• What Happens After a Python Gorges May Help Human Hearts

    Researchers report that a combination of fatty acids expands the heart cells of a well-fed snake, a finding that holds promise for treating human heart disease and other ailments…Read More


  • HSBC accused of helping Egyptian generals

    Democracy and social justice campaigners in Egypt say that HSBC bank is colluding with the Egyptian military generals currently running the country, in order to intimidate them and stifle their legitimate activities.

    A range of NGOs and human rights groups say the global banking giant has been contacting them over the last two months, requesting information and documents relating to their work and activities in Egypt…Read More


  • Life, the Revolution and Everything

    After viewing a few of the gruesome videos of Muammar Qaddafis last moments, I called Abdullah, the young translator with whom Id worked in Benghazi last spring. You cant imagine how great we are feeling after forty-two years and nine months, he said, sounding like many of the Libyans Id seen interviewed on TV. Few of them mentioned Qaddafi without also mentioning the forty-two years. The number had been everywhere in Libya since the revolution began: One of the many posters Id seen plastering downtown Benghazi in March read, 42 is number of shoes size…Read More


  • Dead Without Trial. Again

    Once more there was to be no trial, no judgment. Over the last five years the scenario in the Arab world seems to be the same. Over and over again, the same confusion, the same dramatic end. Saddam Hussein, Usama bin Laden and Qaddafi were killed without a fair trial, no judge or jury brought down a verdict, in the most undignified manner. Saddam Hussein was hanged the day of the Muslim festival (after a parody of a trial) and his execution was filmed by mobile phone camera. Usama bin Laden was assassinated unarmed with no image to prove his fate. Qaddafi was caught alive, beaten and then executed, with hundreds of people around him taking pictures of his blood-covered face…Read More


  • In Rubble-Strewn Sitra, Faces of the Young Foretell a Grim Future for Bahrain

    SITRA, Bahrain Sometimes a name suggests a condition. There was Beirut a generation ago, Baghdad more recently. In Bahrain, a Persian Gulf state so polarized that truth itself is a matter of interpretation, it is Sitra. Here, the faces of young men foretell a future for the country that looks like the rubble-strewn and violent streets of this town.

    On a recent night, after clashes that erupt almost daily, one of them entered the house of a relative, squinting as though he had stumbled from a dungeon into the sun. Tear gas. His friend smirked as he showed the smooth scars left by rubber bullets fired at his leg and chest. Another shrugged as he removed his shirt to reveal a back scarred by pellets…Read More


  • Journalists gather in show of solidarity with Jordan’s Al Ghad reporter

    AMMAN – Scores of journalists converged at the Jordan Press Association (JPA) on Thursday to show their solidarity with Al Ghad journalist Yousef Damra, who was threatened after publishing an article exposing a major fraud case.

    The demonstration was joined by Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan Majali, who reiterated the governments rejection of recent acts of intimidation against journalists.

    The story, according to Damra, started in April when he started writing about victims of fraud.

    He added that his last article, dated October 19, exposed a JD3 million real estate fraud case…Read More


  • Alaa Abdel Fattah: Portrait of a revolutionary

    Prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was summoned today to Cairos notorious C28 military prosecution headquarters to face charges of incitement to violence in the violent 9 October Maspero clashes between Coptic-Christian protesters and military police.

    Abdel Fattah, who rejects the notion of civilians being tried by military courts, has refused to be interrogated by military prosecutors as a matter of principle. He has also vociferously criticised the idea that the military prosecution should investigate the Maspero clashes, in which military police were directly involved…Read More


  • The Arab Intellectuals Who Didnt Roar

    IN mid-June, the Syrian poet known as Adonis, one of the Arab worlds most renowned literary figures, addressed an open letter to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The stage was set for one of those moments, familiar from revolutions past, in which an intellectual hero confronts an oppressive ruler and eloquently voices the grievances of a nation…Read More


  • Syrian Forces Take Aim at Journalists

    The Internet has been a critical part of the demonstrations in Syria, as it has in other Arab Spring uprisings, but forces in the country have taken aim at journalists and activists attempting to cover the protests.

    Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit promoting press freedom, released a list Thursday of journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists detained in Syria who were attempting to cover the protests. The organization listed 22 people but said the roster is almost certainly incomplete. …Read More


  • How Stable is Jordan

    In the wake of revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain, Jordan another seemingly stable pro-Western regime with a reputation for progressive social and economic policies has received curiously
    little attention. In the early 1990s, Jordan was one of the regions most democratic countries, registering the highest ever Freedom House scores for an Arab country in 1992 (a 3 on political rights and 3 on civil liberties)… Read More


  • Qaddafis Death Places Focus on Arab Springs Hard Road

    TUNIS Like the flight of Tunisias dictator or the trial of Egypts, the capture of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Thursday afternoon captivated the Arab world, giving a renewed sense of power and possibility. But the photographs of his bloody corpse that circulated just moments later on cellphones and television screens quickly tempered that exhilaration with a reminder of the many still-unresolved conflicts that the Arab Spring has also unleashed.

    This isnt justice, Mustafa Haid, 32, a Syrian activist, said as he watched Al Jazeeras broadcast in a Beirut office. Colonel Qaddafi should have been put on trial, his crimes investigated, Libya reconciled to trust in the law, he said, as though he still hoped better from the regional uprising that began with peaceful displays of national unity in Tunis and Cairo.

    Across the region, Colonel Qaddafis bloody end has brought home the growing awareness of the challenges that lie ahead: the balancing of vengeance against justice, impatience for jobs against the slow pace of economic recovery, fidelity to Islam against tolerance for minorities, and the need for stability against the drive to tear down of the pillars of old governments.
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  • In Egypt and Tunisia women are both hopeful and fearful about what the Arab revolutions might mean for them

    ALL of us were there, throwing stones, moving dead bodies. We did everything. There was no difference between men and women. So says Asmaa Mahfouz, an Egyptian activist, remembering the protests that felled Hosni Mubarak at the beginning of the year. Though some men told her to get out of the way, others held up umbrellas to protect her.

    In Tunisia Lina Ben Mhenni, an activist, travelled round the country documenting protests on her blog, A Tunisian Girl. Besides photographing the dead and wounded, she included pictures of herself with male protesters at sit-ins in the Kasbah in Tunis. Tawakul Karman, awarded the Nobel peace prize at the beginning of October, has been a leading figure in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Yemen, camping out for months in front of Sanaa University, calling for Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemens president, to step down. Defying their stereotype as victims of oppressive patriarchies, Arab women have made their presence a defining feature of the Arab spring.

    The position of women in the Arab world has long been difficult. In 2002 the first Arab Human Development Report cited the lack of womens rights as one of three factors, along with lack of political freedoms and poor education, that most hampered the regions progress. Amid the loud calls for democracy in the early days of the uprisings, little was said specifically about womens rights. But now that constitutions are being rewritten, many women in Egypt and Tunisia, whose revolutions are most advanced, hope to push their own liberation.
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  • In Egypt, corruption cases had an American root

    CAIRO Beginning two decades ago, the United States government bankrolled an Egyptian think tank dedicated to economic reform. A different outcome is only now becoming visible in the fallout from Egypts Arab Spring.

    Formed with a $10 million endowment from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies gathered captains of industry in a small circle with the presidents son Gamal Mubarak at the center. Over time, members of the group would assume top roles in Egypts ruling party and government.

    Today, Gamal Mubarak and four of those think tank members are in jail, charged with squandering public funds in the sale of public resources, lands and government-run companies as part of a dramatic restructuring. Some have fled the country, pilloried amid the public outrage over insider deals and corruption that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
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  • Renowned TV presenter Fouda halts famous show, citing media freedom restrictions

    Renowned TV presenter Yosri Fouda said on Friday he had decided to halt his famous show Akher Kalam for an indefinite period in protest at what he called relentless censorship efforts.
    Fouda was due to host staunch SCAF critic Alaa El-Aswany on Thursday night to comment on the interview two Egyptian army generals, Mahmoud Hegazy and Mohamed El-Assar, gave on Wednesday.

    Thursdays episode was abruptly cancelled, fuelling speculation that Fouda, a highly-respected media figure, was pressured into shifting his plans by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

    Fouda refrained from directly accusing any party of imposing restrictions on his work, but said he could not bear an obligatory censorship.

    There is a fact that gradually came to prominence during the past few months, which makes us feel that there are relentless efforts to maintain the core of the old system, Fouda, a former BBC Arabic and Al-Jazeera employee, said in a statement on his Facebook page.

