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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

What we’re tracking on 23 August 2017

It’s going to be a ridiculously busy day on the diplomatic front, starting with an exclusive report out of Reuters overnight that US officials want to trim as much as USD 290 mn in aid to Egypt to protest our “failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.”

There’s been no official word on the subject out of Cairo or DC, but Reuters’ piece citing two anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter has the ring of truth — it sounds very much like staffers at Foggy Bottom are drawing a line (and, possibly, that they’re trying to box in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by leaking it). The question is whether Tillerson or the White House will let them — or even have the energy to step in. Also competing for The Donald’s attention this morning is what the New York Times calls a “feud” with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who the Gray Lady reports this morning “has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.” We have more on the potential for an aid cut in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

Into the breach steps White House advisor (and First Son-in-Law) Jared Kushner, who is leading a US delegation to Cairo today and is due to meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, according to Youm7. Kushner comes with weight behind him in the form of Jason Greenblatt (envoy for international negotiations) and Dina Powell (deputy national security adviser) as the White House makes a push to get Tom and Jerry next door to behave. The Associated Press has coverage of the Gulf leg of the tour, which will also include sit-downs tomorrow with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The UK’s Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt arrives in Cairo for a two-day visit today, during which he is scheduled to meet with Shoukry as well as the education and interior ministers, Al Shorouk reports.

Here’s something blatantly ridiculous about which our friends at Khargeyya could ask the good Mr. Burt: The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office raised its warning yesterday to travelers to North Korea to advise against “all but essential travel” — similar to the advice the good people there are currently giving travelers to South Sinai. The exception is Sharm El Sheikh, to which you can only teleport if you were born English, because flying there is off limits, despite the city carrying no warnings. The UK’s warning on North Sinai is even stricter than that for Pyongyang, as the FCO still warns against all travel to the north of our peninsula.

Cabinet investment roadshow kicks off in Vietnam: Investment Minister Sahar Nasr and Suez Canal Economic Zone chairman Mohab Mamish are in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi today for an investment roadshow, according to a statement from the ministry. The officials have already met with reps of Vietnamese companies to discuss what’s on offer in our marine transportation, education, culture, health, pharma and shipping industries. The roadshow’s next stop is Singapore tomorrow.

A regional ministerial conference on aviation security kicked off in Sharm El Sheikh yesterday with some 400 aviation security officials in attendance, including the president of the International Civil Aviation Organization, in attendance, Ahram Online reports. The gathering wraps up tomorrow.

If you like to eat (or care about social stability) take some time to play around with this gadget: There is an enormous disparity in the affordability of meat for people globally. Egypt, for example, has one of the most affordable meat prices in the world when we look at just sticker prices, according to Caterwings 2017 Meat Price Index. On the 52-country index, Egypt is the fifth-cheapest on average. Ukraine is the cheapest overall, whereas Switzerland has the most expensive meat prices in USD terms. The Meat Price Index is divided into five separate categories: beef, chicken, seafood, pork, and lamb. All prices were collected from national grocery outlets at full price without discount. There are some caveats to the report: While the sticker price of beef in Omm El Donia is among the cheapest in the world, for example, it would take an Egyptian working on minimum wage 20.1 hours in order to be able to afford a 1kg piece of beef — the fifth longest in the world. The same goes for chicken, where Egyptians have to work the third-longest number of hours in order to be able to afford chicken. The situation is even more challenging with seafood, where it takes an Egyptian working for minimum wage 44.2 hours, the longest number of working hours in the ranking, to be able to afford 1kg. In contrast, it takes a person working on minimum wage in Switzerland, where the sticker prices are most expensive, just 3.1 hours to be able to afford 1kg of beef and in Norway just 1.3 hours to afford a 1kg piece of fish.

Here’s a list we’re not proud to top: Egypt was the origin of the greatest number of unique IP addresses used in volumetric DDoS attacks in 2Q2017, with 32% of the global total, according to cloud delivery provider Akamai’s quarterly State of the Internet/Security Report (pdf). DDoS attacks increased by 28% q-o-q in 2Q2017, following three quarters of decline, the report says.

Oh, and can we just say we love the fact that the UAE will be taxing soda / pop / soft drinks at 50%? We’re generally not the most pro-tax folks in the world, but governments need resources, and sugary beverages are a health scourge. The good people at our Finance Ministry should follow suit.

Public service announcement: Friday, 1 September will be the first day of Eid Al Adha, with Waqfat Arafat taking place on Thursday, a Dar Al Iftaa statement cited by AMAY confirmed yesterday. The National Astronomy and Geophysics Institute had earlier given the same dates. The ball is now in Cabinet’s court to decide whether Eid starting on a Friday means we’re back to work on Monday, 4 September or Tuesday, 5 September.

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