screen terminals positioned in public buildings and linked to government centres – and individuals were encouraged to give feedback by choosing one of three options to register satisfaction or otherwise with their experience.
“Creating happiness is the final result of the smart city agenda,” Ahmed Bin Byat, CEO of the investment group Dubai Holding, told a government summit last year. “Once we are able to manage and meet people’s experiences, we will be able to rise on the happiness index. It is vital because if people are not happy, they don’t stick around in the city; they leave.”
Last month, the UAE’s prime minister and Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced via Twitter that his new cabinet included its first “minister of state for happiness”, Ohood Al Roumi. He insisted this was more than a fuzzy feelgood move, and that the initiative would be propelled by “plans, projects, programmes [and] indices”.
One supporter of Dubai’s efforts is Scott Cain, chief business officer at the UK government-funded organisation Future Cities Catapult (FCC), which aims to “accelerate urban ideas to market, to grow the economy and make cities better”.Recently Cain wrote: “Happiness is something Emiratis take very seriously. Following the recent appointment of the UAE’s first minister for happiness and the declaration that Dubai is to be the happiest city in the world by 2019, Future Cities Catapult has been supporting the city in realising its ambition.
“I was recently invited to present the catapult’s view on happiness and wellbeing in the city, and addressed some issues that will be challenging in the UAE environment. It seems they weren’t discouraged as they presented me with an award, which was as unexpected as it was rewarding.”
Cain will be in Dubai later this week for the fourth annual International Day of Happiness on 20 March, which the desert city will celebrate with a series of events. “The highlight will be meeting the Minister for Happiness herself,” Cain says, “and hearing what other cities in the UK and beyond can learn from Dubai’s efforts.”
Some observers have raised eyebrows at the UAE’s “happiness project”, coming as it does amid ongoing human rights concerns. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW): “The United Arab Emirate often uses its affluence to mask the government’s serious human rights problems. The government arbitrarily detains, and in some cases forcibly disappears, individuals who criticised the authorities, and its security forces face allegations of torturing detainees.”
HRW highlights a new anti-discrimination law which “further jeopardises free speech”, and raises concerns about migrant construction workers “facing serious exploitation” and female domestic workers who are “excluded from regulations that apply to workers in other sectors”.
According to Cain: “In many ways Dubai is much more progressive than its near neighbours; many of its senior officials are women including the minister for happiness.” He adds that FCC is “not a public policy advisory group; we follow the lead of UK government”.
While Dubai and the UAE strive for greater happiness, the top of the world happiness league continues to be dominated by northern Europe. Denmark has regained first place, followed closely by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. The US is ranked 13th in the new report, two places higher than last year.
The report is produced by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Its co-editor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says: “Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals … Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just and environmentally sustainable.”
Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The Guardian and was retrieved on March 16, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents and thoughts expressed in the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.
There are reports that a Liberian national who flew from Liberia to the US has ebola virus disease (EVD). He arrived in the US about 2-3 weeks ago and confirmed to be infected with the deadly EVD and the Liberian government has issued a statement that he will be prosecuted because he lied to the authorities at the J.F. Kennedy International airport in Monrovia when he filled out a ‘questionnaire’ to determine whether or not he’s affected with the virus or a risk factor before departing from the country.
There are various diagnostic tests that could be carried out to determine whether or not an individual is infected with the virus (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/diagnosis/). Given that Liberia and specifically Monrovia is a hot spot for the spread of the virus, it should have been mandated that anyone flying out of the country be tested prior to their departure given them enough time to assess each traveler. This may seem too harsh, but it could have reduce the incidence of those at high risk slinking out of the country without being detected.
Upon arrival in the US in Dallas, Taxes, Thomas Duncan was diagnosed with the EVD about 2 weeks after his arrival and he’s currently in a critical state at a hospital in TX. Given the information and reports published online and released via various agencies about a Liberian citizen who brought the virus to the US, the Liberian government only response seems to be in denial casting the problem solely to the individual rather than retrospecting inwardly to determine the massive errors within the system, which is run my corruptions, greed, etc.
