Egyptian chief attracts personality cult
CAIRO — In dark sunglasses and a uniform studded with medals, Egypt’s top general is everywhere, looking down from posters and banners proclaiming him “lion of the nation.” Adoring songs vow “We are behind you.”
Barely a month after he removed the elected president, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is riding a wave of adulation, drawing comparisons between him and modern Egypt’s first charismatic strongman, former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. State media and pro-military TV channels and newspapers have done everything they can to fuel the fervor.
But some warn that the personality cult could pave the way to new authoritarianism after a coup that the army and its supporters insist was aimed at promoting democracy.
“I worry about el-Sissi and the possible arrogance of the victor. And I fear him if he decides that the army is stronger than any future president that he will control like a puppet,” wrote Mohammed Fathy, a columnist in the newspaper Al-Watan. “The admiration for him has gone beyond normal levels and is now more like deifying him.”
The hype has swelled to the point that some are convinced el-Sissi will take off his uniform and run for president in elections due to take place early next year.
A military spokesman denied el-Sissi has any intention to do so. That has done nothing to end the speculation by those for and against the idea.
Unlikely US helped NZ spy on reporter
WASHINGTON — If the National Security Agency monitored phone conversations between a New Zealand journalist and his Afghan sources, as reported this weekend, it was more likely to have been done under standard military intelligence monitoring of enemy communications in war zones, intelligence officials and experts said Monday.
The Obama administration brushed off new allegations of NSA surveillance overreach, this time focusing on freelance reporter Jon Stephenson, who was in Kabul, Afghanistan, working for American news service McClatchy and other media outlets when his phone records were reportedly seized.
It was the latest revelation, if greeted with less outrage, in the ongoing debate over government snooping since NSA leaker Edward Snowden in June revealed two top secret U.S. programs that monitor millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications each day.
It’s not clear what actually happened. The Sunday Star-Times reported that the New Zealand military conspired with U.S. spy agencies to monitor a Stephenson’s communications with sources in Afghanistan.
New Zealand officials denied the new allegations and U.S. intelligence authorities and the White House declined immediate comment Monday.
But experts and former intelligence officials said if Stephenson’s phone records were collected, they would have been gathered in a military intelligence sweep that is shared among allies — and has for years monitored most communications in war zones, where there is little expectation of privacy in the hunt for enemy combatants and suspected terrorists.
Panel backs lung cancer screening for certain heavy smokers
For the first time, government advisers are recommending screening for lung cancer, saying certain current and former heavy smokers should get annual scans to cut their chances of dying of the disease.
If it becomes final as expected, the advice by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force would clear the way for insurers to cover CT scans, a type of X-ray, for those at greatest risk.
That would be people ages 55 through 79 who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or the equivalent, such as two packs a day for 15 years.
By wire sources