World Wrap

Ramadan celebrations bring change of pace to protests

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
July 11, 2013

Ramadan festivities begin amid protests, U.S. to send Egypt F-16s, and Biden appeals to China’s self-interest. Today is Thursday, July 11, and we’re wishing our Muslim readers a Ramadan Mubarak. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Anti-government protesters eat as they break their fast on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan at Taksim Square in Istanbul July 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Osman Orsal. Check out more images of Muslims celebrating Ramadan worldwide.  

Respite for Ramadan. As Muslims worldwide begin Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of day-time fasting followed by overnight feasts, the celebrations have provided some much-needed breaks from protests and unrest across the Middle East. Syrians are returning to the war-torn country to celebrate, setting a festive mood in usually somber cities like Damascus:

On the eve of Ramadan, Damascenes crowded streets and coffee shops. They shopped for last-minute ingredients then raced home to prepare their final meal of the day before sunrise. The buzz was highly unusual, something the streets of Damascus had not seen in a while.

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon called for a Ramadan truce in Syria on Monday. However, in both Syria and Afghanistan, citizens are struggling with soaring food prices that hamper their ability to celebrate. In Turkey, riot police allowed protesters in Taksim Square to break their fast on Tuesday before resuming efforts to remove them from the area. While the mood may have been cautiously joyous in Syria and Turkey, Egyptians prepared for a holiday overcast by recent political violence:

Seasonal stalls selling Ramadan lanterns are scarcer than usual. So too are those offering honey and nut pastries for the evening feasts that end each long day of fasting. Many of Cairo’s coffee shops are closed, or distinctly less festive.

Pro-Mursi vigils were low on energy but his backers appeared prepared for a long encampment. Click here for photographs of Muslims celebrating Ramadan in their homes and on the streets throughout the world.

An F-16 fighter jet belonging to the U.S. Air Force comes in for a landing at a U.S. air force base in Osan, south of Seoul, April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

The U.S. sticks to its guns over Egypt. The U.S. will go through with plans to send four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as part of an annual aid package, despite the democratically-elected president Mursi’s recent ouster:

The disclosure came as Washington treads a careful line, neither welcoming Mursi’s removal nor denouncing it as a “coup,” saying it needs time to weigh the situation. A U.S. decision to brand his overthrow a coup would, by U.S. law, require Washington to halt aid to the Egyptian military, which receives the lion’s share of the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance to that country.

Though Washington is treating the situation in Egypt with care, it has been vilified by both pro- and anti-government factions for its involvement in the country’s volatile politics.

 

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) speaks next to Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington, July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Biden pushes hot-button issues with China. The U.S. and China discussed economic reforms, including a new exchange rate policy, and continued to address cyber security issues during the second day of an annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington:

Vice President Joe Biden launched the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue by stressing the shared stakes and responsibility to support the global economy. “The next steps that China needs to take for its own economy happen to be in the interests of the United States as well,” he said as the two-day talks opened in Washington… But Biden did not mince words when he raised the hot-button issue of theft of intellectual property through hacking of computer networks, a conversation complicated by the fugitive spy agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of U.S. electronic surveillance around the world.

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday pressed Obama to stand firm on the theft of American intellectual property and policies that discriminate against U.S. companies. Officials from both China and the U.S. said cyber security talks went well on Wednesday.

Nota Bene: Russia finds Sergei Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion in a posthumous trial.

Standouts:

Cult of Murdoch - Reuters columnist Nicholas Wapshott imagines life after Murdoch. (Reuters)

Virtual Lolita - Spanish researchers developed a teen-girl-like robot that can help trap pedophiles in online chat rooms. (BBC)

Happy days - Why Finland is one of the world’s happiest nations. (The Atlantic)

Controversial cleaner - The CIA permitted the mastermind behind 9/11 to build a secret vacuum cleaner. (The Associated Press)

Get high safely - New Zealand will allow the legal sale of synthetic recreational drugs if makers prove they’re safe. (CNN)

From the File:

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