Chatter: Law and disorder in Egypt




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The battle for Kerdasa. In Egypt, security forces have been engaged in a running gun battle on the outskirts of Cairo since this morning, when they launched a major operation to reclaim the area from "terrorists and criminals" (their words). The town of Kerdasa, known as a stronghold of Islamists who'd rather see Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in power than the military who ousted him, has been beyond the state's dubious authority since last month, when 11 police officers were killed in response to a ruthless crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo.

Today's assault appears to be an attempt to restore control. The score so far: one police officer killed, around 50 suspected militants arrested and 135 more wanted, according to the interior ministry. The ministry says that security forces have taken the town and imposed a curfew; but reporters on the ground say Kerdasa is still fighting back.

Destroying chemical weapons is no walk in the park. Oh no. According to Syrian president (and plumber in another life) Bashar al-Assad, for a job like that you're looking at a year, at least, and a cool $1 billion

Assad — who, might we point out, until recently denied that Syria had any chemical weapons, let alone enough to need 12 months to decommission them — told Fox News that the US was welcome to take his toxic stockpile, so long as it was willing to shoulder the environmental and financial burden. And by the way, don't go thinking that just because his forces have a huge stash of chemical weapons, they'd ever be tempted to use them: Assad once more denied any involvement in the infamous August 21 attack that the US and its allies are convinced he ordered. Whatever the Russia-brokered deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons may be — and the UN Security Council is still thrashing out the details — it's becoming pretty clear that it's not a quick fix.


Make peace, not bombs. Iran's new president has sought to reassure anxious minds that there isn't now, nor will there ever be, an Iranian atomic bomb. "Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever," Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in an interview aired last night.

It's a far cry from the bluster, gay-bashing and Israel-baiting that his predecessor used to amuse himself with whenever he spoke to the American press. And there's reason to believe Rouhani's more than just (much nicer) talk: he has the apparent backing of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who's all of a sudden calling for "a champion's leniency"; he's Barack Obama's pen pal; and perhaps most encouragingly, just hours before his interview aired, 12 of Iran's hundreds of political prisoners were unexpectedly set free. What's the Farsi for détente?

Sunset for Golden Dawn? Time could be up for Greece's thuggish far-right party, amid nationwide protests over the latest violence to be associated with the neo-fascist group. You may remember them from such previous charm offensives as punching a female opponent live on TV, and planning a "Greeks-only" food handout in central Athens. But their latest controversy is their worst: one of the party's members has admitted stabbing a well-known rapper and left-wing activist to death.

The incident has prompted demonstrations throughout Greece calling for the party to be outlawed. The government has promised to table emergency legislation that will seek to classify Golden Dawn as a criminal organization. But given that the group took a full 7 percent of votes in the last general election, it might not be enough.


Don't drink the holy Kool-Aid. Those in search of a cure should not seek it in a church, at least if that church is in Austria: praying's fine, but health experts have warned that consuming holy water will probably make you sick. Because, um, it has poop in it.

After surveying the water quality at chapels and shrines across Austria, researchers concluded that the vast majority was contaminated with fecal matter and other nasties of the sort that, if it gets inside you, can result in a lot more fecal matter. No, we don't know how it got there — but baptized babies, we're looking at you.