This highlights the government’s don’t care attitude, which continues to facilitate the indiscriminate spread of the virus. The immediate reaction of the government to prosecute a victim who is in critical state here in the US resonates with the fact that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf just doesn’t care about the value of human life in retrospect to her relationship with the Obama’s Administration. Her immediate criticism of Duncan’s current state without regard to his life demonstrates that she lacks the heart as a leader, just doesn’t care, and all she cares about is to secure her relationship with the US and anything or anyone who tries to interfere with that relationship would have to face her wrath.
Up until now, there are reports of victims not being attended to, bodies of dead victims continue to be left in public or remote places without being duly buried, images that seem to resonate with war-time settings. The Liberian government stated that Duncan lied on his questionnaire he did not have any physical contact with an infected victim. The government stated that indeed he (Duncan) did in fact had contact with an infected relative he “personally” took to an EVD treatment center in a wheelbarrow in Monrovia. The question is, if he did, wasn’t he following prior orders made by the government of Liberia and to be more specific, an order that was made by President Sirleaf herself? If he did, why didn’t they provide the necessary service(s) for him to be isolated after taking his relative at a treatment center? Why did they allow him to leave without following the ‘system put in place’ even if there is a system in place? What was the system in place for someone who wants their relative taken to an EVD treatment center? If a system was in place, why did Duncan follow through by taking his infected relative? Well, the answer to the last question relates back to reports that health workers several weeks ago were no where around to do their job because they themselves fear death. If everything remain constant, why weren’t health workers available to take his infected relative to a treatment center and he had to risk his life?
The government can argue that they will have him prosecuted because he lied on his questionnaire. Well, the claim you made that he personally had physical contact with an infected relative was conditioned on the fact that he had no alternatives, because there may have been no health workers around, thus prompting him to risk his own life to take his infected relative to a treatment center.
If Ellen is serious to prosecute Duncan, she must put in place rigorous measures to handle the problem instead of casting blames on others and using threats to make people to submit to her call.
It is not surprising that as many as 1400 Liberians have perished from Ebola and hundreds more new cases reported. The Liberian healthcare system was massively destroyed during the country’s bloody 14-year senseless and nonsensical civil war, which left approximately 500,000 dead plus thousands scattered in refugee camps across the sub-region. In 2003, peace, security, and stability were restored to Liberia after immense efforts by the UN, the international community, EU, ECOWAS, AU, INGOs and other stakeholders, which included the various warring factions. After Ellen was elected President of Liberia, her government was faced [and continue to face] with several challenges, constraints and massive opportunities (the influx of aid organizations, NGOs, etc) plus investments portfolios offers from various governments and investment institutions. Most of the money became used by officials who flew overseas into merrymaking and drove fancy cars, plus a government rampantly engage in public corruption, abuse of power, nepotistic behaviors, favoritism, etc., while underestimating the true and legitimate needs of the Liberian populace [not only those in Monrovia], as Monrovia continue to be the epicenter of development focus. Investment portfolios, donations, international aid and resources became the ‘water-pool’ of wealth for fewer people in her inner circle usually the ‘elite’, while the ‘rest’ of the Liberian people have to seek their livelihoods at the margins of the society.
Today, these ill-governance practices, corruption, lies, nepotistic behaviors and engagements and lack of focus have led to and paved the way for the outbreak of indiscriminate spread of the EVD. This is the real culprit of the virus continuous spread and until Ellen turned inwardly and put herself together and ask some real fundamental questions why is this happening, how can it be addressed, what needs to be done NOW and stop blaming others for a failed government policies and practices, the continuous spread of EVD would not be easily stopped and she would be a legitimate candidate to be prosecuted by the Liberian people. In Liberia we usually say, ‘time will tell.’ It is just a matter of time for this to happen and she still has time to revert the spread of the virus and the first step in that process is stepping aside as the person responsible for spearheading the task force against EVD to someone trustworthy and focusing her remaining energy of her life and administration to governance, transparency, accountability, and trying to regain the trust of the Liberian people.
Do you love traveling? This post is meant for you! Traveling is fun, but it could also be very stressful if not well plan in advance. In this post, I seek to present few tips for all travelers especially those traveling abroad. This post is not meant to be exhaustive, neither for the information presented herein to replace any government travels tips or alert.
