Sunday, January 31, 2010

System Of A Down - Sugar

From Album "System Of A Down" - 1998

Aerosmith: Bye Steven Tyler, Welcome Billy Idol?

Beat Crave
Billy Idol to Replace Steven Tyler in Aerosmith?
Friday, January 29, 2010

Jeffrey Hyatt

At first blush, the news of Billy Idol possibly in the driver’s seat to replace Steven Tyler as frontman of Aerosmith just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. That’s not a knock on Idol, but it’d definitely be a drastic change.

Classic Rock magazine has reported Idol was due to meet with the band members but pulled out after falling sick.

Joe Perry had already revealed the band would be hosting auditions while Tyler takes a hiatus; Lenny Kravitz has been mentioned, and even kick-ass rock vocalist Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) is part of the mix.

A source told Classic Rock, “Joe said he wanted to talk to Billy about joining Aerosmith, because the band were having problems with Steven. As far as I know Idol did not show up due to having a cold.”

Perry recently admitted the band had already spoken to a few singers about replacing Tyler.

“(There’s) a few people we’ve talked to, and we’ll see how it goes… As far as auditions go, we’ll probably just sit around and have a couple of drinks and see if we get along – because we’re already gonna know that they can sing.”

A report on KBS Radio mentions that Classic Rock magazine’s editor-in-chief Scott Rowley and writer Jerry Ewing were sitting at a table with Joe Perry and Paul Rodgers during an event last year; apparently Ewing overheard Perry saying how he long admired Rodgers as a vocalist, and mentioned the trouble with Tyler’s behavior.


“Perry got straight to the point and asked Rodgers whether he’d be interested in singing for Aerosmith. . . “I think (Rodgers) was quite surprised by Perry’s invitation, which came right out of the blue. He regained his composure and thanked Perry, but said he was committed to the reunion of Bad Company, so singing in Aerosmith wouldn’t be possible.”

Well… never say never. Besides, Rodgers might be a better fit for Aersomith, considering his long history with belting out sweaty, good time rock n’ roll songs. He also has the bluesy swagger to blend right in with the band on some of the older material which had much more grit and less polish then their hit-fueled run in the mid-’80s and ’90s.

But the Idol news is out of left field, in my opinion. Not a bad choice, but there could be an aesthetic problem when the band hits the stage. Idol is such a defined artist (in a good way!), from the classic MTV videos and hit songs that helped define the ’80s, that possibly stepping into the shoes of the legendary Tyler might not be a great… fit.

Then again, no one knows for sure how he sounds belting out “Walk This Way,” so for now we can hold off on trashing the whole idea.

Strike with No Beginning, Strike with No End

Strike with no beginning, strike with no end
Fri, 29/01/2010

Jano Charbel

The right to strike is clearly stipulated in Egypt's labor law, but can Egyptian workers really exercise this right? Two recent incidents indicate this right is exercisable in theory or law (de jure) but not in practice (de facto): a bus workers’ strike - which was thwarted by the police, and the ongoing strike at the Tanta Flax and Oils Company – which is not recognized by the state-controlled General Union for Textile Workers.

On Wednesday a general strike planned by some 48,000 workers at the Public Transport Authority (PTA) - including bus drivers, fare-collectors, engineers, mechanics and maintenance personnel – was aborted due to pressures and threats from security apparatuses. Strikes are prohibited, by virtue of a Prime Ministerial Decree complementing the Labor Law, “in strategic and vital sites” including public transportation, amongst a host of others.

One driver, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told Al-Masry Al-Youm “we had planned to launch our strikes, in all 19 garages across Cairo and Giza, at six in the morning. However, upon arrival we found a multitude of state security officers and plain-clothed agents awaiting us in each of our respective garages. In fact they’re still there right now.” The bus driver added that workers at his respective garage were strictly warned not to strike, and were threatened with immediate arrest if they did not start working.

Several bus drivers, from the Nasr and Fath Garages in Nasr City, were reportedly detained on Wednesday and released shortly after. A one hour strike in the Gesr el-Suez Garage was also reported to have taken place on Thursday. Neither of these reports has been officially confirmed, however. The spokesperson at the Public Transport Authority could not be reached for clarifications.

PTA workers have repeatedly expressed their grievances regarding the deterioration of buses, the lack of spare-parts, insufficient health insurance policies, and traffic fines which are directly deducted from drivers’ wages. These workers have also demanded an increase in their food allowances, while drivers and fare-collectors have demanded medical compensations due to their daily exposure to contagious illnesses. Leading elements amongst these workers have even demanded the establishment of an independent general union for public bus workers in place of their existing union, which is controlled by the state and the Governorates of Cairo and Giza.

Following a two-day strike, 18-19 August 2009, the PTA partially conceded to the workers’ demands (in December) by raising food allowances from LE 100 to LE 120 per month. Another bus driver said “all we have received from the Authority is a monthly increase of LE 20 to our food allowance.” He added “on Wednesday Salah Farag (President of the PTA) promised to address all our remaining grievances, but that’s the same thing he said last August. Have a look around any of our garages and you’ll see for yourself that these are not garages but scrap-yards.”

This driver added “we’ve lost all trust in the Authority’s officials, and we never had any trust for their union. This is why will continue to work towards the establishment our own independent general union, God willing.” This worker admitted that he was influenced by the example of the Real Estate Tax Authority employees who managed, last year, to establish Egypt’s first independent trade union since 1957.

Tanta Flax and Oils Workers

Meanwhile in the Nile Delta some 850 workers at the privatized Tanta Flax and Oils Company have been on strike since 9 January. These workers had launched a five month strike from 31 May – 10 November, with the authorization of the General Union for Textile Workers. This earlier strike was the first to be authorized by the General Union since 1957, and is only the second strike to be authorized in the history of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation.

Said el-Gohary, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party and President of the General Union for Textile workers, told Al-Masry Al-Youm “this most recent strike has not been authorized, and is in fact not a strike but a lock-out on the part of the administration. The administration has shut the companies’ gates and has kept raw materials from reaching the production lines.”

