Election Polls

Here's a roundup of a few internet polls on the Egyptian presidential elections: Shebab Misr (2264 responses): Ayman Nour -63%; Hosni Mubarak - 21%; Nomaan Gomaa - 12% Egyptian Referendum (1591 responses): Hosni Mubarak - 39.66%; Ayman Nour - 28.16%; Nomaan Gomaa - 15.78%; Boycotting - 10.56% From Al Waai Al Misri (2706 responses): Ayman Nour - 31%; Hosni Mubarak - 11%; Nomaan Gomaa - 11%; Boycotting - 37% The Coptic run Watani Newspaper (233 responses): Hosni Mubarak - 45%; Ayman Nour - 34%; Nomaan Goma - 17% Al Jazeera Poll (32,197 responses): Do you think the candidates in the Egyptian presidential elections have an equal chance in the election campaigns? Yes - 6.9%; No - 93.1% I'm not exaclty sure what conclusions you can draw from these most unscientific samples. They seem to confirm that the race is indeed between Ayman Nour and Hosni Mubarak, and that the Wafd's Nomaan Gomaa is a distant third. That being said, most people expect Nomaan Gomaa to place second in the elections after all is said and done, simply because the government won't want Ayman Nour to be the alternative to Mubarak. The polls above in which Nour is beating Mubarak, Al Waai Al Masry and Shebab Misr, are opposition Web sites, and one would expect that most of the people who read them would be inclined to oppose Mubarak. I don't know much about the Egyptian Referendum Web site, but at first glance it appears to be fairly non-partisan. Though the Watani poll includes a small sample, the strong showing for Mubarak in it is perhaps a reflection of the Pope's pro-Mubarak stance.
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Campaign promises

Mubarak's campaign promises in his campaign kickoff event last night at Al Azhar Park: -Constitutional amendments that enshrine the liberites of the citizen, reinvigorate political parties, develop the institutional framework of our policies and the decision making process, and place restrictions on executive authority. -Amendments to enhance parliament’s oversight, allowing it to hold the government accountable, empowering it to be involved in the budget process. -Reforms to guarantee fair representation of women in parliament. -Adopting an electoral system that guarantees the greatest chance for multi-party representation. -Revising the Judicial Authority Law to reinforce the judiciary’s independence. -Decentralize decision making, giving more authority to local government. -Legislation to guarantee all citizens the right to basic due process and a fair and speedy trial. -An anti-terror law to replace the emergency law. -Revise system of administrative detention to reinforce the rule of law. -Legislation that will guarantee citizens’ rights to the free flow of information. -Further enhance the performance of public newspapers. -Create over 4 million job opportunities in the next six years, through the largest investment program Egypt has ever witnessed. -Increase availability of micro financing. -Empower private sector to build 1000 factories in the next six years, and to provide 250,000 job opportunities. -Reclaim one million feddans of desert land, thus providing an additional 70,000 jobs. -Increase hotel capacity, creating an additional 200,000 jobs. -Extend health insurance coverage to every citizen. -3,500 new schools over next six years. -80,000 government subsidized new homes per year. -Provide squatter settlements water, electricity, sewage, and access to schools. -Establish private mass transportation companies to develop road networks in Upper and Lower Egypt. -Ease traffic in the capital by completing third metro line. -Raise wage of low-income civil servants by 100%. -Increase remaining civil servants’ wages by 75%. -Guaranteed job contracts, health insurance, and social security to those working in the informal sector. -Raise pensions. -Child care for working mothers.
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Confronting political apathy

An interesting new movement launched last night called Shayfeenkum-- We're watching you. The movement's 12 founders, and reported 250 members to date, will provide an avenue for citizens to report any human rights violations, electoral mishaps, and other problems to the media and government ministries. Anybody can file a complaint through the groups slick Web site. Visitors to the Web site can write an account of what they witnessed, and then click off the boxes of those government ministries and Egyptian newspapers that they want their report sent to. It's being billed as an attempt to reinvigorate Egyptians' interest in politics, and an attempt to counter the lack of credible election monitors in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Egyptians much lamented political apathy was the focus of a series of studies reported in the Nasserist party weekly Al Arabi this week. Of the 5100 Egyptian youth polled in one of the studies, only 12% belonged to a political party. A Ministry of Youth poll reported that 57% of youth don't follow politics. While youth apathy is a problem in nearly every country, the most telling and I should think worrisome statistic came from a study by the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. It claimed that 92% of youth are afraid of getting involved in politics. The same study reported that 92% see no point in political participation. 80% don't know the meaning of a political party.
