Masters Of War

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks. You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly. Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain. You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion' As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud. You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins. How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you That even Jesus would never Forgive what you do. Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul. And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand over your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead.------- Bob Dylan 1963

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is There a Neanderthal in Your DNA?

A remarkable finding could answer the question whether our human ancestors and the Neanderthals interbred some time after both species left Africa many thousands of years ago. Only 10 years after scientists triumphantly decoded the human genome, an international research team has mapped the genes of the long-extinct Neanderthal people and report there's a pinch of Neanderthal in all of us.
Continue reading "Is There a Neanderthal in Your DNA?" »

Sunday, January 30, 2011

DANGER ROOM: Your Weapons Are on Cairo’s Streets, America

Your Weapons Are on Cairo’s Streets, America

On the streets of Cairo and around the world, everyone’s waiting to see if the Egyptian Army is going to crack down on the demonstrators demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Whatever Egypt’s military does next, chances are they’ll do it with American weapons.
Al-Jazeera showed M1A1 Abrams tanks carrying Egyptian soldiers through Cairo in what its correspondents called “a show of force.” Those iconic American tanks have been co-produced in Egyptsince 1988; the Egyptians have about 1000 of them. As was endlessly re-tweeted, canisters containing tear gas that the police used on protesters — before the hated police melted away over the weekend — had “Made in America” stamped on them. (Our colleagues at Ars Technica take a look at what’s insidethe Pennsylvania-manufactured tear gas.)
On Sunday, fighter jets flew low over a Cairo crowd, turning on their afterburners to deafen their audience. Most likely they were part of Egypt’s fleet of 220 F-16s.
Most of the $1.3 billion that the U.S. annually provides to Egypt in military aid goes for weaponry to defend Egypt against foreign assault, like Patriot air-defense missilesMultiple Launch Rocket Systemrocket pods and TOW anti-armor missiles. That’s not particularly relevant for crowd control against protesters.
But it does speak to how close the U.S. and Egyptian militaries are. As the New York Times notes, much of Egypt’s officer corps gets educated at American war colleges. Every other year, Egypt hosts a huge multinational military exercise directed by U.S. Central Command called Bright Star, in which the U.S. and lots of its regional and European allies drill together.

Prisoners escape Egypt prisons

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 1 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-20 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 1 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 2 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-21 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 2 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 3 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-22 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 3 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 4 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-23 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 4 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 5 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-24 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 5 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time: The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 6 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-25 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 6 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time:The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 7 CCTV News - CNTV English

Journeys in Time 2010-12-26 The seven sages of the bamboo grove Part 7 CCTV News - CNTV English

Video: Egypt digest: Past, present and future CCTV News - CNTV English

Video: Egypt digest: Past, present and future CCTV News - CNTV English

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON - Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of theuprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can't do is watch the network directly.
Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. - including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. - cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.
The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet's website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.
Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.
The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one," he said, citing the Bush administration's public hostility to the network.
"There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that's changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem," Burman said.
Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. "We had a completely different process and result here in Canada -- a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful," said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera's Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)
Media critics have begun to push for Al Jazeera's inclusion. "It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it," wrote Jeff Jarvis on Sunday. "Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can."
Al Jazeera follows a public broadcasting model similar to the BBC, CBC and NPR and is largely funded by the government of Qatar, which Burman said takes a completely hands-off approach to content. Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC, said Burman. "As proud as we are of our Middle Eastern coverage, we are in other places in the world that are never, never seen on television in American homes," he said.
Burman said that he will use the experience with the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings in upcoming meetings with cable providers as the network continues its push. Comcast did not respond to requests for comment.
"Why in the most vibrant democracy in the world, where engagement and knowledge of the world is probably the most important, why it's not available is one of these things that would take a PhD scholar to understand," Burman said.
Readers can demand Al Jazeera English here. Here are the contact pages for ComcastTime Warnerand DirecTV.
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Is the Egyptian Government Using Agents Provocateur to Justify a Crack Down On the Protesters?