El-Gohary added that the company administration had done so in protest against the president of the local union-committee, Salah Mossalam, who refused to go despite being sacked on 6 January. “The sacking of a union-committee member is an illegal and illegitimate action which violates the provisions of domestic law and international labor standards. We are against such punitive measures, and we have relayed our objections to the Ministry of Manpower. Only the general union may dismiss a union-committee member from his post.”

In the town of Mit Hebeish, outside the company’s gates, Salah Mossalam told Al-Masry Al-Youm “just yesterday (27 January) a Tanta Court issued its verdict in my favor. My dismissal has been ruled illegal, and within 15 days I will receive official documents to this effect. But will the administration actually reinstate me? That’s another question.” Mossalam expressed his doubts, especially given that six other sacked co-workers who were issued similar verdicts have not been reinstated. A total of ten workers, including three union-committee members, have been sacked for striking since 2008. The company’s administration has refused to recognize these court verdicts, or has appealed against them.
Another sacked unionist, Hisham al-Oqal, said “the courts, the General Union, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, and the Ministry of Manpower have demanded our reinstatement, but our company administration simply ignores them all. We called off our last strike, which lasted more than five months, after having received pledges from the general union, the federation, and the ministry that the administration would heed our demands. In the end the administration only paid us our 7 % pay raise – which was overdue anyway.”

Al-Oqal added that the workers’ three principle demands: a 30% pay raise for 2008, a LE28 increase in monthly food allowance, a 10% annual pay raise, and the reinstatement of nine sacked workers (now ten) have not been met. He added that “since 100% of the company’s shares have been privatized and sold” to Saudi Investor Abdelellah el-Kaaki, “we are unable to call for its re-nationalization, and we can’t resort to workers’ self-management since his administration is still around. Such actions would be considered illegal.”

El-Gohary confirmed “re-nationalization is out of the question. The administration may either reoperate this company or liquidate it, in the end it is up to the investor to decide. We don’t know what will become of this company, since the investor refuses to engage in dialogue with us.”

Frustrated with their conditions, the Tanta Flax workers clashed on Sunday with riot police who moved in to seal-off the companies’ gates. One worker and a senior police officer were wounded in the clashes. On Monday an attempt to march to the headquarters of the Gharbiya Governorate was thwarted by by riot police, in response the workers briefly blocked-off the Tanta-Zifta Highway. On Tuesday the workers managed to march to the governorate and a delegation presented a list of grievances to the governor.

“We sent a bouquet of flowers to the injured senior officer along with a greeting card," said Mossalam.

*Photos by Jano Charbel and Hossam el-Hamalawy

See also:
Excuse Me We Will Take it From Here
A Day without Busses

Egypt: Death to Hezbollah Defendants?

EGYPT: Prosecution demands death penalty for six in 'Hezbollah cell'

The prosecutor for Egypt's state security office is seeking the death penalty for six of the 26 alleged Hezbollah operatives on trial for alleged conspiracy and terrorism.

In a hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor called the defendants "traitors" who formed a terrorist cell on behalf of Lebanon's Shiite militant organization to plot attacks against foreign and local targets inside Egypt. The prosecutor, Amr Farouk, suggested that Hezbollah's plans inside Egypt are being aided by the Shiite regime of Iran.

"Plotting those attacks came from another country that wants to seize its control over the Arab and Islamic world, and Hezbollah is just a tool for executing this foreign country's mean interests," Farouk said.

Cairo's supreme state security court decided to postpone its final verdict on the case until Feb. 20. Eighteen Egyptians, five Palestinians, two Lebanese and one man from Sudan are indicted of conspiring with Hezbollah for the purpose of attacking Israeli tourists in Egypt, bombing ships in the Suez Canal, and building tunnels for smuggling weapons to and from the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian authorities captured most of the suspects in a series of operations that began in November 2008. Some of the accused first admitted planning attacks against Israeli tourists, before recanting by saying that they were only working to help Palestinians in Gaza and had no intention of harming Egyptian interests.

The trial has been marred by accusations that prisoners have been tortured. Defense lawyers said that referring the cases to a state security court -- set up under Egypt's emergency rules, which have been in effect since 1981 -- deprived the accused of legal rights, including the right to appeal the court's ruling.

Meanwhile, another Cairo court rejected a case filed by a lawyer seeking to block the broadcast of Hezbollah's television channel, Al Manar, in Egypt. Mahmoud Sabri filed his case after the indictment of the "Hezbollah cell," saying that the channel helps promote the Lebanese group's hidden agenda in Egypt.

The court said Sabri failed to present enough evidence to support his case, adding that the channel poses no threat to Egypt's national security.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

"Israel Acts Like Nazis"

The Herald - Scotland
Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis’
24 Jan 2010

Graeme Murray and Chris Watt

One of the last remaining Auschwitz survivors has launched a blistering attack on Israel over its occupation of Palestine as he began a lecture tour of Scotland.

Dr Hajo Meyer, 86, who survived 10 months in the Nazi death camp, spoke out as his 10-day tour of the UK and Ireland – taking in three Scottish venues – got under way. His comments sparked a furious reaction from hardline Jewish lobby groups, with Dr Meyer branded an “anti-Semite” and accused of abusing his position as a Holocaust survivor.

Dr Meyer also attended hearings at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday, where five pro-Palestine campaigners are accused of racially aggravated conduct after disrupting a concert by the Jerusalem Quartet at the city’s Queen’s Hall.

Speaking as his tour got under way, Dr Meyer said there were parallels between the treatment of Jews by Germans in the Second World War and the current treatment of Palestinians by Israelis.

He said: “The Israelis tried to dehumanise the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanise me. Nobody should dehumanise any other and those who try to dehumanise another are not human.

“It may be that Israel is not the most cruel country in the world … but one thing I know for sure is that Israel is the world champion in pretending to be civilised and cultured.”

