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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Military Court Gives Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ten Years

Despite reassurances last week from Egypt’s foreign minister that civilians would not be tried in military courts, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mongey, was sentenced to ten years in prison yesterday. The military court in Suez convicted him of vandalizing military property and inciting violence in August. Earlier this month, another Suez military court sentenced a Muslim Brotherhood member to life in prison, and convicted more than 50 civilians of attacking military officers. They received jail sentences of varying lengths. On September 18, another military court sentenced five Palestinian fishermen to one year in jail, for crossing into Egyptian waters.

Egypt’s Public Education Dilemma

Egypt’s government has decided to not charge parents of elementary school-age children a symbolic “tuition fee” this year – but parents say that this will do nothing in the long run to improve the dismal state of public education. Public schools are often packed with more than 80 students per class, making learning difficult if not impossible. In addition to this, public school teachers are paid outrageously low salaries. A primary school teacher who makes 470 EGP ($68) a month as a salaried teacher – less then his rent – says that “most of the money allocated to education is spent on government officials’ wages and high earners, whose salaries can be up to 40,000 EGP a month, while teachers’ pay remains extremely low, even though we are essential to education.” Many teachers offer private lessons after school to supplement their salaries, where students can learn in smaller groups. Parents, however, complain about their inability to pay for expensive, private, after school lessons. According to Ahram Online, Egypt ranks last in a 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum on the quailty of its primary education.

Armed Attack Kills Four in Sinai Peninsula

Police stations and government buildings in North Sinai have been the target of random shootings and other violent attacks over the past few months, and yesterday was no exception.  Gunmen shot and killed two policemen who were eating breakfast outside of a police station in Al-Arish in North Sinai yesterday, and another police officer and a civilian were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in the same area later in the day. The Sinai is one of the most undeveloped, poorest areas of Egypt, and has historically been neglected by the state. The Sinai is also home, paradoxically, to some of the wealthiest beach resorts in the entire country.

Atheism on the Rise Among Egypt’s Youth?

According to Egypt Independent, there is a small but growing number of young atheists in Egypt, though atheism remains highly controversial and taboo in Egyptian society. The young men and women interviewed for the story say that after the January 25th revolution, more and more people began rejecting traditional religious beliefs, though they often face abuse and discrimination from family and friends. According to the CIA World Factbook, 90 percent of Egyptian society identifies as Muslim, 10 percent as Christian, and less than one percent identify as either Jewish or Bahai. There are no statistics on how many people identify themselves as atheists.

US Government Partially Shuts Down

For the first time in almost two decades, the US government will partially shut down today after Congress failed to reach a consensus on a budget bill. 800,000 government workers are expected to stay home on Tuesday, without pay. Republicans were in the process of composing a replacement bill aimed at blocking parts of President Obama’s healthcare reform bill when the deadline for the bill ran out. Major aspects of the embattled new healthcare law, which some have nicknamed Obamacare, will go into effect today. Parks, museums, and many federal offices will be shuttered today, but the government will continue to issue military paychecks, the Washington Post reported.

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