Thursday, 28 February 2013
A Parable of Pigs
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by David P. Gontar (March 2013)


Long ago and far away there lived a brotherhood of pigs. They worked hard every day, and when their labors were done, they marched together to the table for supper. Each brought with him the fruits of his labors in his respective craft. Some made clothes, some household articles, and some tools of various kinds.  Some brought edibles from small farms. These goods were then exchanged appropriately before the commencement of the meal and, as each pig provided a commodity in order to partake of the bounty, all was well.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:47 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
“Reputation Defender”?
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by Richard Kostelanetz (March 2013)


Often on radio both public and private I hear advertisements for Reputation Defender, which promises to remove from the Internet negative information about prospective clients. As a veteran writer initially fearing the suppression of critical opinion, I went online and quickly opened the Wikipedia entry on Reputation.com. On 10 February 2013, I discovered this critique that I remember seeing a whole year before: "The company received publicity in the United States [n 2007] when it managed to remove death photographs of Nikki Catsouras from about 300 of some 400 Internet sites hosting them.”

Successful while that might initially seem, what undermines this purported achievement is acknowledged in the next Wikipedia sentence: “The photos spread to new sites, and [the company's CEO Michael] Fertik acknowledged their removal as ‘a virtually unwinnable battle’.”  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:41 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
A Night to Bless Israel and Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
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This video is from A Night to Bless Israel and former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger that occurred on the evening of Sunday, February 17, 2013 at First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola, Florida.  Ambassador Yoram Ettinger presented a speech before audience of over 1200 at a worship service conducted by Pastor Brian Kinsey of the First Pentecostal Church. The Ambassador spoke about US Israel relations and G_d's covenant with the Jewish people, the belief in one god and the Judeo-Christian Values affirmed in the founding of America and the Jewish nation of Israel. Among the audience where locally elected officials, other clergy  and members of both B'nai Israel synagogue and First Pentecostal Church. It was the finale to a series of events at which Ambassador Ettinger spoke over Presidents Day Weekend 2013 co-sponsored by B'nai Israel Synagogoue and First Pentecostal Church. The video features, an Escambia County proclamation read by County Council Chairman Gene Valentino and introduction of the Ambassador by Rabbi Jordan Gerson that connected the two worship communities.. Members of the Pentecostal Church Agnus Dei Choir sang both the Israeli (Hatikvah) and American National anthems. The Choir is directed by David Geri Music Minister at First Pentecostal who as Media Director supervised the production of this video . Credits for editing of the video got to church members Gary Kennedy and Scott White who assisted in its production. The organization of the Presidents Day Weekend events featuring Ambassador Ettinger was the result of a Task Force that included Pastor Kinsey, Assistant Pastor Matthew Johnson and Kenneth Lamb from First Pentecostal as well as Rabbi Gerson and myself from B'nai Israel synagogue.

Watch A Night to Bless Israel and Ambassador Yoram Ettinger  Vimeo video:

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:35 PM by Jerry Gordon
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Uzi's Wife
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by Moshe Dann (March 2013)


Three years after Uzi died, Bella took their wedding rings to Avraham, the jeweler, determined to make some changes in her life. Before becoming a widow, she'd often been to his store on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, for earrings, a bracelet, a necklace, or just to browse; it gave her an excuse. His store had been more than a place of ornaments and common fantasies. Avraham had become a friend whose smile and graciousness made her feel special, knowing intuitively what she wanted and how to please her. His soft voice and European manners were so different from rough Israeli machismo and Uzi's cool indifference.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:33 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church - Doing God in the Middle East
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by Esmerelda Weatherwax (March 2013)


To St Margaret’s church in Westminster to hear Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic church speak on ‘Doing God in the Middle East’, a talk for Civil Servants, part of the Westminster Abbey Institute spring 2013 programme. This is not a transcript; I do not do shorthand. It is my recollection, from longhand notes. more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:28 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Hidden Shame as a Weapon of Mass Destruction
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by Thomas J. Scheff (March 2013)


The Earth is Still Flat    

Our lives are mostly ruled by assumptions we make about reality.
Some are true, but many are completely false.
We can’t tell the difference....

