tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jazeera to Canadians: You can call me Al

Mothers, hide your children. Dads, disable your remote controls. Al Jazeera is coming to town. The swarthy, menacing cable news network based in Qatar has cleared the last CRTC hurdle and, after a five-year struggle, is now available for distribution in Canada.

Having received its CRTC licensing Al Jazeera English (AJE) can now be picked up by Canadian cable distributors. The news giant is also planning to open a Canadian bureau as part of the process of gaining a toehold in North America. (BBC doesn't even have a bureau here. They've long been too polite to disturb Canadians.)

Oh me, oh my! Is Canada ready for this? Is Canada prepared to receive its daily serving of news with a side of global perspective? Can Canada find Qatar on a map?

Some Canadians* are skeptical. Al Jazeera is propaganda ("Give us Fox News!"). Al Jazeera is terrorist journalism ("Give us a CNN embed!"). Al Jazeera doesn't even sound Canadian ("We only watch acronyms!").

Alas, opponents of AJE are off the mark. Al Jazeera is nothing more than a guy named Al with a foreign-sounding last name. Surely nothing is more Canadian than a visible minority with an assimilated name.

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AJE is well known (elsewhere) for its in-depth coverage of global events, in the model of BBC World. Recent feature reporting includes the evaporation of South America's Lake Titicaca, Catholic-church child-abuse scandal in Ireland, and the celebration of Thanksgiving in American Indian communities.

So what kind of frightening programming will Canadians be subjected to? If you're watching AJE today, for example, you'll get:
A debate about race and recession in the US;
Reporting from India on the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks;
An interview with the prime minister of Thailand;
A feature on Panama's small Muslim community making the hajj;
A round-table discussion of the strength of the new European Union.

Chilling stuff.

[Related post: "Walrus tackles Al Jazeera"]

* Actually only 2% of Canadians are unsure, according to the CRTC, which said that 98% of letters it received from the public during a 30-day feedback window before granting AJE a license were supportive of the network broadcasting in Canada.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tories to Jews: Have we got some nachas for you!

Canada's opposition parties have a lot to kvetch about after the ruling Conservatives plastered the country's major Jewish ridings last week with fliers attesting to the Tories' ethno-crush on the chosen people.

In addition to reminding Jewish constituents of the government's record on opposing Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Durban, and Porky's--ticking off the list of things the Conservatives would imagine Jews not liking, if they ever actually met one--a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to note, "... and he [Harper] has seen Fiddler on the Roof like twenty-six times, and has read the Yiddish-English dictionary as far as fachadick."

The Tory ad also paid homage to the Jewish peoples' noted love of democracy, with an image of a ballot at the bottom of the flier offering Hebraic faithers the chance to vote on which party leader most adoringly renders them a homogeneous rolodex of ballot stuffers and campaign donors.

(This is a stark contrast to the fliers the Tory campaign office was rumoured to have for its Somali constituents, which was an image of a Jolly Roger over the inscription: "Vote for us or we'll send you back to Somalia.")

In courting the so-called Jewish ballot, the Conservative Party is demonstrating just how serious it is in outflanking its rivals on the niche-vote battlefield. Already they've corralled the Christians, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Shintaos, the Confusians, the atheists, the agnostics, the royalists and the loyalists, the aristocrats and the bourgeousie, the farmers and the pickers and the grinners, the hockey moms and the banker dads, the 905ers and the 418ers, the cowboys and the indians.

That leaves only the workers for the NDP, the vegetarian hemp suckers for the Greens, the Québecois for the Bloc Québecois, and for the Liberals not much more than the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and, of course, the dickheads.*

Get working on those fliers, opposition parties. The next election is between 3 and 49 months away!

* They all think Michael Ignatieff is a righteous dude.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dubai scion gets degree in dadology

Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is the heir to the throne of Dubai. His father, the emir of the city-state and the prime minister (a campy term) of the United Arab Emirates, is the famous Sheikh Mo of Dubai lore, the man who has given us all those fake islands in the shape of a palm tree, the world's first seven-star hotel, and the world's tallest building.

Sheikh Majed, or "Mini-Mo" as he has just been called for the first time, hopes to be just like dad some day. To wit, he engages in a lot of emir-y things:

Here he is opening the 2009 Desalination World Congress; There he is cutting the ribbon on the Dubai Airport Expo; Over there he is inspecting Dubai's newest golf course, the "Earth course" ahead of the Dubai World Championships, which took place this past weekend.

