Opinion – Daily News Egypt https://dailynewsegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 05 Dec 2018 19:45:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Education is tomorrow’s gold mine https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/28/education-is-tomorrows-gold-mine/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/28/education-is-tomorrows-gold-mine/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 09:00:08 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=682304 Human capital is our most prised resource—an almost infinite resource, if we are capable of developing it to its full potential

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The globalisation of trade and commerce since the late 1980s has led in parallel to a globalisation of the labour market, in order to meet the huge needs of emerging economies. It is what we call today the ‘talent war’. Simultaneously, a global market for higher education has developed, driven by new, common diploma standards determining that schools and universities need to work harder than ever to attract the best students.

Competition is stronger than ever

This competition has become even more intense with the digital revolution and the rise of industry 4.0. Countries and companies the world over are aware that they need to attract those who have the highest potential—in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data, connectivity, cyber security, among others—and train tomorrow’s talents if they want to be leaders on innovation’s forefront.

“Countries and companies need to attract those who have the highest potential and train tomorrow’s talents”.

Emerging countries have long been focused on the construction of their economy, but they are now also beginning to treat education as a priority— often with spectacular results. Thus, China has built one of the most successful university systems in the world with nearly 7.5 million graduates in 2017, twice as many as in 2007. This focus on universities, as well as on heavy investments in R&D, has led to China becoming one of the world’s most innovative economies. The country climbed five places in the 2018 Global Innovation Index. China now ranks ahead of countries such as Canada and Norway, to name but a few.

The governments of India, Brazil and Russia manifest similar intentions – as do all countries that want to accelerate their growth in the coming decades.

Additional education means increased prosperity

Additional education leads to fresh innovation… and therefore, increased prosperity. The 2992 Nobel prize winner Gary Becker was the first economist to establish a clear link between investments in education and income growth, at both an individual and a national level. Relative to companies, his enlightening concept of “human capital” explains why companies who invest more in training experience further success.

Gary Becker’s analysis is obviously even more relevant as the ongoing spectacular digital transformation unfolds; contemporary individuals need to master numerous, diverse and constantly evolving skills, as do companies and modern societies.

Companies have an educational mission

As Chairman and CEO of Thales, but also as a citizen and as a father, I believe more than ever that our investment in human capital needs to evolve and intensify for everyone’s benefit.

How? I will talk about what I know best: businesses. I believe that a company can only exist and remain innovative if it takes its role in education very seriously.

There are different ways to do this. We know the strength of the German model, with its apprenticeship programmes for teenagers starting from the age of 14. A few years ago, the CEO of one of the largest German car manufacturing companies started out as an apprentice – demonstrating if need be, that companies can train and foster talents, setting no limits on their ambition other than their own commitment and desire to learn.

“A company can innovate only if it takes its role in education very seriously”.

Another method that we favour at Thales is to collaborate with academic ecosystems around the world. We support ecosystems with, of course, an aim of economic development, but above all for reasons relating to our most ambitious mission, which is designing, developing and implementing technologies that will concretely improve the daily life of all, i.e. to enable technology to assist mankind.

What we do in Canada is emblematic of this approach. Montreal is a fantastic hub of intelligence and knowledge, structured around prestigious universities and driven by a generous vision – the “Montreal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence”. That’s why we chose to establish a global research centre in Artificial Intelligence eXpertise, CortAIx, and a new extension of our Digital Factory.

CortAIx researchers hence collaborate closely with researchers from the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), the Institute of Data Valorisation (IVADO) and the Vector Institute of Toronto to develop tomorrow’s technologies whilst honouring ethical principles.

Similarly, the company’s commitment to the ENCQOR project (the evolution of cloud services in the Quebec-Ontario corridor for research and innovation) is also based on partnerships with academic and research institutions. The ENCQOR project will boost innovation and enable the successful deployment of 5G throughout all of Canada,

This approach is the model for the dozens of academic partnerships we have established around the world. In France with the CNRS and top engineering schools, in the US with the MIT, in China with several universities in Beijing and Hong Kong, in India with the Institutes of Technology in Bombay and Delhi, as well as in many other countries.

Science has the power to make people speculate

A third way is for tech companies to commit to helping children and teenagers discover the infinite reservoir for amazement and intelligence that we now call STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

When it was launched 20 years ago, I was impressed by the 1992 Physics Nobel prize winner, Georges Charpak’s initiative (“La Main à la Pâte”) to renovate and promote the teaching of science and technology in France’s primary and secondary schools. The initial idea was absolutely luminous: to teach children how to observe and experiment, so that they could develop their understanding of the world, their ability to work together, and ultimately become smarter, more confident, and more creative adults.

It is an ever-inspiring success, and I was very happy to see the Thales Foundation reward an initiative launched by this structure to help students from 12 primary school classes in Châtenay-Malabry build and programme small robots.

“Stimulate the curiosity of young students who may become tomorrow’s researchers and engineers”.

This same societal and educational generosity has led to dozens of Thales technicians and engineers to get involved in projects worldwide. In England, in Crawley, with the Saint Wilfrids school, as part of the Arduino Challenge; in Germany, in Arnstadt and Ditzingen, to introduce children to scientific and technical careers and in the US, in Arlington, to help middle and high school students build mini rockets for the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Because our employees know the emancipating power of scienctific education, engineers and technicians give their time to primary and secondary schools by organising workshops and competitions that stimulate the curiosity of young students, who may become tomorrow’s researchers and engineers.

For a new Age of Enlightenment

In his famous 1784 essay What is Enlightenment? philosopher Emmanuel Kant urged his contemporaries to have “the courage to use their own understanding and reason” to master their destinies. At exactly the same time, mathematician Jean d’Alembert and philosopher Denis Diderot proposed with their Encyclopaedia a prodigious display of the science and technologies of their time, with the same generous ambition of educating and emancipating mankind.

The ongoing digital transformation will require upcoming generations to possess more extensive scientific and technological skills than ever before. As tech companies are full of generous, curious, inventive and very well-trained talents, they must be ever more involved in creating a new Age of Enlightenment, through education and collective research, for the benefit of all.

Patrice Caine is the chairperson, and CEO of Thales Group

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From Hieroglyphs to bits: ICT links ancient Egypt to intelligent world https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/28/from-hieroglyphs-to-bits-ict-links-ancient-egypt-to-intelligent-world/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/28/from-hieroglyphs-to-bits-ict-links-ancient-egypt-to-intelligent-world/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 08:00:45 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=682296 Smartphones resurrect astonishing civilisation of pharaohs

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Egypt has always been the land ancient civilisation of grand pyramids. But there is another impressive site that attracts a substantial number of visitors every year: the mysterious Valley of the Kings. About 700 km south of Cairo, in a patch of desert across the river from the modern city of Luxor, sits the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes.

Over a 1,000 years ago, over 60 pharaohs were buried here. These ancient kings include familiar names like Ramesses and Tutankhamun. The pharaohs’ wives were buried in the nearby Valley of the Queens, named Ta-Set-Neferu, meaning ‘the place of beauty.’

For the past two centuries, the Valley of the Kings has been a focus of study for Egyptologists, and visitors have always been stunned by the Egyptian civilisation. But for a millennium and a half, up until the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics in the 19th century, this desert culture, nourished by the Nile, had been unable to tell its story.

 

Then in 1822, French linguist Jean-François Champollion submitted a thesis to the ‘Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres’ in Paris, announcing a breakthrough in deciphering Egyptian inscriptions. Finally, the veil of mystery that shrouded Ancient Egypt has been unveiled.

Over a century later, Claude Shannon published A Mathematical Theory of Communication, in which he proposed a formal definition of “information” and “bit.”

For the first time, information could be quantified, and with that, the information revolution began.

Today, smartphones are resurrecting the astonishing civilisation of the pharaohs. For modern visitors to the Valley of the Kings, the ancient script and the wonders of Egypt are just seconds away, with information and communications technology (ICT) making it all possible.

 

American physicist John Wheeler once suggested that all things are ultimately information. He called the idea “It from Bit.” The hieroglyphics inscribed in the ancient Valley of the Kings carry information across vast stretches of time, down to the present day. Now, atop the Valley of the Kings, a cell tower transmits information across the world, connecting people and enabling conversations between civilisations.

Over a decade ago, Huawei and a local telecom carrier built a cell tower in the Valley of the Kings, providing mobile coverage to the entire area. At the time, there were no roads to the top of the hill where we built the tower, so we had to haul all of the equipment and supplies, including concrete, iron girders, generators, batteries, and microwave equipment, up by horse, camel, or on our own backs.

Since then, Huawei and our partners have built base stations in almost every corner of Egypt, from Abu Simbel in the south, to Marsa Matruh on the northern coast; from Arish in the east to the Sahara in the west. We have connected the heights of Sinai to the deep Valley of the Kings, and the ancient pyramids of Giza to the modern library of Alexandria.

New ICT technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things are connecting not just people, but objects as well. They also connect the present to the future, and to the ancient past. Champollion’s decoding of the hieroglyphic code meant that people living in modern times could pass through Egypt’s “gateway to the afterlife,” and uncover the secrets of the past. Today, digital applications enable us to see future vistas, and explore new directions for human progress.

Recently, Huawei delivered a massive computing system for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new library of Alexandria. The new supercomputer uses high-density Huawei servers to support specialised applications such as bioinformatics, data mining, physical simulations, weather forecasting, oil exploration, and cloud computing.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in 2002, funded by UNESCO and Egyptian donors. It was built on the site of the great classical Library of Alexandria, which 2,000 years ago was one of the greatest cultural and academic centres in the world.

Although the original library and its contents were tragically lost to history, today’s Bibliotheca houses six different collections with over 1m books. Comprising of four museums and 13 research centres, it is a new hub for the production and dissemination of knowledge that will foster dialogue, learning, and understanding between different peoples and cultures.

In addition to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina project, Huawei has also built customised high-performance computing (HPC) platforms for Warsaw University in Poland, Newcastle University in the UK, and Istanbul Technical University in Turkey. We have established joint innovation centres with Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Centre (PSNC) in Poland, as well as other strategic partners.

All great civilisations have one thing in common: the free exchange of ideas and the exchange and evolution of knowledge.

Growth in computing power and artificial intelligence is making cross-disciplinary research and knowledge-sharing ever more popular. In the information age, the Internet and other communications technologies have created unprecedented levels of communication between cultures. This new age is the starting point for Huawei’s new vision and mission which is to extend digitalisation to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world.

Egypt also has its own vision. The country’s ICT 2030 strategy envisages using ICT technology to create a knowledge-based society. This will stimulate the economy, drive social development, and promote freedom and equality. Smart cities, smart campuses, digital education, and smart travel, are all rapidly developing in Egypt. From ancient symbols to modern digital technology, from simple exchanges to dense convergence and the collision of ideas, ICT technology has inspired surges in creativity, and driven the relentless progress of civilisations.

These are the same goals that Huawei has been working towards for the past 19 years in Egypt. Along the road to an intelligent world, information technology extends wings to an ancient civilisation. And we are the wind beneath those wings.

Joy Tan, president of Global Media & Communications for Huawei Technologies

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Opinion: Violence against women is a universal problem https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/25/opinion-violence-against-women-is-a-universal-problem/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/25/opinion-violence-against-women-is-a-universal-problem/#respond Sun, 25 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=681983 The post Opinion: Violence against women is a universal problem appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Many Germans like pointing out the mistreatment of women abroad. But in truth, Germany is far from perfect itself, argues Beate Hinrichs.Health Minister Jens Spahn, of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), associates "honor" killings and forced marriages exclusively with immigrants. But is that really the case?

Judging by figures presented by Family Minister Franziska Giffey, domestic violence is in fact widespread in Germany, and not only found among immigrants. Almost 140,000 victims of domestic abuse were recorded by police last year — 82 percent of them were female. The statistics show that 147 individuals died after suffering domestic violence; on average, a woman is killed every two and a half days by a violent husband, partner or ex-partner.

Many cases go unreported. But an estimated one in four women, at some time in their lives, fall victim to physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, according a 2004 study commissioned by the Ministry of Family Affairs. The stats also show that domestic violence is not limited to any specific societal group, class or age cohort. So the latest figures on domestic violence, though shocking, don't come as a surprise.

Read more: EU, UN vow to fight violence against women

Patriarchal violence a global problem

There is plenty of evidence that domestic violence is a huge problem in Germany. Women's shelters, for example, are at full capacity.

Each year, thousands of women need to be turned away because there is not enough space, because shelters are underfunded or not accessible to all. Germany is permanently breaching the Council of Europe convention on combating domestic violence.

Granted, women's shelters are disproportionately frequented by non-German women. But the reason for this is that they tend to have fewer financial resources and fewer personal resources on whom they can rely for help.

And yes, non-German women do in fact tend to be at higher risk of suffering violent abuse from their partners. On average, one in three non-German women are abused, according to the study by the Ministry of Family Affairs. So does a person's ethnicity or religion explain their propensity for violence? Is Islam to blame? Not at all.

Read more: Amnesty International decries Europe's 'outdated' rape laws

The explanation is much simpler. Men tend to use violence against women when they are unemployed, when money is tight, when the shared apartment is too small or when the future looks bleak. Immigrants in Germany, on average, are more likely to find themselves in grim circumstances like these. #

This does not justify violence against women in the slightest, but does make clear that ethnicity or religious beliefs are not the causal factors at play.

Violence against women can be found everywhere across the world, and it largely correlates with people's material living conditions.

Read more: Rape laws around the world

'Honor killings' vs 'family dramas'

And what about the widely publicized "honor killings" that are sometimes, though rarely, perpetrated in Germany? Those are severe crimes, without question. A study by the Max Planck Institute showed that statistically 12 such murders are committed per year out of jealousy or revenge, in order to supposedly restore one's honor.

Most media outlets, however, offer crude, simplistic explanations when such murders happen. For instance, when a Turkish man kills his wife, newspapers will label this an "honor killing." But when a German man does such a thing, there is either no report or only a tiny article that classifies the murder as a "family drama." Instead, the media should call both types of murders what they are: domestic violence, committed by men against women. Nothing more, nothing less.

Pretending that those who commit violence against women are always non-Germans is disingenuous. We should confront the truth and accept that domestic violence is a widespread problem in Germany that isn't exclusive to any particular ethnicity. And that, unfortunately, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is still a hugely important day in Germany.

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Italy in maelstrom of euro https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/italy-in-maelstrom-of-euro/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/italy-in-maelstrom-of-euro/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:00:29 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=681459 The country's GDP currently stands at €1.75tn and its growth rates are extremely anaemic, reaching just 0.9%. real per capita gross domestic product (GDP), according to reliable calculations

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Italy joined the eurozone in 1999, with Prime Minister Massimo d’Alema of the ‘Democratic Left’ party. This fateful participation, which entailed the complete loss of independent monetary policy, is undoubtedly the main cause behind the disappointing performance of the Italian economy.

