Friday, November 29, 2013

Egypt heats up again

Protests have broken out in Cairo since the Interim President sign in a law that restricts protests to 10 people. Any protests larger than that requires advance notice and approval to the Police.

A court of Alexandria sentenced 21 women and girls to 11 years in jail for their participation in Pro-Morsi demonstrations. This sentencing generates much anger in the country because it was simply an unjust and foolish decision. The Interim President has promised today that he will pardon them once the whole judicial appeal process is exhausted.

These two events have awoken the dormant anti-military, anti-Islamist protesters and they are going back to the street. It is to be seen whether they can generate protests large enough to make any difference.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The porn trap

Greenwald and the Huffington Post say the NSA document identifies six Muslim targets as examples of people whose credibility can be undermined by exploiting their online sexual activity, among other things. In a chart listing their "vulnerabilities", two of the six are identified as being involved in "online promiscuity". Guardian
It's some sort of official blackmailing.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cemetery Cafes

Spiegel is reporting on a growing number of cafes operating inside the walls of cemeteries in Berlin. I think it's a good idea in Europe, where you have nice looking and clean cemeteries.

Troubled Currencies Project

The project tracks five currencies:

  • Argentina
  • Egypt
  • North Korea
  • Syria
  • Venezuela

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Details of Iranian Nuclear program deal

Go read this Fact Sheet. It contains everything you need to know about the deal.

It is essentially as follows:
Meanwhile, Iran has to do the following things: halt the enrichment of all uranium above 5 percent and freeze the stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent; neutralize its stockpile of uranium that’s been enriched to 20 percent (either by diluting it to 5 percent purity or converting it to a form that cannot be used to make a weapon); stop producing, installing, or modernizing centrifuges; stop constructing more enrichment facilities; halt all activities at the Arak nuclear reactor (which has the potential to produce nuclear weapons made of plutonium); permit much wider and more intrusive measures of verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency, including daily inspections of all facilities. Slate

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Egyptian Military leadership is fed up with Palestinians

Fatah officials hope that the return of the Egyptian military to unchallenged power after the removal of President Mohammed Morsi offers the latest and perhaps best chance to return to Gaza in triumph, with or without Dahlan at the helm. Some believe that Fatah's best opportunity lies in defeating Hamas' rule by increasing broad opposition from within Gaza's population of 1.7 million. Others, among them some opponents of Dahlan, suggest that a Palestinian brigade mustered in al Arish could march on Gaza and, with Egyptian support, defeat the broad array of Hamas forces created in the last decade.

Egypt, however, is in no mood for anything Palestinian, either of the Hamas or the Fatah variety. Not only is Sisi fed up with Hamas, he has more immediate challenges to address than those championed by the PLO. During a recent visit by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), this new line was made clear — Cairo has no interest in mediating Palestinian reconciliation after years in which this dialogue was lead by Egypt's security service. Nor will it respond to Fatah's hopes that Sisi's antipathy towards Hamas could be turned to its favor. Al Monitor
It's a bizarre world this Middle East. In Egypt right now being a Palestinian is like a cursed mark. There is a tremendous xenophobia being fanned by the Egyptian media against the Palestinians especially after the ouster of Morsi.

Ironically, at a time when the regime in Cairo is more hostile than it has been in recent memory to Hamas, and its concern about the national security challenge posed to Egypt by Islamists there and more broadly throughout Sinai is most keenly felt, Israel has emerged as a key advocate of Hamas' continued rule and has taken practical measures to somewhat offset the harder Egyptian policy line.

"What we want is calm and security in the Gaza Strip," Turgeman said. "Hamas, currently the sovereign power in the territory, has the means and the know-how. I see no alternative to control being exercised by Hamas."

Indonesia to launch the largest public health insurance scheme in the world

On 1 January 2014 Indonesia will launch the largest public health insurance scheme in the world. It will unite a bewildering array of current schemes to cover the entire population, with the poor getting their health care free. (BBC)
The ambition is pretty awe inspiring. Let's hope for competent execution.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to help refugees in Egypt

Egypt is full of refugees. They come from Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and many other parts of Africa.