Here is his facebook page. (You'll notice he has only about 100,000 fewer fans than Queen Rania.)

Here is his official website. (It seems to offer no function whatsoever.)

And here is his new Master's degree.

Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, scion of Dubai, just received a Master's degree in Police Studies for a thesis* entitled "The Genius of Crisis Management in the Vision of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum" (his daddy).

According to the report [ عربي ], Sheikh Mini-Mo wrote about how Dubai has a long history of crises both internal and external, and only by the grace and wisdom of great leadership has the emirate been able to overcome adversity.

And nobody's got grace and wisdom like Majed's own papa Sheikh Mo, who has (with his $28-billion net worth from the oil wells) lifted Dubai out of perpetual threat by building a gleaming, shimmering, ostentatious police state.

To his credit, Majed also credits his earlier ancestors in the hereditary line of the Dubai emirate, as though to underscore the point that genes play a role in determining greatness, lest we fear for the future when Mini-Mo is ruling Dubai.

* In Arabic: بعبقرية إدارة الأزمات في رؤية الشيخ محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم

Friday, November 20, 2009

The fate of Nazem Kadri? Gordie Howe

Nazem Kadri, the Lebanese-Canadian hockey star, whose name very loosely translates as Sublime One Who Submits to the Will of Fate, is off to a superb start to the hockey season.

The first-round draft choice of the Tuque Souq's preferred hockey team, time-wasting wikipedia page, and joke butt--the Toronto Maple Leafs--is tearing up the ice down in London this OHL season, with 11 goals, 8 assists and 52 penalty minutes in just 19 games.

A whole whack of those stats came the other night in a 7-4 win over the Oshawa Generals, when Kadri racked up a Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal (and Kadri had 2 of those), an assist and a fight.

The fight came midway through the third period with the Knights well in control of the game. Oshawa forward Jeff Brown delivered a vicious back check to London's Jared Knight, attracting Kadri's attention.

In the replay, you can clearly see Brown, who's already been flagged for the penalty though the play has continued, bend down to see if Knight is okay. But Kadri flies over from the crease to knock Brown into the boards and instigate the fight with an uppercut. While it lasts only a few short moments, Brown delivers 4 quick blows to Kadri's face mask before the fight is broken up.

Apparently Nazem Kadri submits to the will of the penalty box very well; to the fate of his teammates being targets, not so well.

More recently, during an 8-2 thrashing of the Owen Sound Attack (though early in the game), Kadri drove Owen Sound winger Bobby Mignardi hard into the glass in the corner. Bruiser Michael McGurk followed Kadri to centre ice and started throwing punches, which Kadri happily reciprocated.

For Nazem Kadri, it was another Gordie Howe hat trick that night. When fate ordains that he finally put on a Leafs uniform in the NHL, the Tuque Souq votes they give him #9.*

* Yes, he played a few preseason games for the Leafs this year and they gave him the #43 sweater, not worn since Nathan Dempsey scored one whole goal in it during the 2000-2001 season. There's still time to switch him to #9. Sorry, Hagman.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where bee stings are pleasure and honey is pain

A report out of Gaza this week notes an alarming rise in the number of Palestinians seeking bee-sting therapy to relieve symptoms of paralytic muscular atrophy, rheumatism and multiple sclerosis.

Unable to get to hospitals in Egypt, and with local medical facilities inadequately supplied due to the Israeli blockades, Gazan patients are increasingly turning to apitherapists to relieve crippling chronic pain. A three-course series of 4-6 stings each costs about $2.50.

To clarify the point, Palestinians visit their doctor on a regular basis and willingly submit to a bee-sting assault, and this is to relieve the pain of living in Gaza.

Apitherapy is perceived with skepticism in most medical circles but has been known for centuries to relieve certain muscle and joint pain. The theory of the healing power of honey-bee venom is that it is known to contain concentrated amounts of the peptide (amino-acid compound) Melittin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Of course, when a honey bee stings, the creature dies, which means less honey for the halawiyat--yummy Arabic baklava--and therefore less pleasure for the kids.

And that's life in Gaza.

In somewhat related news, the Israeli government has agreed to send 7,500 calves to Gaza in the coming days as a humanitarian gesture for the Eid al-Adha, the festival in which Muslims commemorate Ibrahim's near sacrifice of his son Ismail by sacrificing a lamb.