The country’s GDP currently stands at 1.75tn and its growth rates are extremely anaemic, reaching just 0.9%. real per capita gross domestic product (GDP), according to reliable calculations. This increased in the period 1969-1998, when the country had its national currency, the lire, by 104%, while in the period 1999-2016, where the country had already adopted the euro, it fell by 0.75%. On the other hand, in the period 1999-2016, Germany’s real per capita GDP grew by 26.1%, making the citizens of that country the wealthiest among the main economies of the eurozone.

Italy, at the same time, has the third largest state debt in the world after the US and Japan, and therefore its rescue is impossible, since it exceeds the capabilities of European states. The country’s debt, as a percentage of the GDP, currently stands at 132% and in absolute figures to €2,336tn, while in 1999 it was 109,7%. So, one can easily notice a significant increase.

Simultaneously, since 1999, Italy’s steep downhill course in terms of development had begun. Fiat has ceased to dominate the European car market, and the country lost its leading position as a producer of white household appliances. Many factories shut down and several large businesses relocated to other countries. In addition, millions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which were based on the periodic devaluation of the currency, to offset the inadequacies of the Italian economic system, could no longer compete outside the Italian border. What are these inadequacies? Labour market problems, low public and private investment in development and research, high government bureaucracy, a dysfunctional, costly and slow-moving justice system, high levels of corruption and tax evasion etc.

Unemployment is about 11% of the labour force, the fourth highest in the EU after Greece, Spain and Cyprus. Meanwhile, unemployment among young people aged between 15 and 24, which, according to the latest statistics from the Istat Statistics, amounts to a very high percentage of 30.8%, clearly reflecting the deep economic and social crisis which swept Italy.

Poverty rose to its highest level since 2005. The latest Istat report registered 5 million people in absolute poverty in 2017. On a percentage basis, 6.9% of Italian households live in absolute poverty, namely, in a situation where it is not possible to cover the minimum monthly expenses for goods and services which, Italian families consider necessary for a minimum acceptable standard of living.

Italy has a largest number of bank branches per inhabitant across Europe, which is an additional characteristic of a faulty business model, surviving only by interest and corporate loans. Thus, given that the interest rates in the eurozone are zero, banks are operating not profiting, having accumulated insecurities (red loans) that currently reach about €260bn (15% of the GDP), of which much is lost.

The Italian economy, the third largest in the woefully-designed monetary union, loaded with debts and red loans of the Eurozone, which is an incredibly rigid system, an iron-clogged space for 19 different countries in productivity, inflation, trade balance and technological progress.

Therefore, the eurozone is nothing else but a field of conflicting interests among its member countries. Thus, what is of great interest to Italy is not of any interest for Germany. However, reconciling interests over the years of the common currency has proven to be impossible. This is because Germany as the primary economic power has managed to rule and dominate, using the euro for its benefit, while other countries instead of resisting and even colliding, bowed and obeyed.

However, the cost of delaying Italy’s exit from the eurozone—which has so far prevented an apparent fear of the Italian political system of any short-term exit negative effects—will ultimately prove to be far greater than the rupture cost in the beginning of the economic crisis.

The recent decision by the coalition government of the Movement 5 stars M5S and Lega, formed in May 2018, to submit a budget for 2019 with a deficit of 2.4% of the GDP is clearly in the right direction, because reinforcing the Italian economy is important by strengthening domestic demand. What is also important is the prosperity of Italian people, and not Brussels’s strict fiscal regulations imposed by Germany and which do not allow it.

Italy must at last cease to succumb to Berlin’s commands and fear a break with the German eurozone because it is able to return to the lire and thus regain its political, economic and institutional sovereignty. Despite current problems, it still has the second largest euro industry after Germany and the fifth largest in the world, with participation of 19% of the country’s GDP. Italy manufactures aircrafts, cars, weapons, electronic systems and perfumes, shoes and clothes. Italy also needs energy, which is cheap oil and gas, and that it does not have. But it could secure oil from its former colony, Libya, and gas from Gazprom. Thus, with low production costs and a flexible national currency, it would become extremely competitive.

To sum it up, Italy, will sink numerically if its political leadership does not take, as long as it is still time, the ground-breaking and dynamic decision to return to its national currency.

Curriculum vitae

Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens in 1967. He is a novelist, poet and columnist. He studied economics and has completed postgraduate studies in the tourism economy. Articles of his have been republished in newspapers, magazines and sites worldwide. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish and published in literary magazines and literary sections of newspapers. He has published seven poetry books and two novels. His books have been published in the US, the UK, Spain and Italy.

Email: skarderinis@hotmail.gr              

Facebook: Karderinis Isidoros

Twitter: isidoros karderinis

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Obesity is Serious Threat to Children’s Health https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/obesity-is-serious-threat-to-childrens-health/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/obesity-is-serious-threat-to-childrens-health/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 12:00:42 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=681455 Rapid development accompanied by decreasing levels of physical activity, increased caloric consumption 

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In many cultures and in older times obesity in children was a sign of good health. This is no longer the case according to a US National Institute of Health study, and because of its serious effects on their health, the global rise in childhood obesity has become an ‘epidemic’. “It is an exploding nightmare in the developing world,” says Peter Gluckman, co-chair of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Commission.

Some studies carried out in Middle Eastern countries show that childhood obesity is a serious problem in the region. The rapid pace of economic development in the region has been accompanied by decreasing levels of physical activity and increased caloric consumption, particularly of ‘junk food’. These are important factors in child and adolescent obesity.

Dr. Cesar Chelala

Children who are obese are likely to remain obese as adults and are at risk for several serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart failure. In addition, obesity in children can hinder their educational attainment. It is important, therefore, that public health and school officials develop a series of measures aimed at increasing the level of physical activity among children both inside and outside school, and conduct educational campaigns showing the risks of consuming high calories foods and drinks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) alerts that the rise in childhood obesity in low and middle-income countries is an alarming trend that demands a ‘high level action’. About half of the world’s obese children, 48%, live in Asia. Although many countries in South East Asia have achieved impressive economic gains in recent times, there has been, at the same time, a rise in conditions such as over and under-nutrition, where some children are overweight while their peers may suffer from stunting and wasting.

This ‘double burden’ of malnutrition is happening now in middle-income countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Christiane Rudert, regional nutrition adviser for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific stated in a recent press release, “Asian children are now at risk of malnutrition from both ends of the spectrum”.

In China, a 29-year survey of 28,000 children aged between seven and 18 was carried out in eastern Shandong province. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, found that 17% of boys and 9% of girls were obese in 2014. This showed a significant increase from under 1% for both genders in 1985. The study also showed that the increase was particularly more notable in children aged seven to 12 than in adolescents.

 

There is not one factor that explains the high rates of obesity among Chinese children, although there are several contributing factors with varying importance in different settings and circumstances. For example, many formerly poor families are over-feeding their children, particularly when the grandparents are in charge of their care.

Although Japan hasn’t totally solved the problem of childhood obesity, it has made significant advances in its control. One of the strategies used in Japan involved a redesigning of school lunches that are increasingly planned by nutritionists and include a variety of foods such as fresh ingredients and locally grown vegetables.

Increasingly, children worldwide are being raised in obesogenic environments (the obesogenic environment refers to an environment that helps, or contributes to, obesity).

One of the most important contributing factors for obesity is the high consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates and high consumption of sugary drinks. “Children are exposed to ultra-processed, energy dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are cheap and readily available,” says the WHO.

Physical inactivity is another important contributing factor, often associated with a significant increment in television viewing. It has been proven that each hour watching television is associated with a 1-2% increase in the prevalence of obesity among urban children.

Obesity in children can have significant economic costs. Obesity, which affects about 10.4% of children between 2 and 5 years of age and more than 23 million children and teens in total in the US, cost the nation $117bn per year in direct medical expenses and indirect costs, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It is important to educate parents before and during pregnancy for early prevention, and to work with governments to provide weight management resources for children who are battling obesity. As stated by Peter Gluckman, “WHO needs to work with governments to implement a wide range of measures that address the environmental causes of obesity and help give children the healthy start to life they deserve”.

 

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a public health consultant for several international organisations.

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Money smuggled from Africa https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/money-smuggled-from-africa/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/11/19/money-smuggled-from-africa/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 11:00:08 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=681452 International institutions should review frameworks of combating money laundering

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The Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), Tarek Amer, who chaired a meeting of governors of the African Consulting Group in the framework of the annual meetings of the World Bank (WB) and the IMF, urged the return of smuggled money from African countries over the decades, especially the funds collected illegally. He estimated these funds at trillions of dollars. He said that international institutions have a role in the process of regulating the receipt of these funds highlighting the need to strengthen governance and fight corruption.

There is no doubt that this issue, which is being raised for the first time at a global level, is of great importance to the rich and impoverished African countries alike, which suffer from economic and social problems and lack of infrastructure. This happens due to resources erosion by smuggling funds while recipient countries turn a blind eye to them. The recipient countries favour the benefit of receiving the money and employing them to boost economic growth at the expense of hindering the progress of the countries of origin—leaving them poor and asking for aid, grants, and loans, even though these funds, if returned, could be a key to strengthening their economies, developing infrastructure, and spending on education and health care to catch up with the developed countries.

Therefore, international institutions should review the frameworks of combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and adding laws and mechanisms which will reduce the continuity of contraband money, whether transferred through banks or across borders. These funds, if transferred through banks or smuggled across borders, despite having some benefits to the countries smuggled to, in countries of weak governance systems and the spread of corruption, may lead to high inflation rates. The desire to legitimise such money is done through excessive pricing of goods, thus creating an unjustified inflation. They also give rise to the informal economy, which distorts the economic system, and negatively affects state revenues and the quality of goods.

There shall be nothing wrong if the UN decided to play a genuine role in this direction by criminalising the receipt of suspicious funds by states, and to ensure the commitment of countries to apply the principles of ‘Know you Client’ to find out the source of this money, and set a set of criteria to classify countries to cooperating countries and non-cooperating countries with regard to ​​preventing the smuggling of money and imposing economic sanctions on the countries violating the laws. Several developed countries have huge funds at banks that can no longer be tracked. These funds are still invested to benefit from revenues and keep them inside these states until they are forgotten, given that nobody is tracking them. Moreover, the UN should establish a mechanism through which it can coordinate with supervisory bodies on financial institutions to find the nature and size of stagnant or rigid funds to send them back to the treasuries of these countries, or transfer them to a fund supervised by the UN to spend on grants and aids for low-income and poor countries.

It is a very dangerous matter. African countries should thank the Governor of the CBE for his initiative and shedding light on this matter. The recovery of these funds will solve a major part of the debt problems in African countries, which exceeded safety levels against the GDP. These countries should also play a role in this regard and do their best to enforce governance, combating money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism, fighting corruption, which will limit money-laundering in the future.

Zakaria Salah El Gendy Banking expert

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Egypt’s New Capital attracts new investments, also locks country into Chinese loans, technology https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/31/679701/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/31/679701/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 11:00:49 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=679701 ‘Owner’ of New Capital is ACUD with two shareholders, 51% is NUCA, remaining is army, capital is $10.3bn

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Egypt is building a New Capital City on a desert plot, between the Nile River and the Suez Canal, to ease Cairo’s population boom. Labelled “the first smart city in Egypt,” the new, unnamed city, ultimately aims to house nearly 6.5 million people. Chinese bank loans are paying for 50-70% of upfront costs. Across the project’s two phases, total costs will reach US$45bn. This is an ambitious project, and one of several “megaprojects” being pushed by President Sisi, with Chinese backing. 

A loan is a loan

China is not actually paying for anything though. While Chinese bank loans may be big, they are still loans, and they come with strict terms. The New Capital’s electric rail project is typical. Chinese banks are lending funds only to buy Chinese equipment. The Egyptian side needs to fund the remainder. Interest rates are rumoured to be reasonable, around 2-3%, but repayment on the New Capital loans begin in late 2019-early 2020, based on the 36-42-month grace period. 

And three-years grace period is not nearly as much as it sounds, with a project this big.  The country’s economy has bounced back since its November 2016 IMF bailout, but cannot afford an economic slowdown. Egypt’s portion of project costs are to be funded by selling land in the New Capital to property developers.  It is easy to imagine a worst case scenario for the government, where recession hits Egypt in 2019, property developers go bust in the new capital, relocation rates dwindle, and the government has trouble paying back China in 2020, and beyond. Those implications are stark. 

The new capital: phase 1 targets basic infrastructure 

The ‘owner’ of Egypt’s New Capital is the Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD). The ACUD is in charge of both initial construction and management. It has two shareholders, 51% is held by an affiliate of the Ministry of Housing, known as the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA). The remaining share is held by the army. The ACUD was created with an injection of capital roughly worth $10.3bn.

The New Capital has been allocated an area of land roughly equivalent to Singapore, or 170,000 feddan in local terms.  This plot of land is located about 45km east of central Cairo, and 80km west of the Suez Canal. 

For phase one of the New Capital project, only a portion of the land area is being developed. The initial focus is building a central business district (CBD), local and regional transport (roadways, tunnels, bridges, an airport and a light rail to Cairo), residential real estate complexes, and shopping malls. A communications infrastructure is also part of phase one.   

Telecom market liberalising, TE still protected

Egypt’s government has liberalised its control of the sector cautiously over the years. The government retains an 80% stake in Telecom Egypt, 13 years after its IPO.  Since this IPO, competition has been slowly introduced in Egypt, and TE has been protected along the way. Even today, for example, TE is the only operator in Egypt allowed to install or operate commercial fibre networks. 

TE remains the largest of Egypt’s four operating groups, along with the local units of Etisalat (UAE), Vodafone (UK), and Orange (France). The four accounted for a total $3.7bn in telecom revenues for the last 12 months covering the third quarter (Q3) to Q2 of 2018.

Egypt’s incumbent operator retains over a 90% share in the fixed line market. In mobile services, TE was given a 4G license ahead of its rivals, in late 2016, and launched mobile services on its own network a year later.  TE still offers 2G-3G services through Vodafone Orange, in which it owns a 45% stake. The government-TE connection remains an important context for the Egypt telecom market.

TE accounts for over half of Egypt’s capex

Most of Egypt’s communications infrastructure is built and owned by the top four providers. Aggregating capex from 2011-Q2 2018, TE accounted for 29% of the $9.6B total, followed by Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat (26% each), then Orange (19%). TE’s capex has come to dominate in the last two years, fuelled primarily by DSL and 4G-LTE infrastructure buildouts, as well as international transmission (Figure 1). 

