Friday, December 28, 2012

Welcome to the New Egyptian Democracy

I'll let the following article from the Egypt Independent do the talking here.

Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah agreed to assign a judge to investigate allegations of treason levied against Constitution Party leader Mohamed ElBaradei and former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabbahi.

Al-Sayed Hamed, a member of the executive bureau of the Lawyers Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee, filed the charges along with his colleague, Nasser al-Asqalany.

ElBaradei, Moussa and Sabbahi lead the National Salvation Front, a coalition of 15 liberal parties opposed to the recently instated Constitution. They claim the constitutional referendum was rigged.

Prior to the referendum, the front led demonstrations against the Constitution in front of the presidential palace. At least ten died in the course of clashes with supporters of President Mohamed Morsy.

Hamed is also bringing charges of treason against former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan, Judges Club head Ahmed al-Zend and Supreme Constitutional Court Vice President Tahani al-Gebali.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sunset on a Lonely Beach

And again delving into the mysteries of teenage angst, another poem I penned on 10-10-99.

Sunset on a Lonely Beach 
With the soothing of waves, 
And rustling of wind. 
With the disappearance of heartached days, 
And the worries of a lifetime. 
Secluded among the minions
Of a heartless person. 
Pink tinted seas, 
Powdered skies, 
Swirl around, mingling into one
Caressing gently, the toes of an Angel, 
Silently moving the wings, 
As if prepared for flight, 
The heart soars free. 
Carried on the whispering winds, 
To uncharted domain. 
White horses run, but 
Never escaping he binding force
Of powers so great, 
And unimaginable to ignorant. 
Only those with the heart of the wild, 
And Spirit of Freedom, possess
The power of escaping, 
Cold and inhumane people. 
No consideration, to the 
Hearts of those damaged. 
It continues an unending cycle, 
Of vicious deceit, and webs of lies. 
Only to be tangled in, 
By those claiming innocence. 

Revelations on the Inner Side

A poem I wrote back in the days of teenage angst that I recently uncovered again, and feel is worth publishing!

In the Autumn leaves fall, 
But in the Spring they grow. 
A rejuvenating call, 
Omitted by the fawn to the roe, 
Is a reminder of the miracle, 
We were born into.

Were we to jeopardise this, 
Our lives would crumble. 
No more eternal bliss, 
Our steps falter as we stumble. 
Is this world we create,
Clouded by shadows? 

There is one binding force, 
Which keeps us on the road. 
An ever changing course, 
A way no one has showed. 
It is a tie strong as steel, 
But vulnerable as wool. 

As sure as the snow in Africa, 
As definite as the sun's warmth. 
Now is not getting darker, 
No longer headed North. 
The bond to keep us going, 
Is the bond of true love. 

A fruit of the Spirit, 
A gift to those who receive. 
Eternal feelings of merit, 

No reason to grieve. 
It is true love for which I seek, 

Yet may have found in you. 

A Buying Guide to Rowing Machines

Rowing machines can be great cardio exercise that will allow you to shape bother your lower and upper body. Not many gym equipment pieces can be 
compared to a rowing machine when it comes to toning and fat burning.

The machine simulates rowing action, a pulling and pushing movement. The result is you work your thighs, calves, shoulders, back and arms all at once. Our Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide will help you select the best machine for you if you’re considering purchasing one.

The equipment can be expensive. So you want to take your time to pick the correct machine for you.

Rowing makes for an ideal cardo workout. It’s low-impact, so suitable for any age group or fitness level. Despite being safe, it’s still crucial to know how to correctly operate the machine.

Prior to purchasing, what should you consider?

How often do you intend to use it?

If you are not planning on regular usage and you are restricted in space, a collapsible rowing machine provides the perfect solution.

The machine is hydraulic, and tends to be smaller. If you’re not over-using it, the parts can last for several years before they need changing. But for everyday use, such machines are not a good choice. You’ll need a higher-end machine that is made for higher usage.

What space is available?

Remember the collapsible machines as an option. If noise is a concern, then there are also silent hydraulic models available.

Should I have a work-out monitor with my equipment?

Before you rush out to buy the most top-end rowing model out there, you must first consider what you need from your machine. Compare prices and options before you even head to the store, so you can avoid being pressured into an impulse buy.

