Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Morsi Meter

This has to be one of my favourite finds as of late, the Morsi Meter. Designed to help people track the promises made by President-Elect Morsi and the promises he keeps, I think we need one of these for every head of state out there. Obama springs directly to mind.

Broken into categories to provide ease of viewing, a few of my top choices from the list of 64 promises have to be the following:

From the Security category:

"Detaining outlaws and thugs and rehabilitating them psychologically and technically to make them good and active citizens in the community"
This is just a phenomenal idea! How about we collect all these people, put them in one location where they can be monitored, and call it a prison!

"Observance of the working hours and vacation allowances of police officers and implementing a rewarding overtime system."
So police in Egypt are going to be given *more* holidays than they already have? 

From the Traffic category (This has to be one of the best):

"Cancel the occupancy of metro stations to provide good car parkings near the stations to facilitate the use of the subway for car owners."
So, I'm not quite sure if I understand what this means...or how you can cancel the occupancy of a station while letting it run. But I have one thing to say, obviously President Morsi has never been to the metro stations on Road 9 in Cairo, because I have to ask, where the eff does he propose putting the cars if not in the station itself? 

"Make use of free land spaces for car parking places."
Because Cairo is just so full of empty space. 

"Work with the modern traffic systems that have automated traffic lights and special without the need of traffic police officers and globalizing the idea of civilized justified censorship."
Firstly, there are already traffic lights throughout the country, and some of them actually work and are abided to (in Hurghada you do actually see a few). But despite this, in Cairo there is usually a traffic cop directing traffic *anyway* because the concept of green means go and red means stop is lost here. As for the second part, "huh?"

From the Bread category:

"Authorising the bakeries to work after the baking is done."
You mean over-time in Egypt is going to be encouraged! Say it isn't so! As my sister said, this makes it sound as though it used to be "all bakeries must shut down once baking is done...nevermind actually selling the bread"

From the Cleaning category:

"A well priced Hot Number for reporting on buildings violations."
What does that even mean??? That sounds like a 1-888-dial a date ad to me! 

"Commitment of Cleaning agencies and organizations to remove all the waste in the streets."
We have this in Hurghada, it's called HEPCA. Problem is? If you leave your rubbish to the *side* of the over-flowing HEPCA bins, they won't collect it. Never mind the problems that people have with their HEPCA bins being stolen. And oh yeah, if you have a big black bin, not the designated red HEPCA bins, forget about them picking up your rubbish. 

"Garbage collection is done by national corperates[sic] and NGOs."
See above :p 

And finally, from the Fuel category: 

"Butane gas tubes delivery to citizens in their homes in coordination between NGOs, supply and the province."
Obviously the guys that come up my road at 7 in the morning rattling their butane cans missed the memo that they weren't meant to be doing this yet. 

"Assigning honest supply inspectors with attractive incentives to accompany the transfer of fuel from the depot of the stations."
Hey guys, we're gonna pay you handsomely to sit back and watch everyone else work, and make sure 'quality is assured,' sound good to you? 

"Recruitment of NGOs in monitoring the amount of fuel entering and leaving the stations."
How is this not *already* monitored?  

In all fairness, there are some great ideas that he has in his list of promises, albeit I have to wonder where he's going to get all the money to implement these changes he wants to see. Only time will tell just how successful he really is, and I hope that this idea of a "Morsi meter," or as I'd like to see an "Obama meter" catches on! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Morsi's Speech to Egypt

I have a great many things that I want to write about the past 48 hours in Egypt, and those posts will follow in time. For now, I am sure there are a great many people out there looking to read the speech Morsi finally gave to his supporters last night (no less than 6 hours *after* he was elected...) translated into English. We'll see how many of these promises he actually sticks to.

In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful. Thanks be to Allah, prayers and peace be upon the messenger of Allah. Say: In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy: therein let them rejoice. It is better than what they hoard (Quranic verse). Egyptian people, you who today are rejoicing and celebrating the feast of democracy in Egypt, you who are standing in squares, in the Tahrir Square and in all the squares of Egypt, my beloved ones, my family and people, my brethren and my sons, who are looking forward to the future, you who want good, rebirth, development, stability, safety and security for our country of Egypt. My beloved ones, I address you thanks to God Almighty. We all thank God for reaching this historic moment, this moment which represents a landmark that has been written with the hands and wills of the Egyptians, their blood, tears and sacrifices, this moment, which we are all shaping with these sacrifices. I would not have talked to you today as the first president elected by the free will of Egyptians in the first presidential elections after the 25 January revolution, I would not have been here today with you now amid this sweeping joy, which is sweeping all corners of our beloved homeland, I would not have been here but for God's help and these sacrifices, the precious blood of our honourable martyrs and our great injured men.

