Saturday, August 18, 2007

Weekend News Roundup - "Egypt really is a logic-free zone"

In the desert, where nothing really matters, and everything matters

"Egypt really is a logic-free zone," said Amr Shannon, the desert guide whose five-car caravan was released after an officer finally acknowledged the obvious.

"When you go to the sea, you get prepared; you will pack your towel, your bathing suit," he said in an interview in his apartment. "When you go skiing, you pack skis. Now you are coming to Egypt; get prepared for it as well. If you expect logic to prevail, you will find your intelligence insulted 200 times a day."

Reptile Smuggler Caught at Cairo Airport

Over the weekend, the Cairo airport police confiscated an entire suitcase packed with "at least" 250 baby crocodiles, chameleons, and snakes -- including (again, at least) one cobra. The passenger, a 22-year-old man from Saudi Arabia, claimed he had no idea it was illegal to bring reptiles in an ordinary suitcase on a commercial flight, adding that he was bringing the specimens to a Saudi university for experiments.

Egyptian woman held for female circumcision

CAIRO - Egyptian police are holding a woman who conducted a near-fatal circumcision on a young girl, a widely-condemned practice the authorities are trying to stamp out, the press reported on Friday.

The victim, Naglaa Khamis, went into a coma and suffered severe haemorrhaging after the removal of part of her genitals, but was saved after being taken to hospital by her parents.

Police took the woman who carried out the mutilation in Minya, south of Cairo, into custody.

Female circumcision can cause death through haemorrhaging and later complications during childbirth. It also carries risks of infection, urinary tract problems and mental trauma.

Religious leaders, usually silent on taboos relating to female sexuality, have also started to speak out against the practice, which many Egyptians believe is a duty under Islam and Christianity.

Egyptian girl dies during female circumcision
CAIRO -- A 13-year-old Egyptian girl has died during an illegal operation to mutilate her genitalia, the Al Masri Al Yom daily reported Saturday.

A government survey in 2000 said the practice was carried out on 97 percent of the country's women aged between 15 and 45 years of age.

Religious leaders, usually silent on taboos relating to female sexuality, have also started to speak out against the practice, which many Egyptians believe is a duty under Islam and Christianity.

After the death of Shaker, chief mufti Ali Gomaa declared female circumcision forbidden under Islam.

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the sheikh of Al Azhar university, the top Sunni Muslim authority, and Coptic Patriarch Chenouda III also declared it had "no foundation in the religious texts" of either Islam or Christianity.

Last week I mentioned using Skype in a post about the new FISA (USA) wiretap law. Here's another way to use Skype: Learn a foreign language – over the Web

"Students are having these conversations all hours of the day and night outside of class," says Professor Sawhill. Her students have spoken in Arabic to their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and in Spanish with students in Mexico. (Webcams are optional at Oberlin.)

Instructors say the conversations often spark students' interest in international issues, which they see as important at a time when Americans are accused of not being interested in the rest of the world.

Instructors like Coffey say language exchanges via Skype have the potential to fling wide OPEN the doors of cross-cultural communication.

"What's happening now is that people are just getting their feet wet," she says. "As time goes on, just like e-mail, this will be at the forefront of all of our methodologies."

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” is not even in bookstores, but already anxieties have surfaced about the backlash it is stirring.

“Now that the cold war is over, Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States,” they write. “Yet no aspiring politician is going to say so in public or even raise the possibility” because the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful. They credit the lobby with shutting down talks with Syria and with moderates in Iran, preventing the United States from condemning Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon and with not pushing the Israelis hard enough to come to an agreement with the Palestinians. They also discuss Christian Zionists and the issue of dual loyalty.
“One of the points we make in the book is that this is a subject that’s very hard to talk about,” Mr. Walt said in an interview from his office in Cambridge. “Organizations, no matter how strong their commitment to free speech, don’t want to schedule something that’s likely to cause controversy.”

Overall Mr. Mearsheimer said he thinks the response to their views will be “less ferocious than last time, because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make the argument in a convincing way that anyone who criticizes the lobby or Israel is an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.” Both Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt pointed to the growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, criticism of Israel’s war in Lebanon and the publication of former President Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” as making it somewhat easier to criticize Israel openly.

CIA, FBI computers used for Wikipedia edits
The changes may violate Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman for the site said on Thursday.

The program, WikiScanner, was developed by Virgil Griffith of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and posted this month on a Web site that was quickly overwhelmed with searches.

The program allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes to the popular Internet encyclopedia where anyone can submit and edit entries.

It violates Wikipedia's neutrality guidelines for a person with close ties to an issue to contribute to an entry about it, said spokeswoman Sandy Ordonez of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's parent organization.

However, she said, "Wikipedia is self-correcting," meaning misleading entries can be quickly revised by another editor. She said Wikimedia welcomed the WikiScanner.

