Refugees keep drowning in Mediterranean


This Deutsche Welle video says about itself:

Death toll rises in Egypt boat tragedy | DW News

23 September 2016

Another tragedy for refugees attempting the journey to Europe. In Egypt, 162 bodies have been pulled from waters close to Rosetta, a city on the country’s northern coast. Authorities are still recovering bodies and searching for surivors. Dozens more are feared dead.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Number killed in refugee boat tragedy hits 162

Saturday 24th September 2016

THE full horror of Wednesday’s refugee boat disaster off Egypt began to emerge yesterday as more than 100 bodies were pulled from the sea.

The death toll stood at 162 and was expected to rise as the Morning Star went to press.

Up to 600 people may have been on board the appallingly overloaded people-traffickers’ boat that capsized and sank just eight miles off the port of Rosetta in the Nile Delta on Wednesday evening.

More than 160 have been rescued, most of them Egyptians along with some Sudanese, Somalians, Eritreans and other nationalities.

Local council chairman Ali Abdel-Sattar said currents had carried the bodies many miles from the site of the sinking.

“Today, four bodies, including two Egyptian children, were found 20km to the east,” he told reporters.

He added that many of the refugees were believed to have been “stored in the bottom of the boat, in the fridge.”

“Those are the ones who drowned first, most probably stuck, and their bodies might not be retrieved anytime soon,” he said.

“Those we found are the ones liberated from the boat. I believe many are stuck and now lying in the bottom of the sea.”

By Xinhua writer Wu Zhiqiang:

Commentary: Rosetta tragedy fresh reminder of Western responsibility

CAIRO, Sept. 24 — The death of more than 160 people in the sinking of an overloaded ship off Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Rosetta has once again focused world attention on the plight of refugees and migrants.

And on the causes behind tragedies like this.

The refugees, or migrants, however you describe them, were fleeing war and poverty for a safer, better life somewhere else.

A multitude of reasons may be given as to what caused the wars and the poverty, but the West cannot shirk their responsibility.

Colonial rule by Western powers in past centuries and their interventionist policies in recent decades both played a part.

Rosetta, appearing in the datelines of so many news stories on the sinking of the ship with up to 600 people aboard, happens to bear the same name of an ancient rock stele now sitting inside the British Museum and that Egyptian authorities want returned.

Dating back to 196 BC, the Rosetta Stone, which provided the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, was once “owned” by Napoleon’s troops and then ended up the “property” of Britain.

And now the city of Rosetta is bearing witness to a tragedy partly of Western making.

What a coincidence.

The euphoric atmosphere permeating Washington and other Western capitals at the start of the so-called “Arab Spring” five years ago has long been replaced by hand-wringing in the face of bloodshed, chaos, and misery from Syria to Iraq to Libya, and the terror attacks that filled news headlines so often around the world.

In a few hours, the foreign ministers of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union are scheduled to gather at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, in northwest United States.

The serene campus of Tufts is a far cry from the turbulent Mediterranean seas, but the wars in the Middle East and the refugee crisis gripping the region and beyond sit near the top of the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets his five counterparts.

Rosetta and Medford, in the final analysis, are not too far away.

One more death is too many. One day longer of suffering is too long.

It is high time that the United States and other Western countries reflected upon their flawed interventionist policies that often featured imposition of their values and sought regime changes.

It is high time that the West took constructive actions.

They have a moral obligation and historical responsibility to do so.

Clinton, Trump befriend Egyptian dictator Sisi


This video says about itself:

Egyptian Female Activist Shaima al-Sabbagh Killed By Police In Tahrir Square Protest

24 January 2015

Shocking moment: female socialist activist is gunned down by police during demonstrations on 4th anniversary of Arab Spring against Hosni Mubarak

A woman was killed on Saturday in Cairo after the police fired shotgun pellets at a handful of socialist activists marching to Tahrir Square with flowers to commemorate the hundreds of demonstrators killed there during the revolution that began on Jan 25 2011 witnesses said.

A health ministry spokesman said Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds, which fellow protesters said were fired by police to disperse the march. Al Sabbagh who was said to be … with a five year old son, was shot while she peacefully marched towards the Tahrir Square to lay a commemorative wreath of roses.

