Egypt has successfully re-established macroeconomic stability, attained impressive growth figures, attracted new investments and lowered formal unemployment rates. As often is the case, such successes place other developments in a starker light. For instance, recent reports suggest that close to one-third of the population lives below the national poverty line and that one out of three children may not go to school full-time, may not have good and nutritious food or adequate healthcare. Also, growing formal employment figures mask low labour force participation rates of women for example, as well as un- and under-employment in the informal sector and agriculture; and finally, not all recently secured investments contribute in equal measure to employment creation, sustainability and the social common good. These are indeed growing challenges that can be resolved, now that macro-economic stability has been achieved. Egypt, by right, can look at the future with both determination and confidence. I have heard some arguments that Egypt has been in this spot before and that it has not always been capable of undertaking some of the deep reforms required for success. Many will point at the adverse impacts of the global recession of the early 1990s and, more recently, the global financial crisis of 2008. At a time when the global media is speculating about another global slowdown, the first signs of which are declines in investment in emerging economies like Egypt, this feels decidedly uncomfortable; dark clouds are gathering. Over the past year, the United Nations system has been collaborating with the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Reform to provide integrated policy support to the multidimensional challenge of achieving Sustainable Development, as articulated in the Egypt Vision 2030. With the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we explored how the government could organise for success, with greater emphasis on formalised coordination and making sure that well-articulated national plans find their expression in the national budget and medium-term public investment thinking. Led by the United Nations Children s Fund (UNICEF), we reviewed how the citizens of Egypt move in and out of poverty and have jointly understood that ill-health (sickness in the family) is the quickest way to the bottom of the economic pyramid. We have also confirmed that good social protection measures and good education are the quickest ways out. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted an exercise about localisation of global sustainable development targets, based on the premises that socio-economic challenges of modern economies like Port Said are different from rural agriculture based economies such as Qena. Closely related to this is the work that the UNDP and the World Bank undertook on macroeconomic modelling. That engagement concluded that efficient and effective institutions (good governance) have a direct and significant impact on economic growth. Moreover, models show how Egypt s response to demographic challenges and population growth will become a major determinant of future success. It is important to catch the undertone of this collaboration; Egypt can build on its recent successes and become a global example of how sustainable development can bring a nation to unprecedented levels of prosperity and well-being for all its citizens – inclusive of the marginalised, youth, women and children. No country in the world can simply take a pill to become immune to global economic dynamics. Countries can, however, focus strongly on the capacity of their citizens to withstand shocks. The UN system in Egypt is continuing its engagement with the government to accelerate success. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are working together with the Ministry of Social Solidarity on the social protection floor connecting social safety nets, while new laws on pensions and the new health insurance scheme are driving change. UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women have been providing strategic support to the immediate expansion of the family planning system. The UNDP, UN Women, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and others are taking major steps to support the National Council of Women s goals for women s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Nevertheless, internally we are beginning to question if we have a sufficient focus on poverty reduction. We would welcome greater debate on vulnerability and resilience. Especially for those at the bottom of the economic and social pyramid, life is not easy and all partners need to move quickly before a new form of multidimensional poverty becomes deeply entrenched. Mr. Richard Dictus is the UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt. He has been seeking to foster key strategic debates in Egypt on how Sustainable Development can be achieved, building on Egypt s track record of change and adjustment to often adverse external circumstances.
North Africa has been witnessing a phase of political tension, particularly in Tunisia and Algeria — two of the most significant powers politically in the continent. However, there are major differences between the tensions in Algeria and Tunisia, specifically on an institutional level. It is important to notice that state structure is one of the variables that lead the development of contentious politics within the countries of North Africa. Algeria is witnessing a power vacuum and is still considering the possibilities of an institutional political process. The idea of presidential elections held before the end of the year is not very much welcomed by the various political forces in Algeria. The scene at the current moment lacks political cohesion. Hence, it is expected that the state of uncertainty and struggle between Algeria s political actors will remain for the time being. The core issue in Algeria s situation is the civil-military relationship. Algeria, meanwhile, is torn between a mobilised street powered by various political currents, and a council with a military presence that is trying to maintain state stability. Setting a timeline for a political settlement is futile. Tunisia is quite a different case. In Algeria, political pressure was put on former president Bouteflika to leave office and not run for a fifth term. Events surprised the Algerian street, despite consistent levels of mobilisation on nationalist grounds. Tunisia, on the other hand, was a different case, since political tension was the result of a presidential vacuum after the death of president Essebsi. The absence in the presidential position in Tunisia moved several political forces to revive their role within the public sphere. Some 26 nominees stepped forward for the presidential elections in Tunisia. Between independents and representatives of standing political powers, the Tunisian executive election field seems quite competitive. Presidential absences in both Algeria and Tunisia were sudden. However, there is a major difference between the two concerning the relation between civil society and political powers and the state. The Tunisian street or public sphere is much more powerful than that in Algeria, specifically from an institutional perspective. Algeria has proved that its political forces have significant ability to mobilise. Tunisia, on the other hand, had a different advantage. How institutional and active were social and political forces in Tunisia was a determining factor in the trajectory Tunisia followed after the death of Essebsi. At this particular point, we have to mention a difference in state structure between Algeria and Tunisia. The state in Tunisia, mainly since 2011, has allowed a high ceiling for opposition forces and for civil society. Meanwhile, the diversity of political powers has created new legislative frameworks that were reflected in cultural changes and transformations. Algeria, on the other hand, experienced political stagnation for several years under the concurrently renewed presidential terms of Bouteflika. This meant that political forces in Algeria do not enjoy the same ceiling that political forces in Tunisia do. Moreover, political and social forces in Algeria are not as institutional as their counterparts in Tunisia due to the relationship they have with the state. Finally, newly materialising political forces in Algeria did not enjoy the same political environment that the state allows in Tunisia. However, there is a similarity concerning the resurgence of the Islamist stream in both countries. In Tunisia, Abdelfattah Moro is a candidate for presidential elections representing Al-Nahda movement, the arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia. Other political parties have come forward with nominees for the presidency, including Monsef Al-Marzouki, Ebeid El-Breiki, Mohamed Abo and Abeer Moussi. This means that Tunisia has a strong platform of political parties capable of nominating representatives. Meanwhile, the situation in Algeria is not the same when it comes to political diversity. In comparison to Tunisia, Algeria is in a much earlier phase. The political environment that prevailed in Algeria was very different to the one that was dominant in Tunisia. Today, Algeria is witnessing weak powers on the political level — powers that are capable of public mobilisation, but are not capable of institutional organisation. Therefore, there is a big difference between the idea of holding elections in the near future in Tunisia and Algeria. Elections in Tunisia might be a way to a political settlement, despite the Islamist stream. However, in Algeria it is too soon to claim that an institutional political process could be orchestrated. In the end, Egypt s role in North Africa has become more integral. With current tension in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan, and with Egypt leading the African Union, the responsibilities and roles have been multiplied. Egypt s role within the continent is not only a domestic one; its regional influence is turning into a portal for any foreign actor that wants to be involved in Africa.
