Sick workers pay price for Chinese growth

Sick workers pay price for Chinese growth
Updated 04 June 2013

Sick workers pay price for Chinese growth

Sick workers pay price for Chinese growth

As China boomed around 200 men set out from Shuangxi’s rural idyll to build its infrastructure and skyscrapers. Now lung disease from dust has killed a quarter of them and 100 more are waiting to die.
Back home amid rice paddies and forested hills, Xu Zuoqing walks outside and his face contorts in pain from the effort. As he struggles to breathe, his wife rushes over a stool so he can recuperate.
“It’s like my lungs are being choked. My chest feels so tight,” says the 44-year-old who worked on construction sites for about 15 years, his voice strained at times.
“I just wish I could die comfortably... Well, I wish I didn’t have to die.”
China’s more than three decades of roaring growth, which propelled it to become the world’s second-largest economy, have been built on a huge supply of cheap migrant labor from the countryside — currently 230 million of them.
But safety standards are poorly enforced and according to experts, millions of those workers are now ill with pneumoconiosis, the incurable lung disease that has crippled Xu.
It comes in various forms, from the asbestosis suffered by builders to black lung disease, which affects miners.
Official statistics say China has had 676,541 cases of pneumoconiosis, or 90 percent of all work-related illnesses, but campaigners say the actual total could be as high as six million. A fifth of the recorded victims have already died.
Pneumoconiosis often lies undetected for years, so that workers at mines, quarries, factories and construction sites prolong their exposure to dust building up in their lungs, until they find it agonizing to work, walk or even breathe.
Poor rural families lose their breadwinner and are left instead with hefty bills for medical care that can only dull the pain at best — the government only covers basic health care and companies rarely pay compensation.
“You can delay the progress of the disease through certain drugs and treatments, but... it is basically a death sentence,” said Geoff Crothall, spokesman for the Hong Kong-based advocacy group China Labour Bulletin.
“You’re talking about three to four generations affected by the loss of the major breadwinner of the family. And often it’s not just one member of a family. We have many cases of fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins all being affected.”
In Shuangxi, a village of several hundred people in the central province of Hunan, cases of illness are steadily becoming fatalities.
There is the mother who lost four of her five sons. The two brothers who died. The one so wracked by pain that he killed himself with an overdose of medicine last month.
Xu’s brother passed away in February, leaving his five- and 12-year-old children to be raised by their grandmother.
Xu worries about his own little ones, currently 10 and 12. “I hope they finish school,” he says. “I hope they grow up fast.”
The preferred destination for the men of Shuangxi was the boom town of Shenzhen bordering Hong Kong, where they found work drilling and blasting holes on construction sites, enveloping themselves in swirls of dust with only flimsy face masks for protection.
It was not until the late 2000s that the hazards began to emerge — as one by one they grew too weak to work, and the first of the sick died.
But they are among the better-off victims.
In 2009 they took the bold step of returning to Shenzhen to demand compensation, holding sit-ins that gained public sympathy.
After months of bargaining, many received 70,000 to 130,000 yuan ($ 11,000 to $ 21,000) from the government while a handful with proper records got up to 290,000 yuan from a workers’ insurance scheme.
Nationwide, only an estimated 10 to 20 percent of pneumoconiosis victims can secure payouts.
For most, by the time their illness becomes apparent they have lost any paperwork proving their employment, or the companies have closed, or changed hands, or simply deny liability.
Even for those who succeed, compensation quickly dwindles with daily cocktails of medicines, oxygen machines, injections and emergency hospital stays several times a year all to pay for.
Cao Jieshi has borrowed 40,000 yuan from family and friends to pay his bills.
A reed-thin 46-year-old, he tilts his face skyward as if desperate to swallow air, one of many basic tasks that have become unbearable.
“Even just bathing, (my wife) has to do it for me,” he says. “I won’t last more than three or four more years.”
Xu Zhihui, 53, is also in the final stages of the disease, and cannot help thinking about the life that might have been.
He has lost 15 kgs (33 pounds) since his working days, and is wracked by a hacking cough, an oversized jacket cloaking his skeletal frame.
“Before, making 20,000 to 30,000 a year was easy. Now we spend 20,000 to 30,000 a year at least,” he says hoarsely.
“My wife says to me: ‘Such a good-looking guy. Look at what’s become of you’.”


Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
Updated 21 April 2021

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
  • Room is fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the machines to move about and take food to customers

MAKKAH: We’ve all been there … you order a meal in a restaurant, and the waiter arrives with a pasta salad instead of a chicken biryani.
There are no such issues at Restaurant Robot in Jazan. As the name suggests, the waiters are not fallible human beings, but robots powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence.
Six robot assistants are operating in the city center restaurant to deliver trays of Asian dishes to patrons. The system was originally set up as a precaution to reduce human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has proved a hit with visitors.
In a system designed by young Saudi engineer Reham Omar, the restaurant interior has been fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the robots to move about and take food to customers.
“Thanks to the sensors, the robots can sense anything standing near them, allowing them to stop walking or change their routes accordingly,” she told Arab News
“Each robot has had a map of the restaurant interior and the location of each table programmed into their memory. When the robot gets to the targeted table, customers can pick up their food and order the robot to leave.”
Omar said the idea had been developed by drawing on the experiences of other countries, and with support from the Saudi government for the food industry.
“We are proud of our project, as small as it is,” she said. “Customers are loving the robots and are impressed with the idea.
“Cultures are changing, and people are now eager to discover new technologies that can improve their quality of life.”


Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign encouraging people to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
  • The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched ‘Step Together’ campaign to help people stay active during the holy month

JEDDAH: While consuming excessive food during the month of Ramadan goes against the purpose of the holy month, for many Saudis and people of the region, it is a time to indulge in special foods, which often leads to overeating.

For years, Saudis have been facing problems with obesity, with unhealthy diets leading to a variety of poor health conditions. While numerous campaigns have been launched to combat this issue, including by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), their advice seems to fall on deaf ears during Ramadan.
Arab News spoke to experts — nutritionists and fitness trainers — who discussed their tips to help curb hunger and maintain a healthy weight.
Saudi fitness trainer Nouf Hamadallah, 37, explained that there is no best time to exercise during Ramadan; rather, the time and intensity of the workout can vary from person to person.
“Exercising during Ramadan depends on the flexibility of one’s schedule. There’s no specific time to work out. Most people who believe this are misinformed by what they read,” she told Arab News.

FASTFACTS

• A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions of the Kingdom in June 2020 showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.

• It highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.

“One common bit of advice in popular articles says that if people work out before iftar, they will burn calories and lose weight. But this depends on their goals and calorie
intake. Some people cannot work out while fasting because they feel sick and nauseous, and their blood sugar drops. Then they become discouraged from exercising, not knowing that all they have to do is change the timing and nature of their workout. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
She added that it is easy to lose muscle mass if people do not choose the right foods for iftar and sahoor, also stressing that it is essential to hydrate during breakfast. Should one choose to work out right before iftar, a protein shake and a nutrient-dense meal with few carbs are advised in breaking fast.

If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

Arwa Bajkhaif, Dietician

“What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day, too. It should be a meal with a good amount of protein and vegetables,” said Hamadallah. “When your body is depleted of energy, the first thing you look for is sugar, and that’s what we want to avoid.”
Digestive problems such as acid reflux also occur due to poor eating habits in Ramadan, she added, and people with such digestive issues need to take note of the specific foods that irritate their stomachs.
She recommended that they avoid these foods if they are planning to exercise and instead have a few dates, soup and maybe a cup of coffee before beginning their workout, saving a full meal for afterward.
Iftar and sahoor also need to be divided into portions to avoid digestive problems, she added.
Saudi clinical and sports dietitian Arwa Bajkhaif, 29, said Ramadan is a “golden opportunity” to fast and practice self-control. If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day.

Nouf Hamadallah, Fitness trainer

“People should know their dietary requirements and follow a suitable diet for their particular health situation during the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajkaif told Arab News
“For individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend seeing an endocrinologist for insulin and medication adjustments and a clinical dietitian for follow-ups to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates accordingly.”
As for changing one’s eating habits, she suggested that people should not adopt more than three easy and healthy habits. “Being realistic and specific is key to achieving health goals.”
Saudi dietitian Alaa Gotah advised people to drink plenty of water between iftar and sahoor, avoid sugary drinks especially during iftar to maintain insulin levels, and eat plenty of hydrating food such as salads while limiting the intake of carbohydrates and sweets.
She stressed that fasting cleanses the body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
“Sahoor should include a healthy amount of fiber, which stays for a long time in the intestines. To reduce the feeling of thirst and hunger, it’s recommended to eat fruits that contain dietary fiber and magnesium, such as bananas, dates and watermelon,” Gotah told Arab News.  
A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions in June 2020 titled “Obesity in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Prevalence, Distribution, and its Current Association with Various Health Conditions” showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.
The study highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign to help people stay active during the holy month, presenting the Ramadan edition of “Step Together,” where people are encouraged to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan.


Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal
The BTS meal is coming to McDonald's in May. File/AFP
Updated 20 April 2021

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

DUBAI: US fast food giant McDonald’s has tapped Korean pop sensation BTS to promote a new meal, and Arab fans of the boy band can hardly contain their excitement.

Many supporters of the seven member group took to their social media to express their anticipation for the Grammy-nominated boy band's meal that will be launching starting next month in nearly 50 countries, including Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Morocco in addition to the US, India, Singapore and more.

“From today, I will just eat at McDonalds,” wrote one Twitter user in Arabic.

Another user from Saudi Arabia mentioned McDonalds in their Tweet, urging them to make the meal available in the Kingdom.

“I am not a fan of McDonald’s, but I changed my mind because of this meal. Provide it to us like you did for the Arab countries on the list,” the user wrote.

Another Twitter user wrote in Arabic: “Wait a minute, I discovered something. A few days back, Suga said he is hungry and a few days later, they collaborated with McDonald’s. He was probably giving us a hint, but we were clowns. WE WANT THE BTS MEAL IN EGYPT (sic).”

Dubbed the “BTS meal,” it will include chicken McNuggets, fries and two dips.

The burger chain has seen its revenue outside the United States drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is tapping on promotional campaigns through celebrity endorsements and limited-time menu items to get customers back into restaurants as economies reopen with the roll-out of vaccines.

The BTS meal follows similar US-only deals with singers J Balvin and Travis Scott, which McDonald’s says boosted sales in the later half of last year.

The spike in demand during the Travis Scott promotion caused the company to temporarily run short of ingredients to assemble its signature Quarter Pounder burgers at some restaurants.


Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk
Updated 21 April 2021

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk
  • Nearly ten million new cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are counted each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and disrupted sleep is a common symptom

PARIS: Sleeping six hours or less per night in your 50s and 60s is associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to a new study of nearly 8,000 British adults followed for more than 25 years.
Scientists said that while the research, which was based on data from a long-running survey, could not prove cause and effect, it did draw a link between sleep and dementia as people age.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, showed a higher risk of dementia in those sleeping six or fewer hours per night at the ages of 50 or 60, compared to those who have a “normal” seven hours in bed.
There was also a 30 percent increased dementia risk in those with consistently short sleeping patterns from the age of 50 to 70, irrespective of cardiometabolic or mental health issues, which are known risk factors for dementia.
The study authors from the French national health-research institute INSERM analyzed data from a long term study by University College London, which has followed the health of 7,959 British individuals since 1985.
Participants self-reported their sleep duration, while about 3,900 of them also wore watch devices overnight to confirm their estimates.
Nearly ten million new cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are counted each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and disrupted sleep is a common symptom.
But a growing body of research suggests sleep patterns before the onset of dementia could also contribute to the development of the disease.
Time spent sleeping is linked to dementia risk in older adults — 65 years and older — but it is unclear whether this association is also true for younger age groups, according to the authors.
They said future research may be able to determine whether improving sleep patterns can help prevent dementia.
“Many of us have experienced a bad night’s sleep and probably know that it can have an impact on our memory and thinking in the short term, but an intriguing question is whether long-term sleep patterns can affect our risk of dementia,” Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK told Science Media Center.
She said that while there is no magic bullet to prevent dementia, evidence suggests that not smoking, drinking in moderation, staying mentally and physically active and eating well are among the things that can “help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”


Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
Ramadan is not only a month of prayers, as Muslims make special arrangements to celebrate the holy month by preparing special foods and decorating their surroundings. (Shutterstock/SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
  • Decorations are also becoming an integral part of preparations for the holy month in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Ramadan is a special time for Muslims to get together with family and loved ones. These gatherings in Saudi culture result in a diverse menu of delicious dishes, with many being made exclusively during the holy month.

Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset. Therefore, among all the aspects of local culture, food-related traditions are the most significant, distinguished and diverse. However, there are also shared meals and components of the Saudi iftar table featured in the holy month across the Kingdom.
Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts, following in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For Saudis, an assortment of dates is normally consumed, along with Arabic coffee, soup, and fried or baked stuffed pastry (samboosa and other dishes). For sugar-hungry people, the soft drink Vimto is often the go-to liquid to quench thirst.
To top it off, Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa (a sugar-soaked pastry stuffed with cheese or cream) and logaimat (small round balls of fried dough covered in sweet syrup), while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.
Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes. In the central region, hanini is what many Najdis place on their tables when breaking their fasts. The porridge-like dish is made of dates, wheat flour, ghee and sugar. You will also find jarish, another famous savory dish made from ground wheat, lamb stew and vegetables, with a side of whole-wheat mini pancake-like discs known as matazeez and margoog.
In the western region of the Kingdom, there is the signature dish of foul and tamees, which is a combination of fava bean stew and tamees bread, a soft, tender creation baked in traditional open ovens believed to have originated in Afghanistan. The region’s signature drink is sobia, a thirst-quenching Ramadan brew made from wheat and malt flours.
In the Eastern Province, you will most likely break your fast with a meat and vegetable stew known as saloona. It is served with a side of balaleet, made either sweet or savory from flavored vermicelli noodles and topped with a layer of eggs. The province’s desert of choice is sago, which is made from a form of starch taken from the pith of the sago palm.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts.

• Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa and logaimat, while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.

• Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes.

Though it might seem that food is the focus of Ramadan, many special traditions significant to the holy month are also celebrated across the Kingdom.
“Although we have a very diverse cuisine, I think the components of our Ramadan table are similar, as most popular dishes in this month are rich in carbs, protein, and fat, but they’re also easy to eat with little effort,” traditional food enthusiast Lujain Ahmad told Arab News.
She added: “Our Ramadan table also welcomes new dishes and drinks every year thanks to the influence of social media, which always brings us trends with new meals and dessert recipes, as well as presentation ideas”
Ramadan fashion and decorations are also another way to celebrate the holy month, and are becoming an integral part of preparations for families in Saudi Arabia.
Popular Ramadan lanterns and accessories painted with colorful traditional red-themed patterns also provide an oriental theme to celebrations in the Kingdom.
Ramadan attire is traditionally modest. It is a month in which many women opt for long dresses, such as the jallabiya, which has evolved in recent years through designs inspired by patterns from across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Old and new traditions are beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.

Manal Saleh

The growing popularity of these dresses has created a lucrative market for local fashion designers, markets and social media platforms.
“Although I’m not that old, I can say for sure that these are newly adopted Ramadan traditions, which were not as popular 10 years ago,” Manal Saleh from Jeddah told Arab News.
She added that social media has had a major influence on people’s behaviors and Saudi culture, even in relation to religious events and practices. “New practices adopted through social media trends are increasingly becoming more important and even powerful enough to replace inherited traditions.”
However, she said that both old and new traditions are “beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.”
Modern life means that regional differences are in decline, while people increasingly live similar lives and become more interested in following trends and imitating one another.
“We are acting alike, and we like it. There is no problem with that. It gives a beautiful sense of unity on the national and regional level,” Lama Sharif told Arab News.
This year’s Ramadan will not include many popular traditions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Saudi mosques used to hold daily iftar gatherings for expat workers and the poor, usually paid for by local residents or wealthy donors. The same used to happen at the Two Holy Mosques. But this tradition stopped in 2020 and has not returned this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
Other charitable activities have also been halted. Some Saudis used to prepare small iftar meals and cold water for free distribution around sunset, when people stop at traffic lights and may miss out on breaking their fast on time. These activities were carried out by young men and women, families, or volunteering groups on the main roads of the Kingdom’s cities, but have since stopped.
Saudi families also used to exchange and share dishes with neighbors, a well-known practice across Saudi Arabia. No dishes ever returned empty, but the pandemic has halted this tradition, too.
“As young kids, we used to prepare iftar meals as a family and distribute them among pilgrims in the mosque yards. That was a beautiful experience I’ll always cherish,” said Sharif.
“The pandemic has deprived us of many beautiful social traditions, not to mention prayers and warm gatherings at mosques. I’m glad we are having a real Ramadan this year, but we miss so many things, and I’m afraid they may never come back,” she added.