Dr Meyer was born in 1924 in Bielefeld, Germany. He was not allowed to attend school there after November 1938. He then fled to the Netherlands, alone. In 1944, after a year in the underground, he was caught by the Gestapo and survived 10 months at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

He now lives in the Netherlands, and is the author of three books on Judaism, the Holocaust and Zionism.

Dr Meyer also insisted the definition of “anti-Semitic” had now changed, saying: “Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.”

A spokesman for the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, of which Dr Meyer is a member, said criticising Israel was “not the same” as criticising Jews.

Mick Napier, Scottish Palestine ­Solidarity Campaign chairman and one of the five demonstrators facing charges when the court case continues in March, said: “Palestinians are happy to have him as an ally in their cause.

“Hajo knows that Israel has a long history of abusing the tragic history of the Holocaust in order to suppress legitimate criticism of its own crimes.

“Especially since Gaza, people are no longer taken in by their claim that anyone that criticises Israel is anti-Semitic.”

Dr Meyer’s claims met with a furious reaction from pro-Israel groups, who branded him “a disgrace”.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice-chairman of the Zionist Federation, said: “I shall be telling him he is abusing his status as a survivor, and I shall be telling him that if Israel had been created 10 years earlier, millions of lives might have been saved.

“Whether he is a survivor or not, to use Nazi comparisons in relation to Israel’s policies is anti-Semitic, unquestionably.”

The tour was cynically timed, Mr Hoffman added, to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.

Dr Ezra Golombok, Scottish spokesman for the Israel Information Office, accused the anti-zionist lobby of “exploiting” Dr Meyer, who he described as someone “who’s got into a situation he doesn’t understand”.

“This is a propaganda exercise by Mick Napier and his friends, and nothing more. It’s preposterous to compare Israel with Nazi tactics.”

The lecture series, entitled Never Again – For Anyone, continues until January 30.

BRAVO! Shoe Attackers Strike Again

BBC News
Shoe thrown at Israel's chief judge
Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A protester has thrown a shoe at Israel's highest judge, hitting her in the face.

Dorit Beinish suffered bruises to the face and had her glasses broken when an unidentified man lobbed a shoe at her from the public gallery of the court.

He was heard to shout the words "corrupt" and "traitor" as he stood up, but the man's motive is not yet clear.

Shoe throwing is a strong insult in Arab culture, and has become a popular sign of protest around the world.

The incident took place during a hearing on medical marijuana, but the attack is not believed to be linked.

Ms Beinish was knocked off her seat by the attack, and was taken to her office for treatment.

The man was arrested by court bailiffs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting Poland, telephoned Ms Beinish to express his shock at the attack.

"It's forbidden to attack the courts and unthinkable that someone would harm the president of the supreme court," news agency Agence France Presse quoted his office as saying.

Shoe throwing has become a popular form of protest since an Iraqi journalist hurled two shoes at US president George Bush in 2008.

On Tuesday, a man threw a shoe at Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was making a public speech in Khartoum, but missed him.


First George W. Bush, then Omar al-Bashir, and now this Zionist fuck.

What about Mubarak?

When is the Egyptian Dick-tator going to get the shoe-treatment?


Human Rights Watch Slams Egypt & Libya

Egypt, Libya slammed by rights group

(AFP) – Jan 24, 2010

CAIRO — Egypt must revoke its "draconian emergency law" and Libya should free unjustly detained prisoners, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

"Both Egypt's and Libya's human rights records will come under intense scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Council in 2010," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Whitson was in Cairo to present the world report review of countries in the Middle East, entitled "Egypt and Libya: A Year of Serious Abuses" which details the state of human rights in 2009.

"Egyptian security services need to understand that their thuggery confirms the international image of Egypt as a police state, while Libyan security forces continue to dominate political space in Libya in an atmosphere of fear," she said.

She called on Egypt to repeal the emergency law and revamp it security services.

The government has "broken its promises (to end the emergency law) over and over again to its shame and discredit," Whitson said, adding that torture and abuse in Egypt were "pervasive".

Egypt has been operating under a state of emergency since the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat, and it has been renewed repeatedly since then despite protests from rights groups and regime opponents.

HRW also called on the Libyan government to "immediately release unjustly detained prisoners, reveal the fate of disappeared prisoners, provide justice to the families of victims of the killings of 1,200 inmates in 1996 in Abu Salim prison and reform laws that criminalise free speech and association."

A Syndicate of the Prophet's Descendants

Egypt's oldest surviving syndicate
Sat, 23/01/2010

Jano Charbel

Egypt's oldest syndicate is not a professional syndicate, but rather one of extended family members. The Syndicate of Al-Ashraf, decedents of the Prophet Mohamed and his immediate family, was officially recognized by decree of Khedive Abbas Helmi in 1895, but originated over 1,040 years ago. It was founded during the rule of Egypt's Fatimid Dynasty in the Hijri year 358 (968 AD) and its first president (Arabic: naqib) was the Caliph al-Mu'izz li-Deinillah. Egypt was the first country in which such a syndicate was established.

Syndicate of Al-Ashraf

At the headquarters of the Syndicate of Al-Ashraf, the current President Mahmoud el-Sharif, told Al-Masry Al-Youm “we intend on producing a historical movie about Al-Ashraf in Egypt from the days of Sayyeda Zeinab (the Prophet's granddaughter) to our present day.” He added that this movie is still in its planning stages, but would most likely be directed by Hani Lasheen, director of a documentary movie about Jesus and the Holy Family's flight into Egypt.

El-Sharif estimates that in Egypt there are five million descendants of Al al-Bayt (“The Family Members”) – the Prophet Mohamed's daughter Fatima, his cousin/son-in-law Ali, and his grandsons Hassan and Hussein. Countrywide, the prestigious Syndicate of Al-Ashraf has well over 80,000 registered members. Beyond the general syndicate's headquarters in Cairo there are 40 branch syndicates and local councils across the country.

