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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Rejects Interim Government

After yesterday’s deadly shooting, Egypt’s military-backed interim government tried to assuage fears by publishing a timetable for quickly transitioning back to democracy. The plan called for parliamentary elections by 2014 and named former finance minister and liberal economist Hazem el-Beblawi as its prime minister. The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected both the timetable and the new government as a whole.

Who first fired into the protesters on Monday is still unknown, as are their motivations; the military blamed ‘terrorists,’ the Brotherhood blamed the military, while witnesses claimed it was civilian “thugs.” The turmoil has placed the question of democracy in the Arab world front and center.

Autocracies in the region applauded the army’s intervention and the ‘failure’ of democracy, predicting that Egypt’s coup will cause people in other Arab countries to abandon their own democratic efforts. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is struggling to reconcile America’s stated ideals with its pragmatic interests, refusing to use the word “coup” because it would trigger the automatic suspension of most American support.

Infamous Video Shown in Bradley Manning’s Defense

Bradley Manning’s defense team opened with a video he leaked, showing American soldiers in a helicopter laughing as they shot dead fleeing civilians and journalists in Baghdad. The US government has argued that by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, and specifically this video, Manning was consciously aiding the enemy. The defense team used it to paint Manning as a well-intentioned young man who wanted to show Americans the reality of the wars they were funding. Defense lawyer David Coombs said that a transcript of the video had already been published before the video was leaked.

One of Manning’s supervisors said he encouraged analysts to read State department cables to avoid “tunnel vision” and that while he did not let Manning install the file he used to download thousands of documents, there was nothing stopping him from doing so. Today, a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay described the files Manning leaked with detainee information as “baseball cards” whose essential data had already been made available to the public.

Brazil Will Hire 10,000 Doctors for Poor Areas

President Dilma Rousseff unveiled plans to hire 10,000 doctors to work in poorly-served areas of Brazil. The “More Doctors” campaign will include hiring foreign doctors if there are not enough Brazilians to fill the posts and mandating two years of public service as part of the university medicine curriculum. It is an attempt to remedy the lack of medical professionals in the outskirts of large cities and remote rural areas.

Rousseff also announced that the government would invest more than $3 billion in updating and building medical centers and will add 11,500 extra spots in medical school programs.

Syrian Leadership Changes, Assad Remains Secretary General

Syria’s ruling Baath party has replaced every top leadership position in its inner circle, including Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa. President Bashar al-Assad, however, remains the party’s secretary general. Sharaa will remain Vice President, but his power within the party will be diminished.

Coming amid a series of military gains against the rebels, it may suggest a discontent within the Baath party itself, either on the part of Assad or the party’s base. The regime has been criticized internally for its inflexibility and its unwillingness to be more open to the international community. As a result of this shake-up, none of the members of the party’s current leadership are members of Syria’s intelligence forces, for the first time since the 1963 revolution.

The same day, in a blow to the Syrian opposition forces, their interim leader Ghassan Hitto resigned, citing his inability to bring rival factions together.

Ramadan Begins

Overnight, protesters preparing to gather in Gezi Park were prevented from entering it by police, chased, tear gassed and sprayed with water canons. By Tuesday, the police presence had diminished notably and the protesters were allowed to follow their original plan: to celebrate the first of the daily  ‘fast-breaking’ iftar dinners of Ramadan in the park where Turkey’s large-scale protests began.

In a suit brought by Guantanamo detainees asking for a reprieve from force-feeding during Ramadan, the judge ruled that only President Obama has the authority to stop it. The US government has responded that it will try to respect the holiday by only force-feeding the detainees at night. To demonstrate the pain and humiliation force-feeding entails, the rapper Mos Def agreed to submit to it while being filmed. He broke down and could not continue after the tube became dislodged.

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