Links for 12.04.09 to 12.07.09

ElBaradei on Zakaria's GPS - CNN | Check in at around 30:50 for his take on Egypt's current situation. ✪ Egypt to re-evaluate subsidies for the poor - The National Newspaper | The debate over subsidies reform in Egypt. ✪ Start the Week: 30/11/2009 | Andrew Marr interviews Eugene Rogan, author of "The Arabs". Also interviews on terrorism, etc. ✪ Cyber Jihadis' LOTR obsession | Super funny post on the use of Lord of the Rings in jihadi propaganda ✪ The Associated Press: Veil's spread fans Egypt's fear of hard-line Islam | I don't like this idea of the government backing a "moderate Islam" vs. some hardcore Islam. The government is as Islamist as anyone else. ✪ AFP: Egypt detains 10 senior Muslim Brotherhood members | 227 Brothers behind bars so far. ✪ Egypt to demand the Rosetta Stone from British Museum - Times Online | Fight to get antiquities back continues. ✪ Why U.S. Mideast Policy is (Still) Screwed Up | Stephen M. Walt | "Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community." ✪ Arms smuggling heightens fears Iran may be building arsenal | US-backed UAE crackdown on arms smuggling to Iran. Interesting story, who leaked it and why? ✪ Congress.org - News : Rising military suicides | "More U.S. military personnel have taken their own lives so far in 2009 than have been killed in either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars this year." ✪ The Generals' Revolt : Rolling Stone | Are the generals pushing Obama on AfPak because of Petraeus' presidential ambitions? ✪ Egypt’s opposition misled by fixation with Mubarak’s son - The National Newspaper | Amr Hamzawy, ✪ FT.com / UK - Muslim Brotherhood rifts widen | Habib lays out the divide for the FT. ✪ Reset - Dialogues on Civilizations | Life | Interview with Joseph Massad on his ridiculous thesis of the "invention" of homosexuality ion the Arab world by the West and the "Gay International." ✪ Iran whistleblower died from drug-laced salad - Yahoo! News | Nasty.
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Links for 11.16.09 to 11.18.09

ضغوط أمريكية لزيادة الغاز المصري لإسرائيل وخفض أسعاره - بوابة الشروق | al-Shurouk reports that US is asking Egypt to increase gas deliveries to Israel, and at cheaper price. ✪ US rebukes Israel on settlement plans - Yahoo! News | ... but will do nothing about it. ✪ Nubian fury at 'monkey' lyric of Arab pop star Haifa Wehbe | World news | The Guardian | The Haifa Wehbe / Nubian scandal. ✪ The Obama admin is selling the peace process, but the press is not buying it. | Phil Weiss has surreal transcript from State Dept. over new settlements. ✪ Readability - An Arc90 Lab Experiment | Very nice bookmarklet for reading long articles. ✪ Palestinians say they will ask UN to recognise state - Yahoo! News | Doesn't the UN already accept previous resolutions with the 1967 line? Regarding my previous comment on US senators' call for a veto, the Palestinians do appear to want to take it to UNSC, not UNGA. ✪ Le Figaro - Conjoncture : Le grand Monopoly mondial des terres agricoles | Nice chart accompanying this article on the sale of arable land to food importing nations. ✪ U.S. "would veto" Palestinian state move: Senators - Yahoo! News | I suspect recognition by the UN would take place by the General Assembly, not the Security Council, so that turncoat Lieberman can take his veto and shove it... ✪ The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: full text | openDemocracy | Report on UK Israel lobby by documentary filmmaker Peter Oborne. ✪ FT.com - Inflation rears its head again in Egypt | Mostly affecting food prices ahead of Eid. ✪ Egyptian Blogger Beaten | "During the mayhem of a major soccer match, Egyptian blogger Kareem el-Shae’r was kidnapped and beaten. El-Shae’r moderates the Free Egypt blog and is a member of Ayman Nour’s el-Ghad party and the April 6 Youth movement. For his activism, el-Shae’r has been arrested several times and beaten before. The Egyptian interior ministry refused to comment on the incident." ✪ Gaddafi hires 200 young Italian women – to convert them to Islam | And tries to convert them to Islam. ✪ Israel must end Gaza blockade, evictions, alleged abuse of Palestinian children - Ban | "Israel should end the blockade of Gaza, cease evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes, and ensure that the rights of children are respected and that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an annual report released today." ✪ Yemen Finds Dreamland of Architecture - NYTimes.com | On Yemen's traditional architecture. ✪ The Arabs by Eugene Rogan | Book review | The Guardian | Robert Irwin reviews this book, which I am currently reading.
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Links for 11.07.09 to 11.09.09

Israeli Asks Abbas Not to Step Down - NYTimes.com | What a weird headline: the Israeli in question is the president of Israel, Shimon Peres (aka Skeletor, Evil Lord of Destruction). Not that knowing this makes the whole thing any less weird, although it is telling to see how much the Israelis like Abbas.