“We have councils of Al-Ashraf in nearly every governorate, city, town, village and hamlet” said el-Sharif. “The only exception is Wadi el-Gadid where there is no council, yet there are Ashraf and families descendant from Al al-Bayt even in this remote governorate.”

The robed and turbaned President of the Qesna Branch Council for Al-Ashraf in the Luxor Governorate, Abdel Ghani Abdel Naeem, told Al-Masry Al-Youm “we partake in religious celebrations, offer social solidarity programs, we provide charity works, and we collect zakat (Arabic for alms-giving) for distribution amongst the poor.” He added “every sharif is an integral part of the society he lives in. He must not consider himself superior to others by virtue of his descent, but must rather assist his society – especially its needy elements.” Abdel Naeem is also a leading figure in the Sufi Shaybaniya Sect, and the Director of the Qesna Youth Center.

According to el-Sharif, the syndicate's activities include Islamic missionary work “by spreading the word of God and the message of his Prophet - may peace be upon him, his family, and companions;” societal outreach programs including “charity work for the provision of aid to needy sectors of society, disaster-relief efforts, and the provision of religious education to counter fundamentalist interpretations of Islam;” along with special services for Al-Ashraf. The syndicate issues the periodical Al-Ashraf Magazine, provides its members with special offers for pilgrimages to Mecca and Madina, and also offers local health care services.

El-Sharif added “we have no health care insurance policies at the syndicate, instead we have compiled a list of all the syndicate members involved in medical professions. Through this list we are able to direct syndicate members to the nearest hospitals, clinics and pharmacies which are owned or managed by other members in their respective governorates.” The president explained that members need only to present their syndicate cards in order to benefit from these low-cost health care services, while free medical care is granted to those members who are unable to afford such services.

The syndicate's annual membership fees amount to LE15, “but those unable to pay these membership fees do not have to do so, we do not revoke their memberships if they are unable to pay” said el-Sharif. While the Syndicate of Al-Ashraf is not state-funded, it is does receive funding from members who are statesmen and big businessmen.

The General Syndicate's High Council consist of 33 members including Ahmed Ezz the billionaire “Steel King” and bigwig in the ruling National Democratic Party, and the Governor of Central Bank Farouq el-Oqda, along with MPs, former ministers, judges, and prominent professionals. Seven of the Supreme Council members have passed away since being appointed or re-appointed to the council in 2008.

The General Syndicate of Al-Ashraf, its president, along with its branch syndicates and councils are not elected, but rather appointed. El-Sharif explained “we chose our council members through a system of shura (Arabic for consultation) where names of candidates from across the country are collectively discussed and studied.” He added that these names are raised before the Supreme Council for the Syndicate of Al-Ashraf, an official state entity. The 22 members of the Supreme Council analyze the candidacies of proposed council members and typically authorize them, unless reservations are expressed. Finally a presidential decree is issued authorizing these candidates.

President of Al-Ashraf Syndicate, Mahmoud el-Sharif, in his office

Sitting in his office, whose wall decorated with a framed Arabic calligraphy reading: "God, Prophet, Mohamed" on top of a golden framed picture of President Honsi Mubarak, the 54 year-old el-Sharif, who is also a member of the ruling National Democratic Party, explained “President Mubarak has not objected to any names authorized by the Supreme Council.” The syndicate's president, council members and branch councils, were last appointed in 2008. El-Sharif's candidacy was announced shortly after the death of former syndicate president Ahmed Kamel Yassin in November 2008.

Ahmed Yassin had presided over the General Syndicate since 1994, replacing his late brother Mahmoud – president from 1991. The syndicate was frozen in 1953, with the death of its President Mohamed el-Beblawy, until 1991. At that time the Revolutionary Command Council had decreed the dissolution of the syndicate as it was not a professional-based syndicate but rather one based on hereditary descent. The RCC objected to the title of “Al-Sharif” on the basis that it bestowed a distinguishing or privileged status upon certain citizens, and thus contradicted the principles of their transitional Egyptian Constitution. Egypt's military rulers also objected to the listing of King Farouq's name on this syndicate's membership rosters.

The Syndicate of Al-Ashraf was reactivated 38 years later by decree of President Mubarak. Controversies have lingered around the syndicate and its mechanisms for determining who is, and who isn't a member of Al-Ashraf. “The syndicate has a specialized Genealogy Committee to determine the hereditary descent of applicants based on their submission of detailed family trees, familial birth certificates, their ancestors' national IDs, and other documents,” said el-Sharif. However, some syndicate members argue that this system is prone to errors and falsifications.

Libyan President Muamar Qaddafi, has controversially claimed descent from the Prophet, and is reported to have received certification from Egypt's Syndicate of Al-Ashraf to this extent in 2000. However, the syndicate denies having issued such certification, and the syndicate president had not approved or signed this certification.

In 2002 members of the Genealogy Committee filed a lawsuit before the Cairo Court of Summary Proceedings against the then-President Ahmed Yassin arguing that he, and his brother Mahmoud – his predecessor, had falsified documents pertaining to their ancestry. Charges of misappropriation of syndicate funds were also raised. These charges did not result in a court ruling against either president, however.

Israel & Egypt Continue to Besiege Gaza

Israel and Egypt Continue to Squeeze Israel
Wednesday 20 January 2010

Ann Wright

Two weeks ago, almost 2,000 internationals came to Egypt and Gaza in a massive show of civil society's support for the people of Gaza. Nearly 1,400 persons representing 44 countries in the Gaza Freedom March and over 500 persons with the Viva Palestina Convoy let the people of Gaza know of their concern for the tragic consequences of their governments' support of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

Yet, two weeks later, with the apparent approval of governments (United States, European Community and Canada) that support the quarantine, blockade and siege of Gaza, Israel and Egypt have tightened the squeeze to wring the lifeblood out of the people of Gaza.

