Today’s news: Floods, confessions and agitators

Starting off today’s news is Al-Ahram, with the headline “Obama confesses inability to solve Middle East crisis”, a confession which the paper found to be “shocking” and “unprecedented”. With its leading story being essentially a summarization of the American president’s recent interview with Time magazine, Al-Ahram focused on several statements Obama made, in which he claimed to have “underestimated” the situation in the Middle East, insisting that he will not be discouraged from continuing his efforts in reaching a two-state solution. “…[T]he Middle East peace process has not moved forward,” Obama admitted, “and I think it’s fair to say that for all our efforts at early engagement, it is not where I want it to be.”

Meanwhile, Al-Akhbar’s headline focused on the Egyptian president, or rather, "his efforts at aiding flood victims around the country." Due to the extensive damage caused by flooding in several governorates, President Mubarak has issued a series of directives that will reportedly see various branches of the government tackle the problem, installing water pumps and sewage systems and sending rescue teams and aid packages to the areas afflicted. Following at the president’s heels was the National Democratic Party’s Safwat el-Sherif, with his reassurance that “the [National Democratic] Party is playing a huge role in supporting distressed families” and that “the president has issued clear orders that the party, and particularly its youthful members, provide the aid which these victims desperately need.” El-Sherif also stated that there will be “daily reports monitoring the status of the victims and the possibility of any new flooding.”

Citizens of Aswan claim that the floods caused LE55,000 in property damage, according to Al-Ahram. The paper also reports residents of Arish making similar claims when questioned by members of the People’s Court Human Rights Committee, stating that many of their possessions had been carried off “into the Mediterranean Sea.” Preliminary assessments of the damage caused by flooding in northern Sinai report 582 homes destroyed and another 1482 submerged, with 72 roads ruined and 13,000 trees uprooted.

The independent papers eschewed numbers and reports for a slightly more dramatic approach. “A volcano of rage erupts in North Sinai” was the headline in Al-Wafd, running above images of displaced families and obliterated houses. In its corresponding story, the paper reports growing resentment and anger amidst flood victims at the “government’s complete failure in dealing with this disaster.” Al-Wafd continues to describe an almost complete lack of response from authorities, with displaced families forced to sleep with no shelter, and many choosing to return to their destroyed homes for lack of better options. Water and food supplies are scarce, and as a result, local merchants have taken advantage of the situation and doubled their prices, claims Al-Wafd.

Al-Dostour also reported on the flooding with the grim headline “Child’s corpse found drifting near Ras Sedr” leading into a slightly more detailed account of the devastation. However, the paper’s main story focused on the demonstrations held by migrant Copts in the United States on Thursday. As a response to the Naga Hammadi incident, a crowd of 3,000 protesters gathered in front of the White House, with similar demonstrations simultaneously held at the United Nations headquarters as well in Athens, Greece, where crowds of angry Copts formed in front of parliament. Subsequently, the European Parliament, having met on Thursday to discuss the issue of human rights in North Africa, stated a “growing concern” over the current state of the Muslim-Coptic relationship in Egypt, requesting Egyptian authorities to “work to secure the safety of its Coptic citizens and to protect their possessions, as they comprise 10% of the Egyptian population.” In response, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has accused certain members of the European Parliament of being a “negative influence” and using their “well-known extreme Christian beliefs” to manipulate their colleagues into focusing on an issue which, according to the Egyptian government, is an internal matter and not to be interfered with by any foreign entity.

The issue also made the front page in Al-Gomhuriya, with the headlines reiterating the government’s stance on foreign involvement, with the paper adding “moderates within the European Parliament praise Egypt while extremists add to the fire.” Al-Gomhuriya’s report goes on to quote a “reliable source” within the Foreign Ministry as he questions the "motives of the agitators within the European Parliament."

Meanwhile, Al-Shorouq stands alone in its prioritizing of the real-estate tax issue, with depressing news that the never-ending saga might have not even officially started. The paper reports that no initiative has been taken concerning the revisiting of the much-contested laws, despite president Mubarak’s recent claim that the issue is “still being discussed”. According to another “reliable source” within the NDP, “neither the People’s Assembly, nor Parliament, nor the NDP” have made or even responded to any adjustments to the original law, which means that it still applies.

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