Qatar’s Al-Jazeera today details the Syrian People’s Council’s latest actions and ambitions. The People’s Council was founded in October 2011, after the beginning of the protests to provide an alternative to Bashar Assad’s government.

Ahmad Ramadan, from the Council’s Communications Office, tells Al-Jazeera that “following the European Union’s calls for Assad’s resignation, it is becoming apparent that the People’s Council will soon become the official recognized Syrian body – on both the international and the Arab fronts.” To lend credence to his assertion, Ramadan continues: “We have already received the support of the Gulf States’ Cooperation Council, and it is only a matter of time until fellow Arab countries follow suit.”

Showcasing its gubernatorial skills, Ramadan lays out the Council’s latest initiative: “We will seek to form an organization named ‘Friends of Syria’ that will be comprised of local and international human rights organizations. The organization’s goal will be to bring human rights abusers from the Syrian Security Forces to justice in front of an international criminal court.”

Analysis: The US will sever its ties with Egypt

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the London-based Palestinian publication, offers its analysis of the future of the US-Egypt relationship in an editorial. The piece sees the heart of the US-Egypt schism in the US’s financial support for several Non-Governmental Organizations that were recently outlawed. The military government of Egypt has officially announced that “it will continue to prosecute all foreign-funded NGOs.”

Al-Quds Al-Arabi goes on to speculate that the reason for the government’s rigid stance on those NGOs is the organizations’ financial and organizational support for the protesters. The paper further stresses its point by noting that “The United States never approved of the Military Council as the interim government for Egypt, and shortly after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, it called for Egypt’s Upper Chamber to appoint a new president – a suggestion that was rejected by the Military Council.”

However, the paper does not necessarily see this rift as a bad thing: “Egypt should embrace the cessation of US militaristic support by assuming more of an independent and sovereign role.”

Egypt’s credit rating drops

The pan-Arab Saudi publication A-Sharq Al-Awsat focuses on Egypt’s recent financial woes. The publication analyzes Standard & Poor’s decision to drop Egypt’s credit rating from B+ to B: “Foreign investments in Egypt have dropped drastically this past month – totaling $16 billion for the month of January, down from $36 billion during the month of December.”

 

A-Sharq Al-Awsat -- Feb 12

A-Sharq Al-Awsat -- Feb 12

The story links Egypt’s financial woes to its political woes by citing the World Bank’s decision to deny an Egyptian request for financial aid: “The spokesman for the World Bank made a point of saying that any future aid is conditioned upon the democratization of Egypt and the renewed operation of its governmental institutions.”

The paper goes: “No doubt this recent economic downfall is linked to the rising tensions with America, since America is still the major player in providing Egypt’s foreign aid.”

New Israeli museum to be built in east Jerusalem

The Palestinian Ramallah-based publication Al-Ayyam reports Israeli plans to build a new museum for Jewish heritage in a predominantly Arab neighborhood near the Western Wall. These plans come as part of what the paper sees as “the Judaization of Eastern Jerusalem.” The paper predicts that this move will bring to the area “thousands of Jews and foreign tourists.” The report highlights “the area’s proximity to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Iraq Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Al-Quds, the East-Jerusalem publication, has in its lifestyle section reports from the Valentine’s Day celebrations in Iraq. “The color red predominates the streets of Baghdad,” it notes. “Ever since the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, Valentine’s Day’s celebrations in Iraq have drastically increased.”

This year’s popular presents? Some are similar to what one expects to see in the States: “Teddy bears and heart-adorned greeting cards are always crowd-pleasers.” But others intertwine local customs with the holiday: “A clothing retailer came out with a special line of red head covers for the holiday instead of the traditional black ones.”

A 13-year-old interviewee describes the holiday’s deeper meaning to her: “Valentine’s Day is incredibly important here because its goals are lofty and its rituals speak to such things like cleansing the heart and opening the doors for freedom.” This eloquent and somewhat spiritual description shows how the relative newness of the holiday in Iraq goes a great way toward defusing some of the jaded and commercialized perceptions of it  in the States.

People with more freckles live longer

Kul-Al-Arab, the Arab-Israeli publication from Nazareth, publishes in its weekend edition a health study that examines the connection between freckles and life expectancy. The study’s test group was 900 twins, and the results proved that “individuals with 100 or more freckles on their body have a life expectancy of six years longer than those with 25 or fewer freckles on their body.”

The scientists linked the findings to freckles’ association with the production of the enzyme Telomerase, which has the capacity to “regulate and strengthen healthy division of cells in the body.”