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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Details Emerge about Church Shooting

More details have emerged about the attack on the Christian wedding at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Giza on Sunday. According to reports, two men in their late 20s or early 30s pulled up to the church on motorcycles and began shooting into the crowd. The attack left four people dead (including two children) and injured 17 guests.  The Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi Noor party, Egypt’s Prime Minister and the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy in addition to a number of liberal groups and parties all condemned the attack. The Maspero Youth Coalition, a group that actively criticizes the lack of institutional protection for the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, called for protests today to demand that the Interior Minister step down. Egyptian security forces have reportedly arrested two suspects in the same area where the event took place.

New Constitution Draft Moves Forward

The 50-person committee tasked with drafting the new Egyptian constitution has begun voting on the draft, which will then be put to the president for approval.. The committee, which is dominated by secularists, had 60 days to amend the existing document. Committee spokesperson Mohamed Al Salmawy confirmed that there was some disagreement between the Coptic Church representatives in the committee and the voting bloc of Al Azhar Mosque, but that the problems had been resolved. The most controversial moments of the process have occurred during debates about the definition of state religion and how to interpret this definition in the constitution.

 Drone Strikes Report Says US Committed War Crimes

Prominent international rights groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released the results of two investigations today that document the effect of US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. One town in particular, Miram Shah in Pakistan, is under almost constant surveillance by drones, and 19 people were killed in just two drone strikes last year. Residents of the town experienced at least 13 drone strikes over the past five years. According to Amnesty International, the evidence from their investigation indicates that the US has committed war crimes. Amnesty rejected the idea that the US could initiate drone strikes anywhere in the world, writing, “to accept such a policy would be to endorse state practices that fundamentally undermine crucial human rights protections that have been painstakingly developed over more than a century of international law-making.”

Ethiopia Dam Controversy

The Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water will meet with his counterparts from Ethiopia and Sudan to discuss the potential effects of Ethiopia’s plan for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in early November. The project taps into a long-standing controversy about who retains the right to use the water of the Nile, and in what quantity. In May, Ethiopia began diverting water to use for dam construction, though Egypt disputes this right. In September of last year, a Sudanese paper claimed that Egypt was planning to blow up the dam construction project, citing a Wikileaks document, but Egypt denied this accusation.

Slow Food Cairo

Last month, Cairo established its first Slow Food chapter – a group that focuses on the importance of preserving local food culture and biodiversity. According to Mada Masr, “hundreds of indigenous species [of edible plants], which could provide many benefits, remain unknown or on the verge of extinction,” due to Egypt’s  focus on imported and foreign foods. Slow Food Cairo is in the process of creating a documentary to raise awareness about ingredients and spices indigenous to Egypt, such as a rare type of date called the Al-Amhat date. The international Slow Food movement originated in Italy in 1986 in reaction to a McDonald’s restaurant being established near Rome’s iconic Spanish Steps.

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