POPE Shenouda III, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, returned to Cairo yesterday after spending almost one month in the United States where he had back surgery to remove cartilage. Surgery was performed in Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Ohio where the pope also underwent a month of physiotherapy following the operation. The church issued a statement saying the pope "appreciated all Muslims and Christians who had asked about him during his stay in the US."
Pope Shenouda, the 117th patriarch of the Egyptian Coptic Church, was born on 3 August 1923 in a small village in the governorate of Assiut, south of Egypt, to a middle class family. During his time as pope, the Coptic Orthodox Church has increased the number of its churches inside and out of Egypt to unprecedented levels.
On 16 and 17 July, Shenouda is scheduled to attend celebrations marking his 35th year as pope.
A MINISTERIAL decree was issued on 7 July banning smoking in public places. The decision, taken by Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Maged George, stipulates that smoking is to be prohibited in health and medical facilities, educational facilities, government institutions, sports and social clubs as well as youth centres.
The decree was based on Law 154 which was approved by the People's Assembly on 21 June 2007. Strict instructions have been forwarded to all ministries. The Ministry of Environment was the first to implement the decision. The decree is said by observers to be a step forward in a country that consumes more than 800 million cigarettes per year.
Earlier this year, to mark World Environment Day, George declared school classrooms and public libraries non-smoking areas.
The law imposes a fine of between LE1,000 and LE20,000 on those responsible for the site where the violation occurs and from LE50 to LE100 on individual violators.
MORE than 75 people in Sohag, south of Cairo, have been poisoned from a yet to be determined substance. Victims suffered from vomiting, dizziness and fever. Preliminary investigations showed that water was the only common substance they consumed.
Most patients, according to Omar Youssef, head of the medical centre in Nag' Al-Romillat, were treated and discharged. Severe cases were transferred to Sohag Homiat Hospital. Twelve patients were questioned by the Sohag prosecution to determine the cause of the illness.
Samples taken from the patients, including the food and water in the village, are still being analysed by the Ministry of Health.
AUTHORITIES in the coastal city of Arish on 9 July ordered the release of eight more Bedouins who were arrested on suspicion of having ties with those behind the Sinai bombings and other security breaches. The suspects, from Arish, Sheikh Zouid and Rafah, were found innocent.
The release forced the Bedouins to abandon a sit-in that was scheduled for the end of this month along the Egyptian-Israeli border. A delegation headed by Adli Fayed, assistant to the minister of interior, met those released, their families and tribal chieftains. The Bedouins were assured by North Sinai Governor Ahmed Abdel-Hamid that efforts are ongoing to release the remaining detainees. Fayed also promised that they would be provided with jobs, land and proper healthcare at the government's expense if need be.
The delegation's visit aimed at rebuilding bridges of trust between the Bedouins and the executive authorities in Sinai to begin what Fayed described as "a brand new start".
Forty-seven members of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya Jihad were released last week. Affiliated to the Sheikh Mohamed Al-Sayed Hegazi section of the group, those freed were among the 150 prisoners transferred last month with Hegazi from Abu Zaabal prison to Wadi Al-Natron prison.
The release comes amid mass releases of the group's members and leaders following jurisprudential audits conducted by the leaders of Al-Gamaa in prison. According to press reports, those released were among those who signed an initiative to renounce violence and declare the end of armed operations, issued by the group's leaders from their prison cells 10 years ago.
IN ALEXANDRIA, hundreds of workers in the Egyptian Copper Company continued their sit-in after attempts to meet Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel-Hadi and Chairman of the Workers' General Hussein Mogawer failed. The workers are complaining that the company has not paid them their pensions after retirement.
In the coastal city of Port Said, dozens of workers in the Navel Arsenal Company renewed their sit-in to protest at not receiving their salaries.
At the same time, a delegation from a manpower committee affiliated to the People's Assembly visited workers in the Containers Handling Company in Suez to discuss their claims that even though they work on a daily basis, the company refuses to provide them with long-term contracts.
In the same vein, workers in the Ribat and Anwar Company for Manufacturing Ships organised a sit-in in front of the company's headquarters, shouting slogans "Hosni Mubarak has always said take care of the workers." The workers are demanding they be given proper social and health care. Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, head of the company, told reporters that the matter is in the hands of the Suez Canal Authority, saying it is the body in charge of temporary workers.