Thanks and salute to the martyrs, to the souls of martyrs, to the mothers and fathers of martyrs, to my people who have lost their dear ones and sacrificed them for the sake of Egypt. My supplications go to these martyrs and the injured people, who watered the tree of freedom with their blood and paved the way for us to reach this moment. I again repeat my appreciation and thanks to the families of all of those who taught their children the meaning of martyrdom and true patriotism and who showed patience for the loss of their dear ones as a price for freedom, who showed patience for the loss of their dear ones as a price for freedom (repetition).

I promise them once again that this precious blood will not go in vain. Salute to the great Egyptian people, the best soldiers on earth, to the Armed Forces, to all its sons wherever they are, pure salutations from my heart to them and I bear them love that nobody knows except for God Almighty. I love them and appreciate their role and show keenness to strengthen them and keep them and this prestigious organization [the army] that we all love and appreciate.

And for the honourable policemen, the policemen who are my brothers and sons, some of whom mistakenly believe that I might feel less appreciation for them and that is wrong. Whoever commits a crime is punished according to the law. As for the honest policemen, who are the majority of my brothers and sons among policemen in Egypt, for those, I'm obliged to salute them because they have a big role to play in the future to maintain safety and security inside the homeland. Due salutations, too, to all Egyptian judges, who supervised all the elections after the revolution and even to those who have not supervised the elections. All judges in Egypt should be appreciated, respected and loved, and they are the third authority that should always keep its head high, remain independent, possess its own will and work separately from the executive power, and my responsibility in the future is to make sure that judges truly and genuinely work separately from the executive and legislative powers. I say to everyone, to all categories of the Egyptian people, to my people in this witnessed day that I'm today by your choice, by your own will, after thanks go to God Almighty, today I am a president for all Egyptians, wherever they are, inside and outside the country, in all governorates, cities, towns of Egypt, on its eastern borders, western borders, southern borders and northern borders and in the middle of the country.

Our vast Egyptian lands, its generous people, my beloved people, the people of Nubia, the people of Rafah, Arish, South Sinai, Mersa Matrouh, west Egypt, north Egypt and Delta provinces, Port Sa'id, cities of the (Suez) Canal; Ismailiya and Suez, Al-Sharqiyah, Al-Daqahliya, Kafr el-Shaykh, Al-Gharbiya, Al-Menoufiya, Al-Qalubiya, Alexandria, the Oases, the Red Sea, South Sinai, southern Upper Egypt; Bani Suef, Al-Fayoum, Al-Minya, Assiut, Suhaj, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Nubia once again and the Oases, all my people, all my Egyptian people, Muslims and Christians alike, men and women, the old and the elderly and the young men, mothers and fathers, peasants and workers, public servants, teachers, university professors, businessmen, public servants, workers in the Public Enterprise sector and the government departments and the private sector, those who work in all state institutions, merchants, drivers, bus, trains, taxis, tok-tok cars, they are all my people, those who have professions, owners of small kiosks, owners of small shops, vendors selling goods on road pavements, the elderly, the students who go to public and private schools, those who have professions, everyone, I hope I don't ever forget anyone.

I address you all on this remarkable day in which I was chosen, thanks to Allah and your will, president for all Egyptians, and will stand at an equal distance from all Egyptians, everyone has his own value and standing, nobody is dealt with differently except on the basis of their giving to his country and the amount of respect they show for the constitution and law.

I can never forget the people who work in the diplomatic corps and the workers in the General Intelligence Service and those who maintain the security of the homeland against its enemies wherever they are. I cannot forget all of them.

Oh Egyptian people, Egypt, this beloved Egypt which lives in our hearts, our homeland which we all love, Egypt, which impressed the world with its revolution and the sacrifices of its young men, which impressed the world with the queues of its voters, with the keenness of its sons to stand in line in the queues outside polling stations, whether during the constitutional referendum held in March 2011, or in the People's Assembly elections in late 2011, or in the Shura Council elections in early 2012, or in the presidential elections which ended on 17 June, and whose results we celebrate today, and we respect these results.

