“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.
The latest round of tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods imposed by Trump last week has seriously rattled world markets. The Chinese currency has now depreciated against the dollar, sending stock markets into a tailspin. Trump immediately blamed China for "currency manipulation," and our craven Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin then violated the Treasury s own guidelines by formally designating China as a currency manipulator in order to keep in step with his intemperate boss. The only economic manipulation here is Trump s. His tariffs have caused gratuitous and serious damage to the US economy, the world economy and the global trading system.
The ancient Egyptian farmer learnt by instinct how to cultivate the land. The River Nile along which he lived helped him to do the job by creating a fertile green valley through the surrounding desert. Since the rule of Mohamed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, in the early 19th century, agriculture has had special attention. Mohamed Ali decided to monopolise it, making himself both the country s owner and its ruler. His success in the field of agriculture encouraged his son Said Pasha to distribute land among the Egyptian Pashas. Muslim Pashas owned the Delta, and Coptic ones put their hands on Upper Egypt. These new owners were granted the title of “pasha” by a law known as the statute law of Said Pasha. However, following the July 1952 Revolution things changed, and after nearly 100 years of the Pashas rule, agricultural reform laws were passed, and the land was redistributed among the farmers themselves. Some of them did not realise the value of what they owned and started to sell their land to new owners. Some land was used to build concrete buildings, and agricultural areas began to shrink. The state then stepped in to compensate for such losses and to make better use of the desert. Rainwater from the Sinai Peninsula was used for irrigation projects, as was groundwater from under the desert. Today, much of this reclaimed land needs people to till it, making some ask whether we need to control the country s population even as it continues to expand. The prominent Egyptian geographer Gamal Hemdan has talked about “the genius of place” in Egypt, but this article will look instead at “the genius of man.” It will focus on revealing the genius of the Egyptian character. Egypt s population was not known until the ancient Greek historian Herodotus announced that it had 30,000 towns and cities. The ancient Greek historian Diodorus later estimated the number as seven million. During the era of Arab rule in Egypt, no specific number was mentioned, but the mediaeval Arab historian Al-Maqrizi says that Egypt s first Muslim ruler Amr Ibn Al-Aas collected the sum of 12,000 dinars in tax in just one year by collecting two dinars from each person. This would mean the population was about six million. Wars and disease later decreased that number to 2.5 million at the beginning of the 19th century. By 1897, the population had reached 9.6 million, and in the 1960s it was 30 million. At the beginning of the 21st century, it reached 80 million. Now, it is about to exceed 100 million, according to the latest statistics. Such over-population is not limited to Egypt, however, as it has become a global phenomenon. The world s population is expected to double within the coming 30 years from the present 7.7 billion. Some view this as a danger threatening any coming development, but others, including the Chinese, may view it as a blessing. In Egypt, many voices have been calling upon the state to do more in terms of birth control. They argue that the current economic conditions necessitate taking serious steps in this direction. Activist Mohamed Abul-Ghar has said that the increase in the population exceeds any increase in the number of classrooms, teachers, hospitals and services offered to the public, for example. We need to think outside the box if we are to be serious in our search for solutions. There has been a lot of talk about the Sinai desert and how to develop it. Perhaps we should grant every new-born child in Egypt a feddan of Sinai land and overhaul the question of ownership to generalise the idea and apply it to all the deserts in Egypt. The idea derives from a custom of the inhabitants of the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert, who plant a tree in the name of every new-born child. Sinai needs such imaginative solutions, and the idea of building an international hospital besides St Catherine s Monastery could be attractive for many. Patients would be eager to be hospitalised in this holy place. In the era of Egypt s current development comes a new role for the genius of humankind. The monuments of the Pharaohs offer evidence of such genius. Man was born to be the master of the world, but this requires paying attention to the child who should be impressed by the new and amazing world he finds himself in and should believe in God and know freedom and its limits. Then comes the stage of preparing young people for their future. The Youth Forum that has recently been held at the New Administrative Capital helps to create direct communication between the youth and the leadership, allowing key issues to be discussed and solutions found in a transparent climate and allowing young people to have the chance to participate in building their country. We should not forget the fact that the New Capital itself was nothing but desert just a few years ago. Now it has been turned into the world s first digital capital.