Quality machines range between £200-£450. These include the basic features like functions, time, distance, speed, and calories burnt. While there are models with less add-ons, just remember you’ll always get what you’ve paid for; cheap doesn’t always mean good.

Top-end rowing machines can often tip the scale at over £1,000. But you don’t have to fork out that much cash for decent rowing equipment, particularly if it’s a new sporting endeavor for you. Don’t forget to take your estimated usage, budget, and overall fitness-goals into consideration before you buy.

The additional computer can sometimes pack on an extra £200 to the cost of your equipment.

While this might seem dear, it’s a feature many enjoy as it records and tracks your time, stroke-rate and distance. This can help you set goals and measure your progression. So take that into consideration when you’re buying.

Is variable resistance built in?

Most machines will include this option, but remember to double-check the range. Wider ranges can be beneficial as you can utilize your rowing equipment for anaerobic exercise when you increase resistance.

Do I need to test the machine?

It’s important whenever you are purchasing sporting equipment to check it first before buying. You want to make sure it’s comfortable and check the movement. If you’re purchasing online, check your local gym to see what models they have.

When these are not an option, verify the company’s returns-policy.

Is it an adjustable machine?

If you’re planning on letting other people use your machine, it’s important that the foot and seat pads are adjustable.

What’s the weight-limit on the machine?

Although oftentimes forgotten, there is a safe weight-limit for each machine. It’s possible to void your warranty if you go over this suggested limit. Make sure you check prior to ordering.

Is the cost justifiable?

Quality equipment can be expensive, so you want to make sure you’ll get your money’s worth before buying. A one-year gym membership may be cheaper than the cost of a rowing machine, and it gives you a wider choice of equipment.

What about second-hand?

Another option to purchase your equipment, but look out for damage or strange-noises. If you do purchase second-hand, do it from a private individual as opposed to a gym, as they will have undoubtedly used the machine far less.

There are many rowing machines that will be in great condition, despite being second-hand, simply due to lack of use.

Where should I place it?

Oxygen and good ventilation are important, so factor these in when you’re placing your machine. Do you want to watch TV when working out? Another thing to consider when you’re figuring out where to place your rowing machine. 

Logbook Loans Versus Payday Loans

What makes a logbook loan more suitable than a payday loan?

With the recent economic turmoil in the world, it’s little surprise that many people are struggling to find ways to get cash-in-hand quickly. For this, short-term loans have often fitted the bill perfectly.

But as many banks have also been hit by the recession, they are increasingly wary of lending to consumers. As a result individuals are forced to seek alternative means for a cash loan.

A market that cropped up to meet this need was the pay-day loan scheme. However, those that examine the terms and conditions of such loans carefully may in fact notice that a logbook loan is more suited to their needs, and comes with lower risks than a payday loan.

Here’s a few reasons that a logbook loan may be the more suitable option:

  • Interest rates are significantly reduced.
  • Although payday loans may seem a quick-fix for a cash in hand loan, many individuals fail to consider the high interest rates that such loans come with.
  • Payday loans can sometimes come with APRs topping 4,000 %, leaving borrowers paying back a substantially larger sum than they originally borrowed. It does little to help your cash flow stabilize, which is what loans are intended to do! If you don’t repay it quickly, you may find yourself facing a potentially debilitating debt.

Logbook loans however, are secured against the worth of the borrower’s car, which generally means that the APRs are far less, meaning it’s a more manageable debt and easier to pay back.

Potential for larger sums in loans

While payday loans may hold an appeal in that they require virtually no collateral, leaving it as a no-strings attached type loan, if you already own a vehicle you have a high-value asset in your possession. This asset can be used to help obtain a logbook loan, which then in turn gives you access to a greater potential sum to loan.

Although it depends on the value of your vehicle, logbook lenders may offer loans ranging from £200 up to £25,000. It doesn’t matter if you are considered to be self-employed, or if you have a less than stellar credit record. Your car is generally the second most valuable asset you would own, and you can make that asset work harder for you in securing a log book loan.

Loan periods are more easily managed

Payday loans are designed to be a quick-fix, that is a short-term solution. What that means, is you’ll have to repay the loan within a relatively short period of time. If the borrower cannot secure the funds to repay the loan, the interest quickly builds up. This leaves borrowers at times forced to take out a second loan merely to repay the first loan!

