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Inside the Middle East
August 25, 2012
Posted: 1027 GMT

Over 8000 people live in the Palestinian town of Allar. A number, 15 year old Bashaer Othman says is manageable to govern.

Othman has probably spent the best summer of her life. She ran the town…Literally.

Othman became the youngest girl in the world to serve as a mayor, when she was chosen as part of an educational youth program for the position.

“The real challenge is when I become a minister, I will deal with all Palestinians, not only 8000 people” says Othman.

For this ambitious leader this position has made her “fall in love” with political and social work and even made her consider a major in international studies upon graduation.

“Palestinians need a true leader and I want to be part of this leadership.” She says.

Othman tells CNN, she has been attending meetings and giving speeches and even signing off on projects for her town.

No shying away for this girl. She has been working at the municipality for almost a month and half and is already making some changes.

She wants to start a local civil defense unit.

“When there’s a fire, people used to wait for firefighters to come from a nearby town. Am currently working on opening a fire department with 6 branches across my town.”

Out of 255 members at the Local Youth Council in Allar, 12 boys and girls were elected to work as members of the municipality and Othman was elected to become the mayor for 2 months.

In the little time that she has this young mayor is hoping to give back to her fellows. And her friends are hopeful she will start a change that will make their future better.

The dearest project to her heart is renovating the town’s library. She says “I think it all starts with education.”

Othman, a usual contender in poetry and reading competitions in her town, thinks youth can start by reading.

“The library has been sitting there for years. The books are old and no one wants to go there.”

Othman has all the support she needs from Allar’s regular mayor, Sufian Shadid, who handed the power to her for two months

The youngster says she meets with the mayor everyday for an hour and they go over the projects she is working on.


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Filed under: Palestinians •West Bank •Women


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August 14, 2012
Posted: 2157 GMT

In a city like Dubai where radars are almost in every corner, getting an occasional speeding ticket is very common.

But a Bangladeshi woman living in the UAE has received more than 250 traffic fines in just 3 months.

According to this article in Dubai based, Gulf News, the fines accumulated over the past few months and reached $54,000 most of which were speeding tickets. Traffic violations usually cost between $163 and $272.

The  police says the record was broken in the past by a Saudi man who had to pay more than $100,000 worth of traffic tickets.

In cases like this, the police department cancels the driver's license and the car's registry.

Violators are allowed to pay the fines in installments., but so far the woman has not come forward to pay her fines.

Dubai Police releases a list of the top 10 traffic violators every six months.

The second on the list wasn’t far off behind, a Syrian woman has received 288 fines ranking second with a bill worth just over $50,000.

Although two women topped the list, police says men are considered more serious violators than women.

The 500 or more radars spread across the city helped reduce the death rate of car accidents.

In 2008, 294 people died as a result of car accidents, but the number was lower last year.

According to Dubai Police, 134 people died as a result of car accidents in 2011. Police revealed that an approximate of 2.3 million traffic fines are issued per year in Dubai.

The list for the second quarter of 2012 showed that out of the ten top violators, five were Emaratis.

Speeding and not leaving enough space between cars are common violations on the streets in the UAE.

In 2008, 200 or so cars crashed into each other in what became one of  the biggest car accidents in the history of the UAE.

Police at the time said fog and cars driving so close to each other resulted in the crash.

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Filed under: Dubai •General •UAE


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August 12, 2012
Posted: 854 GMT

Remember the story about the world's most expensive cupcake in Dubai?

Bloomsbury’s, a boutique cafe in Dubai, made headlines earlier this year for selling a chocolate cupcake – the 'Golden Phoenix' – for around $27,000.

Since the cupcake first made its debut, the store has reportedly only sold two.  And now, the shop's owner has said that part of the proceeds on sales will be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme, according to local newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Here's the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper on the cupcake:

The creators of the world's most expensive cupcake now say they will donate 50 per cent of the profit from it to the World Food Programme.

Ashraf Hamouda, of the World Food Programme, pointed out that the income from a single cupcake could feed at least 1,850 children.

He described Bloomsbury's charitable gesture as "formidable generosity".

"This unique partnership is evidence that behind the biggest talents and business ideas, you often find the bigger hearts," Hamouda told the National. "As I would put it, a golden heart behind every Golden Phoenix."

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Culture •Dubai •Economic crisis •General •Health •Inside The Middle East •UAE •United Nations


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August 7, 2012
Posted: 1046 GMT

In Amman, Jordan, our team met the women of Jordan's national boxing team, the first female boxers in the Middle East. Nineteen-year-old Baraa Al-Absi is hoping her tenacity in the ring will lead to fighting on a bigger stage, like the Olympic Games. Except for one thing – Al-Absi is not technically allowed to box while wearing her headscarf, or hijab. Like many Muslims, Al-Absi wears the hijab for religious reasons. She’s not willing to take it off for anyone – even if it means quitting her team.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Culture •Inside The Middle East •Jordan •Palestinians •Women


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August 4, 2012
Posted: 2048 GMT

Egyptians are known for their humor even in the hardest of times, but it maybe too early for Egyptians to laugh off a prank like this.

Egyptian singer and actor Mohammed Fouad repeatedly hit the host of the show and Lebanese actress, Cyrine Abdel-Nour threatened to sue the program, after realizing that the kidnap they thought they were victims of was nothing but a prank.

Comedian and actor Ramez Galal, known for his extreme practical jokes, staged what looked like a terrorist attack on a tourist bus carrying the celebrities.

This was part of a comedy show “Ramez the Desert Fox”, a special series for the holy month of Ramadan on Egyptian channel Al Hayat.

The prank starts off with a group of men in a car chasing the bus and, after overtaking it, shooting and banging on the windows. Galal played the role of the terrorist, dragging his victims from the bus and blindfolding them

A bit too extreme? Some would agree.  Especially for a country that is still recovering from instability, following last year’s revolution that toppled Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, after 30 years in office.

The country has been battling ever since to pick up the economy and restore  security, a topic many thought too sensitive to be funny.

"The channel is aware that the program is a bit harsh, but it reflects the lack of security in Egypt and this is what makes it the most watched comedy show in Egypt," Mootaz Salah El-Din, a media spokesperson at Al Hayat TV channel, told CNN.  "Egyptians are known for their humor. They deal with hard times through practical jokes."

El-Din says that an ambulance is always available on set but so far they did not need to use it. The program has pranked 31 celebrities, he said.

"We give the celebrity the option to refuse showing the prank on TV, but none of the pranked celebrities refused," said El-Din.

Ramadan, the holy month of fasting in Islam, is the peak of airtime for all TV producers in the region. Shows like this one is what families gather around to watch.

Galal had a similar show last year’s Ramadan where celebrities were stuck in an elevator with a lion.

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Filed under: Egypt •Video


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