Smart city in the desert

Egypt’s New Capital is being built in the desert, in an area with almost no fixed physical infrastructure. The capital’s property developers are eager to boast of advanced connectivity, and services in order to attract new customers. The basic connectivity goal is multiple layers of high-speed broadband access: FTTH-B to every premise, 4G wireless enhanced by small cells, and public WiFi. Project officials have also noted the importance of cloud connectivity, and are interested in attracting more data centre investment to the region, including to the New Capital. This will be a ‘smart city,’ relative to some others in the region, but it will not be comparable to more experimental projects like Google’s Sidewalk Labs.

Earlier this year, an Egyptian firm was hired to come up with a design for the new capital’s telecom network. More will be known about the results in the months ahead. One near certainty is that China will supply most of the technology. Already, Huawei supplied most of the gear used by the University of Canada’s new branch in the new capital. 

China raising its profile with the city’s Phase 2

While the city’s communications infrastructure is unsettled, construction for Phase 2 of the new capital is already underway. China remains the driver. 

For the CBD expansion part of Phase 2, China Fortune Land Development (CFLD) has already won the construction project, as per press reports.  To fund this, New Capital officials have been negotiating with three big Chinese banks regarding a $3.2bn loan package. The actual loan terms are still in flux though, and are apparently to be finalised by end of 2018. That is not stopping CFLD and other Chinese companies from actively pursuing other opportunities related to phase 2, including a petrochemical refinery.  

Beyond the New Capital, Chinese banks are active investors in Egypt, which has accelerated with Xi Jinping’s “One Belt One Road” campaign (aka Belt and Road Initiative). For instance, the National Bank of Egypt borrowed $600m from the China Development Bank last month.  However, Chinese interests have not taken over, as multilateral institutions remain crucial. Most importantly, the IMF continues its support for its original $12bn bailout package. The World Bank loaned Egypt $1.15bn earlier this month.  Numerous private banks around the Middle East and beyond are important creditors to the Egyptian government as well. China Inc, though, is making a concerted effort to convert its investment into local political influence – through promotional videos. Most tactics are less visible.

China is working hard to reassure OBOR countries that its intentions are pure, focusing on the positives of such projects as the New Capital, minimising such risks as debt traps. Until mid-2018, it was working very well, but more attention is being paid now.  Technology suppliers eager to have a fair shot at projects like the New Capital will have to pay attention, too.

Matt Walker is a recognised expert in the areas of telco-cloud strategy and finance; technology vendors; network and IT capex-opex; and industry M&A.

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Honouring the Enemy https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/31/honouring-the-enemy/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/31/honouring-the-enemy/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 10:00:24 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=679696 “I dreamed that one had died in a strange place, near no accustomed hand”: William Butler Yeats

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In these times of so much civil strife, internecine wars, and racial and political intolerance, it is good to remember an episode involving Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand. It shows the power of words to console the grieving, and to bring closure to a painful history.

Usually, in April, Turks, as well as people from Australia and New Zealand gather in north western Turkey to render homage to their ancestors, brave young soldiers, who lost their lives on the fields of Çanakkale, in what is known as the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, between April 1915 and January 1916. A joint British and French operation was conducted to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, and secure a sea route to Russia. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or Anzac, formed the foundation of a 200,000 British-led army which landed at Gallipoli. The operation failed, with thousands of casualties from both sides.

To each of the ANZAC soldiers, one could apply the words of William Butler Yeats,

“I dreamed that one had died in a strange place

Near no accustomed hand”

Painful as the losses of young soldiers’ lives were, however, this episode fostered the creation of national identities, and laid the foundations of friendly relations among the people from Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand. The battle was also a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people, laying the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence.

It was during that campaign that Mustapha Kemal, who would later be known as Kemal Ataturk, counterattacked the heroic Anzac soldiers’ advance, and reached unparalleled prestige among his compatriots. Mustapha Kemal, then a 34-year-old Lt.-Col., was familiar with the Gallipoli Peninsula from his operations against Bulgaria during the Balkan War.

The prestige this military leader gained during the Gallipoli Campaign allowed him to create the Republic of Turkey as a secular nation with Western values, revitalising it from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. After the Gallipoli Campaign, he proved to be as generous in peace as he had been daring in war.

Dr. Bülent Atalay, president of the Ataturk Society, recounted how in 1930, 14 years after the Gallipoli Campaign, and as president of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk was given a letter by his aide-de-camp. In the letter, the mothers of the Anzacs fallen at Gallipoli were requesting permission to visit the graves of their sons.

Ataturk pondered how to respond. His aide told him, “warn them if anyone invades us again we’ll break off their legs.” Ataturk responded, “I cannot do that.”  Instead, he sat down and wrote to the mothers,

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side, here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom, and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

The words are now inscribed in the Memorial of Anzac Cove, which commemorates the loss of thousands of Ottoman and Anzac soldiers who gave up their lives at Gallipoli. They reveal that Kemal Ataturk wasn’t only an excellent politician. He was a great statesman as well.

Dr. César Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights, and two national journalism awards from Argentina. He is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia).

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The Rise of Artificial Intelligence – Part 2.1:The Nexus Between Computer Learning and Human Intelligence https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/17/the-rise-of-artificial-intelligence-part-2-1the-nexus-between-computer-learning-and-human-intelligence/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/17/the-rise-of-artificial-intelligence-part-2-1the-nexus-between-computer-learning-and-human-intelligence/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 06:00:17 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=677855 In the first part of this article, we talked about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents the new power that is currently transforming major industries and professions, and how such a power can be readily affordable with the right knowledge and data. We further explained that AI cannot flourish without human knowledge, and that data is …

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In the first part of this article, we talked about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents the new power that is currently transforming major industries and professions, and how such a power can be readily affordable with the right knowledge and data. We further explained that AI cannot flourish without human knowledge, and that data is a critical component for many AI-powered applications.

In this second part, we will scratch the surface a little and go one small step forward towards the world of AI. We will cover the meaning of AI, the difference between AI and other concepts that may correlate or differentiate with AI in the business world and academic circles. For example, Business Intelligence (BI) applications or solutions which are only based on data analytics can sometimes be confused with the AI field. We will also explain the difference between AI and AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) and will briefly cover the meaning of some interesting terms such as “Singularity” and “AI Conscious”, which is an important concept for the issue of “ethics and privacy” that will be covered in one of the coming parts.

Finally, we will present an outline of the main branches of AI such as machine learning, knowledge representation, and actuators (robotics), and will briefly cover each of them in a simplified manner.

What is AI?

AI is a colloquial and broad term that has many aspects. The answer to this question depends on who will give it. If you ask the question to a software developer, Google deep learning expert, robotics engineer in Boston Dynamics (a firm specialised in the development of robots) and business executive using AI, each one is likely to answer the question from the perspective of their own specialisation. However, there will clearly be a meeting point where every one of these experts agrees on; AI is the computer’s ability to understand certain data sets (inputs), stimulate one or more intellectual tasks, and make an intelligent decision (outputs) without being specifically programmed. This meeting point forms the basis of the meaning of AI, but does not provide an accurate description of how complex sometimes the decisions computers can make to provide an output. This will be explained in more details when we talk about machine learning.

This AI definition would suggest that computers could be as intelligent as humans. This statement is partially true but is partially false too. It is partially true because the computer can learn from specific (and not all or any) data sets a certain pattern, behaviour or function, to provide a human-like outcome correlated with such pattern, behaviour, or function. On the other hand, the statement is partially false because computers do not function the same way as a human brain does. AI computers understand the data and provide the intelligent output by applying certain statistical, mathematical, and algorithmic operations. Applying the wrong algorithms to the right data or vice versa will not lead to the desired intelligent output. Human brains function in a totally different context in terms of acquiring knowledge, experience, context, learning speed, intuition, and observation. However, human brains have been a source of inspiration for one of the most important machine learning types; deep learning.

As we will see later, machine learning is one of the key branches of AI. Deep learning is a subset of and one of the most important and promising branches of machine learning.  Deep Artificial Neural Networks is one of the deep learning showcases, and is an evolved version of Artificial Neural Network (ANN).

ANN is a computational system that was roughly inspired by the information processing system found in biological neural networks in the human brain. Using the biological neural networks, human learning emerges from a myriad number of neurons in the brain. Such neurons are used to identify patterns and classify various types of information. Our brain usually deciphers the information it receives, and does this through labelling and assigning the items into various categories. Likewise, deep learning algorithms can be taught to accomplish the “same” tasks for computers. However, the “infrastructure” of deep neural networks and brain neurons are not the same, at least for the present time. Dr Janet Bastiman, chief science officer of Story Stream explained in a podcast interview last year that ANNs are very simple models of biological neurons – in that you have a number of inputs that go into a central place, just like the cell body of a biological neuron, and then you have a single output, like from the axon of a biological neuron. This is fairly fundamental to how neurons work. However, the connections between neurons in the brain are chemical rather than electrical. In addition, while ANNs consist of thousands of neurons, the biological neural network of the human brain consists of billions.

The conclusion here is that the intelligence of computers in the AI era cannot be assimilated to human intelligence at least for the present time. Deep learning is the most important and productive area of machine learning in recent years, and continues to evolve and contribute to successful AI applications. Our next stop in the AI journey will be the branches of AI, and the relationship between AI, AGI, business intelligence, and data analytics. 

Hani A. Rasoul Chief Executive Officer & Chief of Legal Tech. & Analytics at Brightiom

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US policy towards immigrant children is not Policy, it is cruelty https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/us-policy-towards-immigrant-children-is-not-policy-it-is-cruelty/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/us-policy-towards-immigrant-children-is-not-policy-it-is-cruelty/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 19:00:50 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=677086 Immigrants come to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America try to escape abject poverty and food insecurity in their own countries

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New York – On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy to the presidency and set the tone of his priorities. The elimination of illegal immigration to the United States, mainly from refugees fleeing from poverty and violence in Mexico and Central America was one. He didn’t say at the time that his policies included separating children from their parents, some of whom might never meet again.

Immigrants come to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America try to escape abject poverty and food insecurity in their own countries. In Mexico, 2016 data reveal that 52.3% of children over 11 years old live under the poverty line, and 9.7% live in extreme poverty. Among indigenous children, the figures are more startling. Near 80% of them live under the poverty line, and 18.9% show symptoms of chronic malnutrition, a reflection of their unhealthy quality of life.

In Guatemala, indigenous populations in rural areas are affected by lack of food and economic burden. Guatemalan children have the third-highest rate of stunting worldwide, an effect of chronic malnutrition. It is estimated that 49.8% of Guatemalan children are undernourished, a figure that increases to 69.5% in children living in rural, indigenous areas.

As in other Central American countries, stunting and malnutrition in Honduras children are major concerns, particularly for those living in rural areas. It is estimated that 75% of the Honduran population live in extreme poverty and 12% of households are food-insecure. In rural areas, chronic malnutrition can be as high as 48.5%.

In El Salvador, 16.3% of rural Salvadoran families cannot cover the costs of basic needs. 18.9% of children under age 5 experience chronic malnutrition, a figure that increases to 25.6% for those children living in rural areas. In addition, El Salvador is one of the countries with the highest presence of violent juvenile gangs called “maras”.

Nicaragua, which is going presently through a time of considerable social unrest, is considered one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Approximately 29% of households live in poverty, and 8.3% live in extreme poverty. The highest rates of child chronic malnutrition occur in what is called the northern Dry Corridor, with rates of almost 30%. According to the World Food Programme, 300,000 people are in need of food assistance.

Poverty in Central America is due to factors intrinsic to the countries themselves such as a modern form of feudalism, profound inequality, rampant government corruption, and to foreign interference. The U.S. has influenced their political and economic situation by helping to overturn democratic governments, as in Guatemala and Honduras, or supporting anti-democratic elements, as in the case of the death squads in El Salvador and the “contras” in Nicaragua.

This dismal picture of poverty and violence explains the desire of those people to seek better conditions for them and their children. “We leave our countries under threat. We leave behind our homes, our relatives, our friends. We are not criminals, we are people living in fear in our countries,” told Maritza Flores, a Salvadoran woman, to the BBC.

It is in this context that families come to the U.S., where children are separated in the border from their parents, in some cases permanently. More than 2,300 children were removed at the border between 5 May and 9 June 2018. Children are placed in shelters where they do not always receive the care they need. Separating from their parents produces considerable anguish and depression in those children, many of whom become violent and suffer psychological effects. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics calls these policies “child abuse”.

President Donald Trump doesn’t hide his dislike for immigrants, both legal and illegal, and forgets the contributions immigrants have made, in all fields of activity, to the US. In the meantime, children become pawns for his policies on immigration. In his infantile view of the world, President Donald Trump doesn’t seem to realize that his decisions on immigrant children are not a policy, they are cruelty.

César Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.

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New look of Agora, Tahrir Squares https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/new-look-of-agora-tahrir-squares/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/new-look-of-agora-tahrir-squares/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 18:00:17 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=677091 Social media is contemporary face of public space

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The French philosopher, Michel Foucault, stated that “space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the contrary was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic.”

He also went on to say, “our era is the era of space, unlike the nineteenth century that was dominated by time.”

According to scientists and philosophers, there are different kinds of spaces, such as physical, psychological, social, inner, private, and public spaces. Public space is a space where people can communicate with each other, such as streets, transportation, and squares. The internet is recognised as a public space, as everyone has access to it. In the Victorian age, i.e., the period of colonisation, space was considered as a symbol of power; the more space you had, the more powerful you were. Recently, virtual space is seen as a metaphor for technology. Indeed, social media platforms like Facebook are conceived as a public space, much like Agora and Tahrir Squares, where people can find, or practice democracy, art, and a sense of community.

Hannah Arendt states that, “the political realm rises directly out of acting together, the sharing of words and deeds. Thus, action not only has the most intimate relationship to the public part of the world common to us all, but is the one activity which constitutes it.”

According to Arendt, Athens was the first city that supported the concept of public space, where people discussed everything about life such as politics, democracy, art, etc. Lately, Tahrir Square (Egypt), is considered one of the common typical representations of public space in the world.

During the current decade— ordinary Egyptians— not just the elite, gathered in Tahrir Square, to revolt twice against the corruption of the Egyptian governments, at the time of the 25th of January, and 30th of June revolutions.

Arendt also says that, “the polis was supposed to multiply the occasions to win “immortal fame”, that is, to multiply the chances for everybody to distinguish himself, to show in deed and word who he was in unique distinctness,” and, it is the space of appearance in the widest sense of the world, namely, the space where I appear to others as others appear to me, where men exist not merely like other living or inanimate things but make their appearance explicitly.”

In the light of these words, Tahrir Square is a typical example of a public space. For instance, after Mubarak’s departure, the square was filled with celebrations, and national songs. Also, poets started to participate making use of their talents, such as Hisham Jakh, who was the revolution’s most prominent poet.

Moreover, youth shouted phrases such asLift your head up, you are Egyptian,” and Everyone who loves Egypt, come and rebuild Egypt.”

