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ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World Is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ALL NEWS IS LOCAL: Thirty-six leaders of Jordanian tribes, the load-bearing pillars that have held up the Hashemite regime for more than six decades, have submitted an unprecedented petition to King Abdullah calling for electoral and political reform.

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie


ALL NEWS IS LOCAL: Thirty-six leaders of Jordanian tribes, the load-bearing pillars that have held up the Hashemite regime for more than six decades, have submitted an unprecedented petition to King Abdullah calling for electoral and political reform.

But the letter is making even more waves for its direct criticism of Queen Rania, as reported by Elaph, a London-based pan-Arabic online news site. Long perceived as a Marie Antoinette-figure at home, pictures of her lavish St. Tropez and Italian holidays have quietly circulated for years in Jordan.

The hot topic at dinner parties in Amman these days is the queen's reported multi-million dollar birthday party in the ancient city of Petra, for which she flew in a host of international luminaries last August. The lid was first cracked last month when word spread of a signed, scathing letter sent to the queen's office by New York-based Jordanian Khaled Kasabeh. The one-page letter detailed the costs of maintaining the queen's private jet, her birthday party, her brother's growing business interests in the country and many other alleged misuses of public funds.

This letter undoubtedly reached tribal leaders, who appear to be building upon growing resentment toward the queen. "We refuse the squandering of public money and aid to polish the queen's own personal image at the expense of the nation," the tribal leaders' statement said. "The queen is building centers to boost her power and serve her interests, against the will of Jordanians and Hashemites," the leaders stated, adding that "Jordan will sooner or later be the target of an uprising similar to the ones in Tunisia and Egypt." The petition was posted in Arabic on popular news site Ammon News but after the site was hacked, editors took it down and it is no longer available online.

Jordan's Bedouin tribes represent an estimated 40 percent of the population, and include key positions in the army, security services and ministries. Commentary on this topic was non-existent on Jordanian news websites and Twitter accounts, as it is illegal to say anything negative about the royal family. The king has not hesitated to arrest anyone perceived as publicly mocking or criticizing him or his family.


SOCIAL MEDIA MATTERS

*Arab Twitterati were closely watching updates all day about Wael Ghonim, a senior Google executive and Egytian national, who disappeared more than a week ago after arriving in Cairo to participate in demonstrations. Ghonim, not surprisingly, was in government custody. But by day's end, word came that he'd been released. Within hours, a facebook group called "Let Wael Ghonim speak in the name of Egyptian protesters' already had 63,000 members. A moving interview with a local Egyptian television network Dream after his release shows him breaking down as he sees some of the victims from the protests while he was jailed.

*Twitterers also commented on reports of U.S. envoy Frank Wisner's business ties to Mubarak's regime. Wisner was sent by President Obama to deliver a message to Mubarak, but his lobbying firm Patton, Boggs was revealed to have the Egyptian military and government as clients.

*Protests continued in Egypt for the 14th straight day as the Mubarak regime appears to be attempting to wait out the crowds in Tahrir Square. One protester with the handle @ikselmitweeted, "I have not lost my enthusiasm to support the protesters in Tahrir Square despite all the depressing news ... the flame of enthusiasm for defending the oppressed will never be extinguished in me."

ALL NEWS IS GLOBAL:

*An unintentionally ironic interview with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from 2003 is making the rounds on YouTube in which he calls on then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to "resign to avoid the bloodshed of his people."

*Al Jazeera English aired a 25-minute documentary on the first five days of protests in Egypt called "Egypt Burning." Watch it here.

photo credit: illustir

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Society

The Guiyang Zero-COVID Bus Crash: A Chinese Tragedy In Three Acts

The city in southern China was put under harsh lockdown earlier this month after just a few positive COVID tests. Then a bus carrying quarantined residents crashed, killing 27. The senseless accident left residents more fearful and suspicious of each other than ever.

Mass testing in China’s city of Guiyang

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The details of how China's latest lockdown disrupted Guiyang residents sound pointless after Sunday's crash of a bus transporting quarantined residents crashed, killing 27, and sparking a new round of outrage over the country's strict zero-COVID policy. And yet it is worth reviewing what had already happened to life in the city of 4.3 million after just a few cases of the virus were detected.

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