Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Puts A Damper On Many Travel Plans

As many of you may know by now, especially if you have upcoming plans to travel to one of our neighboring countries like Canada or Mexico, your travel plans just might be at risk. “The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act or 2004 requires the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to develop and implement a plan to require all travelers, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike, to present a passport or other document, or a combination of documents, that denote identity and citizenship when entering the United States. Congress amended portions of the Act in 2006. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is the Administration’s proposed plan to implement this mandate.” So what does this mean? Well, for starters, if you’re traveling to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean, you are now required to obtain a passport for your travels outside the United States.You could, not to long ago, travel to Canada or Mexico as easily as traveling to visit your parents 5 states away. Not anymore. The Federal government’s goal to “strengthen border security and facilitate entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors” now requires all travelers to basically “check-in” by obtaining a passport for identification and proof of citizenship. This is an absolute necessity to secure our borders against un-authorized access with the foremost hopes of preventing terrorist acts by individuals abroad. Unfortunately, the policy and enforcement on border security will affect both incoming travelers and domestic travelers going abroad. As of January 2007, traveling to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean is now considered “traveling abroad,” where once we could travel to the above countries with limited or no documentation needed at all.So how does this affect travel to Canada? Or Mexico? Or Bermuda? Or the Caribbean? Well the short answer for you is not much. But if you’re like me, and take family vacations annually to Mexico, it might cost a bit more this year. Take for example a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children under 16 years). The cost of our trip just exploded because by law, I am now required to obtain a passport for each individual crossing in and out of the United States. So, lets see, not only do I have to pay for the monetary cost associated with obtaining a passport, 4 passports in this example, but I now have to take the time out of my day to find out where I can pick up 4 passport applications; then fill them out, and then find a place that will take my passport photo to be attached with the passport application. I’m not done…I have to round up my entire family to go on this passport excursion. Do I pull my kids out of school for this? Do they miss band or sports practice after school? Do I waste an hour and fight traffic with my family just to find our passport applications and a place that will take our passport photo? Unfortunately, this scenario will look all too common in 2007 and beyond as the Federal government continues to increase security for our Country. My advice is to get your passport early and beat the rush. And if your lucky, you can find someone who will come out to your work place or home and furnish all your passport needs, from forms to photos, like Mobile Passport Photos in the Midwest.

The Footprints of Fabric Wholesale: Azam Cloth Market

The shopkeepers of Azam Cloth market pride themselves on, and they like to stress this vehemently, being a part of ‘the biggest cloth market in Asia.” While snaking your way through the many winding alleys lined with shops of various sizes you do tend to lose track of both time and space. The market is a collage of many small interlinked bazaars where the daylight doesn’t always seep in and the damp musty odor of history prevails.Situated in the walled city of Lahore, the Azam cloth market is the hub that has been handling wholesale distribution of cloth and ready-to-wear for the last six decades. From khaddar to silk, ready- to-wear to clothing fabrics, casual wear to bridal wear, the market has something for every apparel retailer.According to Mohd Amjad Sheikh, who has been in the wholesale apparel business since 1974, the Azam cloth market caters to a wide customer based both in Pakistan and abroad. “Retailers from all over Pakistan, Dubai, and UK visit us for their stock purchases. However, the recent security issues have had their impact on the business. Our customer base from India and Afghanistan has dwindled to almost zero. We hope once the situation improves retailers from all neighboring countries will find it comfortable to visit us.”The merchants of the market are well versed in the history of the place, and every shopkeeper can recount how when the market was created and named. There was a small market near Wazir Khan Mosque; in 1953 when a road had to be widened the market was shifted to its current location by General Azam who gave his own name to the market. Over the decades, the small market extended and now has numerous interlinked blocks or bazaars all dealing in wholesaling of various types of clothing fabrics and lines.How many interlinked bazaars are there in the market? There is no consensus as such but gathering from the comments of various shop owners the number must be somewhere between 15 and 20′It’s an Institution.’All the bazaars of Azam market are linked and managed by a board of directors. “You won’t find a more well managed institution in Lahore. We have our own constitution with a specific set of rules. Every bazaar has its own president who in turn is answerable to the president of the board. Elections of the board are held every three years to elect resident of the board. Security and administrative decisions made by the board are binding upon the market community,” the business community of the market proudly spells out details of the ‘institution.’ Fire extinguishers, security guards and clean lanes show an active involvement of the board that runs on self-help basis. Every shop owner pays monthly charges of about 200-300 rupees to form a combined pool that helps meet the maintenance expenses.Nawab Bazaar: The oldest block of Azam Cloth MarketWhile it is difficult to explore every bazaar in a single visit, every first time visitor should stroll in the Nawab bazaar to get a feel of the place. Nawab bazaar is the first and the oldest block of Azam cloth market. Its open cool spaces invite the customers to linger and shop at their own pace. The shop owners are friendly and there is an overall ambiance of good cheer.’What’s in the name?’Two different versions prevail in the market about the history of block’s name. One interesting story traces origins of the name to the first generation of business men who started their businesses in this market.According to this version, this first generation of wholesalers liked to arrive late in the markets and opened their shops around noon. So people started calling them nawabs (nawab connotes a laid-back almost royal attitude) and the market came to be known as Nawab bazaar.Javed sahib, the president of Nawab bazaar, however, strongly disagrees: “My, father, Haji Nawab Deen, was the first generation of wholesalers who established businesses in this block, and the bazaar is name after my father,” he states.Whatever the real history of the name, the different versions add to the aura of antiquity surrounding the market.It’s a Man’s WorldThe wholesale business is dominated by men. Not only there are no female shop owners but you encounter female customers. Occasionally you can run into a lone female retailer traversing the narrow alleys of the market. Razia is one such brave woman I met while combing through the glittering, colorful shops of women’s apparel.”I have nine children and my husband is a ‘home-tailor’ who works at his clients’ places. To make ends meet, I have started this business. I purchase ready-to-wear female kurtis from this market and my husband takes them to his clients’ houses and sells them. We get to save 100 to 200 rupees on every kurta. It isn’t much but it helps,” Razia explains her ‘business model.’First Time visitorsWhether you are a retailer, a casual visitor, or a customer who wants to get good bargains, try to heading for the market between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This is the time when the traffic is not too heavy and it is still quiet in the throbbing, congested lanes of the market. Visiting the market early will save you half of the hassle of long traffic jams. The other half, while going back, you will have to bear. Another advantage of visiting the market early is that once you are there you can shop at leisure and will even have time to haggle with the shopkeepers. As the day advances the business activity picks up pace, the market gets too crowded.Parking your vehicle is now easy as there is a huge parking plaza near the market. However, the plaza doesn’t have a lift and once you park the car you will have to walk all the way down and then walk all the way up to get the car. It is bit of an exertion and would help if you are in the mood for some exercise.Azam Cloth Market is surrounded by many other wholesale and retail markets, and while you are there you can have quick round of the other markets and schedule your next visit to one you like.