Fatah al-Islam Connected to Israeli Elements- Lebanese Security Source Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Really: Fatah al-Islam, connected to the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Americans, the Saudis and now the Israelis. I am beginning to wonder whether it even exists.

The Dark Side of the Bright Side -- In These Times | I love Barbara Ehrenreich's books.

The Associated Press: Islamic critics blast Beyonce on eve of Egypt show | Muslim Brothers attack "nudity concert".

23 CIA Officers Convicted in Italy, in Abstentia | For extraordinary rendition of Egyptian man.

Middle East Bloggers: The Street Leads Online - Reports - Committee to Protect Journalists | CPJ report on bloggers in MENA, especially the rising use of emprisonment against them: "Individual bloggers face enormous threats; the medium as a whole faces significant challenges. Increasingly, governments are creating new laws to regulate the Internet and amending old ones to encompass online expression. Already authorities are exploiting the isolated nature of bloggers and the lack of institutional protections for online journalists. As the Iranian regime exhibited this year, governments are willing to take severe measures when they perceive a threat to their power."

Holiday sales could launch e-book readers as mass-market must-haves | If you're interested in ebooks, this is a pretty good piece on the state of the industry. Has anyone tried Kindle downloading in Egypt? Is it restricted?

Japanese contractors owed billions by Dubai firms - The National Newspaper | Dubai is a bad debtor.

Waq al-Waq: The Big Question for Saudi Arabia | Who runs Saudi Arabia's Yemen policy?

Obama's Failure in the Middle East | Stephen M. Walt | KA-POW: "I never thought I'd write the following words, but is it possible that Obama's handling of the I-P peace process might actually end up being worse than George Bush's?"

Berman’s Response to Goldstone on House Gaza War-Crimes Resolution « The Washington Independent | The assholes who run Congress reply to Goldstone.

Report: Mossad hacked Syrian computer to uncover nuke site - Haaretz - Israel News | Basic snooping software found super-classified info? Either this is not true or the Syrians are mega-stupid. But since the allegation is that Syria had a secret nuclear research facility, I'll lean towards the former - this was all bullshit from the beginning.

ATTACKERMAN » Somewhere, Khaled Meshal Is Laughing | Obama messed up doubly with Goldstone as well as backing down on settlements. What's a Palestinian leader (any of them outside Hamas) to do?

Lebanese opposition agrees to govt line-up: Hezbollah

(AFP) | Cabinet crisis over?

Clinton has 'productive meeting' with Egypt on Mideast peace process - washingtonpost.com | Hosni Mubarak loves nothing more than being made to feel important. Clinton's entire trip to Cairo is about this: "Clinton attributed the apparent softening in Egypt's position as a response to her personal diplomacy, conducted over visits to four capitals in the region over the past five days. "I thought it was a very productive meeting," she told reporters traveling with her after the news conference, adding that it "shows the value of consultation and listening and sharing ideas and hearing the other side and putting forward your views and explaining.""

