International News

This time last year was when I first started my journey with social media. I was never into any social media network before having my Instagram, I think I registered for an email when I enrolled in university to start emailing assignments and researches.

I wasn’t the most “social” person, I can say. I started off my Instagram for the reason that I loved taking selfies, pictures of make-up products I used and many more things that I liked to share. It was never planned, and I definitely had no idea whatsoever that social media existed in Kuwait, and not only did it exist, it had become an industry. At the time I was going to different make up workshops, to learn more about techniques, tricks and tips to help me more with my make-up and how to apply make-up on other people. I loved it. Before make up, I used to paint. Not a lot of people know this about me, and I would never come off as an “artist”, my mum till this day tells me off for not going forward with it.

However, I loved understanding women’s features and how to play around with the lighting and all, a lot like make up! Going to university and seeing all the girls dolled up somehow inspired me to start putting on make up. I really started loving it when girls started complimenting my eyeliner, and asking what products I used.

As time passed by, I started loving Instagram more and more, and it was when I reached 11k followers on Instagram that I was approached by Ghaliah Technology, which happens to be one of the main social media agencies in Kuwait. Keep in mind I had no idea what I was called in for, I was expecting a job offer, well it sort of was.

More opportunities I signed with Ghaliah Technology an exclusive contract, which meant that they would get me, deals for me to promote certain brands, stores and restaurants. At the time it sounded awesome, and it was something new to me so I thought, why not? It’s all about the experience! Four months went by, I went from 11k to 100k and things changed a lot. What I mean by changed, is that I was getting more known, I had different offers coming in and I then had a goal, or more of an image, that I wanted for myself, and so that’s when I decided to leave Ghaliah Technology, and not be exclusive with them, just for the fact that I’d like to do more things on my own.

Leaving Ghaliah Tech was a very difficult decision for me to take. I thought to myself I have a full-time job (at the time I was working at a university, in which I wanted to teach) and “TheRealFouz” was doing good so why stop there when there was so much potential and more opportunities? Leaving was hard as I thought that I would fail after leaving the agency. Turns out, I was more confident and accurate with whatever decision I took, because I worked so hard trying to brand myself and have a certain image that I really wanted to keep, which was trying to show how girls in The Middle East are beautiful, simple, and stylish.

Bullying and negativity
We’ve been told many times how we overdo it, which is true sometimes, but there is a whole other “category” of girls who are just fabulous from head-to-toe! Advertising and promoting isn’t what social media is all about, however, anyone with a large number of followers wouldn’t mind promoting something that they like or see themselves doing, but I definitely am against promoting negativity, bullying and any negativity through any network and anywhere not only on social media. Many people ask me how I deal with negativity, the only way you can deal with it is when you just don’t deal with it. Ever since, it has been a one-man army. I accept and reject bookings, reply to emails and running around by myself. I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work. Social media is a part of my life, not my entire life. Maybe that’s why I’m still sane, well I hope I still am. I have a job; will be owning a personal business and social media is the icing on top.

Till next week beauts! xo

TAIPEI: At least 25 people were killed yesterday when a passenger plane operated by TransAsia Airways clipped an overpass soon after take-off and plunged into a river in Taiwan, the airline's second crash in seven months. As the rescue operation continued into the night, a crane lifted the rear and central sections of the plane from the water, with one body retrieved from inside. The front part, where 17 people are believed to be trapped, was still in the water.

TransAsia said 16 survivors had been pulled out of the wreckage after the turboprop plane crashed with 58 people onboard. Many of the passengers were mainland Chinese tourists. Cold weather, poor visibility and rising water levels were hampering the rescue, officials said, admitting they were now "not optimistic" about finding survivors. Dramatic amateur video footage showed the TransAsia ATR 72-600 hit an elevated road as it banked sidelong towards the Keelung River, leaving a trail of debris including a smashed taxi. "I saw a taxi, probably just metres ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane. The plane was huge and really close to me. I'm still trembling," one witness told TVBS news channel.