Washington's Blog

Israeli, Saudi and American Leaders Say Arabs Are Not Ready for Democracy

Washington's Blog

The Egyptian masses won't play ally to Israel

As the old saying goes.
A picture is worth a thousand words.

As long as the masses in Egypt and in the entire Arab world continue seeing the images of tyranny and violence from the occupied territories, Israel will not be able to be accepted, even it is acceptable to a few regimes.
Three or four days ago, Egypt was still in our hands. The army of pundits, including our top expert on Egypt, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said that "everything is under control," that Cairo is not Tunis and that Mubarak is strong. Ben-Eliezer said that he had spoken on the phone with a senior Egyptian official, and he assured him that there's nothing to worry about. You can count on Fuad and Hosni, both about to become has-beens.
On Friday night everything changed. It turned out that the Israeli intelligence estimates, which were recited ad nauseum by the court analysts, were again, shall we say, not the epitome of accuracy. The people of Egypt had their say, and had the nerve not to fall in line with Israeli wishes. A moment before Mubarak's fate is sealed, the time has come for drawing the Israeli conclusions.
Not a plague of darkness in Egypt but the light of the Nile: the end of a regime propped up by bayonets is foretold. It can go on for years, and the downfall sometimes comes at the least expected time, but in the end it will happen. Not only Damascus and Amman, Tripoli and Rabat, Tehran and Pyongyang: Ramallah and Gaza are also destined to be shaken.
The hypocritical and sanctimonious division of countries by the U.S. and the West between the "axis of evil" on the one hand, and the "moderates" on the other, has collapsed. If there is an axis of evil, then it includes all the non-democratic regimes, including the "moderates" and the "stable" and the "pro-Western." Today Egypt, tomorrow Palestine. Yesterday Tunis, tomorrow Gaza.

Where in the world is Gamal Mubarak?

The Egyptian Intifada; Mubarak's Time Is Up

The sand giveth, and the sand taketh.

Mubarak will soon be residing in the South of France.
The X Puppet Dictator haven. 
Stocks plunged on Friday following a fifth day of protests in Cairo. Oil shot up more than $3 per barrel as investors grew nervous about potential disruptions to supply.  The Dow Jones tumbled 166 points by day's end.
The Israeli embassy has been shut down in Egypt's capital and it's diplomatic staff  flown to Tel Aviv (allegedly) disguised as tourists. The Star of David has been lowered and is no longer visible anywhere in Cairo.
There are reports that the United States is behind the demonstrations and is hoping to replace Hosni Mubarak with another US client. But these reports are grossly exaggerated. The protests are a homegrown reaction to high unemployment and ongoing police state repression. Photos of young dissidents gathered atop tanks and armored vehicles arm-in-arm with Egyptian regulars illustrate the tenuousness of Mubarak's position.  He faces a popular uprising that is likely to continue until he is removed from office and forced to leave the country.
The US State Department has been working feverishly behind the scenes to influence the transition to another US-friendly client. Mubarak has already appointed two vice presidents who have been approved by Washington. Both have good relations with Israel.
This appeared on the Angry Arab website (although there's no way to verify the information):
"A source from within the Presidential Guard has claimed to my friends in Cairo that the army intends to end the protests on Sunday, by any means necessary even if it meant violence and bloodshed. Junta goons are causing chaos in Cairo to claim an unstable situation which will extend until Saturday. Then under the guise of bringing back order, they will "crush them with any amount of force needed!". The sources are unsure of the American role but believe the Americans will go with it."
The Netanyahu administration is clearly concerned about the deteriorating situation and has instructed government officials to avoid talking to the press.  So far, there are no reports of troop movements on Israel's southern border.
The stakes could not be higher for Israel.  A charismatic Egyptian leader could put an end to Camp David and demand a settlement to the Palestinian issue. The 40-year military occupation and UN Resolution 242 would again divide the two nations leaving Israel with no allies in the region except for Jordan.   Israel's policy of seizing Palestinian land and abusing Palestinians would have to be reviewed and changed. Thus, the fall of Mubarak would improve the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
As the Mubarak regime becomes more wobbly,  agents provocateur from the various intelligence services will carry out false flag operations designed to intimidate the public and derail the revolution.   The US is determined to maintain its grip on power.   But Washington does not own Egypt nor does it control events on the ground.  It's powers, while impressive, are more limited than many realize.  The Egyptian intifada is gaining momentum.  It won't stop until Mubarak is gone.  After that,  no one knows what will happen.