Egypt, which impressed the world with the queues of its voters, needs now to close ranks, unite the word, so that the patient, great Egyptian people can reap the fruit of their sacrifices in a better life, achieve social justice, freedom and human dignity, which are the basic slogans or the main goals that the throats of the revolutionaries kept repeating in all Egyptian squares on the 25th of January 2011, and which revolutionaries still repeat loudly in all the squares of the revolution, which is still continuing.

The revolution will continue until all its objectives are achieved. Together, we complete this march. The people have been patient, the Egyptian people have been patient and since then suffered disease, hunger, injustice, oppression, marginalization, the rigging of will and the rigging of elections. We used to look around in the world and say: when will Egypt, the Egyptian people, be the source of power? Today, you are the source of power as the world can see in this epic, in this great system through which we would take Egypt to a better future, god willing. 
The people have been patient and long suffered disease, hunger, injustice and oppression, and it is time they restored their will, freedom and found a better life without painstaking and found justice that does not differentiate between an old and a young one or between an employee and an employer, because everyone before the law is equal.

I, my beloved ones the people of Egypt, who have trusted me and put on my shoulder the responsibility, this heavy responsibility, say to all of you, I, thanks to God, have been put in authority over you and I am not the best of you. I have been put in authority over you and I am not the best of you (repetition). I will do my best to fulfil the commitments and obligations I have undertaken before all of you. Egypt is for all Egyptians, all of us are equals in terms of rights. All of us also have duties towards this homeland. As for myself, I don't have rights. I only have duties. I have no rights. Rather, I only have duties. So, help me, my people. Help me as long as I do the right thing. Help me as long as obey Allah in you. If I did not do that and did not commit to what I have promised you before, then obedience to me is not incumbent upon you. Obedience to me is not incumbent on you (repetition).I invite you, the great Egyptian people, my people in this historic moment to strengthen our national unity, to cement bonds amongst us, to strengthen our comprehensive national unity. And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate (Quranic verse).

We are all Egyptians no matter what our viewpoints, we are all nationalists no matter what our parties and trends. We are all faithful to the revolution and to the blood of martyrs. There is no place for the language of collusion and there is no place for accusing each other of treachery. This national unity is the way now to get Egypt out of this difficult stage and to prepare for a comprehensive project in which we are all involved; a comprehensive project for the real rebirth of Egypt, real development, real capitalization of all our resources. Our resources are massive. God's blessings are numerous. And if ye would count the bounty of Allah ye cannot reckon it (Quranic verse). But as you all know, these resources were plundered and misused. We are today about to run these resources in a way that benefits us all, God willing.I invite you to prepare for a comprehensive project of rebirth, for the Egyptian rebirth, with the hands of all Egyptians. We Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, we Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are advocates of civilization and construction.

We have always been like that and will remain so, God willing. We will face together seditions and conspiracies that aim at our national unity and our social coherence. As we have together made the great revolution of January 2011, we insist that you impress the world once more with Egyptian renaissance, God willing, that achieves dignity and stability, welfare, good life for every free, dignified Egyptian in the land of Egypt.

I am intent with your help to build a new Egypt, a national country, a constitutional, democratic, modern country, and all my time will be dedicated to this big project which is based on our identity and reference. I will work hard with all of you to maintain Egypt's national security, with all its dimensions, whether at Arab, African, regional or international levels. We will maintain international charters and conventions.

We came to the world with a message of peace. We will maintain international charters and conventions and the commitments and agreements Egypt has signed with the world. We will also work to make the Egyptian system of ethics, and its civilizational identity, in addition to human values particularly in freedoms, respect for human rights, maintaining rights of women and children and abrogating all sorts of discrimination. We will establish, God willing, balanced relations with all world powers, we will establish balanced relations between us and other world countries based on common interests and mutual respect and benefits to all sides.

We will not allow ourselves to interfere in the internal affairs of any country in the same way that we will not allow any interference in our affairs and hence maintain our national sovereignty and the borders of the Egyptian state. Let everybody knows that Egypt's decision is made inside it, by the will of its sons, let everybody know that Egypt by our call for peace with all the world is capable by its people, men, people, armed forces, great history, of defending itself and preventing any aggression or thoughts of aggression against it or against its sons in any part of this world.