It is a hub for migrants trying to cross Sinai to Israel. It is a point of trafficking for many people trying to cross to Europe via Lampedusa. It is the most affordable and safe place for migrants from Syria (Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are expensive for refugees in comparison).

It is hard to find an up to date information about the law and facilities made available to migrants in Egypt. So Bosla tries to rectify this problem. It gathers and keep track of all organizations and facilities to available to migrants in Egypt. It deals with the issue of trafficking, sexual abuse, medical health and other many relevant topics for well being of migrants.

IOM (International Organization of Migration) enlisted me to do the technical work behind the site. The amount of difficulties they encountered to gather this information is enormous. It is worth it though. Now finally for the first time there's one place for NGOs to discover each other and for migrations to discover facilities available to them.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

On the revelation that Australian government spied on Indonesian President

I am Indonesian. We know other governments are spying on our President. This comes with the job - however, tapping the personal phone of the First Lady is pretty much beyond the pale. She's not an elected official. This is done in bad taste.

I bet they spied on his relatives as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

South African Trophy Hunting

The Indonesian Graftbusters

It was a narrow escape for Novel, himself a former policeman and now lionized as “supercop” by Indonesian media, and once again, also for the anti-corruption agency. Since its establishment in 2002, the KPK has become, contrary to all expectations, a fiercely independent, resilient, popular and successful institution that is a constant thorn in the side of Indonesia’s establishment. The Jakarta Globe
There are three shining lights in the Indonesian government right now:

  • The emerging generation of competent and clean local leaders such as the current Governor and Deputy Governor of Jakarta.
  • The Elite Detachment 88 Indonesian Counter Terrorism unit. 
  • KPK, the national anti graft agency.

The Libyan Clusterfuck

Libyans are bickering among themselves and use violence to advance their agenda. The inability for the country to come together threatens the country into becoming a pariah state.

The latest violence in the suburb of Tajoura, involving local militiamen and fighters from Misrata, left one dead.

Friday's clashes occurred after protesters marched on the headquarters of the Misrata militia to demand that it leave Tripoli, and were fired upon.

40 people died on last Friday's clashes. Peaceful protesters demanding their exit from Tripoli were fired upon.

Misrata was the hardest hit during the Libyan 2011 revolution where the city was under siege from Qaddafi's army. Their militias heroically defended the onslaughts with little weapons that they had.

Unfortunately the militias that were formed to defend the city did not transform to a political party. They stayed being militias and they are demanding their rights by the point of the guns. This problem of militias is pervasive across Libya due to to the weak government.

The leaders of a movement for self-rule in oil-rich in eastern Libya said they have formed a regional company to handle its sales of crude oil, one of the most serious challenges yet to the central government and its revenue lifeline. ABC News

There are some serious power struggle going on in Libya right now. It is understandable that other regions in Libya demand fair share of their national oil revenue wealth. Under Qaddafi only a few cities, mainly Tripoli, reaps the benefit of their natural resources. However you can go far with these turf battles. Without cooperation between cities and the central government, Libya will stay prone to instability and security problems. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stupid Thomson Reuters Foundation rank Egypt as the worse country for women's right in the Arab world

They polled 'gender experts' in 22 Arab countries and put Egypt dead last, below Iraq (in the midst of a civil war) and Saudi Arabia (the only country that bans women from driving).

Are you fucking kidding me?

Here's a direct quote from an Egyptian woman that I know in reacting to the news
Yeah that is strange. Especially since in Government jobs which employ 40% of the work force, gender plays no role and they get paid exactly the same. And we've had equality in voting and education before even some European countries. And women have the right to get a divorce and get custody of all the kids automatically and we can drive...