Furthermore, women and men came to clean up the square, with the aid of the volunteers who brought food, tea, water, and medication for the protesters. This means that being part of public space is being part of existence.

Similarly, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are considered a public space, although they could be seen as a private space, since people choose their friends, posts, photos, and thoughts.

The convincing argument about considering social media as a public space, is that the main goal of social media is sharing information, and making new friends, among different cultures, from all over the world.

First, through Facebook, people in certain countries can protest against any government, or recommend successful strategies to help their communities.

For instance, a certain hashtag may exceed 10m shares in a few days. Additionally, skilled people share their talent, and distinctiveness on their profiles. For example, if they are singers, they can upload their videos to their Facebook friends. Moreover, similar to Tahrir Square, where no one can pass through it without thinking of the Egyptian revolutions, social media is a public space where people can eternalise themselves by typing posts in prominent pages, with a large number of followers ,to display their true responsibility towards their nations.

Unfortunately, a well-educated person who does not recognise social media as a public space may be wasting his or her time instead.

For example, a student, researcher, or professor may seclude himself or herself in a private room to conduct a research paper, however, ironically enough, he or she may receive frequent Facebook notifications every 30 minutes, or, he or she might even intentionally access his or her account to check what is going on in the world.

In conclusion, social media is the new look of public space .

Work citation:

Hannah Arendt, 1958, The Human Condition.

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Making the benefits of technology accessible for youth in Egypt https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/making-the-benefits-of-technology-accessible-for-youth-in-egypt/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/11/making-the-benefits-of-technology-accessible-for-youth-in-egypt/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 14:00:15 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=677068 Microsoft remains committed to upskilling youth through its YouthSpark cash grants

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Digital skills are becoming essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow. From digital literacy to computer science education, these skills can open the door to greater economic opportunities, in future workplaces. Unfortunately, these skills are beyond the reach of countless young people in Egypt.

Microsoft believes in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed, and has made a commitment to impart digital skills to 10 million youth in the Middle East and Africa, in the next three years.

Its long-lasting initiative, YouthSpark, helps bring this to life by working to empower all youth to imagine and realise their full potential, by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The initiative achieves this through unique programmes and partnerships with governments, business and nonprofit organisations, such as Code.org.

For example, Microsoft partners with Code.org annually, during the Computer Science Education Week for Hour of Code (a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, and increasing participation by women, and underrepresented minorities). This is a global movement attracting over 100 million students in 180 countries, and is an effort to spark an interest in coding. Hour of Code encourages students of all ages to try their hand at coding for an hour. For the past three years, Microsoft has released Minecraft tutorials, which students can make use of, to learn the basics of coding.

Partnering with the nonprofit sector

Across the Middle East and Africa, the nonprofit sector is playing an integral role in upskilling the region’s youth with the resources they need to be empowered in the digital economy. Through its YouthSpark cash grants, technology and resources, Microsoft helps these organisations to provide digital skills, and computer science education for all.

In keeping with this, Microsoft is partnering with 15 nonprofits, in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa this year, to install the resources and training needed to upskill 1.4 million youth in computer science.

YouthSpark cash grants are awarded to nonprofits with a mission that aligns with Microsoft’s focus on computer science education. The aim is to help increase the number of teachers and youth-serving organisations, which have the capacity to bring digital skills to youth. Over 13,000 educators will receive training to teach digital skills to youth, with the intention that at least 80% of the beneficiaries will represent underprivileged communities, and 50% will be females.

The proof of this approach lies in the nonprofits that have previously received YouthSpark grants, and as a result have been able to introduce new, or develop existing computer science education programmes, training and activities, for the youth they serve. With continued investments, they have also been able to expand these offers to reach a greater number of youth, and inspire excitement about computer science.

Driving CS education policy

The UNDP Egypt’s objective is to support Egypt’s vision for sustainable development for everyone, without exception, by developing innovative, people-centred solutions. The nonprofit was founded in 1953, and first partnered with Microsoft in 2003.

Since 2012, Microsoft Egypt partnered with the UNDP and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to launch the ‘Tawar w 3’ayar’ (develop and change) campaign, as part of the global YouthSpark initiative to upskill trainers and underprivileged youth, by providing access to digital skills, CS training, soft skills, and business training. It also provides continuous support for basic digital literacy training at youth centres, IT clubs, and schools in underdeveloped communities, all while creating awareness, and excitement for the digital era through youth empowerment.

Since the launch of the ‘Tawar w 3’ayar’ campaign, over 1,300,000 youth gained access to educational and employment services, more than 480,000 youth were trained, and over 130,000 available jobs were made available through 400 youth centres, across all Egyptian governorates.

The nonprofit plans to use this year’s grant to tutor more than 1,000 trainers in 500 centres, which will result in 300,000 youth being trained in CS technologies, 30,000 receiving digital literacy training, and 30,000 attending business training, to encourage them to start their own businesses.

Empowering youth to achieve more

In a world where digital skills are fundamental to success in so many environments, leaving people in the dark about this major part of their world amounts to an unacceptable gap in their education. 

Microsoft believes technology should be an equalising force in the world—inclusive, not divisive. Therefore, the company is investing its greatest assets—its technology, grants, people, and voice—to advance a more equitable world, where the benefits of technology are accessible to everyone.

For more information on Microsoft’s Digital Skills programme, YouthSpark cash grants, click here.

Khaled Abd El Kader, is the General Manager, Microsoft Egypt

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Opinion: 1.5 degrees — do we want climate catastrophe or not? https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/08/opinion-1-5-degrees-do-we-want-climate-catastrophe-or-not/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/08/opinion-1-5-degrees-do-we-want-climate-catastrophe-or-not/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 11:25:00 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=676588 The post Opinion: 1.5 degrees — do we want climate catastrophe or not? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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A new global warming report shows it’s still not too late to avert the worst impacts of climate change. It just boils down to whether we can muster the will to do so, thinks DW’s Sonya Diehn.The IPCC report is pretty clear: Half a degree makes a huge difference.

We've already warmed the world about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times — with disastrous effects. Our coral reefs are dying, sea levels are rising, species are going extinct and extreme weather is on the rise.

In 2015 with the Paris Agreement, virtually all the world's countries agreed to limit further warming to a maximum of 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 Celsius.

The new report, unveiled after years of crafting by the United Nation's scientific body, outlines how keeping further warming under 1.5 degrees could still save our coral reefs. The Arctic would only be ice-free one summer every hundred years, instead of every decade. Sea level rise by 2100 would be 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) less.

Overshooting 1.5 degrees would mean a vast difference in the frequency and severity of extreme weather — think back to the heat waves that scorched the Northern Hemisphere this summer. That could become the new normal.

In short, Earth systems we depend upon to sustain us would remain largely intact under 1.5 degrees of warming. Under 2 degrees, there's no certainty of that.

So, can we manage it?

Making it possible

The IPCC report outlines very clearly what steps would need to be taken to stick to that lower limit of 1.5 degrees. It's nothing short of a massive transformation.

Globally, we'd need to cut our carbon emissions nearly in half over the next decade. We'd need to reach "net zero" emissions by mid-century.

Energy production would have to shift quickly to renewables. Fossil fuels — especially the dirtiest, like coal — would need to stay in the ground.

Our transport would have to shift to e-mobility, powered by renewable electricity. We'd need to use our agricultural lands much more efficiently. We'd have to construct our buildings and our cities to be more energy efficient.

And of course, we'd have to change our lifestyles — especially in industrialized countries — to consume and waste less. It's all possible — the report outlines a roadmap for making this happen.

So actually, the question is not can we keep global warming under 1.5 degrees. The real question is, do we want to.

Wanting versus doing

The fact is, it won't be easy. Policy has not moved in step with science. Governments have demonstrated a pathetic lack of political will around climate action. There's been a disturbing global trend of people electing right-wing populists. Climate denialists are sitting in cabinets in some of the most powerful countries today.

Some say it will require nothing less than a mass popular movement — to elect politicians who prioritize climate change, to hold elected officials accountable, to block the power of the fossil fuel lobby, to pressure companies to divest.

Of course, many of us will have to make trade-offs as well. Fewer vacations involving flights; a smaller car; eating meat less often.

But when you really boil it down, do we actually have a choice? Do you want millions of people to lose their homes and their livelihoods? Are you and your family ready to personally face ever more heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall and flooding? Are you ready to see your own food security at risk?

If you care at all about the future, you should be ready to make some sacrifices now and take action to hold politicians accountable.

Are you?

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The Rise of Artificial Intelligence part 1:The New Power Within Reach https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/04/the-rise-of-artificial-intelligence-part-1the-new-power-within-reach/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/10/04/the-rise-of-artificial-intelligence-part-1the-new-power-within-reach/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 15:50:51 +0000 https://dailynewsegypt.com/?p=676150 Each daily minute, 3.9m Google searches, 4.3m YouTube videos,13m text messages, 2.1m snaps, 1 million passengers on aeroplanes, $ 330,000 Amazon sales, 73,249 online retail transactions, 750,000 songs streamed, 49,380 Instagram photos, 159m emails sent 

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From truck drivers to lawyers, security guards to chief executive officers, web-marketing to neuroscience, artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to change people’s lives, major professions, and industries. It is happening, and is scaling up every day. Designing and developing AI solutions is becoming increasingly affordable, and it is not limited to any location, business discipline, or patented technology.

The ability to get actively engaged in the field of AI simply comes down to the fundamental capabilities that any established society, business, or group have access to; human intelligence, knowledge, and ability to make sense of available data. This might seem to be an oversimplified statement, but this is the reality that every individual engaged in a discipline affected or likely to be affected by AI should realise. However, this article is not intended to advocate the school of thought which warns that robots will take over the world, or that interest groups that think AI are a threat which will drive people out of their jobs. It is rather an attempt to put the topic into a reasonably realistic context, away from the hypes driven by some of the colloquial noises surrounding the topic.

This 10-part article also attempts to map out the topic in a simplified manner, and tackles the fundamentals of some issues that impact our daily life, or come to our news platforms, with respect to AI. It also encourages readers and professionals interested in the field to think of possible ways to take an active role in the field of AI, rather than wait for the winds of change to come. In other words, how do we start thinking of AI when dealing with business challenges and opportunities that we encounter every day?

The New Electricity?

Running a cooling system or a factory is impossible without electric power. By analogy, developing an AI-powered solution is nearly impossible without data. We are living in the age of the internet and big data. The world exchanges 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created daily (according to IBM data insights).  It might be helpful here to give the reader a sense of what this number means in terms of statistics. Each minute of the day, 3.9m Google searches are conducted, 4.3m YouTube videos are watched, 13m text messages are sent, 2.1m snaps are shared by Snapchat users, 1 million people are passengers on aeroplanes, $ 330,000 are spent on Amazon sales, 73,249 online retail transactions are made, 750,000 songs are streamed on Spotify, 49,380 photos are posted on Instagram, and 159m emails are sent around the world. 

The term AI was not invented recently and dates back to 1956 when it was first used by John McCarthy during a conference held about the subject. However, AI has made breakthroughs in many fields only over the recent years and is ongoing. Such AI significant advancement is due to two main factors.

First is the increasing quality and size of available big data. Second is that the computational power of processing and storing data have dramatically increased and have become extremely powerful. In addition to these two factors, algorithmic operations (we will talk about these later in detail) which are the key driving forces behind AI solutions have significantly improved.

In the past, success and accuracy rates of algorithmic operations on available data were running low due to limited computational powers. Now with increasing computational powers, AI algorithms’ performance is delivered with higher success, and efficiency rates.

Increasing the availability of data and computer powers helped the creation of very successful AI-powered solutions in many industries, and professions. AI has been recently described as the ‘new electricity’ by Professor Andrew NG, one of the leading AI scientists and the co-founder of Coursera (the popular open education platform).

In his analogy, he explained that a hundred years ago, when electricity first developed, it transformed many major industries. Nowadays, AI is forging the same impact, as it is transforming several major industries. It is very hard to imagine any significant industry immune from the influence of AI.

While the analogy seems to be perfectly vivid in our minds, I personally believe that big data is the new electricity and not AI. Without big data, which is now available in many different forms (as explained earlier), AI’s impact would have been limited. For example, some of Google’s outstanding AI achievements in deep-learning related projects (such as Google image recognition and Google translation) would not have become so successful without the billions of files, pictures, and videos available on Google’s platforms.

Likewise, Siri (Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant) has significantly improved because of the gigantic size of audio files available for processing using AI’s algorithms.

The robot Sophia, that has been recently introduced in many conferences giving logical answers to many basic questions, is powered with a cloud-based search platform, which helps the robot find the right answer to the question asked. These are just a few examples out of a myriad more. Imagine if today, all these applications are no longer updated with new data.

Most (if not all) of the sophisticated AI-powered applications cannot efficiently perform and evolve without continuing analysis of an update with new data. If new data is no longer available, an efficiency gap would exist between the evolving data, and AI performance.

This gap is likely to lead to decreasing efficiency of AI solutions over time, or cause the AI’s performance to become static at some point. Tackling the point from a different angle, the big data which AI needs to accelerate is mainly the work product of human intelligence. Therefore, simply put, AI evolves and become better as long as our human intelligence continues to feed it. Human intelligence also needs AI to become smarter and more efficient.

Therefore, the interface between human intelligence and artificial intelligence is a cycle that should contribute to a better future of humanity, if used properly.

Next Part: Meaning and Branches of AI.

Hani Abderasoul

CEO and Chief of Legal Analytics at Brightiom, California.

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Capital perplexed by world’s woes https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/capital-perplexed-by-worlds-woes/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/capital-perplexed-by-worlds-woes/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:00:48 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=673875 Technology seen as only profitable acquisition for investors in response to China’s achievements

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Any observer of the recent updates concerning the world’s economy will surely realise the extent of market grievances and investors’ concerns regarding their performance. The crisis was mainly triggered between the United States and China, where the latter launched on 28 March 2018 what is known as the petro-yuan, a gold-backed futures contract. That is why the US launched its firm policy to acquire as much as possible of the investors’ funds.

       

To be or not to be

The petro-yuan’s success became a matter of life or death issue for the US and China. Since the beginning of March, 14% of the market share of crude oil sales was acquired, then the currency war erupted.

Subsequently, the US’s attitude can be dealt with from two perspectives in my opinion: a reaction and a defence policy. As a reaction policy, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) raised interest rates, despite it being steep for the US because due to its positive reciprocity with interest on debt and its negative effect on the economy as a whole. Thus, what is the catch, you may ask? Raising interest rates was an incentive to attract capital, in fear of investments retreating towards China’s market or to emerging economies. This explains why the Fed indicated a gradual increase in interest rates of 3.5% by early 2020, in addition to an increase of 2% in the current year. In addition to the impact caused by raised interest rates, the US stock market is overvalued and faces high inflation rates. 

