CNN Exposed: Is CNN Rallying for the Muslim Brotherhood or Moderate Egyptians?

by Nile El Wardani

Today marked the second anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution that continues to wage on with the same chants “Leave Leave.” This time directed against the new undemocratically elected President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Undemocratic, because the political system was rigged from the first round of elections, which was never reported by CNN.

CNN has the power to bring the Egyptian economy to the brink of collapse through its worldwide reporting. This should not be underestimated. When CNN skews its reporting towards sensationalism giving a small violent corner lead coverage over the millions of moderate Egyptians demonstrating peacefully, this is nothing short of destructive, unethical and dangerous.

My son and I marched today with approximately 1,000 Maadi residents from Maadi Horreya Square to Tahrir Square a distance of about 15 km. The demonstrators chanted “Down with the rule of the Brotherhood’s Guide.” Political activists, Constitution Party members plus many newly formed popular party members, and Ultras youths participated.
I am an American Egyptian professor at the American University in Cairo. I regularly watch CNN International. I have come to realize that CNN’s coverage of Egypt has been and continues to be misleading, insufficient and biased. This does not allow the millions of CNN audiences worldwide to understand fully the true picture of what is going on in Egypt. This hurts Egypt and its people tremendously. Is this the aim of such coverage?

CNN is not the only guilty party, other international media outlets and the Egyptian government-controlled press have chosen to give far more coverage to fringe violent offenders rather than hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators. The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Tahrir Square was amongst one of the few international journalists that reported correctly that there were “large numbers of protesters and that the violence was restricted to a small corner.”

It is time the press report the figures correctly. Hundreds of thousands of moderate Egyptians filled the squares of Egypt yesterday, compared to the dozens of violent young offenders who got practically all the press coverage internationally.

Let’s put things in perspective. Egyptians are in the midst of a two-year revolution. They have plenty to be angry about and plenty to fight for. Despite this, Egyptians police themselves and behave in an incredibly humane way.

Yesterday police officers gunned down nine demonstrators in Suez and there were over 400 injuries around the country. Very few civilians own guns. Compare this to the US where an average of 82 people every day are killed by gunshot throughout the country. The US population is three times larger than Egypt, therefore the ratio equivalent is 27.3 deaths per day in the US. In a time of peace in the US the death rate by gunshot is 3 times higher than that of Egypt on one of the most politically heated days in recent history.

Hundreds of thousands of moderate Egyptians will continue to demonstrate even tomorrow and for months to come. Mohamed Sayed Said, a young engineer graduate summed up his frustrations, “We are still protesting after two years of the revolution. We have been asking for jobs, bread, freedom and social justice and none of our dreams have come true.”

The Egyptian people deserve to be applauded for their patience and their tenacity to continue to protest peacefully and with restraint. When CNN and other media outlets knowingly distort the facts on the ground for their own ratings looking for either “blood” or “fire” to sensationalize the news Egypt and its people suffer tremendously.

CNN must report that life goes on as normal here in Egypt. Even in the aftermath of the continuing revolution, Egypt’s cities, towns and villages remain far safer than those in the USA. It is not only safe to travel in Egypt, it is one of the most beautiful, historical and welcoming countries on Earth.

CNN and all international media have the power to help the Egyptian people realize their dreams of bread, jobs, freedom and social justice. Report the facts. Don’t sensationalize. Depict Egypt as it is; a safe country with great hospitality, 85% of the world’s ancient sites, amazing nature, beaches, deserts, oases, world-renowned dive sites in the Red Sea, incomparable historical sites; Pharonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic, Islamic and modern and a people that will welcome you with a smile. Come to Egypt. You are welcome.

Nile El Wardani, MPH, PhD is a professor at the American University in Cairo.

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The Extremist Cult of Capitalism – It all seems connected somehow

Published on Monday, January 21, 2013 by Common Dreams
The Extremist Cult of Capitalism
by Paul Buchheit

A ‘cult,’ according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined as “Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work..(and)..a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion.”

Capitalism has been defined by adherents and detractors: Milton Friedman said, “The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm, capitalism is that kind of a system.” John Maynard Keynes said, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

Perhaps it’s best to turn to someone who actually practiced the art: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” Al Capone said that.

Capitalism is a cult. It is devoted to the ideals of privatization over the common good, profit over social needs, and control by a small group of people who defy the public’s will. The tenets of the cult lead to extremes rather than to compromise. Examples are not hard to find.

1. Extremes of Income

By sitting on their growing investments, the richest five Americans made almost $7 billion each in one year. That’s $3,500,000.00 per hour. The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour.

Our unregulated capitalist financial system allows a few well-positioned individuals to divert billions of dollars from the needs of society. If the 400 richest Americans lumped together their investment profits from last year, the total would pay in-state tuition and fees for EVERY college student in the United States.

2. Extremes of Wealth

The combined net worth of the world’s 250 richest individuals is more than the total annual living expenses of almost half the world – three billion people.

Within our own borders the disparity is no less shocking. For every one dollar of assets owned by a single black or Hispanic woman, a member of the Forbes 400 has over forty million dollars. That’s equivalent to a can of soup versus a mansion, a yacht, and a private jet. Most of the Forbes 400 wealth has accrued from nonproductive capital gains. It’s little wonder that with the exception of Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon, the U.S. has the highest degree of wealth inequality in the world.

3. Extremes of Debt

Up until the 1970s U.S. households had virtually no debt. Now the total is $13 trillion, which averages out to $100,000 per American family.

Debt appears to be the only recourse for 21- to 35-year-olds, who have lost, on average, 68% of their median net worth since 1984, leaving each of them about $4,000.