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Campaign kick off review

So Egypt’s presidential campaign officially begins today. The three candidates that people will be watching, Ayman Nour from Hizb al Ghad, Nomaan Gomaa from the Wafd, and of course Mubarak, are each holding kickoff press conferences today. Mubarak will deliver a live television address on Dream TV tonight at 8 pm. Dream, by the way, ran two page ads for the speech in some of today’s newspapers. I opened up Al Misry Al Yom today and was thrown for an instant when I saw a huge full page picture of Mubarak. Had my favorite newspaper sold out? No, it was the Dream TV ad. Ayman Nour has gone to the Muslim Brotherhood seeking their endorsement of his candidacy. It seems unlikely that he’s going to get it. Rumors are swirling that the Brotherhood will support Mubarak. Nahdat Misr earlier this week did a full page spread on the opposition’s secret deals with the regime. Though it was largely speculative, the article concluded that the Brotherhood was most guilty of concluding such pacts with the regime, followed by the Tegammu Party and the Wafd. The Wafd’s Nomaan Gomaa has agreed to run in the elections, perhaps to spite Ayman Nour, but also presumably in exchange for a better showing in the upcoming parliament. Baheyya has some keen insight on why Gomaa's candidacy is a boon to Mubarak. Talk of Brotherhood collusion with the regime has been circulating for a while now. Remember the fateful demonstration in front of the lawyers syndicate on July 20, when the Brotherhood got upset about the left’s anti-regime chants. See Issandr's sage analysis for more. The Brotherhood, rumors have it, has agreed to support Mubarak. In exchange, the government would stop harassing and arresting its members, and would reconsider legalizing the party, in addition to allowing the Brotherhood to win 50 seats in the coming parliamentary elections. Or so Nahdat Misr is claiming. Brotherhood activist, Ali Abd al Fatah, responded to the rumors on Nahdat Misr’s op-ed pages:
I can say that the Brotherhood will not ally itself with the regime against the people. Because the Brotherhood’s success depends on the people’s support for them in the syndicates and protests. So the Brotherhood will not become part of the regime by forming an alliance with it, and they will not neglect the feelings of the people which reject the continuation of the deteriorating political and economic situation, and they will not abandon the national consensus, because they are patriots and patriotism is a part of [Islamic] faith.
The Brotherhood’s opponents would like nothing more than to see "Egypt's most popular opposition force" side with Mubarak, thus stripping the organization of credibility, but it doesn’t seem likely. More sober analysts seem to think the Brotherhood will boycott the presidential elections all together. But one has to wonder why they are holding out on publicizing their intentions. Ayman Nour’s decision to appeal to the Brotherhood for support has been portrayed by Al Misry Al Yom as a response to Pope Shenouda’s announcement of support for Mubarak in the name of all Copts. Shenouda’s pledge of loyalty prompted one Coptic priest to break ranks and join forces with the Ghad Party, for which he was suspended from the church for six weeks. Police reportedly intervened earlier this week to break up a demonstration by Coptic youth protesting the suspension outside a church in Giza. Magdy Mihana writes in Al Misry Al Yom:
With what right do religious men have the right to advise the people on their national and political choices?... Church leaders’ decision to turn to the media represents a violation of the tenets of the Christian religion… We find ourselves confronting something positive because it exposes the hypocritical face of the church, because, while the great church leaders are content to partake in political activities, they order the suspension of a church priest when he practices his right as a citizen to support the position of one of the opposition parties.