Bitcoin as Plan B

I believe that bitcoin is a US idea—where the US claims its inventors are anonymous—can be used as a Plan B in the event of US dollar depreciation. This can be argued by the unjustified increase in this currency specifically, unlike the rest of cryptocurrencies. Notably, there is a significant correlation between the virtual currencies and the dollar, depriving them of the most important feature, which is their independence from any economy.   

On the other hand, China encouraged dealing with virtual currencies and the government listed a ranking, where bitcoin came in number 11, signifying its unpopularity, whereas the cryptocurrency Ethereum topped the list. 

Currency war, future steps

The current currency war between the US and China resulted in the withdrawal of capital from both emerging and developing economies, due to the US’s high interest rates. In return, this pressured some countries to raise their interest rates, in order to reduce the withdrawal of the US dollar from their markets, such as Argentina. Another example of an emerging market was Turkey, which faced the same obstacle in addition to the US sanctions. Moreover, Venezuela’s currency is no longer in demand, until its value became worth zero, owing to a high inflation rate, which is expected to have a percentage to reach 1m.          

Where is the Capital heading?

In the chart (1), a sample of available investments was selected from: stock exchanges in China, the US, London, Egypt, and Argentina, with products such as oil and gold, in currencies such as the dollar against the euro, the sterling, and Argentina’s peso. The rate of return was selected as compared to the volatility or risk of each type of investment as of the beginning of the current year. Based on the aforementioned affiliations and economic problems of the currency war between China and the US, we find in all investments varying volatility rates in prices compared to negative rates of return, except for the US, China, Egypt, and oil in general. However, the rates of return in the stock markets of Shanghai and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225, London’s stock market, the bitcoin, and currencies such as the sterling, euro, peso, and gold were all negative.

The investor is most likely to compare the return on investment to the risk-free rate, based on the volatility, also known as risk adjusted return. This enables investors to analyse from among various investments based on the Fed risk-free interest 2% rate. The following chart clarifies the investments based on the risk adjusted return:

From chart (2), we can examine that the highest risk adjusted return and the best investment opportunity are the futures of the petro-yuan contracts. This is owing to return rates reaching up to 71%, followed by crude oil up to 38%, trailed by the US stock exchange with 29% and 5%, respectively. Meanwhile, the return rate is expected to decline in the US stock market in the coming period, due to the overvaluation as previously stated.   

Analysing deeper, technology emerged as the best sector in the US stock market this year as Netflix, Twitter, and TripAdvisor are among the best performing companies according to S&P 500, while Microsoft, Apple, and Visa are the best performing companies, stated the Dow Jones. This explains the US’s reaction to China’s attempts to control US technology.
Technology, and its ancillary companies, is currently the only profitable acquisition for investors and the country, in response to what China is now achieving by acquiring increased crude oil through petro-yuan futures, representing 71% of worldwide crude oil market shares.

Ahmed Ezz is a financial and economic analyst

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What will future universities look like? https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/what-will-future-universities-look-like/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/what-will-future-universities-look-like/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 11:30:43 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=673874 Many years ago, people started looking for online learning solutions to replace or complement their on-campus education. However, there are some trends that started to rise in the past 10 years that worsens the status even more.

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Education is back as one of the hottest and widely discussed topics around the world. Since 2010, there has been more than $2.3bn invested in education technology companies in the US alone, while global investment within the sector reached over $9.5bn.

With almost 40% of American employers saying they cannot find people with the skills they need and UK. organisations spending almost £6.3bn on temporary workers, recruitment fees, and training, as a result of skills gap in the UK market, it is clear to everyone that the current education system is broken and needs a clear and deep fix. An action needs to be taken!

Many years ago, people started looking for online learning solutions to replace or complement their on-campus education. However, there are some trends that started to rise in the past 10 years that worsens the status even more.

Information overload and content explosion

More than 3m blog posts are published daily, and content is expected to increase 600% by 2020. It is crystal clear that there are huge amounts of content and that people have limited time and resources to make use of it all, simply because the average learner devotes less than one hour a week to reading.

Clickbait

Unfortunately, a huge portion of this content is not even meant to live beyond the moment in which it appears. Spam is everywhere and many authors and publications aim solely at taking a few shillings out of the public’s pocket. Some statistics claim that 9/10 of our present online literature is clickbait.

Rise of recommendation engines

Why listen to the same old radio if you can listen to personalised programmes and music with Spotify and Apple music? People are increasingly loving customised content and services as they do not have the time (nor the mental capacity) to choose for themselves. People value the context and relevance offered by recommendation engines and products, especially in the learning and knowledge discovery spaces.

These trends are set to accelerate now with the explosion of MOOCs and online education (supply) and the fact that professionals need to redevelop their skills every 12-18 months to cope with the market change and technology advancement (demand). Around 90% of CEOs believe that their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends.

It is clear now to everyone that the whole education ecosystem needs a fundamental rebuild. The learning experience has to cope with the dramatic shift in market demands and technology advancement. It has to be adaptive and personalised to the learner’s needs and goals and most importantly, it has to reduce the time wasted going after good quality content buried under layers upon layers of spam and clickbait. On top of all that, the learning journey has got to have a materialistic goal that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the learning process.

A career-oriented learning model that focuses on the right and relevant skills needed for the different career goals is what the world needs. And it started to turn into reality with many initiatives led by big names like Google, Coursera, and rising start-ups.

These initiatives are not just trying to fix a learning problem. They are creating a new university education model. A university for a better future for the upcoming generations. So the next time you are looking for a new lifelong learning app or a product to try, make sure this product is free of clickbait, serves a goal that you can measure and that it is personalised to your learning style and relevant to your own personal experience.

Ahmed El-Sharkasy is the co-founder and CEO of Knowledge Officer

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Afghan morass: how Afghan government controls 56% of country, Taliban controls rest of it https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/afghan-morass-how-afghan-government-controls-56-of-country-taliban-controls-rest-of-it/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/19/afghan-morass-how-afghan-government-controls-56-of-country-taliban-controls-rest-of-it/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 11:00:53 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=673821 More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, and the US has spent more than $840bn fighting the Taliban and paying for relief and reconstruction

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On learning that he was from Afghanistan, I asked my Afghan taxi driver in New York his opinion about the situation in his country. “Americans don’t get it,” he said adding, “they are not going to succeed in Afghanistan. My father was a warlord who fought the Russians, and I grew up in Afghanistan, so I know the situation there. I have a lot of respect for the Russian soldiers, who fought us fiercely. But I don’t have the same respect for the coalition soldiers who always overprotect themselves. They don’t seem to understand that we have fought for centuries against foreign occupation in my country, and we have always succeeded.”

The taxi driver’s assessment confirmed the strength of the Afghan soldier, able to fight with the most primitive weapons against the greatest empires on earth. When these soldiers feel their land usurped by foreign forces, their strength is multiplied. And this is just one of the obstacles confronting US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Matthew Hoh, a former Foreign Service officer and former Marine Corps captain who became the first US official to resign in protest over the Afghan war, had declared, “upon arriving in Afghanistan and serving in both the East and South (and particularly speaking with local Afghans) I found that the majority of those who were fighting us, and the Afghan central government were fighting us because they felt occupied.”

More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan, and the US has spent more than $840bn fighting the Taliban and paying for relief and reconstruction. The amount of money the US has so far spent in Afghanistan is higher than what it spent, in current dollars, on the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after World War II.

Despite all these financial resources spent in Afghanistan, and even though the American military says that the Afghan government “controls or influences” 56% of the country, this control is limited to district and military quarters, while the Taliban controls the rest.

According to Afghan official statistics, the Afghan security forces outnumber the Taliban by 10 to 1. However, as recently as the second week in September, dozens of police officers, soldiers, and civilians were killed by Taliban insurgents in four well-coordinated attacks which even included one in Kabul.

 In the deadliest attack, the insurgents killed over 30 members of the government security forces in Baghlan Province, located in the north of the country. The casualties among the Afghan security forces have been significant. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, a US government agency, 6,785 Afghan police and soldiers have died in the first 10 months of 2016.

As there are increasing calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the real dilemma for the US is if it is worth to persist in what increasingly seems like an unwinnable war on this natural resources-plentiful country. The Taliban have indicated that they are ready for a second round of talks with the US.  

It is now time for both parties in this cruel war to put an end to what has been like a haemorrhage in the body of the Afghan people. Those who have failed in the past should be a sobering reminder to the troops now fighting in that country. Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires. It should more properly be called the end of an illusion.

César Chelala, MD, PhD, a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award, is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia)

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‘Back to modernism time concept by Mr president’ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/12/back-to-modernism-time-concept-by-mr-president/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/12/back-to-modernism-time-concept-by-mr-president/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 07:00:17 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=672847 Modernism is the modern period of time in the European history that begins at mid-late 18th century. It was a time of great social, political, and economical changes.

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Throughout history, the concept of time has constantly been changing. It differs from culture to another and from age to another. Scientists and philosophers have discussed the concept of time, whether it is linear or circular, with an end or without, or subjective or objective. Moreover, in the topology of time, there are questions always raised for study and discussion. For instance, can time be represented as a line, if it is, where does it begin and where does it end? Is it only one line or not?…etc. Indeed, the concept of time is dealt with differently in these two philosophical movements: modernism and postmodernism. The last four years are seen as a revival of modernism concept of time, which has been adopted by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Modernism is the modern period of time in the European history that begins at mid-late 18th century. It was a time of great social, political, and economical changes. It witnessed many revolutions, such as the French (1789-1799), American (1775-1783), and industrial (1870-1920) revolutions. The industrial revolution switched the agricultural society to an industrial one. Besides, rational thinking and scientific knowledge were regarded as the route to happiness, progress, and development. The modern concept view of time was linear and unidirectional, as modernists depended on the Newtonian vision of the universe as a giant clockwork mechanism with time marching forward. This means that everything progresses straightforward from past to future. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam advocate linear time, as they believe in the idea of the afterlife. Some writers and philosophers approved this approach, such as Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, Francis Bacon, and St Augustine who emphasised that human experience is a one-way journey from genesis to judgment, regardless of any recurring patterns or cycle in nature. Linear time dominated science and philosophy in modern time. Scholars of modernism tried to analyse this movement with relation to social life. They reach the result that, if time progresses, there should be civilisation represented in happiness, freedom, and development. At that level, human beings should serve time, not time should serve them, ie there would be no new day without any successful achievements. Accordingly, human beings worked like machines, which were the typical representation of the industrial revolution in England.

On the other hand, postmodernism, the period we are in now, is argued by some to have started after WW2, whereas others situate its beginning in the 1980s or even 1990s (Virginia Matteo). According to Bauman, postmodernism time is the passage from solid times to liquid times. Accordingly, time is not considered as a linear progression; it may be repetitive, cyclical, and circular. Unlike modernists, postmodernists do not believe in the idea of progress of the world by the passage of time. For instance, postmodernism scholars can see Hiroshima’s bombing as a backward step that damaged humanity in Japan (1945). Furthermore, according to postmodernism, we should not serve time, ie what it is not done today, it can be finished by tomorrow.

President Al-Sisi always advocates the modern view of time. He determinedly asks the senior officials to finish their tasks at a definite time; and they do. There are many situations that reflect his approval of that movement’s concept of time. The first example is shown in Al-Sisi’s speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Suez Canal and Suez Canal Development Projects on 5 August 2014 at Ismailia governorate with General Kamel El-Wazir, president of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces about the timed duration: only one year to finish the project. The president also, at that ceremony, said verbatim, “we have to race time as we are so late. We need to build up our country, and have a real hope of progress.’’ The second example is his discussion with the Minister of Transportation Hisham Arafat in a conference took place in 10th of Ramadan City about 700 meters left of the axis of Tema on the Nile. The minister’s answer was that “the completion of the axis should be during February, to be left 700 meters in the axis of the problem of expropriation.” The president did not agree with his answer and said, “will I be late for a full year because of 700 meters?!” and ordering, simultaneously, El-Wazir to finish the problem in one month. The third example is his speech with El-Wazir in another conference held in 2016 about finishing the Cairo airport development project after three months, rather than four months. Those are few examples that show that adopting the modern concept of time by our great president is the only survival method to save our economic ship from drowning in the horrible ocean of politics. He always says, “if we organise our work, we will finish it in the nearest time.” His words typically represent the modern view of time, which was an essential element in the British Empire ruling the world for two centuries.

Overall, the reader can approve any kind of these two approaches of philosophy. Our president adopted the modern view concept of time, which needs time’s service and hardworking persons. After serving and respecting time, Egyptians would achieve progress, civilisation, and freedom, which are our dreams in the upcoming years.

Ahmed Ramadan Abdraboh is a writer in Elfajr newspaper, and is in the third year at the English Department, Cairo University

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Memories of 9/11 https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/11/memories-of-9-11/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/09/11/memories-of-9-11/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 20:00:17 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=672848 That day, about an hour before the attack on the Twin Towers, he had finished his shift

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I remember vividly the terrible day when our lives (our world) changed forever. I was listening to the radio in my apartment, a few blocks from Ground Zero, when the plane hit the first tower. I could hear the cries from the street below: “Oh, no, no, no!” “Oh, my God!” I ran downstairs just in time to see the second tower crumble like a sand castle. It was 9:59 am. I joined others rushing to the spot when a large group of people came running back shouting: “Go back, go back, for God’s sake, go back!” We rushed back only to discover later that it was a false alarm, that there would be no more attacks on the towers after the second plane hit. Without fully understanding the significance of events, I felt that a relatively peaceful way of life had been replaced by a darker, more sinister one. A great sadness came over me.

Soon after, we learned the details of what had happened, and heard stories and saw pictures of those who had thrown themselves voluntarily to their certain death rather than remain trapped inside an inferno. Richard Drew, who photographed one of the iconic images of that fateful day, the “Falling Man,” the lonely image of a man falling to his death with one of the towers in the background, said recently that for him it was the image of the Unknown Soldier. An estimated 7% of those killed in the attack on September 11 did so by jumping into the void from their offices.

We also learned of the heroic behaviour of hundreds of firefighters who risked their lives and of the many other people who lost theirs. One of the firefighters was a 34-years-old Argentine by the name of Sergio Villanueva. That day, about an hour before the attack on the Twin Towers, he had finished his shift. But, like on so many other days, he had stayed behind to have breakfast with his colleagues. When they heard news of the attack, he decided to join his fellow squad members and went with them to the towers to help in the rescue efforts. Neither he nor his fellow brigade members ever returned.

We also heard heartbreaking stories about people we knew who were killed in the towers. One, the son of friends, had just enough time to call his brother and say, “Please tell Mom and Dad that I love them a lot as I love you,” before the line went dead. To this day his parents have not regained their joie de vivre. Or the employee of a large company who left the towers, called his wife to say he was fine after the first tower had been hit, then returned to retrieve documents from his desk and died when the fire ravaged his office.