1. Be mentally prepared
Mental preparedness is a very important aspect that needs to be considered carefully before booking your ticket. Our mental state impacts our characters and our characters induce certain behaviors that could be positive or negative, stereotypical or critical, true or false impressions, etc. Your body should follow your head, heart, and soul and not the other way round. Mental preparedness also allows you to embrace your trip with confidence, joy, and peace of mind. Your physical health and mental health are well-connected and defined. So, before you embark on an international journey, whether it is for a vacation, family reunion, school, research, marriage, etc make sure you are mentally fit to embark on the journey.
2. Check on visas requirements
This is also a crucial point. You don’t want to arrive at the airport just to be told by the airline that you wouldn’t be accepted onboard because you need a visa. This almost happened to me in January 2014 on my way from Jakarta, Indonesia to Vientiane, Lao PDR via Viet Nam Airline. I had to transit from Ho Chi Minh City (Formerly Sargon) to Hanoi for more than 24 hours during my trip to Laos. Since transit flight from Sargon to Hanoi was a domestic flight, according to Viet Nam Law, I (as an American Citizen) needed a transit visa to be able to board my flight from Sargon to Hanoi even though my final destination was Vientiane, Laos for which I already had a visa. Here I was in Bali enjoying the sunshine beaches with my family and faced with the challenge of obtaining a Viet Namese transit visa. Luckily, Google never lies, if you search credible sources. I was able to obtained a pre-arrival transit visa via: http://www.vietnamvisacorp.com. My passport information, fees, and processing fees were emailed to folks at Viet Nam Visa Corp and within 4 hours, I received a rubber stem scanned pdf version letter giving me pre-arrival approval to land and stay in Viet Nam for 32 hours, which was legitimate. I presented the letter to the airline and they allowed me to board the flight without which I wouldn’t be allowed, if I don’t have a visa. I initially thought I never needed a visit since I was transit in Viet Nam, but actually needed one since my transit required a second/domestic travel from Sargon to Hanoi. So, you need to always make sure which country allows you visa on arrival and which doesn’t. Also, if you are transiting in a country, you could be in a milky water, if you stay over for more than 24 hours. If you don’t plan on leaving the airport you should be fine. However, some international airports around the world are not operated on 24 hours. So, this could be a problem. You don’t want to get into any problem with immigration officers. So, make sure you always double-check on visas requirements. If your flight plan requires you to transit in other countries, make sure to check on transit visa requirements for all transiting countries.
3. Travel Smart
Smart travelers are those who plan well in advance and make sure they are comfortable while traveling. This is traveling such that you minimize expense, while capitalizing on every positive opportunities as you travel. Also, make sure you familiarize yourself with the U.S. Department of State Travel site for those that are U.S. Citizen National or U.S. Non-citizen National. Here is the link: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html. If you register with the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” [https://step.state.gov/step/] at the U.S. Department of State, you will be notified with information, warnings, alerts, etc for all countries you listed when you register with the STEP. This is a very important tool that could save you more time, energy, and resources. Traveling smart means registering smart! So, make use of it! If you feel uncomfortable providing information of USDS of your international travels by registering with the STEP, just make sure someone else knows where you are heading, potential places you will be visiting, etc so that someone could have the officials inform should something happen.
This is the most important aspect. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least more than 6-month. Some countries could even deny you visa if your passport is valid for less than 6-month. Renew your passport as necessary. Let assume that your passport is valid, you’ve gotten your visa, ticket(s), cash, vaccines (as appropriate), etc make sure you make legible photocopies of your passport biographic pages, visas, any immigration document presented to you for your destined countries/transiting cities, important ID cards, health insurance card, etc. This is very important because in case of theft, misplace passport or identification cards, you always have backups. You never know when the unexpected happens, so, planning ahead would save you all the stress associated with this. If you are unclear what form of identifications you would need apart from your passport as you journey abroad, ask the appropriate Embassy of the countries you plan to travel to. However, in almost all cases, your passport, health insurance card, driver’s licenses, and or work ID could be some credible ID to take along. These could help in case an issue arise.