Egypt. Rude Awakening! Revolution or Regime Change?

Egypt. Rude Awakening! Revolution or Regime Change?

Neighbourhood watch, Cairo style - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Neighbourhood watch, Cairo style - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

ElBaradei: No going back in Egypt - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

ElBaradei: No going back in Egypt - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Mubarak Gives Army Shoot-To-Kill Order

Egyptian demonstrators gather at Tahrir Square in Cairo on January 30, 2011 on the sixth day of angry revolt against Hosni Mubarak's regime.
Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has reportedly given his armed forces the authority to shoot-to-kill as anti-government protests gain momentum.
Reports say the army has been ordered to shoot when it sees fit. Military helicopters and jet fighters fly over major locations as the numbers of protesters multiply there.
Tens of thousands of people have practically taken over the Tahrir Square in the city center despite heavy military presence, a Press TV correspondent reported.
Clashes between demonstrators and police have left at least 150 people dead and thousands more wounded since anti-Mubarak rallies began in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria on Tuesday.
Protesters have one demand and that is the resignation of President Mubarak. They want a regime change and have dismissed Mubarak's appointment of a vice-president and prime minister.
The Egyptian president has visited an army military operations center on the sixth day of the protests against his regime.
Local media say Mubarak has met with top military commanders and troops at their headquarters.
Mubarak's newly appointed vice president, defense minister and chief of staff have also attended the meeting. No further details have been released.
On Friday, Mubarak ordered the army out to the streets in an effort to maintain control.
Thousands of people across the world have taken to the streets to express support for the anti-government demonstrations in Egypt.

Bank Bailouts Explained

A Region In Turmoil: How Far Will The Unrest Spread?

