Colossal 3,000-year-old statue unearthed from Cairo pit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Colossal 3,000-year-old statue unearthed from Cairo pit

(CNN)A team of archaeologists has discovered a giant 3,000-year-old statue thought to depict Ramses II, in what the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is describing as “one of [its] most important archaeological discoveries.”

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany began removing the quartzite statue — estimated to stand 30 feet tall — from the ground in Matariya, greater Cairo, in front of state representatives and media crews Thursday.
The find comes at the end of a dig that began in 2012, says Dietrich Raue from the University of Leipzig, who heads the German team of archaeologists involved in the excavation.
“It was in an area that was almost completely investigated,” he explains. The team had found basalt bases in the dilapidated courtyard, but nothing more substantial. “We thought [the pit] would be empty without any features… so that was a great surprise.”
Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani, who was on site for the unveiling, said the figure is most likely Pharaoh Ramses II, otherwise known as Ozymandias.
No inscriptions on the statue identify it as Ramses II, said Mahmoud Afifi, head of Ancient Egyptian antiquities at the ministry, but its discovery near the gate of a temple dedicated to Ramses II temple makes him the most likely subject. But Raue says although the statue was certainly placed there by Ramses II, the jury is still out on who it depicts.
Much of the temple complex of ancient Heliopolis, where the statue was found, was destroyed in the Greco-Roman period, and antiquities were plundered and sent to Alexandria or Europe. Other building materials were recycled as Cairo reinvented itself in later eras.

A worker stands with part of the quartzite head, removed Thursday.

Ramses II, a colossus known as the “Great Ancestor” to his descendants, ruled for 66 years from 1279 to 1213 BC as part of Ancient Egypt’s 19th dynasty. He conquered swathes of Nubia in modern-day Sudan and Syria.
His exploits have echoed down the ages, inspiring British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to pen sonnet “Ozymandias” three millennia later in 1818:
“Round the decay / Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away,” Shelley wrote, imagining a Ramses II statue in ruins. But rather than endless desert and the Valley of the Kings, this Ozymandias was retrieved from a pit swamped with groundwater.

Achaeologists drain the groundwater seeping in to the dig in Matariya, Cairo.

The ministry has come under fire on social media and from some news outlets for using a forklift truck to extract part of the statue from the site.
Afifi responded by saying the sheer weight of the head was a factor, with Raue confirming the statue had not been damaged in the process.
Archaeologists are still working out how to remove the even larger torso portion of the statue, the ministry adds.
The dig has also uncovered a 31-inch section of a life-sized limestone statue of Ramses II’s grandson Seti II. The dig is continuing, and experts hope to uncover more of the Ozymandias statue for restoration.
“I’m rather sure that [the hips and legs] will be there,” Raue says, “but the problem is we’re in the middle of the city, and the bottom part may be very close to the houses. It would be dangerous to excavate closer to the houses, so probably we will not get the bottom part.”
Raue told CNN he doubts a full reconstruction of the face will be possible, though he said fragments of the eyes, crown and lips have been retrieved.
The head and torso will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is due to open in 2018.

US Releases $221 Million Fund To Palestine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

US Releases $221 Million Fund to Palestine

USAID

Ramallah – US has announced the release of the $221 million for Palestinians, which President Donald Trump had previously frozen and put under review after former US President Obama had ordered at the “last minute” of his presidency.

US State Department had confirmed that the money will be used for services in the West Bank and will not go directly to the authorities’ treasury.

A Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of this money had been allocated to foreign organizations working within the Palestinian territories.

Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that to his understanding the money had been released, but also said that the issue was still under review.

“220.3 million that was released was for West Bank programs such as water, infrastructure, education, renewable energy, civil society, municipal governance, and the rule of law, as well as Gaza recovery. And a smaller amount was to go directly to Israeli creditors of the Palestinian Authority as well as East Jerusalem hospitals. None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority,” explained Toner.

The official stated that these funds were never assigned to the authority and were not a donation from former President Obama.

“We don’t know why Trump decided to freeze them, and then released them,” said the official.

He added that the majority of these funds will be given to international organizations in Palestine. “Most of the money will be given to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for projects within the Palestinian authorities,” according to the official.

The funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.

He then explained that the funds were supposed to be given before the end of 2016, but they were delayed until Obama ordered the transfer, few hours before leaving the White House.

On January 20, and just few hours before Trump’s inauguration, Obama informed the congress that he will send the money. The money was frozen after the Congress’ recommendation as a punishment for the authorities’ attempts to join UN organizations and for instigation.

Though it is not legally binding, the White House abode by the Congress’ decision. Hours before Trump’s arrival, former US secretary of state John Kerry informed the Congress of the transfer.

Trump’s administration then announced it had frozen the grant in order to make adjustments to ensure it complies with the new administration’s priorities.

The relations between Trump’s administration and the Palestinian authority are not exactly strong, despite the few meetings made. Major conflict rose when Palestine stated it won’t accept any solution other than the two-state solution, while Trump declared it is not the only solution available.

Palestinians are afraid Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that this will be an admission that Quds is Israel’s capital, thus ending any US role in the peace process.