Gazans may return the favour by sending cheeseburgers to Israel for Hanukkah.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Egypt-Algeria III: Balls of Fury

Bitter and literally bloodied rivals Egypt and Algeria meet Wednesday for a one-game playoff in Khartoum to decide which national soccer team will advance to the World Cup finals. The two teams finished level in their qualifying group after Egypt's miracle win on Saturday in Cairo. (Algeria won the first match in Algiers.)

[UPDATE NOV 18: Algeria defeated Egypt 1-0 in the playoff, and will advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.]

The love between these two teams? Colder than a camel in the arctic.

Check out this incredible video of the Algerian team's bus being attacked by Egyptian fans as it travels from the airport to the hotel in Cairo last Friday. Algerian players emerge from the bus bloodied by the rocks thrown through the windows.

Then there's this video, of the shocked Algerian players as they're being treated by medics at the hotel:

That was before the game. Rioting continued afterward, as delirious Egyptian fans clashed with distraught Algerian supporters well into the night, and the Little Algeria 'hood of Cairo was laid waste.

And that incident will not go down as the worst between these two teams. As reported in The New York Times Lede blog:

"The last time the national soccer teams of Egypt and Algeria met in Cairo for a game to decide which nation would qualify for the World Cup, in 1989, the conflict on and off the pitch was so violent that it ended with an Egyptian supporter losing an eye and an Interpol arrest warrant being issued for an Algerian player.

"The already tense atmosphere that day got worse when the Algerian team concluded that Egypt’s winning goal was scored by a player in an offside position (although video of the goal available on the Internet today seems to show that it was correctly allowed). After the match, the Algerians surrounded and harassed the referee and then fought with Egyptian supporters — one of whom was blinded by broken glass."

Is another such incident looming for the playoff? Sudan officials did not not confirm that janjaweed militias were being redirected to the capital to provide security.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Global shortages threaten Shoe Intifada

Last month in Montreal, former US president George W. Bush survived another volley of missiles, as over a thousand demonstrators protested his $100,000-speaking engagement at the Queen Elizabeth hotel by throwing their shoes at or at least near him. The protesters bravely sacrificed their precious footwear to demean Mr Bush, in spite of the looming annual Quebec apocalypse known as hiver.

While the protest was important in that it kept Dubya from sneaking into Canada under the radar to collect a fat cheque from the Montreal Chamber of Commerce for speaking candidly about how he was proud of starting two wars against the Islamic world, the Tuque Souq couldn't help but notice that the actual volume of ammunition in the protesters' arsenal was noticeably less than at last winter's anti-Bush, shoe-throwing demonstration in Montreal.

This leads us to ask a critical and obviously underasked question of one of our most precious global resources: Has the world of protesting reached Peak Shoe?

As this blog has covered obsessively, the Shoe Intifada has leathered its way from a small press conference in Baghdad last December into a globally laced anti-war movement.

Tens of thousands, maybe billions, of shoes have flown, in opposition to everything from the global economic crisis to transit-fare hikes. But have we wantonly tapped out a resource that is not as renewable as we thought? Or perhaps is some conspiratorial counter movement trying to untie those shoes, to trip up the movement?

This man may know: A 48-year-old Egyptian man was recently released from prison after serving a year for stealing $1500-worth of shoes from a mosque in Qatar. While he committed his crime before the Shoe Intifada began, perhaps his conspirators knew that a worldwide shoe-throwing movement would start, and he was hoarding shoes for future sale on the black market.

Or this man: An amputee in Belgium was recently picked up for stealing only a left shoe from a store in the town of Maldegem. Is there a connection between him, shoes, and the Left?

If there is a conspiracy afoot to deplete protesters of their sole ammunition, the Tuque Souq is on the trail. Stay tuned.

[Keep current on all the shoe throwing at the Tuque Souq's Shoe Intifada bureau.]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

World Cup underdogs overachieve underwhelmingly

Today's 11th-hour World Cup qualifiers were dramatic and, for the Tuque Souq, mostly disappointing. As we reported yesterday, Egypt needed a two-goal win over Algeria to stay alive, which they got in stupefying fashion when substitute striker Emad Moteab connected his head to a long cross and put the ball in the back of the net in the 5th minute of stoppage time, literally seconds before the final whistle blew. Algeria, hoping to complete the huge upset, were stunned, and now must face Egypt again in four days in a playoff to be held in Khartoum.