US Military Team Visits Underground Wall Construction

The US government continues to assist Egypt in building an underground wall to cut off tunnels under the border of Gaza and Egypt. According to Reuters, on January 14, 2010, three US military personnel from the US embassy in Cairo visited Rafah to follow up on the barrier project. According to security sources in Rafah, visits by US military have been taking place monthly.

In a press conference this week in Washington, US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said, "What we'd like to see is for Hamas to stop using the border crossings as methods for smuggling in weapons and let's get the weapons smuggling stopped." Duguid did not address the use of the tunnels to get life-saving food and materials prohibited by Israel.

In December 2009, three Palestinians were killed after a tunnel collapsed beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. The three were reported missing, and later found by rescue workers.

Deadliest Week Since Last Year's Israeli Attack

Last week, January 6-12, was the deadliest week for the Gaza Strip in the past year since the January 18, 2009, ceasefire that ended Israel's "Cast Lead" offensive.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli air force bombing attacks killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including three civilians. The attacks came in response to an increase in the number of mortar shells and rockets fired by Palestinian factions from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel that caused no injuries or property damage.

Since the ceasefire a year ago, a total of 84 Palestinians, including at least 27 civilians, and one Israeli (a soldier) have been killed. Another 160 Palestinians and seven Israelis were injured in Gaza and southern Israel.

On January 8, 2010, US aircraft flown by Israeli air force personnel bombed tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, killing three Palestinians, including a 15 year-old boy, and wounding another two. Another Palestinian was hurt in a separate airstrike. In two other incidents, on January 6 and 10, Israeli aircraft targeted and killed four Palestinian militants, three of them in one airstrike. Five additional airstrikes, resulting in no casualties, were carried out during the week. Also this week, on four separate occasions, Israeli forces drove tanks into Gaza and conducted land-leveling operations.

Israelis Increase Border Zone Into Gaza

On January 7 this year, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets into areas next to the border fence with Gaza, warning residents to keep a distance of at least 300 meters from the border with Israel and to avoid cooperating with "smugglers" in the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. This doubled the buffer zone along the border from 150 meters to 300 meters, but Israeli forces have opened "warning" fire at farmers as far as 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) from the border.

A parallel ban for Gaza fishermen is applied to sea areas beyond three nautical miles from the coast, though often this distance is less in practice. This week, in nine separate incidents, Israeli naval forces opened "warning" fire at Palestinian fishing boats along Gaza's coast, forcing them to return to shore.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that on January 6 and 9 this year, unknown persons detonated bombs in a pharmacy and two coffee shops in Gaza City; no one was hurt, but property damage was reported.

Two Killed in January in Tunnels and Seven Youths Burned in Tunnel Fire

In January 2010, two Palestinians died in two separate incidents involving the collapse of a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border while they were working inside it. At least 70 people have died and 123 others have been injured in the tunnels since the end of the "Cast Lead" Israeli attack on Gaza.

On January 16 this year, seven Palestinians from Gaza were burned in a fire that broke out in one of the tunnels connecting the border towns of Rafah, Gaza and Rafah, Egypt. The seven burned tunnel workers were treated at An-Nasser and Ash-Shifa hospitals in Gaza City.

Digging tunnels and working in them is one of the few jobs available for Palestinian youth in Gaza. Tunnel workers reportedly earn $25 per day, a huge sum in the current Palestinian economy. However, they are subjected to daily bombings by US F-16 aircraft flown by the Israeli Air Force, plus tunnel collapses and fires.

Accidents in the tunnels are frequent. According to the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Mezan, 120 people have been killed working in the tunnel trade in the past three years.

According to OCHA, no commercial gasoline or diesel fuel entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom during last week. Egyptian gasoline and diesel, which is transferred through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, remains available on the open market, with nearly 100,000 liters of diesel and 100,000 liters of gasoline transferred into Gaza per day.

Israeli Tanks Shell Beit Hanoun

Israeli tanks operating near the northern Gaza border near Beit Hanoun targeted civilian properties with heavy artillery fire on January 15, 2010. Tank shells hit civilian homes on the outskirts of the town, causing material damages but no injuries.

Egypt Builds Anchorage for Border Patrol Boats

Egypt is continuing fortification of its borders with Gaza, this time by sea. According to Reuters, Egypt is constructing a port for patrol boats that will block sea routes into Gaza for merchandise, food and weapons.

The border patrol boats will keep Palestinian fishing boats in Gazan coastal waters. Egypt has said it believes the boats are being used to carry out smuggling operations, though there have never been reports of such incidents. "It is to secure the area. It will be used to direct fishing boats in the area to ensure they do not cross the Israeli sea border and risk getting fired at," the security sources told Reuters.

As Egypt completes the 14-kilometer underground wall along the Rafah border, Egyptian surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea increases the strangling of Gaza. The tunnels are the only way Gazans can bring goods into the Strip. Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the area, letting in only 36 types of goods for the past three years.

Future Aid Missions Must Go Through Red Crescent

On January 6, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrators, protesting Egypt's delay in allowing the aid convoy Viva Palestina into Gaza, as well as Egypt's plans to build the underground steel wall, clashed with Egyptian forces at the Gaza-Egypt border. As a result, an Egyptian soldier was shot dead and 13 Palestinians were injured, including six who suffered gunshot wounds. Eventually, the convoy entered on the same day, carrying food and medical supplies.

However, in response to the clashes, Egypt introduced a new mechanism, through which future aid convoys into Gaza will go through the Egyptian Red Crescent.