Yet, Palestinians are seeking better relations with the US. Chief of Palestinian Intelligence Majid Faraj met with US security officials.

Then, US Director of CIA Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But, till now, no contact has been established at the level of the White House or the State Department.

Danish Boy Finds WW-2 German Plane With Pilots Remains Buried In A field On Family Farm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

A 14-year-old Danish boy doing research for a history class found the wreckage of a German World War II plane with the remains of the pilot in the cockpit.

Daniel Kristiansen and his father, Klaus, discovered what’s believed to be a Messerschmitt fighter plane buried in a field on their farm near Birkelse in northern Denmark.
“We went out to the field with a metal detector,” Klaus Kristiansen told CNN. “I hoped we might find some old plates or something for Daniel to show in school.”
Instead, they found bits of plane debris. So they borrowed an excavator from a neighbor and dug down seven or eight meters.
“At first we were digging up a lot of dirt with metal fragments in it. Then we suddenly came across bones and pieces of clothes,” Kristiansen said. “It was like opening a book from yesterday.”
Kristiansen remembered being told by his grandfather, who lived on the farm during World War II, that a German plane had crashed there.
“We think it was around November or December 1944,” Kristiansen said. He recalled his grandfather once telling him that when the plane crashed, he was making Christmas cookies with Kristiansen’s grandmother and his uncle, who was a young boy at the time.

The World War II aircraft was found buried in this field in Northern Jutland.

But he also said his grandfather had told him the German occupying force had removed the plane. “I mainly thought it was just a good story,” Kristiansen said.
Karsten Kristensen, superintendent at the North Jutland Police, said authorities believe the aircraft is a Messerschmitt fighter plane. An explosive ordinance team is now working at the site to secure any ammunition or other dangerous materials.
The curator at the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland, which now has the pilot’s possessions and the remains of the plane, believes his team will soon be able to confirm the man’s identity.
“We found the pilot’s papers, and I think we have a name,” Torben Sarauw, curator and head of archaeology at the museum, said.
Sarauw believes the pilot came from the training base for German pilots in Aalborg, a nearby city. Along with the pilot’s suit, hat and three unused condoms, they also have his wallet, which contained two Danish coins and some food stamps for the canteen at the Aalborg base.
“It’s quite a special find,” Sarauw said. He believes it’s the first time a German plane has been found buried in this way in Denmark.

The debris of the fighter plane is now at a museum of Northern Jutland.

Kristiansen hopes that the pilot’s relatives can be found and the remains returned to Germany. “Maybe he can have a proper funeral,” he said.
The German Embassy has been informed of the discovery, the police superintendent said.

Iran’s Top Leader Appears To Rebuke President As Election Nears

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Tajrish Square in Tehran. The Iranian economy did not get the boost many had hoped for after the nuclear deal. Credit  Khamooshi for The New York Times

Iran’s top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits.

The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer.

“We receive complaints from people,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. “People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now.”

It is not yet clear who may run against Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric. While he is said to enjoy a longstanding relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei, the president is not well liked by some other hard-line conservative elements of Iran’s political hierarchy.

In the 2013 elections, Mr. Rouhani won against a field of comparatively conservative rivals, partly on his pledge to negotiate an end to the international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities, which had left the country economically weakened and isolated.

An agreement between Iran and major world powers, most notably the United States, ended many of those sanctions in January 2016 in return for Iran’s verifiable commitments to peaceful nuclear work.

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President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is expected to seek a second term in the coming elections.Credit Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Yet while Mr. Rouhani has received credit for that achievement, Iran’s economy has not flourished as hoped. Moreover, foreign investment in the country remains muted and tenuous, leaving Mr. Rouhani potentially vulnerable to conservative critics who say he compromised Iran’s nuclear autonomy without any clear benefit.

Mr. Rouhani and his associates have countered that Iran has improved economically compared with the era of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They also say many foreign companies remain reluctant to invest in Iran because of non-nuclear related sanctions by the United States, part of the long history of animosity between the two countries.

Economists also have partly attributed Iran’s persistent economic weakness to reliance on sales of oil — its most important export — in a heavily glutted market that has left prices depressed.

Punctuating that point, the benchmark grade of crude oil in the American market dropped below $50 a barrel Thursday to its weakest level since December.

Ayatollah Khamenei appeared to express frustration on Thursday over what he described as the government’s failure to achieve a “resistance economy,” a reference to self-sufficiency and less reliance on imports.

He acknowledged there had been some economic improvements under Mr. Rouhani but also said that “if the resistance economy had been implemented fully and widely, we could witness a tangible difference.”

While Ayatollah Khamenei endorsed the nuclear agreement, he also has expressed wariness about any step toward reconciliation with the United States, describing the Americans as duplicitous and malevolent.

President Trump’s election, his publicly stated contempt for the nuclear agreement and his hostility toward Iran appeared to reinforce the suspicions of Ayatollah Khamenei. Reacting to Mr. Trump’s order last month suspending visas to a group of mostly Muslim countries including Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei sarcastically ridiculed Mr. Trump, thanking him for revealing America’s “true face.”