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Links for 10.28.09

FT.com / Middle East - Wait goes on for Dubai’s £10bn bond | "Where is Dubai’s $10bn bond? The question has been making the rounds in Dubai business circles, as bankers and executives wonder when the emirate will bite the bullet and ask the United Arab Emirates central bank – which is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi – for the second tranche of a $20bn bail-out agreed earlier this year." ✪ FT.com / China / Economy & Trade - Qatar targets increased gas exports to China | China hydrocarbons imports from ME increase. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Standing Up To Garbage | Interesting story about garbage collection problem, reveals govt. spending very little, military stepping in with recycling. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Promotes Gamal Mubarak On Facebook | Facebook users paid LE1500 to promote Gamal. ✪ Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections | Marc Lynch | Makes some good points about elections in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian ones in particular. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - The “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab World | Argues MB arrests only reinforce ideological core of the group and increases its popularity, allowing them to spread their intolerant populist message rather than engage in genuine politics. ✪ Arab winds of change | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Whitaker provides a short take on his new book, which I will be reviewing shortly: the Arab malaise is not just the regimes, but also the people. ✪ The disabled Palestinian standup helping refugees find their funny side | Stage | The Guardian | Very nice story on Palestinian disabled standupcomics: "I am officially the most oppressed person in the world," Maysoon Zayid recently told an audience in California. "I'm a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy." ✪ Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water | Amnesty International | Amnesty's report on Israel cutting off water to Gaza. ✪ Envisioning an alternative Egypt, post-Mubarak - Haaretz - Israel News | Zvi Barel on Heikal and succession. ✪ bt - Waiting for a Trickle | "The boom, spurred by private and foreign direct investment, has paid off primarily for the country’s richest, according to the new report by the General Authority for Investment (GAFI)." ✪ The Race for Iran | New blog about the geostrategy of Iran, contributors include Flynt and Hillary Everett. ✪ Gaza water supply at 'crisis point' | "Amnesty International says Israeli policies and practices are denying Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip their fair share of the region's scarce water supplies" ✪ Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros: Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic? - WSJ.com | WTF is the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth? This argument is stupid, you take the liberals you have, not those you wish you had. And how do these people get into the WSJ op-ed page? ✪ Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - NYTimes.com | No wonder Matthew Hoh resigned: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials."
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Links for 09.17.09 to 09.19.09

A few day's worth...

Orientalism’s Wake: The Ongoing Politics of a Polemic | Very nice collection of essays on Edward Said's "Orientalism" from a variety of supporters, critics, academics including Daniel Varisco, Robert Irwin, Roger Owen, etc.
The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct | I have not read in detail this small book by a US Air Force analyst, but scanning through it I see rather odd choices. For instance there are long chapters comparing Christianity and modern secularism to the Islamist outlook, except that it's never quite clear whether the latter means the outlook of engaged Islamist activists or ordinary Muslims. There is also copious quoting from Sayyid Qutb's "Milestones" as if it was representative of all Islamic thinking. Someone should give this a detailed look (and I'd be happy to post the result.) [PDF]
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | A clean break | On Cairo's garbage collection crisis.
Irving Kristol, Godfather of Conservatism, Dies - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com | Leaving behind a disastrous intellectual, social, economic and political legacy: alleged liberalism on social issues that shirks from real change, supply-side economics, and of course an imperial war doctrine.
Are Morocco And Algeria Gearing Up For Arms Race? « A Moroccan About the world around him
Big mouth - The National Newspaper | Bernard Heykal on how the strength of al-Qaeda is impossible. Which makes sense, at least if you try to do it from the Bin Laden tapes as all the silly pseudo-analysis of last week showed.
Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website | Very much like the new look of the Muslim Brothers' English website, which I hadn't checked in a while. They have a very useful "today's news" feature that can also be used for archives by date.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Economy | Depleting Egypt's reserves | A good article with details on the Egypt-Israel gas deal and why it may be a bad idea in terms of resource management, never mind political and financial sense.
Al-Qaradawi's Fatwa Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The alleged liberal paid by intolerant Islamists in Riyadh attacks the alleged moderate Islamist paid by Doha:

A news item reported in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper revealed that Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had issued a fatwa prohibiting Iraqis from acquiring US citizenship on the grounds that this is the nationality of an occupier nation. However this fatwa has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and contains more political absurdity then it does religious guidance. Sheikh al-Qaradawi himself is an Egyptian who possesses Qatari nationality, which was given to him after he opposed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. However when an Israeli office was opened in Doha, al-Qaradawi did not renounce his Qatari nationality.

Freed Iraqi shoe thrower tells of torture in jail | World news | guardian.co.uk

| "His brother Uday told Reuters: "Thanks be to God that Muntazer has seen the light of day. I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al-Zaidi on every page.""
BAE to axe 1,100 jobs and close site | Business | guardian.co.uk | So Tony Blair quashed the Yamama inquiry to save jobs (or so he says) but BAe still carries out layoffs?
Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman slam Toronto Film Festival protest - Haaretz - Israel News| Some stars come to Israel's side in the tiff over TIFF.
GDC | Economist Conferences| Economist infographic shows public debt around the world.
FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Investors seek to revive faded glory of Cairo | On investment in Downtown Cairo properties and plans for gentrification. Look out for another article on this soon.
No concrete proof that Iran has or has had nuclear programme – UN atomic watchdog | Just a reminder that the press reports have spinned things wrongly - this comes straight from the UN: "17 September 2009 – Refuting a recent media report, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today reiterated that the body has no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons programme."
Egypt Islamic Authority Says Women Can Wear Trousers - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - FOXNews.com | The world is going to hell -- what next, capris?
BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Many killed' in Yemen air raid | Serious turn in Yemen's trouble -- bombing a refugee camp!?