Egyptian activists shared graphic images of Ms. Sabbagh’s last moments on social networks Photographs and video recorded before the police moved in seemed to show the protesters, including Ms Sabbagh, standing peacefully outside the Air France KLM office in Talaat Harb Square near Tahrir. As officers charged at the protesters guns drawn shots rang out and Ms. Sabbagh fell to the pavement. Al-Sabbagh was taken to a hospital where she was declared dead.

By Justin Salhani, World Reporter at ThinkProgress in the USA focusing on human rights, today:

Human rights activists are upset over Clinton and Trump’s meetings with the Egyptian president

“We urge you to reconsider the false dichotomy between Egyptian citizens’ rights and freedoms and the country’s security threats.”

U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday, while he is in New York for the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants. And human rights activists aren’t pleased.

Reports of the candidates’ independent meetings varied to a large degree. Trump, who has previously and repeatedly called for a ban to all Muslims entering the United States, told Sisi about his “high regard for peace-loving Muslims.” Trump also said the United States would be a “loyal friend” to Egypt that the country could rely on.

Clinton, who doesn’t enjoy a lot of credibility with certain sectors of the Egyptian population for her [supportive] comments about Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak during the early days of the 2011 revolution, did not signal any kind of policy change from the Obama administration’s approach to Egypt. She did, however, broach the terror threat facing Egypt (particularly from groups like ISIS in the Sinai) while simultaneously addressing human rights issues. …

In the past, Clinton said Egypt’s government is “basically an army dictatorship” — something she would be sure to have avoided in her meeting with Sisi. …

Prior to the meetings, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights addressed an open letter to both candidates, asking them “to reconsider the false dichotomy between Egyptian citizens’ rights and freedoms and the country’s security threats.” …

Human rights under Sisi

A year after a military coup in Egypt deposed then-President Mohammad Morsi in 2013, Sisi was elected President of Egypt. Despite his status as the country’s first democratically-elected leader, Morsi was widely disliked by many Egyptians who say he prioritized his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, over Egypt. Many of his largest critics were leftists or human rights advocates, but these same critics are facing even harsher crack downs under Sisi.

“[Sisi’s regime] is not just repressive, it is one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East, which is saying something,” Hamid said.

Sisi’s reign has witnessed the arrest, disappearance, and death of multiple critics of his regime. Egypt is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to arresting journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and has cracked down heavily on critics of the Sisi regime’s human rights record.

Hundreds of Egyptians have disappeared or been tortured, or both, under Sisi’s rule, Amnesty International reported in July. Most recently, an Egyptian court froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three NGOs.

“Egypt’s current government (meaning Sisi but also all the institutions/groups that participated in the coup and now back him) sees itself as being in an existential struggle, and it regards (entirely justified) complaints about horrible human rights records as a defense of those individuals who are trying to bring it down and, to put a finer point on this, kill it,” Eric Trager, the Esther K. Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), told ThinkProgress over email.

“The government is extremely paranoid,” he added, and “it makes it impossible to have a serious conversation with it about human rights.”

Bringing human rights to the table

There is a desire from many analysts to see American politicians dispense with the lauding of Sisi.

To date, Secretary of State John Kerry has fairly regularly praised the Egyptian government. This position has garnered plenty of criticism from analysts.

“Kerry has repeatedly [praised] Sisi over the past several years, maintaining this idea that Egypt and Sisi are on some sort of democratic transition,” Hamid said. “This is problematic because it is not true.”

During the primaries, then-candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Sisi and cited him as an “example of a Muslim [leader] we ought to be standing with.”

“Any politician who hails Sisi as a good Muslim leader doesn’t know what they’re talking about and is beyond absurdity,” Hamid said. …

Since taking power, Sisi’s focus has been on increasing security in Egypt through strict counterterrorism measures. But his efforts have largely failed to bear fruit as there has been an increase in terrorism in Egypt since the coup in 2013, and ISIS has established a solid presence in the Sinai. These failures point to the shortcomings in Sisi’s security-driven approach, and Hamid believes the next American president shouldn’t separate human rights from American strategic interests.

Although he once called the man a sniveling coward and said he’d never support someone who insulted his family, Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday: here.

After author Laura Silverman dissed Trump on Twitter, white supremacist trolls went ballistic on her upcoming book’s Goodreads page. (Read more here.)