I think the challenge with these polls and researches is that they don't distinguish between the laws that exist and society's behavior. On the legal aspect Egyptian women are as empowered as their European and American counterparts. Job opportunities and equal pay is guaranteed by law, labor law protects pregnant women and those on maternity leaves from being fired, women have equal rights to education and to vote and to be active members of the government. And so far the personal affairs laws are very pro women, FGM is illegal and underage marriage is also illegal and women have the right to be notified if their husband has taken on a second/third or fourth wife so they can seek a divorce if they want. So legally I think Egypt outranks most of the Middle east and is on par with the developed world.

Once you look at the society you see that people do not respect some of these laws. But you cannot discount the fact that the law is on the woman's side in Egypt.
They problem with the report is not the content. It is that that produce a ranking while there is no basis in their data gathering to do so. Here's a direct comment from a journalist for a German publication regarding this
As far as I could see they polled experts in each country about their country, asking them to evaluate its progress and problems on scales. So it was not a comparative study, but they produced a comparative result. Unless I've missed something, all that really says is that Egyptian experts are less satisfied about the state of women's rights in Egypt than Saudi experts are about the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia or Tunisian etc etc. Kind of like the report a while ago which showed that Egypt was the most dangerous country in the world for tourists. If this was how it worked, then the media shouldn't really be giving a platform to such statistical illiteracy.
The reality is that if they were to rank the treatment of women in Egypt, it would have fallen somewhere in the middle rank. Egypt is not a role model country for the treatment of women but it is by far not the worse country in the Arab world for women.

The casualty game

Remember just 4 days ago when the media reported 10,000 people were 'feared dead' after Typhoon Haiyan left the Philippines. This number was based on a quote from a local official and repeated without qualifications around the world.


You can see how people pick the worse possible estimates and repeat it again and again as if it resemblances any truth.

So far the official count of the dead victims of the Typhoon hovers around 1800 people, a number that will definitely increase as they count and discovered more victims but most probably will not come near the first reported number.

Periodic table of storytelling

Click here for higher resolution image.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A French Sabotage

Then French foreign minister Laurent Fabius showed up and threw cold water on the whole process. He clearly was attempting to torpedo the agreement, rejecting the whole notion of a six-month confidence-building period without substantial Iranian concessions. In the French system, the foreign minister doesn’t typically have a lot of autonomy, so Fabius was almost certainly acting at the orders of Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is way down in the polls and may feel the need to seem strong internationally, asserting himself against the US and Iran. The arrogance of the US and the perfidy of the far right religious government in Tehran are two things that both center-right and center-left French can agree upon. Hollande, having intervened in Mali, seems to want to throw his weight around in the Middle East. He may see an opportunity for France to come up in the world now that much of the Arab world and Israel is angry at Washington for its opening toward Iran. The US for decades has pulled off a balancing act of allying both with Israel and Saudi Arabia, in part by pointing to the danger of Iran to both. Since Obama seems to be abandoning that ploy, Paris may think there is a vacuum that it can fill. Juan Cole
There are a lot of reports pointing out that France was the reason behind the failure for the Geneva p5+1 and Iran talk to produce agreement.

One anonymous diplomat told journalists, “The Americans, the European Union and the Iranians have worked intensively for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to give himself belated importance.”

Clooney was right about Twitter

As might be expected, he does not like Twitter. More to the point, he does not approve of Twitter, especially for a certain segment of the population. “If you’re famous, I don’t—for the life of me—I don’t understand why any famous person would ever be on Twitter. Why on God’s green earth would you be on Twitter? Because first of all, the worst thing you can do is make yourself more available, right? Because you’re going to be available to everybody. But also Twitter. So one drunken night, you come home and you’ve had two too many drinks and you’re watching TV and somebody pisses you off, and you go ‘Ehhhhh’ and fight back.

“And you go to sleep, and you wake up in the morning and your career is over. Or you’re an asshole. Or all the things you might think in the quiet of your drunken evening are suddenly blasted around the entire world before you wake up. I mean, when you see, like, Ashton Kutcher coming out going, you know, ‘Everybody leave Joe Paterno alone,’ or whatever he said, you just go, ‘Fifteen minutes longer and a thought process and probably you wouldn’t have done that.’ ” Esquire
Twitter is a double edge sword - use with care. There are so many careers ruined by Twitter posts. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan

It will take some time before the number of casualties of this natural disaster can be determined. Right now the media is just throwing '10,000" people killed. Unfortunately the pictures that have been coming out from the most affected region show massive devastation.