Population: 32.3m
GDP: $91.7bn
King Mohammed VI
Notionally a constitutional monarchy, the Moroccan government has been accused of using the courts to imprison peaceful opponents. King Mohammed VI retains the power to dissolve parliament and dismiss or appoint the prime minister.
Criticising the monarchy or Islam is still punishable by law, but the private press has had some success in breaking taboos and investigating government corruption. There has been progress under Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who took office in 2007, but Morocco still endures high unemployment rates, especially among its younger population.
Population: 10.6m
GDP: $43.86bn
Prime Minister Ghannouchi
Few had suspected such a swift fall from grace for President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who on 14 January caved in to the massive protests and fled the North African nation he had ruled over with an iron fist for 23 years.
Accused over his decades in power of suppressing the opposition, censoring the media and detaining dissidents, Mr Ben Ali had nonetheless managed to maintain his stranglehold on power by providing a reasonable quality of life for citizens. But in recent years inflation and unemployment have hit the country hard, and people have baulked at seeing Mr Ben Ali, his reviled wife and extended family appearing to get wealthier and buy up holiday homes by the sea, while the people languished in poverty. It took the self-immolation of one desperate unemployed university graduate in December last year to set off a chain of protests. News of the dissent spread through Twitter and Facebook, culminating in the huge protests that forced Mr Ben Ali from power earlier this month. Since the popular uprising, the hastily cobbled-together government led by Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has struggled to maintain law and order, with protesters insisting that the cabinet be purged of any remnants of Mr Ben Ali’s regime.
It remains to be seen if Tunisia will emerge as the Middle East’s second full democracy – a label currently only applied to Israel – with no date set yet for elections.
Population: 4.1m
GDP: $39.1bn
President Michel Suleiman
For once in the fragile world of Middle Eastern politics, Lebanon is not centre stage. The country is still reeling from the 2005 assassination of its former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a car bomb attack. The coalition government in Beirut collapsed last week when a UN report, which is expected to assert that the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah had a hand in Hariri’s murder, was handed to prosecutors in Lebanon and the “Party of God” abandoned the administration.
The party is already back, however, after President Michel Suleiman appointed the Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati as the new head of his government, in what, by Middle East standards, is a highly democraticstate. Nonetheless, such is the fear of Hezbollah in Israel that the immediate threat to stability in Lebanon may well come from Tel Aviv, rather than riots from a discontent population.
Population: 6.5m
GDP: $27.13bn
King Abdullah II
Power lies squarely in the hands of King Abdullah II, who inherited an absolute monarchy from his father, who ruled for 46 years before his death in 1999. Promises of political reform are yet to materialise, with the King wielding the power to appoint ministers, dismiss parliament and rule by decree.
Jordan languished in the bottom quarter of the 2010 Democracy Index, and discontent is growing. Sporadic protests over inflation and unemployment – which is estimated at between 12 and 25 per cent – broke out across the country after the Tunisian unrest, and an Islamist opposition leader stoked the flames by calling for Jordanians to be granted the right to elect their leaders.
With strong support from the Bedouin-dominated military and financial backing from their allies in Washington, King Abdullah looks to be safe for the time being. The Prime Minister has announced a multi-million-pound food and fuel subsidy package, and the King has in recent days made further promise of reform, even meeting with the Jordanian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered the largest opposition group in the kingdom. The Muslim Brotherhood has, however, called for a fresh round of demonstrations.
Population: 22.2m
GDP: $59.63bn
President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad has been in power since 2000, succeeding his father and continuing his authoritarian rule with all opposition parties banned, the media strictly controlled and any dissenting voices harshly dealt with.
Syria has been controlled by the Baath Party since it took power in 1963, and those who speak out against the government are frequently jailed on charges of “weakening national morale”. Emergency rule remains in effect in Syria, and authorities are consistently accused of violating civilian rights, arresting activists, detaining bloggers and restricting freedom to travel.
There are conditions for discontent: unemployment is between 10 and 25 per cent, and the population is frustrated at the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Apparently unnerved by the protests in Tunisia, the authorities recently sharply raised a heating oil allowance for public workers, reversing a policy of slashing subsidies in the face of decades of economic stagnation. Then, on Wednesday, users reported that programmes they used to access Facebook Chat had apparently been blocked in what looked like a move to curtail any online protest movement. Syrian media barely reported the overthrow of Tunisia’s Mr Ben Ali.
Population: 29m
GDP: $84.14bn
President Jalal Talabani
For decades Saddam Hussein held the dubious accolade of being the region’s most notorious dictator. Since US-led forces ejected him from power 2003, Iraq has seen a messy transition towards democracy, but the power-sharing government has struggled to maintain order over insurgents and militia groups and many Iraqis are worried about what will happen when all the remaining US forces leave by the end of the year.