The US has big objectives in the Middle East these days. The Trump administration wants to reverse Iran s expansionism of the past decade and to end the Israeli-Palestinian struggle of the past 70 years. To achieve these objectives, the US is demanding a lot of its Arab counterparts, including, potentially, involving them in a serious confrontation with Iran, as well as the peace “Deal of the Century” between Israel and the Palestinians. Some Arab countries, for example Saudi Arabia, have been very close to the forging of these objectives. Others, for example Iran s allies, see them as disasters that must be stopped. For most of the Arabs, however, the calculus is not straightforward. Three questions dominate their thinking. The first is whether the US is likely to succeed in achieving these objectives. Its recent record in the Middle East makes many doubtful. The US has mobilised hundreds of thousands of soldiers, put to work some of its best minds, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq for almost two decades. But Afghanistan remains chaotic, with large parts under the competing influences of militias, fanatics and drug gangs. In its efforts to find a way out of this quagmire, the US seems to be negotiating with the Taliban, the same extremist militia that it entered Afghanistan to eliminate. Iraq is no longer a quagmire, though non-state armed groups continue to wield strong influence. But it remains mired in acute sectarianism and tribalism. And despite the colossal resources the US has committed to its Iraq endeavour, the country today is much closer to Tehran than it has ever been in modern history. The US s record in Syria is not much better. Seven years into multi-faceted wars that have been shaping the largest, and arguably most strategically important, Arab country in the Levant, the US is a distant player with minimal influence. Russia and Iran have established themselves as the key powers in Syria, and they have acquired a commanding location in the region. In Lebanon, despite major US investments in relationships with different factions, it has so far been unable to steer Lebanon towards its camp in the Middle East. One of the US s ardent opponents in the region, Iran s close ally Hizbullah, is the most powerful political actor in the country. Lebanon is significant in that it is the Middle East s most open social, cultural and political theatre. It is an important place in the region for forging visions of the future. For decades, Lebanon s dominant narrative was to look to the West and be a bridge between the West and the Arab and Islamic worlds. In so doing, it was strengthening the cultural arsenal of Arab liberalism. For the past two decades, however, that narrative has lurked in the background, leaving the ground to a fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The biggest loser is genuine liberalism in the Arab and Islamic worlds, which is the US s true ally in the region. Apart from its recent record in the Middle East, many Arabs have another reason to be reluctant to embrace current US objectives. Their time frame is different from America s. Political lethargy in the Arab world has given rise to many ills. But from the perspective of most of the Arab regimes, America s internal politics have become increasingly personalised and centred on the White House as opposed to state institutions. This is a trend that has long been in the making and was evident before the presidency of Donald Trump and is likely to continue in the future. As a result, US objectives in the Middle East might well be valid only up to the next presidential elections. Many also fear that when the going gets tough, America s objectives might change, or its focus might turn to another area of the world. The third problem is that all the Arab regimes know that these American objectives have limited currency in their countries. Iran s expansionism has been a concern in the Levant for years. But the route most Levantines strongly support is engaging Iran and incentivising it to unclench its fist, not to push it towards a confrontation that would impose acute damage on the Levant itself. The same problem exists with the “Deal of the Century”. The vast majority of key Palestinian forces in politics, business and culture have rejected the thinking behind this. For the majority of Arab decision-makers, supporting the deal would entail paying a heavy price for an objective they see dim prospects of succeeding. These factors drive most Arab regimes to equivocation: cautious rhetoric in commenting on these objectives and half-measures that, in their view, would neither antagonise the US nor commit them to anything substantial or irreversible. In turn, these positions render the US s objectives more unlikely to succeed.