There are a few truisms about special elections: Both sides spend a lot of money, special elections are difficult for the party that holds the presidency as they are often a referendum on the job the president is doing, and finally, both parties will be aggressive with spin to explain a loss as not a loss and a victory as a major national trend event. During North Carolina s special elections these truths were on full display. More than $20 million was spent on the congressional race, and President Donald Trump, understanding the second truth, made it clear that the election was about whether people supported him or the "America-hating left." As for spin on a victory, Trump used Twitter to get the ball rolling on that. "BIG NIGHT FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!," read one of several tweets
The early signs of a new academic year are everywhere. It is September, and the few international schools that open their doors during the last week of August are already sending their school buses roaring around the streets of Egypt s major cities. Hundreds of students along with their parents are cramming the country s stationary shops to buy their supply requirements. But with the early signs of a new academic year come late signs telling us that our educational status in the Arab world is far from perfect. Huge numbers of young children in Egypt are working as street cleaners, Tok-Tok drivers, or in shops and homes. The vast majority of them have dropped out of school or have never been enrolled in the first place. Others have been facing the dilemma of schools that have been wrecked in conflict-stricken areas or have been displaced to areas with no schools. The millions of children who are blessed with the fact that they still go to school often receive an extremely low quality of education that will only guarantee unemployment in the future. The UN children s agency UNICEF tells us that while millions of children and young people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are starting their new school year, an estimated 9.3 million children between the ages of 15 and 17 are still out of school. And guess what? Girls account for just over half of all out-of-school 15 to 17-year-olds in the MENA region. This means that more than one third of adolescents in this age group are out of school, which in turn means that in a few years time more than one third of the Arab countries youth population will be illiterate. They will not know how to read and write. And more than half of this illiterate youth population will be girls getting ready to get married and give birth to children as illiterate mothers. UNICEF says that the cost of conflict in this part of the world has been enormous. An estimated three million out-of-school children would have been enrolled in education had the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen not occurred, it says. At least 2,160 education facilities have been attacked in the region since 2014. According to a situation analysis of Syria from last July, a total of 2.1 million children in the country are estimated to be out of school, with a further 1.3 million at risk of dropping out. Displaced communities remain significantly underserved, with most internally displaced people (IDP) camps having insufficient or non-existent education services. More than one in three schools in Syria have been damaged or destroyed, while others are used for purposes not related to education such as shelter for displaced people. In the northwest of the country, the continuation of hostilities has resulted in the destruction of an additional 45 schools and in 400,000 children not being able to attend their final exams. An even worse account from the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Yemen points to education becoming a luxury for most Yemeni children, with children regularly seen walking to school barefoot, carrying their notebooks and pencils in plastic bags rather than in school bags. Some two million children in the country are estimated to be out of school, almost three times the number of out-of-school children at the beginning of the war. In areas of active conflict, it is estimated that only one in three children attends school due to safety concerns, displacement, the unavailability of teachers and destroyed or damaged schools. In addition to the deteriorating situation caused by the conflict in Yemen, the dire economic situation is keeping parents from sending their children to schools in areas where there are operating schools. The report goes on to conclude that in a country where 81 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line, and ten million people are one step away from starvation and famine, it is no wonder families are not able to prioritise school for their children. Importance Of Education Yet, education cannot wait, and providing un-interrupted, quality education to children, including displaced children, is a way to ensure a sustainable end to their displacement once the active conflict ends and the basis for a more stable future. Education helps to protect children from war-time abuses, such as recruitment into the armed forces, and it helps families to break the cycle of poverty and supports the country as a whole once the recovery and reconstruction starts. In Iraq, the crisis is multi-faceted with threads of the Islamic State (IS) group, child labour, psychological drama, poverty and war intertwined. ReliefWeb, a digital service for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says that as schools continue to re-open in areas of Iraq formerly occupied by IS where children bore the brunt of the conflict and had to quit school for different reasons, many of these children, especially those drafted into armed groups, are in desperate need of psychosocial support to help them to reintegrate into their education after this was so violently punctuated by factors beyond their control. Other children in Iraq had to drop out of school following the death of a relative in order to support their families by seeking work. The numbers of young children that were forced to join military forces, whether with IS or with the different groups fighting IS, are also alarming, but not as alarming as the traumatic psychological effects they now suffer. The situation of education in the conflict-stricken areas of the Arab world is horrific. However, the situation in other Arab countries that have not been directly or strongly affected by the winds of change from the 2011 Revolutions is also far from brilliant. UNICEF states that inequities in access to education persist across the region, with the poorest and conflict-affected children consistently left behind. Children from the poorest families are seven times more likely to be out of school than children from the richest families, it says, while children in rural areas are three times more likely to be out of school than their urban peers. At the lower secondary school level, girls are twice as likely to be out of school as boys. As children move into adolescence, they are far more likely to drop out of school than at an earlier age. To help their families make ends meet, many engage in labour, and young girls are forced into marriage. The quality of education around the region remains poor. Only half of all students meet the lowest international benchmarks for foundational skills such as reading, mathematics and science. A traditional curriculum, teacher-centred approaches and a know-by-heart style of education and exams are still the core of the educational system and the main reasons behind the crises of education in the Arab world. There is also a huge gap between the skills acquired in school and the requirements of the job market, despite years of attempts at bridging the gap. As a result, Arab youth unemployment continues to be among the highest in the world. There are still ultra-conservative teachers in some classrooms who exert efforts to ensure that the vicious circle of religious extremism remains alive and kicking in the Arab world. UNICEF Regional Director for the MENA region Geert Cappelaere also points to extremely low Arab spending on education that leads to blocking youngsters access to school and the stalemate of low-quality education that helps preserve the status quo. It has come out with a list of requirements that might help ease the current educational crisis in the Arab world. These range from increases in investments in education to somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent of total public expenditure, to making sure that schools are inclusive of all children, to providing learning opportunities beyond schooling, especially with the new technologies offering a wide range of good learning alternatives. There are no alternatives to a good education. The past eight years have been catastrophic for many Arab countries educational systems and performances. Even the countries that have not gone through the processes of change, chaos or conflict have been affected one way or another by the aftermath of the 2011 Revolutions, whether by receiving thousands of refugees, or having to engage in neighbouring conflicts, or even being on their guard against the spreading chaos. It was only a few years ago that the world was wondering if the winds of change and the promises of democracy and prosperity in the Arab world would lead to a corrective revolution in its educational systems. Maybe we should try things the other way round, since the winds of change have not given way to positive results. Why don t we pave the way to a revolution within our education systems? Let s get rid of the know-by-heart and don t ask questions system and adopt a critical thinking approach instead. Why don t we decide to provide a civil and liberal education for all, abolishing all the sorts of religious and fanatical education that is currently pulling the whole system downwards? Why don t we allocate billions of pounds and invest them in creating a new generation of well-educated, cultured, informed and well-paid teachers rather than recycling conservatism, fanaticism and rigidity? If we must have a revolution, let it be an educational one. Let s have a revolution in education before we have any other revolutions.
A visit to the National Training Academy (NTA) is a journey to the future, where modern administrative and leadership concepts are being formed. Since its inception in 2015, the NTA has been working to empower the country s system with updated methods in policy-making and management, modernising in the process the traditional concepts of public administration. Egypt has had a public administrative system since its establishment. Despite its long history and skills acquired, it has also aged, becoming an obstacle to coping with the latest developments. This old and overgrown system has been resisting change. It has become a challenge and a stumbling block for creative thinking to modernise the country. The NTA s mission is focused on "thinking, learning and creating." It starts with thinking about our challenges, learning about the different perspectives of the issues at hand, and providing efficient cadres capable of offering creative solutions. This is the shortest way to modernise the system. The comprehensive studies launched by the academy on issues such as climate change, the environment, the economy and the current trade wars are creating the new leaders in the administrative system. Managers and executives are not only trained on how to administer their duties. Their training includes watching plays, listening to music, reading literary works, and practising sports. This image of a manager is totally different from the stereotyped features of our administrators who are grim and narrow-minded, and insist on applying the rules through crippling the system. And, lest we forget, there are also the hundreds of stamps and signatures that are required to decorate an application. The NTA director, Rasha Ragheb, presented a thorough understanding of the academy s mission. She knows the academy is a catalyst for human development and that human capital is a nation s most valuable asset. The academy is thus seen as a means to prepare individuals who can fully integrate into the region while maintaining their Egyptian identity. The challenges of renovating the administrative system and the heavy burden of moving towards a new phase where Egyptians are empowered by the modern tools to cope with the future have come to the forefront of the academy s agenda. The academy has a distinguished team of experts whose main achievements have been spreading positive energy and designing well-planned programmes for the different types and age groups of the administrative corp. However, it is the youngsters who want more than to learn the technology and have the desire to venture into new worlds of creativity that has been the academy s real mission. They will bridge the gap between the old and the new, and the academic vision as introduced by the NTA will help them access through the doors of modernity. Many of the academy s graduates are now assisting ministers and governors and occupying leading posts. Those still being trained are fully aware of the global challenges and sciences. The academy s programs cope with the international standards that facilitate the learning process and promote the desire to learn more. The academy came to being as one of the recommendations adopted at the youth forums annually attended by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. The positive interaction between the president and the young people was behind the establishment of the academy. Trainees from all over the country are now part of an ongoing process to reach out to the people from Upper Egypt to Siwa and from the Mediterranean to the Red sea. This is a new spirit that will be injecting fresh blood into the system and will make our dreams come true.
His three most important films came while he lived in America: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) and “Funny Girl” (1968). He won three Golden Globe awards, and a César Award. Sharif had extraordinary charisma and was fluent in five languages, yet despite it all he never won an Oscar. Then along comes the young Rami Malek decades later, becoming the talk of Hollywood after winning an Oscar at just 38 years old. The son of parents from Upper Egypt who immigrated to America, Malek s father worked as a tour guide, and he has a twin brother named Sami and a sister. Acting since 2004, in that time Rami has received 14 awards, including an Emmy Award in 2006. He also received the Golden Globe, and now finally has the Oscar placing him among world-class stars, becoming one of the most important modern actors in Hollywood. Rami earned the Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), which he dedicated to his parents and girlfriend. I ve been invited to the Taormina Film Festival, Italy. It is the second important cinema festival next to the Venice Film Festival. A festival official told me that Rami Malek had been invited to the festival and was excited to attend, but apologized for not being able to come as he was working on the upcoming James Bond film as the villain. After that he found that the role could be considered offensive towards Egypt and apologized for it. I believe he considered turning it down as well. I knew that he only speaks a few words of Arabic, unlike the Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who skyrocketed in the Hollywood world for his titular role in “Aladdin” (2019), alongside Will Smith. Massoud was born in 1991 in Cairo and therefore speaks fluent Arabic. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada. He played his role in Aladdin brilliantly, and made everyone fall in love with his songs and performance, but this role alone can t give him a Hollywood award, although I think there he is a new star born in Hollywood. My last story is about Dina Anas Habib, known in the political world as Dina Powell. She played a new important role in the Bush administration. After that, she moved to Goldman Sachs, one of the most important financial companies in America. Dina is the third most important person in the company. I came to know Dina when she was about five years old, when I traveled to Dallas at the time of King Ramses II s exhibition, where I met her father Anas Habib. He became one of my most important friends. Dina returned to work with Donald Trump as she is a Republican and a friend of Trump s daughter, yet she suddenly resigned and even refused the post of US ambassador to the United Nations. Dina is fond of a novel written in Arabic and English by the late Jewish-Egyptian Lucette Lagnado. “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World.” The book tells the story of Lagnado s Jewish family, and how they left Egypt after the fall of King Farouk and the revolution. Dina wants to produce this story in English and Arabic, and she wants Rami Malek plays role in it. She gave the story in Arabic to my creative friend the screenwriter Wahid Hamid to write it, though he apologized and turned it down. I asked him about the reason, and he said that while story is great, if he wrote the script the Egyptian people would sympathize too much with the Jewish family. I think the reason behind Omar Sharif not getting the Oscars was the presence of giant, immensely talented actors at his time. Now there are fewer actors up to the Oscars, though Rami Malek was exceptional in portraying singer Freddie Mercury. Omar Sharif, Rami Malek and Mena Massoud have raised Egypt s reputation throughout the world.