Indonesia will send aid immediately. 50 US Marines landed in Manila today as part of the first wave of aid. Individual contributors can read this Yahoo News post on how to help.

The Daily Mail as usual post tons of pictures on their site

Saturday, November 09, 2013

China's apotheosis, in other words, seems unstoppable. When the Pew Research Center surveyed 38,000 people in 39 countries over the summer, it found that the vast majority "believe the global balance of power is shifting.… China's economic power is on the rise, and many think it will eventually supplant the United States as the world's dominant superpower." In Washington, the Obama administration has touted a "pivot" of U.S. interests to Asia that Beijing believes is intended to counter its ascent.

Yet there are just as many signs today that China is in deep trouble. America and the rest of the world should be less concerned about a rising China than about a sputtering—or even a crashing—China that could someday turn the world economy's greatest growth center into a global albatross. National Journal
That picture above is I think Shanghai - and those grays are super heavy duty air pollution.

I think a lot of the "Chinese Hegemony" theory has been touted by certain political factions in the US to generate reactions and shape certain policies toward China and Asia. One of the most obvious angle is the 'inevitable military conflicts between China and the US' theory which calls for further investment in Navy and Air Force military hardware.

China is already an influential country right now and it will become more so in the future. It does not want to become the new US. It does not care about interfering in other countries business (for good or bad). 

The Daily Mail has a series of pictures of super typhoon Haiyan (equivalent to category 5 hurricane) that hit Philippines yesterday.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Surrender in the Congo (UN Victory)

Fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 group, including their commander Sultani Makenga, have surrendered in Uganda, officers have said, signalling the end of an 18-month armed conflict.

The rebel surrender follows a crushing defeat at the hands of the UN-backed Congolese armed forces.

"He is with our forces, yes, Makenga has crossed into Uganda," a senior Ugandan military officer told AFP news agency, although he declined to clarify if he had formally surrendered or was under arrest.

Paddy Ankunda, a colonel in the Ugandan army, told AFP news agency on Thursday that 1,500 men from the M23 - a number thought to account for almost the entire force - had crossed into Uganda and given themselves up, and were now being held in the Kisoro border district. Al Jazeera
The UN did amazing job on this part. They actually gave the UN forces some strong mandate to get it done and boy, they got it done. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Rising seas

If all the world's ice melted

National Geographic

This brings new meaning to "swimming with the fishes".

If you want to survive this, your best bet is to move to Africa 

Who killed Arafat with Polonium

AJE did a great job in covering a Swiss lab result's that Arafat's body contained 18 times the amount of Polonium, a highly radioactive material.

Yasser Arafat was a known quantity both to the US and the Israeli for at least 30 years. There was little incentive to kill him at this stage of his life (unlike in 1982) - and I doubt it brought any significant tactical benefits to do so.

I would bet that the poisoning was ordered by someone within the factions of Palestinian struggles.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Heads up for tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day trial of ousted Egyptian President Morsi. Things will probably get messy and you will see a lot of nasty images on the media.

The Indonesian Embassy issued a warning for Indonesian to stay at home tomorrow. Good advice, especially if you are an Al Azhar university students.

For me, I'll be working as usual though I told my employees to work from home tomorrow. Not so much for the security reason but there are high chances of disruption in public transportation.


UAE at war against sorcerers

Lawyers and a member of the Federal National Council have said a 1983 law that considers sorcerers con artists was insufficient, and have called for the law to be amended to allow harsher punishment.

“Magic and sorcery has nothing to do with religion,” Salim Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi) said. “It only affects people badly.”

He recently recalled a case he heard of a “sorcerer” who told someone he could make the sky rain money. The National

Friday, November 01, 2013

Everybody's spying

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Guardian
I am telling you - there are no innocent governments on this regard.