The United States signalled last week that it has no intention to put its campaign of maximum pressure towards Iran on hold. On 31 July, the US administration took the unprecedented step of imposing sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister, Mohamed Javad Zarif. The sanctions have included travel restrictions across US borders and the freezing of assets the Iranian minister might have in the United States. A senior administration official said that the US State Department would study on a “case-by-case basis” Zarif s travel to the United Nations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement accompanying the designation stressed that the United States is “sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behaviour is completely unacceptable”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the unusual administration decision by saying that Zarif was sanctioned due to his position as a “key enabler” of the policies of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran s supreme leader. However, he made it clear that the Trump administration is still interested in reaching a diplomatic solution to its conflict with Iran through a comprehensive accord that would deal with the “full range of threats posed by Iran”. He warned that the “campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue” until resolution of the conflict. What was not said or implied is what would happen if the American campaign of maximum pressure does not deliver on its intended objective; namely, forcing Iran to the negotiating table. The Iranian foreign minister took the decision in his stride, insisting that it won t have any impact on him because he has no assets in the United States. The general staff of the Iranian army commented on the American sanctions against Zarif, describing the US administration as “arrogant” and that the sanctions go against “international norms”. As the foreign minister of Iran, Zarif, who speaks fluent English and has good connections with influential American think tanks, is in role in defending the policies of his country as well as reaching out to the international media, particularly the American media and think tanks. A couple of weeks ago he was visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York and took this opportunity to defend Iranian positions vis-à-vis a host of regional questions and the nuclear accord of 2015, adding that Iran had not benefited economically after signing it. In response, Pompeo commented in interview that he would like to address the Iranian people directly, similar to the opportunity that the visit of Zarif to New York offered to the Iranian foreign minister to speak directly to the American people via the media and some think tanks. In the meantime, the US administration waived 31 July, the same day it imposed sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister, sanctions related to Iran s civilian nuclear programme. On Fox Business Network, Ambassador John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, confirmed that the United States has renewed its waiver for the nuclear-related sanctions for another 90 days. He pointed out that Washington is “watching those nuclear activities very, very closely”. He also reaffirmed that the US won t permit Iran to obtain “nuclear weapons capability”. The American waiver will allow Iran to continue working with Russia in transforming the Fordow uranium-enrichment plant into a nuclear physics centre, as well as cooperating with China to convert Iran s heavy-water reactor at Arak so it becomes less of a proliferation risk. The American sanctions on Iran s foreign minister could be interpreted as a direct response to the test firing by Iran of two intermediate ballistic missiles, the Shahab-3, which has a range of 600 miles, its design of North Korean origin, which took place towards the end of last month. The United States has been adamant in curtailing the Iranian missile programme and it figures high on the list of American demands if negotiations between Washington and Tehran are to see the light of day anytime soon. The Iranians firmly believe that it is their right to develop their missile capacities as a defensive measure. They even said that if the United States wants to limit Iran s missile capabilities, then Washington should stop providing Saudi Arabia and other adversaries of Iran advanced weapons systems. Zarif tweeted last month that for eight years former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein targeted Iranian cities with missiles and bombs provided by both “East and West”. Meanwhile, no one exported to Tehran means of self-defence against Iraqi missiles. From the point of view of Iran, its missile programme is defensive in nature. So far, there are no signs that the American maximum pressure campaign is bearing fruit. On the contrary, the more the growing economic pressures increase, the more is the likelihood that Iranians would become intransigent and more prone to escalate in the Gulf through small and calculated measures to deter the forces arrayed against them. It is difficult to say what the ceiling of the maximum pressure campaign is. The fact of the matter is that between this campaign, described by Tehran as “economic terrorism”, and direct military confrontation between the United States and Iran there must be a third way, lest by miscalculation on either side, the Middle East and the Gulf would become embroiled in a prolonged quagmire with no possible winners. The United States should let the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese help it de-escalate diplomatically by lessening the economic pressures on the Iranians in such a way as not to let them off the hook completely and let Tehran accept to negotiate a diplomatic solution to this highly risky and perilous standoff in the Gulf.In the absence of such de-escalation, the chances for security and stability in the Gulf are almost non-existent. It is heartening to learn through a story published by The New Yorker this week that Senator Rand Paul, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had met with Zarif in New York lately and extended an invitation to the Iranian minister to meet President Trump at the White House. Zarif, according to the New Yorker, said that the decision on this matter is not his to make. American diplomacy, aided by the White House, should make such a meeting possible by working on certain conditions to make it happen. One will be to waive some economic and financial sanctions for 90 days to be renewed for the same period if developments warrant it, and secondly the US administration adopt a conciliatory approach towards Iran and especially its supreme leader. In September, the United Nations will hold its annual General Assembly, an occasion for reextending the invitation of Senator Rand Paul to the foreign minister of Iran to meet with President Trump in New York City under proper conditions. The Iranians have made clear that they are not interested in taking photos. They want substantive results to come out of such a meeting if it takes place. There is no reason why they should not be accommodated, if the United States, as Pompeo has reiterated, is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Iran.