One of the most important thing to take along with you as you travel is your mobile phone. While some phone companies in the US can’t work abroad, some phones from T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, etc could use SIM Card from other countries, but remember, that means your phone has to be decoded before it can use the SIM cards from other countries. This process could be expensive for some travelers weight your options and see what’s best for you as you travel. One easier option is to get a phone immediately upon arrival in the country where you are heading. However, make sure the phone vendors “don’t eat your eye”, meaning charging you more for a phone that would usually cost less. If you know someone already in the city/country where you are traveling make sure you send them some money to buy you a phone that you can use immediately or you can buy one. However, you have to be a good negotiator to decide on some ridiculous price that would be punched in your face. This is no surprise, so be prepared for that one.
6. Secure your electronic gadgets
Most of us travel abroad with series of personal electronic gadgets,which are crucial to our journeys, to stay in touch with love ones, relatives, friends and record our experiences as we adventure. Taking these gadgets is one thing and bringing them back safely is another. Don’t flash your gadgets in the public as that could be inviting unexpected attention. Be cautious and stay alert. Do not put electronic gadgets in checked-in luggage if possible just to make sure that they aren’t damage. Make sure you backup all your data and materials on your electronic system before traveling.
7. Double check on medical documents and requirements
If you are traveling for the first time, make sure you get the appropriate vaccines of specific/potential illnesses to regions you are traveling to. Consult with your primary health provider and insurance company to determine if these vaccines are cover. Also, make sure you inform your insurance company where you are traveling, how long you will be there and when you will be back in the country. This information will help them provide recommendations of appropriate health affiliate companies that you could seek treatment or services from if you become ill. If your travel abroad is long-term, make sure you have a print out of your health insurance booklet and all appropriate forms and document their contact information in your personal notebook. You might need this urgently!
8. Contact your bank or financial institution
Most people forget about this aspect before they embark on a trip. Even if your trip is for a few days, a month, few months or a year, contacting your bank and letting them know and documenting all potential travels plans; that is, which include all cities or countries will you be traveling. This is important if you will be conducting direct financial activities via your home bank account through the us of ATM or other medium. If your financial institution is unaware and they detect your ATM/Visa Card is being used in a country without being informed, they would think your account was hack or card stolen and is being used elsewhere. They are right in every capacity to protect your resources by blocking the transaction and subsequently putting a restriction on the card until they can verify the use. Trust me! You really do not want to fall in this mess. Imagine the stress associated with trying to call a financial institution here in the US when you are about 9,000 miles away somewhere in West Papua or on the island of The Philippines. What will happen is that you will have to wait until folks in the US goes are working (time difference stress), buy tremendous amount of credit (very expensive to call back to the US), call your bank, probably put on hold for several minutes if not hours, listen to some annoying automated message of some robots, asked several repeated questions about your identity (verification process), probably put on hold again for the person speaking to you to talk to their supervisor (your call minutes is almost ended), and if you are luck, problem solve or the worst case, your time, resources, etc wasted and there you are having to repeat the process again. So, you don’t really want to be in this situation. Call your banks, credit card companies and let them know where you are going and that you will use your cards at the ATM while abroad. Watch out for ATM fees, they are like vampires that suck your money from your account. This is very important! It could eat up your budget significantly. Most travelers rarely pay attention to this until you return and see how much money was paid using the ATM.
9. DO NOT CARRY ONBOARD OR PLACE IN CHECKED-IN LUGGAGES PROHIBITED ITEMS
I overlook or forget this almost each time I travel. How much to carry? Well, I don’t have an answer to that question. I would say as much as would be needed to survive in case there is an emergency. The issue here is not to attract unwanted attention to you when revealing cash. Just watch your back and cautious!
11. Track your air travel mileage
Most airlines provide travel rewards for those flying with them. Make use of these opportunities as cumulative mileages could land you and your family a ‘free fly’ adventure. Contact your favorite airline(s) and register before your next trip.
Eat and drink enough water while traveling. The ticket fees include food and complimentary drinks. Make use of these and don’t starve yourself as most international travels last for few hours. Make sure you notify the airline about your specific nutritional needs. This could be done while booking your ticket. If for any specific personal reason(s) you can’t eat food provided, make sure you have some snacks with you.