What promised to be a peaceful September morning turned into a nightmare. As usual, that day (a beautiful diaphanous day with a very clear sky) my wife and I woke up about 7:00 am.  We had breakfast and she left for work on Long Island, about 45 minutes from home. I was planning to have a working lunch at United Nations headquarters.

After the second attack on the towers I tried to contact my wife at work. It was impossible to communicate by phone with her. I learned, however, that I could call Queens, where a medical colleague, Dr Juan Rivolta, lived. I wanted to see if I could communicate with my wife through him. I summarised what had happened. He thought I was joking, but changed his attitude when he heard the desperation in my voice and finally was convinced when I told him to turn on the TV.

Juan was able to communicate with my wife and told me that she was safe. When we spoke later that day she explained that soon after arriving at her college someone had called the office, so they turned on the TV and were able to witness the horror of the events taking place. Since virtually all roads leading to New York City were closed, my wife stayed at a colleague’s house for the next three days.

Satisfied that my wife was safe while I was still in a state of shock, I went to a nearby square and sat on a bench watching people hurrying to the scene. That state of shock stuck with me, like with many other New Yorkers, for months after the attacks. We could smell the pungent odour of burned materials, some of which certainly came from the incinerated bodies of the thousands of people who had perished there. One was Sean Rooney, whose last moments were described by his wife, Beverly Eckert. He called her from the 105th floor; he was unable to find an escape route; the flames were approaching ominously and, during his last minutes of life, he only managed to say “I love you, I love you.” Then, when the smoke prevented him from speaking, Beverly heard the terrible noise of something cracking, followed by the sound of an avalanche and a groan.

It seems impossible that anyone trapped inside the towers could have survived. Yet that is what happened to 20 people, including some firefighters and police officers and an administrative secretary of the Port Authority, Genelle Guzman-McMillan. As Matthew Shaer tells it in New York magazine, Genelle followed a group of colleagues to the smoke-filled stairway. As they descended, Genelle was certain that she would survive and could go down and meet her boyfriend, as they had planned. However, when the building collapsed, she suddenly lost her balance and was dragged to the ground floor surrounded by tons of cement and steel. Finally, she stopped, and felt something soft and warm under her—it was a dead person. She remained silent for 27 hours, praying and asking God for her life. A German Labrador named Trakr found her.

The shock people experienced as a result of the attacks perhaps mirrored the shock that Americans felt after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Such was the state of fear that the noise of aircraft crossing the sky was enough to frighten New Yorkers. Such fears led to unexpected reactions. A friend, an art teacher at a university in New York, told me recently: “Although I am a total agnostic I must confess that after the attacks I felt something strange, as if my house had been invaded by ghosts whose steps I seemed to hear at night. I was so frightened that I asked a Buddhist priest to exorcise my apartment and assure me that I was not going crazy. “

The attacks on the Twin Towers produced the most concentrated response to an emergency in the history of the United States. It is estimated that at least 100 emergency units and dozens of private ambulances headed to the scene to pick up the wounded and take them to nearby hospitals. At the same time, more than 2,000 police officers searched the towers and rescued survivors. But the weight of the response fell to the New York Fire Department, whose response to the events was truly heroic.

One of the lessons to be drawn from that tragedy is that violence begets violence and intolerance breeds intolerance. Unless there is a new approach to preventing terrorist acts we will continue to live under the threat of terror. Confrontation is not the answer. While it is easy to create enemies, it is much harder to understand the “other”, a necessary approach if we wish to eliminate conflict, and honour the desire for peace and security of all people in the world.

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Life devoted to searching for her abducted granddaughter  https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/29/life-devoted-to-searching-for-her-abducted-granddaughter/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/29/life-devoted-to-searching-for-her-abducted-granddaughter/#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2018 10:30:09 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=671029 On 20 August 2018, María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani (“Chicha”) died in La Plata, Buenos Aires Province. She was 94-years-old and for 42 years had been searching for her granddaughter Clara Anahí. On 24 November 1976, Clara Anahí had been abducted by the military when they took away her parents and later killed them. Since …

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On 20 August 2018, María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani (“Chicha”) died in La Plata, Buenos Aires Province. She was 94-years-old and for 42 years had been searching for her granddaughter Clara Anahí. On 24 November 1976, Clara Anahí had been abducted by the military when they took away her parents and later killed them. Since the day of her disappearance  De Mariani had been trying to find her granddaughter, and died without seeing her again.

De Mariani was one of the founders of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of grandmothers united in their search for their disappeared grandchildren. They were victims of the reign of terror in Argentina under the military regime of General Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981). The organisation was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize five times for their humanitarian work and achievements.

 

I met De Mariani in New York, shortly after the organisation was created, and where she had come looking for support for the group’s activities. In a dark winter afternoon, I asked her to give an example of the group’s activities in their painful search. She told me this,

 

“If a woman who has given birth in an Argentine concentration camp is ever liberated, the first thing she will ask her parents will be: Where is my child? So, what do we tell her; what do we tell our sons and daughters if we have not been able to find their children, from whom they have been separated? That is why this is a very intense and meaningful search for us. More than just based on our beliefs and sense of justice, our search is to a large extent motivated by the responsibility we feel towards our sons and daughters, the parents of our missing grandchildren.”

 

Many of the disappeared children were born in concentration camps to women who were pregnant at the time they were abducted by the military. Other children disappeared along with their parents. Many of the captured children were later put up for adoption, often to members of the same repressive military or police forces that had kidnapped them.

 

Since its inception in 1977, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been relentlessly looking for their grandchildren and successfully located 127 children. I asked De Mariani to tell me about one of the cases they had solved. Her face lit up. “It was Beto!” she said and proceeded to tell me Beto’s story.

 

“Approximately a month ago, a man named Juan Carlos Juárez came to our headquarters in Buenos Aires to ask for our help in trying to locate his nephew, nicknamed Beto.” The child, whose real name is Sebastián Juárez, had disappeared in 1977, when he was three years old. At the time, Beto had been living with his mother, Lucinda, in Buenos Aires Province. When paramilitary forces abducted Lucinda at gunpoint, they left the child in a neighbour’s house, an older man fond of Beto. He kept Beto with him for a few days, and then took the child to a Juvenile Court Judge, who gave Beto to a foster family living in the area.

 

“We put together the information Beto’s uncle had gathered and what we found out” explained De Mariani, “and after an intensive search we were able to locate the old man who had sheltered the child after his mother’s abduction and disappearance. He told us what he knew of the child’s whereabouts, and with that information we were finally able to find out where Beto [now 10 years old] was. We went there with his uncle, and asked the woman who was taking care of Beto to let us see and talk to him. She didn’t allow us to talk to him, but we were able to see him through a barred window, a timid child with a sad face.”

 

After that initial contact, the Grandmothers made a series of inquiries and visited several judges to ask for their advice on the best way to deal with the case. By that time, Juárez’s sister, nicknamed Chichi, went to Buenos Aires and the judge gave her permission to talk to Beto. He developed a warm relationship with his aunt, who eventually collected all the documentation necessary to be granted custody of the child. After much travail, Beto was returned to his family.

 

“On the same day that Beto was back with his family,” continued De Mariani, “Chichi brought him to the Grandmothers’ headquarters in Buenos Aires. When Beto arrived, we gave him our corporate stamps to play with. He was playing with them when all of a sudden he saw the picture of a little girl we had been trying to locate. We were doing press releases about her case, which is very important because we found out that she had been adopted by a man who was the head of one of the most infamous death squads operating in Argentina. That man is now a fugitive, and has taken the girl and the rest of his family with him,” De Mariani paused for a few seconds and the continued.

 

“I was sitting next to Beto when he asked who this girl was. His aunt, with great sensitivity, told him, ‘she is a girl who has disappeared, and the Grandmothers are now looking for her as they were looking for you.’ He didn’t say anything, continued stamping papers and said, ‘First they get rid of them [the children] and then they look for them.’ I was taken aback by Beto’s words. I explained to Beto that this girl had never been abandoned by her family, and that her grandmother had been desperately looking for her. He continued playing silently, occasionally looking at me with those big, wonderful eyes of his. I then took a picture out of my wallet and told him, ‘See? I am also looking for my granddaughter; her name is Clara Anahí. I love her dearly, but I cannot find her and bring her back to me.’ I said to him that many nights I cry out of frustration, and then I explained to him as clearly as possible the process, by which children were made to disappear. He listened to me attentively, but still he did not say anything.

 

He then went to an office next to ours, where our secretary [Nora] works. Beto saw her typing on a big electric typewriter, something he had never seen before. Our secretary is not an abuela [grandmother]; she is the only young person working in our headquarters. They quickly developed a good rapport.

 

Nora asked Beto if he would like her to type his name. He agreed, and for the first time in his life Beto saw his full name in print. He looked at it with curiosity, and asked Nora if she would mind adding something after his name. She said that she would not and Beto asked her, “Please write ‘Now’”. Because the word by itself didn’t have any meaning Nora proceeded to ask him, “Now what?” Lowering his head, Beto responded, “Now Beto is free.” 

César Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for “Missing or Dead in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims,” which was published as a cover story in The New York Times Magazine.

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Agility (part 2) https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/16/agility-part-2/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/16/agility-part-2/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 08:30:36 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=669955 In the previous article, we looked how important it is for Egypt to have an economy that is resilient to external and internal shocks without unnecessarily constraining the change, innovation, openness, and flexibility necessary to create a sustainable growth. The challenge for policymakers is to find the right balance; and to help them do this, …

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In the previous article, we looked how important it is for Egypt to have an economy that is resilient to external and internal shocks without unnecessarily constraining the change, innovation, openness, and flexibility necessary to create a sustainable growth. The challenge for policymakers is to find the right balance; and to help them do this, we think it important they consider an emergent concept: agility.

Most often applied to the corporate sector (the Agile Corporation), agility is also relevant to the wider macro-economy because, at its heart, it reflects the way the world is, not what we would like it to be. Part of the reason that central planning is a poor method of economic management is that economies are inherently unstable and unpredictable. These inherent characteristics mean not that it is hard to predict what will happen to an economy, but that it is impossible.

The multi-disciplinary academic field that studies this is derived from mathematics, natural, and social sciences and sees the economy as something called a complex adaptive system (CAS). In this view, economies are systems and they are complex, because the behaviour of the system cannot be predicted by aggregating the behaviour of each of the component entities. They are adaptive, because the entities in the system self-organise, react to events, and make decisions on their future behaviour based on their own prediction of the future state of the system. In addition to economies, we see CAS in areas, such as political systems, social networks and, of course, the internet.

When applied to microeconomics, CAS analysis shows that, for one example, competitive advantage is always temporary. Disruption can come from new technology, from changing demand patterns, from regulation, and from over or under-supply of key inputs, and the firm cannot know where it will be disrupted, only that it will be. Firms that are built on the model that they can capture competitive advantage in one area forever will inevitably be replaced. The examples of this are legion: digital imaging destroyed the photographic film industry, health concerns will finish the tobacco business, climate change is killing coal extraction, and the fishing industry is facing an uncertain future in the face of fish stock collapse. At a macro-policy level, this pattern exists too: no government can plan an economic mix that guarantees sustainable competitive advantage. 

The solution to this problem (the proponents maintain) is to create agility in the economy. To put forward a set of policies, strategies, and incentives that create an economy, which is able to quickly and efficiently react to internal and external changes whilst at the same time mitigating the negative social impact of those changes. The key then is for policymakers to consider not what an economy should produce, but how it should be organised. 

Modern economies organised on the basis of certain uncertainty allow rapid repurposing of key resources, particularly people, to reflect the fact that disruption is inevitable, and the goal is not to resist this disruption, but to move to the next iteration of the economy as quickly and with as little social pain as possible. 

Economic sector diversification is a necessary, but not a sufficient strategy. Flexible labour markets are another, alongside comprehensive, and functional social safety nets and re-skilling. Better education of workforces, good core infrastructure, and a stable financial system are others. And Egypt has made and is making big improvements in all these areas—more so than many other developing and developed countries. 

Where Egypt could also place emphasis is on two factors that a recent study of the relative recovery times of US states post-2008 highlighted. Those locations with the highest number of self-employed people proved to be the most agile—with the fastest recovery times and the highest post-crisis growth.  Equally, those with the most decentralised decision-making infrastructure recovered quicker and better than those with highly bureaucratic systems. 

Governments everywhere love to centralise—Egypt as much as any. However, the more that real economic decision-making, regulation, and oversight can be conducted at the micro-level and not the macro-level, the more agile, and therefore more fit for the inherent unpredictability that is the true character of the Egyptian economy, and of every economy.

Author is consulting editor to Euromoney Conferences; the opinions in this article are his own.

 

Richard Banks, Consulting Editor, Euromoney Conferences

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Argentina at a crossroads https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/13/argentina-at-a-crossroads/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/13/argentina-at-a-crossroads/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 08:00:58 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=669400 Seeds were there, spreading in basement, rotting structures, preparing final collapse

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A new and widespread corruption scandal implicating businesspersons with former Kirchner administration officials, may have unforeseen consequences for Argentina’s future as a democracy. The recent conviction of former Vice President Amado Boudou to five years and 10 months in prison for crimes committed while in office may still offer some hope for the country.

Corruption is certainly not new to Argentina. It has been chiselled into Argentina’s political landscape since the beginning of the 20th century and acquired pandemic intensity after General Juan Domingo Perón’s governments.  Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke of Argentina’s society pervasive ‘moral illness.’

Cheating has been the unspoken public policy in school, on taxes, and when paying bills and fines. This social conduct has soiled the roots of the country’s political system and produced its most spectacular finale with the Kirchners’ government. Néstor Kirchner was Argentina’s President from 2003 to 2007 and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from 2007 to 2015.

This should not come as a surprise, however. The seeds were there, spreading in the basement, rotting the structures, preparing the final collapse. How can anybody explain, otherwise, the bloodthirsty repression carried out by the military, during the 1970s, without considering its previous acceptance by civilian political circles? How is it possible that people disappeared in broad daylight by military tactical commandos, without legal complaints except for a few human rights groups?

How could it also be explained that the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) terrorist attack that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires in 1994 could occur, without considering the possible connivance by officials from former president Carlos Menem’s government? Or how could one also explain Alberto Nisman’s assassination? He was the special prosecutor in the AMIA case and was assassinated the day before he was to testify in the Congress denouncing the Kirchner administration’s corrupted agreement with Iran. In that agreement, Iran and Argentina reportedly exchanged oil for immunity for Iranians suspected to have been involved in the AMIA attack.