What was once hailed as the cornerstone of European security in the late 20th century is now defunct, as both the United States and Russia have decided to walk away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a deal that held its ground for 32 years since it was signed by late US president Ronald Reagan and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. It represented one of the biggest steps in non-proliferation efforts to decrease the enormous stockpiles of nuclear warheads possessed by the then two superpowers. But Russian President Vladimir Putin officially suspended the treaty from Russia s side in July 2019 after US President Donald Trump announced that the US would drop the treaty as a result of alleged Russian violations of it. The INF Treaty reduced the tensions incurred during the Cold War after World War II between the Western allies led by the United States and the Communist ones led by the former Soviet Union. Until its recent and unfortunate end, the treaty banned land-based missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 km and also contributed to non-proliferation efforts by the elimination of 2,692 US and Soviet nuclear and conventional missiles. It was supposed to be part of a growing trend towards the elimination of most nuclear warheads from the planet, but these efforts have hit a wall now with this historic deal now in tatters. The US accused the Russians of developing and deploying a missile system in violation of the deal. Moscow denied the allegation and asserted that US missile-defence systems in Eastern Europe, particularly the one that is soon to be installed in Poland, were violations of the treaty. As with any broken international treaty, blame has been exchanged by both sides on who was responsible. But in this case both the US and Russia share part of the blame that has led to this unfortunate outcome. The Russians have long blamed the Americans for expanding the size of NATO and its allies in Europe following the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has looked with suspicion at US moves to encircle it as the successor state of the former Soviet Union with its military bases and military presence. Since the fall of the USSR, NATO has added 13 members, including former Warsaw Pact members such as Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. It has even included former USSR countries such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. These additions have caused the Russians to feel wary about the real intentions of the US and its allies towards them, and accordingly they have accused the West of breaking protocols and showing ill intentions towards the Russian side. NATO has not taken heed of the Russian worries, and it has continued its expansion, resulting in massive countermeasures by the Russians, especially since Putin took the helm of the Russian state in 2000. Over the past decade, Russia has developed a number of ground-breaking long-range Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to add to its already devastating arsenal of nuclear armaments. Russian ICBMs such as the RS-28 Sarmat, which reaches speeds of Mach 20, and the Topol M, which reaches speeds of Mach 22, are unmatched in terms of speed, payload and defence-evasion techniques, and represent the toughest strategic challenge facing NATO. The latter has been developing a Prompt Global Strike (PGS) system that will enable the US to perform conventional airstrikes anywhere in the globe within an hour. However, the problem for the US does not only stem from these long-range ICBMs, as there are also medium-range ones deployed near the borders with NATO members. For the US, this represents a breach of the treaty signed in 1987 and has even warranted dropping it entirely. According to the US, Russia was gaining an unfair advantage as the US had ceased the development of medium-range missiles, while the Russians had continued with such programmes. The US has announced that it will soon be testing a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile to counter what it perceives as the Russian threat from developing these weapons. Even more unfortunate is the news that the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 2) signed in 2011 that was scheduled to be renewed in 2021 is now likely to be off the table despite calls by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for both countries to extend it. The tensions growing from these events mean that the bilateral nuclear arms control mechanisms between the US and Russia are mostly no longer in place, and the world could witness a new nuclear arms race that will only contribute to global tensions. Moreover, Europe is also now at risk of being a battlefield in that growing race as it was during the Cold War. The huge arsenal of nuclear warheads stored in European countries by NATO, or those pointed towards those same countries by the Russians, are signs of things to come. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated that the actions taken by the US towards Russia prohibit his country from taking any further pledges by NATO seriously. This signifies the gravity of the demise of the INF Treaty, which has obliterated 32 years of cooperation towards making the world a safer place and less full of nuclear armaments. An irony remains in that Trump has at the same time been exerting vehement efforts towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. These have come along with peace talks with North Korea, which reportedly possesses only 20 or 30 nuclear warheads. Walking away from the INF Treaty with Russia means overlooking some 6,500 warheads. What North Korea possesses is a drop in the ocean compared to what the Russians, and of course the Americans, have, yet no similar efforts have been exerted to maintain or modify the INF Treaty. While the situation with North Korea and South Korea has been uncertain since the end of the Korean War in 1953, there was no logical reason not to work harder towards maintaining the INF Treaty or sign a new one to replace the treaty of 1987 with Russia. To put things into perspective, a nuclear war will not erupt next week over the end of this landmark treaty, but an obstacle has been removed to one igniting in the future. There is always room for negotiations, and the two superpowers have an obligation towards their countries and the rest of the world to negotiate a new treaty because what will transpire as a result of the demise of this one may be cataclysmic. No one can predict who will lead the US or Russia in the future and how far they will show restraint in their actions. Accordingly, a new set of nuclear non-proliferation treaties to be signed by both superpowers is imperative for global security.
In recent years, we ve seen bloodshed in churches, synagogues, mosques, festivals, protests and now a Walmart, at the hands of white nationalist extremists. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in April that white supremacy is a "persistent, pervasive threat" to US security. In July, appearing again in front of Congress, Wray said, "I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well." He went on to say the number of domestic terrorism arrests are on par with the amount of international terrorism cases, approximately 100, since October 1, 2018. Sadly, Director Wray s words proved prescient. As the nation mourns another mass murder in El Paso, Texas, by a shooter allegedly motivated by his hatred of Hispanics and their so-called "invasion" of the United States, Fox News host Tucker Carlson looked into the camera and with a straight face told his audience that white supremacy "isn t a real problem in America." He called it nothing more than "a hoax, just like the Russia hoax. It s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power." What? Americans are dead. How dare he. I was aghast at Carlson s latest rant. Just when I thought the deliberate gaslighting by Trump apologists couldn t get any worse, it reached a new low on Fox News. His statements aren t just grossly irresponsible and patently false. They are also an insult to all the victims, their families and the communities who have suffered at the hands of white nationalist extremists, many of whom have seemingly been emboldened by President Donald Trump s rhetoric and that of his sycophants, like Carlson, who continue to give him cover. When a mass shooter leaves behind a racist diatribe using terms like "Hispanic invasion," mirroring language the President and right-wing news outlets use repeatedly to demagogue the issue of immigration, the impact it has on extremists cannot be ignored. During a Trump rally this past May in Florida, the President laughed off a supporter s shout of "shoot them" when discussing what to do about illegal border crossers. Trump didn t condemn the horrific comment -- the President of the United States cracked a joke. It was just a matter of time before someone took it seriously. In the face of a growing list of incidents of white extremist violence, from Charlottesville to Gilroy to El Paso, Trump and his chorus of enablers have unapologetically continued to push the invasion narrative. Words matter. According to a Washington Post study, counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 saw a 226% increase in hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League says extremist related murders increased 35% from 2017 to 2018, "making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995." Facts matter. This gaslighting is nothing more than a cowardly tactic to downplay white nationalist extremism in order to shield both Trump and his cadre of acolytes from any culpability for their repeated use of the dangerous rhetoric that has helped to mainstream extremist ideology. If the rise in white nationalist extremism isn t a real problem, why have