In modern societies, the idea of waging a war of revenge to restore one’s honor seems hopelessly old-fashioned. Could it still be at work today, but silently? This motive was openly admitted in the Spanish-American War in 1898. But by 1914, the time of WWI, it was no longer used by governments.  Nevertheless, the idea was still very much alive, particularly in France.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:22 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Reductionism Undermines Both Science and Culture
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by Ramray Bhat and Nikos Salingaros (March 2013)


Introduction

Reductionistic thinking, which is the philosophy of contracting complex systems in science and society to smaller or single causalities, is dangerous. With this contraction comes an indifference towards uncovering and appreciating complex explanations and the variability contributed by the context. In the sciences, reductionism leads to the unfortunate skewing of effort and funding towards what are promoted as “basic” questions, and the neglect of disciplines that are most likely to help humanity by acting on practical scales. The effects of reductionism in society are even more alarming. Reductionistic thinking leaves little room for variety, cultural traditions, living urban environments, or religion, thus reducing our worldview to a sterile minimalism bereft of several of the most glorious achievements of evolved human civilization. There is also the additional and more practical consequence: reductionism is responsible for leading us towards societal collapse.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:16 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Why Left and Right Differ Elsewhere
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by Norman Berdichevsky (March 2013)


The European democracies are much older than the United States and when our constitution was adopted in 1789, its principles of representative government and indirect election of the President (through the electoral college) and federal Senators (elected by members of the state legislatures) were all considered examples of conservative principles but were often referred to in Europe as “Liberal” because they protected individual rights and local governments from the abuses of the “old guard” of kings, aristocratic privilege, the tyranny of a state church, the restrictive nature of hereditary guilds and onerous import or export duties restricting foreign trade (and even among different regions of the same country).  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:10 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Pogonophobia
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by G. Murphy Donovan (March 2013)

“What difference does it make?” – Hilary Clinton

If you were wondering about the vector of American foreign and military policy in the next four years; you could do worse than examine the new national security team: John Brennan, John Kerry, Charles Hagel, and Martin Dempsey.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 2:04 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
The American Alliance Fighting Foreign Laws Which Threaten Our Constitutional Freedoms
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An interview with Christopher W. Holton of the Center for Security Policy

by Jerry Gordon (March 2013)


During the month of February 2013, freedom of speech and human rights in Europe had been dramatically challenged. On February 5th, Lars Hedegaard, executive editor of Dispatch International and co-founder of the Danish and International Free Press Societies opened his front  in Denmark what he thought was a postman delivering a package only to be shot at by a Jihadi in an attempted assassination. Hedegaard over powered the assailant who subsequently fled and is still at large. He joins fellow Danish political cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Swedish artist Lars Vilks all of whom have been targeted with violence for exercising their rights to free expression.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:56 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
False Gods
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by Fergus Downie (March 2013)


God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science,

Communism, as the late Ernest Gellner noted had no Vendee and scarcely any bunker to speak of. Most social orders in their darkest hour can usually call upon diehards whose faith shines brightest when others falter. This after all is one of the hallmarks of faith; the more difficult it is to maintain the more it defines the individual - but the collapsing Soviet Union could not even generate rumours of Werewolves.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:50 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Portuguese-Men-Of-Art
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by Theodore Dalrymple (March 2013)


Recently I stayed in a flat in Paris for a few weeks that belonged to a friend’s sister who had died not long before aged seventy-six. It is a strange and slightly unsettling experience to move into the home of someone who has died not long before and many of whose effects are still present: the ordinary effects of day-to-day living (little labelled pots of tarragon and paprika, for example) as well as the records of lifetime (holiday photos and the notes taken more than fifty years before as a student of pharmacy). There were little lists of things to do, telephone numbers, books of recipes, and a tiny box of postage stamps for letters that will now never be written.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:45 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
A Fearful Symmetry
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by Mark Anthony Signorelli (March 2013)


Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

              - Blake, “The Tyger”

Suppose we were watching a tiger hunting in “the forests of the night.” Suppose we were observing – from a safe distance, of course – his deliberate course through the brush and the undergrowth as he stalked his prey. What is it that we would see? In a certain sense, there are two scenes we would be watching.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:29 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
The Primacy of Human Will
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by Rebecca Bynum (March 2013)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. – Revelation 3:20

Material determinists continue to argue that human free will is a weird kind of cruel illusion. Sam Harris, for example, argues that whereas we are not our own creators, and did not create all the myriad factors of our environment, do not control all the factors of influence that go into our genetic and environmental make-up, that therefore no decision made can be said to have been truly free. All the evolutionary factors of our make-up going back to the beginning of life on earth (indeed beyond, since why this planet and not another?) would have to have been consciously decided by us to make our decisions free since all of those factors influence our decisions at least to some degree now. Hence, our decisions are limited; therefore, we are not free will beings.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:24 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Destructive Creation
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by Theodore Dalrymple (March 2013)