Those disparate events were simply the consequence of corruption at all levels of Argentina’s society. The policy of decade-long complicity between politicians and judges not only allowed these events to remain unpunished, but condoned bribery as a channel for resolving any investigation of a corrupted system.

 

In the last scandal, it became known that the driver of one of the main officials in the Kirchner government filled eight notebooks with detailed explanations of meetings, people involved, places, and bags with money. The notebooks implicated not only major members of government, but several wealthy businesspersons.

Is there any chance for Argentina to eliminate the chronic illness of corruption in its social life? After all, it seems easier to give up any resistance than to begin a disproportionate fight against a disease that has accomplices at all levels of society. However, as it happens when we are confronted with injustice, we may either give up any hope or maintain our resistance, believing that we deserve a better future.

Italy fought with success a similar corrupted system with the ‘Mani Pulite’ (clean hands.) This was an Italian nationwide judicial investigation into political corruption that led to the demise of the so-called ‘First Republic.’ Several politicians and businesspersons committed suicide after their crimes were uncovered. Brazil has recently produced ‘Lava Jato,’ a similar approach, which presents a chance to get rid of widespread corruption in that country.

It is now up to Argentinian judges to use this opportunity to put a final stop to Argentina’s endemic corruption. Opportunities like this one are rare, when there are desperate voices from the population demanding justice.

César Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for ‘Missing or Dead in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.’ Alberto L. Zuppi, is an Argentine attorney and professor of law, author of ‘AMIA: An Ongoing Crime,’ Red Penguin, 2018.

 

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Egypt allows domestic gas to Gaza as Israel blocks transfer of fuel https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/06/egypt-allows-domestic-gas-to-gaza-as-israel-blocks-transfer-of-fuel/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/06/egypt-allows-domestic-gas-to-gaza-as-israel-blocks-transfer-of-fuel/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 19:00:36 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=668781 Cairo held talks between Hamas, Fatah to reach reconciliation, long-term ceasefire with Israel 

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Egypt has allowed “some 250 tonnes of domestic gas” to Gaza nearly a month after Israel shut down its only goods crossing and prevented the transfer of fuel into the strip, a Palestinian official told Anadolu news agency on Sunday.

The agency quoted Khalil Shakfa, the head of the General Authority of Petroleum, saying that “some 250 tonnes of domestic gas has been allowed into Gaza.”

Meanwhile, Sky News Arabia reported that “11 trucks of domestic gas on Monday entered Gaza through Salah al-Din Gate, located near Rafah crossing,” according to sources.

However, the Egyptian authorities have not confirmed or denied the reports yet.

Last Month, Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza after preventing fuel and gas from transferring through the Kerem crossing, allowing only foods and essential medicines to cross.

After a week, it announced that it will partially reopen the crossing, explaining that the full return of the crossing activities is conditioned to the Hamas movement’s commitment to a complete cessation of firing kites carrying firebombs into Israel.

The gesture came amid the heaviest flare-ups between Israel and Gaza factions, as both exchanged fire through the past few months in the most violent hostilities since the 2014 Gaza war.

A ceasefire had been reached in July, brokered by Egypt and the UN between the two sides, but the violence continued.

Egypt has recently intensified its efforts to reach a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Last week, the two factions announced that they held several meetings with top Egyptian officials, including General Intelligence Service Chief Abbas Kamal, in Cairo to resume talks and discuss a new proposal presented by Egypt. However, no final decision has been reached yet.

The new Egyptian proposal aims at reaching a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah and a long-term ceasefire deal to last for several years; it could extend to seven years.

In October 2017, the rival Palestinian faction signed a reconciliation accord in Cairo after Hamas agreed to hand over the administrative powers of Gaza, which it dominated since 2006, to the Fatah-backed government. However, since then, the talks have stalled.

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Opinion: Venezuela on the verge of imploding https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/05/opinion-venezuela-on-the-verge-of-imploding/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/05/opinion-venezuela-on-the-verge-of-imploding/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 13:56:00 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=668612 The post Opinion: Venezuela on the verge of imploding appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Reports of an apparent attack on President Nicolas Maduro leave more questions than answers, except for one: The only one benefiting from all this is Maduro himself, writes Uta Thofern.Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has claimed at least 20 coups or attacks against him, but not a single one has done him harm. To the contrary, his regime emerges from every actual or supposed attack stronger than before, regardless if carried out by foreign “imperialists” or his country’s own “far-right” opposition.

This latest incident, claimed by the “Soldiers in T-Shirts” movement, shows that Venezuela finds itself not only in a grave political and economic crisis, but that it has arrived to the era of “fake news.” It’s hardly clear if Maduro really was attacked by a drone. The Associated Press news agency quoted firefighters as attributing the explosion to a gas tank in an apartment.

Maduro exploits every new incident as cause to carry out additional witch hunts against the opposition, insult his neighbors, like Colombia — and of course purge his own ranks and those in the army. Each incident further distracts from increasingly unbearable problems in the country.

Gas cheaper than water

The apparent attack happened during a parade marking the 81st anniversary of Venezuela’s National Guard — and three days following his announcement of a new gasoline policy, which itself strangely took place during a power outage that left the capital, Caracas, in darkness for hours.

Gas subsidies have since been coupled with a government-sponsored car census, with only census participants receiving the subsidy. A fill-up in Venezuela costs less than one euro cent, but most of the gas needs to be imported from other large oil producers because Venezuela’s own oil industry is in ruins.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently announced that the country should expect inflation this year to reach 1 million percent. The Venezuelan government said it would knock off five zeros from its currency, the bolivar, after it had already planned in March to knock off three. Even inflation gets ahead of a dictator’s planning.

Starving children

The Venezuelan government subsidizes many other items aside from gas: energy, local transport, food and medicine, all things the country lacks because Venezuela doesn’t generate the currency it needs for imports. What’s more, the “Bolivarian Revolution” has paralyzed Venezuela’s own production capacities. There are countless reports of sick people going without care in dilapidated hospitals, starving children, smuggling mothers and desperate emigrants.

Read more: Motorists line up for scarce petrol in oil-rich Venezuela

Government attempts to counteract all this leaves it looking increasingly helpless, because it is helpless. Venezuela is so fundamentally wrecked that it will take decades for the once-richest country in Latin America to return to at least a minimum standard of living akin to its neighbors. The newly announced partial easing of exchange rates will not suffice; soon enough, even the most loyal followers of the late President Hugo Chavez, who founded the Bolivarian Revolution, will have difficulty making ends meet.

There is hardly anything more dangerous for a government than to end subsidies, as many examples around Latin America, and in Venezuela itself, show. Maduro knows this, no matter how unavoidable it may be. His regime is steering Venezuela straight towards the edge of a cliff.

This does not justify an attack on him, but nor is there any reason for one. Any number of die-hard successors stand behind him with nothing to gain, and everything to fear from regime change. Everything points to an implosion: It is only a matter of time before the so-called socialism of the 21st century collapses in on itself.

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Resilience of Egyptian economy in face of global crises, internal shocks (Part 1) https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/02/resilience-of-egyptian-economy-in-face-of-global-crises-internal-shocks-part-1/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/08/02/resilience-of-egyptian-economy-in-face-of-global-crises-internal-shocks-part-1/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 09:00:20 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=668307 The 2018 Euromoney Egypt Conference is subtitled “Resilience and Agility”. In advance of the event, to be held at the Ritz Carlton in Cairo on 4-5 September, it is important to set out what we mean by those terms and why we think they are interesting and relevant for Egypt. In the second article, I …

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The 2018 Euromoney Egypt Conference is subtitled “Resilience and Agility”. In advance of the event, to be held at the Ritz Carlton in Cairo on 4-5 September, it is important to set out what we mean by those terms and why we think they are interesting and relevant for Egypt. In the second article, I will look at agility, but we start with resilience.

The World Bank defines resilience as the ability of a nation’s economy to resist economic shocks and to recover quickly when those shocks occur.

Egypt, more than most countries, has suffered a number of external and internal shocks that have strongly impacted its economy. Most recently, of course, were the oil price rises of 2009-2011 and the two revolutions of 2011 and 2013. These events significantly affected Egypt’s economy for different reasons, but in similar ways. Only now, in 2018, have we seen the macro picture finally stabilise—although there have been many positive milestones along the way—and the return of growth at a necessary rate of more than 5%. But there are still structural challenges in Egypt’s economy, such as dependence on imported food, which will persist and mean the economy could be vulnerable to sudden external events. That is why it is so important to understand the concept of macroeconomic resilience.

Generally, economies or sectors, which are more closed to international influences, are far less impacted when global shocks occur. To some extent, this was the case with Egypt in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008. Due to tight restrictions on what international assets Egypt’s banks could hold, there was no financial crisis in Egypt in 2008, as there were limited local vectors of transmission for the global contagion to spread. True, Egypt suffered macroeconomic slowing as a result of the recessions across the developed world, but there was no systemic financial crisis as there was elsewhere in the region. Much credit is due to the Central Bank of Egypt for making financial sector stability a priority before the crisis hit.

Resilience to international shocks can therefore be created within an economy by limiting the exposure of sectors to international competition, by creating very high regulatory requirements for companies and financial institutions, by slowing the pace of change, and by protecting domestic market participants. But that sort of resilience brings with it slow growth, and therefore a relative decline in living standards and opportunities available to the people. It also protects inefficient incumbents from leaner, meaner competitors.

The flip side, therefore, of isolationist resilience is that it causes a drag on long-term growth rates and, as importantly, the ability of the economy to recover quickly from any shock.  And shocks aren’t always externally generated, as Egypt found out in 2011. Whilst the nation proved resilient to the GFC, it did not to the Arab Spring.

Compare the economic performance of the US post-2008 with that of Egypt post-2011.  The US went into a savage and painful recession causing a large budget deficit and unemployment to peak at nearly 10%. The year 2011 brought a similar impact to Egypt’s economy, but it took much longer to recover. The same things that had protected Egypt from the 2008 crisis (regulation, protection, rigidity) hindered its ability to recover quickly from a domestically generated economic shock.

But the laissez-faire economic model of the US with all its creative destruction and minimal social safety net is not appropriate for Egypt. So the challenge for policy makers, therefore, is to find the right balance between resilience through prophylaxis and resilience through enhanced recovery speed.

That, as we all know, is not an easy task. It also one that the best minds in Egypt have been focusing on for the past five years—with a good deal of success. There is, however, one new strand of thinking which may provide further insight to enable both public and private sector leaders to approach this challenge from a new direction, and that is the concept of agility.  We will cover that in the next piece.

Richard Banks, consulting editor for Euromoney conferences, the opinions in this article are his own.

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Opinion: EU risks being left behind after GMO ruling https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/opinion-eu-risks-being-left-behind-after-gmo-ruling/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/opinion-eu-risks-being-left-behind-after-gmo-ruling/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 20:37:00 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=667492 The post Opinion: EU risks being left behind after GMO ruling appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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The EU’s top court has ruled that gene-edited crops fall under the same tough laws as GMOs. While good news for opponents of such products, it’s a setback for genetic research on the continent, says DW’s Fabian Schmidt.Had gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 been exempt from the same stringent guidelines in place for conventional genetic technology, it would have represented a big opportunity for scientists.

It would have meant a chance for plant cultivation to finally catch up with research in the United States, which is currently leading in the field of “green” genetic engineering, and close the giant technological gap between the two continents.

But that’s unlikely to happen now in the wake of the ruling by the European Court of Justice. Instead, it’s an affirmation of the decisions made years ago by large industrial research companies such as BASF to move their crop research divisions overseas. Those companies that have yet to do so will sooner or later follow suit.

Read more: Is CRISPR-Cas9 ‘genetic engineering’ at all?

And it will also follow that green genetic engineering will continue to be perceived by the public as evil, when primarily, it is an optimized form of plant cultivation. In principle, CRISPR-Cas9 does nothing other than what happens in nature: create alterations in select genes among the millions of genes in the genome of a plant. The mutations that result are no different than those that spontaneously occur in nature.

A natural process

Ever since humankind moved from being hunters and gatherers to agriculture and raising livestock, people have always altered organisms for their benefit. This has, of course, altered our ecology. Some plants have prevailed over others. Some lines have died off, and others have emerged. It’s called evolution. The new thing about genetic engineering is that biologists today are able to achieve considerably better, faster results than the animal and plant breeders of the last millennia.

This never used to be a problem. We humans have bred domestic pigs, dairy cows, extra big cherries and sweeter grapes. We’ve changed the genetic makeup of wild boars, cows, wild cherries and grapes to better suit our purposes — because it was good for us, and because it tasted good. At the same time, we’ve evolved into modern human beings. So why is everything now suddenly wrong?

The new gene editing method known as CRISPR-Cas9 is much closer to processes found in nature than the transplantation of genes from one organism to another. It’s so close that the resulting mutations can’t be identified as artificial. The latest reports that the use of CRISPR-Cas9 also leads to undesirable mutations are not surprising. That’s a common feature of plant cultivation and evolution — it’s a part of life that cells mutate.

Genetic engineering’s image problem

Perhaps it’s part of human nature to mistrust our own capabilities. A lot of people have an uneasy feeling when they hear the words “genetic engineering.” Can the sorcerer’s apprentice retain control over the powers that he unleashes? The honest answer is probably, yes — just as we have in the past. But for the opponents of genetic engineering, that answer is unconvincing. Their rejection lies deep, just as we see an anti-modernist, anti-industrial attitude taking hold in society.

Read more: Is gene editing the key to food security in a warmer world?

Trade, of course, continues to take its cue from the mainstream. For supermarket chains, it’s all about sales figures and ensuring that customers feel comfortable buying their brands. Ecological awareness is growing — the main thing is that it says “organic” on the label.

The labeling requirement now extended to CRISPR-Cas9 products will be pure poison for consumer perception. A transgenic potato variety — even if it is very healthy — or a transgenic rice enriched with natural vitamins will not stand a chance on market shelves in affluent Western societies. No retailer will want to risk putting such products with the “genetically modified” label on their shelves. And no farmer will want to grow such products if they fear they will not sell. In this way, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to develop better, healthier food products and to allow farmers to make a better living by growing crops that are more optimally adapted to dry conditions, for example.

That doesn’t mean that CRISPR-Cas9 will cease to develop. On other continents, people are less ideological in this debate — so Europe will continue to lag behind.

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For banks, 2018 is year of data https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/for-banks-2018-is-year-of-data/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/for-banks-2018-is-year-of-data/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 14:00:44 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=667335 We are often told that regulation and technology are the key drivers of change in banking. This maxim remains true, but can distract from a more critical insight. In 2018, regulatory reform and technology innovation will continue to reshape banking. But the changes they enable are being propelled by forces so profound and far-reaching as …

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We are often told that regulation and technology are the key drivers of change in banking. This maxim remains true, but can distract from a more critical insight. In 2018, regulatory reform and technology innovation will continue to reshape banking. But the changes they enable are being propelled by forces so profound and far-reaching as to require a fundamental rethinking and reconstruction of banks’ business models and operational structures, placing data at the core of both.

