Posts in English

Rough transcript of the Abo Fotoh - Moussa debate

Rough English transcript written while the debate was live can be found here:

Round 1

Round 2

Please note that this was typed while the debate was being aired live on TV so there are bits missing and possible inaccuracies. Also lots of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

The video of the debate itself can be found here.

Hypnosis in Tahrir

The man in white hair who looks like Jor-El and appears in the projected screen, just like in Superman II, is called Timothy Trujillo and he is someone who is "a Mind-Body Healing Specialist with certificates in Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy, Reiki, and Reflexology."

Reiki, Reflexology and Acupuncture are types of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) that have no solid empirical evidence to back them. Their practitioners claim that certain power fields exist and that these therapies modify such fields. But these fields can't be measured and don't make much sense giving our current knowledge of biology and physics. Although there are papers that claim they do have an effect, very often these studies are flawed or the effect is due to the placebo effect. (I won't explain the placebo effect here, look it up, it's very interesting)

I may be biased against CAM but lets examine the evidence quickly for the sake of this blog post.

Practitioners of CAM usually resist any criticism of their methods and are unwilling to provide evidence for its effectiveness by conducting proper studies. Often the sensationalism, the grand claims by CAM practitioners and perhaps giving the patient more attention and time are the main reasons that draw the public to it.

Hypnosis is a form of an induced trance state where the subject is suggestible and relaxed. It is a real phenomenon and may have some effect but has very limited applications, not easy and doesn't work with everyone. The public perceive hypnosis as something magical or intriguing possibly due to the practice of stage hypnosis which is pure deception.

The poor state of Egypt's medico-legal authority

conference room at the medico-legal authority in Cairo

I took part in a training workshop for the medico-legal authority (forensic authority) in December in Cairo and last month in Assiut.

My part in the training was on the psychological consequences of torture. This was part of a training on the Istanbul Protocol, an internationally recognised guideline for medical and legal documentation of cases of torture. The IRCT managed to convince the director of the authority (chief forensic examiner) Dr. Ehsan Gorgy to provide such training, in exchange the authority will get them several digital cameras to help improve their documentation.

The authority was established in 1931 and is part of the Justice Ministry. It works within the legal framework of laws passed in 1952. A year before the structure of DNA was discovered and before many of the current advances in radiology and other fields of medicine. Currently the authority has an office in every governerate and a workforce of about 70+ doctors.

The authority was under intense scrutiny by the public following the Khaled Said case. It was accused of being complicit with the regime. This case is still a sore issue for forensic doctors and the public still carry lots of mistrust.

While exchanging contacts with one of the doctors at the end of a training day. One told me he has a Facebook account and is quite active on it but no longer writes his occupation as a forensic doctor fearing insults and shaming from his Facebook friends.

Visual propaganda in the #NGOCrackdown case

Whenever Ahram newspaper asks their graphics team to photoshop anything a scandal erupts. Remember the Mubarak in the lead photo?

This time the content of the photo wasn't the source of the scandal but the entire case and how the government and media insisted that it's a matter of sovereignty. Up to the extent that prime minister Kamal El-Ganzoury said Egypt won't kneel to the US.

Background (skip this if you know the case):
The government started a witch-hunt against foreign funded NGOs. But decided to pick on the easier target, one that will arouse minor criticism locally. US NGOs working for 'democracy promotion' such NDI, IRI and freedom house. The legal status of these NGOs is under question but that's a side issue, although the basis of the case against them, because they have been operating since 2004.

Ever since the revolution started state owned media launched a smear campaign against political activists and groups such April 6 that they were foreign funded and trained. That invisible foreign hands are responsible for this chaos. After Mubarak stepped down, SCAF took that line and continued in the same direction using state media and their stupid Facebook communiqué.

This was taken further, perhaps for local consumption and to add legitimacy to their foreign hands claims or part of a long term campaign to crackdown on NGOs, specially those working in human rights. So, 43 NGO workers were banned from travelling, including American citizens and referred to trial. After pressure from the White House, the travel ban was lifted for the foreigners and they left. Disgracing the government and judiciary.

Ahram used several odd stock photos and photoshop creations to add to the sensationalism. Here are some example I managed to keep.