No Internationals Allowed Into Gaza

During December, no internationals were allowed into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, until 92 persons from the Gaza Freedom March were allowed in for 48 hours on December 30. During January, only the Viva Palestina convoy personnel were allowed in for 24 hours. Many international persons have letters of invitation from non-governmental organizations to assist in a variety of ways. Only one other international has been allowed into Gaza in January. Egypt has denied the requests for all other internationals. The ability of citizens of the world to assist Gaza when their governments will not is tragically being strangled.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Guitars should be a means to liberation, not exploitation

Guitars should be a means to liberation, not exploitation, says Rage's Morello

Blake Deppe
January 15 2010

Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Street Sweeper Social Club, alongside musician Serj Tankian, of alternative metal band System of a Down, joined representitives of Korean guitar workers in a protest against Cort Guitars on Jan. 13, at the Nanum Cultural Center in Los Angeles, Calif. The protest was endorsed by local labor groups, including AFL-CIO United Steel Workers' Local 675, Koreatown Immigrant Workers' Alliance and ENLACE International.

Cort Guitars, the Korean equipment manufacturer for guitar companies such as Gibson and Fender, fired all of its Korean workers and closed all of its Korean plants in an illegal and immoral move to avoid "paying proper taxes" and "fix deplorable working conditions" in 2007.

In 2006, the workers had formed a union demanding justice and dignity in the workplace.

Morello says, "The company fired everyone wholesale, shut the factory and moved them to China."

The workers hope that awareness has been raised regarding the conditions, which contribute to the creation of many American guitars.

"Guitars should be a means to liberation, not exploitation," said Morello. "I fully support the Korean workers' demands for justice in the workplace. All American guitar manufacturers and the people that play them should hold Cort accountable for the awful way they have treated their workers. No one should have their job taken away because they stand up for their rights."

Tankian added, "As musicians, our axes are not immune to the global race-to-the-bottom techniques incorporated by those escaping responsibility to workers and the environment. As consumers and rockers we have to be very careful that everything we touch and use is created and handled with ethics and equity in practice."

A week of events, press conferences and protests will be taking place through Jan. 17 in the LA and Anaheim area. On the 16th, musicians are invited to perform at any time between 12:30 and 2 p.m. in tribute to workers' rights and putting an end to corruption.

Morello and Tankian are the co-founders of The Axis of Justice, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice together.

Egypt moves to blockade Gaza - by sea

Egypt to build anchorage to secure Gaza sea border

14 January 2010,
CAIRO - Egypt is building an anchorage for patrol boats on its Gaza sea border, further bolstering its defences against suspected weapons smuggling by Palestinians, security sources said on Thursday.

One of the sources said the anchorage at Rafah, a town that straddles Gaza Strip and Egypt would be 10 metres deep and 25 metres long. Egypt is already constructing an underground barrier to cut off smuggling through tunnels in the area.

“The new anchorage will enhance the work of the Egyptian patrol boats on the sea border with Gaza and prevent any attempts of smuggling by sea,” another security source in North Sinai told Reuters.

The first source said the anchorage was to ensure Palestinian fishing boats, which they suspect of carrying out the smuggling operations, do not come near Egypt’s or Israel’s coasts.

“It is to secure the area. It will be used to direct fishing boats in the area to ensure they do not cross the Israeli sea border and risk getting fired at,” he told Reuters.

Large blocks have been moved to border post 1, the start of Egypt’s border with Gaza, where the anchorage will be built.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas Islamists. Israel controls the air space, sea access and most of the entry points into the coastal enclave. Egypt controls the Rafah border.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the Egyptian building work as a “clear plan to cement the blockade and the siege on Gaza”.

In 2007, after Hamas gained control of Gaza, 30 Palestinian fighters arrived in Egypt in boats, all carrying weapons.

Egypt only confirmed last month it was building a steel underground barrier and has played down the scope of the dig on the 14 km (8-mile) frontier, although its foreign minister said this week it had been planned for a year.

Egypt is also building more watch towers along the border with Gaza to boost sea surveillance, security sources said.

On Thursday, three military personnel from the U.S. embassy in Cairo visited Rafah to follow up on the building of the barrier, security sources in Rafah said, adding such visits had been taking place monthly.

“What we’d like to see is for Hamas to stop using the border crossings as methods for smuggling in weapons and let’s get the weapons smuggling stopped,” U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said in Washington earlier this week.

Pyramids built by Egyptian workers, not slaves

Workers' tombs discovered near pyramids

PAUL SCHEMM (Associated Press)
Published: January 14, 2010

CAIRO - Egyptian archaeologists discovered a new set of tombs belonging to the workers who built the great pyramids, shedding light on how the laborers lived and ate more than 4,000 years ago, the antiquities department said.

The thousands of men who built the last remaining wonder of the ancient world ate meat regularly, worked in three months shifts and were given the honor of being buried in mud-brick tombs within the shadow of the sacred pyramids they worked on.

The newly discovered tombs date to Egypt's 4th Dynasty (2575 B.C. to 2467 B.C.) when the great pyramids were built, according to the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass.

Graves of the pyramid builders were first discovered in the area in 1990, he said, and discoveries such as these show that the workers were paid laborers, rather than the slaves of popular imagination.

"These tombs were built beside the king's pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves," said Mr. Hawass in the statement. "If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king's."

Evidence from the site, Mr. Hawass said, indicates that the approximately 10,000 laborers working on the pyramids ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms in northern and southern Egypt.

He added that the workers were rotated every three months and the burial sites were for those who died during the construction.

Discoveries like these reveal other aspects of ancient Egyptian society besides just the stone monuments and temples frequented by priests, rulers and nobles, explained Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

"It is important to find tombs that belong to lower class people that are not made out of stone that tell you about the social organization and the relative wealth of a range of people," she said.

Workers' tombs from the 4th Dynasty were typically made of mud bricks shaped like cones and covered in white plaster, probably echoing the nearby limestone-clad pyramids of the kings.

Egyptian authorities failing to protect religious minorities


12 January 2010

Egypt: Egyptian authorities failing to protect religious minorities

Amnesty International today condemned the drive-by shooting on 6 January that killed seven individuals and injured dozens of others in the south of the country in an attack directed against Egypt’s Coptic minority. In light of the repeated threats against Copts in Egypt, the organization called on the Egyptian authorities to initiate a credible investigation into the shooting and to take measures to protect religious minorities from such attacks.

