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Tunisian protests and Egyptian self-immolations

What I'm reading this morning.

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"Laila herself ran the family business like a cross between a mafia don and a marriage maker. Conscious of the Trabelsi's humble background, she cemented alliances by marrying her relatives to more established families from the Tunisian business world and bourgeoisie. She meddled in the affairs of the country's elite like Joan Collins once did on the soap opera Dynasty: forever plotting and scheming to get her way."

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Elsewhere, folks are wondering whether the popular uprising in Tunisia will act as a model for opponents of other Arab autocracies to follow. On the one hand, Tunisia hardly had the market cornered on brutality and corruption. But on the other, I have to believe that specific local conditions (that I certainly don't yet understand) played a role in so swiftly bringing Ben Ali down. There have been small protests so far in Jordan, in Oman, in Algeria and in Egypt, but no signs of a spreading wave that is challenging any of these regimes, at least not yet.

Egypt's Al Ahram reports that an unemployed young man set himself on fire in Alexandria today, the third such attempted self-immolation in Egypt, all almost certainly encouraged by the suicide that sparked the Tunisian protests. The despair in the region is real -- but has been present for a long time.

Finally, a horrific suicide attack in Saddam Hussein's home town of TIkrit killed at least 45 people at a police recruiting station, VOA reports (sadly, the death toll is almost certain to be revised upwards). In the early days of the war there was a fair bit of insurgent activity in the area, where many former Baathist officers and family members of Hussein made their home. But the area has been generally much more quiet, both when the insurgency was blazing and now that it's been tamped down, than places like Anbar province, where it always felt like there was more of a religious tinge to the Sunni insurgency. On Monday, Anbar Governer Qassim Abed survived the fourth assassination attempt against him in a year, when a suicide bomb targeted his convoy near the provincial capital.

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