Trump Flies With Gold-Plated Bathroom Fixtures, And You’re Paying Millions For It. Secret Service payments to fly on his luxury 757 made up nearly 80 percent of the flight costs this summer: here.

Ancient Egyptian emoticons


This video series is about the ancient Egyptian village Deir el-Medina.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Emoticons in Ancient Egypt

Published on 30 August 2016

The advent of script has never managed to eliminate the use of symbols. This is the finding of research carried out by Kyra van der Moezel on Ancient Egyptian identity marks. PhD defence 7 September.

Van der Moezel studied identity marks from the settlement at Deir el-Medina, on the west bank of the Nile. This is where some 40 to 120 workers and their families lived between 1550 and 1070 BC. These were the workers who built and decorated the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where the legendary King Tutankhamen is buried, along with other pharaohs and elites.

Funny signs

More than three thousand years later Deir el-Medina reveals a wealth of archaeological information. An exceptional number of written sources have been found covering trade, the law, religion and literature. Researchers have also found a large number of identity marks, often imprinted on potsherds or as graffiti on the rock walls of the necropolis. For a long time scientists had no idea how to interpret all these symbols, so they were dubbed very unscientifically ‘funny signs’.

Pictograms

‘Under the guidance of lecturer Ben Haring we have now managed to interpret most of these symbols,’ Van der Moezel explains. ‘You can compare them to pictograms today, like information symbols at airports or product logos. They all have an inherent meaning, but are not related by any linguistic rules. The rules governing how words and sentences are formed don’t apply here. The symbols use other means of expressing information.’

WhatsApp

Van der Moezel and her colleagues distinguish different types of identity marks. Some symbols appear to be geometrical and use squares, triangles or circles, while others were derived from the written language. Finally, the Leiden researchers also found images of beings and objects that in terms of their function are comparable with the symbols that we use today in WhatsApp.

Jackals

‘These pictograms depict images of animals, objects or professions, for example,’ says Van der Moezel. ‘They were used in two different ways. First of all metonymically, whereby the symbol refers directly to what the person who drew it wanted to convey. The scorpion hunter of Deir el-Medina, for example, was represented by a scorpion symbol. The Egyptians also used the pictograms metaphorically. A well-known Egyptian metaphor is, for example, ‘as fast as a jackal’, which could explain why a worker is represented by the image of a jackal.’

Continued existence

Surprisingly enough, the identity signs continued to exist even after the workers started to make more use of writing. Van der Moezel: ‘People often assume that identity signs are ‘more primitive’ than written language, and that writing will slowly but surely take over from symbols. However, what we see is that writing and symbols continue to exist alongside one another. There is some interchange between the two, but symbols have never been ousted as a means of communication. Symbols continue to be useful because you can express a lot more in a single symbol than in a letter or a word.’

Symbolizing Identity

Van der Moezel’s PhD is part of a larger project entitled Symbolizing Identity. Identity Marks and their Relation to Writing in New Kingdom Egypt, managed by Dr Ben Haring. Haring was awarded a subsidy in 2011 by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct this research.

Egyptian court annuls dictator Sisi giving away islands to Saudi Arabia


This video says about itself:

Protests in Cairo over Egypt-Saudi Tiran and Sanafir island deal

16 April 2016

Thousands in the Egyptian capital Cairo have protested President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Sisi’s government last week announced the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir will be demarcated as being in Saudi waters.

From the BBC:

Egypt court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudis

25 minutes ago

An Egyptian judge has quashed a government decision to hand … two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announced the return of Tiran and Sanafir islands in April, during a visit by Saudi Arabia‘s King Salman.

More than 150 people were jailed in connection with protests over the deal

Tuesday’s verdict is not final and could be overturned by a higher court.

Tiran and Sanafir are uninhabited islands, situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, a strategically important part of the Red Sea that is bordered by Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

President Sisi‘s decision in April to cede control of them sparked widespread unrest and criticism. King Salman had announced a multi-billion dollar aid package to Egypt from Saudi Arabia on his visit, leading some to accuse Mr Sisi of “selling” the islands.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s State Council, an administrative court which oversees lawsuits filed against the government, quashed Mr Sisi’s decision by issuing a verdict annulling a maritime borders agreement.

Cheers in court: By Sally Nabil, BBC News

The maritime border agreement signed earlier this year between Egypt and Saudi Arabia took many Egyptians by surprise.