The shooting took place as worshipers were leaving a church in the city of Nagaa Hammadi, in Upper Egypt, after a midnight mass on Coptic Christmas Eve on 6 January. Six worshipers and a police officer, reportedly off duty, were killed. The Egyptian authorities announced on 8 January that that they are holding three people in connection with the attack.

According to reports, the attack was in reprisal for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man in November 2009. Following news of the alleged rape hundreds of Muslim protestors torched Christian-owned shops in the town of Farshout, near Nagaa Hammadi. A Christian man has been arrested over the alleged rape of the girl and is reported to be in custody awaiting trial.

Although there were threats that further attacks against Copts will be carried out in Nagaa Hammadi, following unrest in the region in November 2009, the Egyptian authorities seem to have failed to provide adequate protection and to increase security measures. There was a noticeable absence of security forces that are customarily deployed during festivities to guard churches and the surrounding areas and to limit traffic in nearby streets.

Last week’s shooting is the deadliest attack against Copts since the 2000 attack which killed at least 20 people in Kosheh village in Sohag Governorate, some 500 km south of Cairo.

On 7 January, several hundreds of Christian protestors gathered in front of the morgue where the dead bodies were being kept and chanted anti-government slogans. They clashed with the security forces who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Copts often complain the Egyptian authorities are not doing enough to protect them or prosecute their attackers and those brought to justice often receive light sentences.

In addition, clashes broke out between Muslims and Copts in a number of nearby villages, including in Bahgoura, 3km from Nagaa Hammadi, where dozens of shops and several houses owned by Copts were burned down. An elderly woman who was trapped in one of the houses set on fire died of suffocation. According to official reports, 28 Copts and 12 Muslims were arrested in connection with the clashes.

Communal violence between Christians and Muslims often erupts following family or personal quarrels. Amnesty International and Egyptian human rights organizations have monitored an increase of sectarian attacks against the Coptic Christian community, comprising between 6 and 8 million people in Egypt,

Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian authorities to take positive measures to ensure that the right to personal safety and integrity of Copts and other religious minorities is upheld and that suspects are brought to justice in proceedings that conform to international standards for fair trial and without recourse to the death penalty.

Egypt is obliged under international human rights law to ensure the protection of racial or religious groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a party, guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee which oversee the implementation of the ICCPR specified in its General Comment on Article 2 that “the positive obligations on States Parties to ensure Covenant rights will only be fully discharged if individuals are protected by the State, not just against violations of Covenant rights by its agents, but also against acts committed by private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of Covenant rights in so far as they are amenable to application between private persons or entities”.

The recent attack against Copts in Egypt is a stark reminder of the need for the Egyptian authorities to do more to protect religious minorities and to this effect they should immediately facilitate the outstanding request to visit Egypt of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.


Other religious minorities have also been targeted in Egypt. In April 2009, the homes of several Baha’i families in al-Shuraniyya village in Sohag Governorate were burned down by local inhabitants following a call by a journalist in the government-owned al-Goumhuria, inciting hatred and violence against Baha’is in a televised programme and newspaper articles. A number of Baha’is were forced to flee their homes because of the ensuing violence.

Six human rights organizations issued a joint statement in which they urged the Public Prosecutor to open an investigation into the assault and to prosecute the al-Goumhuria journalist. While the investigation initiated by the Public Prosecution into the incitement of hatred is ongoing, no one is known to have been arrested in connection with the attack against the Bahai’s homes in Sohag.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Egyptian Government Bans Gaza-bound Aid Convoys

Egypt bars Gaza-bound aid convoys
CAIRO — Aid convoys bound for the Gaza Strip will now be banned from travelling across Egypt after activists this week clashed with police, the foreign minister said in remarks published on Saturday.

Ahmed Abul Gheit told government newspaper Al-Ahram that members of one convoy led by British MP George Galloway committed "criminal" acts on Egyptian soil on their way to the blockaded Palestinian coastal enclave.

"Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organising them, from crossing its territory," Abul Gheit said.

"Members of the (Viva Palestina) convoy committed hostile acts, even criminal ones, on Egyptian territory," the foreign minister added without elaborating.

On Tuesday night activists with the Viva Palestina convoy clashed with police in Egyptian the port town of El-Arish, 45 kilometres (30 miles) from the Gaza border.

They had been protesting an Egyptian decision to send some of the convoy's trucks to Gaza through Israel.

Seven protesters were arrested during Tuesday's clashes but police [REPORTEDLY] swapped them for four policemen held by the activists.

A prosecutor in El-Arish later issued warrants for the arrest of seven activists, including two Britons and an American woman.

Abul Gheit was speaking to Al-Ahram from Washington where he is on a visit to discuss the Middle East peace process. He said that, from now on aid, to Gaza must be handed over to the Red Crescent at El-Arish who will turn it over to the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim relief organisation in Gaza.

The comments come a day after a foreign ministry official told Galloway he was no longer welcome in Egypt as he flew out of the country.

Later on Friday, Galloway told Sky News television he and a friend had been "bundled into a car" and given little choice but to get on a plane out of Egypt. "On the steps of the plane a representative of the foreign affairs ministry in Egypt told me that I was declared persona non grata," he said.

Egypt accused Galloway, who once called at a London rally for the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, of trying to embarrass the country, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Loaded-up & Trucking, Gaza-bound

Loaded-up and trucking, Gaza bound
Thu, 07/01/2010

Jano Charbel

Viva Paestina convoy

After waiting and protesting in the Arish Port for the past two days, most of the Viva Palestina Convoy activists were allowed entry to Gaza through Egypt's Rafah border on Wednesday night. Egyptian authorities allowed 139 vehicles from a total of 198 to cross the border, after objecting to the presence of 59 automobiles among the convoy – alleging these vehicles were non-essential and not agreed upon previously with the organizers.