Where does the contemporary world begin and where does the modern world end? Historians ask themselves such questions before setting out on research, and generally they hesitate before answering. Often, they wonder whether it is possible to study an event before a quarter of a century has lapsed and many believe that a half-century will produce more documents and records to rely on. But journalists, commentators and similar writers do not have the luxury to wait. Their job is to record what is happening now in their capacity as front seat spectators of history as it unfolds and is recorded and transmitted on the spot by diverse audio and visual equipment and media and, above all, the new phenomenon of social media that disseminates the “now” with its “in-your-face” impact and all its pathos. This attempt to read the contemporary world begins around 2011, not just because that was the year that shook down the leaves of the “Arab Autumn” due to the quake that rumbled through many Arab countries, but also because it was the year that brought the tidings of the birth of a new historical phase in the world. This new beginning had its origins in 1989 when the Cold War ended and the period that would become known as “globalisation” emerged in tandem with the predominance of the Western liberal and democratic order and a single polar order led by the US. This period might be the shortest historical era ever. When historians get to it, they ll probably argue over whether it can be called an era at all, because no sooner had the third millennium begun than the most bizarre incident one could ever have imagined occurred: two passenger planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York triggering a series of American reactions from the invasion of Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today, we know the outcomes of those wars and how Washington has been wrestling with the dilemmas of engineering exits while leaving things far worse off than before. But we were still feeling our way towards 2011. The next main stop before that was in 2008 which brought two more events of major historical value: the worst global economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 and the election of the first African-American president in US history, Barack Obama. The first event declared that “globalisation” was not a global asset that came without a price and an antithesis, as it also brought the birth of globalised terrorism and globalised economic crises. The second announced the last wave of liberalism which drove the US to elect Obama as a gesture that America was changing itself and shedding the diseases of racism and slavery. The waves clashed, as high waves do, at the time when Obama was seeking a second term. Although he won, he failed to pass a single piece of legislation in his second term without presidential decree, thereby making it easy for his antithesis, Donald Trump, to do away with them with other presidential decrees. That was the year when Trump began his presidential campaign in earnest. It was also the year in which the first seeds of Brexit were sown along with the seeds of the resurgence of “white supremacy” in Europe, the US, the West and elsewhere. By the midpoint of the decade, extremist rightwing groups had made a comeback and by the end of this decade authoritarian governments were in power from Brazil in the West to India in the East. The world has experienced its 13th consecutive year of democratic decline, according to Freedom House s report on “Democracy in Retreat.” Democracies have collapsed across the world, from Burundi to Hungary and from Thailand to Venezuela. More disturbingly yet, democratic institutions have proven surprisingly vulnerable in countries where they had previously seemed stable and secure. The events in the Arab world in 2011 and their subsequent repercussions precipitated an outbreak of civil wars and an unprecedented upsurge in terrorism leading to the establishment of the first “caliphate state” in modern history. These developments generated tidal waves of migrants, refugees and displaced persons. But these were not the first or last of such waves in the world. Similar ones originated in Africa and in South America, and before these came Southeast Asian waves dating back to the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. These demographic movements of a global magnitude benefited considerably from what seemed like a unified world in terms of the flow of capital, technology, new values, as well as employment and labour markets. When the EU evolved from a community for Western European countries to a larger community for the whole of Europe that included countries from Eastern Europe and that, for a majority of these countries, had a single visa and a single currency, the demographic tide quickly benefited from that single market. This placed huge pressures on labour and employment prospects in the EU s founding countries, which were also the more developed ones. Globalisation made the world grow closer together. It also made it more crowded and congestion generated a new and fanatical surge towards the right. This trend has its own political movements which have little enthusiasm for working with institutions and established conventions and prefer, instead, to work through direct contact with people. In short, “populism” has prevailed. Many “strongmen” have emerged in the process: Putin in Russia, Xi in China, Modi in India, Trump in the US, Johnson in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey, Orbán in Hungary, Duda in Poland and Maduro in Venezuela. Simultaneously, the words “democracy” and “liberalism” have become eclipsed by “authoritarianism”, “centralisation”, “dictatorship”, “autocracy” and “populism”. Ironically, all these strongmen came to power through democratic elections. Yet, their visions for their countries and the world are entirely different from what was once the prevailing global view of the world. Theirs is ultranationalist and often ethnocentric. “Identity” has become the most important chapter in the book of nations. Philosophers and journalists from Fukuyama to Fareed Zakaria are racing to produce books on the subject. Evidently, technological progress and the new industrial revolutions, which were supposed to give the individual the power to make an impact and take part in formulating political decisions, had given those strongmen extremely powerful means and capacities to dominate the world in a “contemporary” age which is so different to its predecessor. How long will this “contemporary” age last? Will it have a longer lifespan than its predecessor? It s impossible to predict this with any degree of certainty. The compass and the gauge are in the hands of political leaders and technology. However, we can probably take it as a general rule that historical eras are getting shorter even if humans live longer than ever before. And the longer one lives, the more one sees.
“Let s leave religion aside; trade has nothing to do with religion,” said one Egyptian salesman when I asked him whether our transaction abided by Islamic principles. I had seen a large prayer mark, a zebibah, on his forehead and thought that our deal could be better endorsed by religion, but apparently I was mistaken. If we dig deeper than religious rituals, we will realise that the vast majority of Egyptian Muslims lacks a basic understanding of religion.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, presented a comprehensive view of Africa s plans and needs of development during the seventh round of the Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD 7), held last week in Yokohama. With a long history of cooperation between Egypt and Japan, El-Sisi attended the conference not only as the leader of Egypt but also as the chairman of the African Union; practically a leader of a continent that has been longing for its rightful place in the world. The multiple aspects of the relationship between Tokyo and Cairo reflect the very special position Egypt has in Japan. The Japanese have always been interested in offering their support and expertise, starting from rebuilding the Opera House in “Al- Gazeera” to the Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids in Giza. However, the mutual interest that came to the fore and took centre stage in cooperation between the two countries has been education and training. Japan is known for precision and creativity in this field. It is also distinguished by a rich heritage of scientific expertise that has been accumulating for generations. The Japanese are entitled to be proud of their educational and training system that opened up new horizons for development. In such a densely populated country that has limited resources, human resources have been the key to realise such an economic miracle. In Cairo, the issue started with the launch and following expansion of Japanese schools that promote the spirit of teamwork and ethical well-being among its students, in addition to laying the foundation for modern sciences, research and scientific thinking. In higher education faculties, the number of fellowships, particularly in the field of training, has drastically increased. TICAD 7 was thus the right venue for Egypt to present its views on cooperation and development in Africa. The Japan government has been co-hosting this conference since 1993 along with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and African Union Commission. This round of TICAD 7 discussed the economic transformation and improvements in the business environment and institution through private investment and innovation. The unique role of TICAD as a multilateral forum for Africa s development has been encapsulating a particular relationship between Japan and Africa. It allowed Africa and Japan to benefit from each other s comparative advantages including Japan s experience in Asia s development and Africa s recent economic dynamics. The two sides have thus been responsive to President El-Sisi s calls for cooperation on issues such as quality infrastructure, private-sector impact investment, macroeconomic stability, technological innovation, notably in industrialisation, economic transformation and social development, and above all climate change adaptation and mitigation. Sustaining and accelerating development and taking advantage of Africa s opportunities for transformation have been among the issues discussed between President El-Sisi and Japan s Prime Minister Shenzo Abe. “Advancing Africa s Development through People, Technology and Innovation” was the overarching theme for TICAD 7. This theme is fully aligned with the continental priorities for integration, as reflected in its flagship programmes. There is a crucial importance to placing “people” at the heart of Africa s development and the TICAD 7 theme could serve as a development accelerator and multiplier because it will help deepen trade and investment; capacity and skills development; investment in quality infrastructure; exchange and networking; innovation, and technological transfers and diffusion. The continent has large untapped sources of renewable energy, arable land, and natural resources that could be used to propel socioeconomic transformation. Africa is the most youthful continent, with a population of over one billion people and a middle class of 300 million that is growing as incomes increase. President El-Sisi stressed the fact that some African Union member states are also among the fastest growing economies and the top performers in terms of improving the business climate. The continent is thus an attractive destination for investors and serves as a huge source of consumer markets for locally and internationally produced food, goods and services. The continent is now linked from top to toe by a land road connecting Cairo and Cape Town. The electricity project that connects the north and south of the continent, starting from Cairo, will also offer abundant and cheap power that will accelerate the development process in the continent. President El-Sisi presented the continent s views on international issues that affect the world population. He reviewed issues of trade wars that led to the decline in growth and youth employment rates, and negatively affected the global trade transaction. The president also raised the issues of the climate change and the excessive use of traditional powers that called for the need for more projects using clean and renewable energy. However, all these efforts will not yield results unless, as President El-Sisi said, the world coordinates its efforts to fight terrorism and settle the international conflicts that drain world resources and deplete the global means to raise the living standards of all peoples. Such comprehensive views as stated by President El-Sisi, have created a new horizon for cooperation and development between Africa and Japan. It is the new Africa that will eradicate years of poverty and backwardness. It is a new continent that has ambitious and well-designed plans to catch up with the latest developments worldwide.