Since then, protesters have taken to the streets calling the arrangement unconstitutional, and accusing the government of giving away Egyptian territories in return for aid packages and investments worth billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a strong backer of President Sisi.

Some of these protesters were arrested and charged with disrupting public order. A few are still behind bars.

The lawsuit was filed by a number of prominent human rights lawyers, headed by a former presidential candidate, Khaled Ali.

When the verdict was issued, many cheered inside the courtroom, chanting “the islands are Egyptian”. But the legal battle has not come to an end yet, because the decision can be appealed.

The verdict stated that the two islands would “remain under Egyptian sovereignty”.

If it is approved by the country’s High Administrative Court it will become legally binding.

Mr Sisi has cracked down on all dissent since leading the military’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and 40,000 are believed to have been jailed …

Egyptian dictator el-Sisi secures IMF loan and prepares onslaught against working class: here.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s meteorite dagger


Tutankhamun's dagger

From Meteoritics & Planetary Science:

The meteoritic origin of Tutankhamun’s iron dagger blade

20 MAY 2016

Abstract

Scholars have long discussed the introduction and spread of iron metallurgy in different civilizations. The sporadic use of iron has been reported in the Eastern Mediterranean area from the late Neolithic period to the Bronze Age. Despite the rare existence of smelted iron, it is generally assumed that early iron objects were produced from meteoritic iron. Nevertheless, the methods of working the metal, its use, and diffusion are contentious issues compromised by lack of detailed analysis.

Since its discovery in 1925, the meteoritic origin of the iron dagger blade from the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun (14th C. BCE) has been the subject of debate and previous analyses yielded controversial results. We show that the composition of the blade (Fe plus 10.8 wt% Ni and 0.58 wt% Co), accurately determined through portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, strongly supports its meteoritic origin.

In agreement with recent results of metallographic analysis of ancient iron artifacts from Gerzeh, our study confirms that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of precious objects. Moreover, the high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun‘s dagger blade, in comparison with other simple-shaped meteoritic iron artifacts, suggests a significant mastery of ironworking in Tutankhamun‘s time.

Tutankhamun's meteorite scarab in brooch

From Astronomy magazine, 1 June 2016:

The dagger was not the only relic in King Tut’s possession that was rare and unusual; he also possessed a scarab necklace made of silica glass that might have been created by the heat of a meteorite impacting the desert sand and melting it down.

152 Egyptians jailed for demonstrating peacefully


This video says about itself:

Diving in Tiran Island at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

18 October 2015

Tiran (Arabic: جزيرة تيران‎ Jazīrat Tīrān, aka Jezîret Tīrān and Yotvat Island, is an Egyptian-administered island that is also claimed by Saudi Arabia. It is located at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba. It has an area of about 80 km2 (30 sq mi). It is part of the Ras Muhammad National Park. … The island is currently inhabited only by military personnel from Egypt and the Multinational Force and Observers [MFO].

That was in 2015; before Egyptian military dictator Sisi controversially handed over Tiran island, and Sanafir island, to the king of Saudi Arabia.

This video says about itself:

Protests in Cairo over Egypt-Saudi Tiran and Sanafir island deal

16 April 2016

Thousands in the Egyptian capital Cairo have protested President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Sisi’s government last week announced the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir will be demarcated as being in Saudi waters.

From Reuters news agency:

Sat May 14, 2016 4:53pm EDT

Egyptian court jails 152 people over islands protest

An Egyptian court sentenced 152 protesters on Saturday to between two and five years in prison each after they demonstrated against a decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, judicial sources and state media said.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed in central Cairo on April 25 to quell protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi‘s decision to hand over Tiran and Sanafir islands.

More than 200 people are being tried in connection with the protests, the judicial sources said.

Of those sentenced on Saturday, 101 received five-year prison terms and 51 received two-year sentences, judicial sources and the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper said.

The 152 protesters were convicted of breaking a law banning people from protesting without first notifying the Interior Ministry, the judicial sources said.

Defense lawyer Ahmed Helmy said they would appeal. “There is no evidence of guilt,” he told Reuters.

The prosecution did not issue any formal statement on the verdicts.

In similar protests, on April 15, thousands of people had called for “the fall of the regime”, a slogan from the 2011 uprisings which ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule … More than 100 people were detained at those protests, security officials said at the time.