An AFP reporter at the scene saw bodies being pulled from the wreckage into the early evening. Desperate crew members shouted "Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout!" as the plane plunged out of the sky, according to a recording thought to be the final message from the cockpit to the control tower, played on local television. Aviation officials said they had not released the cockpit recording, suggesting it may have come from amateurs monitoring the radio. "An engine flameout refers to the engine shutting down in flight," said

Daniel Tsang, founder of Hong Kong-based aviation consultancy Aspire Aviation. "The engine stops producing thrust and the combustion process fails and no longer generates any forward propulsion to the aeroplane." But Tsang told AFP that pilots were "very well trained" to deal with the failure of one engine and the causes of the accident were likely to be more complex. It was the second fatal crash involving a TransAsia Airways plane within a few months. A flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm, killing 48 people.

Wednesday's accident happened just before 11:00 am (0300 GMT), shortly after Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen with 53 passengers and five crew on board. Six airline officials, including chief executive Peter Chen, bowed in apology at a televised press conference. "We would like to convey our apologies to the families (of the victims) and we'd also like to voice huge thanks to rescuers who have been racing against time," said Chen.

In a statement later yesterday, the airline said that 25 were confirmed dead, with 16 survivors. Those missing are thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane. "As it has been a while and the weather is cold, things are not optimistic, but rescuers will do everything to find and rescue the remaining missing people," said Lin Kuan-cheng from the National Fire Agency. "Rising water levels and poor visibility underwater has made the work very difficult," added senior rescue official Wu Chun-hung.

There has been no official comment on the cause of the crash, but the black boxes have been retrieved from the French-made aircraft. France's civil aviation body said yesterday two of its investigators and four from plane manufacturer ATR were being dispatched to assist Taiwanese authorities with their enquiries.

Rescue boats remained in the water late yesterday, where the remaining front section of the plane is completely submerged. Rescuers with flashlights scoured through the rear and central parts of the plane after they were brought to shore by crane. Earlier in the day survivors had been ferried to safety in dinghies as rescuers tried to pull people out with ropes. China's Xiamen Daily said on its social media account that the 31 mainlanders on board were part of two tour groups from the eastern Chinese city. One tour guide now confirmed dead, named as Wang Qinghuo, had been due to marry on Sunday, it added.

Xiamen is in Fujian province, across the Taiwan Strait from the island. An employee of one of the tour agencies, surnamed Wen, told AFP that it had 15 clients onboard, including three children under 10. The rest of the passengers and crew were Taiwanese, according to the airline. Aviation officials said the plane crashed minutes after taking off from Songshan airport, after losing contact with the control tower. Lin Chih-ming, head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the ATR 72-600 was less than a year old and was last serviced just over a week ago. The pilot had 14,000 flying hours and the co-pilot 4,000 hours, he added.

The airline said it had received the plane in April last year and it was the newest model of the ATR. In last July's crash, the 48 people were killed when another domestic TransAsia flight crashed onto houses during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu. - AFP

Complying with a Turkish court order, Facebook has started to censor pictures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), deemed hurtful to a majority of Muslims living in Turkey, said a report published on The Washington Post.

The decision comes barely weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an unrelenting statement on his profile declaring his unwavering support for the right to free speech and solidarity with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which suffered a deadly attack that took 12 lives, most of whom were cartoonists. He included the #Jesuischarlie hashtag in his post to show support for the slain victims.

On Sunday, a Turkish court had ordered Facebook to block a number of pages deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), threatening to stop access to the whole social networking site if it does not comply. The country is believed to have 40 million members on Facebook.

Facebook’s latest compliance with the court order to ban offensive images is seen by some as a contradiction to some parts of Zuckerberg’s statement. In particular, a part of his testimonial read:

“Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas. We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world.”

 

Some believe that Facebook tends to release promising statements as a strong proponent of free speech, but is fails to (voluntarily or involuntarily) live up to its word, as past records clearly indicate.

