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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

$60 Million in US Aid to Egypt Stalled

Diplomatic problems continue for Egypt and the US. Lindsay Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, has placed a hold on an economic aid package which provides low-cost capital for investors. The program, which focuses on boosting the declining Egyptian economy, has been in place since 2011. According to the Senator’s spokesperson, “Senator Graham has placed a hold on these funds and until he sees Egypt moving toward democracy.”  Graham also requested that President Obama provide a clearer explanation of his foreign policy goals in Egypt. Earlier this month, the administration withheld more than $500 million of military aid and $260 million in cash assistance to the government in reaction to state violence against protesters.

Emergency Law Could be Lifted in Mid-November

On Tuesday, Egyptian cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawqi said the state of emergency law will not continue past November, despite violent events such as the Al-Warraq church attack this weekend. Egyptian media had speculated that the church attack would give the interim government reason to extend the emergency law. The president declared the country under curfew and emergency law after security forces violently dispersed protesters on Aug. 14 from squares around Cairo; hundreds of protesters were killed, and some army and police officers as well. Egypt is no stranger to such laws: emergency law was in effect in Egypt from 1967 until May, 2012 (except for an 18 month break under Sadat), two weeks before the second round of voting in Egypt’s first post Mubarak election. Egypt’s administrative court also postponed a lawsuit demanding the end of the state of emergency. The court said it will issue its verdict in early November.

Train Service to Begin Again in Cairo

Trains to and from Cairo have been shut down since August 14, but on Tuesday, trains connecting Cairo to rest of Egypt began to run again on a limited basis. The Ministry of Transportation announced this week that trains connecting Cairo and Alexandria, Mansoura, Ismailia, and Tanta would resume this week. All trains are expected to be running at full capacity within the next few days.

Archaeologists Uncover 4,000-Year-Old Tomb

The tomb of a doctor to the Pharaohs has been found in an ancient burial site outside of Cairo. According to Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Ibrahim Ali, the tomb holds the remains of  “one of the greatest doctors from the time of the pyramid builders.” A Czech team of archaeologists found the tomb in Abusir, a necropolis which dates back to Egypt’s Old Kingdom. The tomb is believed to be tied the Fifth Dynasty, which began around 2,500 BCE. The Czech team is currently looking for the mummies of the doctor’s family.

Poet Who Insulted Qatari Emir Sentenced to 15 Years

Muhammed Ibn al-Dheeb al Ajami, a Qatari poet who was imprisoned for criticizing the former emir and for inciting unrest in 2011, was convicted by a Qatari court to 15 years in prison. His poems praise the Arab revolts and criticize Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the former Qatari monarch. In one famous verse he mocked “sheikhs playing on their PlayStations.” The court proceedings, which upheld the poet’s conviction, took less than three hours and represented al Ajami’s last formal chance to appeal the ruling. Now, only the current Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has the legal authority to pardon him.

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