The authorities informed the convoy's chief delegates that these 59 automobiles could be allowed into Gaza only after passing into Israel, at a later point of time, from the Egyptian-Israeli border crossings of el-Auja or Karm Abu Salem. The organizers were not impressed.

“We chose not to send these automobiles via Israel," said Viva Palestina Spokesman Zaher Berawi told Al-Masry Al-Youm, "because from our previous experience and from the experiences of others, we know that aid bound for Gaza through these crossings usually ends up missing or confiscated in Israel.”

Berawi added these 59 automobiles were a donation from the Turkish delegation. "In light of the siege, there is an Israeli-imposed ban on the import of automobiles to the Gaza Strip. So the Turks decided to donate these autos to hospitals and medical clinics – for the purpose of transporting medication and/or medical personnel within Gaza.”

According to the Viva Palestina spokesman, rather than sending the automobiles back to Turkey, the Turkish delegation decided to send these cars to medical clinics and charity groups working with the Palestinian refugees camps of Lebanon and Syria.

Rocks, bricks, wood and chunks of cement were still strewn Wednesday across the port's entrances and exits from the clashes which erupted on Tuesday night. Security forces - including riot police, plain-clothed troops with clubs, and fire brigades, along with defensive lines of lorries and armored personnel carriers - were still out in numbers, but were far fewer than those present in the day before.

Seven members of the Viva Palestina Convoy, who had been arrested during the clashes, were released Wednesday afternoon and later joined the convoy into Gaza.

“We want these foreigners to leave, they're such a headache," a brigadier general from the Central Security Forces told Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter. "If you speak with them tell them so." Meanwhile, a group of Viva Palestina youth stood within the port, near the iron gates which they had half-destroyed the night before. Without hearing, or understanding the officer's remarks, one youth activist yelled “we are very disappointed with the Egyptian government for what they did to us last night, and... even more disappointed with this government's role in assisting the Israeli siege of Gaza. Shame on Mubarak."

The next convoy, Viva Palestina IV, is expected to arrive in Egypt after at least five months. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is reportedly going to join this convoy "in his personal capacity, not in his official capacity as president of a foreign state" said Berawi.

Viva Palestina: Gaza or Bust

Gaza or bust
Wed, 06/01/2010

Jano Charbel

Arish--Egyptian security forces put down a protest staged by international activists from the Viva Palestina convoy in the Mediterranean port of el-Arish late on Tuesday night. More than 20 members of the convoy and at least ten riot police were injured in the clashes. Six convoy members were reported missing and are assumed to have been arrested.

The Gaza-bound convoy, consisting of some 200 vehicles, had been shipped to Arish on Monday 4 January via the Syrian Port of Latakia. Last week Egyptian authorities demanded that the convoy be rerouted to Arish--from its planned course via Aqaba in Jordan to the Red Sea Port of Nuweiba. However, since their arrival the Viva Palestina convoy has been deadlocked in negotiations with Egyptian authorities, who opened the Rafah border crossing in Gaza from 3 until 6 January.

Commencing its journey from the UK and Turkey, the Viva Palestina convoy comprises some 200 ambulances, vans and trucks loaded with humanitarian aid. On Tuesday afternoon Egyptian authorities welcomed and received Viva Palestina's chief delegates--including British MP George Galloway and several Turkish MPs--but raised objections regarding 59 of the vehicles in their convoy, deeming them non-essential. According to Egyptian authorities these 59 vehicles could enter Gaza, but at a later point in time, through the el-Auja border crossing with Israel.

Viva Palestina delegates rejected the terms imposed on them. At the port Galloway announced “They instructed us to hand over 59 of our vehicles to Israel at their checkpoint, where they would never be seen again. This is 25 percent of a convoy which drove thousands of miles and for which people worked very hard. This is in direct contradiction to the written agreement which we made with the government of Egypt through the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba.”

Convoy members--520 of them, from 17 countries--began protesting at the port and chanting slogans in support of Gaza, along with others against the Egyptian regime. Shortly afterward a group of angry youth activists pushed and pulled on a port gate until they broke it open. Security forces were swift to mobilize rows of riot police, armored personnel carriers, firetrucks and lorries to block the exit and prevent the convoy from leaving.

Outside the port a junior state security officer in civilian clothes informally asked three journalists from Al-Masry Al-Youm, “Are you going to write that they broke down the gates to the port? That they beat up one of our conscripts? That they are burning tires inside? Are you going to write about all of this?” The officer concluded: “We're going to clean this mess up in a little, you'll see.”

An angry Arabic-speaking Turkish youth activist sitting on top of a port wall said, “Yes, we broke down the gates, but they were rusty gates anyway.” He denied that fellow activists had beaten a conscript and insisted that they weren't burning tires inside. Moments later, however, the thick smoke of burning tires could be seen billowing from within.

An assortment of riot police and plain-clothed officers with clubs moved into action just before midnight. Rocks were being hurled back and forth amidst shouts, screams and curses, and the sound of breaking windows and windshields. The firetrucks opened their water canons. The clashes lasted less than 15 minutes. The protesters withdrew into the port, and security forces took a few steps back. Inside the port a group of activists announced that three Britons, two Americans, and one Kuwaiti had been arrested.

An elderly (unnamed) English activist told Al-Masry Al-Youm, “We didn't want any clashes. Well I can't speak for everybody in the convoy, since some lads are keener on confrontation. We just want to deliver the medicine and aid that we collected back home.” He added, “We drove 3000 miles to Aqaba and then back through Syria. Now we're just 25 miles short of our destination, we want to get this convoy through.”

Addressing convoy members from on top of a Turkish car, Galloway said, “We bent over backwards to cooperate with these people, they asked us to come to el-Arish, they told us that we would be welcome in el-Arish, and now we know what they mean by 'welcome'.”

He added, “We had a solemn and binding agreement signed by both parties, through which we agreed to withdraw from Aqaba. It came at a huge expense of money, energy, time and health. This means that the agreements of the Egyptian dictatorship cannot be trusted even when they are signed on paper.”