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Archive for April, 2013

Turtlegate: Did King Farouq’s Turtle Die (Again?) Last Week, or Not?

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

Apparently not. I was too busy last week to mention the widespread report that a turtle that had once belonged to King Farouq and that was believed to be the second oldest turtle in the world, had died at the age of 270 at the Cairo Zoo in Giza. The story may have originated with the sensational paper Yom 7, but was widely repeated, for example here.

There were variants. The turtle was not 270; it was 280. Or 217. It had been given to the Giza Zoo by King Farouq in 1936, or by Khedive Ismail in the 1870s. Or Khedive Tewfiq.

It was suggested it was the turtle that Farouq’s daughter Princess Ferial is riding in this picture, from the late 1930s or 1940sh (Ferial was born in 1938.)

Gradually, someone must have noted the varied stories weren’t terribly consistent. Then someone noticed that the King’s turtle had reportedly died in 2009. Oh, and again in 2011. And again last year.

A couple of Twitter posts:

As the first of those posts suggests, people were grasping at any story linking to King Farouq as a contrast to the present situation; this may be one reason why the story spread so quickly. This story in Britain’s Independent debunks the whole story, saying the turtle, named Samir, actually died 15 years ago, quoting Egypt’s Director of Regional Zoos. (But what would he know?) It suggests the story was made up (fairly clearlly true) to discredit President Morsi (less clear).
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"Cautious!"

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Tuesday he is “cautious” about U.S. military intervention in Syria because of doubts that it would halt the violence or achieve political reconciliation.He cast doubt on the effectiveness of establishing a no-fly zone, saying that only about 10 percent of the casualties suffered by anti-regime forces are caused by air strikes. He said 90 percent are caused by small arms and artillery, which would be unaffected by a no-fly zone….”


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ElBaradei: Egypt leader will need opposition help

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

Egypt's leading opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei speaks to a small group of journalists including The Associated Press at his house in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. Tuesday, April 30, 2013. El Baradei said a deeply polarized Egypt needs political consensus to tackle a burning economic crisis and deal with an angry population that has lost hope in its political elite. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's leading opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday he believes the Islamist president will eventually be forced to reach out to the opposition because his group is losing support and isn't able to tackle the country's myriad problems alone.

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Saudi Oil Minister US Energy Independence is Naive

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi says the United States is naive to think it could become independent from Middle East oil. Al-Naimi told an audience in Washington Tuesday that he welcomes an increase in U.S. oil and gas production as good for the U.S. economy and world oil supplies. But he said the idea of energy independence is naive and simplistic, because he said global energy …
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Hezbollah warns of possible Syria intervention

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian man who was injured in a powerful explosion, leaves a damaged building, in the central district of Marjeh, in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday April 30, 2013. A powerful explosion rocked Damascus on Tuesday, causing scores of casualties, a day after the country's prime minister narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the heart of the heavily protected capital. (AP Photo/SANA)BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group said Tuesday that Syrian rebels will not be able to defeat President Bashar Assad's regime militarily, warning that Syria's "real friends," including his Iranian-backed militant group, were ready to intervene on the government's side.

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This Leprechaun will relinquish Palestine, dismember Syria, Iraq & Lebanon … if he could!

April 30th, 2013 Comments off
… Leprechaun & Israel’s Levy


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Mysterious Hebrew stone displayed in Jerusalem

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

A museum worker points at the 'Gabriel Stone' as it is displayed at an exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. An ancient stone with mysterious Hebrew writing and featuring the archangel Gabriel is being displayed in Israel, even as scholars continue to argue about what the inscription means. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)JERUSALEM (AP) — An ancient limestone tablet covered with a mysterious Hebrew text that features the archangel Gabriel is at the center of a new exhibit in Jerusalem, even as scholars continue to argue about what it means.

