Archive for November, 2012

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day

The long-term health condition diabetes is caused when blood sugar levels get too high. There are two categories of the diseases. With Type 1, the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all. Type 2 is more common, and occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the cells don’t react to this hormone as they should do.

Worldwide, in 2010 an estimated 285 million people had the disease. In the US, rates have been rising significantly over the last two decades – in 2010, 26 million Americans had the condition, 57 million were living with pre-diabetes, and 7 million were  thought to be diabetic without realizing it. The condition costs America $132bn each year, and its rapid escalation has led to its being described as an epidemic.

World Diabetes Day is the main international campaign for the disease, and has been held every year on November 14 since 1991 to involve millions of people across the world in advocacy and awareness. The campaign highlights those issues of greatest importance to the diabetes community, and aims to ensure they remain center stage.

That is the day Frederick Banting was born. With Charles Best, Banting first came up with the concept which led, in 1922, to insulin being discovered.

The annual event is organised by the World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Federation in response to the rapidly rising number of diabetics worldwide. It became an officially recognised United Nations day in 2007, following the passing of a special resolution.

That same year,  a logo was designed for World Diabetes Day. It is the international symbol for the disease, a blue circle. The circle is a symbol of health and life in many cultures, so the message is intended to be very positive and unifying. The color blue is the shade of the UN flag, and symbolizes the sky that links all countries.

Each year, a different campaign for the day is chosen, addressing a particular issue faced by the diabetes community, which then lasts for all of the following year. Past themes have included adolescent and childhood diabetes, foot care, obesity, human rights, the condition as it affects more vulnerable people, lifestyle and “talking about diabetes”.

For the period 2009-2013, the chosen topic is diabetes and education. For the 2012 campaign, the slogan is Diabetes: Protect our Future.

The International Diabetes Federation has more than 200 member associations in over 160 nations and territories, including all UN member states, organizations, diabetic individuals, their families and health professionals.

The day itself is marked by a wide range of activities, and by many different groups and organizations, from health departments to NGOs and businesses.

Events include extensive media coverage, events for kids, sporting occasions, workshops, exhibitions and leaflet and poster campaigns. In many places there are also free screenings for the condition and its complications.

In 2012, the role of education will be highlighted, for health professionals as well as diabetics and those who are most at risk in lessening the impact of diabetes across the world.

Veterans Day

Veterans’ Day

Veterans’ Day is a federal holiday observed every November 11 in the United States, and it coincides with similar occasions in other nations, like Remembrance Sunday in Britain.

Its purpose is to give thanks and recognition to everyone who served in the US Armed Forces, especially to those who are still alive.

The choice of date is no coincidence – it falls on the anniversary of the day in 1918 when hostilities between Germany and the Allied Forces ceased, heralding the end of the First World War.

Veterans’ Day was celebrated for the first time a year later, in 1919, at the proclamation of then President Wilson, who urged “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the service of their country.” Business activities paused at 11am, and the first parades, public meetings and other events took place.

The armistice became effective on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and, since 1919, short periods of silence have been observed at 11am.

In 1926, the US Congress officially declared the armistice’s anniversary should be marked by thanksgiving and prayer.

At the same time, Congress asked the president to urge officials to show the US flag on all public buildings on the day, and encouraging citizens to mark the day in churches, schools and elsewhere “with suitable ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

November 11 was made a legal holiday in 1938, called Armistice Day and originally observed in honor of those who had served in the First World War.

Then the Second World War broke out, involving more servicemen than any other conflict in American history.

In 1945, Raymond Weeks, later called the “Father of Veterans Day”, of Birmingham, Alabama, headed a delegation arguing for a National Veterans’ Day. He organised celebrations in Alabama every year from 1947 until he died in 1985, and received the Presidential Citizenship Medal three years before his death in recognition of his efforts.

In 1954, officially Congress agreed to call the occasion Veterans’ Day, after nine years of campaigning by Weeks. November 11 became a day to remember all veterans of the US armed forces, whenever and wherever they had seen active service. In the same year, the National Veterans Award was also created.

An attempt to hold the day on the fourth Monday in October, in 1971, was widely ignored in many states, and in 1975 President Ford moved the day back to November 11. It has been officially celebrated on that date since 1978.

Well over 90 years since the first Veterans’ Day, November 11 is recognized with church services and parades across the country, and the US flag often flies at half-mast. Some schools shut for the day, while those which remain open may hold special activities marking the occasion.

Federal offices close on November 11, or the closest weekday if the date falls on a weekend. Organizations which are non-governmental can choose to close or stay open, and public transport may be running on a holiday rather than a regular schedule.

In some communities, observances take place on the nearest weekend, rather than the day itself, so more people can take part.

The day should not be confused with Memorial Day, which remembers those who died in military service.




Election Day

Election Day

In the United States, Election Day must by law take place on the Tuesday falling after the first Monday in the month of November. This means that the date can be anywhere between November 2 and 8.

As well as being the day when Americans choose their President, all levels of national, state and local government official also get voted for.

Exactly 220 years ago this year (1792), a law gave every state the right to hold elections for the president any time in the 34 days ahead of the first Wednesday in December, when each state held its Electoral College.

And, traditionally, November was considered a good time, before winter storms started to hit (perhaps ironic given 2012’s Hurricane Sandy) but after the harvest had been gathered.

As telegraphs and trains arrived, it became necessary to have just one date for an election, since the earliest results could impact upon the later ones held in the 34 day period.

Congress agreed to have one day for voting in 1845, on the day after November’s first Monday, so 34 days no longer needed to elapse before the first Wednesday in December.

Historically, a Tuesday was considered to be a good day of the week, since no-one would have to travel to vote on the Sabbath. Equally, in many rural areas, all of Monday would have been needed for travelling to the ballot box under horse power. Had a Wednesday been chosen, this could have interfered with market day in many areas.

However, there are activists who have campaigned against a weekday Election Day, arguing that people won’t vote if they have to be at work, and suggesting ballots should be open over at least two days.

But although the day of a presidential election is not a public holiday, in a handful of states it is observed as an annual or two-yearly day off. And in some states you are legally entitled to take off from your place of work to vote, and, sometimes, you have the right to do so without losing pay.

For example, in California, if you would otherwise be unable to cast your vote, you can do so in the two hours at the end or start of a shift on full pay.

Many states have introduced early voting to allow the electorate to cast their votes early, often as much as a month ahead of election Tuesday. There are also systems in place for voting as an absentee voter.

For the election of the President, Vice President, and the US Congress, Election Day is held in evenly numbered years only. Presidential voting takes place on years which can be evenly divided by four, every four years.

Elections for the US Senate and House of Representatives occur every couple years, so no Representative serves longer than two years without being re-elected. Senators hold office for six years, but things are staggered so that in any general election, one in three Senators will be elected.

A number of state and local government offices are also voted for on Election Day in the interests of efficiency.

The successful presidential candidate is not sworn in and does not take power for a couple of months – Inauguration Day is usually on January 20.