Earlier in December, Facebook had blocked a page of the Russian president Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny on the request of Russian Internet Regulators.

Facebook is also occasionally criticised for taking down pages erroneously. A petition against the allegedly inaccurate censorship by Facebook of the International Campaign for Tibet is currently circulating online and has been signed over 20,000 times already.

Some weeks ago, Facebook had also issued an apology for wrongfully taking down the page of popular Pakistani actor and activist Hamza Ali Abbasi. In his apology, the Vice President of Global Operations and Media Partnerships for Facebook Justin Osofsky had said: “We try to do our best, but sometimes make mistakes.”

Read: Facebook apologises, says removal of Hamza Ali Abbasi status was mistake

Turkey houses a vast potential audience for social networking websites although its government is often not in agreement with the content on Facebook. As per Facebook’s latest transparency report which focused on the first half of 2014, Turkey demanded Facebook to censor 1,893 pieces of content in the six month period, which is the second most of any country.

Many of the censorship requests from Turkey stemmed from local laws that prohibit any vocal or written disrespect against the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Being a global company, Facebook is liable to obey the laws of each country it operates in. It maintains that it has been successful in responding to the censorship requests of each country, provided that they they meet what the company calls a “very high legal bar.”

The report quoted the BBC as saying that Facebook has banned an indeterminate number of pages that it deems disparaging against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and yet this decision has stirred a new controversy whether Facebook actually possesses the freedom of speech that it ardently professes.

TRIPOLI: Gunmen stormed a hotel in Tripoli popular with diplomats and officials Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, killing at least nine people including five foreigners before blowing themselves up.

After setting off a car bomb outside the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Libya’s capital, three armed militants rushed inside and opened fire, Issam al- Naass, a spokesman for the security services, told AFP. They made it to the 24th floor of the hotel, which is a major hub for diplomatic and government activity in Tripoli, before being surrounded by security forces and blowing themselves up, he said.

The dead included three security guards killed in the initial attack, five foreigners shot dead by the gunmen and a hostage who died when the attackers blew themselves up, he said. At least five people were also wounded during the assault, including two Filipina employees hurt by broken glass from the car bomb explosion, he said.

The nationalities of the foreigners killed and the person taken hostage were not immediately known, but Naass said two of the foreigners were women. The hotel’s 24th floor is normally used by Qatar’s mission to Libya but no diplomats or officials were present during the assault, a security source said. The head of Libya’s selfdeclared government, Omar al- Hassi, was also inside the hotel at the time of the attack but was evacuated safely, Naass said.

In a brief statement on Twitter, the Tripoli branch of the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said. It said it was carrying out the attack in honour of Abu Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda suspect who died in the United States earlier this month, days before facing a trial for bombing US embassies. Several militant groups in Libya have pledged allegiance to IS, the Sunni extremist organisation that has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic “caliphate”. Security forces loyal to Hassi’s government, which is jostling for power with the internationally backed authority of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, surrounded the building during the assault.

Ambulances, armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks with mounted artillery could be seen around the hotel during the assault. Security forces prevented journalists from entering the hotel after the assault, saying work was needed inside to ensure the assailants had not left behind booby traps. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini condemned the attack, calling it “another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya.” She expressed “solidarity with the victims and their families” but made no mention of the nationalities of the dead.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia (Agencies): President Barack Obama defended the US government’s willingness to cooperate closely with Saudi Arabia on national security despite deep concerns over human rights abuses, as he led an array of current and former American statesmen in paying respects Tuesday following the death of King Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia’s status as one of Washington’s most important Arab allies has at times appeared to trump US concerns about the terrorist funding that flows from the kingdom and about human rights abuses. But Obama said he has found it most effective to apply steady pressure over human rights “even as we are getting business done that needs to get done.” “Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” Obama said in a CNN interview that aired in advance of Obama’s arrival.

New King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman formally greeted Obama and the US delegation at the Erga Palace on the outskirts of Riyadh, where dozens of Saudi officials filed through a marble-walled room to greet the Americans under massive crystal chandeliers.

