Israelis 'get 80% of West Bank water'

Israelis 'get 80% of West Bank water'
Rory McCarthy expands on a World Bank report that Israel is not only stealing Palestinian water reserves, but then reselling it for profit: "Israelis use 240 cubic metres of water a person each year, against 75 cubic metres for West Bank Palestinians and 125 for Gazans, the bank said. Increasingly, West Bank Palestinians must rely on water bought from the Israeli national water company, Mekorot."
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ring roads mapped. cairo’s on the small side.

ring roads mapped. cairo’s on the small side.
Avantcaire finds map of ring roads around the world, Cairo's (pop: 16m) is about the same size as Brussels (pop: 1m). Also, bonus fun ring road fact: apparently when Mubarak dies the standing plan is the for the army to secure the ring road and its main exits, while interior ministry will control everything inside the ring road.
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EU must step up Mideast engagement: Portugal - Yahoo! News

EU must step up Mideast engagement: Portugal - Yahoo! News
This comes as the EU is involved in a protracted battle between member states over whether to suspend the EU-Israel upgrade process. Portugal sides with the states that want, very rightly, to impose conditionalities on Israel for the Gaza war and its continuing blockade. Against are most of the East Europeans, Italy, UK, Denmark ans Germany. Bloody useless EU and its even more useless foreign commissioner...
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Clinton Meets With Egyptian Foreign Minister, Democracy Activist

Clinton Meets With Egyptian Foreign Minister, Democracy Activist
Who was the activist? "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be meeting today with Egypt’s foreign minister. In the afternoon, she will meet with a democracy activist at the State Department. A spokesman for the department was not aware of the activist’s identity or the agenda for the meeting."
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Memo From Cairo - Why Freed Dissidents Pick Path of Most Resistance - NYTimes.com

Memo From Cairo - Why Freed Dissidents Pick Path of Most Resistance - NYTimes.com
Michael Slackman on what makes Ayman Nour and other dissidents continue to oppose their regimes after the punishment of prison, torture and worse. Update: Anonymous Arabist notes that the article (which he/she likes) contains the throwaway phrase "…particularly in a Middle Eastern culture that honors martyrdom…” and goes on to point out that the Arab world is hardly unique in "honoring martyrdom".
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Dennis Ross vs. Obama: No link between Iran, Mideast peace - Haaretz - Israel News

Dennis Ross vs. Obama: No link between Iran, Mideast peace - Haaretz - Israel News
Sabotage: "Dennis Ross, the U.S. Secretary of State's special adviser on Iran, says in a new book that the United States will not make progress toward peace in the Middle East with the Obama administration's new plan. The book, written with David Makovsky and entitled "Myths, illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East," opposes the Obama administration's concept of linkage. The book is to be published by Viking Press next month. Contrary to the position of the president and other advisers, Ross writes that efforts to advance dialogue with Iran should not be connected to the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "
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MIDEAST: Egyptians Too Hit by Israeli Strikes

MIDEAST: Egyptians Too Hit by Israeli Strikes
Reporting on Egyptian victims of Israel's Gaza war, who are still awaiting compensation for their destroyed homes. Concludes: "In the last four months, Rafah has been transformed into a militarised zone, with civilians forbidden to walk the streets of the city - except the main street - after 10pm," said Gabr. "Between the frequent bombardments and new security restrictions, Rafah is fast on its way to becoming a ghost town."
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David Welch, Bechtel and Egypt's nuclear program

I remember reading a while back that David Welch, head of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department under George W. Bush and former US Ambassador to Cairo, had retired from the Foreign Service for a lucrative perch at Bechtel, the American contracting company. My memory was jogged today reading this post at the Cable (mostly about delays in the confirmation of Jeffrey Feltman, Welch's successor as Head of NEA):
His predecessor as assistant secretary of NEA, David Welch, retired from the State Department in December to join Bechtel as vice president for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Bechtel is part of an Egyptian-led joint venture that has contracts to design and build power plants in Libya.
This led me to wonder whether Welch's appointment at Bechtel had anything to do with the surprising Egyptian decision to drop Bechtel as the lead contractor for its civilian nuclear power program -- an important and potentially immensely lucrative contract, since Bechtel would have recommended which firms should get further contracts for the construction of the power plant and other infrastructure. Welch, after all, was not appreciated by official Egypt due to his outspokenness on various issues, from anti-semitism in Egyptian media to meeting with opposition leaders. (Although I dislike Welch's politics and apparent full agreement with GWB policies, I think his behavior as ambassador was quite effective -- the current ambassador, Margaret Scobey, could learn something from his forthrightness). Anyway, this may be pure speculation, but I wonder if there's still bad blood about Welch in Egypt, and what link that may have, if any, with the decision to drop Bechtel.
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Reuters AlertNet - Afghan was taken to Guantanamo aged 12-rights group

Reuters AlertNet - Afghan was taken to Guantanamo aged 12-rights group
Grotesque: "Interviews with the family of Mohammed Jawad, who like many poor Afghans does not know his exact age or birthday, showed he was probably not even a teenager when he was arrested in 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said. He was picked up by Afghan police in connection with a grenade attack in Kabul in which two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded. He was transferred to U.S. custody the same day and flown to Guantanamo in early 2003. Commissioner Nader Nadery said in addition to being a minor at the time of his detention, Jawad was tortured and abused by the Afghan police and while at the Guantanamo detention centre, located at a U.S. naval base in Cuba."
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Sudan air strike may have killed 119

A new development in the Sudan airstrike story. A few days ago we highlighted to a piece that showed how confusing the various information on the subject is. Now the BBC is reporting that Sudan's minister of defense says the toll was much higher than originally reported:

An air raid in a Sudanese desert in January killed 119 people travelling in a people-smuggling convoy, the country's defence minister has said.

Abdul-Rahim Hussein told parliament that the attack was still under investigation, state media reported.

Fifty-six smugglers died as well as 63 people wanting to emigrate, he said.

Israel - battling Hamas in Gaza at the time of the attack - was suspected of being behind air raid, but has never explicitly confirmed any involvement.

. . .

In his report, Gen Hussein said there were up to 1,000 people in the convoy involved in "a smuggling process at the border with Egypt", Suna reported.

Among the convoy were people from Ethiopia and Somalia, the defence minister said.

It's hard to tell whether this is the truth or an attempt to make Israel (which presumably carried out the strike) look bad by blaming it for the deaths of migrant refugees. And it still does not tell us anything about this convoy and what it was smuggling, although the suggestion that over 1,000 people were there makes the secret cargo for Hamas theory look slightly weird. Update: Worth reading this analysis in conjunction with the above.
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