Lenders offering logbook loans however, can set it up so that you can repay the debt over a far greater time period, anywhere from half a year up to three. In addition, borrowers can sort out a repayment plan to match their cash-flow needs, which guarantees you can pay back your debt in a timely and stress free fashion. 

Advantages of Professional Hair Care Products

A common trait amongst women is that we all want to feel and look beautiful. How easy it would be if we could all afford a personal stylist! Fortunately, the evolution of hair care products today allow women to obtain that salon-styled look from the comfort of their home with the use of professional hair care products.

There are a number of reasons why you should opt for these hair care products over the everyday ones. The professional brands ensure that you’ll get the look you want without the fear of possible reactions to the product such as rashes. This goes for shampoos, conditioners, hair coloring kits, moisturizers, etc, the results will leave you pleasantly surprised.

But for safety’s sake, make sure you always do an allergy test prior to using these products. Professional hair care products can be stronger than the everyday products, and although it makes them more efficient, it may mean that your skin will react to the product’s ingredients. Fortunately the wide range of professional hair care products means you’re guaranteed to find the right one for you. From thick to thin hair, curly to straight, long, short, damaged, the list goes on.

Dandruff is a problem that many of us suffer from, which professional hair care products can alleviate. Exceptional products will not only help to eliminate the problem of dandruff, but also fight against it reappearing. Alongside helping relieve issues with dandruff, regular use of professional hair care products can help you say bye-bye to split ends and hair loss.

The quality of professional hair care products speak for themselves. Using products like this, you can rest assured that your perfect up-do will remain perfect throughout the duration of your party without falling down. The selection of products also help you embrace your wild side when it comes to experimenting with new hair styles and techniques. The products even protect your hair so you don’t have to worry about damage!

These days, men and women alike subject our hair to all sorts of stresses. Between daily styling to other damage, it’s a wonder some of us still have a decent set of hair at all! Professional hair care products can help protect your hair from these damaging factors, leaving you with beautiful hair everyday! Shopping for these products has never been easier than today, with the Internet allowing you to shop around and compare the huge variety of available products, and have them delivered right to your front door.

So next time you’re looking for the look of salon-styled hair, Bumble and Bumble have the ideal range of professional hair care products to meet your every need. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Alexandria Thugs Attack

I'll let the video do the talking here. This is footage from Alexandria, Egypt, after Islamists thugs were brought into town to attack the protesters. This was their reaction.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Yes, I changed my mind"

Re-posting from Al-Arabiya news, below find a post by Wael Ghoneim provided a satirical response from President Morsi.

“Why did you change your mind?” Several people that I love and respect keep asking me. “What happened to you? You seem to have become too biased!”

To those dear friends I say:

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I read the national reconciliation initiative launched by the Facebook page We Are all Khaled Saeid before millions of people live on ONTV two weeks before I was elected, I said that as head of the Freedom and Justice Party, I agree to form another Constituent Assembly that is representative of all the Egyptian society. I did not do that.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised those who supported me in the elections two days before the results were out that I will do my best to restructure the Constituent Assembly in a way that creates balance between different Egyptian factions, I did not even try. In fact, instead of trying to resolve the crisis of the withdrawal of 26 members of the assembly, I decided the constitution is to be finished in 48 hours even if only 85 members, after calling upon reserve members to join, attended.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised following a meeting with lawyers that the constitution will not be put to referendum unless a real societal dialogue is established, I suddenly decided to set December 15 as the date of the referendum.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised that I will barely use my legislative powers, I issued a Constitutional Declaration (not even a law) that strips Egyptian citizens of their right to contest my decisions. I even guarded the Constituent Assembly, which I promised to restructure, against any attempts at dissolving it.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised in a closed meeting with ten youths and some of my advisors that the constitution will be based on a national dialogue that does not exclude any of the political powers, I polarized Egyptians a few days later and almost ignited “sedition” among the people.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. My group started mobilizing my supporters in front of the presidential palace and I came out and spoke only to them. I actually said that my opposition is very limited and that my critics are not working towards the country’s best interest. Then the group mobilized more people a few days after to say that I am supported by 90% of the Egyptian people while I know I won the elections by 51%. This is exactly what the former regime used to do.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised total independence for the judiciary, I insisted on appointing a new prosecutor general who I chose and who had come straight from Bahrain to take the oath at 1:00 am in the midst of slogans chanted by my supporters. I did that without consulting anyone in the Supreme Judicial Council and as part of an “unconstitutional” declaration. I did not even say that the new prosecutor general is temporary until the constitution is finished, but made it clear he will stay through my term in office.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. A few days after the declaration was issued, I decided to act indifferently towards protestors that filled Tahrir Square and I did not even call for a national dialogue in order to resolve the crisis and avoid further escalation.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. Instead of respecting democracy and the people’s right to choose, I issued an unconstitutional declaration then gave the people the choice between a flawed constitution and a declaration that gives me powers never officially given before to any ruler in the history of Egypt. 