WikiScanner can be found at
Who else has been editing information related specifically to them thus creating a conflict of interest? FOX News.

China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad
China is investing heavily in poor African countries like Chad, raising Western concerns.

To some critics, the answer is clear. “China’s no-strings-attached approach is problematic, particularly if its effect, if not its intent, is to undermine others’ efforts to change situations on the ground,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Often what is happening,” he added, “is underwriting of repression.”

But Limassou Saleh, a community organizer in Bongor, said he was deeply skeptical. “Chad is maybe the most corrupt country in the world,” Mr. Saleh said. “We have a long history of human rights violations, of lack of transparency, of exploitation. China has a reputation for corruption. They are one of the worst human rights abusers. They have no record of transparency. What would we want with a country like that? Only to make our own problems worse.”

Murray's Illinois mine has 2,787 violations since 2005

Crandall Canyon mine owner Robert Murray is fond of saying he cares deeply for his workers and "takes their safety to bed every night."
But his record at one Illinois mine in particular might cause some lost sleep.
Murray's Galatia mine in southern Illinois racked up at least 2,787 violations and more than $2.4 million in proposed fines from the Mine Safety and Health Administration over a two-year span, according to government records. That includes more than $1.4 million in proposed fines already this year.

In June, in a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Murray angrily defended his company's safety record when it was challenged by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
"My employees are important to me and I take their safety to bed every night," Murray said, waving his finger at Boxer. "My safety record today is one of the best in the coal industry."

How did Robert Murray, the owner of Murray Energy get away with so many violations while the government turned a blind eye? From the Saturday Gazette-Mail, a West Virginia Newspaper:

Along the way, Murray has also become a major political player. Murray Energy ranks among the coal industry’s major donors to federal candidates. Since 1996, Murray has contributed nearly $1 million, most of it to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Murray has also not hesitated to make use of those political connections.

In May 2002, two U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials were transferred after they clashed with Murray over inspections at the company's Maple Creek Mine in western Pennsylvania.

Later, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported that Murray warned MSHA officials in Morgantown that the same thing would happen to them if they didn't let up on inspections at his Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Belmont County, Ohio.

"Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and the last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss,” Murray told the MSHA officials, according to meeting notes cited by public broadcasting. McConnell, a Republican U.S. senator from Kentucky, is married to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department includes MSHA.

After that meeting with Murray, MSHA Morgantown district manager Tim Thompson was transferred.

This song came out in 198 when Number One Son wasn't even born, yet. He's now a sophmore in college, taking a semester off to intern with a political campaign. He's nineteen, and the song is twenty years old. The message still rings true. Great video, except some ass in the audience is waving a BP flag. I wonder if Little Lord Brown took a trip to Sweden with one of his rent-a-boys and attended this concert. Big Robert Murray says about his workers that he, "takes their safety to bed every night."

Really, I don't know how these people can sleep, much less live with themselves.

Midnight Oil - Beds are burning live Hultsfred -94


  1. I can only say, it comes from an Egyptian, and who would know better?

  2. Wow vagabond haven't been to egypt since 98 .....that new roundup is insane...I guess such is life along the banks of the nile...

  3. How sad is it that females are still being circumsized in Egypt?? I think I was so shocked & traumatized by your 2 pieces of news that I just couldnt concentrate on anything else you wrote..

    It is true - if you expect logic in Egypt - then you expect your intelligence to be insulted 200 times a day!!!


  4. zerocool: I'm not exactly on the banks of the Nile, but the first article sums it up pretty well for me.

    Let me add that, Number One Son says he thinks the no red lights, no stop signs, and the totally chaotic traffic, is an improvement over the gridlock of American structure. He says, "at least here, the traffic keeps moving."

  5. familiar stranger: That happens to be the second death I've heard of this summer. The other (about a month or so ago) was only about 11.

    As for the logic - things are somewhat illogical here, but it all seems to work.

  6. I too read about the female circumcision thing and was very disgusted by the peple who practise it. Stupidly enough I did not even know such a thing existed untill about a couple of years ago, someone asked me about it and if it was done all muslim girls.
    Needless to say I WAS SHOCKED and didnt believe the perwon. But apparently not only is it true, its being widely practised, in parts of the subcontinent as well.

  7. Kaya: CNN had a news item on TV about a month or so ago, about how the British authorities were looking out for Middle East / African families going to the UK in the summer, explicitly to obtain FGM surgery for their daughters. And even though they keep repeating the numbers (something like 90 percent of Egyptian women.... have had this surgery) it still sounds like an astonishing number to me.

    Unfortunately, from what I've read, even though the government has taken a stance to make it illegal and harder to obtain, and the mullahs have come out against it, it will be hard to enforce.

    I originally heard about it back in the States, when a doctor in Ohio was sued for performing the surgery on women who had not agreed to it.