Discussion was continuing in parliament this year before it adjourned for the summer recess regarding the amendment of the old tenancy law for non-residential properties, with the discussion of a new law being postponed to the upcoming parliamentary round. Under the old law, rents determined years ago may no longer be compatible with the current value of rented properties. The problem also concerns residential units, though for the time being parliament is only looking at non-residential units. Law 49/1977 regulates the relationship between owner and tenant regarding both residential and non-residential properties. Article 29 of this law says that “if a property is leased for a commercial, industrial, professional or artisanal activity, the contract shall not terminate with the death of the tenant but shall remain in force for the benefit of the tenant s heirs and partners.” In July 1996, this article was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court in favour of the partners of the original tenant after his death. In February 1997, the court ruled that the continuation of the lease in favour of the tenant s heirs if they did not practise the same profession was also unconstitutional. Law 6/1997 amended the article by removing the word “partners” and putting in restrictions regarding the use of the leased property by the heirs of the tenant after his death. The new law allowed the tenant s heirs to continue using the property only if they practiced the same profession or activity and if they were first or second-degree relatives under Article 36 of the Civil Code, such as sons, grandsons, parents, grandparents or brothers/sisters. However, the property could still be used by such individuals representatives. According to statements by the parliamentary Housing Committee, the new law being discussed in parliament will include five articles regulating the relationship between landlord and tenant for non-residential property. The rent will be increased by five times in the first year and then by 15 per cent over the subsequent four years to bring it closer to present values. At the end of the five years, the contract shall be considered terminated with no need to follow any new procedure. A new contract and new terms can then be issued. The new law concerns property leased by legal persons for non-residential purposes. A legal person, as defined in Article 52 of the Civil Code, is a public or private institution or entity such as an association, company, union or other institution having legal personality. Discussion has continued in parliament on the scope of the application of the new law, with some MPs proposing the inclusion of tenants that are also natural persons, though this has been ruled out by a majority. Some still believe that the new law risks being ruled unconstitutional since if it only applies to legal persons it runs the risk of breaking Article 53 of the constitution, which stipulates that citizens are equal before the law and in rights and freedoms. The right of ownership is an important legal right, in which all citizens must be equal before the law. The distinction between a natural person and a legal one as far as tenancies is concerned is unjustified, commentators say, since in both cases the owner must have the right to dispose of the property either by selling it or by re-leasing it at a rent compatible with its actual value. The new law goes against this principle.
It is rare for a president to leave an endearing impact on a nation despite being in office for a short period. But that was the case with late Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi (1925-2019), whose recent death left a country that had crossed several political hurdles over this decade at a crossroads. At one end of the equation are the modern and secular political powers that wish to keep the country s foundations intact with the rules attributed by its founder former president Habib Bourguiba. At the other end are the Islamists led by the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood s Ennahda Movement who are vying to complete their unfinished attempt at full power in the country. Essebsi, who died of food poisoning according to his son s statement to the Tunisian media, was the world s oldest incumbent president. He represented the glue that bound the country together and prevented it from falling into civic strife, especially after the failure that tainted his predecessor the proclaimed “liberal” yet Islamist-leaning Moncef Marzouki. Marzouki was merely a marionette in the hands of Ennahda. But Essebsi s secular social reforms regarding equal rights for women and others irked the Islamists, including his open-minded outlook on gender equality in marriage and inheritance. The Islamists felt that Essebsi was tearing down the layers of injustice in the name of religion that they had stacked up against women in Tunisia and other similar societies. No wonder he was hated by terrorist-preaching clerics such as Wagdi Ghoneim and other Muslim Brotherhood members and affiliates across the world. Tunisians are now braced for two sets of elections that will define the country s future for years if not decades to come. The first is the snap presidential elections to be held on 15 September, and the second is the parliamentary elections to be held on 6 October. Both elections are battlefields for secular, leftist, liberal and Islamist candidates to display their capabilities to rally Tunisians in their favour. Despite the country being a semi-presidential system, the Tunisian presidential elections represent a challenge for all the parties due to the sensitivity of the position and the fact that the result will be a prelude of what to expect in the subsequent parliamentary elections. The presidential elections in Tunisia feature a large number of candidates, with 98 putting their names forward and 26 being approved by the country s Electoral Commission so far. The main contenders appear to be former defence minister Abdel-Karim Zbidi, incumbent prime minister Youssef Chahed, businessman Nabil Karoui, Ennahda s Abdel-Fattah Mourou, female candidate Abir Moussi and former president Marzouki. Poll numbers issued by several pollsters indicate a tight race that will likely witness a second round between the frontrunners. Luckily for nationalists and secularists in Tunisia, Zbidi appears to be a frontrunner in the elections so far, garnering more support and endorsements by the day including that of the son of late president Essebsi, Hafez Essebsi, who believes that Zbidi is the most eligible of all those putting themselves forward to continue his father s legacy of the modernisation of the country. Unlike most of the other candidates, Zbidi remains untainted by hidden or public ties to the Islamists or Ennahda, and he has made this clear on several occasions. With a dedicated team of campaigners including political analyst Mondher Guefrachi and several others, Zbidi is leading the polls, according to Swiss-based pollster Stratege Consulting, by a small margin, and his campaign is gaining momentum as the decisive election day comes nearer. However, Chahed s campaign is also going strong, despite accusations that he has been misusing his powers by utilising state resources in a direct violation of the electoral laws. The same can be said of Islamist candidate Abdel-Fattah Mourou who is now the acting speaker of Tunisia s parliament. Mourou represents one of several options that the Islamists have in the upcoming elections. He is the first Muslim Brotherhood candidate ever for the presidency, and this is considered a major gamble for the Islamist Party, which has usually opted to act behind the scenes and exert control from there. The second option is Marzouki, who is not begging for Islamist support due to his dwindling popularity but has always been the perfect candidate for the Islamists to control. Chahed is another candidate with ties to Ennahda, and though he heads the newly formed Tahya Tunis Party, he has displayed a willingness to forge deals with the Islamists before, and he could be a suitable proxy for them if he wins. If Mourou does not win, it will represent a blow to Ennahda at least psychologically as it will show it to be a weak political entity that is incapable of winning on its own. Thus, it will reduce the party s ability to control whoever wins the presidential seat. But the Islamists eyes are not just on the presidency, as their leader Rachid Al-Ghannouchi has announced his candidacy for a parliamentary seat, leading a list of candidates from Ennahda. If Al-Ghannouchi wins, he will be eligible to run for the speaker of the parliament should his Party garner enough votes to win a majority of the seats. That would mean that if the president of Tunisia dies or is unable to perform his duties, Al-Ghannouchi would be the next in line to hold the position temporarily, as is the case with current interim president Mohamed Ennaceur. Though still marred by economic, political and terrorism issues, Tunisia has witnessed relative stability in comparison to the rest of the region over the past decade, and this gave the country some relief during Essebsi s rule. But the death of Essebsi has left the country at a crossroads as to whether it should continue to retain its reputation as a secular modern state or whether it will slide into the abyss of Islamist rule that has been the fate of many nations beforehand, including Iran and Turkey. Though at a crossroads now, the road is clear for all Tunisians should they choose to take it, and this year s elections could be a turning point in the country s modern history. If the Islamists gain a grip on the country this time round, there will hardly be any turning back for years to come. The Islamists in Tunisia see these elections as their last hurrah after years of attempting to reach full power in the country. Given the Islamists defeats and setbacks in other countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, Libya and Sudan, and the possible vanquishing of the so-called Islamist Project after the Arab Spring Revolutions, the elections in Tunisia are crucial. This is so because they may even surpass the importance of those in 2014 because an Islamist failure now would mean that Tunisian citizens have rejected the emotional and religious rhetoric that the Islamists have utilised for decades and that they are now willing to continue to forge their own modern state for others in the region to follow.