A new daily paper has hit Egyptian newsstands. Roz al Yussuf, the liberal government weekly that once represented the pinnacle of Egyptian journalism, but has since become little more than government propagandist drivel, began publishing a daily newspaper this week. In their first issue last Moday they attacked Kefaya, accusing it of having foreigners among its rolls. The accusation was based on the fact that foreigners are involved with the Socialist Studies Center, whose leader, Kamal Khalil, is a member of Kifaya. Kifaya promptly responded on its Web site. And the Roz al Yussuf daily responded with a second front page article in today’s paper, accusing Kifaya of lying, and claiming it had the tapes to prove it.
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No Comment

I've spent my day immersed in the Arab blogosphere. A lot of good reading out there. Here one gem I came across, pretty much the funniest thing I've ever read. I got it from the Dubai blogger Secret Dubai Diary, who by the way was temporarily shut down recently for publishing a Gilbert & Sullivan spoof critical of the UAE government. From the Khaleej Times:
The Dubai General prosecution is investigating a case filed by a UAE national businessman, Rashid M, against his wife who he accuses of adultery. The wife in turn has filed a counter claim against the husband accusing him of adultery.
The wife had travelled to visit her family outside Dubai and spent two days with them. When she returned to her villa in the Al Yanabee area in Dubai she heard voices in her bedroom; she opened the door and was shocked to see her husband making love to his Moroccan secretary. She did not take any action as the Moroccan woman ran away and her husband put on his clothes. Instead she called her Pakistani driver to her bedroom and asked him to strip and forced him to make love to her. In the middle of the session she called her husband to come up to the bedroom.
The husband was ostensibly reviled and physically assaulted the wife and attempted to kill the driver who fled from the scene. Now both husband and wife have filed complaints against each other and asked the general prosecution to prove who has been wronged.
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Egypt and Algeria at odds

It appears the Algerians aren't too happy about what they see as Mubarak's latest political stunt, the Egyptian leader's call for an Arab Summit in Sharm al Sheikh to show solidarity against terrorism. The Khaleej Times reports:
A high-level Algerian source said his country was not keen on attending the summit, adding that Algeria was upset on the way the summit was hurriedly organised. He pointed out that the summit was for ‘local consumption’ and seeks to serve the Egyptian agenda as the presidential election in that country gets closer. The source, who requested anonymity, said Algeria would not accept to be summoned to an Arab summit just to serve the local election campaign of an Arab country.
At a time when Mubarak's greatest achievement, seven years of terror free stability, is under fire, the Sharm al Sheikh summit is sure to generate lots of media attention, focusing on Mubarak as a bold leader leading the region against terrorism. And hosting the summit in Sharm al Sheikh, in addition to sending the message that Sharm is bouncing back, will provide a much needed boost to the resort's economy, which will also benefit Mubarak politically. So no doubt there is political capital to be gained domestically here. Sort of like Bush's landing on the aircraft carrier, or his speech before both houses of congress after 9/11. Then again, Arab leaders have been coming under fire, rightly so in many cases, for not taking a strong enough stand against Islamic extremism. It seems that anti-terror summits such as those planned for Sharm shouldn't be discouraged, especially by Algeria, which has its own distinguished history of Islamic militancy. And if this is true, are we to understand that Bouteflika is against the reelection of Mubarak?
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Cairo Magazine banned again

The 20th issue of Cairo Magazine has been banned by Egyptian censors. It is the third issue to be banned in the magazine's short history. Censors said that the offending passage came in the article about last Saturday's demonstrations titled "Anti-Mubarak protesters violently beaten by police." The offending line was this quote from one demonstrator:
"Down with the rule of the dog Mubarak."
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What is Binladenism?

The latest issue of the New York Review of Books has a thoughtful review of recent books on Jihad and Binladenism by Max Rodenbeck. Some of the discussion draws a comparison between decontextualised calls for Jihad and the aimless anger of anarchist groups operating in Europe in the 1970s (such as the Red Brigade). Olivier Roy suggests that, despite the Islamic discourse adopted by bin Laden and others, their method and position is peculiarly western:
"The real genesis of Al Qaeda violence has more to do with a Western tradition of individual and pessimistic revolt for an elusive ideal world than with the Koranic conception of martyrdom".
