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3 February 2011updated 07 Sep 2021 7:52am

Weekly Briefing

By Staff Blogger

Egypt: street protests

Could events in Tunisia set a precedent for the rest of the Arab world? In an Egyptian “day of revolt”, inspired by the events that toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 15 January, thousands of people took to the streets in Cairo and other cities, including Alexandria.

Protests are rarely tolerated in Egypt, ruled by President Hosni Mubarak since 1981. At least three people died on 25 January, the first day of unrest. Police used tear gas and water cannon to break up the crowds, although people gathered again the next day.

The rally, organised using Facebook, was motivated by many of the same problems as figured in the Tunisian revolt – high unemployment, rising
food prices and frustration with corruption. Demonstrators told journalists they would not move until the government fell.

Russia: airport bomb

The blame game is on after a huge blast in Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, killed 35 people and injured over 100 on 25 January.

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Many in Russia suspect that terrorists from the troubled North Caucasus region are behind the attack. Prime Minister Putin pledged that “retribution is inevitable” for those responsible.

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The attack highlighted Moscow’s vulnerability to attack, and President Medvedev hit out at the airport’s managers. “The information available to us suggests that it was simply a state of anarchy,” he said. “People were able to enter from any place.”

The president promised a big shake-up of airport security.

Brazil: floods fallout

The landslides and floods that hit south-eastern Brazil early in January are now thought to be the worst natural disaster the country has ever experienced.

At least 800 people are known to have died and more than 400 others are still missing.

According to figures in the newspaper O Globo, about a third of all the victims were children and adolescents.

Nor is the picture improving. Rescue workers fear that the full impact is still unknown, as some remote communities are accessible only by helicopter.

Côte d’Ivoire: choc bar

The Ivorian political deadlock took another sharp turn as Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of last November’s disputed presidential election, announced a one-month suspension on exports of cocoa.

“Chocolate consumers in Europe may not be so happy to realise the big cocoa companies are providing [the incumbent president] Gbagbo with money for weapons,” said an official.

The country provides more than a third of the world’s cocoa. By halting exports temporarily, Ouattara hopes to starve his rival, who refuses to cede power, of his financial clout. World cocoa prices instantly rose by 4 per cent.

Though Ouattara’s parallel government, operating from a hotel in Abidjan, has no means of enforcing the ban, the early indications are that international cocoa companies are concerned enough about their reputation to pay attention.

Italy: the Silvio show

The latest scandal enveloping Silvio Berlusconi continued in typically lurid style when the Italian premier called a live talk show to complain and ended up exchanging insults with the host.

“I’ve been watching a disgusting show, conducted in a despicable, vile and repugnant way,” the 74-year-old said, before terming the show a “brothel” and being called a “lout” by the host.

The show was discussing the allegation that Berlusconi had paid for sex. He has so far refused to heed a summons by Milan prosecutors.

It was not the first time that the prime minister has given a live talk show a piece of his mind, though this was the most heated. It was broadcast on La7 – one of the few channels over which Berlusconi has no control.