“War games” are forms of military drills generally performed in military academies and by armed forces in various combat formations, to train soldiers for similar combat scenarios in real life. Often the exercises involve realistic simulations of such scenarios. In May and August 1973, when I was a recruit in the Egyptian Armed Forces, I personally bore witness to comprehensive simulations to train us for the crossing of the Suez Canal. It turned out that they closely approximated what actually took place in the war in October that year. An article appeared in the 30th edition of Trending Events, published by the Future Centre for Advanced Research and Studies, with the title, “War games: Can a major armed conflict breakout in the Middle East?” As the author, Mohamed Abdel- Salam, observes, there have been numerous instances in recent years where there was the potential for an outbreak of war in this region: between the US and Russia because of the proximity of their military presences in the war theatres in Iraq and Syria, between Israel and Iran because of the latter s provision of missiles to Hizbullah in Lebanon and because of the Iranian military presence in Syria and, more recently, between the US and Iran. In these and other cases that Abdel-Salam cites, war did not erupt. Instead, there were various combinations of limited recourse to military force or military operations undertaken by proxies. War games appear to have taken the place of full-scale wars engaging all main branches of the armed forces on land, sea and air. They have become the alternatives to war for asserting pressure and influence since no one wants a full-scale war due to the high material and military costs, and perhaps also because experience in this era in this part of the world, at least, tells us that the wars that do begin never end, or that they drag on so long so as to alter the definitions of victory and defeat and leave nothing but bitterness and accumulated ruin that lasts generations. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine are among the current victims of chronic wars. Mohamed Abdel-Salam s article has much more to say, but what concerns us here is the return to Clausewitz s famous maxim that “war is a continuation of politics by other means. ” These “other means” range from diverse uses of intelligence operations and covert action to inflict harm on the other side, to military manoeuvres intended to signal the intent to go to war and the readiness to make the necessary sacrifices, to major armed conflicts entailing the complete mobilisation and deployment of the state s resources of military force. There are various shades in between these points, to which testify the developments this year alone between Iran and US as a consequence of Washington s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran. Military force was brought to bear to accomplish political aims from the very moment that the US sent in additional troops and military hardware in order to notch up the pressure on Iran on top of the pressure asserted by means of economic sanctions that seek to bring Iranian oil production to a halt. Petroleum exports are the backbone of the Iranian economy (they account for 72 per cent of the country s foreign currency income). The US has essentially succeeded in this aim. Iran has been forced to cut back oil production from over two million barrels a day to around 100,000 barrels a day which, for all practical purposes, is the “zero” that Washington was aiming for in order to put a stranglehold on the Iranian economy. The USs other uses of military force in this context include the participation of fleets from other countries alongside the US fleet in operations to protect maritime routes in the Gulf and moving naval units close to Iranian ports and maritime outlets. Such actions send signals that Iran cannot ignore. It also appears that the “Jerusalem meeting” between Russia and the US gave a green light to Israel to go after forces allied to Iran in Syria and Iraq, such as Hizbullah and the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Iran, too, has used forms of military force to assert political pressure. They include bombing or harassing oil tankers, indirect attacks on oil pumping stations and civilian airports using the Houthis and taking down two US drones with specialised missiles. Tehran resorted to another form of military pressure using the nuclear card when it increased the level of uranium enrichment. The move gave it greater flexibility to take low-level actions sufficient to nettle its enemies without provoking instant war or an Israeli strike against its nuclear installations. Thirdly, Iran activated the groups subordinate or allied to it in other countries, such as the PMF in Iraq, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen. The aims are as much political as they are military. These groups are closer to political movements than to militia organisations. They compete for power in their countries and they are also armed with totalitarian ideologies that aim to alter the map of the region in radical directions. The closeness between Iran and Hamas can, perhaps, be appreciated in this framework. These military developments include war games because, on the one hand, they focus on attaining military aims whether virtual or real-life and, on the other, they are forms of the use of arms to attain political aims. The US s political aim is to destroy the nuclear agreement and to drive back Iran s regional influence and control whether over governments such as that in Damascus or non-state organisations. Iran s political aim is to continue to keep the nuclear deal separate from its political behaviour in the region. The conflict between the two countries aims continues and so too does the escalation between them. The two countries are in a race to deploy and use arms and troops in various ways. This could propel them to the negotiating table. The US tried to push in this direction when it attempted to induce Iran to cooperate in Afghanistan in pursuit of their common interest there. But, so far, Iran continues to escalate because it has set its aim not at negotiating a new agreement, but at compelling the US to return to the agreement that is still in effect with the European and other cosignatories. The only non-escalatory signal from Iran was its proposal for a non-aggression pact with the Gulf countries, a proposal made at a time it was attacking them. Can war games work to serve the functions of war? We saw similar situations during the Cold War between the East and West. There was an arms race, a race to the moon, a mobilisation in military drills and manoeuvres, and proxy warfare using other countries or groups. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But while it was still being fought, the primary factor that kept the cold from turning to hot was the intensification in the production of nuclear weapons. There came point when both sides — the US and the USSR — had an interest in reducing them in numbers and in range, albeit not in political effect and influence. The Cold War was based on the balance of nuclear terror. In the Middle East we find a mixture between elements of cold war and some methods of hot war. The current “war games” may not be enough to satisfy tense nerves in the region.
Did I say that? Did I?" That was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro talking to reporters on Tuesday morning, apparently denying what his office had told CNN exactly one hour earlier, that he would reject a $20 million pledge from the G7 countries to help fight the fires consuming the Amazon. It was a touch of gaslighting, Bolsonaro style. The Amazon fires are scorching the Earth s most vital ecosystem at such a voracious rate that by the time you read this, thousands more trees will have turned to ashes. Brazil s space research agency calculates that one-and-a-half soccer fields worth of rainforest burns every single minute. That destruction includes more than trees -- it is engulfing everything that lives in the forest and cannot escape. As the flames spread, the scale of the devastation could reach a point where the damage may become irreversible. Amid rising pressure from abroad, and from inside Brazil, Bolsonaro has instead busied himself with a childish (and sexist) dispute over whether he has a more beautiful wife than French President Emmanuel Macron and posturing that efforts to help from abroad amount to an assault on Brazilian sovereignty. Meanwhile, more rainforest burns. Brazil should receive help not only because what happens in the Amazon will affect the entire world, but because it should not bear the cost of preserving the Amazon all alone. Whether or not Bolsonaro feels he has something to prove, Brazilians have much to be proud of. They have a spectacular country, and they have shown in the past that they are capable of protecting it. There is no shame in accepting assistance from a world that is eager to help. They have every right to run the operation. It is their country. But their problem is affecting everyone. If everyone wants to help, why not let them? The obstacle, as often happens with demagogues, is their president. It s a perfect -- perfectly awful -- example of what happens when nationalist demagogues take power. It is hardly a surprise that Bolsonaro has been described as the "Trump of the Tropics." There s much about his political style that echoes the US President, including his approach to the environment. Urged by foreign leaders to fight the fires -- which open up more land for powerful Brazilian ranchers and miners to graze cattle and extract mineral wealth -- Bolsonaro declared, "You have to understand that the Amazon is Brazil s, not yours." It was not unlike what President Donald Trump said in his press conference three days later, when he was asked if he is still skeptical about climate change. In his rambling answer, he said he is an "environmentalist," and went on to describe precisely the opposite, saying, "I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet," adding, "I m not going to lose that wealth; I m not going to lose it on dreams." The nationalists creed is centered on some version of MAGA, Trump s Make America Great Again slogan, which is at its heart a call to mistrust cooperation with other countries and to reject the prospect of sacrifices for a common good shared with other nations. The environment, international cooperation? Those are for wimps. Nationalists flex their muscle and tell others to mind their own business. It s no coincidence that Bolsonaro, too, campaigned on a hypermasculine platform. The ubiquitous hand signal at his rallies was an extended index finger and thumb, an imaginary pistol, symbolizing his plan to put more guns in the hands of civilians. He praised Brazil s military dictatorships, attacked LGBT Brazilians and when he heard a congresswoman had called him a rapist, he said she was not attractive enough for him to rape. But the core of the nationalist politician s fuel is a strident defense of the country against imaginary threats. Sure, Brazil has been a victim of colonialist exploitation during its history and it has a right to protect its sovereignty. But Macron, who has led the push to help Brazil fight the fires in the Amazon, "the lungs of the planet," is pointing to a reality that no amount of macho bravado or nationalist demagoguery can deny: We all live on the same planet. Macron s plan, which he presented along with Sebastian Piñera, the president of Brazil s neighbor, Chile, would start with an emergency push to douse the fires, followed by a program of collaboration between Amazonian countries and the wealthy nations of the G7. As Piñera said, it would be done, "always respecting their sovereignty." The fallacy of ultra-nationalism is that we no longer live in a world where countries can wall themselves in and pretend that what goes on beyond their borders does not affect them. The smoke from Brazilian fires is visible from space; it will waft irrespective of man-made borders. It s not only smoke from blazing forests crossing borders. Deadly viruses do the same, as do raw materials for the products that we use every day. Also leaping borders are ideas and facts. Even as Trump and Bolsonaro and their like-minded followers deny climate change, the facts speak for themselves. Nationalist demagogues may not want to work with other countries, but the longer they refuse, the sooner they will be swept away by angry voters tired of lies, equivocation and gaslighting, unable to deny the realities they see with their own eyes, and breathe with their own lungs.