This seems to me to be a more useful approach to modern violence of this kind than recent attempts to identify the harmful ideology behind the attacks in London or Sharm el-Sheikh. In the UK, a lot of attention has recently been paid to the fiery clerics operating in Britain who are thought to have inspired the London bombers. This is relevant and useful, but at the end of the day, the violence is carried out not by those clerics, but by their hearers. Comparisons with 1970s anarchists, or even with their 19th century forebears in Russia, suggests that it is nihilism in search of the cause that is the constant in the most savage acts of this kind. Looking at Binladenism, it seems that nihilism is the essence and the pursuit of a caliphate is the accidence. Which leads to the conclusion that defeating the ideology of Binladenism will bring only temporary respite from acts like 9/11 and the London bombings. (Incidentally, the New York Review of Books publishes some excellent articles on the Middle East, many of which are free on the website. This issue has an illuminating essay on the Ahmadinejad phenomenon in Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue, and a somewhat alarmist look at rising Iranian influence in Iraq by Peter Galbraith. Last month had an essay on the PA and Hamas by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha).
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HRW Press Release re Saturday's protest violence

Below is Human Rights Watch's press release regarding Saturday's state violence against protesters. ________________ For Immediate Release: Egypt: Security Forces Attack Opposition Demonstrators Eyewitness Testimony of Plainclothes Police Beating Protestors (Washington, August 2, 2005) – President Husni Mubarak should urgently appoint an independent commission to investigate those responsible for ordering and carrying out attacks against demonstrators protesting his decision to run for a fifth term, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks, which took place on Saturday evening, July 30, were the second time in two months that police beat peaceful protestors. Human Rights Watch said that because the police violence appeared to reflect a high-level policy decision, any investigation should include the role of Interior Minister Habib al-Adli. “Police brutality against peaceful protestors is becoming the norm again in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “What we saw in Cairo on Saturday night reflected a high-level decision not just to prevent a demonstration, but also to physically punish those daring to protest President Mubarak’s candidacy.” Police initially detained some 40 persons, including George Ishaq and Amin Eskandar, leaders of the opposition umbrella group known as Kifaya (“Enough”), and took them to the Central Security camp in Darrassa, a Cairo neighborhood, which is not a legal place of detention under the authority of the public prosecutor. The authorities released Ishaq and Eskandar and a dozen others after several hours, but held 24 others overnight and transferred them the next day to Higher State Security Prosecution headquarters in Heliopolis for investigation on charges of participating in an illegal assembly, resisting and assaulting arrest officers, and “spreading tendentious propaganda that could damage the public interest.” On Sunday the authorities referred three of the detainees—Muhammad Nabil al-Sayyid, Usama Ahmad `Abd al-Salam and Mustafa Khalil Faragallah—for forensic examinations to determine the extent of their injuries. On Monday evening, authorities ordered the 24 released on bail while the investigation continued. Saturday’s police attack on non-violent demonstrators involved scores of plainclothes security forces wielding short, thick truncheons. In several cases, they told demonstrators that they were police officers, and journalists witnessed uniformed security officials directing the assaults against individual demonstrators. After President Mubarak announced on July 28 that he would run for a fifth term, organizers from Kifaya (“Enough”) and other groups called a protest demonstration for 6 p.m. on July 30 in Tahrir (Liberation) Square. By 5 p.m. that day, the authorities had saturated the square itself as well as surrounding streets with more than 1,000 uniformed security forces to prevent the demonstrators from assembling. Some demonstrators then moved toward Talaat Harb Square and Bab al-Luq Square, several blocks away. One Western journalist told Human Rights Watch what he saw as he walked towards Talaat Harb:
A cordon of uniformed Central Security [amn al-markazi] blocked the way, surrounding a few dozen protestors. Every now and then the cordon opened and a group of plainclothes men with truncheons dragged out a protestor, often beating the protestor as they did so. Other demonstrators and bystanders started chanting. The police chased them up al-Tahrir Street towards al-Faliki Square. There were now 100 or more demonstrators, followed by 50 or 60 plainclothes men and maybe 200 from Central Security. The Central Security [forces] would surround a small group, and those in plainclothes would grab whoever it was they had picked to arrest.