When I was a small boy adults used to say to me, ‘If you ask a silly question you’ll get a silly answer.’ This irritated my nascent sense of logic: for if I genuinely did not know the answer to my question, how could I possibly be expected to know that it was silly? And could anything be silly in the absence of knowledge that it was? This was my childish equivalent of Socrates’ or Plato’s doctrine that no one does wrong willingly: a doctrine that does not accord with my clinical experience as a doctor, let alone with my experience of life. But at the time, the accusation of silliness seemed to me worse than merely wrong: it was unjust. I did not appreciate at that age that there could be such a thing as a responsibility to know, even if one did not.  more>>>

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Posted on 02/28/2013 1:20 PM by NER
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
When The Tech-Crazed Fall Out
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Google's Sergey Brin rips smartphones, shows off Glass

Computerworld
38 minutes ago
Written by
Sharon Gaudin
Computerworld - Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and head of the company's Glass project, said the computerized eyeglasses are more masculine than smartphones.
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Posted on 02/28/2013 12:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Converts To Islam And How They Do
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From The Jerusalem Post:

Feb. 27, 2013

New report details al-Qaida membership in the US

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT

New York seen as a terror group hub; majority of members under age 30, have US citizenship, well-educated, employed.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 Photo: REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek
WASHINGTON – More than half of all al-Qaida operatives and their affiliates in the United States who have committed terrorist offenses are US citizens and a third were born in America, according to a new report profiling the groups’ American adherents.

The 720-page, telephone book-sized volume produced by the Henry Jackson Society and presented at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Tuesday, carefully examines the 171 cases of al- Qaida members or those inspired by the organization who have been convicted in US courts or participated in suicide attacks against the US homeland between 1997 and 2011.

The study found that 95 percent of the terrorist offenses were committed by men, 57% of whom were under the age of 30. New York was seen as a hub for their activity, with more – 14% – residing there than elsewhere and with large number of those living elsewhere trafficking through.

Nearly a quarter of the operatives were converts to Islam, with over half of those born in the US having converted.

And those who converted, all of whom did so from Christianity as far as could be ascertained, were far more likely to have carried out offenses (as opposed to having participated only in training or incitement) than others.

The group researched were fairly well-educated and employed. More than half had attended some form of college, and a quarter had done some higher study. In addition, more than half, or 57%, were in school or had a job at the time they were charged or committed their attacks.

Report co-author Robin Simcox described the operatives as “US citizens who are mostly educated, mostly employed, who haven’t been marginalized by the system. They’ve mostly passed through the system.”

However, he and Michael Hayden, the former Central Intelligence Agency director who wrote the report’s forward, suggested that more personal experiences of social dislocation could be a major factor in who ended up being radicalized.

“I’m willing to accept the possibility that this has a lot more to do with the Crips and the Bloods than it does with the Koran,” Hayden said. “Maybe this is just one expression in a post-industrial society of how young people... deal with alienation.”

He continued, “That doesn’t dismiss it. That doesn’t make it unimportant. In fact it’s a particular form of embrace that makes the alienated [person] even more dangerous.”

Simcox said that there was a tremendous spike in the numbers of al-Qaida adherents in the US after the September 11 attacks, as these individuals were apparently drawn to the group’s ideology.

He suggested that alienated individuals might have been attracted to radical Islam at that point, rather than other outlets, because of the widespread attention to and dissemination of al-Qaida’s message, particularly through YouTube and other Internet vehicles. [in every society, there are those who are psychically or socially marginal. Combine that marginality with the allure of a ready-made collective, and a rigid faith that offers a Compleat Guide To The Universe, and the appeal of Islam to such people, is clear. And then they have a well-defined enemy to blame for everything, their own problems and failures which are now seen as owing to the corruption in the land caused by the Kuffar. Islam justifies their criminal behavior, their pre-existing mental conditon, including a possible penchant for violence, and ,supplies it with the justifications supplied by the tenets and teachings of Islam. What could be better?]].

Those who were later arrested often expressed their outrage with various American policies in the Middle East, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Simcox noted, but he said there was little indication terror activities were carried out in direct reaction to events overseas.

He added that, “In a lot of them you see foreign grievances being brought up [but] from the US’s point of view there’s only so really much you can do about that.” He concluded, “You have to try to make your best and soundest policies, and after that it might cause some levels of radicalization.”

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Posted on 02/28/2013 9:23 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
A Terminally-Naive Musical Interlude: Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (Peter, Paul, And Mary)
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Lie back, think of distraught secularists -- a relative term -- in Egypt and Tunisia, and those who only recently in Washington were telling everyone to Get On The Right Side Of History, and listen here.
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Posted on 02/28/2013 6:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
In Egypt: Where Have All The Soldiers Gone? Or, When Will Those Arab Secularists Ever Learn?
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From NBC News:

February 28, 2012

Egypt's liberals ponder return to military rule amid fears of 'Kafkaesque' Islamist state

Nasser Nasser / AP

An mural in Cairo depicts ousted president Hosni Mubarak, right, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, left, with Arabic that reads "before the revolution, let them be amused, after the revolution, let them be paralyzed."