Pitfalls of Using Health Insurance For Mental Health Care

Because of the unfortunate stigma still attached to mental health conditions, people should think twice before using their health insurance to pay for visits to a mental health professional, such a marriage and family therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist.If you do have health insurance coverage, your first reaction might be to think, “Well, if I’ve got insurance, why shouldn’t I use it? That’s what it’s there for.” And, most of the time, that’s true. I know I’m certainly grateful for my health insurance when I go to the doctor or dentist.But it gets more complicated when it comes to mental health care because of negative associations attached to psychological disorders. For example, people probably think differently about an individual who has a physical condition such as a thyroid disorder versus someone who has a psychological condition such as major depression.The reality is, if you want to get your insurance company to pay for your mental health care, the mental health care provider has to give you a serious psychological diagnosis or the insurance company won’t pay for the treatment.For instance, many insurance companies won’t pay for someone seeing a therapist for couples counseling or for “normal bereavement” following a loved one’s death. So your mental health care provider needs to find a serious diagnosis that legitimately describes your situation and that will be acceptable to your insurance company. But, once you have that diagnosis, the big issue becomes confidentiality.Here’s how that works. When you’re seeing a therapist and paying for it yourself, the information you discuss in session stays in the room for the most part. The therapist doesn’t share the information with anyone else, except when they’re required to report child abuse or elder abuse or a handful of other situations covered by law or their profession’s code of ethics. So the vast majority of the time, the information you share with your therapist stays just between the two of you, and you can feel completely free to share all the deep problems that brought you to the therapist’s office in the first place.However, your sessions won’t be so private any more if your insurance company is paying for all or part of your mental health care, because your diagnosis then becomes part of your health record and it’s no longer confidential. That could be detrimental to you in the future.For example, let’s say your therapist diagnoses you with major depressive disorder, which is a very common diagnosis. Think about how people view other people who are seriously depressed. They generally have certain expectations of how depressed people behave.So having that diagnosis in your health record could affect your ability to get a job in the future. It could be an issue in a child custody battle or other legal problems, especially since law enforcement agencies can access your insurance information at any time. A serious mental health diagnosis could cause problems if you tried to obtain other health insurance or life insurance in the future. Those are just a few examples of situations to think about.The other issue with using insurance benefits for mental health care is that the insurance company might place limitations on the number of sessions you can obtain or require that you get pre-approval from your primary care physician. Some insurance companies are very generous and allow weekly sessions until your problem is resolved, and they don’t interfere very much in the therapeutic process. But some companies place a limit on the number of sessions they’ll cover in a given year, and that frankly might not be enough to resolve some serious or longstanding problems.But, to me at least, those pragmatic challenges of trying to get your insurance company to provide adequate mental health coverage pale in comparison to the confidentiality issue I was talking about earlier. Confidentiality really is the Number One thing you should consider when you’re deciding whether you want to use your health insurance to cover mental health care.