    That old system was dismantled by the Egyptian people after it spread corruption and immorality all over the country.

    There have been relentless efforts since the revolution, using both old and new techniques, to put direct and indirect pressure on those who still believe in the revolutions values to oblige them to impose self-restrictions on what should not be hidden.

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  • Why the World May Be Running Out of Clean Water

    Earlier this month, officials in the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu had to confront a pretty dire problem: they were running out of water. Due to a severe and lasting drought, water reserves in this country of 11,000 people had dwindled to just a few days’ worth. Climate change plays a role here: as sea levels rose, Tuvalu’s groundwater became increasingly saline and undrinkable, leaving the island dependent on rainwater. But now a La Niainfluenced drought has severely curtailed rainfall, leaving Tuvalu dry as a bone. “This situation is bad,” Pusinelli Laafai, Tuvalu’s permanent secretary of home affairs, told the Associated Press earlier this month. “It’s really bad.”

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  • New Life-Forms Found at Bottom of Dead Sea

    In 2010 the first diving expedition to the springs revealed “a fantastic hot spot for life” in the lake, which lies on the border of Israel and Jordan (see map), said team member Danny Ionescu, a marine microbiologist for the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

    The team found several craterseach about 33 feet (10 meters) wide and 43 feet (13 meters) deepat 100-foot (30-meter) depths on the lake’s bottom. The craters were covered with films and sometimes surprisingly thick mats of new bacterial species, Ionescu said.

    These tiny communities live near thin plumes of fresh water that shoot from undersea springs, whose presence has long been suspected based on peculiar ripples on the Dead Sea’s surface.

    To reach the springs, divers searched for abrupt drops along the seafloor while contending with very low visibility.

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  • Job creation and education: Proud to be Jordanian

    The World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab Worldcomes at a crucial time not just for the region, but also for the world at large. The programme is filled with many topics of interest, specifically job creation and its related sub-components of entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation. Those subjects should be addressed collaboratively if we want stability in the region and beyond. I believe these issues should no longer be treated as unique or as the topic of the day, but rather as a constant factor to be considered and institutionalized within the systems of all countries.

    I look forward to hearing from the list of participants made up of experts, renowned thought leaders and decision makers, all of whom will hopefully engage in fruitful discussions to come up with relevant, realistic and effective solutions.

    In addition to job creation, the Forum provides an opportunity to present and discuss other important issues facing the region, such as addressing the regions scarce resources of water, energy and food; improving education; and regional collaboration. Improving education should be a main focus, as it is the basis of everything, and as my parents taught me, it is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you.

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  • The Strange Power of Qatar

    On August 23, Libyan rebels raised their flag over Bab al-Aziziya, the once-impregnable complex housing Muammar Qaddafis headquarters in Tripoli. Though the dictator himself still remained at large, the overrunning of one of the nerve centers of his regime had enormous symbolic power and seemed to offer definitive proof of the rebels strength. And yet on several newscasts, a different story about the uprising was emerging: along with the rebels tricolor with white crescent and star, the presidential compound at Bab al-Aziziya was briefly shown flying the maroon and white flag of Qatar, the tiny, gas-rich Arabian emirate more than two thousand miles away.

    Though little noted in the West, Qatars enthusiasm for the Libyan revolt had been on display from the outset. The emirate was instrumental in securing the support of the Arab League for the NATO intervention back in March, contributing its own military aircraft to the mission. It also gave $400 million to the rebels, helped them market Libyan oil out of Benghazi, and set up a TV station for them in Doha, the Qatari capital. Following the conquest of Bab al-Aziziya, however, it became clear that the Qataris were deeply involved on the ground as well. Not only did Qatar arm the rebels and set up training camps for them in Benghazi and in the Nafusa Mountains west of Tripoli; its own special forcesa hitherto unknown contingenthelped lead the August offensive on the capital. (Although Qatars military is one of the smallest in the Middle East, with just over 11,000 men, its special forces were trained by the French and other Western countries and appear to possess considerable skill.) The day the rebels captured Bab al-Aziziya, Mahmoud Jibril, the leader of Libyas interim government, singled out Qatar for its far-reaching support, despite all the doubts and threats.