4. Extremes of Health Care

A butler in black vest and tie passed the atrium waterfall and entered the $2,400 suite, where the linens were provided by the high-end bedding designer Frette of Italy and the bathroom glimmered with polished marble. Inside a senior financial executive awaited his ‘concierge’ doctor for private treatment.

He was waiting in the penthouse suite of the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

On the streets outside were some of the 26,000 Americans who will die this year because they are without health care. In 2010, 50 million Americans had no health insurance coverage.

5. Extremes of Justice

William James Rummel stole $80 with a credit card, then passed a bad check for $24, then refused to return $120 for a repair job gone bad. He got life in prison. Christopher Williams is facing over 80 years in prison for selling medical marijuana in Montana, a state which allows medical marijuana. Patricia Spottedcrow got 12 years for a $31 marijuana sale, and has seen her children only twice in the past two years. Numerous elderly Americans are in prison for life for non-violent marijuana offenses.

Banking giant HSBC, whose mission statement urges employees “to act with courageous integrity” in all they do, was described by a U.S. Senate report as having “exposed the U.S. financial system to ‘a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing'” in their dealings with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, which is considered the deadliest drug gang in the world.

HSBC received a fine equivalent to four weeks’ profits. The bank’s CEO said, “we are profoundly sorry.”

In the words of Bertrand Russell, “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

Accurate to the extreme.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

The Scramble for Egypt’s Oil – While Egyptians Continue Their Revolution Closed Door Negotiations May Further Strip Egypt of its Vital Resources

In the Qattamiya Heights Club House, amid the manicured green lawns and the golf course, multinational executives and government officials debated last week agreements that will determine whether billions of dollars end up in private coffers or become public revenues. Changes to a single contract could make a difference of more than US$5 billion — more than Egypt’s annual spending on health.

The round table, titled “The Future of Oil & Gas Agreements in Egypt,” gives insight into behind-the-scenes negotiations. The arrogance in the room was palpable, as was the frustration at not getting the desired public recognition. Country managers from major companies grumbled, “People don’t understand how difficult life is for us as oil companies … All they see is the billions we make — not our efforts for the country.” After all, “The oil sector was the only industry to have kept operating through the revolution, despite labor issues.”

The oil managers feel they’ve been patient: “We still have many problems, including labor problems. Since the revolution, people say that Egyptians are becoming different — now they are fighting for their rights. Who pays for this? The companies.” Workers and local communities might be forgiven for not enjoying being reduced to “problems” and “challenges.”

Amid the canapes, the principal argument focused on demands by the multinationals for “severe surgical operations in the system;” the “system” being the agreements governing fossil fuel extraction in Egypt and their implementation. Pressure is being applied for reduced oversight and participation by the Egyptian state (“greater flexibility”), and ultimately for a shift away from Production Sharing Agreements, or PSAs, which are the primary form of oil contracts in Egypt.

In the words of the private oilmen (for they were all men): “We need to completely deregulate the system, and open the markets.”

Currently, most of Egypt’s oil and gas concessions are run by joint ventures between private oil companies and Egyptian state oil companies (EGPC, EGAS and Ganope). PSAs are notoriously complex, but in summary, royalties are paid to the Egyptian state, the private company recovers its investments and the remaining profit oil is shared. This means that while British Petroleum and Shell run the oil operations, Egyptian state oil companies participate in decision making and sign off on spending.

Now the private companies want a shift to a tax/royalty scheme — especially for drilling deep beneath the Mediterranean and the Western Desert. This would transfer further power to the multinationals, and reduce oversight and accountability while making excessive profiteering easier. Tax/royalty schemes are a throwback to the colonial period and considered inappropriate in the region.

Egypt is already seen as having the worst contracts in the region. Yet oil companies like Total are threatening to focus their investment elsewhere if they don’t receive “more incentives to invest in Egypt.” But you can only take oil out of the ground once. So it’s generally a bad idea to sign 20-year contracts while a country is desperate and in a weak negotiating position — not least, contracts that won’t deliver any oil or revenues for six years anyhow.

Given the widespread corruption and anger at the Egyptian state bureaucracy, public sympathy for the state oil companies might be limited. Yet these are the people’s resources.

Handing over control to BP, Shell and Apache would leave them subjugated to the tyranny of the market and an even more distant, corporate bureaucracy. You can kick officials and politicians out during a revolution. Companies can also be evicted too, but then they come after you in arbitration tribunals and billion-dollar court cases.

The trend in Egypt’s oil sector is toward deregulation, less public control and greater corporate profiteering. This is dangerous.

These contracts direct billions of dollars of revenues, and are ultimately questions of sovereignty and independence. The struggle for local control over fossil fuels was part and parcel of decolonization in the region.

Egypt should avoid rushing into reworked contracts. Achieving anything close to a fair deal relies on vigorous public debate and a democracy where people benefit from the revenues and resources. Discussions in which the people remain a “problem” or a “challenge” remain stuck in a pre-revolutionary time-warp.

Hence the real lesson from last week’s clubhouse roundtable isn’t in the details of terms discussed, but who is in the room and where the room is. Decisions on managing Egypt’s fossil fuels should not be made behind closed doors by a select few. Breaking away from the repression of the past and achieving bread, freedom and social justice in Egypt requires both social transformation and energy transformation.

Moreover, debates around oil contracts need to break out of the fiscal box.

You can’t decide what to do with oil reserves without broaching subjects like the right to energy, environmental justice for local communities and how Egypt will deal with climate change. These are questions of power that will necessarily oppose the interests of small elites to those of the majority of Egyptians. These are questions that shouldn’t be settled in Qattamiya Heights — or in BP or EGPC’s headquarters.

by Mika Minio-Paluello an oil and gas expert. He works as community support campaigner for Platform London. Posted on Egypt Independent http://www.egyptindependent.com/opinion/scramble-egypt-s-oil