Inside the Middle East
October 11, 2009
Posted: 814 GMT

By Ben Wedeman
CNN Correspondent

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) - When President Barack Obama came to Cairo in June and made his address to the Muslim world, reaction in Egypt was wildly positive.

U.S. President Obama delivers a key address at the Cairo University campus in June, 2009
U.S. President Obama delivers a key address at the Cairo University campus in June, 2009

Many Egyptians had fallen in love with the new young American president with an Arabic middle name. Some even picked up the "Yes we can" slogan.

His appeal was fueled by an almost unanimous dislike for his predecessor, George W. Bush, widely perceived in the region as a Christian fundamentalist leading an anti-Muslim crusade.

But that was then. Euphoria has a short shelf life in the Middle East, and Barack Obama is not exempt.

To gauge reaction among Egyptian intellectuals to the news, I called Hisham Qassim, a democracy and human rights activist I've known for many years. He was perplexed at the news from Norway.

President Obama, he said, "is stumbling in the Middle East. He hasn't achieved any of his promises, and the Arab-Israeli conflict appears to be getting even nastier."

In short, he said, "nothing is working."

One winner of the Nobel peace prize Egyptians continue to admire is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won the prize in 2002.

After personally overseeing prolonged and painstaking negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Carter brokered the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords. It was the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country, and one a majority of Egyptians still believe was a major landmark in their long history.

Egyptians contrast Carter's intensive involvement in peace efforts with Obama's stab at peace-making between Israel and the Palestinians. After initially demanding Israel halt all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Obama administration softened its stand after running into a concrete wall of opposition from hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Obama administration is seen, not only in Egypt but also across the Arab world, as following in the footsteps of so many previous American administrations, caving in to Israeli intransigence. It hardly augurs well for peace in the Middle East, especially at a time when tensions are simmering in Jerusalem, with some wondering if a third Palestinian intifada is in the making.

Hisham Qasim, the human rights activist, pointed out to me that the deadline for submission of nomination to the Nobel Committee is early February, which means that the nomination was, at least in theory, made on the basis of Obama's performance after less than two weeks in office.

He still has more than three years to go before the next elections, and the United States is embroiled in two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is, according to some reports, considering military action against Iran. There is an awful lot of war on America's plate at the moment.

For all these reasons, it's not surprising that many in the Middle East say it's a tad premature to be handing Barack Obama the peace laurels.

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Filed under: Egypt •Obama •U.S.

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October 10, 2009
Posted: 1029 GMT
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October 7, 2009
Posted: 1311 GMT

Special from iReporter Sally Shalabi

Last month I was asked to do an iReport for CNN about Breast Cancer Awareness. And as I was thinking about what to say it was clear to me that I also had to write and tell my story in a little bit more than 60 seconds!

Breast cancer and cancer in general is not a new or strange concept in our worlds. However if you are anything like me, it's something that is in the darkest corner of my mind. I know it's there I just pretend not to hear its voice saying “Shalabieh, you need to get checked, for your sake just make sure everything is OK and you are healthy.” I ignore the voice because I feel great, I feel fine but cancer doesn’t work like that.

Last year the voice got out of my head and went into the real world. I first heard about it on the radio, in a cab heading to the office. Then I saw a massive billboard, and flyers everywhere. It was a national campaign in full force: The Jordan Breast Cancer Program was launched. And it was only a matter of time before I responded to all those ads. I called the support line and learned about free breast exams, subsidized mammograms and where I can get them and how much they were and who the participating doctors are and where their clinics are located. I talked to my colleagues about it and my friends. We all knew the importance of getting checked, but we all managed to somehow put it off.

Our breasts, no matter how prominent they are, are often ignored- especially when it comes to their health. But after ignoring the health of my breasts for a long while (20 years of carrying these babies around), I FINALLY went to my gynecologist and asked her to teach me how to do a self breast exam. It was awkward and strange having my doctor play with my boobs, coz that’s what it felt like. But by the end of those 10 minutes I was cleared and I had gotten a tutorial! I can now do the exams myself and I get an excuse to play with boobs (not that one needs an excuse)! But on a more serious note I got some very good advice which included:
• The self breast exam should be done monthly
• The best time to do it is after a period
• It is best to do the exam standing up in front of a mirror. But If you have large breasts then you may want to do it lying down
• If you have a fast paced life and no time then you can check your breasts when you are in shower and soaping up
I won’t go into how to do the actual exam as I am not qualified to do so, but I will say this: it’s easy, it’s fast and it can save your life.

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is a survivor, she was lucky she caught it early and is recovering nicely. You can be lucky too, but you will never know unless you go that first time and learn about this disease, and learn how to catch it in its tracks. Don’t ignore your breasts, go play with your boobs and if you need advice then check the The Jordan Breast Cancer Program’s Website for more information. Be healthy, be safe and spread the word you may save someone else’s life too.

Check out Sally's blog here

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Filed under: Health

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October 4, 2009
Posted: 842 GMT

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports on a Cairo call center where language is not the limit.

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Filed under: Egypt •Video

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