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised that the presidency will only make decisions after carefully studying them, I decided to act without consulting anyone so that even the minister of justice and the vice-president had reservations on my decisions.

- Yes, I have changed my mind. After I promised to redress any wrong I do, I persisted and even mobilized people to support my decisions and labeled the opposition “a malicious minority” and “revolutionaries who abandoned the revolution for personal gains.”

- Yes, I have changed my mind. Yesterday when I needed your votes I told you that “our strength lies in our unity” and now I am telling you to “go to hell.”

May God guide us to the right path!

(Wael Ghoneim is an Egyptian activist. The Arabic version of the article was published in Al-Nahar Egypt newspaper on Dec. 3, 2012)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Protests Rattle Hurghada

In what has not been seen since the Jan. 28th Revolution, large protests have been held around Hurghada, both pro and anti-Morsi.

While the pro-Morsi protesters took up camp in downtown Dahar of Hurghada, the anti-Morsi protesters rallied around Sheraton Street, one of the main tourist areas of Hurghada. They started in a small square in front of the Bella Vista Hotel, and spent about an hour hyping the crowd up. By this time the protest was only a few hundred strong.

After about an hour, the protesters moved down the Sheraton street. It was truly incredible to watch. To protect the protesters from the traffic and any unwanted individuals entering the flurry, the back end was sealed by a huge banner and the sides were initially sealed off by people carrying rope. The protest soon swelled however, and a human chain was created as an add-on to the rope. The protest stretched far down Sheraton as people moved down the street, diverting traffic.

Despite there being some frustrated drivers, most who passed through honked in support of the protesters walking through the street. While the protests here don't compare at all to those witnessed in Cairo, we have not seen protests like this since one or two days during the January Revolution. It's an indication of just how serious the situation at the moment really is.

Alongside chanting "The people demand the fall of the regime," protesters had a few colourful chants. From comparing Morsi to Mubarak, and calling them both liars, "Morsi is a failure" was also chanted. Find below photos from Hurghada's anti-Morsi rally today, along with some videos. Men and women, veiled and unveiled, and even children partook in Hurghada's rally tonight.

A young boy riles up the crowd

**All photos copyright Susan Richards-Benson. Please contact me for high-res photos**

Youtube Videos:

Egypt's Media Protests Restrictions

December 4th was announced as a day of Civil Strike against President Morsi, the draft Constitution, and his decree granting him sweeping powers. Media outlets announced they planned to print blank pages, but whether or not it would actually go through was always questionable.

But the Egypt Independent certainly has. This is what you see when you open up their homepage.

It will be interesting to see how the day shapes up. Protests are planned throughout the country, with an anticipated mass-rally in Cairo planning to march on the Presidential Palace. Hurghada also has rallies planned, I hope to get out and snap some shots of that later on today. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Constitutional Referendum Leaves Country Divided

President Morsi's sweeping Constitutional Decree issued on November 21st has been met with public anger and dissent. With Egyptians again taking to the streets, a power struggle at the very street levels has begun. We saw this weekend massive liberal rallies on Friday (albeit smaller than last Tuesday's rallies), followed by the Muslim Brotherhood rallies on Saturday. While the MB's media camp has claimed over 6 million supporters showed up to rally at their protests, the liberal camp have insisted that the MB bussed their supporters in from all over Egypt - hence the mass turn-out. The picture below illustrates this.

Buses carried MB supporters to Cairo
from all throughout Egypt.