social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram taken steps to ban content that advocates it? Why have federal authorities repeatedly sounded the alarm? Is Tucker Carlson calling Trump s FBI director a liar? Wray warned in April, "the danger ... of white supremacists, violent extremism or any other kind of extremism is, of course, significant," in response to the Department of Homeland Security s decision to disband an intelligence unit focused on domestic terror threats and shut down programs specifically directed at neo-Nazis and other far right groups. I remember when my fellow Republicans criticized President Obama for not calling out radical Islamic extremism strongly enough by name during his tenure. Where are those voices now concerning attempts to dismiss the threat of white nationalist extremism under President Trump? Their silence is deafening. Upon hearing the news that both her parents, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, were murdered by the El Paso shooter as they shielded her infant brother from the hail of bullets, 5-year-old Skylin asked her family, "Is he going to come and shoot me next?" I dare Tucker Carlson to look that now-orphaned young Hispanic girl and the scores other families ripped apart by the murderous actions of a white supremacist in the eyes and say that it s a hoax. Carlson owes every one of them an apology. Shame on him and anyone else downplaying the threat of white nationalist extremism. Their dishonesty disrespects the memory of everyone whose life was lost at the hands of it.
What is more dangerous than terrorism itself is that some of us stand with it, intentionally or unintentionally. There is no difference between terrorism and support for terrorism as the result of both is the same. I will refer to two striking examples presently. Yesterday morning, the country was filled with sadness for the victims of the Manial terrorist attack that shook downtown Cairo. Those who carried out the attack did so with the specific goal of defaming this safe country abroad. This was the aim of the operation, just as it was the objective of similar operations previously. At the same time, a bulldozer was demolishing Givrex factory in Alexandria to the ground. There were appeals from the factory to the presidency, to the Cabinet, to any wise official–perhaps someone could save the factory! At the same time, individuals directed similar sentiments toward a media campaign against the investor in media and advertising Tarek Nour for inexplicable reasons. The result in both cases–the case of the Alexandria factory, whose owner I do not know, and the case of Nour–was the same as the result behind the Manial attack: a message was sent to every investor who considers coming to Egypt. It was not the right message. In the case of the factory, the owners had asked for a grace period of six months to transfer the factory to another site, given that the purpose of demolition was to expand a road. The construction of a new road is a process that can wait, regardless of how vital the road is. The demolition of a factory in this way displaces workers and employees. Some of them may become tools in the hands of terrorism. The demolition of a factory in this way is certainly a message that inspires fear in individuals working in thousands of factories. It also inspires fear in thousands of investors–thousands of national investors and in turn an infinite number of foreign investors. It sends a negative message in all cases. And those who direct and nourish movements such as the campaign against Nour forget that he has a foreign partner in his work, and that this partner, when he sees what is happening to his partner, will immediately think of withdrawing quietly. After this there will be a frenzy of propaganda against Egypt, and against investing in Egypt, given all the places investments can go. It is not the Manial attack that poses a real danger to us, because the people will triumph over it and other attacks. The real danger is the mindset that poisons the investment climate. If the state wants proof, it will not find stronger proof than the factory that was working around the clock when it suddenly turned into wreck. No stronger proof than Tarek Nour, whose satellite channel stands with the state s national projects with all its might. And he is surprised that he is treated like an enemy and opponent. Who will voluntarily tell the state, at the highest levels, that its enemies are not hiding in the Alexandria factory or Al Kahira Wal Nas channel?
The prophets left us a few Scriptures called the Twelve Minor Prophets which speak of what sin does to us and how we live the life of repentance. One of these Minor Prophets is Hosea. HG Bishop Bakhomios, Archbishop of Al-Buhaira, Matrouh and North Africa in his book "Hosea" explained to us that the prophetic books tell about an important historical period in the life of the people of Israel, the Babylonian and As