You great Egyptian people, my people and family, I realize the challenges facing us at this stage but I'm sure that we with God's help and our cooperation and your support would be able to cross this stage quickly so that Egypt can be strong and leading to its nation, pioneering in its world. This is Egypt's destiny and what is waiting it. This is Egypt's destiny and what is waiting it in the future, God willing.

I reiterate that while we all are celebrating and rejoicing with this great democracy, with these elections, with the victory of the nation's will in the way that you are celebrating now. I reiterate what I have said before that I will not betray Allah in you, would not betray Allah in you and would not disobey Him in my country.

I set before my eyes God's saying: and guard yourselves against a day in which ye will be brought back to Allah. Then every soul will be paid in full that which it hath earned, and they will not be wronged. Repeat with me my beloved ones, with our will, our unity, our love for each other, we can shape the decent future for all of us. Some might not see that from outside the homeland or feel it is difficult for us to achieve that out of sympathy for us or for other reasons, however, we, God willing, can go ahead along this path to achieve a better future.

Allah guideth us all to the best of ways. My beloved ones, some see this, but we see it together close, God willing. Tomorrow is very soon. And Allah was predominant in His career, but most of mankind know not (Quranic verse). Peace and God's blessings be upon you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Foreign Spy Element Part II

In following up with yesterdays blog The Foreign Spy Element, below is the YouTube video of the ad that ran on the Egyptian State TV channels. The ad has allegedly been pulled from the air, with rumours abound of it being edited to make it more foreigner friendly.

Considering the concentration of foreigners in Cairo itself, this ad presents a great many worries of increasing xenophobia. Although it is meant to be targeting foreign journalists specifically, for a country that is already looking to place the blame on any foreign elements and invisible hands it is highly doubtful that any distinctions will be made.

Blogger Zeinobia expressed beliefs on her blog that this ad may be setting the stage for the impending media clamp down that may occur if Ahmed Shafiq is elected to the presidency and he proceeds to crush the ongoing protests and Muslim Brotherhood movements. She fears the implications that spreading such hate messages could have on human rights in the country.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is the advert. Beware any foreign elements, or those that ask you "REALLY" before rapidly typing into their cell phones. For non-Arabic speakers, the ad discusses a reported conspiracy against the military junta, and the slogan that flashes across the screen says "Every word has a price; a word can save a nation." Propaganda at its best.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Irony of Egyptian Checkpoints

In and around Hurghada and the Red Sea area, checkpoints on the road are becoming more and more commonplace. These checkpoints are multi-faceted. Not only are they meant to be a deterrent to criminal activity or set up while authorities are searching for wanted individuals and / or illegal smuggling of weapons and / or drugs, checkpoints for speed radar are springing up all over the place.

The road between Cairo and the Red Sea used to seem like a practice track for all the up and coming Michael Schumachers in the world. With cars flying down the road at speeds topping 180 km per hour, and buses wobbling dramatically as they rocket around the hair pin bends in Zafarana at 80 km plus, it's little comfort to know that checkpoints and radar set up along the road are meant to combat the excessive speeds.

On certain occasions you will actually watch them erecting or turning on the radar on the side of the road. Inevitably there will be a checkpoint a few kilometres up the road. Drivers caught speeding face an immediate fine of 150 LE (about 30 US $), as well as the threat of fines for not wearing your seat belt. And here's where the irony arises.

In Hurghada one of the main roads that will have checkpoints is the airport road. With a marked speed limit of 60 km per hour, being one of the few well tarmacked roads in Hurghada drivers will push their cars up to speeds topping out at over 100 km an hour. It seems that radar on the road should provide a nice little cushion of income for the Egyptian government. On top of that, the checkpoints enable authorities to catch taxis who are not using their meters (for which taxi drivers can face immediate fines of 200 LE and up), drivers who are not wearing seat belts (50 LE fines), expired licenses (most commonly on microbuses), and most recently talking on the cell phone (upwards of 50 LE fines).

If you're in a taxi or car approaching this checkpoint, there are a few things that will happen in rapid succession. Firstly, the driver will frantically reach to turn on his meter if you're in a cab. Secondly, he will reach for his seat belt to clip it in. In many cars the seat belt doesn't actually fasten, so they will simply hold the buckle down to make it appear that it's fastened (laughable). If he's been speeding, you will immediately drop down below the 60 km speed limit (although let's face it, if you've already seen the checkpoint and you've been speeding, you're already busted). And in the not-so-rare occasions that he will be on the mobile, the mobile will immediately be dropped between his legs, leaving him to have an apparent conversation with his crotch.