According to a subsequent Interior Ministry statement, demonstrators had provoked the security forces by throwing stones. This journalist said he had witnessed the confrontation from the outset. “I can imagine that some demonstrators may have pushed back when they were attacked,” he said, “but I saw no indication that protestors provoked the violence.” Other journalists and eyewitnesses to the incidents also told Human Rights Watch that they neither witnessed nor heard reports of violence from the side of the protestors. A photographer covering the incidents told Human Rights Watch that he went to a subsequent improvised rally point near the Hurriyya [Freedom] café in Bab al-Luq.
I was setting up my [camera] equipment. It was about 6:30 p.m. and there were maybe 50 people there. All of a sudden out these plainclothes thugs came from everywhere. They all carried the same kind of short club. These guys were not hired, like those who beat up the women [demonstrators and journalists] on May 25. This was very disciplined. They knew who they were after. They went in and grabbed that person, hitting him. After they had pulled him out from the crowd, a uniformed officer would direct them where to take the victim. About 10 people were arrested like this over the course of maybe 15 minutes.
Magdi `Abd al-Hamid, a 53-year-old engineer who is also on the board of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation, told Human Rights Watch that he was among the protestors assaulted in Bab al-Luq. The plainclothes security officers chased the demonstrators there, apparently determined to prevent any assembly from occurring. They set upon people in small groups. “One of them tripped me,” he said:
I fell on my face. Two of them then grabbed me by my feet and dragged me on my stomach along the street for about 20 meters. Others beat me with their clubs on my back and shoulders. “Demonstrations against Husni Mubarak are forbidden,” they said. Luckily other demonstrators were able to pull them off of me and I got away.
Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based organization, spoke on Saturday evening with some of those who had been detained and released that night. Salah Adli, an activist with the Popular Campaign for Change [al-Hamla al-Sha`biyya min agl al-Taghyir] told Bahgat:
I was among the group that was beaten up on Talaat Harb Street. I’ve never seen anything like this. It was only because police opened gaps in their cordon to take people out that we were able to breathe. I saw women and girls being kicked and beaten with batons and clubs. In [the Central Security camp at] Darrasa they took four of us aside to meet with a senior police officer. His main message was that demonstrations were no longer allowed.
A woman activist who did not want her name used told Bahgat what she witnessed as she walked toward one of the confrontation points:
I saw many people lifted by their arms and legs and hauled off to police trucks. Police thugs in plainclothes were on both sides hitting the suspended protestors in the head and face, everywhere really. Others were being dragged by their legs on the asphalt while being kicked in the head. They were bleeding as they were taken to the [police] trucks.
Adel Badr, a political activist, showed Bahgat bruises on his right arm, his back and above his knees. Badr explained how he had been injured:
I reached Tahrir Square but found it closed off so we moved to the Nasserist Party headquarters [on Talaat Harb Street], about 200 of us. [The police] surrounded us and then a large group of huge men in plainclothes carrying police batons started beating us on every part of our bodies, from all directions. Some protestors were pulled outside the cordon for more beating, or dragged by their legs on the ground to the police trucks.
Muhammad Hashim, a publisher, told Bahgat:
The police weren’t simply intimidating us or breaking up the demonstration. Officers in uniform were shouting at thugs to hit harder. We were knocked to the ground and they still didn’t stop kicking us with their shoes and coming down on us with large police batons.
`Abd al Hadi al-Mashad, a Kifaya member and schoolteacher from Dakahliyya, told Bahgat that he was also among those in front of the Hurriyya café in Bab al-Luq after being chased from Tahrir Square:
A police officer pointed at me and asked three of the big thugs in plainclothes to get me. “Get this son of a bitch,” he said. They locked me in the entrance of a deserted apartment building for about half an hour. They were holding me by my hair and my belt, completely surrounding me. When I tried to resist they hit my head against the wall. They also hit me on the arm with a police club.