The odd man out at the G7 gathering of the world s richest democracies, President Donald Trump cut a weary figure at a farewell press conference Monday, where he boosted the pariah Russian President Vladimir Putin, railed against Barack Obama, and once again bragged about the great relationship he and his wife, Melania, have with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. In contrast, Emmanuel Macron emerged from the conference as an energetic leader who bypassed America to make a diplomatic outreach to Iran. The French President s deft conduct at the G7, which featured climate change as a main topic, was all the more notable because of Trump s clumsiness. As is his habit, Trump offered conflicting messages on the trade war he started with China, blamed his predecessors for the nation s troubles -- and failed to note that Melania Trump has never met Kim Jong Un. Macron -- and the world -- are well aware of Trump s inability to work well with others. Indeed, at the last G7 Trump reneged on a commitment to affirm a pro-trade joint communique all the others had approved, and attacked the summit s host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, personally, calling him "very dishonest and weak." And so as Macron planned to host this year s meeting, he decided there would be no communique at all to organize the proceedings, depriving Trump of the chance to repeat his skunk-in-the garden-party trick. The French leader matched this defensive decision -- which freed him to set a more unpredictable agenda -- with an offense move of his own. To the surprise of many, he welcomed Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif to Biarritz on Sunday, opening the door for him to discuss trade security with his counterparts. France was one of the six countries that signed a deal that froze Iran s nuclear weapons program in 2015. (The others were the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany and the US). Under intense monitoring, Iran complied with its part of the bargain and received, in turn, more favorable trading arrangements with the rest of the world. However, Trump regards Iran as an enemy -- and the agreement was devised by Obama (also a Trump enemy). He alienated the other signatories by abandoning the agreement last year. Trump did not meet with Zarif in Biarritz, but Macron s move appeared to coax him into a more conciliatory posture toward Iran. While Macron was deftly circumventing him on Iran, Trump was also outplayed by his erstwhile buddy Boris Johnson on the issue of climate change. Regarded by some as Britain s version of Trump, Prime Minister Johnson glad-handed his American counterpart, but reminded the world that he disagrees with the President on climate change. Johnson expressed concern about threats to biodiversity and he actually attended the G7 session on climate change, which Trump skipped. The insult evident in Trump s absence from that meeting was amplified by the deceptive explanation offered for his failure to attend. According to the White House press secretary, "The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead." In fact, the two leaders who supposedly kept Trump away were in their assigned chairs at the climate session. All anyone had to do to determine the truthfulness of the Trump claim was check a photo of the meeting, which circulated widely in the press. A telling photo also seemed to reveal Justin Trudeau practicing a little gamesmanship with First Lady Melania Trump. Thanks to the angle of Trudeau s approach as he greeted the First Lady, cameras appear to have caught Mrs. Trump about to plant a big kiss on the movie-star-handsome Trudeau. In fact, it was only an air kiss, but the internet was ablaze with commentary about the apparently smitten look on Melania Trump s face. Petty as it may seem -- and much of what is being said on social media about Trudeau and the First Lady is petty -- it s no surprise to see so much attention focused on the possible signals in photos. Much of the world is exhausted by President Trump s behavior and his attention seeking. During the G7, China s foreign ministry joined the pushback against Trump, pouring cold water on the President s claim that recent contacts between Beijing and the administration suggested progress in the trade war Trump started. "We ve gotten two calls," over the weekend, Trump said on Monday. "They want to be able to make a deal." But a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told a news briefing: "Regarding the phone call in the weekend, I am not aware of that." Like the Chinese, the G7 leaders seem to have figured out Trump s methods, and have devised ways to quietly cope with them. Trump likes to present himself as a unique, even heroic figure who can do things others cannot. In Biarritz he even suggested that if he -- and not Barack Obama -- had been president when Russia invaded Crimea, it would have been stopped. He also vehemently urged leaders to bring Vladimir Putin, who was exiled from what was once the G8 because of his aggression, back into the great nations club. No other members of the group have proposed bringing Russia back into the fold, and as he suggested it -- and they resisted -- Trump underlined his isolated status. Indeed, weak as the President seemed in contrast with Macron, his cravenly self-interested comments at the Monday press conference highlighted his scant relevance to the proceedings. He added a parting shot of venality as he prepared to leave Biarritz: Asked about next year s G7, he launched into a marketing pitch for the session to be held at his Doral resort in Florida where, he said, the acreage would provide lots of parking. He followed with an odd reference to the money he thinks he s lost while serving as President of the United States and not the chief executive of the Trump Organization. "Probably it will cost me anywhere from $3 to $5 billion to be President," said Trump, citing the example of lost income from public speaking. "I used to get a lot of money to make speeches, now I give speeches all the time. You know what I get? Zippo." Trump softened the complaint -- which he brought up himself -- by suggesting that he doesn t care about the lost money. His bragging about Doral, along with his disrespectful absence from the climate change session, served only to draw attention to how much he deviates from accepted norms. Trump may still think he s a leader of mythic proportions, but every day it seems more clear that he s only a hero in his own mind.
Egypt completed a fairytale gold run at the IHF Youth (U-19) World Championship 2019 in North Macedonia. The junior handball team s victory was not a coincidence because sports have become more than a hobby; it is an industry, science and locus of management. The junior team played a high-paced game and showed outstanding efficiency in attack, thus taking control of the game early on. Egypt has had an amazing journey at the tournament, having topped their group stage after defeating Sweden, Chinese Taipei, Canada and Hungary. Those following the team rather closely will notice the rapid development achieved during the past few years, climbing the ladder to get their bronze medal last month. Earlier, the senior team managed to compete with the leading teams in Europe. Such efforts simply mean that whenever our youths have the will, they ll find the way. We are trying to do that not only in sports, but also in all the country s sectors. Watching members of this team rang a bell. They look very much like the young Egyptians taking part in the youth conferences. The same open mind, feeling of responsibility and collective spirit. Their relationship with their coaches and managers is crowned with respect and discipline, simply because they are willing to learn from their mistakes and looking for perfection. Such features have become commonplace for our youths and a good reason to feel more optimistic about the future. Being on the right track means that our youngsters will be able to make their own stories of success. They are well-acquainted with the latest developments in their field of expertise, willing to change and to learn. Moreover, they think in a rather scientific way which helped them study carefully each and every step on their road. Most of them are not self-centered and they work hard for the team and for the country, which makes their achievements invaluable for every one of us. The strategy behind the handball team s victory has certainly changed. A decade ago, the team embraced a defensive strategy. The game was played in a systematic way that makes it hard to score. There had been rare attempts to push from behind, and the role of the wings was only to exchange balls. Egypt s junior handball team participated in several junior handball competitions and the first appearance was in the inaugural African Men s Junior Handball Championship in 1980 in Nigeria when the team placed third. Two years later, in 1982 in Benin, the Egyptians found their way to capture the first African and international title and qualified for the 1983 IHF Men s Junior World Championship, finishing 13th rank at their first appearance. Later, in 1993, Egypt was the host country, a first for a country outside Europe since the inaugural of the championship in 1977 in Sweden. The Egyptians exploited the home court advantage and with a great player generation they stunned all followers and the media and found their way to the final match against Denmark where they won it. Thus, the stage was set for the eighth edition of the tournament held in Macedonia. In the final match, the young Pharaohs were the better side as they took a lead, and further extended their lead throughout the match. It is no wonder that the Pharaohs became the fifth team to win the competition since its inception alongside Denmark (3 titles), France (2 titles), Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro, and the very first non-European champion. The young Egyptians proved to be strong, efficient and capable of taking victory when they cooperate and coordinate their efforts. Inserting modern management techniques will open up new horizons for the country s productive and services sectors. The new techniques and strategies currently adopted by the managers of the handball team are the outcome of sound planning and are the key to success. The team managed to blend local expertise with the internationally recognised standards, kept their eyes wide open on the most recent and the state-of-the-art of technology in administering the junior team. That type of administration is what we need now. There is no place for random choices, confusion, and improvisation. We must be inspired by their victory and make it our beacon in all aspects of life, to help this country develop and improve standards of living for all our people.