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Links for 07.13.09 to 07.14.09

Ould Abdel Aziz & the Jews « The Moor Next Door | On Mauritania's junta leader campaign against the Israeli embassy. TRANSCRIPT: Obama says Africa Command Focused on Partnership to Address Common Challenges | Obama's Ghana speech; bits on AFRICOM highlighted. From the official site. Conflicts Forum » Tehran troubles | Alastair Crooke, has an article which offers analysis of the recent events in Iran but is dead wrong on the 'Western media' not understanding Moussavi was a regime-approved candidate. He also only seems to quote Khameini backers and their foreign allies. His stuff on inter-regime rivalry is interesting but really do we need to go on about the "myth of a color revolution" (few bought it) or entirely dismiss the protest movement as simply North Tehran? Disappointing. Arab Reform Bulletin - Whither Economic Reform? | I wanted to post properly about this piece on economic reform in Egypt, but in the meantime will just link. Post tomorrow, inchallah... A Technocrat Steadily Gains Influence in West Bank, but Questions Remain - washingtonpost.com | About Salam Fayyad. Times reporter recounts life in Iran prison - Washington Times | Iason Athanasiadis recounts his ordeal in Iran.
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Links for 07.09.09 to 07.12.09

Arab Reform Bulletin - Snapshot of the Economic Crisis | Intissar Fakir provides an overview of the state of economics in the Arab world in this special issue of ARB on the global economic crisis. The Crisis of Arab Masculinities « the long slumber | Interesting post from a cool blog I didn't know. Arab Reform Bulletin - The Current Crisis and Lessons of the 1980s | Steffen Hertog on how GCC countries learned from their 1980s recession and are handling the current crisis more easily. Dar Al Hayat - Ayoon Wa Azan (The Dreams of the American Empire are Over) | Jihad al-Khazen: "Iran is not a threat to the United States (and nor do I find it to be a threat to Israel). As such, any American who calls to launch a military attack on Iran and destroy Iranian nuclear plants is an Israeli-aligned Likudnik, who is betraying his country to the extent that he would sacrifice young American lives for the sake of a country run by fascists." Let's Welcome the Muslim Brotherhood! Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Interesting article discusses information revealed from raids on MB offices, notably on discussion on strategy, debate on whether to have a satellite TV station, and more. The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary | TIP's guide to pro-Israel advocacy. Contains gems like "Americans want a team to cheer for. Let the public know GOOD things about Israel" and "freezing settlements is ethnic cleansing". TelQuel : ENQUÊTE. Pourquoi et comment Hassan II a islamisé la société | "Why and how Hassan II Islamized society" - secular Moroccan mag looks at state policies of Islamization.
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Links for 06.29.09 to 06.30.09

The Great American Bubble Machine | The great, indispensable Matt Taibbi on the US economy:
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled-dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.
AFP: Morocco dismantles militant group: security official | Spanish-Moroccans jihadists arrested, possibly in touch with AQIM. Death penalty debate rages as hundreds await gallows - The National Newspaper |
CAIRO // June has been dubbed “the month of executions” and 2009 “the year of mass executions” by Egyptian newspapers and analysts amid debate about abolishing capital punishment. More than 200 death sentences have been handed down since the beginning of the year, including 68 in June alone, according to official sources at the justice ministry. There are usually about 80 people executed each year.
Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, The Weeks of Living Dangerously | The Smirking Chimp | Very interesting look at student demographics in Iran, and what some of the key issues of the elections were for young people. Informed Comment: Moaddel Guest Op-Ed: Iran’s Crisis and the U.S. Option: Support Mousavi now or fight Ahmadinejad tomorrow | It arlams me to see Juan Cole hosting an op-ed such as this one, basically calling for a US-Iran war...
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Ethnic Ashkenazim Against Zionist Israel: Forbes: Zionist Ethnonational Financial Warfare