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  • From the West Bank: The Palestinians Are Ready

    On the West Bank, the Palestinian September has come and gone in an eerie quiet. Abu Mazen returned from the UN to a heros welcome in Ramallah, and there were low-key celebrations in other cities as well; but the mass demonstrations that many predicted, and that the Israelis feared, have not materialized. The Palestinian security forces were given strict orders to keep demonstrators away from potential places of friction such as roadblocks, checkpoints, and of course Israeli settlements. Expecting the worst, the Israeli army invested considerable resources in the latest crowd-control technology, including the infamous Skunk spray, which disperses an unbearable malodorous mist, and which some of us have experienced in Bilin and al-Nabi Saleh; but so far they havent needed these methods.

    In the meantime, has anything changed on the ground? Yes. According to the statistics compiled by Peace Now, in the ten months following the end of the as-if freeze on building in the territories in October 2010, work began on 2,598 new housing units; 2,149 new units were completed, and building continued on at least another 3,700. The rate of housing construction per (Israeli) person on the West Bank was double that in Israel proper. If you drive south from Jerusalem along Road 60, the main north-south artery, you see signs of building by settlers everywhere. At Avigail, an illegal outpost in the south Hebron hillsthat is, a settlement that is illegal even within the peculiar terms of the Israeli legal systema big sign on the roadside proudly proclaims, Were growing!

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  • Jordans Government Shaken Up, Not Stirred

    On Friday, I suggested that a key indicator of Jordans future tranquility, in light of recent countrywide demonstrations, will be how King Abdullah addresses the issue of corruption. Today we saw decisive action: Abdullah sacked his prime minister, Marouf Bakhit, and replaced him with Awn Khasawneh, a venerated legal jurist.

    General Bakhit was not the right man for the job when he was appointed in February of this year, and the chattering classes in Amman immediately recognized it. At the time, Jordanians were clamoring for a new government to tackle the countrys rising commodity prices, political stagnation, and corruption. The appointment of a military man with strong security credentials was not what was needed, and suggested that the Kings priorities were domestic stability, not change. In the subsequent eight months, Bakhit was a reluctant reformer, and his government never gained traction. That was made abundantly clear by the resumption of widespread demonstrations.

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  • Interim Tunisian Leader With Ties to Old Ruler Defends a Gradual Path

    TUNIS As the country that kicked off the Arab Spring prepares for its first free election this month, Tunisias transitional prime minister, Beji Caid Essebsi, has some advice for his counterparts in Egypt, Libya or other former Arab autocracies dealing with impatient public demands unleashed by the revolutions.

    When someone is hungry asking for food, you only give him what he needs, Mr. Essebsi said, describing his go-slow approach to meeting protesters demands for jobs and freedoms. You dont give him more, or else he might die, so we offer a step-by-step approach.

    Mr. Essebsi, 84, was picked as prime minister in February because during a long career as an official of the Tunisian dictatorship he built a record of trying to change the system from within. But as interim leader he found himself obliged to deal with continuous eruptions of protests demanding jobs, wages and immediate retribution against members of the former ruling elite.

    He said he often let the protesters express themselves but sometimes found the need to crack down.

    Mr. Essebsi said it was a choice between yielding to chaos, or loosening the grip gradually, defending his occasional reliance on riot police and tear gas to keep order. His approach has won him broad support but also led a few activists to compare him to the ousted dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

    Sometimes the proponents of freedom have demands that go beyond logic, he said, and it is more difficult to protect freedom from the proponents of freedom themselves than from the enemies.

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  • What Its Like to Work for Adonis

    Its Nobel Day, which means that, around the world, curiosity-seekers such as myself will be glued to their computers at 1 p.m. CET.

    With Arab Spring chatter in the air, it becomes perhaps more likely but certainly less pleasant to think about an Arab or Arabic-writing author taking the literary prize of prizes. Its both fortunate and unfortunate that we cant return to 1988, when Naguib Mahfouz was chosen from an Arab shortlist of Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, Tayeb Salih, and Adonisto worldwide surprise.

    If the Nobel Prize committee wanted to surprise us now, they certainly couldnt choose Adonis, who has topped the gossip charts for weeks now. Even readers whove never glanced at one of his poems know his name and basic biography.