New Zealand notched a gritty, deserved 1-0 win over lil' Bahrain in front of 35,000 ripe kiwis. Victory was secured when Bahrain striker Sayed Mohamed Adnan telegraphed a penalty kick straight into the arms of the All Whites' goalkeeper in the 50th minute, which proved to be Bahrain's closest chance at a goal. New Zealand advance to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1982.

Dear Tunisia played as though under the influence of Triazolam in falling 0-1 to an overmatched but fully conscious Mozambique side. A draw wouldn't have been enough anyway, but the game was headed that way until Dario Khan netted a goal for the home side in the 84th minute, devastating the Tunisian faithful. The result allowed rivals Nigeria, 3-2 winners over Kenya, to edge Les aigles in Africa Group B and qualify for South Africa. It will be Nigeria's 4th trip to the World Cup, their first since 2002.

Morocco, already eliminated from contention, dropped a 2-0 decision to Cameroon, and so the latter will join Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and the Algeria/Egypt winner, along with hosts South Africa, as Africa's representatives in the World Cup next summer.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Algeria invades Egypt, and other clashes

The World Cup of football and/or soccer is more than just a quadrennial reminder that Italians are a bunch of ref-baiting crybaby floppers, Englishmen are spineless, Frenchmen are rude, Germans are offensive, Americans are weak at heart, Canadians are polite enough not to show up, and Brazilians are genetically superior to us in every way.

More than a latent platform for gross mischaracterizations of national identity, the World Cup is also exciting for reasons of pure sport: cheering for that lovable underdog, who represents on the soccer pitch the underdog all of us are in relation to the universe.

One of the last boats to South Africa leaves tomorrow, and the Tuque Souq is desperately cheering for 3 great underdogs to be on it, so that when one of 'em upsets Spain or Holland at next year's World Cup, we can all feel that much better about ourselves.


In the first leg of the home-and-home Asia/Oceania playoff finale last month in Manama, Bahrain played New Zealand to a goalless draw, so the second match on Saturday is winner-take-all.

Bahrain are ghost-writing the same Cinderella story they penned for the 2006 World Cup qualifying round.

Four years ago, the Islanders stood at this very same threshold: in a two-legged playoff against Trinidad & Tobago to qualify for the last spot in the 2006 World Cup finals, Bahrain earned a draw in the Caribbean and needed only the same result or better at home to book a trip to Germany. Instead, they crashed out in front of their own fans.

For Bahrain, the formula this time is as simple as it is familiar: Win, or tie the game and score at least one goal. Bahrain's imported coach is ready to "live the dream" for his adopted country. Will Bahrain qualify for their first-ever World Cup?

Egypt are the reigning African champions. Earlier this year they rose as high as 15th in the FIFA world rankings. Their 90,000-capacity (including shabaab standing in the aisles) home stadium is almost as scary for opposing teams as it is for the home fans. So why do they find themselves needing a desperation win--by at least two goals--in the qualifying finale versus underdog Algeria to book a ticket to South Africa?

To be sure, Egypt have only themselves to blame for that inexcusable home draw versus Zambia back in March. But Algeria deserve most of the credit here. Were it not for a draw with Rwanda they'd have an umblemished record and would already be through to South Africa. They dispatched the Egyptians with ease in their first meeting in Algiers. The Desert Foxes are primed for a celebration, and need only play Egypt close to humiliate their rivals and qualify.

Algeria haven't reached the World Cup finals since 1986; they debuted in 1982, where they shocked eventual finalists West Germany in the preliminary round. Nearly half the country's population today wasn't yet alive when that game was played. Suffice to say, Algeria are ready to celebrate. Captain Yazid Mansouri (pictured above) is positively pushy: "We won't go to Cairo to defend. We'll do everything we can to take our chances. I know we can score over there."

Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan is ready to answer the challenge, and he's calling on the rowdy Cairo faithful to cheer the team to a badly needed victory. "I call on all our supporters to come and back us for the full 90 minutes, whatever the score happens to be. I expect lots of twists and turns in the game."