The MB protests were out to show their support firstly for President Morsi's decree, and secondly for the new draft Constitution, which was voted on last Wednesday. Many argue that this draft Constitution violates basic human rights and freedom of belief. The MB supporters however, see it as a positive step towards making Egypt a truly Islamic "free" country, and one that continues to uphold the principles of the Egyptian Revolution.

On Saturday, the Islamists made their intentions very clear. The Deputy Chairman of Egypt's Salafist movement, the more extreme arm of political Islamists, Sheikh Yasser Burhami,said: “This million man demonstration demands the application of Allah’s Shariah ... The Egyptian people chose the Islamists as their representatives in parliament and in the constituent assembly through which we suffered and tolerated a lot to produce a constitution that will pave the way for the people to apply Allah’s Shariah ... We tell the Constitutional Court that no one will defeat the people of Egypt. Thirty men and a woman who do not respect the laws of Allah will not rule Egypt by tailoring laws and regulations.” [In reference to the Constitutional Court's Judicial Board, made up of 30 male judges and one female. I won't even comment on the obvious repugnant tone of that last statement. Source]

Hundreds of thousands (note, not millions)
rally in support of Morsi on Saturday, Dec. 1
Photo by Mohannad Sabry. Source

These comments come after President Morsi approved the Draft Constitution on Thursday, less than 24 hours after having been handed it by the Constituent Assembly, who took less than 48 hours to approve the entire thing. Talk about a rushed job. Morsi has stressed that: "following the efforts of the Constituent Assembly, and after lovingly receiving this draft constitution from you today, I call the Egyptian people to vote on this constitution on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012."

To familiarize yourself with the new Draft Constitution that has so many people angry, the BBC provided a great comparison of the old and new Constitutions here. I highly recommend taking the time to read it. You can find it here, and please take note of a few important distinctions. One, the minority religions have been excluded, and in the new Constitution are no longer seen as a religious group. Note the system of politics is now based on Shura. And media freedom is no longer guaranteed, as it may be 'suspended when needed.'

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Morsi's decree, here are a few major points. He has granted himself supreme authority over all ruling and legislative bodies in Egypt. His decisions may not be repealed. He has the power to sack and appoint any government-service employee he wants - a power that he quickly used in sacking the old prosecutor general, and appointing a member of his own family to the post [ironically enough, this new PG declared he did not support Morsi's recent political moves.] In addition, he has paved the way for a re-trial of Mubarak and his top aides. To read the whole text in English, you can click here or here

The popular blogger Sandmonkey said: "Morsi can now strip people of their citizenships or hand it out to others, try them in “special courts” for vague charges, shut down private enterprises or media outlets or seize them, reshape our judiciary branches and their roles singlehandedly, and even change your last name, and no one will be able to legally question or stop his decision ... Granting yourself this level of power is so in the essence of fascism that president Morsy’s new nickname is Morsilini.  It’s as if he is stating that while the old regime was autocratic, dictatorial and secular, thankfully the revolution happened and we are no longer secular."

Is it any wonder that the liberals are so angry? That Egypt is once again standing on a precipice? Tomorrow a general Civil Strike has been called for, as the liberals gear up to try and topple the new tyrant. However, with all this going on, I remain focused on the referendum set for the 15th of December. If past behaviour is anything to go by [and with the MB you can pretty much be assured of this] they will pay people to go and vote "YES." Many in the liberal camp are already calling for a boycott. To that I have one thing to say: 

Did you not learn from the last time? 

The liberal boycott is what helped Morsi come to power to begin with. While many liberals will argue that voting somehow validates Morsi's decree or the grossly nonrepresentational Constitutional Court, not voting is simply, well, stupid. Not voting ensures that this restrictive Constitution will be passed. Not voting will lead to more unrest.

And let me be clear, while voting "NO" means that the power falls back to Morsi, who then has to HIMSELF [not by public vote - wtf?!] pick a new Constitutional Court, leaving Egypt in the same position it found itself in when picking between Morsi and Shafiq. How can you pick the lesser of two evils in this situation? 

In the end, I'll let this graph do the talking. It boils down to simple mathematics. By voting "NO" at least you buy yourself additional time to sort this situation out. By not voting, you can look forward to many years of autocratic Islamist rule, while occasionally rallying in Tahrir in a feeble attempt to admit "maybe we [the liberals] screwed the pooch on this one" (again). Please don't let it happen. 

By Mona A. Ghani