We know PSD2 and APIs will combine to make the client data held by banks more mobile and accessible. However significant, this is just one example of a much more transformational change. With so many of our economic interactions now being conducted via digital means, more data are being generated—and in more places—than ever before. This represents a shift in how financial value is generated, exchanged, and recorded, and calls for data-oriented business models if banks are to avoid being marginalised.

In agrarian, pre-cash economies, value was exchanged and generated through nodes such as markets with a restricted number of participants and interactions, and few links between these nodes. These decentralised models, which required limited data exchange, were replaced by centralised ones as financial interactions meshed with the levers of government (eg treasury departments, central banks, tax authorities, etc), which collectively dictated the rules of financial intermediation and dominated its data flows. Today, however, we’re seeing the emergence of a distributed model, whereby governments oversee a framework that allows economic actors to choose how value is transferred from a range of competing options, leveraging technology innovations such as APIs and blockchain. In this distributed model, consumers and platforms are the nodes in the network, connected with APIs to access, exchange, and mesh multiple data flows.

In this digital economy, banks have access to more data, but a less complete picture of client activities and needs. Digitisation’s impact in other industries is well-established, but in 2018 it will become much more evident in banking. Over the next 12 months and beyond, we see three “mega-trends” as pointing the way to the future needs of clients and the changes banks must undertake to remain relevant.

The first mega-trend that will continue to drive change in banking business models is the rapid service digitisation that has transformed multiple industries over the past decade. These services leverage technology innovation to provide greater speed, choice, and simplicity to users, with implications for banks’ traditional role in the financial value chain. As more services to consumers and businesses are delivered digitally, a more diverse range of data flows are being generated, while banking services are increasingly integrated into the back-end of third-party value propositions, meaning banks risk losing control and visibility of client data and relationships.

Having reduced margins and overturned business models elsewhere, service digitalisation is now directly impacting banks, most notably through regulatory support for “open banking,” our second 2018 mega-trend. With the second EU Payment Services Directive entering force, regulators are encouraging competition from fintechs, primarily weakening banks’ traditional control of account and transaction information, while facilitating—explicitly or implicitly—new entrants in fields such as wealth management and lending. By unleashing new forms of competition and decentralising data, the new framework empowers firms that can use it to deliver value to the consumer, forcing banks to adapt operationally and strategically.

While PSD2 gives customers control over which service providers may manipulate their banking data, it is just one example of the power shifts in the new distributed data model of financial value. This third mega-trend of 2018 is driven by the increased volume, diversity, and mobility of data flows in the digital economy, but is also supported by regulatory reforms that reflect the importance of data and digital identity in the exchange and reporting of financial value. The EU General Data Protection Regulation, for example, not only governs how companies store and use data harvested from consumer interactions, but also offers opportunities for consumers to monetise their digital assets, via their new rights to grant or withhold access to their data history.

For decades, banks have held privileged access to client data, but their siloed structures have often frustrated efforts to create a joined-up view of the client and their future needs. Although service digitisation across multiple sectors and interactions has generated a treasure trove of data, banks are ill-equipped to maximise this opportunity. Few have the processes or infrastructure to effectively capture, store and analyse transaction data; moreover, it represents a fragmented and fast-declining share of client activity. There is a real risk of further margin compression as banks’ value-add becomes less clear to the end-user.

There is an alternative for banks with the resolve and vision to change. In sector after sector, platform-based approaches are being adopted by incumbents in response to digital disruption. Though models vary, a key attribute is the ability to combine resources and relationships into a flexible value proposition that leverages data to inform future service development. By consolidating data from multiple retail partners with transaction information, perhaps in a budgeting app, banks can provide real insight and value, which are rewarded with loyalty and transaction fees. To do this, banks must not only reassess their data management, aggregation, and analytics capabilities, but also develop new relationships and value propositions.

The pace of regulatory change in the finance sector might have slowed down, but 2018 will not mean a return to business as usual. Year 2008 was not just the year of the financial crisis, but also marked the dawn of an era of digital transformation that is reshaping our economic and social lives, and now placing data at the centre of new business models. Banks have long-known that effective data management is key to cost reduction and operational efficiency through greater automation, as well as effective defence against cyber-security and other financial crime threats. The distributed data markets of today’s digital economy—driven by the combined force of innovations such as blockchain, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence—represent a more fundamental shift. As such, 2018 will be a critical year in the reshaping banks’ data management strategies, operating infrastructures, and business models.

Christopher Truce is the Head of Fintech at Saxo Bank

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Growth potential in emerging markets is unaffected by rising dollar https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/growth-potential-in-emerging-markets-is-unaffected-by-rising-dollar/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/growth-potential-in-emerging-markets-is-unaffected-by-rising-dollar/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:30:19 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=667323 The decline in emerging-market currencies since March is the result of the dollar rally. However, emerging markets are still benefiting from synchronised growth in the global economy. That momentum provides a good opportunity to move back into this asset class. The year 2018 started well for emerging markets, until they peaked on 20 March. Since …

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The decline in emerging-market currencies since March is the result of the dollar rally. However, emerging markets are still benefiting from synchronised growth in the global economy. That momentum provides a good opportunity to move back into this asset class.

The year 2018 started well for emerging markets, until they peaked on 20 March. Since then, they have suffered a severe correction, while the dollar has rallied equally significantly against the main emerging currencies. Once again, a rising dollar has been accompanied by a decline in emerging markets. Emerging-market countries remain dependent on action taken by the Fed and movements in the dollar. The strength of the US currency is making dollar-based financing more expensive for companies in those countries, and prompting monetary-policy adjustments in many economies.

Since the end of March, emerging currencies have fallen 10% on average against the greenback, but have not seen any decline against the euro or sterling. These currency movements highlight the strength of the dollar, which is mainly the product of the US economy’s relatively strong growth and the Fed’s monetary tightening rather than any real weakness in emerging currencies. In euro terms, the MSCI Emerging Markets index is down only 5% year-to-date, while the MSCI World index is up 3.5%.

Synchronised growth in global economy

In sector terms, cyclical stocks—ie those exposed to the current upward phase of the economic cycle such as oil, gas, and commodity stocks—are holding up well during this correction, as are more defensive sectors like pharmaceuticals. Emerging-market sectors performing less well at the moment include finance, manufacturing, and telecoms. If concern about global growth were behind the current correction, defensive stocks would have outperformed. The fact that they have not shows the resilience of global markets so far.

Some countries are benefiting from rising hydrocarbon prices, and numerous emerging-market cyclical stocks have held out well against the correction. This situation is likely to continue as long as the strong dollar does not significantly weaken the current phase of synchronised growth. Confidence levels among consumers and businesses remain historically high, supporting that scenario.

Although political problems in Turkey, Argentina, and Brazil are weakening their economies, the damage has not yet spread elsewhere. New US sanctions against Russia in early April came as a surprise and adversely affected the Russian market. However, relations between Washington and Moscow are improving and a bilateral summit is being organised, which should help optimism to return to the Russian market. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia and Argentina look likely to be added to the MSCI Emerging Markets index in May 2019, which will put those countries’ stocks on the radar of major investment funds.

Mathieu Nègre is the head of Global Emerging Equities, Union Bancaire Privée.

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President Al-Sisi’s difficult dialogue https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/president-al-sisis-difficult-dialogue/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/25/president-al-sisis-difficult-dialogue/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:00:07 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=667320 Within days, a new session of the Youth Conferences will be held. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will attend and participate in the conference. The upcoming conference may be difficult and held at a critical time. The question is why? The conference will be the first appearance of Al-Sisi after the decisions made to increase the …

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Within days, a new session of the Youth Conferences will be held. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will attend and participate in the conference. The upcoming conference may be difficult and held at a critical time. The question is why?

The conference will be the first appearance of Al-Sisi after the decisions made to increase the prices of electricity and fuel. The past period included a long absence of the president, who would be seen every week either before the opening of a project or to inspect opened projects. During these appearances, he would direct some messages to the people.

Hence, Egyptians are waiting for the president’s appearance to justify to them the reason for these increases and when they will be over, as well as when citizens will reap the fruits of the reform programme.

Answers require transparency and bold decisions to address the negative effects of the reform programme and achieving justice in distributing burdens on all segments of the society, each based on their abilities to handle these burdens. As for the expected heated discussions, many questions require clear answers related to policies and timings. No one needs general or unclear answers anymore. We need to understand why there is a delay in improving the quality of the services offered to citizens despite the technological revolution and why we do not utilise it. Until when will we remain unable to solve the mystery and allow this deadlock to control the political scene as we approach the parliamentary elections next year and local elections that we do not know when will be held and according to which election system. No one knows where the youth who participated in the presidential qualification programme are for the leadership positions in all sectors of the state.

When will Egypt overcome the stage of the “World Cup’s zero” and reach a stage of an honourable representation in the case of reaching the finals, unlike the early exit and the misfortune of Russia’s World Cup.

Why would Qatar organise the 2020 World Cup and Morocco prepares to organise the championship and we would not? This is because we are still in the World Cup’s zero stage. When we requested to organise the World Cup during the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, we discovered we are not qualified for organising such an event. We do not have a clear system for anything. In other words, we do not have a manual for any service or sector. Everything is random and lacks quality. Even in terms of the state itself, no one knows which political or economic system we are using at the moment. No one knows until this moment the date of the upcoming parliamentary elections or which system it will be held according to.

No one knows who will run in the next presidential election three years from now. Unfortunately, we are still living in the phase where this is a semi-country. Yes, the country’s institutions and stability are back, but the institutions lack efficiency, and there is no security. Citizens are subject to looting and violence. Children are still getting kidnapped, and corruption is everywhere.

Mr president, what I propose is a dialogue you would not hear in a conference. A dialogue on coffee shops, transportation, and homes. People are waiting for so much from you. It was you who decided to take this responsibility, but you and the army decided to take it alone and the burden is too big to be carried alone and the challenges are growing.

Why you do not let the people participate in carrying that responsibility with you? Talk to them and let them talk to you so the dialogue can be mutual and the consequences would be handled by everyone rather than you alone.

Mr president, you have accomplished so much work during the first presidential term, and this cannot be denied, but achieving loyalty and instilling it is more important than building a bridge or a road. Open the door for political parties and civil society inquisitions. Allow them to present their ideas and discuss them with you for the sake of public interest. Not everyone who criticises or opposes you means evil.

Mr president, the people have chosen and supported you because they found someone to save the country at a difficult time, so all segments of the society who are standing beside you want to see this scene again, but this time in a national dialogue for all segments and classes.

Hussein Abdrabbu is the Editor in Chief of Al-Borsa newspaper.

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An insatiable salesman https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/19/an-insatiable-salesman/ https://dailynewsegypt.com/2018/07/19/an-insatiable-salesman/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 06:30:55 +0000 https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=666637 Unexpectedly, a casual incident brightened my life. It was one of the most interesting meetings I had during a recent trip to my native province, Tucumán, located in the north of Argentina. There I met Roberto Espeche, a local notary with a fascinating life history. I met Roberto when I was in a restaurant with …

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Unexpectedly, a casual incident brightened my life. It was one of the most interesting meetings I had during a recent trip to my native province, Tucumán, located in the north of Argentina. There I met Roberto Espeche, a local notary with a fascinating life history.

I met Roberto when I was in a restaurant with some friends. At one point, a tall man wearing glasses and a smile, walking, and talking with some difficulty, approached the table. When my friends introduced us, the first thing he said to me was, “Do you want to buy my book?” Disoriented by such frankness, I only managed to sketch a negative response. Unperturbed, he continued, “It does not matter. I give it to you as a present. Somehow, I’m going to get my money back…” Later that evening, Roberto and I were having dinner together at a nearby restaurant. It was a great dinner, with delicious dishes, and accompanied with a very good French wine. Of course, I paid the bill.

That day, and in later days, between talks with him and with other friends, I was able to reconstruct his history. Roberto was born in Tafí Viejo, a small town near the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, the largest city in the northwest region of Argentina, and the capital of the province of Tucumán.

From his childhood he was a very good student and in elementary school he became a standard bearer representing his school group. His life passed without major incidents until on 28 June 1986, when he was only 13 years old, he had an accident that would turn his life around.

In a hurry to get to a training session at his rugby club, he ran out of his house when trying to pass in front of a bus; he was hit by a neighbour’s car. She was terrified and thought she had killed him.

Roberto was taken to a sanatorium where, three and a half months later, he was discharged and was able to return home. He had suffered multiple injuries, from which it took him years to recover. For more than a decade he carried out rehabilitation sessions for basic functions, such as walking, maintaining balance, recovering fine motor skills, and speaking without major inconveniences. However, the injuries in his brain caused a loss of his inhibitions, which sometimes caused, even now, difficult social situations.

Years later, fate would again put him to a test. His beloved daughter Martina, one year old, had a very serious accident, where she almost drowned. The accident, however, left her with neurological lesions even more serious than those her father had suffered. It seems that his experience had prepared him to be able to help his daughter reintegrate into family life—very important for her recovery. Roberto, with commendable integrity, did not cease his efforts in trying to help her.

All these trying events generated in him the need to relate all these experiences in a book. He counted on this with the extraordinary collaboration of Jorge Daniel Brahim, editorial director of the magazine El Pulso Argentino. The result was “With Perseverance: My Life as History”, a book where his passage from darkness to light was appropriately reflected. More than 6,200 copies of his book have already been sold—an extraordinary figure if one takes into account that they are the result of Roberto’s personal efforts and his great talent as a salesman. Moreover, a more complete third edition has already been printed.

I witnessed Roberto’s ability as a salesman when, on one occasion, we were having coffee in Las Palmas, a downtown restaurant. Roberto, as always, had a backpack with several copies of his book. At short intervals he would get up from our table and offer his book to new clients when they entered the restaurant. At a certain moment, I saw a couple come in whom I thought were professionals, since they came loaded with several books. I then said to Roberto, “Look, Roberto, that couple seems to be potential clients for you.” Immediately, he answered me, “Don’t worry for me, César. I am an insatiable salesman. I am like a shark; when I smell blood, I know exactly how to attack my prey.”

Another recent incident confirmed Roberto’s tenacity in selling his books. Some friends in common told me how, on one occasion, Roberto lost his balance and fell backwards to the ground. His editor tried to lift him from the floor without being able to do so. A passer-by who saw the scene approached and tried to help in lifting him. For a few dramatic seconds, Roberto seemed to have lost consciousness. As he opened his eyes, as soon as he saw a new and strange face, the first thing he said was, “Do you want to buy my book?”

Dr. César Chelala is a writer from New York, winner of several journalism awards.

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