    Other Arab names are circulating: Zakaria Tamer, Assia Djebar, Ibrahim al-Koni, Elias Khoury, Samih al-Qasim, Hanan al-Shaykh, Leila Aboulela, Alaa al-Aswany, Tahar Ben Jelloun. (No Bensalem Himmich? And why no Sonallah Ibrahim? Am I the only Sonallah Ibrahim partisan here?) But Adonis remains the top of the charts, by virtue ofwell, by virtue of, politics aside, deserving the thing.

    I still dont really think hell get it, although theres no pinning down the politics of The Committee. But just in case, I enjoyed re-reading Samuel Shimons autobiographical novel An Iraqi in Paris, for the parts where the titular Iraqi works for a famous Arab poet who he pseudonymizes as Adams.

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  • Roads to Freedom

    by August 29, 2011

    I arrived in Damascus on a Friday at the end of July, a few days before the start of Ramadan, and five months into a grimly repetitive series of protests and crackdowns in towns and cities across Syria. When I checked into my hotel, I discovered that I was the only guest. I also found that I could not connect to the Internet. Friday, SaturdayInternet very bad, the desk manager explained. I learned later that the government steps up its restriction of Internet service on the Islamic weekend, because that is when most of the protests occur.

    I walked through the Old Citythe Christian quarter and the Shia quarter, the Sufi mosques and the souks of Sunni merchants, the labyrinthine passages and hidden courtyards. It was quiet without the usual throng of browsing tourists. In cafs, I was often the only customer. The Old City is, in some ways, a microcosm of modern Syria, a secular state that comprises an array of ethnic and religious groups. At the heart of the Old City is the magnificent Umayyad Mosque, a part of which was built originally as a Byzantine church. Sunni worshippers mingle with Shia pilgrims visiting the shrine of the martyr Hussein, the Prophets grandson, and with Christians visiting the tomb of John the Baptist.

    Syria came under the secular, socialist rule of the Baath Party in 1963. For the past four decades, it has been controlled by the Assad familyfirst by Hafez al-Assad, who took power in a coup, and, since his death, in 2000, by his son, the current President, Bashar al-Assad. The Assads belong to one of Syrias most distinctive minority groups, the Alawites, who are followers of a secretive dissident offshoot of Shiism, and historically come from villages in the countrys mountainous west. The Assad regime has kept minorities it favors protected within a majority Sunni population by maintaining a rigidly authoritarian state. Syrians are mindful of sectarian strife in neighboring Lebanon and Iraqmore than a million Iraqi refugees have taken shelter in Syria since 2003and, for many of them, lack of freedom has been offset by the consolations of stability and security, in a region without much of either.

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  • Top 100 Health and Wellness Blogs

    The risks are high when Americans turn to doctors and hospitals to remedy a situation that otherwise might have been prevented. This is why doctors and hospitals are the third leading cause of death in America, according to a study published by Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Since the best way to avoid “death by hospital” is preventative medicine, this list is offered as a prescription for health and wellness.

    This list was difficult to cobble together, as there are so many health and wellness blogs listed on the Web. But, certain criteria were used to whittle the list down to the blogs that you can enjoy. To that end, each blog chosen had to include contact information. After all, you don’t want to take advice from someone who wants to remain anonymous, do you? Additionally, a sense of humor didn’t hurt the choices below. Losing weight, getting fit, and learning about diseases is serious enough – a laugh or two can provide some good medicine along the way.

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  • Potassium

    What is potassium?
    Potassium is an essential mineral. Like sodium, it binds readily with other minerals, and does not occur naturally in an unbound state. Potassium is required for the proper functioning of many major organ systems.

    Why is potassium necessary?
    Potassium is essential for the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive system to operate normally, and is required for regulating fluid balance, the body’s acid-base balance, and blood pressure.

    What are the signs of a deficiency?
    Potassium deficiency symptoms include irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness and mood changes, as well as nausea and vomiting. People with kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease and those who take diuretics may have lower levels of potassium.

    How much, and what kind, does an adult need?
    Although daily multivitamin supplements may contain tiny amounts of potassium as part of their multi-mineral complexes, Dr. Weil does not recommend potassium supplements, except as prescribed by a physician.

    How much does a child need?
    Although daily multivitamin supplements may contain tiny amounts of potassium as part of their multi-mineral complexes, Dr. Weil does not recommend potassium supplements, except as prescribed by a physician.

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