Ethnic Ashkenazim Against Zionist Israel: Forbes: Zionist Ethnonational Financial Warfare
FTA or yet another aid package:
Fact: Since 1985 US trade with Israel shifted from a surplus to a cumulative $71 billion deficit (adjusted for inflation). The $7.8 billion US deficit with Israel in 2008 equals 126,000 US manufacturing related jobs. UIFTA is the only bilateral pact producing multi-billion dollar losses to the US every year over the last decade.
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Syria Looks to Iraq for an Economic Boost - WSJ.com

Syria Looks to Iraq for an Economic Boost - WSJ.com
Interesting that these former sworn enemies, now sharing the same strategic ally (Iran), are now co-dependent: Syrian Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Hosni Lutfi said during a recent trip to Iraq that he hopes to more than triple bilateral trade, now estimated at $800 million, far behind Syria's biggest trade partners, China and Turkey, at $2 billion each. Syrian officials also have said that a railway line from the coastal city of Tartous to Umm Qasr port in southern Iraq is opening this month. The railway promises a faster and cheaper route to the Mediterranean for regional goods typically shipped through the Suez Canal.
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IMF: Midde Eastern economies are buffering global shock

From the Transcript of a Press Conference on the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook, a bit on the outlook for the Middle East:
"QUESTION: We talked almost about all the world's economy. We did not talk about the Middle East. So what's the outlook for the Middle East? And what do you expect them--what kind of role you're expecting for them to play? And if you have time, also I would like to talk about the Lebanese example, because I think if not the only country, like one of the fewest country that was not--they were not affected by the financial crisis. So Mr. Blanchard or anyone. Thank you. MR. DECRESSIN: Yes, we see growth in the Middle East slowing from around 6 percent in 2008 to 2.5 percent in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010. So, this is a much better scenario than the one that we have for the euro area or the U.S., for example. So what's happening in the Middle East? You have first the oil price decline which is affecting the economies; and, second, the general decline in global trade. And then for some countries in the Middle East, also the financial crisis. There are some instabilities in some banking systems. Now, the governments have, in our view, reacted very forcefully. They had large fiscal surpluses during the oil price boom in 2008 and 2007 and so they've built up large asset positions. And what they are now doing is they are basically running large deficits to support the economies. And in that sense, they will soften the decline that is going to happen to non-oil activity, and we think that this is very important. Saudi Arabia, I think, among the G-20 is the country that gives the largest fiscal stimulus, and rightfully so. At the same time, countries have also pulled all the stops with respect to monetary easing that they can pull, lowering reserve requirements, for example, and so forth. They have also injected liquidity in their banking systems. Countries have put money on the table for recapitalization. So on the whole, it's a pretty strong policy response, and I think this validates our forecast of a decline in the growth rate, but still positive growth of around 2.5 percent this year. Now, as to Lebanon, Lebanon has been a financial center, and our reading is at least that the country will be quite heavily affected. They've had growth of around 8.5 percent in 2008, and they're going down to 3 percent. So they've been growing a little more than the average in the Middle East in 2008, and they are falling down to approximately the same level as theaverage in terms of growth rates. And there the financial sector is playing a big role as well because it's a big part of the economy, and with generally lower activity everywhere in the Middle East, that will also reduce the financial flows from other Middle Eastern countries to Lebanon, and it will reduce the profitability of the banking sector."
Since Lebanon is kept afloat by financial flows from elsewhere in the region and beyond, one should keep in mind how this will affect the political climate post-elections. When the pie shrinks, there's more fighting for a slice... Note that in chapter two of the IMF's report on the global crisis, there is a section called "Middle Eastern Economies Are Buffering Global Shocks". So basically Middle Eastern countries, esp. oil producers, are providing relief for the advanced economies of Europe and North America whose financial irresponsibility caused this crisis. And many of these countries, even when they have a lot of petrodollars, are poor. (Not to mention whatever kind of pressure is being put on major OPEC producers to keep oil prices low during the recession, beyond falling demand.)
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Abu Dhabi's investment in manufacturing