Elections in March last year proved inconclusive, leading to months of uncertainty. Finally, a power-sharing deal was brokered in November, with veteran Kurd leader Jalal Talabani named as President for a third term.
Saudi Arabia
Population: 25.7m
GDP: $434.4bn
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Absolute monarch King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has ruled the desert kingdom since 2005, the latest in a long line of royals in charge. Although the 87-year-old is in ill-health and runs a strict authoritarian state, the distribution of oil wealth largely keeps the populace happy. The royals’ biggest challenge is Islamist extremist groups, and the monarchy cracks down hard on any challenges to their authority. Saudi Arabia, along with other oil-rich Gulf states such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are generally less susceptible to Tunisian-style uprisings because the population benefit from the spoils of natural resources.
Population: 23m
GDP: $30.02bn
President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yemen last week to demand an end to the three-decade rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The poorest country in the Middle East and a largely tribal society, Yemen has more problems than most. It has emerged as a new base for al-Qa’ida militants driven out of their traditional sanctuaries on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Yemen is also battling a secessionist movement in the south, an on-off rebellion in the north, and grinding poverty. Its oil reserves, which make up 70 percent of the government’s revenue, are dwindling and the nation relies on US aid. Nearly half of all Yemenis live below the poverty line and unemployment is at least 35 per cent.
Mr Saleh, whom many analysts accuse of overseeing a corrupt regime that has failed to tackle economic grievances, has reacted to the unrest by backtracking on his plans to seek another term in 2013 and denying accusations that he will try to hand over power to his son.
He has also promised to slash taxes and cap food prices and raise the salaries of civil servants and the military.
Mr Saleh won a seven-year term in Yemen’s first open presidential election, in 2006. Observers said the poll was fair but opposition parties complained of vote rigging. The main challenge to Mr Saleh, analysts say, would likely come if the various opposition groups, particularly the rebels in the south and the north, were to look beyond their own particular grievances to mount a broader political challenge.
Population: 84.5m
GDP: $216.8bn
President Hosni Mubarak
Egypt has been ruled with a heavy hand by former air force commander Hosni Mubarak since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat. Now aged 82, President Mubarak is widely viewed as symbolising the old guard of autocratic Arab leaders.
The Human Rights Watch report this year detailed a catalogue of abuses in the Arab world’s most populous nation, including torture by the police, harassment of political opponents, violence against demonstrators and arbitrary detention.
Religious parties are banned – in part to stem the challenge from the Muslim Brotherhood – and although the constitution was changed in 2007 to allow presidential challengers, they arestrictly curtailed to lock out any serious opponents.
Mr Mubarak has not said if he will contest presidential elections due in September, and there are reports that he is grooming his son Gamal Mubarak to succeed him. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has come out as a strong opposition voice. But as the constitution stands, it is almost impossible for independent candidates to stand.
What worries the West most is the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic movement founded in Egypt in 1928, which has significant support among the population. It has influenced religious groups – both moderate and extreme – across the Muslim world.
Population: 6.4m
GDP: $77.91bn
Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi
The longest-serving leader in the Arab world, Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi has ruled Libya since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1969. The eccentric dictator said he was “pained” by the fall of Mr Ben Ali. But despite his pariah status overseas and corruption at home, soaring oil prices have allowed Colonel Gaddafi to maintain high levels of economic growth, while Libyans enjoy a life expectancy of 75, one of the highest in Africa.
Like many oil-rich states, unemployment among the local population is high, with millions of immigrants employed to do the menial jobs. But despite very little political openness and restrictions on freedom of expression, there is no sign that the Libyans have much inclination to rise up against their 69-year-old leader.
Population: 35m
GDP: $159bn
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Two people were killed and hundreds of others injured earlier this month as Algerians angry at the high cost of living clashed with the police. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika moved swiftly to cut food prices, and calm has returned for now, but many are unhappy at Mr Bouteflika’s heavy-handed rule, and unemployment is estimated to be around 20 per cent among the young.
Mr Bouteflika was elected in 1999 and won a third five-year term in 2009. But with more than 90 per cent of ballots cast in his favour, there was widespread criticism of vote fraud and accusations that he had quashed all viable opposition. Although there has been an opening up of the media and widening political freedoms, Mr Bouteflika was criticised for extending the presidential term in office and continuing a ban on the Islamic Salvation Front.
Algeria is also under an indefinite state of emergency, which the government claims is needed to combat Islamist militancy, but Human Rights Watch says it also allows widespread restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood Offer Political Path Out of Egyptian Confrontation