Here's the real twist: If Egypt win the game by exactly 2 goals, the two sides will finish with identical standings (wins, losses, goal differential, and head-to-head matchup). In that case, a one-game, neutral-site playoff would be needed, and it would be held in Khartoum next Wednesday.

Wee Tunisia, beloved of the Tuque Souq, are on the cusp of qualifying for their fourth consecutive World Cup finals. In Africa's Group B, they lead group favourites Nigeria by two points heading into the final day of qualifying. Les aigles de Carthage head to Mozambique in control of their own destiny. But a draw might not be enough, not if Nigeria defeat Kenya (in which case Nigeria would win the tiebreaker with Tunisia based on a superior goal differential).

With a victory Tunisia will equal Cameroon's record of consecutive World Cup appearances by an African nation. They are on a nine-game unbeaten run against fellow African opponents. Their trajectory over the last decade shows that the Tunisians are, out of obscurity, now one of the premier squads on the continent.

Fans of Morocco, your team is out of the running for the World Cup finals. But the disappointing side has a chance to finish the qualifying session on a high note and send a fourth colossal underdog to South Africa in the process. Morocco play at home Saturday against Africa Group A leaders Cameroon, arguably the strongest team on the continent right now. Should Morocco win, they'll allow lowly Gabon the chance to edge past the Indomitable Lions and into the World Cup finals, provided Gabon defeat Togo.

All games are Saturday at 13:00 GMT. The Tuque Souq will have the results.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brangelina aid Iraqi refugees by adopting a Syrian

Breaking news reports out of Syria indicate that the movie-star child-addict duo Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt are planning to adopt an Arab child into their brood, which would bring to a baker's half dozen the number of rugrats in the family.

The megastars were recently spotted in Syria visiting Iraqi refugees on what was deemed a humanitarian mission, in that Ms Jolie and Mr Pitt bear some resemblance to actual humans.

There are estimated to be over a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, most of whom made a dangerous journey across desert and mountain to flee violence in their home country. (Brangelina also made a harrowing journey, forced to ride business class on Royal Jordanian rather than fly in their own private jet.)

Humanitarian relief efforts for refugees in Syria have fallen way short of adequate, says an Amnesty International report, and the government of Syria is encouraging refugees to accept relocation programs to ease the burden on the country.

But Brangelina are taking relief work to the next level: by relieving Syria of a Syrian, there will be room for one more Iraqi. "Every little bit helps," said Ms Jolie, after attending a state dinner with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who according to rumours told the actress that she could have the "pick of the litter," so long as "Brad films his next movie here."

While Ms Jolie is reportedly thrilled to add another photoshopable face to her multi-million-dollar family album, Mr Pitt is believed to have reservations about adding another mouth to understand. According to a thoroughly fact-checked story in Britain's OK! magazine, Mr Pitt is preparing for a showdown with his oft-estranged wife over further additions to their "rainbow family."

Therefore, that lucky Syrian boy or girl, whoever it is, may not be packing for a life of excess, neglect, top-of-the-line psychoanalysis, Reality-TV hosting and tell-all-book writing just yet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Somalis dialing out for a good time tonight

Bil Farah is a 25-year-old unemployed high-school grad who has already married (and divorced) nine women. Halima Osman is a 20-year-old divorcee and mother of three who says that her last elopement was the best thing that ever happened to her. Both are on the prowl again, and both have their cell phones charged.

It's all too easy to overlook the newsworthiness of daily life in Somalia, where there hasn't been a government in two decades, an average of 20 civilians are killed each day from factional wars, and pirates steal all the international headlines.

With all that strife, Somalis must not be having much fun, eh?

Hardly. Over the last few years a new social trend has swept the capital Mogadishu: consensual temporary marriage.

As one man says, you don't need 11 camels and an AK-47 to marry a Somali gal anymore. Just a cell phone.

Apparently, young Somalis are increasingly hooking up over cell phones, arranging consensual marriages by text message for as little as a night or as long as a few months.* The marriage part allows them to keep right by the Qur'an as they engage in adventurous sexual escapades to distract each other from the daily realities of living in Somalia. (And adultery is, in areas ruled by certain factions, punishable by public stoning.)

It seems the daily barrages of gunfire that ring out over the city of Mogadishu offer the perfect excuse to elope: no one is expected at work or school, so off they go to lover's lane.

