Thursday’s papers: Electric hospital, ‘naive’ gunman, ‘Egyptian silence’

State-owned Al-Ahram starts off today’s news with a report on the Naval Academy, which held a ceremony yesterday for its 61st graduating class. As announced in the headline, and seen in the single, student-free photo accompanying the report, the ceremony was attended by President Mubarak, as well as Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, and various cabinet members.

Also on the front page is an article titled “The President joins graduates for breakfast” in which Al-Ahram reports that, following yesterday’s graduation ceremony, President Mubarak joined the graduates–and their families–for breakfast. Further details on the meal itself were not provided.

Al-Ahram’s third lead story also revolves around the President. Coming a few weeks after a young Alexandrian man was allegedly beaten to death by two undercover cops, President Mubarak inaugurated a “new police hospital” in Alexandria yesterday, Al-Ahram reports. According to the paper, the new hospital will feature “highly advanced and very large medical equipment with the aim of providing medical care for members of the police force and their families.” The hospital will reportedly house 260 beds and 24 specialized clinics and will be the “first of its kind in Egypt and Alexandria,” probably due to the fact that it is “controlled electronically, and does not rely on paperwork for every stage of diagnosis, treatment, or even archiving.”

Beyond Mubarak, state-owned papers also include an update on the much-disputed issue of divorce and second marriages in the Coptic church. Following a public disagreement between the government and the church, Head of the High Constitutional Court Farouk Sultan has interfered, ordering a temporary discontinuation of a newly passed law which would have forced Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic church to recognize and approve a second marriage for Magdy William Youssef, one of two men whose request for permission to remarry after their respective divorces led to the current dilemma.

None of these stories are mentioned in any of the independent dailies, who instead divide their attention between gas prices and the crisis in Sudan. “Gas and solar prices will not increase prior to elections,” promises Al-Shorouk’s lead story, while Al-Dostour’s headline “Season’s greetings” comes as a sarcastic comment on the start of the summer months, during which supplies of gasoline with an 80 percent level of octane are expected to dwindle.

Al-Shorouk also includes an update on Tuesday’s “massacre”, during which Mahmoud Taha Souilam, a bus-driver for the Arab Contractors Company, opened fire on the Assiut agricultural road, killing six and wounding six others. Reports allege that Souilam had planned to extract revenge on two men who he believed had deceived him when he asked for their assistance in “digging up ancient artifacts” on his property, a process which Al-Shorouk mentions was causing considerable damage to neighboring buildings. The two men, also employees of Arab Contractors, reportedly “mocked [Souilam] and threatened to expose him in the workplace as a naïve, superstitious simpleton.” According to the paper, the two men also suggested that Souilam was trying to con them and that he knew there were “no artifacts of any kind under his house.”

Al-Shorouk writes that Souilam then obtained an unlicensed machine gun from a relative on the local police force. With his weapon concealed in a plastic bag under his seat, Souilam took his bus out on its regular route, picked up the two men, along with several other company employees, and opened fire. Reports state that Souilam shot at the two men first, before “losing control and shooting the rest of the employees.” Souilam then drove the bus back to the company lot and handed in the keys.

For its lead story, independent daily Al-Wafd turns its attention to the “escalating situation” in Sudan, which so far, as the paper laments, has been met with “Egyptian silence.” Al-Wafd reports that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir continues to claim that “Halayeb belongs to Sudan, and will always belong to Sudan,” referring to the Halayeb Triangle, an area of land situated on the Egypt-Sudan border said to contain a wealth of manganese. According to Al-Wafd, the Sudanese leader has demanded that the Egyptian government provide some form of  “evidence proving that Halayeb does indeed belong to Egypt,” even suggesting that the matter be settled by the International Court of Justice. Al-Wafd points out that this “is the third time in which the Sudanese government’s harsh statements over the Halayeb issue were met by Egyptian silence.”

Egypt’s newspapers:
: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef:
Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Daily, privately owned
Daily, privately owned
Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma:
Weekly, privately owned

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