This article describes the adventure of the discovery of the mummy of queen Hatshepsut, who was from the same dynasty as our Egyptian star Tutankhamun. She ruled before Tutankhamun was born, along with a young boy called Thutmose III who was her stepson from her husband Thutmose II. After the death of Thutmose II, his son became the king of Egypt, but Hatshepsut took over the throne and ruled the country for almost 20 years. She built a beautiful temple on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, which was designed by her architect Senenmut. I started the search for Hatshepsut s mummy by collecting all the nameless female mummies that had been found in the Valley of the Kings and that are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I went to Hatshepsut s tomb, KV 21, which was very dangerous and slippery inside. I had to tie a rope to the door of the tomb, and I began to navigate its interior only with its assistance. This tomb was also found by famed Egyptologist Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun s tomb. I also was able to go inside the tomb of Hatshepsut s wet-nurse, KV 60, and found two mummies in it. One was in a coffin with the name of the wet-nurse, and the other female mummy was not in a coffin. When you look at a female mummy and spot that her left arm is crossed over her chest, this likely means that the mummy was either of a priestess or a queen. The coffin-less mummy had her left arm crossed over the chest, which was very suggestive. I took this mummy to the museum in Cairo, but I also did not stop there and collected all the artefacts that had belonged to Hatshepsut. One of the objects was a wooden box that had a liver inside. The name of Hatshepsut was carved on the box in hieroglyphs. We put 20 mummies through a CT-scan machine. This machine can take 1,000 photographs of each mummy, and we can tell from these if the mummy had any diseases and the age of the person when he did. One night, I was at the museum watching the movement of all the mummies. We were working with the CT scan machine, and I asked my assistant, Hisham, to bring me the box which bore the name of Hatshepsut and put it under the scan. Using the scanner, we saw the liver inside the box along with a part of the stomach. However, the big surprise was discovering a tooth inside the box as well. We started to look at the teeth of the mummies in our possession. The only mummy that was missing a tooth was the mummy of a woman from the tomb of Hatshepsut s wet nurse, the one with the left arm crossed over the chest. The tooth fitted perfectly inside the gap which we found in her jaw. It was a beautiful moment in my life when I discovered the mummy of Hatshepsut, based on this little tooth inside this box. When we studied the mummy of Hatshepsut, we found that she had been 55 years old when she died and had been overweight as well as diabetic. She had died of cancer. Many people had earlier believed that her stepson Thutmose III had been the one who had killed her, but now we knew the truth. Hatshepsut wasn t the only royal female that was of interest to us. Queen Nefertiti is the most famous queen of ancient Egypt, and her fame continues to this day. She is the one who married Akhenaten, the father of Tutankhamun. There are many mysteries surrounding this lady. Some think that she disappeared during the time of Akhenaten. Others think that she became a king herself after the death of her husband. Today, she has become even more famous, especially after an English scholar suggested that she was buried inside the tomb, inside a secret chamber, of the golden boy-king. Another English scholar has studied a mummy found in tomb 35 in the Valley of the Kings. We know this mummy as the “Younger Lady”. The English scholar announced that this mummy belonged to Nefertiti. I refused to accept this idea, so I began to search for the mummy of Nefertiti myself. I looked at the mummies of the two ladies that were found in tomb 21 in the Valley of the Kings. One of these had no head because of the floods that had entered the tomb and damaged the body. However, the other mummy that was found next to it was in good condition. We also have the two fetuses of Tutankhamun s children buried with the golden boy-king in his tomb. We believe that Ankhsenamun, Tut s wife and queen, gave birth to the two fetuses. One died when she was only seven months old, and the other when she was nine months old. I asked scientists to run DNA tests to show the family relations between the individuals. The scientists took liquid from the hands or legs of the mummies and compared this material to other mummies. The scientists compared the DNA of the two fetuses to the headless mummy, and they found that the headless mummy was the mother of the two fetuses and the daughter of Akhenaten, making her Ankhsenamun, Tut s wife. I had had a feeling that the mummy that was next to the headless mummy was that of Nefertiti. We know that Ankhsenamun was also the daughter of Nefertiti and that when the ancient Egyptians saved the mummies and hid them from tomb robbers, they always put the mummies of the same family together in one place. I think that this second mummy from tomb 21 is queen Nefertiti, and this is my next adventure: to prove that this is Nefertiti and to finally find the mummy of the most-famous queen in the world.
Egypt s parliament has recently approved Article 41 of the draft Social Insurance and Pensions Act, submitted by the government, which sets the pension age at 65 by 2040. The article includes gradually raising the retirement age and its actual application in 2032 to 61 years and then increasing it every two years. The act has several other articles, but the focus here is on the retirement age in particular.
The other night I took a flight from Seattle to Dallas, and as I was maneuvering into my window seat in economy class, I couldn t help but wonder: If it s this difficult to get into my seat under regular conditions, how would I be able to get out in an emergency situation? And how could all the people on the plane get out in 90 seconds if there was an emergency evacuation? As a flight attendant with 33 years of experience, I ve witnessed the aviation industry undergo tremendous changes -- and smaller seat sizes are just the beginning. As a result, the recently confirmed administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Stephen Dickson, faces heightened public scrutiny about aviation safety as he steps into his role-- particularly following the two devastating Boeing 737 Max crashes in the last year. To restore America s faith in our aviation safety and regulation system, we are calling on Dickson to take crucial steps to protect all airline passengers and crew members. In my role as the National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), I represent the 28,000 flight attendants at American Airlines who are on the frontlines of passenger safety, security and comfort every day. While there has been much-needed scrutiny on the safety of the 737 Max, there is another urgent safety matter that Dickson needs to prioritize: implementing the FAA Reauthorization Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in October 2018. The Reauthorization Act is a law intended to protect the safety of flight attendants, pilots and passengers through several key safety provisions, including a 10-hour rest minimum for flight attendants. But despite a 30-day deadline to implement these rest requirements,10 months later many of the key provisions of the law have not been enacted. In July, I told members of Congress that it is urgent that the FAA formally review seat size and evacuation plans, monitor cabin air quality, and ensure those flight attendant minimum rest times to protect passenger and crew safety. Just about anyone who flies these days knows exactly why. As economy class seats get smaller, legroom more limited, and aisles narrower, air travel has become an uncomfortable experience for many passengers and poses ever more evacuation dangers. It s not just an issue that leads to more air rage. Smaller seats can prevent passengers--especially older and larger individuals--from safely exiting an aircraft in emergency situations. Imagine the chaos of an emergency landing and consider that an increasing number of passengers, who must evacuate carefully and calmly, may not be able to maneuver around a cramped cabin. The Reauthorization Act requires the FAA to broadly review cabin evacuation procedures and changes to passenger seating configurations. However, the FAA has yet to take any action on this Congressional instruction. The FAA Reauthorization Act has specific provisions to collect data on poor cabin air quality. Since July 2018, APFA has had over 1,500 fume events reported to our safety department. Passengers and flight attendants are put at risk from inhaling these fumes. Flight attendants have been hospitalized and, in some cases, suffered permanent damage to their health due to a lack of standard procedures for maintaining air quality. Although flight crews have to report fume events linked to issues with the aircraft to the FAA, the FAA currently has no standardized way of collecting reports of air quality in general or preventing fume contamination on an aircraft, so these incidents frequently go unreported. As flight attendants, we are proud to be entrusted with passenger safety on every flight, but we need enough time to ensure that we re rested and prepared ahead of long and challenging flights. The FAA Reauthorization Act increased the minimum number of rest hours between work days from eight to 10 hours, which hasn t been implemented, to ensure that we have enough time to get to our hotel, have a meal, get enough sleep and return to the airport in time for our next flight. Flight attendants deserve the down time and our passengers deserve to have well-rested cabin crews ready to respond on a moment s notice. Flight attendants work hard every day to keep passengers safe and comfortable as they travel across the country and around the globe. Our union is proud to advocate for our members and the flying public, but we can t do it alone. We urge Administrator Dickson to join us in our work to protect air travel safety by ensuring every provision of the FAA Reauthorization Act is implemented immediately. For the security of passengers, pilots and flight attendants, we cannot wait any longer.
We have to admit our failure in putting an end to the phenomenon of slaughtering Eid sacrifices in Egypt s streets. The whole country has suddenly been turned into a slaughterhouse where hundreds of sheep, goats and cows are being slaughtered in horrifying scenes that have a negative ecological and psychological impact on every one of us. Despite the fact that the government s slaughterhouses are widely available for free during Eid to ensure that the sacrifices are slaughtered in a healthy and eco-friendly manner, people are still engaging in this practice on our streets. I certainly do not know how one can enjoy the food after watching these scenes where the basic rules of hygiene do not exist and the process itself is not secured or monitored. Some people even put their hands in the animal s blood to mark their doors and gates in a show of pride or to receive blessings. However, the pools of blood and the remains of the animals are left in the open air to fester and produce viruses and bacteria. These sites can produce the most lethal biological weapons where millions of viruses and bacteria are created in a hot environment, carried by the hot winds to almost every one of us. These winds will not carry the blessings of the sacrifices, but the seeds of lasting serious diseases which we willingly distribute in our streets. It is no wonder that we have such a small number of tourists during Eid. The reason is obvious, given the ugly scenes of the slaughtering process that ignores basic hygiene rules, with animal entrails and pools of blood covering the streets of Egypt, which ironically boasts thousands of years of civilisation. These days, our streets disappear under piles of garbage and broken tiles. Unfortunately, we have gotten used to such scenes that have became part of our day-to-day life. We have been living with such ugliness that has created a large distance between us and the civilised world. We are lagging behind and will lag further unless we put an end to such ugliness. We should organise campaigns to raise awareness among our people. They should know the extent of the threats and the risks involved in the slaughtering of animals in the streets. The locations of slaughterhouses should be advertised and people should be aware that they provide their services free of charge during Eid. Legislation should also be put in place to penalise violators. Yet, people should be convinced before the law comes knocking on their doors. Unless they believe and understand the reasons behind the legislations, they will never be committed to following the rules. People should be part of the process, they should be aware that whoever slaughters an animal in the street not only harms himself, but his neighbours as well. Putting an end to slaughtering Eid sacrifices in the streets will be a demonstration of our capability to overcome bad habits. We should start getting ready now for the coming year; we should work to resurrect the beauty and cleanliness of our streets. Now the slogan should be Streets clean of garbage. We have the right to breath clean air; we have the right to lead a healthy life. Our children are entitled to an eco-friendly environment; they should not see such ugly scenes and should not fall victim to viruses and bacteria from street food. We deserve a better life and our children should enjoy a better standard of living. Is that too much to ask? It may be difficult at the moment, but it is worth all the efforts. It is worth it to get back the beauty of our life and the healthy environment of our cities. It is worth it to maintain a better image of our long and lasting civilisation. But the most important thing is to secure a healthy environment for future generations.