After a short dinner, Obama and Salman sat down for their first formal meeting without making any comments to reporters covering the visit. Ahead of his arrival, Obama suggested that he would not be raising US concerns about Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

His first flogging took place in early January in front of dozens of people in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, though a second round has been postponed after a doctor said his wounds from the first lashes had not yet healed. “On this visit, obviously a lot of this is just paying respects to King Abdullah, who in his own fashion presented some modest reform efforts within the kingdom,” Obama said. Stepping off the plane earlier in Riyadh, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama were greeted by Salman and a military band playing both countries’ national anthems.

Some of the all-male Saudi delegation shook hands with Mrs Obama while others gave her a nod as they passed by Mrs Obama wore full-length clothing but no headscarf, as is typical for many Western women in Saudi Arabia, despite the strict dress code for Saudi women appearing in public. Obama cut short the final day of his trip to India to make the four-hour stop in Riyadh. Further underscoring the key role Saudi Arabia has long played in US foreign policy in the Middle East was the extensive delegation that joined Obama for the visit. Secretary of State John Kerry was joining Obama in Riyadh, along with former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III, both of whom served Republican presidents.

Former White House national security advisers Brent Scowcroft, Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley also made the trip, as did Sen John McCain, the Arizona republican who is a frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East. CIA Director John Brennan and Gen Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, which overseas military activity in the Middle East, were also taking part in Tuesday’s meetings with the Saudis. “It meets the threshold of being bipartisan, high-level and people who worked very closely with Saudi Arabia over many years,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Despite vast differences of opinions on many issues, the US and Saudi Arabia have worked in close coordination to address evolving security concerns in the tumultuous region.

Most recently, Saudi Arabia became one of a handful of Arab nations that have joined the US in launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. In his initial days on the throne, the 79- year-old Salman has given little indication that he plans to bring fundamental changes to his country’s policies. In a nationally televised address shortly after his half brother’s death, Salman vowed to hew to “the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment.” Obama acknowledged that the US willingness to pursue close ties with Saudi Arabia despite human rights abuses often makes America’s allies uncomfortable. “The trend-line is one that I will sustain throughout the rest of my presidency,” Obama said, “and that is to make the case to our friends and allies that if they want a society that is able to sustain itself in this day and age, then they’re going to have to change how they do business.” Obama’s presidency has also been marked by occasional strains with the Saudi royal family. Abdullah, the 90-yearold monarch who died Friday, had pressed the US to take more aggressive action to force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

The royal family is also deeply skeptical of Obama’s diplomacy with rival Iran. Salman is a veteran of the country’s top leadership and well-versed in diplomacy from nearly 50 years as the governor of the capital Riyadh. He is known as a mediator of disputes within the sprawling royal family who increasingly took on the duties of the king as the ailing Abdullah became more incapacitated.

President of the Hum TV Network, Sultana Siddiqui was recognised for her contribution to the entertainment industry with the Scroll of Honour award at the 5th GR8! Women Awards in Dubai on January 12.

The awards are given every year by the Indian Television Academy to celebrate the outstanding contributions made by women in various fields, including art, cinema, environment, entrepreneurship and education.

Hum TV shared the news via Twitter:

 

Sultana Siddiqui (second from right) with the other winners. – Courtesy photo
Sultana Siddiqui (second from right) with the other winners. – Courtesy photo

Holding the coveted trophy in her hand, the Zindagi Gulzar Hai director thanked the organisers for acknowledging her ‘modest efforts’.

“I think women in Pakistan have shown brilliance in different fields but most of the time, they are let down by society. All they need is encouragement and support from their families. At Hum TV Network, women hold key positions and they excel in their work."

"This award I think is not so much for me as it is women in Pakistan, particularly in the field of media,” she added.

Siddiqui, who is also a producer, has always been involved with projects directed towards bringing public awareness to social issues, such as female empowerment and promotion of female education.

