Links for 10.14.09 to 10.18.09

Is Obama giving up on democracy in Iran? | Because Haaretz really, really cares. ✪ 'Delegitimization of Israel must be delegitimized' | Great pic on this FLC post. ✪ Al Jazeera English - Focus - Leadership 'let down' Palestinians | As`ad AbuKhalil. ✪ ANALYSIS / U.S. using Goldstone report to punish Netanyahu - Haaretz - Israel News | Ridiculous argument. ✪ Egypt: 29 years between a president and his heir | Bikya Masr | Ayman Nour on Mubarak's Egypt. ✪ Nationalism in the Gulf State | A LSE paper on GCC nationalism by Neil Partrick. ✪ In Morocco, editor imprisoned, court shutters paper - Committee to Protect Journalists | al-Michaal newspaper closed over articles on king's health. Also rumors of closing down of Le Journal, TBC. ✪ ei: EI exclusive video: Protesters shout down Ehud Olmert in Chicago | "The demonstration was mobilized last week after organizers learned of the lecture, paid for by a grant provided by Jordan's King Abdullah II." ✪ FT.com / UK - Storm over Egypt's Israeli links | On the Hala Mustafa / normalization debate. ✪ Citing Work Of Right-Wing Intern Spy, GOP Accuses Muslim Group Of Infiltrating Hill With Intern 'Spies' | TPMMuckraker | "Four House Republicans are charging that the Council on American Islamic Relations is infiltrating Capitol Hill with undercover interns, and they're basing the charge on a WND-published book that itself is based on the work of a man who posed as a Muslim to infiltrate CAIR as ... an intern!" ✪ Confessions of an AIPAC Veteran | Helena Cobban profiles Israel operative Tom Dine. ✪ Brian Whitaker's blog | The son also rises | Seif Qadhafi gets put in charge of, well, almost everything. ✪ First Egyptian School Closes For Swine Flu - Daily News | Mere de Dieu girls' school -- a stone's throw from Arabist HQ -- closed. ✪ U.S. Iran plan is a bunker-busting bomb - thestar.com | That's not very nice.
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Was killing all the pigs as stupid as it seemed?

cairopigs.png Picture from Ryan Luikens on Flickr This summer, the government killed all the pigs and we all made fun of it. Now the streets are awash with garbage in part (but not only) because the pigs are no longer eating it, and we still don't know what the longer-term impact on the zabaleen community is going to be. Michael Slackmann made this point beautifully in a recent article, with the wonderfully laconic headline Belatedly, Egypt Spots Flaws in Wiping Out Pigs. Best part:
When the government killed all the pigs in Egypt this spring — in what public health experts said was a misguided attempt to combat swine flu — it was warned the city would be overwhelmed with trash. The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba. Ramadan Hediya, 35, who makes deliveries for a supermarket, lives in Madinat el Salam, a low-income community on the outskirts of Cairo. “The whole area is trash,” Mr. Hediya said. “All the pathways are full of trash. When you open up your window to breathe, you find garbage heaps on the ground.” What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation. It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences and where follow-up is often nonexistent, according to social commentators and government officials.
In the meantime, the government is now declaring a war on education (well perhaps it won that one a while back) and has postponed primary and secondary school until early October, leaving millions of parents with kids on their hands, and millions of kids who don't know what to do with themselves. For many of them it may seriously impact the all-important end-of-year exam (esp. for students taking the thannawiya amma), and again it's not clear whether there is a compelling reason to stop school. Although both of these decisions seem ridiculous to me and many others, I'm not an epidemiologist. As political decisions, I analyze them as part stemming from the politician's universal need to be seem to be doing something, even when nothing can be done, and in part from this regime's top-down, no questions asked, decision-making patterns. But New Scientist asked a qualified person to look into the matter and things are more ambiguous:
When swine flu started spreading globally last spring, the Egyptian government decided to slaughter all the Copts' pigs, tens of thousands of them. This made little epidemiological sense: the pandemic virus originated in pigs, but by then it was already a disease you get from people, not pigs. Just an excuse for someone to curry electoral favour by Copt-bashing, some concluded. Verdict: killing pigs bad. But then, maybe getting pigs out of Egypt wasn't such a bad idea. If the H1N1 swine flu virus hybridises with the H5N1 bird flu virus, it could spawn one that spreads like swine flu and kills like bird flu - not a nice thought. Egypt has plenty of H5N1 in birds and a steady trickle of cases in people, including several at the time of the pig slaughter: in total 27 Egyptians have died of it. There has already been a false alarm about swine and bird flu co-infection in Egyptians. The two may also co-infect pigs and hybridise there. There is H5N1 bird flu in Chinese and Indonesian pigs, and lots in Egyptian chickens, so it seems unlikely that the Copts' scavenging, urban swine would be free of it. H5N1 has shown little inclination to hybridise with human flu in pigs so far, but the pandemic swine flu virus, which seems right at home in pigs, may be less picky. Verdict: killing pigs good. Or maybe not. The Copts' pigs were the main system for getting rid of food waste in Egypt's crowded, chaotic cities. Now it is piling up and rotting. And with Egypt keeping schools closed until October to delay the pandemic, there are even more kids than usual playing in the stuff. Pandemic or no pandemic, this cannot be a good thing disease-wise. Verdict: who can tell by this point?
That conclusion would reinforce my initial impression: might as well done more scaled-back, sensible measures (like handing out mouth masks to kids or trash workers) than these massive steps with many unforeseen consequences.
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Links for 09.10.09 to 09.11.09

Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Made to measure | Interesting Amira Howeidy article on Egyptian television, notably Naguib Sawiris' face-off with Ibrahim Eissa on the former's new TV show! ✪ Khaleej Times Online - Egypt school start delayed week in swine flu fear | While swine flu infections are spreading, this decision may be as much as leaving school until after Ramadan than a medical threat, IMHO. ✪ Reuters AlertNet - Egypt: Stop Killing Migrants in Sinai | HRW Statement on shootings at the border with Israel, referencing recent al-Masri al-Youm article with killer quotes on issue. ✪ Democracy, Tunisian style | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Brian Whitaker engages in my favorite sport, Tunisia-bashing, pointing that Tunisia's much-vaunted stability comes at the price of a presidency for life. ✪ Dennis Ross, Bill Burns, Berman talk Iran with Jewish leaders conference (UPDATED) - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | For big push on Iran sanctions (and more?) by Jewish-American orgs. ✪ Last gasp for global Islam « Prospect Magazine | Review of a "woe-is-us" book by former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi on Islam. ✪ aktub | Free Arabic typing tutor.
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This page cannot be displayed, you naughty boy.

This page cannot be displayed, you naughty boy.
Sarah Carr: "As part of its long-term campaign against common sense swine flu, the government has put up US Aid funded posters inside metro underground trains, advising passengers on what measures to take to avoid contamination. One of the suggestions, after household members' temperature monitoring is, “avoid crowded areas”. I wondered if they're taking the piss." There's more and a funny picture as a bonus.
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Shaabula on the Swine Flu

[flv:shaaban-swineflu2.flv 470 360] At last some useful content from MEMRI - they have a clip of Shaaban Abdel Rahim's song on the swine flu. My favorite line: In every port and airport, we need to write in large letters: You're not allowed to enter Egypt and bring a pig with you. Rather funny that MEMRI went with a headline about how Shaabula would kill his dogs if he was offered compensation - which is what he says at the end of the interview. Here's the song extracted from the video, in MP3 format - download [1.4MB].
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Pig fever

pigs.jpgA list of links on Egypt's ridiculous war on swine. There is a very interesting aspect to this story, highlighted below in in the second-to-last link and in the Egyptian Chronicles post, that this is being grabbed by the government as an opportunity to clean up the urban pig farms around Cairo (used by the zabaleen), such as the one you smell on the 26th July corridor as you exit Mohandiseen. It is fair enough to want to clear these insalubrious areas, but with what compensation for those who will lose their livelihoods? And who will get the extremely valuable land?
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