by Robert Naiman
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Eryan said today that Egyptian opposition groups have agreed to back former IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei to negotiate with the government, Al Jazeerareports:
Egypt's opposition groups have agreed to support opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei to negotiate with the government, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood said on Sunday.
"Political groups support ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime," Essam el-Eryan told Al Jazeera.
This move by Egyptian opposition groups potentially offers a peaceful path out of the crisis not only for the Egyptian government, but also for the United States government, which is finding itself the object of increasingly bitter criticism from Egyptians who back the protesters' call for Mubarak to step down and see the policy of the United States of backing Mubarak as a key obstacle to the realization of their aspirations for free and fair elections. Failure to take advantage of this opportunity could lead to a bloody showdown in the streets - even worse than what we have seen already - for which the U.S. would bear significant responsibility.
One path to the holding of free and fair elections would be the establishment of a transitional government to prepare the elections. Yesterday, US officials seemed to indicate support for this possibility. The New York Times reported:
Another possibility, American officials say, would be a transitional government led by an outsider, perhaps Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who flew back to Cairo several days ago. [...]
A frequent critic of United States policy, he could form a caretaker government in preparation for an election. As one American official said, "He's shown an independence from us that will squelch any argument that he's doing our bidding."
U.S. officials have said that the Egyptian government should engage in dialogue with the opposition. Now, apparently, there's a proposal on the table from opposition parties for such dialogue. What the opposition parties want to talk about is establishing a path to free and fair elections - the same thing they have been demanding for months.
The proposal from the opposition parties for negotiations with the government is an opportunity for the U.S. to "put its money where its mouth is." The US could publicly call on, and privately pressure, the Egyptian government to respond to the opposition parties' call for negotiations.
Of course, many want the US government to do much more than this. They want the US and other Western allies of the Egyptian government to publicly condemn Mubarak, publicly call on Mubarak to step down, and indeed to try to force Mubarak out; and many are increasingly frustrated that the U.S. is not even willing to condemn Mubarak.
The Washington Post reports today:
In the streets of Cairo, many protesters are now openly denouncing the United States for supporting President Hosni Mubarak, saying the price has been their freedom. They say the Obama administration has offered only tepid criticism of a regime that has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the U.S. says it does not want to call for Mubarak to step down because 1) it fears losing all leverage with Mubarak 2) it fears creating a power vacuum in Egypt 3) it wants to avoid the perception that the U.S. was "once again" engineering the ouster of a Middle East leader.
Regardless of whether one believes that these stated reasons are the full story, or whether they are also a cover for other U.S. motivations - the Times acknowledges that the administration's "restraint" is also driven by lack of enthusiasm for "dealing with an Egypt without Mubarak" - these are the stated reasons of the U.S. for not responding to the protesters' call.
But publicly and privately backing the opposition parties' call for negotiations would not, on the face of it, trigger any of the stated U.S. objections. It is a very modest demand, totally consistent with previous U.S. statements, which would not plausibly lead to "losing all leverage" with Mubarak; it would not create a "power vacuum"; it would not reasonably lead to a perception that the U.S. was "engineering" Mubarak's ouster. On the contrary: the U.S. would be raising the profile of a particular proposal for negotiations as a way out of the crisis, and increasing pressure on the Egyptian government to respond to it.
No doubt some folks who subscribe to the "cooties" school of international diplomacy may object to any U.S. endorsement of a process that involves the Muslim Brotherhood. But refusing to support this reasonable, pragmatic, and moderate proposal, just because the Muslim Brotherhood also supports it, would be extremely short-sighted. The Brotherhood brings a lot to the table in its potential to help peacefully establish a consensus government that could supervise elections that the majority of Egyptians would see as legitimate.
And the fact that the Brotherhood is endorsing ElBaradei to negotiate with the Egyptian government on its behalf indicates a key thing that ElBaradei brings to the table: since his return to Egyptian politics, ElBaradei has established a relationship of trust with the Brotherhood. This is a key asset for ElBaradei, the Brotherhood, and all Egyptians going forward towards the establishment of free and fair elections and of a government that the majority of Egyptians will see as legitimate.
The U.S. should take advantage of this asset, and of this proposal for negotiations, and act decisively to forestall a bloody confrontation between protesters and forces loyal to Mubarak which could be significantly worse than what we have seen already, and for which the U.S. would bear substantial responsibility.