Others who emerged as winners included Bollywood starlets Aliya Bhatt and Parineeti Chopra. Nimrat Kaur, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Surveen Chawla also attended the affair held at Sofitel Dubai.

WASHINGTON: After 13 years, the United States is winding down its war in Afghanistan, plagued by doubts about what was accomplished at such a high cost.

Instead of a sense of triumph at the close of the longest conflict in America's history, there is mostly regret and fatigue over a war that claimed the lives of more than 2,300 American troops and cost more than a trillion dollars.

US commanders insist the Afghan security forces will hold the line in a stalemate with the Taliban. But some officials fear a repeat of Iraq, in which an American-trained army virtually collapsed in the face of an extremist onslaught.

A large majority of Americans now say the war was not worth it, and only 23 per cent of US soldiers believe the mission has been a success, according to recent polls.

But when it began, the war enjoyed overwhelming support and victory seemed within reach.

Less than a month after Al Qaeda's attacks of September 11, 2001, president George W. Bush captured the nation's sense of righteous anger as he announced military action in Afghanistan in a televised address in October.

The goal was to “disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations,” Bush said, and to attack the Taliban regime that had hosted Al Qaeda and refused to hand over its leaders.

Toppling the Taliban

 

US objectives were met with stunning speed. Al Qaeda training camps were wiped out and Northern Alliance fighters — backed by US-led air strikes and a small number of American special forces — toppled the Taliban regime within a month.

For the United States, the war seemed all but over. But the Taliban eventually regrouped from safe havens, even as Washington's attention shifted to a new war in Iraq.

The Taliban grew into a virulent insurgency that exploited resentment of a corrupt, ineffective government in Kabul.

The United States formed the backbone of an international force that found itself in a protracted fight with insurgents.

The US-led contingent steadily expanded — while the goals of the war became increasingly ambitious as well.

Washington and its allies embraced the lofty ideals of nation-building, vowing to fight corruption, foster economic development, and forge a “stable, democratic state” in an impoverished land mired in war for decades.

The results were often disappointing. International aid helped build roads and schools, but it also was blamed for fuelling rampant corruption, with some of the money ending up with the insurgents.

Attempts to broker peace talks with the Taliban in recent years came to nothing. Critics say Washington missed a chance at cutting a deal early in the war, when the insurgents were on the retreat.

Fighting the elusive Taliban, with their homemade bombs and Pakistani sanctuaries, proved frustrating for Western troops, who struggled to grasp the language and tribal rivalries of an alien culture.

Commanders appealed for more troops. And Washington kept sending forces “in the vain hope that something might somehow improve”, wrote retired general Daniel Bolger, author of “Why We Lost".

Having reached a peak of more than 100,000 US forces, the American presence is down to about 11,000 troops, now that Nato's combat mission is over.

'Big test'

 

The balance sheet for the campaign is decidedly mixed.

The intervention deprived Al Qaeda of a sanctuary, ousted the Taliban from power, eased the repression of women and created an Afghan army that could make it difficult for the insurgents to return to their once dominant role, analysts said.

But Al Qaeda — even after its leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos — has spawned cells elsewhere and inspired new extremists in Syria and Iraq, while women's advances are fragile and could easily unravel.

The Taliban may no longer run ministries but they are far from defeated and could yet turn the tide against the Kabul government's army, which has suffered unsustainably high casualties and desertions.

“The Taliban have nowhere near the power they did in 2001, but they are certainly not finished,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

US officials hope a huge investment in the Afghan security forces will pay off, but already the insurgents have clawed back control in some areas in the south where American troops have pulled out.

The newly created security force, riddled with ethnic divisions, remains “a question mark”, Felbab-Brown said.

“Next year is a big test for them,” said Carter Malkasian, author of a book on the war who worked as a US diplomat for two years in southern Helmand province.

“If they lose ground, that's an indication that this war is going to keep going,” he told AFP.

“If that happens, the Taliban are going to get bolder, because the Taliban are not going to see a reason to negotiate."

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