Impaired physicians

Substance abuse among health professionals is serious. An impaired physician may harm the lives of her patients or may lead to their own death as in the case of Dr. Karim Aly. Compared to the general public, physicians have access to very serious medications. More so in certain specialties like anesthesiology.

7 officers suspended for growing beards

7 police officers who tried to grow their beards on duty were quickly suspended by the ministry of interior. This level of firmness is never seen with officers who kill or torture.

The matter of officers growing beards is controversial.

Should the Egyptian police force respect the officers' personal choice and religion, provided they are treated equally and Christians are allowed to wear a cross. Or is it better if the image of law enforcement is a secular one?

Open Democracy: Best of the blogs

view from a taxi side mirror

openDemocracy, a wesbite that publishes posts by prominent academics and journalists and encourages debate about world politics and culture, has published as part of its Arab Awakening section a guide to the best blogs in the Arab world for 2011. These include very important and popular blogs such as Nawaat, Jadaliyya, Mamfakinch and the Arabist.

Nawaat was this time last year an incredibly important resource, not just for Tunisians but for everyone who wanted to follow the events that led up to the downfall of Ben Ali. The other three blogs are so well established that they don't need any introductions. Check out their guide here.

Additionally, the site chose less well known blogs. Like Basem Sabry's highly thoughtful blog and it introduced me to Abu Kareem's Levantine Dreamhouse which I am looking forward to reading more of his posts on Syria. His spot on post about the Arab League observers mission to Syria being a farce caught my attention.

.@alaa released and live tweets of his latest TV interview

If you know Alaa's case, you can skip this recap and jump to the horizontal line below. If you watched the interview with Yousri Fouda on OnTv, you can skip this post entirely.

Alaa surrounded by media

Alaa was released on remand on Sunday 25th of December after spending 56 days in custody. Along with 27 other suspects who were accused of attacking the Maspero building and army forces protecting it. Read the full list of accusations here.

What happened on the 9th of October was that the Army attacked a peaceful march with extreme force, opening live fire on men, women and children and used at least 2 APCs to run over protesters. Around 27 protesters died and 1 soldier was killed with a bullet. After the deadly attack the protesters managed to burn an APC and clashes took place for few hours following the deadly episode.

You can read a first hand account of what happened here.

You can also watch this video by Mosireen about the events.

Alaa heard of the events over twitter and went to Abdelmoneim Reyad square, near Maspero, where he joined, well after the deadly events took place, the crowds chanting against SCAF. In one video he was filmed throwing a stone into blackness. Presumably at the police. He later went to the morgue of the Coptic hospital, where he instantly became useful. He spent the night their with the families of the deceased and helped them take the decision to allow for forensic autopsy and delay prayer and burial.

On the tear gas

Guy sending tear gas back to police

Last night in Mohamed Mahmoud I sat on top of a wall to watch the battle between the police and protesters and after 5 minutes of watching skilful kids throwing back tear gas canisters at the police. We were showered with 4 or 5 simultaneously. Suddenly, I heard a hiss behind me, so I jumped and tried to remain low to avoid the smoke, behind a utility box to avoid anything falling on my head and closed my eyes so it didn't hurt. But then another one landed 5 meters on my side and another one in front of me. At this point I realised that I have to leave my position as the smoke was so heavy my chest was burning and breathing was quite difficult.

Fortunately, I managed to walk to the side street by the AUC library where I held the arm of a guy and told him to help me walk few meters away. I was spent and started to sweat all over (this meant more gas being absorbed by the body). He asked one of the motorbike ambulance to take me away. This was a great experience, the guys on the bike ran so fast that fresh cold wind blew in my face. Also, leaving the area saturated with smoke reassured me and I started recovering on the bike. Before reaching one of the field hospitals on a side walk I told him to drop me off as I felt much better and thanked them for the ride. My wheezy chest wasn't clear till 30 minutes later.

Earlier, I was in the field hospital in Omar Makram. I wanted to see as many cases with neurological problems as possible. There was a professor of Neurology there who I had an interesting discussion about the effects of the gas.

Most of the cases that came with convulsions weren't suffering from an epileptic fit.

Retweet @alaa

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