Interesting take in the FT on Abu Dhabi’s goals in investing in major manufacturing companies:
"But what makes Abu Dhabi unlike not just its sister and competitor emirates but pretty much everywhere in the Arab world is its peculiar devotion to manufacturing. Much of its oil wealth is being used to start industries from scratch: in cars and aerospace, components and chips. As well as Daimler, it has invested in companies such as GE, Rolls-Royce, EADS and Advanced Micro Devices. This may look quixotic, yet invariably these stakes come with local training and manufacturing commitments. Along with reform of local education, the goal is to use manufacturing to create skills and a culture of innovation – much more than to establish new branches of old industries. This at least tries to offer an alternative to the usual model in the Gulf – where the public sector employs the bulk of nationals – or the trading company model common in most other Arab countries. Some 40 years ago, the Syrian philosopher Sadek al-Azm wrote a famous critique of the mind-set underlying serial Arab defeats. Arabs, he said, have become removed from the social and economic processes that make innovation and scientific breakthroughs possible. Abu Dhabi, it seems, wants to create, not just consume."
If you have the cash and a taste for risk, this is a great time to mop up depressed stocks in companies that are fundamentally sound or have a great body of unique know-how. I'm still curious to see exactly how Abu Dhabi is convincing these companies to set up manufacturing centers in the emirates, and whether that makes sense (in trade logistics terms, it just might...)
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Egyptian anti-smoking warning labels

Egyptian health officials have been gearing up for anti-smoking campaign for a few months, and a few weeks ago new warning labels appeared on the humble Masri pack of Cleopatras and other local and international brands. It's a big marketing shift in a country of permanent smokers where the state-owned monopoly cigarette manufacturer, Oriental Tobacco, has never had to deal with any real pressure on public health issues and the price of cigarettes is almost as politically strategic as the price of baladi bread, and where illnesses that can be caused or exarcebated by smoking, such as heart disease, are a major cause of deaths. The AP has a story out on the new labels, and the gory labels themselves are after the jump.
CAIRO, Egypt - Offering a cigarette is as common as a handshake in Egypt, where the culture of smoking is so entrenched that patients and friends sometimes light up in hospital rooms. But now, the government is finally getting serious about the health risks, launching a new campaign of stark visual warnings about tobacco's dangers. Starting Aug. 1, cigarette labels in Egypt will be required to carry images of the effects of smoking: a dying man in an oxygen mask, a coughing child, and a limp cigarette symbolizing impotence. It's a major step in Egypt's fledgling anti-smoking campaign and a dramatic change in a country where public discussion of smoking's health risks is nearly nonexistent. . . . For the new label requirements, authorities field-tested a variety of images. They found that warnings linking tobacco with death were not particularly effective with Egyptians, since dying is perceived as inevitable anyway. Also, images of diseased lungs left people confused about what was being shown. Instead, the new warnings focus on threats to health and, particularly, to family, like the effect on children and pregnant women and the risk of impotence. Numerous studies, including a 2003 report by Tulane University researchers, have found that smoking can be a major cause of erectile disfunction, in part because it constricts veins and arteries, reducing blood flow. "We need something to give the smokers a shock that they are in great danger," said Dr. Mohammed Mehrez, head of the tobacco control department. There are many myths to overcome. Some Egyptians are convinced only light cigarettes lead to impotence. Earlier this year, the state-owned manufacturer Eastern Tobacco Company voluntarily put pictures of diseased lungs on some packs — but smokers just figured those packs were the ones that were harmful and switched to others, which some shopowners promptly started selling at a higher price. [From Egypt's new tools in war on smoking: Stark warnings on impotence, disease]
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There is no bread crisis!

For those who might be interested, I just did a story on the (continuing) bread crisis for the radio program The World. In my visits to Cairo bakeries last week, I was amused and a bit disconcerted to see to what extent the bread shortage has already become a "sensitive" issue--one that gets enfolded, as usual, with all sorts of paranoid nationalist discourse. At both bakeries I stopped at, men emerged immediately from the crowd to harangue me and tell everybody else, basically, to keep their mouth shut and not tell foreigners about the country's problems. One man held on at length (and high volume) about how the bread crisis was a Western conspiracy against Egypt and about how Egypt in fact had everything it needed, so much so that it hosted people from all over the Arab world. At the second bakery, a young man assured me "there is no bread crisis, and in fact there never was a bread crisis to begin with." The people around him pointed out that he was with the President's National Democratic Party and laughed while he insisted that "there is bread everywhere." In general, the people I spoke to showed a combination of anger, suspicion of me as a foreign journalist (not unusual) and embarrassment--I'd guess that people are a bit shocked to discover themselves a country where people kill each other for a few loaves of bread. It shows how desperate things have become. And it explains the denial.
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Boomtime for knights in Lebanon

The Lebanese authorities, like every country, issue out statistics on various economic indicators. Below is the chart that shows the number of employment permits issued for various professions between 2003 and 2005. Click to get a bigger image and look at under "specialized professions," where there is a category for "knight." A holdover from the Crusades?

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