CAIRO, Egypt -- Liberals and other opponents of the Islamist government in Egypt have called for the military to resume control of the country if its dire economy continues to worsen amid ongoing political turmoil.

On Tuesday, a coalition of leftist and liberal parties known as the National Salvation Front announced it would boycott upcoming parliamentary elections, claiming President Mohammed Morsi is driving through an Islamist agenda and breaking a promise to govern on behalf of all Egyptians.

Without the NSF’s participation, many fear Islamist parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the more conservative Salafist parties will sweep the elections and dominate the House of Representatives. This would give them near complete control of the executive and legislative branches of government.

Amid the political strife, Egypt’s economy is on the brink of economic collapse –  the government announced earlier this month it had run out of money to continue to pay for fuel subsidies.

Former United Nations nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who now leads the moderate Dustour party, was recently quoted by Foreign Policy magazine as saying that if “Egypt is on the brink of default [on its international debts], if law and order is absent, [the army] has a national duty to intervene.”

"I am sure they are as worried as everyone else. You cannot exclude that the army will intervene to restore law and order," he told reporters.

'Act of deception'
Referring to the forthcoming election, ElBaradei also said he would “not be part of an act of deception" in a message on Twitter

“Absence of law & order, due process & cascade of Fatwas & ‘legal’ investigations vs opposition fast tracks Egypt towards a Kafkaesque state,” he wrote in another tweet.

Ahmed Youssef / EPA

Eighteen days of popular protest culminated in the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.

While liberals supported the revolution against former strongman Hosni Mubarak, some now see the idea of a military regime as a lesser of two evils if the alternative is the country's collapse.

Opposition newspapers, including el-Dostoor and el-Masry el-Youm, have highlighted the failures of Morsi's government with several pundits suggesting the military may have to intervene if the situation continues to deteriorate.

And on Monday, dozens of people rallied in Cairo at the tomb of former President Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated by Islamist soldiers in 1981, to demand the military reassume control of the country and remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

The demonstration may have been relatively small, but the call for a return to military rule has created waves of anxiety across the country.

In the past few weeks, Morsi and his office have constantly sought to reassure the public that there is no tension between him and the military.

The president has denied local press reports that he was on the verge of sacking his defense minister.

Abir Abdullah / EPA, file

An Egyptian works in a factory in Cairo on Feb. 18. The IMF has refused the country's requests for a loan, citing the need for economic reforms.

But the military has fueled some of the tension by issuing warnings of collapse and statements of tacit disapproval of the current political stalemate.

Even the dates of the parliamentary election – to be held over three months – have been cause for controversy.

The date of the first round of voting originally fell on Easter weekend. In a country with nearly a 10 percent Christian population, the dates seemed at best bizarre, at worst offensive. The presidency quickly retracted the election announcement and declared new dates.

Fragile
Islamist parties have dismissed the opposition’s election boycott, saying because they can’t win at the ballot box, they are boycotting the process and thus are jeopardizing Egypt’s fragile democracy.

All this adds to the pressure on its equally fragile economy.

Egypt has been desperately seeking to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which would give it a cash injection that would only Band Aid the problem, not solve it.  

On the second anniversary of the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, protesters clashed and dozens were killed outside a jail. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

So far, the IMF has refused, citing the need for economic reforms. But the government has struggled to get the political backing it needs to take such drastic steps as cutting subsidies that could trigger broad street protests among those who would be affected the most.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the country experienced one of its worst tourist accidents on Tuesday when 19 people were killed when a hot air balloon caught fire.

The accident near the ancient city of Luxor raised fears that the country’s decimated tourism industry would be dealt another blow because of increased concerns about safety standards as well as the security of foreigners visiting Egypt.

In a country once beaming with hope and optimism, where its revolution was celebrated for its unity, a newly divided and tumultuous reality has now firmly taken root.

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Posted on 02/28/2013 6:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
British Understatement
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Egyptian hot-air balloonists mainly not well trained, expert claims

The Guardian  - ‎14 hours ago‎
Egyptian hot-air balloon pilots have "very weak" training that is "inappropriate to best practice", a British balloon expert, who advises the country's government on safety in the sector, has warned.
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Posted on 02/28/2013 6:31 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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