All this happens in less than a minute upon spotting the checkpoint. The drivers will all crawl through, and generally *no less* than 50 meters past the checkpoint, speeds go back up, seat belts come undone, phones are back on the ear, and in many taxis the meter is turned back off - God forbid you actually try to charge your client what the fair rate is right?

Considering this is not a phenomenon limited to one or two checkpoints throughout the country, but can be considered a rule of thumb, were the Egyptian government to set up one dummy checkpoint and have a second checkpoint five or ten km down the road where the fines are doubled, imagine the money they could make! But, that requires logic, and as I was telling a friend of mine earlier, sadly these days logic is a commodity hard to come by. 

The Foreign Spy Element

Being in Cairo at the moment, I have a lot of things I want to post to here. But in the meantime, here's the most outrageous article I have read recently (which with the way news is evolving in Egypt, is really saying something ... I'll have to see if this ad can be found on YouTube). From The Independent and written by Alastair Beach, read on.

The Egyptian government was stung by a wave of criticism yesterday following the appearance of a series of television adverts which appeared to warn viewers against talking to foreigners because they might be spies.

The glossy-looking commercials, which last for about 40 seconds, feature a foreign man walking into a café and then sitting down with a group of three young Egyptians.

To a doom-laden soundtrack replete with violin crescendos and plodding drumbeats, a girl at the table starts talking to the English-speaking guest about a reported conspiracy against the army.

The curious visitor nods along, before tapping a message into his mobile phone to an unknown third party. A slogan then appears on screen saying: "Every word has a price; a word can save a nation."

The adverts, which started appearing on state-owned and private television stations this week, have generated bemusement and anger among Egyptians and foreigners alike.

Taking to Twitter to vent her feelings, the Cairo-based journalist Reem Abdellatif said the adverts took Egypt back to the "Dark Ages".

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia, writing on her Egyptian Chronicles webpage, raised the possibility the campaign was an opening salvo in a war against civil-rights organisations and journalists.

She said: "I fear that this ad is an introduction for a campaign against human rights activists and journalists from abroad so they will not cover the upcoming crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood as well [as] revolutionary powers and groups if [Ahmed] Shafik is elected as a president."

Since the Military Council took power last year, viewers who have watched the tightly controlled state-television news channels have been fed a sporadic diet of stories about "foreign hands" interfering in Egyptian politics.

The paranoia reached its apogee this year, when 16 Americans were among 43 non-governmental-organisation workers put on trial accused of illegally using foreign funds to foment unrest.

In an example of the febrile swirl of conspiracy theories doing the rounds, Al-Ahram newspaper – Egypt's most venerated publication – ran a front-page story saying: "American funding aims to spread anarchy in Egypt."

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, one Cairo-based American photographer said he felt the xenophobia in Egypt had got markedly worse in recent months. "I've felt less safe," said Cliff Cheney, 38. "I've felt more animosity."

It is still unclear who was behind the advertising campaign, but one prominent journalist who used to work for the state-owned Nile TV network told The Independent that it was probably ordered on air by the Ministry of Information.

"They used to give these kind of spots to the head of the channel," said Shahira Amin, talking about previous government-sponsored commercials. "They were prerecorded and the ministry would say it had to run a certain number of times."

Nobody from the Ministry of Information was available to comment yesterday.

The uproar over the adverts came as hundreds of protesters flocked to Tahrir Square yesterday to rally against the forthcoming presidential election.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mubarak Sentenced to Life, Sons Acquitted

Hosni Mubarak, the deposed former president of Egypt, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison today for his complicity in the killing of protesters during the uprising. The former minister of interior, Habib al-Adly, was also acquitted, but Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Alaa, have been acquitted.

Charges of corruption directed at Mubarak were dropped, as were the corruption charges against his two sons. The reason being these charges could be proven, but they date back to over ten years ago. More recent evidence is needed [within the past ten years] for a corruption sentencing.

Many Egyptians are sitting back and calling the trial a farce. Whether Mubarak will ever actually see the inside of a prison cell is debatable; his verdict will most likely be caught up in appeal after appeal.

Is this justice? Are the Egyptians satisfied with the outcome of the trial? Initial scuffles outside of the Police Academy in Cairo where the trial was held would seem to indicate no.

I will continue to update the blog as this news develops throughout the day and people have had time to really digest what this verdict means.