President Trump has never shied away from foreign election interference -- he s professed his willingness to accept dirt from foreign countries and stayed silent when despots like Kim Jong Un criticize his political rivals. Campaign surrogates Trump has been the beneficiary of some previously unthinkable campaign support and he recently showed just how far he is willing to go to accept foreign help when it comes to his personal political battles. In his latest move to demonize Democratic congresswomen of color, Trump tweeted on Thursday, "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds." Israel s deputy foreign minister then announced Israel was banning the two congresswomen from coming into the country. (The following day, Israel said it would allow Tlaib to visit her elderly grandmother in the West Bank after Tlaib requested entrance, promising to "respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel" during her trip. Tlaib later stated she would not to go "under these oppressive conditions.") The President has subjugated our historically bipartisan relationship with Israel to advance his immediate political agenda with little regard for the consequences this will have down the road. At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who is facing his own reelection challenges -- has put all of his eggs in Trump s basket. Both leaders are blinded by their own nearsighted ambitions and fail to see what s in the best interest of the people they represent. President Trump s policy on Middle East peace (or the lack thereof) has been clear since he came into office. He s made support for Israel synonymous with support for Prime Minister Netanyahu, and has given Netanyahu carte blanche, along with some major political presents like the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Trump and Netanyahu are, in effect, serving as each other s campaign surrogates. Trump is ostensibly fixated on winning American votes, labeling anyone who criticizes Netanyahu or Israel as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel and painting himself as the only thing between a strong US-Israel relationship and Armageddon. He uses Netanyahu s endorsements -- and now Netanyahu s willingness to do his political dirty work -- to bolster that image. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is aware of how popular Trump is in Israel, and used Trump s accolades as part of his campaign communications during his last reelection bid. Policy shift While Netanyahu and Trump chip away at long-established norms about not playing in other countries politics, they ve also chipped away at decades of US policy supporting a negotiated, two-state solution. By cutting off almost all financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, closing the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, and green-lighting Israeli activities that under previous administrations were considered final status issues, both leaders have established a new normal, defined by a one-state solution -- the state of Israel led by Bibi Netanyahu. Jared Kushner s Middle East peace plan hasn t been fully released, and is believed to stop short of calling for a fully sovereign Palestine state. While Trump cozies up to Netanyahu, he has done little to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people or to lay the groundwork for discussions that will ameliorate security risks facing Israel, including from Gaza. Discussions about what is in the Israelis and Palestinians interest long term have taken a backseat to Trump and Netanyahu s political agendas. A failure to make progress on strategic security issues related to Middle East peace will leave Israeli security worse off going forward, especially if Trump and Netanyahu make policy moves that gin up support from their base but provoke retaliatory measures. Shared shortsightedness Netanyahu is in a neck-and-neck race with his closest rival heading into a September 17 election, and he seems willing to do whatever it takes to win, including serving as President Trump s political prop. Our security relationship with Israel is bigger than any one leader, and Trump probably hasn t thought about what happens if Netanyahu loses the election and he has to spend time repairing relations (which is unlikely for Trump) with the next Israeli prime minister. Plus, any leader who wants to manipulate Trump and American foreign policy at this point is probably aware that slamming Democrats -- or barring them in some way -- is a surefire way to get President Trump to do what they want. It s an easy manipulation point for anyone looking to play the President on serious policy issues. In the short term, Trump and Netanyahu s involvement in barring Tlaib and Omar from Israel may play to their respective bases. In the long term, however, both men do not have the best interest of their nations citizens in mind. President Trump made our relationship with Israel about politics and his personal vendettas. Netanyahu messaged that he s both shortsighted and for sale. Israel faces very real security threats like terrorism and Iran, and previous US Presidents -- both Republicans and Democrats -- have helped address them. But by holding our bilateral relationship hostage to their personal politics, Trump and Netanyahu are hamstringing the ability to cooperate as deeply down the road while signaling -- globally -- that politics trumps policy.
Many don t know that a headmaster became the UN secretary-general. It is an exciting story. In 1945, World War II ended and the UN was founded. In 1946, Norway s Foreign Minister Trygve Lie became the first UN secretary-general, resigning suddenly in 1952. Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold was the second UN secretary-general, but he was killed when his plane crashed in Congo in 1961. The accident is still mysterious. Hammarskjold had a fair and dignified personality and stood against colonialism and supported countries seeking independence. He still enjoys deep respect in Egypt because he was the first to stand against the Tripartite Aggression, threatening to resign. After Hammarskjold was killed, U Thant became the third head of the UN. He was a teacher and headmaster, then worked on the schoolbooks committee and was appointed head of the radio in Burma. All of a sudden U Thant was appointed his country s UN permanent representative. When Hammarskjold was killed, the headmaster became secretary-general, holding the post for ten years (1961-1971). Burma, which got its independence from Britain in 1948, has become known worldwide because of U Thant. U Thant was well-known in Egypt because he was the UN secretary-general during the 1967 defeat. Long years passed while the Burmese people suffered under dictatorship internally and from international sanctions externally. In 1989 Burma s name was changed to Myanmar. Myanmar s people endured half a century of dictatorship and sanctions until opening up began in 2012. Myanmar started to know the world anew, as if it has just been born. The new Myanmar commenced in an attractive way; investments, projects and a leader who was a Nobel Prize Peace laureate. However, the situation didn t last for long; Myanmar s name soon became the reason for widespread anger in the Islamic world and since then no news coming from Myanmar except the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims. The UN describes what has happened to the Rohingya as amounting to “ethnic cleansing.” The UN reports describe widespread killing, burning of villages and forced migration of more one million people. Following these reports, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanded that a formal investigation be opened concerning crimes against humanity towards Muslims of the Rohingya ethnicity. The Myanmar government denies committing genocide or ethnic cleansing and accuses extremist groups, which have infiltrated the area, of carrying out such acts. The government says that the Rohingya are the descendants of Bengali workers who came to the country with British occupation, and therefore they aren t natives. It also accuses the Rohingya Liberation Army and its allies belonging to extremist organisations coming from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh of creating the problem and perpetuating it. However, the UN rejects this explanation. The Rohingya issue can t be understood apart from the political geography of Myanmar, for it has become a part of an international conflict between great powers. While Myanmar is geographically a “stuck state” between China and India, it is politically a “stuck state” between China and the USA. Myanmar is a country rich with natural resources, but politics has stalled the economy there for half a century. The 21st century began and major natural gas and oil discoveries were made in the country. In 2004, a giant natural gas field was discovered off the coast. China got field concessions there in 2008, and started constructing an oil and natural gas pipeline from its territory to Myanmar via the Indian Ocean. This pipeline s length is approximately 1,420 km and it crosses southwest China via Rakhine state, where the Rohingya reside. China was very serious about this matter. In 2013 the China-Myanmar pipeline started operating. The China-Myanmar pipeline will carry oil from the Arabian Gulf to China via a “terrestrial Suez Canal,” that is, Myanmar. As a result, China won t need to transport oil via the Strait of Malacca lying between Malaysia and Indonesia. This is a major feat for China in both politics and economics. So, China is present in Myanmar through investments exceeding $30 billion which include energy pipes, deep-sea ports, economic areas and vital projects. Deep-sea ports will enable Myanmar to receive giant tankers. The pipeline, which crosses more than 20 cities, 50 rivers and 70 mountains between China and Myanmar, will carry more than 20 million tons of oil annually. Some in the strategic sciences circles believe that the USA is attempting to confront China in Myanmar, and some go further and claim that the entire Rohingya issue is a part of the West s attempts to corrupt the path of China towards the Indian Ocean via Myanmar. In his book titled Where China Meets India: Burma and a New Crossroads of Asia, author Thant Myint-U, grandson of U Thant, describes Myanmar as the lung of Asia, saying it represents to the Asian continent what the Suez Canal does to Egypt. Water is the transport connection between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and Myanmar is the transport connection between China and the Indian Ocean. This traffic through Myanmar has created a new economic area. The grandson believes that Myanmar is unfortunate, because lying at the heart of the Chinese-Indian competition and the American-Chinese competition aggravates its political geography crisis. Aside from this international conflict, tens of millions suffer from extreme poverty in the country. Over many years, a phenomenon became widespread there: the poor go to remote areas to extract oil using primitive tools and some even dig oil fields with their bare hands. Myanmar s political geography can be of benefit if the authorities there succeed in solving the Rohingya problem and cleverly settling the competition among China, India and the USA. But if it falls into the middle of the conflict, it won t be able to escape for a hundred years. What an extremely difficult world… These contradictions can t be managed except in the hands of the intelligent few. When the strategic decisions become difficult, stupid people must refrain from engaging themselves.