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Civil Marriage Comes to Lebanon, with Caveats

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

Last Thursday, Lebanon’s Interior Ministry registered the civil marrage of Kholoud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish, a move widely heralded as the establishment of civil marriage in Lebanon. The couple married on October 10, 2012, and had their marriage acknowledged as legal by the Justice Ministry several weeks earlier; except for Turkey and (within certain limitations), Tunisia, no Muslim countries in the Middle East have civil marriage. Nor does Israel. Lebanon has long allowed civil registration of marriages performed abroad, and the courts regulate those marriages based on the laws of the country where the marriage took place (France, Cyprus, etc.), but marriages performed in Lebanon were always subject to one of the 18 recognized religious sects. This is the first legal registration if a civil marriage that was performed on Lebanese soil.

There has been no new legislation to authorize civil marriage, however. If I have this right, the civil marriage activists who have pushed this case essential recognized that Lebanese law does not in fact prohibit civil marriage, though there’s no regulatory law in place either. They simply got married (a willing civil notary performing the ceremony) after having their religious affiliations struck from their state identity registrations. The laws dating from the French mandate did not prohibit this but did not provide for it either.  (Tunisia, if I understand rightly, has a civil law of personal status and records civil marriages, but with some Islamic restrictions such as not allowing Muslim women to marry non-:Muslims. Some of my legally trained readers will probably correct me on the specifics in both cases.)

The Interior Minister who provided the final decision to register the marriage added the condition that the two cannot subsequenly change their religious affiliations. That condition, probably intended to placate the angry religious sects (the Sunni establishment has declared any Sunni supporting civil marriage as apostate), but the legal basis for those conditions is already being called in question.

So, as is often the case in things Lebanese, the main headline (Civil Marriage Comes to Lebanon) is true, but with lots of footnotes and caveats. Nonetheless, it’s a step. Congratulations to the happy couple, over six months after the actual ceremony.
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Post Mortem Assessments on the Egypt Independent Closure

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

Last week’s decision ti close the weekly print edition of the English-language Egypt Independent (see this piece, with links to the last issue, published online only), and — after an initial statement indicating the online English edition was also being closed — a clarification that the online version would continue, but with an “integrated newsroom” with Al-Masry al-Youm (presumably meaning no independent English-only reporting staff), several commentators have weighed in with post-mortems:

  • At the Daily News Egypt, itself an online reincarnation of a paper closed last year, Mahmoud Salem (“Sandmonkey”) offers “Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it . . .” a challenge yo English-speaking readers to rally to keeo alive an independent press in English. (The Ahram Online website and the Al-Ahram Weekly in print are, of course, government-run papers.)
  • Vivian Salama at the Columbia Journalism Review website has a piece, “In the Egypt Independent’s Closure, an End of a Beginning,” interviewing the former Editor-in-Chief, Lina Atallah, and citing the growing pressures on the independent press, in Arabic as well as English.
  • At the Wall Street Journal’s Middle East Real Time, Maria Abi Habib on “Egypt’s Independent Press Takes a Hit.”
  • Mention of Lina Atallah above invites the comment as well that Egypt Independent not only had a female Editor-in-Chief but a reporting and commentary staff that must have been nearly half female, certainly not the norm in the Egyptian press. Sarah Carr, one of those reporters, takes to her own blog to deliver the scathing “A Statement from the Fortress of Evil,” satirically purporting to be the “full version” of what was “left out” of the management’s official statement. (“Al-Masry Al-Youm Corp. has decided to shut down its one good thing
    which was called Egypt Independent but which in this statement will be
    called The Egypt Independent because of our natural aversion to accuracy.”) It clearly conveys what she sees as their contempt for their readership. (It’s therefore appropriately profane: language Not Safe for Work, but funny.)


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Best five Arabic books to read

April 30th, 2013 Comments off
I favor Elias Muhanna’s list the most in this list.  If I were to select my top five Arabic books, they would be:
1) Rasa’il Al-Jahiz (Epistles of Jahiz and some are translated).
2) Diwan of Mutanabbi (not the selection by Bernard Lewis and not his translation. There is one by Arberry, I think).
3) Mikha’il Nu`ayman’s Sab`un (not translated yet).
4) Arabian Nights.
5) Luzumiyyat of Abu Al-`Ala’ (there is a selection by Amin Rihani rendered into poetic English).

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