Bahgat told Human Rights Watch that he observed serious swelling on al-Mashad’s head and the bruise on his arm. According to al-Mashad, the officers then put him in a police van and took him to Abdeen police station. A senior officer instructed subordinates not to file an arrest report, saying, “Just throw him in a cell until we see what we do with him.” Al-Mashad said police held him until 11:30 p.m. and kicked him in the stomach before releasing him. Trade union activist Kamal Abbas, director of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services in Helwan, was reportedly among the most seriously injured. A medical examination and X-rays at Qasr al-Aini University Hospital revealed that Abbas suffered multiple rib fractures, Bahgat said. Journalist Shaaban `Abd al-Rahim al-Daba’ was also reportedly hospitalized with injuries sustained in the incidents. The following detainees were released on bail on August 1 and remain liable for criminal charges by the Higher State Security Prosecution in connection with the July 30 demonstrations: 1- Ahmad Ragheb 2- Muhammad Mamduh Muhammad 3- Muhammad Nabil al-Sayyid Ahmad 4- Islam Muhsin `Abd al-Mu`ti 5- Fawzi Muhammad Ramadan 6- Ibrahim al-Sa`id Muhammad Saleh 7- Sherif Yunis 8- Hamdi Abul-Ma`ati Qenawi 9- Muhammad `Ali Muhammad 10- Hassan Muhammad Hassan al-Barbari 11- Usama Ahmad `Abd al-Salam 12- Mahmud Khaled Fath al-Bab 13- Ashraf Ahmad Hussein 14- Imam Hanafi Imam 15- Adel Imam Khalaf 16- Muhammad `Abbas Kheir 17- Mustafa Khalil Faragallah 18- Nabil Fathi al-Sharbati 19- Yahia `Abbas Hamdi al-Qazzaz 20- `Alaa `Abdallah `Abd al-Shafi 21- Ayman Muhammad al-Shahhat 22- Ahmad Helmi Salem 23- Muhsin Beshir 24- Wael Ahmad Khalil For information on previous crackdowns on dissidents and pro-democracy activists in Egypt, see: “Egypt: Government Uses National Security to Stifle Dissent” (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/06/21/egypt11185.htm) “Egypt: Calls for Reform Met With Brutality” (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/26/egypt11036.htm) “Egypt: Investigate Attack on Anti-War Protesters” (http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/11/egypt110703.htm) For more information, contact: In Washington D.C., Joe Stork: +1-202-612-4327 In Amman, Fadi al-Qadi (Arabic): +962 (78) 883-7862
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Protest Detainee Update

This post is mostly speculation. It is based off of rumor and information that is being passed around through phone calls and text messages regarding the cases of the detainees picked up during the anti-Mubarak demo on Saturday. _______________ What is Known: First off - there were 24 people detained. According to HR activist Ahmad Saif al-Islam, 2 are in bad shape. The detainees seemed to have been shuffled back and forth from el-Darrassa military camp to the procesctors and Amn al-Dawla's offices in Masr Gadida. This morning they were sent back to el-Darrassa. Families and friends of the detained held a sit-in at the General-Proscecutor's office at the supreme court (Dar al-Qada al-Aliya). Around 430pm this afternoon, the General-Proscetor ordered all of the detained released on bail. This may, however, only be a small victory. _________ Sound Rumor: There is a likelihood that those detained will be charged. I heard the charges that could be levied are: 1) Assaulting police officers 2) Damaging state property 3) Criticizing the government of being corrupt (don't ask me, I don't have a clue about this charges constitutional placement) 4) Holding a demonstration without permission Naturally, charges 1-3 are suspect. BUT - should the state wish to push this - charge #4 could be used against those recently released. I am not implying it is fair but it is the way it is unfortunately. __________ Unsubstantiated Rumor: There is a story circulating (since last evening) that 8 arrest warrants have been issued to pick up top Kifaya leadership. Kamil Khalil, George Ishaq, and Amin Iskandr were names that were talked about. I have been periodically checking and have not heard that anyone has been served. No one seems to know much about it beyond that. _________ The Arabist will continue to monitor and update when information is reasonably well confirmed. The situation is, however, very fluid and constantly changing.
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