14. Choose the seat you like
You will most likely be seated throughout the flight. While the option of seat choice depends on several factors (other passengers, number of available vacant seats, etc) choose the seat you would like to be seated in. Note that this would have to be verified by the airline. This post is specific to the economy class passengers:)
15. Are you flying with children?
If you have kids traveling along with you make sure you inform the travel agency and or the airline in advance to make sure they have that information in order to provide you with the necessary assistance to make your trip and the experience of your kids an adventure. Take in your carry on some toys for your kids look for their favorite ones. This could help you a lot. If your departure time requires you to be at the airport 2-hours before boarding start going their 3-hours before because you have kids and that could take time to arrive on time.
16. Arrive at the airport on time
Well, I was a victim of this underestimating traffic in Providence in 2007 when I had a 6:00pm flight from Providence to Richmond, VA. I started traveling 3 hours early and what should have lasted 30-45 minutes. In the midst of traffic I was 10 minutes late. I had to rebook a different flight.
17. Watch out for airports taxes
Most countries you will be traveling to requires airport taxes before you depart some usually paid directly to the airline when you check in or at the immigration officer before your passport is stemmed. Make sure you have some local currency to handle this fee as you will not be allowed to board without paying the appropriate airport tax. Here is a link provided by the International Air Travel Agency (IATA), which provides prior information on specific customs, currency, and airport tax regulations [http://www.iatatravelcentre.com/customs-currency-airport-tax-regulations.htm#]. This could help you plan well. Just select the country of your destination and search.
18. Read about the cities/countries of your destination at least before heading there
You could use the CIA country fact book for this, but that in itself is so formal, but provides credible information. If you are familiar with the language of your destined cities/countries, try navigating online for credible information of what life looks like there, areas to visit, food, people, culture, local norms, etc. Some prior knowledge and information is always helpful. If your country has an embassy in that country, visit the link of your country’s embassy in the country and get to know what relations is like at least from what you read.
19. Do what the locals ‘legally’ do
This is a very easy strategy to get localized if you intent to stay much longer. Even if your stay is brief, don’t act differently. This doesn’t mean doing everything they do, but don’t act differently. You want to make use of your experience, so, stop talking, look, listen, learn, do, and share. Good strategy? I bet!
I hope there were some useful information in this post for your next travel, good luck, and have fun!
These are photos of some of the areas I visited with my boss and his family during the first week of arrival. More to follow when I have time to visit. Enjoy! I will update this section of my post iteratively.
In this blog, I will do my best to provide some information about my travels, living experiences, and encounters in Southeast Asia and more specifically, Laos. Firstly, I had a wonderful time with my wife and son (Aaron) who just turned 16 months old on January 7 and is already in charge of things. He is such an amazing young man growing so fast with so much energy and a quick learner. At this point, my wife and I are very careful whatever we say or do while he’s around, because his big eyes can’t stop looking into our faces with a look of curiosity or like what are you guys up to? Everything to Aaron is water. Water and Aaron are inseparable. He loves water.
Thanks to his mother who was in the habit of swimming during her pregnancy (good healthy practice to do). Off-course, now Aaron wants it all. Each time he sees water it is all about swimming or playing. Cool! Which means we have to be ready to get wet. Off-course he doesn’t get all his wishes to play with water at times, which also means cry time and that also is cool.
During our family vacation to Jayapura and Bali, Aaron was in charge and he depicted all that we had to do. We visited the Bali Bird Park, which was great with lot of different parrots, a Komodo dragon, eagle, etc. The visit was a blast and we had a great time together!
Our next visit in Bali we took a family boat trip (very cheap) to navigate the coast line of the shallow and bluish waters, seed weeds, and fishes of all kind. We ended the boat trip with a visit to the Turtle Island, which hosts hundreds of Indonesian-Balinese sea turtles. Aaron had an opportunity to touch a sea turtle and almost squeezed the poor turtle face. Wrong idea little man. It is a cute animal Mr. (says Dada). So, please be nice to it. Aaron smiled in agreement. We later visited a pool on the same Island where the oldest sea turtle resided and he was 75 years old (picture of him to follow). Aaron also had the change to meet his new friend (Mr. Turtle), who was older than the ages of his mother and father combined.
What else would you do on the beach in Bali where the temperature is almost always 100 degree F (plus)? Well, I guess you know the answer to that question. Chill out, jetski, swim, massage, eat, play, and just relax! Sounds familiar? This is no Hollywood movie show. This was for real. The real stuff!