Egypt: A Nation in Waiting

Obama, Incorporated By David Bromwich

David Bromwich

Barack Obama touring a plant with General Electric chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, the new chairman of the president's jobs council, and plant manager Kevin Sharkey, Schenectady, New York, January 21, 2011
Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address was an organized sprawl of good intentions—a mostly fact-free summons to a new era of striving and achievement, and a solemn cheer to raise our spirits as we try to get there. And it did not fail to celebrate the American Dream.
In short, it resembled most State of the Union addresses since Ronald Reagan’s first in 1982. Perhaps its most notable feature was an omission. With applause lines given to shunning the very idea of government spending, and a gratuitous promise to extend a freeze on domestic spending from three years to five, there was only the briefest mention of the American war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation in each country was summarized and dismissed in three sentences, and the sentences took misleading care to name only enemies with familiar names: the Taliban, al-Qaeda. But these wars, too, cost money, and as surely as the lost jobs in de-industrialized cities they carry a cost in human suffering.
The president also omitted to mention gun control: a reform that has been in the minds of most Americans since the Tucson killings. He had elected not to mention gun control in his speech in Tucson, either. Two traits we may now judge to be conspicuous in this president, in fair weather and foul, no matter what the pressure of the occasion. He rarely explains complex matters with a complexity equal to the subject matter; and he hates to be a bearer of bad news. The appreciative words he lavished on the big corporations in November, December, and January, and his appointment of William Daley of Morgan Chase as chief of staff and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric as chairman of his White House jobs council, also indicate a larger personal tendency. When things are not going his way, Barack Obama tacks the other way farther and faster than most people would. In the process, he speaks words which sound like statements of newfound principles, for which he will not be answerable when the winds shift again.
At a surprising number of his public appearances, Obama has presented himself as something other than the chief executive of a republic. In Tucson, he spoke to a packed auditorium as a grief counselor, with the heart, purpose, and uplift familiar to the role. He began his State of the Union speech by recalling that occasion and the apparent return of national fellow-feeling it aroused. “Each of us is a part of something greater—something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family.” This metaphor, the nation-as-family, was deployed by Mario Cuomo in his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention of 1984: the greatest speech by a Democrat of the past 30 years.
But the idea of a political entity as a family has limits enforced by suitability. It is something more properly said by a politician affirming the value of the welfare state, as Cuomo did in 1984, than by a national leader pledged to be open-minded about cuts in entitlements.
The 2011 State of the Union was Obama’s first rhetorical step to seal his new reputation as an anti-government Democrat. It has been said that, facing a determined and hostile Congress, Obama had no choice but to placate and again extol the virtues of bipartisanship. Certainly this was not a moment when he could pretend to speak for liberal reforms. What is surprising is the warmth with which he has embraced the premises of his opponents: in matters affecting public life and the economy, government is now said to be the problem, and private enterprise the solution; and far from deregulation having been a major cause of the financial collapse, the way to a healthy economy now lies through further deregulation. This rhetorical concession, adopted as a tactic, will turn against Obama as a strategy. The enormous budget cuts, for example, which he volunteered to make yet steeper will work against the ventures in job-creation which he has asked for without giving particulars.
Every advance that he makes on these lines as a gain to himself is a loss to his party. For without the idea that government is the heart of constitutional democracy and not a useless appendage, there is nothing much for Democrats to be; just as, without the idea that big business is the preserver of the American Dream and taxation is the enemy, there is nothing for Republicans to be. By offering himself as the rational corporate alternative to the Tea Party, Obama is taking a tremendous gamble, but with his party’s fortunes more than his own. If the 2012 election were held tomorrow, both houses of Congress would pass into Republican hands and Obama would stay on as president. Not a word of his State of the Union address was calculated to alter that asymmetry.
Obama now speaks in strings of sentences like these: “The stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” The stock market, it would seem, plus corporate profits equals the economy: an odd equation to hear from a Democrat. Bill Clinton in 1995 is Obama’s only precursor on this terrain, but even Clinton would quickly have added that corporate profits are not the measure of all good. By contrast, Obama is now convinced that there is no advantage in putting in qualifications except as a formality. He did acknowledge that “we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone” and that the “success of our people” depends on “the jobs they can find and the quality of life these jobs offer.” But he declined to offer a government commitment to helping the jobless, or underemployed, apart from tax cuts for working Americans.