* The sources I've found so far do not provide detail as to how marriages are solemnized and where Somalis get phone numbers of prospective partners, two pieces of information that would round out this news item. If anyone has heard more, please let me know.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Foul play suspected in death of Camel queen

The distraught owner of a beloved, beauty-queen camel is suing the Saudi Aramco oil company for negligent behavior which may have resulted in the tragic and mysterious death of the beast.

Olive, a black three-year-old ungulate who recently competed for the title of Miss Camel Saudi Arabia, was out strutting her stuff through the desert the other night when she allegedly fell into a hole filed with crude oil. Saudi Aramco frequently digs random holes in the desert and fills them with surplus crude (possibly for sale at a later date when the market rebounds).

By the time she was found, it was too late. Regrettably, it is the first fossil-fuel related death ever recorded.

The camel's owner, Abdullah al-Saiari, is seeking one million riyals ($283,400) in damages in a lawsuit filed in a Riyadh court.

But the court may have to consider more than just the value of a pretty dead camel. Foul play cannot be ruled out in Olive's bizarre demise.

Camel beauty contests are at least as prestigious in the Arabian peninsula as Chuck-wagon races are in Calgary, and the death of a top competitor so close to a major competition is bound to raise some big, bushy eyebrows.

The annual Pan-Arabian Pageant in Abu Dhabi, in which Olive was expected to compete, attracts over 24,000 camels from across the peninsula; the bejeweled crown is considered the most holy grail that a camel can ever hope to attain.

During the nine-day competition each spring, the camels parade about in front of discerning judges who evaluate the size of their eyes, the sheen of their hair, the arch of their nose, the bauble of their lower lip, the width of their toes, the length of their neck, and of course, the perfectly proportioned dimensions of their hump and their rump.

Olive the camel was reputed to have it all and then some, which is why her death should be shrouded in controversy. Did a jealous rival want to keep her out of the pageant? Did Aramco have money riding on the competition? Or was the intense pressure of being beautiful finally too much for Olive to bear?

Sadly, we may never know what was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Palestinian president to retire (gasp) while still breathing

He didn't do much for Palestine. But at least he always looked thin next to Ariel Sharon.

This week Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas decreed that elections for his own office will take place this coming January, and further he announced that he will not seek re-election.

The 74-year-old Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, made the announcement speaking to reporters in English, because the phrase "will not seek re-election" is believed not to exist in Arabic.

Abbas was elected president on January 9, 2005, two months after the death of Yasser Arafat. Though his term officially expired earlier this year he granted himself a one-year extension so that the presidential election and term could be brought into line with parliamentary elections and terms, which (all things considered) is not really a bad excuse.

However, Abbas jumping the presidential ship before his death is a bold move, in the context of the Arab world.

Currently, the presidents/kings/emirs/Qaddafis of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti have been in "office" a combined 254 years (an average of 18 years per man; Sultan Qaboos, pictured, of Oman has been throning it up since 1970).

Only the rulers of Kuwait*, Saudi Arabia**, Iraq***, Lebanon****, Mauritania***** and Comoros****** have taken the helm of their respective nations since Abbas won in 2005.

* Current emir succeeded his brother who succeeded his father.
** Current king succeeded his brother who succeeded his father.
*** Most recent elections in 2005 may have been held under duress.
**** Elections were held in June, but the winner has not been sworn into office yet.
***** Current leader overthrew democratically elected former leader in a 2008 coup.
****** Held a successful election in 2006 which featured a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another.

To be sure, Abbas doesn't have much of a record to stand on. His party lost parliamentary elections to rival Hamas, after which he oversaw a mini civil war that resulted in Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip. He failed to achieve a badly needed unity government, barely whimpered as Israel erected settlement after settlement expansion, and barely blinked at the worst social catastrophe in Palestine since 1967.

And recently he was accused of treason for not backing the Goldstone Report [PDF], which we now know was partly because of his ties to a mobile phone company whose prospective millions would've been threatened if certain Palestinian business ties with Israel were severed because of political unrest.

Still, for Mahmoud Abbas to call it quits after a measly 5 years in office is, well, unpresidented. Especially since he hasn't groomed his son and/or brother to succeed him. Right now his Fatah party has no clear Number 2.

Does this mean we're about to witness a truly open and transparent multiparty democratic election process that properly represents and reflects the political diversity of a nation of people who don't even have their own country because their land is enduring a sixty-one-year military occupation?

Or will this guy just take over?