The Domino effect: Pan-Arab unrest - Features - Al Jazeera English

The Domino effect: Pan-Arab unrest - Features - Al Jazeera English


Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau - Middle East - Al Jazeera English


Is this Egypt's new Strong Man?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Western hypocrisy towards the Arab world stands exposed

Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt...the arc of popular discontent continues to grow.
But it is the tumultuous scenes from Egypt this week, culminating in the running battles in many cities yesterday after Friday prayers, that highlight the volatility of the situation – and the dilemma for the United States and the rest of the Western world.
That such a dilemma exists at all, of course, is largely of our own making. We have long observed a double standard in relations with most Arab countries. We turned a blind eye to internal repression and stagnation, so long as the appearance of internal stability was preserved and the oil routes remained secure. The consequence was a chain of undemocratic regimes from North Africa to the Gulf, which enjoyed Western, primarily US and British, patronage. When, as in Iran, popular anger led to the overthrow of the pro-Western regime, we called foul and were surprised to be shunned. Leaving aside our differently lamentable treatment of Iraq, this is the state of affairs that persists pretty much to this day.
As demands for change reverberate further and further from Tunisia, the hypocrisy separating the West's words and deeds can no longer be sustained. But finding a new response is not easy in this fast-moving situation. France, although the former colonial power, conspicuously kept its distance from the events in Tunisia, wisely refusing asylum to its former protégé. The reticence of the United States has spoken volumes, as disturbances in Egypt have spread.
The instincts of the Obama administration pull it in conflicting directions. On the one hand, it is all in favour of democratic reform, especially democracy sprouting from the grass roots up. On the other, Egypt is a crucial ally in the region – a partner in Middle East peace, guardian of the Suez Canal, a beacon for other Arab countries – and allies need to be orderly and predictable. Here the forces of democracy and stability seem to be at odds. How much simpler it would be for the West to take a (negative) stand if the protests had been mounted in the name of fundamentalist Islam rather than in pursuit of elementary political and economic change.
There is a multitude of contradictions here. The copious amounts of US aid to Egypt, as the reward for supporting Middle East peace, may have had the perverse effect of reducing the pressure for domestic reform. America's neoconservatives, once such vocal champions of democracy in the region, have fallen strangely silent over these latest protests. And how rich an irony it was to hear Tony Blair – the man who so heedlessly helped to topple Saddam Hussein – speak yesterday of the need above all for stability in Egypt.
For the Arab countries, these are complicated, even revolutionary, times. As it is, the West has little choice but to watch and wait, while cautioning those who would cling to power against the sort of excesses that would exacerbate their plight. It is not for us to dictate the direction in which the people of these countries eventually decide to go. But it is in our interests to do nothing that would discredit, or make less likely, a democratic choice. As the broad participation in these protests has shown, it is by no means inevitable that militant anti-Western Islam will emerge the victor, and we should not assume the worst.